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Cybercade, a spinoff company of ProCircular in Coralville, is just weeks away from unveiling a web-based escape room game for employees to learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity. Founded by a management team of five people including tech entrepreneur Tyler Olson, Cybercade is a startup aiming to make cybersecurity approachable and interesting for the average person. "Cybersecurity is a hard concept for many people," he said during the CBJ's Business Security and Safety event Dec. 6 at the Olympic South Side Theater in Cedar Rapids. "Is there a way to make it enjoyable?" His answer to enhance cybersecurity training — something he and the audience agreed is often mundane, irrelevant and even seems like a punishment — is by creating an interactive escape room program. Cybercade collaborated with Cameron Dayton, a video game designer who worked on Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, and Jim Sherlock, the former senior director of customer success for Pearson, on the project. The company's first escape room, or mission, is set to go live as a beta version within a few weeks, with about 50 Iowa companies to receive access. Companies of all sizes can benefit from the training, he said. Five people can work simultanenously for one hour in a virtual online format, getting hints on topics such as password management, encryption and multi-factor authentification. Participants will be able to see and hear each other, and take notes together throughout multiple rooms. Each room will have multiple puzzles for a total of 15 puzzles. He expects Cybercade will expand to offer eight more escape room missions in 2023. Companies will then be able to sign up for a subscription that gives them access to beginner, intermediate and advanced lessons. Businesses may also be able to sign up for lessons geared toward their industry. For example. a retail company may complete retail-themed missions, while a healthcare company could complete healthcare-themed escape rooms. Discussions to create an interactive cybersecurity experience began last December. ProCircular had discussed the idea for several years, even filing a patent for the idea, but the company decided it made more sense to spin off the idea into a new company. "Cybercade grew out of research at ProCircular's Cybsecurity incident response program and its roots in applied cybersecurity from the front lines," said Mr. Warner in an email to the CBJ. "That relationship is alive and well, and all of Cybercade's games are informed by the most current real-world experience." By April, Mr. Olson and ProCircular CEO Aaron Warner determined an escape room was the best concept to move forward. "Companies are used to buying escape room experiences from a team-building perspective," Mr. Olson explained. "When there's familiarity, when there are budgets for something similar, and every company is looking for a better way to provide training, we thought that'd be a great format to be able to bring this product to life." In May, ProCircular earned $250,000 from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to launch this project. The funds came from an Innovation Acceleration Propel Fund loan and recommendations were made by the Technology Commercialization Committee. Mr. Olson anticipates the startup will raise a "fair amount" of money in the future. "We're planning to grow quickly and we anticipate it'll be a hot Iowa startup," he said. Mr. Olson is the founder and CEO of SHYLD Academy, a cybersecurity organization, and Away Agents, a rental property management company. He does public speaking about techonology sectors including social media, data analytics, cybersecurirty, IT and web 2.0. The final member of the Cybercade team is Frank Pinero, a fintech professional and president of On Air Parking, a company that offers affordable off-airport parking options via reservation.