Switzerland-based EZYcount is set to change the approach to software licensing with their Token-as-a-License (TaaL) technology. We spoke to Vivien Fuhrer, the co-founder of EZYcount and longtime financial expert, about their revolutionary take on licensing, the future of accounting and the most inspiring project in the finance industry.
Earlier we spoke about how accounting is among the top industries standing on the edge of blockchain disruption, as more companies utilize the new technology and new businesses emerge.
Could you explain Token-as-a-License in layman’s terms?
To do that I need to go a little bit back in time - it was part of our whitepaper when we looked deeper into software licensing and the current use of tokens. If you’re a company and you have an Outlook server, you need user CAL, Client Access Licenses. For example, you have a server license for Outlook and maybe 10 users connected to the Outlook at the same time. And then if one of your collaborators is leaving you can take that user CAL and give it to someone else.
We wanted to give the opportunity to our customers to have a 99-year software license. So that it should be easy for a customer to give it to someone or sell it. But when someone comes to us how are we going to check if that license is a valid one? And that’s when Token-as-a-License (TaaL) comes in. Basically, we don’t need to worry about security - because the blockchain is doing it for us. So when someone comes to us we just ask ‘hey, show me your tokens.’ And then the person shows the tokens and we check on the blockchain whether those tokens are valid. And if they are valid this person has access to the software.
How did you come up with the idea?
It started with the value we wanted to create. We wanted to create this 99-year-long license and allow people to give it to someone or sell it. So, we turned to the blockchain to solve that issue and then we kind of came up with the name after being inspired by articles online that were pioneering this topic of bringing software licensing together with tokens. There are some kinds of software out there running on the blockchain that are using software licenses on top of that, and what they are doing is basically TaaL.
Did you start this TaaL business right away?
The business had already been running. Now we’re looking to raise 2 million Swiss francs. Usually, companies sell tokens and then people get dividends from those tokens but with the current situation in 2018, it’s quite complicated legally. It’s not so easy to do a security token - there are still a ton of grey areas which made us realize we didn’t want to go that way. We wanted to go with a utility token and for us, which could provide access to the software. And then we also knew that current customer is interested in buying a life-long software license - we made a study about that. And then we thought - maybe we can bring the two together.
I believe you had a pool of clients with your accounting software business, now you’re introducing the TaaL technology. Is your target audience changing?
Our audience before were self-employed in Switzerland. A big part of our clients is already using TaaL. They are more focused on the benefit rather than the technology behind it. So they are mostly focused on “I'm going to get a lifelong software license”, and not “how am I going to do that.” However, thanks to this project we, indeed, see more technology-driven customers joining the project.
So your company produces accounting software for self-employed? Is there a demand for it in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, we have more than half a million self-employed and one-third of them are still using Excel. That’s because current solutions on the market are made for companies. And in companies, you always have an administrative expert. So the self-employed are lost in that system. So [those who are still using Excel] are the ones we plan to attract. That’s a potential 150,000 users solely in Switzerland.
Doesn’t using Taal as an underlying technology limit your user base to those who have at least some notion of what blockchain is?
Good point. At the moment it’s still early for TaaL, so it cannot be the only way for us to offer our software. So, what we do we offer a yearly license - typically SaaS and a lifelong license as TaaL - there are two business models and we need to do that because some people are not comfortable with TaaL. But we believe it’s going to change in the future.
Are there any other projects in the finance industry that inspire you?
I really like what Xero is doing - it’s very effective in [what they do for] user experience and I like that. I think accounting software should be more user-friendly and I’m taking a lot of inspiration from social media application such as Instagram. I believe they are very forward-thinking in the way they engage with their users.
Blockchain technology is all about cutting the middleman. What processes will it automate for accounting?
Basically, we have two waves coming at accounting with the blockchain. The first is audit - the Big 4 will start offering those kinds of services where they audit company information faster, more efficiently and at a cheaper cost. The second wave will come when states push for tax automation. Or when tax authorities and people who gave money to certain projects like those of the Red Cross will actually have control over financial transactions, this will require accounting software to log financial information on the blockchain for tax automation. So they’ll be able to perform analysis market-wide. It is a fantastic tool to fight against corruption and the black market.
How do you see accounting change by 2030?
By 2030 human’s tasks will be advisory, analysis and support. Just like in medicine where AI will take a look at the data about you and say you’re sick and need to take that medicine. The doctor will be there to ensure that all the information that needs to be given to AI will be given to AI and all patient-related information will be translated to the patients in a proper human way. It will be the same in the financial services: AI will do all the data entry and some kind of analysis, but then you’ll need a financial expert to challenge this information and explain it to the customer. This will result in a cheaper and faster accounting along with better financial advisory.