Carmel entrepreneurs with ties to ExactTarget hope SmartFile outshines competitors

October 17, 2009

File-hosting services now seem to outnumber grains of sand on a beach.

They’re a low-cost reservoir for companies to store gigabytes they’d normally store on expensive, in-house servers.

But even as their Carmel-based hosting service, SmartFile, has been growing at a fast clip, John Hurley and Ben Timby figure at some point they’ll face the prospect of diminishing returns.

So within weeks, they plan to launch a weapon believed unique in the crowded file-hosting market, where data is usually secured with only a simple log-in and password.

SmartFile is introducing an ultra-secure access software that works with an authentication token that plugs into a computer’s USB port and is already a fixture on many a techie’s key chain.

SmartFile has a patent pending on how the key is used, how it unlocks user privileges, and how the data are encrypted in the hosting firm’s system.

Hurley and Timby see particular application in the medical realm, where the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act sets strict standards on confidentiality of medical records.

“It takes HIPPA compliance to the next level,” Hurley said.

They’re not trying to take on established medical-record-sharing networks, however, such as the Indiana Health Information Exchange. Those networks electronically transmit gobs of lab and radiology reports and other records between numerous parties.

Rather, the SmartFile principals see opportunities for the key-based security system among such medical players as small medical transcription firms, which take a physician’s voice recordings and convert them to text. Sometimes the handoff is through a courier service.

Hurley envisions a scenario in which a doctor uploads MP3 files of her recordings to SmartFile. The transcriptionist logs in with the key, embedded with an access code, enters a password, and downloads the recordings. Once converted to text, they’re securely uploaded for the doctor’s secure access.

They also see applications in security-sensitive finance and law.

In fact, development of the secure access system has been funded by an Indianapolis businessman, who also is a SmartFile client. The investor, who doesn’t want to be identified, has committed initial funding of $200,000.

“The growth [potential] is there. There’s a great opportunity. It’s even bigger than we thought” initially, Hurley said.

Hurley and Timby were part of the cadre that helped start one of the city’s biggest technology stars—the e-mail marketing firm ExactTarget, which now employs about 400 people.

They were introduced through a mutual friend to Scott Dorsey, Chris Baggott and a handful of other ExactTarget believers. They tapped Hurley and Timby to help set up their fledgling company. They didn’t have money to pay the duo, who instead received shares in the new company.

“We would show up at John’s doorstep every day,” said Baggott, recalling meetings on Hurley’s screened-in-porch. Baggott would go on later to form another thriving local tech firm—Compendium Blogware.

Hurley and Timby, meanwhile, established other ventures, such as Webexcellence LLC, a Web hosting company.

Among initial SmartFile customers was the local diagnostics device arm of Roche, which transferred massive amounts of marketing material to SmartFile for use by its representatives around the world.

In October alone, the firm claims to have signed up 200 additional clients, who pay a monthly fee starting at $10, based on the amount of data used.

“I have a funeral home in Texas to a technology company in [Silicon] Valley,” Hurley said.

Just how the five-employee firm manages to draw such a clientele is a bit hard to figure. Its Web site is slick and appears easy to use, including a multi-featured control panel that can slice and dice user preferences in more ways than a Ronco Veg-O-Matic dismantles a cucumber.

Each person who has access to a client’s files on the site in turn becomes a potential client.•


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