On 7th of May 2020, our Community Manager Dahee had a Live AMA session with Matthew Liu, Co-founder of Origin Protocol.
Dahee: Welcome to Origin Protocol x Crypto.com Community AMA! Today we are welcoming our guest from the Origin Protocol, Matthew Liu, Co-founder of Origin Protocol. We’ve got a lot of questions for you. But to start, can you briefly introduce the project and your role in the Origin Protocol?
Matthew: Hi everyone! I’m one of the co-founders of the Origin Protocol. Prior to founding Origin, I was one of the earliest product managers at YouTube prior to our acquisition by Google and then served as VP of Product at Bonobos (acquired by Walmart) and Qwiki (acquired by Yahoo). Thereafter I was a co-founder of several other successful businesses.
First off, I just want to say how happy I am to be engaging with the Crypto.com community. You are all early adopters of cryptocurrencies, and crypto.com is one of my favorite companies in the space.
At Origin, we're focused on enabling the future of commerce with blockchain technology. We believe buyers and sellers should be able to transact with each other directly on the blockchain, cutting out traditional intermediaries. We’re targeting traditional marketplaces like Airbnb and Uber and also e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Amazon. We want to benefit the world by reducing or removing fees, giving everyday users stakes in the Origin network, and promoting open and censorship-resistant commerce. In the future, our goal is also to empower unbanked individuals in the developing world to come online and start participating in new blockchain-powered marketplaces and e-commerce products.
To do this, we built the Origin Platform to power decentralized marketplace and e-commerce applications. We launched the 1.0 version of the platform in January after being in Mainnet Beta for over a year. We have been busy advancing our products since then.
Dahee: Thanks for your introduction, Matthew. Now let’s jump into the Q&A section!
1. What is the distinguishing factor that makes Origin unique from the rest of the cryptocurrency pool?
Matthew: Great question. There are many differentiating factors. First, there are very few other projects trying to enable peer-to-peer commerce and taking on the same vision that we are pursuing.
Next, we have been on Mainnet since October of 2018. Since then, we have launched multiple improvements and have also created multiple applications on the underlying Origin Platform. Amongst our live products include the Dshop platform (for creating decentralized stores), our marketplace DApp (for peer-to-peer commerce), and Origin Deals (a new experiment to give users huge discounts while shopping when they lock up OGN). You can check these out:
We're constantly working to attract new customers and solve real problems. Unfortunately, across the industry, we still see many projects that are perpetually in Testnets or Betas.
Our team is one of the very best in the blockchain. One of the founders of Paypal is one of our leading engineers. We also have senior engineers from YouTube, Dropbox, and Google. We're backed by an all-star list of global investors including Pantera Capital and angel investors like Steve Chen (founder of YouTube), Alexis Ohanian (founder of Reddit), Garry Tan (former Ycombinator partner), etc.
Of course, our broader ecosystem is also one of our greatest strengths. We have many supporters and partners in the industry, including Brave (we built their new merchandise store) and Samsung (our marketplace app is featured in the Galaxy S10 app store). We have multiple new partner Dshop apps coming online in the next few weeks. We count over 250k members in our community and are blessed to have all of you rooting for our success.
2. What is the main purpose of the Origin Protocol is working with Crypto.com in the future, is it only limited to listings or is there something else? Is it possible for us as Crypto.com users to shop at the origin marketplace? And get a variety of benefits from Origin Protocol and Crypto.com such as cashback or discounts in buying items in the origin marketplace?
Matthew: We hold Crypto.com in very high regard. First, the team has built a great consumer product that has attracted mainstream usage. This is rare in the blockchain world, and we applaud them for their efforts in continuing to make it easier and easier for everyday users to participate in the crypto revolution. Secondly, crypto.com gives Origin broader distribution with its over 1M user install base.
There is nothing to currently announce at the moment but we, of course, are interested in deepening our relationship with crypto.com.
Crypto.com users can use our marketplace app. You can also shop at various Origin-powered Dshops. While we aren't currently offering cashback on Dshops, we do allow Dshop owners to reward users that help them generate new sales. For example, we recently set up a Dshop to support the fight against COVID-19. Not only can you shop at this store, but you can earn OGN by helping drive sales on our affiliate program. You can check it out here.
Finally, US users can also get large discounts on Amazon products by using Origin Deals. Using OGN to unlock discounts is a compelling new use case for OGN.
3. With the threat of COVID 19 affecting all businesses all around the globe, how will it impact the operations of the Origin Protocol team and the future of the Origin Protocol? Are there any measures being taken from the Origin Protocol team?
Matthew: COVID-19 has put the world on standstill. Thankfully we've been able to weather the storm effectively.
