What is SelfKey?

Darrell O’Donnell, P.Eng.
3 min readDec 12, 2017


[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..



Darrell O’Donnell, P.Eng.

I am an entrepreneur and advisor focused on Blockchain and Self Sovereign Identity/Decentralized Identity.