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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Blockchain-powered social media start up Indorse raises $10m in recent ICO

The initial token sales drew 1,900 users.

When Indorse launched an initial coin offering or ICO in September, the Singaporean start-up racked up $10m in funding. Its user base also grew to a solid 1,900 users helping the blockchain-powered professional network attract cryptocurrency users who would form its initial user base.

Indorse is a blockchain-based social network for professionals. By utilizing blockchain technology, Indorse aims to build a social network where the user is in charge of their own data. Other users can verify and ‘indorse’ a certain users’ skills. In return, the Indorse platform ensures that users are rewarded for their role in growing the network with a portion of the advertising revenue going back to the user base.

Unlike traditional social media platforms, where users can make any claim about themselves which are often taken as the truth, Indorse verifies and validates the claim, and rewards users for endorsing the skill sets of others - a process the startup has coined as 'indorsing."

To do this, a user has to attach a proof for other members to verify every claim they make on Indorse. "If someone is an expert in NodeJS, they put up a claim and attach proof such as their GitHub repos," said David Moskowitz, co-founder and CEO at Indorse. "Other members in the same domain on Indorse verify it. Based on the consensus, the claim is either 'indorsed' or flagged."

Indorse uses internal rewards, called Indorse Rewards, and a reputation system, coined as a user's Indorse Score, to incentivise members to add their own skills and accomplishments, as well as 'indorse' the skills and accomplishments of others.

The full Indorse platform is scheduled to go live by mid-2018, and the incentive of earning tokens through the platform should help with user retention.

Turning to tokens
"Token sales allow ventures to reach out to and directly build their community. The people who purchase the tokens will also be our users of the platform, so we wanted an incentive mechanism for the people who are purchasing tokens to actually be users of the platform," said Moskowitz.

He said the token sale was a key initiative to bootstrap the Indorse professional network, whose minimum viable product, or MVP, was recently launched. The MVP allows users to to build professional profiles on the platform, import their existing LinkedIn profile, and view a skills visualizer to track specialties and accomplishments.

The token sale also creates an incentive for people to keep using the platform, said Moskowitz, since they can earn token rewards for performing certain actions in the network. Currently, Indorse has attracted over 1,900 users who have registered and created accounts, and the co-founder projects this to rise to 3,000 users by the end of the year, and to 200,000 to 300,000 users within the next two years.

"In many social networks, there is a big problem with daily active users which is one of the fundamental challenges that we need to solve," said Moskowitz, which the Indorse team plans to overcome through the use of blockchain technology to disrupt traditional professional networks. The idea is to give more control, transparency and personal reward to users joining a network.

"We hope to see Indorse being the go-to-tool for employers and employees alike, as well as freelancers looking for their next gig, or even an opportunity to share their expertise and grow their network. With the explosion in online activity and social networking comes a very real need for authentic, credible and transparent interactions," said Moskowitz.

Decentralised network
At the heart of Indorse are the decentralised application and professional network that Singapore-headquartered startup is building through the funds raised in its token sale. Moskowitz said Indorse not only solves the issues linked to using traditional professional networks, but also adds a new dimension of greater ownership and personal reward.

"There is a fundamental problem with traditional professional networks, primarily the fact that you are handing over your data to these networks and you are no longer in control of it or being rewarded for it," the co-founder said.

"You aren’t benefiting from the revenue that stems from the growth of the network as your data is monetized. We saw a real opportunity for blockchain technology to give people a financial reward in this professional system," he added.

Using the funds raised from the recent token sale, Indorse's team of developers is building out the platform in two different parts: The first is an protocol layer that allows for a a decentralised application to be built and upon which the team can create rewards and reputation mechanisms. The second is an application layer which allows the team to build the decentralised professional network that allows people to post their skills and get rewarded for their activities on the platform.

Verification and validation
Part of the business model involves advertisers purchasing space on the platform with cryptographic Indorse Tokens, or IND tokens​. Moskowitz said a portion of these IND tokens are shared with the members who created the content. 

"In a nutshell, members are finally able to receive rewards due to their data, instead of watching passively as the revenue goes to companies holding their data," he said.

Blockchain technology brings a host of other benefits to the Indorse platform, according to Moskowitz, including a more secure management of the data. "There is no single point that is vulnerable," he said. "Additionally, our goal is to make Indorse completely autonomous, where no one is in control, and lastly, by utilising blockchain technology, Indorse can be transparent with the community and the users."

The co-founder said Indorse chose to use Ethereum as its compute engine, since provides the infrastructure of native Smart Contracts and the token economy. It also employs decentralised storage systems such as BigChainDB and Inter Planetary File System as the storage mechanism.

The idea for Indorse arose when Moskowitz, and fellow co-founder and CTO Gaurang Torvekar were working together at Attores, a company which enables data and documents to be shared securely using smart contracts and blockchain technology. A pilot project with Ngee Ann Polytechnic to put diplomas on the blockchain led the pair to envision a future skills developed outside of the classroom to be validated in a new way.

Moskowitz foresees the mainstream acceptance of blockchain technology as a key driver for the Indorse platform. "We believe the use of blockchain will go mainstream in the next two years,” he said. "Indorse envisions a serverless, decentralised future, where the users will build their profiles and profit from their reputation and from sharing their skills and activities on the platform via reward tokens.”
 

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