Starting a Online Security Business
Interview with Todd Feinman, Founder of Identity Finder
Preventing personal data from getting on the web is a major task for many businesses. Todd Feinman founded Identity Finder to help organizations make sure they are not vulnerable to hackers.
Todd Feinman founded Identity Finder in 2001 in New York, New York.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Identity Finder's Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) software helps large organizations manage the entire lifecyle of sensitive data by finding it and protecting it to stop the data loss problem at the source. Using proprietary algorithms, Identity Finder accurately and intelligently finds PII such as SSNs and Driver Licenses, PCI, PHI, and other types of sensitive data. Organizations can report on assets by risk exposure and then proactively clean the identified locations containing sensitive data within their environment using built-in tools like Shred, Scrub, Secure, and Quarantine to prevent data breaches from occurring. Identity Finder also offers the same type of next generation DLP security products for consumer desktops to prevent identity theft by making sure one's personal information is protected from viruses, malware, and hackers.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Identity Theft has been a rising crime year after year and is being sourced by individuals who expose their information from their computer and corporations who keep people's information without proper security controls. We wanted to develop software that both consumers and business could use to protect the source of what causes identity theft: the personal information.
For businesses there has exited Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology to help but historically it has not been solving the problem. The theory is that an organization's network perimeter should be monitored, both to stop intruders from getting in and to keep confidential information from flowing out. If successful, this strategy protects sensitive information residing within an organization's environment because it keeps the data inside an organization's four walls.
However, despite deploying these DLP perimeter types of solutions, it has become clear organizations continue to experience data breaches. The vast majority of data breaches arise from hackers and lost/stolen media. Hackers have demonstrated an impressive ability at overcoming security systems designed to keep them out.
Additionally, DLP perimeter solutions are often powerless to stop these hackers, since once hackers find sensitive data they can create encrypted tunnels that cannot be monitored. Lost media is also similarly not protected by DLP perimeter software because thieves can use forensic tools to retrieve stored data contained within these devices.
So we set out to develop a DLP desktop software to find data sitting on desktops, servers, databases, websites, and other locations that could contain the information identity thieves go after. We made the software powerful and enterprise friendly and to lower the total cost of ownership made it easy to use. With that came our offering for individuals or consumers who could run the client part of the software literally on their home computers. Today our products come in home and business variants and truly help prevent identity theft and data leakage.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was a Product Manager at Microsoft and a Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is my first business.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
We find our employees through employee referrals, past business relationships, and the internet. We have extremely low turnover because each employee is also part owner and feels that the work they do contributes to their own personal bottom line. It is not more difficult to find good employees in a down economy, but there are a lot more "less qualified" candidates applying.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
The first thing is we now offer a completely Free Edition of Identity Finder, which is a powerful software product in and of itself.
We did this in early 2009 when we felt the biggest hit by the economy. Through excellent product reviews and word of mouth from consumers, we generated a strong following of users. This spread word of our product to businesses and ultimately not only helped consumer sales, but also enterprise sales. It was a very big risk because once you put a free product on the market it cannibalizes your retail line, however with enough innovation in our retail line we made it a very large success for our company.
The second thing is our customer support. We build relationships with every customer and believe product engineers should support our customers. This allows the actual product developers to hear what customers want but also support them in a very effective way. Our customers don't get frustrated and want to use other products. Rather they praise us on forums for our excellent quality and this has easily led to tremendous growth for us. In the educational space alone we have had months where customers generated more sales for us than our own business development teams.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I felt very prepared for what I was getting into however to put it simply, I never thought it would be this much fun!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Be prepared to calculate a lot of risks and stand by the ones you take. Find something you are passionate about and that you feel good about doing at the end of the day.
Thanks for the inspirational words, Todd. Best wishes for a successful year.
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