El Sol de Mexico: Interview with Ricardo Amper

The following is a translated transcript of an interview between El Sol de Mexico and Ricardo Amper, Founder and CEO of Incode Technologies.

To read the original article click here

Publisher: El Sol de Mexico
Orignial Author: Erick Ramirez

This technology company, which specializes in user identity verification, was one of the latest Mexican founded companies to achieve unicorn status in 2021, having achieved a $1 billion valuation.

There are three mantras in the digital identity authentication industry. Ricardo Amper, founder of unicorn Incode, lists them as: What you know, what you have and what you are.

The first thing is a password, the second is a terminal for accessing the web, such as your cell phone, and the third -and most important- is your face, being the most difficult to steal.

With these axes, Ricardo has created one of the most influential Mexican startups in the daily life of anyone who has a digital account.

As he defines it, Incode is basically a company that generates trust. It devotes all its technology to user identity verification.

Incode primarily uses biometric recognition technology as well as artificial intelligence identity documents, such as voter registration cards, to ensure that people are who they say they are when they open an online account or carry out a process.

The platform draws on 70 security components such as devices' IP addresses, corroborating people's desire to initiate a process, web access terminals features, credentials information validation, and increasingly biometrics elements such as voice and fingerprints, and so on.

"We are an identity and technology company. What we do is transfer trust that is typically easily obtained in the physical world into the digital world."

Incode's technology is currently being used by companies such as Banorte to allow their users to authenticate their identity in their digital banking, or when registering on the Atlas and Santos soccer clubs’ fan sites.

It is also being used in the House of Representatives when authenticating votes cast by legislators and, it helped the National Electoral Institute launch biometric verification services first with fingerprint and then through face recognition.

Ricardo keeps his clients confidential but assures that some of the biggest names in the banking, hospital and consumer sectors are amongst them.

Just a few years after its launch, in addition to Mexico, the company now operates in the United States, England, Germany, Russia and Austria.

"Our strategy is to go after the market leaders and change together. We can't generate change by ourselves, we do it in partnership with our clients".

Incode works with each company to find out which of the 70 security components that it reviews are most relevant to each one and tailors the service accordingly, which also allows flexibility in the range of services it offers.

"All that technology that facilitates companies' experiences is software that we sold them. Our platform can create an infinite combination of factors that serve their flows, but what interests us most is knowing their weaknesses; we focus on their main problems ".

Ricardo recalls that before the implementation of Incode, all these interactions between companies and users had to be reviewed by human personnel, which was detrimental to speed, accuracy, and privacy during the process.

Verifying all these documents was the perfect task for an artificial intelligence system. It was a vital change, and today., Incode is the first company that is fully automated which is why we have grown so much in Mexico and the world".

As Ricardo explains, this technology has important implications in generating trust to the extent that uncertainty about who the users are is reduced; companies can offer services and products more quickly, or even cheaper considering their track record, making the market more inclusive.

The application of this concept can be most easily imagined in the banking sector with preferential loans to those users already identified.

According to him, Mexico is a nation where it is estimated that only 11 percent of people trust others, while in countries like India this proportion reaches 56 percent.

The only difference between the two countries, says Ricardo, is that India's central government established a national identity system that is used for almost every interaction.

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"Identity is the gateway for almost everything we do on a day-to-day basis. So, if you do something with confidence and ease, you end up doing it more, you carry out more transactions, and that is how countries grows.

Prior to creating Incode, Ricardo founded the company AMCO Foods, which focused on beverages and was acquired by Bimbo in 2006. After Grupo AMCO, he focused on the production of oils and chemical aromas, which was also acquired by the German Brenntag Group.

With his personal savings, Ricardo started Incode in 2015 as a platform that by using artificial intelligence in facial recognition, it would immediately share photos to those who appeared in them.

As Ricardo tells it, Incode had to fine-tune its technology in low resolution, poor-quality broadband environments to such a degree that he ultimately decided to pivot to the company it is today.

Along the way, he had become aware of the shortcomings in the global security system based on manual review of photographs, widely vulnerable to error and the misuse of personal data.

"We started as a photo app but decided to venture into the identity sector when it became apparent that almost all of our competitors verified people's identity by having the user take a photo of their ID and then sending it to a call center in Asia for a human to review. Obviously, people's privacy was not being protected.

Notably, Incode was one of the last Mexican founded companies to achieve unicorn status in 2021, having achieved a valuation of US$1 billion and investments of US$220 million in its last capitalization round, in which the Japanese Softbank and the funds General Atlantic, J.P. Morgan Technology Ventures, Capital One Ventures and Coinbase Ventures participated.

All these funds had previously participated in the financing of highly relevant startups in Latin America such as Rappi, Kavak, Jüsto, Crehana, Clip or Gympass.

Incode and Ricardo have also been selected by publishing houses such as Bloomberg and Forbes as entrepreneurs of the year.

"Incode provides a range of world-class digital onboarding and authentication tools that help its clients manage their consumers' identities, while increasing trust and reducing friction," said Paulo Passoni, managing partner of SoftBank Latin America funds regarding the investment.

On having achieved unicorn status for Incode, Ricardo states: "Venture capital is the great democratizer, because it allows you to break into very slow markets or those that had been monopolized. It is a great disruptor and helps to raise the standard of living of many people.

"It doesn't depend primarily on the connections you have or how lucky you were because of the family you were born into, but it depends on the work, on how smart and clever you are."

As he explains, the pandemic represented a profound disruption within the identity authentication market by increasing the digitization of services and people: "What would have taken ten years, happened in two.

Processes that had not yet been digitized before 2020, he says, were due to an increased need for security between parties in highly regulated markets, such as banking.

In Incode's case, Ricardo confesses that the pandemic was a catalyst for achieving unicorn status.

"It was a dream that we thought we were going to achieve, but further down the line; not this fast. We went from funding the business with our own resources to the valuation growing 12 or 14 times in one year, ".

According to Ricardo, the pandemic resulted in the beginning of a world where physical IDs are no longer needed, which will give way to immediate identification linked to biometrics in transactions and procedures.

"The future means using one identity everywhere, where you are your own identity and where you, as a user, only go through the long identity verification process once. The rest is just authenticating through facial recognition, consenting and that's it.

"People no longer want to go to branches or physically attend job interviews or check-in at a hospital; all of that is in the past.

"With this system you can generate services that are 20 times more powerful than they are today. I believe that the era of amassing data and storing it in a centralized way is now dead, what we need today is decentralization, privacy, and the use of biometric identity".

Without stating specific numbers, Ricardo assures that Incode's sales during 2021 grew 4x. For this year -he estimates- they will grow 3x, which will represent a 10-fold increase in the company's size in just two years.

It is in this context, he assures that Incode is riding a wave of technological innovation that is just bearing its first fruits but will eventually radically change the way we live.

"This is the beginning of massive change. Unfortunately, the Mexican brand is not a strong brand, (...) it was very hard for me to raise money. I had to hear 98 consecutive no’s from different funds before I heard my first yes. In total there were 127 funds.

"Today we can become the global leader in identity. With this virtuous circle that is being created, I believe that with time, we can begin to change the image that people have about Mexico.

"I don't know if we will achieve it, but we are certainly trying, and things are going well”.

 

 

 

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