Hi Frank, please tell us about your 10 years of journey so far with CardLab ApS.
It has been a great but also difficult ride with a lot of technical bumps on the road as we are working with cutting edge technology and things and processes never tried before. When I entered CardLab it was after having filled the position as Chairman for a little more than 3 years and been part of the initial change of the company from being a pure technology development company to also being a manufacturing company as almost no-one was able to produce the products and the technology we had developed. The first couple of years as CEO were a hard struggle to get the production up and running and start onboarding the first customer projects making sure we didn’t get ahead of the technology again making production too difficult on ourselves. We managed to get fairly stable supply chain established in China and get manufacturing up and running in a stable setup. It took a bit of work getting to understand the Chinese culture and do’es and don’ts and get a successful collaboration. The same learning also taught me that China is probably not a sustainable country for outsourcing high tech. production to, as employee loyalty is more towards the money than the employer, meaning a huge change in staff and huge challenges training and keeping a decent standard.
Secondly are the Chinese highly depending on steady high growth rates to bring the poorest part of the population out of poverty and as this highly unlikely to continue, which most likely will lead to some kind of unrest and potentially closed borders. So even when building up production we started to look for enabling relocation to outside China to secure our future supply chain, which turned out to save us when Covid-19 broke out. At that time, we had established our own card lamination factory in Thailand but still had electronic production in China, which meant a total supply breakdown in a few days beginning January 2020. Having had the initial contacts with technology suppliers outside China made it possible to change even without being able to travel. Probably one of the bigger achievements during my career.
The journey has also been bringing CardLab on the mind of everybody’s mind in this business and educate the market on using our technology. This has been rather successful as we also got grants from both the Danish government to develop the biometric card for e-banking, e-commerce and e-government and later from the European Union to create a card for protection of critical infrastructure which has had the outcome of 2 standard card products for respectively the access control sector and providing card for offline hard wallets being able to protect peoples crypto wallet by their fingerprint.
The last part of the journey has also being preparing CardLab for the future by acquiring a partner to create a complete authentication solution so CardLab today have progressed from being a technology provider to a complete “Authentication as a Service” solution provider. Lately I have also brought CardLab in as a FIDO alliance member , meaning that we within short will have FICO certified cards as authorized FIDO authentication devices, opening a market in explosive growth for us. Much more can be said but it has basically been 10 year of constant change and being alert on the changes going on in the geopolitical scene as well as the technology scene paired with the market trends.
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Given your vast experience in the tech industry, we’d love to read about some of your biggest leadership hacks and learnings. Could you share your top few?
The tech industry is moving extremely fast so it is really about building a strong team that can both take care of developing products, testing new product options and also try track of tech and trends. As a leader you can never achieve big successes alone, you are depending on having the skills and the trust of the team. To have success it is also about having view on more than the technology but also the different risk factors like the geo political landscape which can have a fatal influence on your company if not handled with due care. Planning your travel and evolution as a company is also about avoiding target fixation and be able to change direction when regulations change, pandemics, geopolitics and other circumstances come into play. And lastly have a clear communication that enables you to provide a clear vision and always have the knowledge that there might be people who know more than you, because that helps putting you in a learning mode.
Also be careful not putting all your eggs in one basket but make sure you have a way out if something does not work or does not attract the expected market interest.
Finally, be sure you have a strong marketing strategy and spend much more on marketing than you would ever have expected, when you have a new product never seen in the market before. It requires a lot of user education to see the advantages of it.
Could you please explain how your company is going about the Cyber Security solutions?
