Bitcoin.com spoke with Christopher David, the founder of the Ethereum-powered Arcade City — dubbed the “Uber killer” — on winning the blockchain awards, his thoughts on the record-setting crowdfunding campaign of The DAO, and using it to fund Arcade City itself.
Interview with Arcade City Founder, Christopher David
Bitcoin.com (BC): What cities have you trialed so far and where have you seen the most success?
Until this week, our biggest successes were in Midland, TX, and Fresno, CA. In both cities, we had a core group of highly motivated drivers who took the initiative to build large networks of riders and drivers themselves. They printed up business cards, went into bars, promoted themselves, organized drivers on Facebook, and stirred up business. Arcade City has a major presence in both markets despite spending no money on marketing. Our biggest success now by far is Austin, where we’ve connected 18,000+ riders and drivers. More on that below.
BC: So with Austin banning Uber and Lyft from its city, stranding many drivers and passengers, can Arcade City fill this void? And will its decentralized and P2P structure make it resistant to shut down in the future?
CD: In the past ten days we’ve networked together 18,000 riders and drivers who are actively looking for an alternative rideshare service. Even aside from the absence of Uber and Lyft, many of these people are tired of being jerked around by the major rideshare corporations and will be happy to use a decentralized alternative that puts more power in their hands.It is indeed an advantage of a decentralized service that it is far harder to regulate and push out of a market like Austin, let alone shut down entirely. One big idea is to create a marketplace and a culture for peer-to-peer transactions that persists and grows entirely regardless of the actions of third parties.
BC: Why did you pull your app from the app store and what do you mean when you say you’ll relaunch on a stronger platform?
CD: Our proof-of-concept app we threw together in six weeks on a tech stack (Angular/Ionic) preferred by our lead developer at the time. It’s not the stack we’re moving forward with, so we decided to throw it out entirely and start over on a stack (Meteor/React moving to ReactNative) that we know is optimal both for rapid iteration and production-quality apps that can compete pound-for-pound with Uber, while also using tech recommended by Ethereum developers (Meteor is a framework of choice, and has multiple “smart packages” available for Ethereum integration).
We’ve been growing faster than we’re comfortable with.
Also, we just grew too fast. Even without an app, we’ve been growing faster than we’re comfortable with. It takes a lot of energy to manage a restless swarm of thousands of understandably impatient rideshare drivers anxious to get their hands on a genuine alternative to Uber and Lyft.
BC: Arcade City just won the GTEC Blockchain Innovation Award. What’s your secret for this success considering you don’t have a market-ready product, a shoestring budget, and are basically a one-man team?
CD: Our proof-of-concept app saw rides given in 28 states and Australia and generated substantial interest around the world that overwhelmed our capacity to organize. Fortunately, the jurors cared more about the traction of our model than some particular batch of code. Arcade City is unquestionably not a one-man team. We have embraced and successfully implemented the ‘Swarmwise’ model for organizing a broad-based movement of participants, out of which has coalesced a large team of organizers and a huge community of riders and drivers actively helping us design, test, and promote the decentralized rideshare service.
Blockchain penetration throughout society is limited more by social issues than technical.
The code of our platform is secondary, and not a close second, to the importance of our network and our community. It is a common mistake in the blockchain community to fetishize code above the social interactions that good code should support. Blockchain penetration throughout society is limited more by social issues than technical. We have solved the social issues around decentralized ridesharing. Thanks to months of testing and collecting feedback, it is now clear what our technical development roadmap should look like over the coming months.
BC: Can Arcade City prevent data breaches and hacking of customer accounts like those experienced by Uber?
CD: We’ll be integrating the Ethereum community’s best practices for decentralized identity and data management. Specifically, we plan to implement ConsenSys’ uPort product as soon as it’s production-ready. Decentralized identity is the core building block for our gamified reputation system, which will be critical for the smooth operation of our decentralized marketplace, where users need trusted information about the other party to their peer-to-peer transaction. Users should have control of their own data, with fine-grained control over the people and circumstances under which they share that data.
For example, a driver should be able to easily join their local driver co-op DAO, share whichever data is relevant for communication and to satisfy that DAO’s policies for driver onboarding, then participate in that DAO by voting on policies, and withdraw data access whenever they want to leave. Not to say there won’t be new issues of safety and data security we’ll need to solve, but at least we’re approaching them in a context that doesn’t give some large central intermediary carte-blanche access to a mountain of user data that is easily hacked.
BC: Speaking of DAO…what are your thoughts on its record-setting crowdfunding campaign?
CD: It is remarkable to see such a revolutionary funding model burst onto the scene. More important than the specific dollar amount raised, the funds raised by the DAO represent the hopes of 15% of the Ethereum ecosystem: the pioneers among the pioneers. We want to deserve their support in funding and growing Arcade City.
BC: Do you think its approach of tapping the “wisdom of crowds” to fund Ethereum projects can compete with traditional VC firms who perform due diligence?
CD: Any institutions [like some traditional VCs], which aim to nurture the enterprises of the future while hoping to keep at arms’ length what they perceive as “unwashed masses,” or “a few thousand random nerds,” are doomed to fail. Blockchain technology has caught on so far thanks to the power of network effects. The future will be decentralized — and that means it will be crowd-sourced, drawing on the wisdom of crowds.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for the DAO to develop its own investment thesis and a new type of due diligence.
Specialized knowledge of the type that guides investment capital is no longer the sole province of Sand Hill Road and their ilk. It shouldn’t be too difficult for the DAO to develop its own investment thesis and a new type of due diligence. The Ethereum community is new but evolving fast, and I would never bet against it. Can this community, which has innovated so much in such a short period of time, also figure out how to properly evaluate how to wisely invest its money? Of course it can.
BC: Would you prefer to fund your project via The DAO or traditional crowdfunding methods? All of the above?
CD: We are strongly considering a proposal to the DAO. Perhaps more important than the money itself would be aligning the incentives for thousands of people on the cutting edge of decentralized technology.
BC: How do you envision the funding process?
CD: Our current thinking is that we will submit a DAO proposal that offers a percentage ride revenue in exchange for the funds, then later this year hold a token sale (aiming for Q4 of this year) where we issue Arcade tokens (ARC) that will be increasingly used for transactions on the platform, taking over from credit card payments over time. That token sale will likely be structured similarly to the original ETH token sale (and likely the same people who ran that will run ours).
We plan to engage the DAO community similar to how we are currently engaging the ridesharing community.
BC: What kind of approach would you choose to ensure your proposal receives enough votes on The DAO?
CD: We are planning to submit a proposal relatively early in the process. Out of respect for the Slock.it team, we’ll probably follow their lead and submit our formal proposal once theirs is accepted by the community. We are by no means experts in this realm, and want to take the time to learn from others and do things right. We plan to engage the DAO community similar to how we are currently engaging the ridesharing community in Austin and elsewhere, with constant contact and feedback along with a plan that rapidly iterates as necessary to incorporate new ideas.
Would you use a decentralized ridesharing platform over Uber and Lyft? Do you think The DAO will help it get off the ground? Let us know in the comments section below!