The Entrepreneur

James Byrne has been in the security business for most of his career. For the past decade, he ran a security consulting business supporting states and local jurisdictions after disasters, such as assisting Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Byrne kept seeing clients struggle with the same issue: Getting the right people access to secure areas. If you don’t get the right people into areas and keep the wrong people out efficiently, it becomes incredibly costly. The problem was especially complex in the areas hit hardest by Katrina. Byrne set out to create a way to make it easier to quickly establish trust between parties to solve this problem. He founded Ipsiti in Reston in 2009.

The pitch


“Ipsiti gives individuals and organizations the ability to establish trust so that they can more safely, securely, and effectively conduct business. Whether requesting access to a building, verifying someone’s characteristics online, or needing access to a secure area after a crisis, Ipsiti’s cloud-based and patented platform, the ID Trust Network, ensures the other person meets your rules. With our smartphone app, individuals can quickly verify who on the network is OK to approve.

“Where two parties need to interact to do business (access to a building, enter a secure area, etc.), but have little or no connection, costs to both sides become significant. The delivery person who has to wait to be authorized costs the business, the security guard, the delivery person, and eventually the end customer, money. In our experience, this pattern was not the exception, but a common occurrence, as every day thousands of businesses, buildings and individuals interact with folks they don’t know and need to establish trust.

“We initially saw it as a critical component of how communities respond to crisis events via our law enforcement and emergency responder partners. The need to quickly authorize the right folks into an area, while keeping others out after an event is crucial both to security and recovery. The people who pay us are those who get the most value from our service: businesses. A business like FedEx would be a great example. The businesses pay to enable their people to get expedited access.

“Since launch, our service has been used by homeowners to verify the utility/phone/delivery person is okay, by transportation and logistics groups to ensure critical loads are expedited in delivery, and by security companies to better manage visitors to buildings.

“Today Ipsiti has established both direct and distribution-level channel models via private labeled solutions in the United States and South America. These subscription-based solutions support more than 1,000 organizations and 50,000 enrollees in support of post-disaster activities in the U.S. Gulf Coast and access control nationwide in Colombia, South America. Our customers range from government, commercial and nongovernmental organizations.

“The biggest business challenge for Ipsiti is the requirement to engage multiple parties to enable the solution. What approaches do you suggest?”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“You’re essentially like an insurance policy for businesses that will need your service if a disaster, flood or other incident happens in an area where they need to do businesses. You are really selling this on two sides — the businesses that will buy it and the local agencies that need to use it. That can be very difficult. First focus on building your user base and quickly figure out how to get them to be revenue generating for you. Get as many different businesses as possible into your system and to get their employees cleared when disaster hits. Once you get them into your system, it will be easier to sell on the local government side.

“In building both sides of your platform, focus on the industries and business that stand to have the most pain and locations that have the most pain. Identify the top three or four businesses or an industry segment that would need quick access to secure zones after disaster situations. Sell those companies first on Ipsiti’s ID Trust Network as an insurance policy. At the same time, pick a region where it makes the most sense to create awareness of your project with local agencies. You’re never going to be able to predict where disasters will occur before they happen, but the South seems like the logical place to start. Plus, you have testimonials from Hurricane Katrina in that region.”

The reaction


“We are taking the opposite approach. We are thinking about it this way: You are the guarded door; I’m the guy who needs to get in. If you’re going to sell it to me, the first question I’m going to ask is ‘Where can I use it?’ If I can’t use it in multiple places, it’s not as valuable to me. So we’ve partnered with law enforcement agencies at the state level to provide the system across a state, then we are going businesses to sell them on the fact that our program can gain them access through multiple agencies in a particular state.

“I agree with your advice to focus on an industry. For us, that is the oil and natural gas industry. Some of the major players are already our clients.”