Robert Zapfel, co-founder of iov42: We’ve Created a Blockchain Inspired Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Platform

August 26, 2022

We’ve created a blockchain inspired Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) platform to revolutionise how people, organisations, and governments interact by easily and securely building trust into every transaction.

Our vision is to rebuild the internet with this identity-centric platform in a way that could completely disrupt the monopolistic corporations that were dominating the space at the time.

Until we built the iov42 platform, there wasn’t really one that was able to support a wide range of applications for businesses and governments, however ours has managed to overcome the constraints of early blockchain applications.

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve always been an innovator and serial entrepreneur; in 1989, I founded my first company, specialised in ultra-large scale database systems, while pursuing my degree in computer science.

Starting in 2000, I saw an emerging market for telecommunications technology and became one of the first to create a phone-based payment system across 88 countries

. After I sold that company, I went and built my own venture capital firm because I wanted to see things from the other side of the table.

This took me around the world, building energy-based, remote stations in India and some parts of Africa. Then around 2013 – 2014, I started to move towards more FinTech companies, because it looked to be the next big thing. And ever since then, I have been working with blockchain technology.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Stay laser-sharp in your focus and at the same time agile to learn and adapt to things customers really need.

What problem does your business solve?

We offer a way for organisations, governments and citizens to ensure that everyone can completely trust what’s going on when operating in the digital world.

The major problem solved is the trustful and provable connection between identified and named entities like companies and individuals, and their assets, modelled as identity data kept and linked to transaction data.

This provides a tamper resistant ledger of transactions and their involved actors, provable through claims about anything recorded in the ledger, carrying resilient endorsements by entities trusted by all participants of the platform.

The most obvious practical field of application is in supply chain management, where our solution is getting a great response.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

It is the idea that a true DLT system must be identity centric, and actually, instead of minting some next Altcoin, we’re going to start minting identities.

This enables our business to provide trust in so many ways through having identities as first-class citizens on the system and provably linking them with transactions they’re involved in, which is what most of the people and businesses in the DLT space really need.

We are really providing a much-needed solution by providing trust.

What is your magic sauce?

Before us, no platform was able to support a wide range of applications for businesses and governments.

We are pioneering in an area where very few other companies are active – very few blockchain companies are platform-based businesses, more often they’re driven by individual use-cases, building solutions on existing platforms.

It makes a lot of sense to build solutions for real problems on an existing platform, and a product-market fit is easily maintainable as long as one continuously observes what people need.

The magic happened when we integrated much needed use-case functionality as battle-tested components into our platform, effectively amalgamating essential building blocks from the world of solution building into our system.

This allows developers to rapidly build production grade applications by assembling required building blocks.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Showcase that our approach works: trust through identities on the system, verifiable claims through cryptographic endorsements and any type of first-class citizen asset on the platform concurrently. Proof that there is a demand for this through our offering of Timber Chain.

When people take a closer look at it they will learn the benefits of our platform, and then adopt it to build their own solutions with it. To me personally, it is very important to prove assumptions, because this is how one learns and improves. This constantly adds essential step stones to my experience.

From the iov42 perspective, we want to demonstrate the value and impact of our approach in terms of client benefits. Looking much more at client cost savings, efficiencies, market access, and general peace of mind, etc. than meaningless metrics like ‘number of transactions on the platform’ that we see across the industry.

Particularly in the sustainable supply chain space, we feel we have an important role to play in enabling systems like Circular Economies, Digital Product Passports and efforts to curb unsustainable (and even illegal) production and trade globally.

If we are able to look back 5 years from now and feel like we have minimised inequalities and left a positive impact on the environment, societies and economies, then we should feel proud.

We want to stay true to our culture – something we’ve worked hard on, especially over the last 2 years – and through the work that we’re doing, see our colleagues and clients thrive both professionally and personally.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

One of the challenges is to spread our message about what our technology can do, because it is so versatile. Potential customers always appreciate simple and tangible solutions over complex build-anything platforms.

They want to know more about our background, who else is using it already, and how we can build a proof of concept for them.

Therefore we have built Timber Chain as an example of this. We are receiving great feedback and interest in it, and I expect people to look closer at it and begin to like and build on our platform.

Targeting a network effect with a minimum number of participants to scale up is difficult, and we believe that providing a showcase like Timber Chain can make our solution much more comprehensible.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

Looking at supply chains and international trades, I believe a vision of a world where people are equipped with tools to create trust has been there for a long time.

However, tools that really work effectively and holistically are scarce and people use monopolist certifiers to get some incomplete solutions.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and when we showcase in practice that our solution delivers trust resiliently I can see no real barrier of people buying in.

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