Security Connected

Five Factors That Make D.C. Region a Cybersecurity Hub

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By on May 29, 2013

McAfee is based in Silicon Valley, but we know there’s more to tech than California.

We recently joined the National Institute of Standards and Technology to launch the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a joint effort among high-tech business, federal, state and local government and local universities located in Rockville, Md. The goal of the NCCoE is simple: to identify and help deploy real-world cybersecurity tools that ordinary businesses can use to secure their own networks. Ten other high-tech companies, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and the National Security Agency have committed their own personnel to the effort.

We’re particularly proud of our participation for lots of reasons, but it’s the combination of the players – the public-private part — that made this alliance particularly compelling.

Try as they may, most parts of the country have not succeeded in replicating the success that tech hubs like Silicon Valley have achieved. Greater Washington D.C. is a success story in its own right, and we think the NCCoE is another reason the DC region will continue to make its mark in computer security.

Every place is different, of course, but five factors seem to make for success when development is the goal.

RESEARCH

Tech is ultimately about smart people doing smart things with the tools they have, and education is the foundation of all of it. The source of Silicon Valley’s brainpower is clear enough: The region hosts a multitude of universities, foremost among them Stanford and Berkeley. DC area universities have received significant funding from the federal government and in many cases enjoy a close relationship with the nearby National Security Agency itself. Schools such as George Mason and James Madison in Virginia, the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore head the list.

FUNDING

Cutting edge tech is important, but banks won’t fund it until it’s well established, so the path from startup to success can be a difficult one. Angel investors and venture capitalists are necessary components to any successful tech region, and that’s a part of the business world that’s clearly growing near the nation’s capital. New Enterprise Associates just up the road in Baltimore and In-Q-Tel have funded more than their share of startups in the area.

RISK TAKING

Anyone in business knows there are risks to trying to make a profit, but not everyone sees risk the same way. The best high-tech regions recognize that failure is often the prelude to success and won’t automatically penalize those who can’t make a go of a certain venture. Smart dealmakers don’t want to know that you failed — they want to know why.

The nation’s capital isn’t famous for risk taking, but the region’s business community increasingly is. Sequestration and ongoing budget pressures have accelerated the push towards the private sector and away from the old government-contractor mentality. The end result is a slow transformation of the region into an area of authentic innovation.

MOBILITY

It’s a factor many overlook, but it’s there nonetheless: Many, many people in tech aren’t just mobile; they’re from another country altogether. The fact is huge numbers of high-tech innovators in the U.S. left their home countries because they knew the US was still the land of opportunity and remains so today. Go to Silicon Valley, come to greater DC, walk around any top computer science school and you will see the same thing: Brilliant engineers with all the drive you could ask for making amazing discoveries in a country that has claimed them not for their ethnicity, but for the excellence of their work.

GOVERNMENT THAT WON’T GET IN THE WAY

You don’t have to be libertarian to recognize one simple fact: The business climate that government sets is hugely important. Places such as Silicon Valley, Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland are for the most part left of center politically.  I’ll leave it to other to say why tech regions tend to lean liberal, but when it comes to business issues, these same regions look a lot like their red-state neighbors. Light-touch regulation yields real results not just for the companies directly affected but for the whole, decidedly prosperous places in which they operate.

THE FUTURE

Cybersecurity is booming. We take little joy in the reasons why, but we at McAfee are honored to be part of the solution to fighting the threats we face. We hope and expect our efforts here in suburban Maryland will bring a stronger, more secure future in cyberspace.

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