The Digimarc Start up Brand Story

Inventor Geoff Rhoades

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The inventor of this remarkable start up brand technology, Geoff Rhoades, PhD showed it to me in the dirt-floored garage he was using as a development lab.

Geoff explained that it was an adaption of a artist's trick from the middle ages– the ability to hide information in images.

He called his version digital steganography.

The  old idea was fully updated to the digital age and made holographic in  his approach. In other words he could hide data in an image and no  matter what you did to that image if a few pixels remained the  steganographic information would still be there!


Geoff,  a PhD, had worked at Tektronix where we first met. He developed  sophisticated optical and laser applications as accessories for the  company’s lines of oscilloscopes. In has spare time, he “tinkered” in  his garage. 

The Start-up Team

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There was a patent attorney involved, an engineer and an accountant. I signed on to handle marketing.

All of us had “day jobs” so it meant a lot of nights and weekends.

We met in that garage with the dirt floor, sipped tea from mismatched cracked cups and bent our minds to getting the technology from prototype
to critical mass for this start up brand.


Funding was the primary problem. 

Family and  friends had been exhausted. It was too early to go after Venture  Capital. That left angel investors but first the entire group had to be  trained in Networking so we could find them.  

Once we had the  offering paperwork in hand we were ready to reach out to angel investors  we had spent weeks connecting to (Long before Linked In existed).  

The Outcome

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We managed to raise $500,000 in 17 days for this start up brand from investors on the West Coast from California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Vision:  The product, we believed, would be a way to put an indelible mark on  works of art, commercial items like stock or Bond certificates and even  three dimensional items.

Name: The name came  from a thought I scrawled on a white board we used to capture random  ideas. It changed 3 times before we went to a major trade show in San  Francisco!

Positioning: wasn’t easy. We finally arrived at Digital Watermarking, now the accepted way to describe steganography in the digital world.

Outcome:  The capability is included by makers of image software and the process  is used in financial instruments and security applications in countries  around the world. The company went public and the offering topped  $80/share (we had expected about $20 per share)