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Founder in Five: Q&A with Yoti CEO Robin Tombs

Yoti founder Robin Tombs

Robin Tombs is the CEO and co-founder of Yoti, a digital verification software company.

Founded in 2014, Yoti provides tools that businesses can integrate into their website, app or platform to verify the identity of users. This can be used for processes such as online age checks and its technology is used by the likes of the Co-Op, the Post Office and the NHS.

Earlier this year, Yoti looked to raise outside funding for the first time having previously bootstrapped and drawn upon more than £110m provided by its founders and employees.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Tombs explains the perils of raising too much external funding early, reveals why he’s excited about AI in the medical industry and shares his views on outspoken founders on social media.

1. Which company’s growth story are you most impressed with?  

Robin Tombs: Amazon. It might feel like an obvious one, but it’s such an incredible story of exponential growth and diversification. Amazon grew from selling books online to creating a marketplace, to developing Amazon web services and then almost closed the circle with the creation of physical stores.

2. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?

RT: Your equity is incredibly valuable. Think very carefully before parting with some or much of it and who has the right qualities as team members, advisors or investors to own shares in your business. Taking external investment can help drive success, but investors expect both strong execution and very often an exit strategy.

Too much external investment too early can over dilute your stake and lead to a loss of motivation and control over things that were important to you at the outset or are still important to you and your team now. Your team won’t get the financial reward you wanted them to get and some of the core vision you had for the business might start to erode.

3. Should founders be outspoken on social media?

RT: I think founders should be visible on social media. It’s good for partners, investors, consumers and staff to see what they have to say about a range of pertinent topics. Many founders can be a little wary of saying the ‘wrong thing’ and so avoid all public comms, which I think is a shame as they have a lot to offer and share.

Transparency builds trust but think before you publish and be careful about posting in the heat of the moment or when emotions are running high.

4. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

RT: When I was 18 I went to South America for six months with a couple of mates. We didn’t speak a word of Spanish and rarely had enough money for our beds for the night. We had a lot of fun, learnt a lot and put many magic memories in the life locker.

5. Which nascent technology holds the most promise?

RT: AI in the medical field. There is so much going on in this space that could really revolutionise the way we treat and prevent serious illness.

It’s also an area that needs to be treated with great responsibility and I hope that our regulators are able to find the right balance between allowing scientists to break new ground, iterate fast and taking due care and attention.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative startups, scaleups, unicorns and public tech companies – is published every Friday.