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6. Virtru

Founders: John Ackerly (CEO), Will Ackerly (CTO)
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Washington, DC
Funding: $31 million

(Left) Virtru's CTO and co-founder, Will Ackerly, and John Ackerly, CEO
Source: Virtru
(Left) Virtru's CTO and co-founder, Will Ackerly, and John Ackerly, CEO

By now, most people probably know that their emails aren't really that secure, but they don't understand what to do about it. Brothers John and Will Ackerly think they've come up with a solution. Virtru is an encrypted communications app that lets anyone secure his or her email. It even lets users dictate how long an email can remain in someone's inbox. Both men know a thing or two about security. John was responsible for technology policy during the George W. Bush administration, and Will was an engineer at the National Security Agency for eight years before he and John started Virtru in 2012.

During his time at the NSA, Will saw how much surveillance was taking place and realized it was certain to continue. Everyday people, meanwhile, had very little at their disposal to protect themselves online. The Virtru app is based on a technology Will created, called Trusted Data Format (TDF). It basically makes it harder for any entity — a government or even a seasoned hacker — to access information that a user wants to protect. And the brothers made it so that if you understand how to send and receive emails, you can use Virtru.

The service is free for individual users, with tiered pricing starting at $60 per user for small businesses. The company claims millions of users and more than 5,000 organizations have signed up. Among them: HBO; the states of Maryland, Utah and Iowa and Mt. Sinai Hospital. Private equity heavyweights Bessemer Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Soros Fund Management have all invested in the Washington, D.C.-based company.

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