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Portfolio Update - 14.06.2018

Darktrace have become Cambridge's youngest surviving Unicorn after achieving a $1.25bn valuation only five years after launch, and were recently named as one of the top global startups on CNBC'S Disruptor 50 list alongside Uber and Airbnb.


Luminance were interviewed by the BBC as a legal AI market leader after securing over 80 customers, including ten of The Global 100 law firms, and continue to perform well after winning "Startup Tech Company of the Year" at the National Technology Awards.


Onfido's COO was ranked 4th in Business Insider's "UK FinTech 35 under 35" after overseeing Onfido's growth from inception to an ID Verification market leader with over 1,500 clients and $60m raised from world-class investors including Salesforce and Microsoft Ventures.


Homelyfe have joined Startups 100, a list highlighting the top 100 UK startups launched in the last three years, for their impressive platform which allows customers to find and buy home insurance in 85 seconds.


Portfolio Update - 13.04.2018

eporta have raised a $8m Series A round, supported by Talis, to double their team and expand overseas after securing an impressive 10,000 buyer customer base including Hilton Hotel Group, Accenture and Ted Baker.


Pirate Studios have announced the 30 finalists for their Pirate Prodigy Programme, narrowed down from over 2,000 applications, which has proven to be immensely popular with over 70,000 votes cast for UK emerging music talent.


Onfido hosted a roundtable discussion with ID verification industry leaders regarding the difficult task of meeting data privacy requirements without compromising end user experience, and expected trends following the upcoming implementation of GDPR.


Portfolio Update - 28.03.2018

Darktrace have detected mass clandestine cryptomining operations, with up to 55% of all global organisations estimated to be affected, after uncovering a hidden cryptomining side business operating under the floorboards of a European bank's data center.


Onfido represented London in an interview with the World Economic Forum where they defended London as the fintech capital of the world due to its strong spirit of collaboration between regulators and start-ups, rich tech talent pool, and extensive network opportunities.


CensorNet have launched their new USS solution, combining patented smart user authentication with sophisticated threat protection, after being named in Gartner's first ever Magic Quadrant for Cloud Application Service Brokers.


Portfolio Update - 12.01.2018

Darktrace have partnered with AIG to identify client vulnerabilities for their cyberinsurance analysis, and have been named on CB Insights' 2018 "AI 100" list as one of the top 100 global AI firm. 


Luminance have leveraged their multi-lingual platform to secure a contract with Araoz & Rueda, a leading Spanish law firm operating in more than 30 countries, and are on track to repeat their strong 2017 performance as they expand throughout America.


Onfido had an impressive performance in 2017 including raising a $30m Series C round co-led by Microsoft Ventures, showcasing their ID verification solution to 10,000 attendees at Salesforce's annual conference, and achieving 550% US sales growth.

Portfolio Update - 24.11.2017

Onfido have been selected as the first ID verification provider for Salesforce's Financial Services Cloud where they will enable financial institutions to easily verify and onboard new customers. 



Shirley Chen, Founder & CEO of Narrativ, has been named in "Forbes 30 Under 30" following her impressive background where she acted as Head of Marketing at Moda Operandi before founding Narrativ, an advertising technology start-up which now handles 4.3 trillion monthly requests.


Luminance have won British Legal Technology Awards' "New IT Product of the Year" for their market-leading platform which continues to attract new clients including Chapman Tripp, New Zealand's largest full-service commercial law firm.

Portfolio Update - 27.10.2017

Talis co-led the £2.4m seed round of Homelyfe, an insurance-tech start-up helping homeowners to manage all of their insurance requirements through a single app.


Second Home expect to launch their London Fields site, designed tor working parents with plans for a fully staffed crèche, in early 2018. They are also aiming to invest over €10m to launch their second Lisbon site after achieving near-full occupancy at their original site.


Onfido, a leading ID verification start-up, have raised over $60m since their launch in 2012 and are planning to help provide banking access for the two billion unbanked individuals currently excluded from the financial sector.  

