Tutor House, the UK-based tutoring platform, scores £2M from Fuel Ventures

Tutor House, a U.K.-based startup that operates a marketplace to let parents find an online or in-person tutor for their children, has raises £2 million in funding.

Backing the round, the first for the young company, is Fuel Ventures, the London-based VC and startup builder set up by Mark Pearson of MyVoucherCodes fame. Fuel Ventures recently closed its third fund of £20 million to continue investing in early-stage B2B and B2C marketplaces, platforms and SaaS.

Founded by Ex-teacher Alex Dyer in 2012 — and self-funded until now — Tutor House connects parents and families with tutors either in-person or online. The site enables families to search for tutors across an array of subjects and academic levels, and now claims to be the U.K.’s leading tutoring agency offering private home or remote tuition for all Primary, GCSE, A-Level and University subjects.

“The large number of teachers leaving their profession in addition to ever increasing class sizes mean that the market for private tutoring has expanded significantly,” former psychology teacher and now Tutor House CEO Dyer tells me. “In order to improve the quality of each student’s academic experience, our tutors provide personalised learning plans that will help to boost grades and give learners the best chance of success”.

In addition, Dyer says that Tutor House is the only tutoring platform that interviews all tutors and ensures that they have a full DBS check before going live on the platform. “In an unregulated industry this is very important,” he adds. “We are dedicated to providing each and every student with the best level of service possible”.

Typical Tutor House customers fall into four groups. The first is hands-on parents who want the best for their child regardless of price. The second is parents who see education as important but may have to ask relatives for help with costs. The third is students who can’t access education in a mainstream school due to anxiety or other SEN related issues. “These students often need to retake A-level or GCSE exams due to poor teaching/no teacher,” says Dyer. The final group is university students and adult learners who are investing in their future by taking learning into their own hands.

A classic marketplace play, Tutor House charges tutors a 20 percent commission fee for every booking. However, if a tutor books more than twenty hours a month, the commission is reduced. “We also offer A-Level and Pre-U retake courses, in addition to residential courses and homeschooling,” explains Dyer.

Meanwhile, Tutor House says it will use the investment from Fuel Ventures to expand into other countries, and to create a bespoke school in London for students who need intensive tutoring for exam retakes.

MultiVu raises $7M seed round for its next-gen 3D sensor

MultiVu, a Tel Aviv-based startup that is developing a new 3D imaging solution that only relies on a single sensor and some deep learning smarts, today announced that it has raised a $7 million seed round. The round was led by crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, Cardumen Capital and Hong Kong’s Junson Capital.

Tel Aviv University’s TAU Technology Innovation Momentum Fund supported some of the earlier development of MultiVu’s core technology, which came out of Prof. David Mendlovic’s lab at the university. Mendlovic previously co-founded smartphone camera startup Corephotonics, which was recently acquired by Samsung.

The promise of MultiVu’s sensor is that it can offer 3D imaging with a single-lens camera instead of the usual two-sensor setup. This single sensor can extract depth and color data in a single shot.

This makes for a more compact setup and, by extension, a more affordable solution as it requires fewer components. All of this is powered by the company’s patented light field technology.

Currently, the team is focusing on using the sensor for face authentication in phones and other small devices. That’s obviously a growing market, but there are also plenty of other applications for small 3D sensors, ranging from other security use cases to sensors for self-driving cars.

“The technology, which passed the proof-of-concept stage, will bring 3D Face Authentication and affordable 3D imaging to the mobile, automotive, industrial and medical markets,” MultiVu CEO Doron Nevo said. “We are excited to be given the opportunity to commercialize this technology.”

Right now, though, the team is mostly focusing on bringing its sensor to market. The company will use the new funding for that, as well as new marketing and business development activities.

“We are pleased to invest in the future of 3D sensor technologies and believe that MultiVu will penetrate markets, which until now could not take advantage of costly 3D imaging solutions,” said OurCrowd Senior Investment Partner Eli Nir. “We are proud to be investing in a third company founded by Prof. David Mendlovic (who just recently sold CorePhotonics to Samsung), managed by CEO Doron Nevo – a serial entrepreneur with proven successes and a superb team they have gathered around them.”

