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Talent and capital are shifting cybersecurity investors’ focus away from Silicon Valley

Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse in 2020, we received the news on the SolarWinds hack and its impact on more than 18,000 businesses and potentially dozens of U.S. government agencies — including the departments of CommerceEnergy and Treasury.

We’re just beginning to understand the extent of their infiltration, but this story brings to light what the cybersecurity industry has already known: Solving the cybersecurity problem will take more time and resources than we are currently allocating.

Solving the cybersecurity problem will take more time and resources than we are currently allocating.

Adding to the challenge, COVID-19 has created fertile ground for the acceleration of cyberattacks that are more sophisticated, dangerous and prevalent. In this dire setting, cybersecurity has become even more competitive and a national security imperative and created higher demand for new solutions.

This is something we all — enterprises, startups, government and investors — need to work together to solve. So, from the venture capital perspective, where are cybersecurity investments being made, and where is the talent coming from to help stem the onslaught of hacks?

California’s Silicon Valley has traditionally been the epicenter of cybersecurity innovation. It’s home to some of the largest cybersecurity companies including McAfee, Palo Alto Networks and FireEye, as well as more recent high flyers such as CrowdStrike and Okta, providing a robust talent base for many willing venture investors.

However, that’s rapidly changing. Cybersecurity expertise is now budding in new regions where there is talent and a hands-on recognition of the need for innovative solutions. In particular we are seeing growth in areas such as the East Coast of the U.S. and in Europe, led by the United Kingdom.

Investment in Silicon Valley cybersecurity startups remained flat in 2020 as we are seeing record venture funding of cybersecurity companies in these emerging regions. And the reasons why may mean better solutions to solve current and future cyber needs.

The emergence of a new cybersecurity ecosystem

A new generation of cyber-experienced practitioners coming from government and financial services are becoming the next generation of entrepreneurs. Fueling new innovation, this newest breed of cybersecurity startups in emerging in cities like New York, Washington, D.C. and London, and away from Silicon Valley. East Coast businesses like IronNet*, founded by former NSA director General Keith Alexander, is one example of this growing trend of new leaders coming from federal government backgrounds.

These new cybersecurity leaders with front-line experience are developing solutions that fix the problems they faced as customers and, thanks to COVID-19, are hiring the best talent to join them regardless of their location. The pandemic has accelerated remote-working trends, increasing more flexible-location working opportunities in the cybersecurity industry. These companies are creating advantages over their West Coast counterparts in the ability to recruit better talent, lower costs and have closer proximity to customers and prospects.

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