Name: Trufina Inc.
Location: College Park. Trufina is part of the University of Maryland's Technology Advancement Program.
Funding: Trufina has raised $2 million from the founders of the company and angel investors and $1 million from Pliant Research, a Silicon Valley group of angel investors.
Big idea: An online identity verification service for Internet consumers, users of online dating services and bloggers.
How it works: When online users create new accounts with dating or auction Web sites, they provide personal information such as their names, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers or Social Security numbers. That information -- chief executive Peter Bianco refers to it as "in-wallet data" -- is passed from the partner Web site to Trufina, which uses it to search databases such as Experian, Lexis-Nexis, and Backgroundchecks.com. Once Trufina culls all of the data about personal history, it quizzes the user about it. "We ask you questions about yourself that we know the answer to," Bianco said, "like 'who is your car loan with?' or 'of these five addresses, where have you never lived?' If you can provide in-wallet data and pass the out-of-wallet quiz, there's a high certainty it's you." In regard to privacy and security concerns, Bianco said Trufina does not store personal data on its servers, and any sensitive data is encrypted. Once users are certified by Trufina, they can tailor their profiles to control what aspects of their personal information can be seen by others. The company hosts a trial version of the service on its Web site.
Where the idea was hatched: Bianco started working with online identification problems as founder and chief executive of BNX Systems Corp. He met two of his executives at Milestone Equity Partners. The idea for the company grew out of a failed pitch for an online rating system for Internet daters. "We didn't like the rating system idea, but got excited about the whole identity verification system on the Internet," Bianco said.
Big-name customer: Bianco said Trufina has an exclusive contract with one of the top six online dating sites, which he declined to identify, and said he expects additional partnerships with companies conducting online auctions and dating in the next six months.
Price: The cost to consumers for Trufina's service is built into premium subscriptions to online dating or auction sites, Bianco said. A premium subscription might cost $25 to $30 more than a basic subscription and would have other services associated with it, including Trufina.
Who's in charge: Bianco; Chris Madsen, chief operations officer; Pat Mangiacotti, vice president of corporate development; and Chris Bradley, chief technology officer.
Web site: www.trufina.com
Partners: Experian, General Information Services, Backgroundchecks.com.
What the name means: Company executives wanted to come up with a catchy name incorporating a word like fidelity, true, info or veracity but were stumped. "We struggled with this for at least a week," Bianco said, "and then Chris Bradley's significant other's 11-year-old daughter was holding a bottle of Aquafina and she said, 'Hey how about Trufina?' "
Quote: "Online auctions want to certify the shoppers," Bianco said. "Through surveys we found that 70 percent of all online daters don't trust people they meet online, and 50 to 75 percent have asked if they could verify the identities of people. There are people using dating sites that want these services."
-- Andrea Caumont