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An Interview with the Founder

Laura Degiovanni, founder of TiiQu, sat down with Newcert Magazine and gave an interview for their 7th issue, which was published on the 30th of June.

Laura has a background in the development of retail networks in EMEA markets, for a large Italian fashion conglomerate. She is motivated by a desire for justice, equality and freedom. For Laura, it all started when she realised that for many, large organizations end up being the death of individuals’ potential. She saw too much subjective, biased decision making in the professional world, and wanted to make opportunities accessible for all.

So where did TiiQu come from?

The name TiiQu derives from the idea of a Trust Quotient. It’s a score that measures how reliable a set of claims is at a given time. The TiiQu score is generated from validated or certified credentials: in this respect it is a bit like a credit score, but the difference between the two is that a credit score represents how likely it is you will pay back the money you borrow, whereas the TiiQu score is a numerical representation of how trustworthy someone’s claims about themselves are. This could encompass any of the following: someone’s identity, their knowledge, skills or their professional history.

The system assigns a value to each validation based on the reliability of its source and the means by which the source is validated. In summary, if a claim about an experience, skill, or assessment is validated with a test published on the blockchain, the value attributed to it will be greater than that of a claim validated by a simple review or with a badge. This is because the information published on the blockchain becomes immutable and unfalsifiable, while a review is extremely subjective and a badge (which is typically stored on a shared database) is editable and easily falsified.

But the fundamental aim of TiiQu is to facilitate trust and to promote access to opportunities regardless of gender, status and ethnicity, and to give every individual the recognition they deserve as a person.

How does TiiQu work? Could you give us a practical example?

TiiQu technologies have two aspects: a B2B and a B2C face. Let’s turn to those who certify with Certiif and to those who want to create an irrefutable reputation with TiiQu. I'll give you two B2B use-cases and finish up with the B2C.

Certiif in the context of the refugee crisis:

Typically, refugees suffer discrimination in the jobs market because they lack proof of their skills and qualifications, and in some cases, they lack proof of identity as well. We work with ecosystems of NGOs and inclusive employers to provide irrefutable evidence of training and apprenticeship completion for refugees.This enables refugees to start building a shareable reputation in the form of individual proofs of competency. In the later stages, we hope to be able to add work permits and residency documentation to the list.

Certiif In the context of education:

We provide universities and professional bodies with the ability to issue immutable proof of education certificates or aggregated blockchain-based micro-credentials. For example, a student can earn a digital certificate that is the result of a given number of micro-credentials they have previously earned. The institutions define a program, associate a micro-credential with each step, and define the criteria required in order to receive the corresponding certificate. Because the information is on-chain it cannot be falsified, lost or changed, but it could have an expiration date or could be suspended by the issuer. The system answers the needs of every education provider by expanding their capacity to offer “on-the-shelf” learning programs, and it can allow them to securely and objectively analyse a candidate's results.

First and foremost, TiiQu positions itself as a decentralized, secure and trustworthy reputation management system for any individual. It works as a portable portfolio of credentials that the job-seeker, the professional, the learner or the expert can share with whoever they want, or even just keep for themselves as a way of tracking their progress. It is a secure mobile app, and it securely stores credentials that feed the TiiQu score. Another intriguing part of our work is the Skilld @ functionality. This is an assessment system that allows owners to test themselves with continuous assessments and to convert the results into immutable, distributable proof.

Who are these services mainly aimed at?

TiiQu's goal is to enable everyone to access business, work and study opportunities, by allowing them to irrefutably prove their merit. We partner with entities that want to contribute to add value to their members, employees, collaborators, customers or contributors. I am referring to the formal and informal education sector associations, the ICT industry, and most importantly any and every employer. In addition, the same technology can be used for issuing and sharing health test certificates.

TiiQu was mentioned by the European Commission DLT for social and public good: what exactly does this mean? What does this mention represent for you?

It was an important recognition for the blockchain space at large and for us as a project.

It is a testament to the attention blockchain is receiving as a fundamental infrastructural technology. It demystifies the blockchain technology and moves away from the paradigm of ‘blockchain = crypto-currency’. This is so important for accelerating the adoption of blockchain credentials on the part of large employers, institutions and governments, which obviously is something we care about.

“We talk so much about sustainability in terms of consumption, but not enough about social growth.”

The recognition says that social impact is recognized as a powerful enabler of a sustainable society and reinforces our commitment to establishing a new mechanism of trust that embeds equity and equality.

We talk so much about sustainability in terms of consumption, but not enough about social growth, which is strictly related to everyone’s ability to access education, work and personal growth. The values on which all of these depend are equity, equality and - something of which we are particularly fond - meritocracy.

Do you think there are substantial differences between founding a start-up in the United Kingdom compared to founding it in Italy? If so, what are they?

I recently contributed to the # 500milionidifuturo (translated from Italian it means: 500 million of future). The appeal was launched by perhaps 50 Italian startups following the announcement that the 500 million euros assigned by the Italian government to support technological innovation via EneaTech would be frozen or converted into bio investments.

As I said in the recent interview with the team behind the initiative, what made me think about leaving Italy was the bureaucracy linked to the creation of a start-up, and what convinced me that Italy was not the right place for TiiQu was the response of a well-known Italian accelerator who catalogued the project as "not aligned with the Italian objectives of 2016: to protect permanent employment".

I think it answers your question: a startup grows best in an ecosystem where knowledge and opportunities are shared, and synergy exists for sharing knowledge, resources and support.

At present, I can only say that the support I have had in the UK is something that I would not have received in Italy. In addition to this, the setting-up, management and monitoring of admin tasks are very well-structured, easy to manage and most importantly inexpensive and fast. What London is particularly brilliant about is creating a community of people from all over the world, which facilitates the daily circulation of ideas and information. I remember my first Meetups in the blockchain space back in 2016... Exciting full immersions for very techy people. It took me about six months to understand the essence of the technology and its potential. London is perpetually immersed in the latest technologies. This is essential because it supports projects with incredible energy. That said, Italy has brilliant minds that can fly where others will never land, precisely because they synthesize unique elements that everyone envies us. My impression is that today's substantial differences could be minimal tomorrow. If the Italian ecosystem wants it.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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