The Venture Capitalist’s View of Cybersecurity

Roger Lang is the general partner of the venture capital fund known as BCP Blitz. Rogers is also the CEO and founder of Predicta.com, the leader in advanced AI market analytics and data science.

Previously, Roger founded and owned the Sun Ranch Group, which is a blend of agriculture, conservation sciences, ranching, real estate and hospitality rolled into an integrated set of sustainable business units that are carefully developing and conserving important American Western landscapes. Roger has also created and managed the growth of Infinity financial technology which brought derivatives trading and risk management software to Wall Street. Infinity had its initial public offering in 1996, and two years later, Roger engineered an acquisition by SunGard Data Systems. Roger was named one of the top 50 Most Influential People in the history of financial risk management.

Roger has experience in SaaS, Fintech and has invested in various cybersecurity companies. With the manifold positions he’s held, he predicts that cybersecurity education is the missing key to unifying the broad spectrum of stakeholders that desperately need more training.

“To me, on the subject of cybersecurity … it is no longer a problem of who’s got the best software application, it’s who’s got the right forum to educate the broad spectrum of people who all need to learn this stuff. Otherwise, I don’t see how we piece it together. And so with your initiative from CyberEd.io, cyber education, I think that’s the right emphasis.”

In this episode of Cybersecurity Unplugged, Lang discusses:

  • The venture capitalist’s view on the state of cybersecurity;
  • How economic issues are causing global ecological issues such as Chronic Wasting Disease;
  • The comingling of security and economic issues and expectations for this White House;
  • How cyber education is key to national cybersecurity.

CLICK HERE for a full transcript of the conversation.

Steve King 00:13
Good day everyone. I’m Steve King, Managing Director at CyberTheory. Today’s episode is going to explore conservation, sustainable growth, Chronic Wasting Disease, virology and the venture capitalist’s view on the state of cybersecurity.

Steve King 00:30
Joining me today is Roger Lang, the general partner of the venture capital fund known as BCP Blitz LP. Roger’s, also the CEO and founder of Predicta.com, the leader in advanced AI market analytics and data science. And also the Sun Ranch Group, which blends agriculture and conservation sciences, ranching, real estate and hospitality rolled into an integrated set of sustainable business units that are carefully developing and conserving important American Western landscapes.

Steve King 01:07
Roger has also created and managed the growth of Infinity financial technology which brought derivatives trading and risk management software to Wall Street. This leader in risk had their initial public offering in 1996, and two years later, Roger engineered an acquisition by SunGuard Data Systems. Most folks turn extraordinary financial gains into personal indulgences. But Roger began acquiring ranch land in Montana to pioneer his vision for sustainable ranching, named as one of the top 50 Most Influential People in the history of financial risk management. I am excited to welcome Roger to our show today.

Roger Lang 01:22
Super to be here. Steve really is great. You know, regarding the introduction there, let me just say that in 2010, after putting a conservation easement on Sun Ranch, which means add a legal prescription, so that it could never be subdivided. And this is, you know, 20,000 acres, it’s a big spread. But it’s full of elk and bear and wolves. So it was right to leave it for the animals, not for golf course developers and things like that. But I did sell that and I no longer am the owner of the Sun Ranch Group, I sold it to a group who, you know, are good sportsman and land stewards, who are now taking the baton to the next level. So I was excited to be able to have that succession plan in my lifetime, rather than on my deathbed wondering what the hell was going to happen?

Steve King 01:45
Yeah. That’s great. Let’s talk about your vision for sustainable ranching and conservation in the West. Did you stumble on the problem? Or have you been thinking about this while you were building one of the great success stories in financial systems history?

Roger Lang 02:43
Well, so it starts well before even my Stanford education. It starts with, you know, well before my infinity derivatives and risk management stuff. My dad, his preferred vacation, was sort of like those old Chevy Chase movies, throw the kids in the back of the station wagon, and drive somewhere in America. And we would always go to Yellowstone country. You know, there’s a park, Yellowstone National Park, but the surrounding, you know, 20 million acres are basically river valleys and mountains that descend off of this high plateau of Yellowstone. And we would go fly fishing and camping and hiking. And so that was in my blood by the time I went off to college. So that was the first thing that coalesced.

