Welcome back to Part 2 of a two-part conversation with Bonaventure Wong, CEO and co-founder of mMobility.
GINA: Welcome back, Bonaventure. Yesterday, you shared with us how you are introducing a social impact cryptocurrency to help further tackle the identification issue. That you will be creating and listing your token as a social impact token on exchanges to allow the community to continue to support your initiative. Is there a particular demographic that you will be targeting for your token offering?
BONAVENTURE: We think this will be of interest to Millennials. On the tokenisation side, one has got to understand where the market is today from the Millennial’s perspective. This generation is coming of age with disposable income and is looking to invest.
This age group in the developed economies has seen their families lose their jobs, lose their homes, and they don’t trust the financial system. In the developing world, people do not trust their governments. Trust in government is at the lowest levels in fifty years. Millennials saw the financial crisis in 2008 in which the government bailed out the financial institutions - a price that was ultimately paid for by the taxpayer. In cases of potential national bankruptcy, Greece and Cyprus for example, if the country is in dire straits, the government has the right to seize your assets. This is causing people to look at alternative options to invest their money.
In developing economies, Millennials have watched their economies disintegrate, and their currencies become worthless through inflation. The residents there don't have a choice other than through their local currencies, until now.
GINA: The Millennials grew up in an era of increasing transparency because of their access to the Internet. The research shows they have no loyalty to the institutions that their parents or grandparents revered. The existing institutions are at risk of becoming obsolete if they do not adapt to the needs of this newer generation.
BONAVENTURE: We anticipate that Millennials will be the primary driver in the investment of cryptocurrency, the reason being that it is transparent and you know exactly how many tokens will be mined or pre-mined. How many are circulating, it is all very clear and transparent. Conversely, if you ask a government to reveal how much currency are they going to print or how much are they going to cap, they will never give an answer to that. If the currency is also a basket of other currencies, governments won't tell you, what is in that basket.
GINA: Moving on, are there any particular challenges or barriers to entry that you anticipate for the tokenisation offering?
BONAVENTURE: Our Achilles heel is the application. As a protocol, we rely on the applications to build the ecosystem. An incentive for the application developers to use our infrastructure is required initially. By issuing them tokens as grants, we can support the local developers to innovate applications for the service providers in the local or even global market. The social impact token also gives the community the incentive to invest with a social cause. You want to put your money somewhere - this offers the opportunity to invest into a token that is helping create positive social impact. We are hoping that the community will support this initiative by investing in these tokens.
GINA: How will the tokens be valued?
BONAVENTURE: If we look at cryptocurrency as having a value that is close to gold, it is easily foreseeable that cryptocurrency market cap will reach 3 trillion US dollars in the next ten years. This increase in value will be primarily driven by the mistrust of the Millennial generation of the traditional financial institutions and their desire to look for alternative ways to invest. Three trillion dollars value is very achievable.
GINA: How do you get there?
BONAVENTURE: When you look at the top ten cryptocurrencies today, there is very little utility value. All of it is security value, which is based on speculation. The blockchain protocols tend to be a foundation to a token, but it is not the driver of the value of a token. So we asked the question, if there is a social impact token, how much market cap can it command? The more it commands, the more we give away in dollar terms.
Bitcoin is number one not just because their protocol is great, in addition, it is a brand that people know about. The only question is whether Bitcoin will be number one down the road. I highly doubt it because of the reason Etherium and all the other protocols exist. They have a better version of protocol than Bitcoin.
So, if you accept that three trillion dollar market cap is possible and you look at Ripple, the XRP has no intrinsic utility value at all. But despite that, it is number three on the cryptocurrency ranking. Ripple has been signing up the big banks and giving money to charitable causes. These activities create a brand.
GINA: Are there other foreseeable ways that a social impact token can create social impact beyond those you’ve already identified?
BONAVENTURE: When it comes to refugees, you can also send money directly to them via tokens. What is clear here is that you have an infrastructure that you can trust because of the quality of the data. That is the exciting part of it.
