The inaugural CEO of the newly-created Australian Cyber Security Growth Network says he wants the organisation to act as a “cheerleader” for the sector, both locally and abroad.
Craig Davies, the former director of security at Australian tech darling Atlassian, officially took over the reins of the government organisation at the start of this year and is beginning to shape its role in the industry, and relationships with government.
Most important is the fostering a community in the cyber security sector to build and promote home-grown companies, Mr Davies told InnovationAus.com.
“There’s a reason we’re called the growth network rather than a centre,” Mr Davies says.
“Our main driver is creating that ecosystem of startups and scale-up firms, and helping companies adopt Australian-developed services, strategies and technology that reflects some of the uniqueness around our businesses.
“I want to be the number one cheerleader for cyber security firms in Australia. I want to help them get into the room, help them grow and at the same time make sure we’re enjoying what we’re doing and feel like we’re making a difference.”
The Australian Cyber Security Growth Network was unveiled in December last year as a part of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, and will be based in Melbourne alongside Data61 in Docklands.
The organisation will receive $31.9 million in funding over four years, and has a set objective to “drive the development of a globally competitive cyber security industry in Australia”.
Mr Davies said Australia already boasts many world-leading cyber security firms, but there is yet to be a solid industry around these businesses. And the ecosystem is calling out for more attention.
“We have pockets of nice little companies doing nice little things, but we don’t really have a strong industry,” he says. “But we should. We have really clever things going on.
“Australia has a really great reputation as a trusted business location, and we should be building on that.
“We’re going to be this connector, we’re going to create an industry in Australia and our number one KPI is measurable economic benefit to Australia.”
While cyber security has recently been a main focus of the Turnbull Government, Mr Davies said governments around the world were still grappling with the issue. And it is commonly viewed as only a negative.
“In conversations I’ve had already with both federal and state government is they understand that they do need to get involved in this space for our protection, and for the people they’re responsible for. But also for the importance of growing the industry and creating jobs,” Mr Davies says.
“Security in many organisations is still seen as all negative, but you can really turn it into a positive way of doing business.
“The opportunities to further enhance our reputation are truly quite limitless. We’ve never really explored it. Like all countries we’re struggling with the threat of cyber security. Everyone knows we need to do something, and I want to turn that something into a very pragmatic thing.”
Mr Davies has decades of experience in the cyber security industry, beginning in the banking sector at Westpac.
In the late 90s he took on a role at Cochlear and worked his way up to become the chief security officer. In 2013 he joined tech firm Atlassian as its director of security and helped to guide the company through its massive public listing on the NASDAQ.
“That was just an outstanding adventure,” Mr Davies says. “I felt very fortunate to be part of the Atlassian team when they were going through such massive growth.”
While leaving the startup giant was a tough decision, he says he wanted to give back to the cyber security community, and the challenge on offer at the newly-formed government body was too enticing.
“It wasn’t that I was wanting to leave Atlassian, but this seemed like too big of a challenge for me to pass up,” he says.
While he has spent most of his career in the industry, Mr Davies says he doesn’t consider himself a “typical security person”.
“I’m more focused on the business relationships around security which we’re now seeing as being increasingly important,” he says. “I’ve always thought that way, coming from a business background. It’s in my DNA.”
The CEO is aiming to bring the experimental culture and learning through failure attitude from Atlassian to his new gig.
“One of the great things about working at Atlassian was that it is truly a culture that lets you try out ideas and see how they go,” Mr Davies.
“I’ll try all sorts of things to make life easier for people and the Atlassian culture really allowed me to explore that. Fresh ideas matured into great capabilities there. In other places you wouldn’t get that freedom to do that.”
In the first weeks on the job, Mr Davies is setting out to create a roadmap for the organisation, with five “high-level initiatives” on the cards: demonstrating leadership and helping the industry have a rallying point, fostering collaboration and coordination, accelerating commercialisation opportunities, growing the talent market, and lowering the barriers to entry.
Mr Davies will also be co-leading a delegation to the giant RSA security conference in San Francisco with more than 20 Australian companies in tow.
From discussions with the industry so far, Mr Davies says a key challenge facing the industry is the difficulty in finding the promising young cyber security firms locally.
“The feedback from startups is that they struggle to get into the room,” he says. “We want to help them build legitimacy through being connected to us. We can help them get into the room.
“There are some outstanding cyber security startups underway here and I’m really looking forward to making them more visible.
“People will be pleasantly surprised by what’s already going in, they’ll meet these companies and be blown away.”