‘All our competitors expect each of their customers to reinvent the wheel’

28 Jan 2020

Robert O'Farrell. Image: ID-Pal

ID-Pal CTO Robert O’Farrell discusses the future of data and how the Dublin regtech start-up is scaling its operations.

ID-Pal, a Dublin-based regtech start-up, is focused on “figuring out user experiences that work in every context” when it comes to identity verification, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Founded in 2016, the team has developed a digital identity verification solution that enables businesses to onboard their customers in real time in a secure and compliant manner, using a combination of document, database and biometric checks. To date, its global partnerships include Salesforce, Sherpa Technologies and Temenos.

As the security landscape continues to evolve, the company is now transitioning into a scale-up and is on the lookout for new hires. It’s currently recruiting for a director of operations, a product manager, a technology team manager, a full-stack web developer, a technical pre-sales and support specialist, and a cloud and database administrator.

To learn more about ID-Pal’s expansion and what it’s looking for in new hires, we spoke to its chief technology officer, Robert O’Farrell.

What does your technology innovation strategy look like?

We are the market leaders in terms of first-time pass-rates for identity verification. We want to make sure we maintain that, improve upon it and continue to deliver complete experiences that new customers can be using within minutes, not months. Everyone in the company is involved. All of our customers are involved.

We operate a process where anyone can suggest anything at all that pops into their head, or that they heard from a customer or a friend. Everything goes through an open discussion around the company and the ideas that will deliver the best value get delivered next. The overarching feature of all of this is ensuring that we continue to deliver the most stable, secure and easy-to-use solution in the market.

Within your industry, what will be the biggest change in the next five years?

I see technologies becoming far more federated over the coming years: ie users controlling the data and services, rather than the company offering the platform or service. We’re slowly moving away from models where the company offering the service controls the service or the data.

GDPR is one such example in more traditional businesses – it may be seen as regulation for data protection, but the impact it’s having is that control is no longer centralised. Data ownership is being distributed throughout all users in the network. In the more digital spaces, this is something that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all struggling with now as early adopters of this paradigm, although their levels of adoption vary.

Facebook adopted it least and are getting grilled daily – by retaining some central control, they are also being held accountable for not only using that control for profit, but also to regulate the platform. In years to come, users won’t accept their data being controlled by others.

What makes ID-Pal different in terms of its technology?

All our competitors expect each of their customers to reinvent the wheel. It is a big and gritty problem to figure out user experiences that work in every context, and what configurability is needed for that. For example, using identity verification to get a car loan versus using it to open a cryptocurrency account. Everyone else saw that problem and decided to leave it alone. We have spent years taking that challenge head-on, and successfully solved it for dozens of use cases.

The benefits are huge: you can start using us in minutes, not months. We can be fully integrated with your existing landscape in days, not years. Every time one of our customers has an idea to improve any experience, you get the benefit of that at no extra cost. That creates better solutions, in less time, for far less cost.

What kind of people should apply to work at ID-Pal?

ID-Pal has a 100pc staff retention rate by building an environment where we adapt roles to people, not the other way around. There are a lot of different characters in the company, but everyone is very friendly and supportive of each other. We all adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that are part-and-parcel of being in a scale-up company. There’s lots of room to grow, take on more responsibilities and learn new skills for anyone with ambition.

Growing at such a fast rate means it’s a lot easier for people to develop their career and interests. One thing we all have in common is that we love what we do. I would say bringing a positive outlook to your work is probably the key attribute.

What can applicants expect at ID-Pal?

We have a good laugh around the office. We tend to work in open plan spaces with a load of chats, but an appreciation for people needing those ‘headphones in’ periods of pure concentration. We mostly use that open plan set-up to ensure that we can all support each other with whatever challenges each day brings.

There’s always a bit of fun around the office in chatting, a night out here and there, a team take-away once a month. It’s quite a flat structure with everyone from the CEO to the newest staff members all chatting as equals. There’s also a strong culture of mentoring people to grow into areas that interest them.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying?

I’d give the same advice that I would for any job: make sure it’s the job for you. That doesn’t mean the job description should fit you perfectly, but rather don’t be afraid to apply and tell us how you’d make the role slightly different.

Anything you think could make it more effective, more enjoyable and something you’d be excited to do every day – we’re all ears. If you’re happy, and getting to make the most of your skillset, it can only benefit the company and everyone around you.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021