Robin Tombs, CEO of Yoti, discusses the future of biometric digital identity, launching in India and his entrepreneurial journey!

We celebrated a milestone at Yoti HQ last week. A pretty big milestone too. Our app reached 1,000,000 downloads, being installed by people from 201 countries around the world.

You might say that’s fantastic news for myself, the other co-founders and the team at Yoti, and you’d be right – it is. But more importantly, it’s a significant moment for the future of biometric digital identities.

Reinventing how we prove who we are

When myself, Duncan and Noel (fellow co-founders) started Yoti in 2014, we set out to build the world’s trusted identity platform. Quite what that looked like, we didn’t really know.

All we knew was something had to be done to fix the world’s broken identity system, and that the solution must put the consumer firmly in control of something as precious as their identity. It made no sense to us that while the rest of our lives were going digital, the way we proved who we are was stubbornly clinging to paper and card.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live, what you do or how much money you have. We’ve all suffered the pain of proving who, or what, we are. Photocopying passports and driving licences is not smart; fraudsters are a dab hand with fake passport images. Mentally counting out the third and penultimate characters of our passwords on the phone to a customer service agent. Trying to get the shop assistant’s attention so you can prove your age buying a bottle of wine at the supermarket self checkout.

Consumers need a digital solution. They need digital identities they can control from their most prized possessions: their mobile phones.

And it isn’t just a question of convenience. Slowly but surely, people are starting to appreciate just how vulnerable their data is. The likes of Equifax and Cambridge Analytica are putting data security top of the news agenda. People want to know how they can protect themselves from being defrauded. They want to know how they can continue to do the things they love, but share less of their personal information doing them.

Businesses want digital identities too. Think about the potential that a seamless, trusted and secure identity ecosystem holds for eliminating fraud. Or how it could dramatically reduce the time spent checking IDs in shops, verifying customer identities over the phone or waiting for copies of documents to be sent via post. Today it is just way too easy for a fraudster to sign up to a website with someone’s name, date of birth and address.

Building something the world’s never seen before

Something I hear a lot is how surprising it is that this hasn’t been done before. “I can’t believe this hasn’t already been done.”

Building a secure user friendly identity platform and app is painfully slow going sometimes. We have people at Yoti today who have been with us from the beginning. Now that we’re a fully fledged tech company, with more than 200 people and an enterprise valuation of over £65m, it’s easier for those early Yotians to see the value in what we’re doing.

For a good three years or so we were beavering away, building our tech and wrestling with issues, with the outside world having virtually no idea that we existed. Such a long gestation period is challenging for team morale and motivation. You ask a lot of people when you ask them to develop a solution for what is arguably one of society’s most pressing issues, with little to no recognition for their efforts for such a long period.

Things are really moving now though. India is proving to be a very promising market for Yoti, with a huge growth in install numbers and a booming mobile phone market. Biometric identity verification and the arrival of the Aadhaar identity card are creating exciting opportunities and utility for Yoti and Indians, while leading Indian dating site TrulyMadly has declared a huge vote of confidence in us by integrating Yoti into its dating app.

Applying what I learned at Gamesys to Yoti

Linkups like the one with TrulyMadly are really helping to cement that there’s a need for Yoti, or digital identities in general, in different countries and sectors. It’s why I felt that this was the right challenge for me after Gamesys. I knew there was a big enough problem to be solved and I felt that, as part of a team could, we solve it.

The lessons Noel and I have Iearned taking Gamesys from a small UK gaming site in 2002 to one of the biggest players in the world, turning over £200m year on year, has helped us massively in our efforts to grow Yoti.

Some talented people joined Yoti from Gamesys to help build up the team. It was important to me that I was working with people who understood that long term commercial success for a business is only secured through continually focusing on what the customer wants.

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