Symantec Launches Incubation Program For Security Startups, Looks For Partner Input

Symantec has teamed up with Frost Data Capital to launch an incubator program for security startups, a program that will work to directly address gaps in the market for partners around the Internet of Things, and big data and analytics.

Using direct feedback from partners, Symantec and Frost Data Capital will both launch and seed 10 early-stage startups a year. The startups will be led by hand-picked, seasoned engineers and leverage the security expertise of Symantec and the investment expertise of Frost Data Capital, an incubator and venture capital firm based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., that has already launched 24 startups in a similar fashion.

The process starts with the creation of an idea or problem that needs solving in the security market, said Miles Mahoney, general manager for industrial and IoT portfolio of companies at Frost Data Capital. That hypothesis will then be put to the test with customers and partners to see if it works in practice. Then, when the idea has been solidified, Symantec and Frost Data Capital will fund and get the company up and rolling.

[Related: The 10 Coolest Security Startups Of 2015 (So Far)]

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The key element in all stages of that process is Symantec's partners, Ken Schneider, vice president of technology strategy at Symantec, said in an interview with CRN.

"One of the great opportunities here is to work closely with our partners to understand the biggest challenges they're seeing with their customers and the spaces they service, and use that as a starting point with the ideation process," Schneider said. "It's really a partner-driven process in many ways."

Schneider said Symantec will start having meetings over the next couple of weeks with partners, asking their input for security challenges or gaps that need to be solved. From there, partners will be involved in testing the solutions and, ultimately, if they want, in investment, Mahoney said.

"When you think about a partner ecosystem, partners are by and large left with what is commercially available in the marketplace without their input. We believe that, from an Internet of Things security point of view and a greenfield landscape, the excitement that we're getting and feedback we're getting from partners ...The idea that they are going to be able to have their DNA on this type of use case, technology, and then company, is very unique and aligns very well with how they want to go to market with us," Mahoney said.

Beyond getting involved in the process, Schneider said the new incubator program will help partners address a need in the marketplace for not only implementing IoT solutions, but also securing them.

The investment companies will focus around security technologies for IoT, and big data and analytics, but initially more around IoT, he said.

The incubator company also will offer some clarity around the future direction for a security-focused Symantec after its upcoming split, which will legally take effect in January. Schneider said the incubator program is "directly aligned" with the Symantec's unified security strategy.

Schneider said it also speaks to a ramped-up focus on R&D under Symantec's stand-alone security company. He said the company has beefed up its investments and built a leaner production team model.

"This is another blade in our innovation strategy," Schneider said. "This new area is really around strategic investment and driving innovation in a more open way -- not just having to innovate within Symantec, but innovate within an open ecosystem around us."

Schneider said Symantec hopes to "hit the ground running" with the investments, starting to build startups quickly.