The Future Is Now: Ricardo Amper of Incode On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Oct 29, 2021 · 10 min read

The biggest risk that we face is misunderstanding the power technology has. We tend to think that humans can do most tasks better, and that is simply not true. Most people don’t understand that bias — conscious and unconscious — is greater in human beings. The biggest challenge we see is that in order for humans to believe in technology, it has to be 10 times better than what exists prior to using technology.

Ricardo Amper is Founder and CEO of Incode, a digital identity company that builds secure, top-rated solutions to help businesses address all their identity needs. Entrepreneur, tech lover, programmer, and big data developer, Ricardo is a three-time serial entrepreneur with two exits amounting to $200MM. With 20+ years of experience founding and leading companies, Ricardo has proven to be a strong, visionary leader with extensive, results-driven experience. At age 19, before Facebook existed, he founded La Burbuja Networks, a social network platform. Three years later, he co-founded Amco Foods, a functional beverage startup which, as CEO, he grew to become acquired by Bimbo Group, a $12B company. Ricardo then served as the CEO & CTO of Amco Group, a chemical distribution enterprise. He repositioned the business, developing proprietary big data and machine learning systems as a competitive advantage, and ultimately sold it to Brenntag, a $15B Group.

At Incode, Ricardo realized a need for a solution that could integrate all identities into one — managed under a single secure platform. The company builds world-class identity products, using its technology to verify people’s identities and create trust between enterprises and their customers, enabling omni-channel experiences for frictionless banking, fintech, crypto, retail, healthcare, among others.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

One of the things I strongly believe in is privacy and people being able to share their most precious moments, such as photographs, with their loved ones in a fast and secure way. We created an app that automatically shares and sends photos taken by friends and family to a person’s cell phone, using facial recognition technology. We did not have room for error because this would have meant sending photos to the wrong people. This prompted Incode to develop a very accurate biometric facial recognition engine that soon became one of the best, U.S.-government ranked, biometric engines in the world.

We were able to solve a great technological problem in an extraordinarily complex business where it was very difficult to gain a competitive advantage. We succeeded, thanks to an extremely talented group of people. We firmly believed — and still believe — that we could achieve anything as a team. And we did. We developed the killer idea of democratizing access to services through a simple, secure and fast digital identity platform.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are two interesting things to note. First, how a group of Mexicans, Americans, Serbians, and Russians working in completely different geographic locations, without having met before, were able to create spectacular technology in a startup that, in the not-too-distant future, will surely become a unicorn.

Second, we inevitably ran into a lot of problems while developing the initial technology to share photos automatically. Product development was very difficult. We could not allow a photograph to be sent to the wrong person, so we needed absolute accuracy. To achieve this, we tested our technology on low-end phones, in terrible lighting conditions. We were repeatedly told that we were crazy, that the business would not prosper, and that we would go bankrupt. Which is why our efforts in artificial intelligence, computer vision and mobile application development were Herculean. This whole experience allowed us to master what seemed almost impossible and thus create the best identity platform in the world.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We’re working on a tech stack that allows someone to open up a bank account, or check into a hotel or a hospital, in 30 seconds. We are engineering a whole set of features that include world-class facial recognition technology; the ability to recognize whether someone is sending a fake photo, video or a mask or the image is a real human being; and the ability to clean up a really blurry ID document so we can actually read it. We are creating multiple components on a platform that over time will allow us to accomplish our vision of “one identity everywhere.”

How do you think this might change the world?

Our technology is highly impactful. It democratizes access to services. As geographic, location and human bias boundaries blur, everyone will have equal opportunity to access the same type of services. We have a direct impact on financial inclusion.

Helping to reduce crime is another area where our technology will have an impact. The success of a society is based on the amount of trust that exists between people, companies and institutions. Without trust, interest rates are set higher, processes are more complicated, and business becomes difficult. At Incode, we create trust by eliminating a lot of the barriers and reducing a lot of the costs so that transactions happen easily and in a more affordable way. By establishing trust, we’re actually making the process a lot more human.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The biggest risk that we face is misunderstanding the power technology has. We tend to think that humans can do most tasks better, and that is simply not true. Most people don’t understand that bias — conscious and unconscious — is greater in human beings. The biggest challenge we see is that in order for humans to believe in technology, it has to be 10 times better than what exists prior to using technology.

