ICO Analysis: BitClave
A brief survey of the companies making the brunt of the bucks online yields Google as a primary result, and other search and data companies not far behind them – Facebook knows at least as much about a given person as does Google. “The people are the product,” goes the adage, and it’s less scary than it makes simple economic sense. Without some product to sell, companies would have no reason to offer such advanced and expensive services. In the ICO rush we’ve seen most industries undergo some form of attempted disruption, and now with the onset of BitClave we’re seeing perhaps a new zenith in terms of ambition: at heart, what they are trying to do is disrupt search, perhaps the pursuit of only the maddest technical idealist.
The Shape of the Pie in the Sky
There are two main things we need keep in mind when considering the mission being presented here.
The first is that the search in and of itself is a nascent industry, and really we’re only seeing the first iteration of its established modes. The era which directly preceded this one in the 90s was marked by dozens of choices, the first of which were maintained by hand, of databases to hunt for information. In reality, access to information was far more democratized under such circumstances, but we’ll not delve too deeply into the cultural dangers of centralized information access. The era of Google has been marked by a single, growing dominant search engine, more automated than not, which knows more about the user than it does at least a few of the user’s queries. In fact, one could argue that 9 times out of 10 the search engine has more information about the user, by nature of using the search engine and its other resources, than it ever does provide about an individual topic to the user. From a fairness perspective, this seems like a bad deal: people act as data crops for a global, faceless data combine and truly do not even get the carrot they signed up for.
The second thing to keep in mind is that there is a great cultural awareness of data privacy, but much like climate change or world hunger, average consumers do not currently have adequate choices which would protect their privacy. The cost of entry is your privacy, people have grown to accept, but they’re more aware of it than ever.
Studies have yielded conflicting results on the subject of how the current and next generation of decision makers actually view their data privacy. In one, we learned that millenials are largely indifferent. In another, they do care. Both situations only distract from the point the author is making, in any case: this generation is aware that their data is not private. Awareness is not enough. Someone could be aware that they are sitting on an oil well, but that awareness will not translate to action unless they are also aware of the value of the oil within it. This is the only type of catalyst that can lead to success for BitClave, which will allow users to monetize their own data.
Let’s see what the prospects of that particular industry are, that of voluntarily forfeiting private information. Short story: it’s growing, just like everything else online, exponentially. According to a Quora answer from someone who appears to know (Aaron Abram, founder of a survey company), online survey companies are extracting more and more from the economy, paying fractional amounts for people to answer long questionnaires.
The biggest fish in this industry makes $200M+ annually with 50% profit margins. And all the top venture capital firms are throwing money to the tune of $50M to $100M per company. With so much chum in the water, there is a feeding frenzy.
While the data that Google collects and the data that survey companies collect are two very different types of data, the point is that personal information is a huge and growing opportunity. So what does BitClave have to do with all this? Well, as you’ve probably guessed, they want to decentralize and monetize consumer search data and marketing information. At heart, their goal is to allow companies to directly market to consumers who are open to it, but at the tail end of their mission is a sizable disruption in the way people understand search.
BitClave proposes a system in which the intermediaries are eliminated and interactions are facilitated by the network itself. Instead of paying any “middlemen”, companies automatically make personalized offers directly to consumers who have opted in for the service.
The “intermediaries” referred to are the various advertising networks, including AdWords, which separate marketers from consumers. In the proposed system, companies will be able to find anyone who owns a dog, for instance, who is in the system, and offer them a product or service in the form of advertising. If the question has become why anyone would sign up for such a directory, then hopefully your familiarity with tokenization will help you understand: people will be motivated by money to be part of the network.
Incentivized Search Also Not New
What we’re talking about is not Bing Rewards or any of the myriad of search bars that share the advertising revenue with the user. Although at heart that is what we’re going to see happening in BitClave, we’re talking about something much more advanced. The Bing Rewards system, which allows people to earn “points” on their search data toward rewards, still uses the old model of throwing an ad up on a wall and hoping that passers by, who may or may not have a passing interest in the product, will take interest in it.
