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by David Braue

Industry support is helping Australian cybersecurity startups shake off risk aversion: Austrade

Mar 29, 20173 mins
GovernmentHealthcare IndustryInternet Security

Austrade is reviewing the lessons learned to date after successful trade missions to India and the United States that laid the groundwork for Australian cybersecurity innovators to build bridges for facilitating international growth.

The trade-promotion organisation, which has stepped up its efforts in the cybersecurity sector in the wake of the Turnbull government’s broad development strategies and financial commitments of the past year, has been working at “really understanding what the sector in Australia looks like, and trying to support them in their goals to grow internationally,” Prathayana Chandrakumar, trade advisor for digital technology with Austrade, told CSO Australia.

“We often talk about big global multinationals who have a presence in Australia, but we are really trying to showcase those unique indigenous Australian capabilities and taking them to the global stage. We need to define the best pathway to market and what might be our differentiators in different markets – and that’s a piece we’re still working on.”

The two trade missions undertaken so far – to India and Silicon Valley – reflect very different potential markets: while Silicon Valley is rife with small technology innovators and technology developers of all sizes, Chandrakumar said, India offers opportunities through potential relationships with massive service providers servicing large companies around the world.

“If you are able to get into the supply chains of a Wipro or Cognizant, you have global reach,” Chandrakumar said. And while the RSA mission “resonated more with the Australian business community due to the market compatibility and ease of doing business there,” he said that each mission has produced its own share of leads.

The investments have also emboldened Australian providers that have often failed to push overseas because of a lack of connections and industry expertise.

“There are lots of innovative companies producing commercially viable solutions to some of these cyber problems,” he explained. “Australian companies are feeling more confident and they’re well positioned to take advantage of that.”

A recent Austrade industry capability report into Australia’s cybersecurity sector noted the Australian Chief Scientist’s designation of the field as one of nine national science and research priorities, with $80m in funding being directed to the sector.

Development of the local industry has been a key priority within the government’s Cyber Security Strategy, with key figures including special advisor to the PM on cybersecurity Alastair MacGibbon and $30.5m Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (ACSGN) head Craig Davies exhorting local cybersecurity innovators to get vocal about their plans and the ways the government can help them grow.

Davies, the former CISO of Australian success story Atlassian, hit the ground running this year to muster support for the local sector and recently told CSO Australia that “there won’t be a more passionate advocate” for the sector. Davies joined forces with Austrade to lead the US trade mission during the February RSA security conference.

The support of Austrade, whose pedigree lies in developing export markets for Australian companies in many sectors, has brought added exposure to companies like FunCaptcha – a Brisbane startup whose founder, Kevin Gosschalk, joined 25 other companies on this year’s RSA mission and believes the trip has made it much easier to get traction overseas.

Although many Australian IT providers tend to be “a little more risk averse,” Chandrakumar said, “we haven’t necessarily seen this so much in the cyber field. Where you provide that information, they can make a solid decision.”