Oxford startup Onfido is largest ever student-led company return

Oxford startup, Onfido, uses AI to verify customer identities, and has now been sold to Entrust Corp.

This purchase marks the highest value return on investment for a student-led startup for the University of Oxford. The university proceeds will support and fund the creation of more companies and entrepreneurship programmes at Oxford.

Onfido was one of the first entrants into Oxford University Innovation’s Incubator in 2012, an entrepreneurship programme that helped to nurture the technology developed by student founders Husayn Kassai, Eamon Jubbawy, and Ruhul Amin. In 2013, while pursuing their studies at Saïd Business School, the team went on to receive £20,000 in early phase funding through the Entrepreneurship Centre’s Oxford Seed Fund. This sale represents an 80 times return on the Oxford Seed Fund Investment.

‘In 2012, at 22 years old, building a new way to verify identities online felt like a moonshot. Having support from Oxford Innovation’s first incubator provided a crucial launchpad – not only for the company but for our confidence. Oxford’s leap of faith into a nascent idea, was rocket fuel and I am incredibly grateful to Oxford University and the entire ecosystem for supporting our journey.

Onfido’s exit demonstrates the powerful influence academic institutions hold in delivering outsized local and global impact. It is rewarding knowing that our exit’s returns are being reinvested by Oxford into supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs.’ said Husayn Kassai, Co-Founder and former CEO at Onfido.

‘Onfido has grown from a student startup into a 500-strong team with more than £140 million of revenue and customers worldwide. With its acquisition by Entrust, Onfido has shown that student-led companies can become phenomenally successful, inspiring a new generation of students, staff, and investors to cultivate our world-class innovation ecosystem in Oxford.’ said Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Innovation, the University of Oxford.

‘We are proud to have supported the Onfido team through Oxford’s earliest Incubator programme and to see the tremendous success of one of our first startups. The return received by OUI will be reinvested in our Incubator programme to provide more opportunities for our student and staff entrepreneurs to train, collaborate and create companies which deliver game-changing technology.’, said Mairi Gibbs, CEO of Oxford University Innovation.

‘It is impressive to see how a modest investment from the Oxford Seed Fund has helped to catapult an idea from student startup to a world-leading business. Onfido was conceptualised at Oxford and is now delivering impact on an international scale. We are privileged to have played an important role in their journey. Onfido’s success, and the return on our investment, will help us continue to support the most exciting startups and entrepreneurs from across the world, through our Entrepreneurship Centre, boosting economies, creating jobs and driving innovation,’ said Soumitra Dutta, Dean of Saïd Business School, the University of Oxford.

Over the past 12 years the Onfido team has developed a cloud-based, AI-powered identity verification technology that helps millions access digital services every week – from billion-dollar institutions to hyper-growth startups across multiple sectors. Millions of customers joining a new digital bank or payments app use Onfido’s technology during the signup process. Onfido’s technology is also used to verify a driving licence or passport with a smartphone camera.

‘Onfido has the world’s best-in-class ID verification team, capabilities, and tech stack and it’s thanks to entrepreneurial schemes like this one from Oxford University Innovation that the founders were able to get their start. We welcome the continued support that Oxford is providing the UK to help build a vibrant environment for tech growth and Entrust is proud to be a part of this, with tech centres in Cambridge and now in London with Onfido,’ said Todd Wilkinson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Entrust Corp.

Onfido has secured several high-calibre investors over the last decade including the University of Oxford, SBI Investment, M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures), Salesforce’s venture capital arm and private equity groups Bain Capital and TPG Growth.