We understand there are privacy concerns. At Incode, we are big believers in privacy. We embrace privacy. Anything that has to do with facial recognition surveillance is not privacy centric. We want everybody to have transparency regarding what we do with their data, to have access to their data, have the ability to delete it, and to give consent regarding how it is used.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Not too long after Incode officially released its consumer photo sharing product, I began meeting with major banks, financial organizations and governments. I realized that when it came to identity verification, most companies were substituting human beings at a physical branch with off-shore call centers in places like Asia. These employees at the call centers were verifying identities using a low-tech solution, delivering a low-tech user experience, and generating high fraud rates. Organizations were looking for a solution that unified all identities into one, single secure platform. That’s when I realized we were onto something big. Not only did we have LiveBeam, the industry’s fastest and most secure passive liveness technology, but we also possessed the background in consumer technology to build a seamless and convenient experience into the product.

Our clients guided us. For example, when we first went to see Citibank, they couldn’t find a single provider to solve a certain problem they were encountering. We managed to resolve it in two weeks. We ended up working with 17 companies, and receiving the largest Latin American contract awarded that year by the bank.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Our vision is: “one identity everywhere.” Today, most processes like opening a bank account, getting approved for a loan, or checking into a hospital are extremely complicated, have a high risk of fraud and can take anywhere from 50 minutes to several hours — even sometimes days. Our vision is to turn this into something that you can do in half a minute. In order to do that, we need the biggest companies in the world to keep embracing our technology so that we are able to scale and solidify our vision.

We were a bootstrapped business for five years. We accomplished a lot with very little, and what excites us about the future is to think about what we can achieve with more resources as we partner with some of the best venture capital funds in the world.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have grown phenomenally without any real marketing or advertising, but instead through organic attraction and word-of-mouth.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father introduced me to the business world right out of elementary school at age 13. I sat in on every meeting and listened. I learned a lot. During high school, I worked for my father’s business. He was my mentor until the day he died. One of his greatest lessons was pushing me to trust myself more and to dare to dream big.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Essentially, I invested all I had made before Incode into the company. The impact that we are starting to have on the world was precisely because I used that capital that I had earned to undertake a really improbable and incredibly risky business. I had 127 meetings with investment companies for Series A funding and up until 1998, all I heard was “no.”

Today, Incode is a little closer to fulfilling its vision of having an identity that can be reused across multiple channels and across all companies; a way to make users’ lives incredibly simpler when onboarding or opening a bank account; and keeping fraud at bay.

How come it is such a pleasurable experience when you subscribe to The New York Times, accomplished simply with one click, but opening a bank account is an experience that is overflowing with inefficiencies?

The main problem is that the relationship between companies and customers is filled with resistance and fraud. Customer onboarding processes are slow, difficult and obscure. Companies suffer from high customer frustration, lost revenue and high fraud rates. It is not user friendly, and it is very costly for the companies.

Also, there is no attestation; no reusability of identity. Customers need to re-register repeatedly with information they have given countless times. Additionally, once customers have signed up for a service, they end up in a world full of multifactor authentication, text messages, pins, and passwords that make their experience complicated and disassociated from their real-life identity.

What are your “2 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

The first thing I would have loved to have been told is that in the United States, where I founded Incode (San Francisco), it is apparently frowned upon to use one’s own money to fund a company. In Latin America, on the other hand, it is a sign of confidence in yourself, the business and the team.

The second thing is that I had thought that investors would initially appreciate that we had created a technology in a region with significantly lower-end phones, no bandwidth, high levels of fraud, and low-quality cameras. We believed that if our technology could work within these complex contexts, it would be obvious that we would do even better in the developed world. But one thing had nothing to do with the other.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

We Latin Americans have a problem that we inherited from the conquest. We think that we can grow to other countries while staying within the same region, and not venture outside. Therefore, I would be inclined to inspire people to think big, to not limit their dreams, to always strive for more.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The limit is a decision.” It means two things. First, you decide where your limit is in terms of where you want to go. Second, you decide where your limit is in terms of things you are or aren’t willing to do.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Imagine opening a bank account or checking into a hotel or hospital as fast as unlocking your phone…

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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