Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Salv, an anti-money laundering (AML) startup founded by former TransferWise and Skype employees, has raised $ 2 million in seed funding.

The round is led by Fly Ventures, alongside Passion Capital and Seedcamp. Angel investors also participating include N26 founder Maximilian Tayenthal (who seems to be doing quite a bit of angel investing), Twilio CTO Ott Kaukver, and Taavi Kotka, former CIO for Estonia (the actual country!).

Founded in June 2018 and initially offering consultancy, Estonia-based Salv has built a software platform that helps banks find and stop financial crime. The idea, says co-founder and CEO Taavi Tamkivi, is to move AML beyond just compliance to something more proactive that actually does defeat crime. That’s quite the promise, although he and his co-founders have a lot experience to draw from, both within fast-growing startups and AML.

Tamkivi built the AML, fraud, and Know Your Customer (KYC) teams at TransferWise and Skype. COO Scott McClelland also worked in the anti-fraud team at Skype, followed by a stint at TransferWise, first as an analyst and then in HR. And CTO Sergei Rumjantsev was also formerly at TransferWise, leading the engineering team responsible for KYC and verification.

“This was a highly demanding role, especially given how fast TransferWise was growing, how many new markets were coming online, and how central user verification is for compliance,” Tamkivi tells me. “Under Sergei’s leadership, the team made the verification process incredibly smooth over time for genuine customers. But also robust enough to protect TransferWise from on-boarding bad actors”.

Bad actors within financial services are aplenty, of course. Yet, despite the European banking sector spending billions tackling the problem, it is estimated that only 1-2% of global money-laundering is detected.

“AML should be all about stopping money laundering but, particularly in the last decade, layer upon layer of regulations have been added for banks to comply with,” says Tamkivi. “This would be great if that meant that there was no more money laundering, but sadly, that’s a long way off. Today, between $ 1-2 trillion a year is still laundered. But the excessive regulations mean that nearly all of a bank’s compliance team’s effort goes into compliance. They have very little energy left to actually focus on improving their financial crime-fighting abilities. The software they’re using is similar, focused almost wholly on compliance, not crime-fighting”.

That is where Salv wants to step in, and Tamkivi says the main difference between the startup’s AML software and other existing solutions is a much greater emphasis on crime-fighting rather than a box-ticking compliance exercise.

“We’re aiming to create a transformation similar to what’s happened in virus scanning,” he says. “10-15 years ago virus scanners on everyone’s PCs were an enormous hassle, consumed tons of resources and stopped you from getting work done. The same is true in financial institutions today. They’re using outdated, heavy software and processes to handle AML. But today, virus scanning still happens, but nobody’s worried about it. It happens in the background, with few resources. We’ll do the same in the AML world”.

In addition, the Salv CEO claims that the company’s software is faster than competitors’ offerings, both in terms of set up time and integration, and making changes to the rules the system adheres to.

“Our system, by contrast, takes a month or less to set up and minutes to modify the rules,” he says. “As a result, our customers can take everything they learn today from new criminal patterns, encode it in automated rules tomorrow, and repeat that cycle every day to protect their bank. Moving fast is the only way to keep up with the innovative organised criminals moving millions or billions around the world”.

To that end, Salv already counts Estonian bank LHV as its first customer. “They offer a full suite of banking products across Estonia,” says Tamkivi. “They’re also active in London, in particular, supporting fintechs. We have another couple of customers in the Lithuanian fintech scene. One of those is DeVere e-Money”.

More generally, Salv’s product is said to be suitable for Tier 2 and Tier 3 banks, as well as regulated fintechs and challenger banks.

Meanwhile, the business model is straightforward enough. Salv charges a monthly subscription, while the price varies based on the number of active customers a bank or fintech has.


TechCrunch

Saudi Arabian officials allegedly paid at least two employees of Twitter to access personal information on users the government there was interested in, according to recently unsealed court documents. Those users were warned of the attempt in 2015, but the full picture is only now emerging.

According to an AP report citing the federal complaint, Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah were both approached by the Saudi government, which promised “a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars” if they could retrieve personal information on certain users.

Abouammo worked for Twitter in media partnerships in the Middle East, and Alzabarah was an engineer; both are charged with acting as unregistered Saudi agents — spies.

Alzabarah reportedly met with a member of the Saudi royal family in Washington, D.C. in 2015, and within a week he had begun accessing data on thousands of users, including at least 33 that Saudi Arabia had officially contacted Twitter to request information on. These users included political activists and journalists critical of the royal family and Saudi government.

