Stop Liveness Attacks with Founder & CEO at iProov, Andrew Bud
Steve interviews Andrew Bud, Founder & CEO of iProov
FEATURING: Andrew Bud, Founder & CEO of iProov
In this episode, I speak with Andrew Bud CBE FREng FIET, Founder & CEO of iProov.
Andrew discusses his journey in founding iProov, emerging cybersecurity threats from AI for bad, and the challenge of keeping one step ahead of fraudsters. He also shares his experience meeting Princess Anne when made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Connecting with Andrew Bud or iProov
Simon Williamson, iProov CRO: https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-williamson1/
Ajay Amlani, iProov President, Head of Americas: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ajayamlani/
Milko Radotic, iProov VP APAC: https://www.linkedin.com/in/milkoradotic/
Daniel Molina, iProov VP Latin America: https://www.linkedin.com/in/djmolina/
Companies & Resources Discussed
iProov Blog Post on CBE: https://www.iproov.com/blog/andrew-bud-cbe-interview
University College London: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/
UK Home Office: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office
National Health Service: https://www.nhs.uk/
Identiverse Conference: https://identiverse.com/
David Beckham Deep Fake Malaria Campaign: https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/25/the-startup-behind-that-deep-fake-david-beckham-video-just-raised-3m/
Media Institute: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-media-institute/about/
Mobile Ecosystem Forum: https://mobileecosystemforum.com/
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
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 at PEAK IDV. For the audience, just so you know, this is a video first series, so if you're enjoying the audio, please check out the full video recording on executiveseries.peakidv.com, where you can watch the full episode, but you can also read the transcript and access any of the resources or links that get discussed in today's conversation.
I am beyond thrilled to introduce today's guest. He is Mr. Andrew Bud, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iProov. I first met Andrew many years ago, perhaps it was 2016, in San Diego in the early days of iProvo, when his team was still just in about the single digits around headcount. Now in 2023, iProov is a world leader in face authentication and online verification.
It's used by global banks and governments powered by a team of almost 200 iProovers now. Prior to iProvo, Andrew was founder and CEO and Executive Chairman of mBlox, the world's largest provider of mobile commerce enabling services. Andrew is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and was appointed a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2020, and he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2020.
Wow! Andrew, your background is truly exceptional. I thank you for taking the time to be on the EXECUTIVE SERIES.
Andrew Bud: Thank you so much for inviting me, Steve.
Steve Craig: Well, you know, I'm sure many of those that are listening or watching this episode know of iProov, and you're a prolific evangelist on the conference circuit globally.
But for those that don't, can you share the elevator pitch you might give someone who's not in this space?
Andrew Bud: At its core, iProov authenticates and verifies the identity of remote users, whatever their device, whatever their technology. Very, very simply and very securely. We use facial verification to do so, and our core skill is to assure the genuine presence of that user to make sure that they're the right person, but they're also a real person and there right now. Face verification is a hugely powerful way of enrolling somebody and creating an identity and also to authenticate them whenever they assert that identity.
But it's only useful if you can be really sure that that is a real person and not an artifact, a photograph or much more insidiously and dangerously, a piece of generative AI. That's what we've made our core competence at iProov. That's what's made us famous, worldwide amongst the most demanding customers.
Steve Craig: Phenomenal. And when I think about identity verification, and it's being, it's like a foundational piece of the modern internet, the foundational piece of identity verification is this concept of genuine presence or liveness. Yet it feels like it's a relatively recent phenomenon in the last few years, the internet and the web and mobile becoming more and more the standard mode of transacting. Can you share when you first stumbled upon this need? Like what, obviously when you founded iProov was prior to that?
Andrew Bud: I founded iProov at the end of 2011. And I don't come from the biometrics in industry. I kind of feel like I, I kind of feel like a novice, which is a bit ridiculous after a decade, increasingly at the heart of it.
But I come from outside of this world. Look what happened, Steve, was that in our, in the previous business of mBlox, we were the world leaders in text messaging. We were one of the creators of that industry, and along the way, the mobile operators also took us into mobile payments. And because this is what we did, we became the world leader in mobile payments as well.
At its peak, we were clearing and settling half a billion dollars a year, which is great business. But there were certain areas of the business that we were just not present in, and those were the darker areas of the business, which meant that we were a bit naive. And as a result of that, cyber attackers in criminals in 2008 uncovered a number of exploits and weaknesses.
