Hi UTU Guardians,
On Thursday, July 22 2021, we held an AMA with The Block Circle on their Telegram group to spread the word about UTU. Our CEO Jason Eisen and CTO Bastian Blankenburg talked about UTU, our unique products, use cases and the latest roadmap developments.
In case you missed it, we got you. Catch up by reading the transcript below in 10 minutes or less!
Q1: Please introduce yourselves
A1 [Jason]: Hey all great to be here! 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.
A1 [Bastian]: Sure, pleasure to be here! I’m CTO @ UTU and am responsible for the tech — on- and off-chain. My background is in computer science, and I did a PhD in 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. 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 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 our social trust mechanism.
Q2: Awesome. Now share some brief info about UTU and some bullet points to describe UTU.
A2 [Jason]: 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.
Our AI-based API products collect and analyze data to create trust signals and personalized recommendations that help consumers and businesses make the best decisions for their situation. And the UTU blockchain protocol rewards users for trustworthy actions and compensates them for sharing their data while protecting their privacy.
UTU changes the economics of trust, ensures trust can’t be bought or manipulated, and leverages data to help people make better decisions.
[Bastian]: In a technical nutshell, it’s about providing APIs, SDKs and oracles that can deliver relevant information to a user in any marketplace/platform app so that they can make up their mind about whether to trust some offered service/provider/product.
Q3: Will this Service be paid or free?
A3 [Jason]: We will have both free and paid implementations but @databu will say more.
[Bastian]: Mostly our clients are marketplace or platform apps which pay for access to our services for their users. However we’re also offering a model where users pay themselves, e.g. in true DApps, to unlock our detailed services. A basic layer would still be provided for free usually.
Q4: What phase is your product development in?
A4 [Bastian]: We have released the first versions — MVPs — of our Trust API/SDK and Creditworthiness API. Those are only the centralised components so far, we’re implementing the decentralised parts right now.
For details see http://utu.io/blog/the-utu-creditworthiness-api-mvp-is-live/
Q5: With how many projects integration has been done?
A5 [Bastian]: The first integration with taxi app MARAMOJA is actually where the UTU Trust Engine came into being. Right now we’re integrating with Ocean Market, as well as P2P lending platform Jamborow. Then there are a few more in the pipeline to start technical integration soon.
[Jason]: We are currently integrating a cohort of about 10 clients including notably Ocean Protocol and have quite a backlog to work through.
The others span all of the key sectors that UTU can support like home services, personal services, professional services, lending, ecommerce, etc
Maybe @databu can talk about the Ocean project a bit.
[Bastian]: Yeah, we’re really excited about integrating with Ocean!
R5: Would love to know more.
[Bastian]: Sure ? It’s a multistage project:
- implement an Ocean-specific usage of the UTU Trust Engine, providing signals that are native to the Ocean market. E.g. a user’s relationship to a data asset’s publisher, liquidity providers, and other consumers. We will first show these in our own web app.
- We’ll build a general signal provider interface and UI components in the Ocean Market app itself.
- We’ll connect our own signals from 1. to the Ocean Market interface we built.
- Adding UTU’s interactive feedback components in both our own app and Ocean Market.
Q6: Love to know the real application of projects in crypto space. And those applications that are getting implemented.
A6 [Jason]: I’ll share a bit about two of my favorite crypto implementations we’re working on with AmpNet and CryptoTask.
AmpNet has this incredible tokenization platform that is being used to tokenize real world assets and do crowdfunding, integrating UTU there will make a tremendously safer crowdfunding experience.
For Cryptotask, which is the decentralized upwork, UTU’s value proposition of better trust to inform better decision-making is super obvious.
Both of these integrations are ongoing 🙂 among others.
Q7: Do you guys have any competitors in the crypto space? If yes then how are you better than them technically and progress wise as well.
A7 [Jason]: It’s hard to name a direct competitor in the crypto space with a model quite like ours. UTU’s trust infrastructure is not just for the crypto space, it’s meant for the entire internet. Our competition are the legacy solutions like trust pilot and google reviews and others that we know are abused, manipulated, and have little to do with real world trust. UTU is bridging the gap between how we trust in real life, based on relationships, and how we are asked to trust online, removing the ability to manipulate trust online and serving as an honest broker.
It’s quite unlike anything else out there 🙂
R7: That’s big, wow. Crypto space really needs new ideas and innovations… Ideas seem saturated now. Only memes and nft lol
[Jason]: They may grab the headlines but we all know who is building the foundations for the next internet
R7: ? agree
At this point questions posted on Twitter are introduced.
Q8: What incentives would the reviewers have to Hodl their UTT or convert to UTU tokens?
A8 [Bastian]: Holding UTT gives you the possibility to stake more and so earn more UTT, a reward for providing valuable data to the ecosystem. Of course more UTT also means you can convert to even more UTU later…
[Jason]: By making our Trust Token one-way convertible to $UTU we eliminate the ability to buy trust and provide people an opportunity to earn money by building trust. And if you believe that people and companies will want better trust in their digital experiences and adopt UTU, you can imagine how the value of $UTU can rise.
How many $UTU would the big platforms need to stack to pay their UTU bills? ?
R8: Sounds like big demand, lesser supply?
Q9: Since $UTU is getting partnered up with so many different companies with different use cases, where is their main focus at the moment?
Follow up: What are the main challenges to adapt to all these different requirements, and how is UTU attacking that challenge?
A9 [Bastian]: Our APIs and SDK are designed use-case agnostic in principle, and the focus is to build out mechanisms that can serve across use cases. For example, we’re currently developing a graph learning model that will predict trust relationships from patterns in our social graphs in a general manner. Later, we will add use case- and context-specific features to the models where warranted.
But the general approach is to be as use case-agnostic as possible.
