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Ernst-Jan Pfauth
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Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

Five Questions for Start-upsEvery week we publish an interview with a start-up. We ask five questions, hoping the answers will give you inspiration and new views. Well, actually six questions, since we also ask the start-up to who he or she is passing the mic to.

This week we’re interviewing Charles Nouÿrit, founder and CEO of French start-up Since Matt Colebourne from CoComment asked us to do so. aims to certify your digital identity and to allow you to claim all your websites, blogs and on-line profiles. So that you can manage your on-line reputation. They we’ll be going in private alpha pretty soon.

How did you come up with the idea of

Question number“Well, I was at a family dinner with my parents and sister. While we were eating, my father asked me what would be hot in 2008. I told him video, microblogging, social networks and since it was at the time that Kathy Sierra had her death threats problem, I came out with Digital ID Certification. As a matter of fact any attempt to certify digital identies so far was very complicated and couldn’t be deployed on a larger scale. So the idea just popped-out like that. I stayed at the dinner for another 30 minutes, then I left in a rush to put my idea on paper.

After 15 days of checking the validity of the certification process with two friends that became my partners in this new venture, I came out naked on my blog on April, 1st announcing what I was willing to do. I was amazingly surprised by the response of the French community that started talking about it everywhere, so it became imperative to create the company and start developing the platform. After eight months of development and wasting four other months with UK banks, we’re almost ready to launch the private alpha version in a few weeks.”

What was your biggest challenge during the development process?

Question number“Actually we encountered two big challenges:

Creating a UK based company when you’re a French guy is an incredibly long process. I’m talking months of administrative problems, especially with the English banks. But for technical reasons we had to be UK based, it’s the only country where we can run our certification process worldwide.

The second challenge was the website security and the automatizing of the certification process where there is no human being involved and is working worldwide except in most of African countries, dictatorial countries and a few Asian countries such as Indonesia. Security was a real problem to us, since you give us your ID we cannot take the chance to be hackable. So we had to build a fortress to protect it.

Also our product has to be mainstream, so we had to make it easy to use.

My advice is to be patient, don’t loose your faith and always think it’s gonna take twice the time you expect it to take.”

Can you describe the French start-up culture compared to Silicon Valley?

Question numberWell, let’s say that living in France can be an advantage for building a start-up because you can have huge amount of government subsidies. That’s considered as “free money” since you don’t have to give away shares in exchange. Yet you must think about a global launch at first and not aiming on a local market.

French start-ups are starting to get really famous, just think of Netvibes and Dailymotion. Yet I’d rather be in San Fransisco than anywhere else. Because of the easy networking.

But working in Europe does has its advantages. The way I see it, being part of the Old Europe gives us a lot of history, culture and a different way of seeing things. Especially when we talk about privacy, France has always been really picky about that subject since the Nazi occupation. So we’re trying to translate that to the way we’ll deal with your data, in example there is no way for us to get access to it neither to sell them to third parties.”

What will be the influence of your start-up on the next web?

Question number“Trustworthiness and on-line reputation: we’re trying to create trust between the Internet users. You’ll be able to verify the ID of someone, check if he’s really the author of that blog, that comment, that profile, those photos: any kind of content published on-line.

There are 1.2 billion users on-line now, how do you know that you’re talking to the right one, that it’s not a fake account made by someone who has stolen an ID?”

You can make up this question yourself!

Question numberIs your service free and how many users are you intending to reach at the end of the first year?

No it’s not free, but almost since the certification process costs only 5 euros for one shot. Why? In order to provide a trustworthy certification, we need to verify a lot of information about you and this verification is an expensive process. We also need to get access to your credit card as it’s part of the certification process.

We’re planning to have around 400,000 users by the end of 2008 and really hope to reach more people.”

Who’s next?

“You should interview Cédric Giorgi from, he won a Le Web 3 award this year.”