Privacy rules spur Intralinks growth

ron hovsepian

Intralinks launched in the late 1990s to help companies involved in corporate buyouts and mergers maintain control over critical, shared information during the deal-making process. Today, the company is applying its secure collaboration capabilities to a wide variety of new customers and use cases – from CMOs building marketing campaigns to pharmaceutical companies coordinating data for patients, physicians and regulators involved in major drug trials.

Under CEO Ron Hovsepian, Intralinks has created a cloud-based platform that empowers an array of customers who need to share content safely with external partners. In this installment of the IDG CEO Interview Series, Hovsepian spoke with Chief Content Officer John Gallant about how changes in privacy and data sovereignty rules are driving Intralinks’s growth and talked about how the technology may replace secure Web sites for confidential communications among businesses and their customers.

Talk about the origins of Intralinks and what the company set out to accomplish.

Intralinks started building the first cloud application some 19 years ago for the mergers and acquisition market. We allow for the simple concept of sharing information very securely between multiple parties.

How has the company evolved since that initial launch? How has the product set changed and what new opportunities has the company tackled?

What’s exciting is the company has pivoted from being an application company to an application and a platform company. We studied where data privacy was going, where data regulations were going and we were watching different trends emerge based on primary market research that we did. That research led us to focus on the next generation of secure collaboration for our clients.

It’s almost four years now since you came in as CEO. What attracted you to the opportunity, Ron?

One was the company’s market position as a trusted partner to every corporation in the world. We’re inside of 99% of the Fortune 1000. The second part is the knowledge of what’s happening in regulated and the highly controlled markets as well as our core technologies. Those pieces really position the company to take advantage of these emerging trends.

What did you set out to do for the company?

The first thing I wanted to do is make sure that our company was growing and strong financially and we’ve done those things. We’re a double-digit grower, we’re profitable, we generate cash and we’re over $270 million in size. The second thing was I really focused in on what is our core strategy and what are we going to do to help customers solve key business problems around secure collaboration? What we learned through that process is that collaboration between companies or between parties is the biggest opportunity for us to focus on. That green field opportunity is where we focused most of our work. The third thing I try to do is build an environment for our employees and for our customers where they know that they are getting the best talent focused on these types of problems, solving these problems globally, not locally.

I want to make sure that readers understand. When you talk about secure collaboration, tell me what that means to you and Intralinks.

Companies do collaboration and they do it securely every single day. The real issue comes down to when you need to share a document amongst multiple parties: certain parties need to see the document, certain parties need to have control of the document and write to that document. What we do is really the last mile of control for the company that’s doing the sharing.

There are basically two major use cases. First, I, as a company, want to share information with others and keep control of my information. The second scenario that we see is people come together in their value chains where I’m working with multiple parties across different companies and I need to create information between all different parties. An example of that would be a clinical trial where I have patient information, I have doctor information, I have drug information and I want to take all those pieces and put them together. So the second scenario is cloud-created content with multiple parties where you could have different people owning pieces of that content and that needs a place to be stored and housed as well. So we saw the emergence of two different cloud scenarios that were critical.

Put this into action for readers. Take the example that you started out with in the financial industry where people were working on M&A. There is a period of time in which there is intense collaboration between multiple parties external to the company. What does it allow you to do and not do?

Say I’m selling my company and I have to share a particular set of documents with outside parties. However, one of the people bidding is actually one of my competitors. I don’t want them to see these three contracts out of the 10,000 contracts that I have – say, with key suppliers - because those three contracts matter the most to me. I can allow the other bidders to see those contracts, let them download them, have them on their desktops, work on them, share within their approved boundaries but after that I can take those documents back. The party that I don’t want to see the documents, I can actually block them right down at the file level. It’s very fine-grained permissioning with full lifetime control of the content.

Does that also extend to the ability to print or share that information? You can limit what people can do with it beyond themselves?

It does. You think about the rights that you want to travel with a document, you would make those decisions up front as to whether I give the person the simple ability to print, to save and where they can save. Those are very important things for all clients when they think of how regulations are evolving and some of the new fine structures emerging under the general data protection regulations in Europe. That’s going to play a key role for all of us in the future as global companies.

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