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Built Tough


Aug 7, 2023

Mark Straub kicked off his tech career in venture capital.  During his 10+ years at Khosla Impact, Mark led investments in startups that would become leading names in the African tech ecosystem, such as Flutterwave, Branch, and Kopo Kopo.

As he shuttled between Mumbai and Nairobi, he started to learn the immense problem of identity verification in emerging markets. Globally, an estimated one billion people lack proof of identity — 50% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In India, Mark witnessed the impact of the ‘India Stack’, a comprehensive system that revolutionized identification and authentication processes through APIs.

In 2017, he and William Bares co-founded Smile ID (formerly known as Smile Identity). Their vision was to create the ‘African Stack’, an identification and know-your-customer (KYC) technology solution that would remain free from government influence. To date, Smile ID has successfully checked 60 million identities across Africa and is growing fast.

In this episode, Mark talks about his career in investment banking and microfinance and how it inspired him to build Smile ID. He also highlights the importance of first-mover advantage in Africa and Smile ID's rapid growth over the past two years.