In January of 2016, when Vinny Lingham announced that he had stepped down as CEO of the popular mobile gift card service Gyft, speculation began to bubble up as to what innovation sandbox he would be stepping into next. A vocal advocate for Bitcoin and the blockchain movement in the media and at industry events, he has been a leading pioneer in the effort to integrate bitcoin payments at Gyft during his tenure there.
As CEO of Civic, a new startup company focused on digital identity, Lingham is now in pursuit of a new entrepreneurial quest. Civic’s mission is to deliver secure, low-cost identity verification that’s decentralized via blockchain technology. Consumers will have the ability to share information such as their social security or identity numbers securely from any device with digital signatures that validate that the information hasn’t been tampered with.
On May 23, Lingham and Civic CTO Jonathan Smith formally announced their launch of services at Consensus 2017, offering a viable solution to ID theft, fake online profiles and bank accounts, and other data breaches that have an adverse impact on consumer identity. Civic also unveiled their plans at the Token Summit for a token offering on the Ethereum platform. A final token will be issued on the RSK platform.
Civic tokens will provide access to the product while allowing token holders to benefit from its network effect. Overall, Civic endeavors to raise $33 million through the token sale, with additional tokens beyond that allocated to enterprise partners and developers. The company has already received $2.75 million in funding via Social Leverage, an early-stage seed investment fund, as well as through various VC firms that are engaged in Bitcoin and blockchain technology, including Pantera Capital, Blockchain Capital and Digital Currency Group.
Civic’s stealth digital identity platform is designed to replace passwords, usernames and the need for biometrics. The company’s main value proposition targets the explosion of data breaches that hit both consumers and the businesses they engage with. Civic will deliver applications for securing cryptocurrencies, e-signatures, social accounts, financial services, e-commerce/credit cards and medical records. Moreover, it will have the capacity to be used as a digital replacement for passports, driver’s licenses and voter ID, among other utilities.
Consumers will install an app on their smart device, and when someone attempts to access their SSNs within their personal ecosystems, they get notified. This serves as a preventive measure for the unauthorized use of personal information. Ultimately the goal is to deliver solutions for consumers to better control their personal information while providing a positive customer service experience.
Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Lingham noted that ID theft is a pervasive issue, especially with the recent spate of around 2,000 data breaches per year in the U.S. alone.
Civic wants to solve this problem by granting people control of their identity and where their personal information is stored. By verifying their information and storing it on their personal devices, consumers can ensure that their identity information is only distributed to authorized parties.
He emphasized that when a consumer or business uses the Civic login service, no usernames or passwords are created, thereby reducing the vulnerabilities associated around one hack being able to to access other accounts.
Lingham believes that blockchains are likely the most secure place to store information right now, which is why Civic is constantly assessing opportunities to leverage and capitalize on the emerging technology.
Regarding the often-knotty scenarios created around securing government acceptance and collaboration, Lingham said: “We believe that the technology we have is unique and highly differentiated. That said, as we continue to build our user base and network for acceptance, this will draw in governments. We have already had some interest in this area and believe it will only be a matter of time.”
Based in Palo Alto, California, Lingham says he plans to open an office in his native South Africa with the goal of hiring developers there. He decided to take this ambitious step following reforms to South Africa’s business regulations that have created a more favorable environment for investments.
“We’ve always believed that one of the best applications for cryptocurrencies was the ability to power something like voting, one day,” said Lingham. “In order to get there, the larger distributed mobile identity problem needed to be solved first. This is what we are focusing on now — to build the world’s largest identity platform, powered by technology that decentralizes and secures consumer identity information.”
Image of Vinny Lingham: By Sidearmslide – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9856443