In April, CivSource reported on the launch of MACH37, a cybersecurity startup accelerator backed by the state of Virginia. Now, after a first round application process, the organization is set to announce the first batch of companies to be involved in the program next week. MACH37 is supported by an $2.5 million investment from the Virginia state legislature to the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) which has partnered with the principals at MACH37 to support the first round. With the investment, MACH37 because the first public-private accelerator program in the US.
There are a number of private sector firms interested in the space including most notably ACG Partners, along with angels, and venture capital investors. “We are looking for companies that can bring true innovation and disruption to the cybersecurity space,” explains Rick Gordon, MACH37™ Managing Partner, in an interview with CivSource. “We think it makes a lot of sense, strategically, to leverage both local startups and import innovators to Virginia and the cybersecurity beltway, to support the activity already happening here.”
To that end, the program is looking at very early stage startups, including zero day opportunities, in addition to those that are more mature. The first group will include 4-6 companies. This group will go through a bespoke 90-day program designed to get to a Series A round of funding. “We’re going to start with our own analysis of where the company is, and what we think it needs to achieve in the 90-day period. Specifically, we want to put concepts in front of customers and find out if it meets their needs in a unique way, and prove the concept.
We’ve studied other accelerator programs, and we didn’t want it to be a boot camp, each entrepreneur is going to come away with a very different experience from others in the program,” he says. Companies involved in the program will maintain a presence in Virginia for a significant period of time, providing return on investment to the local economy. Gordon notes that over time, the accelerator program hopes to attract additional financial sponsorship and become self-sustaining. “We want this to be a small group, with a lot of impact. In future rounds we may increase the number of companies from 4-6 to 10-12 but we want to make sure the program is high value for us and the entrepreneurs involved. We think we will be able to prove that going forward,” Gordon notes.
The accelerator program investment was announced by the state of Virginia shortly after it launched Semper Secure, state backed initiative to increase cybersecurity research and development through local universities, public and private sector partners. As a state, Virginia is making a big push to build out a local cybersecurity economy. Strategically, it makes sense, the defense and intelligence communities are looking more and more to Silicon Valley for the innovative technologies they need, which could have downstream impact for Virginia, and the newly affluent beltway metro area.
Historically, Virginia has been the seat of both defense and intelligence oriented business, with some overlap into Maryland. Maryland too, announced similar cybersecurity initiatives for their local universities, along with tax breaks for local cybersecurity companies. Both states have a proximity advantage to the institutions they serve. The real question will be whether that proximity, and programs like MACH37 will be enough to rival Silicon Valley – watch this space.