Cyber Incubator Fosters Startups in San Diego

CyberTECH’s many projects include tackling cybersecurity, robots and the Internet of Things — the way electronic gadgets connect to computer networks to provide and receive data.

by Carl Prine, The San Diego Union-Tribune / April 5, 2017

(TNS) -- To spur the growth of some local start-ups and mid-sized firms, highly accomplished but also controversial Ted N. “Twig” Branch will helm a program at the San Diego-based nonprofit group CyberTECH.

Branch previously served as the Navy’s vice admiral overseeing information warfare and naval intelligence.

In his new role, which Branch accepted for no pay, his duties will include supervising the launch, mentoring and development of the nonprofit’s Entrepreneur in Residence initiative. With nearly 100 small- and medium-sized technology firms enrolled in the program — and 25 more expected to enlist before year’s end — Branch aims to help them build strategic relationships with CyberTECH’s stable of corporate, university, nonprofit and government leaders.

A highly decorated career aviator recognized repeatedly for combat valor over the skies of Grenada, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq, Branch was snagged in the 2013 federal bribery probe into Malaysian contractor Leonard Francis — known as “Fat Leonard.” That case is still playing out with investigations in Washington, D.C., and indictments logged in federal court in San Diego.

Leonard plied officials from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet with cash, prostitutes and other perks to score lucrative deals to refuel submarines and warships across the western Pacific Ocean.

In 2005, then-Capt. Branch commanded the San Diego-based supercarrier Nimitz in that region. Eight years later when the scandal broke, the Navy said Branch was being investigated for “inappropriate conduct” involving gifts — not bribes — from the contractor.

Branch was never charged with a crime, but his access to classified material was suspended for years and he retired on Oct. 1.

“I am very pleased to chair CyberTech's Entrepreneur In Residence Program, which is a very collaborative, supportive environment for high technology start-up businesses and complements San Diego’s push to be a high-technology hub and center of innovation,” Branch wrote in a statement to The San Diego Union-Tribune. He declined to be interviewed.

“My appointment to this position follows my very successful 37-year Navy career, in which I ended as deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare. My final billet provided me with a great deal of insight into the use, capability and deployment of various types of high technology. Although the Glenn Defense Marine Asia procurement scandal occurred during a time that I served as the captain of the USS Nimitz, I had no direct role in the procurement of services provided by (that company) .... This situation was investigated prior to my retirement. I look forward to my continued service in this new capacity,” Branch also wrote.

In a separate statement to the Union-Tribune, CyberTECH’s founding chairman, Darin Anderson, said the group is honored to have Branch come aboard.

“All of us stand to benefit from his remarkable leadership in protecting our nation’s security, as well as his technical expertise in the fields of aviation, naval intelligence and cybersecurity,” Anderson said.

In his final years in uniform leading the Navy’s intelligence and information warfare efforts, Branch also took a post directing the service’s cybersecurity operations. He spurred the Navy to adopt an electronic infrastructure more resilient to intruders while crafting a culture that better protects its data and systems from hackers.

CyberTECH’s many projects include tackling cybersecurity, robots and the Internet of Things — the way electronic gadgets connect to computer networks to provide and receive data. These devices range from routers, smartphones and baby cams to “smart” televisions, digital toasters and refrigerators with WiFi capabilities.

©2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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