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October 19, 2018
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Education

PwC staves off disruption with immersive emerging tech training

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The big accounting firms are under pressure from digital disruption just like every industry these days, but PwC is trying a proactive approach with a digital accelerator program designed to train employees for the next generation of jobs.

To do this, PwC is not just providing some additional training resources and calling it a day. They are allowing employees to take 18 months to two years to completely immerse themselves in learning about a new area. This involves spending half their time on training for their new skill development and half putting that new knowledge to work with clients.

PwC’s Sarah McEneaney, digital talent leader at PwC was put in charge of the program. She said that as a consulting organization, it was important to really focus on the providing a new set of skills for the entire group of employees. That would take a serious commitment, concentrating on a set of emerging technologies. They decided to focus on data and analytics, automation and robotics and AI and machine learning.

Ray Wang, who is founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says this is part of a broader trend around preparing employees inside large organizations for future skills. “Almost every organization around the world is worried about the growing skills gap inside their organizations. Reskilling, continuous learning and hand-on training are back in vogue with the improved economy and war for talent,” he said.

PwC program takes shape

About a year ago the company began designing the program and decided to open it up to everyone in the company from the consulting staff to the support staff with goal of eventually providing a new set of skills across the entire organization of 50,000 employees. As you would expect with a large organization, that started with baby steps.

Graphic: Duncan_Andison/Getty Images

The company designed the new program as a self-nomination process, rather than having management picked candidates. They wanted self starters, and about 3500 applied. McEneaney considered this a good number, especially since PwC tends to be a risk-averse culture and this was asking employees to leave the normal growth track and take a chance with this new program. Out of the 3500 who applied, they did an initial pilot with 1000 people.

She estimates if a majority of the company’s employees eventually opt in to this retraining regimen, it could cost some serious cash, around $100 million. That’s not an insignificant sum, even for a large company like PwC, but McEneaney believes it should pay for itself fairly quickly. As she put it, customers will respect the fact that the company is modernizing and looking at more efficient ways to do the work they are doing today.

Making it happen

Daniel Krogen, a risk assurance associate at PwC decided to go on the data and analytics track. While he welcomed getting new skills from his company, he admits he was nervous going this route at first because of the typical way his industry has worked in the past. “In the accounting industry you come in and have a track and everyone follows the track. I was worried doing something unique could hinder me if I wasn’t following track,” he said.

Graphic: Feodora Chiosea/Getty Images

He says those fears were alleviated by senior management encouraging people to join this program and giving participants assurances that they would not be penalized. “The firm is dedicated to pushing this and having how we differentiate this against the industry, and we want to invest in all of our staff and push everyone through this,” Krogen said.

McEneaney says she’s a partner at the firm, but it took a change management sell to the executive team and really getting them to look at it as a long-term investment in the future of the business. “I would say a critical factor in the early success of the program has been having buy-in from our senior partner, our CEO and all of his team from the very start,” She reports directly to this team and sees their support and backing as critical to the early success of the program.

Getting real

Members of the program are given a 3-day orientation. After that they follow a self-directed course work. They are encouraged to work together with other people in the program, and this is especially important since people will bring a range of skills to the subject matter from absolute beginners to those with more advanced understanding. People can meet in an office if they are in the same area or a coffee shop or in an online meeting as they prefer.

Each member of the program participates in a Udacity nano-degree program, learning a new set of skills related to whatever technology speciality they have chosen. “We have a pretty flexible culture here…and we trust our people to work in ways that work for them and work together in ways that work for them,” McEneaney explained.

The initial program was presented as a 12-18 month digital accelerator tour of duty, Krogen said. “In those 12-18 months, we are dedicated to this program. We could choose another stint or go back to client work and bring those skills to client services that we previously provided.”

While this program is really just getting off the ground, it’s a step toward acknowledging the changing face of business and technology. Companies like PwC need to be proactive in terms of preparing their own employees for the next generation of jobs, and that’s something every organization should be considering.

