Why Airtasker is adopting Australia Post’s ‘Digital iD’ technology: “You need to create trust between people rather than trying to control everything”


Airtasker co-founder and chief executive Tim Fung

Sydney-based startup Airtasker has signed on to use Australia Post’s ‘Digital iD’ technology as a way to securely verify users’ identities, as it continues its efforts to build trust and transparency within its platform.

Existing identity verification processes that involve scanning and signing multiple documents can be time consuming and inefficient, according to Airtasker co-founder and chief executive Tim Fung, and the startup is adopting the Australia Post platform in a bid to save its users time.

The Digital iD software allows users to verify their identity information once through traditional methods such as supplying a drivers license, and this verification is then checked against Australia Post databases, and can be subsequently used to prove identity checks online and in-person through the Digital iD app.

Airtasker, which raised $22 million in Series B funding in mid-2016, will start using the service late next week, and Fung says the platform will use the verification method to add a verified identity ‘badge’ to user profiles, which it hopes will strengthen trust in its service.

The startup will join financial services provider CUA, foreign exchange company Travelex, and the Queensland Police Service in adopting the identity platform, according to Australia Post.

How Airtasker maintains trust

Fung says maintaining trust between users is crucial for an on-demand service such as Airtasker.

“ID verification is a really important part of [building trust], and Australia Post is top of chain when it comes to a brand people can trust to independently verify identity,” Fung tells StartupSmart.

“We [Airtasker] think that it’s really important to create transparency and trust in the marketplace between job posters and users.” 

For startups that are trying to scale their product, Fung stresses the importance of cultivating trust between users, but says it’s a relationship that is best left up to the user to facilitate, rather than the company.

“If you want to be able to scale a marketplace and have people working together in a big scale way, you need to create trust between people rather than trying to control everything,” Fung advises.

“When you look at agency-type models doing on-demand [services], they’re trying to say ‘leave the trust piece up to us and we will verify them [the users] for you’.” 

Fung believes such top-down models are “not the right approach to a marketplace”, instead explaining that Airtasker wants to allow it’s users to “have a proactive buy-in” in their transactions, rather than saying “leave it to us”.

Fung also advises startups offering on-demand services against making objective value judgments on what makes a good user or worker.

“We believe you should be able to create transparency over [what kind of worker] someone is — what is a great worker to one person may not be a great worker to another person.”

“One thing that we don’t do is that Airtasker doesn’t make judgments on who is the best person for your job.”

Instead of constantly monitoring the performance of workers, Fung suggests “the way you [startups] create a trust network should be flexible” and built on absolute transparency between those seeking services, and those offering them.

“The number one thing for us is creating transparency of information,” Fung says. 

Read more: Airtasker enters “world-first” agreement with Unions NSW on pay rates and work conditions

A “powerful way to decrease friction”

Fung says Australia Post’s Digital iD software will now allow Airtasker to offer this “transparency of information” it’s users, without the tedium of scanning documents and signing forms.

He describes the new technology as a “powerful way to decrease friction” and a simple way to streamline identification processes. 

“Even compared to what some of the big names in Silicon Valley are doing — what Australia Post is doing is really cutting edge,” Fung says.

While Airtasker is initially planning to use the verification software to confirm users’ identities through ‘badges’ which can be seen next to a user’s profile, those will be “the first of many [badges] that will be rolling out in the future”, according to Fung.

“If you have a university degree you can get a badge for that, if you have a working with children check you can get a badge for that,” he explains. 

“ID verification is the first of these badges that will serve as an indication of trust in the marketplace,” Fung says, explaining that by “offering a range of badges we [Airtasker] are creating an environment of trust that is able to scale across a range of different verticals”. 

Meanwhile, Airtasker is also working on a “range of different features” to improve communication and develop greater transparency and trust between its users.

“We just rolled out version 2.0 of our commenting system; by doing that we’ve seen massive increases in how much easier it is to communicate between users,” Fung says, explaining that communication is also key in driving trust-based relationships between users.

“People actually talk more, the completion rate goes up, and cancellation rates go down [because] people can communicate without resorting to cancellation,” he says.

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