Cybersecurity profile blossoms at university tech park
UMBC has added 16 companies in 16 months
In little more than a year, the research and technology park at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has achieved a "critical mass" of cybersecurity companies, growing from one to 17 companies.
"It's always great when you can get any good company creating jobs for our students and our community. But when you have a critical mass in one industry, that sector can have a great impact in creating technology," said Ellen Hemmerly, executive director of the bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park.
The announcement Thursday came with the official launch of bwtech's cyber-targeted Advantage Incubator, which seeks out innovative early-stage companies and links them with university resources and faculty, and the Northrop Grumman Cync Program. The latter operates similarily, selecting the companies itself and providing scholarships.
"The focus is right on," Hemmerly said. "Maryland has the resources and geography to take advantage of the growth in cyber in a way no other state can."
She said the tech park serves an important role because of its proximity to the university and its graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, plus its master's degree and cybersecurity certificate programs. It has taken 16 months to add the 16 companies.
"It's very important to be part of this since when starting your business, the biggest challenge is getting attention. This gives us visibility," said Eric Fiterman, owner of Rogue Networks, one of the two companies to enter the Cync program.
He said he also hopes to benefit from Northrop Grumman's insight into customer problems and potential partnerships.
Rogue Networks is developing Breachbox, a product that provides identity protection within federal agencies and private companies.
"I always noticed then that we were outnumbered and outgunned in cyber protection," said Fiterman, a software developer and former FBI?agent. "I?thought I could build something to address this problem. The goal is to level the playing field."
Companies in bwtech's incubator also have the advantage of being within a federal classification for set-aside contracts, said Delali Dzirasa, owner of Fearless Solutions.
Fearless Solutions, with eight employees, opened in June and focuses on secure software development.
Dzirasa said he appreciates the park's access to student interns, having attended the university himself.
Most importantly, the growing cluster of cybersecurity companies allows them to generate a culture of interest that is typically difficult to achieve within a sector such as cybersecurity that works in anonymity, Dzirasa said.
"As a collective, we can create that buzz. It's a big win," he said.
Bwtech supports 72 companies, many of which are offices of outside technology companies. Most of the cybersecurity companies are in one building, with bwtech planning to market another building to the sector.