How one tech startup benefitted from Cameron's trip to Washington DC

Last week a number of technology startups joined Prime Minister David Cameron in Washington DC to raise awareness of the growing threat of cyber security.

The visit saw our PM meeting President Obama to solidify a partnership to tackle cyber security.

Unfortunately the dozen or so UK startups didn’t get to meet Obama personally, but one startup in tow told Computer Weekly that it got a heck of a lot out of the trip.

While Alastair Paterson, CEO of Digital Shadows wasn’t bumping fists with the leader of the free world, all the startups did get time with Cameron one morning of the short two-day visit.

“I think the fact the government is giving cyber security serious attention makes a big difference,” he said. “Being associated with the UK PM shows we’re pretty serious business, so that credibility is important in the security industry.”

Paterson said the trip provided a great networking opportunity, where Digital Shadows and others were able to switch business cards with senior members of the US government, as well as government defence experts as well. Meanwhile, Digital Shadows – which focuses on provided cyber security for the financial services sector – also had the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of the American Bankers Association.

“The US is the place to be for cyber security, it’s a huge market and it’s very mature compared to the rest of the world.”

For Digital Shadows, the trip was about raising the company’s profile because it is about to launch its business out in the States, set up offices in San Francisco and hire around 15 US employees.

But it wasn’t all about growing its own business, but being part of the ongoing war against cyber breaches, and Paterson said it was important to foster ties with the US.

“It’s an issue we can’t solve unilaterally as one country,” he said. “It’s important for our security in the UK and for the growth of our countries.”

One of the political outcomes from the trip is the US and UK agreeing to set up a joint cyber squad and conduct a series of cyber “war games” to test each other’s resilience.

Paterson said these cyber war games are an extension of what is already happening in the UK financial sector. Banks and regulators have got together as part of a Waking Shark programme to achieve similar learning goals when it comes to cyber weakness.

The visit also resulted in the announcement for more support for UK companies exporting their cyber security products to the US, with a UK representative with a background in the industry now based in Washington to help UK startups sell their wares.

“I’m hoping it’s not a one-off,” Paterson said, referring to the trip as a whole. “These things can just happen once and that’s a bit of a shame because there’s now a bit of a community of people. We need to build that community out from the UK. The 12 companies got on well and learnt a lot from each other on the trip, I’m very keen to keep that going.”