In this company blog series, we will introduce our partner startups from the Bay area. We will dive deep into the company culture, founder stories, recruitment, and the employees in order to provide an even better picture of the experience Startuplifers is all about.
This is the third part of the series, read the first blog about BetterDoctor, second about Chartmetric and the fourth about Arch Systems. The third company on this series is UnifyID. We interviewed one of the founders, Kurt Somerville, University talent lead Connie Chan and their Machine Learning intern, Startuplifer Mihail Douharianis.
The quest towards a passwordless world
UnifyID was founded to solve one of the oldest and most fundamental problems in the organized society: authentication. Their core question is how to know you are the person you say you are. In other words, UnifyID is building an authentication tool that can identify people without actually bothering them to type passwords or swipe fingerprints.
The product generates a score of how likely it’s you holding your phone. There are clear use cases for their technology in mobile applications, but UnifyID team is hoping to expand to cover also physical locations, for example, locked doors. Check here as CEO and Founder John Whaley demonstrates at RSA Conference a real-world use case for the UnifyID implicit authentication platform.
Founders of UnifyID, John Whaley and Kurt Somerville, are truly passionate about what they do.
“When we came up with our initial idea, it was difficult to predict how people would react to the new authentication technology. The idea of getting rid of passwords is psychologically a huge step for consumers. That’s why we have introduced it step by step”, founder and COO Kurt explains. UnifyID is the leader in implicit authentication and behavioral biometrics and in 2017 it received a 20M series A funding.
Building THE team
In the beginning, it was just John and Kurt building the product. The situation changed when they participated in StartX, a startup accelerator and founder community associated with Stanford University. During the program, they realized it was time for the team to grow. After StartX, UnifyID began receiving more attention and therefore raising money and hiring a full-time team was the required next steps.
“Our product is extremely technical and thus it requires talented engineers onboard. That’s why we put a lot of effort into team building and culture”, says the Head of University Relations, Connie Chan. Team building and culture have been a priority for the UnifyID team from the very beginning.
Our Startuplifer Mihail finds the culture at UnifyID to be laid back but at the same time, very goal oriented. Everyone is given a lot of responsibility, but in addition to the ambitiousness, people are also supportive and there’s a good collaborative atmosphere.
Lifer-Life at UnifyID
Mihail is working as a machine learning intern at UnifyID. His time is split between improving their machine learning models, providing business and engineering support for their product, and contributing to the machine learning research community, which UnifyID is actively part of. Concretely, he’s doing research work such as papers, posters, blog posts, meetups, workshops, and demos.
Mihail explains how this position differs from previous jobs he has had: “I feel like the biggest difference is being able to see the impact of my work much more clearly than before.”
Feeling inspired? (Or paranoid?)
“People at UnifyID enjoy being paranoid together, all in all, we are building a security product. It’s good our team is able to understand the need for this,” Kurt adds, grinning.