UTU is building the trust infrastructure of the internet to help businesses and consumers engage and transact in an easier, safer, and more trustworthy way.
We provide AI-powered curation of trust signals from your network at just the right places and times to help you connect, send, swap, stake, and borrow across Web3 and DeFi with trust and confidence. And the UTU blockchain protocol rewards users for trustworthy actions and compensates them for sharing their data while protecting their privacy.
UTU changes the economics of trust, ensures trust can’t be bought or manipulated, and leverages data to help people make better decisions.
Tell us about yourself?
Hi, I’m Jason! I grew up between Boston and Nashville. I then spent 10 years in Washington DC, first attending The American University studying International Relations, then 7 years as a consultant for USAID, World Bank, and others.
I started spending time in East Africa through that work in 2010 and moved to Kenya in 2013 to start MARAMOJA, the first taxi app anywhere in Africa at the time. We realized in the process of building that taxi app that we were solving the wrong problem. We realized the problem was actually about trust. Then we began to focus our attention there, building better models of digital trust. I became obsessed with rebuilding the trust infrastructure of our digital lives in the image of real world trust and based on first principles – I’ve been on this journey ever since.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I’d probably tell myself to stop talking and listen. I’d also tell myself to stop trying to plan a career and start pursuing whichever things fascinate me at the time, and trust that all the dots will connect somehow. I won’t get into which assets I’d have bought…
What problem does your business solve?
We bring trust to the trustless. The open, transparent nature of blockchain has allowed us to build trustless, permissionless systems. But because users can be pseudonymous, you still need to have some level of trust of these users and the decentralized app that they build to ensure you’re executing transactions safely and not getting scammed.
Our products help identify the trustworthiness of users, assets, smart contracts, and more and provide these trust signals within these Dapps.
Our current focus is increasing trust in Web3 and DeFi, but we will eventually expand to any app on the internet where trust is paramount so we can help users make the best decision for their situation.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
As I mentioned earlier, UTU spawned from our work on MARAMOJA.
In other more developed metropolitan areas, like New York and London, drivers and riders are interchangeable commodities. But in Kenya, and indeed in many parts of the world, trust is the key to how riders select drivers, and vice versa, and we realized this when building MARAMOJA. So we began working on new models of digital trust to support this.
Due to a number of factors, we’ve recently shifted our focus to Web3 and DeFi, but will definitely revisit and solve the trust issue for Web2 marketplaces and apps in the future.
What is your magic sauce?
In addition to artificial intelligence and machine learning to create trust signals and smart social recommendations, UTU leverages blockchain technology to ensure that ratings and reviews can’t be manipulated. We also leverage a token model to reinforce our product value proposition with an economic incentive model that promotes digital trust.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We seek to become first the trust infrastructure of Web 3 and then of the entire internet, though there’s some debate if the entire internet will be Web 3 by that time – UTU certainly has a major role to play in making that happen.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I don’t think there’s any single challenge that gets you, its the gradual wearing down of resilience by many challenges to beware of. Every challenge on it’s own feels very solvable with attention, partners, time, and money if necessary. It’s only when the problems gang up on you all at once that it becomes an issue, so I guess you could say that my biggest challenge is just making sure all the challenges don’t hit at once.
We change course all the time, as the market evolves and our vision is hardened and shaped by each successive experience. We are a learning organization and our course is constantly being refined…what has never changed and will not change is our mission to be the trust infrastructure of the internet.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
Are you working on a DeFi project? Reach out to us on any of the channels listed on our website (utu.io) and we will be thrilled to work together to blend on and off-chain data in a trustworthy way and help Web 3 reach its full potential.