VETRI was conceived in September 2017 and born in 2019, with a DNA which is 100% web3. An ecosystem articulated around transparency provided by blockchain technology, fully decentralized, and wrapped in its native cryptocurrency, named VLD, an ERC-20 token created on the Ethereum blockchain.
How it all started
VETRI was always about creating a true and genuine alternative to the traditional management of individuals’ data, still very much centrally managed by Big Tech. In the past 20 years, we have gotten used to take the “user” out of the equation when it comes to data. This led to recent data privacy regulations emerging everywhere around the globe, and quite frankly, it all feels wrong. Regulation, particularly in Europe, is now going after the most powerful companies in the world. First GDRP and now Fair Competition Laws is set to penalise all GAFAM’s. But these are playing on a global scale and making their own rules whereas regulators are playing in sandboxes, most often a few steps behind them. To top things up, they quite happily pay the fines and keep on going. It’s all quite flawed and inefficient. It is our long held view that personal data belongs to the individual, full stop. Who needs GDPR or any regulation when you are governing and managing your own data? It is not anymore a technology issue, since we can already provide all the relevant features necessary to empower users to do just that. Rather, it is about education and cultural changes, what we like to call the Fair Data Economy (FDE) and knowing it is all possible, today, so that you can start using these tools in our daily lives.
Our mission is to deliver a workable solution NOW, with the current tools, rather than a perfect pitch for the tools that we might have in the future. On paper, it is always smooth and easy, but it’s not enough when it comes to providing a true alternative. The concept of the alternative is a good start, it educates but it is not an alternative until it is executed and workable. This is why so many ICO have failed. It’s one thing to put words on (white)paper that would make anyone dream of, quite another to go the distance and have a roadmap that would take you there. In other words, having a go-to-market strategy that fulfil real business needs. The reality is that we need solutions, tools, apps, now, to make it different, if not better. This is where the real challenges begin.
Web3 aficionados tend to be early adopters, curious, dreamers, speculators, but definitely not the masses you want to target when it comes to the next BIG thing. These early adopters are very often biased in the sense that they tend to exclusively see the potential of a token based on its price fluctuations and overall market activity. To play the pure web3 game, we should have invested our funds into the community holders with “buy-backs”, airdrops, market-making, expensive listing fees to premium crypto exchanges and many other market activities. Instead, we invested everything into one thing, our product, an App with a rich ecosystem revolving around our token.
Therefore, if not web3 users, then… well, web2. Great, back to square one. I say “square” and immediately an image pops up in my mind… how to fit a square peg in a round hole?? By shaving off its edges has been our approach! This is a good analogy to use when taking web3 features and push them in a web2 context, an App, available on both Android and iOS platforms.
Let’s tackle some of these paradoxes, not to say oxymoron when mixing web2x3. Here is a non exhaustive list of our struggles and why we believe these are the right signals to mass adoption and genuine value, the so called Utility of web3.
The reality of creating web3 inspired apps for web2 operating platforms
Mobile Application Platforms are far beyond simple tools, they are a key piece of infrastructure for our smartphones. If we have many brands producing our precious digital pacifier, only 2 platforms are available to push your App: Google Playstore using Android operating system and Apple Store with iOS. Needless to say, they rule this world. And if they deem you are not good enough, you’re out of the game. You can be kicked out for not following the terms and conditions which is understandable, or, out without warning nor notification: you’re being demoted. Indeed, they have developed highly complex algorithms to organize these ecosystems. These sets of rules are very opaque to us, and no one seems to understand exactly what they are. When you ask about them to the dedicated support teams… radio silence is what you get. Not that they are evil or anything, as they are often accused. The reality is that Google and Apple need to break down each App in digestible, cleaned metrics to be able to provide you with a score, thereby affecting the visibility of our activity and the all-important App Ranking. Based on this global ranking, you will be positioned on top of the first page or further away in the store for specific search words within a myriad of Apps. We do our best to improve VETRI’s ranking, but let’s be honest, we often had to play the tedious game of trial and error.
