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How ImagineBC is harnessing blockchain to tackle data privacy

Erik Rind, founder and CEO of ImagineBC has been asked several times to describe who he is, and though it looks easy and straightforward. It’s a complex question and Rind has been trying to answer it for 59 years but still don’t quite have a handle on it.

As the founder and CEO, standing for both Chief Executive Officer and Chief Evangelist Officer, Rind ensures the company’s strategy is properly and efficiently executed. He is out there every day trying to get people to understand that the current world created by the tech giants leads to a dystopian future. For the sake of his newly born grandson’s generation and all future generations, Rind sees the need for people to act and take back control of our personal data and more importantly demand that we be fairly compensated for any use of that data by a third party. 

Rind tells TechMoran.com that ImagineBC started when he got interested in blockchain technology.

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After doing some considerable research, he came to understand that if properly used, the technology had world changing capability. As a hands on technologist, he began playing with the technology by building a prototype self-service mobile app to connect to his existing companies Human Capital Management (HCM) product. The idea was to use the distributed security of blockchain to remove the risk of loss of personal information by a “dark hat” hacking into HCM’s centralized database. About 6 months into this effort, they pivoted because they felt they needed a “sexier” solution than HCM to convince people they needed to take back control of their personal information. That was the birth of ImagineBC. Instead of focusing on an HCM solution, instead they focused on ImagineBC becoming a mediator of individual data (MID).

Below is the rest of the interview TechMoran.com had with Erik Rind.

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How does ImagineBC work?

ImagineBC acts as a middleman between advertisers, consumers and sellers of digital content. Our goal is to create what we call “free” money and “new” money for consumers which they can then use to purchase digital content, donate to a social cause or charity or just transfer into their bank account. “Free” money is created when a user purchases a debit card within our platform. ImagineBC pays the user 5% on every dollar they put on a card. Say your mobile phone bill is $100. Purchase a $100 debit card from us, ImagineBC will put $5 back into your account and you can use the $100 card to pay your phone bill. Voila free money. ImagineBC of course hopes you use some of that money to purchase digital content because that’s where we make our money but if you would prefer to donate it or transfer it to your bank account, you are free to do so at no cost. That’s correct. ImagineBC takes 0% from any donation made through our platform.  “New” money is created when marketers and advertisers use the aggregated data, we make available to them, to run advertising campaigns, surveys or focus groups through our app. If a company runs a $50,000 advertising campaign inside our ecosystem, 90% of that money is distributed back to our user base. ImagineBC only keeps 10%. These economics are built into a blockchain smart contract and cannot be altered without 51% of our user base agreeing.

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How is ImagineBC unique from the pack in the same sector?

We believe we are the only company out there that has built a production ready blockchain solution that helps both the consumer and the content provider monetize their data and intellectual property. We are also not crypto based. Our transactions are all done in USD. There are a number of company’s out there focusing on either helping consumers monetize their personal data or helping content providers monetize their intellectual property. We are the only company which  integrates both solutions into one streamlined marketplace.

What are the major services you provide at ImagineBC?

We provide a centralized marketplace for content providers to control their intellectual property and turn their creativity into real money. We also provide the technology needed to help the individual consumer turn their personal data into real money. Where the tech giants use AI/ML technology to aggregate their user’s personal information for the benefit of themselves and their shareholders, ImagineBC, working with its partner WeR.ai, has built the same technology but we put it to use for the benefit of our users. Remember, 90% of every dollar spent on a commercial transaction within our ecosystem is distributed back to our users. I don’t see Facebook making the decision to distribute 90% of their advertising revenue to their user base any time in the near future. We also provide some additional free services to our users. One is that we transmit donations for free. If you want to donate $100 to Toys for Tots then use our platform, because Toys for Tots will receive the full 100%. Platforms like Patreon and Cameo take an 8% cut or higher. We also provide educational institutions, associations and companies with a secure mechanism to communicate with their sub-communities. Since any content uploaded onto our platform requires the input of a private blockchain key, the recipients of communications can be 100% sure that the information they are receiving came from the actual source. There is no ability to create fake news on our platform.

