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Opinion: Here’s How We Can Make Atlanta the Next Cyber Hub

A recent Fortune article named Atlanta as one of the seven cities that could become the world’s cybersecurity capital, citing Georgia Tech, the corporate and funding ecosystem, as well as its Fortune 1000s and burgeoning startups. It’s true — Atlanta is home to some of the first cybersecurity companies and some of the fastest-growing startups. Given the unique mix of corporations, investors, entrepreneurs, research and cyber workforce available, why doesn’t Atlanta’s cyber scene get more recognition?

While the Atlanta community sees the city as a thriving cybersecurity hub, that perception is not yet resonating nationally and internationally. The city is also competing with the major players of Silicon Valley, Boston and Washington D.C. Our community is responding to this challenge with an inaugural Atlanta Cyber Week, designed to burnish Atlanta’s reputation by highlighting three key ingredients that are essential to be considered a preeminent cybersecurity hub.  These ingredients are:

1. Meaningful Corporate Engagement

Corporate cybersecurity spending is growing at twice the rate of overall IT budgets. But, early-stage cybersecurity startups struggle with reaching enterprise customers. There are 25 Fortune 1000 companies with headquarters in metro Atlanta, with 16 of them ranking among the Fortune 500 in 2016. In 2015, those 25 companies generated aggregate revenues of $371.2 billion. This tremendous base of enterprise customers provide a wealth of opportunity for cybersecurity startups to deploy their solutions in their own backyard.

To benefit both parties, corporations need to streamline the decision-making process by providing pilot programs that create meaningful opportunity with prospective solution providers. This way, organizations get a hands-on look at the solutions available and cyber companies get through the initial gauntlet to the second phase with decision makers. This mutually-beneficial relationship facilitates corporate innovation that larger companies typically find challenging and gives startups the chance at success or quick failure. As more innovative cyber products are deployed in Atlanta and become successful, the more buzz such success creates worldwide.

2. Get More Buzz Going

In order for big exits to happen that create buzz, cyber companies need to solve big problems. The Cybersecurity 500 is a great example of the lack of international acknowledgment of the great work going on in Atlanta. The list, based largely on reputation, includes more cybersecurity companies from New Hampshire than Atlanta.

Serial cyber entrepreneur Derek Harp says “The more Georgia calls attention to the amount of talented workforce development, research, and innovation that is taking place, the more the world will notice the great things we’re accomplishing here.”

The cybersecurity startups in Atlanta are identifying problems and developing technology that will fix major challenges organizations face today. Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Georgia State students and professors are conducting research that could benefit companies worldwide. Silicon Valley venture capital firms have invested millions in Atlanta-based cyber companies and entrepreneurs are beginning to move to Atlanta from Silicon Valley to start their business. Nonetheless, people outside of the city will never know this if no one is talking about it.

It’s not an ‘if you build it, they will come’ world anymore, and our cybersecurity ecosystem must proactively share their successes with the media —  from thought leadership to client wins to funding announcements  in order to direct attention to Atlanta as a booming cyber market.

3. Unify the Message

There are hundreds of accelerators, incubators, trade groups and stakeholders that are sprawled all across Atlanta. Individual, sporadic and divergent messaging means the city will never be recognized as a full-fledged cybersecurity hub. The community must come together and speak with a coherent and consistent message. Today’s saturated media environment requires that we speak with a unified voice so that the worldwide cyber community hears our message clearly.

Corporate engagement, enhancing the buzz and unifying our message will all intersect during Atlanta Cyber Week. Throughout the first week of October, multiple organizations will host events to highlight various aspects of our cybersecurity ecosystem. Atlanta’s cyber leadership is integral to defining our global identity.

The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Hypepotamus.

Jorge Fernandez leads the Global Commerce arm of Metro Atlanta Chamber’s economic development division. Fernandez is responsible for the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) recruitment efforts and finds innovative ways to connect metro Atlanta area companies and institutions to international business growth opportunities and grow a global connected network for the metro Atlanta region. His goal is to further metro Atlanta’s reputation as a top competitor in the global marketplace.

Justin Daniels is a shareholder at Baker Donelson and executive director of the firm’s cybersecurity accelerator. He leads the Atlanta Emerging Companies Group and is a member of the Global Business Team.


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