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Speaking to the World

Rod  Beckstrom

Rod Beckstrom

Entrepreneur & Author


Rod Beckstrom is a highly successful entrepreneur, founder and CEO of a publicly traded company, a best-selling author, an avowed environmentalist, a public diplomacy leader, and the former head of a top-level federal government agency entrusted with protecting the nation's communication networks against cyber attack. In July of 2009, Beckstrom was appointed President and CEO of ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a nonprofit entity with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. Read More >

Throughout 2008, Beckstrom served as the Director of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC) at the US Department of Homeland Security, where he reported to the Secretary of DHS and was charged with cooperating directly with the Attorney General, National Security Council, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Prior to joining DHS, he served on the DNI’s Senior Advisory Group. Beckstrom is unique in having experienced the inner workings of two highly-charged, often competing federal security agencies created in the wake of the September 11th attacks, an event that he says changed his life. In March of 2009, Beckstrom resigned from his position with Homeland Security.

Rod Beckstrom is widely regarded as a preeminent thinker and speaker on issues of cybersecurity and related global issues, as well as on organizational strategy and leadership. He is also an expert on how carbon markets and “green” issues affect business. While Director of the NCSC, Beckstrom developed an effective working group of leaders from the nation's top six cybersecurity centers across the civilian, military, and intelligence communities. His work led to his development of a new economic theory that provides an explicit model for valuing any network, answering a decades-old problem in economics.

Beckstrom co-authored four books including The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, a best-selling model for analyzing organizations, leadership styles, and competitive strategy. The Starfish and the Spider has been translated into 16 foreign editions and is broadly quoted.

At age 24, Beckstrom started his first company in a garage apartment and subsequently grew it into a global enterprise with offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Geneva, Sydney, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. CATS Software, Inc., went public and later sold. Nobel

Laureates Myron Scholes and William F. Sharpe served on the company's boards of directors and advisors. While at CATS Beckstrom helped advance the financial theory of “value at risk,” now used globally for all key banking risk management. He co-edited the first book to introduce “value at risk.” Beckstrom also co-founded Mergent Systems, a pioneer in inferential database engines, which Commerce One later acquired for $200 million. He has co-launched other collaborations, software, and Internet service businesses, as well. From 1999 to 2001, he served as Chairman of Privada, Inc., a leader in technology enabling private, anonymous, and secure credit card transactions over the internet.

In 2003, Beckstrom co-founded a global peace network of CEOs which initiated Track II diplomatic efforts between India and Pakistan. The group’s symbolic actions opened the borders to people and trade, and contributed to ending the most recent Indo-Pak conflict. It's one of several nonprofit groups and initiatives he has started. Beckstrom now serves on the boards of the Environmental Defense Fund, which Fortune Magazine ranked as one of the seven most powerful boards in the world and Jamii Bora Trust, an innovative micro-lending group in Africa with more than 200,000 members.

He is a graduate of Stanford University with an MBA and a BA with Honors and Distinction. He served as Chairman of the Council of Presidents of the combined Stanford student body (ASSU) and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Cybersecurity: Tools for Proactively Preparing Your Business for a Cyber-Terrorism Attack

We live in a world where international cyber-terrorism poses a threat, not only to national security, but to our personal and financial well-being. Rod Beckstrom provides a compelling overview of the technology, strategic and economic risks, and mitigation concepts that every business leader needs to know. He translates his experience as the former Director of the National Cybersecurity Center and his leadership role as CEO of several high-tech companies to frame the cyber-terrorism threat. He also explains the actions we all can take to protect personal, business, and national security.

Passion Networking

What are your passions? What are those of the people you work with or encounter? People can perform miracles when they are organized in small circles or groups around their passions. How did twelve citizens come together in London in the late 18th century to start a movement that led to the end of slavery? How did eleven CEOs meeting in 2003 help launch the current peace process between India and Pakistan, opening borders, airways, trade, and telecoms where they had long been shut? Rod was a member of that original group of eleven and has studied and participated in many other amazing circles and networks on four continents. Why do some circles and networks thrive while others die? What are some of the traits of successful circles and networks? How can you start a circle? How can you build a network? Everyone has something to contribute. Learn how to unleash the unstoppable power of people's passions.

Global Warming, Carbon Markets & Carbon Offsets

Rod Beckstrom has fourteen years of experience in global warming science, policymaking, business, and investment. He is an acknowledged expert and was recently interviewed by CNBC News on what it means to be carbon neutral. He has served on the Board of Trustees of Environmental Defense since 1994 and recently came up with the idea of an Environmental Markets Network, a new national organization recently launched. He helped start one large scale carbon offset project in Pakistan which is already reducing more than one million tons of CO2 annually and has helped initiate other major carbon offset projects. He has helped to design and build pollution markets and has a unique understanding of how they work.

The Starfish & the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

In his innovative keynote, Rod Beckstrom teaches your audience that although spiders and starfish may look alike, starfish have a miraculous quality to them. Cut off the leg of a spider, and you have a seven-legged creature on your hands; 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. Not only that, but the severed arm can grow an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this feat because, unlike spiders, they are decentralized; every major organ is replicated across each arm. Read More >

But starfish don't just exist in the animal kingdom. Rod Beckstrom's powerful current day examples will explain how starfish organizations are taking society and the business world by storm, and are changing the rules of strategy and competition. Your audience will learn how starfish organizations are organized on very different principles than we are used to seeing in traditional organizations. The principles that Rod will teach are breakthrough and vital to any business, organization, or individual that wants to thrive in the new marketplace.

Rod will clearly identify the traits and business practices of spider organizations vs. starfish organizations. How has Toyota leveraged starfish principles to crush their spider-like rivals, GM and Ford? How did tiny Napster cripple the global music industry? Why is free, community-based Wikipedia crushing Encyclopedia Britannica overnight? Why is tiny Craigslist crippling the global newspaper industry? Why is Al Qaeda flourishing and even growing stronger? Spider organizations are centralized and are built around organizational charts; on the other hand, starfish organizations tend to organize around a shared ideology or a simple platform for communication around ideologies, like Al Qaeda or Alcoholics Anonymous. And the Internet has helped them flourish.

So in today's world starfish organizations are starting to gain the upper hand. And there's no reason that more traditional organizations cannot learn and apply the starfish principles. Your audience will find it essential to understand the potential strength of a starfish organization. Read Less ^

Books & Media


Starfish and the Spider

Connect with Rod Beckstrom