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BUSINESS CLASS

Business Class: Boston company's buy of Madison institute spotlights need for cybersecurity workers

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A Boston-based education technology company with a presence around the world announced an agreement last week to “join forces” with a Madison cybersecurity training institute for $190.8 million.

Founded 100 years ago, Cengage Group’s acquisition of the InfoSec Institute will help the firm expand into the fast-growing cybersecurity professional training market. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals.

But beyond that, the deal comes as talent shortages run rampant across industries, and as demand for skilled tech labor goes up, especially with businesses turning to permanent remote work and hybrid office structures, said Cengage CEO Michael Hansen.

There just aren’t enough cybersecurity professionals to help companies embrace the new workplace model safely, he said, adding that attacks spare no one.

Recent cyberattacks have targeted gasoline pipelines, hospitals and even grocery stores — and have led to everything from supply chain disruptions to critical data breaches.

Last October, a cyberattack shut down Wisconsin’s own cheesemaker Schreiber Foods for a few days.

Meanwhile, there are at least 600,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., according research from data aggregator Cyberseek. Globally, unfilled cybersecurity positions top 3.5 million.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified the information security analyst job as the 10th-fastest-growing occupation over the next decade — a rate of 31%. And in 2021, investors put more than $12.2 billion into startups that sell products similar to that of InfoSec’s, according to a New York Times report.

InfoSec, founded in 2004 by CEO Jack Koziol, has educated 5 million people (individuals and organizations) about how they can become more resistant to cyberattacks.

The company has also trained about 100,000 cybersecurity professionals since launch. The firm, which employs 100 people, has offices Downtown, as well as in Chicago.

Cengage Group, with 4,000 employees and an annual revenue of $1.3 billion, provides postsecondary and online continuing education courses to the hundreds of community colleges and universities it partners with, Hansen said.

Growth outlook, impact on employees

No InfoSec employees will face job changes or terminations as a result of the buy, Hansen said, nor will their branding change. Cengage will instead allow InfoSec to promote its services internationally, he said.

“Infosec was built by talented employees who truly believe that knowledge is power and care deeply about creating training materials that help cybersecurity professionals advance in their careers and keep employers and staff aware of cybersecurity threats at home and at work,” Koziol said of how the deal benefits the institute in a statement last week. “Cengage Group has the same level of passion for making learning accessible, affordable and applicable to today’s cybersecurity professionals.”

The institute is expected to join Cengage’s “ed2go” business, which is part of the company’s “Workforce Skills” arm and offers digital courses for college students, Hansen said.

Hansen anticipates that InfoSec will be a major driver of Cengage’s growth over the next decade, as what is now a $1 billion industry has the potential to expand 10 times by 2027.

Cengage combed through “hundreds” of company profiles before making the decision to pursue InfoSec, he said.

“InfoSec has a highly regarded product in the (cybersecurity training) market,” Hansen said, adding that the Madison company has often sold their products directly to employers, which is a distribution channel that’s complementary to Cengage. “We were very impressed by the quality of the (employees).”

Digest

  • Madison-based cell-cultured seafood startup Cultured Decadence has been acquired by cultivated meat company UPSIDE Foods out of Berkeley, California. Cultured Decadence will assume UPSIDE’s branding. The startup raised $1.6 million in funding in April 2021 with the goal of selling commercially within the next few years. No lab-grown meat products have yet been approved for consumption in the U.S., but that could soon change. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.
  • Fitchburg-based biotech company JangoBio announced Tuesday it developed a stem cell-based therapy that it claims replenishes hormones back to youthful levels.
  • The Epic Health Research Network released a study Wednesday that states 98% of pediatric patients hospitalized with multisystem inflammatory syndrome (caused by a COVID infection) are unvaccinated.
  • Global scientific supply company Thermo Fisher Scientific, which has locations in Fitchburg, acquired New Jersey-based PeproTech, a company that makes recombinant proteins for $1.85 billion. Recombinant proteins help scientists create DNA sequences that would not normally be able to exist.
  • A subsidiary of Janesville-based nuclear technology company SHINE Technologies, SHINE Europe, has secured an undisclosed amount of money to build an advanced medical isotopes facility in the Netherlands. The facility will help SHINE Technologies make a material that’s used in millions of medical diagnostic imaging procedures each year.

Emilie Heidemann picks her 5 favorite 2021 stories

One of the first stories I wrote this year for the Wisconsin State Journal wasn't published last January, but instead at the beginning of September — when I officially took my post as business reporter.

It was about a biotech startup that won the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce's Pressure Chamber contest for the novel ways it was looking to prevent cancer — and a coronavirus infection. The week I wrote that piece was when I discovered the treasure trove of story ideas that made up Madison's business community.

For example, the pandemic has spotlighted how partnerships are have seemed to be a favorable strategy for organizations looking to solve complex issues.

I covered that in an article regarding the State Street pop-up shops, or Culture Collectives. Several organizations came together to fill two vacant storefronts in the Downtown corridor, and simultaneously help minority business owners get their venture off the ground.

More ideas were spawned as I saw how Madison's businesses continue to navigate hiring challenges, supply chain shortages and other trials.

But through all that, there's been an apparent optimism for the future. 

That's showcased in how Fitchburg biotech giant Promega has conceptualized a way to detect coronavirus particles in wastewater, as well as how Madison biofuel company Virent aided in United Airlines piloting an aircraft using renewable jet fuel for the first time.

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