Our team has been distributed from day one. We've also made it a part of our company culture to communicate openly and transparently across our team and community. As a result, we have not been disrupted by the need to work from home. We are still highly productive and shipping product updates every week.
We're firm believers in running lean and only hiring amazing team members that can each do the work of multiple people. Financially, we have almost 4 years of runway without having to make any reductions to our staff or marketing/community endeavors. Of course, we are cognizant to not overspend in this period.
We've seen that the best companies oftentimes thrive in global macro downturns. Google came out of the ashes of the dotcom crash. Uber and Airbnb began their journeys after the 2008 meltdown. Bitcoin itself was born from the same financial crisis.
As other companies run out of funding or have to lay off talent, there is less noise in the market. It will be easier for us to stand out and also to continue to hire the best people.
Finally, as we are dealing in the world of blockchain-powered commerce, we also have some unique opportunities to appeal to customers and partners. Consumers and merchants/sellers are even more wary of unnecessary fees in downturns like these. Many individuals feel even more angry that economic value has been captured by the few (e.g. big corporations). Origin's platform is designed to lower fees and offer individuals stakes in the greater ecosystem that we are building. This will be advantageous for us as we look to gain traction and market share.
4. Is there a road map for internalization or the app and website and more targeted events on certain countries or continents?
Matthew: Crypto and blockchain are global movements. As such, we recognize the importance of being a global company and have structured Origin to be distributed and global since the very beginning. We have employees in China, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand, India, Panama, Russia, and Slovenia for example.
Our company website and our marketplace app are internationalized to just about 20 languages. However, we realize that there's still a lot of work to be done to make our products easily usable in international countries. For example, we didn't properly anticipate VPN, latency, and other issues for regions like China, and we haven't yet optimized any of our applications to more "local" user experiences. For our newer products like the Dshop platform, we do plan to make a more concerted effort to appeal to international audiences. Please stay tuned about this.
We've been active marketing Origin internationally already and will continue to do this aggressively. Again, we have employees in multiple countries, and many of them are tasked with evangelizing Origin to new markets. This means getting more users and merchants using Origin products. It also means continuing building efforts to support the adoption of OGN.
5. What`s the background of origin protocol being created?
Matthew: Origin was started in 2017 by Josh Fraser and myself. At the time, the two of us had started multiple successful startups together. We were running a 7-figure revenue business, but we were also invested in cryptocurrency and just beginning to experiment with decentralized technologies. As we started building small prototype DApps just for fun, we were soon captivated by the enormous potential of the technology. Sure, the technology was nascent, slow, and unreliable to start. However, if blockchain technology improved over the long-term, it would transform many global industries. When the idea for Origin came to us, we had to pursue it even though we were already occupied with running other ventures. We made the hard but fast decision to focus on Origin and have been working relentlessly ever since.
Since then we've had many ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. I feel super blessed to be working with our amazing team and the global community on such challenging problems. I'm very excited about the future.
6. You have taken steps to reduce the circulating supply of the OGN token. What is the long term plan for the number of tokens in circulation? What made you decide to reduce the circulating supply
Matthew: Our team is focused on building a valuable platform and ecosystem that rewards our token holders/stakeholders for their parts in helping us achieve that vision. We believe that reducing the circulating supply means each individual token holder has a greater relative stake of the network.
We anticipate making further reductions in the future, though I can't comment on specific numbers at this time. These measures are intended to reward our early believers and long-term supporters.
Our goal is to do our very best to consistently come in under the numbers that we initially published to the community in January of this year (in our Binance research report).
For example, our expected circulating supply for May was approximately 85M. Currently, we are sitting just shy of 50M. I look forward to other measures that we will take to further reduce supply where we can.
In parallel, we're working very hard to increase token utility/use cases as we shoot for the mainstream adoption of our platform and products.
7. Currently attracting real users and mass Adoption is a problem for Blockchain projects. So how will ORIGIN PROTOCOL solve this problem?
Matthew: Thanks for that question. You are 100% right that achieving mass adoption has eluded the majority of blockchain/cryptocurrency projects for the past two years. If we're honest with ourselves as an industry, we've built a lot of great technology but much of it isn't easily understood or usable by mainstream users. We've experienced this at Origin having built multiple iterations of our smart contracts and accompanying applications.
Through this process, we've learned a ton. Mainstream users need fast, easy application interfaces. They need applications that solve real problems, not theoretical ones. They do not want to pay for gas to write data on chain. They are afraid of losing their funds. They do not like adding new steps to familiar workflows, etc.
We're working hard on attracting real users and breaking through to the mainstream. To achieve this, we need to reduce friction, solve pain points, and harness the power of the community.
