Domi Creates Self-Sovereign Identity Wallet for Rental Market

Berlin based startup tackles the friction and personal data security concerns of the home rental process

The first round of the Self-Sovereign Identity Incubator (SSI Incubator) will soon come to an end. Five teams have spent the past 12 weeks advancing and honing their products and services, incorporating true self-sovereign identity (SSI) principles. SSI is a user centric approach to online identity that puts the user at the center of the use of their digital identity, allowing the user to decide who sees how much of their data and for how long.

Teams participating in the SSI Incubator agreed to come to San Francisco for the intensive 12-week program focused specifically on the development of their SSI products and services. Immersing themselves in the world of identity, teams participated in numerous events and workshops, learning not just about one type of decentralized network or system but gained valuable insight and introductions across the full decentralized identity landscape.

https://www.domilabs.io

Domi is a Berlin based startup that is using self-sovereign identity to take the friction out of the renting process by enabling renters to leverage their rental history. With their solution, property managers will also benefit from having access to a streamlined and GDPR-compliant means of managing rental contracts. We caught up with CEO Katrie Lowe to learn more about Domi and more about the problems in the Berlin housing market that inspired the team’s work in SSI.

Self-Sovereign Identity Incubator: Thank you again for making time to answer our questions. Can you please tell us a bit about Domi? Who makes up your team? How did you meet? What about your backgrounds brought you together?

Katrie Lowe: Domi is a digital rental passport and contract management platform for both landlords and tenants. Our team is made up of five people from different geographic and professional backgrounds, with 10+ years of experience in their respective fields — everything from identity research and blockchain design to urban development.

Katrie Lowe, Chief Executive Officer
Pavel Metelitsyn, Chief Technical Officer
Paulina Sobieszuk, Head of User Research
Juan Caballero, Identity & Privacy Advisor
Jesse Bondar, Head of Marketing & Funding

We were initially brought together at a sustainable cities hackathon in Berlin where we’re headquartered. We share a deep concern for how diminishing affordability and stability of urban rental markets is affecting the liveability of cities. This is what kick-started our project.

Together, we set out to explore how technology might be used to improve transparency and accessibility in rental markets globally, starting in Berlin.

SSII: What motivated you to begin work in decentralized identity? What about this technology and self-sovereign identity made you think of integrating it into your work? Why focus on the rental market?

KL: The rental market is still operating on antiquated data sharing systems. Prospective renters decipher opaque requirements to compile paper applications which get thrown onto a tall stack of applications from other interested renters. After sifting quickly through the applicants, landlords try to quickly get to a shortlist of top applicants. Once they’ve selected their tenant they create paper contracts that will live on top of the tenant’s fridge until they need to check the notice terms. The relationship between the two parties is often intransparent, tense, and without a shared record of claims. The result of this fragmented system is a power imbalance that lacks trust, transparency, and accessibility.

There’s a lot of talk, especially in Europe, about the importance of personal data and the dangers associated with our old ways of doing things. Yet, most of the processes that are being “updated” are still highly centralized and disadvantages individuals even more than paper processes did.

Additionally, there is an increasing demand for accurate data about renting and contracts, not only for private-sector purposes but also for policy and urban development. Yet, the current approach stumbles again and again on how to effectively anonymize what is irreducibly “personal” data.

SSI provides the technology needed to securely create, store, and share your most important data in a way that empowers and benefits individual data subjects.

It allows the way we rent to be modernized in a way that finally addresses these decades-old concerns around data privacy and excess market power without demanding that individuals hand over full control of their data to various actors.

SSII: We are so happy to have you join the Self-Sovereign Identity Incubator. Your passion for change and focused attention on the housing market made you a great fit for the program. What will you demo at the end of the program?

KL: Thanks! We’re equally excited to part of the incubator. For us, the mentorship and funding included as part of the program has enabled us to further detail-out the technical aspects of Domi, our business strategy, and product-market fit. We’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last few months and are really excited to share what we’ve achieved!

At the end of the program, we will be demoing our proof-of-concept which will show core functions of our platform. Our prototype will enable prospective users to experience the full rental journey as either a landlord or a tenant — from the application and screening process, to the authoring, negotiating, and digitally signing of contracts — all based on the secure exchange of verifiable credentials between users’ wallets. We also showcase how Domi can be easily integrated into any third-party online rental marketplace.

Our proof-of-concept is built on top of the Sovrin Network, offers custodial wallets for our users, and explores the possibility for the integration of mobile wallets like Streetcred, interoperability with other SSI providers like uPort, and interoperability with KYC service providers like Onfido.

SSII: SSI for the rental market sounds very exciting. How do you think this will influence other facets of the housing market?

KL: Domi’s mission is to modernize the way renting happens, and in doing so, address some of the fundamental issues associated with access to housing in cities. The ability to access housing is a question of how easy the rental process is, but it is also a question of housing supply.

In the immediate future, SSI technology enables Domi to streamline the rental process by building a unified experience to renting and solving trust issues in a truly digital way. This unlocks opportunities for landlords to explore different modes of renting, like sublets and co-shares, and makes it easier for people to relocate between cities or even countries.

Imagine a student or a family that has recently relocated to pursue an opportunity in a different city. With SSI, they will be able to passport their rental history and easily use it to apply for housing wherever they choose to live!

SSI also provides a mechanism for anonymized, real-time data to be shared ethically. This is the bigger picture behind what we are trying to achieve with Domi — to assist regulators, policy specialists, and planners from the private sector to access quality housing market data and better address the question of supply by basing policy and investment decisions on these data-driven insights. That’s the game changer!

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Learn more about Domi at the SSII’s final event of the year. Register here.

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