Today, I’m humbled to announce that we’ve raised a $150 million Series C led by Founders Fund, with participation from Meritech Capital Partners, BOND, Insight Partners, and two of our existing investors, Index Ventures and Coatue Management.
This is an extremely exciting (and surreal) time for Persona. The new round gives us a valuation of $1.5 billion, and I’m grateful for both our amazing team that has worked so hard to get us to this point and for these new resources that’ll help us scale even faster. I’m also excited to work with world-class investors who I know will help us achieve our mission of enabling trust between businesses and their customers.
What role does identity infrastructure play in enabling trust online? I’ll get to that a little later, but first, I’d love to share some observations about where the identity industry started and where it’s going.
Bringing offline identities online
Online identity has historically been built around digital identities — using usernames and passwords to determine whether someone should have access. However, the world is changing, and more and more companies are taking things we used to only be able to do offline online. Now, individuals can earn a degree, deposit a check, buy alcohol, rent an RV, and more — all from the comfort of their own homes. This, in turn, changed how businesses need to think about identity.
In this new world, businesses need to know who their customers really are behind the digital screen.
The traditional approach to identity verification mostly happens during onboarding, with businesses verifying an identity once and simply attaching that person to a set of credentials for future interactions. But doing this only tells the company whether someone should have access — not whether the person actually is who they say they are — which can be extremely problematic. If I sign up for an online course and give my password to a friend so they can take the course on my behalf, I shouldn’t be the one who earns that degree. There are real-world implications — I can use that degree to get a job I haven’t earned.
To prevent this, businesses today need to know that it’s the same person at all times. In other words, they need to build long-term, continuous relationships with their customers.
Identity isn’t a one-off transaction — it’s a relationship
The thing is, you can’t build a relationship without trust. Every time someone signs up for your service, they’re trusting your business with their PII. In order to retain this trust, you need to manage their data with care.
On the flip side, as a business, you need to trust individuals are who they say they are each time. If you’re a fintech company, for example, it’s not enough to know that a person is who they say they are upon signup — you also need to make sure it’s still that person every time they access the account. Why? If someone else logged in using that individual’s credentials and wanted to withdraw a significant amount of money, if it were a fraudster, you may be financially liable and the affected individual may decide to take their business elsewhere. Or, if someone wanted to change the address, you’d want to make sure it’s actually the original account holder to prevent illegitimate access. This also applies if you offer multiple products and a customer with a savings account decides to take out a loan or open a new credit card or trading account. Regardless of the interaction, you always need to know it’s the same individual.
This doesn’t just apply to the fintech world, either. Hospitality companies like Sonder want to ensure the person booking the room is the same person checking in. Edtech companies like Coursera want to confirm the right person is earning each degree. And food delivery companies like Doordash need to make sure anyone ordering alcohol is over 21 — and that they’re actually the one receiving it each time they place a new order, not an underage friend using their account.
Knowing it’s the same individual every step of the way both protects your business and gives consumers peace of mind that their PII and account remain secure.
Tailoring identity to each use case requires the right infrastructure
One-off tools aren’t robust enough to help businesses customize their identity experience and truly know their customers over time. While our early days of Persona were focused on identity verification, our goal was never to stop there. We always knew we wanted to help companies manage and automate every component related to PII and trusted identity (individuals’ real, offline identities). With our flexible and powerful infrastructure, businesses can orchestrate their entire identity experience from end to end instead of weaving a bunch of disparate solutions together.
All of our tools within our infrastructure work seamlessly together to give businesses an accurate picture of each individual. With them, businesses not only can customize how they verify customers across the entire lifecycle but also automate the entire identity process. In fact, one of our companies, Branch, automates around 98% of their identity experience with Persona by using Verifications to safely onboard users, Reports to enrich what they know about customers, Cases to streamline manual reviews, and Workflows to build dynamic decision paths and tie the other tools together.
We’re also excited to use some of the new funds to invest in more tools that’ll help businesses deter, detect, and deny bad actors and integrate with their existing systems so they can truly know their users as much as possible. Businesses shouldn’t have to build their processes around the limitations of vendors. At Persona, our goal is to unlock every potential for our customers by building the most flexible and comprehensive infrastructure for trusted identities.
Personalization is the next chapter of identity
When Charles and I began building Persona, we knew we wanted to build a new identity infrastructure platform that could work for any business and any individual. I said it in my Series B blog post, but it bears repeating: one-size-fits-all approaches to identity just don’t work. Identity is personal, so identity experiences should be as well.
If you do business all around the world, your identity experience needs to reach people in their native language. And if you primarily serve recent immigrants, you probably can’t require every user to verify their identity using an SSN — otherwise, you’d have to turn away a lot of potential customers. Individuals who have had their PII leaked in a data breach and anyone who wants to make a large withdrawal may pose more risk, so you might want to add additional precautions, and so on. Every situation is different, and it’s important to recognize and work around that if you want to build trust.
This is why we’ve been very intentional about giving businesses the building blocks they need to personalize the identity experience based on their industry, use case, risk appetite, regulatory need, customer base, and more. Businesses can customize everything from the UI to the number of times users can attempt verification. We also offer an extensive suite of verification components as well as a wide range of reports and signals businesses can mix and match to create dynamic verification and decision processes.
This personalization is especially essential because it not only helps businesses on our platform offer a better user experience (and therefore build more trust), but it also enables companies to know and extend their service to more customers, making the internet — and all it has to offer — more accessible to everyone.
Our Series C and the future of Persona
In the early 2000s, consumers were still getting used to the idea of buying things online, not trusting that businesses would be able to keep their data safe. Now, 75% of people shop online at least once a month. Why? Because today’s payments infrastructure is far more robust than it was 20 years ago.
At Persona, we have the opportunity to evolve identity in the same way. Right now, individuals are still nervous about sharing their PII — and rightfully so. Our ultimate goal is to be the trusted identity layer of the internet, which, if done right, should make the internet safer and more accessible. To accomplish this, we're building the first trusted identity infrastructure focused entirely on facilitating trust between businesses and individuals — enabling businesses to know who they're doing business with at all times and empowering individuals to feel as comfortable verifying their identity as they are buying things online.
The good news is we already have the infrastructure in place. However, we know the real work is just beginning. This new round of funding will help us continue to refine our services and add more features and tools to make it even easier for businesses to stay compliant, fight fraud, ensure trust and safety, and build the identity experience they need while managing everything from one place. It’ll also help us scale the team we’ll need to truly redefine the identity space (insert obligatory plug to join our team here).
As the digital economy continues to transform, it's clear that the need for identity infrastructure is greater than ever. We're well on our way thanks to our amazing team and investors, and I’m incredibly thankful that this new investment will help propel us even further toward building the identity infrastructure that focuses on people, not user IDs.