I’m old. The evidence? Well, I still remember when Netscape was actually selling its browser. That’s right, browsers had a price tag. Netscape sold a web server as well. And a web page WYSIWYG editor. Hard to believe now.
Another product they sold was an LDAP, i.e. a directory. It was a very good product and came with lots of bells and whistles. Amazingly, after being acquired multiple times in various buyouts over the past 20+ years, it’s still a great product. But back in the day, it got slapped around, sales-wise. After Microsoft crushed Netscape—by giving away a lot of the same kinds of products for free or close to it—Netscape merged with AOL. Together, they started an alliance called iPlanet. Eventually, the products were split and sold off to two companies; RedHat and Sun. Sun was gobbled up by Oracle. The LDAP survived with both RedHat and more famously as Oracle’s ODSEE (which yes, is typically pronounced phonetically).
Back in the day, this LDAP was the product of choice for big deployments. However, in opportunities where enterprise scaling wasn’t a concern, the products ran into stiff competition. Yeah, there was Active Directory, which was not yet an enterprise directory. Novell had their own product but it fell short of the feature set Netscape had. But Novell did have one had one thing going for it: it was a lot cheaper.
So the most common question faced by Netscape/iPlanet was “Are you that much better? Are you 90%-more-expensive better?” History suggests that the answer was a resounding “No”.
Active Directory was still good for file sharing, printers and internal-only lookups for a long time, and enterprise directories were still being used for cross-platform integrations and external parties. But many people only needed one bell and one whistle, not the whole set. Good enough was…well…good enough.
So what is the lesson to be learned here? Be worth it. Be special. Replace bells and whistles with necessary features—features that add value to the main user. Be demonstrably better. And in today’s world, you better be measurable.
Having measurable results or value is how a company determines the ROI for any given solution. Maybe that widget is good, but is it good enough for us to make a change in our infrastructure? Do I get enough value, enough lift, to justify the investment? It had better be very clear to the customer that your product will provide benefits across their organization; it is easy to integrate for the coders, the bean counters can see the return, and the organization makes money (or saves money) and enjoys progress toward its larger goals.
That’s what I like about my gig. The value is very obvious. Socure’s identity verification platform digests PII about prospective users and puts out numeric scores regarding the quality of the person’s identity, as well as the likelihood of that person committing fraud. In addition, our service provides the reasons behind the scores—”Here’s WHY we think this person is good (or not)”. This allows our customers to determine what makes sense for them—based on documented scores and reasons—when it comes to giving or denying credit, loans, accounts, etc.
We also help our customers to save money—significant amounts of money. We do this in several ways. One way is by identifying applicants who are likely to commit identity fraud, and we do that in large numbers. Another way is by simplifying their stack. Our solution scores the phone numbers, addresses and emails that would otherwise have to be subjected to a pile of point solutions. Best of all, we do all that with a single API call.
So, at this point people usually want to know how we make money for our customers. It is actually a simple explanation. We eliminate the false positives that cause good applicants to be turned down for the wrong reasons AND we enable the real-time, auto-acceptance of more good applicants. For it is by streamlining the onboarding of good applicants and making KBA and manual review and other frictional methods (the obstacles that cause prospective customers to bail on the process) near-obsolete, that we help generate revenue and eliminate overhead costs in one swift move.
Now, after hearing our spiel, people ask “what is the secret sauce that enables you to do this?” Naturally, I can’t give the recipe away…but I can tell you that we use multiple data sources to powerfully triangulate individual profile elements. And we also have the best machine learning engine on the market. It lays down the artificial intelligence that not only helps us auto-generate predictive features, but also drives accuracy and speed in the application process. And by creating a never-ending loop of learning, feedback, and re-learning, our ML platform improves itself on a daily basis. What a great benefit to our client base.
So to sum it up, our solution is special. It adds value. Nobody else approaches our speed, accuracy, and ROI—we can measure it. The numbers are undeniable. That’s why we count so many top banks, credit card issuers, money services, and fintechs among our happy clients.
Are we that much better? The numbers say, absolutely yes!
Jeff Scheidel is a technologist with 38 years in software, including 26 years in security solution design. He is the author of numerous white papers on security and regulatory compliance, as well as a McGraw-Hill book on identity, access, database, and application protection. Jeff is an expert on compliance requirements across a number of industries, and has presented at a wide variety of security events.
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