Featured in Forbes’ ‘Hottest Young Startups in Europe’ and is a regular startup pitch winner. Tamas Kadar is a true tech nerd’s product visionary for creating a fraud-free world. He talks to Business Matters about his company SEON.
Tamas started SEON with his co-founder when they were still students in university and built it from scratch. A graduate of the elite Corvinus University, he studied Deep Info Comms where he saw first-hand how fraudsters and hackers looked to get around security measures.
What products or services does SEON provide?
In short, we fight fraud. We allow companies ranging from multi-billion dollar corporations to small start-ups to prevent fraud on their platforms.
More specifically, we can look into each person who signs up to a site or carries out a transaction and gain far more information than what they provide. For example, we can check if their email address is related to any social media profiles – if it is then that’s a good sign that the email is from a real person and not created by fraudsters.
We can also fingerprint devices to make sure that one computer isn’t setting up dozens of accounts, and that they aren’t accessing the site through a VPN or datacentre. Our systems then intelligently decide on a course of action based on potentially hundreds of pieces of data: most customers will be accepted, some with too many red flags will be rejected and others might be asked for more verification thanks to an ‘adaptive friction’ system.
What type of businesses do you work with?
Any business that interacts with customers and clients online can make use of our products – if you do any kind of online transaction then you are the potential victim of fraud and can therefore be one of our customers.
We have customers that range from major airlines to small retailers, and we are particularly strong with companies considered ‘high risk’ by older anti-fraud providers, like eGaming, crypto exchanges and financial innovators in the Fintech and buy-now-pay-later space.
What problem does your company solve?
Online crime is a multi-trillion dollar industry that could be as large as $10.5 trillion by 2025. It costs businesses, governments and individuals more than natural disasters, climate change and military spending combined, so it is vital that we find ways to counter online fraud that allow us to continue to buy and sell online without risk.
Of course, we could significantly reduce fraud with time-consuming, invasive checks to make sure every shopper and transaction is legitimate, but our approach is to reduce this ‘friction’ as much as possible while still giving everyone involved in a transaction first-class safety.
What is your USP?
We have combined best-in-class AI-driven fraud protection that is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the global digital fraud problem with the kind of accessibility and product-focussed mindset that you would find from a start-up.
There are other companies working with machine learning to create anti-fraud solutions, but our mentality and the way we approach problems is more attuned to the way cutting-edge companies work now. That means ideas like giving our customers 30-day free trials like Netflix instead of forcing them into a lengthy and costly service-level agreement and letting them administer their protection through a phone app- our customers can respond to threats from anywhere in the world, which is ideal when more people are remote working than ever.
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so, how have you dealt with it?
The product always comes first – we have to be making the very best solution on the market, because our customers could stand to lose millions if the protection we provide is substandard. We also know that a great product leads to word of mouth, which leads to sales – 90% of our customers come directly to us because they’ve heard about what we can do for them.
In our day-to-day, we encourage honesty, transparency and inclusion. Anyone in our company can have a great idea, so we don’t enforce rigid hierarchies and we make sure that everyone is heard.
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
We make it very clear from the outset what our values as a company are – anyone who even visits our website or reads our blog can get a sense for who we are and the kind of values we have. That’s an important step: showing at every level what you believe in and how you think about the problems that the company solves.
We’ve grown as a company to the point where senior management cannot have a one-to-one relationship with every employee like we could when we started, so we have to trust managers to hire people who share our enthusiasm for breaking the enterprise model and bring a more personal and consumer led way of business.
People who love what they do always succeed at SEON.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
Because we are a company with offices around the world – Hungary, London, the US, Indonesia (with more in the near future) – we have always been working ‘remotely’.
Collaborating by email and videoconferencing has been something we have been doing since the early days of the business, so it’s not been difficult for us to adapt.
We are in period of hyper growth at the company and this coincided with the pandemic, meaning that all our new employees in the last 18 months have been in the same boat – remote working, only meeting fellow employees over Zoom, etc. but there have still been plenty of opportunities to get into the office, as local guidelines allow in each location.
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
There is always a place for professionalism: making sure that you deliver on what you promise that you respond to emails and so on. But that will only take you so far, and by being more personal we have managed to outperform our more corporate competitors.
Getting to know our customers personally and understanding not just the problems that their business faces but the internal hurdles they have to face to solve those problems is how we can add substantially more value and create business relationships that are going to lead to our customers becoming advocates for the company.
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
You don’t need to be a multi-billion dollar unicorn in your first year to be successful in the tech industry. We have been conscious in growing through the strength of our product rather than relying purely on outside investment, which has meant that we have been able to retain financial control of the company and we are not splitting our earnings with too many outside parties. The good thing is, this strategy has led great venture capital companies, like Creandum, to come to us.
Other than that, we have always had a mentality that if something doesn’t provide value we don’t need it – fancy offices and branding are nice to have but when you’re starting out you don’t have to do things just because that’s what a ‘professional’ company does. Our motto has always been ‘whatever works’.
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?
Take fraud even more seriously. If anything else was costing the world ten trillion dollars a year it would be dealt with immediately, but because there’s a lack of understanding around digital crime and its effects, combined with a dismissive attitude that says that anything that happens digitally isn’t ‘real’, we have a lack of urgency and definitely a lack of joined-up thinking.
One of the only upsides of recent high-profile ransomware attacks is that they have bought attention to the fact that even major companies can be the target of attacks that were previously thought of as an annoyance for individuals. This will hopefully lead to the kind of global leadership that we need to start reducing fraud.
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
You can’t shake things up in any industry because you think that your competitors are getting things completely right. We know that even our strongest competitor is not doing everything well enough, and if we thought that there was no gap in the market for a better way of doing things then we wouldn’t have founded our company. That doesn’t mean that we have to be antagonistic towards other companies in our field. There is always something to learn from them – which isn’t the same as copying them.
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
We want to become the go-to solution for businesses to beat fraud. You know you’ve made it when your brand name becomes a verb, like Zoom, Google or Photoshop have. I’d love every online business to do a SEON check.