An interview with Stephen Winyard
Stephen Winyard, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of AVSecure, recently spoke with digital delivery partner Studio Graphene for their #FounderSecrets blog series. The AVSecure team have designed an age verification solution which is built on blockchain, in response to the upcoming introduction of the Digital Economy Act regulation.
As part of the Digital Policy Alliance (DPA), Stephen helped to refine the very idea of age verification, so he was perfectly placed to build a software solution around the concept!
The DPA advises the UK Government on many areas of technology and policy and tackled the subject of age verification for years, advising the government on many facets of the Digital Economy Act law.
Juggling and dealing with all the different people and aspects that form the project has been in Stephen’s words, the most challenging part so far. However, he has an amazing team to work with and everything they’ve been through together has brought them to where they are now.
The most important thing Stephen has learnt throughout his journey with AVSecure is patience. The process is always about making sure he and his team understand everything that is going on. So, it’s listening, learning and reacting accordingly - which can be very challenging.
The company’s biggest achievement so far is the acceptance that AVSecure had across the world in terms of their approach, attitude, messaging and technology. Stephen is now looking forward to AVSecure being the biggest user of a private blockchain worldwide.
For the next 3-5 years, the aim of AVSecure is to deliver the software to every single adult software site in the UK. Afterwards, Australia, Finland and other countries will be targeted.
Stephen’s ultimate goal is to have one of the best age verification solutions in the world.
And Stephen’s advice to anyone at the beginning of their founder journey?
- Teamwork is the most important aspect in a company
- Have a good lawyer around to avoid wasting time, effort and money
- Never be afraid to fail!
After years and years of work within the adult industry, and by governments, policy makers and regulators across the world, it was obvious that age verification would become a legal requirement - and here it is! The Digital Economy Act has been passed by parliament, although the launch date for these new regulations has yet to be set.
Stephen was one of the principal advisors to the British government through his contribution in the Digital Policy Alliance regarding this regulation, helping shape what an age verification ruling might look like. Considering all the points and risk factors, AVSecure was built as an answer to this regulation, by a completely self-funded team. Stephen is confident that they have created the very best age verification solution anyone is able to build.
Difficulties and challenges
The toughest problems with verifying anybody’s age when they are accessing adult content are privacy and security. To prove that a user is over 18, there are a variety of options available like credit card information, a passport number or a driver’s licence. However users are understandably worried about entering such identifying and personal data, since data hacks and breaches are now all too common. What’s more, people’s security concerns in regard to adult content are even more heightened because of the fear that a data breach could expose the specific content, or types of content, individuals have been engaging with. Thus the most challenging part of the AVSecure journey for Stephen and his team was to build a technology platform that obfuscate this completely. Since AVSecure does not retain any data, even in the event of a hacking attack, no one would find out the identities of the users.
For Stephen personally, the biggest challenge has been spinning so many plates at the same time. Dealing with the impact of the adult industry in the world, the people that run and operate these sites, the consumers, the government and regulators, the policy makers and GDPR, marketing and messaging and all other components is a huge undertaking that the team had to stay on top of all the time. Underneath that you have to ensure that your technical elements are world class. Whenever you build something that utilises deep tech and is inherently complex, you have to accept that it will take a considerable amount of time. Stephen states often that he feels very lucky to have such fantastic, knowledgeable people onboard with this project, and their expertise is keeping everything on track.
And is there something he wishes he’d known before starting this adventure? No - there isn’t! He believes that the team enjoys the thrill of getting involved in this journey and not really knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow. Everyone is learning something new nearly every day and - so far - no regrets. In Stephen’s opinion this project is one of the most morally-rewarding and technically challenging projects he and the team could possibly be involved in!
Learning, successes and favourite moments
Patience, patience, patience. According to Stephen, the AVSecure journey, and any start-up journey for that matter, is very much a process of listening and learning.
Due to the potentially sensitive nature of the subjects they’re working with, the AVSecure process is always about making sure the team understand everything that is going on, both on a regulatory level, and on a public emotion and opinion level. So, it’s listening, learning and reacting accordingly - all day, every day.
In his eyes, the company’s biggest achievement is the acceptance that AVSecure has had across the world so far regarding their approach, attitude, messaging and technology. The team hasn’t had any criticism from anyone yet, which has been ground-breaking..
The next favourite moment for Stephen, he thinks, will be as soon as they’ve launched AVSecure to the masses. On that day AVSecure could well be the biggest user of blockchain technology on the planet and this is extremely exciting for Stephen. He cannot wait to write his very own entry in the blockchain history books!
Next steps and future plans
As for next steps for AVSecure - the current plan for the next 3-5 years is to deliver their software to every single adult software site and / or publisher in the UK. From that point on they’ve got their sights firmly set on Australia, Finland and...the rest of the world.
For the future, Stephen hopes that they cement themselves as one of the best age verification solutions in the world. It is important to not get overconfident but, at the same time, he’s got a good feeling about this!
A piece of advice for other founders?
Stephen’s answer comes down to what that person’s appetite or desire is. Some people chase money, AVSecure chases success. It’s attitude, it’s having a good idea, finding something in the market that people want to use or that’s got a benefit and then being true to yourself and having good people around you. Building a strong team (both in-house and with suppliers) is the most critical thing for AVSecure’s success in Stephen’s mind, because everybody’s good...but together you’re much, much better.
Never be afraid to fail! The millionaires in this world are the people that have tried and failed but they’ve never failed to try - it’s an old corny expression but it’s true.
And lastly, have a good lawyer around!