The decentralized mobility marketplace that might make everyone richer (based on collaboration)
Facebook, Amazon, Google, and all other marketplaces/platforms are among the wealthiest companies in the world. What makes these companies rich is ultimately their access to billions of customers, which again, rests on something called “positive network externalities”. This is just a complicated way for economists to say that something becomes more valuable, the more customers use it. Network externalities give these platforms a sustainable competitive advantage and let them bring in unprecedented amounts of revenue.
However, their design has a fatal flaw: They are aggregators — intermediaries who thrive on cutting a margin from other people’s businesses. With Amazon, every supplier clearly feels this margin because they need to pay 6 to 40 percent of every transaction. Amazon retail accrued 178 billion USD in 2020. On ad-driven platforms, such as Facebook or Google, the margin is more hidden, but it is still there: In 2022, it is estimated that 45 billion USD will be spent on Facebook Ads.
What if that 45 billion USD can be turned into a tool against Facebook? Or the 178 billion USD against Amazon? After all, a platform offering similar services but without pocketing the 45 or 178 billion USD must — by definition — be able to offer much, MUCH better services to its customers!
Is it possible to create zero-margin marketplaces? Yes, it is. Last year, we sat down with Sophia Rödiger, the CEO of a company pioneering this approach in the power and mobility sector: bloXmove. bloXmove’s motto is “to stop aggregating and start collaborating”. Let’s look at what Sophia and her team are up to.
Meet bloXmove: A Web3.0 platform for seamless mobility
One ticket for everything that moves you and can carry you along — that bloXmove enables in a nutshell. Instead of buying tickets over a host of online and offline point of sale (POS) systems — often subject to complex rules and conditions, BloXmove allows anyone to buy a ticket on whatever POS system and redeem its value on whatever modes of transportation are needed. bloXmove aims to make personal mobility seamless. Mobility providers will grant access to whatever mode of transportation you want to use — carsharing, ride-hailing, taxi services, scooters, rental bikes, rail, busses, subways, ferries — the list goes on. It does not matter to them where a ticket is purchased. Maybe you ask yourself: what’s new here — they are the next Mobility as a service (MaaS) app. The way of enabling such multi-mode travel journeys is a different one: The only condition is that the mobility providers represent a node in the bloXmove platform. BloXmove promises to remove the hassle of using multiple modes of transportation by solving the problems of the fragmented IT infrastructure in the backend. This simplifies and accelerates communication, data exchange, and settlement between transport operators. The combination of mobility and convenience has the potential to move masses of people in new forms of shared, eco-friendlier mobility.
No customer will ever need to buy a ticket at bloXmove. Unlike today’s aggregating platforms, such as Amazon, Airbnb, or booking.com, BloXmove does not seek to monopolize access to customers. What BloXmove does is store a blockchain ticket, so it is accessible to any other system while ensuring that it cannot be tampered with. Consequently, all mobility providers can validate the payment, provide the customer with access to services, and get paid. All that is needed is for the mobility provider to integrate its systems with the BloXmove blockchain.
No passenger will ever see bloXmove. bloXmove exists only in the virtual world of the cloud. It is a B2B platform that lets providers negotiate mobility services through smart contracts. Smart contracts are algorithms that regulate what can be done with the data stored in the blockchain. bloXmove uses them to control identification, verification, contracting, and settlement between any kind of system, without human intervention.
There are use cases for bloXmove that go beyond ticketing. A second platform application is currently underway that will connect mobility providers to power providers. Any vehicle charging from the electrical grid can get the kind of power it wants, e.g., renewable energy, at price points negotiated by smart contracts.
Many other applications are possible, such as in finance, e.g., vehicle or passenger insurance. But let’s leave it at that and instead, find out what makes bloXmove a Web3.0 company.
Smart contracts are unlike the algorithms that today’s internet companies use.
- Smart contracts are transparent, not secretive: Their source code is published publicly.
- Smart contracts are only mutable if people vote to change the code.
- The way of voting is regulated and processed by specialized smart contracts.
- Only those who hold a token are allowed to vote. BloXmove named this token $BLXM.
That’s right, bloXmove, a start-up, minted its tokens, its own cryptocurrency with a targeted market capitalization of about 40 million USD. While that sounds crazy for those unfamiliar with the crypto world, think about what you get with each token, each $BLXM: You get a right to propose changes and a right to veto changes. If BloXmove becomes a powerful platform for mobility services, these rights might be worth a lot. Not only this, the exchange rate between, say, USD and $BLXM might increase if the demand for $BLXM as transaction currency surpasses its supply.