Roger Lang 03:28
The second thing was it influenced what I chose to study at Stanford, which turned out to be the first of its kind – environmental anthropology. So I worked with the Hum Bio, human biology department, and anthropology department to kind of carve out my own major, if you will, undergraduate major, and it’s called environmental anthropology. And I studied the effects of human impact on the environment, whether it’s at macro scale, you know, the one biosphere that we all enjoy as Earthlings, or whether it’s, you know, micro habitats where, you know, migratory elk go for 50 to 100 miles to escape the harsh winters. And so that was my framework.

Roger Lang 04:07
When I came into some good money. When Infinity IPOed in ’96, I started immediately looking for my slice of heaven, you know, ranches in Montana that back up to public lands that still have the migratory elk hurds, and be able to get the tax rate down by placing a conservation easement on it and eliminating future development at the deed of transfer level. So that that was motivating me the second I came into some means in ’96.

Steve King 04:35
That’s a great story. I know that you’ve also invested in cybersecurity companies in the past. Can you tell us a bit about those companies and what attracted you and also, can you explain the structure of your current fund at Blitz VC?

Roger Lang 04:49
Sure, right out of college with my Master’s in Latin American Studies where I studied this environmental anthropology of the Amazon, you might imagine that it was difficult to get a job. Okay. So, not a lot of McKinsey’s or Wall Street hiring kids with, you know, Amazon fetishes. Alright, so I ended up starting a company after a number of rejection letters from the UN and UNESCO and places like that.

Roger Lang 05:19
And that company was with a buddy from Stanford, and we started a derivatives trading software application. So it was the early days of FinTech, alright, but it was always analytical software. Derivatives is basically the rate of change above an underlying instrument. In other words, it makes use of partial differential calculations – calculus. And so we brought analytical software, married some software skills from Silicon Valley with Wall Street skills, which is financial engineering, and produced an application that started, you know, selling like hotcakes. So at the ripe old age of 25, you know, we were early startup pioneers in FinTech.

Roger Lang 05:59
Once that company went public. In ’96, which is the second company I’d started that had gone public, by the way, I had money. And I was approached by an erstwhile competitor – my company was Infinity. The erstwhile competitor was called Renaissance, which was funded by a guy named Shawn McLaren, who had done Cambridge cybersecurity for mainframes, and was funding his son’s venture called Securant. And so Shawn says, “Hey, Roger, you beat the pants off me in derivatives, but I’ve got an angle on analytics in cybersecurity, why don’t you come join me?” So I did. So I funded security, along with Shawn. And that ended up being sold to RSA security as kind of one of the kingpin morsels of technology that rolled out across that great company, RSA security.

Roger Lang 06:57
So that was my introduction to it. It’s still within the realm of analytical software, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it. Ultimately, it’s a broad set of application functionality that solves the issue of security. And obviously, it’s grown since then. And I believe Steve, it was through the McLaren universe, how you and I met along the way.

Steve King 07:18
Indeed, it was indeed, yeah, McLaren universe.

Roger Lang 07:22
The McLaren universe. So that’s how I got involved in it. I can’t claim to be an expert in cybersecurity, but I can say that it’s a much needed problem to be solved. Okay. And I’m very active in that, how it translates today to not my entrepreneur, you know, building another company, but my venture, my venture fund, BCP Blitz, is about a fourth of our investments will be in the cybersecurity world. And we think that it’s a perpetual cat and mouse game. And we want to be on the side of helping civilization not unravel to the hackers of the world. So it’s one of our core missions now.

Steve King 08:09
Yeah, that’s a great mission, because it is unraveling as we as we speak here.

Roger Lang 08:14
Yep. I mean, right now, the cats winning maybe, maybe the mouse will come back. But it’s a deep concern. I mean, every week, we see something egregious happening, that very large scale.

Steve King 08:25
At monumental scale. Yeah, indeed, Colonial Pipeline certainly is a wake up call, I think for a lot of people who had no sort of concept of cybersecurity and the impact that might have on their day to day lives.

Roger Lang 08:40
Yeah. And that’s just one of many that will be along those lines at a monumental scale in our near future.

Steve King 08:48
Yeah. And I think at Blitz, you’ve got what four pillars of…?

08:54
Yeah, so here’s the structure of it, it’s we started out as like $100 million fund, we immediately got interest from large anchor fund to funds and family wealth offices, we’re probably going to take it up to $150 million. The fund has two geographies -Northern Europe innovation and North America innovation. So everything north of the Alps we look at, and everything in, call it you know, North America. And in those two geographies, we’re focusing on four sectors. So there’s the AI and machine learning world. There’s broadly speaking, SaaS, software as a service, which includes cybersecurity and other applications. There’s smart energy, which ranges from, you know, your smart home all the way up to smart society, with commercial cities and everything in between. And then also call it sustainable agriculture, and ag tech. Those are the four worlds in which we focus, that’s a summation of the three partners, sort of proven track records. Okay, so we didn’t stumble on those four sectors. We are Norwegians and North Americans who have a collection of skills that fall into those four sectors.

