Why 16-year-old AuthBridge has piqued the interest of investors

Identity authentication startup AuthBridge raised $7 million in a Series B funding round in November. Founder Ajay Trehan tells YourStory that he aims to deepen the startup's presence in India, as well as create more verification-focused solutions for industries.
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Ajay Trehan launched identity authentication company AuthBridge after he came across background screening companies on his one of his trips to the US. In its early days, AuthBridge used to do background checks for other companies manually, which involved going through criminal records, submitting requests at police stations etc.

Founded in 2005, AuthBridge offers services such as identity verification, employment background screening, customer screening, and partner due diligence, among several others.

It has three main business lines:

1. Workforce Solutions: The biggest revenue generator for the business, the vertical helps employers do quick background checks on prospective new employees in a matter of minutes versus what typically would take days.

2. Banking and financial services ('Fintelle'): Started during COVID-19 last year, Fintelle helps banks, insurers, lending platforms, and other financial services do customer authentication quickly in real time, as well as offer customised journeys to them.

3. Business Solutions: Helps businesses do due diligence for those who are not their customers or employees. For example vendors, and companies that private equity firms are gauging for investments.

Around the time the company grew to 30 people, Ajay realised that unless he brought in tech, it would be difficult to scale.

"Today, we've managed to essentially digitise a largely manual service-oriented operation, that too profitably," he tells YourStory.

"We've run as a profitable venture for the last 16 years, and the recent investor interest has largely been because of our ability to digitise and reduce the time authentications typically take," he adds.

In fact, speed and accuracy are the company's key performance metrics and the value it adds to its clients.

Ajay explains: "Take criminal background checks, for example. Criminal records are quite fragmented in India, and checks usually take four to five days. We're, however, able to do it in a matter of minutes."

The startup has raised $7 million in a Series B funding round from investors, including Delhi-based Phi Capital. The Gurugram-based company expects to use the funds to invest in tech, strengthen its workforce and launch new products.

COVID-19 impact

While he did not disclose the exact numbers, Ajay says AuthBridge has had strong top and bottom line growth since it was founded. Last year, however, revenue took a hit because of COVID-19.

"In the first two quarters of COVID-19, we did see a slowdown in revenue as hiring sentiment dampened," he tells YourStory.

Revenue fell nearly 30 to 40 percent during the period, which is when the company decided to pivot and expand its offerings to include Fintelle and business solutions services.

Fintelle already has over 140 customers, while AuthBridge's business solutions offering has 40 paying clients.

"Today, our revenue is almost 2X than it was pre-COVID-19, especially in our Workforce Solutions business," Ajay says.

Over the last few years, he says he has been seeing a lot more startups signing up for AuthBridge's employee screening service. In fact, it counts some of the country's best-known unicorns as its clients, apart from five to six top Indian companies.

"A lot of employers these days are looking for plug-and-play solutions, including startups. We also partner with startups to provide a sandbox that they can build their solutions on top on," says Ajay.

The company, which has 1,500+ employees currently, says it's focused on deepening its presence in India - and its acquisition of Footprint in 2018 to expand it foothold in Southern India was a step in that direction.

It also hopes to help consolidate the authentication market in India.

AuthBridge Research Services, the company, raised $1 million in Series A this October. The round was led by Infinite Leaseworks, according to MCA filings.

The current round, led by Phi Capital Growth Fund, also saw participation from Infinite Leaseworks.

"We are confident AuthBridge is going to play a pivotal role in setting standards for a great digital user/employee experience in a post-pandemic era," said Anupam Thareja, Founder and Managing Partner at Phi Capital.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai