It can be said the sharing economy brought the internet into the real world, helping it move real items rather than just information.
On today's web, though, if you want to rent out your camera or desk, you need a specific site for each one (think Airbnb, 99 Designs or DogVacay), and each site takes a hefty cut from every sale. The founders at Origin, however, envision a world where entrepreneurs would build specific interfaces for each business area, all of which would share one giant pool of customers to lower costs.
Josh Fraser, Origin co-founder, told CoinDesk:
"We're asking a really audacious question. What if open-source software can replace dozens of multimillion or even multi-billion dollar companies?"
A platform for any kind of peer-to-peer service, Origin has today announced the successful completion of an advisor round with Pantera Capital for $3 million worth of its tokens.
Unsurprisingly, the investor group, one of the longest-running to specialize in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, sees Origin as a potentially powerful idea for disintermediation.
"If Airbnb were being started today, it would've been a peer-to-peer cooperative model based on a blockchain, lowering transaction costs drastically, instead of a rent-seeking equity-based business," Joey Krug, co-chief investment officer at Pantera Capital, told CoinDesk.
Also distinguishing Origin, which re-branded recently from 0rigin (with a zero), is that it is led by founders with previous successes. Matthew Liu, for instance, was a very early YouTube employee who's since worked at multiple startups, while Fraser has led three venture-backed companies, one of which was acquired by Walmart Labs.
Pantera's allocation base on this investment will now depend on overall investment through a public sale to be held in April. Neither party is yet discussing a goal or cap for the public sale, but Origin said it is aiming to release a production-ready version of its protocol at that time.
Back to the concept, though, Origin's protocol will seek to create a distributed database of offerings and customers that can have different user interfaces built over them.
One entrepreneur could build an interface for dog walkers, another could build one for carpenters and a third could build one for everything home related, including both dog walkers and carpenters. Time would prove which interfaces worked best for users, but new entrepreneurs wouldn't have to start from zero users every time they wanted to explore a new peer-to-peer vertical.
Each new attempt would already enjoy the existing user base of the prior efforts.
Liu explained to CoinDesk that this wouldn't cause much change for consumers, other than perhaps increasing available choice.
"To be clear, we are defining protocols and enabling different types of marketplaces to exist," he said, as opposed to building a decentralized marketplace for each.
"I wouldn't say we would build none of them, but our goal is not to build all of them," he added. "We're unsure at this point how far we have to push our own user experience, our own front end and our own acquisition of customers."
Origin, he continued, is likely to launch a lower volume service to prove the concept, such as freelancing or design services.
By tokenizing, Origin also believes it can manage what could become a giant and unwieldy piece of software while facilitating community policing and growth.
On the incentive side, Liu explained, Origin's tokens can be used to encourage new users. Early users who pay for a product or service in ethereum or another token, as an example, might get a few Origin back. This incentivizes them to encourage others to take part.
"We believe in the better-than-free business model," he said.
Staking should also facilitate discouraging fraud or spam by requiring payments to be put up for listings. So, if the community identified a bad listing, those funds could be taken away.
All this leads to the second use of the token: governance. If it works, token holders will have a say over how the protocol changes as it grows, something Fraser described as a value-add over current services in which large companies are stymied by regulation.
"We've seen companies like Uber and Airbnb get banned or heavily regulated in cities all around the globe. These new distributed and Origin-powered marketplaces will be far more resilient to censorship and over-reaching government regulation," he said.
But navigating elected officials' opinions is a long way off. For now, the company is focused on getting its platform in front of users.
The team is collaborating with ConsenSys on its code auditing and security.
Workbench photo via Shutterstock.