Team 'OSS Police' Takes Top Honors at Cybersecurity Demo Day
(From L to R) Judges Kevin Skapinetz of IBM Security and Blake Patton of Tech Square Ventures; Winners Ruian Duan and Ashish Bijlani, School of Computer Science; Judge and Founding Donor of Create-X Christopher Klaus, and IISP's Dr. Wenke Lee.
Update -- May 9, 2018 -- Top winners in the IISP Cybersecurity Demo Day go on to take 1st Place in the "Atlanta Startup Battle," winning an additional $100,000 from TechSquare Labs. Congratulations to OSS Police!
By Yanfeng Jin | April 13, 2018 • Atlanta, GA
Two Ph.D. students from the School of Computer Science took home the Grand Prize and 1st Place - Commercialization Track in the 2017-18 IISP Cybersecurity Demo Day Finale for a solution to help mobile app developers avoid using malicious open-source code in their designs.
Called "OSS Police," the technology and business proposal by Ashish Bijlani and Ruian Duan (with additional research by Meng Xu) tackles open-source code freeloaders and security slackers with a cloud-based auditing service.
"['OSS Police'] addresses a two-sided market," said Bijlani and Duan. "It can help businesses [built] around open-source software (OSS) identify new potential customers as well as allow mobile developers to proactively scan their apps for legal risks."
"The level of innovation and commercialization potential of the cybersecurity work being done by these entrepreneurial students and researchers at Georgia Tech is really impressive," said Blake Patton of Tech Square Ventures. "The winning 'OSS Police' team presentation was particularly strong in showing where the solution fits in the market landscape and how they would address the risks of open-source software license violations and vulnerabilities for potential customers."
Bijlani and Duan next move into the Create-X Startup LAUNCH program – Georgia Tech’s summer incubator that pays students to nurture an entrepreneurial idea. The prize includes $20,000 of investment by former Georgia Tech student and successful entrepreneur Christopher Klaus, who launched a security business while a student and later sold it for $1.3B to IBM. Team "OSS Police" now will have a chance to receive mentoring from Klaus as part of the Create-X program, plus $50,000 in legal services and training.
"A spot in Create-X Startup LAUNCH program provides us with an invaluable opportunity to work with seasoned mentors/entrepreneurs to validate our business model and target more customer segments," said Bijlani and Duan. "It opens up a number of avenues for us to grow right off the bat; we can't wait to see what the future holds for us."
The Finale concluded an eight-month contest that began with 17 teams in September 2017. Cyber-minded students from any college or school within Georgia Tech were invited to display a research poster about proposed cybersecurity solutions that could fulfill an unmet market need. Following the poster session, students were offered six-months of coaching about evidence-based entrepreneurism from VentureLab to help them assess market opportunities for their ideas.
Challenging coaching assignments caused teams to self-select down from 17 to seven between October and March. The final seven presented their honed ideas to a panel of experienced technology entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders for guidance, possible investment and prizes. The 2018 judges’ panel featured Christopher Klaus, CEO of Kava and founding donor of Create-X at Georgia Tech; Blake Patton, executive director, Tech Square Ventures, and Kevin Skapinetz, vice president of design and strategy for IBM Security.
"All of the security teams [in the contest] were working on important security problems and had come up with either new algorithms or solutions to solving their research problems," said Klaus. "'OSS Police' was selected for Create-X because the team was the furthest along in doing customer discovery for launching their security solution... With Create-X, 'OSS Police' will get access to many resources and mentors, including myself. I feel they have a huge opportunity to solve many problems in the open-source space that will be very valuable."
Winning $3,000 at Demo Day Finale for 1st Place under the contest's Research Track was "Deep Security: Toward Robust Deep Learning" -- a technique to teach new systems hack-proof examples for deep learning by Taesik Na and Jong Hwan Ko from the School of Electrical & Computer Engineering. The Research Track allowed students who believe their idea needs further technical exploration to present initial thoughts to judges and gather feedback that may aid future exploration.
Also winning cash at the Finale was "Tackling Cybersecurity Threats in Smart Grids" -- a project by Majid Ahmadi from the School of Public Policy. He and an out-of-state research partner at another American university earned $2,000 toward future work as the People’s Choice award.
The winners join a cadre of past winners of the IISP Cybersecurity Demo Day Finale, who have since collectively earned nearly $2 million toward their start-up ideas.
About Demo Day
Each year, students are invited to compete before venture capitalists and industry leaders at the Institute for Information Security & Privacy's "Demo Day." Students bring initial research ideas to the fall Georgia Tech Cyber Security Summit, where public vote determines which projects are invited back in the Spring. Students return in the Spring at the Demo Day Finale for a TED-style talk about their developing project. A panel of business leaders advise students about future considerations for commercialization. Student research with the best chance of commercialization or demonstrating the most impact toward resolving an information security need receives a cash prize.
"The Institute for Information Security & Privacy wants to move good ideas to market," says Wenke Lee, co-director. "We know industry leans on academic researchers to raise new ideas and we lean on industry to take solutions to the public. Our hope is that by introducing students to business mentors early in the research timeline that we can help them naturally build productive relationships and reduce time to market. All students participating in Demo Day will benefit from the insight and critique of those closest to industry needs today."