THE BLOG
01/28/2015 11:56 am ET Updated Mar 30, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Denise G. Tayloe Co-Founder, CEO & President, PRIVO

Denise G. Tayloe is a recognized leader and authority in online identity and privacy management with more than a decade of experience in the online privacy industry. As co-founder, president and CEO of PRIVO, founded in 2001, Tayloe helps companies navigate the opportunities and challenges of implementing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Prior to founding PRIVO, Tayloe was a senior auditing consultant with Arthur Andersen for small business and developing technology companies, helping them mature and manage their revenues. She completed her CPA after graduating Magna Cum Laude from George Mason University.
Tayloe continues to work as a consultant, conducting private workshops to help companies understand the intricacies of COPPA and how to maintain customer relationships within legal boundaries. Over the years, she has worked directly with companies such as Toca Boca, LEGO, Mind Candy, Outfit 7, Burger King, Buena Vista Home Studios, Barnes and Noble, Vivendi and NASA to name a few.

She is an invited speaker at conferences regarding children's privacy issues across the globe, and has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, NBCnews.com and FOXnews.com, among others, for her subject matter expertise in children's online privacy.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I learned at an early age to become a problem solver. In fact, it was my passion for problem solving that led us to found PRIVO, my company. My brother and I had created a website and I was trying to navigate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in order to make sure our website was compliant. I started digging deep into all the information, and, as a result, I soon became a subject matter expert in child online privacy.

A problem solver knows the correct balance for the given situation and can address a topic from multiple viewpoints. With something like COPPA compliance, there are multiple parties involved such as businesses, parents and kids. It's important to understand the respective needs of everyone. By being a problem solver I've been able to lead sides to equitable solutions. Everyone is happy and it works!

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at PRIVO?
As a previous accounting auditor, I know numbers. Understanding numbers and how they work in business I feel, has given me a huge advantage over most entrepreneurs. When first founding PRIVO with my brother, we created our own business plan, revenue schedule and capitalization tables internally, so I know my company from the inside out.

Being an auditor also drew on my natural instinct to know all the details. Knowing the details of the COPPA regulation so intimately puts me in a unique category in the Privacy and Identity protection industry. Having been in this industry since the very beginning, I'm proud to say that PRIVO is becoming the yardstick by which others are measured.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at PRIVO?
For many years online privacy has been very little understood. Pioneering the marketplace has been the biggest challenge, but also the biggest reward. There were no roadmaps on how to protect Internet privacy. For many years it was a challenge to communicate the importance of Internet Privacy, but today we're seeing that both businesses and individuals are really starting to realize how important it is to the future of the Internet. PRIVO receiving the White House's NSTIC grant was a huge highlight in my career. We're seeing an overwhelming demand for a solution. Fortunately, it's a solution that we have had the whole time!

What advice can you offer women who want to start their own business?
Don't be afraid to have vision and don't be afraid to compete. If you are passionate about what you want to do, do it! When your convictions and passions are validated there is no better feeling in the world. Push the envelope. I can remember boys telling me I couldn't play soccer. I tried out and was the first girl to play soccer on the "boys" team in junior high school. You have to reach and grow. I have followed this principle my whole life!

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
You are only going to get out of life what you ask for. Don't be bashful, be bold. Success does not find you; you have to be available and open to those moments that will make a difference. They are not obvious so you have to plant a lot of seeds and nurture a lot of relationships. Some of the seeds I planted 10 years ago and have been nurturing are now starting to bear fruit. Look long range because dreams don't happen overnight. For example, when I first got into the COPPA Safe Harbor business, I understood right away that businesses wouldn't want to be responsible for holding all sorts of kid's personally identifiable information, so I created the first iteration of a 'data vault' where PRIVO, as a trusted third party, would securely and safely hold it for my clients. Around that time, I also pioneered the concept of helping parents manage the flood of COPPA consents they were being inundated with by creating a consent management tool in the form of a 'Parent Portal.' Now, with the trifecta of Big Data peering into every aspect of kids' lives, the increase in data breaches, and parents' understanding of the need to participate in their kids' online lives, PRIVO's innovations are more valuable and useful than ever before.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a difficult question as I have such a passion for PRIVO and the direction we are headed. It can be hard to pry yourself away from work, but a private life away from the work and responsibilities is paramount. The importance of what PRIVO has to offer sometimes keeps me awake at nights, to be honest. I sometimes have problems finding the "off" button! But I have learned there is a pace at which I am comfortable. There is always a "groove" to be found. I am in it!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
With so many moms in the workplace, it can be difficult to have the time to stay on top of kids' activity on the Internet let alone any of the problems associated with privacy!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My dad was a huge mentor for me. He is a very successful businessman and taught me early on how to be a leader. I am extremely proud of him and I carry that pride with me everywhere. I try to emulate that and strive to be a good leader and inspire people to be better than they think they can be, to go out of their comfort zones and reach for what is important to them. It is so rewarding to see people follow their passions achieve what they thought was not possible.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have always admired the Tayloe women in my family, going all the way back to before the Revolutionary War! In fact, we have a long heritage of protecting privacy. My ancestor Rebecca Tayloe's husband, Richard Lightfoot Lee, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Mary Tayloe Lloyd married Francis Scott Key; and Ann Ogle Tayloe personally came to the rescue of President James Madison and his wife Dolley when the British burned Washington during the War of 1812. Having convinced the French Ambassador to declare their house an embassy, the British spared the house. Little did they know that Ann was helping Dolley secure the President's private papers and important government documents! For sixteen months after that, the Madisons stayed as guests of Ann Ogle Tayloe while the White House was being rebuilt. So you can see, not only are the Tayloe women connected closely to the history of this great country, we've got a long history in protecting American's privacy, too!

What do you want PRIVO to accomplish in the next year?
Our goals are to set the stage for a global standard in good cyber-hygiene. We plan to do this by establishing privacy protecting identity credentials and by publishing and advancing the Minors Trust Framework. A policy framework providing innovation in COPPA compliance and identity management that protect parents and kids privacy and security as they surf the Web. This will enable PRIVO to educate and empower 10 million families.