Hi Tim, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. We'd like to know a little more about you and about ShareRing. Can you tell us a little about yourself and the project?
Thanks for having me. So I’ve worked in tech for all of my adult life: I've been working in technology for about 26 years: first at a computer games developer that was bought out by Atari, and Avanade, which was a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, followed by a number of years consulting at Barclays Capital Investment bank.
I created my first startup in 2004 (and sold it in 2008), with a focus on IoT. We provided a cloud-based service that focused on GPS tracking. This service towards vehicles, as that was where the demand was. After that, I started Keaz, with an initial focus on creating a platform for renting/sharing anything, anywhere. The idea was that we would create an API-driven platform that allowed companies and people to integrate and rent out anything. Once again, we were driven towards cars, so as of today, Keaz’s main focus is providing a B2B and B2C platform for renting cars and materials and handling equipment (forklifts, etc).
Since 2012, I've been following Bitcoin, but it was around 2015 when I came across the Ethereum white paper that described a distributed computer where you could build flexible 'smart contracts' to run in a virtual machine. I felt that there was something there worth looking at, so I started researching it. Basically, because of its ability to scale easily across many verticals (you're no longer restricted by a rigid set of APIs), the concept allowed us to build what I originally planned for Keaz. Then in about 2017, we put together the original plan and foundation for ShareRing.
Even though DeFi has taken the world by storm in recent years, what do you think are the main challenges holding back mainstream financial institutions from going the DeFi way?
Great question. I believe regulation is the biggest challenge that’s holding back mainstream financial institutions from moving into DeFi.
At the moment, DeFi is seen predominantly as a tool for making fast money or for making money by staking through DeFi platforms, but I’ve noticed that one of the big things missing in a DeFi environment is how you regulate it. How do you determine who meets certain requirements before they can interact with a smart contract? On the surface, it takes away all the premise of DeFi because it’s decentralized, democratized, and anyone should be able to access it.
But how can you regulate it without shutting it down or putting too much onus on the people running DeFi? The answer, in my opinion, is a tech framework that allows people to interact with it only if they meet certain requirements. For example, you’re not a politically expressive person, or you’re not located in a place where this technology is banned or over-regulated.
Once that framework is in place, then you’ll see more institutional investors come in because their Board of Directors and also risk profilers following their investments will start allowing them to put money into these kinds of platforms.
While decentralized identities are one of the biggest use cases for blockchain technology, what use cases do you see for DIDs beyond the financial services industry?
DIDs outside of financial services – there are so many opportunities. At the moment we’re working on events. In some events, you only need the ticket to get in, but at other events, you need to prove that you’re over 18, or maybe the ticket is associated with your real name so you need to prove who you are. DIDs have a big part in that.
Also, access to services: government, online banking, or metaverses, where someone would have to prove their identity to enter the metaverse. For example, maybe there’s a metaverse designed for kids, so you’d have to prove that you’re under a certain age in order to enter.
Essentially you can use it anytime you need to prove something unique about yourself; it’s not just about proving who you are, but it may be proving that you’re over a certain age, proving that you live (or don’t live) in a certain jurisdiction or location.
Every day, there’s some sort of situation where a DID-based solution would benefit you or remove friction in the thing that you're trying to do.
You are working on a number of different projects. One of these projects is your upcoming feature ‘Simple NFT Events’. How will blockchain impact the ticketing industry? Do you think that more and more events will start to use blockchain and NFTs for ticketing?
A lot of people see NFTs as JPEGs. At ShareRing, we see NFTs as very clever smart contracts that can have a lot of rules associated with them; basically, we see them as a utility.
For events, the way that it’s disrupting the event industry is it allows us to remove fraud from the ticket resale or the ticketing industry. Right now, in Melbourne, if there’s a concert on and you can’t get tickets because all the scalpers have bought it and the stock goes down and you’ve got no other means of access, you jump on a site called Gumtree to look at tickets on sale and instead of being AUD200, they’re AUD1000 for a ticket and some people get scammed for that. You hear a lot of stories of people selling fake tickets online, sending fake tickets out or people sending money to purchase tickets and never receiving their tickets.
