Raul Popa (CEO of TypingDNA): Choosing the right co-founders is critical

Raul Popa is CEO, co-founder and data scientist at TypingDNA, the company that recognizes people by the way they type on computers and mobile devices.

This revolutionary technology is called typing biometrics and it is used in cybersecurity, fraud prevention and risk-based authentication.

Typing biometrics is a type of behavioural biometrics, embedded in people’s transient behaviour when typing on a keyboard.

Raul and his team started 2020 auspiciously: TypingDNA raised $7M in January with a total of $8.8M in funding over four rounds. The company is one of the most promising Romanian tech startups right now. Top publications like TechCrunch, Forbes, ProductHunt and Financial Times have featured TypingDNA.


Raul Popa

Prior to TypingDNA Raul co-founded other startups, helped launch several innovative software products and coded core software components used by millions. He is a Techstars alumnus with 15+ years of expertise in software development, product management and business management.

In the following interview, I ask Raul about starting a company with the right co-founders, the skills he believes every techpreneur should acquire, his opinion on AI and the future of cybersecurity.

1. You are a sociology graduate, and yet, you have chosen to develop your career in a different industry: AI and machine learning. What made you switch direction?

I’ve taught myself coding when I was in middle school. I used to hack and modify games, even built my own games.  By the time I got to high-school (a math-intensive one), I was more interested in math and philosophy than computer science.

Being a participant at the National Philosophy Olympiad competition helped me get into several top universities without an exam.

Since I realised I also liked statistics a lot, I chose to study at the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Faculty of Sociology, which was the best statistics school available. At the time I entered, it also had the highest per seat competition of all faculties in Transylvania/Cluj-Napoca (35 people per seat, if I remember correctly), so pretty much everyone either scored an almost clear ten or was a national olympiad winner in a distinctive field. Incredible colleagues, professors and school, I miss it a lot.

Since AI/ML is technically a field at the convergence of statistics, math and computer science, I wouldn’t say I’ve gone very far from my studies, but yes, AI is a newer domain than sociology.

Then, of course, statistics and quantitative methods are just part of what you learn in sociology. Another significant part has to do with social psychology which I loved. It’s where you learn how masses of people behave and why, and that can help you in entrepreneurship too.


Raul Popa receiving 2019 Made in Romania Award (photo: Raul Popa personal archive)

2. In 2016, you co-founded TypingDNA. Was going from employee to starting your own company an easy decision to make? Why/Why not?

I had previously co-founded two other companies. Although my role was not that of the CEO, it gave me a good idea about what it means to work for your own company.

Also, even when I worked as an employee, most of the time, I was a manager, the person in charge, and I did deal with similar stuff I deal with today.

When I started TypingDNA, in 2016, I went from managing tens of people to only one (myself). Later on, once I proved the technology I had built was working, I asked Cristian and Adrian to join me and grow the company together.

I initially wanted to do a sabbatical year. I had been fantasising with the idea of a sabbatical year for about ten years, then, in 2015 I sold some of my shares in a previous company, and I said to myself, this is it, I’m taking THE sabbatical.

Which I did, starting 1/1/2016, but that lasted only three days. I realised I had to start working on TypingDNA. It made clear sense to me how this technology will be employed everywhere and why I needed to start working on it asap.

Also, everyone I told about this crazy idea thought it was stupid (other than Cristian and Adrian). To me, that was a clear indication that I had to do it. Even family and friends back then were very sceptical but supported me nonetheless.

[bctt tweet=”TypingDNA CEO Raul Popa on having the right co-founders: What you want to have is a shared vision and the ability to function together.” username=”brand_minds”]

3. Your co-founders are Cristian Tamas and Adrian Gheara. Three is better than one, but is it also challenging? What are your recommendations for other co-founders just starting out?

Choosing the right co-founders is critical; it’s among the most important things.

Most companies that succeed change their business model or their technology. They pivot, everyone pivots a bit, but they very rarely change their founding structure.

I chose Cristian and Adrian because they were the first to believe in this technology. Cristian has done marketing research on his own and came up with a business model I liked, while Adrian was so convinced about what I was building that he was ready to invest his own money to make it happen. To me, this was mind-blowing!

It took me a few months to decide to ask them to join, in a period when I was trying to figure out the best course of action. In retrospect, I think it was the right decision.

Some people recommend complementary co-founders, I’m not sure that’s the most important thing. Larry and Sergei were very similar, for example.

What you want to have is a shared vision and ability to function together.


