What is SelfKey?

[Update] — I have been chatting with the CEO and Founder of the SelfKey Foundation and KYC-Chain. We haven’t been able to meet for a deep discussion due to scheduling conflicts (we’re both just a tad busy!) but I’ll provide an update here. I have changed the title of the article (it was “Is SelfKey Real?”) as it implied too much. I’ll provide a further update once Edmund and I get to have a solid discussion of some of the concerns I list below. Kudos to him for reaching out! cheers, Darrell

I woke up very early this morning and starting thinking to myself “Is SelfKey Real?”. I’m not sure why that popped up because I didn’t realize my brain was even caring about them.

They have an ICO dropping this week and to me, it feels strange. Loads of reasons — but hey — what do I know — it’s just my opinion. Here are a few loose thoughts:

  • Twitter wouldn’t let me post their URL at all, popping the following message every time I tried to tweet out their site:
  • “This request looks like it might be automated. To protect our users from spam and other malicious activity, we can’t complete this action right now. Please try again later.”
  • Same for the token site itself — though they are pushing out alerts for it — Twitter won’t allow it.
  • This, to me, means that Twitter has blocked their URL. Perhaps they got too aggressive but it’s a red flag for me.
  • Their Twitter account is loaded with what look like paid for followers. How does a supposedly self sovereign identity company suddenly exist with a massive team and nobody heard of them before.
  • The team is massive — and I wonder how their advisors are being compensated. In market we have seen advisors asking for substantial percentages of tokens that are issued. The list of advisors is huge. I have confirmed that Chris Skinner is an advisor though, so that is cleared up (I was tweeting on that one).
  • Their market makes little sense other than the citizenship-through-investment angle, which is about as small a niche as you can find. KYC and AML are brutal hard things to solve — and the best banks are going to take years to unravel that Gordian knot.
  • The development plans are insanely aggressive — kudos for the guts but they don’t control nearly as much as they think they do. I’ve always said “Control only what you must. Influence the rest.” — they are attempting to control too many things in their dev pipeline IMO.
  • Loads more things that make my “spidey sense” tingle — things just don’t feel right.

On the other hand, perhaps SelfKey’s base in the various Caribbean countries gives it a small town advantage. They have partners (e.g. NTL) that have reach it seems. Success in projects with a big bank (Standard Chartered) looks pretty good.

However, at a more fundamental level they are missing my 2 main checkboxes that I use to see if a solution is really providing a “self sovereign identity”:

  • What happens if they go under? A truly self sovereign network would be able to pick up the pieces and keep going. I don’t see how they do that.
  • Governance — the number 1 play for big organizations to jump on board is solid governance. I don’t see anything here at all in the handling of the business, legal, and technical governance that is a must for success with self sovereign identity.

To me this is not a system I’d be jumping onto — but I look at the broader market for identity. Perhaps the niche play here is key. I don’t see the utility but some might.

My clients and partners will be getting strong advice to avoid this one. But I’m not your advisor.


Originally published at Darrell O’Donnell, P.Eng..

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