INTERVIEW: Caryn Seidman Becker, Co-Founder and CEO, CLEAR

The biometric border control market has been growing for nearly 20 years, with recent innovations in strong authentication technologies spurring impressive growth rates, and and CLEAR is at the forefront of the industry.

INTERVIEW: Caryn Seidman Becker, Co-Founder and CEO, CLEAR

FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Caryn Seidman Becker, Co-Founder and CEO of CLEAR. The following interview begins on the topic of CLEAR’s recent successful expansion into sport stadium security and how biometrics are going to change the entertainment experience in the next five to ten years. Turning to the topic of airport deployments, Caryn Seidman Becker speaks to how CLEAR’s border control technology can be applied to enhance the full passenger experience. The conversation shifts to CLEAR’s exceedingly convenient enrollment process and what the company looks for in an ideal partner. Finally, the discussion concludes with talk of other markets CLEAR is eyeing to transform with its biometric technology, and how limitless the possibilities for biometrics seem when you acknowledge identity as the core of customer transactions.

Read our full interview with Caryn Seidman Becker, Co-Founder and CEO, CLEAR:


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: We have been reporting on CLEAR for many years, since back when the company was focused primarily in the airport passenger screening market. Now your company is dominating the sport stadium space with deployments in soccer and baseball stadiums across the United States. How did CLEAR get started in this particular area of the biometrics market, and what is driving your success?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: We acquired CLEAR in 2010  with the desire to leverage biometrics to drive both security and the customer experience. Since 9/11, those two things have largely been in opposition; that which has improved security has challenged the customer experience and that which has given greater frictionless customer experiences has challenged security. By knowing definitively that you are you, and knowing the required information about you, whether it be your age, your credit card number, or so many other attributes that are necessary for different use cases, we have the ability to transform the way people live, work and travel.

Outside of the United States, biometrics are mainstream for many different use cases. The fact that the U.S. got on board later is what drew us to CLEAR.  We built it first as a platform in airports where security is paramount. We knew that once we could prove the benefit of CLEAR, it had the potential to serve many stakeholders – from customers to security stakeholders – in and  across many different verticals where the same challenges exist. Sports stadiums are a great example, where you see about 48,000 people attend a baseball game  and 50 percent of them arriving within 30 minutes of game time. You want to have that frictionless, secure gate-to-seat experience that improves security and enhances the fan experience.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: You recently entered a partnership with Major League Baseball and Tickets.com, expanding CLEAR deployments to include ticketing and concession purchases. There is a lot of interest in the biometric ticketing area, can we expect to see more activity from CLEAR in this space? How do you expect to see biometrics changing the live entertainment experience over the next few years?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: We believe that over the next five to ten years all live events will look a lot more like airports. Creating known fans through biometrics will enhance security and the customer experience by making it frictionless.

Ticketing really started in aviation for CLEAR about four years ago. We did a pilot with Alaska Airlines where we built an API into their reservation system, so you became your boarding pass. We were also awarded the patent on the biometric ticketing and biometric boarding pass technology that we created.

With a ticket, whether mobile or paper, you need to remember to bring it, you’re transporting it, you’re stopping, you’re showing the ticket to someone, it’s being scanned, then you have fake tickets to deal with. It’s a multi-step, time-consuming, friction-full experience.

At the end of the day, a ticket, whether it be mobile or a piece of paper, is a physical manifestation of a digital record. You buy a ticket and there is a digital record of it. By purchasing a ticket, you have access to that airline or stadium or Broadway show, and with CLEAR, you are your ticket.

We believe that creating known fans through biometrics will not only drive the customer experience but will also drive safety in all venues. Experiences in the stadium, concessions and retail can be a frictionless and more secure experience by eliminating the need to take out your credit card or drivers license. We absolutely do see that the live event stadium business, from universities to professional sports, to theatres will be transformed through biometrics.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: Congratulations on your move to that area. We know that CLEAR is very active in the airport passenger screening space, with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport just recently deploying CLEAR gates. With biometrics becoming an increasingly regular part of the airport experience, how do you see that market changing and do you expect opportunities to expand the scope of applications in airports the same way they have done in sports stadiums?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: Absolutely. It started at the checkpoint, which is the middle layer that separates one side of the airport from the other. We see biometrics transforming the experience on either side of that middle layer, from the time you enter.

