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RSAcon: In praise of the little booth, but maybe time to go virtual?

A recent tweet from Brian Krebs set me thinking about the time, effort, and hard-earned cash that is spent on going to conferences.

In technology most of the really interesting stuff comes from small start-ups, all shouting to be heard above the rumble from the 800lb gorillas. The smart attendees make some time to stroll around the small booths to see what’s on offer but it’s difficult to attract attention.

I’m working with two companies that will be at RSA this year, Cymmetria and ThreatModeler. Both have got the smallest booth size in the conference hall (ringed in red).

For anyone strolling around the floor, the statistical likelihood of stumbling across these booths is quite low. So why pay the 000’s that it takes to establish a toehold?

I’ve been going to RSAcon on and off since the early 2000’s. Initially I went as a purchaser of security technology in my role as product VP for an MSSP. I’d go to meet people I already had a relationship with, not stumble across new vendors. The after hours parties were pretty fun as well!

In 2015 things changed.  I was acting as CMO for Cymmetria and my big task was to launch the company and it’s MazeRunner cyber deception platform at RSAcon. We had the tiniest of booths, two chairs really, but being ‘on the floor’ let us meet prospective customers and catch up with our friends in the industry. The after hours parties were still fun, but there was also a lot of hobnobbing with VCs so clear heads were called for.

In the last few years the action has moved away from the floor of the conference itself. Cymmetria has camped out in the lobby bar of the W hotel (good beer, great conversations) so the booth has really been a way of directing people to the W for demos, discussions and the chance to meet some of the more ‘interesting’ players in cyber security.

ThreatModeler treats the booth space as place to meet existing and prospective customers, the ‘traditional’ approach, taking them off site for longer conversations. I guess it’s the same for most smaller companies.

Compare and contrast the messages:



[…] Additionally, if you are planning on attending the RSA Conference in San Francisco, March 4-8, visit us at our booth #2468 on the South Expo floor. Please use below code which registers you for a complimentary Expo Plus Pass. This code is valid until March 7th.
Expo Plus Pass Code: XEU9THREATMOD

Part of the challenge is that you need to staff the booth and entice people into that initial conversation. For me, the Cymmetria approach is more appealing.

Maybe there’s an opportunity here. If RSACon were to enable ‘virtual booths’ where innovative startups on limited budgets could signpost “Meet us at O’Reilly’s for great Guinness” it would showcase some of the more innovative ideas without taking up valuable show-floor real estate.

Peter Glock
Over 30 years of designing, building and managing telecoms and IT services. Primarily working with large enterprise and professional services businesses in Asia, North America, continental Europe and the UK. Information security professional, secret physics nerd.

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