Getting to Know More About Creative Writing Classes

We often hear people expressing their doubts and reservations about formal education for being successful in their career. The reality is that while a degree could certainly help, it may not be right to insist that it is absolutely necessary. There are thousands of men and women who have achieved a high degree of success in their lives without having gone through formal education beyond a point. There are many champion writers who have not even completed high school and there are many who never even went to college in Boston.

Hence, we might be wondering as to what sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. The answer will not be too difficult to guess and fathom. While higher education formalizes the learning process, it would be pertinent to mention here that only those who are imaginative, creative and willing to think out of the box can be successful. Dreams and burning passion to achieve something in life is the biggest driving force. As far as successful writers are concerned, they are good at imagining things and creating situations and writings based on such images. While some are born with these attributes, others may have to acquire them externally. This is where the role of creative writing schools could play a big role. Let us try and learn more about them over the next few lines.

 They Let Your Imagination Run Free

 When you research and choose a decent creative writing school or class, the first few days are spent asking you to write a few words on your own. This is often referred to as free writing. This could help you to think and then transmit your thoughts into writing. It will help many of us to come out of our shell and get out of the ironed cage that we often tend to put ourselves in. Once free writing becomes a habit and once you are able to do it freely, it will only be a matter of time before you are able to express your thought lucidly, simply and in a manner that is understood by others.

It Exercises The Mind And The Brain

 The mind is a powerhouse of capacity and unfortunately, most of us use only a third of the capacity of our brain during our lives. Hence, if you wish to make your brain work faster, think more logically and rationally, there is a need to understand the importance of giving exercises to it. it is the same that we do with our bodies. Exercise in the form of writing and thinking beyond the obvious could help quite a bit in our careers. For improving our writing skills and for giving the right exercise to our mind, there are reasons to believe that many of the creative writing schools certainly have a big role to play.

 You Get A Mentor

 There is no doubt that there is no one better than a mentor and it applies to all aspects of life. It would be pertinent to mention here that many of these creative writing schools help hone the skills and handhold the students, irrespective of their age, background, gender, and other such attributes.

Contact US:

Montserrat College of Art

Address: 23 Essex St
Beverly, MA
Phone: (978) 921-4242

Tips To Choose The Right Plastic Surgeons

If you are from Oklahoma and are on the look for the top plastic surgeons in OKC, then you will find this article interesting and of utility to you. While there are a growing and continuous demand for plastic surgeons for different types of surgeries and procedures, you have to spend some time and hire the right person. This will take time and effort because of a number of reasons. To begin with, lack of knowledge could be one of the main reasons and secondly, there are dozens of such plastic surgeons and this does not make the job any easier. We are therefore listing down a few important points that one should bear in mind before choosing the plastic surgeon for cosmetic surgery and other such procedures.

 Are They Certified And Affiliated

 This is one of the most important points to be kept in mind when hiring these professionals. You must ensure that the plastic surgeons are affiliated to the best of the country’s associations and groups such as The American Society Of Plastic Surgeons or The American Academy Of Dermatology. This will make them reliable and trustworthy because these memberships are given only to the right surgeons with the right experience and expertise.

 The Quality Of The Clinic

 This is one of the most important points to be kept in mind while availing the services of these professionals.  They must possess a modern clinic with the best of facilities and the right infrastructure coupled with quality people to take care of the patients. It must have an outpatient and inpatient department with the right facilities for surgery and recoupment.

 Ask The Right Questions

With so many choices available, you must ask the right questions to them before availing their services. You must be sure that they have qualified plastic surgeons ready to do the job for you. Their track record must be proven and they must be ready to offer both readymade and customized services taking into account the exact needs and requirements of the customers.

You also must ask questions about their ability to offer the best possible services post-surgeries because this is as important as the surgery itself. You also must check on the qualifications of these professionals. The facility must have certified personnel to take care of anesthesia and other such requirements. The surgeons must be ready to take questions and must be willing to reply to them in a very clear manner. They should be in a position to instill confidence in the patients about their qualifications, experience, expertise, and facilities.

 Price Is A Factor

 Yes, finally, price is an important factor that one has to bear in mind. While the overall costs of plastic surgery have come down, they still continue to be quite high. Hence, you must do your research and choose the best possible option in terms of cost. However, at the same time, you must be sure that you do not compromise on quality under any circumstances. It is a process that will take time but is it worth it because of the complexities and risks associated with a procedure that might go wrong.

