Verisign Affiliate Wants to Bring Trust to Asia

The joke is certainly not lost to Seth Jutan. The founder and CEO of Singapore-based TrustAsia is well aware the name of his company carries more than a hint of irony. In a region where the risks of doing business often conjure images of well-publicized cases of piracy or chicanery, Jutan knows he faces an uphill battle in developing the business infrastructure needed for e-commerce.

But Jutan is no stranger in a strange land. After heading up a technology transfer company in Atlanta, he went to Asia to explore the possibility of bringing Internet services to that burgeoning market. That was over 10 years ago and he has been there ever since.

Now his latest venture has already attracted some high-profile attention. On Wednesday, TrustAsia announced $9 million in equity investments from, among others, Verisign and WestStar Ventures, a Singapore-based private equity firm. The company also announced an agreement with VeriSign to deploy the Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s widely used Internet trust services throughout China and Southeast Asia, making Jutan’s company the largest VeriSign affiliate in the region.

“We’ve taken the whole VeriSign platform and localized it” to the respective markets in the region, Jutan told during a recent trip to New York. “That’s how we’re going to bring value to the [VeriSign] brand.”

TrustAsia was set up in April 2001 and to date has brought in 35 employees. After securing the necessary government ties, the company established offices in Singapore to serve South Asia markets and in Shanghai to serve China.

Like VeriSign, TrustAsia’s offerings will include everything ranging from domain name services to online payment solutions in order to speed the rapid adoption of e-commerce. The company is establishing certificate authorities (CA’s) throughout Asia and will be offering public key infrastructure (PKI) services to aid in the authentication process, which is based on VeriSign’s RADIUS-style schema. TrustAsia also will offer encryption and digital certificate solutions to its customer base. The only real difference from how VeriSign currently does business is TrustAsia will take a localized approach.

“Some people want it in their own local currency,” Jutan said.

If TrustAsia succeeds in capturing even one percent of the market, the results could be a windfall. Forrester Research predicts online transactions will total $1.6 trillion by 2004 in the Asia Pacific region. And m-commerce opportunities could be a further boon with the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry projecting mobile phone usage at 120 million subscribers.

And, Jutan certainly has mentality to succeed. His experience has taught him to take some business mantras to heart — namely, it’s always more cost-efficient to sell to an existing customers than it is to sell to a new customer.

“We’ve got a battle ahead of us. But our team knows that the customer is not the first sale. It’s the 6th or 7th sale,” Jutan said.

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