On accidental discovery and how Identitypass is helping over 400 African businesses navigate KYC bottlenecks

Onyinye Okonkwo
Identitypass has raised $2.8 million USD and now services over 400 businesses not only in Nigeria but across over 30 countries… CEO, Lanre says.

The issue of identity theft, fraudulent transactions and poor cyber security is a topic that most companies in Africa would rather not talk about, as it adversely affects customer confidence. Cybercriminals are constantly finding ways to bye-pass KYC, necessitating the addition of an extra layer of security to onboarding processes and businesses process. 

For this week’s startup review, we look at a business that is on a mission to do something about this challenge. Identitypass is a verification and security API which helps businesses secure and verify the identity of their customers in order to help them to avoid fraud and identity theft.

Identitypass leverages Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies to block every possible path for cybercriminals, providing you with the security tools you need to protect your business and stay ahead of the overhead costs associated with AML fines and frauds.

Founding Identitypass

Founded in 2021 by Co-founders Lanre Ogungbe, Niyi Adegboye and David Obi, Identitypass’s vision is to build a world-class compliance and security infrastructure for Africa which is free from identity theft and compliance bottlenecks.

Initially, the trio set out to build a payment solution which will be a hot cake in the space. When I asked him about the inspiration for founding IdentityPass, CEO, Lanre Ogungbe told me that they stumbled on the solution of verifying customers identity in the process of building a payment solution they had named Identitypay.

“ We literally built Identitypass as a result of a problem we faced. The product was ready and at the point of deploying to some stores in Lagos but they encountered a problem, they realized they had to verify customers at the point of checkout in a certain way to avoid theft and fraud.”  

To mitigate this problem they set out to look for a solution to tackle the problem but didn’t find any existing solution that was exactly what they needed. This led them to put Identitypay product on hold and proceed to build a specific customer verification system, an exercise which was very successful.

They named this solution Identitypass. An idea which was supposed to be an internal solution turned out to be a key product.

But, in the process of building it, they realised they just may have stumbled on a more marketable product than the payment solution they set out to build.

Lanre Tells me:

“ We just realized that it seems like the market likes what we have built, especially because of the way we have built it. We could actually make more money from this than the payment solution. We spoke to some people in the fintech space and they wanted a customized way of doing KYC and verifying customers.  That was how we paused the launch of the payment solution and switched over to doing verification. We even changed the name from identitypay to Identitypass.”

One key way to know if you are doing the right thing Lanre tells me “is the market”: “and if the market is telling you that you would make money from this then it’s best to focus on it.”

They tested all through 2020 and in the first week of 2021 they landed their first major customer, one of the major agency banking companies in Nigeria. This solidified their decision to move forward with IdentityPass and they haven’t looked back since. 

How IdentityPass solves the problem 

One in every 10 transactions in Nigeria may be tagged as fraudulent. Lanre tells me that the number of chargebacks that companies have to pay owing to fraudulent activities and identity theft is at an all-time high not just in Nigeria but across Africa.

Identitypass proffers a solution by providing easy-to-use compliance and data security platform. This allows businesses to easily authenticate and validate the genuineness of a transacting party online through the existing forms of identification.

In simpler terms, an Identitypass makes it possible for businesses to verify and confirm that the information, details and documents provided by individuals either in the process of an online transaction, during a job application or when presenting official documents like driver’s license, Phcn bill,  provided for various purposes are correct.

So you can confirm if indeed the individual is who they say they are and that whatever documents presented are genuine, not fake, stolen or falsified. 

The solution helps HR companies and departments verify new employees. It typically provides help to the government, traditional financial institutions and fintech companies ride-hailing and delivery firms and many more.

While other identity verification companies exist in the Nigerian tech space- most are older than Identitypass. The startup has been able to maintain an edge through its unique approach to building and designing its products.

Lanre Ogungbe explains;

“Our approach to how we make verification happen is different from other competitors. We are a product-focused API company and this shows in how we’ve built our products to make it easier for businesses and developers to use our solutions with or without integrating our API,” he said.

The startup earns its pay by charging a fee for every verification successfully completed.

Identitypass growth so far

As of November 2021, the startup had raised $360k used in presiding funding and had over 170 businesses as its clients as well as verifying millions of people.

This year alone, Identitypass has raised $2.8 million USD and now services over 400 businesses not only in Nigeria but across over 30 countries in Africa (from 2 in 2021). The startup also now run 1.5 million unique verifications every month, which was half of the total number it previously does in a whole year. Identitypass has also been able to increase its data points. 

Lanre attributed the growth largely to their market approach strategies. 

Identity pass
The Identitypass team…

Lanre told me that the team have also been able to build more product stability, secure more licenses and have been admitted to OSIA, an alliance for digital agencies. This growth trajectory earned the start-up the title of the fastest growing verification company in Nigeria. 


Looking forward 

The future for Identitypass, Lanre tells me, is promising. One of the team’s goals is to become a unicorn in the identity, security and verification space in Nigeria in the next five years.

He admits that space isn’t as developed as the fintech space but they hope to change that and be one of the unicorns in the space by serving as many businesses as they can.

The CEO also shared plans to become the number one infrastructure player for data that would help secure the internet in Africa, To also ensure that they reduce the fraud statistics reported almost every single day. 

In addition, he said that they plan to build a platform that makes it possible that everyone in Africa to have access to the same level of products and services that people in developed countries have access to.

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