Erich Spangenberg is the CEO and founder of IPwe, a company using blockchain and artificial intelligence to create the patent asset class. He also was a founder of nXn Partners, a company that is focused on predictive analytics. He was the founder and CEO of IPNav, a company that was one of the pioneers in patent monetization.
AT: Can you give a brief overview of how IPwe plans on revolutionizing the patent market?
EP: IPwe is leveraging technology—in particular, AI and blockchain, experience and changes in market attitudes to create the patent asset class. Billions are spent on regulating, obtaining and maintaining patents and the returns to owners and society are low. We are going to help fix that. AI and blockchain make things much easier to understand and far more transparent. Intangible assets—and patents are one of the key intangible assets for many companies – are just too important to be ignored and left to underperform under the management of people who are not asset managers.
AT: Are you using a public or private blockchain?
EP: IPwe’s Global Patent Registry – the first registry of the world’s patents—and our transaction platform are built on Hyperledger Fabric. After evaluating other solutions, we concluded that our market is best served through a private blockchain—we are not dealing with a fungible commodity where issues of who you are transacting with are not of any importance. We will be building public components as part of our product roadmap—but it will take time for the market to accept these solutions.
AT: How will you educate companies to register patents on the blockchain?
EP: We are fortunate that our management team is well known in the space and has extensive connections with key players in industry and the nonprofit and government sectors. Leveraging these connections, we reach a large swath of the world’s patent owners. In 2019 you will see IPwe more aggressively advertising and raising its profile.
AT: One of your goals is to enable the easy access to any patent from any office in the world. What incentive will those offices have to use the blockchain?
EP: Many of the world’s 200 patent offices already understand the importance of blockchain and its ability to increase transparency and improve things like how title is recorded. The most forward-thinking offices are already in conversations with us and we will be publicly announcing initiatives with them in 2019. We are not selling anything to these patent offices—we do not seek revenue from patent offices. What we offer is a way for these offices to better fulfil their public mission. Will all of them participate? No, as there are some offices that harbor curious beliefs that their mission is to do something other than serve innovators and society—we wish them well and believe they will soon enough recognize they can play an important role in improving the patent system.
AT: The IPwe blockchain is linked to your patent analytics platform, Zuse. Can you explain how Zuse is able to both estimate the worth of a patent and its validity?
EP: Zuse has been under development for 10 years and is the only analytics system that we are aware of that can lay claim to being central to and directly involved in over $3 billion of identified licensing and financing transactions and raising over $1.4 billion of capital as part of a strategy to invalidate patents. Zuse has been used by experts in recent US patent cases. The “how” is fairly complex and white papers are available on our website for those who want to dig deeper, but the system closely mimics the methodology experts use to assess validity. Our valuation efforts are progressing and we will be announcing an initiative in December as part of a joint effort with key industry, accounting and academic participants that will advance patent valuation to a new level.
AT: One of the intended goals of IPwe is cheaper patent transactions. How will the blockchain help with these cost savings?
EP: We have already announced our pricing for traditional transactions – 10% of the purchase price or license price– which compares to current market rates of 25%–and pricing for other services that owners pay for things like annual maintenance fee that are over 50% lower than what patent owners currently pay. We use a variety of technology–including smart contracts built on Hyperledger–to lower transaction costs. Since we are making the pie bigger, there is still a critical role for legal, broker and other patent service providers that we want to work with the improve the system and increase the transaction volume. A key goal of IPwe is to dramatically lower the cost of patent ownership.
AT: IPwe did not pursue an ICO – happy with that decision?
EP: An ICO was not a viable option for IPwe. At the end of the day we are a B2B market solution. Today most large companies simply cannot get past the regulatory issues raised by traditional ICOs. This will change—but it will take time. We also believe that forcing customers to transact with you only through a single purpose token is not a viable way to transact or build a platform.
AT: How about security token offerings—do they play a role in IPwe’s future or the future of the patent market?
