Meet the COO & Co-Founder of Onfido
To kick things off, please tell me a little bit about yourself and your business.
My name is Eamon Jubbawy and I am the co-founder and COO of Onfido.
Onfido is a London-based startup that is shaking up the background checking industry and dragging it into the digital age. It’s a sector which has traditionally been slow moving, bureaucratic, paper based and very expensive for businesses to use - especially SMEs.
In the past, around 80-90% of the traditional process has been done manually and we are automating it to transform the whole procedure - allowing us to make it cheaper, quicker and easier than ever before for firms to run background checks.
Automating the process dramatically reduces human error as it helps eliminate the element of manual data entry that can frequently lead to mistakes.
Before starting Onfido with my co-founders Husayn Kassai (CEO) and Ruhul Amin (CTO), I worked in the City for Credit Suisse as well as serving as Vice President of the Oxford Entrepreneurs Society.
When did you come up with the idea for Onfido?
When we were part of the Oxford Entrepreneurs Society we were in constant communication with HR departments at various companies.
Background checking was a topic that frequently came up as a major pain point for all of them. Everything from long turnaround times in checking potential hires out to high costs and poor quality results.
Additionally, when we were background checked for jobs ourselves, we experienced first-hand how broken the system was. We were shocked at how slow it all was (between two to six weeks from start to finish) and how much paper was involved. It felt completely out of place in the 21st century. We realised that there was a glaring gap in the market for someone to fill by fixing and modernising the sector.
This is a unique platform, do you have any competitors?
Our main competitors are mainly US based, such as HireRight and Sterling BackCheck. We believe that our technology is more sophisticated than our rivals. When we were fundraising this view was shared by our investors, which was a major factor in us getting the investment we did.
Being a young entrepreneur – what is the most exciting aspect of running your own business?
As a young team it’s a real buzz being on this journey together. Building a product is challenging, but it’s exciting to see the hard work validated when the first few clients start using it and tell us how impressed they are. Today, we help over 400 clients globally streamline their screening processes through the Onfido software.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Closing our $4.5m Series A funding earlier this year was a great moment as some of the world’s most recognised and respected investors decided they wanted to join us on our journey.
Being backed by funds like Wellington Partners (investors in Spotify and DropBox) and CrunchFund (investors in Airbnb and Uber) is a signal of the progress we’ve made and what we’ve achieved to date.
Think back to when you’d just started out – what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
There are plenty of situations where experience comes in handy, but in general I would say that young entrepreneurs in the UK are often told to scale down their vision and expectations, since we’re traditionally very risk-averse and conservative in this country: especially compared to the Americans.
My advice to young entrepreneurs would be to ignore this advice, since you can only grow a global company if you believe in that vision.
How have you funded Onfido so far?
Our seed funding came from Oxford University, Said Business School and various angel investors. We’ve raised $5.4m to date.
Our Series A funding round was led by Wellington Partners with participation from CrunchFund and a number of high profile angels including Brent Hoberman (co-founder, Lastminute.com); Nicolas Brusson and Frederic Mazzella (co-founders, BlaBlaCar); Greg Marsh (co-founder, Onefinestay); Spencer Hyman (co-founder, Artfinder); and Dan Cobley (former MD, Google UK).
What was your number one priority when you launched Onfido?
We’d identified a problem that needed fixing and we wanted to solve it. We knew this would make a huge difference to thousands of companies - particularly startups and SMEs. We’re proud of the way we've democratised background checking by making it available to everyone.
Startups in today’s environment can’t afford to miss out on talent due to needless system inefficiencies. We are always thrilled when clients tell us what our platform has done for them when it comes to their hiring process and how it has helped their business.
You've had a lot of press coverage, what is that like?
It’s always great to get a good review or endorsement in the press, and we hope that by continuing to offer a great service, people will continue to write nice things about us.
From a business perspective, press coverage of course help raise your company’s profile and bring you to a new audience. We've been really happy with our coverage to date, it’s been hugely positive and helped reassure us we are on the right track.
What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
Our main advice is to have complete confidence in what you are doing. Don’t let age be a barrier either. If you have an idea and have done the research and work needed to prove your idea has legs, go for it.
What plans do you have for Onfido in the next 12 months?
To expand into new markets, grow our presence globally and to continue investing in our technology to ensure that we are constantly improving the service that we offer. We've made huge inroads, but there’s a long and exciting path ahead of us yet.