Digitizing Identity: Why We Invested in Airside

5 min read November 11, 2020
News Infra

Some of the best businesses are those that dramatically improve the customer experience — DocuSign for reaching agreements, Amazon for purchasing online, Uber for transportation. Late last year, I was traveling back from Israel to San Francisco with my 83-year-old mom. As we taxi’d to the gate, she mentioned she wasn’t looking forward to waiting to clear customs. Fortunately, we had recently invested at the seed stage in a company called Airside. I told her we could easily expedite the process by downloading the Mobile Passport App. In a matter of minutes, she had downloaded the app, completed the simple sign-up process and received a QR code. And just a few moments later, to mom’s amazement, we sailed through customs.

It was a fabulous experience, and in a situation that many typically dread. Creating these types of dramatically-improved experiences is an important step in building a great business. This is exactly what Airside has done.

Airside, like the other examples previously mentioned, revolve around a common theme in technology: the digitization of everything. If you think about what has shifted from your wallet or desk into your smartphone over the past decade — ApplePay, loyalty programs, airline tickets — there is a good chance there is now an app for that. As users, these technologies have greatly improved the convenience and security we now expect when conducting many kinds of transactions.

There is still a reason most of us carry around a wallet today though, and it is arguably the most important reason: proving our identity. In the United States, the vast majority of identity transactions still rely on producing a physical document issued by a government agency. We believe Airside will be the company that digitizes identity for everyday use.

To support this mission, we are delighted to announce that we have led the $13 million Series B financing for Airsidea company we’ve been fortunate enough to back since seed, and for which I will serve as a board member. We are also thrilled to announce that Amena Ali will be joining Airside as CEO. Most recently the CEO of VividCortex, Amena brings a wealth of operational experience to Airside, and is the perfect complement to the company’s visionary founders Hans Miller and Adam Tsao.

Airside is building a digital identity verification network. Like mom and me, many of you may have already experienced the power and simplicity of Airside’s technology with the Mobile Passport application. Mobile Passport expedites the U.S. customs and passport control process for U.S. and Canadian citizens, removing friction for both travelers and U.S. CBP agents. As the travel industry continues to wrestle with the impact of COVID-19, Airside’s touchless identification technology is central to many airports’ and airlines’ plans to get people traveling safely again in the near future.

Outside of travel, Airside is working closely with a number of institutions to have the newly released Airside Digital Identity application as a key component of its digital identity network. We see a huge number of soon-to-be solved pain points around identity across many industries. For example, physical identification documents are still central to many important processes, such as applying for a loan or mortgage, or completing a Form I-9 employment eligibility verification. Additionally, we see emerging use cases such as COVID lab test status, and the immediate applicability for Airside in financial services and payments as many of these companies make digital identity protocols core to their products.

We believe it has never been more important for a company like Airside to exist. New regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, and the subsequent discussion around these initiatives, reflect that governments, individuals, and companies are all concerned with how identity data is managed. Airside has made several design and architectural choices, which we believe are the right approach for what digital identity should look like.

Furthermore, Airside takes a consent-driven self-sovereign approach to identity — meaning you own your data and can control who sees your data, what they can see, and for how long. Revoking privileges is as simple as pressing a button on the app. The product also encrypts data and stores it in a distributed database. This means it is impossible for hackers to put together a full picture of who you are, or try to impersonate you.

Identity verification today is a multi-billion dollar industry dominated by incumbents who remain in the physical world. We think it is time for a digital offering that is better, more convenient, and more secure.

We are thrilled to partner with Amena, Hans, and the entire Airside team as we look to bring secure identity into the digital age. As the company grows, we expect to see Airside power identity transactions in travel, financial services, and all aspects of our lives. Here’s to a better, more secure digital identity, that puts users first and in control of their own data.

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