Kansas City biometrics startup wins Luis Villalobos award for innovation

By: Sarah Dickey, ACA Membership Director

Look for EyeVerify to turn heads and open eyes in the future as more companies and consumers use its eye-recognition software to unlock their tech devices.

This Kansas City, Kan., company is the winner of ACA's 2014 Luis Villalobos award, recognized as the most ingenious and innovative idea recently financed by angel groups that are ACA members. The award is named in memory of Mr. Villalobos, the founder of Tech Coast Angels, and a true “leading light” in the angel field. The award was presented to EyeVerify by Dave Berkus, a member of Tech Coast Angels and Tim Ryan of ACA partner OTC Markets.

EyeVerify is the exclusive provider of Eyeprint Verification, a highly accurate biometric for mobile devices. It allows users to forgo passwords by using existing cameras on smart devices to image and pattern-match the blood vessels in the whites of the eye.

EyeVerify has raised $3.8 million since January 2012, with angel funding mainly from Mid America Angels, Nebraska Angels, Think Big Ventures, and other investors. In addition to the funding, Mid America Angels has helped connect EyeVerify and its CEO Toby Rush to prospective clients and partners. "They have knowledge, they're board observers and help participate on the board," Rush said.

EyeVerify recently signed a deal with Airwatch, which provides security platforms to 10,000 enterprise customers with high security needs, and is in talks with four other enterprise security providers, Rush said, adding that EyeVerify is close to securing another round of funding with strategic partners.

With security being more important and even harder to protect, EyeVerify offers the next-generation technology to protect data and identifying information. "Passwords as a primary authentication mechanism have reached the breaking point. The world is demanding a more security and more convenient way to authenticate," EyeVerify says. "The many sensors and computing power of our devices have ushered in a new era of capability."

"As the world moves more digital we have to have a way to provide confidence that the people we interact with are who they say they are," said Rush. "If we don't have that trust, the digital world itself is limited. I could give you my password right now and you could log in, but you're not me. Biometrics are the only thing that guarantee you are me."

Rush and EyeVerify have won several high profile awards recently, including one at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and the international “Get in the Ring” pitch contest in November, 2013. In the case of “Get in the Ring,” EyeVerify won over more than 1,000 companies from all parts of the globe.

In his nomination of EyeVerify for the Luis Villalobos Award, Rick Vaughn of Mid-America Angels wrote, “The EyeVerify biometric cannot be duplicated nor is it affected by health variables. Unlike traditional biometric security devices, EyeVerify’s application has the ability to work with the cameras and software in existing mobile devices without the addition of new hardware. EyeVerify’s technology drastically increases consumers’ identity protection without disrupting their current behaviors. This ingenious method of creating a technology that can be easily implemented by both companies and consumers has gained attention and acceptance from a global perspective.”

EyeVerify from won among three finalists. Other Luis Villalobos finalists include 7AC Technologies of Beverly, Ma., and Localytics of Boston

The Luis Villalobos Award Committee chooses award winners based on the following criteria:
1. Level of innovation, creativity, and ingenuity of the company’s product, service or solution.
2. Ability to clearly communicate the problem the innovative idea addresses.

Luis Villalobos founded the Tech Coast Angels, one of the largest and most respected angel organizations in the world, in 1997. Companies funded by Tech Coast Angels have raised more than $1 billion to date. He made 57 personal investments, educating numerous angels, and particularly in educating and mentoring entrepreneurs before he passed away in late 2009. He was a sought-after expert and speaker about sophisticated angel investment. Luis appreciated ingenuity and entrepreneurial thinking in every aspect of life, and always looked to invest in and mentor the most innovative companies.


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