GINA: Based on your description, it occurs to me that you have two different offerings that in and of themselves have unique value propositions for social impact. First there's the streamlined identity authentication service, and second, you have the social impact token that is designed to build the supporting infrastructure and incentivise individuals to participate in the formal identification process.
BONAVENTURE: True. Both are very independent of each other, but they work well together.
GINA: Taking a step back for a minute, I understand that mMobility is structured as a non-profit, correct?
GINA: What motivated the decision to structure mMobility as a non-profit organisation versus a for-profit venture?
BONAVENTURE: It dawned on us that if we were to use a for-profit model for a truly decentralised blockchain this would create a conflict of interest.
Part of the appeal of using the decentralised blockchain platform is that there is no central authority controlling it and it allows our offering to operate as a decentralised model. Rather, everyone has a part in it, a role and responsibility to maintain the network very much the current Internet. Given this, when you bring profit and private equity into play, the revenue that you generate to satisfy your investors creates this central authority model that we wanted to keep away from. A for-profit model requires you to control the flow of the profit that becomes problematic. I think it makes sense to set up a for-profit vehicle, not at the protocol level where we operate, but on the application level, it makes sense there.
As a non-profit it allows us to offer the stakeholders a solution at no cost, which will drive mass adoption and it also allows us to give back to the economy directly where it counts.
GINA: Who then are your customers and how are you generating revenue to make the organisation sustainable?
BONAVENTURE: We decided to build a no-cost B2B2C model that users can access for free.
mMobility employs full-time and part-time employees, as well as contractors, to develop and execute programs that promote global social change, quality of life and inclusion through digital identity. Aside from personnel costs, other operating expenses include the costs of office rent, office amenities, hardware, software, and partnership and educational programmes.
It is critical to our mission that mMobility remains a publicly accessible good. Therefore, we do not and will not ever profit from transaction fees on the mMobility Identity Infrastructure. We fund our operations from 10% of the initially created mMY tokens on mMobility. We periodically auction these mMY tokens on various exchanges. Charitable contributions from companies or individuals and foundation membership.
GINA: So the value proposition to the service provider is the convenience?
BONAVENTURE: Yes, they don't have to repeat integration with their services, and it allows these service providers to meet due diligence requirements seamlessly. By using the smart contract, the service provider seeking identity authentication can specify what criteria they will accept to meet local regulatory needs.
Looking at Syrian refugees as an example. A Syrian refugee is registered on our infrastructure with the authentication provided by their Syrian mobile service provider, and Syrian civil register is also linked on mMobility, assuming that biometrics have been collected as well. When he or she leaves Syria with no identity and goes to Greece and registers with a Greek mobile carrier, the user data in Syria will be linked automatically with the user, only thing has changed is the authentication provider. mMobility's Identity Infrastructure has four fundamental design; it is personal, portable, private, and persistent.
GINA: It’s saving the service provider money because they don’t have to collect the data when onboarding a new client or store and maintain it in a secure manner.
BONAVENTURE: There are a couple of scenarios at play: the cost of onboarding and saving those costs, and then there is getting the information directly from the source or the authority that has issued that data itself like the civil registry.
GINA: So the user bears no cost to access the platform?
BONAVENTURE: No, there is no cost to the individual.
GINA: Have you encountered challenges or barriers to entry that you are working through or anticipate?
BONAVENTURE: Blockchain is still in its early stages for most who are using it they are all in the sandbox stage of development and trying to figure out what makes sense. The immediate challenge is that many countries are not ready for blockchain. We are looking those that are including Singapore, Dubai, Korea, Hong Kong, China. We are starting with the low hanging fruits in the smaller cities that are ready for this, and they will become our poster cities.
GINA: When do you foresee going into Europe as they’re grappling with the refugee situation?
BONAVENTURE: We are looking that London as an option after Dubai and Hong Kong. Then we will start looking at the developing world after that. It is a slightly different approach there because it will require us dealing with NGOs and not governments.