News Source = techcrunch.com

As some pricey coding camps fade away, Codecademy barrels ahead with affordable paid offerings and a new mobile app

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Between 2013 and last year, the number of boot camp schools tripled to more than 90 in the U.S. alone, according to Course Report, an outfit that tracks the industry. Some — including The Iron Yard and Dev Bootcamp — have since folded, unable to find enough eager recruits willing to pay top dollar to learn coding skills. (The average cost of a 14-week program last year was $11,400.)

At the same time, it has become apparent that when it comes to massive open online courses, a very high percentage of students don’t stay the course.

New York-based Codecademy, which began offering free coding courses at its outset, has managed to keep plugging away — and grow — despite these headwinds. In fact, the company today employs 85 people, up from 45 when we last sat down with cofounder and CEO Zach Sims in 2016. Its revenue is also up 65 percent year over year.

None of it has been a walk in the park, admits Sims, who dropped out of Columbia University in 2011 to start the company. “There’s been a ton of ups and downs,” he says, explaining that the company struggled for years with how to produce meaningful revenue before introducing two premium products in the last couple of years, both of which are affordable by design.

One of these is Codecademy Pro, meant to help users learn the fundamentals of coding, as well as develop a deeper knowledge (and receive certification from Codecademy) in up to 10 areas, including machine learning and data analysis. The cost is $20 per month, money that Pro users often see back in the form of a a $5,000 to $10,000 raise from their employer, insists Sims. He says the course “isn’t so much for those who are transition to full-time jobs but people who are learning skills to level up in their existing career.”

A second offering is Codecademy Pro Intensive, which is designed to immerse learners from six to 10 weeks (depending on the coursework), in either website development, programming, or data science. Students follow a structured, detailed syllabus that’s broken into focused units to organize the learning experience, which is synchronous but collaborative. To wit, users are placed in a moderated Slack group and can chat with people who are learning the same materials at the same time. They also receive unlimited access to a pool of 200 mentors who work with Codecademy, some of them “graduates” of Codecademy themselves.

Sims declines to talk about what percentage of the 45 million people who’ve taken a Codecademy course has paid the company, but he notes that the “macro trends in the market are going our way. People still need to find jobs, and tech is still an important skill to get them there.” Indeed, according to Code.org, a nonprofit that seeks to expand computer-science instruction in schools, there are more than 540,000 open computing jobs. At the same time, fewer than 50,000 computer-science majors graduated from school last year.

Sims also stresses the importance to Codecademy of ensuring its offerings remain “free and low cost everywhere in the world.” Toward that end, the company is today rolling out its newest product, a mobile app that enables users to learn on the go, though it is accessible to paying customers only after a seven-day trial for everyone. (No credit card is required.)

The idea, says Sims: “Lots of people use mobile phones, and we should be letting them practice whenever and whereve they want. They end doing twice as many exercises if they can learn on the subway, then pick up where they left off on the desktop later.”

How much of an accelerant the app will be remains to be seen, but certainly, Codecademy’s approach — catering to people who can’t take or aren’t interesting in expensive offline programs — seems as relevant as ever as some of its competitors fade into the distance.

“When we first started,” says Sims, “the skills gap was just making itself evident. There were tons of tech reports about tech jobs and not a lot of people to fill them. A lot of boot camps and other options emerged to fill that vacuum because, at the time, colleges weren’t equipped to handle [the knowledge gap]. Plus, student debt continued to be an issue, which made [underprivileged] students particularly ill-prepared for the workforce.”

What has changed since then is, well, not much, argues Sims. He notes that aside from a glut of hyped offerings to come and go, people still need ways to adapt to rapid-fire technological change, and with college costs as high as they’ve ever been — prices have soared upwards of 200 percent over the last 20 years —  they need affordable alternatives in particular.

If Codecademy requires more capital to continue providing as much, it isn’t saying. Asked about fundraising — Codecademy has raised $42.5 million to date, including Union Square Ventures and Naspers — Sims says it isn’t talking currently with VCs. “We’re pretty capital efficient. We still have the majority of our last round (raised in 2016) in the bank. And we’ve been able to grow pretty sustainably.

“If we see opportunities to accelerate growth down the line,” he adds, “we’ll go raise it.”

