He had his first taste of entrepreneurship when, fresh out of National Service, he launched a tuition agency at 21. “I enjoyed the satisfaction of running a brick and mortar company where I had to also do things like buy tissue paper and clean the toilets myself,” says Quah.
The thrill and challenges of a start-up life continued to capture his imagination, even when he joined an investment bank after graduating with a Bachelor of Accountancy from Nanyang Technological University
“In a corporate job, I could plot out my life ahead of me. But when things get easy, I become very uneasy. Ironically, I am more motivated when it gets tough as I like to have a lot of ownership and accountability in what I do,” says the 29-year-old, who loves dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
So, he left the corporate world and went on to complete a string of successful stints at fintech companies in roles that included being a chief partnership officer at payments start-up FOMO Pay and the global head of field and managing director of Asia with Lykke AG, a Swiss-based cryptocurrency exchange.
In 2018, inspired by his interest in blockchain, he co-founded Ceito, a consultancy that helped companies adopt this new technology. However, after realising that this business model was not scalable, Quah created a product using underlying blockchain technology different users could adopt.
Four iterations later, the company was rebranded as Accredify in 2019 and provides an easy-to-use method to create, issue and authenticate digital documents that can be accessed simply by scanning a QR code. It uses the open-source Ethereum-powered OpenCerts platform created by GovTech Singapore to issue and validate tamper-resistant documents.
The company had already begun to make headway in the higher education sector by creating and issuing digital graduation certificates and transcripts when Covid-19 hit. This marked the turning point for Accredify. “The pandemic was the trigger and accelerator for the adoption of this technology,” observes Quah. Last July, it began working with the Singapore government to issue verifiable discharge memos for Covid-19 cases among the migrant worker community to facilitate their re-entry into the workforce and dormitories. To date, Accredify-issued verifiable discharge memos have been verified more than four million times.
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“There have been reports of people in other parts of the world faking Covid-19 test results or certificates to get into places or to travel. What we are doing to open up the economy is special as any document we issue is verifiable,” says Quah. With tamper-proof digital health passports secured by blockchain technology, immigration authorities can be assured that the individual’s test results are authentic, thus paving the way for smoother international travel as borders gradually reopen.
Accredify is now working with close to 400 clinics around the region, and its major healthcare partners include Parkway Pantai, South-east Asia’s largest private healthcare provider – and one of the largest in Asia.
For now, the company, which currently has 13 full-time and seven part-time staff, is focused on using its technology for Covid-related cases. In the future, these digital passports can also be used for vaccinations and other health-related issues. Beyond healthcare, this technology could also be applied to verify an individual’s range of credentials for licences and even credit rating and educational certification. Quah says, “When it comes to real-world adoption, this is just the start.”