Hi Footprint Family,
I actually had a different update written here, about how we are coming out of stealth later in July. The update was about Apple marketing, and dreams. But the possibility of dreams could be taken away from millions of women due to the overturn of Roe, so I am going to put my writing about the dream of Footprint on hold and will send that out in a few weeks instead.
For the past 10 years, I’ve had GI issues. What started as food poisoning became a gluten intolerance. However, my gut never seemed right. A few weeks ago, I ended up in the ER with a severe stomach infection that put me on two antibiotics. A follow-up test revealed an elevated marker for inflammation in my colon, and I’m going in Friday for a Colonoscopy. Yesterday, I went to the pharmacy to pick up the laxatives and heard the pharmacist in a hushed voice— trying to protect my privacy— ask to confirm that I was getting a colonoscopy before giving me the shameful prep concoction.
So why am I telling you all about my GI issues, fun forays into laxatives for this evening, and colonoscopy tomorrow? It feels really weird to have this conversation, right? None of you needed to know it, this email seems like a weird invasion of my own privacy, and I’m not asking for any help. Some of you may be regretting encouraging my past philosophical ramblings that somehow tried to tie the 20th-century banana trade, 13th-century crusades, and Avicii to KYC. I’m writing this because the system worked for me, a man. I went to the ER, and they immediately gave me an IV with painkillers and sent me in for a CT scan. I got a follow-up appointment, they ran tests, and when one came back elevated they scheduled the procedure for Friday. All medical appointments were within a 20-minute trip from my apartment. And now, whatever the results are, I will be able to get the care I need, which seems like a basic human right.
The CVS trip was a bit embarrassing, though I am sure not 1% as terrible an experience as it must be for women to go and ask a pharmacy employee for directions to morning-after pills, if they can get them at all. I was by no means in a life-threatening position like having an ectopic pregnancy, but got pain meds immediately at the hospital; the nurse did not need to have a lawyer get permission from a judge to give me medication. This really isn’t about me. I just feel it is easy for male founders to lack empathy for an experience we will never go through. I can’t imagine how scared I would be if I wasn’t allowed to go to the hospital Friday for my procedure, let alone the idea that I would be legally prosecuted if I tried to travel to another state that would let me get the procedure. It seems inhumane. And yet, that is America today. It is shocking to me how abortion—and sexual health in general— has been made a women’s issue. Male birth control didn’t get regulator approval due to side effects such as “mood swings”, yet people ask why women don’t just take birth control to prevent pregnancy despite the list of their side effects being 3x that of the unapproved male birth control. Society has said that it is ok if women suffer mentally or physically in regards to sexual health, but it is a grave line to cross to discomfort men.
There is a lot of wrong in the world, so why focus on abortion rights? For one, I don’t find this political: it is about human rights. But for “why Footprint”, it is in part because the last 50 years of constitutional rights to abortion were essentially rooted to a constitutional right to privacy. The Supreme Court first gave this right in Griswold v. Connecticut, which noted that the Bill of Rights contained “zones of privacy”, which states that the government cannot infringe upon “life, liberty, or property” without the “due process of law.” In the decision, the Supreme Court codified a constitutional right to privacy under the umbrella of these protections. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause “protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.” This was re-affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where the majority writes that “the fundamental right of privacy protects citizens against governmental intrusion in such intimate family matters” and that a state law would interfere with the Due Process Clause if it creates an “undue burden” on a women’s right to choose.
The Dobbs opinion mentions privacy nine times. Alito’s majority opinion states “[Roe] held that the abortion right, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, is part of a right to privacy, which is also not mentioned.” The Dobbs decision is an attack on women’s most fundamental human rights and their right to privacy. The majority opinion in Dobbs also makes the incredulous claims that in Casey, “the court abandoned any reliance on a privacy right”. If we actually care about privacy, we must act when the Supreme Court rules that there is no constitutional right to privacy.
Perhaps the earliest example of where this becomes problematic is with period tracking apps, which an estimated ⅓ of women in the US use according to a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Survey (though this number of women who use such apps may be much larger, as Flo, the most-used app, alone claims to have 44 MAU). For some better reading on how these apps may sell data, I’d encourage you to read these articles (NPR | WSJ | Vice). A data vendor SafeGraph sold location information on individuals who visited Planned Parenthood for $160. This is incredibly dangerous. I hate fear-mongering, but there is sadly precedent for certain states using data to prosecute women. In 2019, a woman in Mississippi experienced an at-home pregnancy loss, and a grand jury would go in to indict her for second-degree murder. Part of the evidence used against her included her online search history which included searches for miscarriages. Medical anthropologist Andrea Ford says in the NPR article linked above “If I lived in a state where abortion was actively being criminalized, I would not use a period tracker — that's for sure.” As a result, calls to delete these apps were trending on Twitter last weekend.
