Business Verification with Co-founder & CEO of Mesh, Diego Asenjo

Steve interviews Diego Asenjo of Mesh
Transcript

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FEATURING: Diego Asenjo, Co-founder and CEO of Mesh

In this episode, I speak with Co-founder & CEO of Mesh, Diego Asenjo.

Diego shares Mesh's origin story and how his time as the product leader for Amazon Business Prime influenced his decision to start the business verification company. He also describes how the Mesh platform makes multi-factor business and license verifications easy, trusted, and portable. You'll also hear from Diego Mesh's unique advantage in the business entity verification market.

RESOURCES:

Connecting with Diego Asenjo

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/diegoasenjo/

Mesh: https://mesh.id/contact

Companies & Resources Discussed

Mesh: https://mesh.id/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/

Stanford Graduate School of Business: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/

Amazon Business Prime: https://www.amazon.com/businessprime

Amazon Pay by Invoice: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Business-Pay-by-Invoice/dp/B07GZY6QJK

Tony Bryan, Mesh Co-founder & CTO: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonybryan/

LexisNexis Risk Solutions: https://risk.lexisnexis.com/global/en/

Dun & Bradstreet: https://www.dnb.com/

PEAK IDV ACADEMY: https://academy.peakidv.com/

Jumps with Steve: https://www.youtube.com/@jumpswithsteve

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Steve Craig:

Welcome to the PEAK IDV EXECUTIVE SERIES video podcast, where I speak with executives, leaders, founders, and change makers in the digital identity space. I'm your host, Steve Craig, Founder and Chief Enablement Officer of PEAK IDV. For our audience, this is a video first series, so if you're enjoying the audio version, please check out the video recording on executiveseries.peakidv.com, where you can watch the full episode, read the transcript, and access any of the resources that we talk about today.

This is a very special episode because it is the final episode of Season two. We're in episode 10 and I'm thrilled to introduce today's guest. He is Diego Asenjo, Co-founder and CEO of Mesh. Mesh makes multi-factor business and license verifications easy, trusted, and portable. Diego started mesh in 2020.

Prior to that, Diego was a product leader at Amazon where he devised the business cases and vision for Business Prime, leading it from inception into a multi-billion dollar program for Amazon's business customers. A graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business. Diego is originally from Argentina. He's currently based in Austin, Texas, and I'm super thrilled to be chatting with him. Diego, welcome to the podcast.

Diego Asenjo: Steve, thank you so much for having me here.

Steve: Now, it'd be great if you could share a bit more about Mesh beyond what I shared. What's Mesh's 30-second elevator pitch?

Diego: Yeah, definitely. So in a nutshell, Mesh makes business identity and license verifications radically easy. Super trusted and portable in such a way that when a business gets verified anywhere where Mesh is accepted and anywhere where Mesh is in, then those businesses have a portable identity and they can get logged in and prove who they are, prove their credentials in just a few seconds elsewhere.

And this happens throughout service marketplaces, e-commerce marketplaces. Companies that onboard vendors and more. So today we do multi-factor business verification, which covers anything and everything from verifying the individual behind the screen, business, their license, their insurance, and more.

Steve: Excellent, excellent. And how did your time at Amazon leading the business prime product or category influence your decision to ultimately found and start Mesh?

Diego: Amazon was a great place where I learned something and to have a level of discipline and rigor in creating seamless and frictionless user experiences like there's probably pretty much no other place or very few other places in the world with that level of rigor.

One of the key things that I learned there being a product leader and taking a business from idea to public launch, expansion in three countries and public growth was the importance of making every decision in a flow, every UI decision extremely rigorous and to measure it such that every piece and every element that may cause friction is addressed and that friction is minimized in a way that is, there's process behind it.

So Amazon is very data driven with that. So, when I started Mesh, I took that learning and as we now help small businesses grow their identity, their licensing, their credentialing, and more to companies of all sizes, we also take that perspective, which is why we offer something that is different from what other companies do out there.

