2/3/2015 - Editor's Note: In the Start Me Up series, the Kellogg School spotlights young members of the Kellogg community who are bringing bold entrepreneurial visions to life.
Build, design and problem-solve: That’s all Jeff Eschbach ’14 wanted to do with his career, and for more than 15 years, that’s exactly what he’s done.
As an engineer and technologist, Eschbach has helped design new phones and other mobile technologies for Motorola and created computer chips for Intel.
But now he’s taking his technological acumen to the courtroom with Page Vault
, a company he founded in 2012 as a student to independently store and safeguard Internet content for lawyers to use as evidence later in court.
Tech on trial
Eschbach created Page Vault after speaking with members of the larger Northwestern community, including law and engineering professors.
Eschbach and his team were able to pinpoint a growing issue within the legal community: securely capturing web content as evidence.
Acquiring content from places like Facebook and Twitter has become a growing problem as posts can be deleted or altered as easily as they’re published. A simple screen grab from a lawyer’s desktop doesn’t cut it in front of a judge anymore.
“You could fake it, so now you need a trusted third party, and the lawyers now are understanding how important that is,” he says.
Common methods, like making a screen capture, can violate the chain of custody — from capture to court — and tampered evidence could put the whole trial at risk. Other methods like hiring a private investigator or issuing a subpoena are often expensive or don’t capture the desired content in time.
With as much effort as a Google search, Eschbach’s company can quickly find and verify the information’s source via the webpage’s server, then copy, date and store it in the cloud to be retrieved later.
The Entrepreneur’s Network
While working on his MBA back in 2012, Eschbach started the framework for Page Vault, which was initially a tech company without a clear purpose.
“When we came up with the idea [to store web content], we actually didn’t have the legal market in mind, but when we came upon that, it was an amazing fit,” he says.
Eschbach, who was voted the 2014 Student of the Year for Kellogg Innovation & Entrepreneurship, credits Kellogg with helping him hone a new entrepreneurial skill set and build an expanded network, both of which he used to put Page Vault together.
“The network goes from the professors who have real-world experience, and also my fellow students,” he says. “Right now, on Page Vault’s team, we’ve got about 12 people working with us and over half have some Kellogg tie.”
Those professors are the ones who helped Eschbach find a purpose for Page Vault.
“I thought the market might not be that large and that it could be good for a few lawyers, but that’s when I went to the professors at the entrepreneurship, engineering and law schools. They gave me the idea to test the market,” Eschbach says.
The new company seems to have found its market and it’s developed quickly since launching out of 1871. Page Vault earned a spot at the premiere tech incubator after winning the 2014 Pritzker Group Venture Capital's LaunchU competition
. The company also earned first prize and $26,000 from Northwestern University’s Venture Challenge
competition. Recently, the company raised more than $1.3 million in funding.
But competition wins and funding rounds mean nothing if your target customers have a hard time using your product, another problem the school’s network helped him tackle.
“Right now, we’re actually going through the alumni database, reaching out to people while we’re in the process of beta testing,” Eschbach says. “We have a working product, we have customers, but it’s still good for us to bring people on board who are validating our new ideas.”
Drive for the Future
Eschbach says his search for new challenges started long ago as “the prototypical kid you’d think would become an engineer, taking things apart and getting in trouble for dismantling dad’s watch and not knowing how to put it back together, because I didn’t have the skill set yet.”
He eventually learned those skills, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue. After stints at Intel Japan and Motorola, Eschbach came to Kellogg, graduating last year with a concentration in entrepreneurship and tech strategy.
Now, he gets to be the glue between business and product development. It’s a set of skills Eschbach plans on sharing once Page Vault has established itself in the legal tech space, both as a business owner and as president of the Kellogg Entrepreneur’s Organization’s Chicago alumni chapter.
“I want to double down on the entrepreneurship space and help others either in mentoring or teaching,” he says.
Read more in the Start Me Up Series: