Technology can be used for good – or bad. Denise Tayloe is protecting kids online as cofounder and CEO of Privo. “I don’t know how to give up”, she says of her years growing a SaaS technology company and trying to raise venture capital. Leaern Denise’s success tips – and why it’s mission critical to surround yourself with mentors and networks to assure your success in business and life.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to Wings, Denise.
Denise Tayloe: Hi. Thank you, Melinda, for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: It's great that you're on, because you're working in such a vital area, protecting our children.
Denise Tayloe: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: What was your inspiration to launch your company?
Denise Tayloe: Well, actually, I had, my original inspiration to launch the business came from being an investor in my brother's company, and we were working on a product that basically tripped over a piece of federal legislation called the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, COPPA. And we needed to find a way to allow children to engage with our service while getting parents' consent, and this was in the early days, before everyone had cell phones.
So, truly, I was trying to solve a problem that we were confronting and it became my passion to bring a solution to market that can help people actually protect their online identity buy still enable them to conduct meaningful and trustworthy transactions.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, it's hard to keep a kid away from an iPhone or an iPad or any one of these devices, right? All those kids are under 13. So, how is that working? I mean, my kids are posting on Instagram, they're pretty young, all of that. Are kids adequately protected?
Denise Tayloe: I would say that none of us are as protected as maybe we should be at any given situation that we find ourselves in, and that there are rules out there that I think companies could do a better job of adhering to that would make the ecosystem safer for children. I do think that there's a lot of good information and a lot of great things to be had utilizing the Internet. You can't leave that behind for any child. But we're creating a footprint from the time we start pushing our finger around on the mouse pad.
So, I think that if companies would comply with the regulation, we'd be in better shape than we are today.
Melinda Wittstock: So, what do companies get wrong? You know, in terms of companies that are providing services for kids, for instance, online or companies that aren't, but perhaps, I don't know. Where do people go wrong?
Denise Tayloe: I mean, I think the first thing that happens is if you're a company, you have to evaluate yourself and say, “Am I marketing to children?” Which, to some advocacy groups would be a horrible statement, but it's a reality. So, if you're a product or service that children may want to utilize, you may find yourself marketing to them or making yourself available. They can come in the front door. It's not a bar that you wouldn't let a child into your establishment. So, the online world is an establishment that you have to decide whether you're going to, you're going to gate access.
So, people get it wrong. They think, “I'll just gate out the children. But I'm selling something that is directed to seven to twelve year olds as a service.” So, where people get it wrong is they don't evaluate themselves and put themselves in the proper category of are they general audience or are they child directed services, and if they are, are they primarily directed to children, or is it more of a mixed audience? And based on those decisions and discoveries, then they have to apply the regulation in a way that makes sense, and that complies. So, it's just they sort of get it wrong up front.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it's confusing because I think of like my kids discovered YouTube well before the age of 13, so there's all these different YouTube videos that they can watch, and then you think of all the different things like Minecraft or a lot of the games or the Xbox games, all the media that honestly is aimed at kids. And it can be tricky, I guess, for parents to navigate as well.
So, tell me a little bit about what your company does exactly. What service do you provide and what do companies get from you?
Denise Tayloe: Okay. Well, what you would call our service that we make available to organizations is a ‘software-as-a-service’. We basically deliver a software solution in the Cloud, and it helps them manage their consumer's, their patron's identity and consent, and we specialize in helping to manage children's identity, or vulnerable populations. People where they can't necessarily consent for themselves. So, before a child says yes, send me something in the mail, you wouldn't want a 10 year old providing their home address to a company to have them mail things. And the parent didn't know that that sort of request was going out.
So, companies may want to send a push notification through a mobile app, and it's a 10 year old who's consuming that app, and they are aware of that. They know that they're either directed to younger children, or they know that because the person has self-identified themselves as under 13. In those cases, you need identifiers on the devices in order to send the push notification. And because you can tailor your message and really become sophisticated in your marketing, you have to get parents' consent to sort of collect that information. It's considered personal for children. So, we help parents and children register to services in a way that is a trust framework where everybody's compliant and it's transparent what's happening.
