Welcome to the first founder interview here at early staged with Raul Popa, CEO of TypingDNA - enjoy!
Hi Raul! What's your background, and what are you working on?
I’ve been involved in a number of software startups in the last 15 years and I‘ve built a few successful bootstrapped projects along the way, mostly developer-first focused. I’ve walked the line from developer to tech manager, product manager, data scientist and now CEO and I learned that user experience is key to building successful businesses in a competitive world.
"At TypingDNA, we recognize people by the way they type, as a service. In other words: we’re improving security without compromising user experience."
Our technology is mostly used for 2FA (two-factor authentication) reducing friction and churn wherever identity fraud risk is high.
Above is an example of TypingDNA's Authenticator; a consumer facing alternative to Google Authenticator, read more about it on TechCrunch
Who are the founders and key team members?
We’re a small team, started in Oradea, Romania (a small, peaceful city in western Transylvania). Both of my co-founders are entrepreneurs I’ve met through my previous career. Cristian Tamas is one of the most brilliant marketing people I know, he’s extremely data-driven, constantly looking for innovative ways to improve, and promote the business. Adrian Gheara is a seasoned tech entrepreneur and angel investor, with a background in cybersecurity and SaaS.
The early founding team also includes valuable team members on the tech and sales side. Also, behind the scenes, there are a few other fintech, cybersecurity, and business veterans who help from the sideways as advisors or angel investors. I’m not mentioning them by name here but you can find more on our website.
What motivated you to get started with TypingDNA?
I am extremely passionate about a subfield in machine learning called pattern recognition. When I started researching deep into it, I became obsessed with understanding what is state of art and trying to improve further.
I stumbled upon typing biometrics (called “keystroke dynamics” back in the day), and the idea that people could be recognized by their typing patterns haunted me for a while. The technology was not really ready for production by any means, so I decided to step in. We type more than ever and we need more security than ever. I realized the answer is in our typing patterns and I felt the need to bring it to market myself.
Why is the team uniquely capable to execute the company’s business plan?
The team has impressive cross-domain expertise, very entrepreneurial, highly purpose driven, we’re all extremely passionate about the product, user experience, developers and the end customer. We all see beyond the existing product and have a clear path on which we’re executing with tremendous determination. It’s an unstoppable dream team that has a purpose: bringing typing biometrics to the world.
What are the key differentiated features of your product or service?
Our product really works, unlike a couple of other companies that claim to have a similar solution. Typing biometrics authentication is a hard problem to solve, a combination of pattern recognition, anomaly detection, one-shot learning, probability. There is no easy way to solve it. It takes days to reach 80% accuracy, years to reach 95%, almost impossible to reach over 99%.
We’re able to reach an unprecedented accuracy with just one or two previous samples (typing patterns).
Another key differentiator is our focus on bringing this technology directly to the developers through APIs. We’re a developer-first company like Twilio, Stripe, Algolia, Auth0 etc. We made our technology available to other developers like us.
What problem are you trying to solve with TypingDNA?
We’re solving biometric authentication in the browser and apps where other types of authentication are not possible or would add too much friction.
2FA is an important problem on which we focus. Where today you’re using SMS OTP (texted codes) or Google Authenticator as a second factor, you could be using our tech instead. Apps like Gmail, Facebook, Coinbase and others could just integrate our tech and use it to verify users identity to prevent identity fraud.
Who is your ideal customer?
Typical organizations that need additional security are those in the financial space (banking, payments, crypto), health, government, and enterprise space but technically every company that uses 2FA today is a potential customer.
Our champions are the developers. We love to deal with developers that have to solve 2FA, and identity fraud prevention problems.
What is the target market size?
We consider the addressable market to be around $10 billion in 2020.
What do you know that your competitors don’t?
Amazon started by selling books, and they did only that for 10 years before diversifying their services. Our competitors want to do everything on the behavioral side, everything on the identity and fraud prevention side. Nobody in the authentication business is that obsessed with a narrow field like “typing biometrics” like we are.
Who are your competitors and what will give you a competitive advantage?
All our main competitors have very similar profiles to potential partners. There are a few minor companies which we only regard as competitors because either they have a similar tech, they target developers or that they solve the same authentication problem but I prefer not to give any names.
As for the competitive advantage, I think it’s a combination of being the best at what we do and targeting a different audience: developers (versus C-level executives).
What early traction have you seen so far?
We have over 300k API calls last month, and growing at about 45% MoM in API calls.
What's your business model, and how do you plan to generate revenue?
Pay per authentication. Similar to AWS or other API based services.
What's your advice for other founders who are just starting out?
Start something meaningful, your business must have a purpose and you have to have passion and determination. It’s not going to be all good. At the beginning growing fast is not the most important thing, you want to grow slowly for a while, understand the domain inside and out, understand clients, competition, refine your product, then go full scale. Also, avoid crowded markets, if you’re going to compete on price - you’ll lose.
What are your goals for the future of typing biometrics?
We want to explore the domain inside and out and provide better tools for developers to use typing biometrics in their apps. In the future, we hope to drive innovation further and develop powerful complementary technologies.