New York City calls on startups to help small businesses get tough on hackers

The Big Apple launches competition with Israeli venture firm JVP to find cybersecurity solutions for small to medium-sized businesses

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

An illustration of Jerusalem Venture Partner's cybersecurity hub in New York City's SoHo (JVP)
An illustration of Jerusalem Venture Partner's cybersecurity hub in New York City's SoHo (JVP)

The New York City has launched a competition that calls on industry experts to find new and affordable ways to help small and mid-size businesses in the Big Apple stay safe from hackers.

The Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge was launched by the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO), NYC Cyber Command (C3), New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in collaboration with Israeli VC fund Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP).

The winner will get a $1 million investment from JVP. In addition, four to eight finalists will receive an award from the municipality of up to $20,000 to test their proposal in New York City, and eventually target international markets.

Startups from all over the world can apply for the challenge, JVP said, with February 8 the deadline to submit a concept description. The winner or winners, will be announced in the summer, the NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer said of the challenge. The participants can submit their concepts online here.

New York City is calling on startups to come up with ideas to help small businesses fight cybercrime (Courtesy)

Last month, New York City launched an initiative to substantially boost its cybersecurity sector, and chose two Israeli institutions to take part in its efforts, JVP and SOSA. JVP was selected by the initiative to establish the city’s first international cybersecurity investment hub. The Moonshoot Challenge is a “key part” of the City’s Cyber NYC initiative, the NYCEDC said in a statement released earlier this month.

“As cyberattacks increasingly present one of the greatest threats around the globe, the City has established a consortium of international partners to launch this challenge — all with a shared interest in developing the most innovative and effective cybersecurity solutions,” the statement said.

The City will partner JVP, and other partners from Israel, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Berlin, Helsinki, London, and Paris. These partners will help in providing the up to eight finalists that will be selected access to co-working spaces, support for international market expansion and travel. The Israel Innovation Authority, in charge of setting out the nation’s strategy for its technology ecosystem, was selected to be an Israeli partner in the initiative, according to information about the competition published by the MOCTO.

“These partners will work with the City to solicit and evaluate proposals from companies and startups that can secure small and midsize businesses from cyberattacks,” the statement said.

“With the Cyber Moonshot Challenge, our goal is to find solutions designed to make New York City’s small businesses more resilient,” said Laura Anglin, deputy mayor for Operations, in the statement. “This moonshot is an exciting opportunity to partner with experts to drive innovation and safeguard consumer data.”

High-tech entrepreneur and former Knesset member Erel Margalit speaking at the 2018 Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv; Jan 31, 2018 (Dror Sithakol Photography)

Most cybersecurity companies target and price their cybersecurity tools to larger enterprises with high expertise and budget, the statement said. “The Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge aims to incentivize cyber organizations and startups to develop, test, and build cybersecurity solutions targeted for the small business owners are affordable, effective, and easy-to-use.”

“In a world of heightened cyber threats, New York City must ensure that these businesses are as resilient to cyberattacks as their larger counterparts,” the statement said. “Small and midsize businesses increasingly conduct business online and collect and store data about customers,” and thus they and their customers need better tailored protections.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of cities around the world and at the center of the global economy of the future,” said Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of JVP, but the cybersecurity needs of these companies are not generally catered to.

“As a result, our collective aim is to help unleash a new generation of innovation and the Cyber Moonshot Challenge is an important step in that direction,” Margalit said.

There are nearly 240,000 small and midsize businesses in New York City, and they are “central to the economic growth” of the city, the statement said.

Illustrative photo of New York City (photo credit: CC BY-SA Dschwen, Wikimedia Commons)

According to a 2017 Center for an Urban Future (CUF) report, small businesses with fewer than twenty employees have experienced net job growth every year since 2001, despite major economic downturns. The report also highlighted that those same small and midsize businesses dramatically outpaced far larger counterparts in delivering job growth, adding nearly three times as many jobs annually as companies with more than 500 employees from 2009 to 2017.

“Cybersecurity is one of our world’s greatest threats, and we need to be ambitious about protecting ourselves. That’s why we’re making New York City a hotbed for cyber innovation, to protect every New Yorker and every business – all while creating good-paying jobs,” said NYCEDC president and CEO James Patchett.

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