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KNOW Identity Startup Pitch Competition Winner

This is our 4th year of hosting KNOW Identity, and we have seen some amazing startups cross the KNOW Identity stage since 2016. We recently announced the Startup Pitch Competition for KNOW Identity 2020, and we wanted to use this as an opportunity to launch our Startup Spotlight column and check-in with past winners to see where their journey has led them. 

As identity is quickly evolving, startups are a critical part of the community, bringing innovation and new ideas to an emerging and transformative industry. This Startup Spotlight series is an opportunity for our audience to learn more about startups in the community and understand how KNOW can help propel startups to success. We’re kicking off with Passbase, the 3rd Place Winner from the 2019 Startup Pitch Competition and a Q&A with Co-Founder Dave McGibbon

Tell us about Passbase and how you’re creating identity technology that puts data security and privacy first. 

Passbase is a digital identity company that aims to create a more secure and privacy-focused future by verifying people and giving them ownership of their data. Our technology enables businesses to confirm the identity of their users with a quick video selfie and identity document scan. 

The platform is self-service, developer-friendly, and can be integrated with a few lines of code across all major computing platforms. The system architecture supports zero-knowledge authentications – which ideally means users can prove who they are without having to share any unnecessary PII.

How did Passbase get started? 

Passbase was born out a cryptocurrency portfolio management product named Coinance. In the Winter of 2017, Dave, Mathias, and Felix built and launched Coinance from a small apartment in San Francisco while holding jobs at GoogleX, UnifyID, and Rocket Internet. After 2 months of operations with more than 10,000 active users, Apple removed the application from the AppStore due to a newly formed policy that required applications dealing with cryptographic assets to comply with KYC regulations. After working for several months searching the market for a solution to our problem, we found no solution that was well suited to our use case, stage, and culture. So we decided to build that solution, and Passbase was born.

Why is digital identity important to you? What is the digital identity future you’re building? 

Digital identity represents an opportunity to rethink the relationship between people and the digital world. As the line between physical and digital continues to blur, it’s important for us to be thoughtful about how we balance convenience and individual privacy. 

The internet was built for pseudonymity and when the internet was primarily made up of chat rooms and music pirating, that worked just fine. Now that we entrust this network with our banking, careers, and physical safety it’s time to rethink that relationship. We are building technology that can verify an individual’s identity with a high degree of assurance and making this technology delightful to use for developers and businesses. 

How has Passbase grown since being named as a 2019 Startup Pitch Competition Winner? 

Passbase has grown from 4 person pre-revenue startup to a 20 person company with major customers and poised for a huge year 2020. 

What is Passbase’s biggest accomplishment in 2019? 

Passbase was able to close a $3.6m round of funding from top venture capital firms Cowboy Ventures, Eniac Ventures, and Lakestar. Find more details on our fundraising on TechCrunch

What is your advice to other startups in the identity space or startups applying for the 2020 Startup Pitch Competition?  

A common mistake I see with startup pitches is lying about traction. You are a startup. Limited traction is okay. Dishonesty, however, will signal to any potential client or investors that you are not the kind of person they want to work with. Be honest about where you are, where you are going, and how the audience can help. Invite them on your journey.

Don’t miss Dave McGibbson at #KNOWIdentity 2020, where he’s speaking in the panel, Running with Scissors: Pitfalls for Identity Startups. Join us to learn lesson startups have learned from the past few years of disrupting identity, common pitfalls, and what it really takes to be successful.