EP: STOs are something completely different from ICOs in our view. We are huge fans of regulatory compliant STOs and will use STO structures for both IPwe and for our patent finance solutions. This is a huge development in the patent space that will become apparent soon when we announce our first two STO financings next month.
AT: It doesn’t sound like IPwe is seeking to eliminate intermediaries that exist in the current patent market—why?
EP: Patents are in fact complex assets and certain intermediaries will play a critical role going forward and some, we expect, will either change their business models or disappear. Many enjoy singling out lawyers as non-value creating intermediaries, and while this may be true in some contexts, it is not true in the patent space. We think their role might change as they will become focused on higher value services, but we believe they play an important role in the new market IPwe is helping to create. The patent intermediaries that charge exorbitant rates to, for example, do nothing more than make annual payments to patent offices – we think their days of exploiting these types of inefficiencies are limited.
We think some of the abuses and negatives in the system—patent trolls, efficient infringers and lower quality patents, for example, will be addressed and remedied by these same changes. The intermediaries that embrace AI and the transactional efficiencies that can be realized through blockchain and focus on high value services are going to do even better as the market expands. The sloths and luddites will disappear.
AT: If we visit with IPwe again in a few years, what will we be talking about with respect to patents and the patent market?
EP: The biggest changes that AI and blockchain are going to facility is that new managers will likely take over the patent asset class and, as capital becomes more comfortable with patents, patent based financings will dramatically increase and large and small patent owners will regularly use patents to access capital. Intangible assets – which includes patents – are a majority of most companies balance sheets. Today, these assets are largely managed by departments other than finance and not well understood by finance types. This will change and it will be a change for the better.
Interview Series: Liza Aizupiete, Managing Director of Fintelum
Liza Aizupiete is the Managing Director at Fintelum, a European-based token launch (ICO and STO) platform. Liza has extensive experience in traditional fund management, and is also an experienced blockchain entrepreneur, having successfully launched and raised capital (ICO) for Globitex where she was a Co-Founder and Managing Director.
RS: You’ve recently launched a company called Fintelum, can you tell us a bit more about what Fintelum does and what markets it serves.
LA: Fintelum services can be summarised as follows:
– Primary token issuance
– KYC/AML compliance
– Smart contracts (utility and security tokens)
– Crypto funds co-custody
– Token transfer agency
– Corporate actions
– Secondary token OTC exchange desk
At Fintelum, we built a token launch platform to cater to token issuers in carrying out technically sound and compliant ICO/STO token sales. Fintelum is geared to provide services on the European soil for global clientele. The main services are compliance, crypto funds co-custody, and smart contracts. For security token industry, Fintelum serves as a token ownership transfer agent, ensuring secondary market by token OTC desk and provides ongoing blockchain-based corporate action services, such as voting, dividends and announcements.
RS: How does Fintelum differ from other token issuance companies?
LA: Fintelum’s unique selling points are:
– Integrated crypto multisig wallet services and funds co-custody
– Token transfer agency and OTC exchange desk
– Comprehensive on demand reporting
Fintelum was founded in 2018 and subsequently licensed by the Estonian FIU to provide services for crypto industry in compliance with EU AML laws. The main differentiators lie within the benefits Fintelum clients can have from a longtime team with experience in finance and building and running our own regulated cryptocurrency exchange.
For one, Fintelum features multi-currency cold/hot wallet management system with co-custodianship for added reliability. Issuers can be reassured that all technical, blockchain and compliance related work will be carried out with utmost care. For that we have built a comprehensive backoffice, where issuers can safely navigate and control their fundraise. From creating campaigns and programs to managing investor data and affiliates.
Another differentiator is our Ethereum based security token STO implementation and subsequent OTC desk. Fintelum is able to act as a token transfer agent, maintaining blockchain based capitalisation tables or shareholder registry for companies or other tokenised assets. We are creating unprecedented availability for eligible (whitelisted) peers to exchange both security and utility tokens.
For utility token, Fintelum differentiates with our systematic approach in KYC/AML compliance. There, after a successful fundraise, the issuers can rely on a comprehensive reporting system. All data collected and verified can be made available to banks and other financial institutions that would otherwise be unable to service a non-compliant enterprise. In fact we have several banks and payment service providers that can offer fiat services to Fintelum clients.
On the whole, Fintelum services pack-in some of the most crucial features to successfully launch a crypto fundraise. The issuers will still need to have their own local legal counsel and have a clear idea of their own marketing strategy, whereas Fintelum will do the rest. It is safe to say that Fintelum service package is the most comprehensive available on the market.
RS: You have extensive experience in fintech and funds, what reasons did you choose to start a token issuance company instead of some other type of crypto service or business?
LA: In short:
– Companies sought our know-how
– Understanding of the industry and technology
– Anticipation of the global change in the capital markets
After having successfully completed a EUR 10 million ICO fundraise, for our former company, several projects approached us to learn how crypto crowdfunding works. And as compliance and AML took precedence over anonymous crypto donations, we thought it natural to expand on our experience and institutional understanding how the capital markets will likely evolve. ICOs or utility tokens already made a historical mark on capital markets industry. Likewise, STOs or security tokens will continue reshaping capital markets and we are excited to precipitate this change with our new business.
RS: You previously did an ICO with your former company, Globitex, what did you learn from that ICO that can help token issuers on the Fintelum platform?
LA: Our advice:
– Find the right partners
– Work with professionals
– Grow your community
Our major takeaways from running an ICO was that it matters a lot at what stage your company is, what shareholders and partners you have and which service providers you choose for your fundraiser. You may have a wonderful idea, technically impeccable product. But you need professional service providers that will do everything else for your fundraise to actually happen.
We were very lucky with ours. We managed to raise EUR 10 million and closed our public sale in a matter of 24 hours. Not discounting the timing when we ran our campaign, it is also important to have a clear idea of whom you want to target as your investors and/or product users – your community. Because an ICO as well as STO campaign works inadvertently as a marketing campaign for your current or future product or service. And you need to invest the time and effort to reach out to your community, to show the world that your product exists and is worth investing in.
It is worth noting that STOs make more legal sense, but much less retail buzz. The times of raising hundreds of millions for a white paper ideas with no hard cap are definitely gone. But ICOs are not dead. I still anticipate some major utility tokens to be released this and next year. STOs on the other hand can work beautifully under crowdfunding law exceptions up to EUR 5-8 million, and above – according to the Prospectus Regulation (in July 2019 replacing the Directive) in Europe.
For the ICOs a fixed and guaranteed hard cap will add to the success and popularity of the fundraiser. With STOs, hard cap is replaced by clear legal rights and expectations.
RS: What types of companies do you think are best suited to launch an STO?
LA: In my view:
– Small or medium working businesses, ideally with revenue streams
– Global fund management companies with existing subscribers (investors)
– Real estate or financing projects with attractive interest rate offer
– Alternative energy projects with eco impact and good dividend prospect
– Gaming and sports with large retail following
Today, the potential buyer of an STO will need to overcome burdensome KYC/AML profiling process to be compliant with the sales of a security. And depending on the jurisdiction and the project offering, the pain levels may vary. But it is clear that investing in an STO or ICO today is much more complicated than just a year ago would have been, contributing towards a development of a utility token project. This is why the STO must be attractive enough an offer for the pain of investing. Indeed, for equity or debt tokens, an STO issuer needs to have a great proposition on the table to be able to attract investment.
RS: What types of companies would you personally like to see launch in the cryptocurrency space to help the industry as a whole reach wider adoption?
LA: I’d bet on:
– Sports and games
– Virtual reality
At Fintelum, we get disproportionally more enquires from real-estate related companies than from any other sectors. This is presently the case. And it may be due to the fact that real estate is a hard asset. Like commodities, precious metals, real estate is something people understand. Investing in complex equity schemes may require more sophistication and/or risk appetite. Whereas I would personally like to see utility tokens continue to persist. We have come across several great ideas. But the fear of the present downmarket poses resistance and unwillingness from the managers to delve into the process of launching a token.