Asked if it can see a day where it works more closely with enterprise customers that want to help employees burnish their skills, he says that’s a high likelihood, too. But “so far,” he says, “we’ve seen pretty good consumer growth. It kind of comes down to how many things can you focus on.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

MasterClass, the education platform featuring all-star instructors, will soon teach you how to run for office, too

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In 2015, the San Francisco-based education platform MasterClass was founded to provide everyone access to “genius,” whether it be in filmmaking, directing, book writing, cooking, tennis, basketball, comedy, acting, screenwriting, photography — even producing electronic music. Toward that end, MasterClass, which is now selling a $180 all-you-can-eat yearly subscription to 80 percent of its customers, currently offers hours of instructional insights from Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, James Patterson, Gordon Ramsay, Serena Williams, Steph Curry, Judd Apatow, Helen Mirren, Aaron Sorkin and Annie Leibovitz, among many experts in their respective fields.

Now, backed by $80 million in fresh funding that it closed on earlier this month, the fast-ballooning company is looking to expand on ways to attract new people to its platform, and two of those new areas center on business and politics. So said co-founder and CEO David Rogier at an industry event in San Francisco last week hosted by this editor. More specifically, he said to expect classes on how to run for office and how to govern with the next year, which is perhaps unsurprising given that a record number of people are running for Congress this year, including record numbers of women.

In fact, Rogier — who has taken some of MasterClass’s storytelling workshops — took attendees behind the scenes to share quite a bit about MasterClass, including how it is consumed by users, how it approaches marketing spend and why he thinks it’s five to eight times stickier than online education platforms that promise users credentials of one kind or another.

He was interviewed by Sarah McBride of Bloomberg; excerpts of their chat follow. You can also see video of their conversation below.

 

On which class Rogier might recommend to someone new, to give them a flavor of what MasterClass offers:

We did a class with Hans Zimmer, a film composer who has composed songs for every single film you’ve ever seen. I’d never heard of Hans Zimmer before [he signed on to do a MasterClass]. I’m also not very good with beats and rhythm. But he starts the class by saying, ‘Every time you play a note, it asks a question — then answers it.’ And I was like, what kind of crap is that? And then he plays it on the keyboard, and I was like, holy shit, and [the class] has changed the way that I hear music.

On how MasterClass decides on who to invite to the platform:

We do lots of work to figure out who people want to learn from. It’s a combination of: who is among the best in the world, and who is somebody who [customers] think they can actually learn from?

I maybe shouldn’t say this out loud, but one of the people who people love but they don’t want to learn from is Will Smith. I love him as an actor; I think he’s really great. But even though he has the most fans on Facebook and the world, people don’t want to learn from him, when you ask them, because they say he’s tall and handsome and charismatic and funny. Like, I can’t be those things!

[Meanwhile] I think of Steph Curry. I think I can be Steph Curry. Steph Curry is 6′ 1″, 180 pounds . . . obviously I can’t be Steph Curry [laughs], but there’s something about feeling that I can learn from somebody.

How Rogier and his team lined up talent for the MasterClass platform in its earliest days:

It probably took us a year [to line up the early talent]. I mean, we cold-emailed and cold-called everybody who we could.

I remember we wanted a class from James Patterson. James Patterson is the best-selling author in the world, and I cold-emailed everybody I could — his speaking agent, his [primary] agent, his PR person. The only response I got was from a guy who claimed to be his speaking agent. I got so excited. Me and my co-founder Aaron [Rasmussen] go and prepare a pitch. We pitch him. And the guy says, ‘Sorry, James isn’t interested.’ I was really heartbroken. It was the first hot lead we’d had in a long time. And then I’m walking down the street in Los Angeles, and I get a call from a number I don’t recognize, and I say, ‘Hey, this is David.’ And this guy goes, ‘Hi, I’m Jim Patterson.’ And I’m like, ‘The author?’ He’s like, ‘Yes.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m very surprised to hear from you.’ He’s like, ‘I’m a surprising guy.’ [Laughs.] And he said, ‘If the timing works, I’d love to teach.’ And I was like, ‘Sir, I’m pretty confused right now, because I thought I just got a no.’ And he asked who I’d spoken to, and he was like, ‘I don’t know who the f*ck that person is.’