Are we at the peak of Big Data or at its decline? What is the future like?

Absolutely not! There is a common expression going around that “data” is like the new “oil”. This is not true. Though fortunes can be made mining data like oil, data is not a finite commodity. You can never exhaust the resource of data. Every time you touch your mobile device, or switch a channel on Netflix, or count your steps on your FitBit you are creating new data. With an infinite resource, there will be infinite ways to use this data for both good and bad. We are just in the infancy of data usage. As the use of AI/ML becomes more available and less expensive to use, we will find more and more ways to put that data to work for us. Here’s the thing. If we allow this power to be controlled by the tech giants the future looks bleak. Such power should never be in the hands of the few. Here’s the good news. We the People still have the power to say not on my watch.

What types of businesses can benefit from ImagineBC?

Everyone benefits from a platform like ImagineBC’s. The only ones who don’t are the big tech companies. Larger advertisers still get the advantage of targeting their message to an audience determine by AI/ML. but instead of their budgeted dollars going into the hands of a select few companies, 90% of those dollars goes directly back to the consumers they are trying to reach. Small to mid-size business greatly benefit from using a platform like ImagineBC’s because we significantly lower the risk to run an advertising or marketing campaign. Since a company’s budgeted dollars are only spent when a consumer has actually interacted with the company’s message, the small to mid-size companies can now jump into the marketing game just like the big guns.

What is the secret of your success?

Our success is totally based on people understanding that through ImagineBC they have way to control their personal data and intellectual property and turn that control into new income. Will people be willing to change two decades of behavior? Well, the United States Congress believes the answer is yes. Although there is no consensus yet on what type of legislation should be passed to help govern the use of individual data, that very fact that there are numerous Senators working on plans and that the idea remains in the public discourse is very positive for ImagineBC.

What is the market size and demand for your services, and who is your average user?

Our market is everyone who owns a smart mobile device. We of course believe that everyone should want to participate in our community, but time will tell on whether we are successful in getting our message to go viral. We are only in the early launch phase but there are some encouraging signs. Our first content partner got 100 people to download and register for their channel on our app but those 100 people create an additional 200 users through word of mouth. That is what we are looking for. Right now, our focus is on helping social media content providers with followings up to about 150k make money from their content. The content provider invites their followers to join to get access to exclusive content on the ImagineBC platform. To pay for this exclusive content, the user can create “free” money..

How is ImagineBC harnessing the power of technology to tackle the pressing global issue of data privacy?

One word: Blockchain. By creating a data wallet for our users where they are in complete control of when and how their data is used, the global issue is resolved. If everyone adopted this type of solution there would be no more annoying popup ads on your laptop, no more creepy text message ads arriving on your phone. There will still be advertising but each individual will choose when and how often they wish to watch ads and answer surveys and every time they do they will earn “new” money. Content will no longer be interrupted by ads. Instead, by watching ads you will be able to pay for the content you’re interested in. The more you participate on the advertising side, the more content and services you can purchase without having to use money from your paycheck.

What are the benefits of using the ImagineBC’s services?

For individuals the benefits are earning new income by putting your personal data to work for you and also removing the annoyance of unwanted and intrusive advertising. For content providers, the benefit is controlling the monetization of your creativity by removing the unneeded and unwanted middlemen. For advertiser and marketers, the benefit is better control of how dollars are spent and a more intrinsic results from the consumer.

How Safe is ImagineBC> Would you like to talk about your technology and security measures?

Every user’s data is secured within an Ethereum blockchain distributed network is running as a private blockchain network within the Microsoft Azure cloud. So, for some “dark hat” to gain access to your information, they will first need to pierce Microsoft’s cloud security and if they can somehow accomplish this task, they would then need to mount a 51% attack against our distributed network all before Microsoft identifies the threat and shuts them down. Since no public blockchain has every had a successful 51% attack achieved against it, I like our chances of totally securing your information within our private network. Every user’s money is protected in a sub-trust account within a master trust account we have with our sponsor bank.

