Vishal Marria is the CEO and co-founder of Quantexa, the contextual analytics startup leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to make big data meaningful for businesses. One of the key adaptions of its data is to prevent fraud from happening.
Quantexa claims to achieve this by using AI to uncover hidden risk and discover new customer opportunities by providing a contextual, connected view of internal and external data related to customers and third parties in a single place.
So, essentially, the London-based startup connects the dots to find out whether or not someone is at risk of committing fraud. In this regard Quantexa is also riding the wave of regulation technology companies that have been launched over the past decade to help financial services businesses meet their compliance requirements.
More than nine in 10 European fintech companies plan to adopt AI to combat fraud, according to a study by risk decisioning software developer Provenir.
Quantexa and its CEO are also part of the growing wave of companies raising money on the back of AI technology. Venture capital investment into the sector has skyrocketed in the last decade, according to data from research firm GlobalData. In 2012, just over $1bn was injected into the industry. By 2021, that figure had exploded to $93.4bn.
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In the latest of our CEO Chats, the Quantexa CEO reveals where the idea behind the startup came from, the biggest challenge it has had to overcome so far and what people's biggest misconception of the technology is.
Eric Johansson Tell us a bit about yourself. What did you do before founding the company?
Vishal Marria: I was born and raised in London by hard-working parents who built their own business. I worked with them on weekends, and this instilled in me the values of drive and ambition.
After graduating from Royal Holloway, University of London, I have worked for some of the biggest players in the financial services industry such as Detica (BAE Systems), SAS and EY, directing major programmes for them. It was an extremely interesting time in my life and prepared me well for building my own successful business.
Where did the idea come from?
I could see that there were thousands of data-intensive organisations across the world faced with the same challenge – they had lots of data, but they weren’t able to connect it in any meaningful way. This was resulting in poor data quality or inaccurate data foundations, which business leaders couldn't trust to support strategic and operational decision making. My vision was to drive real business benefits for customers by connecting both internal and external data and applying machine learning to drive more trusted operational decisions at scale.
What has been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome so far with Quantexa?
Creating and maintaining a strong company culture in the face of rapid global expansion. This is why we have implemented our four core values – DATA (determination, ambition, teamwork, accountability) to ensure we are all on the same mission.
All startups face some common challenges: in the first 18 months, cash is king, so I was very focused on simply surviving and keeping my head above water. Over the following 24 months, my goal was to work on building the right foundations and set a strategy that could sustain and carry the company forward. Which led to the final – and perhaps most important challenge: to scale, to maintain the vision and focus that underpinned Quantexa’s success to date, and to keep creating value for customers, partners and employees.
What's the biggest misconception people have about fraud detection technology?
That it isn’t just about understanding individual transactions in isolation. To really crack down on fraud and financial crime requires an understanding of the wider context around entities. This is why I wanted to create a platform that provided context around the vast swathes of data that organisations were generating, and to give it meaning so that bad actors were easier to identify. By automating manual data gathering and matching
at scale, investigators’ time can be freed up to focus on more complex work, reducing false positives and improving accuracy. Additionally, not everything is about real-time – fraud can occur over a set of patterns as fraudsters often leave suspicious or anomalous footprints, which Quantexa’s technology is able to detect.
What one piece of advice would you offer to other CEOs?
Hire and surround yourself with people you trust and who believe in your vision. Plus… focus, focus, focus.
What’s the most surprising thing about your job?
Being responsible for an entire team was an eye-opening experience for me. Having started out with a team of seven, I quickly found myself being responsible for 40, 100, 300, and now 500 employees globally. Building a company that they are proud to represent has been a big focus of mine, and it continues to teach me something new, about how to do better and keep building a team of talented and unique individuals.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for fun?
Paragliding in Oman was most definitely a strange experience, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed! I’d definitely recommend it.
What's the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?
Digitalisation is at the heart of today’s world and of Quantexa. And this equates to one thing: more data. Companies keep amassing it, but understanding what can be done with all that information and how it can be correctly analysed is still a challenge for some organisations. The data analytics space is evolving rapidly and a challenge for businesses is to source the right approach as opposed to just adding tools to the stack. That’s where I believe Quantexa can help, and really add value.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I have a bad habit of getting into bed with a head full of thoughts and questions that I’m trying to find solutions to. They often wake me up at night. But, I’ve learnt to see this as both a blessing and a curse – it allows me to look at the problem in a different light – some of that late-night thinking has led me to really innovative solutions, which can be very rewarding.