Pindrop Security, a member of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), recently won the 2011 GRA/TAG Business Launch Competition, sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). The Atlanta startup will receive $50,000 cash and more than $200,000 in donated services from the Atlanta business community to help the business grow. Pindrop Security offers a unique Caller ID technology that authenticates callers through the “fingerprint” of the phone call making financial and other transactions over the phone more secure.
“Winning the prize feels great, particularly because there were 88 other great companies competing for it. It provides validation for the technology, the efforts of the team and the market potential,” said Balasubramaniyan. “The team at ATDC, including Keith McGreggor, Roberto Casas, Nina Sawczuk and Lance Weatherby, have been really helpful in guiding us through these initial stages. The space, the advice and the events all provide great resources for any startup.”
Pindrop was founded by Vijay Balasubramaniyan, chief technology officer and a Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and Mustaque Ahamad, chief scientist and director of the Georgia Tech Information Security Center. Together with Patrick Traynor, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, they developed the technology that formed the basis of the company through Georgia Tech’s VentureLab program, a one-stop center for technology commercialization that provides a clear pathway from laboratory innovation to the commercial market.
Originally called “PinDr0p,” the technology works by analyzing audio imprints left on calls by the multiple networks — cellular, voiceover IP, public switched telephone networks — through which they travel. It uses these imprints to positively identify the calling phone with high accuracy. Equally important is that the identification is made within 15 seconds of initial call placement.
“Pindrop is a great technology startup out of Georgia Tech with a powerful solution in the security space – a next generation caller ID,” said Nina Sawczuk, ATDC general manager. “They recently moved into the Centergy building at ATDC and have assembled a strong board to support them as they move forward toward commercialization. The recognition and prize money will accelerate their growth.”
The other finalists Soket, AuditMyBooks and ViscidTech – all ATDC member companies as well – will split the remaining $200,000 in pro bono services. Services include legal counsel, professional consulting, marketing, software and even real estate space. They have been donated to the final participants in a way to not only help ensure their success, but to assist in connecting the Atlanta entrepreneurial community with established businesses.
This year’s event also featured a “People’s Choice Award.” The more than 130 participants that took part in the final competition voted using the TAG Entrepreneurs Mobile App for their favorite presentation. Soket, a company that focuses on online promotions that offer local organizations a place to manage, monitor and make sense of promotional efforts on the web, was the proud recipient of the first annual People’s Choice Award.
Judges for the final round of the 2011 Competition included Ron Vern, former CEO of Sage Software; Allen Moseley, General Partner at Noro-Moseley Partners; Wayne Hunter, Managing Partner, Harbert Venture Partners (Roanoke, VA); John Glushik, Investment Team, InterSouth Partners (Durham, NC); and Tripp Rackley, Technology Entrepreneur and 2010 Inductee to the Georgia Technology Hall of Fame.
The competition, now in its sixth year, facilitates connections between the younger entrepreneurial community and the more seasoned entrepreneurs, with the initial applications being screened by an experienced panel of entrepreneurs, and the most promising applicants being assigned a mentor for the duration of the competition. Participants are also connected to the investor community, with out-of-state venture capital companies being represented among the judge’s panel and a multitude of angel and venture capital investors in attendance at the event.