Husayn Kassai was born in Manchester in 1989, to Ahmad and Sandra Kassai. His family moved to Iran soon after, where Husayn grew up until the age of 10, when he returned to the UK with his mother and 4 siblings. He started an eBay business at 12, and at 16 worked as a teller at Marks and Spencer. He went on to study Economics and Management at Keble College, Oxford. At university, he was particularly active with the Persian Society, Oxford Development Abroad, and the Oxford Entrepreneurs Society. He founded a tech company called Onfido during this time, and following his graduation in 2012 and securing £12k in seed investment from the university, he moved to London to work on the company along with his 2 co-founders - Eamon Jubbawy and Ruhul Amin. Fast forward 7 years and the company has become one of the fastest growing in Europe, having secured over £60M from investors including Microsoft.
1 Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?
"The rainiest city in the UK - Manchester!
It’s where I had most of my schooling (10-18), my first 3 jobs, and crucially, where I first failed and then on a second attempt passed my driving test. Manchester is home. "
2 What are your proudest achievements?
Seeing Onfido grow across 7 offices globally, with such a dedicated team of 260 who work hard every day on the shared mission of fighting identity fraud and helping people across the world seamlessly gain access to digital services.
3 What inspires you?
Material and visible impact; sense of teamwork; and most of all, purpose. If an initiative that requires hard and persistent work lacks any of these 3, I tend to feel uninspired.
4 What has been biggest obstacle in your career?
Frustration. I get quite frustrated, quite quickly. It stops me being patient sometimes when that's exactly what’s needed. Especially in the early days, I regularly had to later apologise to team members if I came across as agitated when I was just keen to get things done.
5 Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
It’s probably tough for some parents to get the right balance between being supportive without being controlling, as most of my friends from the subcontinent know well! I’m lucky that my mother unconditionally supported my career choices, however unconventional they may have appeared, even if she still doesn’t know exactly what I do!
6 What is the best aspect about your current role?
People listen and sometimes show an interest in what I have to say. Growing up in a large family, the novelty still hasn't worn off.
7 And the worst?
Raising investment, given how time-consuming it can be. I would much rather focus on the company.
8 What are your long term goals?
Those who control the media (broadcast, publishing, social...) shape the narrative, and often weaken both democracy and what elected officials can achieve. I first want to use digital identity to level the playing field on the internet (to prevent us from being profiled and targeted), and later, be involved with any counter-movement, including alternative media.
9 If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
"Put all available resources towards developing effective messaging and delivery.
Even though the Left broadly seem to have the right policies, without effective messaging, it's pointless. It's like going on a hunger strike for a good cause and not telling anyone! "
10 If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why.
Bobby Kennedy. Firstly, because compared with other public figures, relatively little is known about him given his short tenure. Secondly, it would be fun to daydream with him on what an alternative world without Nixon could’ve been like.