One of Tacoma’s leading technology companies is preparing for its next growth spurt, expanding its executive ranks with plans to at least double its staff in the next few years.
From its downtown offices, Internet Identity protects data from cyber-attacks for clients including five of the nation’s largest banks, nine Cabinet agencies and dozens of private companies. In the past six years, it has grown from about a dozen employees to 55. It’s a market leader in cyber-crime prevention, an industry that will do nothing but expand.
Today it has announced the hiring of two executives that signal the company’s future.
“We are transitioning from the scratching along and jumping on every market opportunity, to more of a long-term sustained growth with experienced planners and people who have done it before,” Rod Rasmussen, IID’s president, said in an interview with The News Tribune.
DS Benbow and Jason Atlas both join the company after years of experience with other tech companies including Microsoft, Iconmobile and Motricity. Benbow is vice president of marketing, and Atlas is vice president of engineering and technology. Both are commuting to Tacoma from Seattle.
“This was an opportunity to work for a smaller, more nimble organization in an emerging field which will only continue to grow as more devices are connected to the Internet,” Benbow said.
Cybersecurity is the new frontier. Rasmussen wouldn’t share IID’s annual revenues, but said the company has grown between 20 percent and 80 percent every year except 2009, when almost everyone was flat.
“There has never before been a technology or really anything that has penetrated the level of every single business and human on the planet like the Internet has,” Atlas said. “Everything from the power grid through communication through games through entertainment through everything.
“It integrates all of our human-based engineering onto a common communication base. So it is extremely vulnerable for people to do bad things that do bad damage,” he said.
Internet Identity was founded here in 1996. A year later it discovered and disabled one of the Internet’s first “phishing” attacks, where criminals pretend to be a recognizable online business and trick people into sharing vital information like credit card or Social Security numbers.
IID made its name as cyber-crime fighters, and Rasmussen said it now wants to move into the broader security arena of data services and intelligence, including analyzing and improving the underlying infrastructure of the Internet, which was not designed with privacy in mind.
“It was a research platform for people to share data. And now we’ve taken this really cool tool and made it into the ultimate Swiss Army knife,” Atlas said.
Therin lies IID’s market niche, and its future: ensuring its clients and their customers have a secure space online to conduct business.
“We’re trying to go from hundreds of customers to thousands,” Rasmussen said. “We hope to double or triple our size in some period of X years, where X isn’t too long.”
Rasmussen, who is from Tacoma, said he is confident IID can find the skilled workers it needs while keeping the company in town. The University of Washington’s Institute of Technology and Clover Park Technical College are good resources for entry level workers, he said. When IID needs more experienced hands, Tacoma’s location could be an advantage when recruiting in the South Sound. People living here and commuting to Bellevue could cut their commute in half.
IID’s growth is good for Tacoma, said Andrew Fry of the University of Washington Tacoma’s Institute of Technology.
“They are active in many initiatives in the area including support for the South Sound Tech Conference,” he wrote in an email. “In 2009 they brought the eCrime Researchers Summit, an international gathering of individuals who spent three full days attending cutting edge presentations on eCrime and eCrime response.”
Then there’s the ancillary economic benefits.
“They also threw a party over at the Museum of Glass,” Fry said.