We offer the UI which is possible to make the journey of proving that identity, extremely intuitive and seamless, we measured the satisfaction of the small businesses, the sole proprietors, the individuals, the professionals getting verified with Mesh. And it's no coincidence that over the last five months, 100% of businesses that we verified gave us a thumbs up in terms of how satisfied they are, and on an all time basis that is tracking in the order of 99%.

So that was one of the key learnings. The second big learning, and it was the Aha moment, was that when I was driving Business Prime and plotted for it, it was in Amazon's B2B e commerce division. And I came to learn how full of friction and painful the process of verifying a business is. Not all for the small businesses who make the paperwork, but also for the companies and how they struggle how they struggle with the solutions that were out there. So the two incumbents, LexisNexis and then Dun & Bradstreet could not get the job done for Amazon on a large percentage of cases. And so, I learned that the solutions out there were not keeping up with the marketplace needs, with the internet speeds, and with the expectations of businesses who need to get done with those verification and this is fast. And so that was definitely the encouragement to build Mesh.

Steve: Yeah, it's like an Aha moment when a large mega corporation like Amazon can't solve this. So when, when you left and you got started, what were the problems that you were focused on initially? Because as a small company, you can't tackle everything. So where did you start to begin?

Diego: Yeah, absolutely. Great question. So I felt strongly at the beginning that of the many reasons why startups die, in our case, it was much more likely to die from indigestion than from starvation. So, from that perspective, when we verify a business, there are many questions.

Does the business exist? Is it registered in government agencies? Do I, counterpart, want to do business with this entity? Are they licensed? Are they risky? Are they creditworthy? Are they insured? And so on. So there are multiple dimensions to a business application. I knew early on that we were not going to be able to tackle them all.

So, we started with just one of those slices of the business identity stack. And that was license verification. So, license verifications to data sources or government agencies, typically those are at the state level, but also at the county level and city level. And they're not only broken down geographically, but those data silos are broken down by type of business. So the data sources and the government agencies that will have the information of where a given small business is a general contractor or an electrician are going to be different from those that say where someone is licensed as a nurse, medical facility or other.

And so there's a very long tail of disparate data sources. There are silos that don't talk well to one another. And this caused many of these verifications to be slow, inaccurate, cause both positives and false negatives, and to a great extent, be manual. So we started solving that problem, we solved it really well, and we were able to, solve it in such a way that was delightful, both for companies and for the licensed businesses and professionals for a range of customers going from startups and venture funded early stage companies all the way to multi-billion dollar marketplaces and even a Fortune-10 company. So once we, once we nail the solution and we create the best in class solution for license applications. That was the moment when customers started asking us for more things and of the slices of the business identity stack, I would adjacent to the license applications and that is the phase that we are in and that's what we're building and, and launching and starting right now with this.

Steve: Yeah, makes a lot of sense. And just to clarify for the audience because. I've had conversations with a lot of different identity companies. When you refer to license, you're talking about the business license, not a driver's license or some of the document centric capabilities, right?

The general contractors, plumbers, things, things of that nature. And you mentioned nurses, is that. Right?

Diego: Yes. Correct. So these are professional trade licenses and business license. That's correct.

Steve: Yeah. And the point you made about the local and the state and just different sources, it sounds very complex.

I know you've also got a great technical bench. One of your co-founders is leading technology there. Can you tell me more about your co-founder and your technical leadership?

Diego: Yes, absolutely. So this is by definition, many companies that come into our space come with the promise of bringing in tech to solve a services problem. And many of them end up being just tech enabled service companies. I knew that we wanted to be, and I wanted us to be different. I wanted us to be a tech company that solve these problems, bring AI and the highest standards of how we would gather data treated and how would power an enterprise-grade solution from the very early days.

