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Building a Better Mousetrap Technician

To our Valued Investors:

In 2013, hackers penetrated Yahoo. The event was widely reported, and the timing (not that there is a good time for something like this to happen) was rotten. Yahoo would soon be in talks with Verizon geared toward selling itself to the larger company. Yahoo was eventually forced to disclose that the names, birth dates, email addresses, and telephone numbers associated with all of its three billion user accounts were compromised. To this day, millions of people who had Yahoo accounts at the time still receive emails that look like this: "Hey, I know your password is: xxxxxxx. Your computer was infected with my malware, RAT (Remote Administration Tool), your browser wasn't updated / patched, in such case it's enough to just visit some website where my iframe is placed to get automatically infected, if you want to find out more - Google: "Drive-by exploit". My malware gave me full access and control over your computer, meaning, I got access to all your accounts (see password above) and I can see everything on your screen, turn on your camera or microphone and you won't even notice about it. I collected all your private data and I RECORDED YOU (through your webcam). The extortionist’s message would then go on to describe their unauthorized video of the victim engaging in some very private behavior (please use your imagination so we can keep this family-friendly) and threaten to release the video to all of the victim’s contacts unless a ransom is paid to the perpetrator with Bitcoin. The embarrassing exposure of the security breach, and the fact that such vulnerabilities existed, would eventually slice about $350 million off of Yahoo’s take.

In 2017, it was Equifax’s turn. About 150 million user accounts of the one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus were exposed. In this case, more sensitive information was seized. Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, drivers' license numbers, and credit card data was suddenly in the wrong hands. This misfortune also was the subject of abundant media coverage.

These instances certainly don’t end with Yahoo and Equifax. The list of cybersecurity mishaps and their significant consequences is far too long to list here, and new cases arise with alarming regularity. The ones that are brought to the public’s attention, for reasons of scale or newsworthiness (Ashley Madison, anyone?), are only the tip of the iceberg.

Companies learn, the hard way, where their security inadequacies lie every time something like this happens. Unfortunately, it’s usually a case of patching the hole after the ship has already taken on too much water. Victims of attacks don’t know how to defend themselves until after they’ve been given a painful lesson about the bad things that can happen. Experts learn from the bad guys’ activities, but much the same way mice figure out how to avoid evolving mousetrap technology, hackers adjust their methods to defeat the advancements in cybersecurity.

Plainly put, those with malicious intent are arguably winning the war for now. After all, when the invaluable prize of access to volumes of priceless identity data is on the line, criminals are motivated to work extra hard. Their sheer numbers are massive. The ranks within the community protecting against them don’t measure up. The International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)², estimates that equilibrium won’t be reached until the United States has another half a million trained security professionals at work.

This should be a wake-up call for those who are educated but unemployed, of whom there are too many these days, and for anybody seeking a foothold in a field where there is much need. Because of the high stakes involved, a proficient cybersecurity specialist can demand rich compensation. The only question remaining is how one can find an adequate springboard from which to launch a profession like this. The answer is Emeryville, California’s Udacity, Inc. In past newsletters, we have told you about how Udacity occupies an important niche within education technology (edtech) because they focus on specialized vocational training (“Audacious for You, the Student”, February 10, 2021). They dispense with traditional academic material and whimsical courses for hobbyists, like “How to Speak Vulcan” or “Introduction to Yodeling”. Udacity gets right to the point of arming its users with skills that can be applied, for profit, in industries where the greatest need exists. Their “nanodegree” programs are written and funded by the corporations who wish to hire well-trained employees who can fill the gaps at those companies. Responding to the dangerous shortage of global “Team Cybersecurity” members, Udacity has recently established its School of Cybersecurity. This new nanodegree program is broken down into Introduction to Cybersecurity, Security Engineer, Security Analyst, and Ethical Hacker. What is an “ethical hacker”? It’s a person who is paid to try to pierce holes in a company’s defenses. For the technologically inclined, this has to be one of the coolest jobs out there.

Udacity’s research reveals a whopping 94% increase in cybersecurity job postings in the past five years. If you believe in trends, you have to assume that this is a job market that is going to continue to expand as the mice get smarter. The jobs, on average, yield an annual income of $135,000. This is a motivator that will draw many into Udacity’s virtual classrooms for the foreseeable future. The rapid and accelerating evolution of modern technology seems to ensure that new uses for Udacity’s certifications will continue to materialize, and this is a company with considerable potential.

As of October 2020, Udacity has awarded over 150,000 nanodegrees. More than 1.5 million learners have completed at least one course successfully. As the company’s name recognition inevitably broadens because of word spreading about Udacity’s effectiveness (50% of the students who said they enrolled in a nanodegree program to get a raise received a 33% pay increase after graduating from their program), these numbers will quickly get bigger. Early investors, including Andreesen Horowitz and Bertelsmann Digital Investments, have expressed their confidence in Udacity with more than $280 million through eight funding rounds. Udacity is at the beginning of what Iron Edge VC sees as a steep fiscal trajectory. It is exactly the kind of investment that most effectively captures our attention, showing much promise for a bright future before everybody in the world is clamoring for shares.

Udacity’s shares are not yet available to the investing public. It is a private company, not for sale at the stock exchange, but your friends at Iron Edge VC can deliver your piece of this promising enterprise through our investment fund before the masses have the opportunity drive the stock price skyward. Demand for pre-IPO ownership is rapidly gaining momentum in this name, but at the moment it is still early enough in the game to beat the rush. If you would like to learn more, or if you know of anybody else who would, do not hesitate to contact us by clicking “Get in Touch” below.

If you have enjoyed this article, visit the Iron Edge Blog for past updates on other pre-IPO investment opportunities.

As always, shares are available on a first come, first served basis.


Paul Maguire, Managing Partner
and
The Iron Edge Team

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