Tysons Corner-based ID.me expands online identification network


Troop ID co-founders Blake Hall, left, and Matthew Thompson at their company’s offices in McLean in November. They have rebranded as ID.me in order to expand to other communities, such as students and first responders. (Jeffrey MacMillan/FOR WASHINGTON POST)

TroopSwap. Troop ID. ID.me.

The ever-changing name of the Tysons Corner company co-founded by Blake Hall and Matthew Thompson provides a visible reminder of how the start-up has evolved and expanded its focus since being formed more than three years ago.

The latest incarnation, called ID.me, launched last week. It provides an online network where people can upload credentials that identify them as members of particular groups, such as veterans, students or first responders.

Retailers then use those credentials to extend services and benefits, such as price discounts, to groups of people who qualify for them. Traditionally, such perks have required people to present identification in-store.

“If you were to open up your wallet, you’re going to have a driver’s license, military ID card, AAA membership,” Hall said. “It’s really important that it’s just like it is in the offline world.”

For example, Baltimore-based Under Armour uses ID.me credentials to provide veterans and first responders with the ability to receive discounts on online orders of its sports apparel that were previously only available through stores or call centers.

“We kind of enable brands to get back at the core purpose of the program,” Hall said.

The business is an extension of the firm’s Troop ID service, which provided online credentials exclusively for veterans and military personnel. A veteran of the Iraq war, Hall has made improving the lives of veterans a central mission of the business from day one.

But the early days of TroopSwap, as the company was first called, look very different from today’s ID.me. The company began as a purveyor of daily deals for the military community at a time when LivingSocial and Groupon were experiencing rapid growth.

But as that business model began to fall out of favor with consumers and investors alike, the company found its footing as Troop ID. It’s the kind of bobbing and weaving that keeps fledgling companies relevant and alive.

Hall said he envisions ID.me continuously adding new groups — think AAA members, AARP members, etc. — until the company touches a majority of online consumers.

Then, Hall said, ID.me would provide a secure and private place for people to store their identification information online and share it as they see fit.

“What we’re focused on over the next two months is validating a lot of the assumptions we have about expanding to new groups and new product lines,” Hall said.

“We looked around at the different solutions that were available on the market,” Hall said. “An individual, controlled [network] that enhances privacy could really be something that takes off.”

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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