CyberHive’s Darin Andersen Outlines Expanded Plans as iHive Debuts
After launching the CyberHive San Diego incubator for local cybersecurity startups early last year, founder Darin Andersen has expanded into adjacent offices to establish what he calls iHive, a shared workspace and incubator for startups focused on the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things is a much-anticipated new wave of wireless connectivity, linking together a multitude of mundane devices, such as alarm clocks and coffee pots, in consumer markets as well as things like power grid transformers and automated machinery in industrial markets. Andersen describes it as a web of ubiquitous connectivity that is expected to gain intelligence as more sensors and predictive analytics are added to the system.
“It became clear to me in the last few months that San Diego is really well-suited to take on this problem,” Andersen told me Tuesday, shortly after posing with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the iHive. San Diego is recognized as a center for wireless innovation because Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) is based here. What is less apparent is that San Diego also has pockets of expertise in cybersecurity, Big Data, and analytics, due partly to the presence of U.S. Navy technology labs and SPAWAR, the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems command.
Harnessing the Internet of Things would require technologies that combine wireless networks with cloud computing, Big Data, analytics, and cybersecurity, Andersen said. For example, a company’s lighting and air conditioning systems might be equipped with wireless sensors that provide useful data concerning energy usage—but such systems also could become targets of cyber attacks.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was the kick-off event for San Diego Startup Week, which continues with a series of workshops, presentations, parties, and other events intended to showcase the prowess of San Diego’s startup community. In a statement, Mayor Faulconer said, “There’s a lot of talk these days in the technology world about ‘the next big thing.’ Well iHive is it, and I’m so proud that it’s happening right here in San Diego. This program will create good paying local jobs while simultaneously creating the technology of tomorrow.”
In a hypothetical example, Andersen said IoT technology could enable a traveling executive to sleep for an extra half hour “because her intelligent agent would understand that her flight had been delayed, and had reset the wakeup alarm on her smartphone as well as the coffee pot—and rescheduled her appointments for the rest of the day.”
Andersen told me the CyberHive has been able to support its operations by charging a $100-per-month membership to government contractors like Epsilon Systems Solutions, smart grid technology providers like Proximetry, and network security companies like AttackIQ, which simulates cyber attacks to test its customers’ systems. The CyberHive has 45 such memberships, Andersen said.
The CyberHive also leases office space to 18 startups, starting at $250 per desk each month, and has been working with the nonprofit group Veterans 360 to provide IT training and other skills for veterans who recently mustered out of service.
“We’re selling a lot more than office space,” Andersen said. “The membership fees just cover our costs. We’re positive on everything but events [CyberHive hosts about 40 events a year], and we cover the gap primarily with grants and corporate sponsorships,” which include San Diego Gas & Electric, American Internet Services, and Eset, the security software developer.
So how does Andersen measure his success?
Over the 16 months that the CyberHive has been operating, Andersen said, “I’ve come to believe that the only benchmark for success is whether we can get [resident startups] to Series A funding. Our job is to prepare them for Series A.”
To help reach that goal, Andersen said the CyberHive has partnered with EvoNexus, San Diego’s nonprofit and “no strings attached” incubator for tech startups; CleanTech San Diego; Analytics Ventures; and the Wireless Health Hub, an accelerator established in San Marcos, CA, by the SoCal Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development, a nonprofit that operates several 90-day, startup accelerator programs. Among other things, the CyberHive co-produces pitchfests and other events through these partnerships.
While the CyberHive has leased all of its available space, Andersen said the process took nine months.
Andersen also plans to start an accelerator program that would invest $20,000 to $50,000 in seed-stage startups, and provide six workshops and six demo events over a six-month period. He calls it the C6 Accelerator. Three private investors have committed to provide about $1.5 million in capital for up to 20 startups in the program, which is expected to begin later this year.
“We needed to train up a cadre of mentors who weren’t just job seekers, but people who were capabable of getting these companies to the next level,” Andersen said. “Now we’re ready for prime time.”