An incubator for digital independence

July 30, 2019

By: Heather Dahl, Executive Director & CEO, Sovrin Foundation

On July 23rd, the Sovrin Foundation announced the launch of the first ever incubator for decentralized digital identity. The Self-Sovereign Identity Incubator, which will be based in San Francisco, marks the transition from decentralized identity as a concept that can solve the persistent problem of verifying identity online to a reality where start-ups, companies, and organizations begin the actual business of transforming the way we use the internet and how we manage our digital lives.

The Foundation has designed and created the Self-Sovereign Identity Incubator in partnership with Hard Yaka, an investment firm founded by Greg Kidd, CEO of globaliD, and the founding partner of Hard Yaka—a fund investing in portable identity, payments, and marketplaces necessary for digital transformation that has invested in more than 100 early-stage startups, including Twitter, Square, and Ripple

Together, we share a vision of the power of decentralized digital identity—self-sovereign identity (SSI)—to solve fundamental—and increasingly debilitating—identity and data management problems for consumers, citizens, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governments. But we also believe SSI represents a critical opportunity to regain control over our digital lives and the data that defines who we are and what we do. 

The argument for self-sovereign identity

The story of the internet is the story of how we lost control of our data and with it, privacy and security. Self-sovereign identity is an opportunity to start over, to begin a new chapter, where individuals control their identities.

We should be able to own and share our digital credentials, wherever and however we please. That’s self-sovereignty—we are our own sovereign power online. In principle, it’s a hard thing to argue against: If you believe you have basic rights to do this in the physical world, why would you not have them online? 

Still, it’s a bit of a stretch for the average digital consumer to envision a world where they can control their identities. They don’t see the technology that can make this happen, and they can’t imagine why companies would let it happen even if it did exist. 

But the technology does exist—many people are working hard to see it come to life—and we believe businesses have as much to gain from self-sovereign identity as consumers. Self-sovereign identity’s power comes from its protean ability to solve fundamental—and increasingly debilitating—identity and data management problems for the consumer, the citizen, businesses, and governments. Its prospective use cases and potential efficiencies are vast. It makes the threat of data regulation go away, and it addresses the growing fears around the misuse of personal information for nefarious purposes. Self-sovereign identity’s transformational power is that it creates trust online where trust is being worn away or lost. Building and rebuilding trust online is our fundamental goal.

A market that works for both consumers and business

The history of digital commerce to date has shown that people won’t take control of their digital identities until they have the simple and efficient means to do so. There have been solutions proffered, half-measures implemented, but the net effect for the individual has usually been negative: a lot more work for little visible or tangible change in their ability to control or move their data. 

The means to control identity must be convenient and produce tangible and recognizable benefits to all users; otherwise, human nature tends toward continuing with the status quo even if that status quo is neither sustainable, nor ethical. In creating a new market built on self-sovereign identity, we must create solutions that can be used by individuals to make their lives immediately and visibly better. We can do this by investing in those who can see real, tangible use cases for a suite of digital identities and the associated credentials that are owned by an individual. 

That type of innovation comes from early stage companies who have the freedom and resources to create without the constraints of legacy solutions. Sovrin and Hard Yaka’s goal with the incubator is to support these companies within an environment where emerging technology can create a new marketplace that is interoperable with existing markets. 

While the incubator companies will be participating in a 12-week program, the implications of the work they produce are much larger in scope and further reaching. They have the opportunity to change the nature of the digital economy while respecting individual data rights. 

Why Sovrin?

Sovrin is now the global leader in blockchain digital identity technology. We have reached this point because our goal of self-sovereign identity for all is both industry agnostic and untethered to any nation, state, company, or enterprise. Our technology is adaptable and scalable—and it has been built by an open-source developer community nurtured by Sovrin, under the guidance of a robust, independent, and rights-driven governance framework provided by Sovrin. We are community-minded, community-built, and community-driven. 

As we move closer to “Opening Day” for our incubator, we will welcome the first cohort of startup companies who will soon change the way we do business and the way we interact with each other as individuals online. These companies are the first of many. They represent an unstoppable force, one that will lead to our natural rights to identity and privacy holding sovereignty online.


The mission of SSI Incubator is to facilitate the creation of the next generation of SSI-based companies of all kinds and in all markets, by providing early stage startups with industry-leading technological guidance, business development expertise, and $180,000 investment to bring their self-sovereign identity solution to market. Applications for the Fall cohort are due July 31st, 2019.

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