How KC’s TripleBlind Went from Big Idea to Data Powerhouse for MIT, Mayo Clinic
Greg Storm and Riddhiman Das have never shied away from new ideas or formidable problems. Now, their startup TripleBlind is transforming how companies provide and consume data.
“The technology is so interesting that it sounds magical to people,” Greg says. “It isn’t magic – it’s just lots and lots and lots of math.”
Since its founding in 2019, TripleBlind has grown from a big idea to a well-funded enterprise. Support from Digital Sandbox KC helped fuel product development. Now, TripleBlind empowers companies to access sensitive data in the most private and secure setting ever.
Plus, the company’s work is getting noticed. TripleBlind has partnered with organizations like MIT and the Mayo Clinic. And it has relationships with several enthusiastic funders. Here’s what the journey has looked like so far – and what other entrepreneurs can learn from it.
Identifying a problem and finding a solution
Every great adventure requires the right team. Riddhiman and Greg worked together at EyeVerify, a startup that created “EyePrint ID” technology that uses blood vessel patterns in the eye to identify people. In 2016, that company – later rebranded as Zoloz – sold to Ant Financial for more than $100 million. But Das and Storm didn’t rest on their laurels. Far from it.
Riddhiman was leading corporate venture capital efforts for Ant while Greg served as director of research at Zoloz. Soon, they realized they were both concerned about accessing data that was locked down due to privacy concerns. The information would help enhance products and meet customer needs, but protecting the security of individuals’ data was a roadblock. So, they founded TripleBlind.
“Privacy at scale is a very difficult problem and only getting more difficult,” Greg says. “TripleBlind is creating software to address that difficult question in a simple way. We’re addressing the problem across industries because the problem exists across industries. Essentially, wherever data privacy is an in issue, we have a solution.”
But every startup starts at the beginning. That’s where Digital Sandbox KC came in.
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A boost from Digital Sandbox KC
Digital Sandbox KC provides proof-of-concept resources to innovation-based startups. Greg and Riddhiman pitched in 2019. TripleBlind received financial backing and the support of the Sandbox team.
The grant from Digital Sandbox KC empowered TripleBlind to work with local user experience specialists at a critical time. This relationship helped the company expedite its timeline.
“We used that money to speed up the development of our product,” Greg says. “In the big picture, that money got us into the marketplace faster than we would have without it. The other thing it did is that the association with them got us a little local press and notice. It isn’t just about money.”
Far from it. Digital Sandbox KC is designed to help high-growth companies get started. That includes market validation, prototyping and beta-testing support. If it sounds like a lot of research and testing, you’re right.
“So much of a startup business is an experiment,” Greg says. “You hypothesize what you think will work, but you need to test it like a scientist in an experiment. The Sandbox is a great way to test hypotheses around do you have a product that anyone will care about; can you describe it in a compelling way; and can you pitch it in a way that sounds feasible?
“It’s a safe place. They want you to be successful and will help you in the places where you’re weak.”
Business growth built on a solid foundation
That extra boost from Digital Sandbox KC meant TripleBlind started 2020 with a prototype. And then the wild ride really began.
The company worked with MIT to develop Private Kit, a contact tracing app that protects privacy while also helping fight the spread of COVID-19. TripleBlind then donated that IP and effort to the public domain. The open-source app spawned COVID Safe Paths and the Safe Places system.
That alone would be a pretty good year. But TripleBlind was just getting started. It also partnered with global professional services company Accenture and signed a deal to collaborate with the Mayo Clinic around the development of next-generation AI algorithms.
So far in 2021, the company has announced an $8.2 million seed round. This includes support from local venture firms KCRise Fund and Flyover Capital. The future is bright – but it’s built on a solid foundation of entrepreneurial experience.
A history of entrepreneurship
TripleBlind isn’t Greg’s first startup. But each venture has been different.
“It’s never been the same thing twice,” he says. “In the past, I’ve been in love with the problem and wanted to figure out a way to fix it. In one other attempt, I was absolutely gobsmacked with the technology and really wanted to find a nail to hit with that hammer because it was beautiful. With TripleBlind, the problem is interesting and important.”
Greg obviously enjoys the startup world, and TripleBlind hits a sweet spot.
“The real draw here is the team,” he says. “The people I get to work with every day are the reason I get out of bed. When you get an opportunity to work on interesting stuff with a team of people you like, you’re in a pretty good spot.”
Advice for KC entrepreneurs
Greg has learned a lot about startups firsthand. But he also has a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship from UMKC. So when he shares insights and theory, they’re grounded in research and personal experience.
“There are many theories on what motivates entrepreneurs, but it’s all gunk,” he says. “Everybody is different and has their own motivations for what they do. You have to be comfortable with where you take your risks.”
Part of this comfort is understanding that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK.
“If you aren’t comfortable with the idea that you really don’t know anything, this probably isn’t for you,” Greg says. “If you believe you have a better mousetrap and the world is going to come to your door, this isn’t for you. That’s not going to happen.”
Instead, he suggests entrepreneurs expand their vision and take human factors into account – and understand that not everything is in their control.
“So much of business is tainted with human psychology,” Greg says. “This job would be easy if people bought what they were supposed to, but you mix in psychology and people buy stuff because they like the color. That’s where hypothesizing gets interesting. History is rife with examples of people who got the tech right but the timing was wrong.”
Greg recommends that budding business owners become familiar with the resources available in Kansas City, like Kauffman FastTrac and the UMKC E-Scholars Program.
“There are a lot of resources in the area to support you,” he says.
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