The September 11 attacks inspired Chris Millar to found Gatekeeper Security. “Really, it was a result of seeing what happened at 9/11 and seeing so much poor equipment being purchased,” he explains.
After 18 years in the banking and international investment banking with exposure in the area of computer vision, he put together a team to design and develop a unique series of intelligent optical inspection and recognition products. With these, he entered the security technology industry.
And enter it he did. Today, Gatekeeper Security is an international organization with more than 2,500 permanent security installations in 38 countries for nuclear power plants, natural gas facilities, oil refineries, airports, commercial banks, chemical plants, hotels, government facilities, and more.
Eventually, Chris decided to move into a different subset of the market: short-term, event security. A surprisingly large demand exists for security services at sports stadiums, conference centers, and large-scale entertainment venues where horse shows, air shows, parades, and concerts occur. Expanding into this unlikely market in the United Kingdom is what motivated Chris to contact the Virginia SBDC Network. He sought help identifying possible clients in the UK.
The Virginia SBDC-George Mason University International Business Development team, consisting of International Trade Manager Aaron Miller and student researchers, Tim O’Shea and Catherine Haggerty, put together a research plan to shape a strategy for the new business model.
“Talking to Aaron and his team, we agreed on a statement of work. They set out doing a lot of research in the UK market, and they identified quite a bit of potential,” Chris says. The SBDC team provided detailed data that included an assessment and contact information for the competition in the UK security technology space. They wrote a detailed spreadsheet listing all the major events and festivals in the UK, including event revenues, venues, the security budget, the points of contact for security, and even a list of the most common criminal activity associated with particular events.
Gatekeeper contacted event producers and elicited promises for security contracts in 2020. Their new business in the UK means increased revenue for Gatekeeper and more jobs here in Virginia.
The move to the short-term event market in the UK helped them win a 2019 Moxie Award. “The Moxie Award is for boldness in business. Gatekeeper won for technology,” Chris says. Since the International Business Development Program at the Virginia SBDC helped identify this new market in the UK, Gatekeeper plans to continue on their bold path with the Virginia SBDC’s team and expand their temporary security services in other countries.