The world is becoming more connected. With recent advancements in blockchain and other distributed technologies, we can see that the next logical step after the connection is the decentralization of services, data, and entities responsible for fueling this digitalised world. One of the "technologies of tomorrow" is Web 3.0, the next generation of the Internet, where distributed (blockchain-based) services will be accessible from a web browser.
To make this Web 3.0 vision fully feasible, with support of frictionless payments, copyrights management, tokenized securities, and other cutting edge technologies, the industry require the support of next-level compliance tools. The starting point for the creation of these compliance tools is a know-your-customer (KYC) solution - a method for blockchain service vendors to confirm the identity of their customers. This setup will streamline the accessing of blockchain services for users and drive down compliance costs for blockchain merchants, who are facing ever-increasing regulatory demands.
KYC can serve as a much-needed bridge between centralised and decentralised worlds, and the competition among companies in this promising field is ever-increasing, according to Hans Lombardo, CMO of Blockpass. Hans is a successful entrepreneur and an enthusiastic proponent of disruptive technologies. He is the founder of Asia Tech Media, a business consulting, investment relations advisory, and dispute resolution service for tech startups. Hans is a co-founder of Blockpass, a self-sovereign identity system, and a KYC-as-a-service provider. He is also a co-founder of Chain of Things, a Hong Kong-based venture studio lab for innovative tech startups.
BitCourier sat down with Mr. Lombardo to discuss the KYC provider industry and Blockpass recent achievements.
BitCourier: What prompted the creation of the Blockpass?
Since early 2016, Chain of Things (CoT) had been engaged in research on using blockchain as a digital identity layer. By partnering with IBL, CoT saw an opportunity to get beyond the proof of concept stage to productization. We also could see a compliance wave coming to impact the crypto and blockchain industry, and that a KYC/AML service platform was the right pathway to commercialize an identity layer.
BitCourier: What target user did you have in mind? Did you focus on enterprises or individuals at first?
Hans Lombardo: We seek to bring the blockchain and crypto industry into compliance so that it can truly go mainstream. The initial step would be attracting enterprises to use Blockpass to onboard users. By doing that, we can build a verified network, called PASS Club, that requires all members to be verified via checks of Face Match, AML, PEP, Sanctioned countries, and real-time AML monitoring and hence drive more partnership. The idea is to eliminate trollers, scammers, and fraudsters, and create an e-commerce environment that is safe for both users and merchants.
BitCourier: How was the initial response when you launched? Blockpass global launch event was held in London, right?
Hans Lombardo: People were excited about the self-sovereign identity idea which provides privacy and ownership to people’s data. The launch event in London was successful with the first launch of the product. It attracted partners from the crypto industry including exchanges, wallets, and fundraising projects, etc. to integrate with our service.
It’s an ongoing mission to educate the mainstream industry about the self-sovereign identity idea and how it can be applied to different industries and its benefits.
BitCourier: What has interest/momentum been like recently? Have you partnered with DeFi projects?
Hans Lombardo: With the rise of DeFi projects, we have seen a larger appetite for a compliant, easy, seamless KYC system to onboard their users/ investors.
Recently, we have partnered with Unilend, a permission-less decentralized protocol that combines spot trading services and money markets with lending and borrowing services through smart contracts. It has driven a great number of user registrations. It was a precious partnership and proved how Blockpass can partner with DeFi projects. We are working on some more partnerships that cannot be disclosed at the moment.
Our team has published an interview with Adam, the CEO of Blockpass talking about the rise of DeFi projects.
BitCourier: What are the biggest challenges facing the identity verification industry right now? Can blockchain solve any of these issues?
Hans Lombardo: The biggest challenge probably is competition. There are a lot of similar products launched in the industry, however, merchants and users may not understand the difference among them. In addition, different merchants may have a very distinct need for verification, it is difficult to fulfill all their demands, and our mission is to standardize the most common compliance and verification needs.
Blockchain-based identity verification and management is changing and growing. In the coming years, the already sought-after capability of identity verification and management tools that are being provided by Blockpass and others will become vital, and will increasingly become the norm.
If done properly, the identity would put the original crypto-enthusiasts’ privacy at its heart (thereby satisfying their wish for confidentiality) whilst also allowing businesses to place restrictions on those able to access their platforms, ensure their financing was from legitimate sources, provide relevant services, or otherwise comply with regulations. Whilst some would still be disappointed that the original anarchic blockchain ideal would be altered, in order to reach the general public and prevent illicit activity, being able to prove identity is necessary. A blockchain-compatible identity solution would also remove a large part of the argument for private blockchains, as access to platforms or services could be restricted, so public blockchains could once more be the focus for development and improvement.
It is imperative that we continue our focus on ease-of-use and provide a positive user experience whilst maintaining the highest security standards possible. As global businesses and digital economies grow, it seems likely that digital (and blockchain-based) identity verification and management will become an integral part of our lives.
BitCourier: I'm sure our readers are familiar with the KYC policy and what it means. What about KYO and KYD verification that your website mentions? Can you explain them in simple words? Are they popular among your customers?
Hans Lombardo: We have not developed products in these areas. We are still focused on KYC and KYB - know your business.
BitCourier: What kind of partnerships are you looking for (integrations, solutions, etc.)? Do you have any specific plans for the UK market?
Hans Lombardo: We are partnering with crypto platforms - exchanges, custody providers, e-lenders, DeFi ramps - mostly who realize that they need to address compliance issues in an increasingly more regulated industry in their particular countries. We are working on providing on-chain KYC verification for our customers as well. We have an office in the UK and a digital identity research lab at Edinburgh Napier University. Our identity verification service - KYC Connect - is operated out of the UK to ensure data protection and security.
BitCourier: Where can UK-based users purchase PASS tokens today?