Portfolio Update - 29.09.2017

Onfido, a leading ID verification start-up, have raised a £22m Series C round co-led by Microsoft Ventures. After increasing their revenue fivefold during 2016, Onfido now cater to 1,500 clients and have been highlighted by CB Insights as a RegTech sector market leader.

Pass the Keys, the UK's largest AirBnB property manager, have held their second fundraising round led by Talis Capital and are now planning to expand internationally in 2018.


Reevoo have partnered with Atom Bank, a digital banking platform backed by the British Business Bank, to provide independent reviews on Atom's mortgage and fixed saver account products.


Onfido raises $30M more for its AI-based identity verification technology

Malicious hackers and security breaches that have exposed personal information of millions of people have pushed the issue of online security into the spotlight, not just for individuals but for organizations that do business with them. Now a company called Onfido, which has built a way to help websites verify people’s identities using a photo-based identity document, a selfie and artificial intelligence algorithms, has raised $30 million to seize the opportunity.

This brings the total raised by Onfido, which is based out of London, to around $60 million. This latest round was led by new investor Crane Venture Partners (whose co-founder Scott Sage had already been an advisor to Onfido), with participation also from Microsoft Ventures in its first European investment, Salesforce Ventures and other unnamed but existing backers (it’s a long list).

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Husayn Kassai, Onfido’s CEO (pictured, above) who co-founded the company with Eamon Jubbawy (now COO) and Ruhul Amin (chief architect), said Onfido is not disclosing its valuation in this round.

Onfido started life back in 2012 focusing on background checks, tapping into the surge of on-demand businesses that were rapidly scaling both their permanent staff and workforce of contractors — indeed that was the company’s bread and butter business when we covered their previous funding found in April 2016. It competed against the likes of Checkr in the U.S.

(And, it should be pointed out, among its customers was Uber, which had used Onfido in the past to run criminal background checks on drivers. Criminal checks have become one of the sticking points for the transportation giant in its current license dispute with London’s transport authority. More on that below.)

In the past year or so, Onfido has been gradually shifting its focus more to financial services and e-commerce, and specifically identity checks for businesses in these verticals. It currently has some 1,500 customers today including Square, Revolut and Zipcar.

As Kassai describes it, the challenge for banks, payment platforms and others is that they have a strong requirement to verify the identities of people with whom they do business (in part because of “Know Your Customer” regulations, but also because of the immense amount of fraud that has arisen in the last few years).

But on the other hand, running long or onerous checks when onboarding users — such as those from banks that require people to come into branches in person to prove they are who they say they are, or lengthy online verification techniques — often leads to a drop-off in interest.

“If you are a bank signing up new users, you expect a 40 percent drop-off rate because of the checks,” said Kassai. “Our solutions are geared at bringing that number down, especially in cases where a user might not have the right documents like utility bills, for example if they are new to a country.” 

Onfido does this with an interesting solution that is based on standard identity documents — it recognises some 600 formats right now, from drivers’ licenses from dozens of countries, to passports, to identity cards and so on — and a “selfie” on your phone.

As it was demonstrated to me in their offices — in a conference room called “Abagnale” (each room is named after a famous identity forger) — this isn’t a photo as such, but in fact a live picture of you. You then respond to instructions for two or three different actions, such as a blink, a smile, saying a sequence of numbers or looking over your shoulder.

Onfido takes your responses to these commands to check that you’re not using a static photo, and to compare your face in the selfie to the picture on the ID card, while also running the ID card check at the same time. Its algorithms then provide a risk report for you, noting if you come up as completely compatible, mostly so, or to flag when it appears that you are not who the document says you are. All the data is then passed on to the company requesting the checks, both “compatible” checks and those that are flagged for further checks.

