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Rod  Beckstrom

Rod Beckstrom

Entrepreneur & Author


Rod Beckstrom is a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor, well-known cybersecurity authority, internet leader and expert on organizational leadership. He was the founder, CEO and Chairman of C•ATS Software Inc., a publicly-listed NASDAQ risk management software company. Rod is the former President and CEO of ICANN and the founding Director of the U.S. National Cybersecurity Center, as well as Senior Advisor to the Director of National Intelligence. He is co-author of the best-selling book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. He is also a frequent international media commentator and public speaker. Read More >

Rod is Founder and CEO of BECKSTROM, which advises top global companies and institutions. BECKSTROM also shapes and builds technology companies. These include Stealth Security, a network security technology company where Rod serves as Co-founder and Chairman, and HitCheck, a concussion testing and database company where he serves as Executive Chairman. He also chairs the Advisory Board of the Stanford University Cybersecurity Policy Program (CISAC), which is an interdisciplinary joint effort between Stanford University and the Hoover Institution.

As founding Director of the U.S. National Cybersecurity Center, Rod was the Federal Government’s top cybersecurity coordinator, helping to integrate activities across key departments and agencies to combat the increasingly sophisticated threat to America’s interests at home and around the world.

Rod is the co-author of four books, including the critically acclaimed business book The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, which has sold more than 100,000 copies in North America and many more around the world; it has been translated into sixteen languages. With a thought-provoking view of why leaderless organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and the Occupy movement often thrive while more structured and centralized organizations fail or decline, it lays out a new way of looking at leadership style, community and competitive strategy. Its reach has spanned the world, influencing top Pentagon generals, Tea Party activists, Arab Spring youth and countless CEOs.

Under Rod’s leadership as President and CEO of ICANN, the multinational institution that helps keep the global Internet secure, stable and unified, the Internet changed forever. His tenure was the springboard to a new era of innovation that enabled the use of Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic and other non-Latin language scripts, bridging the technical barrier that had prevented billions from coming online entirely in their primary language. Approval of new generic top-level domains under Rod’s watch laid the groundwork for hundreds of new potential domain endings – innovations like dot news and dot Dubai – that will soon come into use alongside the familiar dot com and dot net.

The global Internet was made more secure under his leadership with the addition of domain name system security extensions, or DNSSEC. He also moved ICANN firmly onto the global stage as a key player in Internet governance, negotiating and signing the Affirmation of Commitments and the IANA contract with the U.S. Government that made ICANN accountable to the world.

A preeminent thinker on technology issues, Rod was named one of PC World’s “Puppet Masters of the Internet” in April 2012 and included in “2012’s Digital Power 50” by The Hollywood Reporter. In 2011 he was named a “Tech Titan” by The Washingtonian magazine, and in 2010, one of the “25 Most Influential People in Intellectual Property” by the American Lawyer.

As a much sought-after expert on leadership, the Internet, cybersecurity and geopolitics, Rod has spoken at high-profile events in more than 40 countries for a wide range of organizations, including the White House, Stanford University, Harvard University, the World Economic Forum at Davos, Google, Microsoft, eBay, Infosys Technologies, BlackHat, DEFCON, Morgan Stanley, RSA, U.S. Department of Defense, World Government Summit in Dubai, Public Relations Society of Shanghai, Futurecom, Latin America Infosys, CIO Magazine Leadership Summit, Starbucks, TED, the Monaco Media Forum, Sogeti Consulting, The Hay Group, American Organization of Nurse Executives, United Business Media Group, the United Nations, the Aspen Institute, Tsinghua University, The Center for Strategic International Studies, Risk Magazine, and numerous Young Presidents’ Organizations (YPO), Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO) events around the globe.

Rod is a frequent and insightful media commentator on cybersecurity, organizational leadership and technology, with appearances on BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, PBS, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NPR, FOX and C-SPAN. Rod has been interviewed by Reuters, Xinhua, Associated Press, Kommersant, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Times of India, Bloomberg, Nikkei Shimbun, Gulf Times, O Globo, Handelsblatt, Le Monde and many more.

Rod is a trained economist and has contributed to the development of several economic models. He developed “Beckstrom’s Law”, an economic model to establish the value of any network, a critical issue in determining the cost of cyber attacks and a key factor in establishing cyber risk management regimes. The model can help companies optimize their investments in cybersecurity, and can also be used to evaluate new Internet company business models.