The CardLab solution is based on a biometric card and an authentication backend system and works with an API with virtually any system where it serves as a gateway or overarching security umbrella where we make the full authentication of the user before allowed access to the real system, he/she is going to work in. The way it works is by the biometric card where the user enrolls his/her fingerprint and whenever using the card for physical or logical log in you first present your fingerprint to the card and if it is your card and the fingerprint is verified to be correct a token is issued for online use. The token is then verified in the online backend and once this check is completed successfully the user becomes authenticated and can be allowed access with the user rights granted in the identity management system. So this is about to make sure that changes, updates etc. cannot take place without a correct token being presented. This virtually blocks for malware ransomware and other malicious attempts to tamper with your IT system. With the solution we also remove a huge problem with lost, stolen and/or forgotten passwords as they are no longer needed due to tokenized identity login which is immune to “man in the middle” attack and by the way saves IT department of the majority of their work by totally removing the need for resetting passwords.
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What technology exactly does CardLab provide to its users?
CardLab provides the complete “Authentication as a Service” with biometric cards for the user to turn them in a tokenized identity once the fingerprint is verified that can be used online via our backend authentication system to authenticate you as a user. This can be delivered as a complete system suitable for logical & physical access, blockchain authentication and Government and Health solutions.
In addition to this CardLab provides biometric electronic card development and production as well as licensing our technology to others in the card industry.
What are your strategies for the recent partnership with Italian hi-tech company WiBioCard?
CardLab will be producing and providing different card solutions and also make our backend authentication solution available for WiBioCard for their different customers in government, access control and blockchain industry in the entire MENA area. WiBioCard will with their partners become solution provider and integration partner for government solutions mainly using CardLab technology and products.
How does AI and ML support financial smart cards that is being provided to your clients?
The cards and the backend support unique user identification creating the unbreakable link between the physical and digital identity. With this solution any transaction online or offline will always be a Card Present transaction and the intelligence in it that your identity becomes tokenized so any skimming of data becomes worthless as tokens can only be used once. Secondly does it mean that with a court order the authorities can always reverse engineer a transaction and identify the user together with the trusted authentication partner. So in essence also a very efficient Anti Money Laundering toll that will make it almost impossible to stay undetected if fraud is suspected, but it also then is the tool that immediately is the evidence that proves your guilt or innocence.
Name any niche VAS which you think is untapped and can prove to be a boon for your company in the tech sphere?
Our solution cuts dramatically down on the need for IT support cost in organizations as the support for password reset can be removed by introducing this system as the passwords are no longer needed when transitioning to use of tokenized identity. The cards also provide FIDO logon which is becoming a standard used for web logon and also a solution removing the need to remember passwords, but as the only solution can CardLab’s solution work as an “all in One” card solution as more card account can be stored in the card so it apart from being a sing sign on card could also be selected to be your payment card, passport, crypto hard wallet, social security card etc. CardLab is the first one to provide such solution that also taps into the ESG agenda as we save plastic and energy in the production when we combine multiple cards into one card.
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What’s your advice to every fintech CEO/ CFO?
Be aware that the world changes rapidly and it is actually hard to change the world alone. If you want to go long you need to build strong alliances with established players in the market/field which also gives you credibility towards investors that always is needed in the process of building up the company. Next make sure that you don’t spread you resources to wide but stay focused and get a MVP product to the market as fast as possible. Your product does not need to the best but being the first gives you a huge advantage as long as some basic functionalities are in place at a level seen sufficient for customers. Then continue build on this and use upsale to existing customers by improving the product and add new features, instead of always trying to onboard new ones in large campaigns. Happy customer will recommend you in a way you cannot buy for money in even the biggest marketing campaigns.
Thank you, Frank! That was fun and we hope to see you back on globalfintechseries.com soon.
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The latest years have been a great travel with CardLab in leading the transformation from being a technology developer to providing full Cyber Security solutions and have biometric card products ready for sale to make peoples digital life both secure and convenient.
It has been a time to use my skillset to create a strong team and at the same time be the Coordinator a great Horizon 2020 project with the aim to protect critical infrastructure. The project is now terminated and a true infrastructure protection solution is ready for the market.
I have been part of creating strong partnerships with suppliers and customers and large organizations like IATA where CardLab for a period has been strategic partner and industry expert on biometrics in the ONE ID workgroup where I have been the representative.