It was all but a given yesterday when Apple announced their iPhone 5C and 5S that the higher-end 5S would not only come in gold, but also bear a fingerprint sensor for added security, using technology from Apple’s acquisition of Melbourne, Florida-based AuthenTec last October.
I met AuthenTec’s co-founder F. Scott Moody at an ExitEvent Startup Social in December, when he made his return to the Triangle after the acquisition. He’s since been back to the Social many times, and each time he brings someone new to introduce them to our growing and thriving entrepreneurial community.
He lets me know in advance and apologizes when he can’t make one. That’s class.
Moody has bought in completely since moving back to the Triangle, and he’s doing his best to make sure that more Triangle entrepreneurs not only succeed like him, but succeed in a way that might help usher in a product or technology that becomes a part of a lot of lives.
Seriously. I’ve seen him advise, judge, introduce, network, and more in the last 10 months, countless times. If you’re not following him, do so at @fscottmoody. Not only will you get a lot of what’s going on in startup in the Triangle (and in Melbourne), but there’s a lot of opportunity for two-way communication.
Apple acquired Moody’s AuthenTec last year shortly after the company had announced it had developed “a sensor specifically tailored to secure NFC mobile commerce.” To you and me, this means using the iPhone as a secure digital wallet (see Passbook, introduced in iOS 6). It also means opening doors in cars, homes, and businesses, and interacting with smart tags, among other things.
Think of it as the potential hub of the Internet of things. Like Siri before it, the fingerprint sensor isn’t the killer app that will make everyone rush out to buy the iPhone 5S, but it is likely going to bring application and use cases to the mobile paradigm where a more robust security is required.
In that it echoes what Siri did for voice command, which is now ubiquitous on mobile devices and is starting to catch on as a primary input method.
For me, anyway.
Like me, Moody is a graduate of NCSU’s College of Industrial Engineering (a secret hotbed of entrepreneurial talent, I might add). He co-founded AuthenTec in 1998, was the CEO up until 2010, and after that remained very active on the company’s board of directors. AuthenTec went public in 2007 and last year was the second-largest acquisition in Apple’s history, selling for $356 million.
I called Moody yesterday the minute Apple confirmed that the iPhone 5S would indeed feature the fingerprint sensor. After some congratulations and how’s-it-fell, he got reflective.
“When you start a company,” he said, “you want to be a part of everyone’s lives. That was our dream when we started, and they’re making it happen. The vision that Apple has, and the customers, they can make that happen, that’s the exciting part.”
I told him that the exit, which as it is already happened months ago, was great, but the real thing here was being the pivot point on the device that opened up a whole new set of functionality. We’ve been waiting a while to leave our wallets at home, like we have our cameras. Looks like we’re on the way.
“You know, Joe,” he laughed, “I don’t know too much about where it’s going and I couldn’t tell you if I did, but I could show you those same kinds of plans seven to ten years ago.”
From the beginning, AuthenTec was focused on a low cost solution that was about the individual, helping protect their privacy, providing security. A nice feature about the AuthenTec technology, is it leanrs.
“Every time you use it,” said Moody, “it becomes more secure.”
Moody is now Founder and Managing Director of First Talent Ventures, were he invests in, mentors, and advises startups and entrepreneurs. He’s also recently become a Venture Partner at Stonehenge Capital, which keeps him busy. And again, he spins out a lot of information on his Twitter feed at @fscottmoody.