Monday, May 09, 2005
VoteHere opts for new name, wider appeal
By Tricia Duryee
Seattle Times technology reporter
In seven years, VoteHere sold software that helped verify and audit elections in 90 private and government elections, mainly overseas.
The Bellevue company's chief executive, Jim Adler, acknowledged that sales have been tough, but that was to be expected.
"We knew it wasn't a quick hit; we are doing something historic," he said. "We are changing the way people interact with their governments and democratic process."
This year, especially given all of the national attention on voting malfunctions, Adler expects to make significant progress in the 2006 and 2008 elections. But to be safe, the company is hedging its bets.
Today, VoteHere plans to change its name to Dategrity and go after a broader market for its auditing and verification software.
Adler will become the president of Dategrity's VoteHere division, and former Microsoft and McCaw Cellular executive Steve Wood will take over as CEO of the overall company.
Wood, one of the original Microsoft employees, most recently was president of Bellevue's Wireless Services, where he remains chairman.
A slew of simultaneous events led to the changes at VoteHere, but one thread is common: Northwest Venture Associates, a venture-capital firm that has invested in both VoteHere and Wireless Services.
Almost a year ago, Wireless Services, which supplies data services to carriers, was finally hitting its stride and, after eight years as CEO, Wood stepped down.
At the same time, Northwest Venture managing partner Bob Wolfe was questioning VoteHere's business plans.
The company was developing a voting machine, a venture Wolfe opposed. The overhead for creating a physical product can suck the resources out of a company, said Wolfe, a VoteHere board member at the time and now its chairman.
The more fiscally responsible thing to do would be to focus on VoteHere's intellectual property — its software — and Wolfe thought there were applications that extended beyond voting.
He said secrecy and anonymity are important not only in elections. Financial institutions, health-care companies and other businesses also must keep Social Security numbers, birthdays and credit-card numbers safe.
Meanwhile, Wood, antsy for his next project, noticed the number of headlines about hacking and how information was getting to the wrong people.
VoteHere and Wood met in the middle.
"Steve walked in and said he believed there was an opportunity in the data-network security space that hadn't been addressed, and I said what about this," Wolfe remembered.
Wood spent two months with VoteHere chief scientist Andy Neff poring over the software. What he saw was a solution to a common problem.
Typically, companies try to protect information by building walls around the edges. "Generally they do OK, but they never solve the problem and can't because by the time the intrusion gets to that point, it's too late," Wood said.
Dategrity's solution would have two parts. The information is encrypted so it would not be useful if there were database intruders. The other part involves auditing. In an intrusion, the software would identify what information was viewed, something difficult to pinpoint today and increasingly more important as legislation requires companies to notify customers if a security breech occurs, Wood said.
VoteHere, which declined to discuss financials, expects to spend the next few months adding key personnel to the 13-employee company. It raised $4.2 million in March and, within the next year, Wood expects to raise venture capital to support the company's new direction.
When asked what market will take off first — elections or the private sector — Wolfe wouldn't guess.
"As we began to get people on the election side more interested, that could help to drive the corporate side and vice versa," he said. "It is easier if you can say someone is using it over here; therefore, they are not taking extraordinary risk in using your product."
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2005 The Seattle Times Company
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