The three categories, namely sports/games, VR and food industries are most appropriate for ICO type of fundraise, because of the loyal retail client base they all either have or have the potential of commanding. Finance as a sector has already been done, with caveats. It brought about institutional interests, and serious price volatility as a result. But, by tapping into the mass market though either of these industries, we may be able to sustain a steady and solid adoption rate.
RS: You’ve been a female entrepreneur in the cryptocurrency space for over three years, can you tell us about any benefits or challenges being female in a male-dominated field may have brought?
LA: I was born in Latvia and educated in Switzerland. According to Open Knowledge report by the World Bank, six economies—Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Sweden and topping-off with Latvia —score 100 in the Women, Business and the Law index, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas, whereas Switzerland scores just marginally below at 97.50. In fact Latvia has the highest proportion of female executives in the entire EU, according to the latest EuroStat survey.
This shows that generally women should not be experiencing any difference or special challenges in the developed world economies. And it is no different in the nascent crypto space. Although the industry is predominantly male, the rules are the same for both genders. Hence, I have not felt particular challenges being a female entrepreneur. Indeed, the only challenges are mostly self imposed. This is because, by some gender bias, females tend to be more critical, especially of themselves. So, if anything, the challenges are self inflicted and are completely unrelated to external factors.
RS: Can you describe briefly what you think the next two years looks like for ICOs and STOs.
LA: The coming years will be a slow recovery from the ICO exuberance that culminated in the years 2017-18. It will be a recovery and maturing of the cryptocurrency and crypto assets industry, where STO will have an important place, setting precedents across jurisdictions.
ICOs had reached unprecedented 10-fold returns on investment, raising in excess of USD 20 billion in funding, in the years combined. The crypto fundraising will continue, but it will happen in a more professional way; more law-abiding manner; hopefully, innovative at the same time.
It would be unfortunate, if the law makers decided that we don’t actually need innovation, and that the existing system is good enough as it is. My hope is that competition will increase, and the barriers of entry will not be disproportionally raised. So the new entrants and innovators can have a chance of their lifetime to actually make the word a better place.
RS: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
LA: To inaugurate the launch of Fintelum services, I invite potential token issuers to take part in our Easter arrangement. From 21 March to 21 April 2019, Fintelum will wave half the onboarding fee to all eligible token issuers who come through during this time.
Contact Fintelum here to launch your compliant ICO or STO token sale.
In addition, to energetic self-starters, using the hashtag #TokeniseYourAssets in your social media will help land an internship and work opportunity with Fintelum.
Contact Fintelum at [email protected] for more information.
Interview Series – Sebastiaan Lichter, Founder and Chief Product of Blockport
Sebastiaan Lichter is the Founder and Chief Product of Blockport. Blockport is an abbreviation for “Blockchain portal”, providing everyone access to the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain.
AT: Blockport connects ‘social’ with ‘trading’. For our investors who are not familiar with Blockport, can you share with us the trading and social features that Blockport offers?
SL: Our core vision is to bridge the traditional world with this new digital economy of cryptocurrencies by focussing on user-friendliness, safety, transparency and liquidity. However, change in society cannot be forced. Therefore, we need to educate people by creating streams of entertaining and compelling content.
By combining the worlds of social media and trading, we offer our users a new and unique social trading experience that intuitively facilitates a knowledge-sharing community.
Blockport’s unique social trading features allow people to follow and copy each other directly on the platform. This way beginners can learn from experienced traders and experienced traders are incentivised to share their knowledge with beginners, because they can earn Blockport tokens (BPT) as a reward.
Experienced traders can create a public ‘lead-trader’ profile on Blockport, just like influencers do on Instagram or Facebook, and share their portfolio, trading activities and insights with followers. If you want to follow an experienced trader, you’ll compensate him by paying BPT.
The general idea of this model is to incentivise both beginners and experienced traders to use Blockport as their main cryptocurrency trading platform and stimulate them to engage and share knowledge with each other.