Melinda Wittstock: And in this area, I mean, do you have any competitors, or what does the market look like? …Because I know for instance, just on a personal note, obviously I'm an entrepreneur and I'm in a number of different entrepreneur groups, and one of them has a thing where you can take your kids and they can learn to be kind of kid entrepreneurs, and I remember we had a big kind of parent and child and teenager session talking about a lot of this, and online privacy and the overuse of electronics and all these things came up. Not surprising, kids and teens in some cases had very different opinions from their parents.
Denise Tayloe: Sure.
Melinda Wittstock: Right?
Denise Tayloe: To me, this, listen. This is, the privacy piece is misunderstood. If somebody asked you, “How well do you do protecting your personal information?” You might say, “Gee, what is personal information?” It means a lot of different things to you in different contexts, and you may think you're doing a great job, and you may be. But you also sort of know that, “Every once in a while, I need to clear my cookies.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, or along comes Equifax.
Denise Tayloe: Right. And you recognize and you think to yourself, “You mean that somebody has my mother's maiden name, and where I was born, and every street I grew up on, and they know where I shop and where I live, and when my GPS, my end points, my normal destinations. And gee, when I'm in the restaurant, they can push me a notice about why I should take a picture and share it on my Facebook right then and there, and I didn't even tell them I was going to that restaurant. Or did I?”
Marketing is sophisticated when it comes to online, and children aren’t armed to make those decisions about whether or not they’re going to give up their privacy. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @DeniseTayloe[/tweet_boMarketing is sophisticated when it comes to online, and children aren’t armed to make those decisions about whether or not they’re going to give up their privacy. So, the law basically says, “Hey, companies, if you’re going to collect personally identifiable information from children for perfectly legitimate reasons, you need to communicate that and get consent, and since children aren’t of age to give consent,” please make sure you do the best you can to communicate that to a parent or guardian, because you need to obtain verifiable parental consent in light of available technology, is what would drive just how verifiable or reliable it is.So, this whole concept of you and me as adults managing our identity online and going to a website and logging in with our Facebook or our Google ID, because we don’t want to create yet another username and password, we’re making a trade off with those organizations that are giving us those log in credentials. We’re allowing them to sort of track what we’re doing, and where we’re going with them. So, I just believe that there will come a time when we’ll bank our information the way we bank our money. We’ll manage who has access to us in a different way than we do now, and it won’t be all strict consent, “Yes I will, yes I will,” because people will say, “No,” because they don’t understand. But there will be better frameworks that everybody’s supposed to abide by, so that we can have safe zones where we can engage.And children need to learn how to cross the street. So, giving a child, our company can give a child their own private ID when they’re young that they use and they grow up with, and they can change the display names, but it’s always connected to mom in a way. And when they get to an age where it needs to be disconnected, that process takes place like it does in our offline world. So, how do we sort of manage how we log in? As simple as that: Your single sign-on for logging in. Who are you going to choose? Are you going to bring your own identity and your own sort of banking? Or are you going to rely just on the third parties that you already share all your information with?Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So, it’s kind of like a single log on identity, kind of tied to, so it’s frictionless, I guess.Denise Tayloe: It’s a family friendly single sign on that allows the consumer to choose where they’re going to use it, and when they use it, they have a, they know that there’s a set of procedures that were followed in how they engaged, at least when they logged in. And that no, not all of their contacts and their friends, and everybody went with them at one little click, because they didn’t read the disclosure right.Melinda Wittstock: Right.Denise Tayloe: It becomes a privacy preserving single log in that should be on every single log in page on the Internet where you can find, “Log in with Facebook, Log in with Google, Log in with Twitter, Log in with your PID,” your little personal, private PRIVO ID. Just a little symbol that would give you a way to better manage your identity. And we start with kids. Because I tackled that very early on and all the companies have been putting their head in the sand and pretending like they don’t deal with children. So, I created a service that is privacy preserving from the ground up, dealing with children and delegation and consent, and noticed, and the linkage of parents and children. And then I hope that it grows into a service that one day you’re using, Melinda. Because we just want to log in to buy the tickets to the next concert with our personal private ID, not somebody else’s.Melinda Wittstock: You know, this is a really interesting area, because when you think of say, even