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14.12.2017 Startups

Interview with Douglas Bakkum, Co-Founder of Shiftdevices

Douglas Bakkum co-founded Shift Devices and is the inventor of the Digital Bitbox cryptocurrency hardware wallet. Shift Devices builds personal physical keys for the digital world. These keys solve the problem of how digital assets can be secured in the safest way possible that is still simple for users.

Douglas is an accomplished neuroengineering scientist (Ph.D. Georgia Tech) and former group leader at ETH Zürich (6 years) with a diverse background spanning mechanical engineering (M.Sc. and B.Sc.), AI, cognitive science and robotics. On the side, his collaborative works in the bioart field, the Meart and CellF projects, have been exhibited around the world and received numerous prizes.

 

By Helmuth Fuchs – In the interview, Douglas Bakkum, Co-Founder of Shiftdevices, talks about

why storing cryptocurrencies on trusted websites or with banks is not sufficient

„We live in a world where basically all of our computers, all of our mobile phones can be assumed hacked, also all the servers on the websites.“

„We believe the best way to keep things that are digital, that have value, secure is to never let the secrets, the keys to the crypotcurrencies, touch the computer or the internet.“

 

what the biggest problems were they had to solve to get to the final product

„It’s thinking like a thief. You need to think of every possible attack scenario and try to do the best you can to prevent it.“

 

what happens if you lose the digital bitbox with the SD card in it

„The digital bitbox has an SD card. The reason for that is to do backups and recoveries. It’s very important to keep those two things separated.“

 

which other use cases there are for the digital bitbox

„The digital bitbox really is a general purpose cryptographic device so it could be applied to anything you use cryptography for.“

„In the future there is going to be more and more value being put online and you are going to need a key in your pocket for your digital world.“

 

how he wants to finance the growth and expansion of the company

„We ended up recently taking a small seed round from a group of Swiss investors, including Stefan Heitmann. We are interested in growing the company and are also looking into venture rounds.“

 

where the development and production will be located when the company grows successfully

„We continuely try to put more and more of the development and manufacturing inside of Switzerland. We think that’s a big advantage for us.“

„Switzerland has a stable government, crypot-friendly laws and a respect for people’s privacy.“

 

which parts of the solution are protected, for example by patents

„Our code is all Open Source, we strongly believe this is required for having trust when you deal with security.“

„Even with patents on the software and the hardware, people can steal it. You just make a small change and then you can avoid patents.“

„The best value we can offer is the reputation we have and the skills we have in our team.“

 

how Switzerland’s reputation as a safe haven translates to his business

„I would translate that into meaning that Switzerland has a lot of respect for people’s individual rights and people’s privacy.“

 

what his expectations were for the F10 program and to which degree they were fulfilled

„It’s been a great experience. When we entered six months ago, we were only two tech guys, we had not a lot business skills. With F10 we really grown in that respect. Right now we have seven people.“

„Another aspect is the really great connections to the sponsors and other big companies in Switzerland.“

 

the next important steps in the development of the product and the company

„We are currently overhauling our desktop app, making it a lot simpler to use and a lot simpler to expand it to other features and cryptocurrencies.“

„We are in the process of making the next generation hardware device and exploring enterprise solutions.“

„We are expanding more globally. We are looking at Tokyo right now and hoping to establish a base there in the next year or two.“

 

three wishes, if they are granted

„Health, happiness and a job I love.“

 

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Helmuth Fuchs

December 14, 2018

The link to the video: https://youtu.be/VWrBkkNkftk