FoolFarm: Creating startups through innovation
Andrea Cinelli is one of the emerging leaders in the global Artificial Intelligence (AI) market. He is a sought-after pioneer of change with a unique entrepreneurial vision and track record, visionary acumen, and social commitment needed to thrive in today’s marketplace. He has successfully led large organizations through their digital transformations by driving innovation, identifying top talents, bringing them together and fostering conditions or success to accelerate momentum in the delivery of a united vision. He is also a trusted guide and bold catalyst since the mid-80s and one of the European pioneers in the internet and digital world and in the mobile phone market.
He has been a successful digital entrepreneur, an executive manager @ top 500 companies, a venture investor, a keynote speaker and a book author and a recognized global expert in the Artificial Intelligence, Biometrics, Blockchain and Cybersecurity Markets with +7 patents.
Andrea vows to change lives and make the internet a safer place by pulverizing data through blockchain. Currently he is the CEO and Founder of Foolfarm, a Deep-Tech Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain & Cybersecurity Venture Builder. In an interview he speaks on an array of topics.
Excerpts from the interview:
Conception of FoolFarm
FoolFarm, founded in 2020 in Milan, Italy is one of the leading European Venture Studio in the AI, Blockchain and Cybersecurity sectors. The start-up drives the change from traditional venture capital scenarios to the new disruptive venture building innovative scenario in the Venture Capital field. Foolfarm has been touted as the ‘Startup factory’, fostering a platform for the birth, growth and development of startups, a factory located inside one of the oldest Italian industries of the post-industrial Milan environment. “We are a strategic, technological and financial platform of Venture Building designed to create multiple startups from scratch in parallel and based on a validated industrial process lasting 36 months and divided into 6 phases, specialized in AI, Blockchain and Cybersecurity.”
Adds Andrea that the company incubates and invest in deep-tech technology companies globally providing deep operational support to entrepreneurs and corporates to help them build market-leading companies leverage a 36mo venture builder proprietary process named BeFOOL to build market-leading companies from scratch.
The Venture Building Model
“We have chosen the Venture Building model because we believe it is actually the best investment model to create more solid and successful startups without wasting talent and at the same time to guarantee investors by offering solid selected investment opportunities only than traditional startup’s incubation and acceleration models, as confirmed by recent reports.”
Elaborates Andrea that over 90% of startups die, at least in Europe, in the first 5 years of life, due to lack of investments, but even more often due to a lack of, due to the inadequacy of the team or the CEO. “In a venture Builder like Foolfarm this does not happen, and we want to create solid startups, based on solid intellectual property (our motto is One Startup, One Patent), created with method and think well from the first moment with a solid and adequate management: or we close first. We aim for a success rate of> 70% in our practice. *Therefore, FoolFarm exists: to create solid startups as well solid investments for investors without wasting talent.”
FoolFarm – The Startup Factory
As a cross between an incubator, a venture capital and a software-house, FoolFarm acts as an incubator where startups undergo incubation right from the very beginning – from the birth of the concept. ‘Startup factory’, as Foolfarm is rightly called works on the lines of an industrial process, building several startups in parallel. “As a venture capital, we enhance our investments through the exits from our creatures that we aim to achieve in a maximum of 36 months; as a software-house we create the product from scratch, from the prototype to the complete product which we then spin off creating a new Startup around us.”
“We are a Deep Tech Venture Builder, a company who creates more new startups in parallel from scratch (this year we aim to create 6 new realities) through an industry 36 months validated method. Our strategy always focuses on the patenting of the idea on which the new startup is based, right from the start. For example, last year we patented 4 new patents including the famous data pulverization patent based on the use of homomorphic cryptography, one of the latest trends in the blockchain sector.”
Voiceme, touted as one of the first start-ups initiated by FoolFarm, used first solution that allows the clients to authenticate, pay and sign through the Voice, a patented solution that was recently declared among the coolest startups in Europe. It is based on an intertwining of AI and blockchain technologies. This Startup (which after only 1 years is already worth +10 million) is now used to allow access to millions of customers in one of the most important hotel chains in the world, allowing access to booths with voice and to be able to access all hotel services through authentication and voice payments. “Another fantastic example of this technology is a European government institution that is using it to authenticate young people aged 12 to 18 through their voice. Finally, with this solution, we aim to soon enable the possibility of legally signing it by voice, and we are already talking about it with various players in the world of electronic signature and IT security.”