And within a few months, millions people have money stolen from them through our network. Well, the regulator looked at us and said that we behaved in an exemplary manner, but frankly, I was very ashamed. And I vowed it wasn't going to happen again. A couple of years later, the industry changed and payments moved towards more API driven approach, a more mobile app driven approach.
And it was quite clear that the same kinds of attacks would happen again. The question was how could we stop them? When the first incident happened, I was hauled up on television and asked Mr. Bud, “the role of you and your company in this scandal. Were you complicit or just recklessly incompetent?”
You know, I didn't want be asked that question again ever. And so in this new world, the question was how could we be sure that when a mobile payment transaction took place, that the consumer was genuinely present in front of their device, at the time when the transaction took place? And how could we be sure of that?
On any device because the mobile content industry was completely cross device, that you couldn't specialize it according to this or that OEM vendor. It had to be on any device. And how could you do it completely effortlessly? Because when you are in mobile content, you learn that every single action that you ask and a user to do will cost you 25% of your conversion rate straight away.
So effortlessness. Compound cross device, but also security. I'd met some of these guys. They could make a million dollars in a week through their fraud. So they were going try really, really hard. So how could we prevent the spoofing, the spoofed presence of a person on any device, very, very effortlessly putting also incredibly, incredibly securely.
And face verification looked like a great way of doing it. It was obvious to me that the main attack would be from somebody, either shoving a photograph in front of the screen or recording me using social engineering and then playing me back. This was obvious in 2011, and that was the problem statement that led me to invent the core technology behind iProov, to file our core foundational patents business, to found the business and take it where it is today.
Steve, it was obviously far too early to save the mobile payments business, and in 2012 at the mBlox we as a board, decided to sell the whole mobile payments business, which was good because this latent risk that we were concerned about in 2013 turned into a fine on all the people who bought business from us and everybody else left in that mobile payments business in the United States from the states Attorney General of a billion dollars for fraudulent billing.
So this was, this was a latent risk. A threat that turned into a real, uh, a real and present impact for those who didn't take it seriously enough. And there's a lesson in that there as well. But I realized that I'd solved the problem, not just of securing mobile payments, but actually this, as you said, this, of addressing this foundational problem of securing the identity layer of the internet.
And we all knew, Steve, I'm sure you remember 2013 was going to be the year of passwordless. We had to move quickly to be in time. Oops.
Steve Craig: Well, we're still working on that, aren't we? Indeed, and I think about the question that the reporter asked you are, are you complicit? Are you incompetent? It's like, that's a bit of a false dilemma argument.
Maybe there's a gray area in there, but you know, that's great to know that history. And you mentioned, couple things in the elevator pitch question, that align with your current website. And I think the way that you've laid out what you do on the site is really simple but powerful. Right person, real person, right now, yet I know it's a tough problem to solve.
And when you decided you were going go down the path with face and biometrics, how did you even begin to tackle that problem, not being from the space and bringing, maybe it was a novice view, but it gave you fresh thinking, and how did that lead into starting iProov, like what were the initial things that you did to get going?
So it was a novice view. Look, as I said, I don't come from the biometric industry. I actually was coming from the mobile communications industry before I was 30, I was the project leader for the world's first consumer digital wireless telephone. And then I was involved in founding, Italy's first private, cellular phone operator, and I led he launch of world's first licensed band, regulated wireless LANs.
So I come from a mobile communications world, and that kind of background in signal processing meant that the solution, this problem, to me was absolutely obvious, was to produce a one-time biometric to stamp a timestamp onto a person's face in a way that would be, extremely difficult to, for predict, in fact, impossible to predict, and extremely difficult to forge. So the core idea, of that invention was to use the screen of the user's device to illuminate their face with a rapidly changing one-time sequence of colors.
And while that was happening, to stream video back to our servers where we could analyze the reflection of that screen illumination and the spatial and spectral characteristics would tell us if we were looking at a live human skin covered 3-D human face shaped object and the sequence of colors, this one time code, would enable us to detect any kind of recording, any kind of pre-prepared, CGI as it was then, imagery. And yet we would, this would work without, asking the customer to do anything. They look at their device, it looks back at them, flashes a little bit of them in two and a half seconds, they're done.
That was the core idea and it came out of a background in digital wireless systems engineering which was completely alien. Then, the question was how on earth to build this? Because I needed modern coders. You know, it's been a little time since I've written code myself, like a lot of time. Luckily I had been, for over 10 years, the chair of the external board for the computer science department of University College London, here in London, which is Britain's top computer science department.
