Introducing the Face Behind Facedapter
Praveen Gajjaala, a self-described serial entrepreneur, is the Founder and CEO of Facedapter. The multi-modal facial recognition company was founded with Birgith Roosipuu, the current CMO and co-founder, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Praveen grew up middle class in India, with a mind full of ideas and innovation but few ways to express them. “At the age of 16, I realized that I enjoy communicating with people and love building new relationships, so I started to work in sales. Even though I did well there, I never felt fully settled, I was always looking for more, always exploring.
I thought sales was my passion, but I was wrong, my passion was people and I wanted to change the world for the better, in whatever way”.
After finishing university in the UK, Praveen decided to come to Switzerland for his MBA even with pressure from his family to not go. After 6 years of working in hospitality, telecommunications, and finance he ended up working with a cyber security and biometrics company in Geneva, “and that’s where I fell in love with technology and all it had to offer”.
After discovering his love for technology and innovation, Praveen wanted to bring his knowledge and skills back to India. While researching ways to implement this knowledge in a positive and impactful way, he realized that a lot of the Indian population did not have access to legitimate forms of identification.
Not having a valid form of identification means that “approximately 2 billion people” are not able to do something as simple as open a bank account. This inspired Praveen to create something that would solve this problem.
In solving this problem his solution would also tackle identity fraud, racial bias in global identification systems, and work as a demographically sensitive form of ID verification. Thus, the creation of Facedapter.
When creating the ame for the company Praveen said “I was thinking of multiple names, one of them was Face data or Face bridge. Names that completely makes sense, because what I intend to do with the company is bridge AI software and facial recognition, but they didn’t feel right. We ended up choosing combining face and adapter because for the software to work people need to show their face and we adapt using the latest technologies and bridge that gap and match different images”.
The thriving start-up did not come to fruition without many a learning experience, as Facedapter was not Praveen’s first company.
He started two different companies before Facedapter. The first in 2015 to help expats living in Switzerland connect and make new friends.
“That failed for several reasons, but the main reason was I [Praveen] was putting money into building the technology, but not the team, and this is after going through different occupational industries. I didn’t understand the importance of a team, a consistent structure, and mutual purpose. But this failure or lesson made me place more importance on nurturing a team. I learned a lot about the kind of people I want to work with, and I strongly implement that in Facedapter today”.
Praveen interviews and hires all the individuals working at his company himself. This allows him to connect with each person and analyze if they would be a good fit for the team’s productivity and culture. As the company grows, this system of trust and transparency ensures that the people hire help the company continue to flourish.
Praveen has, since creating Facedapter, grown to a team of 8 people. “I want to have a multicultural team with shared experiences, that way, people can bring diverse ideas and grow the company to be better. We have people coming from Morocco, Algeria, Russia, Kenya, and everyone brings different values, but work well together and respect each other”
“I thought that companies that made tools with a bias maybe didn’t have access to such a wide variety of cultures and I wanted everything to be with equal opportunities and representative of the work I want to do. I wanted to allow people to get acquainted with different cultures also, to shift their outlook and open up more”.
This respect of difference is reflected in the Facedapter’s product as one of its main goals is to be demographically sensitive and aware.
This is the face behind Facedapter and the team that carries it along.