SecurifAI is a Romanian team of business-minded professionals, researchers and engineers, highly motivated to deliver end-to-end artificial intelligence–based systems, with state-of-the-art computer vision and machine learning algorithms, delivering real-time alerts and useful analytics. We spoke with Valeriu Filip, CEO & cofounder, about AI technology, tech startup funding and life as an entrepreneur.
SeedBlink: How did you start SecurifAI? What was the inspiration behind this business?
Valeriu: Our main purpose when starting SecurifAI was maintaining the safety and security of people. Our first thoughts were about automatic prevention of incidents such as theft, fraudulent border crossings and even terrorist bombings. Then we became more pragmatic and realized how huge the business potential was.
Artificial intelligence has always fascinated me from childhood; being passionate about science fiction, I was really inspired to dream big, and that stayed with me up until my early 40s. Dreaming “big” means innovating not only the technological market in Romania but making global change with a passionate team.
The inspiration behind this was that missed potential of streaming data that was lost after no later than 30 days, plus the incentive to deter criminal organization or individuals that pose a threat to a civilized approach in society.
What is the core problem that you are solving with your offering?
I believe that our product offers solutions to problems related to human safety and security but also in terms of business process optimization.
From video, we can detect all sorts of data that can be used by companies or municipalities. Data can be used on the streets not only to estimate vehicle traffic but also to motivate responsible behavior in play parks, shops, inside factories or for construction site supervision.
From a tech point of view, we simply connect some “dumb” cameras with dumb-AI and make those smart together.
What role does AI play in your product?
AI is at the core of all our products we have developed so far, and that will be the same 20 years from now, hopefully. The whole idea is to AI-enable the dumb video streams and extract information that can be put to use in all possible contexts or business use cases.
How did you introduce your product to the market? What was your go-to-market strategy?
Our market strategy was to present the products or possible use cases that can be covered with our technology to the other hubs or TIC integrators for validation and together with these partners to address the solutions to the final clients. That will be complemented in the future with our own sales representatives and account managers.
If you ask about our vision for market strategy, that’s another story; AI is hard to sell because most of us want to buy the sci-fi solutions seen in the movies; and for that you either truly invent or replicate the sci-fi technology or deal with client expectations in a calm manner that takes no less than 6-12 months until he/she understands the difference between dreams and facts.
Another pain comes from external competitors and insufficient AI tech embedded into surveillance cameras. To beat, that the best choice is to let the customer feel the downside of those inferior products and afterwards reinitiating discussions to come back to us; this really worked a couple of times.
How is the current market for tech startups? Is there a good time to launch a new tech startup?
I think the best time is when you know what the market offers and you know what you can offer; based on that trust and belief, other team members will follow your strength and consistency. After that, everything comes naturally; you will have funding opportunities, you will be able to grow your team to maturity and you can refine or pivot your go-to-market ideas.
What funding options did you explore?
In late 2016, we applied for the competitiveness operational program financed from non-reimbursable European funds; we got a 200.000 Euro grant that kick-started our plans. In late 2019 we obtained our first investment from a VC fund, GapMinder, then finished the second round of investment in 2020 with Seedblink.
In the meantime, we managed to get our first stream of income from the projects implemented for our customers. Regarding potential investments, in this year we will keep an eye on the United States, where we’ll open our first subsidiary, in Delaware.
What secondary effects has the SeedBlink listing had on SecurifAI?
It feels a little like a wave at the seaside that lifts you without feeling the effort or gravity. That “lift” comes from the awareness obtained and the courage to present ourselves as a team with vision.
Honestly, I think the wave has barely started and we hope for as much display area/minutes/attention as possible to attract genuine interest from potential customers.
What should a tech entrepreneur keep in mind when building the team?
It’s hard to give advice because when you have a team, all relations are personal. I think the most important thing that attracts team players to your side is the “big” dreams or promise to make a change.
But the next most important thing is to keep the ones you can truly grow together with, and you do that by alignment of purpose; when you align the dreams in your vision with the dreams of your team players, you have the right “mojo.”
Last but not least, another important element is trust and appreciation of effort, effort that (luckily for those who work hard) pays for itself and as a team member you grow and you become mature and fulfilled by the work involved.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as an entrepreneur?
My biggest challenge is finding the right mix between my first love, being a tech geek, and management, which feels like more of a burden to me.
There is a lot to do and a lot of people to talk to about different situations. Colleagues may have questions or need approval of ideas; partners may need help or discussions about some proposals. Honestly, it’s a messy world that as an entrepreneur you have to manage for yourself.
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs who aspire to build their own tech startup?
I can tell them that they need enough sleep because a long period of work in several directions follows – and I thank all my colleagues who help me not to forget that.
Before starting anything, it is important for young entrepreneurs to know the market and the means inside-out, but they also have to be prepared to adapt and collect any piece of new information along the way. Prepare for change, because nothing is eternal and ideas grow old instantaneously.
Then read, a lot: read technology and trends in advance to see where you put your efforts for the future and why you shouldn’t invest in something that when finished is no longer needed.
What are your future plans for SecurifAI?
A lot; let’s keep them for a future conversation because there is so much to talk about.
One thing is sure: we dream big and we are very confident about our future.
By Bianca Iulia Simion
PublishedFebruary 10, 2021
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