James Varga is the Founder and CEO of miiCard (My Internet Identity), the first Identity Service that can accurately prove a user’s true identity purely online. As a veteran technology executive, James developed and patented miiCard’s Bring Your Own Identity platform in response to what he recognized as a fundamental lack of trust online. With miiCard, he has created a proven layer of trust and assurance in identity that will enable consumers, businesses and governments to interact and transact with complete confidence online.
Over his more than 20-year career in technology, James has held a number of senior level positions in marketing, technology and management roles. Most recently, he served as a co-founder and director of Money Dashboard, the UK’s leading personal finance management tool. He also created beblu, the first mini-component computer system designed for the living room; led a knowledge assessment service; a digital agency for websites and financial service applications named lightershade; and founded Squarepeg, an eBusiness consultancy specializing in CRM and sales management.
How did you get into the Tech industry?
I was born into the tech industry. Having started on a commodore VIC-20 then moving quickly on to the 300baud modem and buying my first 286XT (with turbo I might add) when I was 15, I have been involved ever since. This love of technology grew into the love of the internet and all the things connected to it…through a number of startups…being an Oracle DBA and developer…to where I am now. It's the best thing that ever happened and I feel very fortunate to have been part of an evolutionary step in our culture so fundamental to almost everything we do today.
Tell us about miiCard. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
I have worked at a number of companies in the technology and financial fields. Prior to miiCard I was working on a PFM that was essentially the Mint.com of the UK. During my time there, it became apparent that there is a fundamental disconnect between the 'physical you' and the 'virtual you.' This disconnect is very difficult to bridge and that's what creates so much doubt in our online interactions and transactions. I realized that our online selves would never reach their full potential until we could eliminate this doubt and replace it with trust by verifying the identity of the person on the other end of the browser or email. And that's exactly what miiCard does. We allow individuals and businesses to confirm an online identity to the same level as an offline photo ID check – and you never have to leave the online relationship or transaction to do it. The patented process is infinitely better than username and passwords or any other method of ID on the internet today, and it instantly enables an entire host of never before possible financial, healthcare, social media, online dating, and other service. It saves businesses and individuals time and money – and makes for a much better overall online experience.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to miiCard's success?
miiCard has engaged in a number of impact-ful partnerships and marketing strategies. We focus on establishing partnerships that are commercially driven. What I mean by this is that if there isn't a clear opportunity, synergy or direct benefit - then why do it? The ones with the greatest impact have been the ones that have helped in promoting our core value proposition. This includes Microsoft having developed our first Proof Of Concept and being hugely supportive, through to Yodlee with our exclusivity and close relationship.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
There are a few primary trends that we focus specifically on. The first is the ever-increasing need to create trust online. Whether you’re online dating, signing up to bank accounts, sending money or just applying for a job. As we do more and more online we need greater levels of trust than we can achieve today. This is especially the case as the value or risk of these interactions continues to increase.
We also focus on the trend of consumers owning and managing their personal data. The world of companies sharing and trading your personal data is quickly coming to an end.
Finally there is a financial services industry trend that is now being supported by regulatory changes that open up consumers’ access to and authentication with their online banks. I believe banks personally have a much broader and key role that they could play in online identity and trust.
I'm not sure I have a life motto specifically but I do have some core beliefs. Firstly, do what you love and love what you do - which is a bit corny but something that I firmly believe. Second, pursue this 'relentlessly' with the drive and determination to make it happen knowing that even if you fail, you fail quickly, pick up and try it again!
This is an easy one. We as a team talked for a long time about what it should be and then realised we already had one - 'One Step Ahead.' As a team this is all about doing the right things just before we need to do them…whether it is being one step ahead of the fraudsters, industry trends, customer requirements or expectations in delivering what we believe is a hugely exciting and fundamental service of trust online.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
It’s become a common piece of advice, but I think it still holds true – you must have passion for what you do. As entrepreneurship continues to develop into the mainstream there is a much better appreciation of what it takes to be successful. One of the biggest things I think that gets overlooked is that you have to sell - you have to validate what you’re doing commercially and if you aren't making money from it - think again about what you are doing and what problem you’re trying to solve. Be focused and don't give up.
Describe the ideal experience using miiCard.
Consider the need to obtain a personal loan…say you’re buying a new car…and you go to a site - login with your miiCard and in seconds you have a loan not only approved but specific to you. By allowing you to prove your income, financial status, information about you, etc. you get a lower rate than you would normally, on terms suitable to you, and with no paperwork, no delays and in a way where you can 5 minutes later walk into a dealership and buy that car you have wanted for so long. Regardless of what the use case is – it’s all about doing it faster, easier and better.
How do you motivate your employees?
Hire people that love what they do, then work and play hard. It’s all about this passion and fulfilling on this. For us, this includes beer o'clock on a Friday, regular socialising, fresh fruit, nice environment - it's whatever really…it's what we as a team want.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
If it was good food and drink then I would say sushi and beer…if it was truly great food and drink I would say Yakitori and Sochu. I absolutely love the full Yakitori bar experience of fresh grilled meat, sochu and some great chat.
What literature is on your bed stand?
I'm really boring when it comes to reading I'm afraid. I would like to highlight some author that everyone is fascinated with but when I do read - I tend to read non-fiction. Phycology, behavioural, universal sciences, etc - all of those things that bring us closer to understanding how we tick and what makes us human…and how we fit into the universe.
Role model - business and personal?
I'm hugely appreciative of anyone who has the passion and drive to follow their dreams. For me this tends to be many of the other startup founders that I know and have worked with. I don't think anyone ever really knows it all and we all have to help each other with what we know.
That's an easy one. I’ve always been into cooking and have become a hardcore foodie. In recent years my obsessions has been BBQ, and now it is charcuterie having recently taken a butchery course.
Favorite travel destination?
I'm not sure if there is a specific destination except to say 'nature.' Whether in the north of Canada, West Coast of Scotland or the mountains of Norway - give me a Hytta and I'll be a happy man.
What's next for miiCard?
We want to create a layer of trust in the Internet that doesn't yet exist. It was over 20 years ago now when the phrase of 'on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog' was first termed. This is now one of the biggest challenges we face today and one that I believe we have a unique opportunity to solve once and for all. Empowering consumers to prove they are who they say they are, control their data and have the confidence and security when online will allow us all to do more - faster, easier and safer.