The Blockchain Revolution
Blockchain technology has made significant strides in its development and widespread adoption in recent years, and there’s no sign of it slowing down, observes Andrea. “In fact, according to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Blockchain development Survey, almost 76% of executives surveyed said they expect digital assets to be a solid alternative to fiat currencies for global finance in the next 5–10 years.” Says this technology enthusiast that it’s time to prepare for a financial and social revolution that will change how we process transactions, manage data and deliver services. “NFTs are a revolutionary new way of buying and selling digital assets that represent real-world items. All NFTs are unique and can’t be replaced or swapped – they can only be purchased, sold, traded, or given away by the original owner/creator of that asset. NFTs could power a whole new wave of digital collectibles, from rare artwork to one-of-a-kind sneakers and accessories.”
The Future roadmap
“We operate by technological waves trying to anticipate the trends that will be dominant by 3/5 years. Last year we focused our attention on voice-based technologies and data security using blockchain technologies as a system to enable decentralized trust ability models.” Says Andrea that this year the company will address the issue of NFTs and their non-standard applications to bring this revolutionary technology beyond its current borders. “We operate by technological waves trying to anticipate the trends that will be dominant by 3/5 years. Last year we focused our attention on voice-based technologies and data security using blockchain technologies as a system to enable decentralized trustability models. This year we are instead addressing the issue of NFTs and their non-standard applications to bring this revolutionary technology beyond its current borders.” Come May 2022, the company is planning to launch a new startup named Fragmentalis, a revolutionary startup that will be based on data pulverization technologies to create a new IT security and data protection model, more respectful of the customer and his ownership.
Blockchain- Challenges Galore
Noting that latest technologies carry potential downsides that need to be identified and managed, this tech enthusiast notes that this is especially true when that technology is not merely an overlaying application but rather a core part of the organization’s underlying IT infrastructure, as is often the case with blockchain. “As the organization considers developing blockchain use cases, building proofs of concept, or scaling and deploying them in a production environment, the focus should not be diluted from catering for critical blockchain-related risks. Also, it is important to study if the organization’s enterprise risk framework accounts for blockchain-specific risks.” He urges organizations to adopt a proactive approach in recognizing new risks stemming from blockchain. Organizations must deeply understand that there could be several risks in BC technology. In addition, there could be data privacy risks, performance-related risks and security risks to address etc.”
Words of Advice
For anyone who is a founder and a leader of a startup, the challenge is to understand that in the next 10 years our world will change radically and that the blockchain can be the engine for the development of ‘democratic’, transparent, and free solutions- the exact opposite of what one thinks of blockchains with crypto, observes Andrea. “The blockchain is a revolution that will accompany us in the coming years and whose business models are still largely unexplored.”
He stresses on the need for blockchain sector to overcome current paradigms and business models to search for new models. “Consider that by 2030, it could be used as a foundational technology for 30 per cent of the global customer base. By 2025, blockchain would add a business value that will grow to over $ 176 billion. This would increase further to $ 3.1 trillion by 2030. It simply shows the unfolding potential.”
The Success Mantras
“Curiosity, commitment, vision and method – but above all, knowing how to dare by experimenting where it is often unknown without being afraid of making mistakes. My destiny has always been to invent new things: new products, new ideas, new business models, which have often become products or solutions used by millions of consumers, both in the companies where I have worked and in my startups.”
Effective, Affordable, and Accessible
Arman Sarhaddar, CEO & Founder, Vault Security Systems AG
Vault Security Systems: Effective, Affordable, and Accessible
“Once you have a vision, build a strategy around it to execute the vision.” A serial entrepreneur across markets, Arman Sarhaddar is a dreamer by nature who believes in carefully building the strategic foundation that shapes his dreams. Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, Sarhaddar became an active investment banker in 2000. He worked for big investment firms in various markets and managed companies with up to 50 brokers in the U.S.
The Blockchain Journey
Having over 20 years of wealth management experience, Sarhaddar has always been fascinated about the distributed ledger technology which brings true authenticity, integrity, and security in to play. “At the beginning, Bitcoin was a remarkable technology, but it was not until the developments in the recent years that the true potential of distributed technologies crystalized themselves,” he notes. Moreover, all those new areas of applications reflected with his personal story. “My personal belongings were stolen from a secured area. At that moment, I knew what should be done.” With careful study and preparation, he founded Vault Security Systems. Vault provides an effective, affordable, and accessible distributed ledger or blockchain solution, helping both businesses and consumers protect their most valuable assets.
