Startups: TrustSphere--harnessing the benefits of messaging intelligence

Not many might have heard of messaging intelligence. It is a new category of service that combines big data with social network analytics as well as security elements.

According to Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy, there's a huge amount of unstructured information and data that companies don't derive any value from. "However, a growing number of solutions are beginning to mine elements of this data: product information, software code, legal case files, medical literature, messaging data, and other unstructured business data."

One such company, Sheedy points out, is TrustSphere, which is a messaging intelligence provider. "TrustSphere has an interesting solution that mines your messaging data to get real insights and information from the mountains of emails and messages that bounce into, out of, and around your organization every day. This is an interesting concept, and TrustSphere has developed a number of use cases for its solution," he says in one of his recent blog posts.

TrustSphere evolved from an earlier avatar, BoxSentry, which provided email security solutions. The man behind both the companies is Manish Goel, CEO of TrustSphere.

Manish has more than 15 years of experience in the software and services sectors. He was a Partner of Greenoak Capital Partners, a venture capital firm specialising in technology and data sector investments.

Prior to Greenoak, Manish worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for a number of years in their consulting practice. In 2000, he worked with them to set up PwC Venture Partners, which was focused on early stage innovation, based out of London. "From there, we saw over one thousand deals over a three year period," he told Computerworld Singapore over Skype. "We invested in a couple of those companies. A number of them did very well."

"When I left PwC I set up my own VC fund," he said. One of their first investment was in BoxSentry, a company that provided solutions for secure email communications.

"BoxSentry did very well but we transformed some of the key aspects into TrustSphere," Goel said. "Over the last couple of years that's what we have been focusing on."

TrustSphere started operations in 2011 and is headquartered in Singapore.

The vision behind the new company, according to Goel, was to build a 'sphere of trust' around today's communication infrastructure. "We started in the security space,with a vision to improve security systems," he said. "What we recognised that, particularly from a cognitive computing perspective, what we could do is actually provide many of those insight to decision makers who could then use these to influence their strategic and operational decisions across a number of business process."

Messaging intelligence (MI)

"The way analysts like to position us is at the intersection of big data and social network analytics," Goel said.

"If you look at the philosophy behind messaging intelligence, fundamentally it rests on a few simple principles," he explained.

"One, that humans are creatures of habit. We typically communicate in the same way and do the same things day in and day out. We also fundamentally communicate with one another as part of any business process in order to move that to the next step. The whole philosophy behind messaging intelligence is that if you are able to understand who is communicating with whom from within an organisation and you know the frequency, the velocity, and the direction of communication, you are able to construct the 'social graph' for that organisation. "

"Being able to synthesise the relationships and interactions to an abstract level allows management to gain insights into communication patterns and use these insights to improve key business processes."

"Two key business processes that we are impacting are sales force collaboration and fraud investigation. In the fraud case, where suspicious activity has been identified, we can help clients quickly identify the suspect's existing relationships. Clients use our Messaging Intelligence to effectively conduct triage very early on in a case."

Examples of where this solution could be used is in cases of insider trading or inappropriate behaviour with a vendor or corruption. The solution provided by TrustSphere could unearth who is involved and who is not involved in a fraud or corruption case. The company's technology helps establish links between the culprits.

Privacy is sacrosanct

At a time when privacy has become a major debating issue, TrustSphere is clear about its stand on the matter. "We never look at the content of the message," Goel said.

Why is that so? Goel gives three reasons. "One is from system performance perspective-looking at the message slows things down and also creates 'noise'," he said. "We just look at the metadata. Secondly, from the privacy perspective, there is the potential for a privacy issue if you start introspecting messages. Thirdly, many of the insights that we are delivering are based on interactions and delivering these insights to decision making systems. We deliberately do not analyse content to protect the privacy of individuals as we deliver these insights to such systems.."

Gaining traction

"Fundamentally, we are a team of software developers," said Goel, describing his company's business model. "Since we are relatively young, we were born in the cloud, so we have a service which was purpose built for the cloud. A number of our clients use our cloud service. What we realised that many of our regulated clients didn't want to use the cloud service because their data is quite sensitive. Hence we also have an on-premise version. We ship our software as a virtual machine. Our business model is subscription based."

TrustSphere is winning customers all across the world, says Goel. Among the hundred over clients, many come from telecoms and governments from Europe, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, APAC and the US. According to Goel, some of them started with BoxSentry and some of them are new.

What about the market response in Asia? "The more advanced companies get what we are doing," said Goel. "Early adopters get it. As it is a brand new category, it takes time to build the market out. It is a hard journey, particularly since it is a new category."

"Asian markets are not typically early adopters of technology, however for us Asia represents an enormous marketplace," he said. "Our APAC HQ is in Singapore and we are building up our partner teams in India and in the Middle East. It is a market where we will grow in the next 18 months."

Collaboration with Salesforce.com

"Typically less than 10 percent of customer interaction makes it into CRM's," Goel claimed. "The reason for that is that it is a manual system which relies on sales staff to enter data. Currently it is not used as a true collaboration tool, rather it is being used as a compliance tool."

This insight led Goel to form a tie up with one of the most successful CRM solutions providers, Salesforce.com. "Humans are creatures of habit so it is difficult to change them," he said. "Instead, it is easier to change the system than to change the humans. Take insights from the human to human communication and put it back into the CRM. This is like introducing automation in CRMs which are usually manual systems by delivering relevant insights into the CRM."

For example, 'the marketing team can gain visibility over which leads are not being followed up by the sales team and recycle these back into the nurturing pipeline'.

The collaboration with Salesforce is paying rich dividends for the clients. "Our clients are using messaging intelligence to increase CRM adoption, increase their data integrity," said Goel.

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