LEADER Q&A: Robin Tombs, CEO and Co-Founder of Yoti

Robin Tombs is the CEO and Co-Founder of Yoti, a London-based company launched in 2014 with big ambitions to become the world’s trusted identity platform. Along with his Co-Founders, Robin saw an opportunity to harness the growth and advancements in biometrics and smartphone usage to develop a digital identity solution that could be used online and in person. 

Where is the demand coming from businesses or individuals?

We have businesses across a range of sectors showing interest in Yoti:

  • The Jersey Government selected Yoti as their official ID provider, giving their citizens a simpler and safer way of proving their identity
  • Nightclubs and events in Jersey are accepting Yoti as a valid form of ID, letting individuals leave their passports safe at home
  • Dating sites, including Truly Madly in India, are using Yoti to verify their users to create a safer community of daters
  • We’ve partnered with Deltic, the UK’s largest nightclub chain, to offer their customers a new way to prove their age
  • We’re working in the FCA Sandbox to test our innovative approach to KYC with insurance startup Worry+Peace
  • We also have pilots lined up with UK supermarkets.

It’s great to have such interest from a range of businesses and shows the time has come for a cross-sector digital identity.

We’ve also seen demand from individuals. Prior to our launch in November we had over 100,000 people register for the beta version of the app. Since then we’ve had over 1.7 million installs, showing that individuals are ready for a new way to prove their identity. People are also appreciating just how vulnerable their data is and want to take steps to protect their precious information. With a single, verified digital identity people can have a safer way to prove who they are, and have more control over their data – helping to protect them from the ever-growing risk of identity fraud.

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Geographically, where are you seeing the biggest and fastest uptake of the Yoti platform?

We’re based in London and are working with some great brands in the UK including Hiscox, Jagermeister, Accenture, Freeads, NHS Ipswich Hospital, CitizenCard, and Deltic, the UK’s largest nightclub chain.

In March 2018, the States of Jersey announced Yoti as their digital ID provider, offering citizens a modern way to prove their identity, online and in person. Islanders will be able to use Yoti to:

  • Prove who they are when dealing with the States of Jersey online and in person, making it more convenient when using digital services and reducing the risk of identity theft
  • Log into websites more securely without having to remember usernames and passwords
  • Prove their identity to businesses without showing and photocopying paper documents
  • Leave their passport safe at home when going to nightclubs and events, and prove their age with their phone 

We’ve also launched in India. This is a key market for us, in addition to the UK and US. Indians, many of them millennials, are well educated and open to adopting new technologies. Our first partnership there is with dating app Truly Madly, who are using Yoti to verify their users to create a safe and trusted community of daters. In today’s world of online dating, we have to trust that the person we’re talking to is who they say they are. Yet it’s too easy for someone to set up a fake profile and pretend to be another person, resulting in romance scams and identity fraud. We’re really pleased to be working with companies like Truly Madly to help create a safer platform for daters, and give people a simple and effective way to be confident that the people they meet online are who they say they are.

Are you noticing a specific demographic wanting to use Yoti?

It’s popular with young people who want a better way to prove their identity – it doesn’t make sense for them to have to carry around expensive and valuable passports and driving licences simply to prove their age. And with 10,000 passports lost on nights out and nearly £19m spent replacing driving licences, it’s time people had a safer way to prove who they are.

Yoti also offers a free password manager to give people an easier and more secure way to log into websites and protect their personal data. Unlike other solutions it doesn’t rely on a master password, instead using someone’s unique biometrics to access and make an encrypted store of their usernames and passwords. We believe our password manager will be popular with anyone who wants a faster, simpler and safer way to log into websites and secure their online accounts.

You rely in part on the biometric sensors within mobile devices. Are they now sophisticated enough to be used in this way?

Smartphones and biometric technology have continued to develop and improve over the past few years. If we weren’t confident in the technology we use, we wouldn’t release our products.

Individuals can log into their Yoti using either a PIN or fingerprint. We use the fingerprint sensors on smartphones to check the right individual is logging into their Yoti. No fingerprint data is stored, we simply check the fingerprint matches the one registered to that Yoti account. We also use the front facing camera on phones for facial recognition. We require at least a 1 megapixel camera for this. Almost every smartphone now comes with a 5 megapixel camera or higher so we’re confident in the accuracy of our biometric technology.

What is your vision for how people and businesses will manage identity in the future?

It’s time individuals knew exactly how their details are being used, and were empowered to have choice and control over which details to share, how to share these and who to share these with. We believe the answer is individuals controlling their own verified, digital identity. They’ll have a simpler way to prove their identity without the hassle of paper documents, a safer way share their personal details (being able to just share specific attributes like their name or 18+) and greater transparency over who has access to their data.

We’d also like to see more companies adopting a data minimisation approach, only asking for the required information they need from consumers, rather than requesting a whole ID document. This will help strike a balance between protecting individuals’ confidentiality whilst ensuring companies have the details they need from consumers. There will be more trust and transparency in the data shared, and individuals will have greater defence against the ever-growing threat of identity fraud.

What is the biggest challenge in creating a truly global identity platform? Regulation, culture, cost etc

It’s not easy to change an established way of doing things, but we believe individuals deserve a better way of proving their identity. To achieve this Yoti needs to be an accepted form of ID in different industries and countries. We must therefore meet regulation in different locations, which becomes more challenging as we expand globally.

What if anything is the one thing that needs to happen to see services such as Yoti become ubiquitous?

Individuals only need to create their Yoti once but they then have a secure digital identity for life, which can be used in a variety of places. We already have a range of businesses and venues using Yoti, but it will become ubiquitous as more places accept it.

Yoti is a cost effective solution and it takes just hours to integrate, so we’ve ensured time and money are not hurdles to businesses adopting Yoti.

Your Eureka moment was at a Spartan race. Does this mean you can always be found racing in search of your next big idea!

When you have such a creative and innovative team, they are often the ones running to me with the next big idea! Innovation is a key part of Yoti and it’s great to have a culture which inspires and encourages creative thinking.

For more information about Yoti visit: www.yoti.com