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Janer Gorohhov of Veriff: “The key to success is to earn people’s trust”

The key to success is to earn people’s trust. But to earn trust, you need to be honest, truthful and transparent. As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janer Gorohhov, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer. Janer is in charge of Veriff’s product and innovation to […]

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The key to success is to earn people’s trust. But to earn trust, you need to be honest, truthful and transparent.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janer Gorohhov, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer.

Janer is in charge of Veriff’s product and innovation to make sure that our verification engine is a trend-setter and outperforms every other solution on the market. He is a tech-savvy innovation enthusiast who started his career as a full-stack developer. Before joining Veriff, he gained experience in project management, and worked with fundraising and finance. He holds a degree in computer and information science from the University of Tartu.


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

I’ve always been interested in learning what is beyond the horizon to better understand how things come together. It started when I found my first job writing software as an engineer at university. The next stage in developing my career was becoming a project manager to understand customer value and learning more about the business. Every step that led to starting Veriff in 2016 was driven by a constant need to develop myself, until I found out that building a startup allowed me to always learn on-the-go.

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

Sure, I think the most interesting story is that I almost did not join Veriff. In 2016 when I was graduating from University of Tartu (the oldest University in Estonia, founded in 1632), I was planning to move back to Tallinn and transition to a different company. I signed a contract with another Estonian startup and gave two months notice to my previous company to give me enough time to do a proper handover to the person taking over that role. However, during the two months I met Kaarel, the founder and CEO of Veriff. After Kaarel told me about the vision for Veriff, I knew that I had made the wrong decision to join the other startup. I even made a SWOT analysis, and the only thing that held me back from joining Veriff was that I had given my word (with a digital signature) to the other company, something I do not take lightly. Luckily, after having explained the situation to the startup they understood my decision. Fast forward to today, one of the founders of that company also decided to join Veriff. Now I know that joining Veriff was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

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

More and more businesses are moving online, especially now as a result of the pandemic. This means that more and more people use services online — from voting, opening a bank account or buying goods — to save them time and money. In the center of it all lies proven identity. I would call giving people an online identity a pretty big technological breakthrough as it opens up a world where people can control their data. This month, we announced an improved Self Serve platform that expands access to our identity verification platform for small- and medium-sized businesses, a critical tool for these organizations to stay competitive and compliant in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.

How do you think this might change the world?

Our mission is to create a single global identity for everyone on Earth so people will have equal access to services. We are working towards becoming a home for people’s identity online. By 2025, we hope that beyond governments, Veriff will be issuing Veriff IDs or “passports,” which will allow consumers to have full control over where and why their data is being used.

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

The decisions relatively young companies make can have a lasting impact. One of our values at Veriff is that we are a force for good, which plays an integral role in keeping us on the right track. Especially looking at Black Mirror’s episode about social scoring, and having an example of a country who has implemented this already, we see the potential for negative impacts. That is why it’s important to have a “people-first” mindset — giving everyone a possibility to opt-out and be transparent about the use of data.

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

I think the turning point for me and Veriff was joining Y Combinator accelerator in San Francisco in 2018. Kaarel Kotkas and I, two young ambitious guys from Estonia, were working side by side with other YC companies from over the world in the Bay Area. This experience showed us that no matter where you come from, whether it be Harvard or Tartu University, you can build products and services that can improve lives.

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

The key to success is to earn people’s trust. But to earn trust, you need to be honest, truthful and transparent.

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

First, we need to prove to our clients that our trust is bulletproof, every day and always. You can lose trust with one wrong decision but building up global trust takes years. It’s staying true to your values and standing by your promises and words.

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?

One person that I definitely look up to is my mother. She raised me alone while being relatively young. I was never spoiled but if I wanted something I needed to work towards it. For example, when I was 10 years old and I had my summer holiday, I earned my weekly allowance by working from 9–5 ordering paper invoices numerically, one by one. This taught me that no matter the task in your hand, persistence and grit gets you through life.

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

Early on in the pandemic, we pledged to support nonprofits and foundations by donating one million free identity verification. Although face-to-face interactions were limited, confirming identities was crucial. Beneficiaries could use the free verification in a variety of ways, from universities needing to verify students taking exams online or marketplaces to sign up and register volunteers.

Additionally, I make an effort to visit local schools to share my background and story to encourage students to follow their entrepreneurial instincts and show that there is no need to be afraid of failure.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

First off, the people you are working with are the key. Luckily we got it right with Kaarel from the very beginning of Veriff. The most important thing as a founder is to attract people who are smarter than you to join the team. That’s something we have been keeping in mind when building Veriff and recruiting new team members. Secondly, the world is imperfect — especially when you are growing as fast Veriff is today. The constant need for perfection causes stress and doesn’t make a strong end result. Finally, it’s important to remember that the only thing limiting you is yourself and your imagination. I realized this working side-by-side with other startups at Y Combinator.

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. 🙂

I believe that having a great education is the foundation of a person’s future success. I don’t necessarily mean a university degree, but the benefits start early at the elementary school level. Therefore, I would encourage education leaders and the education system to make learning robotics and programming mandatory the same way we require math and reading. It’s something I always say when I go to schools to talk to kids about the start of my career as an entrepreneur.

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

“All startup advice is only useful in context, and I am a firm believer that the only good generic startup advice is that there is no good generic startup advice,” by Elad Gil in “High Growth Handbook.”

There are times when you should not be reinventing the wheel and asking for advice, but then there are times when you are the first person solving the problem — it’s better to fail fast and concentrate on moving forward.

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 🙂

There’s no trust online, it’s hard to tell who or what is real. Fake accounts, fake news, and fraud have created a glass ceiling that limits the full potential of the digital economy. The Internet that was considered anonymous before, but has made businesses to bear losses totaling 200B dollars each year due to identity theft. Today, this money comes from charging honest people more, to cover up the cost of the fraud. The core of online trust lies in proven identity. Veriff is building infrastructure for trust online. We allow any website and mobile application to match the person with their government-issued ID, and can verify more than 9,000 IDs across 190 countries. It’s clear that businesses need to verify their users to comply with regulations and to build up trust. Veriff enables online businesses to meet the increasing demand for regulatory requirements and build trusting relationships with their clients.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Absolutely. I am most active in LinkedIn, please follow me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/janergorohhov/

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

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