Written by Andrew Seale
Greg Wolfond wants to get to know the real you. Well, not Wolfond specifically, rather, SecureKey, the company he founded has spent nearly a decade solving the problem of proving you are, in fact, you.
The SecureKey CEO points to the process of opening a bank account. You typically show up with documents saying you’re you, then you create your online password – a series of characters – then you forget and end up on the phone with a call centre answering questions about your mother’s maiden name. It becomes ever more challenging when the average Canadian is juggling upwards of 25 user identities and passwords.
“That stuff just doesn’t work – so how do you make a better experience for people that puts them in the middle and let’s them go to places, prove who they are, (something that) lets them share their data with privacy and security?” he says.
Launched in 2008, SecureKey Concierge lets Canadians use their online banking credentials to log into public and private sector websites.
“That password you have at your bank is super secure, if you log in at Toronto around 9 a.m. then log in at 11 from Vancouver they'll say ‘sorry, can’t do that’ because you can’t be in those two place in that time window,” he explains. And the financial institutions are listening.
The country’s biggest banks – BMO Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, CIBC, Desjardins, Royal Bank of Canada and TD – have thrown their weight behind the company, investing $27 million in October 2016 to build out the federated authentication service.
“Combine that (bank security) with Telus or Rogers that say ‘yes this is actually Greg's phone’ then combine that with can I turn on the camera and check your face against the driver’s license in Ontario?” says Wolfond. “Between those things I can be really sure that this is you and let you open up an account or service in seconds.”
But when it comes to authenticating, Wolfond’s your guy having spent 30 years in fintech, security and mobile solutions. He’s a serial entrepreneur, whose earlier venture Footprint Software Inc., a financial software company was acquired by IBM, and another 724 Solutions Inc., he took public in 2000.
“I think it was the most successful IPO in Canadian history… it went to something like an $8 billion market cap in no time,” he says. “It was a pretty cool business.”
Building multiple businesses in Toronto has given Wolfond a solid perspective on the ecosystem here. While it’s easy to see why SecureKey would want to be in Canada’s financial capital, it’s the diversity of industries here that have proven to be a serious asset, especially for his latest venture.
“This diversity of talent we have in security, privacy and blockchain distributed ledgers… all these skills,” he says. Not just recruiting the talent but making it work together and convincing the different industries on the whole to buy into SecureKey’s mission.
“I think what we get here more than a lot of other places in the world is this whole spirit of collaboration,” he says. “I mean, you wouldn’t see in other countries all the banks, all the telecoms, all the provinces working together on a solution that actually makes it better for citizens – everyone would try to do their own thing… we're lucky.”
StartUp Spotlight on: Toronto's Cybersecurity Sector
Check out the other pieces in our spotlight to learn about the Toronto-based cybersecurity companies that are leading the global push toward a safe, reliable digital world.