And so I have all sorts of connections into Britain’s top computer science department. And so I asked them, “who can work with me to take this idea and make it real?” And they directed me to one of their most talented graduates, who was also entrepreneurial and brilliant, a young man named Joe Palmer. And he and I started sitting in coffee shops for like a year working together, to build a proof of concept for iProov because it was a great idea and easy to describe, but it wasn't at all clear that this could even be done.
Could you get enough signal to noise ratio from the screen reflections from a Samsung S3, perhaps there aren't even people who remember the Samsung S3, it was the last word in mobile technology in 2012.
Could we get enough signal to noise vision to actually make this work? And it took us nearly a year to prove that this was not impossible. When that was clear, then luckily there were a number of people who had left mBlox with whom I'd worked, who I knew, and I trusted to do an outstanding job.
Our CTO Dominic Forest, our commercial director, Matthew Perch, and a year later, the people at UCL said, “are you still using signal processing?” And I went, yeah, that's what I know how to do. They said, “you're mad, you should be using machine learning”. I went, hmm. Sounds like witchcraft to me, and I don't know anything about it.
No, they said, but we have someone who does, and there was a world class professor in University College London, a research fellow called Dr. Andrew Newell. And they lent him to us for six months and we did a little competition. You know, I was developing these extremely advanced signal processing algorithms.
And he was developing a quick and dirty machine learning system that would kind of do the same thing at the end of six months, we compared notes and our signal and my signal and purchasing system was achieving over 90% discrimination, and his quick and dirty, roughfirst cut was achieving 99.6% discrimination.
And at that point I knew that the world had changed. Irrevocably. Andrew has been our Chief Scientific Officer now for almost a decade and is, I believe one of the world's leading experts on the use of machine learning for advanced vision processing. Thank goodness. Given how hard is the problem at which I solve.
Steve Craig: Well, as you described that story, and thank you for that. I think about, like as we're recording this, we're in the middle of a writer's strike in Hollywood. Maybe we write a script for this because I thought of the movie, the Social Network, and how that all came together. I could envision that being a great story to tell those pieces and we might.
I have to sensationalize it a little bit in the story, but, that's a really great background on that, Andrew. Flashing forward a little bit, into your growth now feels like a decade ago, but it was just about three years ago in March 2020, you and I and a few others were in London doing a happy hour.
And what we were talking about then was, will London shut down? Will London not shut down? This was at the beginning of the pandemic, and sure enough, it was literally the next day, everything shut down and the Tube was done and flights were canceled. For you as you were scaling the business, can you take me back to that time and what it was like to suddenly, your response for a team that was there in London, how you reacted to that?
And then the follow on is the, the demand that came from us all being just digital when the physical world closed down. Can you describe that time in iProov?
Andrew Bud: So it, it was strange because, all of our team, all of our, all of our technology team, and pretty much all, all marketing are here in London, in this office, which I'm speaking to you from now, overlooking Waterloo Station.
So we were a 100% here. And yet at the same time, we had actually built, an infrastructure which enabled people to kind of work from home occasionally, because that's already what one did before the pandemic. So we had the secure architecture, we had a lot of the remote working infrastructure in place.
It was clear to me already before lockdown, which way things were going. The UK had lockdown probably a week or two later than it should have done, and so we actually shut, voluntarily shut our offices a week before lockdown and sent everyone home, and the transition was seamless. It was absolutely extraordinary.
It was seamless. We were used to interacting with each other occasionally in a remote manner, and suddenly just was occasional became habitual. And it was astonishing how effectively and how efficiently it worked. In fact, over the months, it turned out the problem was another one, which was that at home people could work much more efficiently.
They could work very in a very focused way and for longer hours. And they did. And they did. And they worked with extraordinary intensity week after week, month after month. Practically year after year. And the truth is that took a really dramatic toll upon the wellbeing of a lot of our staff.
And that was what it turned out, we had to start managing much more with much great attention, was how to avoid people overworking and burning out in this exceptionally efficient online environment. Obviously after time, you start to get some societal dysfunctions taking place, you know, people not meeting each other.
Over time takes its toll and you start to get stresses, frictions, tensions, misunderstandings, developing and therefore I’m a huge fan of hybrid working and a return to office working. But this obviously is, the world is different now and it's had to be changed. We were already successful before Covid because we had become involved in our partner's interest in probably the world's first and largest, large scale nation's grade remote onboarding project.
