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GeoComply co-founder returns as CEO of Vancouver unicorn

Anna Sainsbury will continue to serve as chair of tech company
GeoComply co-founders David Briggs, left, and Anna Sainsbury. Sainsbury served as CEO from 2011-18 before returning to the top job this month | Photo: Chung Chow, BIV

A familiar face is returning to the CEO role at GeoComply Solutions Inc. nine months after the Vancouver tech company reached unicorn status with a US$1 billion valuation.

Anna Sainsbury, who previously held the top job from 2011-18, takes over from fellow co-founder David Briggs.

Briggs is now serving as a director focused on strategic initiatives, such as expansion into new markets, while BIV Forty Under 40 winner Sainsbury will continue serving as the company’s chair.

The Vancouver-based cybersecurity firm specializes in detecting whether online users of streaming services or online gambling websites are trying to mask their locations using means such as virtual private networks (VPN).

Last March it inked an agreement with Blackstone Growth and Atairos Management LP for minority investments.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Sainsbury told BIV the day the deal was announced “it’s safe to say that Vancouver definitely has birthed another unicorn.”

Unicorns typically refer to tech companies valued at US$1 billion or more. Sainsbury confirmed that is her definition as well.

Founded in Las Vegas, the company relocated to Sainsbury’s hometown of Vancouver in the 2010s after determining there was better access to talent in B.C. than Nevada.

But it wasn’t until 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), that GeoComply’s technology suddenly exploded in demand.

The PAPSA ruling gave way to American states legalizing sports betting — and with it, the need for those states to ensure bets were being placed in proper jurisdictions.

“We’re just so fortunate that both the initial niche market grew, but also the use cases across other large sectors grew as well,” Sainsbury said last year.

“So many industries are moving online, and the vulnerabilities of e-commerce and online banking are becoming more apparent.”

It was during the post-PAPSA period in which Briggs oversaw revenue growth of more than 1,500%, according to the company, and doubled its headcount to 200 workers.

With institutional investors coming aboard last year, GeoComply began ramping up hiring further.

GeoComply’s software is installed on about 400 million devices worldwide. 

If, for example, a user wants to use a streaming sports app, he or she will need to ensure GeoComply’s software is on their device so the company can verify the user is in a permitted jurisdiction.

Sainsbury’s latest appointment to the CEO role went into effect January 1.

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