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Big Ideas: “A password-less future using fingerprints and facial recognition” With HYPR CEO George Avetisov

The idea for HYPR came to me from a science fiction novel. While reading the cyberpunk book Snow Crash, I was inspired by the concept of a “HYPERCARD” — a virtual business card used to represent a digital identity. I had a light bulb moment, wrote the name on a napkin, and the rest is history. Asa part of […]

The idea for HYPR came to me from a science fiction novel. While reading the cyberpunk book Snow Crash, I was inspired by the concept of a “HYPERCARD” — a virtual business card used to represent a digital identity. I had a light bulb moment, wrote the name on a napkin, and the rest is history.


Asa part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing George Avetisov. George is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of HYPR. He is responsible for the strategy and overall vision for the company. Under George’s leadership, HYPR has grown to become a leading provider of True Password-less Security, with millions of users secured worldwide. George brings with him a decade of experience in e-commerce, payments, and fraud prevention that have served as the foundation for HYPR’s vision.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ever since I was in high school, I’ve been selling stuff online in some way, shape, or form. Before HYPR it was online diamond sales, and before you ask how one goes from high-end jewelry to cybersecurity — it’s actually quite simple.

When you’re selling expensive goods online, you become a target for fraudsters. These cyber criminals use stolen identities to purchase items they can sell quickly — like gold and diamonds. Every day my team would encounter a stolen credit card, hacked PayPal account, bad check, or shady wire transfer — you name it, and I’ve probably been scammed by it. eCommerce is great because you see millions of dollars in legitimate online sales, but you’re constantly battling a number of fraudulent purchases that can and do get through. And when those purchases turn into chargebacks, the merchant — which was me at the time — would lose both the merchandise and the money.

One day, I woke up to find out that our merchant processor had deemed us “high risk,” froze over $200,000 of our funds, and shut down our account — right in the middle of our busiest season. Our business was paralyzed, our customers were unable to get their gifts, and I was livid. We eventually recovered, but that incident is what set me off and led me down the rabbit hole of digital identity. On the other end of that rabbit hole is HYPR.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Years ago, when we were in the beginning stages of raising money, a number of Silicon Valley venture capital firms told us that becoming a cybersecurity leader in New York City is highly unlikely. They all told us repeatedly that we would need to be in the Bay Area if we wanted to be taken seriously.

We didn’t care if they were right or wrong, so we stuck with it and decided to raise money in New York City anyways. Today, we’ve got some of the best firms behind us and our customers are some of the largest enterprises in the world. Looking back, I was probably irritated by this feedback at the time, but today I am incredibly grateful for it. It’s what motivated us to focus on New York City — after all, it is the financial capital of the United States.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The idea for HYPR came to me from a science fiction novel. While reading the cyberpunk book Snow Crash, I was inspired by the concept of a “HYPERCARD” — a virtual business card used to represent a digital identity. I had a light bulb moment, wrote the name on a napkin, and the rest is history.

Backed by brand-name industry leaders Mastercard and Samsung, HYPR is leading the charge toward a true password-less future by redefining how digital identity data is stored and what secure login systems look like. Today the password is the #1 cause of major security breaches — but HYPR is working to change that. By leveraging a bleeding edge approach known as “decentralized authentication,” HYPR removes the need for centralized passwords and enables users to authenticate to the internet without sharing their personal data. That means safely using your fingerprint to unlock your car or using facial recognition to pay your phone bill. As sci-fi as it may sound, this password-less future is already a reality and has proven to be much safer and more secure than passwords are capable of.

How do you think this will change the world?

Since the invention of the password in the 1960s, the way we secure our digital identities has practically remained the same for half a century. However, times are changing, and from Marriott to Dunkin’ to Yahoo, it seems like a new, massive data breach that threatens our passwords hits every day. We are continuously inundated with alerts to change our passwords and warnings that our accounts are potentially compromised. Today, 81% of breaches are caused by weak or stolen passwords, according to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report. All of this has led to a level of distrust across the industry. Companies no longer trust their users, users don’t trust their devices, and trust in our tech giants to keep our digital identities safe has never been worse.

As unsettling as this news is, the scariest part is that hackers use these stolen passwords to conduct even more, larger security breaches — but HYPR is working to change this. True password-less security is a paradigm shift that changes everything. Eliminating the password is not just about stopping credential reuse and saving billions of dollars in fraud losses — it’s about rebuilding that trust we once had in the internet. True password-less security presents a complete transformation in the way billions of humans interact with the digital world.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

HYPR already has huge customers across the globe, including industry leaders such as Aetna and Mastercard. By focusing on deploying true password-less security to the Global 2000 enterprises, we’re able to bring this solution to millions of users.

Luckily, tech giants are sharing the importance of going password-less with their users. Industry leaders such as Microsoft and Google are pushing other companies to go password-less. This is driving a lot of widespread adoption, making it easy for customers to understand why HYPR is so relevant right now. I expect that conversations around the importance of password-less security will only continue to increase, making the future bright for HYPR.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

I don’t buy into the notion that we won’t need to work. Human beings love to work and many of us find work rewarding. Millennia of hard work has led humanity to this point — it’s why we’re even talking about a future without work.

But if I had to give anyone advice on future-proofing, it would be to understand other people’s roles and to welcome the opportunity to wear many hats. In fact, I urge people to try wearing many hats whenever you can. This may sound like a distraction — but it’s critical to understanding cross-functional roles and not remaining siloed into one job. Never lose focus, but always welcome the opportunity to understand how other roles and organizations succeed. You can go very far with that desire to learn — and if a robot replaces you, then at the very least you have an idea of other directions you can go.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

Pokémon cards — I’m serious. The tech bubble will one day collapse. Buy Pokémon cards.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

“Fear is the mind killer.” It’s a quote from Frank Herbert’s novel and TV show Dune. I’m fairly certain that many of our missteps are the result of fear of failure, and even fear of success.

In technology, the idea that you might succeed is sometimes just as terrifying as the prospect of falling flat on your face. What’s important is not whether you succeed or fail — it’s that you maintain control of your own mind and judgment throughout the process. Fear paralyzes your mind and leads to clouded thinking. You might be afraid of things but just knowing this fact and being self-aware already means you’ve won.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Stop reading books about success habits and success mindsets. Stop deifying the entrepreneurs who have made an industry on selling content educating you about “how to succeed.” Your success mindset is your own. Everyone has their own. Just because someone wakes up at 4am to do Yoga and answer emails doesn’t make them successful and doesn’t mean you should, too. I urge you to find your own success habits and maximize their output.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Passwords are the very things that are supposed to keep us secure — but now that we’re being inundated with never-ending data breaches, they’re in the hands of cyber attackers. We’re at even more of a risk because these passwords are centrally stored all in one place. This means that no matter how many numbers and special characters your password has, if it is centrally stored, then it is already vulnerable. It is for this reason that the only true path to securing our accounts is through decentralized password-less security that is based on biometrics. Today the password is the #1 cause of major security breaches — but HYPR is working to change that. Backed by leading names Samsung and Mastercard, HYPR removes the need for centralized passwords, enabling users to authenticate to the internet or mobile device without sharing their personal data. True password-less security is the paradigm shift, removing the hacker’s favorite target and forcing them to focus on each device individually. As sci-fi as it may sound, this password-less future is already a reality and has proven to be much safer and more secure than passwords are capable of.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/george-avetisov/

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