We talked to Paul Magee of Auraya about voice biometric technology, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Paul Magee: Thanks for asking; fortunately, living in Australia provides us with a much safer environment than many other places in the world, and my family has not had any significant disruption or tragedy. I spend my workdays Zooming around the world from Europe to North and South America to parts of Africa. I talk with many who have had tragedy and illness directly affect their family and had to suffer prolonged periods of lockdown and isolation.
Of course, everyone, including Australians, have been negatively affected by lockdowns and changes to work, education, travel, and social activities. Fortunately, we in Australia have a very modest amount of cases and deaths compared to many other countries, which does not diminish the pain and grief of those who have lost loved ones or been sick and had to fight the many symptoms.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Auraya.
Paul Magee: I have had the good fortune to have been involved in multiple startups and scale-up opportunities during my career. In previous roles, I was involved in physical and cybersecurity with deep exposure to various biometric technologies. I started my career in technical roles in building services technology. I moved into project management, then sales of technology services, prior to getting the bug of starting and growing businesses. I particularly like developing global businesses.
More than ten years ago, the other founders of Auraya and I could clearly see how voice biometric technology could provide a more convenient yet more secure capability for consumers to protect their personal data and get access to services using smartphones, PC’s, social media, and the internet of things. Other companies were concentrating on developing voice biometrics technology to provide convenience and security in contact centers where agents had to ask callers personal questions like birthdate and social security number to verify a person’s identity.
We saw a time when people could use voice biometric technology to verify their identity in all channels securely. We concentrated on doing our technology work effectively for all channels in all languages from the cloud, so consumers no longer need hardware tokens or cumbersome and insecure one time tokens sent via SMS or email. Of course, providing an easy to use capability for contact centers remains central to our next-generation capability.
How does Auraya innovate?
Paul Magee: We are focused on the narrow and specialized field of Voice Biometrics and have a highly competent and experienced team of subject matter experts, so we can develop product functionality ahead of market demand.
We seek to understand the security, privacy, regulatory compliance, and customer satisfaction issues our customers are facing today and will be facing in the future. We then build voice biometric capability that helps to solve the emerging problems. We then use our reference customers who trust us to innovate for them to demonstrate the technology. These ‘demonstrations in production’ help build demand for our capability.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Paul Magee: We have experienced a 3-month delay in our latest round of capital raising as everyone learns how to do capital raising in an entirely “virtual” world. Whilst we think we have now got the virtual pitch ready, we will see how the process goes over the next 12-week timetable.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Paul Magee: Fortunately, we have been able to pivot to a very effective ‘work from home’ process for all our team members. I have even completed my first two international hires, where the recruitment process was entirely online. In the past, I would have met personally with short listed candidates. After hiring new team members, we would normally immerse them with our team in our Sydney head office as part of their onboarding process. Hiring team members that can’t travel for interviews nor immerse in our head office means we have to adapt our onboarding process and recognize that it takes longer to get the new team members up to speed.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Paul Magee: We adopted Salesforce.com in the early days of the organization’s commercialization. Our requirements to manage end-user customers and our global reseller channels are complex, so we need to use tools that will scale with us as we grow. Salesforce gives us the tools we need now and the confidence that we will grow the CRM capability to meet the growing needs as we scale.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Paul Magee: The Australian Government was supportive in the early days of the pandemic providing access to cash and access to loans, which helped all companies remain confident and underpin a level of cash flow as customers stopped making decisions for a few months in early 2020.
Your final thoughts?
Paul Magee: I am an optimist; I think you have to be an optimist to be a serial entrepreneur; however, despite my optimism, I think that it will take longer for the world to fully recover from this pandemic than many hope. Whilst the world will continue to suffer from Covid 19 illness and deaths for some time to come, I believe that people’s resilience and adaptability that has been forced on us will strengthen individuals and organizations, allowing us to find new ways to enjoy life and prosper. One example will be our ability to work productively in new ways, which means many people won’t always need to commute daily into central city offices. As humans, we will want to be able to gather together in teams from time to time, but we will also work from home or in smaller shared workspaces using technology to collaborate and safely and securely share information.
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