ImagineBC looks to blockchain to help people monetize their data and IP
For a man who has moved from the mundane world of human resources administration to the exciting blockchain realm, Erik Rind managed to transfer plenty of knowledge from his past to his present.
Mr. Rind is the CEO of ImagineBC, a company using blockchain, AI, and machine learning to help people monetize their personal information and intellectual property. It’s a long way from his success developing human capital management, benefits and payroll administration systems, but not as long as one might think.
He admits that, unlike many other blockchain entrepreneurs who had a light bulb moment when originally exposed to the technology, it took him a while to appreciate its potential. The journey began at an import/export conference in 2017 when Mr. Rind met John Cronin, president and CEO of the BuildCoin Foundation, a non-profit blockchain ecosystem for public infrastructure and construction projects.
“After two days, I was no more impressed with the technology, but I was impressed with John,” Mr. Rind recalled. “He’s a really bright guy and I wondered why he was so bought into blockchain technology. So I began researching, reading and consuming everything I could find.”
And like most entrepreneurs, Mr. Rind quickly decoupled blockchain technology from cryptocurrency. Looking to human resources and related industries, he saw many areas where the ability to foster improved trust and the disintermediation of third parties could generate positive impact. And it didn’t hurt that this epiphany happened at a low point for data security.
“There were the breaches at Equifax, PWC and other companies,” Mr. Rind said. “What’s going on in the world saddens me.”
Blockchain technology promises the ability to distribute data to individuals and to let them control their own information, he explained. That could revolutionize the human resources industry, given its need for access to personal information that is also the target of fraudsters. Instead of maintaining a central data base vulnerable to attack, return that information to the individual and then pay them when you want to access it.
Mr. Rind and his team moved well down this design path when they paused, looked at the landscape, and realized if they had to convince people to take personal control over their payroll information it was the wrong play, that they needed something more compelling. What if they could allow people to monetize their time and creativity, everybody from those granting access to their personal information all the way up to artists and content creators who see middlemen take the vast majority of every dollar they generate?
On the content creation end, you are talking about going against the YouTubes of the world, so you don’t have years to slowly develop a following, Mr. Rind explained. He needed to scale and scale fast so he could quickly become too big to be easily crushed by industry leaders.
“How do you convince people to leave the Youtube community to sell their content if there aren’t enough buyers?” he asked.
The answer begins in Mr. Rind’s former life, with the staffing companies who have access to hundreds of thousands of people looking for work. If he could provide those companies with a set of tools that would reduce their costs and increase their profits, would they be interested in partnering and giving ImagineBC the opportunity to promote themselves to the owner of every resume in their bank?
They sure were, Mr. Rind reported. ImagineBC’s formula is to let the intellectual property producer or information owner keep 70 percent of the revenue they generate. ImagineBC takes 10 percent, the staffing company five percent, and the community shares the remaining 15 percent.
It’s an easy monetary strategy for an industry who sees no revenue from an overwhelming majority of the people they meet, Mr. Rind explained. One staffing company he spoke with has 800,000 resumes in their data base and see revenue from maybe 1,500, less than one-fifth of one percent.
“Now they can earn revenue from them all,” Mr. Rind said.
His suspicions of the concept’s viability were confirmed at an ensuing conference where he met with several other staffing companies who were interested. While his goal was to have 10 million people to invite once ImagineBC goes live this summer, Mr. Rind may get double that or more.
“And if one tenth of that sign up, it’s fantastic,” he added.
The community can never be large enough, so ImagineBC sought out other natural partners and found one in labor unions, whose origins in fighting employee manipulation a century ago are not unlike the plight of people’s data being used by the Googles and Facebooks to make billions, Mr. Rind said. The unions let their members control who can access their personal information while keeping five percent of all revenue generated? Many were all in.
Another plus for ImagineBC is the revenue generated isn’t paid out in some house cryptocurrency with negligible liquidity, Mr. Rind said. Recipients get actual cash, made possible through a strong relationship Mr. Rind said he established with a bank while running his human resources company. That makes the microtransactions cost effective, and as ImagineBC scales those numbers will quickly add up.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also important parts of ImagineBC’s technology, Mr. Rind said. After registering, each member’s identity is kept anonymous until they agree to be contacted by a specific corporate member after a request. But those members have responsibilities to act ethically and to be an actual user, not a bot. To protect the site’s integrity, ImagineBC gives each user trust and reputation scores so others can determine the value of their input.
A high trust score, for example, tells others a specific user is actually a person and not a bot. Aided by artificial intelligence, the reputation score reveals how honorably the person has acted on ImagineBC, Mr. Rind said. It helps weed out people who are gaming the system with multiple accounts.
Artificial intelligence can also select those most likely to be interested in a company’s services, Mr. Rind explained. Using the example of a fictitious small real estate fix and flipper, he said the entrepreneur might spend $18,000 on Google ads in a search for five or six deals. With ImagineBC he spent far less for better results.
His process might begin by having ImagineBC identify 1,000 homeowners from a specific demographic who live within a certain radius. That was free of charge. He could then spend $1,000 to send them a five-question survey where each earned one dollar to complete. Following a review of the results he pays $200 to send them an ad. The entire process to this point is still anonymous.
Twenty people responded to the ad. The entrepreneur then pays each of them $50 for the right to make a direct pitch. Total cost: $2,200.
“$200 billion is spent on traditional advertising, and that is just the companies who can afford them,” Mr. Rind said. “How many more companies could participate under this model?”