Business Rx: Data privacy firm wants to sell to consumers

The entrepreneur

Jack Reis and his business partner Todd Drake spent a decade supporting the law enforcement and intelligence communities. In the process, they were exposed many sources of personal information and learned firsthand how many systems can misuse sensitive information in a way that not only invades privacy, but can actually threaten physical and financial security.

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So they decided to do something about it.

Reis and Drake formed Reston-based ManageURiD in November 2012 to help their clients reclaim control of their sensitive personal information.

The pitch

Reis

“The simple fact of the matter is that your personal privacy is being invaded every day. Dozens of information brokers have built comprehensive profiles about each and every one of us – names, addresses, phone numbers, voting, divorce and legal records, political views, financial history and a great deal more – for the exclusive purpose of making that information available for sale on the Internet. This literally means that in a just few clicks a complete stranger or an ill-intended individual can find just about everything they want to know about someone else in 60 seconds or less. And, by the way, we’re not talking about what Facebook or Google might be doing with your personal data here. In many respects, that’s a distraction from the real problem associated with online data brokers.

“To demonstrate how exposed you are, we offer a free risk assessment. We run your name against four of the more active information broker sites to determine how much of your sensitive information is available for sale on the Internet. We then assign you a personal privacy risk profile and even provide instructions as to how to fix the problem yourself. But, it’s such a time consuming and complicated process most people will not be able manage it themselves, so they can hire us. We will dynamically and automatically determine how much of your sensitive personal information is available on the Internet and who is selling it; manage the removal of your information from unauthorized sites; continuously monitor for the inevitable reappearance of your information, or the first-time appearance on a new site, and repeat the above process as necessary; and provide a Personal Privacy Dashboard so you can see the current status, history and details of their risk profile at any time.

“Because it’s necessary to do this work on a continual basis, we offer our service on a monthly renewable or annual subscription basis at $2.50 and $25 respectively for an individual.

“The market for our service is extremely large — generally bounded by the 2.4 billion users of the Internet. As a practical matter, we have begun approaching enterprise-level organizations — such as law enforcement entities — where we know there is a sensitivity to the availability of personal information and where we have had prior experience. However, we surveyed about 1,250 people and learned that 69 percent of the population is also aware of this problem, and 75 percent were willing to pay for a solution.

“While we understand and are well experienced in enterprise marketing, we are less steeped in consumer marketing. Given about 75 percent of the people say they’d like to stop the selling of their personal information on the Internet, how do we best reach this very large segment of the market?”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“Really ask yourself why you want to get into the consumer market. It’s very expensive to market to a general audience. If you already have traction selling to enterprise, continue to build on your momentum there. It is very difficult to be successful pursuing a business-to-business and a business-to-consumer strategy at the same time. For now, stick with where you are having success.

“Large organizations have a lot more to lose with unsecure data than individual consumers. You may need to eventually add more premium services to keep enterprise organizations happy. Focus on honing the markets you are currently pursuing and pinpointing the right departments and individuals within specific organizations. You could also consider offering a white-label version for large organizations who want to more seamlessly integrate this into their other cybersecurity measures.”

The reaction

Reis

“We have made some adjustments to our approach and we’ve sharpened our market focus considerably. There are approximately 125 million people in the United States that roughly match the demographic of the survey we did. We have further divided that group into two segments: high-risk individuals and general consumers.

“We will continue to attack the high-risk individual segment (about 30 million people) both directly and indirectly through partnerships, and we have achieved early success with both approaches. We landed our first big contract with a drug enforcement entity and are close to finalizing a relationship with a large national organization that could provide us endorsed access to as many as 5 million receptive individuals.

“We’ve redirected our consumer marketing approach for now. We’re taking a B2B2C [business-to-business-to-consumer] approach, if you like.”

 
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