DuckDao
DuckDao
Sep 26, 2020 · 19 min read

UTU Protocol — A Summary

On Friday the 25th of September, the DuckDAO community had an AMA with some key members of the UTU leadership team — Jason Eisen, Bastian Blankenburg, and Rahul Srivatsa.

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UTU’s vision is to become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet, replacing anonymous star ratings, reviews, and scores as the de facto trust mechanisms of digital commerce. Utilising machine learning, social graphs and oracles, UTU’s trust later allows lenders and borrowers to get a better sense of which marketplace or service provider is contextually most trustworthy for them.

Some key features include:

The UTU Trust Portal

UTU’s trust portal will act as a website application where users will endorse third-party oracles, DAPPs, or exchanges as trustworthy (or not), and other users can review such endorsements from users they trust. Specifically, the portal will enable lenders to decide which oracles and borrowers they trust to which degree, and therefore what amount of collateral and interest rate to require. In other words, this establishes a fully decentralized P2P reputation mechanism for creditworthiness. Endorsement data is also managed 100% on-chain and therefore is in itself trustless.

UTU Trust Oracles

A trust layer: UTU’s trust oracles can be used to assess a borrower’s creditworthiness, therefore removing the need for over-collateralization. The oracles access off-chain data through social media channels and other required data sources which UTU’s core algorithm then uses to determine the borrower’s creditworthiness and provide a recommendation.

Website: https://protocol.utu.io/

Medium: https://medium.com/@UTU_trust

Telegram: https://t.me/UTUtrust

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UTU_trust

Participants:

Jason Eisen — Founder and CEO

Bastian Blankenburg — Founder and CTO

Rahul Srivatsa — Token Sale manager and Chief of Staff

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥 — DuckDAO Founder

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥- DuckDAO Founder

Please note that the following summary has been edited for clarity.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

On behalf of the DuckDAO community and myself, I’d like to welcome all of you to a DuckDAO AMA. Thank you very much for your time today — we’re super excited to have the chance to talk to you both about UTU.

Could we please start with a few personal introductions from you — who are you, what are your backgrounds, and how did you end up in the crypto space?

Bastian Blankenburg

I’m Bastian, originally from Germany, where I studied computer science and then worked at DFKI, German Research Center for AI, doing a PhD in multi-agent systems. This involved using game theory, risk models, trust models, privacy-preserving algorithms and a few other things. It also involved building payment protocols that incentivised agents to adhere to the protocol. That was some years 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 because of blockchain tech.

Jason Eisen

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.

Rahul Srivatsa

I’m Rahul Srivatsa, Token Sale manager and Chief of Staff at UTU. Born in India, but grew up in Tanzania and have spent a good amount of time in Kenya. I have a Masters degree from Boston University in Economics and have previously worked with Bastian on the Tokenomics section of the white paper. Previously, I have also had experience in the consulting and research world and currently training to be a data scientist. I met Jason a few years ago in Kenya and was immediately convinced about what UTU can bring to the world! Been with them ever since!

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Okay thank you guys. Let’s proceed with the next question.

When starting my research regarding UTU initially the concept seemed a little abstract to me. Could you maybe provide a concrete example where the interaction between a lender and borrower is facilitated by UTU and its reputation mechanism?

Bastian Blankenburg

I’ll take that

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Perfect

Jason Eisen

Indeed, that’s a Bastian question all day

Bastian Blankenburg

The basic idea of our system is to provide personal, relationship-based recommendations. Like, “Your friend Jane likes this provider”. But for specific use cases such as lending, we’re adding domain- and context-specific info. One example is the p2p lending platform Jamborow, one of our partners, who caters to farmer associations.

So those farmers would usually like to borrow money to e.g. buy some seeds or fertiliser, and look for a suitable lender. So we might show them something like “Your fellow farmer Paul in your neighbourhood has [had] great experiences with this lender.”

On the lender side, we might show to the lender that whatever Paul wants to grow was successfully grown by other farmers in the same area before.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

To successfully establish UTU as a leading trust layer, deep knowledge in areas such as oracles, AI, machine learning, and big data are required. Could you elaborate a little bit on the background of the team’s core members and their respective experience and skills?

Jason Eisen

My turn!

We agree 100%. This is why we have compiled a team that not only has the niche expertise required to make this project a success, but a team that has made this their life’s work. I suppose it all started with my idea for better trust when I started the first taxi app company in Africa, implementing trust within the service using social graphs and powered by contextual data. Our CTO, Bastian has been working on this issue even longer. His PhD thesis was about distributed AI systems for trust. Moreover, we have a team of brilliant AI, ML engineers and economists with a mass of experience in their fields.

