Maryland frequently competes with Silicon Valley, Massachusetts and other regions around the country for new high-technology and cyber-technology companies. The Maryland/Israel Development Center, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, is often influential in helping Israeli companies establish their U.S. headquarters in the Old Line State.

IMNA Solutions is an Israeli startup whose top executives — Israel Haikin, the company’s founder and CEO, and Merav Naor-Weinstock, co-founder and vice president of marketing — recently spent a week in Silicon Valley and three days in Maryland exploring potential sites arranged and coordinated by the MIDC.

IMNA’s goal, according to its executives, was to determine the best place to establish an American headquarters to launch its new mobile phone privacy solution, ListenApp. Jmore recently spoke with Haikin and Naor-Weinstock about their company’s objectives.

What’s new or different about ListenApp? 

Naor-Weinstock: ListenApp is the first mobile platform to deal with the active phone call. It is the only app that recognizes in real time if your call is being recorded or if it goes on a speakerphone, a microphone, Bluetooth or silent mode, and if a third party is suddenly added. Most importantly for the one-sided version, you can do audio analysis to recognize all of these features.

ListenApp lets you have all the cards on the table. If both parties have ListenApp [the two-sided version], both parties know everything about the other through a secure line.

What if the other party suddenly puts your call on a speakerphone?

Haikin: You immediately get an alert, so you know that others might overhear the call — it’s a matter of privacy.
Now you have three choices. You can end the call, you can ask them not to put the call on speakerphone or you can say nothing and choose your words wisely.

Your market?

Naor-Weinstock: We have four market segments: Security advisors to risk management companies and other service providers. The health care, finance and legal markets. People in the private sector who need privacy in their work — reporters, design people, anyone working with intellectual property and other confidential information they want to make sure is not misused. And fourth, governmental and security agencies.

Haikin: With the one-sided version, you can transmit data by sending a text or an image that you don’t want anyone else to see. For example, if you take and transmit a picture, it will immediately appear on the other person’s screen. But when the call ends, the picture will disappear so no one can take that image anywhere. The administrator of the call can record it and listen to it later; the person called cannot.

With the two-sided version, you can share files, documents and other data with the other party, and the files are encrypted. So if someone intercepts the call, he or she can’t read it. When the phones disconnect, everything vanishes. We also have customized versions of the platform, so we are working with governmental agencies and security firms on these specialized applications.

How far along are you in the development of ListenApp?

Haikin: We have more than 300 applications using the Android version as part of our beta [test market] site. In late July, we will launch the two-sided Android version so that both parties to the call can use ListenApp. It will be available at the Google Play Store, first at no charge and later for a nominal fee.

The one-sided version is more complicated so we plan for it, and our Apple iOS solution, to be available this November. Right now we’re looking for 10 to 15 additional small firms, larger companies and governmental agencies to work with our beta site and be partners. Anyone who wants to follow our progress can visit our website [listenapp.net], register to receive the newsletter and they can pre-register for the app release so they get preferred terms and have insider insights.

Your American headquarters?

Naor-Weinstock: We’ve just decided on Maryland, somewhere between Baltimore and Washington. Silicon Valley has many investors and startups, but here the community is very supportive, businesses are looking to partner with you.  Government, security and financial firms are here, too, and there is innovation and vision. But unlike Palo Alto, [Calif.,] here you are not on top of someone else.

Were there other factors that influenced your decision to locate here?

Haikin: We couldn’t make this move without [MIDC Executive Director] Barry Bogage and his team. They took the time to get to know us and our needs, and they coordinated our activities in Maryland so we met with law firms, financial firms and others. The major part of our decision was the business community and the opportunities for integration into the security, health care and governmental segments.

Naor-Weinstock: In addition, looking at the big picture, Jewish Baltimore is important because we want to be part of a community that is also part of us.

Top photo: Israel Haikin of IMNA Solutions said his company decided to establish its U.S. headquarters in Maryland because of the “opportunities for integration into the security, health care and governmental segments.” (Photos courtesy of IMNA Solutions)

Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.

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