AI Identified | John Baird of Vouched

For more information and free trial, visit

Whether you’re taking out a loan, receiving healthcare, or even purchasing wine, verifying identities is necessary to prevent fraud and protect consumers.

But as more and more of these transactions occur digitally, it’s become a greater challenge to verify identities with accuracy and security. The opportunities for identities to be stolen and for personal data to be compromised is high.

John Baird set out to solve this problem with Vouched—a company that uses artificial intelligence to verify the identities of customers and contractors with speed, accuracy, and security.

In part one of this edition of UpTech Report, John discusses this technology and the many problems it solves to determine that you are indeed you.

John Baird is the co-founder and CEO of Vouched. Vouched is a patent pending AI focused on Identity Proofing & Verification. Vouched is founded and developed to help you detect fraud in real time with unprecedented simplicity, trust & safety, providing easy, developer-first API’s. 

Prior to Vouched, John was Director of Brand Strategy at Blue Nile an online retailer of high quality jewelry. While at Blue Nile John identified the need for a fast and easy way to verify a persons identity when making large transactions online. Vouched has always aimed to improve the experience of companies and customers needing identity proofing & verification.”

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

John Baird 0:00
verifying identity is a multi factor experience, right? That is becoming more and more complicated over time, more and more sophisticated over time.

Alexander Ferguson 0:20
Welcome, everyone to UpTech Report UpTech Report is sponsored by Learn how to leverage the power of video. today. My guest I’m very excited, is actually our hundreds tech leader. So it’s a milestone for us is John Baer, based in Seattle, Washington, CEO of vouched Welcome, John. Hey, it’s great to be here. Absolutely. So their product is a patent pending AI platform focused on identity proofing and verification. If for those who are listening, or watching, if you’re a CEO, or other business leader, maybe in banking, healthcare, or maybe the gig economy solution, and have a major security sensitivity, this might be a tool you want to check out. Now, John, on your site, you state a fast, easy and accurate way to see and instantly verify your customer and contractor. What problem did you originally see and set out to solve? And how has that changed over time?

John Baird 1:14
Yeah, I mean, if you really think about so many of the things that we do in the physical world, right? In the traditional world, they require someone to look at you look at your ID, this could be anything from buying a bottle of wine at your local wine shop, all the way up to opening a bank account, applying for a loan, these very complicated regulated activities all the way across all of these require visually ID in you. And the challenge, of course, is that so many of the things that we used to do one on one in person, we are now doing online, and the need to visually identify a person was actually a barrier, right to be able to do these transactions, these important critical transactions, and to be able to do them easily and securely because they need to see you. And so what vouch does is very quickly, and we’ll go more deeply into this looks at you looks at your ID in a few seconds, no matter where you might be, and verifies your identity.

Alexander Ferguson 2:23
This problem when you started out, obviously there’s a lot that changes over time. And on our second part love. I’m excited to dig into deeper of lessons learned and how that’s changed over time. But two years ago, if you had to look back, what’s one thing you had wished you had known back then, when you were starting pulling this together?

John Baird 2:42
Man, one thing we might need a much longer list than that, you know, I think the most important thing is just to go fast, right? It’s the it’s the single most important thing, I think for any startup. Reid Hoffman has a saying that if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’re moving too slowly. I think that is absolutely true. So really lean into, you know, those mistakes, embrace failure as a learning mechanism. You can’t learn that lesson really well enough, you can’t really go fast enough, you can’t learn fast enough. And learning and failure go hand to hand, I always think about if you watch a baby, right? Learn to walk, they’re very wobbly, they fall down a lot. Before they walk, they crawl. And they’re wobbly when they first crawl. And the whole time they’re failing and learning failing and learning right and you see them of course, they master this pretty difficult task to be clear that they have never done before, in a pretty short period of time. Startups have to act that way. And the more you can ingrain that in your culture, that failure is okay, then you are going to be the better for it.