This was for the UK Home Office who, after Brexit, had the sudden and extreme large scale problem of providing over 5 million people with permanent residence status without knowing where any of them were and without having the machinery that could possibly cope with that sort of scale.
And so they, so working with Entrust, the development took place of an app called the EU Settled Status App, which could enable people to apply for, in many cases, receive permanent so-called settled status permanent residence. In like 90 seconds. And we were an integral part of this.
And this was rolled out in early 2019. And it was already a very large scale and successful application. British Press looked in vain for ways to criticize it and bring it down, and they couldn't, because it just worked brilliantly, which meant that we were ready at the beginning of 2020.
We'd been working with the National Health Service to automate onboarding for their NHS app with their digital identity and NHS log on until the pandemic. use of the National Health Services app was a bit of a niche thing for people who were embracing this futuristic idea of telemedicine.
Well, when the NHS app became the way in which UK delivered its Covid certificates, all that changed. On a very, very large scale, and we found ourselves dealing with tremendous amounts of traffic.
Steve Craig: At what point did you, and this was a horrible Black Swan event globally for the world, but at what point did you realize this was going to push forward, not just iProov, but digital identity and biometrics and the industry as a whole, by the fact that there was no other way to interact, like did you spot that immediately or did it take some time to go like, wait a second.
Andrew Bud: No, it took some time. Sales paused during 2020. They slowed down as everybody in the industry kind of took stock and went, whoa, what do we do with this new world?
So it wasn't at all clear what the effect of Covid was going be. Then at the end of 2020, in the beginning of 2021, everything just exploded. Demand exploded, applications exploded, use cases exploded. I think in 2021, we saw three years of development and progress in the application of digital identity.
Concentrated into one extraordinary 12 month period.
Steve Craig: I saw similar, five year roadmaps became six months, we need to get this done. 2020, what was a really rough year for a lot of companies in this space because the shift to, you know, some companies weren't as positioned as you were to go hybrid. Others had no work from home policies, and suddenly they had to build the infrastructure. Then of course, dealing with challenges of the virus itself. But for 2020, I noticed that you actually had a really historic moment in your career and that was receiving your CBE Honor and meeting Princess Anne.
Now that came from January 2020, honors from the Queen and it got delayed. I read your full blog post about that and I'll link the listeners to it. But can you describe that experience in 2020 amidst all of the change and you have this distinguished honor and, um, you're going to meet a member of the royal family?
Andrew Bud: It was an extraordinary thing, Steve. I was notified in November 2019. I got this letter, that I didn't know what it was and I opened it. And it's Her Majesty, the Queen is pleased to take the advice of the British Prime Minister and appoint you a commander in the order of the British Empire.
And, and this was published, but this was published between Christmas and New Year, in 2019. I couldn't tell anybody. So, my family didn't know anything about it until it was, until it was published. Then after that, there was the process of investiture where a member of the royal family, in my case, Princess Anne, actually awards the awards, the regalia of the order, to, in a ceremony called an investiture ceremony.
And that finally took place in the summer of 2021 at St. James' Palace in London. Look Steve, it was an extraordinary thing and in Britain these honors, they, they mean something. But they are awarded to the senior honors, like a CBE or a Knighthood, are awarded to the great and the good to the people who count in the country.
I'm a struggling startup entrepreneur, you know, and until the summer of 2019, my team and I were housed in a condemned building, whose roof leaked, and sometimes the lifts didn't work. So we had to run our eight flights of stairs and we tried to avoid customers coming to see us because it was so shabby and so shabby and down at hill because we had no money and we were trying to build a global business and you labor to build a great business.
And suddenly a nation turns around and says, “You are somebody of national esteem” and that kind of thing, I had not expected to happen to someone like me, and I'd always been thrilled when friends or acquaintances, received these honors, but I never, ever imagined, that on that one would reach me.
Look, it's a great honor. And at the same time, there was a significant process of vetting associated with receiving such an honor. So it also has a certain amount of value in comforting friendly nation states that there was an added element of trust there. It was a great honor and I'm enormously grateful tto the British state and to the royal family for bestowing upon me.
Steve Craig: I imagine getting that letter, there might've been some skepticism at first, like, wait a second, is there a link to send some money first? You know, you often get, in the US these letters about, “Hey, we're going publish you, or you have this great honor, and then there comes a catch.” But I imagine this letter looked a little bit more formal and real for you.