For example, we spent a lot of engineering effort to efficiently and effectively store data on IPFS (fast and cheap) versus storing an excess of data on chain (slow and expensive). This greatly reduces poor user experiences. Also, in the past, our products required buyers and sellers to transact with cryptocurrencies. Now, while we continue to advocate crypto payments, we enable credit card payments as well (see Dshop and Origin Deals), giving buyers and sellers familiar ways to transact.
We're also planning to target new verticals with our Dshop platform where our technology is more differentiated than existing players. Our early usage data for Origin Deals, targeted at the mainstream, is encouraging.
Building technology is only part of the equation though. Products need to be marketed effectively. This is one of the reasons we built Dshop. We believe that we attract many sellers/merchants. As they build out their stores and attract their own customers, they are bringing new users to the Origin platform. This B2B2C strategy is designed to empower our sellers to help create a large community of buyers. Of course, cryptoeconomic incentives are at play. As our products get better, we plan to incentivize our very best partners, sellers, power users, etc. to continue promoting us. In the past, we've seen that we can get a huge rush of new users every single time we run an Origin Rewards campaign. We've decreased those rewards campaigns currently as we continue to build new features for our products. At the right time, we will make use of those user acquisition tactics effectively.
Dahee: Thanks, Matthew! Now it’s the Live Q&A Session.
Live Q1. From technological and commercial perspectives, how can traditional companies be integrated into the blockchain? What are your plans for traditional companies that continue to exist with their own systems?
Let's think about this from a traditional company's perspective. Blockchain by itself is just a really interesting technology. However, if I am an established company that is already conducting my business on traditional technology, blockchain only makes sense where it adds more value to my business or solves problems in new ways. Otherwise, there isn't a whole lot of incentive to switch.
The great news is that blockchain can be disruptive for all different types of businesses (in a good way). In Origin's situation, we're interested in helping businesses (many of them small individual sellers or merchants but also larger companies as well) connect with buyers directly on the blockchain. This creates a more efficient market when the middleman is taken out. The fees are much lower (if not free), and new types of global commercial opportunities exist. This creates new opportunities to monetize the business and attract new customers.
Now to get that adoption, we must make the friction low enough so the benefits stand out. That is why we are currently working on reducing the complexity for individual sellers and larger merchants both to be able to deploy their decentralized storefronts (or individual listings) and discover new customers. We're also trying to abstract away some of the complexity associated with using blockchain and crypto tech. Everyday users should not have to know they are using blockchain to be benefiting from it.
Live Q2. Does Origin screen the reviews from publishers/labels, customers, or other sources used on your site?
Thanks for the question. The blockchain creates a really interesting situation. On the one hand, any data can be written to the blockchain, whether it is good or bad information. That is the power of decentralization. On the other hand, to build highly usable and performant applications that will one day attract hundreds of millions of users (or more), data quality is very important. That applies to reviews, identities, product metadata, etc.
At Origin, the way we are approaching the problem is to draw a distinct line between the protocol layer and any applications that we build on top of the protocol layer.
Anyone can use our marketplace smart contracts and interact with the blockchain directly. They can write IPFS hashes for reviews, products, etc. that will be referenced on chain. However, on the actual Origin apps that we run such as www.shoporigin.com or any internal Origin Dshop, we will screen for content. For example, we will not show products that violating our acceptable use policy (e.g. no weapons or hate books). We haven't made a point to remove fake or hostile reviews, but that is a possibility.
Sellers running their own Dshops are welcome to put up products of their choice of course. Developers that wish to fork our code and run their own marketplace would be able to do so as well.
Live Q3. Would you agree with me that adoption and utility are key factors to a project’s survival and success? What’s being done to drive global adoption of Origin Protocol amidst crypto regulations, legislation, and competition?
Yes, I absolutely agree. Gone are the days where crypto projects could think "build it and they will come". Crypto projects without adoption are not much different than other platforms/products without adoption. It's just a lot of tech that isn't being used, unfortunately. Adoption and utility are absolutely the most important factors in ensuring long-term success.
We think about building utility and gaining adoption in two broad buckets. First, are you solving problems and giving your users, developers, partners a reason to use your platform. Secondly, is it easy to use? Have you reduced the friction enough so that people will try it out?
On the first front, we want to use decentralized and cryptocurrency technologies based on their strengths. It's not simply better to build a decentralized merchant store or marketplace unless they unlock new opportunities. For example, we want to enable more free and open commerce opportunities. There are many categories that are currently not permitted on Shopify for example. Lowering fees for both buyers and sellers in an Airbnb use case creates a real reason for people to try us out. There is real money at stake. Enabling crypto payments in markets that don't have established payment methods like mobile payments or credit cards allows those markets to participate in the digital commerce economy. So we much continue working on solving real problems with our tech vs. just talking about it.