AT: How many countries do you support, and where do most of your users originate from?
SL: We currently support 39 European countries and 16 countries outside the EU, but most of our users come from the western European countries such as the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, etc.
However, starting in February 2019, we will open our doors to a total of 150 additional supported countries outside the EU.
AT: What’s your timeline for onboarding United States customers?
SL: We aim to open our doors to the first US states in Q2 this year. This month we’ve secured a new banking partner that allows us to accept and process USD currency.
AT: You currently have a utility token, the Blockport Tokens (BPT). What’s the utility behind this token?
SL: The BPT has two core utilities. The first is that it is used for accessing and using the social trading features. The follower has to pay the lead trader a certain amount of BPT to follow or copy his trading activities.
The second utility is that it grants users a certain amount of discount on trading fees.
AT: When it comes to listing new tokens on Blockport, how is this decided? Is this based on a voting system?
SL: We process both normal listing applications through our future listing application, as well as accommodating to the demands of our user base and community. We recently launched a voting campaign in which Electroneum (ETN) came out on top, and we’ve got Stellar Lumens (XLM) up next on our list.
In general we base our decisions on several factors, which also includes a due diligence process on the token and team behind the project.
AT: Blockport is launching an STO in March, 2019. Could you tell us both the soft cap and hard cap?
AL: For the first round in March 2019 the soft- and hard cap are planned tobe 1M Euro and 5M Euro respectively.
AT: What will the funds from the STO raise be used for?
SL: Mainly for but not limited to: Marketing, Global expansion (US market focus), Product development & Licensing.
AT: Participants in the STO will receive Blockport Securities (BPS). Each security token represents a ‘depositary receipt’ or ‘certificate’. What benefits do these tokens offer investors?
SL: BPS represent an indirect ownership stake in the Blockport company. The BPS token grants owners no voting rights, as these vest with the intermediary issuing the BPS’s, but will enable the token holder to profit from dividends payments paid-out by Blockport to its shareholders and to profit from the increase in value of the business of Blockport overtime.
AT: On January 24th, 2019 you officially moved out of Beta. How has the market reacted?
SL: Very positive! We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from our users and the community. People really love to finally use our platform and are happy about the seamless experience when trading their favorite cryptocurrencies. The next step besides the new Bitcoin (BTC) deposits, is to also support Ethereum (ETH) and Blockport token (BPT) deposits, which is high on the wish list of our users.
AT: Is there anything else that you would like to share about Blockport?
SL: Very exciting times ahead of us! We’ve put a lot of time and resources to build the core Blockport platform from scratch within a year, and that’s a big milestone for the team, we are very proud of that.
The coming year will allow us to expand our platform’s usage and global accessibility by adding a lot of exciting new features such as social trading, advanced trader tools, additional fiat currency support and new listings.
Next to that, we’re also working to expand our business relationships with credible projects in the ecosystem that can reinforce our vision and mission to create a win-win scenario.
For anyone who wishes to learn more please visit Blockport.
Interview Series – Dana Farbo, COO of Augmate
Dana Farbo is the Chief Operating Officer and an investor in Augmate. He is driving growth and building the ultimate platform for device management for the Internet of Things (IoT). Using distributed ledger technology, Augmate brings better control and security for the billions of devices in use by enterprise and consumers.
AT: Augmate started in 2014 and was one of the first companies to offer IoT device management. Could you tell us how you got started?
DF: Augmate began as a Google Glass at work partner to help make the introduction of Google Glass in enterprises work well. We became one of a select group of 10 companies certified by Google to provide solutions for this new technology. Rather than focus on consumers, we saw the use on manufacturing floors, logistics and in other businesses as being the best use cases for the growing head-mounted-wearable business.
AT: In 2015 you introduced the Augmate Wearable Environment Manager (WEM). What is this exactly?