Andrew Bud: There are certain moments in your life that you don't forget and opening that letter and reading it was one of them. Meeting Princess Anne at St. James at St. James Palace laughing at her jokes, actually making her laugh as well. Discovering how much she understood the issues, the challenges posed by machine learning to the future of identity. That was deeply impressive.
Steve Craig: Yeah. You mentioned that in the blog post that she had done her homework to understand not just who you were, but the context of the achievements and what iProov was doing. So that's, it's fascinating. That's great, Andrew. Congratulations on that!
Andrew Bud: Look, I regard it as, I regard it not so much as a personal tribute, but as a gesture that the British government wanted to make to the whole class whole class of entrepreneurs, a whole class of people working in the cybersecurity industry and the startup industry to build things, with international scale of which I'm of an example.
Steve Craig: Absolutely. Well shift shifting closer to present day. You and I were both at this Identiverse conference in May. It's great to see you there. I enjoyed your lunch session and a big topic in that event was deep fakes and AI and new threats. And these aren't really new. These have been going on for the past few years, but I think it was this ChatGPT event in the last year that really got the mainstream to go, wait a second, like. this AI technology is getting to be pretty advanced. As a company that has AI solutions, that builds AI for good, that's using some of the cutting edge tech. What are your worries about AI for bad and you're getting a front row seat to fraud as it's happening. Like part of what I understand from my iProov is you can see these threat attacks daily as they emerge.
What's keeping you up at night with this AI for bad?
Andrew Bud: So it's always been clear to us that this was going be an arms race. You see that, you see that pic that that newspaper article framed behind my head on the wall. That's an article I think from 2018-2019, about the first ever, deep fake publicity ad in which David Beckham makes an appeal on behalf of a Malaria charity in about 10 different languages.
And it was deepfaked. It was a public use of deepfake. In 2018, I attended a meeting of the British Parliament and I raised the question of the threat posed by deep fakes to national Security, and there were a few folks in the room, notably from the NSA and from the FBI who kind of, you are absolutely right. This is a significant threat.
We've been working and preparing and developing defenses against this since, even before then, because it was clear that this was the way the world was going. We have been leaders in AI ever since, it's not many people know, but in February 2016, iProov was the world's first company to offer an online face matcher based on deep convolutional neural networks.
This is now the technology which is absolutely ubiquitous. We were the first people to provide it as a service in February 2016. So we've known this was coming for a long time. Dr. Andrew Newell, as I mentioned, our Chief Science Officer, can see several years ahead through his contact in academia through his, through his wealth of expertise.
Look, this is an arms race and in our world of liveness, you we're always navigating and forecasting. Between two extremes. One is the world in which actually this problem turns out to be very, very simple and easy. And all the liveness vendors that are out there can provide a really good and reliable service at very low cost.
And that liveness gets the liveness at face verification gets commoditized. And the other extreme, which says this problem actually is so hard that at a certain point it'll become insoluble, that it will, that AI will get so good that it will become impossible to distinguish between, a real and a bogus person remotely, and we can, and what keeps me up at night is not so much the form of that.
I don't think this is going be an easy problem. This problem is going to going get easily solved, but the question is whether this problem becomes intractable. We have an active threat intelligence system. We have something called the iProov Security Operations Center, which is the only biometric security operations center in the world, which gives us the ability to analyze every single liveness transaction that takes place worldwide.
Triage those that are indicative of new attack sequences. Study those new attack sequences, as they develop. And deploy new technologies that we've already developed or are developing to defend against them before they become systemic. The reason that I'm optimistic is that thanks to this biometric security operation center, we have one huge advantage over the enormous resources deployed to spoof facial liveness today, and that is an information asymmetry.
Every time an attacker attacks iProov, we learn more about them than they learn about us. And as long as we can sustain that information asymmetry and continuously build our unrivaled database of attack information, then we can use that advantage to stay ahead of the attackers. But what makes this business so fascinating is that this is not a problem you can solve.
This is not a static challenge, whose solution we can approach asymptotically powered by ever advancing technology. Face matching, for example, is a problem that doesn't change. You know, people's faces don't become more similar to each other over a period of 5,000 years or whatever, or 10,000 years, you know, peopleness doesn't change. So that's a static problem, which you can get better at solving.
Liveness is not a static problem. Liveness is continuously evolving. So sometimes people say, you know, what's the future of iProov? It's a little bit liking asking, a hamster on a wheel. What's your future as the wheel accelerates? And the answer is, you know what?
