Its Gate­keeper makes lo­gins slick, se­cure

The Washington Post Sunday - - CAPITAL BUSINESS -

A com­puter se­cu­rity firm looks for more cus­tomers in the greater Washington metropoli­tan area. — Dan Bey­ers

The en­tre­pre­neur: Af­ter earn­ing his mas­ter’s de­gree and PhD in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing in 2008, Sid­dharth Potb­hare joined his first start-up, CoolCAD Elec­tron­ics, founded by his Univer­sity of Mary­land ad­viser and a fel­low grad­u­ate stu­dent. That com­pany does a lot of gov­ern­ment re­search and de­vel­op­ment work in new semi­con­duc­tor tech­nolo­gies and elec­tronic de­sign.

In 2011, CoolCAD also was ex­per­i­ment­ing with then-emerg­ing Blue­tooth low-en­ergy tech­nol­ogy. The com­pany cre­ated tech­nol­ogy and a de­vice it dubbed Gate­keeper, a se­cu­rity hard­ware prod­uct for log­ging onto com­put­ers. The idea was that you could carry a small key chain to­ken that al­lows you ac­cess to your com­puter quickly and then ef­fort­lessly locks the com­puter be­hind you when you walk away. The team launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to fund the project in 2014, and in 2015 spun the tech­nol­ogy off into a new com­pany, Un­teth­ered Labs.

The pitch, Sid­dharth Potb­hare, co­founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive, Un­teth­ered Labs: “We are an en­ter­prise prod­uct that small and large busi­ness can use to man­age the first-level phys­i­cal ac­cess se­cu­rity of their com­puter sys­tems. We are at the in­ter­sec­tion of con­ve­nience and se­cu­rity. Ev­ery­body wants se­cu­rity, but many look for short­cuts if se­cu­rity is not con­ve­nient. It’s not con­ve­nient to have ex­tremely long pass­words that you are re­quired to type into your com­puter ev­ery time you step away then step back to your desk.

“Users carry the Gate­keeper key fob with them and it al­lows them to walk up to a com­puter, type in a four-digit pin and get logged in. Then when they walk away from the com­puter, it au­to­mat­i­cally locks the com­puter. If you lose the Gate­keeper fob, an ad­min­is­tra­tor can dis­able that one and quickly re­as­sign a new one.

“Health-care com­pa­nies are our No. 1 tar­get cus­tomer right now. The health-care in­dus­try has a unique need where doc­tors often move from one com­puter to the next, but typ­ing in ex­tremely long, se­cure pass­words each time is too bur­den­some. Gate­keeper makes lo­gins and lo­gouts quick and easy. It also eas­ily ful­fills se­cu­rity re­quire­ments man­dated by fed­eral HIPAA reg­u­la­tions for elec­tronic med­i­cal records. We re­cently signed up a large hos­pi­tal here in Mary­land with a cus­tom­ized ver­sion of our tech­nol­ogy that al­lows doc­tors in the trauma cen­ter to ac­cu­rately keep track of the time spent with pa­tients.

“Other tar­get clients in­clude law en­force­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing, fi­nan­cial-ser­vices in­dus­tries, in­sur­ance — any in­dus­try where mul­ti­ple lay­ers of se­cu­rity are re­quired and mul­ti­ple peo­ple share the same work­sta­tions.

“We’ve sold over 10,000 units so far and have many com­pa­nies in the pipe­line that are test­ing and pi­lot­ing Gate­keeper. Our next chal­lenge is find­ing cus­tomers in this re­gion. We get a lot of in­quiries from all of the coun­try, but we are look­ing for ways of find­ing large cus­tomers lo­cally. We have a sales staff of three. Our sales pipe­line is pretty ro­bust, but not enough of it is lo­cal. We have been at­tend­ing lo­cal events and tech mee­tups to look for cus­tomers. We also at­tend trade shows like the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show and the Health In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Sys­tems trade show. How can we get in front of more po­ten­tial cus­tomers in the D.C.-Mary­land-Vir­ginia area?

The ad­vice, Elana Fine, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Ding­man Cen­ter for En­trepreneur­ship at the Univer­sity of Mary­land: “If get­ting more com­pa­nies in this re­gion into your pipe­line is a big pri­or­ity, fo­cus your sales team that way. If you have three peo­ple on your sales team, two could be fo­cused on lo­cal busi­ness de­vel­op­ment while the third is more op­por­tunis­tic and look­ing for larger clients out­side this re­gion.

“Un­der­stand that en­ter­prise sales could take 18 months or more to close a deal. Know­ing that and as­sign­ing a prob­a­bil­ity of signing a client close to your cur­rent tar­get list, you can know how many irons you’ll need in the fire to hit your forecast. Plot out a sales strat­egy that sets pri­or­i­ties (spe­cific ver­ti­cals or lo­ca­tions) and work with your sales team to cre­ate a plan to get there. This plan­ning will in­clude set­ting spe­cific goals for the num­ber of cus­tomers you want to bring on in this re­gion in the next year, then fig­ure out how many vis­its your sales team needs to make to build re­la­tion­ships to get there. De­ter­mine tac­tics and met­rics, and then hold your team ac­count­able for those. Also make sure you have good men­tors or ad­vis­ers who un­der­stand how to sell busi­ness-to-busi­ness and have sold into the in­dus­tries you are tar­get­ing.

“Use your con­nec­tions through the Univer­sity of Mary­land and through the hos­pi­tal you are already work­ing with: Ask your cus­tomers to re­fer you to oth­ers. Look­ing for some ad­vice on a new busi­ness, or need help fix­ing an ex­ist­ing one? Con­tact us at cap­biznews@wash­post.com.

S. Potb­hare

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