Kaarel Kotkas (27) is a prime example of a young entrepreneur who, regardless of great success, stands with two feet firmly on the ground. He founded Veriff as a 20-year-old and it has always seemed that he is genuinely trying to find a solution to a problem and is not in it just for the money.
One of his latest big achievements is reaching unicorn status with Veriff in January 2022. He gave Life in Estonia a brief comment on this development, claiming that it has never been a goal in itself for Veriff to reach unicorn status. “It was more a chance to invest in the future of Veriff, in our product, our great team and the work we do every day,” he added.
As the head of a company valued at a billion euros, Kotkas emphasises that building each company is unique – some teams succeed according to plan, and others take longer to accomplish. Looking at Veriff’s journey to date, he considers the company to be at the starting line of the race.
“I am pleased that we have attracted top class investors who boost our growth. We are moving towards the reality where everyone in the world could be a Veriff user,” says Kotkas. Veriff’s world class investors include the international investment firm Tiger Global as well as Alkeon, IVP and Accel. It is also noteworthy that world-famous actor Ashton Kutscher has invested in the growth of Veriff in Series A round.
Two successful Estonian companies working together
Several global services and products that are increasingly moving online help Veriff to grow even more. Speaking about the next five to seven years, Kotkas claims that they have the opportunity to grow a thousandfold. One specific example is a collaboration between two successful Estonian startups – Veriff and Starship Technologies – which was made public in the beginning of 2022.
It sounds obvious that two successful Estonian startups should cooperate. Kotkas says that the two companies had been in discussions about it for some time, but the final deal was made in October 2021.
Although the development centres of both companies are located in Estonia, they began to collaborate on the British market. Veriff validates the age of Starship customers, which is necessary for purchasing certain products with an age limit, like alcohol.
Kotkas reassures that, when buying alcohol or tobacco products, the validity of the customer is checked while the order is placed and again when Starship’s delivery robot arrives at the destination. The technology used to verify identity is not just based on biometrics, but Veriff combines a number of different vectors, and identification is a combination of several things.
“In the case of Starship, when an age restricted product is ordered, in addition to checking authenticity and validity of the document, we also check the age of the person and compare it with a selfie during verification,” describes Kotkas.
There have been cases where people have tried to fool the system. Most commonly they try to use another person’s document or upload a low-quality selfie.
“Considering Starship’s rapid growth our cooperation will hopefully grow globally. Work is already under way in this direction,” Veriff’s CEO shared his hope for the future.
Identity verification in the Metaverse
Speaking about what the future might hold for Veriff, Kotkas sees potential in crypto assets and micromobility, both of which are globally hot topics at the moment. More interestingly, his passion has become attracted to a new contemporary matter – the safety of children and young people in virtual worlds and the Metaverse.
“It is gratifying to see that there is a growing debate in society on these issues. In the virtual world and Metaverse, people can present themselves as anyone and this widespread anonymity, in turn, offers many opportunities for cybercriminals,” he said.
Kotkas hopes that with the help of Veriff, it will be possible to create much more accountability and security in these environments. Going forward, this is one of Veriff’s focal points. Veriff is working on a secure identification platform called Veriff ID, which is meant for end-users. Until now, Veriff’s clients have been companies and other businesses, not end-users.
“In Veriff ID, a person verifies themselves once and has complete control over with whom, under what conditions, when and what data they share about themselves,” explains Kotkas.
The big advantage is that once a Veriff ID has been verified, a person can access all kinds of services, regardless of where they come from, meaning they do not have to go through the verification process in different environments each time they start using a service.
Although Veriff’s main business is in identity verification, they also have anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) solutions which, according to Kotkas, comply with the recent sanctions put on various legal and private persons around the world.