I dream of just staying here. And anyone who can't run fast enough is going get thrown off fairly violently. But I'm optimistic because the combination of skill, commitment, focus, and these information asymmetries and our unrivaled visibility of the data and our unrivaled access, acts as a store of attack data, I think gives us, uh, the tools we need to stay ahead.
Steve Craig: Any, any advantage we could get on the AI for good and if that's asymmetry of information, great. If it's more advanced technology and resources, great. But when you think about AI for bad, the fraudsters, they don't care about regulations. And when we're building solutions for good, you have to paint within the lines of the law.
They don't worry about public sentiment, right? A fraudster's not going go well this is going get me bad press. It's not balanced at all so where you can really the way you turn the tide. One of the challenges I see in this space, especially in biometrics and especially in face, is this pushback on face recognition.
Not really understanding face verification, how they're different. Of course, we, we don't want mass surveillance. We don't want to have our faces used in ways that we have not, authorized them to be used for. What's your position as you interact with government agencies and people about this, this challenge of still misunderstanding, face verification and face recognition?
Look, this question comes up a lot and rightly so, because, on the other side of the fence there are real threats, which must be guarded against, and I have considerable sympathy with those who are concerned about the misuse of face recognition for surveillance purposes, but there is an abyss between face recognition and face verification.
In face verification, unlike face recognition, the user has knowledge that it's happening. They consent and collaborate with what's happening. They get personal benefit from its use and their privacy is protected. When those things happen, when you use face verification to support a person's attempt to assert their identity online, you are giving them control.
You are making their lives easier and safer, and it can be done. And we do it in a way that fully protects their privacy. So although the technology, certain aspects of the technology face match, your technology may have elements in common. The ethics and the public policy implications of face verification are profoundly different from those of face recognition.
And this has been recognized by privacy campaigners. And actually in the recent, in the AI Act, which is being enacted by the EU, they draw a very specific division separation. Face recognition for surveillance, which is considered a very high risk activity and biometric verification for identity checking, which is not considered a high risk application.
But it's very important when we do things that we assess what we're doing against those criteria. And we do them only if they meet them.
Steve Craig: That's great. The privacy piece is so important today when you're in an ecosystem with big tech companies that for years have used that data to enrich themselves and with laws, I think Europe and the UK have been really forward thinking with GDPR regulations, and we're seeing more of that in the States, really giving the users control of that. And then the biometric piece is equally important to protect and making sure that, as you say, you're giving consent.
And there's a reason why that they're asking for you to do that transaction.
Andrew Bud: Some people in Europe complain about GDPR and say that it's a burden and an impediment to innovation. And yes, there is some grinding of gears, but I disagree. I think that actually it has become the gold standard worldwide for privacy protection.
And being part of the G D P R zone is actually a tremendous source of comfort to our customers, including our customers in the United States. And we apply GDPR to our operations in the United States as well. It provides, a trust anchor, that we treat the data with respect, with user consent, and we don't misuse or abuse it.
Steve Craig: Having something that's prescriptive versus nebulous is always good in any industry, right? You don't want to have guesswork and find that you've not complied. And I've heard the same, you know, when GDPR went into effect, it did cause challenges, right? And there were fines and there were missteps there.
But now those that are fulfilling the rules, they know the rules and they can operate within it. When I think about, back to your point about the asymmetry of information. The other thing that we can do against the fraud and the evils of the world is we can coordinate as an industry. That's in part what I'm trying to do with PEAK IDV, is to bring like-minded individuals together on this platform and the education I share, but also where we can raise investment and we can bring in resources and we can expand our footprint.
And so the last few years, digital identity biometrics, identity verification… I'd say 2021, 2022, early were massive influxes of cash, at least relative for our industry. Even iProov, took in 70 million in investment in early 2022. I noted that. What are your thoughts on current market conditions and the current investor appetite and M&A and consolidation and what do you think about what's ahead for this space in the next few years?
So it's going be a clearly a bumpy ride. We were fortunate because we decided to raise money in 2021 because we didn't need it, but we could. The best time to raise money is when you don't need it, because it gives you the freedom of action to take bigger bets. More daring bets, take advantage of opportunities, and we closed our round at the very end of 2021.
Since then, you know, market valuations are not what they were, especially not for early stage companies. So life has become very hard for talented entrepreneurs with great ideas who haven't quite got the traction, who haven't quite got the product market fit with great technology. It's become very hard. Money. Cash is short. Valuations have been, have become very tough for companies that need to go back to the market because they've exhausted their business. We are seeing, a lot of M&A opportunity, clearly. So there is the temptation I think, for anyone who has money in this company to splash up, to splash around an M&A, which from past experience is a really good way to turn a good business into a bad business.
