Two ACES Students will pursue Start-Up after Graduation

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Following their graduation in May 2017, ACES students Toby Lin and Franz Payer will be pursuing their cybersecurity startup full-time.

Following Toby and Franz’s participation in many cybersecurity competitions during their first year at University of Maryland, alongside many other ACES students, they found that many of the competitions were poorly operated.

Toby said, “Some competitions had obscure rules and scoring policies that were more frustrating than educational. Others had no transparency and manual scoring processes. After our experiences in these competitions, we wanted to create an ideal cybersecurity competition with students’ learning needs as the first priority.”

Toby and Franz started their quest during freshmen year and focused on building an intuitive and responsive cybersecurity completion platform. In the fall of their sophomore year, Toby and Franz began raising money for a cybersecurity competition on campus. They met with many companies that were interested and liked their idea, but many were hesitant because they lacked experience and a portfolio.

Toby said, “By the spring semester of our sophomore year, we had raised a total of zero dollars! Thankfully, about a month before our competition on March 7th, 2015, we managed to get money from Lockheed Martin’s grant to the cybersecurity club and from Cipher Tech Solutions. We got 150 university and high school students from around the Maryland area and had a successful event! The event was called the Metropolis Cybersecurity Competition after our city-based theme.”

Following the Metropolis Competition Toby and Franz gained publicity and heard that people were interested in using the competition platform they created. They received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the participants and could see that people were really enjoying it.

Toby said, “Over the next year we worked on creating the 2016 Metropolis. We were approached by a company called Life Journey to be a part of the NSA Day of Cyber, a public cybersecurity education initiative. We are now the skills assessment component of the NSA Day of Cyber. We were also contacted by the National Cyber Watch Center to run their National Cyber League Competition in 2015. The NCL is a collegiate cybersecurity competition with more than 2,000 participants across the U.S. Each year, around 50 or so ACES students also participate in the NCL. We are operating the 2016 Fall Season of NCL.”

In addition, the March 2016 Metropolis Competition grew by 200 participants, with people traveling from as far as New York to participate. They had corporate sponsorship from Capital One, Northrop Grumman, MITRE, AOL, Parsons and Cipher Tech, and aim to reach 300 participants for the 2017 Metropolis.

Toby and Franz said, “We want to continue to operate these competitions after graduation. We also want to expand into the enterprise assessment space. Most enterprise training and assessment solutions consist of videos and multiple choice exams with no hands-on experience. We want to help a company’s security team be aware of the capabilities and areas in need of improvement. There’s no better way of doing this other than trying to solve these hands-on technical challenges like students do in a cybersecurity competition.”

Toby said, “Being in the ACES program is how I was introduced to cybersecurity competitions and meeting peers who also share similar interests. Five ACES students have contributed challenges to the platform and many more have helped run logistics of the Metropolis Competitions. ACES is also how we’ve been connected to companies like Parsons and MITRE and got them involved with our competition learning efforts.”

Congratulations to Toby and Franz!  



Published November 28, 2016