Whilst at The London Blockchain Conference a couple of weeks ago, I got chatting to a guy during the lunch break. After hastily searching for a presentation on his laptop – he was due to speak at the event later that afternoon – he began to briefly tell me about his company, before bumping into someone from his startup bootcamp and the conversation changing course. Intrigued by what I had seen in the presentataion and the little I had learnt at lunch, I was eager to find out more and caught up with him after the event. The guy in question is Gene Vayngrib, the company is Tradle and this is his story…
What is your background and how did you first become involved in the blockchain space?
GV: I am a software engineer and software executive, with products deployed at most Fortune 500 companies, and have founded several startups in the past. Our team started working with the blockchain in early 2014 when we realized that it brings a tectonic change to the Internet and to the way we run our society.
I’ve heard you say recently that you’re ‘marrying the beauty and the beast’ – can you explain that quote and let us know what is at the heart of Tradle’s offering?
GV: Blockchain is the sexiest technology on Earth and compliance is the hairiest prince of financial services. Tradle is building compliance on blockchain, thus marrying the beauty and the beast.
What are the benefits of using the blockchain to simplify the KYC process, for both businesses and consumers?
GV: The blockchain allows you to create immutable records, which simplifies audit. Customers regain control of their data by acquiring an ability to audit how their service providers record and maintain their data. Same capabilities can be offered to regulators, via a real-time electronic supervision of KYC record collection. This makes audit software driven, rather than auditor driven, reducing costs and uncertainties. The latter is most important, as the uncertainty of their level of compliance gives company’s risk officers shivers.
You’re using the Bitcoin blockchain – what are the benefits of this over a private blockchain?
GV: Bitcoin blockchain and its security model has been well tested in production. So we are starting with it. But at the same time we are in the R&D with private blockchains. What is important to realize is that it is not all that black and white. Public blockchains can be used in a very private way, which is what we do at Tradle, and the private blockchain can have a public facing interface. In reality we will see a combination of blockchains working together.
And how are you overcoming some of the limitations, such as scalability?
GV: Firstly, KYC is not a hugely demanding application. Secondly, we created an off-chain protocol that is very fast and we use the blockchain in a very conservative way, as a batch system that allows participants to ensure they can’t cheat each other over time (with 1 hour delay).
I believe you’ve recently got some banks on board – are you able to say anything more about that at this time?
GV: We have contracts with the top UK bank and one of the 3 biggest banks in Netherlands, Rabobank Group. We are working with other banks and insurance companies, and will share more details soon.
Are financial institutions your main target, or can you see Tradle having a broader appeal? if so, what sectors could it also be useful for?
GV: At Tradle we are building a digital infrastructure for a digital society. Expect more announcements later this year.
Tradle was part of Startupbootcamp in London – how did you find the experience?
GV: Startupbootcamp is what put us on the map. This program was crucial for us as a mini-MBA course and essential to gain customer traction.
What are your hopes for Tradle over the next 12 – 18 months?
We are all in the learning process. The notion that the blockchain will change the very core of our commerce and governance is becoming widespread, but how exactly this will happen is what we are designing right now. We aim to create a more diverse commercial environment where a million smaller companies can do what Alibaba for example does today. And in the next 12-18 months we will be gradually deploying solutions that are leading to making this ideal a reality.
This means a lot of new partnerships, fast product evolution and customers exploring new use cases with us. This last part, the co-creative process with our customers is what I enjoy the most in this journey. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for giving us the opportunity to work with their innovation teams and their business lines to transform financial services to a more agile, fair and transparent environment, which end customers can enjoy and trust.
Icons: Princess by Daniel Hammer and Bigfoot by Mat Rutherford – both from the Noun Project