Hacking and cyber warfare threats are on the rise, with many pernicious actors specifically targeting the infrastructure of democratic societies. Cooperation between businesses and governments is increasing on a global scale in order to combat these threats.
Building on the rock-solid relationship between the United States and Israel when it comes to the sharing and transfer of technology on the national level, now there are a few significant American cities looking to Israel for its world-leading expertise in cybersecurity. One of these is New York.
Traditionally, the Bay Area, Washington DC, and Tel Aviv have been the international centers for cyber. However, with the number of financial service organizations and Fortune 500 offices headquartered in New York City, as well as a robust ecosystem and pool of talent, it makes sense that the city and its Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) aim to make New York a global center of excellence in cybersecurity.
Israeli tech plays a major role in the new Cyber NYC initiative — a $100 million project including an accelerator, workspace, cyber range, and cooperation with New York-area academic institutions.
There are three main Israeli tech components to the initiative, as well as many Israeli-born professionals involved in aspects of the multifaceted project. Let’s unpack the three main Israeli tech-driven programs of Cyber NYC.
Global Cyber Center
SOSA, the corporate innovation program from southern Tel Aviv, has taken on multiple responsibilities that include the NYC Global Cyber Center to open in Chelsea.
They’re also parlaying their expertise in building a community by hosting about 150 annual events focused on cybersecurity.
Startups, whether Israeli or not, need help making connections to investors and corporates. To solve that problem, SOSA NYC is building a venture-capital network and connecting startups to corporates. And it’s also partnering with Full Stack Academy to operate a unique cyber range, a simulation to test new technologies.
As SOSA CEO Uzi Scheffer says: “SOSA will build and operate NYC’s Global Cyber Center. The center’s goals include building the NYC cybersecurity community and ecosystem by bringing together the different stakeholders around curated content events, workshops and demo days.”
More specifically, he adds: “The center will directly work with NY-based Fortune 500 companies, help them define their cybersecurity and innovation strategy, and bring to town the leading technologies that will work with the industry players.”
Jerusalem Venture Partners is the key VC fund helping to lead the Cyber NYC initiative. It will be operating out of the 45,000-square-foot HUB.NYC on Grand and Broadway.
With a 20-year history of investing in Israeli cybersecurity startups as well as its role in building Cyberspark in Beersheva (another city focused on becoming a cyber center), JVP has experience in regional development and public-private partnerships.
Whereas SOSA focuses on connecting corporations, startups, JVP has taken on the role of running the accelerator and taking enterprise-ready companies to that next stage.
Traditionally, JVP and other Israel-based funds have invested in local Israeli startups. In this case, JVP is planning on investing in companies from across the globe. Entrepreneurs from over 60 countries already have applied to the program.
Alongside investing startups that have raised capital past their Series A round, JVP also will assist with business development, marketing and raising additional funding.
As cybersecurity is becoming cross vertical, New York City with its numerous industries is the place to start investing in global startups looking to reach this market.
“The best and brightest come to New York and we’re investing to fuel their growth,” says JVP General Partner Yoav Tzruya, who is centrally active in this initiative.
Tzruya says Israelis’ knack for “creating holistic communities to help one another and their environment” as well as its “constant flow of value and people” can be applied to help make the cyber center a success.
He believes more outside venture funds will continue to open offices in New York. “In the coming years we’ll see more West Coast VCs opening in New York and VCs developing tighter relationships and working together.”
Something that Israel demonstrated in its attempt to land on the moon is that it’s all about taking “moonshots,” those crazy goals that seem out of reach but make the biggest impact.
The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO), NYC Cyber Command (C3) and NYCEDC launched the NYCx CyberSecurity Challenge to tackle the challenge of how small- and medium-sized businesses can guard against cyber-attacks.
While there is a focus in New York on Fortune 500 companies and financial services, there are almost 250,000 SMBs in the NYC area that can’t afford the protection a large corporate can. Yet they are just as vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
While other partner countries and cities, such as Japan, South Korea and Berlin, are part of this challenge, it is Israel and JVP that are reviewing the applications and awarding the $1 million prize. Up to eight finalists will receive $20,000 to test their proposals in order to have the chance to win the prize and help protect New York City’s local businesses.
Despite Amazon ultimately not opening its HQ2 in New York, the city is rapidly developing into a tech powerhouse. Just a few years ago, New York would not have been considered a place to host Amazon; now it’s become the go-to spot for international startups looking for US market entry.
Israeli tech is going to be a major part of that growth, led by the Cyber NYC initiative to cement New York City as a global cybersecurity center.
Jonathan “Yoni” Frenkel heads a digital marketing agency, YKC Media, that focuses on engaging millennial and tech professionals through content. He’s been involved in the New York Israeli tech community for many years and previously held roles as a non-profit professional at both the IAC Dor Chadash and AIPAC.