On how MasterClass compensates its all-star instructors:

It’s a mix of structure, but we want to make a deal where they share in the upside. It’s a mix of either a fee or a back-end [royalty].

Why some of MasterClass’s courses may seem similar but are distinct, in his view: 

With Martin Scorsese, we were talking to him about what does he want to teach and how, and he’s like, ‘The only way to learn film is to watch film.’ So I think it’s a total of eight hours where you are sitting with Martin Scorsese as he breaks down film. Compare that to Ron Howard, who did a classroom on directing and who’s like, ‘The last thing you want to do is watch film. What you have to do is actually make film.’

On the evolving revenue model of MasterClass, which used to center around charging $90 per class:

By the end of last year, it started being expensive to take our classes, and a big part of what our goal is to make it possible for anybody in the world to learn from the absolute best. So we did lots of testing, and what we rolled out was, for $180 a year, you get access to everything, and that has just blown up. That’s now over 80 percent of our revenue, and we raised [that] $80 million [Series D round] off that success.

Rogier on the classes whose popularity has most surprised him:

I’m not surprised that a cooking class from Chef [Gordon] Ramsay does well, or that Steph Curry’s class does well. I’m surprised by some other folks. We have a class from a guy by the name of Deadmau5 . . . and that class is phenomenal. And it’s like a total surprise. He is [an electronic music producer] and for those who don’t know, he wears an actual mouse helmet because he’s afraid of people.

He literally can’t play music, so when he writes songs, he drags the notes on the screen until he hears the sound he likes. I mean, that’s a crazy way to write a song! But his classes on how to write the tracks do really well. Another we just launched, Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station, [who teaches about space exploration] — he’s much less well-known but that’s also doing great. So the ones I’m surprised by are the ones that are lesser-known.

On how much of the classes are actually consumed, start to finish (and why):

The average MOOC sees 4 percent of people finish a class. Our rate are five to eight times that.

I really think online social education is stuck where it was when we were all in school when, if you actually want to make great compelling education, it should be just as engaging as watching a movie. We actually bring aboard a lot of filmmakers to help us make the class, beside educators, so as a result, we see much higher rates [regarding] how people engage.

But one of the most interesting things for us is that, because it’s not for school credit, you actually follow what you’re interested in. And so as a result of that — and this is a crazy stat — but roughly one-third of the people who start with the Steph Curry class on basketball end up taking a class on screenwriting. All of us have things were care truly, deeply in, but there are also things that you just want to know a bit about.

Users want that breadth . . .[In fact] we’re also going to go into business and how to run for office and how to actually govern. Over the next year, there will be lots of new categories.

Rogier on what MasterClass has learned about its customers’ consumption habits (whether they are viewing on their phones, in extended sittings, etc.):

Before we launched the $180 yearly subscription, it was: you watch it and you take notes. [The new model] has totally changed how people consume [MasterClass]. Oftentimes, they’re still at home in front of a big screen or the iPad. Also, they usually [view] it in chunks. So they sit down for half an hour and consume; they then come back and consume more. [Last] people seem to consume one class at a time. You go through as much as you’re going to go through with Chef Ramsay before [moving on].

On when MasterClass began spending on marketing and where:

My rule around paid marketing is to only spend it if you’re going to make money off it. It just happens to be that on social and on the web, it’s a great market for us, because we can target people who like photography. And you know, especially early on, this wasn’t a thing that you searched for you. You never searched for the idea: ‘Can I take a photo class from Annie Leibovitz.” But [online] has been a really effective channel for us.

On MasterClass’s target audience:

It’s a tricky question because we don’t really see trends across age or gender.  How we talk about internally is, before the subscription, a big chunk of [our customers] were actually pros. It was, I’m a professional in that category and I want to get better for my job. The second group was, I love this as a passion. What we’ve seen now since launching this all-access pass is a new group of people that people just love to learn and believes that, if I learn, my life will be better.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Apple adds student ID cards into Apple Wallet to access buildings, buy food and more

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The education market has long been one of the cornerstones of growth for Apple’s hardware business, and today the company is leveraging its popularity in it, specifically among college-aged students, to build out a newer effort. Today, Apple started to integrate university student ID cards — used to access buildings, pay for food or books, and any other transactional campus services — into Wallet, its contactless payment system on the Apple Watch and the iPhone. The first schools to come online are Duke University, the University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma.

