Smile Identity raises $7 million to build KYC and identity verification tools for Africa

July 10, 2021

Smile Identity, the company that enables ID verification and KYC compliance through Artificial Intelligence designed for African faces and identities, announced today that the company had secured $7 million in Series A funding.

The investment was co-led by Costanoa Ventures and the pan-African venture firm, CRE Venture Capital, along with participation from LocalGlobe, Intercept Ventures, Future Africa Ventures, and Angel Investors from across Africa and around the world. Existing investors, including Khosla Impact, ValueStream Ventures, Beta Ventures, 500 Startups, and Story Ventures also participated.

The round, which marks the largest investment into an identity verification company focused on Africa, brings Smile Identity's total funding to over $11M. The company plans to use the new funding to improve its services, expand across more markets, add support for more ID types and hire more engineers and support staff across Africa. In conjunction with this round, John Cowgill of Costanoa, will be joining Smile Identity's board.

Smile Identity launched in 2017 with a mission to make it easy for Africans anywhere to quickly and easily prove their identity online, while providing startups and established enterprises with the tools and software they need to automate customer onboarding, verify identities, and prevent fraud.

Africans spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove or verify their identities in order to gain access to financial accounts, loans, SIM cards, address proofs, and social services; and an estimated 500 million Africans have no formal identification at all. 'We believe anyone should be able to prove their identity easily, anywhere in the world and that access to a modern digital lifestyle should not depend on the origin of your ID Card or IP address,' said Mark Straub, Smile Identity's Co-founder and CEO.

To standardize identity verification across the continent and provide a single solution for a new generation of African companies, Smile Identity works with local ID authorities and has built a platform that combines ID validation with proprietary face verification and liveness checks to support non-surveillance, consent-based access and financial inclusion. The company performs over 1 million identity checks every month across Africa and its software is used in banking, fintech, ride sharing, worker verification, public social welfare programs, and telecommunications. Its customers include payments companies like Paystack, Paga and Chippercash; neo-banks like Kudabank and Umba; traditional banks like Stanbic IBTC; cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance, Luno, and Paxful; and even supply-chain businesses like Twiga.

'Smile Identity has powered our hyper growth across Africa, accelerating our ability to acquire real users and build a great KYC user experience for our customers. With Smile Identity, we were able to automate our compliance process and reduce KYC completion time by 99%, from 2 days to 2 minutes. Within 6 weeks of turning on Smile Identity's automated KYC solution, we catapulted to #1 in the South African app store.' Says Chippercash Co-founder and President Maijid Moujaled.

With subsidiaries, branch offices and engineers in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and counting, Smile Identity's growing team is made up of people from 12 countries, including 8 African nations.

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