Hello UTU Guardians,
Our partners DefiCliq invited us to participate in an AMA on their Telegram group on May 18 2021. Our CEO Jason Eisen and CTO Bastian Blankenburg talked about our partnership and the latest UTU roadmap developments.
In case you missed it, don’t you worry. Below is the transcript in which you can learn more about UTU in five minutes!
Q1: Please begin by introducing yourself, your background, and how you got into crypto.
A1 [Jason]: I’m Jason. I’m a serial entrepreneur. Grew up between Boston and Nashville. 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 got into crypto really as an enabling technology for UTU to fulfill its mission to become the trust infrastructure of the internet.
A1 [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 I worked in industry, then moved to Kenya because of private reasons. Here, I 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 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.
R1 [Kumar]: That’s great to hear from you guys, Thank you.
Q2: Please provide us with an overview of what UTU is and why it’s awesome.
A2 [Jason]: Sure, I can take this one. 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.
R2: Wow, interesting 😍
[Jason]: I might add that we are sector agnostic and not just serving the cryptoverse but the entire digital economy
Q3: What are you focusing on and what’s on your roadmap for the next few months?
A3 [Jason]: Here is a link to our updated roadmap: The UTU Roadmap Update — February 2021 – UTU.
We released our core API and web SDK recently so we are integrating a bunch of clients now and building out additional functionality and busy adding support for new ecosystems!
Q4: Can you talk about the partnership with DefiCliq and how we’ll work together?
A4 [Jason]: Sure, Bastian and I can tag team this one.
Essentially we are integrating UTU’s trust infrastructure into DefiCliq massively transform accessibility to undercollateralized loans
[Bastian] One specialised version of our API provides creditworthiness measures to lending fintechs and DeFi protocols. The latter is served by oracles which we’re building. The logic behind the service is driven by machine learning models and social relationship graphs, providing a more informed view than more traditional credit scoring models.
R4: Impressive and looking forward to it.
[Jason] This collaboration is really close to the heart of what UTU is all about, democratizing access to trusted services and clients. Even our name, UTU, is Swahili (we are based in Kenya for those that don’t know) for “Humanity” similar to the word Ubuntu which you may know 🙂
R4: I didn’t know this. It’s a really cool name.
[Jason] By the way, check out our API/SDK here: https://utu.io/blog/the-utu-trust-api-v1-is-now-live
At this point Kumar opens the AMA for the group members to ask their questions.
Q5: How much more efficient can UTU make collateralization, how long will it take to achieve this and can you estimate when I’ll be able to borrow against my UTU?
A5 [Bastian]: It largely depends on the available data about users from the given lending protocol. Traditionally, DeFi loans need to be over-collateralised to be trustless. But that makes them viable only for certain use cases, where people already have assets but want to hold them while needing liquidity. UTU’s oracles will allow under-collateralized lending, according to a risk profile and estimate.
R5: You say it depends on the data provided by the lending protocol about the user. Does your “trust layer” offer an option to get additional information from the user himself on that level to get, let’s say, better conditions? And can that provision of additional data separated from the lending protocol be compensated within the UTU trust layer (UTT)?
Basically I’m just wondering how autonomous the trust layer provided by UTU can operate within an existing lending protocol/oracle.
[Bastian] I might add, yes there is natural demand and most of our clients do see the potential. The tricky bit is creating standardised ways for data provision and integration that work without too much client-specific adaptations, to make it scalable. Luckily we have some really smart engineers building the right architecture for this.
Yes, incentivising users to provide useful data is actually one the reasons why we started UTT in the first place. And yes we’re building components that are easily integratable into other apps, but also provide a gateway to the UTU app itself (tbd), which will allow more exhaustive and fine-grained data management for users.
Q6: Jason why is trust necessary in the defi-loan space and what effects can you see a credit-worthiness system having in the long term in accordance not just with the adoption of defi, but the traditional loan system?
A6 [Jason]: As much as defi is trustless, this pure form requires such overcollateralization that these financial products are really only valuable to a tiny subset of the global population whereas DeFi as a sector holds substantial promise to upend the traditional financial system and do something the traditional sector never managed to do – include everyone. UTU’s trust layer, added into DeFi protocols is one of the things that will reduce and eliminate the collateralization burdens that constrain the sector’s growth to the mainstream. Even in the traditional centralized and P2P lending spaces, UTU’s trust infrastructure plays the role of key enabler.
Q7: UTU’s mission is to become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet, replacing anonymous star ratings, reviews, and scores as the de facto trust mechanisms of our digital lives. As this mission is the bottomline of what you wanted with your platform, especially to become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet, can you explain to us how you will possibly realize this mission in the near future? With this mission of yours and since the time you launched, what part of this mission has been accomplished already so far? Since the pandemic time, how does UTU bring impact and innovation with the de facto trust mechanisms of our digital lives?
