Tackling Internet Privacy: Safe Shepherd Joins the Fray
With more and more personal information winding up online and concerns over Internet privacy growing, first-time entrepreneur Robert Leshner saw an opportunity. His start-up, Safe Shepherd, alerts clients about what personal information is on the web, how it got there, and what they can do to erase it.
"People think of us as a way of outsourcing their privacy, and so we work on our users' behalf so they don't have to," Leshner said.
The company offers three tiers of service ranging from a free basic service on the low end, which helps users see what information is already out there, to a high-end personalized privacy consultant who removes each piece of information they find for $250 a month. The company also plans to expand into the business sector with privacy plans for corporations.
Safe Shepherd is a relative newcomer in the Internet privacy field. One of its competitors is Reputation.com, which has had a big head start. Founded in 2006, Reputation.com has raised more than $67 million in funds. The company recently partnered with consumer and commercial data company Equifax, which will include Reputation.com's technology for its subscription-based credit monitoring and identity theft protection products. Reputation.com has also expanded globally with the acquisition of U.K.'s Reputation 24/7.
Like Safe Shepherd, Reputation.com also offers its clients a free basic service to see what information is already out there. The company's premium plans range from $99 to $,5000 per year, with fees dependent on how much online info needs to be suppressed. And Reputation.com is already servicing corporate clients.
Leshner said what distinguishes Safe Shepherd from the others in the space is his company's focus on removal of information, not just suppressing it in search results. He told CNBC the removal of information is facilitated by "personal privacy consultants" who negotiate with websites on a client's behalf to remove the information you want erased from the web.
(Read More: Q&A with Safe Shepherd CEO Leshner)
"We really have a small number of competitors ... the way you win that fight is you make a product that's incredibly easy to use for consumers and one that they're wanting to be a member for their entire life." Leshner said.
So far, Safe Shepherd has 90,000 users and growing at a rate of 15 percent month-over-month. Leshner said, "15 percent of the members who join us as a free member wind up converting to paid subscriptions."
Since 2011 Safe Sheperd has raised $629,000 in seed-stage funding from OCA Ventures, 500 Startups and Funders Club.
—By CNBC's Joanna Weinstein and Erin Barry