With BitClave we’re talking about something much more novel and innovative: a way to ensure that said ad only appears to those with a stated interest in it. This frees up capital to sweeten the products on offer, such as samples and trial offers, because when these programs are properly targeted they are scientifically proven to yield more sales.
The Future Is Unwritten
For the purpose of this article, both the author and the reader essentially need to suspend our understanding of the machinations and long tentacles of Google, Facebook, Baidu, and the rest of the aging pioneers who currently own the web for most intents and purposes. We must accept that disruption itself is the nature of technology, and so while it may be hard for us to imagine these companies losing market share in a significant way, we have to accept that it is both possible and reasonably achievable if the correct circumstances have arisen. As BitClave themselves put it:
Markets that stifle innovation are always susceptible to technology-based disruption.
The BitClave Network
BitClave is much broader in scope than mere search, but its first iteration will be directly associated with user activated search. The BitClave software itself is a blockchain layer that records user activities, in a way that the user assents to. The system used for this is called BASE, BitClave Activity Search Ecosystem. This is primarily for the advertisers and data aggregation outfits to interface with, so that they can find users who fit the profile they are looking for. Users who interact with the app are then presented with offers from advertisers who are looking for users that match their profile.
All of this will be operated using the CAT token, not to be confused with the BlockCAT token, which we will discuss a bit more in a moment.
BitClave does not mention the creation of their own search engine, which is a definite plus for the sanity of this project. Utilizing existing search engines, or allowing the user to decide the search engine, is a much smarter approach, removing it from the crosshairs of those firms themselves, but also putting it in a position that other networks can exactly mirror its functions and compete with it on grounds that are not based on their superiority, but instead simple virility and reach of existing ad contracts.
In short, BitClave’s first iteration places a shell over existing user search activities and gives advertisers a direct line to these users. The types of data that can be collected and stored in BASE are many, including physical information like building access, wifi connections, GPS information, and more. All of this data can be useful to advertisers trying to sell products, especially regional products. Through the use of cryptography, actual user personal information can be selectively protected and shared by the user, and the advertisers nor BitClave itself do not need actual personal details (name or e-mail address, for instance) to verify whether an offer actually converted or not.
For advertisers, this is what will be most attractive about BitClave: they are only paying for interactions which actually yield money, a radical and novel approach to advertising that couldn’t be successful in a centralized iteration. This is to say: exactly the type of disruption that blockchain and decentralization are meant to induce.
BitClave Token & Value
The CAT name for the BitClave token is unfortunate because there will be naming confusion between exchanges. In the case of BitClave, CAT stands for Consumer Activity Token. (BlockCat already calls its token the CAT, though.) Nevertheless, the value of the token as a member of the whole network needs to be established.
The high view is that advertisers will use the token to pay for listing on the platform and access to the BASE (along with later products BitClave will develop on the ecosystem) and customers will earn these tokens for their participation.
In design, then, the economics of this system are such that one party will continually be dumping onto the other. BitClave are aware that the system will take some time to develop value for both users and advertisers, and addresses this by saying:
While the true value of the ecosystem will take time to attain, reaching a sufficient number of retail contributors and user participants, we believe there is sufficient value for early adopters of the retail platform. Initial users can start to earn CATs by creating profile details, contributing preference and interest data, and posting recommendations for retailers or providers who have not yet joined the system (potentially earning tokens and reputation from other users in the process) similar to a recommendation or referral system. From the outset, the platform will support peer-to-peer contracts which will provide value in bootstrapping the retail marketplace.
There will be 2 billion CAT tokens issued during the token generation event. For the purpose of the token, to be issued out as a token of reward by many different advertisers, we can see this distribution as being comfortably suited. Where Kik’s Kin token decided 1 trillion was an appropriate answer, BitClave apparently decided on an amount that humans can get their mind around.
