“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”


Peter Steiner’s cartoon, as published in The New Yorker

It’s a common trope, but speaks to the power of anonymity online. There are obvious reasons to enable totally anonymous interactions, but many platforms cannot operate without truly knowing the identity of the person (or dog) on the other side of the screen. The fact that there is no obvious solution to this age-old problem (the quote was first coined by Peter Steiner back in 1993!) is a missed opportunity.

We spent five years leading the inaugural product and engineering efforts for Trust & Safety at Airbnb. We launched Airbnb’s “Verified ID” feature in 2013 but struggled to leverage existing identity verification providers in a way that could consistently meet the needs of both Airbnb and its growing community. For example, it would take several minutes after users scanned their photo ID for a result to be returned and we struggled to deal with frequently inaccurate or inconclusive results.

Today, there is an even stronger demand for easy yet reliable ways to identify people online. Whether you’re selling age-restricted goods or services, reducing chargebacks on high-value transactions, complying with KYC (“Know Your Customer”) requirements, or deterring fraud on a marketplace — you need a simple, secure, and scalable way to uniquely identify a person online.

Relying on a social security number trace or knowledge-based authentication from a credit report is becoming increasingly problematic given the widespread data breaches that have exposed this underlying data. A bad actor could have the full name, date of birth, address history, and social security number for countless individuals. So how do you know if users are entering their own information or impersonating someone else?

We saw an opportunity to tackle this problem by reliably checking photo IDs online in a fully-automatic yet conversion-friendly way. So we founded Berbix at the beginning of 2018 and set out to confidently answer the question: Are you who you say you are?

Our first product is the fastest and most accurate way to check a government-issued photo ID online. We collect, extract, and validate the front and back of a driver license or identification card (or the identity page of a passport) and perform an optional selfie match to make sure users are providing their own IDs. Our customers get a result in a couple of seconds, not a couple of minutes.

We’re proud to announce that we raised $2.5M in seed funding from Y Combinator, Initialized Capital, Fika Ventures, Dream Machine, and Liquid 2 Ventures alongside a handful of strategic angel investors. We’re excited to continue partnering with marketplaces and other online platforms to bring our Trust & Safety expertise to the broader Internet.

If you’d like to get in touch, please say hello@berbix.com!

Eric Levine & Steve Kirkham, Co-Founders of Berbix

Thanks to Alexis Ohanian and Gloria Lin.