The TypingDNA team: on the right Raul Popa, Cristian Tamas and Adrian Gheara

4. What skills do you believe a successful techpreneur should acquire or further develop?

Ability to learn continuously and fast, ability to say no, ability to help other people succeed, and the ability to make smart people follow your vision.

5. Artificial Intelligence: humanity’s saviour or its downfall?

Could be both. At this point, however, AI is the way to go.

The same way you couldn’t oppose industrialisation 100 years ago, you can’t do anything about AI either – it is inevitable.

An old Chinese proverb says: “When the winds of change start blowing, some people build walls, others build windmills”.

6. Tell us your opinion on the future of cybersecurity.

The cybersecurity market is growing fast, with some subdomains, like IAM (Identity Access Management) seeing incredible growth.

The number of non-overlapping companies in the cybersecurity space tells me the market is still in its infancy.

It’s tough to predict how it will evolve, but it is clear that hackers and fraudsters are not going away.

We need better security tools we can employ daily as the cybersecurity-hacking game slowly turns into an AI vs AI war that never ends.

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5 Success Tips From Top Tech CEOs

This article highlights 5 success tips with real-world applications from the top tech CEOs to help you tackle life’s challenges.

The world’s most successful businesspeople know a thing or two about success. Their expertise, however, goes beyond the boardroom. Reaching the top of your profession requires developing a range of talents and aptitudes for dealing with people and situations as well as products.

Here are 5 success tips from top tech CEOs:

1. Take Risks

I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo


Marissa Mayer / theverge.com

Before Mayer’s tenure at Yahoo, she was “Employee Number 20” at a then little-known technology company called Google. As an information technology pioneer, she’s widely regarded as one of the most brilliant minds in the industry.

Mayer didn’t get where she was by playing it safe. Her decision to leave Google in 2012 made waves, but it was worth the risk: Mayer became the CEO of Yahoo, and later cofounded Lumi Labs, an artificial technology incubator after Verizon acquired Yahoo in 2017.


Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is never easy. In business and in life, if you aren’t taking risks, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities.

2. Learn From Mistakes

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating.

Elon Musk, Tesla


Elon Musk / bigspeak.com

Although it sounds counterintuitive, the majority of successful business leaders have failed along the way. From being ousted as the CEO of PayPal shortly after its merger to presiding over not one, but five spectacularly terrible rocket explosions, Musk is no stranger to failed business ventures.

The differentiating factor is that he kept innovating on his ideas as he gained experience, no matter how great the losses or how they were perceived.


In the long run, success isn’t defined by what you fail to do, but by your ability to learn and grow from each bump in the road. One winning idea can trump every single unsuccessful one.

3. Define Your Vision

A successful vision is aspirational, inspirational and specific.

Mark Hurd, Oracle


Mark Hurd / appleinsider.com

In Hurd’s book, The Value Factor, he talks about how a company’s access to information gives them a competitive edge, and how they translate that information into an executable strategy to drive their success. Vision is one of the cornerstones of business strategy. Software companies like Oracle know firsthand that aspirational visions can transform entire industries.


It’s okay for your vision to be ambitious, but it also must incentivize positive behaviour, and above all, it must be measurable. Setting time-specific goals are a great way to hold yourself accountable for hitting those milestones.

4. Collaborate

My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of its parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.

Steve Jobs, Apple


Steve Jobs / swisslet.com


Teamwork is an extraordinarily powerful interpersonal skill. Proving you can handle your own responsibilities and add value to a larger group is how promotions, raises, and other opportunities arise.

5. Be Receptive to Change

Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future.

Larry Page, Google


Larry Page / pikbee.me

Adaptability is another core element of business strategy, especially in the technology sector.

CEOs like Page are highly cognizant of the way products and platforms develop. In order to become what is arguably the most influential online force, Google had to transform to address its users’ needs, reflect modern technology consumption, and adapt to evolving information security trends.

Silicon Valley is chock full of stories of failed startups and companies that could have been the next best thing but couldn’t quite keep up with changing times.

Being flexible is integral to growing as an individual and a professional. You’ll be more likely to recognize opportunities as they arise and be able to shift priorities in order to take advantage of them.


The world’s top CEOs have become successful in business in part because they had a clear grasp on the professional and interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in today’s workforce. If you work on these elements of professional development, you too may find yourself the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company one day.

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3 Tech Accelerators in Europe Currently Receiving Applications

Are you looking for European tech accelerators that are currently receiving applications to help you take your startup to the next level?

Here are 3 tech accelerators based in Europe currently receiving applications:

1. Techcelerator

Locations: Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Equity: 6%


Techcelerator is a program run by local fund GapMinder with the support of EU funds. The program offers financing of up to EUR 100,000 for selected startups against a stake in the company.


