Microsoft Ventures opens first cybersecurity accelerator

Microsoft and its venture capital partner are looking for the next million-dollar security idea.
Written by David Shamah, Contributor
Future rendition of the Advanced Technologies Park in Beersheva
Future rendition of the Advanced Technologies Park in Beersheba. Image: BGU

Microsoft Ventures, Microsoft's startup investment arm, is to set up its first accelerator dedicated solely to companies in the cybersecurity area.

The four-month programme aims to provide startups with tools to succeed in business, from mentorship to help with development to marketing expertise. Companies that get through the program will have an opportunity to get $1m in funding, courtesy of Jerusalem Ventures Partners (JVP), which has partnered with Microsoft Ventures on the project.

Now in its third year of operations, Microsoft Ventures' accelerators have hosted dozens of startups in the six cities across the world where it now operates — starting out in Tel Aviv, where the model for the franchise was first developed.

Companies in the Ventures Accelerator programs get to work with mentors who teach them the tricks of the trade — how to develop a presentation, how to reach and appeal to investors, and how to navigate a company towards an exit. The 40 companies that have graduated from the accelerator in the past two years have raised an average of over a $1m each.

Israel is now trailblazing another path for Microsoft Ventures, with the country hosting its first accelerator dedicated specifically to security.

The accelerator will be located in Beersheba, a city in southern Israel where a new industrial park dedicated to cybersecurity is being built. The Beersheba Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) will eventually include almost two dozen buildings with 190,000 square metres of office and shopping space.

Companies such as Deutsche Telekom, EMC's RSA business, Elbit, Lockheed-Martin, and Oracle are already opening labs dedicated to cybersecurity at the site.

It's a natural location to set up the Microsoft Ventures-JVP cybersecurity accelerator. The two organisations, said Yoav Tzruya, a partner at JVP, "puts special emphasis on working with strategic partners, such as Microsoft, to get market validation for the significant innovations we are witnessing in the cybersecurity space. It is our top priority to create an ecosystem which nurtures entrepreneurs and startups independently of our portfolio."

JVP has been at the forefront of investing in Israeli cyber-security startups. The fund earlier this year ran a $1m challenge for security startups, called the Cybertition, awarding the seven-figure prize to the company with the most promising new tech.

That company, it turned out, was a firm called Titanium Core, which has developed a multilayered security approach to repel attacks on mission-critical systems. The $1m check was presented to Titanium Core at the RSA Security Conference last February in San Francisco.

Six to eight startups will be accepted into the first round of the new accelerator program, which is set to begin after the summer. Microsoft Ventures will begin accepting applications in the coming days.

Hanan Lavy, director of Microsoft Ventures Israel, said: "There are very few companies that have Microsoft's footprint and reach-out potential, let alone accelerators, and we use this power to push startups to their success. We are eager to work closely with JVP to provide unique opportunities for entrepreneurs in our accelerator."

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