Alexander Ferguson 4:09
I think there’s a lot of wisdom in what you shared there. And I’m excited to dig into it more in our part two of our interview. But coming into this problem that you saw wanting to solve, obviously, there is a need, as you said, everything’s going digital talk about this year, and to be able to do critical transactions, maybe banking, if we could choose that for a moment. Let’s dig into that a little bit deeper. Give me a use case run through a story for us of how someone could use your platform.

John Baird 4:39
Yeah, I mean, let’s let’s focus on banking. But I would say it’s certainly not unique to banking, we can go into all the many use cases that are emerging within within digital in general and then specifically around visual identity verification. But you know, if we just talk about banks for a second, banks have a regular requirement to verify your identity, it’s generally referred to as KYC. Know your customer. And what that requires is, if you’ve ever ever gone in and created a bank account, one of the first things they’re gonna say to you is, hey, I need to look at your ID, right? They’re gonna take your ID and generally speaking, they make a photocopy of it, which a isn’t terribly secure. Be I’m not really, terribly sure what it accomplishes, but they’re legally required to do that, right. So when you transport something like banking, you open that bank account online, or maybe you’re applying for a loan online. In each of those cases, they need to verify your identity. So usually what’s going to happen is the normal, you’re going to go on to their website or onto their app, you’re going to enter probably your email address, your name, your password, probably some additional information about yourself. And then you’re going to segue into the voucher process. And vouched is going to look at your ID that could be a driver’s license could be a passport could be something like a permanent resident card, any government issued photo ID, and voucher is an expert on those. So it studies those very closely, then it’s going to look at your face, it’s actually going to ask you to do some very simple movements. And that’s a security step to establish that number one, you’re alive, right? Number two, that you are in control of your ID. Now this happens real time takes me a minute or so to describe it, the actual process is around 10 seconds total. And at the end of this process, they have now looked at your face fashions, looked at your face, studied your face, studied those movements studied, the ID extracted all the information out of that ID, your full legal name, your physical address, your date of birth, additional information, as well. And now you are a verified individual. And you can continue through to onboarding really what this accomplishes for a bank, or maybe it’s a health care organization, any number of organizations is it really boosts both their security and their conversion rate because they’re moving more customers through the funnel faster. And in a better way. When you transition to the digital world. Right? You not only will this become pervasive, but you want the friction to decrease as much as possible. And one of the big benefits here, as we look out into the future, is not having to take you through the entire verification process every single time you go through one of these regulated or security sensitive activities, but really understanding you are known. And now we can quickly sort of fast pass you through to being verified. And that’s very much the future, the consumer is going to benefit, the business is going to benefit. Everyone’s going to win in this situation, it’s going to be faster, and it’s going to be more secure.

Alexander Ferguson 8:04
What’s a common mistake or challenge that you’ve have seen CEOs or business leaders that have to deal with major security sensitivities that they’re making right now in this world that we’re moving towards of digital and needing verification alone?

John Baird 8:17
Yeah, I mean, I think I think the biggest challenge is they’re just not ready. There’s a there’s an information gap there, they’re so used to doing things the way that they have always done that they’re not thinking about, wow, there might be a much better way to accomplish this, that both benefits my business boosts my revenue, and that my users love as well. I just read a study. I wish I could quote it exactly. But it was talking about how the vast majority of banks need visual identity verification, because let’s be clear, so many of the branches across the country are closed right now, because of COVID. And the banks have no way to interact with those customers. Customers, interestingly, expected expect this technology. And they’re very frustrated that the business doesn’t offer it to them. I do believe I have this thesis that over the past decade, give or take that consumers right the end users are have higher expectations of technology, of ease of use of the businesses that they do business with being out in front of their technology needs. And the end user is those needs are not being satisfied by the end user and they’re very frustrated by the fact that hey, I want to work with you. You know, Mr. Bank or Mr. Business or healthcare operator, and you’re making it really hard For me to do that, you’re making it really hard for me to be a customer. And what those end users do then is they go find the newest, best, most innovative solution out there. And it’s usually some kind of startup. This is, of course, why we’ve seen just massive growth across fintechs. Because quite frankly, they’re providing a better, easier, more rewarding experience for those end users. And I think you’ll need to see the traditional banking and financial services catch up to provide that same level of speed and service.

