Student Founders: Oxford’s Onfido Startup Transforms ID Tech

Onfido was launched by Oxford University students eager to innovate in the identity verification sector using artificial intelligence. Husayn Kassai, Eamon Jubbawy, and Ruhul Amin, the student founders, received foundational support from the Oxford University Innovation’s Incubator program in 2012. This early backing, including a modest £20,000 from the Entrepreneurship Centre’s Oxford Seed Fund, proved instrumental, growing eighty times in return upon their exit.

“In 2012, building a new way to verify identities online felt like a moonshot. Support from Oxford Innovation’s incubator was not only crucial for our company but also for our confidence,” stated Husayn Kassai, co-founder and former CEO.


How Did Onfido Impact The Industry?


Onfido’s cloud-based AI technology, which facilitates millions to access digital services each week, has really changed the game for identity verification globally. Their technology allows for the verification of sensitive documents like passports and driving licenses with just a smartphone camera, for different industries, from banking to retail.

“From a student startup to a major player with over £140 million in revenue, Onfido’s journey is a testament to what student-led ventures can achieve,” said Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Innovation at the University of Oxford.


Where To From Here, For Onfido’s Earnings?


The sale proceeds from Onfido are earmarked for reinvestment into Oxford’s entrepreneurial initiatives, promising to spawn more innovative ventures. “This cycle of investment will expand our capacity to support future entrepreneurs significantly, strengthening our innovation ecosystem,” remarked Mairi Gibbs, CEO of Oxford University Innovation.

Soumitra Dutta, Dean of Saïd Business School, spoke on the effects of Onfido’s success: “The return on our investment from Onfido will empower us to foster new groundbreaking startups, thereby enhancing economies and driving global innovation.”

Todd Wilkinson, CEO of Entrust Corp, which acquired Onfido, commended the startup’s foundational impact, “Onfido’s top-tier ID verification technology and team are vital additions to our operations, enhancing our support for the UK’s tech growth.”

This narrative of a university startup scaling to global relevance places a spectacle on the role of academic institutions in nurturing business innovation while making sure that the legacy of such startups continues to inspire new entrepreneurial ventures.



More Student Led Startups


The UK startup scene has young talent with students starting their own businesses. The Creator Fund’s “State of Student Startups” report illuminates the strong participation of foreign students in the UK’s entrepreneurial activities, with six in ten new companies on campuses having a non-British founder.

This diversity enriches the UK’s credentials as a nurturing base for global tech innovations. Universities are key in supporting these student endeavors, in a space where 43% of startups include a BAME founder and 40% are led by women.


Di’Myo by Minnie Murope


Di’Myo, spearheaded by Minnie Murope, a Fashion and Textiles graduate from the University of Portsmouth, showcases the blend of cultural heritage and modern fashion. Her business has attracted attention from major retailers like John Lewis, paving the way for further collaborations.


GhostWriter Games by Victoria Primmer


Victoria Primmer, also from University of Portsmouth, transformed her passion for literature into a thriving educational game business through GhostWriter Games. This venture uses gaming to make classical literature accessible and engaging for students, demonstrating the educational potential of interactive media.


The Ethos Network by Alejandra de Brunner


UCL student Alejandra de Brunner’s venture, The Ethos Network, is a social platform dedicated to fostering engagement on social issues. It has quickly established itself by securing significant funding rounds and demonstrates the growing appetite for platforms that prioritise substantial, meaningful interaction.


Support structures within UK universities are integral in transitioning student startups from ideas to execution. Initiatives like the Student StartUp teams provide necessary resources and funding, enabling students to transform their innovative ideas into viable business operations.