Smile Identity has acquired Ghana-based ID verification company, Inclusive Innovations—the parent of Appruve. With this acquisition, Smile Identity says it will deepen its presence in Ghana and expand into francophone Africa, focusing on Cote D'Ivoire and Senegal.
Almost half of the one billion people who lack identification globally are in Africa, according to the World Bank. Founded in 2017, Smile Identity was inspired by the lack of global identification and how it affects Africans.
In February when the ID verification company raised a $20M Series B, it disclosed that it will grow its existing teams in East, West, and Southern Africa and completing its pan-African reach with plans to enter Francophone and Arab-speaking markets through localised sales and support. At the time, Smile Identity said that it has expanded into South Africa and Uganda and opened offices in London and Cape Town and also has "product depth" in Nigeria.
The acquisition of Appruve’s parent company, according to statement seen by Benjamindada.com, is a natural progression after years of partnership and collaboration between both companies in the African identity verification space. When Paul Damalie started Appruve in 2018, Smile Identity was its first customer and over the years, both companies have leveraged each other’s technology and expertise to serve their customers.
"Over time collaborating with Paul and the team at Appruve, we realized that we shared the same vision and insights. Insights on what the likely path to solving digital identity across Africa will take, which markets will become important, and how different products will come together to aid this goal," Smile Identity’s CEO, Mark Straub, said. "Appruve has product engineering expertise and access to some key data sources that are important to us. They also allow us to strengthen our knowledge and on-the-ground presence in key markets in West Africa where we want to deeply invest more. Ultimately it makes the most financial sense to combine both businesses and teams at this time."
This acquisition is a cash and stock deal with key members of Appruve now shareholders in Smile Identity and most of the Appruve team is being kept onboard. Since its launch, Approve has secured less than $500,000 in venture capital funding, and $450,000 in grant from DFS Lab through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other accelerators.
"There are products being built at Appruve that it makes the most sense to merge forces with Smile Identity to build. We share a vision of which datasets across Africa are important. We also agree on how to leverage these critical datasets to have deeper penetration in local markets and help our clients build more holistic profiles around people and entities they’d like to verify. These are plans we want to build and this is work that I’m still very passionate about, and want to stay involved in," Paul added.
With this acquisition of Appruve’s parent company, Smile Identity also intends to enable its customers to access deeper and richer services including onboarding into payment systems—mobile money, bank accounts, international payments and remittance—both locally and internationally; stock trading and brokerage; business lending; and much more in the coming months.
Joining forces with Appruve results in an expanded suite of APIs, including mobile money, data, and anti-fraud checks, providing customers with a more comprehensive digital identity verification solution. In addition, the combined entity will now cover over 1 billion Africans, the African diaspora, and 100 million African businesses, supporting over 230 documents and data types with integration options for every device and operating system combination in Africa.