• Tom Miller, CEO of Clearforce, gives the winning presentation at the shark tank concluded at AFCEA’s Small Business Innovation Summit held July 26. Photography: Elizabeth Moon
     Tom Miller, CEO of Clearforce, gives the winning presentation at the shark tank concluded at AFCEA’s Small Business Innovation Summit held July 26. Photography: Elizabeth Moon
  • Tom Miller, CEO of Clearforce (2nd from l), receives the award for winning the final shark tank competition at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit held July 26. Presenting the award to Tom are (l-r) Manoj Bhatia, president, Network Runners; Barbara Bridges, president, Empower Cyber; and Bill James, acting principal deputy assistant, Office of Information and Technology, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Photography: Elizabeth Moon
     Tom Miller, CEO of Clearforce (2nd from l), receives the award for winning the final shark tank competition at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit held July 26. Presenting the award to Tom are (l-r) Manoj Bhatia, president, Network Runners; Barbara Bridges, president, Empower Cyber; and Bill James, acting principal deputy assistant, Office of Information and Technology, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Photography: Elizabeth Moon

Shark Tank Champion Caps Shark Week

July 30, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Audience participation selects the winner from among three finalists.


ClearForce of Vienna, Virginia, a small business with a prestigious board of directors, was named the champion of an AFCEA shark tank tournament that featured a total of 14 small businesses offering 15 different entrepreneurial technologies. The winner of a two-month long shark tank competition for entrepreneurial cyber-related technology was selected by audience participants in an innovation summit.

ClearForce won against two other finalists with its proprietary technology for seeking out employees who might be motivated to commit insider crimes accidentally as well as deliberately. The three finalists were chosen in separate shark tank sessions held in the Washington, D.C., area beginning in May.

Each of the three finalists gave a short presentation at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit held in Tysons Corner, Virginia, on July 26, coincidentally near the end of the popular summer event known as shark week. After the three presentations were completed, the summit audience was asked to applaud to choose the overall winner. The first round of applause produced a tie between ClearForce and LTAid of Vancouver, Washington, which is building unmanned aerial vehicles that can serve emergency responders as well as warfighters in theater. With the elimination of the third finalist, Avocado Systems of San Jose, California, a second round of applause for just the two remaining businesses led to ClearForce being declared the winner.

Tom Miller, ClearForce CEO, described in the earlier elimination round how the technology provides continual evaluation of an individual’s external behavior. It searches for patterns that indicate an employee is under financial or emotional stress, and thus might fit the profile of an insider prone to workplace actions that could be criminal or inadvertently damaging.

Miller pointed out that $1 trillion was lost to workplace crime last year, and half of that was because of insiders. The company’s technology, also called ClearForce, provides continual evaluation of external behavior. It streams relevant content about risk in real time, he said, adding that alerts are delivered continuously around the clock.

“[It is] not just searching for negative information,” he emphasized. “Instead, it delivers information on misconduct and high risk behavior outside of the organization—financial stress, for example.” Once an alert is received, customers can access a cloud-based adjudication platform and take preemptive actions to solve a problem before it escalates. The system ensures employee privacy by providing data only to the customer—it never leaves the system, Miller stated.

ClearForce has received some venture capital funding. Its board of directors includes former National Security Advisor and Commander of the U.S. European Command Gen. James L. Jones, USMC (Ret.), former CIA and NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.), and former Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA).

The AFCEA shark tank was open to firms specializing in a range of innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital transformation or cybersecurity. The day-long AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit, which featured expert panels and speaker sessions, hosted the culmination of the competition. Other AFCEA shark tank competitions may be scheduled in the coming months, according to association officials.

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We are taking applications for AFCEA Innovation Shark Tank, Season 2. Episode dates are October 17 and 25 and November 19. Email Elizabeth Moon, AFCEA's manager, small business programs at emoon@afcea.org.

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