How One Bold FinTech Startup From Latin America Plans to End Traditional Identification

After 10 years of leading a successful business with revenues of R$ 50 million, Diego Martins, CEO of Acesso, decided to reinvent his business with the aim of challenging one of the oldest and most deeply rooted institutions in Brazil’s public and private sectors: paper bureaucracy. Acesso believes that people don’t need to present documentation to make a purchase or to open a bank account, for example.

Acesso was created in 2007 to scan business records. At the time, most of the documentation traffic between companies’ branches and their headquarters was done physically in Brazil. In 2010 Acesso introduced an image-capture solution for scanning these files, which were then stored online.

What if the paper ends?

In 2013, Martins attended a lecture at Stanford University about Netflix and Blockbuster, a story that was still in progress, the result of which we now know – the bankruptcy of an empire, the largest movie rental companies in the world. The story set off an alert for the entrepreneur. Martins says the message from the professor was clear: most companies are very concerned about improving their core business, as Blockbuster used to be, but they don’t see when something comes from outside and takes over their entire market.

Image: Diego Torres Martins, CEO of Acesso

It was the first time that we realized that without paper-based bureaucracy, our business would end. If everything is digital, there’s simply no need for a document-scanning platform. It was the first moment when we asked ourselves ‘What if the paper ends?’

As an example, that was the founding year of Nubank, a credit card that can be requested by digital means. Financial and other industry startups already developed products only for the virtual environment, like Creditas (founded in 2012).

However, the discussion about the end of the paper era was only brought back again at Acesso in 2015, according to Martins, when they decided to plan the next 10 years of the company. We made the decision to reinvent our business. That’s when I decided to take a break to open my head. I would be out for two months in Silicon Valley. Some groups of employees accompanied him for part of that time.

A lesson from Silicon Valley

If we want to be a high-impact company, we must solve a problem that no one has ever solved. That was one of the key lessons learned in Silicon Valley, and it was one of the things we heard most from the founders of the companies there, said Martins.

With the learning acquired in Silicon Valley, Acesso realized that in its first 10 years, it has helped companies digitize bureaucracy without eliminating anything from it. The conclusion we made was that we helped companies to deal with bureaucracy in a more agile way. And then, we set it as our purpose to eliminate the bureaucracy on some level.

More than R$ 8 million was invested in new products. All data collection and authentication tools were developed internally. At this stage, the company had another reinforcement brought from Silicon Valley – the collaboration of Nelson Mattos, former VP of Product and Engineering at Google, who helped in the development process.

In human resources, Acesso aims to reduce bureaucracy with a product called AccesoRH. The selected candidate makes ‘his own admission’ by sending his data and documents digitally to the contractor through a cloud platform.

The other initiatives are the collection of facial biometrics and digital signature. According to Martins, companies are at great risk of fraud, so they request many documents. We started to convince high-risk companies like banks, retailers, FinTechs, and telecom to start capturing biometrics so we can form a biometric base. In addition to biometrics, we keep a record of the documentation from the client with his authorization.

The idea is that with a consolidated profile base, in the future, companies will only capture facial biometrics, and the consumer personal data will be available. For contracts that require a subscription, it will be digital. In the future, we want to reach a moment when the customer does not need to present documentation to companies, explains Martins.

Currently, the company has more than 13 million profiles with facial biometrics, and the number grows 1 million per month on average. Not all Acesso customers have adhered to biometrics, but if it is applied to their large customers like banks (Itaú, Banco do Brasil, Bradesco, Santander), or retailers (Magazine Luíza, Netshoes), the number is expected to grow even faster.

When asked if it was difficult to convince traditional companies to change their processes, Martins explained that he had help from the FinTech community. Luckily, FinTechs are shifting paradigms for us. Companies look around and there are others who are already doing things differently. This content was published in partnership with StartSe, a leading Brazilian website about startups. The portal contains the StartSe Base, the largest database of startups in the country, with more than 5,000 registered companies.