Exclusive Q&A with TeleSign’s Jess Leroy
Mobile Industry Review recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jess Leroy, the SVP of Product Management at Mobile Identity company TeleSign, to talk about what’s going on at the company and in the developer space.
Hello Jess! Could you set the scene for us by giving us a quick overview of your previous career before TeleSign?
“Before TeleSign I was with a company called Riverbed. They were a networking company that optimised the way that applications and data centres were deployed and managed by making them more efficient over wide area networks. Before that I was in security, running product management divisions for Check Point and Zone Labs and had a few start-ups of my own in the cloud services space”.
What brought you to TeleSign?
“TeleSign has a remarkable opportunity to revolutionise the way that companies ensure their users are real, legitimate and trustworthy over the entire customer lifecycle. I was very interested in being a driving force in that journey”.
Take us through your initial strategy when you arrived at TeleSign?
“It was important for me to do a comprehensive market review, looking at all of our core strengths and how to protect and grow that business – as well any adjacent spaces that we could expand into. Blending that review with an understanding of the direction of the market, competitive landscape and technological innovations in our space was crucial as I began working with the team on a solid strategic direction that resonated with our customers”.
“There is a huge need for solutions that provide developers with security and fraud prevention mechanisms. We have focused on providing that protection with the least amount of friction possible; so that customers don’t need to decide between an optimal customer experience and protecting their user base. Our APIs and SDKs are simple for developers to use, effective against fraud. Moreover, our solutions require either no interaction with the user or use simple, accepted interaction points that don’t slow people down. On top of all this, we put a tremendous amount of value on interacting with the development community through numerous events, including hack-a-thons and coding meetups at our own offices and also industry events where we speak on developer panels”.
What do you feel are the biggest pressures on developers currently?
“The app marketplace is fiercely competitive now and there is huge pressure on developers to create and ship quality apps very quickly so they can grow their footprints. That’s already a challenging and complicated process. However, this is compounded even further by the fact that developers also have to maintain the highest levels of security while rapidly developing and shipping apps. They need to ensure that genuine users are verified and have the smoothest possible user experience, but also that fraudsters, fake accounts and spam are weeded out. It’s a tricky balancing act to achieve all this”.
How much of a problem is online and mobile security for developers now?
“It’s a huge concern for everyone now – consumers, developers and businesses across the board. Our most recent research has identified that a third (30%) of UK adults experienced an internet security breach in the past year alone. The average cost of the worst breaches at large UK organisations is between £1.4 million and £3.14 million, according to the government’s 2015 information security breaches survey. Cybercrime is becoming much more sophisticated and organized and online fraudsters are always seeking the next opportunity. They know that the mobile space is fertile ground for crime given that the security implementation hasn’t kept up with the astronomical growth in the space. Because of this, we think it’s incredibly important that developers take a security-first approach to the production of their apps”.
What is TeleSign doing to help ease these pressures on developers?
“The solutions we deliver at TeleSign are designed to provide developers with easy access to the full spectrum of account security, registration, access, usage and recovery services – in order to help them prevent fraud and reduce risk for their apps. These can be seamlessly integrated with their existing development processes to ensure security is considered at every step of the app development process.
We also seek to vastly streamline the user experience to enable developers to boost app adoption, trust and retention. This improved app adoption, trust and retention is key to ensuring that developers see solid growth in the marketplace”.
What have you and your team been up to lately?
“Well, we have been very busy producing and launching solutions to help developers stay secure, while still being able to ramp up their app shipping and extending their footprints. We’ve actually launched two new products recently – TeleSign Auto Verify and TeleSign Smart Verify”.
Can you tell me what these products do to help developers?
“Sure. TeleSign Auto Verify is a new lightweight SDK for developers that streamlines the account registration process while providing a more reliable and cost-effective user verification method than SMS-based verification alone. Auto Verify integrates with new, or existing mobile apps’ verification processes – by leveraging a proprietary network signaling method which ensures greater completion rates without the need for one-time passcodes (OTPs) to be sent to the consumer’s mobile phone and manually entered. That is the way verification is most commonly experienced today.It’s basically a frictionless user registration process for apps – as Auto Verify authenticates users behind the scenes with no passcodes required. This removes some big barriers to account verification – user friction and low conversion rates – because it’s a fully automated process which removes the need for any user interaction. Auto Verify also features a first of its kind subscription model; which only charges for completed transactions and can provide standardised global rates regardless of where the user being verified is located. Overall, Auto Verify lets developers quickly and easily implement a great customer experience while optimising the cost to the business and securing their user base.
TeleSign Smart Verify is a new unified API that brings to bear the full power of TeleSign’s product portfolio and simplifies user verification and two-factor authentication (2FA) for mobile app-based and online accounts. As well as helping to combat fraud and account compromise, Smart Verify features a proprietary “Smart Decision Engine” that provides a configurable workflow which enables developers to locate the best sequencing of verification and authentication methods – choosing between SMS, voice or push notifications. The end result is that our customers can verify end users and stop account compromise in real-time and in the most reliable, cost-effective manner available”. The reason Smart Verify is so enticing for developers is that it provides a single API for many of TeleSign’s services. The Developer can turn on or off various components of the product programmatically in a very simple way through the API, which means that it’s really easy to add new fraud prevention tools as your business progresses without any significant additional overhead”.
How have the launches gone for you?
“Very well and we’re all really pleased. We’ve had some really great feedback from our partners and from the developers who are leveraging Smart Verify and Auto Verify. We’re very happy with the progress so far”.
Which developers can use these solutions?
“TeleSign Smart Verify is available for both iOS and Android developers. TeleSign Auto Verify is available now for Android developers and can be easily embedded into new or existing web and mobile app-based platforms; while giving developers complete control over the branding and user experience. Plans are afoot to expand the offerings out to Apple developers – so watch this space”.
What’s next for TeleSign and you?
“We have a lot in the works at TeleSign. Between developing new products, expanding our carrier network, adding intelligence to existing products, and more, we are very excited about the remainder of 2015 and our roadmap for 2016. We also just opened our new HQ in Silicon Beach and have been expanding our team and operations. It is an exciting time at TeleSign and we can’t wait to share more news about exciting new developments in the coming months and years. As for me personally, I’ve only been at TeleSign for 7 months – but I already love it. I look forward to a long and productive career here, helping to continue to expand TeleSign’s product offerings”.
Great news! Who has been your inspiration in the mobile/developer space?
“Aside from the usual suspect like Google and Apple, we have a fondness for disrupters. That ranges from the likes of Uber, who refused to take no for an answer, to WhatsApp revamping the messaging space and all kinds of interesting small startups in between”.
What do you think have been your biggest achievements over the last few years?
“As a company, we’ve been adapting to the needs of our customers. We introduced our PhoneID products a few years ago now; allowing customers to do very quick back-end checks to ensure that users were risk free before allowing them to do important things like create accounts, reset passwords or complete high value transactions. We added Auto Verify to produce a seamless verification process for phone numbers without any user friction; and then released Smart Verify to allow customers to use all of these features together in a simple, integrated check. That’s from a product perspective; from a corporate perspective, I’d say the biggest achievement has been our success getting people to use our products. We now service 20 of the top 25 largest internet properties in the world, almost all of which were on boarded in the last few years”.
What achievements have been the most challenging?
“Providing international data support from carriers for many of our data products is a huge undertaking. Fortunately, it also creates a high barrier to entry for competitors – so we never shy away from great ideas just because they are hard to execute”.
Anything else that you would like to add?
“We’re a company focused on innovation in the mobile identity area, so watch this space for new and exciting products to safeguard people as they wander the web”.