We Are Shedding Our Startup Skin

By Philip Reiner on July 30, 2020

Four years ago, a small group of national security professionals and California-based entrepreneurs set out to build the premier West Coast-based technology and security nonprofit. The mission was to provide bottom up technical and policy solutions to emerging security threats – using the bootstrapped Silicon Valley model to find new ways to make the world more secure. 

As with any startup, there have been both immense successes and utter failures on this journey. What remains clear is that while new, powerful, society-changing innovations continue to increase in shape and velocity, the policymaking apparatus continues to lag behind. This is true both in encountering opportunities for positive change – and unanticipated consequences

What also became clear was that you – our network of supporters, collaborators, instigators, and pathfinders – were who would lead us forward. This isn’t some cliche – this organization would have floundered without everyone in our network providing insight, access, ideas and criticism. We have found a winning model – because you told us what was needed. We listened, learned, and built.

In fact, in 2019 we stopped and asked our global partners and colleagues across industry, governments and civil society what they needed most from us. While we had our own ideas, we wanted your input. The answers?

  1. Increased the number of trusted venues: serious, reliable spaces for engagement
  2. Not the usual suspects: the right experts, not just the same groups of people
  3. Follow through: taking critical causes from inception to implementation

Today, Technology for Global Security will relaunch as the Institute for Security and Technology. There is a serious breakdown in the necessary discussions between technologists and policymakers. Neither side can manage all these crises on their own. Progress will remain stymied without the trusted spaces through which we all can effectively engage.

In the midst of our multiple ongoing national and international crises, it is all the more apparent to us that we need to double down on our efforts. COVID-19 only confirms our conviction: a trusted interlocutor needs to step in to facilitate solutions to the market failures, policy misdirection, and inadvertent impacts of technological disruption. We’re not just a think tank – in all honesty, there is no clear label for the type of Institute we’re building. The Institute is based on an entirely new approach to problem solving at the intersection of global security and technology, with a built-in bias towards action.

What was the imperative to rebrand and relaunch the organization, you ask? For us, it was simple. We’ve grown – as all startups hope to do in Silicon Valley – and you showed us the need to reformat the organization to be better positioned for the future. What was once a loose structure built around specific problems is now a three-pillared organization built to respond to the problems presented to us by all of you.

  • The Policy Lab where together with partners, dynamic analysis is formulated, housed, and translated into action
  • The Tech Works where we build upon rigorous analysis of emerging security threats and create real-world solutions based on our consultations and collaboration with partners
  • The Network for Global Security expands upon existing relationships built through deep national security and entrepreneurial roots, it is where we succeed based on our trusted relationships, through collaboration across a portfolio of risks. 

In the Policy Lab, cutting edge research and analysis produces policy recommendations and implementation strategies on emerging global security issues – with a bias towards action all the way through. From cybersecurity and information warfare; the impact of technology on democracy and human security; nuclear security; to the role that machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies play in shaping national security policy – we examine, analyze, and provide recommendations to both policy makers and technology leaders by understanding the intricacies of the intersection between tech and the national security community. 

Through what we call the Tech Works, we create tangible solutions for the analysis and recommendations from the Policy Lab by actually bringing both the national security and technology community together to prototype, ideate, and innovate in order to solve these complex challenges. 

As we’ve noted above, none of this works without the extensive networks we rely on and bring to the table. We exist to force disparate communities to engage. We convene the different and oh so similar national security and technology communities in order to provide physical, virtual, and trustworthy spaces to come together to solve these wicked challenges. 

This has been a team effort from the very beginning – supported by a core team, Board of Directors, Strategic Advisors, and amazing collaborators from here in Silicon Valley and in Washington DC. We aim to recruit the best, most seasoned experts while also taking full advantage of the power of the next generation to see the flaws in older ways of thinking.

Whether you are a start-up or established technology company in Silicon Valley, a senior policy official in the Pentagon, or a regulator in Brussels, you can count on us to listen to you, and to bring diverse voices together at the intersection of technology and emerging global security threats. 

At the end of the day, we are people who have served in senior roles in both the U.S. Government and the technology sectors who are committed to the exchange of ideas, and firmly believe that by bringing these two communities, we can outpace emerging threats. 

However, we never have, nor can in the future do it alone. None of this work, none of our successes to date, could have happened without all of you in our network. We’ve succeeded due to your involvement in our efforts, your generous donations of time and resources, and your financial support. So, thank you. We look forward to showing you the great things that will come out of this new venture.