Kansas City-based tech startup TripleBlind hired a new chief technology officer who’s won coveted awards for his cryptography work.
CTO Craig Gentry said he’s reached the “moral activist stage of my life” and wants to make a difference through technology.
“I’ve reached the phase in my career where I’m putting aside theoretical research for a little while, and I’d like to build systems that actually get used in the real world,” he said. “I think TripleBlind is a good place to use that, and they’re really focusing on using the right tools for the right problems.”
TripleBlind’s technology allows enterprises, such as hospitals and financial institutions, to securely share regulated and private data, without decrypting it or introducing additional risk and liabilities. It also adheres to regulatory standards such as HIPAA and GDPR. An example is its work with the Mayo Clinic to help the nonprofit secure third-party EKG and genetic data for developing, validating and deploying algorithms.
Another aspect that drew the tech veteran to TripleBlind is the fact it’s a $100 million company with a solid team already in place, which allows him to immediately contribute to the technology side, he said. They’re also laser-focused on building worthwhile solutions for customers that solve real challenges. Eventually, Gentry wants to help the startup expand its technology to the consumer side.
Gentry’s tech experience allows him to speak the language of TripleBlind’s customers and understand the problems they face, said Chris Barnett, vice president of partnerships and marketing at TripleBlind.
“When somebody says, ‘How does this really work? What’s under the hood?’, he has the knowledge, credibility and background to go toe-to-toe with anybody on the customer side that wants to go for a deep dive,” Barnett said.
Gentry, who brings more than 20 years of experience in cryptography, data privacy and blockchain, previously was a research fellow at the Algorand Foundation and spent a decade in the Cryptography Research Group at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. He earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from Duke University and has a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University.
Gentry invented the first fully homographic encryption scheme as part of his dissertation, which won the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) international Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2009. The following year for his encryption work, he won ACM’s Grace Murray Hopper Award, which is given to people under 35 who have made a single, significant technical or service contribution. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak won the award in 1979.
Fully homographic encryption allows individuals to perform analytics on encrypted data without needing an encryption key, he said. During the process, the data remains encrypted, and only the data’s owner has the ability to decrypt the results from the analytics performed. A real-life example could be an H&R Block customer sending his encrypted financial information to the tax preparation firm. H&R Block would apply its tax form algorithms to the data and send the encrypted tax return to the customer. Only the customer has the key to decrypt the tax information, he said.
For Gentry, technology’s allure is wrapped up in math. It’s like a puzzle that perfectly fits together, he said. After earning his bachelor’s in math, however, he went to law school and became an intellectual property lawyer for nearly two years.
“I thought if I go to math grad school, I’m just going to be some recluse in a basement somewhere working on math problems that no one in the real world cares about. … (But) I got sick of (being a lawyer) pretty quickly.”
He started applying to math and computer science jobs and heard back from one company: DoCoMo USA Labs, which gave him a list of research topics that he could choose from in his new role. He picked cryptography.
“So that’s how I fell into cryptography – as a disenchanted lawyer, just looking for something mathematical to do,” he said. Read the article at bizjournals.com.