An opportunity for an Idaho startup is taking it to Luxembourg.
The company is HotShot Technologies, an Idaho Falls developer that created a messaging application that protects employers from labor claims by ensuring that hourly employees can only read messages about work during working hours.
While on an East Coast trip, CEO Aaron Turner met with a Luxembourg team about compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European Union law protecting citizens’ data from crossing borders without their consent. “You’ve got a guy delivering pizzas in France, and he has customer names and addresses on his cell phone, and he goes on vacation to Montenegro, that’s a GDPR liability,” he said.
In the same way that the HotShot application limits messaging and data outside of work hours, the company is developing country-level encryption, scheduled to be available next month and on sale in January, that will keep unencrypted data from being taken out of the country, Turner said.
HotShot is taking part in the Technoport Business Incubation Program, a Luxembourg technology incubator that provides it with subsidies, office space and tax benefits, for which Turner committed to have five employees in Luxembourg by mid-2019. “We’re really fortunate about being included in the Technoport program,” he said. “It’s a really unique stamp of approval that they see the value of our technology.”
In addition, the company recently closed its first outside funding round of more than $1 million with 9i, a newly formed technology investment fund.
HotShot has since hired its third employee, Srini Murty, as chief revenue officer to manage channel strategy, Turner said. In a previous position with Zimperium, he also handled channels with a variety of European companies. Part of his job will be to help HotShot act as an olive branch to Europeans to demonstrate that not all American companies are trying to take other people’s data and monetize it, Murty said. “What we’re trying to do is be the antidote to that kind of ‘surveillance capitalism.’”
HotShot does have its work cut out for it due to competition in its market segment, noted one industry analyst.
“Given the market dynamics in the collaboration space, it’s fair to ask whether there is room for another secure enterprise messaging app. Hotshot will face a significant challenge in creating awareness for its value proposition and in gaining adoption,” wrote Raul Castanon–Martinez, senior analyst, workforce collaboration and communications, for 451 Group, a New York-based analysis firm, in a report about the company. “However, its unusual approach translates into a differentiated offering and a compelling value proposition. Furthermore, its launch comes at the right time with its zero-trust messaging architecture and combination of policy enforcement capabilities for where and when employees have access to sensitive data. The company is coming out of beta and has trials in place that should serve as proofs of concept.”
The Technoport deal means HotShot is moving global headquarters from Idaho Falls to Luxembourg, at least for the time being. It won’t take very many jobs from Idaho, though, because the company typically develops its products by hiring developers on a project basis, Turner said.
“It’s like a blockbuster movie,” he said. “When you want to do a great movie, you put together a world-class team to get that movie made.”
Once the software is developed, HotShot uses a different team to maintain the software. “You don’t ask Michelangelo to paint school buses,” Turner said. “Geniuses aren’t interested in maintaining lines of code over the long term, so I let them go to the next project.”
But for now, Turner’s on his way to Luxembourg, where the official language is Luxembourgish, a French-German dialect, but whose inhabitants typically speak French, German and English.
“I’ve got kids here in school, so I have to maintain my presence here through the school year,” he said. “Idaho will always be home. It may be a temporary relocation.”