Clarendon-Based Data Privacy Startup Takes on $3.1 Million in Funding

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A startup that looks to help companies protect customers’ personal data just received $3.1 million in new funding at a crucial time for the data protection industry.

Clarendon-based WireWheel was founded in December 2016 by Justin Antonipillai, the former Acting Undersecretary of Economic Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama, alongside University of Maryland Computer Science professor Amol Deshpande and former NASA rocket scientist Chris Getner.

The trio founded the company to help businesses comply with new regulations around data protection that come into effect next year.

Its software, called the “Data Privacy and Protection platform,” helps businesses both in the United States and Europe keep track of customer data that has been collected, where it is stored and who or what has access to it.

“It’s not only the specific information you’ve given the company, because most companies are logging every interaction you have with them, often tied to where you were when that interaction took place, there’s crazy insights that people can get from that kind of data about you,” Antonipillai said. “What I’m really seeing is companies trying to do the right thing, and makes sure they can prove they’re doing the right thing, and that’s where we come in.”

WireWheel received its seed funding, early-stage investments in return for a stake in the business, from venture capital firms PSP Chicago and New Enterprise Associates. Antonipillai said that money will be used primarily to hire new software developers and engineers and to invest in improving the software which will be rolled out for a wider Beta test in January.

And from the investment firms’ point of view, the timing is perfect to invest in companies that help protect customers’ data, especially after high-profile breaches like that at the Equifax credit bureau.

“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that companies and governments build trust and show that they are taking care of their customer’s personal data,” Penny Pritzker, founder and Chairman of PSP Capital, said in a statement. “The WireWheel team brings tremendous expertise in understanding the regulatory maze, advanced technologies and business needs surrounding data privacy.”

In May, the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect for companies that do business in Europe, which includes multi-national corporations based in the United States. Described as “one of the biggest changes to data privacy and data protection regulation in 20 years,” it imposes significant privacy requirements on companies.

Antonipillai said the GDPR and the European Union’s renewed focus on data privacy means WireWheel fills a vital need for companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“In Europe, privacy is a fundamental right and it imbues a lot of parts of society,” he said. “If companies aren’t in a position to demonstrate that they’re doing the right thing with that information, and that they know where it is, what it is and who or what has access to it, you can’t do business on the world stage.”

Already, Antonipillai said WireWheel has worked with several multi-national companies in the software’s early stages, and has been developing its platform with their help.

He echoed comments from the likes of Ballston-based cybersecurity firm BluVector, which said previously it is part of an unofficial “cyber corridor” in Arlington, and said that as the software evolves, it will be easy to scale for more companies to use.

“We know that if we solve their problems, we’ll solve them in a way that is going to solve a lot of companies’ problems,” Antonipillai said. “Given the scope of the problem, there are European laws and there are US laws that have to be complied with. Companies are trying really hard to get up to speed on that, so I think we have a pretty good path to scale once we really get the platform out.”

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