“If you are getting uncomfortable, keep going in that direction. Everything worth doing is there,” says Emmy Harbo, co-founder of Darkhorse Geospatial LLC, the women-owned, small business specializing in tradecraft used to solve complex intelligence and analytical challenges for defense and intelligence organizations.
Harbo and her partner started Darkhorse Geospatial in 2011, with the commitment to bring about positive change and increase the effectiveness of national security programs. Following the attacks on 9/11, they both joined the intelligence community and have had a passion for national security ever since. In 2007, they decided to take a break from government consulting and open their own wine bar, but “neither of us were completely fulfilled by ‘the mission.’ Our hearts were in national security and that’s when we decided to start Darkhorse Geospatial,” Harbo told VC in an e-mail interview.
The term “dark horse” refers to a little-known person, thing, or contestant that seems unlikely to succeed but emerges to prominence in the context of a competition. The cofounders believe this describes their emerging small business to a T. They bring innovative and creative ideas about national security, but are operating in a “sea of multi-billion dollar federal government contracts and very large companies,” according to Harbo.
Despite the incredible amount of competition between companies vying for federal contracts, Darkhorse Geospatial views each company as a potential partner that can contribute its strengths towards creating and delivering more complete solutions to the government. While Darkhorse Geospatial specializes in geospatial analytics, they have expanded to focus on social media intelligence services. This, they feel, is where government can really improve.
What does social media intelligence (SOMINT) mean? SOMINT focuses on finding relevant real-time social media information and transforming it into actionable intelligence that leaders and politicians can use to make informed, time sensitive decisions. It’s not a piece of software, but a tradecraft created by Darkhorse Geospatial, that intelligence professionals can add to their toolkit as a means to fight terrorism and other national security threats.
Although SOMINT can provide incredibly useful information, Harbo emphasizes its supplemental role as a source of intelligence information. SOMINT can be misleading if acted upon in isolation because data can be corrupted or modified in ways that affect its interpretation, much like any other type of information.
For Harbo, every day is a new and rewarding adventure as she, and her partner, continue to build the foundation for Darkhorse Geospatial in a new era of government intelligence.