It’s fun to play with numbers. We could make the following calculations based on some data that’s not available, for instance: if the market is 750 billion in 2025 and BitClave has just 1% of that in terms of advertising dollars, the total of the BitClave network’s value would be around 7.5 billion, and the cost of each token would justifiably be over a few dollars each. Let’s say this was a hugely positive outlook and say they only have acquired .1% of the network in that time – the token is still carrying value, so long as the network provides value to advertisers and advertisers are using it. Thus we find the true Achilles’ heel and metric to judge BitClave by: their speed of adoption and expansion and gathering of significant clients for the advertising services is crucial.
BitClave have cleverly positioned themselves in Mountain View, California, the home of Google’s main campus. This puts them at the hub of the world’s search technology engineers, among a lot of other talent. Therefore we can safely say that if BitClave funds, CTO Patrick Tague’s odds of finding the engineers to get this thing on the road are pretty high. According to his LinkedIn profile, much of Tague’s professional experience has been as faculty at various educational institutions.
CEO Alex Bessonov formerly worked as a mentor for Tim Draper’s Draper University and has otherwise worked with a number of start-up accelerators. His real experience comes from his time as a software engineer working with eBay, Microsoft, and Informatica. Informatica was a pioneer in data analytics. Of his experience there, Bessonov claims:
Responsible for developing client/server data mining applications. Led the team to design a new generation of Informatica’s client suite.
Not hard to draw a straight line to today, where he is heading up a company which seeks to disrupt the very data mining revolution he took part in starting.
We are bullish on all plays which will disrupt digital advertising. We believe the Basic Attention Token is a few partnerships away from meteoric rises and that adChain will find a simultaneous place to operate from. Of adChain, we concluded that the verification of good providers is a valid play in the advertising space. We feel that BitClave takes this idea to the next level – giving businesses direct access to customers, and charging them when they succeed in making a sale. We figure this will probably go further and represents a more novel approach to the problems at hand.
- Team are virtually unknown to us, their connections could be lacking, this could slow adoption even further than the next point. -3
- Adoption will be slow. The firm will spend a lot of money getting both advertisers and customers on board. They may not raise enough to achieve the goal. -1
- Will face attrition from other outfits which offer nearly identical product. -0.5
- Will be very attractive to the current and future generations, who are aware of their data privacy and will gradually become more aware of its monetary value. +4
- Initially seeks to co-exist with other advertising solutions, instead of relying on any external activities to really initiate its existence. +3.25
- The noted attrition in the Risk category is less when you consider that advertisers will only pay for what they actually profit from, which will incentivize them to keep CATs for the purpose of advertising on the network. That said, actual token value will rise slower the less that people use the product, and fall off whenever people move to a different product, so the attrition should not be understated either. +3
Numerically, our rating of BitClave winds up being 5.75. AdToken received a 6.25, and they are up for a review soon. A rating of 5.75 should be used mostly in determining whether or not you’re going to invest initially, not the long-term success or profitability of the token. Short-term profitability is there: demand for the token will be immediately represented by firms which want to be on the cutting edge of marketing. Long-term profitability is questionable, since we’re sure that alternatives already exist and will continue to emerge, making a network effect difficult for BitClave to establish. As a general investment vehicle, it seems this one could yield some short-term profits, but has a lot of means testing to do before we can determine whether or not it’s a good long-term vehicle for money.
Details are a bit murky on everything. They’ve opened a pre-sale, which gives you access to a dashboard, which gives us some data on the cost and sales of the CAT tokens:
In the whitepaper, token sale details were marked down to “to be announced.”
Now in the dashboard we see that close to 75 million of the tokens have been sold already, raising around $1.9 million so far in the pre-sale, which is now over. The most recent cost of tokens is 7 cents.
This dashboard situation is a security attack vector. By creating an account there, you put the trust of buying these ICO tokens fully in their hands, and anyone sniffing packets in between, and any security misconfiguration that might lead to convenient problems. We urge the exercise of extreme caution in the establishment of an “ICO funding account” with BitClave or anyone else. A net loss of $0 through purchasing on exchanges later is superior to a net loss of 100% lost thanks to a compromise of the ICO’s accounts system.