Saturday, February 24, 2024

Oxford University friends set for $100million payday after ID-checking software firm they started in halls is bought by American rival business

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Three Oxford University friends are set for a $100million (£79m) payday after the ID-checking software firm they started in halls was bought by an American rival business. 

Husayn Kassai, Eamon Jubbawy and Ruhul Amin founded Onfido, a UK start-up which develops ID-checking tools for firms such as Revolut, and they are now in line for an enormous payout following a $650million sale to US competitor Entrust.

The three Oxford graduates, all in their 30s, own around 15 per cent of the London-based software company between them.

Mr Kassai, the former chief executive, has a stake in the company worth more than $50million, The Telegraph reports.

While the three friends are set for a huge payday, dozens of staff will also make millions of pounds, while Oxford University – who were first to back the three founders with a £12,000 stake – can also expect a massive profit.

Two of the friends, Mr Kassai and Mr Jubbawy, have since left Onfido to found new start-ups, but Mr Amin has remained as one of the company’s senior executives.  Onfido is currently led by American technology executive Mike Tuchen. 

Oxford University students (L-R) Eamon Jubbawy, Husayn Kassai and Ruhul Amin founded Onfido

Mr Kassai told The Times: ‘The ecosystem here in the UK has enabled us as founders — two of whom went to underprivileged schools — to get everything they need to build a large company. 

‘In that journey we have been lucky to help others to upskill and learn and a sign of that is the fact that more than 14 of the team have gone on to be founders of their own companies.’ 

Mr Kassai went to Burnage Academy for Boys in south Manchester, Mr Amin attended Mulberry Stepney Green, in east London and Mr Jubbawy went to west London private school St Paul’s School.

Customers may have used Onfido’s software when joining a new digital bank or payments app, where you are often required to upload your driving license or passport before scanning your face to verify your identity.

The software is also used to perform other compliance or age verification checks, including for gambling and gaming companies.

Minneapolis-based Entrust, which is worth more than $17.5billion, announced yesterday that it was moving closer to acquiring the British firm.

And Onfido themselves said: ‘We’re excited to be entering into early and exclusive discussions for Onfido to be acquired by Entrust, a global leader in trusted payments, identities, and data security.

‘We aren’t able to comment further until these discussions are finalized, subject to regulatory approval and local law.’

Entrust has announced that it has discussions are being held for US rival Entrust to acquire the software firm

Entrust has announced that it has discussions are being held for US rival Entrust to acquire the software firm

Entrust Corp, formerly known as Entrust Datacard, offers identify verification and security solutions for industries such as payments and healthcare.

Todd Wilkinson, chief executive of Entrust, has said that a rise in artificial intelligence tools which can create fake images and videos has increased interest in ID-verification tools.

Just this week, a Hong Kong financier was conned into handing £20million of company money to fraudsters after he joined a virtual meeting made up of AI clones of real people. 

‘[In the] multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone [he saw] was fake,’ said Senior Superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching, speaking to the city’s public broadcaster RTHK. 

The case was just the latest in a string of high-profile deepfake scams.

Mr Wilkinson said: ‘Deepfakes and synthetic identity are driving a global need for a powerful level of identity. He added:  that ‘biometric-based, AI-driven identity verification will be critical to ensuring security’.

With investors such as Microsoft, Salesforce, US fund TPG and UK-listed investor Augmentum, Onfido currently employs more than 500 staff and generates more than £102million each year.

But accounts show that Onfido, which is set to be valued around $650m after the deal, lost £70million in the year to January 2023. 

It was also forced to pay tens of millions of pounds to settle a class action privacy lawsuit in America. 

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