Does your code need a Chaperon?

snipshot_6rf3wv4bm.jpg Chaperon: A guide or companion whose purpose is to ensure propriety or restrict activity.

Got code? Outsourcing? Worried about theft of your IP? Check out Chaperon of Louisville.

Chaperon provides a secure development environment that protects code from being copied.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. The founders of Chaperon have another company called X, Inc. No, not the one that Kimbal and the gang were involved in that eventually became Paypal, this one. This X offers business development, marketing and other consulting services. The founders of X needed to cut their software development costs and were contemplating outsourcing their development overseas. Worried about their intellectual property, they developed Chaperon in order to safeguard their code. They loved it, other people wanted to buy and it use it, and thus Chaperon, LLC was born.

I wanted to know more about the business model, how Chaperon actually worked, and who was using it, so I recently met with the founder and CEO of Chaperon, Ashif Dhanani. Here’s Ashif’s elevator pitch for Chaperon:

Chaperon solves the problem of source code being stolen, pirated and copied by developers (Outsourced, off-shore, untrusted, etc.). It also protects the source from casual theft (Laptop, Break-ins, etc.).

The business model is to sell directly to corporations and through partners using a recurring revenue license model. Chaperon already has some customer validation (these customers prefer to remain anonymous at this point, I suppose they don’t want people to think they’ve had these sorts of problems). Early adopters include offshore development companies, a large online job board, a web collaboration tool company, and a copyright litigation and code escrow company. There is also progress on the partner front. Here’s an example of a partner that is private labeling Chaperon.

Chaperon actually works by extending popular open source development environments. Currently, Chaperon is available for NetBeans and Eclipse, which covers the non-Microsoft universe fairly broadly today. Essentially, you’re getting a customized version of NetBeans or Eclipse with the extra security capabilities embedded into it. Chaperon securely transports code, authorizes developers, prevents developers from copying text outside of the project or saving files to unauthorized locations, etc.

“You know the glass box with the two rubber gloves that you use to manipulate the substance inside the box that must be protected? That’s what Chaperon is providing for your source code.”, Ashif explained.

This seems to me like it has broad application in two major settings. First, the smart outsourcing firms will want to have something like this to differentiate themselves and to provide their customers with an extra level of comfort. Second, medium to large corporations should be thinking about protecting their code assets internally, and this sort of tool can help them to do that with minimal annoyance to their development teams. I haven’t played with the product at all, but if it can really provide this sort of security using familiar toolsets and causing minimal annoyance, there should be broad application for Chaperon.

Ashif told me that the company is self funded to date ($300k+) and is seeking investment of $350k to $950k via a private placement prior to the end of this year. I explained to Ashif that this was a fairly broad range, and that it might put some people off. Ashif told me that in order to execute their full plan they’ll need $950k, but are seeking a minimum of $350k to execute a reasonable secondary plan.

file under: Blog, Startups