Founded by Robin Tombs, Duncan Francis and Noel Hayden in 2014, Yoti is a company whose aim is to be the world’s trusted identity system, for individuals and businesses. Their team of software developers, security consultants and other clever minds work to improve the way people share their personal information, online and in person.
We spoke to Tombs (pictured) to hear more about why he, and his fellow founders, believe Yoti is the future of safer and more seamless identification.
Let’s get right to it: what is Yoti?
Yoti is a digital identity platform that makes it quicker, easier and safer for individuals and organisations to verify who people are, online and in person. Our app and technologies solve everyday identity challenges and help people and businesses work together to tackle fraud, which is costing society billions each year – as well as build transparency and trust in the personal data we share.
For consumers, it’s a free app that helps them prove who they are and confirm the identities of others. Each Yoti is created using biometrics and a government-issued passport or driving licence. Bank-level security encrypts their data and helps them safely prove their age at nightclubs and supermarkets, prove their identity to a business, swap identity details with others, and access websites using their biometrics instead of logins.
Yoti also provides apps and SDKs for businesses to securely connect and verify personal data in just seconds – saving time and money with each transaction.
How would you like to see the company take shape in the future?
We want to build the world’s trusted identity platform, which shares the responsibility of data ownership with individuals and lets anyone prove who they are, just by being themselves. No more passwords, no more filling in long forms and no more carrying around paper documents to do the things we enjoy or get stuff done. The continued success of the digital economy will depend on trust, and we aim to increase that trust and make life simpler and safer for everyone with Yoti.
What is Yoti’s USP?
It may not be not our main USP, but it’s important to me that we are driven by founding principles to do good for society. We’re committed to social and environmental accountability and transparency as a certified B Corp.
I believe people join Yoti because they believe in our mission and want to help others. It makes me proud that we’re striving to achieve this together, working on a product with the potential to help people around the world, every day. We’ve got a great team of developers building something special.
For the public, Yoti is different to other technology companies because it’s free and we don’t sell or use their data for marketing. Individuals can use Yoti for a broad range of everyday purposes. It’s a cross-sector identity solution that enables them to access websites, services and premises without having to show their ID documents each time – all with one easy-to-use app. Being in control of their information – knowing who has it and how much of it they have – is vital in this digital world where we give away so many personal details.
What your mission with Yoti?
It’s not right that it’s so easy for criminals to commit identity fraud and it doesn’t make sense that our identity system relies so heavily on paper IDs in a digital world. We’re on a mission to fix this and put consumers in charge of their personal data, ultimately take control and fight back.
We’ve used smartphones and biometric technology to provide everyone with their digital identity. I don’t believe that another existing identity verification ‘solution’ that provides a service which meets business needs AND empowers consumers to understand the value of their personal data. Yoti is the world’s first cross-sector, mobile-friendly AND consumer-friendly identity system.
What is your personal background?
Alongside Yoti, I am a co-founder (and was initially Finance Director) at Gamesys, (one of the world’s leading online gaming operators with annual revenues over £300m, 1,050 staff and offices in 6 countries). Prior to Gamesys, I co-ran another business with Noel Hayden (another Gamesys co-founder), which we successfully built up and sold, and before that I was an auditor with PwC in London.
What fuels you?
I’m particularly passionate about creating opportunities for young people to achieve their potential in life and to bring scalable web and mobile technologies to the not-for-profit sector. So, outside of Yoti, I’m an investor or funder in a handful of early stage for-profit and social businesses, including Infinitesima, Trumin, Luxdeco, Syft, Working Knowledge and the National College for Digital Skills. I’m also founder of Zing, a charity which supports other charities helping young people to realise their potential, and a trustee of Future First, a charity which is designed to help state schools build and manage an alumni community.
What inspired you to start the company?
I was at a Spartan race event in California where 10,000 people were queuing up to prove who they were with either their passport or driving licence. It was a tedious and painful process – and then people had to leave their valuable identity documents in their bags in a big tent for the day.
I spoke to Duncan Francis, my Yoti co-founder, and between us we spotted an opportunity to harness the growth and advancement of biometric technologies and smartphone usage to develop a digital identity solution that could be used both online and in person – giving people a much simpler and safer way of proving who they are.
As stated earlier, the way we prove who we are is outdated and inefficient. There’s too much reliance on paper documents, despite the growing expectation that you can do everything on your phone – including proving your identity. We also have limited control over our personal data – and often no control over the type and amount of information we give to companies. With Yoti, we put people back in control: they choose what personal data to share, who to share it with and how they share it.
Tell us how Yoti grew from the start to what is now
We founded the company in April 2014, and put a small team together to develop the technology. We then spoke to lots of businesses and regulators to ensure Yoti is an accepted form of ID in as many places as possible. Our team has continued to grow ever since, and we now have over 150 employees based in London, with plans for launching in India later this year.
Challenging the current ways of identity verification isn’t easy but we’re passionate that businesses and customers deserve better. We had great feedback from organisations across a range of sectors – including cinemas, nightclubs, supermarkets, classifieds sites, financial services and recruitment companies. We’ve also shown Yoti to several UK government departments, No. 10 Downing Street Policy Unit, and the police to try and ensure Yoti is an accepted form of ID.
We went live in the app stores in early 2017, and we’re running trials with several businesses right now. We have more exciting pilots lined up for later this year which I need to keep quiet about – for now!
What’s the biggest challenge Yoti has faced so far?
One of the most significant challenges we faced early on was being able to read the NFC chips on passports from different countries. It was crucial that we are able to read passports from as many countries as possible, because we want to offer Yoti to everyone globally. We overcame this challenge thanks to the determination of our very talented tech team, and we continue to test passports from more countries. This means we can become a global business, and offer people around the world the chance to get their digital identity.
Any breakthrough moments you’re particularly proud of?
We’ve already got our first brands piloting Yoti and new businesses are joining the pilot programme every week. We’ve been talked about in Parliament as a viable identity solution and people like why we’re here and what we stand for. That’s really important.
As mentioned earlier, we also became a founding member of the UK B Corporation network. This has been an incredible highlight for the company! We are highly motivated by the social benefits Yoti can have and being a B Corp will help us achieve those objectives.
What’s your business model?
Yoti is a free app for consumers, and it will always be free for them to download, create and use. We charge businesses a small fee to check the identity of their customers and potential employees – however it is free for charities.
Any plans for future growth?
The beauty of Yoti is that you create it and verify your details just once but then you can use it time and time again with a whole range of businesses. So our aim is to continue working with more businesses – the more places that recognise and accept Yoti, the more valuable and useful it becomes.
What about funding plans?
The company is privately funded and will remain so for the foreseeable future.