Jason Eisen, Founder & CEO at UTU Bridging the Gap Between How People Trust In the Real World and How They’re Asked to Trust Online
UTU founder Jason Eisen’s journey into crypto began in Nairobi. It was there that he and his team launched Africa’s first taxi app in 2012/2013, which he created in response to a problem he and others encountered getting transportation in the city.
It wasn’t long, however, before they realised that they were building the wrong thing. The people of Nairobi weren’t having a problem getting a taxi. Instead, the problem locals were having was finding a taxi driver they could trust, an issue Eisen describes as “really critical.”
“We heard this a couple thousand times and started asking different questions — how would you solve that problem and why is it that no taxi app in the world was built with this in mind, this idea that a driver is a person and not a commodity that you just change one for the other?”
The answer is because for all of the major taxi apps used in places like London and California, the taxi is a commodity and users are looking for the closest and fastest one. Eisen explained,
“We said, ‘what would it actually look like if you re-conceptualised this from the ground up for a place like Nairobi, where trust was the most important factor?’ And we arrived at this concept of a socially powered taxi app that could understand from your phonebook, from your Facebook, who are your taxi guys that you normally use; who are your friends? Who are your friends’ taxi guys? Who are your taxi guys’ trusted colleagues? So on and so forth. And connect people to this personally trusted ride.”
The trust-based approach to taxis was a hit, and people began reaching out to UTU wanting to license the technology. The use case extended beyond taxi drivers to apps revolving around housekeepers, dating, doctors, financial services, micro-lending and more. All of the providers had been dealing with the same issue surrounding trust. Eisen explains,
“This was the evolution of UTU, from this very narrow use case that we had developed this specific tech to solve, our own problem, to transforming that into global scale infrastructure that can become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet and working across sectors and across platforms and across countries.”
That’s where decentralisation comes into play. Eisen explained how he and his team recognised the importance of trust infrastructure to govern transactions online along with the sensitivity and risk that accompany it, saying it needs to serve the public benefit in perpetuity and adding:
“The only way to really protect that service from any sort of corruption would be to decentralise it in the long-term. So we set upon this path of trying to build a decentralised trust infrastructure for the internet with the idea being, basically you can say our mission is to bridge the gap between how people trust in the real world and how they’re asked to trust online.”
Eisen points to the dangers lurking in the crypto space, from scams to fake personas to every sort of trap you can fall into, whether you’re the average Joe, specialist or expert. Even in crypto when the focus is on being trustless, there’s an element of trust involved.
“There’s often another human on the other end of a transaction or service being requested”.
So while the technical exchange of value may be trustless, when you’re ordering a nanny or a loan from a decentralised protocol, there is a human on the other side of that service.
He asks, “How do we actually make a level of trust that the average person can feel comfortable to transact there?
That is the problem that UTU is looking to solve and they are not limiting themselves to the cryptocurrency space. UTU focuses on sectors where people feel a lot of risk.
“While we definitely have this home in the crypto world because of the enabling technology that blockchain and crypto allows us to have, this holistic vision for trust infrastructure, it doesn’t only address a technical challenge but also a human challenge around this. That’s how we think about it. But really our service is designed for the whole world,” he said.
Eisen explains that there is no prescriptive model of trust that applies to everybody. UTU subscribes to a descriptive model of trust that is relevant to the individual sourced from the bubble of people that are meaningful to them about the factors of the service that are relevant to them, for instance a taxi driver who lets its passengers smoke, plays loud music or drives fast. On UTU, by knowing who is providing the review, the user gains a great deal of insight. There is also trust-based anonymity protection for sensitive referrals in sectors like healthcare.
Eisen describes the technical problem surrounding trust online, saying “a theory of trust has been broken.” He says there are incentives around trust that are totally broken. The token model they’ve designed is meant to solve that because the economic incentives surrounding digital trust are perverted with many economic benefits for manipulating digital trust such as running a review farm or bot army and charging lots of money for fake reviews rather than creating any real value.
This type of service is just manipulating people’s perceptions of a project.
Meanwhile, there’s no consolation prize for being a good person and building trust organically, which is what UTU is trying to change.
Eisen explained, “Our token was designed to basically flip those economics and eliminate the ability of people to buy trust and provide an avenue for people that build trust online to have an economic output from that.”
The only way to earn the UTU trust token is by participating in the ecosystem, sharing data and making endorsements that ultimately benefit others who get those good services and go on to endorse those services. On the contrary, there’s a penalty for endorsing bad services — you can lose some tokens staked on those endorsements. Eisen explains,
“You cannot buy in to get those tokens. You can only participate. That eliminates this ability of people from buying trust.”
As users accumulate tokens from providing data and helping people get good outcomes, they can earn more tokens and convert them into crypto. UTU paves the way for users to access the UTU coin, which is freely tradeable. Eisen explains,
“You can’t buy in but you can earn out.”
UTO will be unveiling its V-Zero UTO 4 DeFi product this week. It is a basic defi portal app in which users can see which DeFi protocol wallets they’ve interacted with and in which ways. By naming the wallets, the app can show you specific identifying information, such as how much liquidity someone you’ve interacted with has provided to a certain token on a protocol, for instance. It can also get into staking on protocols and the trustworthiness of them. Eisen said they are looking at how to open up the DeFi sector to many more users.
Find out more at protocol.utu.io