Pioneer Interview with HooYu

David Pope, co-founder of HooYu, and the team behind the technology have been working in identity since the early nineties, exiting from old identity business in 2012 when the company sold to Experian. When they got the band back together they knew they wanted to do something different in identity and HooYu is the direct result.

They decided that identity verification technology shouldn’t just be the preserve of big banks and clever online businesses and thus set out to build a peer-to-peer identity confirmation service.

All technology eventually trickles down to the consumer and they figured that today’s digital society was ready for identity as a consumer technology.

HooYu launched in early June of this year and so far they’ve had thousands of consumers create a HooYu account so they can build trust and confidence in a stranger they are transacting with.

It’s a very simple premise. If you want to be sure of someone’s identity before you transact with them, you can ask them to do a HooYu ID confirmation with you. They get asked to take a selfie, share their online identity such as Facebook or LinkedIn and then take a photo of their ID document. The HooYu Identity Engine cross-checks and analyzes hundreds of data points from the information provided to prove that they are who they say they are.

What is unique about HooYu?

We’re unique in that we serve both consumers and businesses with our identity platform but How HooYu verifies customer identity is also unique. These days there are scores of vendors out there with tech to verify customer identity for online transactions. But these companies tend to be good at one aspect of ID verification so you have companies that are good at database verification, some that do biometrics, others that do document verification and those that check social media profiles.

We set out to combine all these identity technologies into one platform. The benefit to the business user that they don’t need to integrate separate identity services is just a byproduct. The real benefit is to be seen in how different identity sources complement each other. For example, the existence of a verified digital footprint helps corroborate the results of an ID document authentication. Whereas beforehand a fraudster could gain access to a car sharing site or a financial instrument just by providing a fake ID document, with HooYu, the bar has been lifted and now fraudsters need to provide a digital footprint with years of history, a tangible set of connections and a dynamic and living record of interaction.

How is HooYu part of the collaborative economy? What role do you play and how do you see this changing in the future?

HooYu is a service that supports the sharing economy, either by enabling sharing sites to verify their users and offer a well-lit marketplace or by empowering individuals with the ability to be confident in the identity of a stranger they’ve met online and are about to send $£€ to.

Our role at HooYu is to help mainstream the sharing economy. Our research shows that 8% of people are happy to share and trust without checking identity at all. However, most people are more reticent. In fact, 61% of people will “not at all” or are “uncertain” to use the sharing economy without first checking identity. This is in fact good news for the sharing economy. It means that the early adopters that are currently fuelling the millions of nights on Airbnb or the millions of rides on BlaBla car are ready to be followed by the early majority when they feel at ease that the sharing industries have figured out how to ensure that trust and confidence comes as standard.

Do you think trust is the lynchpin necessary for marketplaces to work? Why or why not?

I think trust is one of the pillars for marketplaces to work and in this setting trust has a very wide meaning. Trust that the product is as advertised, trust that the exchange will take place safely, trust that the price is fixed, trust that the other party will behave professionally, trust that the platform will intermediate and help resolve any potential issues.

To this end, trust is more than identity but identity is the starting point of trust. If you accept that people are more likely to behave responsibly and honourably if their true identity is known, then a lot of the other elements of trust will follow.

I still really like what Pierre Omidyar, eBay CEO said back in 1996, “Most people are honest. And they mean well…But some people are dishonest. Or deceptive…It’s a fact of life.”

What types of marketplaces would get the most out of using something like HooYu? Can an individual use your service for a one-off peer-to-peer transaction?

Different kinds of transaction in the sharing economy require different levels of trust. In other words, some marketplaces need to build more trust than others. For example, a holiday/vacation rentals marketplace needs to work much harder than an auction marketplace where a video game is changing hands. In the former, the loss where either party does not keep up their end of the bargain is of more serious economic and emotional consequence.

In our research report, “Trust & Identity in the Sharing Economy” we published a league table of trust and the marketplaces were ranked as follows:

Overall responders who will “not at all” or are “uncertain” to trust without checking identity

% that will “not at all” or are “uncertain” to trust without checking identity

Renting any personal item to another person 69.48%
Renting out your property or a room in your property 68.15%
Renting a room in somebody’s home 67.56%
Dating somebody that you have met through an online dating site 65.50%
Agreeing to share a car for commuting 64.06%
Hiring a babysitter, nanny or tutor for your children 63.18%
Renting somebody’s holiday property 51.43%
Hiring somebody to do tasks in your home such as cleaning, gardening or decorating 50.01%
Buying or selling an expensive item from an advertiser on Gumtree, Craig’s List or other 44.64%

You can download a free copy of the full report here.


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