ICE71 x Black Hat Asia: Hunting Cheese in Pandemic Pandemonium

October 1, 2020

ICE71 was a proud Association Partner of Black Hat Asia 2020, a signature technical cybersecurity conference that had happened in virtual format for the very first time.


On 1st Oct, founders and leaders across four ICE71 Scale start-ups were featured in the exclusive ICE71 x Black Hat Asia panel, “Hunting Cheese in Pandemic Pandemonium”. Joseph Gan, successful entrepreneur of homegrown cybersecurity start-up V-Key, moderated the panel. It discussed how agile cybersecurity start-ups can add value and reposition themselves during these dynamic times. The expert panel comprised:

  • Hrishikesh Dewan, CEO and co-founder of Ziroh Labs, a start-up providing advanced privacy preserving technologies without requiring data decryption,
  • Prof Yu Chien Siang, a veteran in the Singapore cybersecurity space and Chief Innovation and Trust Officer of Amaris.AI, a start-up that deals with the latest AI tech including adversarial AI, 
  • Kumar Ritesh, CEO and Founder of Cyfirma, a threat discovery and intelligence start-up funded by Goldman Sachs, and
  • Pedro Hernandez, Managing Director and Co-founder of Build38, a start-up that protects the mobile channel for their customers—mainly banks and service providers who use mobile applications.

Key panel takeaways include:

Accelerated business transformation encourages cybersecurity uptake. Start-ups like Ziroh Labs and Cyfirma, which have solutions catered to or can be adapted for cloud security, have experienced customer interest. Ritesh from Cyfirma quipped, “Cybersecurity all of a sudden became an urgency,” and later adds, “As soon as the lockdown has started to happen, they (clients and prospects) started to come back to us asking and worried about their data.”

Changes to business approach. Build38, for example, is taking a more tactical approach to their business messaging when it comes to helping their clients continue to thrive. Co-founder Pedro said they have shifted the client communication from achieving strategic goals (like preserving brand reputation and avoiding long term risks), to more tactical and short-term goals (like quicker time to market, reduced investment, and optimised resources).

Start-ups have also seen a shift in their target customer segments during COVID-19, as smaller businesses and end user demand for cybersecurity increase with the shift to remote working. According to Hrishikesh, co-founder of Ziroh Labs, “In most of the earlier part of 2019, we were mainly concentrating on the Fortune 100 to Fortune 1000 companies. But now we have pivoted a little towards SMEs as well. So that we can cater to all the different markets, and at a more faster pace.”

Educate, not sell your customers. Traditional methods like trade shows and meeting for a cuppa to grow business no longer apply—something the panelists agreed across the board. Digital marketing and content building is becoming prevalent when it comes to the need to engage customers during this time. “From Cyfirma’s perspective, at least, we have started to push a lot of educational, I would say, awareness programs to our potential clients and customers, as well as to the wider cybersecurity community,” Ritesh said.

“Hunt in the pack”. The panelists also agreed with the notion that cybersecurity businesses should work hand in hand together towards cyber resilience. Prof Yu of Amaris.AI urged local cybersecurity companies to join forces and leverage on their respective strengths: “We don’t have to just win as a party, we should win together. We have to be (hunting) in the pack. I took this story from Mr. David Koh who’s leading CSA—he said that we have many small companies, and unlike other companies like those in Taiwan and (elsewhere), where they all work together, Singaporean companies are fiercely competitive. They don’t have this idea that we will work with each other. We must change that.”

ICE71 Scale start-up leaders with moderator Joseph Gan of V-Key, at the ICE71 x Black Hat Asia 2020 live panel. Panelists discussed and gave their perspectives about how their cybersecurity start-ups are pivoting and adding value during these times.

In addition to the live panel, ICE71’s half-day digital conference, “Cybersecurity in the light of COVID-19” which comprised three back-to-back webcasts, was open for on demand viewing by the Black Hat community. The webcasts touched across different cybersecurity topics such as 5G / IoT security, Cloud Security as well as the human factor of cybersecurity.

ICE71 had a virtual booth over the four-day Black Hat Asia conference, where attendees could drop by, chat and interact with the ICE71 team to learn more about the region’s first cybersecurity entrepreneur hub (interestingly, Cyber N’US was on 2 Oct, which coincided with the last day of Black Hat Asia—ICE71 also had a virtual booth there). Having a virtual conference presence was overall an interesting, albeit new experience for most of us—definitely different from a physical conference experience, but with possibilities to know who’s who at the event, and connect with people whom we may never have brushed shoulders against otherwise. We could spark off meaningful “chats” and set up virtual meetings on the digital platform itself.

Looking forward to the next event!