In this week’s Enterprise Feature, we speak to Claire Li & Melvin Tan from ICE71, the region’s first cybersecurity entrepreneur hub.

L – R : Melvin Tan | Alvina | Claire Li

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Melvin: I’m the programme manager at ICE71, looking after SCALE.

Claire: I’m the community manager for ICE’s community programmes so I do a lot of community programmes.

ICE71 stands for Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at BLK 71. It is co-founded by NUS Enterprise and Singtel Innov8, and with supporting partners from the government such as IMDA and CSA, to actually build the whole cyber security ecosystem in Singapore and the region.

2. What are some of the challenges you face?

Firstly, let’s define what constitutes an ecosystem. In an ecosystem, we have startups and we have risk capital, which is brought from VCs or investors. We have corporates that actually drive the problem statements, who partner with startups  — to produce projects that can lead to adoption. We also have IHLs, which NUS actually plays an important part in terms of developing talents in cybersecurity. On top of that, we have government players. Thus, when everybody comes together, it forms an ecosystem. As a community manager, my role is to connect everybody in the ecosystem. How do I do that? I organise a lot of events – both educational and networking events. I bring people together to share their knowledge and expertise and also to create a platform for people to meet others in the same ecosystem.  

3. What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a broad space and it is also a broad term. I mean, I would guess in simple layman terms is that anything that protects your security. It can be something easy like an anti-malware product or an anti-email phishing product. It can be also security for the Internet of things (IoT). Right now, we have a lot of IoT like drones, like autonomous vehicles. That kind of prevention of hacking into those IoT stuff, is also one area of cybersecurity. It’s not confined to any particular space but it’s about everything that has connectivity will be exposed to cybersecurity.

We have a cybersecurity startup called the Cyber Assembly. So what they are focusing on is rather on the masses, cybersecurity education. So they actually have a cybersecurity platform that anyone can learn basic cybersecurity knowledge and tips around the platform, so people can build more awareness of cybersecurity.

4. What’s one thing you’ve learnt about being in the cybersecurity space?

Melvin: The weakest link is usually human in nature. The person is actually the end point to all the possible attacks. I’ll give you an example, you can protect everything, but you cannot prevent a human from making stupid mistakes such as clicking on a phishing email or leaving thumb drive in a public place, or connecting to unsecured wifi.

We find that education is very important, thus placing a strong emphasis on it. This is how we actually reach out to the masses and to the whole ecosystem.

5. Do you think it is safe to log on to free wifi in hotels and shopping malls?

Melvin: For me personally, I think that it is safe for simple usage if you just want to see some information. I wouldn’t recommend you to use public wifi to access sensitive information like your banking apps. Recently there was a ChannelNewsAsia video showing that wifi can be easily hacked. The hackers create a fake wifi network, which you think is real and you connect on it, and the hackers can actually see what you are doing on your phone.

ICE71 Bootcamp

6. What are some of the programmes at ICE71?

At ICE71, we actually run three different kinds of programmes to support startups and entrepreneurs at different stages. For the earliest stage of entrepreneur, normally they will come with innovative ideas only. We have this programme called Inspire, which are actually targeting them. It’s a 5 day programme to help them to validate their ideas.They would be talking their ideas to a lot of mentors, a lot of industrial experts. At the end of the 5 days, they will come out and say ‘ Oh actually, my idea works. I can go on to develop something or my idea is terrible, let me change my idea or stay where I am.” So, that’s the first program called Inspire. The second one is Accelerate. This program is much longer, it’s 13 weeks. It’s more intensive. The target audience for this one is actually early stage startups which already have an early product or MVP. So what their challenge is how do I fine tune my product to meet my customers’ needs and how do I find customers. How do I find funding to keep my company running? So through these 13 weeks, we are going to coach them on these primary areas and at the end of the boot camp, they are going to have this pitch day whereby they will have to pitch their startups to an audience of 150 or even more, people from the corporates as well from the VCs and hopefully they can close a couple of deals after that.

For SCALE, it is a 6 months sponsored residency programme that helps later stage cybersecurity companies to springboard their business in Singapore and the region. We provide them with go-to-market strategies, pro-bono services and of course being able to leverage on the network of our co-founders, NUS Enterprise and Singtel Innov8. So that actually helps a lot in gaining attraction for their businesses.

7. What kind of cybersecurity start-ups apply to SCALE?

Usually they are later-stage start-ups tough there isn’t any hard or fast rule. We also want companies that actually can contribute knowledge back to the ecosystem. Some “big brothers” have been in the cybersecurity space for a while and they have gained a lot of knowledge. So when we bring them over and they set up their office here, the companies will hire and train talents. That’s the kind of a knowledge we want to actually impart into our ecosystem.

8. How can we help?

We have a lot of events going on for the next year. Do follow us on our social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Come by our space and have a coffee together! We are also looking for more startups who can apply to SCALE, who are looking to benefit from the SCALE programme.

Watch the full video interview with Claire & Melvin from ICE71 here:

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