Steve King 10:16
Yeah, you certainly do. It’s an exciting fund. Have you closed that round yet?

10:21
Well, we keep expanding the size of it. With approval of the LPs, to do more deals. Basically, we haven’t closed but we’ve closed enough. We’ve already done four investments. I think the fund we’d feel comfortable growing to 15 to 20 investments, staying within our focus. So we’re off and running. The balls rolling. We’ll have another close on June 30. For the next wave of investors coming in, some of them are European, some of them are North American. But we’re off and running. And it feels fun. And it feels good.

Steve King 10:59
Yeah, that’s great. I think you all made an investment in Unique Wire with Brian Feucht as well is that correct?

Roger Lang 11:07
That’s correct.

Steve King 11:10
What attracted you to Unique Wire?

11:12
Well, it falls squarely within the SaaS world. All right, we view cybersecurity broadly speaking, as an ecosystem. So before a breach, it’s about threat detection, and post firewall technology to identify and mitigate threats on the horizon. After the breach, you know, we’ve done an investment in a group called Raven, which is crisis management, okay, where it marries security and a cascade of social media so that only the right people need to know, at a moment’s notice, whether it’s your local police or later on, it could be legal issues, but in the early moments of a crisis, it might just be local security, and management needs to know. So we sell to corporations.

Roger Lang 12:08
Where Brian Feucht’s Unique Wire plays a role is when people die their cell and their thumb drives their digital devices are left behind. When people commit crimes and are found guilty, or have, you know, copped a plea, then you have a legal warrant to break those. Brian’s world has developed a security bypass technology, which is on the first order, you know, just extraordinary stuff. And this can lead into our discussion, perhaps about quantum computing at some point. But basically, you have to get access, and there’s a backlog of 10s of millions of these digital devices, whether criminal or people who just pass away. And people want to know what the hell they were doing on various levels. So, you know, because some of these people are nefarious, and some of them are just good citizens. But in all cases, whether it’s an estate planning issue, or whether it’s a criminal, you know, you have to be very careful with privacy. So it has to be issued, you know, with a warrant or a family acknowledgement. But the backlog of digital devices is so large. I mean, 25 years ago, we could never have dreamt that this was going to be an issue that needed to be solved. And Brian has that capability, UniqueWire.com. Yes, we’ve made an investment in that where we think it’ll be the leader in that space as part of the family of broadly speaking, cyber issues.

Steve King 13:33
Yeah, it’s an amazing and sort of hidden the available market there, too. You know, you never, we never, I never think about phones after people pass away. But obviously, on the criminal justice side, of course, there’s a huge market there. And, you know, the security issues and economic issues have comingled pretty strongly during the prior administration, and that seemed to have kind of isolated the U.S. from the global community. Now that we’ve got a new administration in office, what are your expectations for how this White House is likely to address cyber issues in the U.S. and globally over the next couple of years?

14:14
Yeah, well, without dabbling too much sort of into the political nature of the spectrum of U.S. politics. Let me just say that, I think the cat and mouse game of cybersecurity and the way economic powerhouses can manipulate technology, whether it’s through, you know, culture war exacerbation, or whether it’s through, I have a faster quantum computer to get to 10,000 trades faster than you and I dominate Wall Street. The answer isn’t to balkanize and isolate. The answer is to recognize that the earth is shrinking, the world is shrinking. And if you don’t have allies, and if you don’t promote common good and cooperative economic trading, you will balkanize and be isolated, and somebody is going to beat you.

Roger Lang 15:04
You can’t always delegate to IBM and say, please build a quantum computer faster than the Chinese. Okay? You can’t always do that. And so, you know, bring you back NATO, to restructuring trade with China, trying to cooperate with Russia, while letting them know when they do stuff that’s nefarious to our society, we won’t tolerate it. You know, you do that through allies. And so, you know, with respect to Trump passing the baton to Biden, I’m quite happy with the early returns of what Biden is doing in that cooperative spirit. America first was only going to get us in trouble from my perspective.

