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Jeff Vinik-backed startup accelerator DreamIt branching into security technology

Through its new SecureTech initiative, the Jeff Vinik-backed startup accelerator Dreamit Ventures plans to work with 15 to 20 companies a year focused on everything from cyber attacks to fraud and information warfare. (iStockphoto.com)
Published Jul. 5, 2018

TAMPA — The name of the company in which Jeff Vinik recently invested $12 million is Dreamit Ventures, but its latest initiative is focused on the stuff of nightmares:

Cyber attacks. Physical threats. Fraud. Social media abuse. Information warfare. And fake news.

Four months after disclosing Vinik's investment and naming him a partner, Dreamit is launching SecureTech, which plans to invest in 15 to 20 companies per year that work in three distinct but related areas related to security:

• Logical, which includes both the hardware and software sides of cybersecurity.

• Physical, which means mitigating threats to people and property. That could include video imagery analysis, drones, physical security technology, and entry management or access management to buildings.

• Social, which could focus on solutions to fraud, problems created or exacerbated by social media and fake news.

"We wanted to go wider than just cyber security" because "there are so many varied and critical threats and trends impacting corporations and governments," Dreamit managing partner Steve Barsh told the Tampa Bay Times.

Like corporations and government agencies that have launched fusion centers to bring together related security teams, "we're looking at companies that are trying to solve those problems across those three different dimensions," said Bob Stasio, a former National Security Agency cyber center operations chief whom Dreamit hired to lead the SecureTech initiative.

SecureTech, which anticipates its first cohort of startups to begin the accelerator program in early September, will be Dreamit's third area of concentration. The first two were health care and urban tech approaches to real estate, development and design.

A LARGER ROLE: Jeff Vinik'S $12 million investment makes him a partner in startup accelerator DreamIt

During the 14-week SecureTech program, Dreamit plans to work with startups from around the world, help them refine and test their business models, introduce them to potential partners in the private sector, government agencies and the military and prepare them to close their next round of fundraising, ideally within six months of completing the program.

The companies won't need to relocate, but will spend four weeks in several different cities, including Tampa. Here, Dreamit's companies will seek feedback from the Sofwerx innovation lab, which U.S. Special Operations Command created in Ybor City.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: In Ybor City, U.S. special ops go off base and on offensive to find best of best ideas

It's a natural fit, especially since some of the startups that Dreamit has talked to work in drone technologies, Stasio said. Through its ThunderDrone project, Sofwerx already is bringing together the military, other agencies, scientists and private companies to develop drones of all kinds for the special operations community.

"Who better to evaluate done technology than Sofwerx?" he said. "Both sides will get a lot of value."

RELATED: Military awarding $600,000 in 'Game of Drones' to help combat unmanned enemy aircraft

While in Tampa, Barsh said, the SecureTech startups also will spend time with cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest, as well as possibly local operations in health care, banking, insurance and law enforcement.

Dreamit, which now has offices in New York and Philadelphia, expects to open a Tampa office in 2019. Barsh said it likely will be closely aligned with the innovation hub that Vinik plans at Channelside Bay Plaza as part of the larger $3 billion Water Street Tampa redevelopment project near Amalie Arena.

Said Stasio, "I would not be upset if it's on Water Street."

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Contact >Richard Danielson

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