 Contact US:

Sawan Surgical Aesthetics
Address:209 Lilac Dr #200, Oklahoma City, OK
Phone: (405) 285-7660

Why The Need For Lead Filtering

We might have come across quite a few articles that refer to the dangers associated with lead poisoning. The problem with lead poisoning is that it does not happen overnight or it does not come to the notice of the people in a day or two. It builds its presence in the body over a period of time and the damages to the internal organs happen gradually and over a period of time. While lead could be damaging to the entire body, its impact is very badly felt on certain vital organs like the liver, kidney, and brain. Children, in particular, could be the victims of lead poisoning. While lead-based toys are often considered to be the victim, contaminated water is perhaps one of the major sources of lead poisoning. It could lead to muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite, fatigue and kidney damage. According to experts, zero levels of lead are considered to be the safest as far as drinking water is concerned. Hence, there is a need to find out ways and means by which one can keep the entire family free from the negative impact of lead poisoning. We are restricting ourselves to lead poisoning from the water.

 

Stick To The Action Level

 

There is no doubt that water filters are the best way by which you can keep the water free from lead poisoning. Hence, you must go by the USEPA standards and the same are accepted worldwide. According to this standard 15 micrograms per liter is the maximum permissible limit of lead in municipal water supplies. However, when the water is filtered again, the level of lead in the water could come down even further and reach zero if the quality of the water filter is of the best standards.

 

Take Care Of The Plumbing Works

 

It would also be pertinent to mention here that one of the biggest sources of lead poisoning is from the plumbing and piping networks. Even a few decades ago, lead and iron pipes were used to carry water from various originating sources to the homes and taps of the users. The taps were also made out of the lead and other such materials. This has been reduced now quite significantly even though some regions and areas continue to use this as a plumbing alternative. This should be stopped soonest possible. Piping and plumbing should be manufactured from polyurethane and other similar materials where the levels of lead and iron are almost zero. Hence, this is one of the most important factors that one should keep into account when choosing the right materials for plumbing.

 

Rusty Lead Pipe

 

Many homes have rusty lead pipes and these could have been built some decades back. Continuing with these rusted piping and plumbing systems is certainly a recipe for disaster. This is because the rusted particles are a rich source of harmful lead and it could cause a lot of damage to the entire body and it will happen over a period of time.

 

Therefore, when looking for clean drinking water, you must try and do away with lead as much as possible and try and keep it at zero level because of obvious reasons.

Contact US:

Nephros Inc.

Address:380 Lackawanna Pl
South Orange, NJ
Phone: (201) 343-5202

Talking the future of media with Northzone’s Pär-Jörgen Pärson

We live in the subscription streaming era of media. Across film, TV, music, and audiobooks, subscription streaming platforms now shape the market. Gaming and podcasting could be next. Where are the startup opportunities in this shift, and in the next shift that will occur?

I sat down with Pär-Jörgen “PJ” Pärson, a partner at European venture firm Northzone, to discuss this at SLUSH this past winter. Pärson – a Swede who now runs Northzone’s office in NYC – led the top early-stage investor in Spotify and led the $35 million Series C in $45/month sports streaming service fuboTV (which has roughly 250,000 subscribers).

In the transcript below, we dive into the core investment thesis that has guided him for 20 years, how he went from running a fish distribution to running a VC firm, his best practices for effective board meetings and VC-entrepreneur relationships, and his assessment of the big social platforms, AR/VR, voice interfaces, blockchain, and the frontier of media. It has been edited for length and clarity.

From Fish to VC

Eric Peckham:

Northzone isn’t your first VC firm — Back in 1998, you created Cell Ventures, which was more of a holding company or studio model. What was your playbook then?

FireHydrant lands $1.5M seed investment to bring order to IT disaster recovery

FireHydrant, an NYC startup, wants to help companies recover from IT disasters more quickly, and understand why they happened — with the goal of preventing similar future scenarios from happening again. Today, the fledgling startup announced a $1.5 million seed investment from Work-Bench, a New York City venture capital firm that invests in early-stage enterprise startups.

In addition to the funding, the company announced it was opening registration for its FireHydrant incident management platform. The product has been designed with Google’s Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) methodology in mind, but company co-founder and CEO Bobby Ross says the tool is designed to help anyone understand the cause of a disaster, regardless of what happened, and whether they practice SRE or not.