However, we do acknowledge that to scale we will need to hire certain gaps that we progress such as more blockchain developers, psychologists to help curate our trust model and UI based on sectoral differences. We also have an incredible head of Data Science, Alex Mwai, who is literally a nuclear physicist who has built AI models on the largest datasets (particle collision) in the world. We additionally have partnerships for R&D at university of Southampton and with the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Thank you!

How is the MARAMOJA app being utilised in Africa? Your WP mentions collecting data with consent from tens of thousands of users. How is that coming along?

Jason Eisen

I got this one too

We’re running our own taxi operations in Nairobi, but have also taxi franchises. Some under the MARAMOJA brand name, and some others. For all of those, we’re using the taxi ride data, social connections among people and also external data sources like Google place types to recommend drivers. We’ve got models to identify different kinds of trips, e.g. business trips vs shopping or other private trips. That might change the rider’s preferences which kind of taxi and driver they prefer.

What’s really exciting about our taxi model is it’s capability to reach the long tail of the continent. Africa has something like 1.2 billion people but the top 15 cities only comprise like 6% of the population. We are targeting the top 1000 cities through a decentralized model that will see us reach more than 80% of the population. The mobility business has its own dedicated team of more than 30 these days led by the very capable Ronald Mahondo — the most experience mobility tech leader on the continent

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

On traditional platforms such as Tripadvisor fake ratings/reviews are a major challenge. How will this be addressed on your platform — are there mechanisms in place to “identify” fake recommendations? e.g. through a large number of positive recommendations via bots?

Rahul Srivatsa

I’ll do this one.

That’s a great question Lukas, in fact this is exactly the sort of problem we are trying to solve. Our trust infrastructure has a built in incentive mechanism that not only rewards successful endorsements but punishes ‘bad actors’. For example if a “bot” or a bad actor leaves a fake recommendation, they will have to stake UTU coins on this endorsement. After showing that endorsement to others, if people successively react negatively to that endorsement i.e. the other clients deem the service not recommendable, then the individual will be penalized on that state (both the reward and penalty functions are predefined).

Please see our whitepaper for complete details -

https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSn7d9BovABf8IxaK9uvvoUkRQKMMEsUqxvetEjovhq-F2Sw7czzbBV4Gghsoi1txn6ydSx3bqeAXst/pub

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Cool thank you

One of UTU’s principles is to move away from aggregated ratings to a “human-friendly personalized narrative and data points”. What kind of data points will be provided besides some sort of “creditworthiness” score?

Bastian Blankenburg

My turn.

One key question here is whether the consumer of our services is a human being or an automated decision-making algorithm. Our mechanism has so far been developed mostly with the first case in mind, for our existing centralised use cases, showing recommendations such as the farmer borrower example that I gabe above. So this is about showing qualitative information that this particular user cares about for a specific request.

But in other cases, such as when our service is used via Oracles to integrate decentralised protocols/DApps, automated decision making by an algorithm might also be involved. In that case, we’d need to make this information more easily digestible for code, i.e. provide some numbers and scores.

But which aspects are most important to a protocol and their users is still up to them. So we don’t want to prescribe that. For example, one lending protocol might aim to provide as many loans as economically viable to a certain demographic to support financial inclusion, while another just wants to maximise profit at a certain risk level. We aim to provide data points that enable these decisions.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Have you established the governance for UTU yet with the conversion from UTT?

Bastian Blankenburg

I’ll go again 🙂

So for folks unfamiliar with “UTT”, it’s the UTU Trust Token which measures (good) participation in the system and is not freely tradeable, only earnable. It can be converted to a limited extent to UTU Coin.

This conversion will be implemented as a “slow” auction protocol, first pioneered by Gnosis with the DutchX auction. It’s simple, efficient, incentive-compatible, and prevents front-running. It fits our purposes very well because its slowness is actually a feature in our context, because we allow conversion only to a limited extent every few hours.

As for governance, we will implement a protocol technically probably similar to Compound’s. This will ideally encompass system parameters and mechanisms. But we’ll also need to ensure that participants have the long-term viability of the platform in mind, and not only short-term profits. We will therefore closely watch how the current DeFi projects’ governance mechanisms work out in practice over time, and adopt what is best for the trust protocol.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Traditional credit scores are often highly context-sensitive and only apply to specific areas — how do you plan to overcome this limitation with UTU?

