I joined Guardtime a little over a month ago in the new position of head of strategy. In my first blog post, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned and reflections on where we are headed.

After 10 years in government and public service, I made my leap into the private sector with Guardtime because I buy into our mission of validating the world’s information and making it universally reliable. The world is coming around to the foundational hypothesis of our company, that data and process integrity is the key to unlocking the benefits of the digital revolution for the next generation. Guardtime’s stack is the truth machine we need in a time of truth decay, deep fakes, data breaches and general uncertainty and insecurity.

But data integrity is about more than just safeguarding existing systems and preventing misuse. It’s about unlocking the opportunities that the next generation of digital technologies (AI, 5G, quantum computing) can bring: Smart power grids. Seamless carbon-neutral mobility. Clean water and plentiful food. Longer and healthier lives. Accountable and transparent government. Better functioning markets for everything from insurance to bulk goods. Tailored life-long learning and self-actualization through creative career arcs. These scenarios all need the trust, cooperation and sharing Guardtime’s technologies make possible.

I knew this all coming in, but a month in situ has made me a lot smarter. Some observations:
  1. I’ve been blown away by the crypto- and engineering chops of the team here. KSI’s elegance is the most visible part of what we do, but the scalability of our core infrastructure, the God’s-eye view provided by our supply chain solution or the creative solution to post-quantum ID are equally amazing. Our R&D and engineering team gives me the confidence that we will keep putting impressive new path-finding technology out there.
  2. Guardtime has learned its (hard) lessons about how to provide value based on data integrity. The most security-sensitive and advanced users of KSI may be able to shape billions of signed logs into useful information, but most need more support. To put it bluntly, not everyone will pay for machine level data integrity, and selling “security” as an abstract quality is difficult. Much of our learning and growth in the last decade has been about building products that turn data integrity on the technological level into operational outcomes.
  3. “Blockchain hype” is not always our friend. While talking about blockchain may get our foot in some doors, we do best when we work with people trying to overcome pressing, costly challenges here and now. Necessity is by far the best mother of invention - “innovation” for its own sake comes a distant second.
Of course, in the tech world, “execution is everything”, and our fundamental creative challenge is to act on this potential to turn it into a reality. So here’s what I’m working on:
  1. Building an e-government business. Guardtime started off as the Estonian government’s data integrity solution following Web War One. Since then, however, most of our work has been outside of the public sector, from defense to insurance. This is changing, as governments across the world wise up to the opportunities of getting e-government and gov-tech right.

    Much of the blockchain ecosystem has Utopian ideas about rendering government irrelevant. That is wrong-headed - government is so much more than a shared ledger. But there is a lot blockchain can do to make government better at its core tasks. This is an area where we’re working very closely with SICPA, starting with some of the most important wicked problems of good governance, including elections security.

  2. Sharing how we’re seeing the world. Guardtime has a front seat to digital disruption in many industries and a unique perspective on how to solve the challenges I described above - but we don’t have a simple silver bullet. To offer really revolutionary solutions, we need constant discussion with governments, academia, industry leaders and other companies in our space.

    It’s time for us to get more active in the marketplace of ideas. At Guardtime, we’re starting from a good basis of ongoing work, including published research, a broad publicly-funded research portfolio, industry groups and dialogue with policy-makers.

    But we are looking to do more. We are taking inspiration from the internal think-and-do tanks run by many of the world’s great companies, like the Swift Institute, Jigsaw (previously Google Ideas) and the Novartis foundation. So watch this space...

  3. Finally, I’m pitching in to our exciting scale-up story, adding my skill-set to the pile. Scaling up is where European tech has faltered in the past: we have as many innovative ideas and start-ups as the US and China, but they don’t grow big as frequently or as fast (for more, see the Scale-Up Europe Manifesto) - though Estonia is bucking this trend.

Building a scale-up isn’t easy, it’s a long slog of a ground war. It requires great leadership, a committed team and a wide range of competencies. But I feel like we have the wind in our sails. Our technology is at the sweet spot between revolutionary and practical. We have a 10-year history of successful deployments and happy paying customers. And an impressive team spread across the globe ready for the long haul.