The entrepreneur

Seasoned entrepreneur Michael Pratt has spent the past 16 years building start-ups. Kevin Sapp has been pioneering mobile security for much of his career, most recently as senior director and chief architect for mobile at McAfee. The pair collaborated on a previous software venture, Trust Digital, acquired by McAfee in 2010. Now they are tackling what they say is the looming issue for IT departments everywhere: the security of cell phones, tablets and other portable devices.

As more employers let employees “bring their own devices” (BYOD) to work, organizations have to have a reliable way to secure data. With their McLean-based start-up, SpydrSafe, Pratt and Sapp have developed what they say is the only true mobile data loss prevention (DLP) system that can secure any app, and requires no extra equipment or software to work. It also does not modify the operating system or any of the apps.

“We’re the only company in the market that can truthfully make these statements, and importantly, it is very easy for an enterprise to implement and scale our solution,” Pratt said.

The pitch


“SpydrSafe’s Mobile DLP security platform prevents corporate data breaches due to intentional or inadvertent misuse of mobile apps, enabling the use of employee-owned devices in the workplace and providing enterprise IT departments with the tools that are necessary to safeguard corporate data.

“We’ve been saying since day one that what’s important in mobile usage is the data and apps — if you lose your device, data is controlled through the apps. IT people are sick and tired of talking about devices. We protect the apps no matter where they are.

“We are the only mobile DLP platform that has been built from the ground up to specifically address the issues of data protection and app control on smartphones and tablets, enabling BYOD in the enterprise by protecting the data via controlling the apps in a unique and proprietary way. SpydrSafe has two components — a device app a user downloads and a cloud-based enrollment tool for IT departments. We control any app (pre-loaded, commercial or proprietary), and our solution is easy for enterprise IT professionals to try, buy and scale.

“Right now, we are in beta testing and continuing to add functionality to our solution. We’re planning our full release launch for October. We’ve recently secured angel funding and a grant from Virginia’s Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund. We have momentum and we’re the only company doing what we do. With the head start, we need to put the foot on the gas and bring in sales.

“How does an early-stage company, operating with a limited marketing/PR budget, most effectively position itself as the ‘thought leader’ in a multibillion-dollar market when it can clearly demonstrate a more effective, unique product offering than its larger, better-funded and more well-known competitors?

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“Use social media to your advantage. By blogging, posting articles and tweeting consistently about your business and about what’s going on in the market, you can get your message out inexpensively. It may not always be the most targeted audience from a sales perspective, but you can position yourselves as a brand name in this new ‘BYOD’ market.

“You can position yourselves as a market leader by educating the market on what the risks are, how the device market has changed, and the implications of protecting (or not protecting) enterprise apps and data. Since many organizations are just starting to think about the impact of BYOD, there is a large opportunity to educate your future customers. You’ll be able to be nimble enough to stay more current than larger security players that are just not innovating fast enough.

“The key thing is to plan your social media strategy ahead of time. Map out what you can and will do through your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages and your blog. Create a strategy for each tool and be consistent. “



“We hired a part-time PR consultant, and Kevin and I have been very hands-on with marketing the company. I do a lot of tweeting on SpydrSafe’s Twitter account and I’m very active on LinkedIn in the ‘BYOD’ group. Unfortunately, like everything else, we’re spread so thin. But we do see the value in marketing and sales as the key things we need to invest in. We’ve been very active on Twitter with lots of ‘retweeting,’ and will continue to do so.

“We’re a small company and there are all sorts of big security companies in this that are much better funded than us. But PR and marketing is near and dear to my heart — and we’ll continue to be out there talking about our capabilities.”