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Entrepreneurs’ Forum 2018

05/10/2018

The technology that underpins Blockchain has the potential to revolutionise the way we share and process information. Where previously large institutions controlled the flow and change of data, now it is the data users themselves that hold the key. Once the technology matures, entrepreneurs will find fewer barriers to making their vision a reality. The global economy will benefit as a result.

Steve Pomfret is CEO and founder of Cygnetise, a company that helps organisations to reduce the burden of managing authorised signatory lists. He and Adi Ben-Ari, CEO and founder of Applied Blockchain, the company that built the software, were guest speakers at the Kleinwort Hambros Entrepreneurs’ Forum, 2018. We caught up with them at the event.

Who are your clients and what do you do for them?

SP: Every organisation has to manage a list of approved personnel who can sign off on certain things to grant authorisation. Most of our clients are in financial services and financial institutions, funds services, hedge funds etc, but they could literally be any organisation.

Up until now, the process has been very manual – paper based. Because of that, every time there was a change in the list it needed to be repapered, refiled and then resent to all parties. We digitise the whole process which makes it much easier.

What are the challenges for entrepreneurs finding financing?

SP: Ironically, we found financing quite easy. Maybe we had an interesting product, maybe it was easier because everyone is interested in talking about Blockchain. Blockchain is something exciting and we are actually making it happen, so evidencing that through the funding process made it relatively easy.

AB-A: Ours was a different journey. We started off actually building solutions for clients so we didn’t have any initial funding. Our growth was funded purely by revenue. They were scary times. We did that for two years.

One of our biggest clients at the time was Shell. They decided to invest and that triggered our seed investment round. They ran a competition globally with a number of Blockchain firms. We won, and the prize was selection for a large project as well as investment.

Is Blockchain a financial services tool?

AB-A: My background is in software development, specialising in integration – how parties work to connect their business together.

When this technology came out I think I was one of the first people to look at it not as a finance tool but as a pure way to integrate businesses around data more securely and efficiently. It can be used for anything where you need to prove something is yours or you need to transfer something of value to somebody else in a secure environment.

We work with the aviation industry building products for their supply chain and also with the energy, commodities and transport industries among others. They all have different assets which need to be registered somewhere. If they are registered in this trusted decentralised way, the record of ownership is much harder to compromise.

What was your mission at the outset?

SP: To create an application built on Blockchain that was easy to adopt. We are aiming to get more companies onto our private blockchain than any other provider.  Once we have built confidence and reputation from our existing customers, we can then start adding more functionality and providing more products. Rather like Facebook.

What will Blockchain look like in the future?

AB-A: Blockchain will bring more efficiency to business. With it you can reach reliable agreement more quickly with counterparts and that means more efficiency.

There is also a certain degree of governance that comes with the technology but there are commercial and political forces at play, so it is still early days for seeing exactly how this will pan out. We are in new territory. Will there be lots of small disparate networks? Will there be one network to rule them all? We don’t really know. We don’t really know where this is all going.