Concordium – giving science the lead

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Remember when seat belts came in? Or rather can you imagine not having a seat belt in a car? We are just at the point of pre-seat belts in the blockchain space.” So says Lone Fonss Schroder, CEO of Concordium. This comparison is appropriate for the CEO as she was previously vice chairman of Volvo cars so she knows what she is talking about.

In fact, that is a common theme in her career – making sure she knows what she is taking about. She has multiple degrees, most of which were sourced as a means to upskill her work. Her first degree was in business and finance but soon found that her job in the field of aircraft leasing required a working understanding of law to negotiate complex legal contracts. So she undertook a Masters in law, a full time two year course, while working full time also.  “I was young and had lots of energy,” she says lightly.

This stood her in good stead when she moved over to the Oil and Gas sector.  “Saying things like from a legal point of view, when you have a degree in law, is very powerful.” Lone is very aware of the application of academia to commerce. For the very same reason she took another degree in insurance and even interned with Lloyds Underwriters to gain an appreciation of what was involved.

So it is no surprise that when she came to Blockchain, Lone took a blockchain course at MIT. Increasingly in her career Lone has moved towards leading edge technologies and new software applications. It is an interesting bridge in that her experience is in large, corporate and highly regulated industries – automotive, oil and gas, freight forwarding – but her interest is in the scientific, the emerging tech and the new solutions.

“Of course right now there is a lack of blue chip companies looking at the blockchain space right now. It is a combination of the tech still being in its infancy but also it is not secure and not scalable. Blue chip companies need confidence not future fancies.” It is at this point she makes the car seat belt analogy.

Lone was approached by Lars Seier Christensen, now chairman of Concordium, to come on board as an adviser. They had worked together on another project, Cashworks, a digitised trading platform.

“At that stage Lars was comparing blockchain with the internet. In fact, when we launched Cashworks it was only the 100th company to be deployed on the internet back in the 90s. So Lars introduced blockchain to me as the new internet.”

While Lone initially joined as an advisor, her interest was piqued and she left her job to come on fulltime as the CEO, also taking the blockchain course to speed her upskilling.

Based in Switzerland, Concordium is billed as the world’s leading open-source, permissionless and decentralised blockchain. Core to its unique approach are two features. The first is the built-in identity management on the protocol and the second the reliance on science to prove its validity.

The approach to identity management is unique to Concordium: not only is there an identity issuer, there is also an identity revoker. An issuer might be a bank or a government institution. The revoker might be the regulator.

“Having both sides to the identity issue is key. To counter fraud or bad actors we need to be able to revoke a false identity. It has to be transparent – as in the traditional world. Revoking would be a serious affair, requiring a court order, as again in the traditional world.

“If there is fraud, we still can’t roll the transactions back, but we can freeze it, and disclose it so we don’t interfere with the integrity of the blockchain’s immutable nature.”

The second defining feature is the reliance on scientific proof. Concordium’s protocol is deeply rooted in the latest scientific research in collaboration with the Concordium Blockchain Research Centre in Aarhus University, Denmark, and ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

“We begin with scientific proofs, implement and test, and then validate again with scientific proofs. Coming from formal, complex industries such as aeronautics and banking, this approach is hardwired in me. This is why I feel so comfortable leading Concordium.”

The importance of testing is explained by bridge building. “Anyone can build a bridge and it might work. But in order to ensure it can withstand certain weights, there needs to be static calculations that will guarantee its robustness. The same applies to code. Code is not always secure. It needs to be tested. This is at the heart of the Concordium protocol.”

Right now the Concordium is still in test mode. An initial beta is planned for the end of the month in a closed environment. A second beta will invite more external testing with the mainnet planned for release in the first quarter of next year.

With regard to funding, Lone and her team are happy there is sufficient to run the project without the need for crowdfunding. “A private placement may be explored with listing planned further down the track.”

And who is Concordium hoping to attract? “Both crypto enthusiastics and corporates. We are the bridge.”