Gov-funded boot camp for cyber-security entrepreneurs graduates first intake

Last Friday saw the first round of graduates complete a programme designed to help budding cyber-security entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable business opportunities with fully fledged go-to-market strategies.

HutZero, the first intake of participants of the government-funded project, consists of 24 entrepreneurs selected from a large number of initial applicants of a variety of ages.

The 24 participants of the HutZero programme include 18 from across the UK and five from Northern Ireland. Cyber London (CyLon) and the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) said they had chosen from a wide range of different backgrounds and ages – with the youngest being just 17 years old and still at sixth form.  

Run in partnership by CyLon, Europe's first cyber-security accelerator, and CSIT from Queen's University in Belfast, the programme kicked off at CyLon's Hammersmith offices with an intensive week-long boot camp.

The 24 participants were said to have been challenged on everything from the technicalities of their business idea to the financials of running a business.

The boot camp will now be followed by a three-month long period of mentoring by a panel of experts recruited from academia, business and government, with the aim of creating a new crop of cyber-security startups, as part of the government's National Cyber-Security Programme.

Tom Kelross, the youngest of the group at just 17 years old, told that he had a brilliant time and had gained valuable insight into making his password-related business idea a success.

Kelross explained, “It's been fantastic to meet like-minded people who could help me kickstart my business idea. I really feel like I've got a massive support network behind me now who all want to see me succeed.”

SC spoke with some of the contestants, and all had one thing in common, a brilliant business idea which solves a current issue in the industry and buckets of determination to become the next cyber-security startup success.  

The National Cyber-Security Programme happens to also be the programme which is bringing in the new National Cyber Security Centre, which was kicked off by now ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, who pledged at the time to invest heavily in the country's cyber-defences.

Poppy Wood, CyLon's chief-of-staff told SC: “I am very excited to finally see this project being kicked off. When I was writing the bid for the project with co-founder Louise Cushnahan a year ago I never imagined this project would be such a success.”

Wood added: “We're aiming to give the programme participants a really solid foundation for building a great cyber-security business.”

Donal Casville, 45-year old ex-city banker, another of the HutZero participants told SC: “Starting up your own cyber-security business is like experiencing snow blindness. There is so much that you don't know that you can't even begin to distinguish the edges of the topics that you need to master if you want to create a successful start-up.”

When asked what inspired him to leave a successful career in the city as a fund manager, Casville said he was inspired to take the leap by reading about recent mega-breaches, which have now seen billions of usernames and passwords leaked onto the internet. He reportedly wants to, “slow hackers down,” being very aware the hackers will, “always find a way to do what they do.”

Casville concluded: “HutZero helps you to see through the snowstorm and help you figure out priorities. This week's boot camp has inspired me to plunge ahead and make it happen.”

John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for culture, media and sport, said: “The UK's strong and growing digital economy is changing the way we live and work. As technologies continue to evolve there will be an increased demand for secure products and services, and this new programme will ensure the best ideas from our brightest minds can help keep the UK safe in cyber-space.”

Jonathan Luff, one of the CyLon's founders, and ex-advisor to ex-Prime Minister David Cameron concluded: “We have been extremely impressed by the raw talent that we have discovered and the range of innovative new ideas that participants have presented. The HutZero programme is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by harnessing the combined resources of industry, business and academia.“

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