Columbus Tech Firm Wiretap Scans Client Firms’ Social Networks For Problems

If Uber had been using the product of a Columbus company, the ride-service company might have been able to catch and address its culture of sexual harassment before its image took a hit.

That’s the assessment of Wiretap CEO and co-founder Jeff Schumann.

The young company can help businesses monitor workers’ use of company social networks — such as Workplace by Facebook, Chatter by Salesforce, Slack and Microsoft Yammer — and alert management about everything from security breaches to rumors and inappropriate behavior.

Wiretap is able to do what it does because many businesses are putting their work processes and information “in the cloud” — that is, using on-demand computing resources over the internet.

“There’s a megatrend in business, that movement to cloud computing,” Schumann said.

“Companies like Microsoft have bet the farm — billions and billions of dollars — on that move to the cloud,” said Wiretap Chief Operating Officer Greg Moran. “And we’re taking advantage of that.”

Wiretap started when Schumann and co-founders Matt Huber, Shawn Domer and James Tsai — all of whom have backgrounds in technology and software engineering — began meeting at Stauf’s Coffee Roasters to discuss issues at the office.

“We suddenly realized everyone has the same issues,” Schumann said.

Employees were working collaboratively online and wanted ways to communicate and collaborate around the clock.

They also realized that human-resource managers and internet administrators needed a way to keep track of what is being said — both good and bad.

Working quickly, the four created Wiretap and soon began attracting investors who found merit in the fledgling company’s approach to a widespread problem. Among the investors is Rev1 Ventures, the Columbus-based venture-capital and business-incubator organization.

“We think Wiretap has a unique approach to securing and drawing valuable insights from enterprise-collaboration tools like Microsoft Yammer and Workplace by Facebook,” said Tom Walker, president and CEO of Rev1 Ventures.

Wiretap software, which can be installed on-site or in the cloud, continuously analyzes all conversations and file content that moves across a company’s in-house social network. The automated review and analysis can flag actual — or even emerging — patterns of malicious or harassing behavior. This enables the company to act quickly and prevent patterns of improper behavior, such as those that occurred at Uber.

Although the highest-profile aspect of Wiretap is focused on security, the system also gives its corporate customers insights into the growth of informal teams and provides data to help build a stronger and more productive corporate culture.

That’s one of the positive aspects of Wiretap that the company offers when employees raise questions about privacy.

“One of the keys is, we don’t sneak up on people,” Moran said. “We tell them ‘This is security to protect you,’ to be transparent. Also, if we can use our data to tell them that the last few people who were promoted out of this position had these three characteristics, that gives you a model for your career path.”

Wiretap quietly launched in January 2015 and had four employees a few months later. Sales surpassed $1 million at the same time. The company recently passed the 25-employee mark and, with nine large customers signed up and more on the way, plans to quickly double its employee count next year. It’s headquartered in the Brewery District.

Pricing is based on the client’s number of employees and the number of years the client wants to license the software. Most customers have two- or three-year agreements. Pricing starts around $1 to $2 per user per month, but larger companies may negotiate different pricing.

Bigger-name clients include multinational insurance corporation AIG; biopharmaceutical company Shire; pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline; consumer-products maker SC Johnson, and information-technology services corporation Wipro.

More than 1,000 other companies, including Disney, Ikea and Louis Vuitton, use Wiretap’s free product.

As part of the large and fast-growing cybersecurity segment of enterprise software, “there is a lot of noise in the space, which Wiretap will need to cut through to achieve its potential,” said Rev1 Ventures’ Walker. “As part of our decision to invest, we concluded that Wiretap had the right team and product, and was going after an attractive market segment. We’re optimistic on the future of Wiretap.”

So are Moran and Schumann, both of whom passed up lucrative opportunities to lead Wiretap.

Moran, 52, a veteran executive in digital operations for companies such as Nationwide and Ford Motor Co., passed on two job offers “to work with a team that shares values that I admired, to do something worth doing, and to have the opportunity to learn.”

Schumann, 32, has become something of a local legend for turning down an offer from Mark Zuckerberg to lead the launch of Workplace by Facebook in order to start Wiretap.

“I said, ‘Run, not walk, to Facebook,’” said Moran, chuckling.

“Everyone (said so), but I didn’t go,” Schumann said. “It’s the unicorns of the world that define entire industries. We think we’ve found a completely different thing to do.”

This story originally appeared in The Columbus Dispatch.