Angel Versetti, CEO of Ambrosus featured, and helping to demonstrate what have the pope, weapons of mass destruction and student protests have in common?
Why is he in the news? CEO of newly formed Ambrosus, a blockchain ecosystem to assure quality of products, and having signed a partnership with INS Ecosystem
Most bizarre thing he has done? Lectured the Pope on blockchain in the Vatican
Most unusual job? Versetti’s first job in the UN was at the Department of Weapons of Mass Destruction, where he used satellite imagery and intelligence to find out where Americans and Russians were hiding their nuclear warheads
Low tolerance of? Stupidity and Hypocrisy
It’s not every day that a Russian-born, half Italian, Swiss resident quotes an Irish writer in interview. Oscar Wilde to be exact and the quote is about common sense being remarkably uncommon.
Angel Versetti uses the quote as a throwaway line in relation to madness that surrounds ICOs. ‘The ICO industry is a bit of a circus,’ he says. ‘Blockchain is an amazing technology but the early emphasis on changing the world has been overtaken by money.’
It might seem ironic that an entrepreneur in the blockchain is talking down the craziness of ICOs but he has a point. Versetti does not suffer fools gladly. Deeply embedded in the traditional world with his background in the UN, he manages to straddle the new world of blockchain and has applied the distributed technologies to many of his projects. He admits that while technology can move fast, it is often politics and institutions that hold projects back.
Despite his youth (25), Versetti has already a colourful academic career which includes studying in Cambridge in the UK, being kicked out of the college through residency issues, getting a scholarship to re-enter and still not satisfying rules to be allowed to rejoin, even as a registered asylum seeker, before going on to organise student protests against UK government budget cuts. While the rules remained in force he caught the attention of SciencePo in France where he was offered a full scholarship. Ironically, his new alma mater went on to outperform Cambridge in world ranking in Politics and International Relations so he has no regrets there.
Working in the UN across a range of different organisations, Versetti has the global view of an international orphan. He has numerous accolades against his name, youngest published author in the UN, best actor at university and has extensive television experience.
He worked on different committees and organisations in the UN including the World Resources Forum where he investigated the factors affecting the distribution of resources and the challenges facing effective distribution. It was this area that he presented to the Vatican and the pope, with 48 other youth leaders from around the world, looking at the innovations possible to remedy resource inequality and inefficiency.
Founding Ambrosus this year seems a logical extension of his earlier work in the UN.
‘Í was fortunate to have some great experience in the UN,’ he explains. I took that early R&D, especially in food and sustainability, and launched Ambrosus on July 21. I was also fortunate to meet up with fellow stakeholder and co-founder Stefen Meyer. We had a lot in place even as we launched Ambrosus.’’
Ambrosus combines high-tech sensors, blockchain protocol and smart contracts to build Supply Chain 2.0: which it claims is the first publicly verifiable and community-driven system to assure the quality, safety and origins of food & medicine.
‘The sensor technology formed part of the R&D with different projects previously. ‘We were looking at converting sensors into oracles, allowing them to speak directly to the blockchain. Sensors inherently have limited memory and processing power and we needed them to be more intelligent.’
If Versetti is fascinated by blockchain, he is riveted by AI. ‘They will converge but my money is not for about a decade,’ he says. ‘Anyone claiming to have AI-powered blockchain (or vice versa) today is selling snake oil. Both technologies, despite all the big hype, have a long way to go.’ Mr Wilde would have been proud of his common sense.
Versetti is concentring on the life-essential products (food, chemicals and pharma) with Ambrosus. ‘This is where our intellectual capital lies. We have experience working with regulators in this area, using technology to provide true, accurate and fast provenance,’ he says. ‘Human audits are labour intensive and subject to error. Blockchain technology can radically change all that.
Ambrosus is a partner in the UN 10YFP Sustainable Food Systems, a programme on sustainable food production and consumption, where Versetti garnered much of his research. ‘Sometimes trade barriers are erected using fallacious points, such as quality over price. However, blockchain has the ability to not only safely record food safety and provenance; its immutable nature can be used as a point of proof. In the world of food production this is very important.’
Connecting with the INS Ecosystem, which seeks to decentralise grocery purchases by connecting food manufacturers directly with consumers, Ambrosus will provide the quality assurance part.
‘We are not retailers,’ says Versetti. ‘However, part of the INS philosophy is to allow consumers choose food that is good for them as well as good for the planet. Our experience in food chain and quality assurance ideally positions us here. We will fulfil part of the loyalty programme between manufacturer and consumer.
‘We can monitor the carbon footprint of the food – how far it has travelled and by what method. We can monitor if the producer uses harmful pesticides and we can also address proof of process – where manufacturers offset production energy costs by using renewables. It’s one thing to throw up a windmill to tick boxes, it’s another to actual use it.’
Versetti’s work ties in very nicely with his worldview. ‘As a child growing up I questioned everything,’ he says. ‘Í still do. My smart friends suggest that I am something of a nihilist but in reality I see good in lots of philosophies, I’m just not ready to subscribe to only one of them.’
Perhaps that is the perfect worldview for someone providing quality assurance – all food is considered guilty until proven innocent on the blockchain.