Local cybersecurity companies such as IPSecure are growing rapidly to meet the global demand for cyber innovation, cementing San Antonio’s place among the world’s top 10 hubs for cybersecurity talent. IPSecure is the latest cybersecurity company to be featured in Port San Antonio‘s latest Building Futures on the Leading Edge of Innovation program.
IPSecure provides comprehensive network cybersecurity for government and commercial clients and cybersecurity software development, training and simulation, and risk management services. The company was founded in 2000 by former Air Force civil employee Jesse Rodriguez and now has more than 200 employees in locations around the U.S., including a large presence at Port San Antonio.
For the webinar, IPSecure Chief Technology Officer Richard Valdez joined Port San Antonio Vice President for Cybersecurity Business Development Will Garrett for a discussion led by StartupsSanAntonio.com publisher Iris Gonzalez.
Over the past five years, IPSecure has set up three facilities at Port San Antonio to support its rapidly growing military and private-sector client base. The most recent expansion, in September 2019, was a 4,800-square foot training and education facility that includes conference space, meeting rooms, and classrooms for its client training operations. The company is currently hiring for dozens of positions in San Antonio and military installations around the country.
Meanwhile, Port San Antonio is also expanding, with a new $60 million innovation center under construction slated to open in 2022. The 130,000-square-foot center is intended to help employers at the Port attract and retain customers and talent, with a 2,500-seat arena for esports and other events, a LAN gaming center, R&D space, an expanded version of the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) and a food hall.
“We think [the innovation center] will be transformative for the region, especially for the customers that operate on our campus,” Garrett said. “It will give us the ability to bring talent in and meet them where they want to be, to partner with industry so they can showcase their emerging tech, and converge government, private industry, and academia to foster emerging technology.”
One reason for the growth of both IPSecure and San Antonio’s cybersecurity industry is how pervasive technology is in our lives now, Valdez said. A lot has changed since he was an Air Force cybersecurity engineer and technical lead in the 1990s. Back then, “we were setting up firewalls.” Now, cybersecurity needs are much more complex and widespread.
“Our kids, like us, are now teleworking, so we have to secure their stuff and ours, our financial and private information. Technology is now ingrained in every piece of our lives.”
Cybersecurity threats are always evolving, Valdez said. This year especially, as many people moved to remote work, “we’ve had to be very agile. We pivot and move where the technology takes us as our adversaries change. Every time we find a new way to keep them out, they’ll find a new way to get in.”
Because of the constantly changing threats, IPSecure is “investing in R&D and technology because there’s a need. With cyber evolving the way it is, we can’t wait for an idea to pop up with full-blown plans. If the customer says they need something, we look at it, and we come up with it. We also look at technologies outside the space we’re in,” Valdez added because private-sector cybersecurity has become more innovative over the past decade.
To stay agile and meet clients’ changing needs, Valdez said IPSecure’s founder “has made a significant investment in smart folks to figure these hard problems out and move the big rocks.” The challenge is to keep finding more talent as the demand for technical expertise and creative problem-solving keeps growing.
“We’re looking for introverts and tinkerers with a different way of thinking,” Valdez said, whether they’re former military members, recent college graduates, or “people who come straight out of high school just ‘getting it’—diamonds in the rough.”
In the constant quest for new hires, both Valdez and Garrett say San Antonio is an ideal place to be, thanks to how local institutions have worked together to build a strong talent pipeline.
“We have a ton of 100- to 200-person companies that are top of their class in their cybersecurity niche,” Garrett said. “And that ecosystem’s getting stronger because the customers are here, and then there’s the broader ecosystem of talent in S.A. schools.”
That starts with the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) located at the Port. SAMSAT’s programs support grade-schoolers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and specialized community, public, and private college cybersecurity programs.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a two- or four-year institution in the San Antonio area that doesn’t have a dedicated cybersecurity program. And the schools have been good at coordinating” to cover a range of specialties, Garrett said.
Valdez agreed. “We’ve been able to offer internships with students at UTSA [The University of Texas at San Antonio], Alamo Community College District, and other schools.” When IPSecure hires, he added, “Our focus isn’t keeping people forever. We want to give them a jump-start so they can go and change the world wherever they are.”
Beyond growing IPSecure and San Antonio’s military and civilian cybersecurity role, Valdez says a strong sense of purpose drives IPSecure.
“There’s lives on the line with the decisions we make on projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. I believe in the mission. I know that one day my son could be one of those kids that we’re protecting with our technology. And it’s always exciting to find people who need opportunities and give them those opportunities to help our community.”
The featured image is of the entrance to IPSecure, courtesy photo.