Making of a Blockchain Rewards and eCommerce Platform: Journey of a Start Up — Part 3
I doubt I’ll ever go back to corporate work. Once you see the light, there is no turning back. - Magnus Jepson, WooCommerce co-founder.
I mentioned last week that starting up your own business can be enlightening and invigorating. You live and breathe your idea(s), every second of every day.If you’re not, you will probably fail. Even if you are, it’s no guarantee of success. If you’re a creative person, coming up with ideas can be easy, but it’s being able to execute on them that counts and it’s up to you to make things happen the way you envision. You may or may not be in a position to rely on others to carry out certain tasks. Regardless, any major deviations from the path you’ve seen feels like a challenge to your existence.
The journey in trying to establish a start-up, at some point becomes the text book definition of a mindfuck. And much like the carnal form, these can be great or terrible.
The more I read about blockchain, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts, the more it excited me. The potential for what could be done was vast. While the blockchain fit with Rewards Programs was obvious, I started thinking about how it could be used to improve living standards. Living in Istanbul, a city where the traffic congestion problem is insufferable, caused by drivers brazenly violating the rules of the road, I could see how it could be eradicated by implementing a system of automated, real-time fines tied to crypto-wallets and smart contracts, if supported by other governmental regulations. But that wasn’t my problem to solve and I needed to focus on the ones we had. The immediate one being we still didn’t have a company established and the second name that we had chosen – RiSE! – had already been taken by another cryptocurrency.
Another call was arranged with the executive team sponsoring the greater project which included an airline and airport. I informed them that we couldn’t use the name “RiSE!” as it was already in use. Before I could continue, names started being offered at will again. None of which had anything to do with what the program we’d designed was intended to be.
Conference calls are challenging at the best of times. Even more so when you have a number of people all connecting from different locations. Even more so when you don’t know each other personally and have never met. I put myself on mute and listened, incredulous.
“How about something along the lines of wellness?” said someone.
“”Wellness”, that’s actually quite a good name” said another.
“How about something along the lines of kilos and grams…?” (I kid you not!) said someone else.
It was more than evident that, though I’d shared the POC (proof of concept) for the Blockchain Rewards Program and eCommerce Platform, along with the business case several times, nobody had analysed it in any great depth, if at all. More importantly, it was lucky I was on mute.
I took a deep breath, pressed “unmute” and jumped in.
“With all due respect, if I may, you’re all looking at this as if we’re creating a frequent flyer program, we are not!”
What kilos and grams or wellness had to do with a frequent flyer program I have no idea, but if I’d said what I was really thinking, bridges would have been burnt to a level which would have required a lawsuit taken out on me for arson.
I went on to reel off some statistics on rewards programs and how the average consumer was a member of x number of programs, the majority of which were forgotten about or used very rarely, and how we didn’t want to be one of those. We had to be a cash-back program where our customers used us daily. If this didn’t happen, the program was destined to fail. Which is why we needed to be perceived as money. Which is why we had decided to utilise mobile technology and blockchain and designed the concept for our blockchain rewards program so the cash-back rewards tokens could be utilised just like “cash”.
They got it.
I then suggested they all seriously consider the name “UKashi” and made the point of emphasising that it wasn’t myself who’d come up with the name, as well as explaining how it was derived from the Zulu word for cash – “Ukheshi”.
Everyone agreed that it was unique and that it fit. There was no push back. However, due diligence needed to be carried out on the name to make sure it wasn’t being used. Again, the responsibility for this was with the project sponsors, to do this via an agency. However, I was taking no chances as to when they may get around to doing this and did a quick google search, only to find that there already was a Ukash based in the UK! Though they’d ceased operations in 2015, the name was just too close. I was crushed.
I messaged Rob via Skype to give him the news.
“Mate, there’s a company in the UK called Ukash. We can’t use UKashi”.
“No fucking way..!” followed by, “Hang on, but if it doesn’t exist in Africa, we don’t have a problem”.
“I don’t know about that but at the end of the day we need to look at this very long term, not just immediate markets…”
“You’re right. Let me send an email to the Sponsors and ask them to do the check on which countries we can and can’t use Ukasi…”
He misspelt it. Rob had misspelt UKashi as “Ukasi”. UKashi… UKasi… Eureka!
“Mate that’s the name! You misspelt UKashi but you found the name! We get rid of the “h” and add an “i”! UKasii! That’s the name!”
We immediately got on a call with the head of the project Sponsors and he agreed to register the company in London under the name UKa$ii and set up meetings with our potential investors the following week. Things were suddenly picking up pace.
But that week never came.
(To be continued 13 November 2018…)