The recent past of digital identity and data security really won’t much resemble its future all that much, according to Tom Thimot, Socure’s newly minted CEO, and that is very good news for everyone. Because, he says, old-school models built out of static models will never work as well as one-two punch algorithms and machine learning. The challenge? Getting it out there – and helping the entire ecosystem understand that not all “big data” shops are quite created equal.
It’s like the band is back together.
Thirty-three years ago, Tom Thimot, the newly appointed CEO of Socure, collaborated with founder Sunil Madhu on a business specializing in physical identity verification and access solutions: Netegrity, which was ultimately sold in 2005 to CA Technologies for $430 million.
From there, Madhu worked for Cisco and founded Hopskoch and Socure, while Thimot built a number of businesses that straddled data and security in some way. Most recently, Thimot was the CEO of Clarity Insights, which he built into the largest Big Data analytics consultancy in the U.S. Before that, he was the COO of Kazeon (acquired by EMC) and the CEO of GoRemote (acquired by IPass), among many others.
Last week, Madhu and Thimot joined forces again to break new ground in the identity verification space.
“I’m thrilled to work with [Thimot] again at Socure and [am] glad to pass the baton so he can help us accelerate the next phase of our growth as a pioneer of trust in digital identity,” Madhu said.
For Thimot, being at the helm of Socure means recognizing that digital security is no longer the same business it was a decade ago, let alone even five years ago. Thimot contends it’s no longer possible to verify the identity of a consumer via a linear process using a few pieces of static data, such as an email account or phone number, and be satisfied that the work is done.
“Consumers have very complicated digital histories that exhaust our smartphones each day,” Thimot said. “And to really validate identity requires a lot more than a few static data elements. The future of this space is all about data, analytics and machine learning.”
Today, the idea that Big Data combined with smart machines will be the future of building digital identities is not controversial. However, six years ago, Socure was a relative pioneer in building Big Data models and learning-based protocols that could be applied to digital identity and digital security. That head start, Thimot said, makes it an exciting opportunity.
It Is Rocket Science, and When One Starts the Race Matters
Because artificial intelligence and machine learning have gone mainstream, Thimot said, the power and potential of these algorithms obscures the importance and impact of the data science behind it.
“When you look at the complexity of the mathematical algorithms, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Thimot said, adding that it really is “rocket science.”
In Socure’s world, those algorithms aren’t just written by smart doctorates; they’re being written so they can continue to train themselves once they’re put in place, Thimot said, adding that Socure has six years of history and learning to leverage.
It’s something that sets Socure apart, he said, but that source of differentiation often comes with a double edge.
Thimot noted that among the tougher parts of their job is convincing people that some of what is in the market today doesn’t offer a full suite of data services the same way Socure does. They can’t, he said, since those just getting started don’t yet know the value of a data environment that has been enriched over a long period of time.
“The thing about machine learning,” Thimot told Webster, “is that ‘learning’ is the operative word. The algorithms need data to be trained, and it just takes time to acquire and analyze the data on millions and millions of transactions. Our advantage is maturity.”
That maturity means they’ve had more time to feed data through their proprietary tech to train it. And that extra time — combined with the fact that their IP is solid — is the reason they can, on average, raise their financial institution partners’ approval rates by 30 percent and eliminate fraud in 90 percent of cases.
The Big Picture
For Thimot and Socure, the goal going forward is simple, albeit lofty.
“We want to be able to identify uniquely eight billion people on the planet so that we can know exactly who they are when they need their identity to be verified — and that those identities can be verified at sub-second speeds,” Thimot said.
That starts in financial services — a place where Thimot said Socure has already planted its flag. The company is in some form of discussion with many of the world’s largest financial institutions. The value proposition for them, he said, is (among other things) to serve the needs of their changing customer base, including those under the age of 30 who may not have thick credit files and who may not be as easy to identify and verify.
However, the need for a secure digital identity is much, much larger. In fact, it’s so large, he said, that it touches every single person on the planet in one way or another.
“We can think about retail, telecommunications, government, healthcare — there are so many places where the enterprise needs to [know] who’s on the other side of the interaction, and to know it in sub-second speeds,” Thimot explained. “When a business is trying to decide who to admit to a hospital, or whether someone can buy an iPhone or receive their tax rebates, sub-seconds matter.”
Thimot also said digital identity verification will start with payments and money, but will soon go much farther. It’s a race he believes Socure is well-positioned to run, since he said Socure has data science and a rich set of smart data to back it up.
“Just because you have a head start doesn’t mean you can win the race. There are a lot of players in the space who all want to win that race,” Thimot said. “For us, that means no matter what, we have to be nimble, we have to stay fast and continue delivering results that are better than the rest.”