TrackOFF, a Baltimore data privacy startup that helps consumers prevent online tracking, has been sold to Avast, one of the world’s largest consumer cybersecurity firms.
Founders Chandler Givens and Ryan Flach started TrackOFF four and a half years ago in Givens’ Fells Point home as consumers were becoming increasingly concerned about online privacy. The Brewers Hill firm has grown rapidly, employing 25 people and reaching sales of $2.5 million last year.
The sale price was not disclosed.
“I don’t think we could have done this if we had started the company outside of Baltimore,” which offered a relatively affordable cost of living and access to engineering talent from places such as Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and the National Security Agency, said Givens, TrackOFF’s CEO.
TrackOFF has developed and sold products for PC, Mac and mobile devices that allow consumers to see who is tracking them online and prevent personal information from being collected.
Givens and Flach, TrackOFF’s chief technology officer, will head Avast’s consumer privacy division, and Avast will keep TrackOFF’s Baltimore office.
Avast, based in Prague in the Czech Republic and with U.S. offices in California, Florida and North Carolina, bills itself as the world’s largest cybersecurity network. It says it has more than 435 million monthly users of data, identity and privacy protection products, $780 million in sales and more than 1,700 employees. The company says it protects users from two billion malware attacks each month.
Friends from their days as students at Virginia Tech, Givens and Flach invested their own money in TrackOFF before attracting about $1 million in 2017 from investors. They included Baltimore Angels; Gula Tech Adventures, which was founded by Ron and Cyndi Gula to support next generation cyber technology; and the Maryland Technology Development Corp., which invests in state startups.
Before starting TrackOFF, Givens had been a privacy attorney in Chicago, and Flach was a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman.
They moved to Baltimore to start the company.
“The idea came mostly from my experience practicing law,” Givens said. “I was able to see a trend that consumers were becoming more and more concerned about their privacy online… The fact of the matter is the vast majority of online tracking happens without the users’ consent.”