An Interview with Pedro Hernandez, APAC Managing Director and co-founder of Build38

December 26, 2019
Pedro Hernandez (front row, second from right) and the Build38 team

We recently caught up with Pedro Hernandez, APAC Managing Director and co-founder of Build38, an ICE71 Scale startup. Pedro shared about the story behind Build38 as well as his thoughts on mobile app security and the digital wallet space.

What inspired you to start Build38, and what’s your role in it?

The mobile experience has become part and parcel in everything we do. Just think about actions and habits such as accessing your bank account, opening your car door, and saving your personal photos in your phone. These conveniences require access to personal and private data.

Inadvertently, these data may include those of our family. My co-founders at Build38 and I realised this earlier on, especially when we are all dads with kids (daughters, to be exact). My daughter was born in Singapore two years before the founding of the company in 2018. When you enter parenthood, protection and safety of your private and family lives become a concern. That naturally led us to focus in the protection of mobile applications to safeguard our online data—and our daughters’!

I have been working in the Mobile Security space for many years, from SIM Cards to Mobile Payment solutions in Europe and Asia Pacific, so it was a smooth transition for me. Currently, I’m taking care of the business in the Asia Pacific region for Build38.

How did the name “Build38” come about?

“Build” is there because our solution is used to build secure and relevant mobile apps and services. “3” is the number of locations where we have footprints—Munich, our HQ; Barcelona, the main development and operations centre; and Singapore, our Asia Pacific hub. “8” is the number of employees when we first started the company. Interestingly, in Chinese numerology, 3 sounds like “life” and 8 typically means “to prosper”. So you could say that our name means “build a life of prosperity”—a pretty good sign!

There are many mobile security solutions in the market. How does Build38 differentiate its product called “TAK”?

The Trusted Application Kit (TAK), is a combination of client and server protection which is unparalleled in the market. On the client side, TAK provides “hardening” of a mobile app, and for this purpose it has met very stringent security requirements. It’s been used in the financial, automotive and digital identity industries. With TAK, we combine the increase in app security (app hardening) with a monitoring service of the app. This service provides real-time data and AI-powered insights for our customers, keeping their apps secure and preventing breaches and fraud. These secured apps become “self-defending”.

Share with us an interesting client use case or two.

Our solution was originally conceived to protect mobile payments, but ended up in a very diverse number of use-cases. For instance, in China, one of the largest carmakers is using our solution to protect the mobile app they provide their customers to open a car and remotely start its engine. It was critical for the app to work even in an underground parking space without network coverage. That was a challenge from security perspective, and that was what we achieved.

In Germany, you can purchase subway tickets from your mobile phone. This convenience created a side problem—users started creating “clones” of the tickets and shared them with their friends and family, so a season ticket can be used by several people. The transit operator had to suspend this way of buying tickets! Our solution prevented ticket cloning, reducing such a fraud. We pride ourselves in protecting the bottom line of our customers in reducing fraud. Because app protection enables business where none was conducted before, we ultimately help our customers increase their revenues.

We’ve been hearing a lot of news around the digital wallet space in Singapore recently. For example, Grab recently launched Asia’s first numberless card with Mastercard. Local banks such as DBS and OCBC are also rolling out efforts for customers to use Google Pay without a credit card from 2020. What are your thoughts about this?

These developments make our lives exciting and are the reason behind our presence in this region from day one. Europe is a homogeneous and legacy-type market in payment infrastructure. On this side of the world, though, we see innovative markets exerting a big influence in introducing new ways of payment and money remittance.

Singapore is at the forefront and has become a test bed for many of these new payment methods, so we see associated security challenges emerging. You probably read in the news how some ride hailing apps were hacked in order to give some drivers an advantage in the acceptance of rides. User verification and tracking has become a challenge too, and we do see some interesting approaches here. With our solution, these challenges can be addressed, and we are pretty thrilled that we are already in discussions with many of the market players. We find lessons learned here useful as we can bring them back to other markets and be at the leading edge.

Cybersecurity is the protection of any computerised system from any compromise that would have a negative effect (trust, financial, personal) in the physical world.

– Pedro Hernandez

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