And so I reconnected with one of my former colleagues from Amazon. So Tony, Tony Bryan is our Co-founder and CTO. He saw this problem firsthand as well. He was the global leader and engineering leader for Amazon's Pay by Invoice and trade credit solution for e commerce. So he was also intimately familiar with the pain of knowing a small business on the other side when there's not a whole lot of information about them, but they are legitimate, trustworthy, and creditworthy. So he joined us as the CTO and, and then we continued bringing people who were extraordinary and from the 1% of Amazon in terms of Amazon engineering talent. And so our lead and Principal Engineer is also from Amazon, as well as the Senior Engineer who's leading our backend.

So just three of them combine 30 years of Senior Amazon experience. And that really sets the tone for everybody else who is joining the standards that we have in terms of engineering.

Steve: And how has the company evolved from your initial start to adding in this great engineering and technical talent?

Diego: So we started with license verifications as I mentioned. Fast forward to today and today we power multi-factor business verifications. So what that means is that we have a number of integration options for our companies. And we let companies determine that who, who is the person on the other side of the screen, whether and how they are associated to the business, whether the business is legitimate.

We can dynamically in our experience have step ups and figure documentary evidence. We verify multiple dimensions of business. From their identity to their tax information and classification to their licenses and all of their insurance policies and how they are active or not and the type details of those policies.

And we make that all exposed through a single API. And so, when companies need to, or traditionally, they’ve relied on multiple vendors to solve this problem and then they needed to have a lot of logic to triangulate across sources, they needed to have a lot of logic to triangulate across sources. We make all of that exposed through a single API and they can do decisioning and automated triangulation of data across those many data sources through a single platform without any code.

That's one of the major advancements. A second advancement is that we started with integrating with a long tail of hundreds of government data sources. Today, that is one of three major types of data sources that we leverage. So the number one is government agencies all the way from federal and state to county and city level agencies.

The second type we have, is that we have a network of data partners. And so we work with many of the best point solutions out there in KYB, KYC. So oftentimes we find that companies go to a point solution provider, they are one of the many data sources that we have with Mesh. That is also what enables us to have best in class coverage.

The third type of data source is our own Mesh network. So every time that a business gets verified with Mesh, they enter the Mesh network. We have a proprietary data consortium, it works as a give to get network and so Mesh data are getting better by minute. Every time that we verify a business on behalf of one of the many companies in our consortium, now, there are a number of signals can be leveraged by any other companies in our consortium as well. And so that has made a radical change in the number of signals, trust and risk signals that companies can get with us. And has also set the foundation for what we're going to and we're building now, which is our portable identity layer, that ability for businesses to enter all their information at once and if they're requested for the same information elsewhere to be able to provide it with just two clicks.

Steve: I really like how you framed up those categories, and it makes a lot of sense now in, in the name you Mesh.

The thing I think of, of course is like wifi network mesh. You think about carbon fiber mesh, but you're really building this, this mesh. The more nodes and networks and data you have, the, the stronger it is. What are some of the companies that are using you today who are good fits for your technology?

And what are some of the use cases you can talk through any of that?

Diego: Steve, there are three type of companies that we serve really well. And we see consistently that they are delighted with our products and solutions. The first one is service marketplaces. The need to verify their supply side and the businesses in their supply side.

We have demonstrated working with even a multi0billion dollar marketplace that when they verify the businesses on their supply side, they show a badge of trust saying that they have a verified license, that the license is verified by Mesh. And it's monitored on an ongoing basis by Mesh. Then the demand side of the marketplace engages much more with those businesses that are verified.

Precisely in our case was a 35 %increase in the volume of businesses and leads that those verified businesses earn after getting a badge powered by Mesh.

The second type of company that sees great value from us is e-commerce marketplaces. And that's for two use cases. Business buyer verifications and seller verifications.

And the third type of company that we serve well is companies that are in the home improvement, home services or construction space that need to verify the compliance of vendors and contractors that they onboard. So what we do is we make the verification, onboarding and ongoing monitoring of those vendors and contractors incredibly easy and hands off the wheel.

Steve: In marketplaces that can be a high volume of different identities and different identity data. I was looking at your website and I noticed something about your privacy-centric design. Can you tell me more about what privacy centric means for Mesh and what you've built there?

