Startup Spotlight: Blockchain-Powered Platform AKcess Launches In Kuwait
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Despite the fact that most customer forms today are digital, many customers are still tasked with the mundane routine of having to fill out the same form umpteen number of times. Whether it’s filling out the same old “know your customer” (KYC) form at a bank or university, or having to provide identification details during every hospital visit, it is a time-consuming and unnecessary routine that can be negated with a little technological intervention.
This is where AKcess, a tech software firm that promises a safe and secure digital identity management solution for private and commercial use, comes into the picture. Launched in 2017, AKcess provides a range of services that enable an individual to use his/her mobile phone as a digital identification tool, and in the process allows for enterprises across various industries to easily collect, verify, and share customer data in a secure and transparent manner.
“KYC is a major challenge for all financially regulated and unregulated companies but the bigger challenge is to update the KYC after initial onboarding of a client,” says Nehme Abouzeid, founding member and Chief Technology Officer of AKcess. “Using a combination of our mobile app and our blockchain network, we were able to find a solution acceptable to all parties, the regulator and the institutions. The objective is to have a shared eKYC platform, where institutions verify an individual’s KYC or data profile for use within the institution (for onboarding purposes, opening accounts, etc.) once a user is verified. This verification is registered on our blockchain, and can be used by other institutions for the same purpose, always with the approval of the individual.”
Akcess’ services are currently provided to banks, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), educational institutions, and the healthcare sector. Abouzeid explains that in addition to speeding up the entire verification process for these firms, AKcess has also ensured a cheaper and more up-to-date process for them. “The more the individual shares the same KYC the more essential it becomes and the easier it will be to keep it updated across all institutions,” he explains. “The entire ecosystem benefits, from banking, to universities, hospitals, insurance companies and more.”
While there is currently quite a rage around blockchain, Abouzeid says AKcess only uses the technology because it remains a perfect fit for the firm’s mission- not because of the hype. The firm uses distributed ledger technology, also known as shared ledger, which ensures that digital data can be replicated, shared, and synchronized across multiple institutions, regardless of geography.
“A distributed ledger is used to store document hashes -in other words, document identities or fingerprints- without having to store the actual data,” he elaborates. “Once a document is hashed, we store verifications and check against it, also as hashes. This way, we never have to store any actual data all along; our platform seamlessly ensures that the data shared on our network between users and companies is authentic.”
When asked what sets AKcess apart from other digital ID solutions, Abouzeid explains that his platform gives the user complete authority over the information sharing process. “Our USP is that users of the AKcess Digital ID app allows them to receive, save and manage their personal data on their device,” he says. “Thus, we do not have any central database, all the data is owned and controlled by the user, and stored on the mobile device. After that, the user can send the profile to companies, preserving data security, privacy and integrity.”
With a team of over 30 developers spread across London, Romania, and Moldova, AKcess recently launched its global blockchain platform AKcessChain in Kuwait. “Our global blockchain platform is AKcessChain, built on Hyperledger Fabric, and we launched the private blockchain network globally and in Kuwait,” Abouzeid says. “We currently have nodes in the UK, Switzerland, and Canada, and have configured nodes in Kuwait, one for each of our large clients. The Kuwait network is being used by top financial institutions for onboarding clients, verifying and updating KYC profiles, as well as managing transactions. We are now in advanced talks with financial institutions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and are also preparing for our expansion into the GCC market.”
But it’s not just the GCC region that’s in AKcess’ sights- the UK is also on the company’s radar. “In the UK, we are planning two major vertical solutions: SMEs and education,” Abouzeid reveals. “The first phase is [centered on] launching a platform geared towards SMEs, where we are bringing banking grade technology to the mainstream. The platform will allow any business to create their own secure cloud hosted node, and start using blockchain in a seamless and transparent way. We offer form digitizing and automation, including digital form signing, OCR data extraction from documents, KYC verifications, and more.”
As for the road ahead, Abouzeid is clearly hoping to build on the momentum his company is currently on. “In the coming year and beyond, we will be rolling out to additional territories, adding more APIs to the platform as well as more integration points with popular applications,” he concludes.
‘TREP TALK: Nehme Abouzeid, Chief Technology Officer, AKcess
Looking back on the past year, what were your goals, and were they achieved?
My goal last year was focused all around delivering the core AKcess platform. I wanted to focus on building my core team, putting in place the working processes in order to have the base to expand and prepare for our UK and global rollout. I’m very happy to say all goals were successfully achieved! We launched our Kuwait platform ahead of schedule, and we are currently in the final stages of rolling out the UK platform with our SME product offering.
How do you keep your team motivated, particularly during these times?
I believe in self-improvement and self-learning. If you have the basics, then everything is possible. So, for myself and my team, the main motivator is continuous learning, research, and looking for new challenges. During this period, I focused on providing the team a high level of flexibility, especially for working times and deliveries of work.