The privacy tech landscape is on the rise. We want to fuel it by serving the needs of key players—starting with privacy tech founders
We’ve been hearing for decades that privacy is dead. This sentiment rang particularly true in tech, where privacy design and engineering were ignored for decades, and led to a massive privacy technical debt. It’s time to dig ourselves out of that debt now.
Fortunately, for the first time in history, founders, technologists, investors, regulators, consumers, and enterprise customers are in agreement with privacy experts, advocates, and evangelists that we need privacy innovation. An increasing demand for privacy designed and engineered tools accompanies this fortuitous timing. In turn, we’ve also seen an uptick in technologists and founders who want to solve these glaring privacy problems and seize the resulting market opportunities.
Yet these founders find themselves facing major challenges in fundraising, designing and engineering privacy into their products, understanding the privacy industry, setting their privacy communications strategy, and educating their potential customers and the greater public.
At The Rise of Privacy Tech, we help founders solve these problems.
1. We find founders investors who believe in privacy or are at least interested in funding privacy innovation
Fundraising is a common pain point among most founders, but it’s a particularly big challenge for those in privacy tech, both on the B2C and B2B sides. It’s hard finding investors who understand and fund privacy tech. Converting investors new to privacy tech seems impossible, especially with so many VCs conditioned to invest in technology that exploits rather than protects privacy.
Crid Yu and Brent Blackaby, cofounders of Confidently, a privacy tech startup that is building a product to help consumers fully leverage their new privacy rights and take back control of their data, particularly feel the pain in the consumer privacy space. They share from their experience, “privacy doesn’t’t seem to be a space covered by most investors” and “is often lumped together with security.”
The same challenge exists even in the B2B space, which recently saw major funding rounds in the middle of the pandemic: D-ID’s $13.5M Series A, Privitar’s $80M Series C, and ForgeRock’s $93.5M Series E, to name a few.
DocuVision.ai is a B2B privacy tech startup backed by UC Berkeley’s Skydeck that is
“changing the way organizations protect sensitive information in their emails, documents, and other files by finding and redacting personal information.” According to Rama Veeraragoo, its cofounder and CEO, “There are those investors who understand that we are early in the privacy journey, and can see the future from here. For example, consumer attitudes on privacy are fast changing and organizations are proactively embracing privacy as a central way of designing their organization and technology stack, instead of merely looking for ways to comply with privacy regulation. There are other investors who have not seen the future (yet), and they will miss out on it!”
We connect founders to investors who have expressed their interest in the privacy tech space. We also share feedback from fellow founders who have already converted investors–and from converted investors themselves—on what works when pitching a privacy tech startup.
2. We match founders with leading privacy experts who can advise on product privacy design, engineering, and product feedback
Product privacy is particularly important in the privacy tech space where privacy engineering and privacy by design are cornerstone considerations. We believe that privacy designed tools respect people and their data and that privacy design is a prerequisite for product excellence.
Founders often approach us about their privacy tech ideas or early product betas for feedback. We connect them to our network of expert privacy engineers and technologists who can help with privacy design and engineering. We also connect them to privacy experts who are potential customers to provide product feedback. This is valuable when iterating and building a product that creates customer value.
3. We give founders access to privacy thought leaders who can help them break into the privacy industry
After fundraising and product development, founders often turn to getting the word out there about their startup, their solutions, and their story. Because most of them are not from the privacy industry (many come from security), they often find it hard to break into the industry.
An early advisor to privacy tech startups, Atlas, BigID, and D-ID, Debra Farber says privacy tech founders coming from security often make one glaring error: they use security terminology to provide privacy assurances. If a founder is selling to the Chief Privacy Officer or need their buy-in, then the founder must learn to speak the privacy language or risk not closing deals. Adding a privacy expert as an advisor can remedy myopic thinking and demonstrate to investors that the founder is appropriately managing its own privacy compliance risk, earning customer trust, and positioning their company in the privacy tech market.
To be sure, while there is a clear distinction between privacy and security, there is also a clear intersection between them. As DataGrail CEO, Daniel Barber notes, “Given the complexity of the modern enterprise, leading privacy programs are built in partnership between privacy and security teams.”
We give privacy tech startups access to our extensive network of privacy and cybersecurity experts, including the first Chief Privacy Officers in the world, pioneering privacy engineers and privacy technologists, and leading policy thinkers. Privacy is cross-functional, and we aim to bridge the existing privacy-tech-legal-policy gaps.
4. We connect founders to potential buyers, teach them how to speak the privacy language, and help them avoid privacy communications pitfalls
Marison Souza is the cofounder at PrivacyTools, the first privacy tech startup in Brazil. They create a customized privacy management platform for global companies. He shares their challenge in reaching potential customers, “The culture of privacy in Brazil is nowhere near close to the one in the US, and is galaxies away from Europe’s.” This has understandably made it difficult for them to find customers.
We help privacy tech startups reach potential customers, especially in the B2B space, by giving them access to a global network of in-house privacy practitioners and target buyers.
But it’s not enough to connect privacy tech startups to their target customers. We also want to teach them how to speak the privacy language and avoid basic privacy communications pitfalls. We’ve seen many privacy tech startups not close their deals because of basic privacy mistakes, such as conflating security with privacy, making broad claims that buying their tool will automatically make them compliant with data protection laws like GDPR and CCPA, or creeping out their target audience with their privacy-invasive marketing tactics.
Melanie Ensign, CEO of Discernible Inc., a firm uniquely specialized in communications for cybersecurity, privacy, and risk organizations, often advises, “Because privacy is so deeply rooted in cultural and personal experience, there is no one-size-fits all solution for building a credible brand. You need to understand the community you’re stepping into, empathize with their reality, and provide clear and realistic stepping stones to advance their cause.”
Evelina Georgieva, cofounder & CBDO of Pryv, a Swiss-made ready-to-use middleware for personal data and consent management, says privacy is often misunderstood in our digital world. She sees a “lack of literacy in how to protect privacy and individual rights, while still running a data-based business.” They address this challenge by understanding the privacy industry and building trustful relationships with potential customers.
Our advisors have decades of experience in the privacy field, understand the importance of trust in privacy, and can help address avoidable communications pitfalls.
5. We give founders access to privacy advocates who can amplify their mission, products, and brand
Lastly, privacy tech founders, particularly in the consumer space, have had to undertake major efforts to educate customers on why privacy is important in order to sell their products. This is becoming less true today.
In the B2B space, organizations are reporting significant ROI from their privacy investments, according to a Cisco study. In the B2C space, a recent Pew Research study on consumer privacy sentiment reveals that more than half of Americans have rejected a product or service based on privacy concerns. Despite rising consumer privacy sentiment, we have more work to do to educate the public, and this often means marketing, communications, and policymaking dollars for privacy tech founders.
There is a vast network of privacy advocates and evangelists who have been calling for privacy innovation for decades. They want to know the latest privacy solutions, so they can adopt them and help spread the word. We give privacy tech founders access to these evangelists who can help amplify their mission, products, and brand.
If you are a privacy tech founder, we want to hear from you. How else can The Rise of Privacy Tech help? Please tell us.