“I had been involved in several fire fighting scenarios — from production databases being dropped to Kubernetes upgrades gone wrong — and every incident had a common theme: ​absolute chaos​,” Ross wrote in a blog post announcing the new product.

The product has two main purposes, according to Ross. It helps you figure out what’s happening as you attempt to recover from an ongoing disaster scenario, and once you’ve put out the fire, it lets you do a post-mortem to figure out exactly what happened with the hope of making sure that particular disaster doesn’t happen again.

As Ross describes it, a tool like PagerDuty can alert you that there’s a problem, but FireHydrant lets you figure out what specifically is going wrong and how to solve it. He says that the tool works by analyzing change logs, as a change is often the primary culprit of IT incidents. When you have an incident, FireHydrant will surface that suspected change, so you can check it first.

“We’ll say, hey, you had something change recently in this vicinity where you have an alert going off. There is a high likelihood that this change was actually causing your incident. And we actually bubble that up and mark it as a suspect,” Ross explained.

Screenshot: FireHydrant

Like so many startups, the company developed from a pain point the founders were feeling. The three founders were responsible for solving major outages at companies like Namely, DigitalOcean, CoreOS and Paperless Post.

But the actual idea for the company came about almost accidentally. In 2017, Ross was working on a series of videos and needed a way to explain what he was teaching. “I began writing every line of code with live commentary, and soon FireHydrant started to take the shape of what I envisioned as an SRE while at Namely, and I started to want it more than the video series. 40 hours of screencasts recorded later, I decided to stop recording and focus on the product…,” Ross wrote in the blog post.

Today it integrates with PagerDuty, GitHub and Slack, but the company is just getting started with the three founders, all engineers, working on the product and a handful of beta customers. It is planning to hire more engineers to keep building out the product. It’s early days, but if this tool works as described, it could go a long way toward solving the fire-fighting issues that every company faces at some point.

Founders Fund invests in Tibber, a Norwegian AI to smartly manage energy

You probably have one electricity supplier for your house. But these days the average household could probably buy form several such companies, it just can’t easily access the market place of possible suppliers. Wouldn’t it be smarter in you had an AI in your house which could purchase energy from these producers, including those within the local grid, at the best prices and at the best time of day?

That’s what the Tibber startup does in Norway, and it’s just raised a $12M Series A funding from an iconic Silicon Valley VC.

Hailing originally from Stockholm, Tibber offers customers the ability to lower their energy bills in exactly the above manner, with the user using a simple app, and the purchasing of power is automatically done by its bots. That means Tiber is always looking for the lowest electricity prices as well as alerting customers to consume energy during the cheapest hours of the day.

The funding round was led by SF-based Founders Fund, known for their early investments in Spotify, Facebook, SpaceX, Palantir, Airbnb and Stripe. Tibber is the third investment ever in Europe for Founders Fund, which is quite something. The rest of the round came from existing investors including Wellstreet, BKK, Petter Stordalen and RFF Vest.

Prior to this round the company had raised $3-4m. It now plans to expand to Germany next.

In a statement Zack Hargreaves, Principal at Founders Fund said: “The tools we currently use to manage our utilities are completely outdated. Tibber combines wholesale electricity prices with IoT integrations to save users an average of 20 % on electricity bills. Consumers will see cost savings from simply downloading the app.”

Although Tibber only powers 40,000 homes right now, 25% of are smart homes, where customers are able to control their power usage through Tibber-connected devices, such as electric car charging, connected thermostats and smart plugs.

Edgeir Aksnes, CEO and founder says all their customer growth has come from word of mouth: “With this funding round complete, we are set to further expand in the Nordics, develop our product and launch Tibber in new markets in Europe.”

Tibber has a team of 21 people and currently operates in Sweden and Norway.

Last year, Tibber launched a smart charging feature for Tesla and other electric cars and hybrids. The company claims that its solution can cut 20 percent off the charging price compared to the rest of the market.

Zeus raises $24M to make you a living-as-a-service landlord

Cookie-cutter corporate housing turns people into worker drones. When an employee needs to move to a new city for a few months, they’re either stuck in bland, giant apartment complexes or Airbnbs meant for shorter stays. But Zeus lets any homeowner get paid to host white-collar transient labor. Through its managed ownership model, Zeus takes on all the furnishing, upkeep, and risk of filling the home while its landlords sit back earning cash.