Steve King 15:47
Well said. And I know you also have some recent insights on global warming. As long as we’re chatting at a global scale here. Can you tell us about Chronic Wasting Disease, for example, and why the approach that we’re pursuing right now may not work? And what we might be thinking about doing instead?

16:09
Well, alright, so global warming is probably one of, you know, five or six major human impact stories that’s playing out, it’s the one that gets a lot of play. Okay, because it affects the globe, if China and the US are dumping exhausts, you know, the whole world could suffer it and the rising seas are gonna wipe out our nation. So it’s kind of the thing that unifies the ever shrinking world I just referred to, but along the way, you have human impact issues like habitat fragmentation, unmitigated sprawl, pollution and acidification of our oceans, which is bleaching our coral reefs, which are the spawning grounds for 1000s of species of fish, you know, so many different things.

Roger Lang 16:58
World Trade without regulation means that we unwittingly are colonizing the world’s ecosystems with hitchhikers who show up on a barge full of bananas. And suddenly you’ve got a plague from Brazil in infecting you know, the Everglades or something. So you have this unwitting problem of economic juggernaut causing ecological problems on so many levels. Okay.

Roger Lang 17:24
So one of them is this spillover effect of diseases from the natural world into human communities. So we’ve all heard about Ebola. We all just saw what happened with Coronavirus, okay, whether it came from a lab or whether it came from bats. It came from the natural world and was facilitated by the hand of man’s whether it was nefarious or just, you know, bungling something, okay. One of these diseases, which is a prion based disease, called Chronic Wasting Disease is another one of these human impact problems. So we’ve all heard of like mad cow disease, which basically they were grinding up infected sheet for protein supplements, feeding them to cows, which got turned into hamburgers for the British society. And people started getting tainted with these prion-based diseases. And it was called mad cow disease. That same thing is happening now in what are called the ungulates, the hooved deer population – moose, elk, whitetails, mule deer, etc.

Roger Lang 18:36
So the Chronic Wasting Disease is now found prevalently even here in like the most intact ecosystem on the planet, you know, Yellowstone National Park in its surrounding worlds. One of the valleys here the Ruby River Valley, which is one of the valleys that flows off of the Yellowstone plateau 50% of the deer taken this last hunting season that were tested, tested positive for CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease. Now what’s going to be the human impact of that? We don’t know yet. If you cut into your venison tenderloin, and you didn’t get any neurological strands in your bite, you can probably avoid it. But if while cleaning your deer, you know, a little bit of spinal fluid fell into your meat and tainted it, you’re going to end up with some form of disease, okay. And that’s going to play out faster than not in dementia and other things. And I think that that’s just one this crossover the spillover effect of, of diseases from the natural world in humans, pollution, acidification and plastics in the ocean, habitat fragmentation so that elk can’t migrate during the winter because it’s now just sprawl, all right.

Roger Lang 19:56
All of these things are exacerbated by global warming. But global warming is real. And that’s the one that gets all the attention. But if you ask me, each of those five things are just as dangerous. And I think we’re precariously pitched upon a finite biosphere that isn’t going to tolerate too much more beyond the tipping point that it seems like we’re on. So I don’t have a very positive view that our economic juggernaut of seven plus billion people is going to slow down anytime soon to take stock of these issues. So it’s very concerning. In the meantime, I’m up here running companies on a ranch trying to just do my part locally, think globally, act locally. And we’ll see where that takes us. But, yeah, I’m very concerned about things like that. CWD is just one of the spokes into the hub of concern.

Steve King 20:53
Yeah, and you’re doing a great job at that locally, you know, it’s interesting, and a little disarming, that the share of voice of these issues get is so tiny, compared to you know, this broad, you know, oh my god, you know, existential threat, global warming, everybody nods their head and moves on about their business. But, you know, you’ve isolated that and just this one brief, you know, two minute dialogue around a very specific threat that I would bet you, if you polled the 1000 people, 999 of them would have no idea what you’re talking about.

21:32
No, it’s true. David Quammen, wrote a great book called Spillover eight years ago, he’s now on, you know, international airwaves, because he was so far ahead of the curve on this Coronavirus example of a zone otic disease. That’s a great book for your listening audience to go pick up if they haven’t ready.

Roger Lang 21:53
Another thing that people might read is a nonprofit journalism publication called MountainJournal.org. And it talks only about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. So I got very involved in that. We’ve now got hundreds of 1000s of online readers that are active, 25 million people have viewed our videos and articles. So we’re starting to have an impact. The way county commissioners talk about sprawl, if we value elk herds, maybe we shouldn’t build this, you know, 20th warehouse so that you can store your mountain bike in it. And, you know, they’re talking about it. So we’re trying to have an impact. I think we all have to now talk about this vociferously. Otherwise, we’re going to lose the things that we value. And that’s what motivates me every day.

