Atlanta-based water drop Dramatically shrinks its headquarters footprint even as it succeeds in attracting world-class talent and increasing its global reach in an era of an upside-down pandemic.
The Atlanta-based tech company, which has raised about $ 220 million since launching 10 years ago, will grow in January from 85,000 square feet to Biltmore in Downtown to a space of less than one-third (25,000 square feet) on the seventh floor of a new West city center mixed-use development called Locking.
This is part of a shift to a remote work-first posture that the company introduced immediately after the onset of the pandemic and refined with lessons learned as the COVID-19 era progressed over the 18 last months.
Co-founder and CEO of Pindrop Vijay Balasubramaniyan, a doctorate from Georgia Tech, did some âquick mathâ in March 2020 and statistically knew it was only a matter of time before the company saw its first case of COVID among its 300+ employees. Pindrop, which helps customers like banks and insurance companies fight fraud by authenticating users with their voice, went remote almost immediately.
âPeople’s productivity actually jumped, and it was super surprising, but it’s not just a happy story,â he told Global Atlanta in an interview.
After six months, Pindrop executives began to see trends in the data that showed some things were in fact lost in the reshuffle. It turned out that being physically together was vital when a new project took off.
âWhen you create something new, you need people to meet, think, set up a whiteboard – it’s the crucible of innovation,â said Dr Balasubramaniyan.
Collaboration between teams also suffered amid back-to-back virtual meetings that prevented natural breaks where people could go to another department and quickly resolve an emerging issue.
And finally, this sense of belonging in Atlanta’s bubbling tech ecosystem was hard to emulate over an internet connection, making the playing field extremely competitive for top tech talent locally, nationally and even globally, though the trend ended up working in Pindrop’s – and Atlanta – favor.
Pindrop has created a corporate culture where its employees take pride in protecting clients from losses that can easily reach millions of dollars when accounts are compromised, Dr Balasubramaniyan said.
âWe are very proud of our mission. We keep people’s bank accounts from going to zero; we have a very strong sense of purpose and mission, âhe said.
Top talent – from anywhere
Atlanta has a huge talent pool, but to recruit “large-scale leaders,” local businesses often had to look to the West Coast or other tech hubs. Amid the pandemic, a “big unlock” occurred when senior tech executives were detached from their headquarters and were more open to exploring places like Atlanta, Dr Balasubramaniyan said.
A remote-first option gives them the choice to enjoy the charms of the city while retaining their home bases elsewhere, a sense of flexibility that has helped Pindrop land two key executive hires: Colin davis, who launched Amazonof Alexa for Business and ran productivity apps for Amazon Web Services, became CTO in June, while Ed Tang, a veteran of Selling power and Box, joined as CFO in July.
âIt’s not just that we’re attracting top talent to Atlanta,â he said, pointing to the high-level technological pedigrees of the new hires. âAtlanta is super attractive and the pandemic has caused people to search for gold anywhere. When people originally went to California for the Gold Rush, it wasn’t like California was very well known then.
These executives, on the other hand, discover a “phenomenal place” in Atlanta when they spend time there. That way, the pandemic could end up being a great “leveler” when it comes to C-suite hires, increasing the already massive and growing engineering talent pool that Pindrop and others are tapping locally.
âWhen you want a particular type of talent, you can go out. In San Francisco, there is a great ânot in my gardenâ culture that existed until the pandemic, but I think that’s gone. I think people are like, âOK, let’s just start businesses everywhere. ”
It may not entice people to physically move around the Atlanta metro area, but it could, and it already is, he said.
Pindrop’s new space at Interlock will reflect these trends. It won’t have as many offices or cubicles, but instead will feature more open spaces for collaboration, chat rooms, an outdoor balcony, and a 24-person community table for working lunches.
It will also feature the latest collaboration technologies to suit a tech company embracing a hybrid culture, and the $ 450 million resort’s West Midtown location keeps the company rooted near Georgia Tech, where it plans to continue recruiting. and help develop the tech community. which has helped to grow the innovative company.
Pindrop takes more than a tenth of the 200,000 square feet of tech-driven office space at The Interlock, which includes a Publix grocery store, 349 luxury apartments, 70 single-family homes, and the 161-room Bellyard Hotel. Workers are putting the finishing touches on the building and the company plans to move in from January.
Driving trends of global growth
Despite its internal COVID-19 transformation, Pindrop has also seen a shift in how the pandemic has affected its customers, leading to the rapid adoption of its voice-based fraud prevention technologies – as well as authentication based. on devices that it has extended with the help of a service it acquired at the start of the year: Next call.
At one in 2020, Pindrop noted that call centers were seeing a 150% increase in fraud attempts on their already busy phone lines as call volumes increased during the pandemic. Scammers can combine the information they find from Dark Web sources or other breaches with what they learn from companies’ interactive voice response (IVR) environments, creating a profile that helps them make it happen. an identity.
Already in 2019, Dr Balasubramaniyan said Gartner estimated 61% of account takeover attempts started with a phone call. This number is expected to reach 75% by 2020. The cat takes some of that load, but it is limited.
Dr Balasubramaniyan landed in Atlanta in 2005 to complete a doctorate. in computer science after working on voice and telephony systems for companies like Intelligence and Siemens (later by joining IBM and Google). He found that unwanted calls were a huge and costly problem for businesses, which received 47 billion calls per year.
In a 2019 interview with Global Atlanta, he estimated that every second a customer spends on the phone with a company costs 2.5 cents. All of these security questions used to prevent fraud racked up cumulative losses of $ 8 billion – and they were only effective in stopping takeover calls about 9% of the time.
âThe numbers are simply mind-boggling. It’s amazing, âhe said.
The âAha! The moment for Pindrop came when Dr Balasubramanyian’s bank called and asked him to provide his social security number over the phone after using a credit card to purchase a costume in his homeland. India.
âWe played this cat and mouse game,â he said, and ultimately canceled the deal because he didn’t want to give out his personal information.
Addressing this and related issues led to three initial patents on “telephone printing” – proving that a device was not tampered with – and identifying each person’s voice signature within five seconds of speaking. based on their unique anatomy. Pindrop in 2019 raised $ 90 million in a Series D round led by Vitruvian, a Londonfund-based, partly to extend Europe.
Until now, markets like UK, where Pindrop has an office, performed well, as well as Canada and France, but a more substantial expansion of the EU and in Asia has been derailed by travel restrictions linked to the pandemic.
Yet big deals have been made in markets like South Korea and Italy, where the company does not have a sales force, providing an indicator of fertile potential markets for future growth once the world opens up, especially in Asia.
âBetween Korea, Japan and Singapore, we’re trying to figure out where to go.