Former CEO bets on building cyber product companies in DC

The head of Gula Tech Adventures explains why investors should see a huge difference between product-based and service-based cybersecurity companies -- and expl...

A cybersecurity CEO-turned-investor says he wants to grow D.C. from a region loaded with cybersecurity services-based companies into one packed with product-based companies.

The greater Washington region has almost 1,000 cybersecurity firms according to a census completed by Tandem National Security Innovations last year. Less than 10 percent of those companies are solely product-based companies.

Ron Gula, the cofounder of Gula Tech Adventures, wants to change those percentages.

The amount of cybersecurity talent in the region makes him optimistic that that can happen thanks to “all the people in our armed services, the intelligence community, the government, the telecommunications agencies, and universities, who’ve been doing cybersecurity for the past 32 years,” he said.

With his wife Cyndi Gula, the two founded Gula Tech Adventures, a firm funding fledgling cybersecurity companies in the capital region. “What I’m trying to help people do now is turn some of that know-how into product technology solutions,” Gula said.

Gula founded Maryland-based Tenable Network Security in 2002 and led the company as CEO until last June when he stepped down. He helped Tenable raise $250 million in Series B financing last year.

The distinction between product- and service-oriented companies is important to Gula.

“When it comes to services, there’s a lot of customization and different types of work that needs to be done for the whole apparatus of the U.S. government, intelligence community that’s around here,” he said.

“The know-how around here, and around the beltway… has been focused on servicing those service companies, and not creating technology. I’m trying to change that,” he said.

Gula is confident he can launch better, more informed strategies than the average investor. Unlike other hotbeds for technology, D.C. doesn’t have as many “billion dollar funds, sort of tripping over each other trying to fund and competing for the next great idea,” he told What’s Working in Washington.

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