Diego: Yeah. It stems from a reaction that we have when small businesses and professionals and software developers don't know who has what pieces of their data and their identity. And so what we strive to do is to create more transparency around that. So at every touchpoint of the identity proofing experience, we are entirely transparent about what data we capture.

Why we capture that data when businesses that we serve and companies that we serve pass data to us, we let them know what data we have received and we make a number of promises to those small businesses. Those promises are fundamental and pretty basic, but believe it or not, many companies don't follow them. So one is that their data is theirs.

And so we're just here to make the use of that data easier for them. We don't sell that data to advertisers, which is what another other companies in the space do. And so we treat it with privacy in such a way that we earn their trust. And at the end of the verification process, we ask them a number of questions and we check how satisfied they are and how much they trust us and privacy and trust for us are intimately linked. And we see that that privacy component and that trust that we build with small businesses. Plays a really high impact on willingness to provide the information that we need and to then trust it so that we keep it and that we can be their digital passport to log in and prove who they are throughout the web.

Steve:

The point you made about companies selling data, some of the companies you mentioned at the start, and I know a lot of the larger incumbents. They have pretty big marketing businesses as well, where they supply data for companies to contact other companies or individuals. They are the ones that have been supplying these business verification databases and KYB solutions.

The last few years, there's been a new category of companies that are trying to solve this problem. How would you say Mesh is different and what's your unique advantage to verifying businesses?

Diego: We are different in two ways. In addition to the data privacy, we're different in that the job to be done, which is verifying a business or helping a company verify on board and monitor a business we, unlike other companies, we're not just a data layer via API. And so what we're able to provide it is an incredibly flexible, customizable, and intuitive user journey and experience that is very modular, that the companies that hire us to get the shop done can really tailor to other needs. It works in a turnkey fashion.

And what that, what that does is that when companies obsess a lot about data and the coverage and the automation to make sure that the verification of businesses is streamlined. Well, oftentimes the point that some companies miss is that they're churning many percentage points of the businesses in their funnel with suboptimal UI choices.

We help them recover that. And so we help customers understand, and prospects understand how, by using this UI that is optimized for conversion, how they can claw those percentage points back and what that means for their top line and their bottom line. And when they understand that, that becomes a no-brainer for them.

The second way in which we're different is. So unlike point solutions in this space, we work with many of the point solutions out there and the best in class point solutions. And all of those, across multiple dimensions, business verifications, KYC, insurance verification, and more, are one of the three pockets of data that we use.

As we talked, we also go directly, have proprietary integrations with the IRS and with hundreds of state government agencies and lower than state government agencies. So that's the second bucket of data. And third, which is ever growing and ever improving is the consortium. And it is the notion that we get data rights from all parties in an innovative way, and in a privacy-centric way, such that every verification that we power makes the verifications and through it makes, through our AI and machine learning models, makes the signals for other companies in our network better.

So we can catch examples of repeat offender. So when a repeat offender is known, and if they're kicked out from a given platform, that signal is leveraged by other marketplaces.

And that signal, it's a signal that marketplaces couldn't get from single point solution providers or couldn't get by tapping any in government data source directly.

Steve: Your first point reminded me of the effort that the KYC companies have put into doing verification experiences for individuals. But I haven't seen that level of rigor on businesses, on the business experience.

And even as a business owner myself, when I set up finances and different accounts, like it's very cumbersome to go through that process. It feels like it was an afterthought in many platforms to support the business customer. I'm curious about, and you mentioned some other great points too, with the data and the consortium about the implementation process.

So if a company selects Mesh, can you walk me through what they do to use your technology?

Diego: Absolutely. We have three primary ways of implementation. We have a no code solution. And so it's incredibly easy. Customers can get up and run in within just one hour. We have an option that leverages our UI. So it's very similar to Plaid to give a reference.

