Secure data communicated securely: Building a viable business

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June 25, 2019

 

Shortly after starting a conversation with Peter Doten, you’re quite likely to be lost in a forest of acronyms that you may or may not be able to see your way through.  That doesn’t matter. Peter knows what he’s talking about and is growing his software development and consulting firm in Nashua, New Hampshire.

But, having a deep understanding of all things blockchain, and about such technologies as SATRAY, WebRTC, SIP, and WEBRGB, didn’t really prepare Peter for knowing the many steps involved in starting his own viable business.

Peter was laid off from a Canadian firm and, in March of 2018, was accepted into the state’s Pathway to Work (PTW) Program.  PTW, begun in 2013, allows people who are receiving unemployment compensation to continue those benefits while working full-time to develop a new small business. 

Once Peter became a Pathways participant, he was assigned to work with NH SBDC business advisor and now Merrimack Valley Regional Director Julie Glosner. 

Today, Peter will tell you it was Julie who pointed him in the right direction, helping him answer the myriad questions he had.  They included: how much liability insurance would he need; how to find the proper lawyer or accountant; and how to find a mentor in the business without giving away his secrets to a competitor.

“Julie has guided me through all the steps to get this done,” Peter says.  More recently, when he began wondering if he needs to seek outside funding for his business,  he has relied on advice from both Julie and business advisor Hollis McGuire of  NH SBDC’s Nashua office.

“Julie and Hollis have been invaluable to me,” Peter says.  “I can’t tell you the price tag that I would put on their advice.” 

Peter’s technology services are the kind that make bitcoin work, for example.  (Bitcoin is a form of electronic cash exchanged through the Internet.)  In his company, Fairmount & Charles, Peter is developing client-based, web-based communications that are extremely secure, but that enable huge amounts of data to be communicated to a vast network of interested parties.  

His software could, for example, be used to monitor a recently released hospital patient; data regarding infusions, pumps, blood pressure and other vitals could be transmitted in real time and communicated to all involved parties, within a very secure environment.  

Another potential use is in the emerging “Internet of Things” industry—the physical products that have Internet capabilities built into them. Today’s refrigerators are an example. They can be connected to the Internet, and it is blockchain technology that would enable continuous monitoring of that refrigerator’s systems.  Once a problem is detected, a secure, internet-based communication line can be opened, automatically and securely, between the manufacturer and the owner. This is known as “seamless switching.” 

“What blockchain technology does for you is provide that ‘sniff test,’ to ensure that the communications about to take place are secure,” Peter says.  “It overcomes any trust issues on either end.”

Right now, Fairmount & Charles is about 80 percent into having its final minimum viable product ready, which Peter hopes will take only another five to six months.  In the meantime, Peter has taken on consulting projects, developing other WebRTC (Real-time communication) software. He has helped the Avaya company develop a chat-based operating system for their new Android phones, and has become a re-seller of several other branded systems.  

“The business end is fairly complicated,” Peter admits.  The challenge is to not over-extend himself in case a perfect client comes along, yet he needs to earn enough to continue his self-funded quest for the big product he’s developing.

It was Julie’s idea to bring Hollis into their conversation, when Peter was debating whether to seek outside financing. Hollis understands accounting and financials and, as Peter puts it, “We’ve learned that if Hollis says it, you trust it,” Peter said. 

“Advice from Julie and Hollis comes from the best possible motivation,” Peter said.  “They’re always asking ‘Where are you now? Where are you going? How can we get you where you want to be?’”

Both Hollis and Julie are paying close attention to where Peter is in his planning. Formerly monthly meetings with Julie have become even more frequent as Peter gets closer to launch.

To date, Peter’s wife handles accounting, and his daughter gets involved when Peter takes on a Lenox installation, plus she offers critiques of his own pitches and marketing efforts.  

“So, I sit here mostly by myself,” Peter says.  “Julie and Hollis provide validation that I’m on the right path, and that I’m not doing this alone.  I feel like there’s somebody in my corner.” 

With advice and counsel from the NH SBDC business advisors, Peter admits he could have avoided an early misstep he made in choosing the type of corporation he would establish.  He chose S-Corp but, he later learned that this would be too limiting for him. He will now go through a painful process of re-incorporating as a C-Corp.  “I wish I had talked to Hollis and Julie first on that one,” he says. 

“They’re really my guides.  They’re not throwing everything at me all at once and leaving me on my own.  They tell me the next steps, then they check in.”  

 

Peter Doten's client story is part of our series of Cybersecurity articles, as his test database was hacked. He agreed to share his story here:

Here is what happened.

I was working on a project that needed an online database for a gig economy tracking system. We tried a database web service from a reputable company and rolled it out for extended testing last October.

Over the Christmas holidays, I got locked out of the system. We had been hit with a ransomware attack. The hackers broke into the database, either deleted it or downloaded it, and asked for payment in bitcoin to get it back.

I tried several ways to stop the hackers that didn’t work and the new service could not track them, either. I isolated as many things as I could and they still got in.

Thankfully, my database contained test data  at that time. I changed remote services. I was able to fend them off going forwards because I knew what tools to use to keep them out and this remote web service allows me to incorporate them.

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