Luxembourg has long been known for its world class financial centre. In fact, according to the Global Financial Centres Index, it is the leading Eurozone financial centre and second in the EU. Adding to the more traditional financial institutions are a growing number of fintech, start-ups and digital financial services companies as well as R&D centres, together positioning Luxembourg as a rapidly emerging fintech innovation hub.
Marco Houwen was approached in October 2016 by the government in his capacity as Chairman of LU-CIX A.S.B.L. with the idea of creating a European blockchain infrastructure. He immediately found the idea interesting although he is quick to add that it is a very early stage initiative.
In the simplest terms, blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly. It can be a little difficult for the “non-techie” to understand but it is not as complicated as it sounds and it is certainly one of the hottest and most intriguing technologies currently in the market. It is also the direction in which many people think the world is going although there is still debate on the subject and there are many questions surrounding its implementation.
Transfer of trust in a trust less world
Blockchain records and stores every transaction that occurs in the network, essentially eliminating the need for “trusted” third parties such as payment processors. Blockchain proponents often describe the innovation as a “transfer of trust in a trustless world,” referring to the fact that the entities participating in a transaction are not necessarily known to each other yet they exchange value with surety and no third-party validation. For this reason, the blockchain is a potential game changer. (techtank Tuesday, January 13, 2015)
The Infrachain initiative is a PPP (Private Public Partnership) working towards a trusted and compliant community for blockchain orchestrated from out of Luxembourg. Openness to new technology and new actors is key and Luxembourg is the first country to announce such a community driven permissioned node network.
“In essence the objective of Infrachain is to leapfrog the adoption curve of blockchain by creating a blockchain-node environment with a supplementary governance level allowing blockchain POC (Proof of Concept) to become operational now and not when technology and regulatory environments finally meet which might not be for up to 5-10 years,” says Marco. “Infrachain is also the first node-independent network allowing us to address the large compliance challenges such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, know your counterparty or delivery of SLAs (Service Level Agreements).”
Infrachain, officially created as a non-profit organisation on May 18, 2017, has been a one of a kind initiative up until now and strives to become a large European node network with hundreds of host operators all over Europe. The Luxembourg State will become a founding member of the non-profit association. In the meantime, seven other private players have announced plans to board Infrachain, KPMG, KYC3, Scorechain, SnapSwap, Bitbank, Abax Consulting and Allen & Overy.
Creating value for people and markets
Luxembourgish born and fluent in English, German and French, Marco built up his international profile by participating in numerous industry forums and advisory groups. An entrepreneur of 18 years, Marco is motivated by “projects that create value for people and markets”.
Before getting involved in the fintech and virtual currencies industry, Marco founded LuxCloud S.A., a market leading provider of cloud service brokerage enablement, in 2010. Prior to that in 2000, Marco co-founded Datacenter Luxembourg S.A., now recognised as one of the biggest Internet success stories in Luxembourg.
“When we created Datacenter Luxembourg we set up the company at a time when there was no infrastructure so it was very grassroots as is Infrachain. One of my driving forces is to bring e-business and e-commerce to Luxembourg. So as of 2001, we worked hard, constantly asking ourselves how we can improve the infrastructure and the internet environment in Luxembourg.”