Today, there are many blockchain protocols which try to capture the supply chain market. However, having a protocol to build upon is only one side of the coin. Companies still need all kind of technology to actually make it work. That is where Vault Security Systems is truly a pioneer.
Preventing Counterfeit in Supply Chains
If a company wants to ensure that their products are, for example, climate-friendly, using blockchain is the affordable way to do so. Reducing counterfeit can also be achieved by using blockchain in combination with other technologies. With around a trillion dollar damage in counterfeit every year, this money can return to the positive side of a company’s balance sheet.
“Our business solution, ivault, is designed to prevent counterfeit in supply chains. This can be achieved for parts, as well as for products which are being sold to customers,” says Sarhaddar. They use a customized solution for businesses to benefit from the security and traceability enabled through blockchain technology and can also decide for themselves how much transparency they want to give to their customers. One of the advantages of this approach is that Vault solutions can be used to show the customers directly that their products are authentic. “Consequently, this enables completely new customer engagement models and new ways of communicating with customers.”
Apart from their business solutions, the company is also developing a mobile app. The app lets people digitize their valuables and in case they lose something, they can count on the ivault community to get their beloved item back. “Distributed ledger technology plays a role in the development of the app, although we decided to use it for the backend, so that users can rely on security and privacy, but are not actively shown all the technology,” he adds.
Implementing distributed ledger into a corporate system can be a burden for employees. The implementation process is not so much about the technology and the advantages are dwarfed by the change in the structure of a system and with it—the workflow. “More often, the process could bring more advantages to everyone involved, if the corporate system is being enhanced with distributed ledger technology instead of replaced,” points out Sarhaddar.
Moreover, blockchain is often still regarded as a hype and many companies do not grasp yet the advantages. “In Switzerland and the European Union, we faced a challenge in explaining the differences between cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technology. We tackled it by showing our use-cases for IoT and by implementing our solution into a product which is already on the market.” Vault’s solution can not only be completely automated, people working with the system do not even see that they are working with distributed ledger technology. And that for Sarhaddar, is a dream come true.
Plazus Technologies: Blockchain in Everyday Life
Galya Westler, CEO, Plazus Technologies
Plazus Technologies: Blockchain in Everyday Life
Oftentimes leaders do not recognize the power in them until they pursue it persistently. From a shy dancer first on stage to a bold TED speaker later in life, Galya Westler discovered the potential in her with relentless perseverance despite the odds she faced.
Originally graduating as a Software Engineer, Galya quickly climbed the corporate ladder but soon realized that she wanted the independence and freedom to develop her own company as an entrepreneur. She decided to quit the corporate world and devote her entire focus to cutting-edge technology projects. “I took what I learned from my corporate experience; onboarded clients and identified projects that were not only interesting to me but where I felt that I could really make a difference in this world,” says Galya. “Slowly, I built my team and took on projects, initially, in mobile app development, DIY B2B tools, and more recently, in Blockchain enterprise solutions.”
Today, being the CEO of Plazus Technologies and GO Health Technologies Inc., Galya’s success factor lies in stepping outside of her comfort zone, facing issues head-on, and using any and all challenges and as learning tools to build on her expertise and knowledge.
The Need of the Hour
“Providing high-end technology solutions is about combining the best possible team with complementary skill sets,” points out Galya. Having been a technical leader for many years, she believes it is extremely hard to find the right talent with the required skill set and experience to solve the complex enterprise challenges involved with business logic, in payments, supply chain, HR, and compliance. There is a need for highly skilled developers with enterprise-grade solutions experience, first-hand Blockchain development, and experienced in SSI solutions developers to solve many of the challenges using identity on Blockchain.
This is where Plazus Technologies takes a unique approach to these highly complex concepts, turning them into clean and easy-to-use solutions, providing leading tools to increase security and streamline processes utilizing Blockchain and AI technologies focused on health and privacy, cross border payments, compliance, fraud detection, and HR processes.
A Blockchain enthusiast, Galya, has over the years been observing, researching, and learning the Blockchain market from multiple perspectives to reveal its benefits in everyday life. “Every day is a success, because we get to work in an area that we feel passionate about and positively impact people’s lives by developing software that protects their rights and helps enterprises with their business.”
