Dreamit Ventures launches new security vertical

Dreamit Ventures, a Philadelphia-based early stage investor and accelerator, announced it was moving into security today. To that end, it also announced it was bringing on Bob Stasio, an industry vet with roots in startups, IBM and work in the military and the NSA to run the new division.

The company is adding security to its existing verticals, health technology and urban technology. In fact, the news comes just weeks after announcing that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has invested $12 million in the company to move the urban vertical forward.

As for SecureTech, the company sees a big opening in this area as Fortune 500 organizations struggle with security in a constantly changing landscape. They want to find early stage startups wherever they are in the world with creative ideas on how to solve security problems.

Dreamit wants to connect these young startups with companies looking for solutions they can trust. Bringing in Stasio should help. His most recent job was Chief of Operations at IBM X-Force Command Center and prior to that he was global head of threat intelligence at Bloomberg and chief of operations branch at the Cyber Center, a branch of the NSA. That kind of background has built up connections and as his colleagues have moved into CISO positions at prominent companies, he can use his network to help his charges at Dreamit.

Stasio, who had his own attempts at the startup life, knows it’s not always easy for technically minded folks with a good idea to get in front of an executive at a big company and hit a home run. It takes coaching and practice.

“The really hot agile startups with really good tech tend to fail when they get in front of an enterprise CISO (chief information security officer) because they don’t know how to pitch. They don’t know the kinds of problems and trials and tribulations that go on at an enterprise. So we’re going to help coach them to get them to that point, so that their business model and what they’re doing, how they’re going to implement their solution is ready for a large company,” Stasio told TechCrunch.

The company is looking at security in three areas: logical, physical and social. Logical is the more traditional kind of cybersecurity software and hardware approaches with artificial intelligence, threat hunting and threat intelligence, but they also want to look at areas that are frequently ignored involving the physical side of security. That could include drones, imagery analysis, physical security of buildings, protection of people and places, VIP security and so forth. The social side is looking how to protect against dissemination of false information, a growing problem.

They run a couple of cohorts a year for each vertical. Typically they take no more than 10 companies and that’s out of about 300 applications per vertical, so it’s very selective, says Steve Barsh, partner and chief innovation officer at Dreamit. The companies go through a 14 week program, after which they can choose to write a check or not (and the company still gets the benefit of having been in the accelerator).

“They give us an investor right to write a check for up to $500,000 at a 20% discount, the 20% discount, which is the value we think of the 14 weeks of going through Dreamit. And we only get the discount if we write the check,” Barsh explained. Their goal is getting the participants to the next funding round, which is well aligned with the goal of the startup itself. If they get that round, then Dreamit writes a check too with the 20 percent discount.

They said being Philadelphia, allows them to bring their charges in for the program, and then allow them to present to executives in New York and DC, where a huge chunk of business is going to be.