Health IT Startup: Virtru

Virtru allows user to choose when to keep their digital content private and secure even after it’s shared online. Manage and revoke access to emails, photos, files and other content at any time, right from within your favorite programs like Gmail, Outlook, and Mac Mail on your desktop or smartphone. The TDF is an open standard for securing content of all kinds. Virtru gives everyone the power of the TDF by integrating it with the tools you use every day, like Gmail and Outlook.

Elevator pitch

Virtru Pro makes it dead simple for physician practices and other organizations to easily, conveniently, and cost-effectively send PHI messages and files over email while complying with HIPAA. While hospital medical record systems often include a secure messaging component that supports safe communications, many organizations prefer to use regular email or do not want to incur the cost and complexity of heavyweight systems. This is especially true for small to mid-sized practices that have fewer financial or IT resources available to them. Virtru Pro is easy to set up and easy to use for doctors, administrative staff, and patients. 

Product/service description

Virtru Pro is a cost-effective, easy-to-use, HIPAA-compliant email service for the healthcare industry. Offering the easiest, most secure way for healthcare organizations to comply with the Protected Health Information (PHI) requirements of HIPAA, Virtru Pro ensures these communications are secure, protected and integrated into the tools and processes used daily by physicians, administrators and patients:

With Virtru Pro, an entire organization can now easily send and receive secure, PHI-compliant encrypted emails, revoke sent messages, restrict forwarding and set expiry for emails and files to auto delete. Confidential information sent to colleagues and patients remains private, audit ready, and protected. Virtru Pro eliminates the risk of patient data being inadvertently forwarded to an unintended party and provides added controls so that physicians can determine how their patients’ health information is viewed and shared.

Virtru Pro works with all major email systems and is especially well suited to organizations using cloud-based email providers such as Google Apps for Work, Gmail and Microsoft Office 365.

Founders’ story

Will and John Ackerly

Virtru was founded to bring true digital privacy to everyone – making end-to-end email encryption dead simple to use and integrated into the products people use every day.

CTO and co-founder, Will Ackerly, spent eight years at the NSA in various positions of senior management where as a cloud security architect he developed the standard for secure data transfer used today by various government agencies – The Trusted Data Format (TDF). He left the NSA to bring this technology to the consumer market, where he saw a real need for people to have control over the privacy and protection of their personal information online. As a senior technology adviser for the Bush White House, before and after the events of 911 followed by six years in the private equity business, co-founder and CEO John Ackerly also saw a real need to provide individuals with the power to protect their digital communications. Combining the technical knowledge and know-how brought by Will with the-on-the-ground experience of John has resulted in a perfect storm that is Virtru.

Marketing/promotion strategy

Virtru’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model makes it easy to be tried and inexpensive for a first purchase. Virtru is available for download at, on Google Play and in the Apple Store. Virtru’s basic end-to-end email encryption plug-in will be free forever, while advanced features like the ability to restrict forwarding, set expiry and revoke sent messages and other administrative management and control features are available in Virtru Pro for a nominal subscription fee.

Market opportunity

Annual data breaches cost the healthcare industry more than $7 billion a year. According to the recent study by the Pew Research Center, Americans place the privacy and security of their health information as a top concern. Despite its reputation for being technology laggards, slow to adopt cloud-based technologies like email and collaboration platforms, nearly 12 percent of Google Apps for Work users represent the healthcare industry – a number that is growing year-over-year. By 2020, 80 percent of healthcare data is predicted to pass through the cloud at some point in its lifetime. Healthcare mobile apps are also a growing industry, leaving patient data prone to the vulnerabilities of the cloud and individual mobile devices.

Most hospitals are very much in the Stone Age when it comes to data security. HIPAA has trained the industry to follow strict, network-centric approaches that focus on securing access to networks and computers rather than the data itself. These network-centric approaches to security are outdated and provide very little protection in the face of targeted attacks, where hackers can gather data by the terabyte without organizations even knowing they’ve been compromised. As the mega-hacks of 2014 (Sony, Home Depot, Target) demonstrate, securing the network is impossible in the face of a persistent, sophisticated attacker.

There are ways to prevent targeted hackers from getting access to sensitive data, even after they have penetrated a network. The answer is securing the underlying emails and files at the time of creation. Virtru Pro is the easiest, most secure way for healthcare organizations using cloud-based email systems like Gmail to comply with the PHI requirements of HIPAA and ensure that sensitive data is protected throughout its lifetime, where ever it may travel.

Estimated total addressable market for Virtru’s encrypted email and digital privacy service is $100 billion – every email user concerned about security and privacy and every corporation that shares sensitive data. There are 425 million Gmail users alone. Target market size for consumers: $2.1 billion, for enterprise: $4.3 billion.

How your company differentiates itself from the competition?

Unlike traditional email encryption services, Virtru encrypts email content and attachments right on the user’s device and delivers them directly to the receiver’s inbox. There is no need for recipients to log in to a portal or establish separate accounts. Only the sender and the receiver can decrypt the message and no third party ever has access to the content. Virtru has made key exchange and email encryption so easy and so integrated that all a user needs to do is flip on the Virtru switch when composing a message and hit send secure to send a secure HIPAA-compliant message to anyone, anywhere. Healthcare providers can better serve patients by easily protecting patient data, while avoiding the high cost and complexity of electronic health records (EHR).

Business model

Virtru’s basic encryption service for emails and attachments is free and can be downloaded at For individuals and businesses interested in advanced privacy protection, Virtru Pro is available at an introductory price of $2.50 per month. A free trial is available at

Current needs

Virtru is always looking for highly skilled engineering and business talent. The company closed a seed round of funding in July 2014 led by Bessemer Venture Partners and plans to begin additional fundraising efforts in the second quarter of 2015.

Pitch videos

When founded:  Virtru was founded in November 2011 and launched the beta version of its product in June 2014.

Number of full-time employees: 21

Headquarters: Washington D.C.

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