Robin Tombs: An Outstanding Entrepreneur Fueled by Innovative Ideas

Admired CEO's to Watch


During the Spartan Race, the fall season event organized in the hectic city of California, Robin Tombs, now the CEO of Yoti, witnessed an unsecured, stagnant, and agitated identification system where people were asked to provide physical ID documents to prove their identity. These valuable documents were recklessly placed unattended in a tent as participants completed the race. This raised concerns about the security of an individual’s identity. Robin comprehended the absence of a secure method and its necessity; thus, the idea of Yoti was born. He assigned a team who developed the Yoti app, designed with privacy at the core, where people can share only the necessary information, such as their name or age, giving them more control over their data and a safer way to prove their identity.

Prior to co-founding innovative companies like IDM, Gamesys, and Yoti, Robin was a chartered accountant with PwC in London for four years. He has always been particularly passionate about creating opportunities for young people to achieve their potential in life and bringing scalable web and mobile technologies to the not-for-profit sector. Hence, simultaneously, he has been investing in several early stages for profit and social businesses. Furthermore, in 2009, he founded Zing, a charity that supports young people to realise their potential. Yoti, on the other hand, is on the verge of shaping the future of digital identity. As a company, it offers individuals a safe way to prove who they are, without sharing an excessive amount of personal data or showing valuable ID documents. Meanwhile, for businesses, the company offers secure, private, and effective identity and age verification solutions. Its age estimation technology is now being adopted by Meta to create age-appropriate experiences for Instagram users in the US, and it’s been trialed by UK supermarkets to give shoppers an easy and quick way to prove their age, without needing to show an ID document or wait for assistance at the self-checkout.

"Just as we might show our passport or driving license to prove who we are in different situations, we wanted the Yoti app to be a reusable ID."

An Impeccable AI 

The company was founded on a strong set of principles that it upholds to ensure it continues building technology for the greater good. “As a certified B Corp, we balance profit with people and the planet,” says Robin.

It began in 2014 by building a free consumer app that puts an individual’s ID on their phone. Since then, it has expanded its offering to develop a suite of solutions that span identity verification, age estimation, e-signing, and AI anti-spoofing technologies. The company claims that it is not necessary to know someone’s name to determine their age, nor is it necessary to know their date of birth. In fact, Yoti allows people to prove their age in order to buy a product or use a service without sharing any personal information. Their age estimation technology works by analysing facial features in an image. To the technology, the image is simply a pattern of pixels, and the pixels are numbers. Most importantly, as a privacy-preserving solution, age estimation never knows or learns aperson’s name or identity. “There’s no need for an ID document, no personal data is held or shared, and it doesn’t cross-check the image against a big database. This is the difference between facial analysis and facial recognition,” emphasizes Robin.

There are many examples, including social media giants like Meta and Yubo, that harness Yoti’s age estimation technology to improve online safety and create age-appropriate experiences. In addition, UK supermarkets have trialled age estimation at self-checkouts to give shoppers an easy and quick way to prove their age, without needing to show an ID document or wait for assistance. He adds, “The free Yoti digital app is the safest way to prove your identity, online and in person. When you need to prove your age or identity, you can securely share just the details required, for instance, just your name, date of birth, or ‘over 18’. This gives individuals a safer and more private way to prove who they are without having to show an ID document and revealing an excessive amount of personal data in the process. “Today, we have over 12 million app downloads around the world. Digital identity verification, in its simplest terms, is a way for people to share their personal information online,” asserts Robin.

Instead of presenting physical ID documents, individuals can share details, such as their name and date of birth, digitally. The sentiment from businesses is that digital identity offers a more secure, agile, and efficient method of identifying people. Whilst legislation might be a key driver for digital identity adoption, it’s not the only reason more people are looking at this technology. There’s a growing desire for better experiences from consumers, and this technology can fast-track processes that have historically taken up significant time and effort. “Individuals have increasing needs for convenience and privacy, and digital identity ticks both of these boxes,” states Robin. Its customizable identity verification tools provide businesses with the flexibility they require to deliver the perfect balance of speed and fraud prevention at the correct time, and to improve customer experiences. The company also provides eSignatures, a satisfyingly simple tool that can help one accomplish great things along with services such as lightning-fast signatures, ID verification, and the most sophisticated eWitnessing. Businesses can be confident that they know who is behind the signature, resulting in increased trust between businesses and individuals.

Robin Tombs: An Outstanding Entrepreneur Fueled by Innovative Ideas
Robin Tombs

How does it work?

Just as we might show our passport or driving license to prove who we are in different situations, we wanted the Yoti app to be a reusable ID,” says Robin. Users merely have to create their Yoti once but can then reuse it when needed. This could be to prove their identity to collect a parcel, to prove their age to watch an age-rated film at the cinema, to swap details with another individual—for example on a classified or dating site—or to access age-restricted content online. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to identity or age verification,” explains Robin. “So, after speaking with businesses, we expanded our offering to also offer digital identity verification, e-signatures, and age estimation, so that Yoti could be the most comprehensive identity solution on the market.” In 2021, Yoti also announced a partnership with the Post Office, combining its experience in identity services and extensive branch network with its leading identity technology. The partnership saw the Post Office expand its identity services, launch a new free Post Office app (EasyID) and in-branch services that give people a choice as to how they prove their identity.

Their cumulative endeavours will make the process simpler and safer to prove one’s identity anywhere in the UK. As ‘trust’ is critical in the emerging digital ID space, Robin      always planned to partner with the Post Office, which he believes is one of the most trusted brands in the UK.

Assisting both parties

During the pandemic, the government adjusted the way Right to Work checks could be conducted—with identity documents provided digitally and checked via video call—a system that became incredibly popular with employers, and Right to Rent and DBS screening checks quickly followed suit too.

Employers and landlords will be able to use a Digital Identity Service Provider (IDSP) to complete identity verification for the Right to Work and Right to Rent checks. “We were delighted to announce that Yoti and the Post Office became the first to be a certified Digital Identity Service Provider,” adds Robin. The Yoti and Post Office (EasyID) apps give people straightforward ways to prove their identity with their phones, particularly useful for contractors and contract-basis workers who have to regularly prove their right to work. Alternatively, businesses can leverage Yoti’s web service that requires a customer to simply scan their documents and add any other required information. Robin highlights, “This has also reduced travel costs for recruits, enabled a wider pool of applicants to apply for roles, and reduced geographic barriers to employment. Individuals can prove their right to work or rent from the comfort of their home or whilst working in a different part of the country—especially helpful if they are relocating.” Lastly, through its partnership with the Post Office, Yoti also provides in-branch verification services for people unable or unwilling to use online services. With evidence of increased efficiency, getting people into jobs faster and reducing recruitment times, these remote policies have streamlined processes for both job seekers and employers. He feels pride in his venture and how it has increased its scope to transform the business sector with revolutionary tech. Motivated by the life of Nelson Mandela, this entrepreneur has offered commendable leadership to his company and taken it to its utmost stature. He adds, “One of the most significant challenges we faced early on was being able to read the NFC chips on passports from different countries. We needed to be able to read passports from as many countries as possible, because we want to offer Yoti to millions of people in many different countries. We overcame this challenge thanks to the determination of our very talented tech team. This means we can become a global business and offer people around the world the chance to get their digital identity.”

 Moreover, “Almost ten years on from that light bulb moment in California, Yoti has come a long way,” reminisces Robin. “It’s not without its challenges, but it’s the most thrilling journey I’ve ever been on.”

Admired CEO's to Watch, 2022