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December 18, 2007

Life of the

Big shout-out to new sponsor BizBash.  Founded in 2000, BizBash is the leading trade media for the event industry. Check them out for inspiration before you plan your next event. 

We write a lot about the Lockheeds and Northrops, but every so often need to be reminded of the startups that populate this region with much of its tech expertise and spirit.  We caught up with entrepreneur Denise Tayloe between her pitches for money.

Denise didn’t get the earliest start creating her own business—first she had careers in accounting (an Arthur Andersen CPA in the emerging business group in the early 90’s) and real estate (an operations officer for local developer Equity Homes in the late 90s).  Then in 2001 she founded her first and current company, Privacy Vaults Online (aka Privo).  

After six years, Privo is still going—and now seeking $800,000 in convertible debt to add to $400,000 it closed in September, hoping the total will position it for an ‘08 Series A equity financing, maybe on the order of another $3-5 million.  The night before we sat down with Denise, she’d given a presentation on Privo to a dozen potential angels at the Tower Club, hosted by existing investors Tom Hewitt and Ray Rice, veterans of government contracting and executive recruiting.  She’s hoping to bundle some $50k investments into what she needs.  

Privo manages private information transmitted over the Internet.  Denise got the idea for her business in 2000, while her brother was building a virtual community for kids called InfoNuts.  At that time, Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires companies to obtain parental consent before they collect or use private information about kids under the age of 13.  The law has been a stumbling block for some online operations (like the social networking site Xanga, with Denise tells us had to delete information on 1.7 million kids for non-compliance with COPPA), but Denise smelled an opportunity. 

Using the law as a guide, Denise created software (called PrivoLock) that allows parents to prove they are giving consent by providing driver’s license numbers, credit card info, partial Social Security numbers, or other info acceptable under COPPA.  Privo has been recognized as a “safe harbor provider” by the FTC (which administers COPPA), so companies using Privo software to manage their information collection are deemed in compliance with the law.  Privo clients include Burger King and Vivendi Games.  

Denise had previously raised $2.4 million in common stock, nearly half from investor Paul Gernhardt, who spent 15 years at AOL and was employee #40 there.  The additional $1.2 million in debt she’s seeking would be used to enhance Privo’s product along the ASP model, ie, deliver software as a service instead of requiring customers to buy it. 

Denise has known she was driven since the days she was the only girl on the boys’ soccer team in 7th and 8th grade, and feels at home at Bungalow Billiards near hometown Woodbridge.  She even skydived with her entrepreneur dad on his 60th birthday.  (He created a surveying business in Northern Virginia years ago.)

In an ideal world, Denise says, she’d like to hire a VP of Sales and also get a COO on board.  She’s been talking to investors, and recently snagged an invitation to present to John May’s Active Angel Investors (a group of 50-60 who ask a few lucky companies each month to give a breakfast presentation).  Unfortunately, it snowed the day that Denise gave her talk, so only a small portion of the expected crowd showed.  As Denise knows well by now—that’s life as an entrepreneur.   

Cardinal Bank
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