This last point is key in Onfido’s business model: as Kassai explained it to me, the company runs checks but doesn’t process any more beyond that, leaving the liability of acting or not acting on the results to the company requesting the checks. (In the current situation with Uber, I’m guessing that one route Uber may choose to take in its defense is to raise questions about how the data was accurate enough in its background checks.)

Onfido currently has a strong team of AI engineers on staff, specialists in machine learning and computer vision, who are regularly tinkering with the company’s algorithms to make them more sophisticated and of course to become smarter by way of all the images the platform is processing.

“From our point of view, in Europe, Onfido is one of the leading data enterprise companies at the moment, and they are spending a lot of money right now to continue investing into tech and product, with one of the best machine learning teams that we have come across,” said Sage at Crane, pointing out that his firm normally invests at seed stage but made an exception in this case because of the strength of the startup.

Kassai notes that they are continuing to recruit but also acknowledges that it’s a tough market, with its engineers getting “at least one call a week” from a recruiter. It’s a sticky point that’s even making it hard to figure out where the company should move to next.

Currently situated in an office above the Covent Garden Underground station, London Transport wants to kick them out soon to covert the space into residential property, and Kassai is mostly worried about finding a location where his staff won’t be as poachable, but at the same time continue being located in London. 

Looking ahead, Onfido will continue to tap into the opportunity for solving ID verification in financial services. He says the startup’s revenues have grown five-fold in the last year but that he believes that 95 percent of the market is largely untapped when it comes to using newer technologies like Onfido’s. The company’s core focus is the U.K., U.S. and India and it plans to expand into Latin America, too. “There is huge fintech growth coming from Brazil and Mexico,” he said.

Beyond that, there are a number of other areas where the company hopes to apply its technology, and it’s talking to all the big names you might guess to help make it happen.

“We think the future for us is in new applications and new use cases rather than new features,” he said. “Look at voting, for making payments with your face. The main barrier in these has been really accurate facial recognition, but it won’t be in the future.”


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Portfolio Update - 13.09.2017

A number of our portfolio companies recently appeared on the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100, a reputable league table ranking the top 100 fastest growing UK technology firms by their sales growth over the last three years. Please see below a quick snapshot of their impressive performance:

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Darktrace, a market-leading cybersecurity firm which successfully defended against the WannaCry ransom attack, has been recognised as the 3rd fastest growing technology firm in the UK after achieving c. 268% annual sales growth over the last three years.


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Established in 2012, iwoca is a leading FinTech firm which provides flexible credit facilities to small businesses across Europe. With over 10k small business clients since inception, iwocacontinue to grow rapidly and have been named the UK’s 21st fastest growing technology firm with c. 129% annual sales growth over the last three years.


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Threads Styling uses social media to connect buyers with the latest luxury clothes and fashion accessories. Following strong demand from the Middle East, Threads have been named the UK’s 32nd fastest growing technology firm with c. 102% annual sales growth over the last three years.


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Onfido, a start-up specialising in automated global background checks, has been identified as a potential future market leader and is anticipating to achieve c. 300% sales growth during 2017.

Portfolio Update - 15.06.2017

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Onfido have been named as one of the world’s 30 most promising Technology Pioneers by the World Economic Forum, a prestigious achievement previously held by Google, AirBnB and Spotify.  As a Technology Pioneer, Onfido will benefit from several dedicated community events including the World Economic Forum’s upcoming annual New Champions conference, commonly nicknamed “Summer Davos”, which will take place later this month.  

eporta have been selected to represent the UK on a trade mission to the US where they will meet with executives from Silicon Valley giants including Google, Apple and LinkedIn.

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The Selfie as Mobile Banking's Fraud Fighter

The Selfie as Mobile Banking's Fraud Fighter

"Financial institutions have reported to have taken weeks to onboard new clients and expect it go up in the future," Celent analysts Arin Ray and Neil Katkov wrote in a recent report. "Some are concerned that a prolonged and cumbersome onboarding process could become a competitive disadvantage."