2021 was an extraordinary year for Identomat – starting from numerous new partnerships, and finishing with attending the Money20/20 USA in Las Vegas. Though, the biggest news would be coming at the very beginning of 2022: Identomat and the team behind it raised $3.2 million in seed round, making history by raising the biggest sum as the Georgian-American startup.
We had hoped for the excitement and interest from our partners and the public, but what happened right after sharing these news, exceeded our expectations.
We sat down with Identomat co-founders – David Lomiashvili, CEO, Zurab Kotaria, COO and Rezo Imnadze, CTO – to discuss the inception of Identomat, the road to fundraising success, and what’s to come.
How was the idea to start Identomat born and what purpose does it serve?
DAVID – In 2019, while helping a large financial organization automate their manual credit approval process, we noticed that the biggest source of friction for their customers was identity verification and compliance data collection that were done manually and took up to a few days.
That’s when we realized that helping organizations enable their customers to access their services instantly and remotely was not only going help their bottom line and improve their business resiliency, but also allow them to acquire happier, more satisfied customers and grow their business even amidst the global pandemic.
How did Covid-19 Pandemic fuel the company’s growth since its’ inception?
REZO - When we had started, there was a gap between our and customers’ sense of urgency. Although, as soon as the pandemic started, local (Georgian) companies reached out to us already knowing what they needed. Yes, Covid did help our cause become more common, but had there not been the health emergency, it was a matter of time that businesses would choose remote customer verification.
ZURA - The pandemic had an immense impact on Identomat’s growth. Covid-19 just eliminated the need for convincing companies in the benefits of remote onboarding. The question for the businesses was not ‘why to use’ Identomat, but rather ‘how to’.
What was the biggest challenge for your team when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers?
REZO -There are always challenges (laughs). In a way, that's what makes this whole thing interesting. Globally speaking, the main difficulties arise when a partner operates in a region where a considerable portion of their customer base uses outdated, non-standard, identification documents. All of them are particular and need separate or extra elements to be fully analysed and processed. But, once we complete such custom partner/country onboarding, this nuisance actually becomes our competitive advantage. This was the case in Georgia, Ukraine, and several other European and CIS countries.
From the customer’s side, were there any specific needs/wants that you would have to add or work on?
ZURA - Good question. Actually, that is how we operate. There’s a very long wish list of what features we (and potential customers) would want/need to have. So, we are following that list and trying to improve, refine and better our platform. Usually, we prioritize which functions are in the highest demand from the customer side. Practically speaking, there have not been any features in the wish list that were not wanted by the consumer. This helps us to be in-sync with the market.
Identomat is a digital KYC and ID verification platform. It stands on the team of IT professionals. So, as a CTO and a leader of the IT team, what are the values that you instil in your co-workers?
REZO - Goal-oriented, efficient, productive. When facing a problem, not brushing it off saying that it’s impossible to fix – there’s no such thing for me. Also, cultural compatibility with our goals and the company means a lot. There have been instances, when someone would be skilled and talented but culture and values would not match up with us; or the other way round. We are looking for a package deal, all-while knowing that it's a two-way street.
What, do you think, is unique to Identomat that attracts customers?
ZURA - The biggest part is that the entire technology behind Identomat is proprietary. We don’t use third-party services or providers, which grants us with great flexibility in system deployment and process building. As well as commerciality-wise, Identomat is very resilient, which gives us an edge over other alike services. We also take pride in being ISO-27001 certified and GDPR compliant and we also hold the seal of approval from the State’s Inspector Service of Georgia on compliance with the Georgian Law on Data Protection.
What was, in your opinion, the key factor for investors to invest in your company and what was the biggest push-back?
DAVID - There were multiple factors that led to the successful raise. However, if I had to pick one question that we got asked the most, it is definitely - "How do you differ from the competition?".
From what I have seen, which granted, is based on a limited experience, it is usually harder for international founders to convince US-based investors to trust them with their money. And we were not the exception, even though all of the few dozen investor meetings we had were from inbound interest.
That's why we had to present a bulletproof case and that involved having found a product-market fit that led to a strong traction and growth momentum, having a massive addressable market with a lot of room to grow, showing that we have a team that can overcome challenges and deliver on a global scale, and that our technology can compete with anyone on the market.
How did attending international fintech events impact Identomat’s investability?
ZURA - Obviously, it impacted Identomat greatly. It grew the brand awareness as well as the receptiveness. We made sure that we were seen on the international platform, so the decision to attend conferences and exhibitions was a natural continuation. Identomat had to assert itself as THE KYC and identity verification platform so, I think participation in major events definitely accelerated the quality of being attractive and profitable to invest in.
DAVID - Investors started noticing and reaching out to us right after our first public event when we competed in TC Disrupt Pitches & Pitchers in 2020. That was followed by a rapid growth of our customer base given a very positive word-of-mouth and numerous other conference and trade show appearances. I would especially emphasize exhibiting at the largest fintech show in the world, Money20/20. Announcing our strategic data partnership with Equifax and getting selected as a finalist in NXTSTAGE competition were also big catalysts for investor interest.
Once there was this inbound interest from investors, then all we needed to do was to make our case clearly. This is where "the packaging" matters. Putting together a killer pitch deck and an exhaustive and sensible financial model is not only important for pitching but also for the investors to see that you know the ins and outs of your business both from the financial as well as marketing/PR perspective. Luckily, all of us had extensive experience in this from our previous ventures.
What are the plans for the future of your company?
REZO - Thanks to the funding, it’s going to become possible to expand our coverage across all industry verticals and organization types. We would love to see our platform as the go-to KYC and Identity Verification service. There’s still a gap, I think, between market needs and accessibility of services, so if we could fill that gap, it would be amazing.
ZURA - Expansion, expansion and expansion on the global market. Acting on and answering to the market needs, even further simplifying the verification process, despite taking only several seconds now. I would also want to emphasize that our minds are set on helping out startups that are in need of custom KYC and ID verification service. Identomat is accessible to all types of industries and our team is up to any challenge should it arise. Speaking of our team, we are currently working on a unique verification flow, that we are planning to obtain a patent for. So, this will be one of our biggest focus for this year.
DAVID - This funding allows us to put in motion our longer-term strategy and develop new strategic partnerships to grow market share in the US, Europe, and Central Asia, and enter into Latin America, and Middle East. We will also be putting a substantial amount of effort and resources into hiring new talent. Only by nurturing and growing our already amazing team, can we achieve our mission of making digital identity proofing as ubiquitous and effortless as online payments.
We would like to thank everyone for sharing our success and the continued support. This is a great encouragement for our entire team to keep pushing for more. Identomat will stay true to its values and continue hard work towards providing seamless, easy and, most of all, safe service to its clients.