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Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Naftali Harris, co-founder and CEO of SentiLink, an identity verification platform that has raised $85 million in funding. Join us as we delve into Naftali’s journey from the early days at Affirm to co-founding SentiLink, aiming to tackle one of the financial industry’s most pervasive challenges: accurately verifying identities to combat fraud.

  • Early Inspiration and the Path to SentiLink: Naftali’s career took a significant turn during his time at Affirm, where he built risk systems and encountered sophisticated fraud schemes, sparking the idea for SentiLink.
  • The Eureka Moment: Discovering a set of credit applications that shared the same name and date of birth but had different SSNs, all with good credit scores, highlighted the massive gap in existing identity verification systems — leading to the inception of SentiLink.
  • Support from Affirm’s CEO: The support and encouragement from Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm, were pivotal as Naftali and his co-founder decided to leave and start SentiLink, showcasing the importance of mentorship and support in the startup ecosystem.
  • Building Trust with Financial Institutions: SentiLink’s journey to gain trust from banks and financial institutions emphasizes long-term thinking, quality of service, and the core value of following through on commitments.
  • The Vision for Identity Verification: Naftali envisions SentiLink becoming the go-to solution for identity verification, simplifying a complex problem into a straightforward answer for financial institutions worldwide.
  • The Challenge of Continuous Evolution in Fraud: The ever-changing nature of fraud presents both a challenge and an opportunity for SentiLink, driving innovation and adaptation in their product development.

Actionable
Takeaways

Identify Opportunities in Complex Problems:

Naftali's journey underscores the importance of looking for startup ideas in complex problems that are overlooked by existing solutions. For B2B tech founders, this means diving deep into industry-specific challenges and identifying gaps where technology can bring significant improvements. Look for anomalies within your field that signal deeper issues, much like the discovery of multiple credit applications under one name but with different SSNs led to SentiLink's inception.

Build on Authentic Experiences:

The founding story of SentiLink highlights the value of authentic experiences leading to meaningful innovation. Founders should leverage their unique insights and professional challenges as springboards for creating solutions that address real-world problems, especially those you've encountered firsthand in your industry.

Secure Early Support from Industry Insiders:

Gaining early support and investment from industry insiders can be crucial. Naftali's approach of sharing the vision with Affirm's CEO, who then supported SentiLink, emphasizes the power of leveraging existing networks and relationships to secure foundational support for your startup. This can also serve as a validation of your idea within the industry.

Focus on Building Trust through Consistency and Quality:

Establishing trust with your target market, especially in conservative industries like banking and finance, is critical. SentiLink's commitment to follow through on promises and deliver high-quality, reliable solutions showcases the importance of consistency and quality in building long-term partnerships. Embed these values in your company culture and operational practices.

Adapt and Evolve with the Market:

The dynamic nature of fraud and identity verification challenges that SentiLink faces illustrates the need for startups to remain adaptable and ready to evolve. Founders should stay informed about the latest trends and challenges in their industry, ready to pivot or adapt their solutions as the market landscape changes. This proactive approach to innovation will keep your startup relevant and competitive.

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