Pierce County is loaded with data and Internet security companies, a fact not many know.
But Andrew Fry, University of Washington Tacoma Institute of Technology assistant director of industry partnerships and lecturer, is trying to change this anonymity as he works to build awareness of this specific technology cluster.
“I would like to see the technology sector grow down here and this might be a way to do that,” he said.
The first and possibly hardest goal for Fry is to promote general awareness that these businesses are in the South Sound and that a cluster already exists. His second one is to help build a support system that will help not only bring in more technology companies, but also builds useful connections between the various businesses.
“Because of the nature of this cluster, they don’t get to talk much,” Fry said. “It’s a huge opportunity for economic development. Once you get a cluster established…other clusters pay attention to that area.”
One company he would like to see have a strong presence in this cluster is Internet Identity, a small but growing company headquartered in downtown Tacoma. This business finds, reports and takes down malicious Web sites and provides a variety of Internet security services. The company is also active within the online anti-abuse community, providing research, support and leadership to several organizations in this area.
“Our company is doing well despite the downturn to the economy, and the particularly hard hit our primary customer base (financial institutions) has felt,” said Rod Rasmussen, one of the co-founders of Internet Identity, who is now president and CTO. “While we are not growing as fast as we were pre-recession, we are still adding new customers and hiring personnel. This is due to a combination of good services at attractive prices and a marketplace that is somewhat immune from economic downturn, or even counter-cyclical, as more people may turn to crime or fraud in a tough economy, and we’re here to stop them.”
Internet Identity is one of the drivers in having an Anti-Phishing Working Group summit in Tacoma this coming fall and Radmussen said the company would be supportive of Fry’s ideas.
“Non-consumer based security companies are fairly quiet about their activities for obvious reasons, so bringing something like this together will require a lot of behind-the-scenes efforts,” Radmussen said. “We hope the conference this fall will help spotlight many things about Tacoma to a worldwide audience, not the least of which being the programs UW Tacoma is putting in place to turn out the kind of trained workforce companies in this space covet.”
Like Fry, Radmussen believes there would be benefits to having more companies located in the area, plus he said Tacoma has a lot to offer companies within the technology sector.
“This is a growth industry with worldwide reach, and we have a unique approach to how we provide services, so competition is not a major concern,” Radmussen said. “The benefits of working together with other companies in our sector are huge. Security is done best in layers – making it an ideal industry for collaboration, cross-selling and partnerships. Getting more companies in this space together here could provide huge cross-pollination benefits.”
After the APWG eCrime Researchers summit, Fry wants to organize a summit around the specific data security and integrity cluster as part of his effort to make the entire technology sector in the South Sound better known.