FYIDC | INNOVATORSANDDISRUPTORS
PRIVATE EYES IN THE INTERNET AGE
Danny Boice’s Trustify revolutionizes and demystifies the private detective industry.
he Ashley Madison scandal was undoubtedly one of the most buzz-worthy stories of 2015. Over the summer, hackers exposed more than 37 million email addresses of potential users of the infidelity dating site. Only five months old at the time, the District-based on-demand private investigation firm Trustify (www.trustify.com) instantly became part of the story when it created an online tool for people to search whether their email address (or that of their significant other) was associated with the leak. The tool went viral with hundreds of people per second allegedly using it. It also garnered criticism that the company was taking advantage of the situation. Despite the backlash, Trustify, led by founder and serial entrepreneur Danny Boice, has thrived as a first of its kind service – an UBER of private investigators – helping find missing persons, do background checks, reunite old friends and track down birth parents. In the middle of upgrading to a larger workspace, Boice welcomed us into his office to discuss a worldwind year.
BY VIRGINIA COYNE
EXPECT BUSINESS TO BE THIS GOOD? I expected it to be this good but not this fast. Even going back to March when we f irst opened for business, we’ve had customers and revenue. We’ve grown 200 percent at least, month after month since then, so our growth curve already looks like the kind of hockey stick that people always dream about it. DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE TRUE EVEN WITHOUT THE ASHLEY MADISON AFFAIR? It was already looking [good] from the start. Ashley Madison obviously amplif ied ... attention on us and brought us into the national spotlight, which was good timing. I deliberately only launched in D.C. because I wanted to prove the model and get our ducks in a row. Then Ashley Madison happened and all of a sudden we were getting national press coverage. I feel that it kind of nudged us along. It’s good pressure. “I started this company to do good,” says Trustify founder Danny Boice. Wife Jen Mellon (left) is now a company VP who has helped form nonprofit partnerships with the likes of the National Council for Adoption and domestic violence awareness group Becky’s Fund.
IN 2015 YOU GOT MARRIED (TO TRUSTIFY VICE PRESIDENT JENNIFER MELLON); MERGED FAMILIES (YOU EACH HAD TWO CHILDREN); ADDED A NEW BABY TO THE MIX; FINALIZED THE SALE OF YOUR PREVIOUS COMPANY, SPEEK; STARTED TRUSTIFY; AND MADE NEWS BECAUSE OF THE ASHLEY MADISON SCANDAL. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? It’s the first time I’ve ever had non-positive press. I want to get my take on it out: At Trustify, we don’t take an ethical or moral position on the things that we investigate. We can’t. When you’re a private investigator, you can’t really choose sides and be biased. We’re experts at finding the truth and it’s the unfiltered objective truth. Ashley Madison ... was a website made for cheating, which is one of the most common customer types we have. YOU’VE GOTTEN SO MUCH BUSINESS THAT YOU’VE OUTGROWN YOUR ORIGINAL WORKSPACE AND MOVED INTO A BIGGER SPACE IN GEORGETOWN. DID YOU
HOW DOES YOUR PRICING STRUCTURE COMPARE TO THAT OF PRIVATE DETECTIVES? We charge consumers $67 an hour with no retainer. You can pay for one hour, you can pay for 10, whatever you want, almost like a prepaid cell phone. We pay the PI $30. The average PI in the industry currently gets paid $21.99 and a lot of them have to work with detective agencies that take a large cut, so detective agencies are really our competition. They charge consumers large retainers too, $100 an hour or more.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR GROWTH? To make Trustify a household name and a brand that people can trust and rely on to cut through the BS and white noise that exists out there when you are really in your time of need and want answers. There are a lot of companies trying to take advantage of folks in that situation and we want to be the one that’s really good at not passing judgement and objectively finding the truth. There’s clearly a huge demand for that these days.
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