On the second front, I think we've all seen that much of the technology that was built in the last two years has been hard to use. We need to improve the UX of cryptocurrencies. For example, requiring Metamask significantly slows people down. So for one of our new products, Origin Deals, we are tracking and storing crypto more similar to how a centralized exchange would do it. The OGN component is the most important, but it doesn't need to add undue friction. I mentioned previously also that we have done our best to minimize the number of on-chain transactions and keep things fast and cheap. More will need to be done in this area as well.
Live Q4. CORONAVIRUSES (COVID-19) is currently a worldwide epidemic. All parties are concerned. Many blockchain industry figures contributed to this disaster. How does the Origin project react to it? Does this case also affect the performance and future steps of the Origin project?
COVID-19 has been terrible for the world in many respects. It's heartbreaking to see so many people get sick and die. It's just as bad to see the world economy slow down and negatively impact so many people, especially working-class citizens.
As mentioned previously, we've been lucky to persist through it thus far without many changes. We are lucky to have a well-capitalized and very motivated team that already knows how to work together. There are potential opportunities to attract new customers that are more sensitive to fees than ever before. But I talked about this already.
To address the other part of your question, here at Origin we are doing our best to contribute. In the early days when masks were not readily available in the US (hard to imagine for those of you in Asia), we worked with manufacturers in Asia to source them. We've donated masks to hospitals directly. We also listed masks at cost on our special Stay At the Home shop.
All proceeds from this store are donated to CEPI to help find a vaccine. We're actually donating to CEPI every single time someone buys a mask to protect themselves. We're eager to continue this effort and see how far we will get with donations. Our current ceiling is up to $100k USD donated. We're quite a ways from there yet, but let's see how many more masks we sell in this pandemic.
Live Q5. What is the current status of the Origin Protocol in the development of your additional marketplace and e-commerce applications? And can u give us more details about the e-commerce applications?
We've built multiple versions of the marketplace at shoporigin.com. We've had over 100k users try out the platform and generate thousands of peer-to-peer transactions between buyers and sellers. That being said, we've learned that there is still a lot of improvement needed if we are to really break out into the mainstream. Future feature upgrades are necessary.
Our e-commerce platform recently launched with our first marquee partner, Brave Software. Brave has over 13M daily active users so we are very excited about this. We have about a dozen new partner stores that will launch in the next month, and we expect this to only increase over time. With the commerce side, we're taking a B2B2C approach. We're finding motivated sellers and helping them set up decentralized storefronts fast. Then both they and we are motivated to find the C (the buyers). This gives us a stronger end-user acquisition strategy than previously. In the upcoming months, you will see us create new "templates" for Dshop. These templates will be designed to empower sellers (both individual sellers and larger merchants) to better tackle specific verticals (e.g. digital goods, premium content, or home-sharing as examples).
Live Q6. Why does Origin protocol have 3 smart contracts? What are the uses of each smart contract?
The token contract is simply our contract to support the ERC-20 token. This contract is pretty standard and most Ethereum token projects have a similar contract.
The marketplace contract is the core contract powering both our marketplace and e-commerce applications (as well as our partners' applications). This allows buyers to make offers to sellers by placing their payments in escrow. Sellers are able to accept these offers. When these sales are completed or services are fulfilled, the smart contract enables the seller to get paid. If there are issues, the contract enables a third-party arbitrator to rule on the case. This contract is being used by shoporigin.com, multiple Dshops, and our partner marketplace apps.
The identity contract is to reference user metadata, giving buyers and sellers that choose to show who they are a way to showcase their identities.
Live Q7. What is your vision for OGN Blockchain and the future of the cryptocurrency space as a whole?
Our goal is to build a transformational technology platform, many useful products that impact businesses and customers and transform the way that digital commerce is conducted on the Internet. By doing so, we will create a ton of value before capturing that value. My vision for OGN is that it will be a ubiquitous cryptocurrency that is used in dozens (or more) countries around the world in many different use cases. This will of course take time, but we are in it for the long haul and plan to work on this for a very long time.
As for blockchain and cryptocurrency in general, I think that they will absolutely create the future. However, with all transformative technologies, growth curves are exponential and not linear. The funny thing about exponentials is that they look really small in the beginning. And then one day they are growing so fast you can't stop them. I hate to make this example, but COVID-19 is a great example. A couple of years from now the world will wake up and blockchain and cryptocurrency will be everywhere. For all of us here today, it is still the EARLY days. The best days are yet to come, and when we finally hit that inflection point, we will be creating the future, changing the world, and also benefit from a whole array of new financial and social outcomes.