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OwnID raises $6M to replace passwords with smartphone-based biometrics

·2-min read

The founders of OwnID, Dor Shany and Rooly Eliezerov, previously founded Gigya, a startup that wanted to make it easier to help identify customers. They sold that startup to SAP for $350 million in 2017, but the idea of making it easy to log into websites without friction was always in the back of their minds, and they launched OwnID last year to help solve that particular problem.

Shany explained that the founding team understood identity from their time at Gigya, and they wanted to create a company to make it as simple as possible to authenticate from a user perspective. Anyone who has forgotten a password knows how maddening this process can be.

Their idea was to move the process to your phone and take advantage of the phone's built-in authentication system. "The phone is actually a two-factor authentication on its own because it's something you have and biometric authentication. The essence is that you go to a website, you enter your email address, you click 'skip password' and log into your phone with your biometric (face or finger) ID." That's it.

If you have ever tried to log into a streaming service like Netflix on your television, you know it can be a frustrating experience, and in cases like this, OwnID presents you with a QR code on screen, and you use your phone to scan the code, then log into your phone.

Another annoyance that OwnID takes care of is when you move between devices and you need to remember your password (unless you have a password manager of some sort). With OwnID, you are always authenticating with the phone, so that problem should just go away.

Shany said that it's difficult to spoof because you register through your phone when you first come to the website and the cryptographic key is stored on your phone from that point forward. Whenever the website or app sees your phone has the key, it knows it's you.

From the website or app owner perspective, they are connecting to OwnID via an API, and once the developer adds the code, users are presented with an option to log in without a password using the phone.

The company is making OwnID publicly available today for the first time, but it is already working with large customers like Nestlé and DeLonghi. It currently has about 20 employees with plans to double that in the coming year. He says that the pandemic has actually made it easier to find diverse employees because they can hire people from anywhere, and that gives them much more flexibility.

OwnID announced a $6.2 million seed round today led by Mayfield. The founder's previous company Gigya raised over $100 million, according to Crunchbase, before being acquired by SAP. It's worth noting that Mayfield was an early investor in that company as well.

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