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                                                                                                                     “I was in the library a lot—but I
                                                                                                                 wasn’t always studying law,” he says.
                                                                                                                     They were soon joined by another
                                                                                                                 Stanford student, Owen Tripp (MBA
                                      THAT STANFORD THING:                                                       ’08), introduced to the team by a mutual
                                   THE STORY OF A STARTUP AND                                                    friend who thought there would be
                                                                                                                 synergy. When they met at the Happy
                                     THE STUDENTS BEHIND IT                                                      Donuts on El Camino, there was.
                                                            By Sharon Driscoll




                                                W
                                                                                                                 Tripp, who developed software at eBay
                                                                                                                 before starting his MBA, describes the
                                                                                                                 meeting as “totally Stanford, totally
                                                                                                                 Silicon Valley.”
                                                                                                                      “There’s a kind of beautiful way that
                                                                                                                 the people on campus will know each
                                                                                                                 other—and get to know each other,” he
                                                                                                                 says. “There are lots of great law
                                                                                                                 schools; there are lots of great business
                                                                               hen Ross Chanin ’09               schools. But this community of Stanford
                                   arrived AT STANFORD LAW SCHOOL IN 2006, HE HAD MUCH MORE ON HIS MIND          is the single most entrepreneurial place
                                   THAN HIS FIRST YEAR OF LEGAL STUDIES. He had a plan—a business plan           in the world. It’s why I came here.”
                                   developed with friends to start a company that would address privacy              Still working from their laptops and
                                   rights, slander, and individuals’ control of their information in the smoke   apartments, they launched the company
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                                   and mirrors world of the Web. Barely a year later that company,               in October 2006 with two products—
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                                   ReputationDefender, seems to have hit a nerve with the public as people       MyReputation and MyChild—that
                                   across the country and throughout the world have come to the realization      provide monitoring services that scour
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                                   that their Internet identity is their identity and—knowing that—              the Web, aided by the company’s
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                                   protecting it is vital. • The genesis of the company is a familiar one: a     powerful search technology. The results
                                   couple of friends bouncing ideas around. It was Chanin’s friend, Michael      are often surprising. “It can be quite
     S t a n f o r d




                                   Fertik, who first posed the question to Chanin in April 2006: “Did you        discomforting to see how much
                                   know that there are pictures of my girlfriend on the Internet?”               information is out there about you,
                                       The two saw a norm developing: people looking to the Web for              especially because we know that for
                                   information on individuals for just about any reason—from job and             every search online, one in three is of
                                   school applications, to apartment lease agreements, to prospective dates.     people,” says Chanin.
                                       “Today, 77 percent of executive recruiters are vetting candidates             The service is offered monthly, much
                                   online and of that number 35 percent did not take a candidate because of      like a credit report. If a client discovers
                                   what they found out online,” says Chanin. “And our research tells us that     untrue or dated material and wants it
                                   for a college-educated individual, it’s probably closer to 90 percent of      removed, ReputationDefender’s service
                                   employers who are looking online at job candidates. The implication of        agents write to the Web host, politely
                                   this information about you on the Web is far reaching.”                       asking that it be removed. Calls often
                                       They ran with the idea. During the summer before law school began,        ensue and, in some cases, clients are
                                   Chanin dove into the project, working with Fertik to develop the company’s    referred to legal counsel for more
                                   business plan. Fertik, now the company’s CEO, had been around the             serious persuasion. The team decided
                                   startup block before. As a budding entrepreneur, he started a technology      early on that it should not get into the
                                   company while still in his junior year of history and English studies at      legal business, preferring to develop a
                                   Harvard—and sold it before he entered his first year at Harvard Law.          network of referral firms.
                                       By the time August 2006 rolled around, Fertik and Chanin had                  But that a company like this was
                                   enough angel investment in place for Fertik to turn down a job offer at a     started by lawyers is no accident.
                                   Silicon Valley firm and focus full time on managing development of the            “The way in which the Internet is
                                                                                                                                                               LENNY GONZALEZ




                                   company’s software and website. Meanwhile Chanin tried to focus on his        used is constantly evolving and the law
                                   first year of legal studies, while working with Fertik in every spare         just has not kept up,” says Chanin, citing
                                   moment he had.                                                                Section 230 of the Communications
Decency Act of 1996, which effectively          believed that the postings had hurt their   these goals by cleaning up the most-
gives immunity from liability to any            chances of finding employment. That         often viewed first few pages of an
Internet publisher or reproducer of             case is now in the courts.                  Internet search. And for those who have
information. As long as the site host did          Chanin and his team are familiar         no Internet persona, which can be an
not create the material, there is not only      with the AutoAdmit case; some of the        issue in itself, the company will help
no liability for it but no legal incentive to   victims sought their assistance. When       develop one. Though not cheap—
take the material down, he adds.                ReputationDefender comes up against         MyEdge pricing starts at $10,000—the
    This legal dilemma was brought              website operators like AutoAdmit, a         service can be a PR tool for executives,
clearly into focus earlier this year when       creative workaround is sometimes            politicians, and companies—all wanting
several women law students realized that        needed. That’s where another of their       their “Google handshake” to be
the widely read legal message board,            services, MyEdge, comes in.                 impressive. Here the technology
AutoAdmit, contained untrue—and                    MyEdge, launched in January 2007,        developed by ReputationDefender helps
anonymous—postings about them.                  serves several kinds of clients. Some       to ensure that the information the client
Taking a hard free speech line, the site’s      want information removed, while others      wants seen by the public pops up early
founder and operator refused to take the        want active reputation management that      in a search.
offending postings down. Coverage of the        highlights their most important                 Last December, the team celebrated a
case revealed that some of the women            accomplishments. MyEdge achieves            milestone as it moved into offices on the
                                                                                            outskirts of Menlo Park. Already a bit
                                                                                            cramped, the team has steadily
                                                                                            expanded—it now numbers more than
                                                                                            25 full-time employees. These are heady
                                                                                            days for Chanin, Fertik, Tripp, and the




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                                                                                            staff. Google ReputationDefender and




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                                                                                            you quickly see it cited in reports in the
                                                                                            Washington Post, NPR, the BBC, and
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                                                                                            elsewhere. And at last count, the service




                                                                                                                                         L a w y e r
                                                                                            is offered in 21 countries, from Germany
                                                                                            to Sweden to South Africa.




                                                                                                                                         S t a n f o r d
                                                                                                While the team and client list grow,
                                                                                            the founders aren’t resting on their
                                                                                            laurels. Tripp talks excitedly about
                                                                                            the launch of their newest product,
                                                                                            MyPrivacy, which, he says, will erase
                                                                                            from the Web private information such
                                                                                            as telephone numbers, Social Security
                                                                                            numbers, names of relatives, e-mail
                                                                                            addresses, and home addresses—all the
                                                                                            key pieces of information for which
                                                                                            identity thieves and uninvited marketers
                                                                                            search.
                                                                                                “It’s unbelievable—some 139 million
                                                                                            Americans have registered with the ‘Do-
                                                                                            Not-Call Registry.’ People want their
                                                                                            privacy back, and this service should go
                                                                                            a long way in helping to give them that,”
                                                                                            he says. SL

                                                                                            ROSS CHANIN ’09 AND
                                                                                            OWEN TRIPP (MBA ’08)
                                                                                            OUTSIDE THE
                                                                                            REPUTATIONDEFENDER
                                                                                            OFFICE IN MENLO PARK

				
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