Techcelerator’s vision is to reposition Romania on the world map of leading innovative startups that will reshape the world of tomorrow and offer a higher life quality.

This accelerator program is interested in supporting startups in the following industries: FinTech, MedTech, AI, CyberSecurity, Digital Transformation, Hardware and Mobile.


The selected startups receive the 1st round of funding: euro 25,000 for 6% equity. They enter a 10-week program of intense mentoring and one-to-one meetings with business experts.

At the end of the program they have the opportunity to show their product to VCs, angel investors, tech press journalists etc and get a second round of up to euro 75,000. Techcelerator will take the most promising startups to participate in competitions and meet investors around the world.


  • Google Cloud services;
  • Free digital accounting tool;
  • Public relations package;
  • Marketing support;
  • Scalability services;
  • Constant networking;
  • Horizontal support;
  • Individual mentorship;
  • Professional workshops;
  • Startup demoday;
  • Marketing services;
  • Intensive edu sessions.

Application date:

Techcelerator is currently taking applications for October 2018 – February 2019 – apply here.

Application deadline is September 20, 2018.

2. TechFounders Accelerator

Location: Munich, Germany

Equity: zero


TechFounders is an accelerator program, which brings tech startups together with industry partners and venture capitalists.


The aim of the TechFounders program is to get startups one of their industry partners as a high-class customer or investor. At Demo Day selected startups have the great opportunity to raise capital if needed and meet more than 100 VC’s, business angels, industry partners and press.


TechFounders offers a unique program to their startups – a 20-week program. During this program the selected startups will get intensive trainings and coaching on all kinds of business topics.

Also the startup founders will get to collaborate with a leading industry partner to further develop their product or service, with a € 25,000 project budget.


  • Free office space and administrative support;
  • Access to TechFounders’ 1,500m2 high-tech workshop MakerSpace and AI computing power;
  • Intensive coaching and mentoring by 200 VC’s, serial entrepreneurs and experts;
  • Demo Day attended by 100+ VCs, business angels, industry partners and press members;
  • Direct access to industry partners, such as ADAC, BMW Group, Festo, Knorr-Bremse and Miele.

Application date:

TechFounders is currently taking applications for the 2019 winter batch – apply here.

Application deadline is September 30, 2018.

3. SEK Lab EdTech Accelerator

Location: Madrid, Spain

Equity: zero


SEK Educational Group is an innovator with more than 125 years experience in education. Their program is the SEK Lab EdTech Accelerator designed for startups in beta testing. The program helps startups in the seed and early stage improve their company and business model.


The SEK Educational Group is looking for innovators to improve education.


The SEK Lab EdTech Accelerator is a 6-month program. During this program the selected startups have the opportunity to validate and test their business in a pure educational ecosystem.

The startup founders and team receive mentoring from more than 20 mentors experts in education, technology, apps etc. They also participate in master classes from top speakers on various subjects: law, finance, business model, app, technology, growth hacking, lean sales, marketing etc.


  • Free access to SEK Educational Group co-working space;
  • Access to top IT solutions for free from their sponsors (Hosting, CRM, Software…);
  • Access to their network and top clients (Microsoft, Dell, Vodafone, Apple, Intel…);
  • Networking events and speaking opportunities;
  • Different awards and benefits from their sponsors at the end of the program;
  • Demo day with more than 20 investors, accelerators and corporates;
  • 2 vacancies for a virtual acceleration.

Application date:

SEK Lab EdTech Accelerator is currently taking applications for December 2018 – May 2019 apply here.

Application deadline is September 15, 2018.

Pick the accelerator program that suits your startup idea and develop it into a full-fledged company.

The world needs more industry-changers like yourself!

France and Germany to support the tech start-ups

France and Germany want to build an European Union-wide initiative to fund innovation and research in tech start-up projects across the bloc so that EU can compete more effectively against the tech companies of the United States and China, according to Reuters.

Berlin and Paris called for the European Innovation Council to fund “ambitious” technology start-ups in a paper presented to European Union leaders at the Balkan summit last week.

“A joint effort is also needed to further improve the venture capital environment and regulations to allow successful market transfer of breakthrough innovations, as well as the foundation and growth of disruptive deep technology companies in Europe,” the paper said, according to Reuters.

France and Germany are pushing for reforms in various sectors before a summit of EU leaders in June. At the same time, they say the aim is to create a network to bring breakthrough innovations in science to the marketplace and to open up the network to other interested EU countries.

