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Fireside chat with Matt Fleck, CEO&Founder Anonomatic

Who is Matt Fleck?

Matt is a creative problem solver. He has always seen situations and opportunities differently. Most likely because he always looks to what is the most efficient approach rather than considering how people are doing things today.

What’s the story behind Anonomatic?

In late 2016 Matt was contacted by a previous client who was now serving as the president of the board of directors for The L.A. Trust for Children’s Health. This non-profit oversees over 100 different healthcare facilities spread across Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD is the second largest school district in the country with over 600,000 students every year. Many of those students can be considered underprivileged and their communities are under-serviced by healthcare providers. To help address their needs LAUSD provides the facilities, delivering a wide spectrum of healthcare-related services across the entire district, free of charge to all students including medical, dental, vision and mental health services.

Matt was asked if he could help them build a first of its kind analytics solution which would allow The L.A. Trust to identify any direct relationships between the healthcare services received by a student and their performance in school. Immediately intrigued with this problem and the impact a successful solution would have on the lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of students it was a daunting proposition. This is because to achieve the goal, the solution would need to directly link detailed healthcare records with equally detailed academic records. Both of these types of data are protected and regulated by two of the strictest data privacy regulations in this country; HIPAA for medical data and FERPA for academic data. Having to satisfy either of these rules would be a large and expensive task. To build a system which adequately protected both types of data would be a huge undertaking and had never been accomplished before; maybe never even tried.

An epiphany made the entire challenge not only possible but even more exciting. What Matt realized was that if he were to simply separate the identifying details, such as people’s names and addresses, from the medical and academic details, so that those details were now anonymous, but he was still able to join those details at the individual level, then more of the data privacy compliance obligations would simply just go away. Over the following five years the technology to achieve this goal, as well as all of the data science tasks, were designed, built and put into production. A significant task which had to be accomplished first was to get approval for this new approach from the organizations which were going to share their data. This included LAUSD, which has very strict privacy guidelines and the different healthcare providers. When Covid-19 hit in early 2020 and the priorities of The L.A. Trust had to be temporarily readjusted, like everyone else’s, Matt decided that was the perfect time to take this unique technology and bring it to the general market. Soon after Matt partnered with his co founder Neil Heller and together, they formed Anonomatic.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Data privacy is a large and global problem which impacts almost every industry. People have been trying to comply with an ever-changing set of rules and regulations for decades. The most difficult problem Anonomatic had, and to a large degree still has, is convincing people that there really is a simple, inexpensive and easy to implement solution which can address most, and potentially all, of their compliance issues. In our opinion it comes down to this; data privacy regulations govern identified, sensitive data. When our customers use our PII Vault to anonymize their data, it is no longer identified so it is no longer covered by these same rules. We call it Operationalizing Identified Data.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

It is not uncommon for someone to see a complex situation and think “Hey, I know how to fix that”. It is another to be able to explain your plan to hundreds of people and have them agree with you. Getting the buy-in from these people, and especially having some serious industry heavy-hitters say they wanted to be part of that journey, is something we are proud of.

What is your vision for the future of Anonomatic?

It is not an understatement to say we think almost every organization on the planet, in every industry that collects, stores and uses identifying data, is a potential user of the PII Vault. Just consider all of the data breaches that have occurred over the last few years. In many of these cases we could have prevented any personal data from having been lost or exposed. Instead of these companies pay out hundreds of dollars per record exposed. Anonomatic could have prevented all of it for pennies a month. This would have saved those companies hundreds of millions of dollars and a massive amount of bad publicity. We are the only ones who are providing this type of a solution and we have a growing collection of patent applications which stake out our market.

To take it a step further, imagine a customer management system, or a sales system, or a huge data warehouse database – all of them without a single piece of identifiable information in them. With this one simple step, the risk of a data exposure through a breach is now a fraction of what it is when all that data is identified. But what about functionality? Won’t this cause a huge drop in productivity? Not with the PII Vault. With our technology they are still able to perform all of the functions they do today and even more that they cannot provide due to data privacy restrictions. This is the future we see. That said, our view is that we are an enabling technology, not an end-to-end system. Because of this, we feel our product is best utilized when it is tightly integrated into other product offerings. To paraphrase BASF, for Anonomatic, we do not make the products you use, we make the products you use safer.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Our belief is that the current economic climate is simply the result of the same trends we have been seeing for the last couple of decades accelerating. Those trends are to solve your customers problems first, make your products easier to buy and use, do not focus on how you can make as much money as possible but instead focus on how you can save your customers as much money as possible. At Anonomatic we spend a huge amount of time trying to ensure that when a customer needs to make a buying decision regarding our product, that there is no conflict at all. We want it to be the easiest decision they ever made so they can spend their time on the hard decisions.

Name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

For us there are several technologies which have made, and are making, a big impact on Anonomatic. The first is Zoom. We were fortunate to start our company at a time when everyone expected to meet virtually. Second, Docker was a game-changer for us. We use Docker to deploy our entire solution anywhere. Consider it Software-as-a-Service-in-a-Box. The third major technology which has an impact on us is SQLite. This compact database engine is not only extremely versatile, has all the capabilities, security and performance we need, but is also allows us to deploy the PII Vault without the need of an additional database license cost for our customers.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

  • Disciple of Way by Michael G. Manning

It’s book 4 of a clever fantasy series that help me clear my head before sleep.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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