Win the government, win the market.
That’s been a principle I’ve seen play out first-hand for decades as CEO of FireEye, McAfee and Documentum. In each of these roles, I’ve deeply understood and respected the need government agencies have for outstanding technology — and their ability to launch a technology company’s success story with a single sale.
However, executing on this opportunity is often more easily said than done. Selling to and serving state, local, federal and international government markets requires deep domain expertise, specific technology requirements and extensive experience navigating the complex and nuanced procurement process.
Government markets can be particularly difficult for startups to break into. They may not have, for instance, as much validation for their technology and may be poorly equipped to meet government regulatory or compliance standards, like FedRAMP. Add a complex and often shockingly long sales cycle and a frequent lack of specialized government resources — and the result is that startups have a difficult road to walk in this market.
With all that said, those that navigate this world successfully are often handsomely rewarded. Not only with potentially significant contracts, but also with a high-caliber customer that lends a gold seal of credibility to their brand and capabilities (if it can be disclosed).
The opportunity has never been greater than today. Governments everywhere are embracing technology at a pace never seen before, with the budget for the U.S. federal government alone projected to be $92.17 billion for IT spending in fiscal year 2021. This doesn’t include opportunities in state, local or international markets. It’s not hard to see why. Digital transformation is a powerful enabler, but also requires an appropriate level of investment to defend these systems.
Cybersecurity attacks have dominated headlines so far in 2021, from the SolarWinds supply chain attack that impacted multiple government organizations to the recent ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline that halted the flow of fuel to the East coast for a week. I expect we will only see more funding put towards cybersecurity as these types of attacks continue to escalate. Catalyzed at least in part by these high-profile attacks, the U.S. Government has issued a spate of major cybersecurity policy announcements, including President Biden’s May Executive Order, which among other things calls for agencies to close specific gaps in their defensive cybersecurity technologies, directs the creation of new standards for software assurance for government vendors and accelerates federal cloud adoption. The White House has also asked for $500 million to be added to the Technology Modernization Fund and $9.8 billion towards cybersecurity programs in fiscal 2022.
The convergence of all these factors has led us to launch ND Government Services, a new business unit to support the expansion of our portfolio companies into critical government markets. The mission of ND Government Services is to help ensure government agencies have access to the most cutting-edge technologies to support their security missions. In meeting today’s cybersecurity challenges, government agencies need partners, not more vendors. NDGS aims to help identify the technologies that have the most applicability to government needs and then turn the companies that make them into excellent government partners while accelerating their public sector sales growth curves.
ND Government Services will provide advisory support to our portfolio companies on navigating government procurement cycles, building government sales and channel strategies, meeting regulation and compliance standards, obtaining certifications such as FedRAMP and building strategic relationships with key government decision makers. It is imperative that we help promising technologies navigate the complex world of federal sales and procurement in order to deliver needed solutions to government customers.
Deep expertise across several domains is needed to execute successfully in government markets. While our team already has decades of executive and leadership experience in government, we are also excited to welcome Katherine Gronberg as Head of Government Services to lead this new business unit. Katherine has 20+ years of experience navigating the government world, including as VP of Government Affairs for leading cybersecurity companies like CrowdStrike and Forescout Technologies. She has one of the most impressive track records I have ever seen in building stronger collaboration between company and government stakeholders, as well as driving increased company sales. She will be the perfect partner for our portfolio companies.
Katherine joins our existing bench of government advisors and partners. These include former National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers; government IT solutions provider Carahsoft; law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, former Commander of the U.K. Joint Forces Command Chris Deverell and former Commander of the Israel Defense Force’s Technology & Intelligence Unit 8200 Nadav Zafrir.
While our job at NightDragon is primarily to support our company growth and go-to-market needs, this new business unit is also about supporting the mission to protect our nation’s most critical assets. I see the attacks affecting all levels of government and I know we can help. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.