From a software engineer to an entrepreneur in just 12 months: Putri Karunia's story of how she co-founded Cotter

Putri Karunia

Putri Karunia fell in love with science and technology at an early age, completing her education at UC Berkeley, where she graduated Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. This is particularly impressive because women are under-represented in STEM-related professions, making up only 11% of all practicing engineers.

Since taking on the role of CTO at Govest, Putri engineered two innovative products: Cotter and Typedream. Let's unravel the story behind Putri's journey from software engineer to co-founder.

Putri became interested in graphic design in middle school and during her last year, enrolled in an HTML class which exposed her to web development. During high school, she started building simple web projects that gradually progressed to complex Artificial Intelligence projects. At 15 years old, Putri built a voice recognition software, functioning as her assistant, and at 16, built an Instagram replica which strengthened her engineering skills.

"I've always been interested in blending great design and technology and realized that software enables me to build an impactful solution that can be delivered to people all over the world. Software development allows me to [create] something that makes a difference." - says Putri.

Eventually, Putri's team was admitted to the prestigious startup accelerator, Y-Combinator, which is responsible for launching over 2000 companies, worth more than $400 billion, and introducing young founders to the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem.

When Putri and her co-founders experienced firsthand that user authentication was failing, the idea for Cotter was born. As the world became increasingly mobile-first, companies had to adapt to an authentication method relying primarily on SMS-based one-time passwords. The team learned from these companies that this was expensive and insecure. Therefore, Cotter was based on the PKI (public key infrastructure) protocol. Cotter's successful launch garnered thousands of clients and it is now used to authenticate millions of users around the world.

Cotter is simple for companies and users. For companies, it takes a mere 15 minutes to implement a significantly cheaper and more secure authentication method. Cotter can be configured to be more robust when needed. For users, they can authenticate by logging in from their trusted device without the need for an SMS-based password.

Cotter's passwordless authentication solution generates two keys: one public and one private. The public key identifies the user, whereas the private key is used to sign the authentication challenge generated by Cotter. Once the challenge is signed, the public key verifies that the signature was generated by its private key pair. This digital signature cannot be forged without having both the public and private key pair (stored on the device's secure storage).

Putri wears many hats. As an entrepreneur, she developed new skills, such as marketing, and learned how to market to developers by publishing on developer forums and blogs.

"As an engineer, I was never exposed to marketing. I didn't learn how to build an online presence [or] to become a thought leader in the field of authentication. I learned from scratch how to write marketing materials and how to publish them through multiple channels." - she admits.

Ultimately, Putri's experience led her to become the well-versed female entrepreneur that she is today, inspiring the next generation of startup founders. One of the most valuable pieces of advice that she shares is "Always have a beginner mindset and be open to learning new things. If you put in the hours you will eventually be good at it".