Gur Geva – Founder and CEO, iiDENTIFii

African fintech startup iiDENTIFii is known for its face authentication technology, which verifies users quickly and safely through their cell phones or computers. Because of this expertise, leading African banks like Standard Bank, Absa, and Investec have put their trust in the Cape Town digital identity company as an enterprise-grade platform for verifying identity.

The company, which has been around since 2018, serves as a customer and employee authentication mechanism for the largest insurers and mining houses, among other markets. In September of 2022, the company raised $15 million in growth capital led by investment company Arise, whose cornerstone investors include Rabobank Partnerships, Norfund, Nor Finance, and FMO.

Regarded as the largest African series A round of financing in the identity verification space, Investors in the round alongside Arise are growth-stage private equity firm Sanari Capital and veteran US tech entrepreneur Bill Spruill.

In a statement, Gur Geva, Founder and CEO, iiDENTIFii, said that the investment validates the company’s central business thesis that it is the preferred partner for enterprise-grade identity in Africa. “We’re excited to put the investment to work as we close in on our goal of authenticating every face in Africa. With this new funding, we can confidently continue our mission of stopping identity theft in Africa. “

Capping the funding feat, iiDENTIFii took the top spot at the 2022 KPMG Tech Innovator in Africa Award, which recognizes new technology breakthroughs that transform and revolutionize businesses in diverse industries.

iiDENTIFii Founder and CEO Gur Geva spoke with Africa Executive about how iiDENTIFii’s face authentication technology differs from competing products on the market, why he believes biometrics is the future of payments validation and security, and why he believes biometric authentication is critical for long-term success and sustainability.

Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for iiDENTIFii?

It all started with a personal event where my friend was faced with an attempted abduction of his child due to an imposter. 

Since then, we’ve been on a mission to stop identity fraud, enable financial inclusion, and safeguard businesses and their customers from the financial and emotional trauma caused by identity theft.  We want to create a safer world where everybody, everywhere and on any device, has a digitally authenticated face and a name.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world: experts believe that someone’s identity is stolen somewhere in the world every two seconds.  It is our mission to ensure that our technology assists in the fight against human trafficking and identity fraud.  We want every person with a social media handle (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) to also be authenticated, that is, every person should have a “double-tick” confirming their physical identity, in a digital world.

(For example, if everyone on Twitter had their physical identity authenticated, then there wouldn’t have been the recent issue where Elon Musk believes that most of the Twitter handles are actually bots and not real people).

Could you please explain how iiDENTIFii’s biometrics authentication solutions work?

We are a proven enterprise-grade facial biometric authentication and automated onboarding platform. We verify an individual’s digital identity and authenticate their physical presence in an online world. We’ve trained our algorithm in millions of face-match operations in Africa, encompassing thousands of unique ethnicities across the continent. Our technology platform enables people/customers to remotely authenticate their identity, prove their liveness, and automatically upload their identity documentation, in a secure, frictionless, cost-effective, and convenient manner.

STEP 01 – The client takes a selfie.

Facial biometric authentication is effortless and secure. The user intuitively aligns their face on the device and the advanced algorithms determine the user is the right person, a real person and that they are authenticating right now in real-time.

STEP 02 – Client scans ID document.

Once 4D LivenessTM is confirmed, the facial biometric image from the ID Document is cross-referenced along with key data from the person’s identity document.

STEP 03 – Verified through triangulation.

By comparing the user’s selfie and facial image extracted from the ID document, together with the facial image at the relevant authoritative database, we accurately authenticate someone’s identity.

How do iiDENTIFii’s solutions differ from similar products on the market?

There are smaller companies that are involved in identity verification (IDV) in Africa, but few can deliver enterprise-grade security and customer experience, and at scale. The advantages of having iiDENTIFii as an IDV partner of choice in the African market include:

⦁ 4D LivenessTM – the assurance of genuine presence, including proof of liveness – the ability to confirm that an individual is a real person, present right now. Our 4D Liveness is resilient against deep fakes and replays attacks
⦁ Facial authentication – which matches faces to trusted images using machine learning technology       
⦁ Identity document verification – the capability to assess the authenticity of specified ID documentation, and extract the data
⦁ Facial biometric verification – triangulation of information with institutions like the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Why do you believe biometric authentication is now critical for long-term success and sustainability?

As digitization accelerates across Africa, the demand for liveness detection and online identity authentication services has become a critical component. Companies require additional security as online identity fraud, impersonations, and cyber-attacks become more sophisticated.

Take banking for example, where the requirement for digitized biometric authentication in Africa is immense. The region is a ‘sleeping giant’ when it comes to accessing traditional bank accounts, digital banking, and affordable financial services. 

According to the World Bank, 57% of Africans still do not have any kind of bank account, including mobile money accounts. This translates to about 360 million adults in the region and approximately 17% of the total global unbanked population without access to formal financial services, a recent study by BPC and Fincog found. 

South Africa’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) notes that banking regulations of digital services in most of Africa are slow to evolve, with a study from the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies showing that only 15 African countries have completed national cybersecurity strategies for threat monitoring and response.

What are some examples of how iiDENTIFii brings together digital and physical user experiences?

Take customer onboarding and fraud prevention for example iiDENTIFii’s platform establishes trust at the point of onboarding with its facial biometric liveness detection, increasing trust in your business. Anti Money Laundering (AML) client onboarding officers, client onboarding and customer experience specialists, onboarding analysts, and product specialists all contend with an overarching pain point: balancing security and customer experience.

Manual onboarding, whether in part or in full, overcomes some of these issues, but at a huge cost. In a Thomson Reuters survey, 30% of respondents stated it takes them over two months to onboard a new client. Some customers will even abandon the process (up to 43%), which in turn hurts revenue growth. Manual and legacy systems are also inconsistent, filled with errors leading to bad data, and have a high abandonment rate across the process.