There are sometimes exceptions like Ocean, but they’re paying us to implement the Ocean-specific parts ?
[Jason]: You can think of UTU’s core value proposition, trust, as the corollary to risk. The more risk a user feels in a transaction, the more trust they want. So we think about sectors/use cases based on risk. What are the things we feel the most risk about? Our family, health, home, assets, and businesses…if a digital transaction exposes any of these things to risk, UTU has a role to play. We are planting flags with pilot clients across all of these sectors to demonstrate the horizontal role of trust across sectors and our ability to become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet.
Q10: The cryptocurrency market is increasingly competitive. What is your unique “selling point”? and how will you take advantage of it?
A10 [Jason]: We are an honest broker of trust, positioned and modeled from first principles, to be the trust layer we all wish the internet had. We recognize the role of trust as an infrastructure and a currency, not products, and have brought it to market as such. We believe you should own your data and be able to easily put it in service of your own objectives online.
We also remodel the theory of digital trust from anonymous, aggregated data points, to personalized, contextualized data points, just like how we trust in real life.
Q11: How does UTU view Privacy first features versus Privacy as a setting?
A11 [Bastian]: We do believe in privacy first, and beyond that in full control for users over their data. We will never try to trick people into providing something they don’t want, but we do incentivise them to provide data that’s helpful for the ecosystem.
For example, users will be able to specify whether a feedback data point should be visible to all using their name or anonymously, or only to some group of people etc.
This can lead to complex scenarios, so to also ensure great UX is a non-trivial problem. We’re building this step-by-step, but are also engaging in research projects around this topic as industry partners e.g. in UKRI TAS Hub and with the Turing Institute fellowship on citizen-centric AI.
[Jason]: I’ll only say that for me it’s about making the experience of reclaiming our privacy online easy and joyful, the way experiences are meant to be designed, not complicated settings menus that require hours to decipher and a PhD
R11: Got it, no product is perfect on the very first day ….it’s all about grinding and grinding.
At this point the AMA is opened up for group members to ask their questions.
Q12: Which specific technology and strategy of projects make you believe it will be successful and what does your plan do to attract more users in the upcoming time?
A12 [Bastian]: As Jason explained above, our approach is unique in its focus on the user and their relationships and preferences when it comes to establishing trust in online transactions. Technically, this is a challenge because of the mix of novel applications of AI, token economics, privacy and data management and UX, both in centralised and decentralised apps. Our team has a great mix of knowledge and experience in industry as well as academic research, so we think we’re very well positioned to tackle these things.
Q13: And let’s talk more on Roadmap
A13 [Jason]: We actually just updated our roadmap! Check it here: http://utu.io/blog/the-utu-roadmap-update-july-2021/
Q14: Why is it more effective to make use of UTU to show confidence in a product rather than directly using a message via social networks? How will UTU benefit it’s users in this aspect?
A14 [Jason]: This is a great question. It has to do with active vs. passive recommendations. Of course you can always go ask your friend how they feel about something (if you even know they have an opinion on it) but being served that information transparently and directly at the decision point where you’re trying to choose between sellers, products, investments is a massively more valuable proposition, business moves at the speed of trust, we accelerate that speed tremendously
[Bastian]: In social media, or in any conversation-based approach — such as calling your friend and asking them for recommendations —, you’re limited to people who engage in that conversation. So maybe you get some feedback, but it might not be the most relevant, because your friend who could provide this happens to be offline, or not on that platform etc. UTU makes this information available when the user needs it.
Q15: What is the long-term vision of the UTU project for its users?
A15 [Bastian]: In a nutshell, to provide users with the right information at the right time to make better decisions online, and reward them for providing data (mostly feedback) to make this mechanism work. Effectively, this decentralises trust from being provided by trusted institutions to a P2P feedback mechanism.
Q16: UTU can enhance their infrastructures by using their users feedback,/shared data. More users > better service
How does UTU seek to gain awareness of these new tools? Or is that something the projects integrating with are in the lead to educate their user base?
A16 [Jason]: It’s both really. There is lots of grassroots effort to be made to help people realize that they can reclaim their privacy online and interact online in a safer, more trusted way. This grassroots demand eases the sales process to platforms. At the end of the day though, better trust is not a hard sell to platforms as they all are keenly aware, better trust drives all their key metrics: conversion rates, customer lifetime value, customer satisfaction. It’s a win-win for platforms and their users
[Bastian]: We are working closely with our first integrating clients to figure this out together. Mostly we view educating users about our novel approaches and their UX as our own responsibility, but because users are interacting with them through a client platform, our clients have to agree with it of course.
Q17: Adoption is a very important factor that all sustainable blockchain projects should focus on to be more attractive in the investors eyes. What has the UTU project done and plans to do to achieve real-world adoption?
A17 [Jason]: UTU will soon go live in a number of use cases and contexts around the world allowing the users of those platforms to interact with our trust infrastructure. We are constantly expanding our pipeline of platforms for integration with UTU and working hard to simplify that integration process as we go. To fulfill our goal of becoming the trust infrastructure of the internet, we must continually broaden the scope of use cases we can support, deepen our intelligence within use cases to provide constantly better trust signals to users, and continually simplify the integration/interaction experience.
If you come to Kenya, you can join tens of thousands of people that interact with UTU via MARAMOJA, the first taxi App in Africa, our first client and the inspiration for UTU.
Q18: Too many projects promise magic but never release any working product or prove any revenue, Within a short/long time of release. Is your project also like this? If not can you tell us, what makes your project different from projects ?
A18 [Jason]: We’ve already released our Trust API and Creditworthiness API and have clients using our tech…I hope that clears it up 🙂
The AMA closed at this point. We hope you learned something new. Please share it with the share buttons below so others can learn too!