Brill seeks $30M for burgeoning airport security company

Famed media publisher Steven Brill has big ambitions for his newest business venture, 4-year-old Verified Identity Pass (VIP). The New York-based company sells biometric cards that give registered travelers access to designated security lanes in 16 airports nationwide.

Brill—who founded CourtTV, American Lawyer magazine and the now-defunct Brill’s Content magazine—is hustling to get more airports to adopt the technology, which is sometimes known as “Clear.” And Brill has been speaking with VCs about raising a $30 million round at a $90 million pre-money valuation, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The company has already raised at least $17.3 million in funding, including an $8 million first round in 2004 from Baker Capital and Lehman Brothers. A regulatory filing in May says that the company was closing in on another $9.3 million in funding, though no institutional investors were listed.

“We haven’t announced anything yet, so I’m not going to comment,” Brill said when reached at his office last week.

In regards to the $17.3 million that VIP has raised thus far, Brill said: “That is not the complete picture of what we’ve raised or will raise.”

It makes sense for Brill to up the ante. VIP is the largest privately held company to seize the opportunity made possible by the Department of Homeland Security’s Registered Traveler program, which intends to speed along frequent airline passengers, who travel three to six times a month. The travelers can obtain security clearance by submitting to elaborate identification and background checks by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

VIP’s customers pay $128 a year for a photo ID card that contains information about their fingerprints and irises. The company boasts that its signed up 200,000 people, up from 30,000 total membership last summer.

VIP did encounter a hiccup last week as the TSA forced it to suspend enrollment in its program after a VIP-issued laptop that contained unencrypted, highly sensitive information about 33,000 its customer, was stolen from San Francisco International Airport.

The TSA was ready to halt VIP’s business, pending an audit of its security measures, but the laptop was found in a cabinet at the airport. After examination, it was determined that the laptop had not been turned on during its absence.

“Whether someone moved it, or whether they were planning to steal it and got cold feet or moved it because we got real interested in trying to find it isn’t clear,” Brill said.

Now the question is whether investors think VIP is worth another look. —Constance Loizos