It was an amazing week at RSA Conference. We were thrilled to share how far we’ve come since last year’s Innovation Sandbox win. Thank you to everyone who stopped by the booth and experienced our implicit authentication demo – we had such a positive response! If you were unable to attend RSA or missed our booth, please feel free to schedule a demo with us at our office in San Francisco.
It took many hours of hard work and dedication from our team to design and put booth materials together, program the ATM for the demo, launch our new website and much, much more. But all our hard work paid off and we left RSA week with a great sense of satisfaction from showing so many people how implicit authentication can make their lives more simple and secure.
In fact, we had such a positive response, we had to refill the ATM a few times! All in all, we were thrilled to return to RSA Conference, the leading cybersecurity event across the globe, and show how implicit authentication is the future of authentication.
In the past couple of months, UnifyID has been busy attending university hackathons at MIT and UC Berkeley. What this means is hours and hours of non-stop hacking, but it also means unlimited snacks, mini midnight workouts, and lots of young, passionate coders working to create impactful projects.
On September 16, John Whaley flew to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend HackMIT: Hack to the Future where he had the opportunity to meet more than 1500 students from all different universities. Representing a16z, John participated in a fireside chat where he covered a variety of topics including what it’s like to work in a startup, choosing industry versus graduate school, and building a company on machine learning. He discussed the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, team-building, fundraising, and more, as students picked his brain about technical topics and career advice. Later, John was able to speak more in depth during his tech talk about UnifyID and identifying individuals based on gait. Students were deeply interested in the problem UnifyID is trying to solve as well as the impact and intellectual aspect of UnifyID’s approach to the issue.
Aside from his fireside chat and tech talk, John had the opportunity to mentor hackers in their own projects. His favorite part was meeting and interacting with all of the students, seeing their ambition, passion, and genuine interest in the projects that they were working on. He also enjoyed the intense energy in the arena, choosing to stay and mentor hackers until 3am.
After 24 hours of hard work and non stop hacking at MIT, many groups of students presented their projects. Projects covered a wide range of topics from virtual reality games to homework-help mobile applications. Even though John had been to plenty of hackathons in the past, he was still amazed by the caliber and level of innovation that the students were able to reach in their projects. The first place prize ended up going to a group of students who created Pixelator, “a simple product that sharpens blurry images without a lot of code.”
A few weeks later, on October 6, Andres Castaneda crossed the Bay to attend Cal Hacks 4.0 at the UC Berkeley Stadium. With nearly 1500 students listening, he gave a presentation about UnifyID’s Android SDK and API, receiving a positive response from students who believed it was a revolutionary idea. Similar to John at MIT, Andres also had the opportunity to mentor up-and-coming hackers. For 36 hours, he helped students solve technical challenges as they competed for over $100,000 in prizes, including UnifyID’s contribution: a $300 Amazon giftcard and a Rick and Morty card game.
Based on the level of positive impact, innovation, and technical difficulty, the winning hack for UnifyID’s prize was Safescape, a mobile application that analyzes real-time news articles and alerts people in areas of “non-safe” events. It uses UnifyID’s Android SDK to validate individuals on the application. Inspired by the recent natural and terror crises occurring globally, Safescape also provides those in danger with potential escape routes, allows them to alert others around them, and contains a simple way to contact loved ones.
Andres’ favorite part about participating in Cal Hacks was “seeing people build a product from 0 to 1 in 36 hours.” He also found it hilarious that many students brought sleeping bags and threw them on the floor for intermittent opportunities to take naps.
UnifyID is a strong supporter of hackathons because they provide great opportunities to connect with university students. Witnessing the high caliber of work accomplished at these events, UnifyID is inspired by young hackers who are truly passionate about making an impact in the world. These students represent a large diversity of talent from all different schools and backgrounds and are able to demonstrate what students are interested in nowadays. Additionally, hackathons allow UnifyID the chance to give back to the community. They are not only learning opportunities for up-and-coming hackers, but they also help UnifyID to understand how to cater to students’ interests and needs. After 2 hackathons in the span of one month, UnifyID is channeling its focus back to the day-to-day for now; however, we cannot wait for the next one!
Last weekend, UnifyID was invited to attend Andreessen Horowitz’s 4th annual Battle of the Hacks at their headquarters in Menlo Park—an exclusive hackathon for the organizers of the 14 top university hackathons in North America, ultimately competing for a $25,000 sponsorship from a16z. Grace served as a judge alongside others from companies like Slack, Lyft, and Github, while Andres was a mentor for the event, advising teams on how best to complete their projects!
We’ve sent out people to hackathons before (see our CEO John’s post from HackMIT here) and we continue to do it for a few reasons. First, we’re strong believers in supporting innovation, particularly through mentorship, because it’s the same thing we do at UnifyID. Second, we’re able to meet students and hackers working on incredible projects, which is not only inspiring but shows us the depth and breadth of knowledge in the talent pool for us to hire from. Finally, no matter what hackathon, we have enjoyed ourselves without fail. In fact, Andres even stayed the night at the event (which students said they’d never seen a mentor do!)
The winner of the hackathon was HackMIT, which built a Chrome Extension called Cubic leveraging NLP to provide a timeline (topic history across sites) and proper context (detail or general views on related topics) for any news story. The judging panel was incredibly impressed by the difficulty of the project, adding dimensionality to the content we consume on a daily basis.
Hack the North from UWaterloo was the runner-up: they made a creative visual system called Fable to augment live storytelling. By breaking down voice inputs and pairing them with relevant web images, they constructed a useful supplement to traditional stories.
In 3rd was the Bitcamp team from University of Maryland, College Park. They created Alexagram, an interactive hologram using Alexa. One of the coolest demos by far, their project was able to give Alexa some personality as well as some visual interaction with the user.
At a startup like UnifyID, it’s amazing how much can change over a few weeks’ time. What’s even more incredible, though, is how unpredictable the catalyst for that change can be. It’s been almost four months since we were unanimously crowned winners of RSA’s Innovation Sandbox, and the positive response we’ve received since has been overwhelming.
Last Friday, we hosted a housewarming party at our new SoMa office celebrating all the good work we’ve done including: wrapping up the Spring AI Fellowship, winning other competitions, kicking off new partnerships, welcoming a new batch of summer interns (pictured below), and a special announcement from founders John Whaley and Kurt Somerville!
We’re so grateful to everyone who attended the Housewarming and all who continue to support the mission of our work.
Interested in learning more about this secret announcement? Join the team, lead the frontier in how people interact seamlessly with technology, and let’s change authentication forever.
Our first trip to SXSW didn’t disappoint! Among the legions of Interactive and Film conference goers, were scores of locals partaking in the immersive spectacle of Austin–attendees in all, 50k strong in the first week. For a bay area San Francisco startup, weird is relative.
Companies, marketers, creatives, tastemakers, brands, and bands are all vying for visibility, reach, and engagement. The hype game was strong; however, if you could but for a moment suspend a cynic’s disbelief, those ice-cold Lone Stars and live music erupting in every drizzling corner of Austin became magical.
UnifyID was incredibly honored to place #1 in the Security and Privacy track at SXSW’s annual Interactive Accelerator but part of what made that win so sweet was the goodwill of the SXSW attendees. In a surprising moment on stage, a room of about 400 people became an intimate family affair for a few minutes. Together, we all sang happy birthday to Sophie, John’s newly turned 4-year old daughter.