Steve King 22:46
Yeah. And you know how it works. Of course, if you say something loud enough and long enough, it becomes truth in the universe. So good for you, I’m glad you’re doing that. This needs to get a much larger share of voice and share of engagement. And, you know, time for a shameless plug here, you know that we’re launching CyberEd.io. And you’ve expressed some level of interest in helping us out and helping us scale. What in your opinion is interesting about our approach and important about what we’re doing?

23:16
All right, in the spectrum of people taking charge of their lives, you have an individual who might say, “I’m anti-government.” And on the other end of the spectrum, you have an elected official that says, “It’s my job to render policy over an entire population.” That’s a pretty broad spectrum of stakeholders in society at large. To me, in the subject of cybersecurity, what’s missing is not a unifying approach. What’s missing is education so that every stakeholder in society along that spectrum, whether it’s the anti-government, guy, you know, in Montana with his militia, or whether it’s the elected official that says, “I need to be better educated to render a policy over a broader group,” cyber education, cybersecurity, education is the next key. You have to have the voice that’s rational before you have the consciousness. And so to me, it is no longer a problem of who’s got the best software application, who’s got the right forum, to educate the broad spectrum of people who all need to learn this stuff. Otherwise, I don’t see how we piece it together. And so with your initiative, Steve, from CyberEd, cyber education, I think that’s the right emphasis. And so we want to promote it here at BCP Blitz. And I can’t wait for that discovery process. You know, keep us informed on what you’re doing there. Your voice needs to ring louder.

Steve King 24:58
Well, thank you Roger. We will do that. And as I’m conscious of the clock here, I’ve got one more question, quantum is coming. The Chinese are way ahead of everyone in the application of this technology, how will we be able to defend against encryption threats that can break algorithms in fractions of a second?

25:18
So if you look at the, you know, the U.S. intel community, if you look at the U.S. military, they are by far and away, the leaders of pushing that envelope in our country. They’re further ahead than IBM or other groups that are trying to create these great quantum computers. Because that’s the only governmental agencies that are sort of allowed by our political polarization to push that envelope.

Roger Lang 25:53
I think it would be better if we had Congress allocating funding directly for state initiatives, you know, U.S. initiatives in research into quantum computing. But the problem is, China is a single political party, and what they say goes. So they can invest trillions into these future aspects of our computing capabilities. And we futz around in our polemics, but luckily, you know, the military and the intel community is still doing great stuff. And they are working with corporations like IBM and other groups. And so I’m not sure how far behind we are, because it’s kind of a dark cloak world. When people make these great (no pun intended) quantum leaps forward.

Roger Lang 26:41
But yeah, here’s the problem, if Chinese computers and Chinese traders can do 10s of 1000s of financial transactions faster than American Wall Street traders, they’re gonna win economically. If they can bypass security in seconds because of their leap forward in quantum computing, and they have nefarious goals over our society, they’re going to win. And all of this combined with AI, allows for not just speed of calculations, but speed of judgment that is directly applicable to things like a global war theater. So I think there’s national security implications here big time, the faster the U.S. can get out of its polarization, and start funding leading-edge things like quantum computing, the better shot we have of one day not being taken over by an adversarial foreign entity. So that’s my take on it.

Steve King 27:45
Yeah, and I think you’re spot on. And the challenge, of course, is to get this country back together again. And, you know, with all the misinformation that’s become the currency of the moment, it’s going to be hard to do. But I’m optimistic. And it’s kind of my nature anyway. So I look forward to the next 10 years or so to see how this all rolls out. And we’re out of time. But I want to thank our guest, Roger Lang, again for taking time out of your schedule, up there in Montana to join me in what I hope was a pretty interesting exchange.

28:20
Always a pleasure to talk to you, Steve. I look forward to catching up with you face to face. I hear you’re down in the southwest, cacti and Gila monsters and bob cats. I got to come down there and check out your spread, man.

Steve King 28:33
The Painted Desert awaits you.

Roger Lang 28:36
Thank you so much, Steve.

Steve King 28:38
Thank you, Roger, and thanks to our listeners for joining us in another episode of CyberTheory’s exploration into the complex world cybersecurity technology, education and global realities. Until next time, I’m your host, Steve King, signing out.

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