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Cync Program looks to build cyberbusiness
by Alexandra Schwappach, Medill News Service
Washington (UPI) Nov 11, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Small cybersecurity businesses have struggled to nab the U.S. government as a client but a big brother in the contracting business has teamed with a Maryland university to try to change that.

The Cync Program was created by defense contractor Northrop Grumman and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County to foster and evaluate budding cybersecurity businesses that show potential to sell products to federal intelligence and defense buyers.

So far, four companies have agreed to work with Cync: Oculis Labs, AccelerEyes, Rogue Networks and Five Directions.

Chris Valentino, director of Northrop Grumman Information Systems, said Northrop's backing as a leader in the defense market could give visibility to start-ups with good ideas.

"There's certainly valuable technology that's coming out of the program," Valentino said. "The capabilities and the technologies that these companies are developing can really make a difference to our customers."

While the small firms get a lot of help from Northrop, the firms also provide Northrop with "opportunities for us to meet new customers that we might not have been able to access before," he said.

Ellen Hemmerly, executive director and president of UMBC Research Park Corp., said UMBC has more than half a million square feet of space for businesses to set up shop to develop products. She said the university provides consultation to companies that might not have business savvy.

"Most of the folks who come into our incubator are technologists, they're not businesspeople," she said. "So part of what we to do provide that kind of support for them."

Though more of a start-up business, Oculis Labs, which joined Cync in August, has developed a handful of cybersecurity products, two of which are designed to keep classified data secure. Some of Oculis' customers include healthcare agencies, which use the software to protect patient records.

Bill Anderson, founder and chief executive officer of Oculis Labs, said the government is often "uncomfortable" dealing with small companies because they don't have a track record so he hopes having a "big brother" like Northrop will help Oculis develop a good name.

"Federal-type customers can look at our products and say, 'Oh good, this is a quality company,'" he said. "We will probably see that with Northrop Grumman."

Cync also gives Oculis a more structured way of engaging with Northrop and other big firms for potential deals, he said.

Oculis recently signed a deal with In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the intelligence community started at the behest of the CIA more than a decade ago. That relationship has garnered attention in the cybersecurity market, something Anderson hopes will help Oculis to develop a larger presence in that area.

AccelerEyes, an Atlanta cybersecurity software company that intends to release its third major product this month, officially joined Cync in September. It has sold in the commercial marketplace for several years but intends to sell to defense and intelligence agencies in the future.

Scott Blakeslee, director of business development for AccelerEyes, works out of the UMBC incubator, where AccelerEyes is developing software for faster, easier and more efficient coding and computer images.

The software is already being used by a variety of customers, including media outlets, financial agencies and academic institutions like Stanford University and Cambridge University.

Now it wants to penetrate the defense and intelligence markets.

"We're pretty new to that game and we're excited about being in the Cync program so we can continue to delve into that market," Blakeslee said.

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