Security Innovators Throwdown

It wasn't exactly Sunday Night Football or WWE wrestling, but the first Security Innovators Throwdown, held during the second annual SC World Congress was pretty exciting. Before I get into that, though, let's set the stage by describing both what this was and, perhaps more important, what it was not. It was a presentation of innovative product technology. It was not a presentation of the best, top market-share companies in the field.

This is important because every time we do an innovators section, we get questions as to why the market leaders aren't included. They are not included because market position is not what we are looking for. Market leaders often are not the most innovative developers of new technology. Often, the real innovators are the little companies that strive to build a better mousetrap and get it to market.

In our December issue, we looked at all aspects of innovation. That means we are interested in both the product and the company that developed it. How does a small company carve a niche for itself in a land of giants? That is far more interesting to me than how a huge company with huge resources changes the color of its product and calls it a new release as so often happens.

But this issue is not even about that. This is not the December issue, and so it is not looking at the same things that we did in December. This was a very special situation - a first-time effort - and we all were extremely pleased with the results. In the Throwdown, we set up a specific scenario. We wanted the contestants to do what they would do if they were pitching their product to a group of investors.

We limited the amount of time they had to make their presentations and we limited them to a single PowerPoint slide formatted in a specific way. We wanted to know what the purpose of the product was, how the company was financed so far, what market the product was intended to serve, and why it was a better mousetrap. Finally, we wanted to know from where the principles that conceived the product or service came. Since presentation time was limited, the candidates had to pull together the most important aspects of their product or service and present them in a compelling manner.

We wanted to know what the purpose - mission - of the product was. How was the company financed so far? What market was the product intended to serve and why was it a better mousetrap? Finally, we wanted to know from where the management that conceived the product or service came. Since presentation time was limited, the candidates had to pull together the most important aspects of their product or service and present them in a compelling manner.

The presenters showed their wares to a panel of experts that included Becky Bace, InQTel; Simone Seth, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers; Greg Bell, KPMG; SC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Illena Armstrong, and, of course, yours truly, the resident geek/academic. The panel had the privilege of interrupting presentations with questions or of displaying placards that showed a thumbs-up for excellent points and a somewhat more negative image for use when the presenter degenerated into marketing hype instead of presenting solid information.

Once the presentations were over, there was a brief Q&A and then the panel scored the presentation. At the end, we ranked the winners based on their scores. The top five will appear here with full-page discussions of their products or services, and the second five appear with half-page presentations. Interestingly, the entire group of 10 participants were all very interesting. It was a tough call to separate them. Besides these 10, there were numerous others that entered the preliminary selection process. They were interesting as well, though they didn't advance in the competition.

So, given this collection of interesting - and often small - players in our market, what can you glean besides a good read? First, consider the problems these products attempt to solve. In most cases, we found that they were real - and often important - challenges. While I cannot guarantee that the solutions to those problems are the optimum solutions, they certainly are a start and, in most cases, are completely unique.

I urge you, if you have a challenge that one of these can address, to contact the vendor and see if you think their product can fill the bill for you. One more point: Was this successful and did we make the right choices in selecting our final 10? We must have. Not only did our audience enjoy what the vendors had to say, one of the participating vendors was purchased by a major security company and was notified as they were coming to the SC World Congress. We let them present anyway.

And now, here are the five winners and five runners-up of the first annual Security Innovators Throwdown.

PHOTO: Eric Chiu, president/CEO, HyTrust, fields questions from the judges and audience at the Security Innovators Throwdown, held during SC World Congress. Photo by Andrea Fishman.

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