This did not go unnoticed and Alzabarah, when questioned by his supervisors, reportedly said he had only done it out of curiosity. But when he was forced to leave work, he flew to Saudi Arabia with his family literally the next day, and now works for the government there.

The attempt resulted in Twitter alerting thousands of users that they were the potential targets of a state-sponsored attack, but that there was no evidence their personal data had actually been exfiltrated. Last year, the New York Times reported that this event had been prompted by a Twitter employee groomed by Saudi officials for the purpose. And now we learn there was another employee engaged in similar activity.

The cases in question are still open and as such more information will likely come to light soon. I asked Twitter for comment on the events and what specifically it had done to prevent similar attacks in the future. It did not respond directly to these queries, instead providing the following statement:

We would like to thank the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for their support with this investigation. We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service. Our company limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees. We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work. We’re committed to protecting those who use our service to advocate for equality, individual freedoms, and human rights.


TechCrunch

If you work for someone else, you likely know the drill: in comes that annual email reminding you that it’s time for unconscious bias or sexual harassment training, and if you could please finish up this mandatory module by this date, that would be terrific.

The email — not to mention the programming itself — is straight out of “Office Space.” Little surprise that when Anne Solmssen, a Harvard-trained computer scientist, happened to call a friend recently who was clicking through his own company-sponsored training program, his answer to how it was going was, “It’s more interesting when I have baseball on.”

Solmssen has some other ideas about how to make sexual harassment training far more interesting and less “cringe-worthy.” Indeed, she recently joined forces with Roxanne Petraeus, another Harvard grad, to create Ethena, a software-as-a-service startup that’s promising customizable training delivered in bite-size segments that caters to individuals based on how much they already know about sexual harassment in the workplace. The software will also be sector-specific when it’s released more widely in the first quarter of next year.

The company first came together this past summer led by Petraeus, who joined the U.S. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to help defray the cost of her Ivy League education and wound up spending seven years in the U.S. Army, including as a civil affairs officer, before co-founding an online meals marketplace, then spending a year with McKinsey & Co. to get a better handle on how businesses are run.

Petraeus says that across her experience, and particularly in the Army, she had “great leaders who were super thoughtful” about sexual harassment training, “who cared about their [reports’] development goals and what was happening in their personal lives, and brought out the best in their people, rather than making them feel less than or marginalized.”

Still, she was aware that from an institutional standpoint, most harassment training is not thoughtful, that it’s a matter of checking boxes on an annual basis to ensure compliance with different state laws, depending on where an organization is headquartered. She marveled that so much of the content employees are being forced to consume seems “designed for a 1980s law firm.”

Solmssen was meanwhile working for a venture-backed public safety software company, Mark43. She was getting along just fine, too, but when a friend put the two in touch on the hunch that their engineering talent and vision could amount to something, that instinct proved right.

“I’d been working for Mark43 for four years, and I wasn’t particularly interested in starting a business,” Solmssen says. “But I fell in love with Roxanne and this idea, and I came to this thinking that someone needs to make [this training process] better. We’re still using the tools and technologies that we’ve had since 1997.”

So how is what they’re building different than what’s currently available? In lots of ways, seemingly. For starters, Ethena doesn’t want employees to “knock it out all at once” in an hour or two of training at the end of each year. Instead, it’s creating what it calls monthly “nudges” that deliver relevant studies and questions on a monthly basis — information that can then be used in an all-hands meeting, for example, helping to reinforce its goals.

It’s also focused on sending content and questions to people that’s iterative and that evolves based on how an individual responds. A new hire might answer very differently than a sponsor of other women within an organization, for example. It’s a stark contrast to to the black-and-white scenarios that every employee is typically presented. (Think: “Judy and Brian go to a bar after work.”)

These subtleties are a significant development, argues Petraeus, because “traditional training implicitly tells employees that going to spending time together outside of work is bad for mentorship. It’s why you hear things like, ‘I just hired my first female analyst; can I get into an Uber with her when we’re traveling?’ ” Turning every mixed-gender occasion into a potential minefield is “not the message we should be conveying.”

Yet it’s a message that’s being absorbed. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey, 60% of managers who are men are now uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone or socializing together. That’s a 32% jump from a year ago. According to that same survey, senior-level men are now 12 times more hesitant to have one-on-one meetings with junior women, nine times more hesitant to travel together and six times more hesitant to have work dinners together.

