DataTribe looks to turn spy tech into startups - Baltimore


May 12, 2017 12:56 pm

DataTribe looks to turn spy tech into startups

“We look at over-the-horizon technology — stuff that is built inside intelligence agencies and research labs that is three and four generations ahead of what’s out there,” said cofounder Mike Janke.

DataTribe founders Mike Janke, Bob Ackerman and Steven Witt.

(Courtesy photo)

Over the last year or so, the name DataTribe has been popping up in association with some intriguing cybersecurity startups.

It was the named investor in a seed round for Dragos, which secures industrial control systems and infrastructure. It was also where En|Veil founder Ellison Anne Williams was working when she told us about the homomorphic encryption startup.

During a recent interview, DataTribe cofounders Mike Janke and Bob Ackerman acknowledged that they’ve been pretty quiet. They’re looking for the next big startup in places where the public usually doesn’t get to go.

Based in Fulton, the company is specifically seeking out cutting edge technology that’s being developed inside the government at places like NSA at Fort Meade and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel.

“We look at over-the-horizon technology — stuff that is built inside intelligence agencies and research labs that is three and four generations ahead of what’s out there,” said Janke, a former Navy Seal who founded secure communications firm Silent Circle.

The team of cofounders, which also includes Onyara founder Steven Witt, said the technology and talent is here. Ackerman, a longtime cybersecurity investor who founded Silicon Valley firm Allegis Capital, said DataTribe is looking to apply startup principles to make it a success commercially.

DataTribe looks to work right alongside the companies to bring that in. The company’s team of about a dozen people works alongside the companies for about a year to form teams and build the companies. They can also have links with potential partners, as shown in Dragos’ recently announced partnership with Deloitte. When they’re done, the idea is that the startups are ready for a Series A after about a year.


That takes time and funding. Initially, DataTribe invests up to $1.5 million in each company. (The startups give up equity, but the cofounders declined to say how much.) Plus, the companies could end up receiving up to $1 million more of in-kind services like rent, legal and accounting.

So DataTribe is selective. The first group of companies included three startups. And they want the startups to be the best.

“This is not about volume. This is about highly targeted, big problems, requiring big solutions, where the kernel of that solution has been developed and validated in one of the national labs,” Ackerman said.

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