Could investing in a start-up’s token might not be such a bad idea after all? However, the rights and the value streams that you get access to by investing in tokens are different from stock investments. Similarly, you get a right to vote and a tradeable commodity (some tokens), which you can sell at your leisure. Yet, there are two significant differences. First, you are not entitled to any dividend with an investment in tokens. Your payoff depends entirely on the value of, say, $BLXM and its exchange rate to other currencies. Secondly, the right to vote is much more intensive: Proposals and votes can be made at any time, and implementation is often enforced in code in the amendment of a smart contract. Therefore, in contrast to corporations, it is nearly impossible for a company’s management to wriggle out of decisions. Token ownership means code ownership, which means company ownership. Ownership is no longer as abstract as in traditional companies. It is concrete: You own the company’s code, and it is code that regulates most of a company’s interactions with the physical world, with other organizations, and people, both inside and outside the company.
The direct and unmitigated influence on the platform’s code makes a company based on blockchain and smart contracts more helpful for governing software platforms in the cloud. With the transparency of the blockchain and the efficiency of smart contracts comes a degree of scrutiny, influence, and innovation on tech platforms’ core algorithms, which are unimaginable in any other corporate form. Token holders do not vote on abstractly worded proposals and often vote on source code.
Imagine if Google, Facebook, and Amazon were crypto companies. It would be much harder to keep up with their current exploitative, dividing, and harmful ways by exposing their algorithms. All shareholders, i.e., holders of, let’s say, $GOOG, $META, and $AMZN, would be entitled to view all algorithms, criticize them, propose to change them, and vote on amendments.
The result might be a democratization of companies. While investors may still own companies, and votes are usually (but not always) weighed by the number of tokens held, transparency alone helps to create unheard levels of scrutiny and activism — a plutocratic crypto-democracy, instead of a secretive, authoritarian regime. Yes, there is a margin to sustain the costs of running the platform. After all, Web3.0 marketplaces are not non-profit companies. But the more democratic set-up ensures that the margins won’t get out of hand — and, if well designed, there are fewer greedy, disconnected shareholders and more users owning the platform.
A company like this has a label: Decentralized Autonomous Company (DAO). This type of company was envisioned in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of the cryptocurrency Ether and the Blockchain Network Ethereum:
What if, with the power of modern information technology, we can encode the mission statement into code; that is, create an inviolable contract that generates revenue, pays people to perform some function, and finds hardware for itself to run on, all without any need for top-down human direction? — Vitalik Buterin, 2013 (2)
There is no exact definition for DAO, but a helpful way to imagine it is a company with distributed ownership governed by smart contracts. (3) The table below summarizes this article.
And what about making money?
Of course, bloXmove needs money to operate. Just like Cryptocurrencies do, boXmove charges a small fee to its users, to keep their servers up and running and the people working on the platform. This fee is just enough to cover costs. The democratic ownership structure ensures that bloXmove stays a collaborative, decentralized Marketplace, much like a public utility would.
Still, there is money to be made beyond just covering the costs of operations. If you want to amass fortunes as a founder or an early contributor, you can do that in two ways. First, by holding on to some of the BLXM tokens that are issued by the BLXM Token Foundry — a separated foundation. These are bound to increase in value because they give people a say in the direction of the platform and the development of future features and services. The second way is by building a business on top of the decentralized marketplace. After all, by getting in on the construction of those zero-margin marketplaces early, you get a head start in understanding how this new platform will work and what some user groups might value.
Braintrust, an early Web3.0 company, has already pulled this off. (4) Having already attracted many blue-chip companies, such as Nestle, Nike, and high-profile institutions, such as NASA, the price of their token $BRST has already taken off. The co-founders built side businesses that offer services based on the zero-margin platform.
You probably won’t get as rich as Mark or Jeff though. Still, the pay-off is bound to be pretty hefty, considering the sheer size of what is at stake. Plus — and that is a big plus, you are actually making the world better by uniting people in a marketplace that is all about connections, not margins.
Take that Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and all those who were once out to unite the world but ended up filling their pockets. You can’t buy being true to your ideals and purposes. But you can sell them.
- BloXmove https://bloxmove.com
- Vitalik Buterin’s trailblazing article on DAO https://bitcoinmagazine.com/technical/bootstrapping-a-decentralized-autonomous-corporation-part-i-1379644274
- If you want to learn more about DAO, Colony is an excellent place to start https://colony.io
- Braintrust https://www.usebraintrust.com
- An interview with one of the co-founders of Brain Trust on Boundaryless Conversations podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/boundaryless-conversations-podcast/id1505530552?i=1000545578531
How To Build A Tech Company
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