Why Ethereum and not any other blockchain network?

We started this project 2.5 years ago. Back then the only commercially viable blockchain platform that ran smart contracts was Ethereum. The decision was simple. However, we have architected our solution in such a way that porting our ecosystem onto another network is achievable if we every deem it practical to do so.

How did you enter the blockchain space?

I was introduced to blockchain by John Cronin, CEO of the BuildCoin Foundation. John was an absolute blockchain zealot and, prior to meeting him,  had never heard of the technology. After spending two days listening to him tell me about the global impact the technology would have, I was left with more questions than answers. This got me on a 3 month intensive program of studying everything I could find about blockchain. Of course, the challenge was differentiated between the hype around cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology. At the end of these 3 months, I was every bit the zealot John was and maybe even more.

What does ImagineBC offer or do within the blockchain sector? Are there any challenges it has experienced in the blockchain sector?

ImagineBC utilizes blockchain technology and the IPFS to secure all our user’s personal data. This is data that individually or combined can be used to determine who our user is. Information like name, street address, city, email address and phone number. Without blockchain technology, we could never 100% guarantee that only our user is in control of their identity. The challenge with creating a blockchain identity for all our users is that with extra security comes extra responsibility. We have had to work extra hard on dealing with the UI/UX challenges of helping a user create their identity wallet and access this wallet throughout the feature of the mobile app.

What areas of blockchain do you think will soon become part of our everyday lives?

I think the 3 areas that will standardize on blockchain technology in order of acceptance and delivery will be financial transactions, supply chain management and identity management. Interestingly enough none of these solution need involve cryptocurrency and none of them need to be publicly deployed blockchains. With the exception of identity management, most people will not notice any change in service. Financial transactions will become more secure and affordable. Supply chain management will become more transparent to involved parties, but these are not things that will jump out at the individual consumer. Identity management though will definitely be a change for people and will need government cooperation.

What has been the biggest success in your firm to date?

We have been in development for 2.5 years so just getting a solution this large and with the potential impact we can have to market without the assistance of outside capital is a pretty big accomplishment.  That being said, we now face the task of building interest in our solution.  We understand that this will be slow going at first, but we know that if we stick at it, we will eventually hit a point of virality, and our user base will start to grow exponentially.

What has been the biggest failure in your firm and how did you adapt?

The most disappointing thing we have encountered is the complete lack of enthusiasm from the capital markets to support a project like ours. Every investment group we spoke with wanted us to prove our model works before investing in it.

What is your revenue model?

ImagineBC takes 10% from any commercial transaction completed between two members. So, if member A sells a monthly subscription to Member B for $5.00 per month, ImagineBC keeps $0.50 from that transaction. If Member Y runs a $100,000 advertising campaign inside our community and the entire budget is exhausted, ImagineBC will have earned $10,000 from that campaign.  ImagineBC does not earn anything from direct donations or when a user purchases one of our debit cards.

Has COVID-19 affected your industry in any way and how has it changed the way you work.

I can’t imagine any industry could say that they have not been affected by the government’s response to COVID-19. You don’t just shut down the United State economy and expect there to be manageable ripple effects. As a technology company ImagineBC can continue to operate remotely but the implementation of “social distancing” as a policy has had an impact on our community growth strategy. Certain key target areas for us are not currently available because people are no longer permitted to come together as a group. However, the response has also created an opportunity for us as many intellectual property creators who have existed on income from playing performances are  now look for ways to monetize their creativity on the web.

How can blockchain technology and ImagineBC help bring the world back to normalcy after COVID-19?

Sam Wakoba
Sam Wakobahttp://techmoran.com
Taking you on tour through Africa's tech and business ecosystem, one story at a time since 2010! Based out of Nairobi, Kenya, Sam is the founder and managing director of Moran Media, which runs  TechMoran.com, various other digital platforms and a startup incubation hub for Kenya's youthful entrepreneurs. Drop me a mail at [email protected]

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