Startups

Arlington-based Giant Oak raises $10M to expand work with financial institutions

The company's platform factors behavioral science into data analysis to screen for illicit activity, said CEO Gary Shiffman.

Data. (Photo by Flickr user janholmquist, used under a Creative Commons license)

For Gary Shiffman, a key part of analyzing data is studying human behavior.

Back in 2009, Shiffman began contributing a behavioral science approach to government projects using data to identify illicit activities such as drug trafficking and terrorism. He said publicly available data that people leave behind can be a tool for law enforcement, even if it’s in less visible channels of the web than are commonly used.

“Behavioral science works as well in countering ilicit markets as it does in ad sales in licit markets,” said Shiffman, a Navy veteran who served in policy roles at the U.S. Department of Defense and former chief of staff at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In 2012, Shiffman founded Giant Oak to grow that combination of data analysis, computer science and social science. The company makes a platform to screen for what it terms “bad actors” called Giant Oak Search Technology.

Security remained a major focus as Giant Oak continued working with the government. In recent years, Shiffman said it also began exploring work with private companies. First among these are financial institutions, where anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and other regulations require vetting of customers to maintain compliance.

After a year-and-a-half of initial work with financial institutions, Shiffman said the company is ready to expand in this area. The company recently raised $10 million from Edison Partners, which will help grow sales and marketing, as well as development of the technology.

Based in Clarendon, the company currently has 15 employees. Shiffman expects hiring as it looks to double in size over the next year.

“We’re going to continue to focus on growing in the government space because we were built for the government space and love serving the public safety and public security communities,” Shiffman said. “With the investment from Edison, we will be able to focus on two verticals.”

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