The temptation of doing M&A because you can must be resisted. Look, the economy's going to go through some bumpy times over the next year or two, but I would think that by 2025, by 2025-2026, there's going be an interesting time for all of us. I think we're going to have seen a transformation in the digital identity space driven partly by the emergence of decentralized identity.
We're going see, I think, a tremendous energy unleashed by that, the fulfillment of a lot of our dreams and the solution of a lot of our problems at a time when hopefully economy emerges from this rather disruptive cyclone that it's going through and sails out into sunnier calmer waters.
I'm an optimist. I just think that it's going to be a complicated couple of years between now and then, between now and then. But you know, the move towards decentralized identity, having had a number of false starts is really beginning to accelerate. Now we see it, and that's going create huge opportunity for people who can solve real problems in practical ways.
Steve Craig: I've got just a few final questions that leads to one of the last three, when I think about 10 years from now, we were just talking about Passwordless in 2013 and we're still not there now. What do you think is in store in the future? And I love this, this quote from British science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clark, where he says, I think it's one of Clark's, they call it Clark's Laws. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Where do you think the magic is in our space 10 years from now? 20 years from now?
Andrew Bud: Well, look, I can tell you where the magic is in our space now because, when I look at machine learning systems and I say, it has an input and an extraordinary output, and I go, how did it do that? The answer is it's a manifold in a thousand dimensional space. That's not really a very satisfactory answer.
So, um, explainability I think is going become personally, I think it's going become a huge issue, in the application of machine learning and AI because there comes a point at which the, the testability of these systems, is an enormously challenging issue. You know, we're all used to the idea of hallucination in generative AI.
Well, you know, you do a search on yourself and you discover a bunch of lies. Oh, it's his hallucination. But when you start using this technology for serious applications and you don't know whether what's coming out is truth or lies, then it becomes really quite a risky thing to do.
If you haven't got explainability and you haven't got testability, what can you do with this technology? My experience is that it always takes about seven years from when a technology seems to be absolutely on the verge of exploding to when it really makes a big difference. This has happened to time and time again.
I was enormously excited by the advent of digital mobile communications in 1984-1985, actually was when I got involved. It wasn't until 1992 that the first operators started producing technology. I got really excited about wireless LANs, really excited about wireless LANs in 1993.
Wasn't until 2000 that people started to make money afterwards. You know, we were excited by passwordless in 2013. It wasn't even 10 years, so it wasn't even seven years. So there is an argument to say if we're all thrilled about generative AI in 2023, it's going be 2030 before it actually start turns into a truly usable instrument.
But I do believe that there are certain persistent features, which is one, a person's face will continue to be the way in which they bind themselves. To their digital identity. You can have all the facts about a person that you like stored this way, that way. Central database distributed, who cares? But in the end, trust doesn't reside in people’s facts, trust resides with human beings
So at some point you always have to bind a real human being to their assertive identity, and that is ultimately, I think, always going to rely on their face. And therefore, the problem of assuring that you're dealing with a genuine face will become one of the trust anchors for the entire digital economy.
I believe that in the future, people's wallets in, in 7 years, in 10 years time, everybody will have a digital identity wallet. And in that wallet there will be at least two certificates. One a certificate of biographics things drawn from the systems of record driving, like DMV, something like that.
And the other will be a certificate of genuine presence. A certificate of authenticity issued by a company like iProov. That's a big vision. It's an awesome responsibility and it behooves all of us in our sector to take that with the utmost seriousness because if we get it wrong, then we can find that that the whole substructure for the future of the online economy has been undermined.
And you know what? Seven years passes pretty quickly.
Steve Craig: A blink of an eye. Well, Andrew, we're just about at time, and one of the goals in the EXECUTIVE SERIES that I like to put out is the person behind the LinkedIn profile, the leader behind the press. And I was looking at your history and I see you continue to be involved outside of iProov with two organizations. One, you founded the Mobile Ecosystem Forum and then the Media Institute. In just a few moments, can you share, how those connect to your passions and what those organizations do?
Andrew Bud: So the Media Institute was, an enterprise that I undertook in in about 2009-2010, just after the massive financial crash looked like it was going hollow out one of the key services centers of the service economy of the United Kingdom.
And the question was, if we don't have financial services, what is the United Kingdom going do for a living in the world stage? And the answer was, we have the one, the world's second largest creative industry here. And we also have the some of the world's top computer science departments.
