Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
The following is an interview we recently had with Vinny Lingham, CEO of Civic.
1. What’s the history of Civic?
VL: Identity theft is a huge problem in today’s world. With over 13.1 million US residents affected each year, it’s likely that either you or someone you know has had their personal information stolen and used against them in some way. It’s fascinating and unsettling to see how easy it is for hackers to steal your data, impersonate you and sell your personal information online. Once this happens, victims of ID theft and data breaches can leverage some form of ID theft protection service. However, any hackers wait between two and three years before they sell your information, so it’s difficult to remember and keep track of people trying to use your identity.
My cofounder Jonathan Smith and I wanted to find a way to solve this problem. The traditional methods are outdated and inadequate. Even if you did choose to pay the hundreds of dollars each year for ID protection services, you’re still not receiving the thing you need most – prevention. So Jonathan and I decided to create a company that provides the foundation for a new way of thinking about your identity: Civic. Our company values and protects the individuality everyone has been given, and we’re working hard to continue to create technologies that will better protect your identity, privacy and civil liberties. We envision a world where people use Civic to take control of their identity.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
Vinny Lingham, CEO
Vinny Lingham, who is also the star of Shark Tank in South Africa, is a well-recognized South African Internet entrepreneur who immigrated to California a decade ago and is currently the co-founder & CEO of Civic Technologies Inc, a startup company that is now leading the global digital identity revolution. Prior to Civic, he was the co-founder and CEO of Gyft a mobile gift card company founded in 2012 and backed by Google Ventures. Within 2 years, Gyft quickly becomes the leading player in the space and was acquired by global payments giant, First Data Corporation in 2014, for over $50m.
Jonathan Smith, CTO
Jonathan has more than 15 years of experience in banking and technology advisory.
After a successful career in some of the most complex and security-sensitive environments, Jonathan brings his talent for technology leadership, innovation, and delivery to the world of digital identity.
3. What problem does Civic solve?
VL: Civic’s mission is to provide everyone with a secure digital identity that can be used to interact with the world privately and securely, via the blockchain. Blockchain offers a compelling solution to the problem of combining accessibility with both privacy and security. Personal records and identity information can be held securely using end-to-end encryption, and yet openly authenticated, referenced and documented so that data can still be trusted and reliable. By using modern cryptographic techniques with blockchain technology and smart contracts, this solves the problem of dealing with highly sensitive or classified information in a way that still enforces all the privacy and confidentiality rights that consumers and regulators expect.
We want our consumers to be able to authorize the use of their identities in real time, and we’re developing an ecosystem designed to facilitate on-demand, secure and low-cost access to id verification services via the blockchain. This will mean that background and personal information verification checks will no longer need to be undertaken from the ground up. The Civic ecosystem will reduce the overall costs of identity verification services, remove inefficiencies, enhance security and privacy, improve user experience and disrupt the current identity verification industry.
Civic’s long-term vision extends well beyond digital IDs to perhaps the most impactful blockchain application yet: decentralized voting — a way to change the world by creating a better platform for democracy that ensures fair and secure digital voting systems. But in order for digital voting to become a reality, we must first be able to verify online identities.
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4. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
VL: In the face of massive data breaches and with identity theft cases reaching new heights every year, verifying and protecting your online identity is more important than ever before. With centralized servers failing to verify and protect digital identities, and the cost of ID protection services being far too costly for most to afford, the industry is in desperate need of a change.
Civic is disrupting the industry with an ecosystem that will improve efficiencies and significantly reduce costs. Organizations that have invested heavily in ID verification services will have the opportunity to monetize their processes both inside and outside their core business areas. The reduced costs combined with the ease of access to verifiable users will encourage businesses to improve their processes to further combat fraud. For end users, the long-term impact of this disruption will be greater privacy and control of their personal identities and sensitive data. And access to this data will be faster and more seamless than ever before.
5. What’s the future of your Blockchain?
Prediction #1: Greater regulation.
Prediction #2: A trend toward decentralized exchanges and smart contracts.
Prediction #3: Crypto will continue to become more mainstream.