NEA on why they invested in Beyond Identity

Video

NEA Partners, Greg Papadopoulos and Forest Baskett, on why Beyond Identity's Passwordless Identity Management will radically change how the world uses technology for the better.

Greg Papadopoulos 

Well, passwords suck for a bunch of reasons. 

Forest Baskett

One of our founders said when he started NEA, we finance change. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

I really enjoy deep tech, part tech, work. I think maybe it’s what people think about as classic venture capital. “Go work on really hard problems." 

Forest Baskett

Well, first of all you have to decide what change is, that's the tricky part. When you see something that you think  might change the world, that's when you want to invest. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

Well, passwords suck for a bunch of reasons, and you know the one that seems most apparent to people is, well humans aren't very creative, and even though you think you thought of a unique password somebody else thought of it before and so it's easy to remember all of those. And of course you really should have a different one for every site and good luck with that. 

Forest Baskett

You know I've known Jim for a long time. We worked together at Stanford and he came to me quite a few months ago with his new idea, which is how can we deal with passwords and deal with all the problems that they create. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

They're supposed to be a secret that's something that I know and yet all the systems around passwords have me telling someone what my password is. How is it that I have a secret and I keep sharing it? 

Forest Baskett

It was a problem and Jim had a very innovative solution. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

When I first saw Beyond Identity it was like, "Yes at last!" I think for having having seen sort of the promise of really using public key infrastructure and ideas, it felt like we are going to move to a world where each person is going to have a private key and you'll have a public key and we'll both authenticate ourselves as well as secure communications through those sign-in things. 

And that hasn't happened for a lot of reasons, and in seeing Beyond Identity come in and do this exceptionally clever, simple thing it was, "At last!" 

Forest Baskett

The solutions that are out there are really about just managing the various identities that people and objects and systems have. Protecting the identity is a harder problem. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

The thing that's changed now is I have these devices, I carry around these smartphones. At last we have a way of me storing my private key with something that I keep with me all the time. 

Forest Baskett

So Jim came up with the idea of using that hardware to eliminate passwords and using the mechanisms that he had developed earlier as part of Netscape to pile on top of biometrics and together come up with a scheme that meant that you didn't need a password. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

When you look at taking on essentially a multi-billion dollar market like identity management with a new idea, it really better be good and it has to be disruptive so it really has to be easy. 

Forest Baskett

The breakthrough was figuring out that you could couple those two things together. That you could have the kind of public key, private key cryptography, together with biometrics, together with the hardware mechanisms on smartphones and all three of those things together suddenly you don't need passwords, but you had full biometric security. It's really novel and immediately obviously very powerful. 

Greg Papadopoulos 

This is the team that you really want working on this problem because it's the intersection of really smart people, who actually many of them in the formation of the network protocols, things like TLS, have built upon the public key systems, but also people who know what it means to make something that people really will use and interact with. 

In addition to being really clever and I'm going to be my own certificate authority, I can do that and the consumer doesn't have to know how to spell CA. We're going to have to describe to our grandkids what a password is.