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ID checking tech startup founded by three Oxford graduates raises $50m

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Onfido’s document checking technology in action. Photo: Onfido

A British tech startup that helps companies like Zipcar check customer IDs through their smartphones has raised $50m (£38bn).

Onfido raised the money from a group of investors including Japanese tech investment company SoftBank, the venture capital arm of software company Salesforce (CRM), and M12Captial, which was formerly known as Microsoft Ventures.

Onfido uses artificial intelligence and image recognition technology to verify people’s identity documents using just a photo of the document and a selfie.

“More and more businesses are moving online so they no longer see their customers face-to-face, so they need to be able to verify them in an effective way,” Husayn Kassai, the CEO and cofounder of Onfido, told Yahoo Finance UK.

The company works with over 1,500 companies globally, including rental car firms Zipcar and Europcar and money transfer business Remitly. Kassai said the most popular industries for Onfido’s technology are financial services, home sharing, and car sharing.

Kassai founded the startup in 2012 with two friends he met while studying at Oxford. The idea came from the university thesis of one of the cofounders, Rahul Amin, who used computer vision and machine learning to spot wildlife in photographs.

“In our view, the company mission is to create this open, worldwide identity as the key to access,” Kassai told Yahoo Finance UK. “You can imagine soon you’ll be ordering prescription drugs from your home or eventually voting should be done, in our view, from the comfort of your own home.”

Onfido CEO and cofounder Husayn Kassai, left, and Salesforce’s Frank van Veenendaal. Photo: Onfido

Consultants McKinsey have estimated that online verification could become a $20bn market by 2020.  Tomoyuki Nii, executive officer at SBI Investment, the vehicle through which SoftBank made its investment, said: “Onfido is very well placed to solidify its position as the global leader in identity verification.”

Kassai wouldn’t comment on Onfido’s revenues, profitability, or valuation.

“The key metric we’re driving at is helping a billion verifications by 2025, which we’re on track to do,” he said. “Second, we have an internal metric that we follow, which is to make sure everyone continues to look forward to coming to work. It sounds simple, but it’s actually important to us.”

While Onfido was founded in the UK and still has a large office here, Kassai is now based in San Francisco.

“The centre of gravity is the States — it’s our largest market and our fastest growing market,” he said. “A lot of the company’s that are global are based here.”

Frank van Veenendaal, Salesforce’s vice chairman, said: “I believe Onfido has the unique opportunity to transform the digital identity market and deliver robust and scalable authentication-as-a-service, similar to how Salesforce transformed customer relationship management.”

Van Veenendaal will join Onfido’s board of directors as part of the deal.

Onfido, which has seven offices around the world, said the fresh cash will allow it to consolidate its position in the US and accelerate expansion in Europe and South-East Asia. The startup has raised over $100m to date.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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