How A Former Army Ranger is Disrupting the World of Online Identity Verification, with ID.me Founder and CEO Blake Hall

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Blake Hall is the CEO and founder of ID.me, which is solving the problem of verifying your identity online. To be sure, as more and more of our commerce and day-to-day- activities move online, it becomes even more important to keep your identity secure and verified. But we all know how annoying it is to fill out all the same information on form after form on website after website. Why can’t we just verify our identity once and take it with us through all our internet activities? That’s what Blake and his team at ID.me are allowing their customers to do, and it is already making an impact. On this episode, Blake explains the origins of ID.me, which trace back to his time as an Army Ranger, and takes us through some use cases that prove the success of ID.me’s technology.   

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Key Takeaways:

  • Going from Army Ranger to tech founder
  • The value of verified identity
  • Determining your business model

Blake’s background

Blake’s journey to the tech industry did not follow the traditional path. He actually started his professional life as an Army Ranger leading a unit in Iraq hunting high-value targets. But what is interesting is that that job was not what Blake and his platoon had initially trained for. It was two weeks before going into combat when reps from three-letter agencies came in and said to forget the mission they had been preparing for, instead they’d be doing kill and capture missions. To accomplish this new mission, the platoon was given new and really advanced equipment, and that’s when Blake was first exposed to advanced tech. It was also Blake’s introduction into identity and learning how important identity verification is and how you can use data to verify identity. 

“I didn’t know it at the time, but that year and a half of targeting terrorists and leveraging all this data when it came to the problem of identity verification…I’d really gotten an early education while I was still in the military on identity verification and what it means to use analytics and tenure in order to verify who somebody is. And it’s not intuitive that counter-terror is related to identity. But a lot of those principles that I was taught are actually quite applicable in terms of helping people protect their own identity.”

The formation of ID.me

ID.me went through a couple of iterations and there were attempts to disrupt various business models. But what Blake kept coming back to was the idea of identity verification. With every project he worked on, Blake noticed that people needed to go to different agencies or sites and create different logins and prove their identities multiple times. Instead of doing that, he thought there should be one main way to verify identity. The idea would be to create something that was kind of like Paypal but for identity. The same way you tie a credit card to a PayPal account, you can do the same thing for identity. Establish it on one site and then take that verified identity with you everywhere you go on the internet. 

Value-add of ID.me

Blake explains the value proposition of ID.me by describing a graph with portability on the Y axis, and trust on the X. There was a common problem that logins either weren’t trusted or they weren’t portable and that was what ID.me was looking to solve. According to Blake, the average American has 200+ distinct logins, and that’s expected to double over the next five years. Most people are using only their memory to manage their passwords, and that’s unsustainable and also insecure. With ID.me, you simply need to have one unique login and identity that’s trusted and accepted wherever you go because it meets the verification standards of the federal government. The result is happy customers. Blake reports that ID.me has not lost any customers in the last five years (except for one that went bankrupt). 

“Your most trusted logins are typically with your bank… but those logins aren’t portable. You can’t use USAA at Veterans Affairs. You can’t use Chase to log into social security or to log into your DMV to renew a license. Because portable logins aren’t trusted and trusted logins aren’t portable, there’s a gap in the top right quadrant, and that’s the gap that ID.me is filling.”

“We think that if you just make a trusted login portable, the economy will eliminate a ton of friction and that ultimately will help our customers do more business and do it more securely.”

Understanding the business model

At ID.me, the idea is to sell trust. It is similar to how when you use a credit card, the credit card isn’t selling currency, they’re selling trust and convenience and allowing for two people who do not know each other to complete a transaction. ID.me is offering the same convenience but with a secure identification and control over your own data via an identity interchange. But Blake insists that ID.me is not interested in collecting personal information and distributing it to anyone. Rather, all ID.me offers is a way for people to carry their identity digitally with a level of trust you cannot find anywhere else.

“The benefit that ID.me is bringing is that you’re in control of your own data and you could decide whether or not you want to release it to a given organization. But when you do, ID.me monetizes that trust and convenience. So we refer to the business model as identity interchange.”

“We think that setting boundaries around the business is very important for what data we will collect and in which data we will absolutely never collect.”

Use cases

With millions of customers using ID.me, Blake can point to any number of use cases that illustrate just how well the service works. But regardless of how a company or individual is using ID.me, the whole idea is to remove friction from workflows and create a better experience for both employees and customers. So whether that is working with a major hotel chain to create verified identities for guests to ease the check-in process or making the password reset function simpler for call centers, ID.me is making the process easier than ever before.



Episode 120