Calling All Security-Related Startups—Innovation Sandbox Wants You

What if a conference held a competition for startups, but got no entries?

Fortunately, the chances of that happening for Innovation Sandbox—the half-day program that showcases startups and new security solutions at the RSA Conference—are slim, according to Paula Belikove, who founded the program. Although Belikove notes that the number of entries sent in so far to participate in the Innovation Sandbox are low (the deadline is Dec. 10), she notes that most submission each year come in within a day or so of the deadline.

“I don’t know what it is – (it’s) human nature I guess to wait until the last minute – but we expect to get as good of a response as last year when all is said and done,” Belikove told me last week.

Last year, about 40 security-related startups participated in the Innovation Sandbox program and vied for a chance to be crowned “Most Innovative Company” at the RSA Conference. Last year’s competition was won by virtualization security provider Altor Network, which earlier today was acquired by Juniper Networks for $95 million.

The 2011 judges include Asheem Chandna of Greylock Partners; Gerhard Eschelbeck of Webroot Software; Renee Guttmann of Time Warner Inc.; Ray Rothrock of Venrock; Paul Kocher of Cryptography Research Inc.; and Hugh Thompson, program committee chair for the RSA Conference. The judges will whittle the list of entrants to the top 10 startups, each of which will present their new companies and products at the RSA Conference.

The startups participating in the program not only get a chance to present and network at the annual conference (the big U.S.-based security gathering of the year), but the winning company gets a press release. Another desirable aspect about the Innovation Sandbox program, from a startup’s perspective, is that it costs nothing to participate—there is no entry fee. To participate, interested startups can fill out this questionnaire.

I talked to Belikove about the Innovation Sandbox program and the conference, which is scheduled for Feb. 14-18 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and which will feature President Bill Clinton as a keynote speaker.

Belikove says that she expects security in the cloud and wireless computing to be hot topics at this year’s conference.