How could we put world-class research together with world-class creativity and do something that would grow this enormous creative sector. And that's where the Media Institute came out. It was University College London, with whom I said earlier, I have close things, in the form of Sir Anthony Finkelstein and then professor, the Dean of Engineering, sponsored the creation of this institute and that founded in about 2010 and very much operating. Video, video content, video archives, and so on. Under the guidance of a very experienced general manager. I’m a non-executive director of that.
It was a very exciting moment. Frankly, I got distracted by, by the thrill that became iProov. The other also, there, there were other things in the form of the digital catapults that kind of picked up the, the bat and ran with it.
The Mobile Ecosystem Forum is now 22 years old. In November of 2000, a group of us who were involved in the mobile content industry got together and said, look, we need to define ourselves.
We are part of the mobile industry, but not recognizably. So, and we're part of the entertainment industry, but not recognizably so, and yet the intersection between these two industries means something. So we need a trade body that gives us a sense of identity and a sense of unity. And thus was born the Mobile Entertainment Forum.
I was initially one of the board members, then I was elected as vice chairman. And in 2008 I was elected as Chairman. And the thing is that the Mobile Entertainment Form, which became a Mobile Ecosystem Forum, in about 2014, 2015, if I remember correctly, has never stayed still.
It's a remarkable, it's remarkable because it's one of the only trade bodies in the technology industry that doesn't represent a particular constituency. It actually seeks to represent the whole value chain, the whole ecosystem, bringing together everybody from core technology providers and OEM providers all the way up to content providers and service providers, and everybody in between.
It's not a battle weapon. So many sectoral trade associations are fighting for their sectoral interests. It's a unifier, and it's absolutely fascinating, because it doesn't stop changing. 15 years ago, we effectively represented the ring tone industry. Did you know, Steve, that it's at its height, in 2007, the world ringtone industry was larger than the entire recorded music industry?
Steve Craig: Remember those days there, there were coveted, things to have. The ringtones.
Andrew Bud: 15 years on the mobile ecosystem form represents the CPAS industry, and it deals a lot in consumer trust and in personal data identity and authentication.
And it continues to evolve as the whole ecosystem was. Look, I'm a non-executive chairman. I've got a lot of experience in doing this. They keep electing me to the board and they keep electing me as Chairman. Something that I consider as a privilege, notwithstanding the fact that I've been doing this for, for 21 years, but it never gets boring.
Steve Craig: Well, thank you so much for sharing the history, on those organizations and your involvement. It's hard to understand that just from looking at your profile and seeing the line items. So I appreciate you giving that background. We're at time for today, for the session. Thank you so much, Andrew, for making the time to speak with me.
For the community, for those that are listening, how do you want them to engage with you? Should they reach out to you or, or to your team at iProov? What are you looking for from this conversation potentially?
Andrew Bud: So we always want to talk to anybody who's interested in remote identity verification, not just our core technology, but whole solutions because we work with a big network of partners we want to talk to, and customers who have IDV and biometric authentication solutions and physical access solutions.
But we also want to talk to partners. Partners who can combine iProov’s face verification technology with other elements to produce complete solutions. Because we are tremendously partner focused in Latin America, in the United States, across Europe, in the Far East, where for example, we have a huge base in Singapore and a tremendous customer base in Australia.
Frankly, I love hearing from prospects and customers. You are welcome to write to me directly, but the best way to do this is perhaps to write to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. I get all those emails. As does our team.
You can reach out to Simon Williamson, our Chief Revenue Officer, based in the United States, Ajay Amlani, our SVP of Americas.
Mike Summers in Europe. Milko Radotic in Asia. Daniel Molina in Latin America.
We are well represented at the leading trade shows. Come and see us. Come and tell us about your problems, and we’ll see whether we or one of our partners can help solve it in a way that not only is super convenient for our customers, but never gets you asked, “were you complicit or just recklessly incompetent?”
And I love how you close in on that one, that that particular reporter, we’re going to find that person and share this particular episode with them. Thank you so much, Andrew. I learned a ton today. I always enjoy our conversations. I'll be sure to include any of the links or the emails or contact details in the EXECUTIVE SERIES posting page.
And I look forward to seeing continued success from iProov in the market. Thanks for taking the time today.
Andrew Bud: Thank you so much for inviting me, Steven. It's been a pleasure talking to you today.
Pleasure as well. Thank you.