Apple had actually announced the service back in June, during WWDC, earmarking the three schools going live today. It said that Johns Hopkins University, Santa Clara University and Temple University will start using the service by the end of this year.

The expansion comes at a time when Apple is riding on a growth high for its mobile wallet. iPhone and Watch owners have been shown to be enthusiastic users of their devices for making purchases (thrice as more avid, it seems, than Android users), and on the back of that, Apple Pay — which is now live in 24 markets — has laid claim to being the most popular mobile contactless payment in use today, with some 1 billion transactions in the last quarter alone, up three-fold from a year before.

Many of those transactions are specifically related to Apple Pay, made using more traditional payment cards such as American Express or Visa credit cards, and at traditional retail locations — Apple says it expects 60 percent of all US retail locations to support Apple Pay by the end of this year, including over 70 of the top 100 retail chains.

But Apple has also been pursuing a second wave of growth to make Wallet useful, by encouraging people to upload and use the myriad cards they have for various other services, such as loyalty cards and passes for city transport systems. Twelve US metro areas already use Apple Pay, and there is ground being gained internationally too in markets like the UK, China and Japan.

Adding in university student cards falls within that scope, Apple says.

“iPhone and Apple Watch have brought us into a new era of mobility, helping to transform everyday experiences,” said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services, said in a statement. “When we launched Apple Pay, we embarked on a goal to replace the physical wallet. By adding transit, loyalty cards and contactless ticketing we have expanded the capabilities of Wallet beyond payments, and we’re now thrilled to be working with campuses on adding contactless student ID cards to bring customers even more easy, convenient and secure experiences.”

Apple Pay may not appear to massively profit Apple in a direct way — as it’s been pointed out by others, the percentages on payment transactions are tiny — but what it does give the company indirectly is another tie into how people use their phones and watches, making the devices more valuable to their owners, and those users more tied into the Apple ecosystem.

At colleges (and other schools), we’ve seen an increasing use of student ID cards not just as a way to identify yourself, but to access services and buildings, and also to pay for things, and use of contactless versions of these has been on the rise. Part of the reason for this is safety: having one card for everything means students need to carry less valuables, and if they lose it or it’s stolen, the card can be more easily replaced. At the same time, watches and phones are not items they’re leaving behind, so further consolidating, and making those cards more secure by way of Apple’s device locks, makes sense.

What we don’t know is if Apple is getting a commission (even a tiny one) on the payment transactions made via these student cards. We have asked the company and will update as we learn more.

Educational institutions aren’t the only not-strictly-retail locations that are being put into Wallet. Apple’s been adding sports venues to let attendees use Wallet to carry their tickets, and to then buy food and other concessions once you get in. (See how Apple uses one non-commissioned transaction to lead you into using it for one that might be?)

Today, Apple is estimated to account for between 14 percent and 17 percent of the K-12 education market in the US, and with the likes of Google and Microsoft also pushing hard for growth both here and in higher education, you can see how adding in more services like this could help Apple expand its piece of the pie.

News Source = techcrunch.com

NYC wants to build a cyber army

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Empires rise and fall, and none more so than business empires. Whole industries that once dominated the planet are just a figment in memory’s eye, while new industries quietly grow into massive behemoths.

New York City has certainly seen its share of empires. Today, the city is a global center of finance, real estate, legal services, technology, and many, many more industries. It hosts the headquarters of roughly 10% of the Fortune 500, and the metro’s GDP is roughly equivalent to that of Canada.

So much wealth and power, and all under constant attack. The value of technology and data has skyrocketed, and so has the value of stealing and disrupting the services that rely upon it. Cyber crime and cyber wars are adding up: according to a report published jointly between McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the costs of these operations are in the hundreds of billions of dollars – and New York’s top industries such as financial services bare the brunt of the losses.

