Once again, and for the fifth time the last year, I’m back in the Bay Area. This time I’ve spent a week here arriving on March 18th and heading back to Norway one week later. The main reason for coming here was to attend ITSEF 2013 held for the 7th time. It’s a IT Security conference arranged by SINET (presentet below) at Stanford University. I also had some meetings with IT security companies in Silicon Valley since I’m working in this sector with my product Ensafer for Cloud encryption. And of course, I did a lot of networking and had lunch and dinner with different people.

This blog post gives some highlights from this conference with some other experiences from the trip.

What is ITSEF?

This is a forum where early stage and emerging growth companies and executives from industry, government, academia and VC meet in one collegial setting. The event was held at Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center at Stanford University in Silicon Valley.

Here is what SINET write on their web site about this event:

”Please join us as we advance innovation, lead change and build trusted global communities of interest and trust between the public and private sectors at the 7th annual ITSEF. SINET events do not sell speaking spots or vendor booths. This principal allows us to foster a culture of mission, trust and purpose. An environment where buyers, builders, researchers and investors are here for a common goal to advance innovation and a desire to help one another.”

ITSEF is a two day event with a workshop the first day (half day with two tracks) and more of a conference style the second day (full day). I attended both.

Day 1: Workshops


On the first day ITSEF had gathered experts from government, industry and the venture capital and investment banking communities to share their expertise on a broad range of business challenges facing early stage and emerging growth companies – like my own product Ensafer. This gave an opportunity for us entrepreneurs to gain top-level guidance from specialized practitioners who want to help high-tech emerging companies make a difference. That’s what startups are looking for.

Here are the workshops I attended:

  • In-Q-Tel 101 – How to Work with In-Q-Tel to Understand the Applicability of Your Technology to the US Intelligence Community.
  • Latest Cutting Edge Research at Stanford University.
  • The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence: Engineering and Advances in Cybersecurity.
  • How to Sell to the Government of Canada and What New Security Technologies are They Looking For.

ITSEF WorkshopITSEF also hosted One-on-One meetings with members of the VC and Investment Banking communities as well as Federal Government Officials from Communications Security Establishment Canada (US equivalent NSA). I had an interesting meeting with CSEC from Canada and an investor panel the next day. This is a great opportunity to pitch and connect with people that would be hard to reach otherwise. This is important to entrepreneurs attending conferences like this, and it’s an important reason to attend ITSEF also next year.

Day 2: Conference

This was a full day packed with interesting talks and panel discussions. The taglines of the day was: ”Innovate – Inspire – Engage” and ”Democratizing Security Innovation: Connecting Industry, Government & Academia”.  Sounds good.

After welcome and introductory remarks the show went on with these sessions with good names for talks, interviews and panels:

  • Technology will Help us Solve Humanity’s Grand Challenges, but What About the Risks?
  • How Successful Security Companies Entered the Federal Market to Design the Right Solutions for the Broader Market and How their Success Affected Their Eventual Exit.
  • Cybersecurity M&A and IPO’S: Trends and Lessons.
  • Security and Privacy in Big Tech Trends.
  • The Future of The Internet – Who Should Own It – Outcomes and Implications From the 2012 WCIT in Dubai.
  • Whats Up – Whats Down for 2013, Where will the Cybersecurity Budget Win and Where Will it Lose?
  • Active Cyber Defenses: Defining Private and Public Sector Roles.

They also had an interesting networking and information sharing hour during the lunch:

”The ITSEF is providing the opportunity for attendees to sit down in an informal and intimate (8-10 per table) setting with security leaders from private industry, Federal Government and venture capital. This optional “Information Sharing Hour” is designed to promote awareness, education and learning opportunities on how solution providers can best shape their vision, roadmap and assess their current path to meet the market needs.”

ITSEF Gerald Beaman

I also should mention that there was a good keynote by Gerald Beaman, Vice Admiral, Commander of US Third Fleet. You can find more information on ITSEF 2013 here and the agenda here.

What about SINET?

I’ve already mentioned SINET, and let me give a short summary. SINET stands for “Security Innovation Network”, and the mission is to advance innovation and enable global collaboration between the public and private sectors to defeat Cybersecurity threats. SINET increases awareness between builders, buyers, researchers and investors in the Cybersecurity domain, in particular the Defense Industrial Base and the Federal Government. SINET utilizes a top down – bottom up, mutually beneficial and trust based approach to accelerate innovation and increases business opportunities for both small and large companies.

In other words, it’s a powerful network for players in the cyber security sector. That’s why I attend this network with Ensafer as a early stage product with a potential global market ahead. From their web site:

“SINET connects the ecosystem of the entrepreneur through creative collaboration with leaders from the Federal Government, IT and security providers, systems integration, venture capital, investment banking, academic and science communities, and other emerging growth companies. SINET is known for our approach to building trusted relationships among diverse communities. The depth and focus of our strategic advisory services is our strongest value-add.”

ITSEF Robert RodriguezRobert Rodriguez is the Chairman and Founder of SINET, and I have had the pleasure of meeting him before – both in San Francisco and Oslo. He’s doing a great job with SINET helping (among others) entrepreneurs like me get a network and the opportunity to meet important people and companies at different events.

Networking all the time

You can’t go to the Bay Area without networking, and I haven’t traveled half the globe from Norway to stay at my hotel room. I can’t mention all the people I met, but I just want to give Einar Oftedal at Norman in San Diego and Lasse Andresen at ForgeRock in San Francisco a special thanks for their hospitality and willingness to share contacts and knowledge about doing business in the US. They represent Norwegian companies, and are very well connected over here. Their experience and network is amazing, and this kind of attitude and behavior is important to help other Norwegian companies into this market. Hopefully I can do the same for other startups some day after having been in the US over time.

It takes time to grow a network on the other side of the globe, learn the culture and get in position for doing business. I’m working on it, and hopefully I can be up to full speed later this year. For now I have to go back and forth between Norway and USA, but I’m getting used to it now – even the jetlag isn’t killing me any more. We’re going to establish a US company in Silicon Valley for global sales & marketing, and human and economic capital is the most important issues right now to get growth and traction.

Innovation House in Palo Alto

Innovation HouseLast, but not least, I went to Innovation House at 470 Ramona Street in Palo Alto. We have a working space there for me, and hopefully we will have full time employees here later this year. I’ve been here many times the last year, and this is a great concept from Innovation Norway with Anne Worsøe as Director at Innovation Norway in SF/SV. I spent four weeks here in May-June 2012 attending their TINC-program (blog post here). I also stayed here for some weeks in October after our launch of Ensafer for Dropbox at the DEMO Conference in Silicon Valley (blog post here). Anne and her team are doing an impressive and very important job for Norwegian startups. Thanks, guys!

A last comment: We should be able to make the same kind of network and events in Norway or the Nordics as SINET is doing in the US. This should be something for academia, VC, industry, entrepreneurs and organizations like NSM, NorSIS, Abelia and others. I’m in! :-)

I’m heading back to Norway today, and I’ll be back at ITSEF next year and Silicon Vally in May this year. In the meantime I’m going to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Training (GET) in Boston (MA) in April. This is another good program (besides TINC) arranged by Innovation Norway in the US.