With the need for heightened cybersecurity, many companies have devised incredibly complex systems to stop hackers but have overlooked the more obvious. Simply put, if I know who you are, I can recognize your features and can therefore trust who you are. Why shouldn’t a computer be able to do the same thing. HYPR Corp. is doing just this with their biometric authorization that can scan your voice, face, hand, or eyeballs so that you can avoid you the nuisance of remembering a password that we have come to known can be easily compromised. Focused on the enterprise market, the company will finally rid of those annoying dongles that generate random numbers or more appropriately referred to as RSA security token-based authentication.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and cofounder George Avetisov about the company and their latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We are announcing that we’ve raised $3 million in seed funding led by Kirill Sheynkman of RTP Ventures along with Ed Sim of Boldstart Ventures and Ed Chyau of Mesh Ventures.
Tell us about your product or service.
HYPR enables Fortune 500 enterprises to scale decentralized biometric authentication securely across millions of users. Our biometric tokenization solution integrates seamlessly into employee and customer-facing applications — allowing users to authenticate with any combination of voice, face, touch, eye, and palm recognition. HYPR empowers companies worldwide to deliver a secure passwordless experience across mobile, desktop and IoT systems.
What inspired you to start the company?
With all of the data breaches in the past few years, and the proliferation of connected devices in the Internet of Things, it was clear that a new paradigm was necessary.
We assessed that desktop and mobile devices with compliant biometric sensors are becoming widely available, with analysts estimating that approximately 4.8 billion biometric-enabled devices are enabled in 2020. With so many different biometric sensors, modalities and algorithms it was clear that enterprises would face challenges in scaling these new authentication mechanisms across their large user bases.
The HYPR solution suite provides enterprises end-to-end biometric tokenization — allowing any password or PIN-based authentication to be replaced with any biometric modality. By keeping biometric data stored across user devices in a secure decentralized manner, HYPR eliminates both the user’s and the enterprise’s exposure to malicious attacks on mobile devices.
How is it different?
There are many biometrics companies but very few dedicated to biometric security. HYPR does not create any matching algorithms or sensors. We provide enterprises the power to control the biometric tokenization scheme however they want. Unlike many other companies in the biometrics industry out there that focus on a particular modality, HYPR offers a fully integrated solution that enables the secure use of all biometric modalities — voice, face, touch, eye, and palm recognition. We want companies to choose how and what biometrics they use, and to keep their users’ biometric data secure.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We are focused on Fortune 500 enterprises, with specific focus on banking, financial services, ecommerce and insurance. We also target government organizations and manufacturers of IoT devices.
What’s your business model?
We’re strictly a B2B company serving Fortune 500 enterprises, with some focus on government including defense. HYPR provides the underlying security architecture, and access to biometric sensing modalities, for large enterprises to deploy on their applications a fully biometric experience — absent passwords. Enterprises deploy HYPR under the hood as a security, usability, and competitive offering to their customers.
Since we are deployed by our customers, our users can and will use HYPR on many applications — think mobile and desktop banking apps, connected home apps — making one user a HYPR customer many times over. What’s interesting is that HYPR biometric security technology is deployed across large user populations and most consumers who use our technology every day likely have never heard of us.
What are some techniques that you have found effective for selling into Fortune 500 enterprises?
We’ve found that working with security teams — or senior decision-makers overseeing new security initiatives— to be helpful. The best-selling experiences often start with identifying an internal champion who is looking to innovate with bleeding-edge technology from startups, as opposed to just leading edge technology and incumbent vendors.
What was the funding process like?
The funding process is reminiscent of selling to Fortune 500 enterprises, and that’s saying a lot. With a technology as innovative and disruptive as HYPR, getting buy-in from VCs in today’s climate requires substantial customer traction. Especially in a field as saturated as cyber security, VCs are looking for more and more proof points to prove differentiation. Our advice to cyber security startups looking to raise capital would be to focus on generating strong customer interest. If you’ve run a tight ship focused on customers from day one, you’ll find the path to capital when the time is right.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
New York’s VC landscape can be tough to navigate if you’re a cybersecurity startup. The biggest challenge we faced was finding the right technical VCs with an understanding of large enterprise software. We’re fortunate to be working with RTP, Boldstart, and Mesh — some of the top enterprise software teams who understand the technology and understand the needs of our large customers.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Simply put we have large customers — a lot of large customers — who are deploying our technology to their large populations of users. We designed our solution suite for Fortune 500 customers and that is who we serve. An exciting roster of household names that generates meaningful revenue and will speak on our behalf has helped us partner with our investors. We’re lucky that our backers such as RTP, Boldstart, and Mesh are leaders in the enterprise software space, with an understanding of what technology has long-term potential.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Our funding round was sought and closed for one purpose, and that is for needed expansion of our engineering team to better support our enterprise partners. We are investing in top talent and the resources that will enable us to service more large enterprise clients as we sign them. Our goal is to complete our existing customer integrations and service them without reaching a tech deficit, and to be able to integrate and service a new large enterprise customer in faster cycles.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
As CEO of a once-small tech company, I suggest other tech startups build their company for customers from day one and not fall into the trap of building a company designed to close its first professional funding round. Don’t raise money if you don’t need to, and don’t raise more than you need. It sounds easy to say, but the attention you give your customers will give you tremendous opportunities to learn, innovate, and grow. Yes, you will reach a point where you will plateau but that is a good problem to have. It’s also an easier case to make in front of VCs, that you require resources to continue to succeed. Our other advice is to use your resources sparingly and support your team since they’re the backbone of everything.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
HYPR is deploying to large user populations through integration with household names. In the near-term we’d like to see us helping enterprises scale HYPR across tens of millions of users. Our partners in our core financial services and IoT verticals are extremely excited about our biometric tokenization technology, so we predict an accelerated deployment of HYPR across their user populations.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
That’s a tough one. Being in the Alley, in K-Town, and now at our new headquarters in Herald Square, I’d say it’s Turntable Chicken Jazz. No matter whom we bring there we always seem to have a good meal, good fun, and it makes an impression.