Seal Network - Interview with Mr. Michael de Blok, the VP of Seal Network USA.
Interviewing the vice president of the Seal Network. One of the most promising projects of 2018
My name is Mickey, also known as Tezkatlypoka from Reddit
and in today`s interview I would like to introduce you a very interesting person who is also very easy and funny to talk to.
You can listen to the soundtrack of this article here: Play me
In this interview we will focus mainly on 3 words : WHAT, WHY and HOW, and as it will be an interview, another important piece of this article will be WHO, and it will be no other than the Vice President of a very promising project which is a new Player in the field of counterfeit protection. They are looking to protect the creator`s authenticity and are innovators in the field of secondary market protective distribution, the Seal network.
I am intrigued by this project, not only because their vision is to protect the customer and the brands, but also because they have a working product which is already in use by first customers. It is powered by superior new technology that uses NFC(ISO/IEC standard) chips synchronized with a blockchain solution. It’s main features are, it allows product authenticity and provides additional value and information about the product, such as product history
and ownership. In the future, it could provide such information as ambient temperature and geographical information.
Seal network will be a new player into the market which has other successful project’s like Wabi and Vechain, but in my eyes, Seal adds extra value to the customer's side also and embraces the whole authenticity solution
with more grace than these two solid projects, who already rushed into cryptocurrency field last year.
If this is the first time you are reading about the Seal project, let me introduce you to a whole story just a little bit.
Seal’s vision is to put a special chip inside the luxury or quality crafted product to protect and guarantee its authenticity. If you want to buy a ladies handbag by Chanel or an already used iMac which is being sold on an internet auction, you will probably have to pay a decent price for it because it should be a good original product from the worldwide famous brand, right? But how can you be so sure that your money has been used for purchasing of the original product and that your money has been used not as a support for a brand or person you like and admire, but for a fake that looks so real, that maybe you don't even bother? But that's the point. Some people care, some do not, and the people who care are also the people who, by giving their money for some kind of product, are also sending a personal message to the brand of their choice that they are supporting that one particular craftsman, that one particular tailor or that company with a "half bitten" apple in their logo. It is not always about a money, but about the fact that you wish to be a part of the community and a dream that you have finally something you adore, has been taken away from you.
You have been CHEATED!
I know that if people want luxury goods, they will go to the luxury store. If they want to buy a fake, they also know where they want to find it.
Ladies and gentlemen's, dear readers, today's interview will be with Mr. Michael de Blok, the VP of Seal USA.
Part one: Always start with WHY
Hello Michael! Thank you for making a window in your schedule for this little interview of mine. So, first of all, I have introduced you as the VP of Seal network, but please tell us something more about yourself and more importantly tell us also how you became the VP of the project?
Where do I begin? I've been in the IT industry as a consultant and various other roles for the past 18 years.
My last position was at Microsoft HQ as an Escalation Engineer, where I worked closely with the Fortune 100 & 500 companies in solving their architectural IT issues. Ranging from simple issues to sitting in conference calls with the entire executive CxO team because they had a breach. I can tell you it's very interesting to work with the FBI and Interpol at that level.
I started out as the Director of Operations for Seal in late June 2017, where I quickly got the business operations in order and running smoothly so that we could focus on the bigger picture at hand, onboarding customers. After a 6 month period of tirelessly working in that position the CEO wanted to promote me to Chief Operating Officer, unfortunately due to Dutch business law being the way that it is, I was not able to hold that position since all CxO executives need to reside in The Netherlands. Since I live in the United States we figured out that being the Vice President of Seal USA would be a more suitable position so that I may start the operations in America and then we may have a greater foothold here.
I did some Seal introduction above.How would you introduce the Seal project to the people? Can you also give us at least one example from your real life where the Seal could help?
Seal, is an authenticity platform and infrastructure that will empower any person to authenticate if a product is real ornot.Normally you would assume that items that are store bought are original, unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Buying (or Selling) items off of a secondary market place such as eBay or Craigslist always comes with risks involved.
A true story of a friend of mine, he sold his laptop via craigslist and didn't notice until he got home, that the serial numbers on the $100 dollar bills were all the same. Dealing with the police, losing the laptop AND the money was a complete disaster. We want to safeguard against this, by becoming the Currency of Authenticity, where we provide buyers and sellers to buy/sell their products via Seal tokens, in this sense you can verify that the product AND the money is real. We've also created an additional revenue stream for brands with Seal, normally once a product is sold the brand never makes any money off a product, especially collectibles that trade hands 10-100's of times of the course of its life. For every time an item is claimed a transaction fee is paid, i.e. $1 for the transaction fee, this is typically set by the brand and could vary per product. 70% of the transaction fee goes to the brand, thus creating a revenue stream they've never had, this is a major disruption to the industry, we have had immense positive feedback from the brands we've spoken to about it.
