by Charlie Renzoni
2021 was a milestone year for the crypto and blockchain ecosystem. The number of unique users in the ecosystem is expected to pass 1 billion in 2022. If you have spent any time in the space, you’ve probably encountered the wildly disjointed wallet management, KYC, and proof-of-ownership experiences.
But it’s not just web3 users that are experiencing poor identity management. If you have hopped on a plane, changed banks, signed a document electronically, or even attended a concert, you have likely been processed through a digital identity verification product and (knowingly or not) handed over personally identifiable information to a centralized platform.
Today we announced our investment in Qui Identity’s $5M Seed round alongside Round13, Wittington Ventures, and several angels.
Qui Identity is building a platform to manage identity using decentralized tools, solving for the rapidly growing identity problem in the exponential web3 markets — this alone is exciting. But the opportunity also spans web2 and physical in-person use cases, massively increasing the market opportunity and potential impact.
Why Qui, and why now?
Frist and foremost, Qui Identity was founded by industry veterans (and long-time OMERS Ventures alumni and friends) Kirk Simpson and Peter Carrescia. As OMERS Managing Partner, Damien Steel noted “I hold these two individuals in the absolute highest regard”. Both Kirk and Peter are leaders that we have deep trust in and respect for. Having founded and scaled some of the country’s most respected start-ups, their operational experience, industry expertise and proven leadership abilities provide an iron foundation for this kind of venture.
Second, the broader data portability landscape is something we’ve been interested in for some time. The underlying notion of data portability is that you should own your data and be able to do with it what you please. We firmly believe that people have the right to own, use, and maintain the privacy and security of their personal data without a dependency on centralized platforms. There are countless use cases stemming from more effective data portability, such as open banking (as we wrote about last summer), managing your data on social networks (and in the metaverse), or true ownership over your identity and personally identifying information.
Multiple forms of identity management are already pertinent to our existing investments. Across DuckDuckGo, Medal.tv, Digital Currency Group, ClearEstate, PasswordBox, and many others, seamless privacy, proof-of-ownership, and know-your-customer (KYC) solutions are top strategic priorities. We reached out to our wider networks and portfolio to validate the opportunity and the response was singularly unanimous: secure/private identity management and KYC remains a huge friction point across customer journeys and in risk management.
When we started building our data portability thesis, decentralized (web3) solutions were considered as high potential opportunities. At the time, the wider crypto ecosystem infrastructure and developer tools were quite nascent. This has changed rapidly in recent years, helped in large part by the >$4.6B of capital invested to support web3 founders last year. The recent the maturation of web3 talent, developer tools, and market demand have created an environment ripe for decentralized digital identity tools to be successfully launched and widely adopted. While there are early experiments in this area, and glimpses of opportunity when looking at identity related use cases for zero-knowledge proofs, POAPs, and soulbound NFTs, one thing is clear: It is still difficult (some claim impossible) to validate that you are a unique human without releasing your personally identifiable information. This is the problem we are thrilled to support Kirk and Peter in solving.
Qui is hiring.
If you are looking to join a stellar, proven team, take a look at this link for the open roles. You would be joining on the ground floor — the team has communicated that they are working towards a first iteration MVP (minimum viable product) for early 2023. Kirk writes in detail about Qui here.
If you are interested in Qui, or in chatting about the wider decentralized and open data market, don’t hesitate to reach out!