Four Israeli cyber-security companies got a step closer to a million dollar prize Monday night in Tel Aviv, when they were named as finalists in Cybertition. The contest, sponsored by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), seeks to ferret out the most promising cyber-defense technologies Israeli start-ups have to offer.

The contest began in January, at the big Cybertech 2014 show in Tel Aviv. Thirty five start-ups responded to the challenge posed by JVP — to develop a new breakthrough concept or product that could solve a cyber-security problem in a well-defined market. Besides technology, start-ups were judged on the basis of the feasibility of their idea, their business plan, and the potential market for their product or service.

The winner gets a one million dollar investment from JVP Cyber Labs, JVP’s new cyber-security investment program dedicated specifically to investments in that area. The winner will be also able to join JVP’s new cyber-security accelerator program in Beersheba. For its part, JVP will acquire 8% equity in the winning start-up.

Of the 35, JVP planned on choosing three for the final round, in which they will be judged on their performance at the RSA Cyber-Security Conference, to be held in San Francisco at the end of February. However, said Yoav Tzruya, a Partner at JVP Cyber Labs, “we had a hard time deciding on who to include and eliminate because all the ideas — which included technologies for defending internal embedded SCADA systems, enterprise and industrial Internet, data loss prevention, consumer apps and more — were all very good.”

Judges for the competition included top security experts from GE, Cisco, Microsoft, EMC-RSA, Lockheed Martin, and the Chief Scientist’s Office, along with JVP partners.

After a sleepless night, Tzruya said, he and the other judges chose four companies. All the candidates are very early-stage, with either just a concept or an alpha edition of their application or service. They include CrowdIntact, a cloud security management platform; Dyadic, an encryption system for servers hosting encrypted data that ensures hackers will not be able to get access to the data; Titanium, which has developed methods to stop hackers in their tracks before they can get access to servers hosting mission-critical services (power, communication, etc.); and RisklessID, which identifies suspicious behavior within a network by looking at patterns of behavior preceding an attack.

Now, it’s off to San Francisco to decide who gets the million. And for those companies that didn’t win — including the 31 participants who did not make it to the finals — recent history says there is room for their success, too. “In the last two years, more than 100 cyber-security start-ups have begun developing solutions,” said Tzruya. “Although Israel is known for its cyber-defense technologies because of the IDF, we found that there are also a lot of great ideas coming out from other areas, whether it is from university research, or from tech-savvy developers who, as consumers, realized that there was a problem and worked to figure out ways to solve it.

“The Cybertition is about finding early stage start-ups with a clear, unique, innovative, groundbreaking technology aimed at addressing the real needs in the market,” said Tzruya. “As one of the leading investors in cyber-security in Israel, JVP and its team will work closely with the new entrepreneurs to help turn this technology into a global leader by helping formulate their teams, develop the product and establish their ‘go to market’ strategy with a view to creating the next generation of significant cyber-security companies out of Israel.”