Stephen Ufford says he got the idea to start identity-verification startup Trulioo while watching CNN.
Anderson Cooper was interviewing a woman who had just gotten her first cellphone. When she uploaded a picture of herself to Facebook, she started crying. She wasn’t crying because of the phone or Facebook, Ufford says, she was crying because it was the “first record of her existence.”
Ufford is one the finalists for Entrepreneur of the Year in the Canadian Startup Awards, for his work with startup which he says will “allow people from emerging markets to participate in the new sharing economy” as well as access e-commerce platforms and online financial services.
He describes identity verification as the “Internet’s oldest problem.” While online financial service providers in places like the United States and Canada have rich underlying technology and anti-fraud tools, that hasn’t existed in other parts of the world.
“What tools are there for the Squares and the PayPals of the world to push into emerging markets?” Ufford asks.
In 2014, Trulioo released its flagship product, GlobalGateway, which he says has the potential to solve this problem for “everyone in the world.”
Drawing on 140 data partners, including governments, credit bureaus, banks, utilities, social networks and mobile app developers, the software is a fully-automated solution that Ufford says can verify the identity of people in over 40 countries in under five seconds.
Putting it together wasn’t easy.
“It took two year to develop our product,” Ufford says. But it’s something he planned for. “I knew that the cycles for development would be expensive and long.”
“I knew that what we were building wasn’t an iPhone app,” says Ufford. “It was a very complex project.”
Now that Trulioo has moved out of research and development the big challenge is growth.
While Ufford has started companies before, he says he’s done a “startup every three years for the past three years,” this is the first time he’s scaled a business, something he expects to be a learning process.
While Trulioo made its first acquisition and did its second venture capital raise in 2014, Ufford says the real highpoint of the year was the “first time we’ve ever needed to scale our c-suite.”
The “opportunity pipeline was growing so fast,” Ufford says. “I didn’t have the bandwidth.”
It was a big moment when he realized “wow, I’m going to have to make myself redundant,” he says, “and hire some people around me.”
After going from “zero to 300 customers in one year,” he expects that by the end of 2015, Trulioo will have 3,000 customers.
“We’ve attracted really interested use cases,” Ufford says. “Really meaningful organizations and big companies that want to move into emerging markets.”
One area Ufford says Trulioo can really make a difference is with microlenders, who struggle to get big banks to put up funds because of the increased risks.
“What we’re trying to do is redistribute wealth and opportunity around the world,” he says.