[Editor's Note] Milos Bezanov is a second year student currently studying International Politics at King’s College London.
If you could pass on any advice, what would it be? Usually the best advice comes from experience, like when your parents tell you to work hard (perhaps knowing they never did!) or not play with fire (after burning the house down!). Well, if you were to ask Daniel Mattes, founder of Jumio and serial entrepreneur previous experience counts for a lot; “I would never trust someone who told me he's never failed...the main thing is you learn from your mistakes”. With that attitude in mind, it's not surprising that Jumio was set up almost in response to the setbacks faced in his earlier business Jajah and it seems to be working. Since they started, the current running revenue of Jumio is at a staggering $100 million, on the back of $6.5 million investment. But what is the secret to their success? What do Jumio do? Who's involved? And most importantly, how do they do it?
Before we get into all that, who is the man behind the business, Daniel Mattes? Some refer to him as “The Bill Gates of the Alps”, but this gets us nowhere. How does he do business? What's his motivation for starting Jumio? Some insight is given by the man himself; when asked about startups, he said “it doesn't matter what kind of startup it is, so long as it's disruptive. I only want to do disruptive things”. He set out on Jajah with nothing less in mind than “changing the world of voice communication”. It's clear that Jumio follows a similar path; “potentially, this invention is as strong as the invention of the ATM”. Like many of the most successful ideas, it's simple in principle, but the brilliance is in the simplicity. Jumio developed Netswipe, technology able to turn any camera on your computer or phone into a secure credit card reader. The idea is to remove the hassle, insecurity and privacy issues faced through online payments. Daniel's words may look ambitious, but in reality still probably downplay the Jumio's true potential. If Jumio does change the way online payments are made, then anything can happen.
But will it work? Daniel's experience in business has taught him some harsh lessons; “ I believe it's a great idea, but that doesn't mean anything”. The truth is, what you think doesn't count “it's up to the markets to decide”, and on the chance they decide it's not working “you gotta have the guts to say this is not how I want it. Change direction, and do it...don't stick to an idea to the end”. Every entrepreneur has to come to terms with this possibility, but at least Daniel is not alone in his vision; “we have a bunch of really high end tech people around us who also believe strongly in the concept”, which no doubt eases the fear somewhat. Also, take a look at their investors.... Facebook Co-Founder Eduardo Saverin has been involved in the venture from the start, and recently Citi Ventures (part of Citi bank) invested in the company. Added to their second round investment from Anderseen Horowitz, this takes the total to £35.4 million. A good idea, surrounded by good people and an entrepreneur driven entrepreneur aware of his mistakes. Given that Jajah, sold for £207 million, had many mistakes according to Daniel, how good Jumio will be is anybody's guess
Despite this success Jumio show no signs of slowing down, since NetwSwipe, Jumio launched NetVerify, new technology that allows for instant verification of ID without documentation, reducing bureaucracy. The flexibility of this approach gives it a broad appeal, especially to large corporations (like Citi, who just gave them more money!). Yet the difficulty with this is always knowing where to look, and how to attract talent to you company. Even here, Daniel is one step ahead; “ I decided to put the development centre in Austria...because there are high end people who can build infrastructure, networks”. Also Austria's location is convenient; “we have people from London, Stockholm, Vienna, Graz, Turkey” making it easy for all of them to meet. It seems that Daniel has considered every detail of the business, from it's products, to it's location it's capital efficiency, and there's no sign that Daniel will change, even prospective investors are carefully vetted; “ I look at an investor as a partner...I also want a VC that wants to build a company that will change the landscape, shoot for the moon.”
Jumio began it's startup Journey in February 2010, with all the right things in all the right places. A great idea, great people, and an able entrepreneur dedicated to seeing it's success. But what drives Daniel? What is it about this combination of entrepreneur and business (Daniel Mattes and Jumio) that has been so successful to data? Again it all comes down to disruption. Daniel's words “I only want to do disruptive things” could be misattributed to a misbehaving schoolboy if taken out of context! But that's it. That's the spirit that will drive Jumio forward, because an idea like this needs to be explored to the fullest from every angle. All the other things in place wouldn't matter if this was missing, but their presence makes it all the more likely for Jumio. Eduardo Saverin says that the growth of Jumio exceeds Facebook’s early days. New Facebook or not, this is one to watch.