artificial intelligence and how much it is changing, a lot of things for the better. I mean, a lot of convenience and a lot of great stuff, but you look at the generation coming up now. Anyone born after 2010 is kind of generation AI, and it’s going to be really difficult for kids as well as adults to actually understand the difference between what’s a bot and what’s not. Like, who they’re talking to, how this is going to be navigated. Is that something that you’re kind of looking into as well?Denise Tayloe: Yeah. I mean, AI, the … excuse my voice. AI, virtual reality, IOT, the Internet of Things. Everything is enabled. When you’re sitting in your living room and the systems truly know, because you want to be able to order your pizza, you just happen to say it, and they’re listening for your-Melinda Wittstock: See, it’s so convenient. It’s so convenient.Denise Tayloe: It’s so convenient, but at the same time, I’m, look. I’m a little older. I’m 53. And so, I remember in 1999 saying to my brother when he told me, “Hey, invest in me. I’m doing this thing on the Internet,” and I’m like, “I heard about it already. I just go an email. I’m good to watch it blow up.” So, the Internet hasn’t been around that long. When I was growing up, we were watching The Jetsons. Well, aren’t we going to have a whole lot of advancement towards that with AI? With virtual reality? With the Internet of Things? Everything’s enabled, or will be enabled. So, how we manage our access to that, and the way these companies can link us together, government, companies, all of the different aspects of our lives. And I’m just out to sort of try to help the bookends. The children and the seniors: The people who can’t necessarily, don’t necessarily have the cognitive skills to make all the decisions on their own, and to try to do the best I can to deliver these services on those bookends to the companies that have an obligation to do something, because they’re the ones that need to adopt, and hope that people, you and me, begin to demand one day that things operate differently than they did for the first 20 years while they were sort of getting us all hooked on what is reality, which is the Internet enabled world.Melinda Wittstock: So, let’s look at it through the lens of a female entrepreneur. So many women who start companies similar to yours, and companies that can be scalable or merging growth companies have a hard time raising capital. Has that been your experience? Do you feel like you’ve got the capital you need to really kind of take this and soar? Or is the fundraising piece difficult?Denise Tayloe: The fundraising piece is difficult. At the end of the day, if you have revenue and people clamoring for your service, then nobody really has too much trouble getting the capital they need, to a certain extent. You may find yourself having to sell your company or bring a partner in sooner than you had expected because you’re growing and you need to capitalize and that’s the fastest path. And I do think that there’s a reality to the fact that they’re simply, for every man and woman that walks in the door, to ask for money. It’s a reality. More men get the money. And there are lots of reasons for that, and everybody debates it. I’ve been around this for a long time, so I listen to the new debates and new conferences and new conversations. But men and women are different in a lot of ways, and that’s okay. And we communicate different. And as long as the people that are writing the checks are of a certain, whatever that might be, they’re used to a certain set of attributes that they’re comfortable with and that they engage with well.And when it comes to money, you got to really trust who you’re releasing it to. So, with that said, I don’t want to get philosophical about it. I’ve been successful raising capital from angels, and I’m trying to make the next leap now. I’d like to really capitalize the company and build out this great vision for our service beyond what we’ve been able to do with the capital that we have raised. We’ve got some really great customer traction. Companies are finally saying, “What is that you’ve been telling me about for a decade?” Because on the other side of the house, I’m a global subject matter expert: We certify companies’ compliance. We’ve been telling people to do it for over a decade, for 15 years, educating people around how to comply with the regulation, how to deliver true consumer privacy and still get, deliver your service. I mean, it’s a real balancing act.So, now we’ve finally got a service to actually offer. So, it’s exciting and yeah, we’re out raising capital. And if people are interested in what we’re doing, I’m interested in talking. So, there you go.Melinda Wittstock: So, what are some of the other challenges? What do you think women do really well, right, that makes us uniquely suited to run, grow, scale companies? Is there some-Denise Tayloe: We juggle.Melinda Wittstock: Is it because we can juggle? We can juggle.Denise Tayloe: We can juggle a lot. With that, means, and we can get down in the weeds. We can get down in the weeds and we can come back up and start juggling, and puppeteering. There’s a lot of work to get done in a startup, so I think that if you have people that can dive deep and handle a lot, that’s what we need. But when it comes time to really grow your business, you’ve got to focus on particular areas.And so another area I think we do really well is passion. I have stuck with being the, I’ve been told, “You’re the pioneer.” And I’m like, “Yeah, is that bad? Oh, you meant the pioneers don’t normally win because they give up. Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know how to give up.”Melinda Wittstock: Right.Denise Tayloe: So, I think women are more, or at least I as a woman, am more tenacious than some of my counterparts along the way. At the same time, you’ve got to be able to pivot, and some times holding on like a dog with a bone might not ultimately get you where you want to go. So, I’m still learning to be in my skin and be the best at what I’m trying to do here, which is grow a really successful business, be family friendly. I’ve given…the kids that use my service are the kids that I’m here to back. I don’t have any children of my own.Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, so the tenacity piece I think is really interesting because not everybody has that. Where do you think you got your tenacity from? Is it just character or was it something about your upbringing? Were you one of those kids with the lemonade stand and you were always entrepreneurial?Denise Tayloe: Yeah. My brother and I were always starting little businesses. My dad was an entrepreneur. He told me early on I could do anything, be anything. He had my back. I was the only girl on the boys’ soccer team in the seventh and eighth grade. But I still tried to make the cheerleading squad. I just always made the runner up. I watched my dad grow a business and I was always very interested. He gave me a unicycle to ride, and I tried. I tried so hard and I could not do it. And I’ve never forgotten what it felt like to give up, to give it up. To stop trying. And I don’t want to ever; I just don’t want to feel that again.Melinda Wittstock: Right. Right.Denise Tayloe: So, with that in mind, I don’t want to be silly, so yeah, I think it goes all the way back to my dad really just told me I could do it. He always, my parents supported me. I just had a really good upbringing, good, great church and friends and neighbors.Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Having parents, friends, family, partners, lovers, whatever, around us who really have our backs and want us to succeed is such a predictor, a necessity I think of success, and all too often, we’re really only as good as the average of like the five closest people to us, is what a lot of research suggests.So, what’s your, is that true for you? Do you have people around you who are constantly rooting for you, Denise? Or do you some times feel that, you know, when someone isn’t entirely supportive or if you hear their fear, it can knock you off your game? Like the sort of person who says, “Hey, are you all right?”Denise Tayloe: Oh, yeah. Some times somebody will say, “Oh my gosh, it’s okay. You can give this up,” ’cause they’ve heard me just melt down. And I’m like, “What are you talking about?”Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, because they don’t understand how we-Denise Tayloe: Just ’cause I’m screaming doesn’t mean I’m, I’m just getting it off. And maybe that’s another thing that I guess I feel I’m good at is I do, I just get it out and people think, “Well, gosh. Okay. I’ll support you if you want to give up.” And I’m like, “Don’t tell me to give up. I don’t want to give up.”Melinda Wittstock: Well, they get the wrong message, I think, and what happens is, ’cause we have to handle risk at a level, and change, and things beyond our control on a level and on like an oscillating kind of way, like roller coaster through every hour of every day in a way that most kind of people, I don’t know, civilians, I guess, don’t really understand and so it’s really hard for them to process.So, if you have some sort of meltdown, which is just in the moment, ’cause you’re like letting stuff out ’cause you have to, yeah. Doesn’t mean that you’re being blown off your course.Denise Tayloe: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. And you have to be, again, okay in your own skin. But I have to say, I wouldn’t change anything about having made the decision to become an entrepreneur. I mean, I literally made the decision to leave my job and jump in and try to be something I had never been with just a dream of building something. And once I took, we took other people’s money; you know you raise money to build this thing you think is the answer. Man, I just don’t know how you ever walk away unless you know you got beat, or you were wrong.[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”I wouldn’t change anything about having made the decision to become an entrepreneur. I made the decision to leave my job and jump in and try to be something I had never been with just a dream of building something. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @DeniseTayloeClick to tweet
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Or in the case of just being, I think some times it's that knowing that you're actually in alignment. Like that you are actually living your true purpose or what you were here to do rather than creating a company that you think you should create or rather than the one that really truly makes your heart sing. So, I find like when you find yourself doing something that's not enjoyable or you just feel like really dragged down in energy as opposed to energized, some times it's not even the company, it's just that you're doing the wrong thing within the company.
Denise Tayloe: Sure.
Melinda Wittstock: So, understanding what your kind of, literally, your super shero powers are as an authentic, feminine leader. And really doubling down on those things and the things that aren't working so much, and also being able to pivot without taking that personally, because it's all a hypothesis until it's not.
