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Zamna raises $5M to automate airport security checks between agencies using blockchain – TechCrunch

Zamna — which uses a blockchain to securely share and verify data between airlines and travel authorities to check passenger identities — has raised a $5m seed funding round led by VC firms LocalGlobe and Oxford Capital, alongside Seedcamp, the London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF), Telefonica, and a number of angel investors. Participation has also come…

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Zamna raises $5M to automate airport security checks between agencies using blockchain – TechCrunch

Zamna — which uses a blockchain to securely share and verify data between airlines and travel authorities to check passenger identities — has raised a $5m seed funding round led by VC firms LocalGlobe and Oxford Capital, alongside Seedcamp, the London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF), Telefonica, and a number of angel investors.

Participation has also come from existing investor IAG (International Airlines Group), which is now its first commercial client. The company is also changed its name from VChain Technology to Zamna.

When VChain-now-Zamna first appeared, I must admit I was confused. Using blockchain to verify passenger data seemed like a hammer to crack a nut. But it turns out to have some surprisingly useful applications.

The idea is to use it to verify and connect the passenger data sets which are currently silo-ed between airlines, governments and security agencies. By doing this, says Zamna, you can reduce the need for manual or other checks by up to 90 percent. If that’s the case, then it’s quite a leap in efficiency.

In theory, as more passenger identities are verified digitally over time and shared securely between parties, using a blockchain in the middle to maintain data security and passenger privacy, the airport security process could become virtually seamless and allow passengers to sail through airports without needing physical documentation or repeated ID checks. Sounds good to me.

Zamna says its proprietary Advance Passenger Information (API) validation platform for biographic and biometric data, is already being deployed by some airlines and immigration authorities. It recently started working with Emirates Airline and the UAE’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners (GDRFA) to deliver check-in and transit checks.

Here’s how it works: Zamna’s platform is built on algorithms that check the accuracy of Advanced Passenger Information or biometric data, without having to share any of that data with third parties, because it attaches an anonymous token to the already verified data. Airlines, airports and governments can then access that secure, immutable and distributed network of validated tokens without having actually needing to ‘see’ the data an agency, or competing airline, holds. Zamna’s technology can then be used by any of these parties to validate passengers’ biographic and biometric data, using cryptography to check you are who you say you are.

So, what was wrong with the previous security measures in airports for airlines and border control that Zanma might be fixing?

Speaking to TechCrunch, Irra Ariella Khi, co-founder and CEO of Zamna, says: “There is a preconception that when you arrive at the airport somehow – as if by magic – the airline knows who you are, the security agencies know who you are, and the governments of departure and destination both know that you are flying between their countries and have established that it is both legitimate and secure for you to do so. You may even assume that the respective security authorities have exchanged some intelligence about you as a passenger, to establish that both you and your fellow passengers are safe to board the same plane.”

“However,” she says, “the reality is far from this. There is no easy and secure way for airlines and government agencies to share or cross-reference your data – which remains siloed (for valid data protection reasons). They must, therefore, repeat manual one-off data checks each time you travel. Even if you have provided your identity data and checked in advance, and if you travel from the same airport on the same airline many times over, you will find that you are still subject to the same one-off passenger processing (which you have probably already experienced many times before). Importantly, there is an ‘identity verification event’, whereby the airline must check both the document of identity which you carry, as well as establish that it belongs to your physical identity.”

There are three main trends in this space. Governments are demanding more accurate passenger data from airlines (for both departure and destination) – and increasing the regulatory fines imposed for incorrect data provided to them by the airlines. Secondly, Airlines also have to manage the repatriation of passengers and luggage if they are refused entry by a government due to incorrect data, which is costly. And thirdly, ETA (electronic transit authorizations, such as eVisas) are on the rise, and governments and airlines will need to satisfy themselves that a passenger’s data matches exactly that of their relevant ETA in order to establish that they have correct status to travel. This is the case with ESTAs for all US-bound travelers. Many other countries have similar requirements. Critically for UK travelers – this will also be the case for all passengers traveling into Europe under the incoming ETIAS regulations.

The upshot is that airlines are imposing increased document and identity checks at the airports – regardless of whether the passenger has been a regular flier, and irrespective of whether they have checked-in in advance.

Zamna’s data verification platform pulls together multiple stakeholders (airlines, governments, security agencies) with a way to validate and revalidate passenger identity and data (both biographic and biometric), and to securely establish data ownership – before passengers arrive at the airport.

It doesn’t require any new infrastructure at the airport, and none of these entities have to share data, because the ‘sharing without sharing’ is performed by Zanma’s blockchain platform in the middle of all the data sources.

Remus Brett, Partner at LocalGlobe, says: “With passenger numbers expected to double in the next 20 years, new technology-driven solutions are the only way airlines, airports and governments will be able to cope. We’re delighted to be working with the Zamna team and believe they can play a key role in addressing these challenges.” Dupsy Abiola, Global Head of Innovation at International Airlines Group, adds: “Zamna is working with IAG on a digital transformation project involving British Airways and the other IAG carriers. It’s very exciting.”

Zamna is a strategic partner to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and an active member of IATA’s “One ID” working group.

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.

This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.

Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.

Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.

As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.

Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.

To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.

Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.

African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.

But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.

Jumia vs. Konga

The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.

Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.

Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.

That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.

While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.

E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.

So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.

In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.

Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.

Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.

Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.

Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.

The numbers

Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.

So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.

But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.

Here’s the tally of guest stays in Airbnb’s during New Years Eve (data via CNBC, Jon Erlichman, Airbnb), and their resulting year-over-year growth rates:

  • 2009: 1,400
  • 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
  • 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
  • 2012: 108,000 (248%)
  • 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
  • 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
  • 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
  • 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
  • 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
  • 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
  • 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)

In chart form, that looks like this:

Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.

Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.

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