Alexander Ferguson 10:34
I completely agree with there’s that expectation as the consumer, why do I not have these abilities yet? For enterprise and larger businesses, this is a fundamental movement forward a shift potentially, and they’re probably trying to weigh risk and concern. Okay, if we bring this on, what am I looking at? Can we dive in a little bit more of what you can share about the technology and the security of it and and how it works?

John Baird 11:03
When you think about verifying identity? It’s not a single factor, right? There’s not one thing that can confirm that you are indeed you, right? People think about things like facial recognition, for example, and they say, oh, facial recognition people know who I am. Well, that’s not true. Right? Facial recognition needs a point of reference, right? Just because I’ve seen your face doesn’t mean I know who you are, right? Like I can pass you on the street. I can see your face. I don’t know who you are. Now, if we meet, right, and you tell me your name is Alex. Right. And now I can associate your name with your face. Now I have two factors. I still don’t know your last name. Right. Now, you told me your last name. Now I have three factors. What I don’t know is are you telling me the truth? Do you go by a nickname? Is Alex your middle name, right? You start to stack all of these things up. And I’ve given some very simple, right examples. Verifying identity is a multi factor experience, right? That is becoming more and more complicated over time, more and more sophisticated over time. So when vouch looks at an individual, we look at a few 100 different factors, depending on how deeply the examination is on that individual based on the risk our customers have. And we’re putting all those together, we’re cross correlating all of them to make sure that everything is adding up in a way that suggests with a high degree of confidence. Hey, that is indeed, Alex vouch knows at a very detailed level, what are the criteria, the visual criteria that are unique to a specific identity document, this might be a driver’s license in California, versus a permanent resident card in another part of the country? It knows those individual details, what are the colors? What is the font for that given? ID? How is that font laid out on that given Id even down to the pixel level? How many pixels should that individual letter be? What is the spacing between the individual letters? vouched is examining all of those details, it’s also looking at things like the colors that should be present on that individual ID, all of these details, it’s studying to make sure that they are present, that they are accurate, and that they are correctly placed on the ID. Right. So that’s step number one. Step number two is vouch actually reads all of the information that is on the ID. So I referenced this earlier, legal name, date of birth, physical address, issue, date, expiration date of the ID, voucher extracts all this information out of the ID, we take that data and we cross reference it against other data data that the business already has on that individual is all of that matching up data that the user has given us. Is that all matching up and data against other sources, other known sources, just one very specific example, we will take, say the physical address of that individual and look at a database cross reference those two to say, okay, the user’s name is Alex. It says he lives at 1234 Main Street. That’s the address we got from his ID. Can we look in public records? And see Yes, Alex actually does live at 1234 Main Street right. Now, again, what I’m describing is a gross oversimplification of what voucher does, it would probably take us about a full day to go through all of the technology. But all of the things that I’m describing happen literally in just a few seconds, all this cross examination, right. And at the end of that process, you have a very detailed Understanding of the validity of this individual.

Alexander Ferguson 15:03
And this happens just within a few minutes, he said that it is able

John Baird 15:07
to add a few no to be clear, not a few minutes, it actually happens in a few seconds, very few seconds. And in fact, one of our biggest customers, it used to take them many days to verify an individual. And they actually spent well over $60 per customer, right, just on that verification piece. They It has now been reduced down to end to end, just a few minutes, right? We’re a few seconds of that few minutes. And we’ve taken their cost from 60 plus dollars per customer, down to $2 per customer.