So very similar to what Plaid does for their verifications. Customers can simply invoke our UI. Customize what is the job we've done that they want us to focus on. We call it verification order workflow. So essentially they tell us, when we send you Mesh business, this is the work that I want you to do and these are the verification types that I want you to perform. And so that UI is created in real time and is vended and it is completely dynamic. So even the UI adjusts based on the business type and responses that we get different stages in the verification flow.

And the third type is the mesh API is a data only. So for customers that want to control and use their UI, their pixels, they can call us for data and they can get up and running very easy.

Steve: Great, when I think about all of the activity that's happened in 2023, I've been tracking a lot of different companies and their progress. I'm curious from your perspective, what were some of the big milestones for you at Mesh? What are you most proud of?

Diego: It boils down to the number one thing by far is customer love.

We are obsessed about that and having a number of people from Amazon, I think it's almost cheesy to say that, but it's, we have really make decisions on a daily and weekly basis because of that. So when we talk about customer love, we have a number of metrics in place and we have qualitative signals, but we see customer love from the sole proprietors, professionals, individuals, and small businesses that we verify.

And so we track a number of things. But one of those metrics is, at the end of the verification flow, with every flow, every customer, regardless of the verification result, including to the customers that we deny based on not being compliant with what the company is requiring, we ask them, how was your verification experience?

And the all-time metric for that with us has been 99% thumbs up, which means 99% of small businesses are satisfied with our verification experience. And as a matter of fact, over the last 5+ months, it's been 100%. So exactly 100% of businesses have a delightful experience. Regardless of the result.

The second angle of customer love is, are we seeing love from the companies that hire us?

So the marketplaces, for example, and what we're seeing is that not only are we getting case studies and testimonials, but we are seeing an expansions that go anywhere from 2x, 4x and 7x to we have a case of one of our early companies expanding 20x with us. We see that as a strong sign that they're happy with the solution that we provided and that they want more.

Second milestone has been, has been learning. We're in the early stages and we're learning that our data has meaningful value for fintech as alternative data, specifically licensing data, professional trade licensing, compliance with those licensing regulations, and also with the trust and risk signals that we can provide as sole proprietors.

Sole proprietors make about two thirds of businesses in America, yet there's very poor and weak data on them. And so our long tails of integrations can really, can really help change that. And even though we did not start by focusing on fintech, we're seeing both from that. And so that's been one of the things that will inform our future plans, for sure.

Last but not least is the people. So this may sound like a cliche, but we have a blend of leaders that have decades in the identity space, fraud space, who come from other leading companies in the space and from Amazon. So it's a blend of people who are insiders and outsiders with a healthy balance to have a fresh perspective while at the same time learning from proxies, learn from the identity verification. Learn from what have the winners in that space and in KYC and identity verification officials have done. And we're bringing that over to the future of business identity.

Steve: It's a very impressive year for you. Congratulations, Diego. When you think about these ingredients, the customer love, all that you've learned, and now you've got this team that you've brought on.

What's your ultimate vision? Like, what can we expect from you 10 years out? Like how is Mesh going to change the market?

Diego: Yeah. So, let me ask you a question on that, Steve. Do you, do you use Gmail for your personal communication? I would probably use Gmail.

Steve: Absolutely. Yeah.

Diego: So you've seen when you go to the new website or the new application, have you ever used sign in with Google or sign up Google?

Steve: Yes. The federated sign

Diego: Yeah. So what we learned about, uh, what we ask people about how, why and why they use it or why they don't use it. The reasons to use it as a convenience. Yeah. But yet the convenience for consumer pretty much comes down to name and email and password and just, it's a very simple account.

For businesses, there's so much more information that is tied to their business identity. And it's a process that is so much, so full of friction when they need to provide forms and a lot of information over and over again. So our thinking is, well, what could the privacy-centric version and the business version of a Sign-in with Google experience be like, and that's what we're building.

So back to your question. What is our vision is so one click business identity. We want to really help oil all of the official transactions that require trust between businesses. And so when trust is needed, we help that trust created in a process that is as quick and as seamless, let's just a click.

