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Samira Sarraf
Regional Editor for Australia and New Zealand

AustCyber’s merger into Stone & Chalk gets positive reaction

News Analysis
Feb 15, 20214 mins
Mergers and AcquisitionsSecurityStartups

Australia’s cybersecurity industry likes the combination of the cybersecurity and startup advisories, in hopes for greater impact on homegrown technologies.

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Credit: chombosan / Getty Images

AustCyber, the government-funded security advisory and technology not-for-profit, is now part of Stone & Chalk, a not-for-profit startup advisory focussed on homegrown technology. The merger of the two firms is meant accelerate the growth of Australian startup technology companies that are secure by design before they write their first line of code, Stone & Chalk said.

The surprise announcement on 15 February 2021 is the result of merger conversations that began in late 2020, and follows several years of the two organisations working together.

Australian cybersecurity experts like the AustCyber–Stone & Chalk linkup

Monash University’s first-ever CISO, Dan Maslin, said this is a positive partnership, “a force-multiplier where we will see the combined strength of a proven and well-connected organisation driving growth in the cybersecurity sector with that of a dedicated startup and scale-up innovation community.” The merger “has benefits for the rapidly emerging cybersecurity industry in Australia and, as a by-product, the broader Australian population will have greater access to homegrown expertise and solutions,” he told CSO Australia.

Mitra Minai, CISO for Melbourne-based private hospitals operator Healthscope, told CSO Australia:

I believe building a strong culture of cybersecurity resilience is crucial to the success of Australia’s cybersecurity ecosystem. We need to see more collaboration across all industries and companies in Australia and support the active participation in the design and enablement of cybersecurity strategies and solutions.

With the merger of these two entities, I hope to see more support for cybersecurity education and an increase in the cybersecurity talent pool to improve our collective cyberworkforce capabilities and maturity. This merger should further enable these two entities’ common purpose of supporting cybersecurity companies and startups to deliver focussed and robust solutions across the industries.

Minai said that she hoped the merger would bring more focussed cybersecurity assistance across all industries and support organisations in achieving their vision of being truly cyberresilient.

Aaron Bailey, CISO and cofounder of the Missing Link, a Sydney-based cybersecurity and IT services provider, said the coming together of the organisations was good news as AustCyber has focussed on bringing the cybersecurity channel together and promoting the channel both locally and globally, while Stone & Chalk provides collaborative workspaces.

Bailey did not believe the merger could have any impact in the independent work AustCyber provides. “I think they do a fantastic job in helping to compartmentalise information and in pushing to promote the industry as a whole, and I don’t see them losing any of their independence through this,” he told CSO Australia.

How AustCyber will function as a subsidiary of Stone & Chalk

AustCyber is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Stone & Chalk but will retain its standalone brand, and there will be no changes to the services it provides, Stone & Chalk said. Both are part of the Australian government’s Industry Growth Centres program, which lose their government funding in June 2022 as part of a goal of them becoming commercally viable, self-sustaining organisations, as InnovationAus has detailed.

Stone & Chalk’s services will now be available for cybersecurity organisations, including investment support, customer and talent acquisition, corporate partnerships, ecosystem support, and curated mentorship from commercial leaders. Likewise, AustCyber services will be made available for Stone & Chalk’s startups.

AustCyber CEO Michelle Price told CSO Australia that the merger will ensure that Australian cybersecurity companies can grow and scale with the demand from the local and global business community, and that startups working outside the security sector will be able to embed security practices into their organisations, “which will make them more attractive to prospective customers and enable them to scale their own offerings more effectively”.

She told CSO Australia that both the industry rapid growth in the past three years and the increasing amount of threats faced by Australian organisations provided an inflection point for both our organisations. “We saw that the best service for the cybersecurity ecosystem going forwards would be to provide 360-degree commercialisation support, and we wanted a partner that would help us provide this long into the future.”

“Both organisations consulted closely with stakeholders in the private and public sectors to ensure that our merger would produce maximum value for Australia’s critical and emerging technology industries,” Price said. “Stone & Chalk and AustCyber have worked together on projects like GovPitch for several years. We know each other well, and we know we are effective and aligned in a common purpose,” she said.