The Advocate

Twistlock, a cyber security firm with major corporate and government clients, plans to open a global engineering center in LSU’s Innovation Park and hire 20 people.

Local leaders painted the announcement Tuesday as another key step in Louisiana’s years-long quest to diversify the state economy, especially through the technology sector. Twistlock’s top executives, who are alumni of Microsoft, pointed to an “arbitrage” opportunity for talent in the region, where they will establish a customer-focused software center at Innovation Park, LSU’s business incubator.

The 20 jobs will have an average salary of $90,000, plus benefits, according to Louisiana Economic Development. LED estimates the company will result in 23 indirect jobs.

Twistlock was founded in Israel in 2015 by CEO Ben Bernstein and has U.S. headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Bernstein said the Baton Rouge offices will be its third.

“There is sort of a nationwide hunt for good talent,” Bernstein said. “There’s an arbitrage of talent here where not enough people hunt for good talent in Louisiana …. LSU is well-known for having good talent in cyber security.”

Twistlock Chief Technology Officer John Morello will head up the Baton Rouge office. Morello graduated from LSU with a degree in information systems and decision sciences in 2000. He met Bernstein while working at Microsoft. Morello was Twistlock’s fourth employee.

Morello said the allure of partnering with LSU and creating a workforce pipeline was the biggest draw for the company to locate in Innovation Park.

“That’s definitely the community we want to tap into,” he said.

Bernstein said the firm currently has 70 employees and is growing quickly, with plans to double its workforce in the coming year. The company provides cyber security services for companies that develop software on the cloud, using remote servers on the internet to store, manage and process data.

Twistlock counts Aetna, Workiva and GridSpace among its clients, LED said in its announcement. Bernstein said the company has a host of major corporate and government clients.

The company has raised around $30 million to date, with investors including the venture capital arm of Dell Technologies, Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures.

Twistlock is the latest tech firm to locate in Louisiana, whose workforce is cheaper than major tech hubs like Silicon Valley. LED Secretary Don Pierson touted recent technology wins like DXC Technology, which is opening a 2,000-job center in New Orleans.

“We’re building a very, very strong fabric in the information technology and digital realm throughout the state,” Pierson said. “We’re a leader in the South.”

The effort also has faced setbacks, such as IBM’s failure to meet its hiring quota last year. The state extended that deal to give the tech giant more time to meet its jobs promise.

Adam Knapp, Baton Rouge Area Chamber president and CEO, said one of the chamber’s strategies in recent years has been to find companies willing to venture outside of major tech hubs into Louisiana. He also noted updates to local K-12 curriculum to increase focus on STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“It has been a strategy of ours to look for companies who are willing to try this out and lead the way,” Knapp said.

LSU also has updated its curriculum in recent years to keep up with ever-changing innovations in technology. IBM executives worked with the school when it opened up operations in Baton Rouge several years ago to update curriculum.

LED and Twistlock started talking about setting up an office in Louisiana in February. The state offered an incentive package that includes the LED FastStart workforce training program. The company also is expected to use Louisiana’s Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive and the Quality Jobs Program.