Rahul Srivatsa

This is true. Even our support for lending use cases is highly domain specific and heavily context-sensitive. Especially when it comes to p2p lending in different geographies. However, as with our trust mechanism in general, we are continuously working to identify commonalities across use cases, trying to make our models as generally applicable as possible. For this, we are using different combinations of AI techniques, mixing and matching them to support each client and sometimes sector. Eventually though, with our growing learning and training of models across multiple clients in the same sector and further advances of AI, we hope to arrive at very generalized models of trust.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Defi seems to be the hottest thing at this point in time for the crypto space. How does UTU as a project aim to take full advantage with products such as yield farming, multiple forms of staking, etc?

Bastian Blankenburg

I’ll take this.

Jason Eisen

While Bastian writes about DeFi, I’d note that UTU’s vision is much larger — to be the trust infrastructure of the entire internet…

Bastian Blankenburg

The ideas behind some of our mechanisms are quite similar to those used in DeFi. For example, people can stake UTU Coin for taking part in governance, but more importantly they can stake UTU Trust Token (UTT) on service provider endorsements. This allows them to earn more UTT when these lead to successful recommendations, which means that more staked endorsements are made by other users who followed the recommendation.

We also considered rewarding people over time for amounts staked in endorsements, i.e. pay some interest rate. However there are pros and cons to this in our context, and a lot will depend on actual usage of the system, so we will need to experiment with this.

Finally, the conversion from UTT to UTU Coin enables users to monetise their participation in the protocol. The other, not directly monetary benefit being that they help building and therefore can use a well-working trust platform to make better decisions.

But I also want to add that it’s not exactly correct to say that we’re just using DeFi concepts in this way, because actually we devised these mechanisms long before DeFi was a thing 🙂

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

The mission of UTU is to promote trust in the crypto space. What mechanism/infrastructure will you use to achieve that, especially in the Defi space? Which oracle services will you use to achieve your goals?

Bastian Blankenburg

One thing we’re building is to help users decide which DeFi protocols, or in fact DApps in general, they might want to use and entrust their funds with. Even if blockchains enable trustless code execution, there are still a lot of components and actors which a user might trust or not.

We discuss some of these cases in more detail in our “Enabling DeFi” document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTbd7W2fEuHdNiZE372SSLYpcawHpAg1RB3sn6jls05qqg137WWVeCUGGnBpu_FdyKAmDRLIQlI5MCm/pub

As for oracles, we will provide oracles for platforms that use want to access our services on-chain. Depending on needs, we could provide these via decentralised oracles such as Chainlink’s (which solves other aspects of the oracle trust problem, again please see “Enabling DeFi” document for a discussion).

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

With TRUST being the core of the project, and it being a matter of collecting a lot of data, l would imagine the degree of trust will vary. Is there going to be some sort of rating for these trusted companies? And how will these ratings be determined?

Jason Eisen

Mine please, this is something I talk about a lot. It has to do with the underlying theory of trust

Digital trust currently is basically a legacy of what Ebay gave us in the 90s when we were just buying some beanie babies or whatever and some aggregated, averaged, anonymous feedback was ehhh.. good enough. Meanwhile the whole internet has evolved around us and digital trust mechanisms have stagnated. 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.

Generally, the more and better data, the better the system can figure out who is most relevant trusted recommender in each case. So if there’s not much data about a user, we can only give more general recommendations, like “Other users in your neighbourhood like this car mechanic.” But if the system knows more details, they get better — “Your friend Paul, who has the same car model and similar budget, loves this car mechanic.”

Apart from these kind of recommendation statements, we’re also supporting badges for use case-specific traits (“reliable”, “fast” etc.), video and text reviews, preferably from most trusted people (for the user in question).

We also support star ratings, but we consider them as the last resort when there’s no better data available.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

I really like that besides user recommendations, UTU’s trust oracle also accesses off-chain data through social-media channels and uses this data to assess a borrower’s creditworthiness. Could you please elaborate on how this works, e.g. by providing a concrete example?

Rahul Srivatsa

Our model is built to capture any number of different types of relationships between people (or entities). The more a user allows the system to know, the better recommendations can be served. To facilitate this, we provide SDK components to easily allow 3rd party apps to e.g. ask the user if the app might scan their phone book for other known users on the platform, or to integrate other social media such as FB login (and their FB friends list). We’re working on more adapters, including transactions with known (by the user) wallets on Ethereum, æternity and other blockchains we’ll support.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Very cool.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

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?