So Michael, why you think that brands and customers need the Seal network project?
Brands are currently spending copious amounts of money in the millions to combat their counterfeiting issues, we offer the solution for them to combat this as well as give them analytics into their products that they otherwise would not have. The analytics and insights alone are invaluable to brands, on top of the anti counterfeiting perspective that we offer, we think that we have a true solution that will aide any brand and their future growth.
Tell me something about the very beginning of this project? How and when did this all start and who was the instigator of an idea to create a new project and solve some real-world issues? How was created an idea to develop another Counterfeit technology? Was it a passion to do something new, or you have a spot and a hole in the current projects and you have wanted to fill the gap with a better solution?
Seal is the brainchild of Bart Verschoor (CEO) the history of the project stems back all the way to 2008 where he and his brother Joris had a social mobile games company called BloomSix. Since they had all these computers with powerful graphics cards sitting idle in the office, they decide to put them to use and mine this thing called 'Bitcoin' and 'Litecoin'at the time. They eventually stopped doing this since the room became too hot to work in, but they were extremely interested in the technology behind it. Their mother is an artists who unfortunately, had to deal with counterfeiting as well. So the family knows first hand, the effects of what counterfeiting can do to them. It was then that they had thought of this idea that combining blockchain and anti-counterfeiting would be a fantastic idea, but that the market was not ready for this. Over the years the brothers would come together and work on this project that they had thought of and decide when would be a good time to launch. In 2016 they decided to do some prep work and seek out hardware partners and work on a mobile app in secret. In June of 2017 the CEO thought that the right time is now and had gathered a network of people that he wanted to start the company with, I was lucky to be one of them.
What about a vision for the Seal by the end of this year and a year after that? What can we expect from such a team as Seal definitively has?
Our focus will lie on business development, onboarding customers and creating lasting partnerships.
We've created a platform and infrastructure that enables partner channels to resell Seal for us, this will allow us to grow rapidly and exponentially in a very short time.
People say that Seal has a team full of young inexperienced members. But as I can see people in your team are very motivated indeed and if you can inspire already motivated people, miracles start to happen. What do you think about that, do you have any concerns?
Though we may have some younger team members, they have been selected based ontheir knowledge, eagerness and have the same values as the company.We are seeing the worth in our employees and allow them autonomy, and freedom to come to us with new ideas.In the words of the late Steve Jobs:
"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
This sentence resonates with us as a company as a whole, we all work together, not in silos.
Also, I have noticed that you have already made some changes in your team and I hope it is for good purpose. Does it mean that you are very picky with whom you cooperate?
In a startup there isn't a lot of room for mediocrity, especially in the blockchain world.
We need perseverance and excellence in order to succeed.Sometimes a culture fit is more important than hiring the right person that does not fit in the team at all.
The whole team stands on two brothers. We can read about them on your Team section, but can you tell us something about them from your perspective? What can you say about Bart and Joris as their colleague?
I have known the brothers personally for at least 20+ years now, we have had the pleasure to see each other grow up, spread out around the world and do our own things and support each other in our journeys.
The brothers are like family to me, and like a family some discussions get a little heated, but in the end we always come together and figure out a solution, it's beautiful really.
Everybody knows that you want to protect brands and their customers, but how about another sensitive topic which is pharmaceutical stuff? Is it true that Seal will cover also this field of interest? Do you have some plan for possible cooperation in this area?
In the long run there is no product that we want to leave unturned, pharmaceuticals is another big niche where we will dive into in the future. There is a major need for proving authenticity on medicine. We’ve all seen the spam email fly by of certain items, the ones that are really deplorable to me are the ‘anti-cancer’ medications where people believe
those are real. In an ideal world we would be able to stop this, or at least educate people that those items are fake.
So, let’s say you’ve made the world a slightly better place, let's imagine this scenario: Someone’s walking down the street in what they think is an expensive Armani suit and somebody stops them all of sudden on Sunset Boulevard and scans my jacket and says:
“Sorry bro, you’re wearing a fake, yo”.
Have you ever think about a situation like this?
I’ve actually hear of this happening in South Korea, where someone got assaulted for walking around in a fake product. You never know the circumstances under which that person has bought that item. They could’ve been under the belief that the item was real. And if they weren’t aware of an authenticity mechanism built in such as Seal then they would never know. It’s up to us and the brands to educate the customer on this new technology.
Another point is if you will be successful in protecting these brands, you will also protect their profits. Do you think that brands will say one day: ok, we are losing half the money as we used to, so let us do some lower price collection which will be more for regular people but still it will be our brand, our logo, our quality, our status quo? Do you think you can achieve something like a Netflix has done a few years back when for money of two cinema tickets you can have a tv full of films and serials you love in HD quality at your service?