Alexander Ferguson 15:47
What are you most excited about and would want for people to be thinking about as they enter 2021? Whether it’s from from your product, or just the direction the industry is going? Yeah,

John Baird 15:59
I mean, so I am a technology futurist, I am an optimist. I love this because I believe it fundamentally makes the world better. And we’ve talked a lot a lot about baking and healthcare. But we you know, we see this type of visual identity verification becoming pervasive, almost literally in every single thing we do, whether you’re purchasing, whether you’re getting that next job, checking in at a hotel, actually the check in the traditional checking process, that’s going to go away. And thank God, right. If you’ve ever done the, you know, San Francisco flight to New York, right, you landed JFK after being on that plane for six hours and spending two hours at the airport on the other side before you ever got on the plane. Right? You landed JFK, you spent 90 minutes in traffic getting into the city, right? So now you spent 1011 hours, and you haven’t even done anything yet. And then you get to the Hotel in Manhattan. And I’ve done this flight many times, and then you wait in line for 20 minutes to check in and you’re exhausted. You’re like, oh my god, I just want to get to my room. Why does this take so long? vouch can enable that right? Because will verify your identity, you go straight to your room, and you walk right in, right? So this is the future, right for everybody. That’s a very simple example. This is an example. That’s much more about convenience. I think that’s super exciting, because who wants life to be harder, right? Number one, but let’s talk about some much bigger, much more much applications that will fundamentally change people’s lives, right. And let’s take a step back about identity. Our mission at vouched is to create the a worldwide identity verification platform. And this is so important, it’s so important. Because if you can’t be identified, you’re invisible. And just stop and think about that for a minute. Right? You are invisible. What does that prevent? Well, it prevents everything, you can’t get that next job, right? You can’t open that bank account, you can’t get that loan, it’s very hard to get health care to have a doctor treat you your identity, right? Depends are all these businesses depend on being able to identify you. We’re enabling that in a way that can change people’s lives, both in the US and around the world. Let me just give you a stat for a second that I think underscores this really well. I just had a meeting with a president of a very large bank, right. And the way that identity traditionally has been verified is based on your credit report. And it’s extremely messy. And we can talk more about that if it makes sense. But let’s just say it creates a tremendous number of problems for many individuals. What this gentleman, the president of the bank, told me is that there are approximately 80,000,008 0 million US adults whose credit is either so bad or non existent for any number of reasons that might have nothing by no fault of their own, like identity theft, right? That they can’t be easily identified. Right? So those people actually are invisible, and that’s in the US. 80 million US adults, right, have a really hard time being identified. Now think about that around the world. Right? Think about AI also, let me give you one more example. Because I think this is fascinating. I was talking to a large, very large governmental organization, right related to health care. And they were saying that so often when their users go to the doctor, whether that’s online or in a physical doctor office, they can’t be identified. And again, because the identification is based on their credit history so often, and they can’t you get asked questions, right? Like, what was your mortgage in 1993? What car did you drive in? 1984? Right? It’s questions like these. And so think about this for a second. That’s how they’re verifying your identity. Credit is a problem, for whatever reason, by the way, you’re sick. That’s why you’re at the doctor’s office. So you’re probably pretty stressed to begin with, right? You’re 6570 75 years old. And now they’re going to ask you these questions that might go back decades, how likely are you to answer those correctly, right, like this is the state of identity today.

So what I get super excited about is our ability to verify anyone, anywhere at any time, any place in the world. And what that fundamentally changes for these people is now you can be banked right now you can get health care, from any doctor in the world who happens to be online, you can get that, that next job, right? You can get government benefits, all the things that are so critical to your quality of life. That’s what I get super excited

Alexander Ferguson 21:24
about. John really enjoyed hearing the the power of this whole movement and what you guys are doing at vouched after doesn’t want to hear more stick around for part two of our discussion, hearing how the lessons learned and more of John’s story. Thanks again for joining for this. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



YouTube | LinkedIn | Twitter| Podcast

The Integration Realization | Ivan Matkovic at Spendgo

The Vision Revision | Haseeb Budhani at Rafay