The inventor of this remarkable technology, Geoff Rhoades, PhD showed it to me in the dirt-floored garage he was using as a development lab.
Geoff explained that it was an adaption of a artist's trick from the middle ages– the ability to hide information in images.
He called his version digital steganography.
The old idea was fully updated to the digital age and made holographic in his approach. In other words he could hide data in an image and no matter what you did to that image if a few pixels remained the steganographic information would still be there!
The original team
Geoff, a PhD, had worked at Tektronix where we first met. He developed sophisticated optical and laser applications as accessories for the company’s lines of oscilloscopes. In has spare time, he “tinkered” in his garage.
There was a patent attorney involved, an engineer and an accountant. I signed on to handle marketing.
All of us had “day jobs” so it meant a lot of nights and weekends.
We met in that garage
with the dirt floor, sipped
tea from mismatched
cracked cups and bent our
minds to getting the
technology from prototype
to critical mass.
Funding was the primary problem.
Family and friends had been exhausted. It was too early to go after Venture Capital. That left angel investors but first the entire group had to be trained in Networking so we could find them.
Once we had the offering paperwork in hand we were ready to reach out to angel investors we had spent weeks connecting to (Long before Linked In existed).
We managed to raise $500,000 in 17 days from investors on the West Coast from California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
Vision: The product, we believed, would be a way to put an indelible mark on works of art, commercial items like stock or Bond certificates and even three dimensional items.
Name: The name came from a thought I scrawled on a white board we used to capture random ideas. It changed 3 times before we went to a major trade show in San Francisco!
Positioning: wasn’t easy. We finally arrived at Digital Watermarking, now the accepted way to describe steganography in the digital world.
Outcome: The capability is included by makers of image software and the process is used in financial instruments and security applications in countries around the world. The company went public and the offering topped $80/share (we had expected about $20 per share).
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