The Way We Prove Who We Are Is Outdated & Inefficient, Says Yoti CEO Robin Tombs

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As it is the case for many startups, the idea for the ID app Yoti was born from a personal, painful experience. CEO Robin Tombs shares his story & explains how the app aims to improve the lives of people around the globe:

Describe Yoti in 50 words or less.

Yoti is your ID, on your phone. The free app helps you prove who you are to companies and people, online and in person. You’ll be able to log into websites using your face, instantly know who you’re talking to online and prove your age with your phone at nightclubs.

How did you discover the need for this service?
What problem are you solving?
The Way We Prove Who We Are Is Outdated & Inefficient, Says Yoti CEO Robin Tombs

I was at a Spartan race event in California where 10,000 people were queuing up to prove who they were with either their passport or driver’s licence. It was a tedious and painful process – and then people had to leave their valuable identity documents in their bags in a big tent for the day.

I spoke to Duncan Francis, my Yoti co-founder, and between us we spotted an opportunity to harness the growth and advancement of biometric technologies and smartphone usage to develop a digital identity solution that could be used both online and in person – giving people a much simpler and safer way of proving who they are.

The way we prove who we are is outdated and inefficient. There’s too much reliance on paper documents, despite the growing expectation that you can do everything on your phone – including proving your identity. We also have limited control over our personal data – often having no control over the type and amount of information we give to companies. With Yoti, we put people back in control: they choose what personal data to share, who to share it with and how they share it.

The Way We Prove Who We Are Is Outdated & Inefficient, Says Yoti CEO Robin Tombs

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

We are pre-launch, so our focus is on measuring feedback from our user testing and pilots. We are speaking to, and piloting with businesses in a variety of sectors so we understand how different industries would like to use a digital identity.


Frequent user testing helps us learn what consumers think of Yoti – what they like, what needs improving, and how and where they would like to use their digital identity. This helps us stay focused on building an app with the consumer in mind every step of the way.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the phone ID like you imagined it in the beginning?

No pivoting as yet but there have been some slight alterations as we’ve learnt more about the variety of businesses that are interested in Yoti – including nightclubs, classifieds sites, dating sites, gaming companies and financial services. It’s been fantastic to have such a high level of interest so early on.

Our testing sessions so far have revealed a lot about the concepts people hold in their mind when we talk about our identities. All we can say right now is that some people are very comfortable with the idea of having an ID on their phone, and some are more cautious about it, as you’d expect.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

Founded in 2014, Yoti is privately funded, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Yoti is funded by myself and Noel Hayden. Between us we have founded several companies, such as Gamesys – a leading UK tech company with annual revenues of over £250m, 950 staff and offices in 6 countries.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

One of the most significant challenges we faced early on, was being able to read the NFC chips on passports from different countries. It was crucial that we were able to read passports from as many countries as possible, because we want to offer Yoti to millions of people, in many different countries. We overcame this challenge thanks to the determination from our very talented tech team, and we continue to test passports from more countries. This means we can become a global business, and offer people around the world the chance to get their digital identity.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

New innovations, ideas and companies are born everyday, but nobody is doing what we’re doing: enabling free peer to peer identity verification, online and offline.

More than ever, customers want control of their data, and they want a simpler way of proving who they are without having to rely on paper ID documents. This is why we created Yoti. Right from the beginning we’ve put the customer first and built an app from the ground up, with them in mind every step of the way.

What do you look for in team members?

We always look for the Yoti DNA in team members: Positive, committed, collaborative and transparent – people should be open, honest, straightforward and considerate. Being transparent and accountable is one of our core values so it’s important this is also reflected in our team. And of course we look out for champions – people who believe in Yoti, our purpose, and our principles.

Why would a talent join your team?

The way we prove our identity is broken, so we’re going to fix it. We’re building something that will change the way we interact with each other and with companies. It’s never been done before. It doesn’t get much better than that! But we’re also a very easy to work with bunch – open plan office, break out room with ping pong and foosball, and regular social events. Join us!


The Way We Prove Who We Are Is Outdated & Inefficient, Says Yoti CEO Robin Tombs

What was your most memorable moment so far?

We’ve already got our first brands piloting Yoti and new businesses are joining the pilot program every week.

We also became a founding member of the UK B Corporation network – a group which is only open to those who meet rigorous standards of social performance, accountability and transparency. This has been an incredible highlight for the company! We are highly motivated by the social benefits Yoti can have and being a B Corp will help us achieve those objectives.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

‘Yoti rebuilds trust in communities around the world’ – That headline would make us very happy.

The continued success of the digital economy will depend on trust, and we aim to increase that trust by letting people instantly and securely prove who they are, for free.

I hope to see millions of people around the world benefitting from our approach to identity in a digital age. And by millions of people, that means people young and old, from different backgrounds and countries – because Yoti is free for everyone, everywhere.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Firstly, think whether you’re solving an important problem for a significant amount of people. Ask people about your idea and listen to their feedback. You may think it’s a fantastic idea but you need to know whether there is demand for it! Any early feedback you receive will help you shape your idea and develop something people really want. Also don’t give up the day job until you’re confident there is an addressable market willing to pay a sensible price for your product or service.



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