The Suits and Spooks Conference that I'm launching this fall in Palo Alto is the culmination of 6 years of enjoyable yet frustrating work spent studying problems and experimenting with solutions in the national security space. Looking back, I was incredibly naive about how things worked when it came to selling any product or service to the U.S. government. The conventional wisdom for startup or young firms selling to the government is to find a Prime contractor and become a sub on one of their contracts. The downside is that your innovative R&D will get absorbed by "the Borg" who's driven not by innovation but by catering to the traditional thinking of their government program manager.
The bottom line is that the U.S. government is locked into a broken acquisition system** that more often than not delivers sub-par results that are vastly over-priced; i.e., the FBI's Sentinel program - a $450 million dollar piece of shit created by the country's largest government contractor Lockheed Martin. I told a friend of mine at the FBI that they should have gone to Palo Alto with their application specs and they would have had a better, faster version built in a matter of months by some under-grads at Stanford for a tiny fraction of the cost. We agreed on that point but unfortunately things are never that easy inside the Beltway. But it kick-started what has now become the first Suits and Spooks conference in Palo Alto on Sept 23-24.
My concept for Suits and Spooks is for it to be the equivalent of a particle accelerator, where the real-time challenges of the IC collide with the most innovative minds of Silicon Valley in one day of frank discussions, demos, and speed rounds. The result, I hope, will be fresh, unanticipated, and ground-breaking. At a minimum, two groups that desperately need to interact more often will have a new, safe venue to do so.
Friday, Sep 23, 2011
6:30p - 7:30p Registration, Welcome reception and cocktails
7:30p - 9:00p Dinner w/ Keynote speaker (to be announced)
Saturday, Sep 24, 2011
7:30am - 8:30am Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30am - Opening remarks
8:45am - 9:15am Keynote speaker (to be announced)
9:15am - 10:30am IC Panel Discussion #1
10:30am - 11:30am SNA Speed Round #1
11:30am - 12:30pm Breakout sessions #1
12:30pm - 1:30pm Lunch w/ Keynote speaker (to be announced)
1:30pm - 2:45pm IC Panel Discussion #2
2:45pm - 3:45pm 2nd Speed round #2
3:45pm - 4:45pm Breakout sessions #2
4:45pm - 5:30pm Q&A and Networking
Panel discussions (two): Each panelist is a senior employee from one of the IC agencies. I have confirmed or confirmation-pending participants from CIA, DIA, DHS, DNI, FBI, ICE, and NSA. Each panelist will speak for 10 minutes and then take questions.
Speed rounds (two): Each speed round will feature 10 startup companies that have 5 minutes to showcase their social media or social network analysis application. It doesn't have to have anything to do with infosec. In fact, we prefer that it doesn't. We're looking for innovative directions in social networking.
Breakout sessions (two): These consists of demos by our sponsors and discussions by our speakers in very small groups where frank exchanges of ideas and test-drives of applications are encouraged.
Suits and Spooks 2011 will take place in a loft space on the top floor of the old Facebook building in Palo Alto, CA.
How You Can Participate
Become a sponsor: We have
Apply for a speed round: If you're a startup, apply for a speed round slot. We have
Come as an attendee: We're accepting 100 attendees who aren't sponsors or participants in a speed round but who have a professional interest in social networks. The admission fee is $300 if paid before
You can get involved by sending me an email message stating how you'd like to participate. The interest for this event, both among my government friends and my Silicon Valley friends, is very high. I'm looking forward to it and hope that you'll participate with me in making it a success.
* I've had to move the early bird registration deadline up due to the deposit requirements of our hotel. Please get your registrations in early so that you don't miss out.
** Vivek Kundra just confirmed the existence of this "broken acquisition system" by referring to the existence of an IT vendor cartel made up of a few large companies win contracts because of a superior understanding of the procurement process instead of superior technology.