Around one in 15 people experience some form of identity theft every year. By using techniques like disguising their identities and investing money in hard-to-detect markets, financial criminals have been using modern technology to exploit systems.
uqudo’s mission is to develop cross-border and cross-industry digital ecosystems where a user is in control of their data. Based on the Zulu word uqobo for ‘truth, reality or self, the very one(s)’, Uqudo was born with a mission to rid the digital world of fraudulent identities. It aims to instill trust in digital transactions where interactions are essentially anonymous.
Mohamed E. Fagiri is the founder and CEO of uqudo, responsible for the overall management, strategic direction and planning for the company. Here Fagiri talks through uqudo’s plans to expand and dominate identity verification in the EMEA region with a high-powered digital identity platform.
Tell us more about your company and its offerings.
Most of us are accustomed to consuming products and services from banks, telecommunication, insurance companies and more on a digital channel. While this represents a giant leap from traditional, in-person transactions and interactions, the new digital solutions are still heavily reliant on manual back-end processes that are error-prone, costly and inefficient.
At uqudo, we understood that there is a better way to help customers consume products and services from industries and launched a digital identity verification solution in 2021. Since then, we have been working towards building an ‘identity layer” that makes customer onboarding safe, efficient and cost-effective in a digital world.
uqudo adopts advanced digital identity technology including biometrics, certified 3D liveness detection, NFC-based government-issued ID reading, cognitive document analysis and AI document scanning. This enables users to experience a fast, secure and frictionless onboarding process while ensuring compliance with KYC (know your customer), AML (anti-money laundering) and CDD (customer due diligence) regulations.
The solution is suited to companies in the fintech, banking, blockchain, insurance, travel and tourism industries as well as public sector organisations.
What problem was your company set up to solve?
Our first product was an identity wallet which aimed to make digital onboarding a smoother process. Realising the need for a more localised identity platform, we reinvented ourselves to build a future-proof AI-based identity layer that is dynamic and secure.
With the world accelerating towards a large-scale digital transformation, we have seen startups, scale-ups and even established organisations struggle with expensive customer onboarding. Our best-in-class identity stack helps prevent identity theft while reducing the overall cost of customer acquisition and being digital, also reduces paper-based costs.
Our identity platform, with access to the global sanction lists, PEPs (politically exposed persons) and adverse media lists lets us easily identify potential fraudsters thereby safeguarding data.
Uqudo’s tech stack not only integrates seamlessly with next-generation fintech and blockchain technologies but also accelerates digital transformation in other regulated industries, streamlining compliant customer onboarding.
Since launch, how has your company evolved?
uqudo launched with our first client in January 2021, and it has been a momentous journey since then with numerous product improvements including an increase in supported languages and detailed analytics. In 2022, we made even more significant advances in our product offering and now have 98 per cent commonly used identity document scanning coverage in EMEA. What differentiates uqudo from other identity players in the region is our capability to verify identities not only in the countries our customers operate in but also in those they are planning to expand to in the near future, making us the de-facto option for digital identity in the region.
We can now verify identity documents in 15 different countries and also provide unrivalled coverage and capabilities in UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan and Uganda. Our improved product offering will be launched via a marketing campaign that is kicking off as we speak with an initial focus on the GCC with gradual expansion to our core markets in Africa.
What has been the biggest challenge or most ‘tricky moment’ to overcome?
A big challenge in the identity industry is the fragmented nature of government identity systems. Each country has its own set of regulations regarding KYC, KYB and Screening making it challenging for identity players to provide comprehensive and compliant offerings in each region.
We have tackled this in a very dynamic manner by building solutions that can be deployed locally and customised according to a jurisdiction’s laws. Our creative approach to managing the ever-evolving rules and regulations has enabled us to scale fast and securely whilst not compromising on customer experience.
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moments’ so far?
Along with adapting well to the changing dynamics in different countries, our biggest achievements lie in our immensely powerful identity tech stack, which beats every other player in the region. Our incredible tech team, with years of experience in the identity industry, has been able to understand the challenges in the identity sector and build core products at the intersection of identity and technology.
Our state-of-the-art tech stack has also been proudly recognised by some of the world’s most distinguished bodies including Visa, ForgeRock, Startup Grind, Fintech Abu Dhabi and Hope Hackathon.
Another major achievement that we are proud of is partnering with large-scale financial institutions and helping them shift towards a more digital onboarding process, despite their rigid belief in in-person verification systems.
How would you describe the culture of your company?
Our global team comprises 20 different nationalities, and we’re passionate about diversity and inclusion. We believe that diversity of thought, experience, and background are critical to our success as a fast-growing company. Great emphasis is placed on hiring a range of talent, but also on ensuring each individual feels truly included and empowered while working here.
uqudo’s environment is very relaxed, with everyone having an equal voice on all things that matter. One key element of our workplace is the low-touch management culture, where our leaders fully trust employees, giving them complete freedom to seek answers independently. Our flat structure ensures each individual has access to everyone else in the company, making it a truly transparent and motivational environment.
And we aren’t just about work! Our team has regular social events where we share knowledge and have fun as a team.
What’s in store for the future?
Our goal in the next three years is to expand and dominate identity verification in the EMEA region, with a high-powered digital identity platform. We aim to achieve this goal with a four-pronged approach:
- Horizontal expansion: Expanding our coverage and capabilities across EMEA, with our next focus on the global market.
- Vertical expansion: Increasing the vertical depth of our identity verification services across KYC, KYB, Screening and Authentication.
- Innovation: At uqudo innovation and thinking outside of the box are central to our core values. We are currently exploring numerous initiatives at the forefront of the identity space including biometric ID, digital identity wallets and blockchain-focused identity solutions.
- Growth: Scaling up our growth engine by combining multiple acquisition channels and conversion mechanisms to create a system of power growth.
Our most important target for the future is to be ‘the’ identity company in the region, and for it to be natural for every growing or established company in EMEA to choose uqudo as its identity layer.