Interview with Alberto De Capitani
Co-Founder @ Gradbase Limited

Gradbase created the Gradcode, a scannable image which is easily added to CV and online profiles. When scanned, a verifier can instantly verify whether or not the record it represents is authentic. Verify academic qualifications, professional positions and certificates for just £9 per record. Free for universities and charities.
Hi Alberto! Could you please tell us a bit more about Gradbase and what led to your co-founding the company back in 2016?
Hi! So Gradbase seems to be the one-stop shop for verifying any kind of academic, professional, or certificate-based qualification. So Gradbase kicked off in 2016, but is actually much older than that. So Gradbase started as an academic project actually, at Imperial College London - the Imperial Center for Crypto Research and Engineering, which is one of the UK's leading research centers on blockchain. And we figured out that CV fraud and qualification fraud was a real systemic issue in the university environment. So, for instance, up to 58 percent of people lie on their CV, and this is really fueled and facilitated by the fact that it's really, really difficult to verify the authenticity of qualifications today. I mean, the rise and rise of paper certificates has made it extremely fragmented, has made the scenario for verifying qualifications extremely fragmented. Everyone, every different organization around the world, issues different kinds of qualifications in different formats, and employ wildly different verification methods to allow employers to verify their authenticity. For this reason, any employee would need to know exactly the person who to contact, and basically fulfil the procedure and be familiar with every different procedure to verify these qualifications. And this, as you can imagine, is extremely difficult and, most of all, extremely unsustainable for today's global job market. I mean, job mobility is increasing, education levels are increasing all the time, and clearly this compliance system - all of it, the verification system - is simply not keeping up with the pace of of an ever-evolving global job market. And this is where we come in.
How do you measure the impact of the Gradcode? How many clients have you had to date?
So the Gradcode is where our technology really comes to life. The Gradcode is a smart QR code, a branded QR code, that when placed on a candidate's CV, LinkedIn profile or Gradbase portfolio, will allow any employer, any verifier, with just a scan to instantly verify the authenticity of that person's qualifications. And this is a real game changer, right. So first of all, it allows any kind of qualification to be verified all over the world with one simple scan. There's the same seamless experience all over the world, with just a phone and an internet connection. Then, it's also a brand enhancer for the issuer. So the issuer will have their brand in the background of the Gradcode, and this will greatly enhance the brand everywhere that graduate workforce will go. So in terms of impact, I mean, it has a great impact on simplifying the procedure of verifying qualifications. It has a great impact in making graduates and job candidates, learners, a lot more employable, and they're able to show off their skills a lot better, and be seen to be a lot more innovative than their counterparts who do not maybe have a Gradcode. And these advantages have been picked up by the 18 customers we currently have - and these are spread out throughout the UK Europe - so France, Italy - and we're also working in the Middle East as well, where the demand is really, really high. So yeah, it's really disrupting the way in which qualifications are verified today.
How is Gradbase part of the larger discussion surrounding how we assess education and information on CVs?
So it's pretty clear that humanity is over-relying on paper certificates as a way to verify the authenticity of educational information. Paper certificates have been around for a long, long time. I mean, the first paper certificates were actually clay certificates, that were inscribed on in ancient Mesopotamia, and it's crazy that humanity still hasn't meaningfully evolved from that model. Paper certificates have been great so far, but they're susceptible to all sorts of risks, such as theft, accidental loss, damage, and loss of other risks that greatly outweigh the importance that we give to these paper certificates. So it's really time to innovate from these paper certificates and make verification of information contained in these certificates fully digital, automated and seamless. And this is where Gradbase and blockchain technology comes in. So we are able to flank the paper certificate with a digital version of that paper certificate, which can be then shared immediately and frictionlessly all over the world, through just a smartphone, an internet connection and a QR code. So now the paper certificate - which proves 100 percent that your qualification is authentic - can be stowed away wherever you want in a safe place, and its digital counterpart on the blockchain will do all the hard work. And this is a real game changer.
What's next for your work with Gradbase? What are the main projects, partnerships and markets you'll be focusing on throughout the next year?
So Gradbase is now investing heavily in professional qualifications, such as continuous professional development. We've seen that academic qualifications are a great fit, and there have been successful pilots done between Gradbase and academic institutions, and now we see that professional institutions are also starting to be receptive to using blockchain technology for their own applications. So we're working now with the CPD Standards Office for continuous professional development, which is a big reality in the UK. We also wish to export this technology to the Gulf region, and we've got important partnerships in the Middle East for that. And more long term, we're looking to innovate in different sectors where compliance is equally rigid, yet the verification methods are still slow and outdated. I'm mainly thinking, for example, the oil and gas market, where regulation and KYC is a very important part. Healthcare, so that's also a very big market, and NHS doctor transfers are very, very big, crucial part of that reality. And finally, on the technical side, we're looking to extend the feature set; we're looking to make a CV builder; we're looking to build a mobile app as well, to make that verifying experience even more user-friendly. And from a blockchain perspective, we're looking to expand the technology to multiple blockchains as we've seen that - for example big banks, big financial institutions - mainly look at private permission blockchains to do their business, and this is where we would like to extend our issuing and verifying standard to. So overall, very exciting. It's always going to be a very, very busy time in 2019 and 2020.
What are the main benefits of having Gradbase operate with blockchain technology? How does this serve as an asset to your clients?
So, blockchain technology is uniquely positioned to move away from the fragmented, inconsistent model that is in use today to verify different kinds of qualifications. So, very often, when one wants to verify the authenticity of a personal qualification, they'd have to go directly to the provider. And all of this data - all of this very valuable data - is stored in all different siloed databases, corresponding to every different organization who's issued those qualifications. Despite there being some federated databases, such as *****, really a lot more needs to be done to standardize the procedures of verifying qualification. This is where blockchain can really bring the benefit. So, with our technology, we're able to encode, cryptographically encode, different qualifications from different organizations, so diverse types of qualifications from all the different providers all over the world on a public distributed ledger, which in this case is blockchain. And in so doing, we do not even have to store the qualification data on our database - the database element is reduced to a really background role. We only really use it to facilitate the user experience, and databases actually don't even need to be there at all. With the blockchain, any kind of data can be issued in cryptographic form and can be verified. No matter what the structure of the data looks like, and no matter who the provider is, blockchain can provide a standardised way to verify - to issue and to verify - any kind of information.