Seema Khinda-Johnson, co-founder and COO of Nuggets

Five questions with Nuggets

25 November 2020

4 minute read

Seema Khinda Johnson is the co-founder and COO of Nuggets, an award-winning, decentralised, self-sovereign identity and payment platform.

Seema Khinda Johnson is the Co-founder and COO of Nuggets, an award-winning, decentralised, self-sovereign identity and payment platform. Nuggets helps organisations protect customer data while giving customers a frictionless, seamless experience. Nuggets brings together payments and ID, utilising self-sovereign data principles.

Seema has received widespread recognition across the industry. This year, she won Deutsche Bank’s Female FinTech Competition, Women in Payments’ Unicorn Challenge, was named the Booking.com Technology Playmaker Entrepreneur of the Year and was also listed as one of the Most Influential Women in Payments, by PaymentsSource.

Before founding Nuggets, Seema spent more than 20 years leading teams and delivering large-scale commercialisation, products, campaigns and projects with brands like Skype and Microsoft.

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

In 2015, my husband Alastair’s credit card and data was used fraudulently. That kicked off a hugely frustrating process, and showed us that no one really owns or controls their own data. This was against the backdrop of data breaches, people being told to change their passwords, and the lack of any comprehensive solution for protecting data. Every day, customer data was being compromised. 

Alastair and I decided this was the challenge for us. We set out to solve it, and set up Nuggets in late 2016.  Our mission is to help businesses protect their customer data, and to allow people to own and control their own data. We believe each person should own and control their personal information. To deliver on that, Nuggets lets you pay, log in or verify your identity without having to share your data with anyone—including Nuggets itself.

02. What do you find is the most difficult aspect of being a female founder?

We were early in believing that personal information should be owned and controlled by the people. So, we really needed to believe in what we were doing. It took a lot of commitment to stay the course through all the “nos”.

03. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?

You need to define the mission and keep this at the heart of everything you do.  We started with the “why”: what’s our purpose/mission, why does Nuggets exist, and why should anyone care. Everything is grounded in a purpose — our decision making, recruitment and the team’s belief. Our mission is to give users the chance to take back control of their data.

04. How has the pandemic impacted your company?

We’ve never seen anything have such a global impact on this scale. The various restrictions that were imposed around the world in order to slow the virus had a huge impact on people’s everyday lives.  The social distancing restrictions that were introduced meant that life and work were being conducted online more than ever before. This includes community support services like grocery deliveries, online education, healthcare services like virtual medical screenings, remote work, contactless delivery and more.

In many sectors, it’s been reported that the switch from physical to digital has been accelerated by five years, and as society makes this shift to consuming increasingly more goods and services online, it is now more apparent than ever that a fundamental change is required in the approach to protecting personal data.

05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?

Connect and speak with as many people in the industry as possible. These relationships are essential in building a network that supports your business. Don't underestimate the value of the support you can get from mentors and sponsors.  Draw on all your skills. When you set up a business, you’ll need to understand the fundraising process, cap tables, financials, operations, the product and more. The work is never done.

Don't underestimate the effort. Being a founder isn’t for everyone. Someone once told me: “If you want to work the longest hours and be the lowest paid — be a founder.” But there’s also nothing quite like it.

And finally, and more importantly, be your authentic self and know you’re enough.

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