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About the Authors:
Howard Smith
Managing Director
Howard Smith is a managing director at First Analysis and is a managing partner of the firm's venture funds. He has over three decades of experience at First Analysis and works with entrepreneurs as an investor and as an advisor on growth transactions to help build leading technology businesses. Howard leads the firm's work in the cybersecurity, internet infrastructure and Internet of Things sectors. He also built the firm's historical franchises in call centers and computer telephony. His thought-leading research in these areas has been cited for excellence by the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He supports First Analysis' investments in EdgeIQ, Fortress Information Security, ObservIQ, Stamus Networks, Tracer and VisiQuate. Prior to joining First Analysis in 1994, he was a senior tax consultant with Arthur Andersen & Co. He earned an MBA with honors from the University of Chicago and a bachelor's degree in accounting with highest honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a certified public accountant.
Liam Moran
Liam Moran is an associate with First Analysis. Prior to joining First Analysis in 2020, he was in the executive development program with Macy's, where he was responsible for managing the financial modeling surrounding Macy's $3 billion asset-based loan, capital project valuations, and corporate forecasting. Liam graduated from Kenyon College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a concentration in integrated program in humane studies. He was a four-year member of the Kenyon varsity swimming team.
First Analysis Cybersecurity Team
Howard Smith
Managing Director
Matthew Nicklin
Managing Director
Liam Moran
First Analysis Quarterly Insights
RSA 2024 and recent conversations: Key insights and takeaways
July 2, 2024
  • We present our key takeaways from the 2024 RSA cybersecurity conference and recent industry conversations.
  • In recent years, several factors have heightened concern about the fate of best-of-breed cybersecurity solutions. However, we see evidence that robust demand for both best-of-breed solutions and single-vendor platform solutions will persist for the foreseeable future.
  • The pace of cybersecurity M&A and financing remains incredibly robust, but we feel it is increasingly important to pursue capital strategies that align constituents around probable exit valuations rather than strategies premised on improbable unicorn valuations.
  • AI in cybersecurity was an even hotter topic at RSA in 2024 than in 2023. We see most cybersecurity companies adding AI capabilities to their existing solutions, but we are seeing more cybersecurity companies built from the ground up with AI engines at their core.
  • Looking at specific cybersecurity subsectors, data security stood out as seeing substantial innovation and winning much attention. Several factors appear to be driving this increased focus on data security.


Strong attendance suggests cybersecurity remains among the most active tech areas

Best-of-breed vs. platform debate continues, but both do well

Deal activity hype remains strong, yet unicorn valuation exits unlikely

AI even more prominent, but levels of use vary widely

Highly competitive data-security subsector garners meaningful attention and excitement

Challenge of finding security professionals gets less air time

Still an exceptionally fertile market

Cybersecurity index: Strong one-year gain, but lost pace after January

Cybersecurity M&A: Notable transactions include Darktrace, Venafi, and Noname Security

Cybersecurity private placements: Notable transactions include Cyberhaven and ThreatLocker

Strong attendance suggests cybersecurity remains among the most active tech areas

While artificial intelligence (AI) has become the most topical area in tech over recent years, strong attendance at 2024's RSA conference suggests cybersecurity remains among the most active tech ecosystems. This year, the buzz on the floor and at surrounding hotels and venues struck us as markedly greater than at the past two RSA conferences since the event resumed convening in person in 2022. The 2024 conference attracted over 41,000 attendees, over 650 speakers, and over 600 exhibitors, ranging from startups to large publicly traded companies. Conference attendance was up from the past few years and near 2017's record 43,000 attendees. From presentations, meetings and discussions, it was evident that startup financing and merger and acquisition activity continue at a strong pace, indicating that despite the industry's growing scale, opportunities for companies at all stages remain significant.

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