DF: W.E.M. is a centralized platform for IT management to control and command the head-mounted-wearable devices that they were putting on their networks. There wasn’t anything in market that could help these companies deploy and manage for things like over-the-air updates, permissioning to the right user at the right time, security for the devices including the ability to individually lock and manage content and much more. W.E.M can be used as a SaaS or as a server based on-premise solution. IT has the full control of the devices through the platform because we work with equipment manufacturers of wearables to have them sign our code and the code to be placed at the core of the device.
AT: What are some of the more popular use cases for WEM?
DF: View this link for detailed background information. The easiest is in remote worker support:
Companies around the globe are leveraging their distributed work forces by giving them technology such as head-mounted wearable computers with video and audio capabilities. Imagine a worker who is repairing a generator in the field but needs expert help that may be located 1000 miles away. By using a wearable device with a camera and audio, the worker can keep both hands free to work while a support person guides them by seeing-what-they-see. Augmate is the layer of device management and control that enables these devices to be managed remotely and updated effectively so that there is not an interruption in their usage. Augmate gives addition capabilities to the management staff such as automatic wifi connectivity for approved networks, restricted access control so that only the workers allowed to use them are able to log in and much more.
AT: Could you tell us about Augmate Connect?
DF: Augmate Connect brings a new paradigm to device management. It is built using an open architecture framework to allow for unlimited device types to be added to it for management. It can be “plugged” into other systems to extend their capabilities using API’s or built upon using a SDK so that additional components can be added from a community of developers. It is built with the ability to integrate blockchain and distributed ledger technology without being locked into any single solution. This flexible framework is the key to a solid foundation that can extend over time and scale to unlimited potential.
AT: How does Augmate Connect keep IoT devices secure?
DF: Security is both built in and supported via add-on technology. Security can range from the types of encryption for data during transmission to use of blockchain and device identification on the blockchain. As stated, 3rd party integrations such as network health can be done with single dashboard monitoring. Policies can be written to give management the opportunity to write security protocols directly to the system. Security is core to the Augmate Connect framework planning and implementation with all effort focused on maximizing protection and minimizing disruption.
AT: Since Augmate uses the blockchain, what makes this more secure than using a database?
DF: Blockchain holds the promise of a scaling, decentralized environment where secure authentication is paramount. Centralized databases can be breached, and, in many cases, this is due to human error in password management. Hacking can also penetrate via known or unknown vulnerabilities. Blockchain can still be prone to human error but the vulnerabilities of direct hacking are lessened considerably due to the way transactions are validated.
AT: In 2017 you successfully completed a proof-of-concept with IOTA. Will this be the blockchain that is used on a going-forward basis?
DF: Augmate is an OS and blockchain agnostic platform. We are evaluating and using several technologies based on use-case need. IOTA holds the promise of scale and no or minimal transaction costs. Other DLT technology is being developed that are purpose built for IoT.
AT: Augmate was initially wrestling with the idea of launching an ICO versus an STO. What swayed you to raising via an STO?
DF: It became clear during early 2018 that SEC guidance was indicating a need for companies to consider an investment raise using tokens to be compliant with securities laws. Augmate has customers, employees and shareholders and it was important that we not put any of those at risk by trying to force a new way of thinking about investment raises based on a desire to be an ICO versus a STO. Our own team debated this many times as the advantages of an ICO were enticing. However, we took counsel’s advice and the common sense approach that led us to making sure we were doing everything possible to protect our stakeholders while participating in the new area of investing that we feel will continue to grow.
AT: You have an impressive list of partners which includes Toyota and UPS. Could you tell us more about these partnerships?
DF: Partnerships are the basis for our growth strategies. We have strategic investors and customers such as UPS and we have application partners that showcase us to their customers. Hardware partners allow us to dig deeper into what helps them succeed while we prepare the future solutions to maximize their impact. We are all in this IoT ecosystem together and our belief is that by making our partners stronger, we become that much stronger ourselves.
AT: Is there anything else that you would like to share about Augmate?
DF: Augmate has built a world-class team and we have some of the best customers in the world. We are excited to be a leader in blockchain and DLT and focused on providing solutions for managing the massive opportunity that IoT is bringing to enterprises.
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