Carnegie Mellon University

Colorful outlines of people on computers

July 01, 2024

CyLab Venture Network

By Giordana Verrengia

Michael Cunningham

As a top-tier institution with renowned faculty and researchers, Carnegie Mellon University produces graduates who are poised to become leaders in their respective fields. CMU is launching the CyLab Venture Network to provide a substantive program for startups looking to disrupt the security and privacy industry by connecting founders with venture investors, corporate partners, academics, and government officials.

Michael Lisanti, director of partnerships at the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute, said the program is a direct reaction to high industry demand to partner with CMU security and privacy startups, and that spotlighting these companies is an important part of CMU’s identity and social impact.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are innate in the CMU DNA, and we are seeing a growing number of our computer science, engineering, and business startups succeed in the market,” Lisanti said. “The goal is to inspire even more students and faculty to explore creating cybersecurity startups, and to help existing startups in the Network become more successful.” 

Partner sponsorship for startups in the Cylab Venture Network is reserved for early- and growth-stage companies. The Network is launching with 20 startups across multiple sectors and stages, developing some of the most disruptive technologies in the security and privacy industry.

“For an early-stage startup like ours, the connections the CyLab Venture Network will enable can be game-changing, particularly as we start to grow and hire more,” said Giulia Fanti, co-founder and chief scientist at Rockfish Data, a Venture Network startup.

“The CyLab Venture Network is an amazing opportunity for CMU faculty and students and entrepreneurs,” added Vyas Sekar, co-founder and chief technologist at Rockfish Data. “For an early-stage startup like Rockfish, it is an incredible opportunity to tap into the broader CyLab network of academics and industry practitioners to work together to create industry-changing solutions.”

“The CyLab Venture Network is offering unparalleled access to a community of leading experts and potential collaborators," said Fraser Brown, co-founder and CTO at Cubist, another inaugural Venture Network startup. "We can't wait to see what it makes possible.”

“As a member of CyLab's core faculty, I've seen firsthand the value that CyLab brings to its industry partnerships. So I am completely thrilled that Cubist is joining the CyLab Venture Network,” said Riad Wahby, co-founder and CEO at Cubist.

As part of this dynamic ecosystem, partners will receive exclusive invitations to participate in CyLab’s annual partners conference and engage in innovative programming developed in collaboration with CMU’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship.

Two VC firms have signed on to be investor partners of the Venture Network. 412 Venture Fund supports technology and technology-enabled companies with ties to the Pittsburgh region, making CMU a fitting partner, especially since its leadership team includes several alumni.

“We're looking for the next Wombat Technologies,” said Ilana Diamond, Managing Partner of 412 Venture Fund. “Norman Sadeh, Jason Hong, and Lorrie Cranor, co-founders of  Wombat Security Technologies, spun the company out from a CyLab research project, attracting significant Venture Capital and eventually leading the company to a successful exit. With Norman joining 412 Venture Fund as a Limited Partner, he's come full cycle as a successful CyLab founder using his expertise and resources to support a new generation of entrepreneurs from CMU and the Pittsburgh region.”

DataTribe, based in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, also features several Carnegie Mellon alumni in leadership roles, as it caters to the needs of seed-stage cybersecurity companies and encourages their growth. Startups in the DataTribe portfolio have been acquired by the likes of Microsoft, Synopsys, and ID Technologies.

“It can be tricky to turn deep academic research into successful products,” said John Funge, managing director of DataTribe. “That’s where active collaboration between the academic community, startups, and the investment community comes in."

“The CyLab Venture Network offers a resource to enable transformative ideas born at CMU to grow into successful startups and, in turn, maximize their positive impact. This aligns with DataTribe’s mission to co-build world-class startups centered around over-the-horizon technologies. We’re excited to be a part of this effort.”

The Venture Network will also provide significant value for current CMU faculty, research staff, and students by opening doors to internships and job opportunities, as well as direct exposure to corporate and startup partners. Getting a closer look at the ins and outs of founding a company will inspire the next generation of CMU entrepreneurs to join the Venture Network with their own companies. 

“CMU embraces and celebrates creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, and game-changers,” said Lisanti. “The startup founders in the CyLab Venture Network embody this spirit, working towards a future where critical infrastructure resilience, enterprise security, and individual privacy thrive.”