A7 [Bastian]: We’re getting there step-by-step 🙂 The whole idea was born out of a real use case, the MARAMOJA taxi app that we started with. Now we have many clients from different sectors, crypto and non-crypto, in our pipeline. Some of them are platforms service many other businesses. You shall hear about this very soon 😉
Q8: What are all the recent partnerships for UTU and how do you foresee the future of UTU?
A8 [Jason]: There have been many recent partnership announcements (and more coming). You can find them all on our blog in the partnerships section: Partnerships – UTU
Most recently we announced collaborations with Meter, bringing us to BSC; with CryptoCart to increase trust in eCommerce, and Curacel to transform the African insurance sector to name a few.
Q9: According to your roadmap, UTU is currently in the second quarter of 2021. In total, you have 4 objectives for this quarter and I would like to know which of them have been finalized and which objective are you focusing on at the moment. Can you tell me a little about this? By the way, why doesn’t your roadmap contain the future plans for Q4 2021 and 2022? You have not established concrete plans for the future?
A9 [Bastian]: Q4 is covered in the RoadMap…For 2022, we of course have our roadmap but have not published it yet as we tend to operate quite lean and 9 months is a world away in time and learnings – we wanted to leave some flexibility in the roadmap to integrate all the learning that will happen over the remainder of the year
We are definitely on track to achieve all our Q2 objectives on time.
Q10: How are you guys at UTU experiencing the onboarding of partners. Is there a natural demand in your trust as a service solution, or are most of them not aware about the impact of this new solution in case of leveraging the whole system to a new level?
A10 [Jason]: We have a substantial cohort of companies we are onboarding currently and learning a lot from each of those integration processes. We also have a backlog of maybe 50 more companies to integrate with once this first batch is done. We will get better and faster at supporting clients to integrate and make our tech continually more accessible to more people in more ecosystems, supporting more sectors.
Q11: Are there any plans to allow an element of manual curation of the data for the trust layer? Could this be linked to staking in the future?
A11 [Bastian]: Our model is built on users providing data, including feedback data about service providers, services, products, d-apps etc. Our mechanism then determines which of the available data about an entity is the most relevant for a given request, and tracks “correctness” of feedback — defined as how many relevant other users agree with it — over time. This latter mechanism is also used to reward users with UTT. And yes, users can stake UTT on things they especially like, to be rewarded when their recommendation is followed.
Q12: I’m still hyped about Curacel and I’m wondering if I really got that right. So your solution allows a faster adoption of general insurance instead of the “self help” paradigm. Are you or your partners already at the stage where you can recognize a trend that the integration of a trust model that makes insurance more “familiar” leads to better adoption?
A12 [Jason]: I think there’s a body of evidence out there on this from the donor world about behavior change. That said, localized solutions that digitize, simplify, and automate existing mental and behaviour models that we already have is always easier than driving deep change in how people consume a service. I know the Curacel team has come to this same conclusion apart from UTU – one of the many reasons we are so pumped to work with them.
Q13: Crypto projects often encounter the criticism ‘token not necessary’. How committed is the team that value from UTU will always feed back through to the UTU token?
A13 [Jason]: Both UTU Coin and UTU Trust Tokens are integral components of our ecosystem that fundamentally change the economics of digital trust. We started with the AI, to adapt the theory of trust online to be more like real world trust but realized that without changing the perverse incentives that currently exist to manipulate trust with fake reviews and the like, we realized that tokenizing trust was the only way to bring the economic incentives in line with the public good of a safer, more trusted internet
[Bastian]: The mechanism to reward users with UTU Trust Token (UTT) for “good” participation in the protocol and the possibility to convert it to UTU Coin (to a limited extent) is at the heart of our protocol. UTT is unique because it can only be earned and converted in this way, and never be traded. UTU Coin is needed to facilitate the conversion to a tradable token, the pool for which will eventually be filled-up via platform fees.
Q14: I’ve thought about the question ‘who do you trust?’ a lot and I always come to the answer ‘those who are close to me’. How will you use data to create a web-of-trust and connect users with people they are close or familiar with?
A14 [Bastian]: That’s indeed our trust model in a nutshell. It all started from there in our taxi app in Nairobi, where riders would want a trusted driver whom they know, or one whom their family or friends know. Our trust model is built around this concept, adding layers to identify the most trustable people to give feedback in a given situation. E.g. you might trust your sister for recommending a car mechanic, but your friend to recommend a restaurant.
That marked the end of the AMA. We hope you learned something new. If you did, please share it with the share buttons below so others can discover it.