Hot topics at this year's RSA Conference in February will include cloud security, Internet of Things security and encryption -- and all of those issues unsurprisingly are represented among the 10 finalists announced for the event's annual Innovation Sandbox Contest for startups.
I ran the company descriptions provided in the RSA Conference press release about the contest through a Wordcloud generator and produced the spectacular graphic above that put "data" protection at the heart of what these newcomers are addressing. The biggest shock for me was that machine learning didn't get mentioned in each description...but it did make the cut in three of the 10.
In all, 87 companies applied for the contest.
A few of the names on the Innovation Sandbox finalists, list are familiar -- we've written about former Check Point CEO Shlomo Kramer's Cato Networks and its cloud-based network security offerings more than once, and the same goes for Veriflow, which verifies network infrastructure changes to avoid vulnerabilities that could lead to outages or intrusions. But most companies on the list are fresh faces, perhaps only vaguely familiar from having announced early funding rounds.
The winner of the contest could well become much better known after Feb. 13, the date on which the companies will demonstrate their ideas and get judged. Past winners have included the likes of Sourcefire and Imperva, as well as 2017 victor Phantom, which just snagged $13.5M in funding for its community-powered security automation/orchestration technology (see our running timeline of network and IT startup funding for 2017). There is no actual prize for the winner, but bragging rights and publicity can lead to additional funding and opportunities.
In addition to Cato and Veriflow, other finalists for 2017 are:
*Baffle, a Santa Clara newcomer that scored $3 million in funding in October for its end-to-end encryption as a service. The company's pitch is that it makes data breaches "irrelevant" by going heavy on encryption. CEO Ameesh Divatia previously sold a company called Lightwire to Cisco.
*Claroty aims to protect industrial control networks and pulled in $32 million in September to help accomplish its mission. It was the second startup launched by Israel's Team8 foundry.
*Contrast Security, founded in 2014, reminds me of the self-advocacy message our local school administrators keep preaching to kids in our town. This Los Altos startup claims to enable apps to detect and fix vulnerabilities to keep themselves from getting infected. Co-founder and CTO Jeff Williams' street cred includes 8 years as chair of the Open Web Application Security Project.
*EN|VEIL, like Baffle, is all about encryption for enterprise customers. "Never Decrypt," the cloud security company cries on its website homepage. Former NSAers are behind this outfit, and the startup is being pretty darn discreet for now.
*GreatHorn is among those with machine learning in its secret sauce. The company protects users of cloud collaboration tools like G Suite, Office 365 and Slack from phishing and other attacks.
*RedLock wants to assure users of IaaS platforms like AWS and Microsoft Azure that they can operate securely even as their cloud infrastructure undergoes frequent changes.
*UnifyID is a member of the machine learning club, using the technology for "implicit authentication" of people based on unique identifiers, including the way the walk and sit. Free beta tools are available if you have a newish iPhone and a Chrome browser.
*Uplevel Security bravely seeks to deal with a whole mess of data, from security alerts to threat intelligence, and help your organization automate and adapt your responses and protections. Co-founder and CEO Roselle Safran was previously cybersecurity operations branch chief at the executive office of the President of the United States. Yeah, she oversaw protection of the White House network. Co-founder and CTO Liz Maida was a senior director at Akamai.