How do the products of iiDENTIFii ensure security and compliance?

• It is GDPR/POPIA compliant as well as complying with many other global regulations.
• It has ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) certification. 
• It is also the most-tested technology of its kind on the market, proven at a national level.
• The SOC (security operations center) considers evolving biometric threats. 4D LivenessTM is resilient against deep fakes and replays attacks, and not only shows that a user is a right person and a real person but also – and critically – authenticating right now. 
• The cloud-based technology makes it fast to implement and easy to manage updates centrally across a large range of systems and territories.
• Having security based in the cloud also prevents the risk of reverse engineering that can be done on-device systems, and provides resilience in large-scale deployment.
• This also means it can be used across all devices because integrity is provided in the activity, irrespective of the device.
• It turns KYC into a strategic differentiator to provide an effortless, remote onboarding experience.
• The information captured at onboarding can also be used to bring new services and products to market faster.
• The cloud-based technology also eases implementation, allowing for quick adaptation to new regulations and minimizing risk.
• The single SDK also provides two technologies, creating a consistent user experience while offering due diligence at and post-onboarding.

Can you give us any hints about what else we can expect from iiDENTIFii in the coming years?

We’re focused on becoming the default enterprise-grade identity verification (IDV) service provider on the continent

Biometric authentication technology is changing the way we identify ourselves with our mobile devices. But how well is it positioned in the digital transformation trend that is sweeping not just financial services, but the entire society?

Digital platforms and networks are the backbones for a range of sectors such as banking and financial services, telecommunications, health, and education, thus contributing to the overall growth of the digital economy.  Historically, biometric identification has been for the privileged few – the technologically advanced with access to hi-tech, leading-edge equipment – providing access to services that are typically not for the digitally excluded.

However, remote digital biometric authentication has a crucial role to play in bridging the digital divide. The digitally excluded are missing out on access. By definition, without access, the keys to both social and financial inclusion are unreachable. Those who do not have access to newer technologies are disadvantaged in healthcare, education, and financial support. These areas have a significant negative impact on an individual’s overall quality of life.

An inclusive digital identity approach provides citizens with access to basic critical government services such as labor markets, government benefits, and financial services.  It can also unlock opportunities for people who have an identity but limited ability to use this in the digital world.

How do you see biometric authentication evolving, and where do you see it fitting in over the next five to ten years?

The reality is that machines are better at identifying people than humans will ever be. Ongoing research and innovations in biometric technology go beyond “open biometric data” – your fingers, eyes, and face. There are experimental projects using traits like your heartbeat, intraocular vessels, the shape of your earlobes, and more. We are, after all, individuals in many different ways.

We believe though that the future will lie in the simplicity and familiarity of the technology – one thing’s for sure though, long, difficult passwords will be a thing of the past.

What impact will biometric technology have on our lives? What will happen in the future?

Biometric authentication has a crucial role to play in bridging the digital divide.  Many of us take digital inclusion for granted. There are many who do not have consistent, reliable access to the advanced technologies that make our lives easier and improve our quality of life.   This inclusive digital identity approach can open doors to basic critical government services such as labor markets, government benefits, and financial services, without the risk of impersonation or fraudulent funding.

Is biometric authentication as quick, cost-effective, and secure as the market demands?

identity fraud has historically been difficult to detect. Our technology can authenticate and automatically onboard a person in under 30 seconds. Our algorithm vastly reduces false accept and reject rates, fully protecting consumers and businesses. It’s safe and secure. 

Which industry is seeing the most demand for biometric authentication solutions?

Right now the banking services sector is leading the charge but others are following hot on their heels, including telcos, government, online retail, health, and more.

How disruptive are bots in the financial services industry, and how can biometric authentication mitigate the risk they pose?

As we have seen recently from the Elon Musk and Twitter saga, whereby Musk is claiming that most of the Twitter accounts are actually bots, amplifies the fact that bots are very prevalent and very disruptive. Strong biometric authentication will certainly play a major role in deterring bots.   

What are your thoughts on the growth of the fintech industry?

The fintech industry will continue to grow exponentially, as financial services will now be available, through the growth of digital transformation to so many more people, who were previously excluded from this market. Those organizations and institutions who fail to embrace it will do so at their peril 

What are the major trends affecting this industry? And how prepared is your company to be a part of the growth story?

Globally online activity will continue to grow exponentially. Trusting and authenticating the digital identity of individuals communicating and transacting online will continue to become more and more paramount and essential.

Despite the obvious risks, passwords continue to be the de facto standard for online application user access and authentication. But how far have businesses recognized the flaw and pursued more effective methods of protecting their customers’ online accounts and their businesses?

Authentication minimizes the “attack window” for cybercriminals. Since it eliminates the use of passwords as a security model, it also eliminates the traditional threats associated with username and password logins such as phishing and man-in-the-middle cyberattacks. 

Extending the length or complexity of passwords, or adding two-factor authentication, is merely making technology more complex to use, extending the challenge to hackers and excluding the digitally challenged. We see a safer world where everybody, everywhere and on any device, has an authenticated face and name – in just a few seconds.

How critical is it for businesses to ensure that their employees are following proper security procedures?

Fraudsters have become savvier and even facial verification with gesture/motion requirements isn’t enough to ensure you’re dealing with a real person. Not being able to efficiently spot bad actors leaves a company open to huge and continued losses. These losses are not only financial – fraud leaves an organization open to legal risk and severe reputation damage, leading to a loss of trust, decreased Net Promoter Score, and eventual loss of customers.


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