ID.me, a digital authentication company that secures personal log-in information for services ranging from ecommerce to unemployment, is opening a Tampa office and planning to hire 500 local workers this year.
The company has already started posting tech support, human resources and other administrative job openings in Tampa. The company did not disclose the office’s location due to potential security concerns.
While ID.me will remain headquartered in McLean, Va., a statement announcing the move referred to Tampa as the company’s “second home.”
“We looked at other cities like Jacksonville, Provo, Greensboro, N.C. and a few others, and Tampa just rose to the top as a really good fit,” said founder and CEO Blake Hall. “A lot of tech talent is going into Florida in general right now. Miami is becoming a secondary hub for tech talent, maybe what Austin was six or seven years ago. It’s a good fit for culture, for the labor pool, it’s a very business-friendly state, and then seeing where tech trends were headed, it felt like the right fit for us.”
Founded in 2010, the company’s mission, its website states, is to “make sure you’re you — and not someone pretending to be you.”
During the pandemic, the sudden digital expansion of personal services like video chatting and virtual health care led ID.me to more than double its user base from 20 million to 41 million. The company has worked with more than 20 states to verify the identities of millions of people making unemployment claims.
Last summer, the state of Florida began using ID.me to verify the identities of claimants who’d been locked out of their accounts. Earlier this year, the state expanded that partnership to include verification for all new applications. Users must submit selfies and photos of identification, as well as other personal information, in order to be verified.
ID.me says its technology has blocked nearly 1.6 million fraudulent unemployment claims worth an estimated $32 billion during the pandemic. But the company’s multi-step authentication process has frustrated many claimants in Florida, who have taken to social media to vent their frustration over being locked out of the state’s unemployment system, CONNECT.
After getting locked out of CONNECT in March, Steve Farnsworth of Lecanto said he struggled for two weeks to get back in via ID.me. He estimated he spent more than 40 hours on hold with the company as he tried to figure out what he was doing wrong, submitting various forms of identification and arranging a Zoom call with an employee who could verify him.
“It was harder to get through ID.me than it was to get a driver’s license or register to vote,” said Farnsworth, 64. “They don’t seem like they’re bad people, but it’s very clear that they’re overwhelmed. They simply don’t have enough people to handle whatever they’ve been assigned to do.”
Hall said that whatever challenges CONNECT users have had with ID.me thus far, it’ll pay off in the long run, as the company expands to other government services, such as health care.
“Whatever initial frustration they might have felt, give us a year or two as we fix and streamline their lives,” he said. “By making the data flow with the user, and only having to verify them once, you basically fix the identity layer of the internet. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
In the private sector, the company’s roster of more than 400 retail partners includes companies such as Under Armour, Lenovo, Rosetta Stone and Leesa mattresses — as well as the Tampa Bay Rays, who have used ID.me to verify military discounts for veterans.
“Tampa Bay continues to attract fast-growing cybersecurity companies due to our collaborative business climate and supportive technology ecosystem,” Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, said in a statement. “Cybersecurity is one of our strategic growth areas and we’re excited ID.me has chosen Tampa for their new office.”
Hall said ID.me, which analysts have valued at $1.5 billion, could have gone public this year if company leaders had wanted to, based on the growing demand for online identity protection. But for the time being, his focus is on managing the company’s growth in the past year, including its move into Florida.
“Right now, there’s so much more value to be created just by helping people prove who they are to get them access to things they need,” he said.