Seema Khinda Johnson is the Co-Founder and COO of London based Nuggets established in 2016 and is an e-commerce payments and ID platform. Katia Lang
spoke to Seema about how she entered the world of data security over blockchain and her views on industry development.
What brought you into starting this company?
I started out in my career at a digital agency managing creative and technical teams, before moving on to focus on delivery and operations. From there, I took on leadership roles in various global businesses, building product and launching in global markets. So, why Nuggets, you may ask? I’ve always been fascinated by how rapidly technology can evolve, and particularly its potential for social good.
And when Alastair Johnson, the founder of Nuggets, suffered the consequences of a data breach first-hand, it triggered a light bulb moment: it made me think could we use technology to stop this happening to others?
It’s a problem that puts everyone at risk. And it’s one I don’t think we should have to endure when we have so many innovative technologies available to eradicate it. That’s why Alastair and I founded Nuggets, a secure platform for payments and identity verification.
What’s the main problem you’re trying to solve?
I find it alarming how much information we’re surrendering anytime we interact with a business, often handing over card details, passport scans and utility bills just to gain access to a service. We’re being asked to trust not only that the service is honest enough not to resell our data, but also that their security is robust enough to deter malicious actors in the future. The scary thing is, it usually isn’t.
Just look at the likes of Equifax and Marriott. Most businesses around the world continue to amass swathes of personal information in honey pot siloes. These huge banks of our data are extremely valuable, and as a result, they’re vulnerable. The average person has over 100 online accounts (not to mention that most of us reuse passwords), and it only takes one poorly configured backend on one of these sites to compromise user data.
I find it alarming how much information we’re surrendering anytime we interact with a business, often handing over card details, passport scans and utility bills just to gain access to a service.
Nuggets changes how information is shared – or to be more precise, we make it so that you don’t have to share it in the first place. With a stack of biometric authentication, blockchain security and zero-knowledge cryptography, Nuggets ensures that people stay in control of their own data, while still being able to buy things online and use services.
What are future trends for your industry?
We’re on-boarding those with plastic in their pocket, keeping them safe from exposure to data breaches. We’re also seeing the potential to go from cashless to card less with the technology that’s available now.
From a security point of view, we need to switch the focus from educating people on avoiding cybercrime to developing products that block the illegal sharing of information. So that even if you are socially engineered, phished or tracked there’s no negative effect.
In terms of business, we need to put an end to customers’ KYC and AML information being left everywhere. It’s a ticking time bomb, frankly. Attestation is the future, but currently one service won’t accept another’s KYC, so it ends up being duplicated and left vulnerable.
Combine that with verified ID and payment. Trends point to serious industry growth as various technologies emerge and improve the online shopping experience (think all-inclusive platforms like WeChat in China). But as it continues to scale, so, too, will incidences of fraud, chargebacks and false positives that end up impacting both consumers and merchants.
What’s clear is that trends are pointing to an increased use of multichannel strategies to engage with customers on a personal level, as well as streamlining the checkout process (both online and offline). On a grander scale, it seems that we’re beginning to shift towards a cashless society, where digital payments (via smartphone) are poised to overtake plastic cards.
What’s your vision behind the company? How is it going to change the world?
We believe personal information should be owned and controlled by the person it belongs too. That’s what’s at the heart of our business, and it drives everything we do.
From a security point of view, we need to switch the focus from educating people on avoiding cybercrime to developing products that block the illegal sharing of information.
Nuggets represents a fundamental change in the way personal data is stored. Daily data breaches show that the current model – of data being stored by individual businesses – is broken. The current flow of data between individuals and businesses is too asymmetrical. It gives us a false sense of security and privacy when, in reality, neither exists. Nuggets aims to minimise – or totally remove – shared or stored personal data through tokenisation and attestation.
As we move further and further into the digital age, our vision is to see the concept of self-sovereignty realised. I believe it’s time for people to reclaim both their security and privacy. We’re confident that we can spearhead this shift in conscience with Nuggets. And while we’re committed to growth, we also wish to see good causes grow with us. That’s why we’re allocating a percentage of fees to charity.
Does it make any difference being a female founder VS a male founder in Fintech?
I think so – but I’ve never been a male founder! On a serious note, a large part of running a company is access to capital, and the stats prove that women are granted significantly less funding than male founders. This has to change.
Your main piece of advice to other women in tech.
We’ve got to keep supporting each other and paying it forward.