France and Germany want national initiatives to be complemented by EU ones, which can have more added value for the establishment and the growth of tech start-ups, the paper said. The two countries want their project to focus on tech leaders in academia as well as entrepreneurs and to provide funding for high-risk tech projects.

According to pymnts.com, France has already promised to spend 1.5 billion euros ($1.75 billion) on artificial intelligence by 2022.

There are also companies committing to help the EU grow in the technology sector. Last year, for example, Samsung’s venture capital arm announced it will use a $150 million global funding round to invest in early-stage startups in Europe for investment or acquisition, focusing on tech companies working on artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, augmented reality and virtual reality.- pymnts.com


Top 6 tech leaders in 2018

We are inspired by their vision and leadership styles.

Some of them set out to change the world.

Others changed the company’s core values to usher in a new era of evolution and development.

Here is our top 6 tech leaders in 2018:

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple – “We give back in job creation”


photo: politico.com

In 2011, after Jobs resigned, Cook was named the new CEO of Apple.
His leadership focuses on people, strategy, and execution.
He also states that a company should have values because a company is a collection of people.
Asked about what Apple gives back to society, Tim replied:

We give back through our work in the environment, in running the company on renewable energy. We give back in job creation.

Under Tim Cook, Apple has the same focus on standout hardware and design as it had under Jobs. But Cook is making his mark by highlighting the importance of social efforts: LGBT rights, philanthropy, corporate diversity, renewable energy and improving manufacturing conditions abroad.
Apple market value 2018: $910 billion (source: money.cnn.com)

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google – “Let others succeed”


photo: fictional4.rssing.com

Sundar Pichai was appointed CEO of Google in 2015, following Larry Page, the co-founder and former CEO of Google.
Sundar joined Google in 2004 and was involved with developing a series of client software products including Google Chrome, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Maps and Android.
In Sundar’s opinion leadership is

less about trying to be successful (yourself), and more about making sure you have good people and your work is to remove that barrier, remove roadblocks for them so that they can be successful in what they do.

He focuses on building Google as a collaborative culture company and is a much-loved leader by his employees.
Google market value 2018: $762.5 billion (source: cnbc.com)

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon – “Get Big Fast”


photo: inc.com

Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon, the world’s largest online shopping retailer. He founded his company in 1994, in his garage and named it after the Amazon River and because it started with A, the first letter of the alphabet.
Although Amazon was originally an online bookstore, Bezos had always planned to expand to other products.

To push Amazon forward, Bezos developed the mantra “Get Big Fast”, which spoke to the company’s need to scale its operations and establish market dominance.
Bezos is known to enforce a 2-pizza rule, which means the meetings must be small enough where two pizzas can feed everyone in the boardroom.
Amazon market value 2018: $702.46 billion (source: fortune.com)

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft – “The C in CEO stands for Culture”


photo: cnbc.com

In 2014, Satya Nadella became the current CEO of Microsoft, following Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
The most important change that Satya brought to Microsoft was shifting the company’s culture. He says that his job as CEO is to create a culture that focuses on listening, learning, and harnessing individual passions and talents. Satya also placed employer empowerment at the core of Microsoft’s culture.
Nadella is the author of Hit Refresh:The quest to rediscover Microsoft’s soul and imagine a better future for everyone. In his book, he explores his life, his career in Microsoft and how he believes technology will shape the future.
In the years since Satya became CEO, Microsoft stock have risen more than 130% achieving an all-time high.
Microsoft market value 2018: $699.22 billion (source: fortune.com)

Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba – “Customers first, employees second, and shareholders third”


photo: byrslf.co

A former English teacher, Jack learned about the internet in 1995 and realized early on that the internet had something great to offer. After a few business fails, Jack founded Alibaba, a China-based business-to-business marketplace site in 1999. Soon Alibaba became a multinational technology conglomerate and one of the most valuable technology companies in the world.

Jack Ma is an enlightened leader.

One of his goals is to improve the lives of employees who grow with the company, by offering them Alibaba stock options. He believes in the empowerment of the young by enriching their culture and education.

His focus is

to make sustainable money while being responsible to the society and improving the world.

Alibaba market value: $500 billion (source: technode.com)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook – “Making the world more open and connected”


photo: wired.com

Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004, from his dormitory room at Harvard University.

He says Facebook’s mission is

to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

There are 7.6 billion people in the world (as of March 2018, according to worldometers.com) and Facebook reported that 2.13 billion are monthly active Facebook users! Although controversial, Facebook is too big to ignore.

Mark is a transformational leader.

