On Monday, January 25, we held an AMA with our friends at Bigcoin Vietnam to spread the word about UTU in the Vietnamese market.
CEO Jason Eisen and CTO Bastian Blankenburg answered some great questions from the Bigcoin Vietnam community members.
They talked about what UTU is, the uniqueness of our offerings, our dual token mechanism, and much more.
Check out the full transcript below and let us know what you think!
Q1: Could you introduce a little bit about yourself and UTU Technologies so that the community has a general look about the project?
A1: I’m Jason. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I grew up between Boston and Nashville. I spent 10 years in Washington DC, first at university at The American University (studied International Relations) then 7 years as a consultant for USAID, World Bank, and others. I started spending time in East Africa through that work in 2010 and moved to Kenya in 2013 to start (at the time) the first Taxi App anywhere in Africa, MARAMOJA. We realized in the process of building that taxi app that we were solving the wrong problem. we realized the problem was actually about Trust and began to focus our attention there, building better models of digital trust. This was the birth of UTU.
I’m Bastian. I studied and did a PhD in computer science/distributed AI. This involved multiagent systems using game theory, risk models, trust models etc. It also involved building payment protocols that incentivised agents to adhere to the protocol, before blockchain came along. So nowadays one would use smart contracts for some of this, and I find it exciting which possibilities for distributed systems are now available.
Later worked in industry, then moved to Kenya because of private reasons. Met Jason who convinced me to join his startup, the taxi app MARAMOJA, because he had this great idea for a trust mechanism. That’s because the taxi sector has traditionally had a lot of crime here, and people prefer known drivers. Then from that we spun off UTU, to make its own product of the trust mechanism
UTU’s vision is to become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet. Our mission is to bridge the gap between how people trust in real life and how they are asked to trust online. We believe in a more human friendly internet, data as a human right, and the need to avoid digital trust dystopias as we’ve seen portrayed and played out in various contexts around the world. We provide trust infrastructure as a service to make the internet a safer more trusted place to gather, work, share, trade, etc.
Q2: From a technological and commercial perspective, how can traditional companies be integrated into the UTU ecosystem? What are your plans for traditional companies that continue to exist with their own systems?
A2: This is one of the beautiful things about UTU’s technology, both our AI trust engine and our token/protocol are built to be integrated via API/SDK into traditional companies’ existing platforms. UTU is designed to bring better trust to the internet, rather than asking the internet to come to us for better trust.
Q3: Please explain what is the advantage of UTU over similar projects? How can you capture the most value from this nascent market for data governance, among others? How will that benefit your tokenholders?
A3: It’s hard to say that there are many companies that are particularly similar to us. Our approach to trust as a fundamental, benevolent infrastructure for the internet and belonging wholly to our users sets us apart from any other company operating in the centralized economy. Our seamless integration into traditional companies’ products and platforms and near universal applicability across sectors sets us apart from nearly all projects in the decentralized economy.
Furthermore, UTU addresses all three core problems around digital trust, namely a wrong theory, wrong delivery mechanism, and wrong economics:
Theory of trust — Digital trust currently is basically a legacy of what Ebay gave us in the 90s when we were just buying some collectibles and some aggregated, averaged, anonymous feedback was good enough. Meanwhile the whole internet has evolved around us and digital trust mechanisms have not. We abandon this one size fits all model of a universal scorecard for trust, and instead seek a descriptive model of trust, filtered by our own networks of trust and evaluated dynamically based on the options available…you could think about it like best fit vs. highest rating.
Delivery mechanism. Trust has been hitherto delivered as a product — either as a consumer-facing review platform (yelp, tripadvisor, google reviews, etc) or as an afterthought inside products (“let’s throw a 5 star system on it and call it a day”). But trust isn’t a product…its infrastructure. It should be delivered as such. We serve up our Trust Infrastructure via API/Oracle so platforms and marketplaces can consume them as infrastructure. This also eliminates that massive manipulation ability on consumer platforms where I can create limitless accounts and manipulate the trustworthiness of any product or service I want.
The economics of digital trust. All of the economic incentives around digital trust are for the abuse/manipulation thereof. Fake reviews, bot armies, they all manipulate trust and tend to yield rewards for those that buy (and sell) such services. Meanwhile, good projects/people that only focus on value creation might languish on the side. We designed our token model to address both sides — to eliminate the ability to “buy Trust,” while creating a positive economic incentive to build trust — defined as facilitating good outcomes
Q4: Kindly explain more about your Tokenomics, Release Schedule and UTILITY, is it inflationary or deflationary And do you have Token Burn or Buy back?
