Nigerian startup Youverify raises $1.5 million seed funding

Nigerian identity verification startup, Youverify has raised a $1.5 million seed round. The round was led by Orange Digital Ventures Africa (ODV), a $57 million investment vehicle that targets Africa and the Middle East. Loftyinc Afropreneurs Fund, an African early-stage investment fund also participated in the round.

With the new round, the company is looking to accelerate its growth and expand to other markets.

Founded in 2017, Youverify is a business-to-business service that allows companies to verify the identity of people.

Identity verification is a serious challenge on the African continent. In Nigeria, Youverify’s main market, there is no single important national identity system. 

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is the body responsible for identity capturing and management, but it has been ineffective at this function. Since 2007, the NIMC has partnered with private companies like Chams and Mastercard to develop a robust identity system.

Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s former president, displays an exhibition version of the National ID card in 2014.

But the move has not been productive. Rather than solve the identity crisis, the government agency wanted the National ID card to incorporate payment features. In 2010, enrollment for the National ID card began and ten years later, millions of Nigeria have not received their cards.

The inefficiencies of the NIMC prompted businesses and different government bodies to rely on alternative identity systems.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) developed the Bank Verification Number (BVN) for the finance industry. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) operates the permanent voter’s card to verify voters. The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) operates the driver’s licence.

“Youverify is an API service whereby we’ve aggregated all the existing government IDs,” CEO Gbenga Odegbami said on the sidelines of TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin in 2019. “From one source with ten lines of code, you can verify any government-issued ID quickly.”

“We’re building an infrastructure across Africa for verification So we want to make it very easy, a modern infrastructure so you can verify so that you can verify individuals and their addresses easily.”

Youverify shared that “some of the biggest banks, fintech platforms and on-demand platforms in Nigeria” use its API.

In a press release, the company said it has the ambition to help organisations use data and its insight to make automated and efficient business decisions and speed up previously manual back-office processes.

“The matters of security and access to financial or telecommunications services should never be at odds,” said Grégoire de Padirac, Investment manager at ODV. “We are proud to support Youverify, which intends to resolve this triple objective of fostering financial inclusion, strengthening security and preserving user rights over their data.”

With its latest seed funding, ODV and Loftyinc Afropreneurs Fund join Village Capital and Chinook Capital as investors in the startup.

Currently based in Nigeria, Youverify plans to expand its services to other African countries. “Nigeria is a very big pie, but we plan to start with five countries in 2020 and then we take from there,” Odegbami told TechCrunch last year.

Youverify is not the only startup trying to fix Nigeria’s identity verification problems. VerifyMe offers a similar service to banks to power their Know-Your-Customer (KYC) needs. The company raised an undisclosed Series A funding in January.

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