Digital identity services — used as a key link between organizations to verify that you are who you say you are online and individuals logging into those services — have come into their own in this past year. The pandemic has precipitated a shift where many services we might have used in person are now accessible via the web and apps, but at the same time, the amount of cybercrime aimed at abusing that environment is on the rise, and both trends fuel a stronger demand for ID verification tools. Now, one of the companies that provides digital identity products is announcing a large round of funding, underscoring both the market size and its ambitions to be a central player in that space.
Jumio, which has built a platform that provides a variety of digital identity tools and technology — using biometrics, machine learning, computer vision, big data, and more to run checks on ID documents, log-ins, suspicious financial activity, prevent identity theft and more — has closed a $150 million round of funding, money that the Palo Alto-based company will use to build more tools on its platform, and to double down on customer growth after a big year for the company.
Currently, the company’s primary business is B2B: it provides tools to enterprise customers like HSBC to manage digital identity verification. Some of the areas where it will be investing include expanding its AI capabilities to do more anti-money laundering work, and to look at building a B2C product, using the data, tools and network of customers that it has to help individuals better manage their identities online.
“I think the big thing is that the foundation of the internet is identity not anonymity,” said CEO Robert Prigge in an interview, who said the trend of digital transformation has spurred that chane. “It’s been a big shift over the last couple of years. People wanted to originally hide behind anonymity, but now identify is the keystone. Whether it’s online banking or social networks, you need to be able to establish trust remotely.”
Of course, anonymity still is there, just in a different form: data protection regulations are all about making sure that we can stay private if we so choose as we use the tools that are now the norm. That presents the challenge and opportunity for a company like Jumio: how to navigate the push for identity while still providing a way to do that with privacy protections in mind.
The funding is coming from a single investor, Great Hill Partners, which will be joining Centana and Millennium as shareholders in the company. The valuation is not being disclosed but CEO Robert Prigge noted a few details that he believes point to the company’s position right now.
He confirmed that Jumio made $100 million in revenues last year; this is the first money the company has raised in nearly five years after bringing in a modest $16 million in 2016; and this looks to be the largest single round ever raised for a digital identity company.
However, given the market environment and the advances of tech, there has been quite a lot of momentum in the space, and a number of other digital identity and anti-money laundering (AML) prevention startups have been launching, growing and raising money. Just in the last year, they have included ForgeRock ($96 million round), Onfido ($100 million), Payfone ($100 million), ComplyAdvantage ($50 million), Ripjar ($36.8 million) Truework ($30 million), Zeotap ($18 million), Persona ($17.5 million) — so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is not an outlier at the end of the day.
Acquisitions like Equifax buying Kount earlier this year, and Okta acquiring Auth0 for $6.5 billion, meanwhile, point to encroaching competition from other areas of the market such as credit rating agencies and those providing login services for corporates, as well as the bigger consolidation trends.
Jumio is notable among this group for being one of the bigger and older players. Prigge said that currently has around 1,000 customers, including some of the very biggest enterprises like the banking group HSBC, United Airlines and the telecoms operator Singtel, and it is active in 200 countries.
It’s also distinctive for having developed a platform approach, where it offers a range of different kinds of tools. This is in contrast to many others, which — partly as newer entrants — are focusing on more specific technology or addressing a narrower aspect of what is a pretty complex problem. That said, the company’s earliest work seems to still be the mainstay of what it does. The number of documents that it can “read” to begin the process of verifying users now numbers about 3,500. That has propelled more than 300 million verifications made on Jumio’s platform.
“Almost all vendors verify you are who you say you are, not that it’s really you. That is why the biometrics is so important.
In our case we see it as a holistic onboarding,” Prigge said. “We are one of the only AML and KYC [know your customer] providers.” The AML tools came by way of an acquisition the company made last year, of Beam Solutions.
This funding round, nevertheless, is a big step up for a company that has, in fact, seen a lot of ups and downs.
To be clear, Prigge is very explicit when he says that the Jumio he runs has nothing to do with an older incarnation of the company.
Jumio the first came into existence around a decade ago and raised nearly $40 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and Eduardo Saverin as an early player in mobile payments, with technology that could use the camera on a phone to scan cards and IDs to enable the payments. That business ran into a lot of hot water for mis-stating financial results and mostly likely other related things, and eventually it filed for bankruptcy in March 2016. Saverin apparently wanted to buy the business — if only to encourage other buyers to come out of the woodwork — eventually Centana did, at a bargain price of $850,000.
While that took a portion of the business (mainly branding, a business concept and some employees) out of bankruptcy, the legacy Jumio remained in a bankruptcy process that is, almost exactly five years to the date, still ongoing, partly because the original founder is being accused of destroying documents needed to finally conclude that mess.
The fact that Great Hill Partners is doing the investing here is notable. It’s mostly a PE firm that has been doing an increasing amount of investing in tech companies, part of a bigger trend where more PE firms are getting involved in rounds for later-stage startups. Its interest is in backing a company that has emerged as a leader in a crowded space but one targeting a big opportunity in digital identity, forecast to be worth some $12.8 billion by 2024, from $6 billion in 2019.
“Jumio has an incredible foundation – an expert management team, deep product roadmap and a global reach that is positioning the company for significant growth as the volume of online transactions and interactions, and associated fraud, is reaching record-highs. In particular, we have deep conviction in the company’s AI-enabled identity verification solution Jumio Go and KYC orchestration platform,” said Nick Cayer, partner at Great Hill Partners, in an emailed interview. “Jumio will need to both keep pace with incredible demand for online identity verification services, and of course outlast new and evolving competition in the space. We have strong conviction that Jumio has the right management team, innovative product roadmap and group of supporting investors to maintain leadership in the space.”