In May, Truework – a San Francisco, Calif.-based income and employment verification startup – announced a $30 million Series B round led by Activant Capital.
A slew of other high-profile VCs and angel investors have put money in the company, including Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures and executives such as LinkedIn founder Jeff Weiner and Plaid co-founder William Hockey, among others.
This week, American Express Ventures has revealed that it has participated in an extension of that Series B round, the firm told FinLedger exclusively, ahead of a public announcement planned for later today. Amex Ventures declined to reveal the amount it has invested in Truework, which had previously raised about $45 million in total prior to this extension.
The how and why
I spoke with Truework CEO Ryan Sandler as well as Amex Ventures’ Managing Director Dana Eli-Lorch, about how the deal came about and why Amex invested in the company.
Amex Ventures’ self-described mission is to invest in startups that are developing technology and capabilities in the areas most relevant to American Express such as consumer commerce, B2B services and core capabilities, including risk management, cybersecurity and fraud detection, identity, AI & automation, servicing and customer experience.
Previously, Amex Ventures has backed a number of companies in the areas of identity, privacy and fraud prevention including Trulioo, BioCatch, Signifyd, EverC, and DataGrail, according to Eli-Lorch.
In general, she said, traditional income verification solutions are “manual, cumbersome and require a lot of resources.” As more activity and transactions are moving online, Amex sees growing demand for more efficient methods to verify consumer identities.
The startup “is an example of a company in the core capabilities space that we are focused on,” she wrote via email. “The traditional methods many organizations use to verify an individual’s employment information can be time-consuming and expensive. Truework offers a unique solution to these challenges by simplifying and automating the process under a sleek user interface, while giving greater control to individuals.”
Eli-Lorch told FinLedger the company stood out to Amex Ventures with its ability to serve small business employers and provide “greater coverage” for verifiers.
“The pandemic has spurred many organizations to search for more digital solutions to power their business,” she wrote. “Automated employment verification will become even more important as this trend continues – and while the economy rebuilds.”
Truework got to know the team at Amex Ventures this year and after closing its B round, decided there would “be strategic alignment” in working more closely together with Amex so “we decided to take this investment out of the primary round,” Sandler said.
In a recent interview, American Express’ global head of ventures Harshul Sanghi told FinLedger that the firm very often ends up developing commercial partnerships with its portfolio companies.
For its part, Truework sees the strategic advantage of having an investor in Amex Ventures. And while for now, the two entities are only announcing an investment, CEO and co-founder Sandler told Finledger that it’s possible they will partner beyond that down the line.
“We’re excited to be able to add value to each others’ platforms in whatever ways possible,” he added. “you can imagine Amex has the potential to do a lot of identity verification when a consumer applies for a credit card. We’re excited to help them verify information with a very consumer first and consent driven approach. In the future, we believe there’s a lot of potential for close partnership.”
Truework was founded with the mission of giving consumers greater control over their professional and personal data, according to Sandler. It’s built a network of tens of thousands of HR departments and lenders, which has led to “millions” of consumers being verified on its platform, he said.
“If a lender or bank chooses to use Truework to verify the income and employment of its applicants, a consumer can give consent within a digital app for Truework to retrieve data or might get a text to ask for their consent,” Sandler told FinLedger. “We then make sure they get approved as fast as possible while ensuring their consent and privacy.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tailwind for the company, which has seen “metrics across the board” increase by five times this year compared to the same time in 2019, according to Sandler. Truework has also increased its headcount to about 100, compared to 25 at this time last year.
“A lot of it is due to the digital transformation we’re seeing in light of COVID as more consumers use technology to apply for loans,” Sandler said. “Lenders, especially digital ones, have to keep up with the demand to verify things digitally, and that’s driven demand for our platform.”
Looking ahead, Truework is planning to expand into other verticals such as personal loans, credit cards and auto loans.
“Our goal is to expand the platform and make it accessible for any type of verifier for the consumer,” Sandler said.
Amex Ventures has been busy lately. Last month, FinLedger reported that the firm had also invested in 401(k) startup Guideline.
Meanwhile, the verification space is one that is increasingly attracting the interest of investors as of late. In October, we covered Argyle’s $20 million Series A round. The company, which is backed by Bain Capital Ventures, says it’s building a “gateway to access employment records.”
Sandler does not consider Argyle to be a competitor, though, saying: “Our primary competitors are…consumer reporting agencies.”