By GREGORY ZELLER //
There are good signs at Web4Sign, where everything is proceeding as planned.
The graphometrically inclined Italian import has completed its move into Stony Brook University’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology and installed its proprietary software in data centers in Arizona and Georgia, all right on schedule, according to founder Raffaello Galli.
The data-security startup, launched in Italy in 2015, has also reached the first plateau in its commitments to Start-Up NY, which opened the books and welcomed Web4Sign into the family in September. Promising five full-time jobs and about $650,000 in regional economic activity over its first five years, Galli’s firm has made its first official hire: an SBU student working as a programmer in the CEWIT office.
It’s no surprise the imprenditore hired an SBU student right out of the chute. Galli ranked the university’s ready supply of talent right alongside Start-Up NY’s tax benefits before he even relocated Web4Sign from his home country.
It officially changed flags in February and immediately set to installing its verification and security protocols into data centers operated by NYC-based OmniconGroup. As per an agreement Galli inked with the marketing and communications giant last summer, two OmnicomGroup subsidiaries are using software Galli created – based on long-term calligraphy studies by Turkish researchers and other scientific data – to measure biometric nuances in electronic signatures.
It’s a different approach from technologies using algorithms and other mathematical schemes to authenticate digital signatures. Graphometrics looks for forgeries by checking the angle of the user’s pen, the speed at which a John Hancock is scribbled and similar factors.
OmnicomGroup, a global network of leading marketing communications companies, has applied Web4Sign’s software to subsidiaries Doremus Financial Printing, a New York City-based electronic documents and typesetting specialist, and Scienomics, a Connecticut-based molecular modeling and simulation software expert.
One lesson that’s already been reinforced, according to Galli: Like signatures themselves, the systems tracking them must be changeable. So the new programmer in Web4Sign’s CEWIT office is busily tailoring the company’s software to the specific needs of the two OmnicomGroup agencies.
“You always need to change the software according to what the customer wants,” Galli told Innovate LI. “That kind of personalization is important if the base product doesn’t meet the specific needs of the customer.
“They are already using Version 1, let’s say, and now they want Version 2,” he added. “That want some additions, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Among the personalized upgrades: new protocols that will apply Web4Sign’s graphometrics more universally in pharmaceutical and end-user environments.
Tweaking the software to address those specific requests means more than getting it right for those specific clients. Galli had his eyes on OmnicomGroup’s bulging portfolio, and its $7 billion in combined annual revenue, before Web4Sign even set up inside the Phoenix and Atlanta data centers.
“They have, like, 230 companies within the group,” he noted.
That means knocking it out of the park for the first two OmnicomGroup clients is essential to Web4Sign’s growth strategy. In addition to the new programmer, Galli’s staff already includes a collection of part-time sales and marketing staffers, and he said he’s on course for a second full-time hire, “and maybe more,” before Start-Up NY’s 2017 deadline.
With the customer upgrades expected to be completed by August, Galli next plans to get busy raising capital, primarily through selling investor shares.
His goal: A $250,000 round that will fund hardware purchases critical to his expansion strategy.
“We need just a little more money to buy some equipment to put in the data centers,” he said. “We have some other ideas we can work on directly with OmnicomGroup, but we have to buy this hardware first.”
While that capital infusion is necessary, and strong performances in Phoenix and Atlanta are critical, Web4Sign’s biggest potential advantage may come from changing views on data security across U.S. marketplaces.
Galli cited “a completely different mentality” between European businesspeople and lawmakers, whom he called “proactive” regarding data security, and their U.S. counterparts, whom he considers “passive, waiting for something to happen before anything changes.”
“In the U.S, there is a problem with credit cards, there is a fraud, so somebody says, ‘Oh, there is a problem, I am going to fix it,’” Galli said. “In Europe, there is legislation to prevent fraud from happening. You have to have this kind of machine, you have to have a certified service, you need to have this level of security.”
Slowly – and only after numerous large-scale data breaches of the kind “you don’t hear about in Europe,” Galli noted – that kind of thinking and regulation is taking hold in the United States. And that’s good news for a cutting-edge startup designed specifically to stay ahead of potential data thefts.
“My business is proposing something proactive,” Galli said. “We are saying, ‘Look, you might have problems here later, so let’s solve them before other problems come in, too.’”