I started Footprint because I wanted to put people in control of their digital data. It is our belief that the internet is better if people’s data is securely owned by them, and allowed to be used to give them access to apps and platforms that better their lives. I’m horrified that now period tracking apps could sell women’s data to law enforcement. And I’m saddened by the ramification of this: women could be prosecuted and jailed for simply using an app to better understand and manage their personal health.
At first, I wanted Footprint to build technology to migrate data from the bad tracking apps to the better ones, but realized through conversation that: others may be best to do that, we likely have better uses of our technology, and we need far more companies than Footprint to help here. We decided that Footprint would give away for free our account creation flow that hides PII like names, email, DOB to period trackers to protect identities of women who sign-up. But that’s far from enough, so I started reaching out to other companies. And the result is a growing coalition I'm calling Tech Fights Dobbs (TFD).
So far, a Series B vaulting company has committed to giving encrypted HIPPA vaulting to non-profits that help with abortion. An e-commerce automation company is going to look at removing marketing apps from their suite that use data brokers who sell this data. We’re also working with Disclo, who is building compliance tools to let women anonymously use new benefits to pay for them to travel out-of-state to seek abortions without needing to have uncomfortable conversations with managers. Stardust is building an end-to-end encrypted period tracking app, and I am thrilled to share that we are working with their team to give them our anonymous sign-up option. In the past week, I’ve spoken with a dozen companies that I expect to come together to help immediately here.
The first goal of TFD will be to gather companies that have the technology ready today to help women in a post-Roe society. TFD will also create a list of standards for companies to follow to make sure they are helping their women. Lastly, we will be working with doctors, lawyers, and activists to think of moonshot ideas the tech community can work on to help, as we currently can not just rely on our politicians.
If any of you have portfolio companies that you think may be able to help on this, please let me know— I would love to speak with them. Footprint was founded to bring back trust to the internet. But currently, women in this country should all feel no trust in the physical and digital world. I’m proud of the conversations our team has had about this in the past week, and support for making TFD. If we don’t fight here, then what is the point of our mission to help in the future? We have a platform, and we are going to use it. This will not be easy, but I believe as a collective we can make a real difference here.
And now onto the company, that I promise I have also been running and has been making great progress in the past month.
Goals From Last Month
- Live demo ready + ready to open sandbox to customers in July
We’re in the habit of setting crazy ambitious goals, and the team seems to always come together to speed pass them. We’re happy to share that the v1 of Footprint is almost ready to share live to our early customers. We’re making the last refinements and expect to be sending live links in mid July.
Our Live Demo, or internally “alpha” showcases:
- Footprint.js, our 5-lines-of-code integration to add Footprint to any website
- First time user onboarding using the “Verify with Footprint” button, which includes biometric verification like FaceID
- Our 1-click experience for instant onboarding
- The customer dashboard that shows onboarding analytics, supports the “decrypt” data button to securely access minimal PII data when needed, security logs that track every data access, and our user insights page that shows our verification audit trail of the person and their devices.
- And finally, a very first look at our end-user portal that let’s consumers see exactly how their data is being accessed, called “my.onefootprint.com”.
- Begin search for first business/operation hires
We made an incredible hire here, Omar Cameron, as our GTM lead. I’m actually not sure if there is something Omar can’t do. After getting his undergraduate degree from Duke, Omar got a JDMBA from Tulane. When he graduated, he decided he wanted to get involved in tech, so drove on a whim to SF. He cold-emailed a Series B company called Stripe, and got hired as their 70th employee where he worked in legal and ops. Omar then learned to code through a bootcamp and became an engineer at Honeycomb. Most recently, Omar was the top performing enterprise sales rep at Launch Darkly. He also is a Level 1 Sommelier. We are so excited about how much Omar will do for Footprint. This includes using Omar’s experience in doing legal at arguably the first fintech disruptor to regulators in Stripe to make our own version of the Lithic Legal library for KYC. Most of all, Omar will use his background from Launch Darkly and as an engineer to spearhead our sales motion.
Goals For this Month
- Start working on beta
- Continue discovery for design partnerships for early access
Where We Could Use Help
- Customer Intros/Discovery - Never ends 🙂
- Eli will be in LA July 21st-22nd
- Eli + Alex will be in SF the week of July 25th (would love to do some live customer demos!)
Note: Some content has been removed from the bottom half of the update to protect privacy of individuals/companies involved.
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