That’s a tough question to answer, that decision is typically up to the brands themselves and we wouldn’t want to interfere with that. If in the long run we do save the brands a ton of money, then personally I’d like to see them donate a portion to charity.
A lot of people think about Vechain as your main competitor but my opinion is that you are using superior technology. What you think about being compared to such a successful project as a Vechain?
VeChain has been wildly successful and we think they’re doing a great job, although we do not consider ourselves competitors to each other. The anti counterfeit space is a 2+ Trillion dollar industry, there is more than enough room to grow for all parties. We wouldn’t exclude any future partnerships in the future either. We do have different technology and we also have different applications embedded in our systems, as in providing the brands additional revenue streams.
Is it possible that Seal can create some strong alliances with another successful project in the field of Cryptocurrency?
I think we definitely can, there are some projects out there that we’ve been following since the beginning and have had the pleasure of seeing them grow from just an idea to a full fledged alpha, Ethos being one of them.
I also think that in order for the entire blockchain space to succeed, we must build on top of each other and build long lasting partnerships.
Everybody knows how BQX/Ethos are doing a great job of fulfilling their Vision with the recent re-brand and upcoming release of their flagship product, the universal wallet. In their team, they have a very strong, iconic influencer in Mr. Stephen Corliss. Do you also have somebody with strong connections and with good influence in the international anti-counterfeit industry?
We do! Max Blom is the founder of react.org, which is a non-profit organization with over 27 years of experience in fighting the trade in counterfeits and has an excess of 260 members covering all sectors of industry.
I heard some rumors about possible cooperation with companies like Ethos and Hewlett Packard. Can you verify this information for us, Michael?
I cannot confirm or deny these rumors, all I can say is stay tuned for our upcoming partnership announcements.
Ok.You have to be on the road these days to present the project for the world. Where have you already been and where can people meet you and see the demo?
We’ve been to events in London, Amsterdam, Zurich, and New York. We’ll be going to the blockchain expo in London on the 18-19th of April where I will be speaking as well.
For future engagements we plan on going to the major blockchain events that are lined up in New York, Last Vegas, Los Angeles, Singapore, Seoul, Dubai.
We’re also planning on going to anti-counterfeiting events hosted around the world.
Part two: Build on strong WHAT
So, you have a dynamic NFC chip with 3 layers of 128 bit AES encryption and additional safeguards. Can you explain that in plain english, please?
In layman's terms, in order to crack 1 layer of 128 bit AES encryption it will take 1 Billion years to brute force the code with current days supercomputer technology. There are 3 layers of 128 bit AES encryption so the math on that is a couple more billion years.
In scientific terms, I’d like to refer to this article that explains the dynamics behind it: https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1279619
OK great, so for all intents and purposes, it's unhackable and because of the dynamic count synchronizing with its blockchain counterpart, even if there was some quantum supercomputer that hacked it, they would have wasted a lot of resources doing that?
Never say never, but yes they would have wasted an enormeous amount of resources to crack on that one chip, not the entire set of chips developed.For items that need more security we can also implement a military grade chip that we have, those specifications are not made public. But you may assume more layers and higher encryption.
I see that you are using the Ethereum blockchain for your project. Why did you pick Ethereum?
We’ve chose Ethereum for now since it’s easy to build on top of and there’s a lot of documentation available, in essence we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It also allows for an easy pre and main sale event.
Can we expect you to move on your own blockchain in one year since now?
Looking forward long term we may need to build our own blockchain that will allow for all the features and requirements that we have. Until then, we will be announcing a blockchain partnership on the 18th of April at the London Blockchain Expo stay tuned for that.
And why do you want to use your own blockchain?
We may have different needs in the future than what we can anticipate for now, one of them being quantum proof.
This is where our quantum security engineer comes into play, she will be researching and working closely with our blockchain team to build this as well as get outside input from one of the earliest cryptographers in the space.
It seems like you have a very close relationship with the chip manufacturer’s, NXP. Can you tell us more about your working relationship with them?
We have a fantastic relationship with NXP, we have Cees Geel and Petri Kuivala on our advisory board. Cees Geel was the former CEO of NXP software and Philips Software. Petri Kuivala is the current CISO (chief information security officer) at NXP and former security Director at Microsoft and Nokia. They have been advising us on which chips to use and which chips will be coming out.
Is the chip exclusive to Seal?
The chip is not exclusive to Seal, but we will be working with NXP in the future to create our own specific chip with our own and our customers specific needs. This chip will be exclusive for Seal for the time being until we decide to license it. If any other party would wish to use it then, they will be able to do so.
What happens if I scan my product, but my phone has no internet connection? Will the dynamic chip count still be incremented, and if so, how will that affect the synchronization with the blockchain?