Yet, New York City has hardly been a bastion for the cybersecurity industry. Boston and Washington DC are far stronger today on the Acela corridor, and San Francisco and Israel have both made huge impacts on the space. Now, NYC’s leaders are looking to build a whole new local empire that might just act as a bulwark for its other leading ecosystems.

Today, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced the launch of Cyber NYC, a $30 million “catalyzing” investment designed to rapidly grow the city’s ecosystem and infrastructure for cybersecurity.

James Patchett, CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. (Photo from NYCEDC)

James Patchett, CEO of NYCEDC, explained in an interview with TechCrunch that cybersecurity is “both an incredible opportunity and also a huge threat.” He noted that “the financial industry has been the lifeblood of this city for our entire history,” and the costs of cybercrime are rising quickly. “It’s a lose-lose if we fail to invest in the innovation that keeps the city strong” but “it’s a win if we can create all of that innovation here and the corresponding jobs,” he said.

The Cyber NYC program is made up of a constellation of programs:

  • Partnering with Jerusalem Venture Partners, an accelerator called Hub.NYC will develop enterprise cybersecurity companies by connecting them with advisors and customers. The program will be hosted in a nearly 100,000 square foot building in SoHo.
  • Partnering with SOSA, the city will create a new, 15,000 square foot Global Cyber Center co-working facility in Chelsea, where talented individuals in the cyber industry can hang out and learn from each other through event programming and meetups.
  • With Fullstack Academy and Laguardia Community College, a Cyber Boot Camp will be created to enhance the ability of local workers to find jobs in the cybersecurity space.
  • Through an “Applied Learning Initiative,” students will be able to earn a “CUNY-Facebook Master’s Degree” in cybersecurity. The program has participation from the City University of New York, New York University, Columbia University, Cornell Tech, and iQ4.
  • With Columbia University’s Technology Ventures, NYCEDC will introduce a program called Inventors to Founders that will work to commercialize university research.

NYCEDC’s map of the NYC Cyber initiative. (Photo from NYCEDC)

In addition to Facebook, other companies have made commitments to the program, including Goldman Sachs, MasterCard, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and edX.org. Two Goldman execs, Chief Operational Risk Officer Phil Venables and Chief Information Security Officer Andy Ozment, have joined the initiative’s advisory boards.

The NYCEDC estimates that there are roughly 6,000 cybersecurity professionals currently employed in New York City. Through these programs, it estimates that the number could increase by another 10,000. Patchett said that “it is as close to a no-brainer in economic development because of the opportunity and the risk.”

From Jerusalem to New York

To tackle its ambitious cybersecurity goals, the NYCEDC is partnering with two venture firms, Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and SOSA, with significant experience investing, operating, and growing companies in the sector.

Jerusalem-based JVP is an established investor that should help founders at Hub.NYC get access to smart capital, sector expertise, and the entrepreneurial experience needed to help their startups scale. JVP invests in early-, late-, and growth-stage companies focused on cybersecurity, big data, media, and enterprise software.

JVP will run Hub.NYC, a startup accelerator that will help cybersecurity startups connect with customers and mentors. (Photo from JVP)

Erel Margalit, who founded the firm in 1993, said that “If you look at what JVP has done … we create ecosystems.” Working with Jerusalem’s metro government, Margalit and the firm pioneered a number of institutions such as accelerators that turned Israel into an economic powerhouse in the cybersecurity industry. His social and economic work eventually led him to the Knesset, Israel’s unicameral legislature, where he served as an MP from 2015-2017 with the Labor Party.

Israel is a very small country with a relative dearth of large companies though, a huge challenge for startups looking to scale up. “Today if you want to build the next-generation leading companies, you have to be not only where the ideas are being brewed, but also where the solutions are being [purchased],” Margalit explained. “You need to be working with the biggest customers in the world.”

That place, in his mind, is New York City. It’s a city he has known since his youth – he worked at Moshe’s Moving IN NYC while attending Columbia as a grad student where he got his PhD in philosophy. Now, he can pack up his own success from Israel and scale it up to an even larger ecosystem.

