Using technology to safely re-open businesses in a COVID world
By Loretta McCarthy, Managing Partner of Golden SeedsJanuary 19, 2021
As the world grapples with COVID-19, businesses are anxious to get employees back to the office safely. CLEAR, a company that uses biometrics to speed travelers through TSA checkpoints, has a new solution: Health Pass. Caryn Seidman-Becker, co-founder, chairman and CEO of CLEAR, recently told Golden Seeds how Health Pass can help create a safer working environment that gives employers and employees peace of mind. Caryn launched CLEAR with Co-founder Ken Cornick in 2010, following a career in asset management. She recently spoke with Linda Yarden, Managing Director of Golden Seeds. Linda’s experience includes 14 years at Goldman Sachs and 10 years at Lehman Brothers. This is one in a series of Golden Seeds Trend Talks focusing on topics that are relevant, instructive and inspiring.
Linda Yarden: CLEAR has been a game-changer, enabling its more than 5 million members to glide through security at 60-plus airports, stadiums and other venues nationwide. How did you come up with the idea for the company?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: When we started our business more than 10 years ago, my partner Ken and I wanted to make the world a better place. We believed that biometrics could change the way people live, work and travel. 9/11 permanently changed the way people think about security, and in response, we launched CLEAR. It enables people to use biometrics rather than ID cards, tickets or other documents to clear security or gain entrance to a venue. They register their irises and fingerprints with us and we transform their unique biometrics into an encrypted code that provides touchless ID.
Linda Yarden: How do you protect the privacy and security of your customers?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: Privacy and data security have been essential to our business and our culture since day one. Our business is built on trust. The very first email I sent out in 2010 said: “We will guard your privacy.” We don’t sell or share data, and we have massive security infrastructure on the back end with a customer-centric front end. We’ve been certified by the government as providing the highest level of cybersecurity.
Linda Yarden: How did this journey lead to Health Pass?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: We’d started expanding into sports, entertainment and healthcare before March, then COVID-19 hit. Much like 9/11, it transformed the way we live. Travel plummeted, and offices and businesses all shut down. People began working at home, avoiding public places, wearing masks and socially distancing. Health insights such as temperature, test results and antigen levels started to matter more, and nobody wanted to touch anything in a public place. We saw an opportunity to be part of the solution. We started up internal groups to use our existing biometric technologies to help businesses and society re-open safely. In June, we rolled out Health Pass, and we powered the National Hockey League bubble.
Linda Yarden: Are there other applications for Health Pass?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: We’re looking at a number of potential markets where ID, health, payments and ticketing come together—closed-loop environments like cruise ships or stadiums. If consumers don’t have a safe and effective way to patronize these venues, they’ll stay home. We’re also talking, on a pro bono basis, to religious institutions and schools, which we think are vital to communities.
Linda Yarden: Do you see any silver linings in the current environment?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: I think many of us are taking stock of our lives, spending more time with family and refocusing our priorities. I hope we’ll have more appreciation in the future for having the freedom to travel and visit friends and go to concerts and games.
The pandemic forced people to try things like Zoom and Instacart and telemedicine, and some of those things will stick. They can be useful in rural areas or for people who don’t drive, for example. I’m not a fan of 100% remote work forever, because I think the workplace sparks creative combustion and lets young people learn from more experienced colleagues. But I do see advantages in a mix of remote and in-office work.
Linda Yarden: As a woman in business, do you face special challenges?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: I didn’t feel singled out as a woman on Wall Street, which is a great meritocracy that’s all about hustle and getting results. When I first started with CLEAR and visited TSA, I got the sense that everyone looked at me and wondered: What does this girl know? My reaction was: “I will outwork and outthink you. I am here to win.”
In the end it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from—only how you’re going to get where you need to. I’ve seen successful companies run by people from all different backgrounds who overcame every obstacle and every doubter, and they made me believe that anyone can do anything.
Linda Yarden: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Caryn Seidman-Becker: In any business, people matter a tremendous amount. Surround yourself with people who are intellectually curious and tireless. Ask what drives them. That’s my favorite question. And show leadership. I don’t believe you can make every decision by committee. Leadership requires you to make hard and fast decisions, often with imperfect data.
Learn more about CLEAR on the company’s website.
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