Emerging Technologies

Blockchain could be the answer to Switzerland’s business registration bureaucracy  

A balloon flies over Swiss mountains during the International Hot Air Balloon Week in Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Blockchain could offer a secure way of facilitating Switzerland's notoriously bureaucratic business registration process. Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Dylan Love
Tech Reporter, Business Insider
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Here’s a little-known fact: it’s approximately as difficult and time-consuming to incorporate a business in Switzerland as it is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Swiss entrepreneurs face on average a six-week-long, paper-heavy process to legally register their business entity with the government. This doesn’t jibe with a generalized sense of Swiss perfection. Even though the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report identifies Switzerland as the world’s most competitive economy for the eighth year in a row, it simultaneously pegs the country as bureaucratic. Of the 138 countries surveyed, Switzerland’s business incorporation process is the 54th-easiest to navigate and the 56th-fastest to complete.

Switzerland is the world's most competitive economy for the eight year in a row. Image: World Economic Forum

A demonstration of blockchain technology by a company called Proxeus significantly moved the goalposts on Switzerland’s six-week process, registering a valid legal entity (“Drakkensberg AG”) with the complicated government in one hour and 37 minutes.

The most time-consuming portion of their accelerated process was the time it took a bike messenger to deliver the certified paperwork.

Image: Proxeus

Proxeus’s software platform is well-contextualized as a “sandbox” for building blockchain applications. It’s especially adept at bringing cryptocurrency-style, decentralized “trust” to document-centric workflows. Users can harness the blockchain to conduct proof of ownership and identity validation operations, and securely track a document’s lifecycle as it moves from one place to another. In this case, the company flexed its might on its own platform to sufficiently shorten the Swiss incorporation process to the length of a romantic comedy.

The same technology that powers Bitcoin can be used to store and verify information so well that the Swiss government trusts it. “Without any legislative change, we demonstrated that traditional paper-driven, highly iterative processes can be transferred to the blockchain securely and effectively,” said Proxeus co-founder Antoine Verdon. “Our workflow increases efficiency and dramatically lowers costs.”

It remains to be seen whether the Swiss government will adopt Proxeus’s blockchain application as the new normal process for registering a corporation, but the company’s live demonstration was a compelling proof of concept. The blockchain is useful far beyond finance and cryptocurrency: it’s a new way to store and validate information.

And it works as precisely as a Swiss watch.

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