Since its founding, JVP has successfully raised $1.1 billion across eight funds, including a $60 million fund specifically focused on the cybersecurity space. Over the same period, the firm has seen 32 successful exits, including cybersecurity companies CyberArk (IPO in 2014) and CyActive (Acquired by PayPal in 2013).

JVP’s efforts in the cybersecurity space also go beyond the investment process, with the firm recently establishing an incubator, known as JVP Cyber Labs, specifically focused on identifying, nurturing and building the next wave of Israeli cybersecurity and big data companies.

On average, the firm has focused on deals in the $5-$10 million range, with a general proclivity for earlier-stage companies where the firm can take a more hands-on mentorship role. Some of JVP’s notable active portfolio companies include Source Defense, which uses automation to protect against website supply chain attacks, ThetaRay, which uses big data to analyze threats, and Morphisec, which sells endpoint security solutions.

Opening up innovation with SOSA

The self-described “open-innovation platform,” SOSA is a global network of corporations, investors, and entrepreneurs that connects major institutions with innovative startups tackling core needs.

SOSA works closely with its partner startups, providing investor sourcing, hands-on mentorship and the physical resources needed to achieve growth. The group’s areas of expertise include cybersecurity, fintech, automation, energy, mobility, and logistics. Though headquartered in Tel Aviv, SOSA recently opened an innovation lab in New York, backed by major partners including HP, RBC, and Jefferies.

With the eight-floor Global Cyber Center located in Chelsea, it is turning its attention to an even more ambitious agenda. Uzi Scheffer, CEO of SOSA, said to TechCrunch in a statement that “The Global Cyber Center will serve as a center of gravity for the entire cybersecurity industry where they can meet, interact and connect to the finest talent from New York, the States, Israel and our entire global network.”

SOSA’s new building in Chelsea will be a center for the cybersecurity community (Photo from SOSA)

With an already established presence in New York, SOSA’s local network could help spur the local corporate participation key to the EDC’s plan, while SOSA’s broader global network can help achieve aspirations of turning New York City into a global cybersecurity leader.

It is no coincidence that both of the EDC’s venture partners are familiar with the Israeli cybersecurity ecosystem. Israel has long been viewed as a leader in cybersecurity innovation and policy, and has benefited from the same successful public-private sector coordination New York hopes to replicate.

Furthermore, while New York hopes to create organic growth within its own local ecosystem, the partnerships could also benefit the city if leading Israeli cybersecurity companies look to relocate due to the limited size of the Israeli market.

Big plans, big results?

While we spent comparatively less time discussing them, the NYCEDC’s educational programs are particularly interesting. Students will be able to take classes at any university in the five-member consortium, and transfer credits freely, a concept that the NYCEDC bills as “stackable certificates.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has partnered with the City University of New York to create a professional master’s degree program to train up a new class of cybersecurity leaders. The idea is to provide a pathway to a widely-respected credential without having to take too much time off of work. NYCEDC CEO Patchett said, ”you probably don’t have the time to take two years off to do a masters program,” and so the program’s flexibility should provide better access to more professionals.

Together, all of these disparate programs add up to a bold attempt to put New York City on the map for cybersecurity. Talent development, founder development, customer development – all have been addressed with capital and new initiatives.

Will the community show up at initiatives like the Global Cyber Center, pictured here? (Photo from SOSA)

Yet, despite the time that NYCEDC has spent to put all of these partners together cohesively under one initiative, the real challenge starts with getting the community to participate and build upon these nascent institutions. “What we hear from folks a lot of time,” Patchett said to us, is that “there is no community for cyber professionals in New York City.” Now the buildings have been placed, but the people need to walk through the front doors.

The city wants these programs to be self-sustaining as soon as possible. “In all cases, we don’t want to support these ecosystems forever,” Patchett said. “If we don’t think they’re financially sustainable, we haven’t done our job right.” He believes that “there should be a natural incentive to invest once the ecosystem is off the ground.”

As the world encounters an ever increasing array of cyber threats, old empires can falter – and new empires can grow. Cybersecurity may well be one of the next great industries, and it may just provide the needed defenses to ensure that New York City’s other empires can live another day.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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