Talk with Startin’Blox, Cap Digital’s member, and proud winner of NGI Trust

NGI TRUST is a European initiative designed to develop a human-centric Internet through a stronger European ecosystem of researchers, innovators and technology developers in the field of privacy and trust enhancing technologies.

This programme, funded by the European Commission, has selected the start-up Startin’Blox among 56 other laureates. 

Give users more control of their own data

We have interviewed Sylvain Le Bon, co-founder of the company, to know more about its project SOLID4DS. 

Cap Digital: Good morning Sylvain, and first of all congratulations for your success in NGI Trust DAPSI. Could you please introduce us to the company you founded: Startin’Blox?

Sylvain Le Bon: Of course, thanks a lot for giving me the opportunity to present the company. Startin’Blox has been created in 2018. This project comes from a strong interest in web standards and with the idea to create a new form of web, more accessible. Today, we are a freelance company working with a team of approximately 50 people. We also have raised €500K in 2019 to start the technology and €500K again in 2020 to follow the maturation logic of our product.

Startin’Blox missions is to hasten the advent of these new models and to spread their use to all; we aim for the greatest possible impact, which requires finding the right balance between social and economic objectives.

CAP: All right, and could you introduce us to the solution which has been supported by NGI Trust, Solid4DS?

S.L.B.: SOLID4DS, is the name of the project presented to the NGI Trust programme, but it consists mainly in our product. As said before, we have a strong interest in personal data management with the desire to both give users more control of their own data and to reduce their dependency to the platforms.

Startin’Blox enables our clients to develop web-based applications with little effort. SOLID4DS project aims to give more control to the user on their data when accessing and using services thanks to a privacy-by-design functional component based on Solid web standards.

Solid, web standards moving the web towards greater interoperability

CAP: What is the Solid community?

S.L.B.: Solid is a family of web standards that is moving the web towards greater interoperability. The principle is to separate the data from the interface to rewrite the maps of today’s digital economy, and offer a more trustworthy webby giving back the power to the user over their data.

Today, we are in a web that has a number of problems. For example, WhatsApp’s terms and conditions do not have a great success upon users, Amazon’s monopoly is questionable. In the end, users are locked into their own network and can only interact with network users. Whereas, the telephone network is used by everyone, without any distinction of the brand or network you used. We are in a world with no interoperability between platforms, without a regulator and lacking standards to exchange data.

Solid community is searching to ensure that any data produced by one platform could be interoperable with another and explore the possibility of interaction between several platforms by building applications. This new ecosystem being created has repercussions as the European Commission is working on binding conditions for the GAFAM and as the industry world also has begun its own definition of standards.

CAP: Talking about the European Commission, could you please tell us more about the NGI Trust programme and what is brings you?

S.L.B.: It is the first time we have been selected by a NGI programme after applying to several ones. NGI TRUST supports the approach to product development that puts user needs of internet by boosting the European ecosystem of researchers, innovators and technology developers in the field of privacy and trust enhancing technologies.

First of all, and to be clear, NGI Trust has brought us funding. As it is very hard today to find that kind of funding on personal data in France with our situation. It allowed us to advance on the deployment of the technology while respecting personal data and align the technology with the initial promise. Secondly, we also had the opportunity to have coaching and pitching sessions to investors and other Trust laureates. Finally, we did not have (for the moment) any European outreach or outcome as our participation to the programme just ended this summer.

NGI Trust is also interesting for us as it allows us to compete with a high quality of project evaluation. Indeed, the programme has a pragmatic approach close to the field, interesting to us as we are in the implementation phase.

CAP: What are the next steps for the technology you are developing?

S.L.B.: We are currently preparing for a new fundraising of €1.5M to €2M. As our technology is now mature, we will use this amount to industrialise our processes and make the product available to all our clients.

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