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Mike Cook

Founded in 2014, IDENTOS is a Canadian-born company now operating globally across Germany, the USA, and Canada.

IDENTOS helps governments and enterprises to advance their digital service delivery capabilities with a focus on identity and access. We offer solutions and services that are designed to help clients accelerate from their current delivery to a maturing state of enterprise access with omnichannel access, user verification, single sign-on, and consent. Our Customer Solutions Team brings over 20 years of experience in digital identity and access implementations, while our core products have been implemented in some of the most demanding sectors, such as healthcare, to lift the burden of managing an identity service and a secure user experience.

Tell us about yourself?

Firstly, I’m a husband and a proud father of two amazing kids (aged six and nine years old)! My past 12 years in entrepreneurship across several startup ventures have been, and continue to be a rich and challenging experience.

Going back to the beginning of my career, I’d always been drawn to more technical roles, but over the course of my career, I have shifted toward more people/leadership roles. Today, I bring these together to nurture the scaling of a team of great people and leaders, solving difficult problems in a pretty technical space.

Curiosity has always driven me. I have an insatiable desire to understand how technology works and what makes people tick. I love digging into which approach will get the best results for customers, employees, and the company.

After completing my Engineering degree, I found myself stepping into a leadership role at a young age. At Bell, I worked my way up from a helpdesk technician to one of the youngest leaders in my field. By 24, I was managing a 300-plus person team responsible for the operations of Enterprise Broadband Telecommunication networks across the country. Bell provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to learn and grow – from my six-plus years managing networks and honing leadership skills to operating project management teams at Telecom scale as well as customer operations and support with thousands of team members and partners delivering service from four different continents.

During this time, I also pursued an MBA before venturing into leadership roles for several successful tech companies.

As the COO at Spoke Technologies, I led the project delivery and launch of a photo-printing app called Impressed App on both the App Store and the Google Play Store. As a professional leaving one of the biggest companies in Canada to join the smallest company, other accomplishments I’m proud of are the experience we gained developing mobile platforms and the great team we formed – many of whom now work together at IDENTOS.

Today, my focus is on IDENTOS, where I serve as the founder and CEO. From the inception of IDENTOS with just five employees, I’ve been at the helm, guiding it from startup to scale-up with 60 employees (and counting!), three office moves, and bringing our vision to life with the development of trustworthy data economies with innovative and dynamic access control software that’s being used domestically and referenced globally today.

I’m so proud of the team we’ve built and the work we’ve done so far!

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

If I were reflecting on the past year or two from the perspective of the CEO of a tech company, I would advise myself to keep prioritizing flexibility and adaptability in our strategies. The tech industry evolves rapidly, and being able to pivot quickly in response to changing market dynamics and emerging trends is crucial.

A continued emphasis on fostering a culture of innovation and learning within the company, paired with a human-centred approach, would also be key. Additionally, I’d remind myself to keep a close eye on customer feedback and market signals, ensuring that our products and services align closely with evolving customer needs.

Striking a balance between ambitious long-term goals and the agility to adjust our course based on real-time feedback is vital. It’s a dynamic landscape, and the ability to embrace change strategically is my guiding principle.

What problem does your business solve?

IDENTOS designs and develops digital identity and access technology solutions to meet modern demands of user-centricity, respect for privacy, and distributed system interoperability.

IDENTOS enables sectors such as healthcare, finance, and government to quickly connect consumers, partners, and data silos together safely for seamless digital experiences, platform enablement, API integrations, and more.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

It really boils down to a pretty pragmatic decision process, actually. After our B2C venture, we gained a valuable team and experience that we wanted to leverage into our next project. For instance, our success in becoming a category leader in app stores and our proficiency in developing solutions on the most modern technology platforms, such as mobile and cloud, highlight the importance we place on user experience.

  •  My previous experience at Bell was rooted in B2B, where I was responsible for the implementation and 24/7 support of advanced network infrastructure for the government. There was a heavy focus on security, operations and meeting service levels.
  • My goal was to bring these two things together to help drive innovation in the government sectors, and healthcare seemed prime for transformation – not to mention it allowed us to create a strong, purpose-driven DNA where our efforts could be linked to driving value and benefits for citizens (ourselves, friends, and family).
  • After approximately eight months of research and analysis, we picked a lane and have been refining and pivoting ever since.

What inspired your business?

We want to help clients take leaps forward in digital service integration by helping to empower citizens to safely share their personal information with them and their trusted service partners.

What is your magic sauce?

Many don’t know the inner workings of our culture, arguably our best-kept secret (or magic sauce). We have such an amazing and dynamic team at IDENTOS, and we enjoy working together as much as sharing our personal stories and creating lasting connections.

Not everyone can say they spend their days (and sometimes nights) working with outstanding people, delivering bleeding-edge technology with a great sense of purpose. What’s not to love?

IDENTOS and the fantastic team members make it a personal mission to understand our customers, the conditions they operate in, and the headwinds they face as an industry. Back to that curiosity, it runs deep in our culture!

As a result, we almost never drop a product on someone’s ‘doorstep’. Our delivery revolves around providing a solution that stems from a thorough understanding of the needs. While we do include technical product specifications, we go beyond that to consider the broader aspects of interoperability, operations and the daily cyber resilience required to be successful. We’re there before, during, and after implementation—more than just a supplier, we’re a committed partner.

What is the plan for the next 5 years?

For our customers in the government sector, transitioning to digital is like embarking on a frontier akin to developing a national rail system or making sectoral investments to build an industry, much like what’s been done for oil and gas mining and other sectors.

It’s a complex journey, requiring significant capital that carries real risks and requires a blend of individual government execution and cross-government collaboration.

This is a necessarily hard problem and one we’ll be working on as a nation for years to come. We aim to be at the forefront of helping governments across the country in navigating this frontier – safely and efficiently – and playing our part in connecting citizens to government services.

From digital access to health services and municipal offerings, we aim to contribute to creating a more citizen-centric experience within a thriving digital economy.

Grow our Canadian presence through investment alongside our customers to help accelerate citizen digital access and adoption of digital government services. We envision a future where we can truly feel like one citizen in the eyes of our multiple government service providers by bolstering digital trust with strong credentials and consent across the collective government(s).

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Access to talent and building the team has been a significant challenge, which I believe has been common across the industry. As the company scaled from fewer than 15 people to 50 between 2017 and 2021, the macro conditions, such as increased investment volume and valuations, put pressure on talent acquisition and retention, creating a talent crunch for many companies, including IDENTOS.

As the pandemic evolved, this pressure was amplified significantly. It became more than just a challenge to attract talent to our great country; the Canadian tech pool was increasingly drawn to international (remote) work at an alarming scale. Simultaneously, with in-person activities no longer an option, the task of maintaining employee engagement (a crucial factor for retention and acquisition) was becoming more challenging and demanded fresh definitions and approaches. We’re likely still at the outset of this evolution – not the end.

As a young company, I suppose navigating course changes involves both micro and macro adjustments, often driven by the elusive notion of product-market fit. You learn so much in the early years that you’re essentially in a series of micro pivots, with the occasional macro insights that trigger more significant shifts, like dropping a product, re-segmenting, or redirecting focus toward a new problem.

We have experienced both the natural micro pivots and a few of the macro. We initially launched the company to develop encryption technology that would address security gaps keeping healthcare from moving to digital solutions for patients before a significant pivot to Identity and Access management in 2017. However natural the pivots are for an early stage company, it creates challenges requiring a lot of the leadership team’s attention.

How can people get involved?

Anyone interested in the work we are doing can find us on the following channels: