The idea for ID-Pal, a ‘know your customer’ (KYC) solution for business, came from personal experience. Actually, it came from “personal frustration”, says founder and chief executive Colum Lyons, who was working as a stockbroker at the time.
Identity verification is key to preventing fraud but the confirmation process can be onerous for the business undertaking it, and off-putting for the customer it is trying to woo.
“There is a constant negativity around the whole process and a really bad user experience. Whether you are a stockbroker, an accountant, a solicitor or whoever, it’s your first touchpoint with the customer and you are asking for ID. If that’s a negative experience then you are automatically starting off on a bad foot,” says Lyons.
Managing KYC and AML (anti money-laundering) regulations is no picnic for the organisation either. Lyons could see the problems. “Documents were coming in in all shapes and sizes, by email, post, or people driving up to drop them off. There was a lack of operational efficiencies,” he adds.
Even more important than providing a good user experience, and improving operational efficiencies, was the need for regulatory compliance. Or, as he reckoned, the need to exceed it.
ID-Pal does just that. It’s an off-the-shelf, end-to-end software as a service solution that enables businesses to verify the identity of customers simply, securely and conveniently. Using advanced mobile technologies, it reduces the cost and risk associated with customer onboarding while removing friction from the user experience.
Success has come from the fact that ID-Pal is easier, faster, more cost-effective and more reliable than either manual processing or building a custom solution. With it, businesses can onboard their customers either in-person or remotely in less than 60 seconds.
It provides a secure and easy method of verification in real-time, taking the pain out of the customer onboarding process by reducing the time, cost and risk associated with regulatory compliance.
‘No big cost’
It’s also very different to what is on the market. Its competitors typically offer “component parts to the solution such as document authentication or facial recognition”, he explains. “What ID-Pal offers is a complete, end to end, fully customisable, agile solution, with no development work, no teams, and no big cost. It’s digital ID out of a box.”
The company sells to companies of all sizes but with SMEs accounting for 98 per cent of the world’s businesses, and a cohort that typically doesn’t have the money to build secure solutions itself, ID-Pal has hit the widest of market sweet spots.
It’s why the company is growing so fast. It currently employs 30 people and will take on an additional 20 this year. It also serves a number of industries.
"The payments space is a particularly strong market for us but also accountants, legal, mortgages and real estate," says Lyons. Geographically half its revenues come from Ireland, with the UK and US making up the lion's share of the rest. "We have clients dotted everywhere from Paraguay to UAE, but our strategy so far means that it is only this month [March] that we have appointed our first overseas salesperson, in the UK."
To date the company has grown through channel partners who “bake us into their products”, he explains. It is now embarking on the second layer of its growth strategy, which is to sell direct. “We know the product will land and work in other regions because of the experience we have had with our channel partners. We currently have more than 250 businesses using us, half of which are outside of Ireland.”
Innovation is not just central to its current success but central to sustaining it. “There will always be change, which is why I say to every member of staff who joins us that we are looking for people with a voice, people who will stand up and give their opinion. There are loads of innovative ideas out there, but in a lot of companies people don’t get their voices heard. In ID-Pal, they do,” he says.
For him, it’s about developing an innovation culture. That means encouraging all teams to have input, including sales teams who can channel customer feedback into product development.
“For me it’s about ‘why?’ It’s about questioning everything you do. Just because everyone does something a certain way doesn’t make it right,” he says. “If you just follow the norm, you won’t have innovation. So question everything. Ask yourself why are you doing it, because innovation comes from the answer, that’s what sparks it.”
Runner up: GreyScout
Protecting brands against online fraud
In 2020 alone, the European Intellectual Property Office estimated the loss of sales within the EU as a result of counterfeiting at €19 billion to the industries most affected, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care, wines and spirits, and toys and games. And this doesn’t take into account the losses incurred as a result of unscrupulous grey market resellers.
This activity doesn’t only affect the brands concerned – consumers also suffer as a result of shoddy goods, unsupported warranties and so on.
GreyScout is an Athlone-based technology company which helps businesses to protect their brands against online counterfeit and grey market activity by scanning online domains including marketplaces, search engines, websites, social media channels, web forums and more to identify potential IP infringements, policy violations and unauthorised content.
"Our aim is to give companies control of their brand online because counterfeiting, piracy and grey-market activity is a big and growing problem that will have an increasingly detrimental impact on the online economy in the years ahead," says GreyScout founder John Killian. "GreyScout deals with the problem by removing unauthorised content from customer view."
The solution focuses on those areas where the infringers are most likely be active. This includes counterfeit product listings, grey market activity on marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, fake social media accounts, and pricing policy breaches.
According to Killian, most companies only react to infringements when it is already too late. They either rely on manual checking or wait until someone brings the activity to their attention. The automated GreyScout solution detects the unauthorised activity and collects the evidence required to force the offenders to desist.
The company is currently trialling the technology with a number of global brands including as Samsung and Yvolution.
“Our mission is to democratise intellectual property protection by providing cost-effective solutions that enable brands, at any stage of growth, to redress the balance of power in the online world,” Killian says. “Our customers need to protect themselves and their customers and our innovative technology provides them with the essential market intelligence to do so.”
Runner up: Danalto
Tracking valuable mobile assets
A highly accurate tracking system from Trinity College Dublin spin-out Danalto promises to make it much easier and more cost-effective for organisations to track their assets in real time regardless of their location.
Modern businesses have multiple asset tracking requirements, be they trucks carrying goods, company cars, machines and devices on a factory floor, people, or packages out for delivery. The problem up until now has been that asset tracking solutions have been expensive and limited in their application due to a number of technical factors.
Technologies which work well indoors are not suitable for outdoor application due to limited range, while many of those that are suitable for outdoor use tend to have poor accuracy and may not work at all indoors. Add to that the massive proliferation of devices, which puts a huge strain on power and network resources, and the difficulty becomes near insurmountable, until now.
The FiLo - fine to long range – solution from Danalto uses the long range LoRa wireless technology at the 2.4 GHz spectrum to facilitate low-powered asset tracking. FiLo also utilises the ultra-wideband wireless protocol which is suitable for short-range communications.
The technology can track across a range of up to 5km, achieving location accuracies of less than metres. LoRa is also highly energy efficient, using five times less power than other IoT (‘internet of things’) technologies and offers exceptionally long battery life up to five years.
“The aim is to make every IoT device reachable and locatable using minimal infrastructure. This is in contrast to existing solutions that require dense infrastructures that are difficult to deploy,” explains company co-founder and CEO David McDonald. “Compared with existing systems, ours is significantly more energy efficient. It can cover diverse environments from healthcare and natural resources to logistics and supply chain and it is economically efficient to use.”
Capping off the solution is the Cardinal platform, which allows customers to visually monitor their tracked assets or personnel. Importantly, the platform can be accessed remotely.
“Companies will increasingly need asset location as part of their overall operations control and this is where the Danalto solution fits in,” McDonald says.