At a Glance
Smile Identity received a $7 million Series A investment from Costanoa Ventures and CRE Venture Capital. Smile Identity intends to utilize the extra funds to strengthen its services, expand into new locations, and serve a larger range of ID kinds. John Cowgill, a Costanoa partner, will join Smile Identity’s board of directors. Smile Identity provides ID solutions in Africa and throughout the world for banking, telecoms, financial services, and shared economy applications.
Smile Identity has raised $7 million in a Series A round co-led by Costanoa Ventures and CRE Venture Capital. Other participants include InterCept Ventures, Future Africa, LocalGlobe, 500 Startups, Story Ventures Khosla Impact, ValueStream Ventures, Beta Ventures. Smile Identity provides ID solutions for banks, telecommunications, financial services, and shared economy applications in Africa and worldwide.
Smile Identity intends to utilize the new funding to strengthen its services, expand into new markets, offer support for more ID kinds, and recruit additional engineers and support workers across Africa. Costanoa partner John Cowgill will join Smile Identity’s board.
People could easily do things like KYC to sign a document digitally, to share or federate documents across a company or school, to prove a birth certificate, or to prove an educational credential. It really unleashed this wave of innovation, entrepreneurship activity, and fundamentally changed financial services and eventually share economy services in India.Mark Straub, who co-founded Smile identity with William Bares in 2017, told TechCrunch
While India has made significant progress in this area due to services such as India Stack, Africa has mainly lagged. Onboarding new clients, salespeople, or employees without spending a lot of time and energy on people, procedures, and paperwork is still challenging for most firms on the continent.
I’d seen for 10 or 15 years how long Indians had been waiting and how many problems this set of new national ID combined with these different software protocols solved. I saw how much friction the Stack removed from people’s lives. And I thought if only there was an Africa stack.Mark Straub, who co-founded Smile identity
He said that he started talking with several entrepreneurs in Nairobi and realized that three things have to come into play to build an African Stack: affordability, government independence, and cutting-edge technology. At the same time, open-source facial recognition algorithms for a wide range of devices have saturated the market, substantially improving the level of verification.
According to Mr. Straub, Smile Identity is an indicator of the rise of African fintech in many respects because of its bidirectional use. Smile Identity, he claims, aids fintechs in identifying good and prospective negative customers who may harm their company in the future.
We are an accelerant of the growth of fintechs and shared economy companies because they know when they spend money on customers, those are real customers because they have actually done verification with us.Mark Straub, who co-founded Smile identity
Smile Identity claims to have around 80 paying clients who are paid for each inquiry. Payments firms such as Paystack, Paga, and Chipper Cash; neobanks such as Kuda and Umba; conventional banks such as Stanbic IBTC; cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance, Luno, and Paxful; and supply-chain companies such as Twiga are just a few examples.