My introduction to Onfido happened over a year ago. I had the opportunity to spend a few days with members of the tech, product and people teams; they shared with me their existing processes and challenges, and I suggested ways they could fine tune their product development processes, communication and tech team hiring (among other things).
It was a memorable experience; I spent time with a young, smart, energetic, communicative and ambitious team that, despite having achieved notable success – and being rightly proud of that – was open about the challenges ahead. What’s more, they were happy to discuss those challenges, and genuinely open and enthusiastic to hear alternative ideas. It was clear to me that if the opportunity arose to work with that team, it wouldn’t take long to consider it. That opportunity did arise, and here I am.
Onfido helps businesses verify the authenticity of people signing up to their services. That, in turn, enables them to assess the trustworthiness of those people, and the risk involved in onboarding them. The need for this can be regulatory, or simply because it makes sound business sense, or a combination of both. We offer these services standalone via a dashboard, or via APIs and an SDK that fully integrates them into our clients’ own onboarding applications. Identity Verification is fundamental to our services is and we position ourselves as a B2B business, but the subtleties around it – such as making it a frictionless experience for applicants to minimise dropout – mean it’s best understood as a B2B2C offering. We recently announced our Series C round, the primary purpose of which is to enable us to scale up. Our vision is to serve a fuller range of market segments, increase our geographic coverage and introduce new services.
Scaling the tech team
To achieve these goals necessitates scaling our tech team. I’m fortunate to have inherited an already strong team of engineers and researchers - testament to the founders, the quality of the tech leadership and the emphasis placed on emphasis placed on establishing an a rich and supportive culture. It’s a great base from which to scale, but we need to be clear what scaling means, particularly for a tech team.
Scaling isn’t solely about the size of the team; in fact, principally it’s about outcomes. My priority is to increase our outcomes, and also to ensure that they’re properly targeted, of the highest possible quality and delivered efficiently. We also need to keep in mind the competitive nature of the Identity space, and rapid pace at which the state of the art moves – not just the solutions and technologies themselves, but the whole landscape that informs them.
On this latter point, Onfido currently operates at the intersection of Saas, Mobile, DevOps, Security, Privacy, Reliability and Availability, API’s and SDKs, and Machine Learning applied to document classification, data extraction, facial biometrics and fraud detection. It’s a lot to keep on top of, and while we’re pretty good at this list, they’re all fast moving areas. In the near future we could find our reach expanding even further – broader biometrics areas, federated identity, authentication, blockchain (minus the hype), behavioural and transactional analysis as a basis for building trust are just the first of a very long list. Undoubtedly, there are some interesting technology and product challenges ahead.
Sure, we’ll be growing the tech team to tackle these challenges – but to do so without fully appreciating that we are doing it to effect outcomes is one mistake we won’t be making. It’s important to place equal emphasis on how we do things as we do on what those things are, and what we use to realise them. Processes that work for a team of 50 won’t be optimal for a team of 100; grow from 100 to 200 and it changes again. Communication channels become more numerous and complex, organisational structure has to be re-assessed, the meaning of “just enough” process changes and culture and value dilution needs to be avoided. And those are just the more obvious considerations.
During my career I’ve seen huge changes in technology state-of-the-art and approaches to software engineering; experienced things done well and not so well; things that work and things that don’t. I like to think these experiences bring value to early stage and scaling tech businesses and I’m excited to put them to good use to help the tech team at Onfido take on our next set of challenges. I’m in no doubt that we’ll be successful. If you’re interested in joining the team as we build on the impressive base that’s already in place, get in touch.