Denise Tayloe: It is. And you said about people, five people. I look at people that have been working with me for so many years. How lucky, talk about five good people. I can, I mean, I have a hard time limiting it to five. I'm really surrounded by some great people on my team, my family. My customers. I have customers I've had for over a decade.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That's wonderful. It's a testament to you to really build up those relationships. A lot of the people who, the women that I've interviewed so far on this podcast have really talked about the importance of networks, because it can be, to be a CEO, to be a entrepreneur can be lonely because there aren't necessarily a lot of people that are going to get you and what you're doing every day as you innovate.
How does that play out for you? Are you in a number of different networks or groups? How do you handle all of that, the mentoring? Do you have a mentor?
Denise Tayloe: I do have a mentor. I have a handful of mentors in different areas of my life. My mom's a big mentor.
Melinda Wittstock: That's wonderful.
Denise Tayloe: I'm super, super lucky that she is just on the ball. And she's a real reality check, which is super great. So, she's a good mentor. I rely on mentors; I rely on my team. I think what's hard for people, is sometimes they just want to talk to you. For instance, be with me, “Hey, Denise, let's talk about something other than PRIVO.” And I'm like, “How do I do that?” So, I think that's an area I want to focus on, is getting a little better at not smothering people with my passion. But it's hard to turn that on and off.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, you have to be you. That's at the end of the day, right? You got to be free to be your authentic self, 'cause the minute you try to please other people I find, and get out of your comfort zone in a not a good way, like trying to be someone you're not, I don't know … I'm just going to pick up there. I'm just going to sort of little quick edit.
Yeah. I mean, the tricky thing is when we some times, and I know this to be true in my entrepreneurial career, wherever I felt like I needed to people please by not being myself, it never really worked for me and it never really worked for my company, either, where I've had, as a serial entrepreneur, where I've had the most growth with ease is when I'm very much just aligned with who I am an accepting of that – and more likely to attract the right team members, the right investors, the right clients, that sort of thing.
But you know, this is an interesting thing because we talk a lot about on this show about what's the inner right stuff you need to succeed at this, whether it's like mindset or the people around you, or your team, or how you look at it. What's your sort of super shero kind of inner, kind of like inner personal growth type advice? Do you have like a routine? Are you one of the entrepreneurs that meditate? How do you handle all the stress of it and get into the right kind of mindset you need to succeed?
Denise Tayloe: Well, I am blessed with being able to sleep.
Melinda Wittstock: That's important.
Denise Tayloe: I mean, I can still do the red eye and sleep.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh. Nice.
Denise Tayloe: You know? So, I start with that. I do like to stretch and get my walks in. I'm not doing as much jogging as I used to, but that really always sort of helped me, was just getting some exercise. I'm not a great cook, but I make a mean breakfast. So, I like to just get off, I start my day off eating well, and a little bit of exercise. And then I go for it.
I'm a recovering CPA, accounting finance. And you have to be able to think in an organized fashion to be good at that stuff, but I find myself starting a number of different things in any given day and having a lot going at one time. So, I'm learning still how to do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So, all of our wonderfully generous, super shero guests usually have a special offer for our listeners, and I know you have a couple. And Denise, take us through how folks can first of all, find you at PRIVO and what you can offer them today.
Denise Tayloe: Okay. So, you can find us at www.PRIVO.com, think privacy, P-R-I-V-O, PRIVO. And we'll answer to Privo and Privo as well. I'm Denise Tayloe. We've got a team page there; you'll see us. And you can reach out to anybody on the team.
Melinda Wittstock: And so-
Denise Tayloe: Any other contact info, PRIVOtrust would be our Twitter account.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. Great. So, you're offering free consultation for two sets of people, right? For your company, in which case you can send an email to info@PRIVO.com, and if you're a parent interested in this, you can go and sign up for a free privacy enhanced single sign on by going to my.PRIVO.com. Did I say all that right?
Denise Tayloe: You did. That's perfect.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. Perfect. And for everybody listening, all this will be in the show notes for the podcast as well. So, you can get all those URLs and all of Denise's social media information if you have any questions for her or anything like that. Denise, I want to thank you so much for flying with us today on Wings of Inspired Business.
Denise Tayloe: Melinda, thank you for having me.