A4: UTU Coin will be used by apps for accessing our services, which might pass on such cost to their users (or not). We will incentivise services on our platform, i.e. which integrate our service, to themselves charge in UTU Coin. UTU Coin holders will also be able to stake them (together with UTU Trust Token) in order to participate in governance.
UTU Coin supply is capped at 1 billion, but we’re not burning tokens. Instead, the goal is to get them into a cycle of use. It should be noted that there is a 2nd token, UTU Trust Token, which can only be earned by participating in the platform, but not bought. It can be converted to a limited extent to UTU Coin, which can then be traded or staked for governance.
Q5: Could you elaborate why UTU will use a dual token ecosystem (UTU Trust Token and UTU Coin)? What are the benefits for the ecosystem and potential investors?
A5: The idea of the two token architecture was to provide for the separation of money as a corrupting influence on trust and instead create a positive economic incentive for building trust online. UTU Coin is a tradeable (ERC20 on Ethereum) token that people can buy (and sell), as it will be required for consuming our services. UTU Trust Token (UTT) measures the positive participation in the system (trustability is one aspect of this), which therefore should not be buyable. However to further incentivise people to earn UTT, we want them to be able to convert it to UTU Coin to a limited extent. This will happen via an auction mechanism. As users participate in the ecosystem and earn UTT, the can increase their UTT holdings by making endorsements that help others (according to their privacy choices) get good products and services. In summary, you can’t “buy trust” on UTU Protocol but you can earn money by building trust.
Q6: Trust is very important to you on your platform, in fact on your website it says the following: “In a networked world, trust is the most important currency”. My question is, what do you do to guarantee your trust to users?
A6: Our entire concept around trust is specifically that we do not expect or ask the world to trust UTU as a company — people already trust who they know, their friends and family depending on the situation and context, so this is what we focus on — transparently serving up the most relevant information to certain user, at a certain place, time, and context, seeking a particular service or good. This is also why we are decentralized and on the blockchain to ensure public visibility that all is as presented.
Q7: Currently there are many scam projects in the community that make people afraid to invest. Why should everyone and investors trust UTU? Is there any evidence that UTU is working well?
A7: UTU was grown out of a “real-world” app, the taxi app Maramoja. In that sense, we’ve been around for a while and made stuff work before. We also identified the need for a better trust mechanism from real user needs, so we didn’t just make this up.
Q8: Are you planning on creating products on top of your chain? (some projects i know are doing it in order to create revenue to the project / company) In the crypto field its very hard to create revenue, so how does UTU plan on creating revenue in the crypto world?
A8: Yes, this is true. Our vision is to bring better trust to the entire internet, not just the crypto/blockchain world. We build our tech decentralized because we believe it’s important given the nature of what we do and how sensitive trust is, not because it’s the only folks we want to serve. We built a token model not because we wanted to raise money but because tokenizing trust is the only way to align our individual incentives with the public good of digital trust. We build AI models to optimize trust at the individual level because trust is subjective and dynamic. Our challenge is to leverage these powerful technologies and make them simple enough for the whole world to utilize them.
Q9: What is the uniqueness of UTU that cannot be found in other project that´s been released so far ? What influence do we have in the crypto industry?
A9: As Jason explained earlier, previous approaches to online trust are either lacking or not provided in the form of infrastructure, as it should be. Our mechanism works both for centralised and decantralised apps, but the incentivation and data privacy control schemes that we’re building lend themselves naturally to blockchains. When we grow to support more and more d-apps, our protocol will be widely used, thus helping greatly to enable trust where it is needed.
Q10: In which sectors can UTU Trust be integrated? What are your Priority Goals?
A10: We tend to think about sectors based on the idea that risk and trust are inversely related. The more risk I feel in a transaction, the more trust I want or need for it to happen. So what are the things we feel the most risk about?
Our home, health, family, assets, and businesses.
If one of these things is exposed to any sort of risk in a transaction, UTU has a huge role to play.
Q11: At what stage is the integration of some protocols such as DEDIS Calypso and Recheck with UTU? What are the contributions of these integrations to UTU?
A11: We’re currently modelling in detail how UTU and Calypso protocols (by DEDIS) can best be interfaced to enable UTU’s privacy-preserving data provision in a robust, secure and efficient way. There are a lot of details to sort out, so we’re in close contact with the active DEDIS researchers. This is still going to take a while before it can be released into the wild.
We hope you enjoyed the AMA content! Stay tuned for news about our next AMA.