Bastian Blankenburg

It’s actually the other way around, we target other platforms to integrate UTU. We’re providing APIs and SDKs to easily do this, i.e. the SDKs provide ready-made UI components which can be embedded in an app to show recommendations and later collect feedback.

One might think of the recommendation elements as similar to the Paypal button, just that they’re shown before a user makes their choice of what to buy/order/interact with, rather than after for payment.

Jason Eisen

What’s more is that we really effectively bridge people from the centralized to the decentralized by working across both

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Thanks a lot guys. Let’s go little into the Roadmap and Marketing

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

That’s very important!

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

MVP is due for release in 2021 — How is that coming along? Do you have something to share in beta?

Bastian Blankenburg

We’ve already been running the trust mechanism on the centralised side for years. And we actually have several MVPs for different decentralised parts of the system.

We’ve got an alpha version of the endorsement smart contract built on æternity and will publish this very soon. As for creditworthiness oracles, we will need to go together with our pilot clients in this realm, but can also draw from our already-developed lending support on the centralised side.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

My question is about your long term marketing plans. How, or through which big partnerships do you plan on utilising to pass your product onto the normal consumer — especially non-crypto people?

Jason Eisen

We will announce some of these partners soon… prepare to have your socks knocked off :)

Rahul Srivatsa

Some of the partners we have already announced!

https://medium.com/@UTU_trust/utu-trust-force-assemble-9fadc81a12cb

https://medium.com/@UTU_trust/utu-collaborates-with-hacken-to-bring-trust-oracles-to-the-entire-crypto-ecosystem-65712d1de843

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Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Love the duck in there

Rahul Srivatsa

We do too!

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Haha

Jason Eisen

I can add a few thoughts here. If you wanna go fast go alone, if you wanna go far, go together

Some of my favorite African wisdom

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

Nice👍. Agreed!

Jason Eisen

It’s all about partnerships to drive value, in centralized and decentralized ecosystems.

We are all stronger together. As a trust infrastructure company, the value of the service and ecosystem we are building is driven by participation so we are going where the people are….keep watching this space :)

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

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?

Bastian Blankenburg

UTU Trust Token (UTT) measures the positive participation in the system. Trustworthiness is one aspect of this, which therefore should not be buyable, but can only be earned. Therefore UTT is really the heart of the protocol, but because it cannot be bought, it is not investable.

UTU Coin is for the monetary aspects of the system, it’s a tradable token, and people should be able to buy (and sell) it because it will be required for consuming our services. Then, 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.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

How are you planning to make UTU coin deflationary over time with the conversion of UTU Trust Tokens?

Rahul Srivatsa

There’s a hard cap on the supply of UTU Coin, 1B. It will be deflationary if the platform as a whole grows in value, which it will do if there’s enough uptake and usage. The conversion of UTT is provided for by a pool, which will be replenished from service fees paid in UTU Coin for our own and later other services on the platform. So tokens are not minted for this purpose, but service consumers will need to acquire more UTU Coin over time, while users who converted UTT can sell. This establishes a cycle of usage of UTU Coin.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Next question: Can you please elaborate on how long term investors will benefit from the deflationary model of UTU coin?

Bastian Blankenburg

As mentioned, if the platform as a whole grows in value, so will the value of UTU Coin, because it means that the platform is widely used, and UTU Coin is needed for usage. So this means that UTU Coin would appreciate in value along with it.

Jason Eisen

Well imagine a world in which UTU Coin is the underlying infrastructure of our digital lives…facilitating all our transactions…what would the demand/price for UTU Coin be in that world?

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

On the topic of the need to increase the value of the token or reduce market capitalization, will the UTU Ecosystem accommodate a BuyBack/Token burn mechanism after the token sale or in the near future?

Bastian Blankenburg

We’re working on exchange listings with liquidity provision and on onboarding market makers, but can’t give more details right now. Unsold tokens will be added to the Ecosystem Growth pool, i.e. for the conversion of UTT to UTU Coin.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Will both buyers and sellers fund the project through transactions or recommendations? Is that paid with UTU?

Rahul Srivatsa

Yes, our recommendation algorithms work both ways, and in fact is best in 2-sided p2p marketplaces. Usage of our recommendation service is paid in UTU Coin, and platforms using our service via oracles require them to hold a minimum amount of UTU Coin as well. They may choose to pass on UTU Coin charges to their own clients (users), or they might choose to pay all UTU Coin fees for their users.

