TechCrunch Disrupt alum UnifyID has the clear goal of changing the way we think about authentication. Instead of entering a username and password as the only line of defense to our computer systems, it wants us to rely on other data that comes from the phone in our pockets.
That smartphone has a number of sensors in it like an accelerometer and a GPS, and using the kinds of data it gather from the phone, the company can begin to build an understanding of who you are, your typical behaviors and even the cadence of how you walk. It pulls this information into a machine learning back-end to process it and build a profile of each individual in the system.
The username and password don’t go away completely with this technique, but it becomes a secondary form of authentication when the system lacks a high enough probability that it is a given person.
You could understand how an approach like that would be attractive to any number of companies and governments, all of which are desperately looking for better ways to secure their systems. It was that same creative thinking that got the company into the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco last year, where it placed second, and it is the same reasoning that attracts investors.
Today, the company announced a $20 million Series A investment led by NEA with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Stanford-StartX and Accomplice Ventures, each of which had participated in the company’s seed round.
When it launched at the Battlefield competition last fall, the company announced a consumer-focused Chrome browser plug-in with an iOS app. Today, it has changed focus, offering a Software Development Kit (SDK) to customers to install their authentication tools as a service inside any application.
“The business model is to sell the SDK and backend platform to companies with pre existing mobile apps and charge on a per-API call basis,” co-founder Kurt Somerville told TechCrunch.
It’s similar to how a company would add payment services to an application using Stripe or communications services using Twilio.
Once the UnifyID tools are in place, a user could simply walk up to their computer, and without signing in, start working because the system would understand based on the UnifyID information that it was that person. In turn, when the person walked away from the machine, it would deactivate it so that nobody else could use the computer.
Somerville says the company has done accuracy tests to ensure the validity of the system and claims they have found it to be accurate 99.999 percent of the time.
Today, the company is working with 10 business partners on the SDK, and has 15 full time employees, but with $20 million in new money, they are shooting to have around 40 engineers in next 6-9 months. “It’s aggressive scale and we feel we need to do it to be able to work with companies that are showing interest in our platform,” Somerville explained.