Claus Skaaning is the CEO of Digishares, a software solution that is used through the issuance process and the ongoing management of the tokenized shares.
You were previously the COO of Venturefusion – a crypto-security ecosystem for startup creation and growth. How did you transition to becoming CEO of DigiShares?
The vision of VentureFusion is to create a decentralized incubator platform for startups. It will work as a collaboration and bootstrapping platform where founders can tokenize the equity in their startups (even if no legal unit exists) and use the equity tokens as a means of payment for anyone that contributes to the startup. Founders can then make a plan for how much equity they want to spend to get various parts of their startup developed, making individual equity token allocation plans for short-term contributors such as freelancers and long-term contributors, such as co-founders and permanent team members, under vesting conditions. VentureFusion is still an ongoing active project but it primarily managed by my co-founder Yuriy Zubarovskiy these days.
VentureFusion prompted us to look at how to tokenize equity and in early 2018 this was a relatively new concept. We went to some of the first conferences in Europe on the concept and decided to create a new project, GoSecurity, which would focus on tokenization of securities. This project later re-branded to DigiShares and I became the CEO. It is now my primary focus to manage and develop DigiShares.
Could you elaborate on the services that DigiShares offers?
DigiShares is one of the leading providers of white-label infrastructure for securities tokenization issuance and management in Europe. Our first product was a single-project platform for issuance and longer-term management of tokenized securities, and we are just releasing a major upgrade that can handle multiple projects with a lot more functionality. We are one of few companies in Europe – and the only one in the Nordics that can provide an operational platform of this type.
Our platform can handle the complete workflow of an STO (security token offering), from investor registration, verification (KYC/AML), approval, to the actual purchase of tokens with fiat or crypto, signing of contracts (e-signatures), token holder cap table overview, communication with token holders, voting (shareholders’ meetings), payment of dividends, etc.
For tokenized equity, we offer a unique function where we allow a proportion of shareholders to be non-tokenized, i.e., as digitized as possible but not tokenized, so with no tokens issued. This is by customer request as some of our clients have voiced concerns that they would like to approach both crypto and non-crypto investors – and non-crypto investors may prefer a non-tokenized registration. Another unique function that we are working on is a mini-exchange, an internal OTC-like trading platform for the token holders within a single project.
Overall, we provide solutions to enable anyone to conduct their own STO or offer a number of simultaneous STOs. We primarily work in white label partnerships where clients offer the solution under their own brand name.
In addition to providing the software, we also provide access to the security token ecosystem. We have a big network of partners for legal, investments, custody, KYC/AML, etc. Some of these are integrated into the platform.
Digishares is one of the few companies in the industry that is headquartered in Denmark. Do Danish securities regulations support the digitization of shares?
While we are based in Denmark and concerned about local securities regulations, it is important to state upfront that we are jurisdiction agnostic and can operate from any jurisdiction. Indeed we have ongoing projects in both Europe and the US.
Locally, we are working with a Danish lawyer and the Danish regulators to establish whether shares can be represented as tokens. So far, our lawyer has established that tokenized shares are supported by Danish legislation but some details need confirmation from the regulator and the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs. DigiShares has applied to participate in the sandbox of the Danish regulator to further analyze how tokenized securities can co-exist with Danish law.
Some countries do not support the tokenization of shares since they require either paper-based stock certificates or notarized trading. Fortunately the Danish securities legislation supports digitization of shares and has neither of those requirements.
The ability to tokenize shares (and other types of securities) is of course important for DigiShares and for Danish companies, but it will have importance outside of Denmark as well, since securities that are issued in Denmark can be passported to any EU member state. We believe Denmark could be a good STO destination for the above reasons – but also because we believe other typical STO costs can be significantly reduced here (incorporation, legal costs, etc.). As an added benefit, Denmark is a highly trusted financial jurisdiction with one of the lowest levels of corruption in the world.
How is the security token ecosystem and community in Denmark?
It is as of yet quite small but we are doing our best to develop it with regular conferences in Copenhagen. We’re organizing an annual conference focused on tokenized securities (Fintech Disruption Summit – http://www.fintechdisrupt.dk/en/home/) and regular events on different types of tokenization, next time on September 12 with a focus on real estate tokenization (http://www.digishares.io/events).
We are presently the only Nordic company with an STO issuance platform and we are also the first to conduct an STO. However, we expect others to join us soon.
You’re currently in the process of raising funds for your own STO. How much are you raising, and what benefits will investors receive?
We are raising just below EUR 1 M. This relatively low limit was set to enable us to approach retail investors and market the STO publicly across Europe. In addition, we’ve filed a form D in the US so we can approach US accredited investors. European regulations is more flexible than the US and enables us to make a more “democratic” STO since we are allowed to target retail investors in almost all European countries.
We have designed our STO so investors receive common stock in the company with exactly the same governance rights as founders, similar to a standard IPO. Many STOs design “handicapped” tokens with quite limited governance rights for investors but we didn’t want to do that. In general, we believe it will be a problem for the STO industry if issuers keep creating tokens with very limited investor governance rights.
What are the plans for the raised funds?
The raised funds will be used to speed up our development & marketing efforts. In addition, there are certain licenses we would like to obtain in order to extend the scope of our business. In general, we are seeing more leads & opportunities right now than we have the resources to exploit.
You are arranging an event on tokenized real estate in Copenhagen on September 12. Do you see real estate as being the most promising asset class to be tokenized?
Yes, if you look at statistics and speak to industry experts, there is consensus that real estate is the biggest homogeneous chunk of the STO market right now. So currently, we are directing our marketing and development efforts in this direction. Our real estate tokenization event will be attended by around 100 real estate professionals from the Nordics. 90% of them are non-blockchain people that we hope to motivate and inspire to adopt blockchain. In general, we don’t go to many blockchain industry events but rather spend our efforts on the traditional financial & real estate industries.
We hope to announce a real estate STO quite soon, and we are also involved in a really exciting project about creating Eurasian security token exchanges.
What other asset classes will you be focusing on?
Through partners we are also looking at debt and bonds, but we are primarily focused on equity at this stage. The platform can handle any type of security.
Where do you see the industry being in 5 years and the role of DigiShares in this industry?
We currently see two major trends; one with startups attempting to create a new parallel financial infrastructure and another with incumbents adopting blockchain and approaching the new opportunities in their own speed. These two trends will eventually merge and a new financial infrastructure will emerge where some old financial institutions will still exist and some of the new players will be established as leaders. We will see just one or two main security token protocol standards. The consumer (investors) are the real winners with much decreased fees for trading, decreased interest rates for debt, increased interest rates for deposits, faster and more efficient financial operations, etc., etc.