Abhijay Bhatnager

Year of Graduation: 

“We want to work with the consumer to reclaim the value of their data.”

Abhijay Bhatnagar ’17 wants one person to have access to your personal data: you. With that in mind, he and his brother, Arjun, co-founded Cloaked, a consumer privacy app that generates unlimited online profiles to protect personal information. “When people ask for your credit card or Social Security number —that’s a visceral moment,” Bhatnagar says. “We want to work with the consumer to reclaim the value of their data.”

Cloaked is not their first startup: that was Hey, Heads Up!, a scheduling app the siblings developed during Bhatnagar’s freshman year at Exeter, and sold two years later. This year, the brothers were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Consumer Technology.

“I’ve always had this obsession with how to create value for the most people ... and I like to build and tinker,” Bhatnagar says. “When you combine that engineering passion with this desire to do good, then creating a tech startup is sort of the natural inclination.”

He also credits Exeter with his development of grit, a key component of entrepreneurship. He was a member of the wrestling team and deep into STEM at Exeter and, he says, “having to juggle both really exposes you to having to stretch yourself in all directions.” This grit may have helped him land a post-Exeter position at the MITRE Corporation, where he collaborated on the development of health care information models as the company’s youngest-ever employee.

We caught up with Bhatnagar in Manhattan, where he shares an apartment with Arjun, a block from the Cloaked offices.

What was the inspiration behind Cloaked?

Privacy is about the three Cs: comfort, control and consent. In health class at Exeter, you learn consent in relationships. People’s relationship with technology should follow a similar pattern. You want to have some level of agency with your relationship with technology and how it uses your data. Cloaked started with this idea of, what does it mean to have control of your data? We’re beginning at the point of comfort, where people under-stand the problem.

And what is the problem?

Tech gets better when it knows more about you, but people are disengaging with technology at a higher rate —shopping trends, consumer adoption and new technology are suffering due to privacy concerns. The greatest value is unlocked when you defragment this entire system, when you put all the data in one place and let it know everything about you.

How would that work?

We see three possible worlds: big tech or the government owns everything about you or you do. Part of our goal is creating a path for consumers to own everything about themselves. We’re rethinking data as a commodity in general, but in an approachable manner.

How do you convince consumers that their data is safe?

Every time a user creates an account, their own data vault is separate from every other user data vault and separate from Cloaked itself as a company — and Cloaked as a company negotiates for access for that data from the data vault. We’re both sides of the equation right now, but our plan is to open this up so you as an individual can own your data and control who has access to it. We sell to customers as a provider of trust, effectively — we’re a consumer-first company — but we don’t own your data.

—Sarah Zobel

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.