A Basic Example
For those of you who don’t know about us, we are all about data privacy and control, the quintessential elements to many web3 builders/dreamers. So we always operated with best effort to never see our users’ data, using their phone as a vault and never need to see their valuable personal data. And when our encryption process started to trigger difficulties (ANRs and Crashes, and if you are not familiar with these technical words, just know that you don’t want this to happen when you operate your App) for some of our users using older phones, the app platforms where very pragmatic: they hid VETRI App from their Stores. We reached a subnormal speed of execution for providing this important feature to our users, and comparatively to the average apps competing in the same category named “Lifestyle”, we were worst. It might sound complicated, but simply put, we were penalised for running extra steps to provide data privacy to our users when no competitors really care about this. To make matters worst, we have to run a rather complex blockchain backend (the cooking happening behind the clicks on the app). So what to do? We could spend time and money to improve it all because we know we can find a way to operate it properly, with all our features without the issues. But we don’t have the resources nor the time. Above all, remember that we reach to users who don’t yet value these privacy features, to a point that we cannot communicate about it as it revealed to be counterproductive in our growth strategy. So, one way forward was to take some necessary user’s data on our server in order to operate the App optimally; while sticking to our principles: Fair Data Economy. To set the standards right, we started to remunerate our users for creating their profiles with us. The only purpose of this profiling data is that we are able to match our users with specific surveys or data deals. Yes, you understood this right, it cost us money to simply request this data even-though our users are the only beneficiary for this. Nevertheless, it is about time that someone walks the talk and leads the way! Besides being a nonprofit foundation, to avoid any blur confusion, at inception we added in our bylaws the specific ban on monetising our user’s data, prohibiting us to ever resell it.
All the while, we are working hard to implement new technology so that we will never have to see the data, operating an efficient and competitive app.
Bridging Means Making Both Web2 and Web3 Work Together.
Below is a Table describing some of the difficulties we need to overcome. In some cases, it creates extra complexity, in others, incompatibility. In all cases, we need to make it all work together. If some features are postponed for obvious reasons, we are capable of delivering them all with some extra efforts (time, resources and money).
Till now, web2 and web3 players looked at us with an interrogative eye, not to say doubtful. We strongly believe that times have changed, and now, individuals and businesses do see us as a viable alternative, and with excitement even!
On Our Way to More Decentralization
It was painful for us to realize that we could not use our web3 features for the above mentioned reasons. Yet, by the same token, pun intended, we also understood that it was possible to mitigate our present problems while paving the way for our future.
As for what we are able to do TODAY, we are planning to deploy a blockchain explorer to our private infrastructure. What is a blockchain explorer? It is a tool allowing anyone to look into our App activity, and check how many wallets (users of the App), transactions, tokens… are being deployed or exchanged in the network. This is a good starting point compared to traditional Apps, but honestly not good enough for us web3 folks. After this first step, we will shift our infrastructure to a fully decentralised ecosystem where the blockchain explorer will not be provided by us, therefore providing a no-trust layer to our activities. We have many ways to go about it. We are now days away of Ethereum releasing its new consensus mechanism, shifting from Proof-of-Work to Proof-os-Stake with “The Merge”, reducing its energy consumption by ~99.95%, and that might shake that space. Furthemore the rise of many relevant blockchain protocols (including Layers 1, 2 and 3), could enable us to to simply shift our infrastructure to a decentralized, yet optimised ecosystem, should we need it. With these new capabilities, we will be able to protect our user’s activity while offering them add-on services: transact in a decentralized way at almost no cost, and have the opportunity to chose between an in-App token with stable value or our real VLD token.
To Democracy and Beyond!
Our last step towards this decentralization will be to dissolve the VETRI Foundation and replace it by the VETRI DAO. What’s a DAO? It stands for Decentralised Autonomous Organization, and is an entity structure in which tokenholders (participants of the VETRI App) participate in the management and decision-making of the entity. It means that instead of relying on the current Foundation’s Trustees to guide the direction of the entity, the DAO intends to give every member a voice, vote, and opportunity to propose initiatives. This would represent the quintessence of our democratic values, applied to a transparent infrastructure of aligned interests and collective utility.
How to be relevant when one cannot use nor communicate on one’s most differentiating attributes? We chose to create a “me too” product, a survey App, to prove we could do it, to show it all works, with the complexity it entails and the nonsense this sometimes brings. That enabled us to “go-to-market”, generate revenues and last until the market is ready. Then and only then will we be able to finally use those new, desired and most innovative tools. Our latest business developments show that the market is finally ready for more and we are very excited to lead the way into a new era.
Our mission goes far beyond our business. It requires the re-definition of what today constitutes our online environment, starting with the most important one, you, the individual. If we could rename the traditional web2 “users” to “participants” or “partners”, we would certainly evolve in a different online environment. VETRI is here to create and contribute to the much needed tools that are already participating to create the “Fair Data Economy”, and bring these to the masses.