Taavi Tamkivi: “I was worrying about all the people who were getting hurt”

Hero of the Week Taavi Tamkivi is the co-founder and CEO of Salv. Salv is an anti-money laundering user-friendly platform for financial companies that helps to detect money of criminal origin more effectively. Recently, the startup raised $ 2 million from several investors.

Taavi is giving a speech on the 30th of January at sTARTUp Day, the largest business festival in the Baltics, about how to solve a trillion-dollar problem.

Explain Salv to a child.

There are lots and lots and lots of bad guys in the world, trying to take money away from good people. Right now, only 1 or 2 out of every 100 financial bad guys are caught. The rest of the 98-99 get away! So Salv makes a digital tool in a field called Anti-Money Laundering (AML) to help banks’ good guys catch more of these financial bad guys. We help to stop criminals from hiding their money all over the world.

How did you become an entrepreneur – was it something that happened naturally or was it a well-deliberated decision?

Although I’ve been dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur for a long time, as many of my close relatives have been, I didn’t come across a clear opportunity. As I always liked mathematics, I chose roles in companies where I could work closely with numbers. It is not easy to find a natural path to entrepreneurship from the abstract world of maths. Eventually, after years of working in many jobs and companies, it turns out, I had learned so much, that I could help people in many other businesses. They started asking for my help, and surprisingly, many offered to pay! As I received more requests for help, I hired some very talented people to help me. Which naturally evolved into the business we have today. I’m so glad this is how it happened!

What have been the biggest victories along your journey?

Before all this, I knew I could resolve complex problems, build great things, and win the trust of people who I’d already worked alongside for years. But that’s not enough to build a successful start-up. Learning how to win the trust of people I don’t know, is much, much harder. Convincing them to trust me, our team, our mission—that’s hard. Why should they?

That’s why persuading new talent to join our team, clients becoming confident in our product, and getting investors to rush into our first financing round definitely feels like the biggest achievement of my journey so far. This new skill has helped me build a really mature team of 20+ people in a very short timeframe, win several early-phase clients in a really cautious banking B2B sector, and become able to hand-pick the most suitable VC’s among many interested ones for our seed round.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

One of the things that has improved my life a lot was the time I got to spend at home with my wife when our fourth child was born. I got to be a full-time dad for over a year. Okay, maybe “full-time” is a bit of an exaggeration. During that time at home, I also did a lot of work with my hobby projects, met with lots of old friends and colleagues, became an angel investor, and did a lot of learning. But still, that time at home helped me to refocus and reminded me of what was important. In fact, it was right after my year at home with our youngest, that I started the company that is now Salv.

I am inspired by:

I am inspired by intellectually-complex problems. Not just the problems themselves, but resolving them. And every time I face one of these huge challenges and find solutions, it makes me feel adventurous. It’s like I’m conquering intellectually unexplored territory.

Why do you do what you do?

For over 10 years I’ve been stopping financial criminals that have been trying to benefit from the coolest world-changing technologies—Skype and TransferWise. For many years I struggled to sleep at night, worrying about all of the people who were getting hurt as a result of all of the bad guys I wasn’t able to catch. So that is still why I do what I do, but now on a much larger, more scalable level with Salv. I’m so excited that now that Salv exists, other institutions can also become better at stopping financial crimes and make the world a safer place for us all.

What is Salv doing in 20 years?

With individuals, just like the “verified by Visa” is a sign of trust in the credit card world, Salv is a sign of trust that people can present to their financial service providers that says “this person is secure to operate with.” With financial businesses, Salv is like modern anti-virus software for banks, running largely in the background to efficiently and effectively fight the remaining attempts to launder criminal proceeds. And, between these two, Salv has helped reverse the numbers trend so that, globally, we’re catching 98-99 out of 100 financial criminals, rather than the other way around as it was in 2019.


Hero of the Week is a column focused on inspirational entrepreneurial people around us – their journeys, success stories and lessons learned from failures; goals, inspiration and everything in between. Get inspired and be the Hero of your own life!

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