Zeus has quietly risen to a $45 million revenue run rate from renting out 900 homes in 23 cities. That’s up 5X in a year thanks to Zeus’ 150 employees. With a 90 percent occupancy rate, it’s proven employers and their talent want more unique, trustworthy, well-equipped multi-month residences that actually make them feel at home.

Now while Airbnb is distracted with its upcoming IPO, Zeus has raised $24 million to steal the corporate housing market. That includes a previous $2.5 million seed round from Bowery, the new $11.5 million Series A led by Initialized Capital whose partner Garry Tan has joined Zeus’ board, and $10 million in debt to pay fixed costs like furniture. The plan is to roll up more homes, build better landlord portal software, and hammer out partnerships or in-house divisions for cleaning and furnishing.

“In the first decade out of school people used to have two jobs. Now it’s four jobs and it’s trending to five” says Zeus co-founder and CEO Kulveer Taggar. “We think in 10 years, these people won’t be buying furniture.” He imagines they’ll pay a premium for hand-holding in housing, which judging by the explosion in popularity of zero-friction on-demand services, seems like an accurate assessment of our lazy future. Meanwhile, Zeus aims to be “the quantum leap improvement in the experience of trying to rent out your home” where you just punch in your address plus some details and you’re cashing checks 10 days later.

Buying Mom A House Was Step 1

“When I sold my first startup, I bought a home for my mom in Vancouver” Taggar recalls. It was payback for when she let him remortgage her old house while he was in college to buy a condo in Mumbai he’d rent out to earn money. “Despite not having much growing up, my mom was a travel agent and we got to travel a lot” which Taggar says inspired his goal to live nomadically in homes around the world. Zeus could let other live that dream.

Zeus co-founder and CEO Kulveer Taggar

After Oxford and working as an analyst at Deutsche Bank, Taggar built student marketplace Boso before moving to the United States. There, he co-founded auction tool Auctomatic with his cousin Harjeet Taggar and future Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison, went through Y Combinator, and sold it to Live Current Media for $5 million just 10 months later. That gave him the runway to gift a home to his mom and start tinkering on new ideas.

With Y Combinator’s backing again, Taggar started NFC-triggered task launcher Tagstand, which pivoted into app settings configurer Agent, which pivoted into automatic location sharing app Status. But when his co-founder Joe Wong had to move an hour south from San Francisco to Palo Alto, Taggar was dumbfounded by how distracting the process was. Listing and securing a new tenant was difficult, as was finding a medium-term rental without having to deal with exhorbitant prices or sketchy Cragislist. Having seen his former co-founder go on to great success with Stripe’s dead-simple payments integration, Taggar wanted to combine that vision with OpenDoor’s easy home sales to making renting or renting out a place instantaneous. That spawned Zeus.

Stripe Meets OpenDoor To Beat Airbnb

To become a Zeus landlord, you just type in your address, how many bedrooms and bathrooms, and some aesthetic specs, and you get a monthly price quote for what you’ll be paid. Zeus comes in and does a 250-point quality assessment, collects floor plans, furnishes the property, and handles cleaning and maintenance. It works with partners like Helix mattresses, Parachute sheets, and Simple Human trash cans to get bulk rates. “We raised debt because we had these fixed investments into furniture. It’s not as dilutive as selling pure equity” Taggar explains.

Zeus quickly finds a tenant thanks to listings in Airbnb and relationships with employers like Darktrace and ZS Associates with lots of employees moving around. After passing background checks, tenants get digital lock codes and access to 24/7 support in case something doesn’t look right. The goal is to get someone sleeping there in just 10 days. “Traditional corporate housing is $10,000 a month in SF in the summer or at extended stay hotels. Airbnb isn’t well suited [for multi-month stays]. ” Taggar claims. “We’re about half the price of traditional corporate housing for a better product and a better experience.”

Zeus signs minimum two-year leases with landlords and tries to extend them to five years when possible. It gets one free month of rent as is standard for property managers, but doesn’t charge an additional rate. For example, Zeus might lease your home for $4,000 per month but gets the first month free, and rent it out for $5,000 so it earns $60,000 but pays you $44,000. That’s a tidy margin if Zeus can get homes filled fast and hold down its upkeep costs.