He motivates employees through his passion for online communication and his constant pursuit to improve and innovate. He provides employees an opportunity to share in the success and views making mistakes as an opportunity for growth within the company.
Facebook market value 2018 (following Cambridge Analytica scandal): $476.83 billion (source: techcrunch.com)

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Meet the founder of FightHoax | Behind the Suit

Valentinos started his very own mobile app startup and developed it all by himself at the age of 18. Magazines such as Forbes say that he has the ‘mark of a true entrepreneur’.

He is a proud awardee of the 25Under25 title of the Internet Society organization. Valentinos has talked numerous times at the Greek Parliament, the European Parliament, South by SouthWest, London School of Economics and various entrepreneurship events all around the world.

Now, at the age of 20, Valentinos created the angel-invested FightHoax, in order to reduce the mass misinformation spread and empower news analysis and data journalism with Artificial Intelligence and Big Data.



1. How you came up with the business idea for FightHoax.com?

The US elections got the world shaken up. Hoaxes started to emerge from everywhere. Macedonian teenagers started their own fake news outlet and earned thousands from it. We hit all-time high records so I was really disturbed by all these hoaxes and fake facts.

People tend to believe anything nowadays.

So, one day I sat down and said to myself:
“Can I create something that analyses what you are reading and extracts the important points to the user?”
“Can I build an automated algorithm to answer if what you are reading is real or just false?”

At first, it seemed really-really impossible. Even humans can’t agree on what is false or true. But I realized that machines with no feelings can judge some aspects better than humans. For example, what if the website which is hosting the news article has a suspicious history and is known for posting fake news?  Human tend to ignore hoaxes that agree with their own beliefs.


2. Tell us the first three things you’ve done to turn the idea into facts.

First, I locked myself in my house for more than 13 days, just to fix a bug. At first, I talked to more than 100 journalists, fact checkers, developers and academic teachers just to ask them questions about media literacy, fake news, propaganda and more.

Work, work, work.


3. Name one situation that made you want to quit.

As I had described before, one single bug made me go nuts and stay in the house for more than 13 consecutive days. It was crazy. I get obsessed with things like this!


4. Name one situation that made you want to go forward.

My girlfriend. I have hidden a comment in my code that’s just about her, to remind her the help she gave me.


5. What do you think are the most difficult challenges entrepreneurs have to face on greek market nowadays?

Misery. Misery is a lot worse than poverty and I can’t really stand it. Most of the people have given up on fighting for a better future, here in Greece. It is time to change that!


6. Investment matters. If you would invest in something else but your actual business. What would that be?

I would invest in people with great attitude and big goals in life. I am going for the long-term goals in my life.



7. What is FightHoax.com bringing to the mobile development market, that is different compared its competitors?

FactMata is a cross-checking algorithm that it can ONLY verify statistical/numerical facts. Static databases and community users manually score facts. Wikitribune is like Factmata but without the tech element. Community users and journalists manually verify news stories.

FightHoax is the only startup doing full News Analysis and can detect fake news articles with an accuracy of 89%. Any article, any fact. We provide a rounded perspective, not a fake. Imagine that in Google’s hands.



1. Name one good habit that helps you deal with your active life.

Listening to music for hours. I have to spend a lot of hours on my own just to meditate and talk to myself. In this way, I keep myself focused and I “clean” the bad thoughts.


2. Name one bad habit you can’t quit.

I eat a lot of fast-food. On the other hand, I do love walking, swimming, skiing and playing tennis but I need to hit the gym, too.


3. If you could be anything else but an entrepreneur what would you be?

I would love to be an artist and a musician but just for myself. I love expressing myself, deeply.


4. You are the founder of FightHoax.com, what is the favourite movie of the man who founded it?

A beautiful mind. I really love movies inspired by real-life scenarios of genius people that wrote history.


5. Tell us your favourite book. What’s the best thing you learned from it?

The first book that I have ever read was a book about hacking called “XSS Attacks“. It completely changed my view of the Internet, back when I was just 15.


6. Name the most important value that you believe in.

In a company, your business partners come first. They have to be happy in order to feel happy on your own.


7. If you could compare your journey as an entrepreneur with a song what song would you choose?

The Imitation Game Soundtrack.


8. Tell us the best experience you had while working to build FightHoax.com.

Working with a great team is the best part of being in business. I was lucky enough to find great partners to work with me and every meeting or beer is just priceless.


9. If you would give our readers one piece of advice from your entrepreneurial experience, what would that advice be?

Get ready to risk everything, stand on your own and become homesick. It is an interesting journey that many do not get through these obstacles.


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