GINA: Do you foresee if any potential unintended consequences may arise?
BONAVENTURE: We hope that by linking data in our model will help with privacy and give control to the user. However, if you are a part of the infrastructure that amasses information gathered about you that has increased, this will be concerning to many people. We hope with our unique protocol, sharing data without revealing it helps to provide comfort.
GINA: I suspect that governments today have greater access to our personal data than we realise.
BONAVENTURE: Yes, and in some instances, they are even going across borders to get it. I am a true believer that being a part of this economy and what you are gaining out of it benefits yourself and the society you live in.
GINA: Speaking broadly, I like to ask our guests to share their definition of a social enterprise. What does that term mean to you?
BONAVENTURE: Unfortunately, the world we live in is more focused on how much profit are you amassing. Companies like Apple are just sitting in Ireland with that money without doing social good. While they have done wonders for technology, they are not putting resources back into the economy. My definition of social enterprise is an organisation that brings the community together and allows it to thrive. It is less of a central authority arrangement, which is why blockchain is a better social enterprise than any given company.
GINA: Another big question: What do you think is required to shift the need towards sustainability?
BONAVENTURE: A critical component to sustainability is empathy across the board. The day you can vote in a democratic country for the good of your neighbour is key to how we are going to get to sustainability. Look at Scandinavian countries, they have an understanding of humanity at a whole other level that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the world. You judge a nation not by the way they treat their top one per cent but how they treat people at the bottom.
I am hopeful that the Millennial generation’s push for transparency and less tolerance of the middlemen will help them to think about their neighbours.
GINA: What a transition from investment banking!
BONAVENTURE: It is the 20+ years experiences in telecom, banking and being a global citizen that founded mMobility. At the same time to find a technology that allows us to create a social impact token is pretty exciting!
GINA: I think it is a part of one’s journey and your experience throughout your life that adds value to what you are doing today. It informs what you are doing today, and that is important.
What is your greater vision for mMobility?
BONAVENTURE: Our vision at the end of the day is giving control of personal data back to the individual and empowering them to sell it if they wish.
Until recently, big companies like Google and Facebook have been collecting and selling user data. This is how they make money. With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming into play, the EU has created and is enforcing a regulation that an individual’s data at sitting with the big companies like Google belongs to the individual and the regulation mandates that these big companies must give the equal individual access. Consequently, for the first time, you can actually log into Facebook and download your data. The problem is that it is worth nothing to you.
Our infrastructure permits you to link your data from different sources. The companies that already been buying your data from Facebook will be going to our platform instead.
This brings us to the next evolution of digital data as a commodity with a huge value. Now that revenue is redistributed to the individual. We are talking about universal basic income - what we are coining ‘data basic income’. By creating more data, you are providing a more monetary value of your data for the companies who are interested in buying it for research, advertising, focus groups and so on. This allows the individual to get a basic income. This could amount to five to ten thousand dollars a year for an individual. This really is the social change that we want to create at the end of the day.
GINA: That’s a great vision! You’re giving control back to the individual and then empowering them by enabling them to reap the benefits of selling their data themselves.
BONAVENTURE: And for the service providers this would be great because they know you are who you claim to be through our infrastructure and it is incentivising users to provide and share their data and be a participant in the digital economy.
GINA: It is more reliable, consolidated and therefore more valuable.
BONAVENTURE: That is our ultimate vision.
GINA: Bonaventure, I want to thank you for joining me today and for sharing with our readers your mission to leverage blockchain for social good. I want to wish you the best in your pursuits.
BONAVENTURE: Thank you, Gina.
GINA: If readers want to reach out to you, what is the best way for them to connect?
BONAVENTURE: Readers can reach us through our website at www.mMobilityGroup.com or at Bonaventurew@mMobilityGroup.com.
Bonaventure Wong is the CEO and co-founder of mMobility, a non-profit technology company whose mission is to create global social change and improve quality of life through digital identity.