Imagine if we knew that Peter is in the airport, which could activate a variety of services, including retail discounts and experiences, because Peter has opted in to certain preferences like Jamba Juice or Starbucks that are on the way to his gate.

At bag drop, you’re waiting in line to drop your bags and because the system can tell that you are you, you print out your own bag tag, you send your bag down the conveyor belt and it gets screened. Biometric bag drop eliminates that long line and allows for better use of that airport real estate.

We launched biometric lounge access in all Delta Sky Lounges ubiquitously, enabling access with fingerprints and ultimately using face. This also enables a friendlier customer experience because the Delta lounge employee can interact with travelers, welcoming them in, instead of staying behind a desk to check people in. Travelers are loving it. Times when flights are delayed or cancelled offer other opportunities to deploy biometrics with robotics to re-book customers or provide flight information.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: We talk a lot about convenience and security and how hard it is to blend and your solution really does that and it is needed!

In our conversations with other companies that deal with massive user bases in high throughput deployments we are learning that having an intuitive enrollment process is key to the successful implementation of biometric technology. What is the enrollment process like for CLEAR?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: Being customer-centered has been the core for us since we started. Biometrics has been big in the government space for a very long time, but bringing it to the consumer space required a different mindset. Enrollment takes less than five minutes and then you can begin using CLEAR immediately. When we first started, enrollment took as many as three trips to the airport. You needed two forms of ID, and then we had to mail a smart card to you that you needed every time you came through the Lane. Since then, we’ve dropped from two IDs to one and gone cardless which has been transformational for customers. And we’re focused on continuously optimizing that experience, from the user interface, to the hardware, to the training of our ambassadors who help guide customers through the process.

In the world of perpetual optimization, we survey our customers, we take their feedback and we continue to improve. It’s a really exciting flywheel of improvement and user experience. We’re also rolling out a mobile enrollment flow that will only further scale as we take CLEAR beyond the security checkpoint.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: I think that offering your end-user customers the opportunity to use many different types of biometrics depending on what they like, is critical. We see this a lot in the financial payment space as well. What types of companies are you most interested in partnering with CLEAR?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: As we’ve continued to grow and innovate, we’ve had so many interesting partner conversations. We look at things from a total addressable market perspective, meaning that we want to impact the lives of tens of millions and even hundreds of millions of members, domestically and internationally, so partners who have that kind of breadth and reach are really interesting to us. Think of very large financial institutions that are not only looking for share of wallet but are looking for share of life to help their customers. Global hotel companies that are really part of the travel ribbon are interesting. Large corporations where biometrics and data analytics are valuable from building access, HR and online utilization perspectives. Biometric technology uses can extend to smart cities, transportation companies and ecosystems within. Longer term, when you look at the shared vehicle and autonomous vehicle market globally, identity will be really important there, too. When you are you, you are your credit card from a payment perspective, you could be you from an insurance perspective. I’m not sure if a driver’s license will matter at that point, but my guess is you will need some knowledge, right? You are you from your license perspective. I think that market presents a big opportunity.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: The possibilities appear limitless. Are health care and retail areas that you have looked at?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: Yes. Health care and retail are also areas that we are interested inn. The macro point I would like to make is that identity is the core of so many industries. When you think about that limitless statement, it’s not because one is unfocused, it’s because identity is the core. In health care, your insurance information – that’s you. Identity is the core, and biometrics are the best form of identity.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: What’s your vision for the future of the company, especially in the biometrics space?

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: Our vision for the future is that we have tens and hundreds of millions of members domestically and internationally and that we are embedded in the customer journey.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: Congratulations on your success. I look forward to having the opportunity to see you and talk more about your solutions at Money 20/20 in Las Vegas in October.

Caryn Seidman Becker, Chairman and CEO, CLEAR: Thank you Peter. See you in Vegas.