“Zeus has been instrumental for my company to start the process of re-location to the Bay Area and to host our visiting employees from abroad now that we are settled” writes Zeus client Meitre’s Luis Caviglia. “I particularly like the ‘hard truths’ featured in every property, and the support we have received when issues arose during our stays.”

At Home, Anywhere

There’s no shortage of competitors chasing this $18 billion market in the US alone. There are the old-school corporations and chains like Oakwood and Barbary Coast that typically rent out apartments from vast, generic complexes at steep rates. Stays over 30 days made up 15 percent of Airbnb’s business last year, but the platform wasn’t designed for peace-of-mind around long-term stays. There are pure marketplaces like UrbanDoor that don’t always take care of everything for the landlord or provide consistent tenant experiences. And then there are direct competitors like $130 million-funded Sonder, $66 million-funded Domio, recently GV-backed 2nd Address, and European entants like MagicStay, AtHomeHotel, and Homelike.

Zeus’ property unit growth

There’s plenty of pie, though. With 330,000 housing units in SF alone, Zeus has plenty of room to grow. The rise of remote work means companies whose employee typically didn’t relocate may now need to bring in distant workers for a multi-month sprint. A recession could make companies more expense-cautious, leading them to rethink putting up staffers in hotels for months on end. Regulatory red tape and taxes could scare landlords away from short-term rentals and towards coprorate housing. And the need to expand into new businesses could tempt the big vacation rental platforms like Airbnb to make acquisitions in the space — or try to crush Zeus.

Winners will be determined in part by who has the widest and cheapest selection of properties, but also by which makes people most comfortable in a new city. That’s why Taggar is taking a cue from WeWork by trying to arrange more community events for its tenants. Often in need of friends, Zeus could become a favorite by helping people feel part of a neighborhood rather than a faceless inmate in a massive apartment block or hotel. That gives Zeus network effect if it can develop density in top markets.

Taggar says the biggest challenge is that “I feels like I’m running five startups at once. Pricing, supply chain, customer service, B2B. We’ve decided to make everything custom — our own property manager software, our own internal CRM. We think these advantages compound, but I could be wrong and they could be wasted effort.”

The benefits of Zeus‘ success would go beyond the founder’s bank account. “I’ve had friends in New York get great opportuntiies in San Francisco but not take them because of the friction of moving” Taggar says. Routing talent where it belongs could get more things built. And easy housing might make people more apt to live abroad temporarily. Taggar concludes, “I think it’s a great way to build empathy.”

Passbase is building a full-stack identity engine with privacy baked in

Digital identity startup Passbase has bagged $600,000 in pre-seed funding led by a group of business angel investors from Alphabet, Stanford, Kleiner Perkins and EY, as well as seed fund investment from Chicago-based Upheaval Investments and Seedcamp.

The 2018-founded Silicon Valley-based startup — whose co-founder we chatted to briefly on camera at Disrupt Berlin — is building what it dubs an “identity engine” to simplify identity verification online.

Passbase offers a set of SDKs to developers to integrate into their service facial recognition, liveness detection, ID authenticity checks and ID information extraction, while also baking in privacy protections that allow individual users to control their own identity data.

A demo video of the verification product shows a user being asked to record a FaceID-style 3D selfie by tilting their face in front of a webcam and then scanning an ID document, also by holding it up to the camera.

On the developer front, the flagship claim is Passbase’s identity verification product can be deployed to a website or mobile app in less than three minutes, with just seven lines of code.

Co-founder Mathias Klenk tells TechCrunch the system architecture draws on ideas from public-private key encryption, blockchain and biometric authentication — and is capable of completing “zero-knowledge authentications.”

In practice, that means a website visitor or app user can prove who they are (or how old they are) without having to share their full identity document with the service.

Klenk, a Stanford alum, says the founding team pivoted to digital identity in the middle of last year after their earlier startup — a crypto exchange management app called Coinance — ran into regulatory difficulties right after they’d decided to go full-time on the project.

He says they got a call from Apple, in August 2018, informing them Coinance had been pulled from the AppStore. The issue was they needed to be able to comply with know your customer (KYC) requirements as regulators cracked down on the risk of cryptocurrency being used for money laundering.

“With a quick call to our lawyers, we learned it was because we now needed to complete strong identity verification with every exchange integrated for every user in order to fulfill our KYC obligations,” explains Klenk. “This is how our pivot to Passbase began.”

The experience with Coinance convinced Klenk and his two co-founders — Felix Gerlach (an ex-Rocket Internet product manager/designer) and Dave McGibbon (previously an investment associate at GoogleX) — that there was a “huge opportunity” to build a “full-stack” identity verification tool that was easy for engineering teams to integrate. So it sounds like it’s thinking along similar lines to Estonian startup Veriff.

Klenk claims current vendors “take weeks to integrate and charged thousands of dollars from the start.” And in classic startup formula fashion, he too condenses the idea down to: “Stripe for Identity Verification” — arguing that: “In order to solve digital identity verification, you cannot only streamline the identity verification process, you need to enable identity ownership and reuse across different services.”

At the same time, Klenk says the founding team saw a growing need for a privacy-focused identity verification tool — to “protect people’s information by design and help companies collect only the information they need.”

On this he freely cites Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation as an inspiring force. (“GDPR is built into the DNA of this product,” is the top-line claim.)

“Companies gain access to users’ information in a secure enclave, and avoid the dangers of getting hacked and leaking sensitive information,” says Klenk, describing the system architecture for verification as the core IP of the business.

They’re in the process of filing patents for the “developed technology,” working with two technical advisors, he adds. 

Passbase’s verification stack itself involves modular pieces so that it can adapt to changing threats, as Klenk tells it.

The startup is partnering with service providers for various verification components. Though he says it also has in-house computer vision experts who have built its anti-spoofing and liveness detection.

“This will always be an arms race against the latest spoofing tactics. We plan to stay ahead of the curve by introducing multi-factor authentication techniques and partnering with the best technology providers,” he adds on that.

He says they’re also working with a U.S.-based security company and other security experts to test the robustness and security of their system on an ongoing basis, adding: “We are planning to obtain all required certifications to ensure the security of our system e.g. ISO, Fido.”

Passbase’s product is currently in a closed beta with more than 200 companies signed up to its early access program.

Five have been “handpicked and onboarded” for a closed pilot — and Klenk says it’s now running tests and figuring out final requirements for an open beta launch planned for the middle of this year.

“Our early customers are mostly trust-based marketplaces (like an Airbnb),” he tells TechCrunch. “We are adding features such as PEP, OFAC and others over the next month to allow us to also service the mobility space, age-restricted products and eventually online banking and fintechs with KYC obligations.”

The startup’s first tranche of investor funding will be used for building out its core tech and mobile apps — while also “delighting our first clients with our B2B solution, getting traction, nailing product market fit,” as Klenk puts it.

He emphasizes that they’re also keen to nail a healthy startup culture from the get-go — saying that building “an exciting and inclusive place to work” is a priority. (“Since many high-growth startups dropped the priority for this in order for growth. We want to get this right from the beginning.”)

On the competitive front, Passbase is certainly driving into a noisy arena with no shortage of past effort and current players touting identity and digital verification services — albeit, all that activity underlines the high demand level for robust online verification.

Demand that’s likely to rise as more policymakers and governments wake up to the risks and challenges posed by online fakes — and prepare to regulate internet firms.

Discussing the competitive landscape, Klenk name-checks Jumio, Onfido and Veriff in the identity verification space, though he argues Passbase’s “developer-focused go-to-market and focus on creating digital identity” creates a different set of incentives which he also claims “allow us to get really creative on price and auxiliary offerings.”

“Our competition cares about price x volume. We care about creating a robust and secure network of trusted user-owned digital identities,” he suggests.

On the digital identity front he points to Civic, Verimi and Authenteq as being focused on “digital and self-sovereign identity,” though he says they have “tended” to take a B2C approach versus Passbase’s “full-stack” developer offering, which he claims is “immediately useful to a large market of players.”

There’s clearly plenty still to play for where digital identity is concerned. It remains a complex and challenging problem that loops in all sorts of entities, touchpoints and responsibilities.

But add privacy considerations into the mix and Passbase’s hope is that, by going the extra mile to build a zero-knowledge architecture, it can become a key player.