Even the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission thinks sexual harassment training has gone wrong somewhere, noting that it hasn’t worked as a prevention tool in part because it’s been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability. Indeed, a few years ago, a task force studying harassment in the workplace on behalf of the EEOC concluded that “effective training cannot occur in a vacuum – it must be part of a holistic culture of non-harassment that starts at the top.” Similarly, it added, “one size does not fit all: training is most effective when tailored to the specific workforce and workplace and different cohorts of employees.”

Toward that end, and with compliance in mind, Ethena is also modernizing the content it delivers, including as it pertains to dating at work, which definitely happens; and inclusivity around pregnant colleagues, who are often subtly marginalized; and transgender colleagues, who can also find themselves feeling either misunderstood or overlooked by current sexual harassment training materials.

There’s also a heavy focus on analytics. If 60% of employees don’t know about a company’s policies around office dating, for example, or employees in an outfit’s marketing department appear to know less about an organization’s values than other departments, it will flag these things so managers can take preventative action. (“Say there’s a new manager in the LA office where employees seem to be answering less consistently,” suggests Solmssen. “We can provide additional training to get that person up to speed.”)

For Petraeus — who is the daughter-in-law of retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus — the overarching goal is to kill off mandatory yearly training where the takeaway for many employees, the fundamental standard, is, “Can I go to jail for this comment?”

It’s too soon to say if Ethena will be successful. It’s only halfway through a pilot training program at the moment. But Solmssen and Petraeus are strong pitchmen, and they say their software will be available beginning in the first quarter of next year for $ 4 per employee per month, which is on a par with other e-learning programs.

The startup has also won the support of early backers who’ve already given the months-old outfit $ 850,000 to start hiring. Among those investors: Neo, a venture fund started last year by serial entrepreneur Ali Partovi; Village Global; and Jane VC, which is a fund focused on women-led startups.

Numerous angel investors have also written Ethena a check, including Reshma Saujani, who is the founder of the organization Girls Who Code, and a handful of military veterans.

As for the last group, “they’re not a group that’s typically represented in startup ventures,” observes Petraeus, “but in terms of leadership and thinking about how to get a diverse team oriented around the same goal,” they’re hard to match.


TechCrunch

Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, has a new book coming out this coming Monday titled “What You Do is Who You Are,” that takes a look at how to create “culture” at a company.

It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot but very hard grasp, let alone implement in a sustainable way. Horowitz learned firsthand as a CEO how elusive it can be when he took stock of his company, only to discover it was made up of “screamers who intimidated their people,” others who “neglected to give any feedback,” and at least one compulsive liar who excelled at sucking up to Horowitz and also making up stories from whole cloth.

Horowitz says creating culture was a missing part of his education, and in this new book — a follow-up to his best-selling “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” — he does his best to fill that gap for other CEOs, using his own experience, as well as lessons gleaned from historical figures Toussaint Louverture and Genghis Khan, along with Shaka Senghor, a contemporary who served time for murder and today is a criminal justice reform advocate.

It’s an instructive and novel combination, and we suggest picking up the book, especially if you love history. In the meantime, we sat down recently with Horowitz to talk about its timing and whether some of the biggest cultural blow-ups in the startup industry — Uber and WeWork — could have been avoided. These excerpts have been edited for length and clarity. Note that we’ll have more of the conversation — including Horowitz’s thoughts about dual-class shares —  for readers of Extra Crunch on Monday.

TC: You’ve just written a book about culture that’s coming out just as a lot of questions are being raised about culture because of WeWork. What happened there?

BH: [Cofounder Adam Neumann] had a certain kind of culture there. He had some holes — some great strengths and great holes. And sometimes that happens. When you’re really good at part of it, you can delude yourself into thinking that you’ve got everything you need, when you have some massive incompleteness.

Adam is so amazing. Like, the way they got all the money and everything. And the vision was so spectacular. And everybody there believed it, and they recruited some phenomenal talent. But when you’re that optimistic, it does help to have something in the culture that says [allows] people to bring you the bad news, like, if the accounting is all over the place or what have you.

TC: As with Uber’s Travis Kalanick, whose culture also came under fire, Neumann operated in very plain sight. He wasn’t hiding who he was or what he was spending. 

BH: Right, everybody knew how Travis was running the company. Everyone in Silicon Valley knew, let alone everyone on the board. The culture was published. You can look up Uber’s values [from that period].

Travis designed, I think, a really compelling culture, and believed in it, and published it. And the consequences of what he was missing were also super well-known. It’s only when board members think people are coming after them that [they take an interest in these things].

