Cyberattacks: a scary and unexpected threat to everyone from thriving nations to next-door neighbors. The systems that make our modern lives possible are moving online. From electricity providers and water utilities to refrigerated trucks and beyond, the comforts we enjoy are made more efficient and reliable by bringing massive industrial equipment into the Internet of Things (IoT). The downside? These vital networks are increasingly susceptible to hackers.
Aware of this growing area of vulnerability, Colin Dunn created Fend Inc., a cybersecurity company dedicated to preventing critical infrastructure from being attacked, data stolen, or equipment held for ransom. “We keep attackers out of the critical systems that make America run,” Colin explains. “We are putting data into the hands that need it, as well as ensuring that these systems are not left open to threats or vulnerable to attack.”
Since its founding in 2017, the Arlington-based company has been integral in providing superior security to critical domestic infrastructures. Colin, with a background in mechanical engineering and business administration, recognized the opportunity to expand to the international market, but needed help. While touring the Mason Enterprise Center (originally looking for office space) he also found the State Office of the Virginia SBDC Network.
“I got to know the SBDC by just walking the halls,” Colin says. “Someone would say, ‘Hey, I know someone who can help you with exports’ and ‘I can help get you in touch with someone to put in contact with others in the industry.’”
First, the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) advisors at the Virginia SBDC State Office worked with Colin to first help him develop and validate his customers and product premise. “Customer interviews done through this program gave us insights that informed the design of our products and services,” Colin explains.
Next, the State Office’s International Business Development (IBD) program helped Fend export their services, taking their operation global. The first step was researching the industrial cybersecurity market in Western European countries and member nations of the intelligence alliance known as The Five Eyes. The SBDC also connected Colin with other firms for potential partnerships, and compiled a list of certifications needed to compete internationally.
“Without the SBDC’s ICAP and IBD programs, our view of opportunity would be a lot smaller,” Colin says. “They helped us realize that protecting critical infrastructure worldwide is something that is possible for Fend, and helped us develop a methodical way of serving this community beyond our borders.