Persona Identities Scores $150 Million


By: Mary Jander

In a move that highlights the growing importance of online trust, Persona Identities Inc., a three-year-old San Francisco startup, has scored $150 million in Series C funding led by Founders Fund. The deal values the company at $1.5 billion.

Enterprises and government entities are facing a crisis of confidence – that is, the confidence that customers, employees, partners, and prospects are actually who they claim to be when interacting with firms online. As part of identity-based security and zero-trust network access (ZTNA), it's essential that this data be consistent for every user, each time they log on.

For instance, online educational site Coursera uses Persona’s products to ensure they’re awarding credit to students who really attend their courses – and not to someone who attends on another's behalf. Also, Branch, a digital wallet service for employers, uses Persona to make sure online payments go to the right employees at the right time.

Persona Gets Personal

Persona’s platform also allows Branch to access third-party sources of identification data without storing personally identifiable information (PII) on its own network. “I don’t ever want to store PII, and it’s awesome that with Persona, we don’t have to even think about it — we just send everything through Persona, and SSNs never even hit our system,” said Ahmed Siddiqui, VP of product at Branch, in a statement.

Among Persona’s options is the ability to use its application programming interface (API) to let applications interact with third-party sources of information, such as driver’s license agencies and government document archives. An enterprise can customize the type, mix, and level of identity verification. There are also tools for reporting and managing identity information.

In a blog about the new funding, CEO and co-founder Rick Song described Persona’s approach:

“[W]e’ve been very intentional about giving businesses the building blocks they need to personalize the identity experience based on their industry, use case, risk appetite, regulatory need, customer base, and more. Businesses can customize everything from the UI to the number of times users can attempt verification. We also offer an extensive suite of verification components as well as a wide range of reports and signals businesses can mix and match to create dynamic verification and decision processes.”

Persona’s Story

Persona was founded in 2018 by CEO Song (ex-Square) and Charles Yeh, now CTO (ex-Dropbox, Zynga, among others). They now lead a team of about 89 employees, though that number should swiftly increase with the business expansion the Series C enables.

In revenue terms, Persona has grown dramatically, perhaps owing in part to the increased focus on cybersecurity and remote access in the wake of COVID-19. Over the last year, Persona saw revenue growth exceed an order of magnitude, CEO Song told TechCrunch in May 2021. Customers include Brex, Doordash, Empower, MyRent, Robinhood Markets, SimpleHealth, and Square, among others.

Persona faces a slew of competitors among other young companies, such as Jumio, which also raised $150 million early in 2021, and Trulioo, which raised $349 million in June. Also emerging are systems that manage enterprise identity and the multi-cloud level, such as those from Okta (Nasdaq: OKTA), which early this year bought rival Auth0 in an all-stock deal worth roughly $6.5 billion.

The amount being invested in Persona and other identity management startups is a good indicator of the demand investors see among companies trying to navigate the dirty tricks and criminal activity present online. Pressure is particularly great given the migration of data and applications to the cloud.

Besides Founders Fund, other investors in Persona’s round included Meritech Capital Partners, BOND, and existing investors Index Ventures and Coatue Management.