Costanoa Ventures and CRE Venture Capital lead $7m Series A funding in Smile Identity

by | Jul 8, 2021

Identity verification startup, Smile Identity has announced a $7 million Series A investment led by Costanoa Ventures and CRE Venture Capital. Other investors that joined in the round include LocalGlobe, Intercept Ventures, Future Africa, Khosla Impact, ValueStream Ventures, Beta. Ventures, 500 Startups, and Story Ventures.

Following the raise, John Cowgill, a partner at Costanoa Ventures, will be joining the board of Smile Identity.

In 2017, Mark Straub and William Bares founded Smile Identity after the former noticed how  IndiaStack changed identity verification for Indians. Partnering with other entrepreneurs in Nairobi, they came up with a solution that leveraged camera technology to verify faces.

Per TechCrunch, the four-year-old startup has established a presence in six countries in Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, and Uganda. It also covers verification for 15 different ID types and now performs over one million identity checks monthly.

The startup’s software is used in banking, telecommunications, fintech, ride-sharing, worker verification, and public social welfare programs and has earned them the business of clients including Paystack, Kuda, Binance, Luno, and Twiga.

This round of funding brings the startup’s total raise to $11 million, and the startup plans to use this to improve its services, expand across more markets, add support for more ID types, and hire more staff across Africa.

According to a report by the World Bank, 1 billion people do not have official proof of identity. Before now, most face recognition systems had been built in the United States and Europe and were unable to verify darker skin tones. 

Smile Identity’s solution built with help from various experts, including Davy Uwizera, Machine Learning expert and Catalin Voss, computer vision specialist from Stanford University, has made it easier for Africans to get verified and gone a long way to eliminate the bias they face in verification exercises.

Accidental writer, covering Africa's startup landscape and its heroes.

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