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Molly St. Louis

June 10th, 2019

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Marketplace Trust is Being Reimagined Through Technology

We have interviewed numerous leaders of platform companies on Platform Players - from those with over a thousand employees and investment numbers in the hundreds of millions, right on down to promising early-stage startups with strong initial success. Throughout this process, we’ve been noticing a common theme:

Whether these businesses have been around for one year or ten years, all of them are positively obsessed with building trust on their scaling platforms.

It makes sense. These platforms are connecting two complete strangers and telling them it’s okay to transact. And “transact” doesn’t simply mean paying or accepting payment online. Depending on the platform, it could mean inviting a stranger into your home to build your furniture, letting them take care of your pet, or even asking them to drive your child to school.

Examples of Trust Building for User Safety

We asked Jason Meltzer, the co-founder of Wag, how his team created a sense of trust on his platform. After all, people are crazy about their pets – so, why would they trust a stranger to care for their dogs?

“We just focused on quality,” he said in regard to his dog walkers. “It was just quality, quality, quality.”

Wag put each dog walker through a rigorous vetting process that took place both online and in person to ensure that all of them were trustworthy and would provide the best care possible.

HopSkipDrive, which is essentially “Uber for kids,” had to take trust a step further. Their Product and Operations Leader, Corey McMahon, told us that in addition to passing a host of background checks, each driver had to be a certified child care worker with several years of experience - be it a teacher, child psychologist or other licensed professional. Because this car service platform addresses the needs of children, the company felt it critical to take this precaution as an added layer of trust.

Platforms “Disinfecting” Historically Invisible Processes

Keeping users safe from fraud or harm is obviously the most common concern for platforms focusing their trust-building efforts. However, there is another area of trust that platforms and other businesses are trying to address, which is how to keep all parties honest in business transactions that have been historically elusive.

Many companies are doing this through blockchain technology, the incredible bi-product of the crypto-currency invention. While it still debatable if Bitcoin is here for the long haul, one thing is clear: blockchain is here to stay.

Blockchain_for_Marketplaces.jpg

A host of examples have emerged in past months about using blockchain as a trust-builder for online applications. The Blockchain Council recently described ways to build trust in artificial intelligence applications by using blockchain in their construction. Thomas Crown Artturned to blockchain as a way to not only authenticate artwork, but also use artwork as a blockchain wallet system to generate cash flow.

We found another remarkable example of blockchain at work when we interviewed the founders of ShelterZoom, a new platform that uses blockchain technology to streamline and democratize the process of buying, selling and renting real estate.

This platform was particularly interesting to me because I just bought a home the old-fashioned way. My husband and I scanned Zillow, identified some properties, and spent many weekends walking through them to find the best fit.

We scanned listings several times a day and relatively early into the process, we saw the perfect house pop up. Within a couple hours, we were there at the property. The house was amazing and the price was right, so we put in an offer that very day. Later that week, we received call from our realtor telling us there were four other offers ahead of ours.

I had just a couple questions:

1) How were they ahead of us when we showed up immediately after the listing was published?

2) Can we see what they offered, so we know for next time?

The answers to both were that there was no way to know. Right or wrong, I became very suspicious of the process – especially after it happened to us a couple more times. I had the feeling that what we were being told was not actually what was happening. Luckily, we got a new realtor and closed on a great home, but we were certainly glad it was over!

ShelterZoom Talks Trust

Chao_Cheng-Shorland_and_Allen_Alishahi_of_ShelterZoom[2]_copy.jpg


When we interviewed ShelterZoom on Platform Players, the trust problem they were solving was immediately clear: the home buying processes needed to be “disinfected” and all parties needed to be able to access the information to keep everyone honest – which is certainly a great means of delivering trust.

The platform has made some strong advances in presenting a real estate deal system that users can trust, no matter which side of the deal they're actually on. It's part of a growing trend that lets those who make deals set up trustworthy frameworks to make it clear that everything is as on the up-and-up as it can get.

Not every platform needs blockchain technology to create trust between users, but technology does play a pivotal role in the trust-building process. As we look to the future, it will be interesting to see how innovators find new ways to not only create trust, but also scale it on a global platform.

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