2020 has been a year where more enterprises than ever are implementing Blockchain solutions for their businesses to improve transparency, efficiency, and to streamline their operations, from supply chain and compliance to fake news and identities during election times. Usage of identity on Blockchain also benefits in health data protection using Self Sovereign Identity (SSI).
“Meanwhile, some of the challenges we face are the lack of knowledge decision makers have on the benefits of Blockchain and the knowledge they could gain if they ran a POC or an MVP in their organization. To address these issues, we work with enterprises to carry out Gap Analysis workshops with them and discover the inefficiencies in their business flow, security gaps, and clients’ and users’ data protection issues. We then generate ways for them to automate and streamline their business and services to positively affect their bottom line. We take them from concept to MVP in just a few months of development,” notes Galya.
User Identity Protection
One of the biggest issues today is the lack of authenticity when it comes to user identity, which requires manual verification thus collecting sensitive data. Doing so, opens corporations up to liability in the mishandling of people’s digital assets (identity, data, money,) which ends up costing them time and money when disputes occur.
Abiding by their philosophy to give users the ability to own and control data and holding companies and authorities accountable for handling people’s digital assets, Plazus Technologies focuses on SSI and other Blockchain-based solutions for enterprises. Self-sovereign digital identity is an identity that’s created and managed by the user. It has all of the credentials a user needs to interact in the digital and physical world, without relying on a centralized organization or authority.
Project GO and REACH org in Collaboration with the Canadian Government
With great passion, creativity, and agility, Galya always has a unique perspective to offer. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the team participated in one of the biggest global hackathons and came up with the idea of building an app. The app verifies and holds a person’s anonymous data on self-testing (applied to COVID-19 tests, HIV self-tests) and stores and encrypts the results on their device acting like a “private health wallet”. The users then decide if they want to push the data, anonymously yet verified, to an authorized party to: either pass a border (prove they are not sick,) or see a care professional, or participate in a study.
“We called it ‘Project GO’ to get the economy going by identifying who is sick and who is not yet keeping privacy of the users to avoid discrimination when one gets his/her health status, they should decide if/when they want to share it,” says Galya. GO collaborates with REACH organization for connecting HIV undiagnosed to care in an anonymous manner and as a way to stop the spread of HIV in Canada.
According to Patrick Boscher, VP Strategy, Plazus Technologies, “With Project GO, our approach has been to understand and use the legal framework to identify best-in-class solutions and related technologies, in particular for three major areas: GDPR, cross-border and cross-jurisdiction solutions, and increased fraudulent activities on fake identities. Moreover, “we’ve gained a lot of knowledge from talking to so many professionals around the globe during these hackathons. It’s been an intense period. Frequent iterations and focus made us able to process huge amounts of feedback into something meaningful. Also it was interesting to see how different teams tackle similar problems but from different angles,” notes Anton Bludov, UI UX specialist, Plazus Technologies.
Connection with WHO
Having partnered with many big players, Galya considers it a grand moment when Plazus Technologies connected with WHO. The organization wanted to update their guidelines on post market surveillance for medical devices (eg., Covid-19 test efficacy) to protect people’s data using Blockchain and SSI.
“Even though it is cumbersome to collaborate with WHO directly given their complex structure; their guidance to world leaders, enterprises and corporations to consider using Blockchain to connect patients (for example) with health manufactures, pharmaceuticals, and governments automatically and safely using a SSI is huge progress,” explains Galya. “I just hope that the momentum grows and companies, not just in health but other industries, will start building POCs to include this exciting new technology.”
The Shared Trust Ecosystem
With Galya’s upcoming keynote on the topic “Believing that Blockchain is for all,” Galya thinks, today, the users ought to educate themselves on how their data is being used and manipulated by central parties. “As corporates and governments, it will be up to us to develop systems that are based on integrity and trust using Blockchain technology, not just for the economic benefit of it but for the social benefit.”
The future of Blockchain, therefore, will see a greater awakening to create a shared trust ecosystem that will benefit everyone. “There’s a long way to go, but it is up to us to set the standard and demand data transparency in what central bodies do and take back what is rightfully ours—our digital assets,” she concludes.
