My girlfriend introduced me Taqanu founder Balazs Nemethi, because, well first, she knows that I’m best kept around fellow entrepreneurs and Balazs is great fun, and second, their bank-for-refugees startup is a great fit for our magazine Yakuzuzu. This post is excerpt from the interview that followed.
YZ: How was life in Norway? What did you learn there?
Norwegians are great at keeping a healthy work-life balance. They would work hard for eight hours, but then they would go home and hang out in front of the fireplace for the evening. This is something I try to take with me from those days: I try to keep one day a week when I do absolutely no work at all. It’s great for new ideas.
I’m not so great at this, sometimes I get stuck in work-mode for ways too long, but then my friends intervene: if I’m not responding for a few days, they would start writing me texts like “hey, it’s Tuesday night, stop working!”
YZ: How did you stumble upon the Taqanu idea?
The point with finding any project in Norway was to be distracted from reality. I was on the market for something with the promise of keeping me excited during the evenings: a project that’s bigger than you are.
It took some corners to arrive at Taqanu. I was interested in blockchain and banking, and explored ideas in that area. Plus, I was in Norway and I’m Hungarian, and then, in the Summer of 2015 Hungary built the wall to keep refugees out. All the people I’ve met in Norway asked about this one thing: how is it with Hungary and the wall? I tried to explain that it’s not like everyone in Hungary would want to keep the refugees out, most of us are in fact nice people.
These chats around the topic helped a lot to discover the utility in a digital fingerprint, and so the idea was born. I started to work on Taqanu.
It all started as project to offer banking services for refugees. Now it’s been developing into a global solution for decentralised identification and an answer to the lack of access to financial services for the estimated two billion people without financial opportunities.
YZ: What’s the next step after the idea is born? How did you get started?
I went to blockchain meetups in Oslo to pitch the idea. I had great experience there, the success started to knock on the door pretty early.
Taqanu was one of the few selected startups in the first Nexuslab programme. In cooperation with the London startup accelerator Startupbootcamp Fintech, Nexuslab gave us mentorship and coaching sessions for three months. There was only a small glitch: the final month of the programme was held in Zurich. I didn’t think twice, quit my architect job in Norway, and started to pack my bags.
The programme was great, Taqanu was taking shape, and I was talking to people who previously seemed to be way out of my league. I was invited to be a panelist on the “Proof of Identity for Refugees and Beyond” discussion on the European Identity & Cloud Conference in Munich, talking about blockchain based supranational identity infrastructure with people like Kim Cameron, Chief Architect of Identity at Microsoft or Mia Harbitz, advisor at the World Bank Group.
The story continues on Yakuzuzu.