A group led by Eric Hughes, the cofounder of the security activist organization "cypherpunks," has announced a new company called Simple Access that designs and builds infrastructure for finance, commerce, and the Internet.
"Currently, 'electronic commerce' is a euphemism for 'commerce that doesn't work,' or soon won't work on a large scale," Hughes said in a statement. "In order to prevent disasters on the horizon and build a foundation for safer and better systems, Simple Access is thinking ahead and solving problems at the infrastructure level."
He added: "We are working with leading companies that require their suppliers to have solid and experienced managers, so we brought on proven leaders."
The venture, which will be based in San Francisco, is entering a burgeoning but increasingly crowded field.
"Simple Access designs and builds infrastructure for finance, commerce, security, telephony, and the Internet," according to the company's Web site. "Our areas of expertise include transaction processing and payment systems, data security, and cryptography."
The company provides advice and development strategies for application of these technologies, including telephony and Internet provisioning and billing, international trade documents, and digital money. It is targeting giant companies as well as smaller ones for clients.
Simple Access spent its first year and a half in hiding. Hughes and Bob Hilby, formerly a principal of telecom firm Telemedia Networks, founded the company in September 1995. In the interim, SAC has spent its time "learning and researching," executives say on the Web page.
The company's chief executive is John McArtor, who has served as president and chief executive of Delta International, a private merchant bank. Since 1972, Delta has been designing, structuring, syndicating, and managing financial vehicles for private sector investment.
The company is still trying to build its management team, however. The Web site lists openings for numerous jobs.
In a treatise on e-commerce in Esther Dyson's Monthly Report, Hughes shares his philosophy on the subject. He says that current attempts at e-commerce don't offer compelling general solutions. "Some may work well over the short term and in specific markets, but most of them aren't designed for the new medium, which has strange characteristics," he writes.
Hughes also offers some general principles for designing future Net-based commerce systems. He advises: "Keep things explicit, keep things on a minimal need-to-know basis, keep things local, design systems that distribute vulnerability, and separate functions that don't need to be offered together."
Cypherpunks assumes that privacy is a good thing and wishes there were more of it, according to a Web page the group has posted. "Cypherpunks acknowledges that those who want privacy must create it for themselves and not expect governments, corporations, or other large faceless organizations to grant them privacy out of beneficence."