Digital identity startup Yoti raises additional £8M at a valuation of £82M

Yoti, the London startup offering a digital identity platform and app that lets you prove who you say you are when accessing services or making age-verified purchases, has raised £8 million in additional funding.

Backing the round is unnamed private investors, Yoti employees and Robin Tombs, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, who previously founded and exited online gambling company Gamesys. I’m told that the startup has had around £65 million in investment in total since being founded in 2014, the majority of which has been made by Tombs and another Yoti co-founder, Noel Hayden.

Noteworthy, Yoti says the injection of capital comes with a new valuation of £82 million, up from £40 million when Yoti raised £8 million about a year and a half ago. The caveat being, of course, that Tombs and Hayden have effectively helped to set that valuation from both sides of the table.

“The current identity system is broken, outdated and insecure; we still have to show physical identity documents simply to prove who we are,” says Tombs, explaining the problem Yoti has set out to solve. “But this results in us sharing an excessive amount of personal information, putting us at risk of identity fraud. Additionally, millions of ID documents are lost and stolen every year, and our online accounts are vulnerable to data hacks.”

Launched in November 2017, Yoti’s solution includes the Yoti digital identity app, which claims more than 4.7 million installs. It essentially replaces a traditional ID card or other paper proof of identity. Yoti also has various partnerships that sees organisations use its ID verification technology within their own apps and websites.

The idea is that Yoti can be used to prove your age on nights out, to check out faster when buying age-restricted items at a store, for safer online dating and other social interactions online or for accessing various business or government services.

The underlying system is granular, too: a company or organisation can ask to verify only certain aspects of your identity that you choose to share on a need-to-know basis.

“At Yoti we believe in putting people in control to share less personal information and enabling businesses to know who they are dealing with using less, higher-quality verified data,” says Tombs. “For instance, someone could use Yoti to prove their age to buy age-restricted goods, but only share that they are 18+ to the business. This helps protect the individual’s personal data and privacy, whilst giving the company the details they need to be compliant. Everyone wins.”

Yoti can also potentially be used to help children be safer online by reducing the number of fake accounts and ensuring age guidelines are more strictly adhered to.

“As a parent, it’s very concerning just how easy it is for young kids to create social media accounts and access explicit age-restricted content online unchecked,” he says. “It’s too easy to create a fake profile online and give false details, so we can’t be confident about who we are meeting online.”

More broadly, Tombs argues that a digital identity platform can also support social inclusion for people who otherwise have no form of identity at all. “Over 1.1 billion people around the world don’t have any form of identification; leaving them socially excluded, left behind and unable to access essential services. We want to help fix these issues. We believe everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, deserves a safe way of proving their identity,” he says.

To that end, Yoti has formed a variety of partnerships spanning retail, government, travel and social media. These include Heathrow Airport, which is working with Yoti to explore biometric travel for passengers; NCR, which is using Yoti to improve age-verification at self-checkouts; and Yubo, which is deploying Yoti to verify the age of users and to “safeguard” young people online.

Last year, Yoti was selected by the Government of Jersey as its digital identity provider. This, we are told, has seen 10% of the Jersey adult population use Yoti.

Meanwhile, Yoti says it has developed a “private and secure” browser-based age verification solution called ProveMyAge, as it looks to cash in on the U.K.’s upcoming new Digital Economy Act. The product is designed to help adult websites comply with the age verification requirements of the legislation, which is set to come into force later this year.