TC: What are the biggest lessons in these two cases?

BH: I obviously know more about Uber [as a Lyft investor who follows the space]. In Uber’s case, it’s a very subtle thing. Travis had a really good code. But he had a bug in it.

I think it was reported that, like, Travis encouraged bad behavior. I don’t think he did at all. I just think he didn’t make it clear that legal and ethical [considerations] were more important than competitiveness. As a result, when left to their own devices, in a distributed organization where there was a lot of distributed power, that combination had people doing things that were out of bounds.

And he was making everybody so much money. And the company was growing so fast that, for the board members, I suspect they were like, ‘As long as it’s making money, I’m not going to worry about what happens next.’

To me, the unfair part is, like, they shouldn’t get any credit at the end. Whatever you’re blaming Travis for [you should blame them, too] because they didn’t see it, either. I think that’s a charitable way of putting it.

The reason I wanted to go through [how to create business culture] in the book is so if you’re a new CEO, you can see, look, this thing looks like a small problem, but it’s going to become a big problem. Ethics are a bit like security issues. They’re not a problem at all until they’re a problem. Then they’re existential.

TC: Why was this issue on your mind?

BH: A few things. First, it was the thing that I had the most difficult time with as a CEO. People would say, ‘Ben, pay attention to culture, it really is the key.’ But when you were like, ‘Okay, great, how do i do that?’ it was like, ‘Um, maybe you should have a meeting about it.’ Nobody could convey: what it was, how you dealt with it, how you designed it. So I felt like I was missing a piece of my own education.

Also, when I look at the work I do now, it’s the most important thing. What I say to people at the firm is that nobody 10 or 20 or 30 years from now is going to remember what deals we’ve won or lost or what the returns were on this or that. You’re going to remember what it felt like to work here and to do business with us and what kind of imprint we put on the world. And that’s our culture. That’s our behavior. We can’t have any drift from that. And I think that’s true for every company.

On top of that, the companies in Silicon Valley have grown so fast and become so powerful that they’re getting a lot of criticism about their culture now, which, some of it is fair enough. But the proposed solutions are wacky  . . . so it kind of felt like somebody had to make a positive contribution and not just a critique about, like, okay, here’s what you ought to do.

TC: They’re also distributed, as you noted with Uber, but I don’t think you talk about remote workforces in this book. Do you have thoughts about establishing a culture where individuals are scattered here and there? 

BH: I didn’t talk about remote workforces and that one is interesting because it’s evolving because the tool sets are changing. It used to be nearly impossible for an engineering organization to be distributed and to be effective, because the information flow wasn’t good enough and the build systems weren’t good enough. And so for years, Microsoft would only buy companies that they could move to Redmond.

Lately, due to things like Slack and Tandem, people are getting better results with it. And I think a lot of the cultural techniques intersect with the tools quite a bit. But then you have to set the culture through electronic media more than you would walking around, catching somebody doing thing in a meeting.

We just did a thing on email the other day. We have this cultural value, which is: we don’t like to criticize entrepreneurs. I don’t care if we think your idea is stupid or whatever. You’re trying to create something from nothing. You’re trying to chase your dream. We support that, period. So if you get on Twitter and do what Bill Gurley does and say, ‘That company is a stupid piece of shit. It’ll never made a $ 1 and blah blah blah,’ like, you get fired for that. [Similarly] on our podcast, we have a news segment and I didn’t want us to do a story on ‘WeWork, the cautionary tale.’ That’s not us. And it’s a cultural statement. There are a million people who are going to write that story; we were like, let them write that story.

So you don’t have to be in person to set the tone, but you do have to be thoughtful about the way you do it, and who all hears it.

TC: Why weave in the cultural figures that you have? There are so many people you could have included, and you focused on these three individuals.

BH: It’s a weird origin story, but Prince years ago put out an album called 3121, and he opened this club in Vegas called the 3121, and he would perform there, like, every weekend. And the show would start at 10 and he would show up at midnight or 1 a.m., but during that time in between, he would show these old films with these really interesting dancers in these elaborate clothes. And you’d just be watching these old guys, and then Prince would start to splice in [his own movies, including] “Under the Cherry Moon” and “Purple Rain,” and you’d go, well those are the dance moves from those guys [in the older films] and that’s a quote from those guys And you realize: that was what he was trying to express. And I thought, you know, I finally really understand him. And I thought, you know, [these three] have really influenced my views on culture [for a variety of reasons] and it would be a good way to tell this story.

More on Monday . . .


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