The BizSpark startup of the day is miiCard, based in the UK. Below you will find an interview with James Varga, COO and Founder of miiCard. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!
Tell us who you are and your role in the company:
I’m the COO and Founder of miiCard.
What did you do before creating your company?
I came over to the UK from my native Canada around 17 years ago and since then I’ve been involved with a variety of really innovative technology and internet marketing solutions. I guess over recent years I’ve really focused on developing Rich Internet Applications and User Experiences for global audiences. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some pretty big names – like Winterthur Life, Centrica, Thomas Cook and Sky Sports. Immediately before starting up miiCard, I was involved with Money Dashboard – a PFM start up – as COO and still sit on the board.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
I’m really proud – recognition from BizSpark is fantastic. To know that they believe in what we’ve been working so hard on is a huge pat on the back – it’s more than someone telling me it’s a good idea…. It says that we’re bringing it to market the right way. Testing the assumptions, checking for validation of the market gap etc – a good idea doesn’t become a successful product unless the structure around it is solid and the ‘Startup of the Day’ win tells me that we’re getting that right.
What is your company’s mission?
To enable trust in a digital marketplace.
In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:
miiCard provides a 3rd party validated, real-time, online identity, to an Anti Money Laundering standard, via a digital passport.
How did you get the idea for your company?
It was while I was working with Money Dashboard – we kept coming up against the challenge that faces the finance sector about how to sell regulated products online, when there’s a need to properly identify the ‘customer’. So far, this has meant that the online application can only take the customer so far – at some point, if they want to proceed to purchase the financial product they’ve selected, they would need to either take some form of identity into a local branch or send off their documents to the service provider. That’s just not good enough. For starters, we know that between 70-90% of all online financial product transactions are abandoned as soon as this kind of offline process is introduced. That doesn’t surprise me – when someone sits down at the keyboard and makes the decision to purchase a product, nowadays they expect to be able to do that from start to finish in one go. That’s how the world is moving – and the finance sector needs to step up to that challenge somehow – if only to save the huge costs associated with the manual processes for checking ID documents. The more I thought about it and talked with the technical teams and industry contacts, the more it became obvious that there was a huge need for a solution which was user-centric, used open-standards, was truly real-time and was convenient – for both end consumer and the service provider. The ‘Eureka’ moment was really the culmination of a number of strands of activity and conversation I was involved in at the time. Right place, right time plus a bit of lateral thinking!
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
So far, miiCard has had some seed funding and is currently looking for further funding as we build to a Series A round.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
We currently have a team of 6, including 3 developers.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?
Which platform are you building on? Why?
miiCard is a C# .NET4 solution based on Windows Identity Foundation services that we plan to look to host on Azure. Currently its hosted in our own virtualised Hyper-V R2 environment.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?
Trust, to the level that a driver’s license or passport provides, is a global issue and the last frontier in the Internet which has been born out of anonymity and privacy. For the digital economy to grow we have to support larger, more complex, regulated and high risk transactions that are currently not possible due to Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulation. In financial services specifically this is a large problem (key pains are drop out, cost of execution and fraud rates) but it’s equally as critical in any online interaction or transaction where trust between both parties is required.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
I’ve always been a fan of the BizSpark Program. There’s nothing else to match it in terms of the quality of support, exposure and networking opportunities.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
I think, one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that having a good idea isn’t enough on its own – you need to be able to build a good business around it. Don’t be too precious about asking for advice and getting others to challenge you on that. Simplicity, usability, clear USP’s, benefits, consistency and stability are all hallmarks of a great software solution but it is passion and belief that is the catalyst.
Who’s your role model?
It would be easy to pick someone like Richard Branson but the truth is that I admire the passion, drive and commitment of the great chefs of the world. Having worked in a restaurant I’ve seen first-hand the dedication needed to succeed and the potential rewards when you follow your passions in the business with individuals like Anthony Bourdain, Masaharu Morimoto and Nobu Matsuhisa.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
In many ways the Internet is still very young and impressionable. We as an industry must drive its development forward and open up new opportunities for engagement, commerce and communication. As someone that has grown up with the Internet I clearly see that there are still limitations and challenges – and believe in many ways that the lack of trust…true trust…is limiting what we can do. I would like to remove this barrier and need help from consumers, colleagues and the industry as a whole to do this.