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Brief introduction about Erik, Background of founders
I graduated from The George Washington University in 1983 with a B.A. in History. Rather than going into government, the law or teaching I was lucky enough to be recruited by Price Waterhouse into their management consulting group where I became an expert in identifying and solving human capital management (HCM) related issues. In ’90, I left Price Waterhouse to join a small HCM company and a year after that I and one of the founders of that startup left to build our own HCM technology company.
Journey behind the idea
After spending more than 2 ½ decades in the HCM space, in 2017 I found myself chasing a new idea. The idea was to help every individual take back control of their personal information and even more important create an easy and efficient way for individuals to be fairly compensated by 3rd parties for the use of their personal information.
This idea began when I first started exploring how to best utilize blockchain technology within my current company’s existing HCM solution. Quickly though we realized that what we were really doing was creating a way for individuals to control their most personal information.
We didn’t think that HCM was the correct path for educating people to take back control of their data, so we pivoted the development to create an entirely new ecosystem dedicated to ensuring that the individual is the primary beneficiary of the revenue earned from their data. I can honestly say that the past 2 years working on his project have been the most exciting and rewarding since I left Price Waterhouse.
Motivation to start entrepreneur Journey?
I ’m a reluctant entrepreneur. I loved the 8 eight years I worked as a management consultant for Price Waterhouse. It’s not very often you get a job where you actually don’t want to leave work and run to the office each morning. But life is more than just your job. In 1990 my wife, then a newly minted attorney, was busy building her business reputation in the DC area and we also had a 1 year old son.
So, when my boss was transferred to Atlanta and asked me to follow him, I was left with a decision. Follow him to Atlanta and make the partnership in a year or stay in DC to allow my wife’s career to continue to grow.
The decision was really not that hard. Family always comes first, so I called up a startup company that had been recruiting me to see if the opportunity to join them was still available. When they said yes, the decision was made. I resigned and started down the entrepreneurial path.
Can you explain more about ImagineBC?
The elevator pitch is, ImagineBC turns the tables on the business as usual in social media world we live in. Instead of content providers and advertisers hitting on us, ImagineBC’s trusted, Peer-to-Peer platform gives members access to a virtual catalog where they get to choose and enjoy exclusive content and offerings from members they wish to follow. What this means is that we believe the capitalist system is broken.
It broke when a handful of companies backed by seemingly endless venture capital corrupted the system by creating the illusion that consumers can have everything for “free” like Google offering free access to email and other productivity tools. What we didn’t know back then, but should have, is that nothing in life is “free”. So, what really happened was that in exchange for these so called “free” services, we gave up control of our privacy.
Now, while a handful of tech giants earn the largest fortunes known to mankind and companies like Cambridge Analytica fueled by data from Facebook corrupt our democratic processes, we are treated almost like an indentured servant. To correct this problem, We the People must take back control of our personal information.
ImagineBC has dedicated itself to creating an ecosystem to make doing so easy and efficient for everyone. We want to create a world where instead of just a handful of lucky individuals being able to earn a living from platforms like YouTube, all people can equally share in the vast riches available from the world of data monetization. ImagineBC has also dedicated itself to be an engine for social good.
Within our standard blockchain contract there a multiple ways money can and will be donated to social causes. And unlike platforms like Patreon, ImagineBC never takes a dime from any donation. ImagineBC’s role within the ecosystem it has developed is to create ways for its members to earn “new” money, taking money from member donations would be counter to everything we believe in.
What is your USP ?
Our unique selling point is that we pay members to use our debit card reward program. This creates for members what we call “free” money. We then hope our members will use some of this “free” money to purchase content from our member channels and to make donations to partnered social causes. The average cell phone bill in the United States is now over $80 per month.
ImagineBC will pay its members $4 to use our MasterCard debit card to pay that $80 bill. We then hope that same member will perhaps use $2 of the money we gave them to purchase a monthly subscription to the content of the member who invited them to join the community and perhaps donate the other $2 or Toys for Tots. Another unique feature is that ImagineBC does not take any fee for processing a donation unlike Patreon and other giving platforms. ImagineBC only earns a fee when we have helped a member earn money so when transactions like donations are processed inside our platform, we do them free of charge! Another interesting example is gig economy invoicing. Recently, I paid an individual for voice over work for tutorial videos we are adding to the app.
She quoted me $350 for the work and invoiced me $360.50 through PayPal. I moved $360.50 from my ImagineBC balance onto a debit card, earning $18.025 for my efforts. I then transferred the debit card into my PayPal account and paid the invoice. Which she received. I did ask her what the extra $10.50 was for and she said that was the 3% fee that PayPal charges her for processing the invoice.
Well, the next time she and I do a transaction its going to be very different. How? Well, she is going to join the ImagineBC community and only invoice me the $350 because ImagineBC doesn’t charge fees to move money between members. I will pay her the $350, saving $10.50 and she will be able to put the $350 onto one of our debit cards, thereby earning an additional 5% from the transaction. Ask yourself, if you performed gig work, which platform would you use to collect money from you clients, PayPal or ImagineBC?
Early days struggle?
Despite knowing that what we are building something that people need, that does not mean that we haven’t faced issues. The biggest hurdle of course is solving the “chicken and egg” problem that all new marketplaces face. The problem is defined as how you convince buyers to join a community if there are not enough products interesting to them to purchase. And then how you convince sellers to join a community if the community is does not have enough buyers.
Then to make matters even more complex, we know we are trying to change buying habits. Which we are aware is never easy to accomplish. If we had endless funding like Amazon or Google did at their early stages, we could just continue to press forward until the market realized our clear advantages.
Instead, we have needed to be creative
and a bit lucky. To address this double edged issue, we have been fortunate
enough to have built a strong partnership network that permits us to offer our
users a service that is better than free (this goes to change of habit) and we
have a significant number of content providers willing to use ImagineBC as
their platform for exclusive content (this goes to having available sellers).
This coming year
we will see if our strategy works.
To date ImagineBC has been totally funded by its parent company, the HCM company I began back in 2003. We have invested nearly $2m to date building the ecosystem. We are in the process of looking for our first found of capital to help take the company to the next level.
But raising funding is a frustrating process, especially when you are pre revenue. So, it looks like our parent company is going to need to keep funding ImagineBC for just a little while longer as we generally launch the ecosystem and start to build of the size of our community in terms of members and revenue.
User base you have achieved till now?
We did a small beta launch of the ecosystem in August and got our membership quickly up to 200 users. Based on some amazing feedback we received from these early users, we knew we had to clean up our user experience. But even more important we landed a partnership that allowed us to change our development timetable to move up the deployment of support for content providers.
We are planning to relaunch the
product immediately after the New Year, focused on helping about 3 dozen
content providers, all with followings of 30k-150k people, and allow them
to start earning fair compensation from the content they
provide. The new partnership, previously mentioned, allows us to offer the followers of our content providers a model that is better than free.
New Areas you are looking to expand?
Our planned expansion is two-fold. First, we need to fully develop our content provider platform into something we call the Imaginarium. The Imaginarium is a virtual representation of Main Street,
America. A place where small and mid-sized business can incubate and grow. Think of it as a destination for the entrepreneur, where ideas can be shared and funded directly by members of the community. A place where the community directly shares in the success of the businesses and enterprises they support.
Secondly, we want to be able to expand our marketplace internationally. The benefits of a virtual peer to peer marketplace are not geographically constrained. We hope one day that our community will support all individuals and not just citizens of the United States.
Another area of interest for us is
to start a non-profit focused on educating individuals as to the
important of personal data privacy. This also means the non-profit will work on behalf of its members to help convince Federal, State and Local government authorities to cooperate in the effort to allow all individuals to secure their personal identity.
This will not be an easy task since it will require substantive changes to existing institutional processes. But is it is a fight worth taking on, and ImagineBC hopes that it will be able to fund this non-profit free of charge to its existing members.
How can Techiexpert help them to spread word about their startup ?
The answer to this question is easy. Spread the word to your following of ImagineBC’s value proposition. The larger ImagineBC’s community gets the greater the benefit to all members. Even if a member does not see any immediate benefit in terms of new income, their passive participation at first is still of value.
Of course, we believe that every member will find some way to take advantage of our “free” money, since it can be used to pay existing expenses or donated to an important social cause. Also, as a content providing publication you may interested in exploring ways to become a 3rd party participating member of ImagineBC.