If you have the ticket as an NFT, you’ve actually got something tangible in the digital world, where you know the ticket exists and you can do an online transaction to make sure that you get that ticket when you pay for it so you’re not exposing yourself to any chance of fraud. It’s the same as when you go to OpenSea, and you look at a verified project and you can buy that NFT with confidence, knowing that it’s not forged.
Another benefit of using an NFT as an event ticket is that the ticket provider can put limits on the NFT ticket’s resale price. For example, limiting the resale price to 110% of the original ticket price can be built into the contract itself. You could also make the NFT ticket non-transferable (within the contract) once it has been sold and associated with a specific ID.
The flexibility and approach of NFT ticketing are so much more than standard ticketing. And if you need ticketing with proof of age, it becomes a hassle because you have to bring IDs, you have to bring your ticket, get a tag or a band or a stamp on your wrist that proves you’re over 18, etc. But what we can do with NFT ticketing is that we can take the ticket and your identity and turn that into a simple QR code, which both confirms your age and allows you entry into the event in one step.
We can also show Proof of Attendance with the usage of NFT ticketing, you can use it as a drink voucher, and you can keep the NFT as a souvenir of the event afterward… We haven’t even touched on all the possibilities of what you can do with NFTs.
What are the challenges of implementing blockchain ticketing?
I think one of the biggest challenges of implementing blockchain ticketing is: how do you make it user-friendly?
When you’re living in a bubble revolving around Web3, sometimes you forget that not everyone understands blockchain or crypto, product keys, mnemonic phrases, and so on. The challenge is to make something super user-friendly but at the same time, it gives them all the benefits of Web3 technology.
This is absolutely a barrier for user adoption, which is why you’ve seen most of the NFT-related ticketing or NFT event-related products focus more on crypto-related event attendees or NFT communities.
TicketMaster recently announced a partnership with Flow, but they're not looking at ticketing. They're looking at Proof of Attendance NFTs, so you just receive a JPEG that’s proof of attendance and a souvenir of the event. I think they’re just testing the waters first before they go further down that track.
I think the other challenge also is, if you’re looking at a popular event with 50,000 people or more, where everyone’s trying to buy a ticket at the same time, you need to look at it and ask if there’s a Web2 infrastructure that can handle that scale so that it can then be applied to the blockchain and then create the NFTs, because blockchain simply isn’t fast enough to handle that number of people, everyone coming in at once and trying to buy tickets.
You hosted an event to test ShareRing Access: Events with NFTs recently in Melbourne and at the Profit4Life event held in Homestead, Florida. What goals did you have for the event, and did they get met?
There were a few goals. We wanted to make sure the end-to-end process worked and obviously, that got met, there were zero issues. One other thing we wanted to make sure of was that people who had never used our app before could download it, set it up, receive a ticket, and access the event. So some people – in particular, the ones in Melbourne – weren’t crypto-savvy people so they didn’t really understand it. The user experience here could have been improved.
As for the Profit4Life event in Florida, we had zero problems as the attendees of this event come from a crypto background so they understood the process of creating a ShareRing ID.
The other thing that we learned was the importance of messaging to potential users, to let them know that their information is not stored in our database at all (it’s stored only in their phones) and that we’re not collecting or storing any of their information because users need to present a government-issued ID in order to create a ShareRing ID. This is a standard part of the verification process to be able to sign up and link your ID to the ticket, which then allows access to the event. That really came out in terms of how we provide the messaging to the users in terms of the benefits and security of using ShareRing.
How do you see the future of ShareRing’s platform evolving?
At ShareRing, we see ourselves as a blockchain company. We’re not saying we’re an event- or travel company or anything like that, what we’ve done is we’ve developed this underlying blockchain technology to facilitate applications based on areas such as verifiable credentials, distributed identity, and NFTs.
In terms of ShareRing’s evolution, we see campaigns coming up for external and community developers and upcoming partnerships with companies that are experts in their fields. An example of this is an events company that would take the events solution further by focusing on their front end while we focus on the blockchain transactions. This would also apply to financial services and any other areas we move into.
For us, the focus is on that underlying blockchain and maximizing the number of transactions that are based around verifiable credentials, NFTs and DIDs.
It was a pleasure talking to you. We appreciate your time and insights. Thank you.
Thank you for these very insightful questions!