Steve: It's a great vision and it's so ubiquitous that process of clicking to sign into Google. Facebook has one, companies are using LinkedIn. So there's not one that is available for business owners.

Diego: So it's, it's a, it's a non-easy process, but that's what we're, we're working on. And now speaking of vision, Steve, I, I've been a fan and I've been following your, your program. I'd love to get to hear more directly about your vision.

And as you continue building the community. what do you have in mind?

Steve: Absolutely. I'm not often asked questions about PEAK IDV on this podcast.

So thank you for that, Diego. The ultimate vision with PEAK IDV is to enable people to become experts in digital identity, to be able to level up their knowledge because it is a complex topic.

But it is very important to society that we have trust in our digital environment. So my current stated goal is 10,000 people. And that's mostly those that are working on digital identity systems now. It could be providers or practitioners, but I hope to grow that to even more because even everyday consumers need to understand the importance of identity talk topics, protecting your identity, etc.

Diego: What are some of the key things that you're focusing on for the next year, the next few months?

Steve: The next year, podcast series. So we're going to go into a Season 3 in production early next year. But the core offering of PEAK IDV is PEAK IDV ACADEMY. And the way I think about PEAK IDV ACADEMY is it's like a MasterClass.com, but for our space for identity, identity, verification, fraud detection, authentication. So I'm looking for those that want to join me in this mission to educate the market on specific problems and they can be instructors or those that want to learn about different facets of identity verification. By the end of 2024. I see PEAK IDV ACADEMY being a major player in learning and education in this space.

Diego: Fantastic. And I, now I've seen, is it possible that you have another? Channel as well. And, and, and like, as I'd like to let you hear, what do you, and then for you to share with the audience, you like to do when you're not building PEAK IDV, and what you do in your spare time,

Steve: You've seen some of that side channel. I haven't promoted that.

Diego: I've seen some of that. So I'm prompting you to share more with the audience.

Steve: I've not crossed those streams with the LinkedIn audience, but one of the things I really like doing. And one of the reasons why I love the identity space is just how global it is. I love to travel, to go to new places, to try different foods, to meet different cultures.

And I've been doing a lot of travel this year in honor of PEAK IDV and expanding the mission. And I found that, hey, what can I do to also maintain my fitness level while I'm traveling? And that is jumping ropes. I did a few little, little videos back in October. One with one of the leaders in the space where we jumped rope in front of the White House.

But my side channel that you brought up is actually a jump rope channel called Jumps with Steve and you know, it's got a little bit of content there, but it's something where if I can introduce different cultures to people also have a focus on fitness and show all the great food and things that are out in the market, why not? Yeah. So I'm doing that as a side hustle to the main hustle here to PEAK IDV.

Diego: That's amazing to see resolutions and resolutions on the growth and, and, and the community that you built in here and the mission that you're bringing into. People in this space and how you're supporting on new companies and then practitioners as well to learn, learn about this space.

Steve: Yeah, I appreciate that. And thanks for these questions. We are just about at time though. So to wrap up, I'm curious, what kind of conversations are most interesting to you as the CEO of Mesh?

Diego: So we, we love to help and so being, being a product leader as well and, and my passion being product, I love to engage in conversations in which I learn how businesses and companies are dealing with their challenges of onboarding businesses to their platform, of how they eliminate friction, how they make those experiences more delightful, how they maintain compliance at scale, how they do the monitoring, especially if they need to do that work at scale, if they're relying on multiple data sources.

If they have mail processes, we find that often we can help them. And so we love to engage in those conversations and we can help them do so. And if we can't, then at least contribute by pointing them in the right direction and playing another role, supporting them in ways beyond. New relationships that may help.

Steve: Excellent. Excellent. Well, I'll put a link to your website in the resources for this episode. I'll also put a link to your LinkedIn profile.

Diego, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you do in 2024 and Mesh's continued success in the market.

Diego: Steve, thanks so much and great year for PEAK IDV and you as well.

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