Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., acquired EyeVerify Inc., to expand services using the US startup’s authentication technology for securing consumers’ online data and transactions, reports Deal Street Asia.
Ant is paying approximately $70 million for the Kansas City, Missouri-based company.
EyeVerify, which uses pictures of the human eyeball to unlock mobile services, will become a wholly-owned unit of Ant Financial, according to a statement from the company.
This is Ant Financial’s first investment into the US. The company plans to use the technology to upgrade its own security systems and could eventually apply it to a future US-targeted product. With 450 million customers and services spanning online payments platform Alipay, peer-to-peer lending and wealth management funds, Ant plans to integrate EyeVerify’s technology into more of its products.
“Full integration will allow us to move faster and agile in a way that we can apply the technology in China and globalization strategy in India, and places where Alipay will expand into the next few years,” says Jason Lu, vice president of fraud risk management at Ant Financial.
How does EyeVerify work?
EyeVerify checks identities through eye-vein patterns and creates a digital key equal to a 50-character complex password. Users hold their smartphone about 12 inches from their face so a picture can be taken, opening up apps or websites on their device. Passwords can become a thing of the past.
Ant Financial’s deal comes as Alibaba increases its profile in Silicon Valley with investments including Snapchat Inc., mobile search provider Quixey Inc., and ride-hailing service Lyft.
Lu says that eventually, Ant Financial wants to reach up to 2 billion customers around the world. For now, Ant Financial is taking a very slow and deliberate approach to the US market.
A version of this appeared in Deal Street Asia on September 13. Read the full version here.