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This start-up went from zero to app hero, and you can too!

Lance Fanaroff co-founded iiDENTIFii, a start-up specialising in remote digital facial biometric authentication and automated on-boarding. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
Lance Fanaroff co-founded iiDENTIFii, a start-up specialising in remote digital facial biometric authentication and automated on-boarding. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

When a South African tech start-up, iiDENTIFii, developed a biometric identity solution and entered it into the MTN Business App of the Year Awards, everyone from banks to international software giants took notice. 

The idea may have been to end the era of passwords, but for iiDENTIFii the idea led to being named the best enterprise solution in the competition and then scaling the heights of the IT world.

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The start-up now partners with one of South Africa’s leading banks, helping customers replace passwords with fingerprints and facial recognition programmes. The result is that it takes less than 30 seconds for the bank’s customers to digitally identify themselves as account holders.

On a global scale, the company is now a certified Microsoft co-sell partner- a coveted position within the world of software and applications. With its digital biometric authentication and automated onboarding solution hosted in Microsoft Azure, iiDENTIFii is part of the Microsoft Global Partner Network. In 2021, iiDENTIFii was also recognised as the New Independent Software Vendor Partner of the Year in the Microsoft South Africa Partner of the Year Awards.

A journey of a thousand steps

For Lance Fanaroff and Marco Wagenar of iiDENTIFii, the association with Microsoft is the highlight of an exciting journey that began when they started working on payment solutions in 2017.

It has opened the way for iiDENTIFii to deliver customer identification needs in the financial services, telcos, healthcare, government, transport, retail and insurance industries worldwide. Significantly, Microsoft and its partners are also incentivised to sell and promote the solution to customers.

For the average consumer, this massive digital step means that banking is more efficient as they can undertake transactions quickly, without too much though, knowing that a secure online authentication solution is keeping them and their accounts safe – with their faces and eyes having become their passwords.

“Liveness is the guarantee that a person attempting authentication is a real person, not a mask or a bot. Even if someone else has your card, the account cannot be accessed as they don’t have your eyes or your face. This is critical, especially for financial institutions where security and compliance are vital,” says Fanaroff.

“It helps service suppliers confirm that the person undertaking the transaction is real. While the authentication process is taking place, a ‘selfie’ of the user is taken automatically. The user then uploads an identity document. The information from the card, book or passport, including the facial image, the selfie and document pictures, are then triangulated with the department of home affairs data to authenticate the user’s identity.”

Fanaroff adds, “iiDENTIFii has also made going into a bank branch to open a new account a thing of the past. What was once a time-consuming process can now be completed from home in under 60 seconds,” he adds.

Kholofelo Magagane, head of marketing at MTN Business. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

From iiDENTIFii to Zulzi App

According to Kholofelo Magagane, head of marketing at MTN Business, the app is also proving itself in Africa, where mobile devices are used to overcome the limitations of distance and lack of infrastructure.

“Major South African banking groups are introducing iiDENTIFii in the countries in which they operate, helping with the penetration of the app, and quickly making iiDENTIFii a market leader in SA and across the continent.

“There is no doubt that South Africa is home to enormously talented technical people who can compete on equal terms with anybody in the competitive IT industry across the world. Seeing the success of a company like iiDENTIFii, who came up through our App of the Year, affirms the role that MTN is playing in creating an event where South African developers can showcase their talents.”

Magagane remarks that as the mobile company approaches this year’s competition, it proudly looks back at the role it played in helping local IT talent.

“The result has been apps like Zulzi App that contribute to the quality of life for thousands of people and serve as inspiration for other developers to turn their ideas into a reality. You never know, perhaps another trail-blazing developer is waiting in the wings ready to be recognised by global business after they’re discovered at our App of the Year.”

Entries for the 2022 event closes on 5 September. Entrepreneurs and start-ups of app-based products and services from across South Africa and Africa are encouraged to participate in what has become a leading digital event, offering prizes totalling R1 million.

Tech Innovator in Africa Awards

Meanwhile, KPMG Private Enterprise also announced iiDENTIFii  as the winner of it Tech Innovator in Africa Awards. They were followed closely by Chekkit Technologies Inc in second place and Troygold in third plac

iiDENTIFii will go on to compete in a global KPMG event taking place in Lisbon, Portugal in November 2022. Winners from 20 countries across key economies will pitch their businesses’ products and services and be recognised for leading tech innovation and business model excellence.

“Africa is ripe with innovation and this competition truly showcases Africa’s leading tech innovators on a local and global scale – demonstrating the impact that the fastest-growing tech innovators are having across the globe.

“We opened the competition in February this year and had an overwhelming response with 159 applications from across the continent – almost double compared to the number of applications received last year. This demonstrates not only the growing tech innovation in Africa but indicates the appetite for African tech businesses to be recognised and scale their operations for the greater good of the continent and its people,” said Alan Barr, partner and head of Private Enterprise at KPMG.

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