Lukas | DuckDAO🐥

What is your relationship with Raven Protocol?

Jason Eisen

Love and admiration? hahah.

We [have been] working with Sherman and Raven for years as an advisor and tech partner. I call him our Crypto Yoda.

Bastian Blankenburg

As our platform evolves, and capabilities for decentralised AI such as built by Raven as well as privacy-preserving computation and mechanisms grow, we also hope to decentralise more and more parts of it over time. So we expect that parts of our AI will eventually run on Raven.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

General info: we will open the chat in a second, but in slow mode that the community can interact with you UTU

As you surely know DuckDAO is not just an investor community of crypto-enthusiasts, but we also care about real adoption and the long-term success of promising projects. How can we support UTU as a community?

Jason Eisen

Oooo I love this one

Integrate our tech! If you run a platform or marketplace, take a revolutionary step for your users and give them better trust, authentic human trust.

If you’re a user, encourage, nay demand, your favorite platforms integrate UTU.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Cool thanks a lot guys so far! Ready for some random questions?

🐥

What’s UTU’s long-term development plan ? How do you make users believe that UTU is a long-term high-quality project?

Jason Eisen

By simply demonstrating value add to their daily lives…no complicated schemes required. deliver better trust…

🐥

What can we do to support UTU in everyday life? How can we (e.g. as an Hodler) make UTU and the UTU Community help to grow?

Bastian Blankenburg

The best support will be actually using — and earning from! — the system. I.e. use platforms which integrate with us, provide feedback and other data (securely) etc., and most importantly make staked endorsements on services.

🐥

What strategies does UTU have to make UTU more valuable in terms of increasing the number of users and what applications does UTU integrate to extend your ecosystem?

Jason Eisen

I think it’s about availability, accessibility, and affordability.

Availability — we want there to be an UTU endpoint in every ecosystem, centralized and decentralized, interoperable across chain and off-chain. A widget in every world — salesforce, chrome, zapier, IFTTT, wordpress, just to name a few on the centralized side. Everywhere people build products, UTU should be there.

Accessibility — this means delivered as infrastructure directly into the platforms people use, not some standalone thing. It also means damn near magical user interfaces that evoke the humanness of trust and are simple enough to use for anyone

Affordability — this means pay as you go charges based on consumption so everyone applies it. You don’t have to be “this tall” to ride UTU… :)

Rahul Srivatsa

Mass adoption too, integrating in more platforms and making users comfortable with the concept. There will be a learning curve but it is not steep. We also have a long list of clients in our pipeline and 2021 will be a major year for UTU as we begin to make the push to deploy our infrastructure. We also want to make this easy for companies. So we have built an API/SDK package that can easily be integrated onto centralized platforms. For the blockchain based platforms we expect to have first versions of our smart contracts and trust oracles ready by the end of the year.

🐥

Do you have any thoughts on the exchange? And why did the team decide to list on Uniswap first? Most people say when Binance and I understand listing costs are expensive, but I personally see Bitmax has a lot of great performances recently like OM, STAFI, DIA … and it’s not expensive. like Binance Can we review and list on Bitmax sir?

Bastian Blankenburg

Expect some announcements soon. But I’d also like to say that we really love decentralisation, so in a way it’s disappointing that so many people still like CEXs so much.

🐥

What criteria is applied by UTU in designating a project, business, career TRUSTED and how reliable is this criteria?

Bastian Blankenburg

Our mechanism learns (given enough data) who trusts whom for what, and then shows recommendations based on this at the right time.

Ken | DuckDAO 🐥

Thanks a lot everyone.

We wish you all the best! You have the ducks behind you!

Bastian Blankenburg

Thanks a lot, it was a pleasure to be here!

Jason Eisen

This was great guys! thanks so much.🐥 power

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Who will win? One VC or ten thousand ducks?

DuckDao

Written by

DuckDao

WHO WILL WIN? ONE VC OR THOUSAND DUCKS?

DuckDAO

DuckDAO

DuckDAO is a community-backed digital asset incubator that provides promising early-stage crypto startups with the expertise, financial resources, and marketing power needed to fast track their progress on the path to success.

DuckDao

Written by

DuckDao

WHO WILL WIN? ONE VC OR THOUSAND DUCKS?

DuckDAO

DuckDAO

DuckDAO is a community-backed digital asset incubator that provides promising early-stage crypto startups with the expertise, financial resources, and marketing power needed to fast track their progress on the path to success.

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