A startup company co-founded by a NJIT Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC) professor recently received a substantial investment from a startup foundry supported by industry giants including Microsoft and AT&T.

Duality Technologies, launched in 2016 by Associate Professor Kurt Rohloff and four partners, develops an innovative cryptographic technology called “homomorphic encryption” to enable organizations to encrypt their data so that computations may be performed on the data in its encrypted form.

Keeping the data encrypted provides an extra layer of protection for companies, allowing them to conceal confidential or proprietary information while enabling others to perform data science, run analytics or crunch numbers on the data without directly accessing it.

Duality Technologies is backed by Team8, a startup foundry supported by industry leaders such as Microsoft, AT&T, Nokia and Walmart. Team8 has invested millions of dollars in seed funding in Duality Technologies.

“Continual advances in the area of encryption and data security will have a profound impact on everything, from intellectual property data to healthcare information. We will be able to make the most of the data out there.” said Rohloff.

Rohloff is one of several professors at YWCC who have commercialized some of their scientific research by spinning off a startup, combining their academic career with an entrepreneurial experience. This article is the first of a series highlighting the entrepreneurial activities of YWCC faculty.  

The power of data, the need for encryption

An engineer by training, Rohloff is a pioneer in the field of cryptography. He first became interested in homomorphic encryption while working in the U.S. defense industry supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). 

With DARPA support, Rohloff created PALISADE, an open source library of homomorphic encryption software. He then realized that a commercial product based on PALISADE could address high-value data analytics needs in regulated industries, such as health care and finance, where data is too sensitive to expose in its raw form.

According to Rohloff, he and his partners are actively working to develop encrypted computing capabilities that would be compatible with popular computer environments, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and standard computers. 

Craig Gotsman, dean of YWCC, said having professors who are also active and passionate entrepreneurs is a boon for NJIT students. 

“It adds an additional dimension beyond the traditional academic experience. Having entrepreneurial faculty as role models inspire our students to become entrepreneurs themselves, a strong and realistic option for any graduate of a computing program today,” he said. “Studying under professors such as Kurt, who have technical depth and entrepreneurial know-how, also exposes our students to real-world problems and exemplifies how the techniques they study in the classroom can be applied to solve these problems. To be even more proactive, at YWCC we have recently launched programs to encourage entrepreneurship among our students and provide them with the basic skills required.”

Duality Technologies operates out of NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center and also has offices in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Beyond Rohloff, Duality has a star-studded team. The other co-founders are the CEO — Alon Kaufman — previously director of data science and innovation at RSA. Professor Shafrira Goldwasser, chief scientist, is the inventor of several leading cryptographic technologies, a professor at MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) and Turing Award winner. Rina Shainski, chairwoman, was previously a general partner of Carmel Ventures, and Professor Vinod Vaikuntanathan, chief cryptographer, is an expert on fully homomorphic encryption systems and an associate professor at MIT.

Take a look at what others are saying about Duality:

Walmart, Microsoft, AT&T Backed Foundry Invests Millions in Encryption Pioneer

Kurt Rohloff of Duality Technologies on the Future of Encryption