The last time Hypepotamus checked in on Trust Stamp, the Atlanta-based startup had developed facial recognition technology that was being used by the attorneys general of the U.S. and Mexico to find victims of human trafficking. But this was just one way that Trust Stamp was testing its solution’s major use capabilities.
“The AG project was a great non-commercial use of our technology to prove out what has become our core differentiator to the market, and it’s a strangely timely differentiator,” Trust Stamp co-founder Andrew Gowasack tells Hypepotamus, referring to today’s challenges in data security.
Now, just under two years later, a recent strategic investment from MasterCard shows that the biometrics company, which anonymizes identity and other sensitive personal data so that it can’t be stolen or misused, is itself being recognized as an emerging leader in the field—not only for security and privacy, but also financial inclusion.
“Despite what Tom Cruise and the “Mission Impossible” movies would have you believe, it’s really hard to get a new face and fingerprint,” Gowasack said, with a laugh. “We know the old system is broken; how do we move on to the next stage in such a way that it is secure and doesn’t repeat the problems of the old one, but also respects my privacy as a consumer?”
Although the financial terms of MasterCard’s investment remains confidential, Gowasack was more forthcoming discussing what will come from the partnership and why it makes sense. “Every transaction starts off with simple questions,” Gowasack says. “‘Who are you, and can I trust you?’ Financial inclusion is one of the benefits we provide, because if I can’t prove who I am, how am I supposed to participate in the market?”
He says the MasterCard solution will be used to provide unique identities to nearly 100,000,000 people across the continent of Africa, resulting in people being able to receive vaccinations and other types of aid.
“If you don’t have a reliable identity, that’s hard to do,” Gowasack says. “In many countries, there’s either no identity system or it’s not very reliable. And something like printed ID documents just isn’t going to scale.” This, he says, is the same for MasterCard as it is for global non-governmental organizations. Trust Stamp’s ability to verify identity using biometrics means no documents are needed.
Gowasack said it was a long process of due diligence—to ensure the technology components worked, and that Trust Stamp could help not just MasterCard but also its clients—that made the investment a reality.
First, for scope, minimal functionality had to be proven, then it was beta-tested in the ID4Africa project, which MasterCard sponsored. Then, the company enacted a global search to see if anyone else was already competently offering Trust Stamp’s services. Gowasack says Trust Stamp was “repeatedly successful,” and although the company found potential competitors, none had Trust Stamp’s functionality.
The investment, Gowasack says, proves that Trust Stamp can work with one of the biggest global financial organizations at scale.
“Now is the time to say, ‘Alright, market; we know you’re trying to replace your identity system. Let’s develop the answer to that.”