I am specifically thinking of the scenario were customers in a store scan products, just because they can. Like a busy electronics store maybe, lots of people scanning the product one after the other and one of those phones has no internet connection.If the phone doesn’t have internet then that identifier won’t be updated on the blockchain. Once the code has changed then it doesn’t matter if there’s internet or not. The issue will be if somehow has an very old identifier (copied chip) and wants to validate that against the blockchain, then that product will be marked as tampered.
What if the Seal chip becomes damaged and stops working, what then? Will people think that it is a fake? Or is chip able to transmit some kind of frequency even if it is broken by physical damage? Can NFC chip stand some kind of electromagnetic shock?
If the chip somehow gets damaged and the expectancy is there that it should work, then yes, it could mean that a person will think the item is fake. Unfortunately, once the chip is damaged/broken it will stay that way, but in general the chips will be installed securely enough that by using normal wear and tear this should not happen. It shouldn’t really be subjected to electromagnetic shock due to its placement in the product.
What can customers do if they found out that their chip is damaged?
If by somehow the chip were to damaged then a new chip would have to be installed by the brand.
The problem with this, is it will seem as a new product, none of the history will be intact unless the item has been claimed prior and that those records can be shared with future purchasers moving forward. We might find a way to put
a legacy pointer on the blockchain to add that damaged chip.
Part three: Focus on clear HOW
I heard some opinions like: “I want fewer apps that manage my life..”.I know very well that “Something for nothing” worked well only in old Starcraft game back in days, but do you think that using a Seal Technology will be easy and comfortable?
We aim to be completely seamless for the consumer’s life, this is how blockchain technology will succeed.
If the consumer needs to think on how this entire technology will benefit their life, any project is doomed to fail then. We want to make the UI/UX as intuitive and beautiful as possible for them.
How will Seal do audits in the company which provides these chips for the project?
From NXP’s website on Quality Certifications: Manufacturing operations, automotive business units and support processes are additionally certified to ISO/TS 16949; this technical specification aligns existing U.S., German, French and Italian automotive quality system standards within the global automotive industry. External certification audits verify our compliance with ISO 9001 and ISO/TS16949 requirements. Because quality, sustainability, health and safety and an active concern for the environment go hand in hand, our manufacturing sites are also ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certified.
Will Seal be supervised by other audit company such as Quanstamp?
We may work with such a provider in the future to ensure quality control, yes.
The seal is a Dutch company. The others in a game are Chinese companies, do you see that as an advantage for brands that they can choose a European company over Chinese based companies?
We’ve noticed that the domicile of the company is very very important to these brands. We have had extremely positive feedback due to this. From what the brands tell us they are extremely hesitant with working in the Asia domicile since that’s where the majority of the counterfeits come from.
If a product from brand using Seal chips will be sold at internet auction, does this mean that auction can guarantee that this item is an original one?
Correct! We aim to work with auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie's to not only utilize our chips but also to embed them in other items that come through them to prove authenticity of the product.
How does the situation on Internet auction look like to these days? You think that such improvement as Seal technology is needed?
I think we can greatly improve trust in these locations. Another true story from a friend of mine who bought a set of golf clubs for $1200 via eBay, it turned out those were fake straight out of China. If he would have been able to validate those clubs via the app or blockchain directly he would’ve been able to see where they originated from IF they were real.
Seal technology can truly be disruptive in all industries.
How can Seal help the world if they will be successful in the matter of directing funds back to original brands instead of fakes?
Seal, for me is a passion project that lies extremely close to my heart, a little known fact that people do not know, is that counterfeit products directly fund terrorism. Terrorist cells are now actively giving advice to sell counterfeit goods over selling drugs. The profit on drugs is typically around 200%, the profit on counterfeit goods is OVER 2000%.
In the case of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris, the two brothers were on the terrorist watch list but were removed because French intelligence had found that they sold counterfeit goods and not drugs, thus being a "minor" offense. We all know how that attack ended.
I have family members currently active in the service and family members that have served in the past. I have friends and friends of friends that have served and still serve overseas and have heard stories of the horrors that they've had to endure. While I myself have never served, this is my way of giving back to those that have. We will combat terrorism from here and aim to cause a devastating blow in their operations.
How did you get your first customer?
Through our business development manager Yuri Scholte, he had a prior relationship with them and got them extremely excited and interested in our product.
Epilogue - Part four: What does the future hold for Seal?
So Michael, the time which you have given to our interview is slowly coming to an end. I would like to thank all of you for your kind reading and I am glad that you have found your way to this article. Let's get our host to finish this article with his final words and with his words we shall say our Goodbye's. If you would like to know something else or you would like to get an answer for you won question, try to leave it down below the article and I will try to make it work. Have a good day.
Thanks everyone for reading this interview, I hope you found all the answers to your questions. If you have any further questions please join us on telegram at Telegram
We will also be at the Blockchain Expo in London on 18-19 April, more information can be found here Blockchain-Exo
with kind regards, Michael de Blok