Revolutionizing Blockchain Technologies for a New Global Ecosystem
Diego Gutierrez Zaldivar, CEO & RSK Labs
RSK Labs: Revolutionizing Blockchain Technologies for a New Global Ecosystem
RSK Labs develops the blockchain technologies needed for a new global financial ecosystem. The organization has developed RSK Smart Contract Network, RSK Infrastructure Framework (RIF) and Taringa!’s platforms. The RSK Network is one of the more secure smart contract platforms in the world, designed to leverage Bitcoin’s unparalleled power. RSK Infrastructure Framework (RIF) is a suite of open and decentralized infrastructure protocols that enable faster, easier and scalable development of distributed applications (dApps) within a unified environment. Taringa! is Latin America’s largest Spanish speaking social network with 30 million users and 1,000 active online communities. Excerpts from an interview with Diego Gutiérrez Zaldívar, CEO & Co-founder of RSK Labs:
Idea Behind Founding of RSK Labs
RSK Lab platforms help people to create digital identities, build reputations, establish and enforce agreements, including engaging in commercial transactions without intermediaries. “Now everyone has the chance to participate in a new economy for our new Internet age. That’s why we call it the Internet of Value. RSK Lab’s mission is to build a blockchain-based financial ecosystem that can serve any human being regardless of their economic situation and has the potential of empowering billions currently excluded from our society” observed Diego.
RSK Ecosystem Fund and RSK Innovation Studio
RSK, the first smart contract platform secured by the Bitcoin network, is transforming the way businesses are conceived, designed, and built. Its complementary platform, RSK Infrastructure Framework Open Standard (RIF OS), takes these technologies to scale, simplifying the use of decentralized infrastructure for any traditional or Blockchain developer, organization, or innovator. The RSK Innovation Studio is focused on balancing innovation with usability. Created as a joint venture between Monday Capital and RSK, it acts as a skunkworks at the intersection of scaling businesses and developing tools for the Bitcoin ecosystem.
RSK Blockchain Sets the Bar High
Since its inception, RSK Blockchain was designed as a second layer to Bitcoin and over the years, it garnered the support from more than 50% of the Bitcoin miners. This has turned it into the most secure Smart Contracts Blockchain, noted Diego. The RSK Infrastructure suite of protocols (RIF) offers all the P2P protocols (Payments, Data Storage, Identity, Secure Communications and Gateways) needed to create scalable and user-friendly financial solutions. All these services are integrated around a sharing economy engine, RIF Marketplace, to create a truly decentralized service economy.
The three main challenges for blockchain technologies to reach mass adoption are: Scalability, Interoperability and Usability, added Diego.
Scalability: The Blockchain industry is aware of the existence of a trade-off between security / decentralization, functionality and scalability. Though bitcoin rules the market, it sacrifices transaction and functionality to maximize security.
Interoperability: Another key element is to create good interoperability between crypto economies, like the RSK bridges, Bitcoin and Ethereum are doing. This enables interaction between protocols and assets on the three networks, creating a more anti-fragile ecosystem.
Usability: On the usability front, the industry is witnessing some standardization (i.e. wallet connect) and naming services (i.e. RIF Identity) in the way users are interacting with decentralized apps from their wallets. These provide a seamless experience like that of Fintech mobile solutions and security levels.
Most Memorable Moment
“I certainly have fond memories of the moment when we presented the RSK Mainnet to the world at Consensus 2018 and also the first time somebody used the RSK Network to buy something in a slum in Buenos Aires or to send money back to their families from Buenos Aires to Caracas. We build technology to improve people’s life so every time we witness a new meaningful use case of our technology that leaves a memorable trail in us.”
Blockchain to the Rescue
Noting that the organization’s role, in this crisis, is to provide technologies to amplify initiatives emerging from the current chaos, Diego noted, “We are using RSK blockchain and RSK Infrastructure Framework (RIF) technologies to amplify the positive effects of self-organized initiatives that are emerging from the current chaos. Our tech can enable self-coordination among decentralized groups and protect privacy.”
Future of Bitcoin
Bitcoin could reach a tipping point for mass adoption and the foundations for the financial system of the future in next ten years, predicted Diego. These trends will open new markets to citizens, but perhaps most importantly, usher in a new, decentralized, peer-to-peer economy. “I envision within a decade to have an economy built from the ground up that can stand apart from government-driven fiscal policy – a true peer-to-peer system, driven by the people – and based on Bitcoin as the foundational layer, the store of value layer, on which the rest of the crypto economies will build upon.”