Here’s the exclusive 16-slide pitch deck that startup Alcatraz AI used to raise $25 million to open doors with facial recognition

Headshot of Vince Gaydarzhiev
  • Alcatraz AI makes The Rock, a small security system that uses biometrics and facial recognition.
  • Its $25 million Series A was led by Almaz Capital and included investors in the US and Europe.
  • This 16-slide deck showcased its platform and AI security device that works with badge readers.

Alcatraz AI, an artificial-intelligence-based security-tech company, has raised $25 million in Series A funding.

The funding round was led by the global venture-capital firm Almaz Capital and involved new investors, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Silverline Capital, and Endeavor Catalyst. Its existing investors, such as JCI Ventures, the venture-capital unit of the home-security company Johnson Controls, also joined in the round. 

Vince Gaydarzhiev, who founded the startup in 2016, told Insider the idea for its technology came from something he’d observed in his Big Tech workplaces. Gaydarzhiev is a former Apple engineer who started out developing Face ID for iPhones.

At Apple, and Nvidia before that, he also worked on teams integrating chips into products like Tesla’s Model S vehicles. During his time at these companies, Gaydarzhiev noticed the ubiquity of guards, who were often present on every floor and stationed by doors, sometimes on either side of them.

The notorious prison island in San Francisco Bay and its nickname inspired the names for Alcatraz AI and its signature device, The Rock, respectively, Gaydarzhiev said.

The device, roughly the size of an iPhone, recognizes faces through built-in sensors and cameras and can be mounted on the wall by secured doors, close to the badge readers that grant access. The Rock communicates with the badge reader to ensure that those passing through have satisfied multiple criteria, including facial recognition, for gaining entry — the equivalent of multifactor authentication to improve log-in security.

Alcatraz AI has offices in Bulgaria, where Gaydarzhiev is originally from, as well as in Cupertino, California, and Indianapolis. The Rock is made in a manufacturing facility in Plano, Texas. 

Gaydarzhiev said he’d embarked on a goal to “reimagine access control using face ID for physical environments for the physical world,” setting out in 2015 to find the support to materialize his vision. He attended conferences and hardware meetups and spoke with attorneys who connected him with angel investors as he built up the company in its early days, along with a software expert from Apple and a mechanical-industrial-design engineer.

“I started basically by asking whoever I knew in the Valley,” he said. “My advice to founders will be, always ask for introductions, especially the people you talk to.”

Alcatraz AI

Thesis statement

Alcatraz AI

Company overview

Alcatraz AI

The startup began with three employees, including Gaydarzhiev, and has grown to roughly 70 employees, including those from a technical-engineering background, as well as those with experience in the physical-security industry.

Gaydarzhiev said clients typically preferred not to be identified but said the Los Angeles Football Club used it at the Banc of California stadium, adding that hospitals and telecommunications companies had used it too.

Illustrating touchless authentication

Alcatraz AI

The product also addresses the problem of “tailgating,” which is when someone follows another person through a secure door without demonstrating they’re authorized to do so. The Rock detects the passage of anyone who hasn’t been explicitly granted entry and automatically alerts security, Gaydarzhiev said. 

Modernizing security-access controls

Alcatraz AI

“In the past, we had a lot of technologies kind of separate,” Gaydarzhiev said. But advancements in software technology have helped consolidate them into fewer products. In the case of Apple, for instance, apps have combined several technologies into one device. He said he intended for Alcatraz AI’s offerings to do the same for security tech.

“We are merging video and access control, and even the ability of a guard, into one small product that you can deploy by the door,” he said.

Patented technology

Alcatraz AI

Three company patents have been granted, while about a dozen patents are pending, according to Gaydarzhiev.

Innovations around privacy

Alcatraz AI

Gaydarzhiev said the company also prioritized privacy and designed its products so that companies using its technology didn’t have to store the personal information of their employees, including names, pictures, or other identifying data. In detecting a face, for instance, the device outputs just the badge number associated with that face and purges the face itself after authenticating the entry, he said.

Illustration of how The Rock detects a ‘tailgate’

Alcatraz AI

How the device connects to other infrastructure

Alcatraz AI

The flow of how it’s deployed

Alcatraz AI

A growing market

Alcatraz AI

A case study

Alcatraz AI

This illustrates a typical case study involving a customer in the telecommunications space, highlighting its requirements and Alcatraz AI’s value proposition, Gaydarzhiev said.

Another example involving a banking-company client

Alcatraz AI.

Fundraising plans

Alcatraz AI

Gaydarzhiev said the startup, like many tech companies at this stage, planned to invest in sales, marketing, and developing some products.

The leadership team

Alcatraz AI

Alcatraz AI