Expert interviews

Expert interviews

Blockchain entrepreneur says the tech can support democracy

by Blocks99

3 months ago

Serial blockchain entrepreneur Daniel Gasteiger shares insights into blockchain tech in e-government and e-voting. He also says the tech can help fight fake news and support transparent information.

Daniel Gasteiger is a blockchain entrepreneur with over 20 years of practical managing director-level banking experience at Credit Suisse and UBS covering various disciplines in investment banking and at the Chairman’s office.

In 2015, he co-founded Nexussquared, Switzerland’s first dedicated blockchain business and startup platform. Following that, he incorporated Procivis AG in 2016, with the purpose of developing a digital identity and e-government product leveraging Smartphone and blockchain technology.

In March 2018, Danny co-founded Trust Square AG, Switzerland’s pre-eminent blockchain technology startup and research hub in the heart of Zurich’s financial center. The latest venture he helped create is Verum Capital AG, a blockchain advisory boutique in Zurich. The blockchain entrepreneur shared his thoughts with Blocks99 at the Singularity Exponential Finance Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, in November 2019.

Blocks99

You co-founded Nexussquared, Switzerland’s first dedicated blockchain business and startup platform. What was your main motivation? And what milestones have you reached so far in that space?

Danny

Nexussquared was my first venture, which I’ve now turned into Trust Square. At the time when I left banking, after 20 years, blockchain was not the topic. Beyond what has happened in Zug at the time and Crypto Valley, I was trying to build the business up in the financial center, Zurich. And so I was looking at the topic and how it will change banking and the whole landscape around it.

So this was the starting point. We did an accelerator program, the first one in Europe – if not in the world – when it comes to blockchain-dedicated startups. And that then moved into this vision of a blockchain hub here in Zurich, which now is Trust Square. It hosts more than 40 companies, startups, but also some more progressed companies like Modum. In 2019, we had our first anniversary. And now we are moving on to the next chapter.  

Blocks99

So you’re still deeply involved there?

Danny

Not deeply. I’m deeply involved in my other company procedures. But I recently stepped down as chairman and I will become the chairman of the newly established advisory board. I wanted to move on myself into a less involved role, because I’m pretty focused now with my main business activities, and I have another company as well. So I needed to focus a little bit.

Blocks99

Speaking of activities, the Procivis Website says you’re focused on e-government as a service. And of course we’ve just heard your talk. I wonder if you could just sum it up – the venture and what it aims to achieve.

Danny

Ultimately, the goal is to help governments digitalize their services to the citizens – e-government is kind of a buzzword for saying, “OK, governments can actually digitalize their services.”

We built a platform called eID+, a white label platform. It’s not a hosted service, but rather a government-run service. But it’s basically something that provides access to government portals and dedicated services. It can be anything that you would eventually do with the interaction between the citizen and the government. The ultimate goal is to provide e-government and e-voting as a service. So voting online can really become a reality in a practical way.

Blocks99

Now I’m going to play the devil’s advocate for a moment. You touched on the role of e-voting and e-government and regaining more credibility and faith in democracy, and combating these populist tendencies, more faith in voting and getting people out to vote, getting people to believe more strongly in democracy. Now, if you have the populist muckrakers spewing fake news, how is this possibly going to help?

Danny

Well, ultimately, we see e-voting as the end game. But it’s the whole process. So we are talking about democracy rather than e-voting only. And the complexity of the problem is something you can address, having a digital identity that is government-trusted, having platforms where you exchange information that is trustworthy because you know where the sources are coming from. And if people comment on things or try to manipulate opinions, then at least you have a way for the government or the whole system to take note. In the end, it’s this trusted system that allows these things to happen and goes away from this anonymous way of influencing on platforms that we all know steer more towards control. Eventually it’s about voting, of course, that’s the end goal.

Blocks99

Staying on the topic of e-voting, in an article you published about a year ago, you called for a public digital infrastructure to support Switzerland’s democracy. And you also cite blockchain and open source technology as key components. Would you care to elaborate on that?

Danny

Ultimately, what is needed is a trusted infrastructure. I talked about blockchain in that context, from the government side. The cantons, or the states, in Switzerland will have 26 nodes – because we have 26 states – and they will run this protocol among themselves as the foundational layer for the blockchain and then build services on top of that.  

Blocks99

You were recently part of a delegation to the conference, Zurich Meets Seoul. Zurich and Seoul Blockchain. Would you like to share the most important and exciting takeaways?

Danny 

Yeah, I was in Seoul quite a few times in the last 12 months and I believe Seoul will be an ideal partner to Zurich, or say, Switzerland as a whole, when it comes to development of blockchain technology, because they’re very much advanced. And people don’t see that, necessarily, because there’s a language barrier. And Korean startups typically have only Korean Websites.

We have been talking and we also received the mayor of Seoul last year, in Trust Square, for instance. And so there seems to be a natural link. And we had a nice, long discussion. We had a presentation at the incubator in Seoul on Monday and then on Tuesday, we spent a day at the University of Seoul, sharing ideas, sharing presentations and so it seems to be a natural fit.

Blocks99  

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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