After trading derivatives at Morgan Stanley, in 1985 he published the first universal valuation model for interest rate and currency swaps. In 1995 he co-authored An Introduction to VAR, the first book on the theory of value at risk.

A committed philanthropist and environmentalist, Rod has contributed his vision, money and hard work to improving the world we live in. Since 1993, he has been a trustee or advisory trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund, a respected non-partisan organization combatting global warming and environmental degradation. He co-chaired the Oceans and Climate Change Committees. For seven years he served as a trustee and advisor to Jamii Bora Trust, an African micro-finance institution that helps more than 200,000 families across Africa by providing loans for micro-businesses, school fees, health and housing.

After witnessing the September 11 attacks in New York City, Rod spent three years building a global network of international CEOs who worked together to develop new pathways to peace. In 2003, just two years after 9/11, that network helped to initiate the historic Wagah border crossing that brought the India-Pakistan war to a peaceful conclusion.

Student days Rod graduated from Stanford University with a BA with Honors and Distinction, and in 1987 earned an MBA. He served as Chairman of the Council of Presidents of the Associated Students of Stanford University and was a Fulbright Scholar in economics at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. He was an exchange student in Germany in 1978-79. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

A Short Course in Cyber Security

It’s a mad mad mad cyber world we live in today. It’s pretty simple. There are three points: number one – anything networked can be hacked; number two- everything is being networked; so number three – everything is vulnerable. 

Preparing for Cyber Armageddon: What are the Threats & How Can Your Company Protect Itself?

Cyber security is no longer a niche technical issue; it’s a core strategic concern for every business and government leader worldwide. Rod Beckstrom is at the forefront, leading the call to action to proactively protect the nerve center of every organization or business in the world. Read More >

Rod will engage the audience in understanding the character and extent of the cyber threat and in considering solutions to one of the most serious challenges to your organization’s future.

The presentation asks tough questions that every leader will have to face. If you are leading a business, government body or non-profit, you need to hear what Rod Beckstrom has to say. Read Less ^

Starfish & Spiders, Conservatives & Terrorists: How Leaderless Organizations Are Changing the World

What do the Tea Party, the Occupy movement and Al Qaida have in common? They all depend on The Starfish and the Spider: the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations as a primary source of thought leadership ideas. How do these concepts affect your success as an organization? Read More >

Cut off the leg of a spider and you have a seven-legged creature; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. But cut off the arm of a starfish and it will grow a new one, because unlike spiders, starfish are decentralized.

While spider organizations rely on a rigid hierarchy, starfish organizations tend to organize around a shared ideology or a simple platform for communication.

Rod Beckstrom draws on a rich collection of lessons and anecdotes from today’s news to illustrate his groundbreaking model of organizational structure and leadership, and applies it to influential social movements, such as the Arab spring, that are producing historic shifts in modern politics and culture.

Starfish organizations are changing the rules of competitive strategy and leaders should take note. How can your business benefit from understanding this new dynamic? Can these principles be applied to traditional organizations? What can they teach that could affect your profitability? What is your organization: starfish or spider? And what are you going to do about it? Read Less ^

From Hummingbird Drones to Smartphone Cars: How Will New Internet Technologies Affect Your Bottom Line?

Internet innovation is rushing forward. Incredible new technologies like smart dust microsystems, [ambient intelligence], hummingbird-sized drones, cars driven via smartphone, and wireless implants that speak to your doctor from within your body are profoundly reshaping our future. The Internet of Things – the Internet of Everything – is turning everyday life into the ultimate online experience as more and more aspects of daily existence are coming online. An exciting – perhaps unsettling – new world is coming. Read More >

As Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on the Future of the Internet, former CEO of ICANN and a successful entrepreneur, Rod Beckstrom is at the intersection of innovation, technology and business, with a deep and unique understanding of the coming tech trends that will define tomorrow’s Internet.

In a lively and interactive presentation, he challenges the audience’s thinking with provocative questions that today’s rapidly evolving technology presents to the business world. How will it drive change in your organization? And what should you be doing now to prepare for the change, protect yourself from its risks and leverage its benefits? Read Less ^

Passion Networking

Rod speaks about building networks through eliciting the passions and potentials of both individuals and teams. He shows how distributed communities have overcome great challenges in numerous fields because dedicated, passionate people became involved and were empowered by the very distributed nature of the organization to become leaders and accomplish great things. What are your passions? What are the passions of the people you work with or encounter? People can perform miracles when they are organized in small circles or groups around their passions.

Books & Media


Starfish and the Spider