Dear Footprint Family,
Hope everyone was able to relax during the holidays, and wishing everyone an amazing start to 2023!
I’m not sure how to properly end the year in which we created Footprint. I definitely know a lot more now than I did back in December 2021. Nothing instills confidence like ignorance at the beginning, and with each day we realize how much more there is for us to learn. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.”
But at the same time, when we look at what we used to worry about, we realize that our problems of today were our dreams of yesterday. Our optimism laced with that above-described ignorance propelled us where we wanted to go. Personal baselines--for knowledge and worries--constantly change. And nothing energizes me more going forward than getting better and knowing what we can do with that new knowledge. I could not be more excited for this new year. There is so much we’re going to do.
I’m breaking this update into two parts: our our Year-End Review, and our December Update (which I am linking here).
Footprint 2022 Wins
- I was lucky to bring on Alex as my co-founder. As I wrote in the last update, two key technologies have made Footprint possible: accessible building blocks for confidential computing (Nitro Enclaves) and widely available user-friendly authentication based on strong cryptography (FIDO2/PassKeys). Alex just so happens to be an expert across these fields, and Footprint as a result is about to be featured by AWS on their website as the fifth company to deploy enclaves.
- The rest of our team is similarly remarkable. Hailing from companies like Stripe, Robinhood, Personio, Fast, and Sardine, we’re lucky to have so much expertise, kindness, and brilliance at Footprint. And don’t just take it from me. One of our team members, who has over a decade experience, said at year-end reviews that Footprint is the “Best talent I have ever been around.”
- We raised a $6M seed round this year from incredible backers who believe deeply in this mission. I’m deeply grateful to all of you. The inspiration I felt the first time I met Shardul and Zabie from Index last November in NYC was not ephemeral. Perhaps some of the naivete is gone, but the optimism this group instills in me is boundless.
- We have 2.5 years of runway and don’t foresee any changes in our burn with the bulk of our team in place
- Footprint is the first company in history to sign federated identity contracts with vendors. Two are in production, with two more likely to go live in Q1.
- We built the foundations of a world-class product
- A flexible and robust secure vaulting system built on top of the cutting edge Nitro Enclaves from AWS powering our intricate globally portable identity data model.
- A beautiful yet simple to integrate embedded Footprint that hides all the complexity of collecting, verifying, securely vaulting, and assessing risk user onboarding for our customers. Not to mention, visually customizable in 80 parameters to fit any kind of design aesthetic our customers may want.
- An extensive dashboard for customers that balances the complexities of manually reviewing user onboarding, viewing risk signals, and decrypting sensitive data merged together with fine-grained access control and security audit logs.
- Leveraged FIDO2/passkeys to be the first KYC company to use the FaceID built natively in our phones for biometric attestation and continuing authentication.
Footprint Reflection on How to Get Better
But we can get better. Alex and I presented to the team on our reflections from 2022 + how we can improve going forward.
The first key tenet of the presentation is around focus. Being a second-mover is nice in that it provides a bit of a template of what to build—the table stakes items to sell. But building new technology also comes with the ability to veer off into many interesting product directions. Too many times this year I had us chase something reactively instead of sticking to our plan. It’s why our IAM and Auth are half-built right now, and the KYB dashboard is still in design. At times this year, we also did not have the proper focus on hiring, sometimes chasing interesting profiles even if we did not have a genuine role for them at the company. We’re adamant to remedy this in 2023.
While I say Footprint is not a one-click company, all of you presumably invested in the promise of the network effect. Which makes sense—at the end of the day that’s how we win. This means our GTM to 1 million PIDS (portable identities; also considering FIDS—Footprint identities)—is different than how we go from 1 to 10M PIDS. To get to 1M, we need to be better than competitors for different buckets of customers for specific reasons. We can never lose because we don’t have a “basic” feature. But we don’t win via incrementally better features. We win with step-function improvements to different customer buckets. Doubling down on security with proxies for credit card companies, developer experience of “do vaulting + KYC + IDV all in 5 lines of code” for startups, ACH verification for banking + investment apps. Our plan to fix this next year is introducing month-long focuses or sprints on very tangible and specific goals.
Our next topic for improvement was internal trust and transparency. I certainly have struggled with how much to tell the team at times. Startups are tough. Morale is important. Does everyone need to know if a one-off call went poorly? I thought the answer was no. Increasingly, I think it’s yes. We don’t want echo chambers where engineering feels disconnected from sales, salient convos are lost in slack channels, or time is wasted. We're making multiple changes in this spirit, all in the linked presentation.
And we have real metric goals now. Building a product this complex in such a (relatively) short amount of time is great, but now is when the rubber really hits the road. Year one was to build; in year two we look to find PMF. Doubling down on trust means putting more goals out there, and making us constantly face reality. I think this is great. This isn’t meant to be easy. This isn’t a game. This is a real company with money and careers on the line.
I couldn’t be more excited going into next year. I’m cognizant—or at least have been told by others— that my updates perhaps sound increasingly negative. I disagree. I think true confidence comes from the ability to air out any negative narratives and not just direct attention to the positives. People know how happy and optimistic I am. We gain little by just reflecting on wins, and if nothing wrong is happening, not enough is being tried. But maybe the below will explain why I’m so excited about 2023, and continue to think Footprint will transform the identity industry.
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