For Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, users are their key assets. Without users, no social networks can thrive in the market. It is actually users like you and I, who drive business to these sites.
But despite our valuable contributions, do we get adequate monetary benefits from these firms?
The answer is an emphatic ‘no’.
It is true that social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn provide us with a free platform to interact and share content with others, but it is still a bit unfair for them to not reward us — people who spend considerable time curating profile and adding valuable content. It is our data on which these businesses are built. More importantly, it is logical for networks like LinkedIn, which deal with the professional profiles of enterprises and individuals, to incentivise users as it increases the value of the business and ultimately the platform.
But rewarding the end user is highly unlikely to be in agenda of these behemoths in the near future.
The advent of blockchain, however, is changing things for the better. And one startup from India is already experimenting with the ‘user reward’ concept, but with a great spin.
“We are building SpringRole from the ground up, keeping all stakeholders in mind,” Founder and CEO, Kartik Mandaville, told e27. “Our users are fairly incentivised with crypto tokens for attesting and endorsing other users, ultimately providing a highly useful and validated resource for recruiters and prospective employers, partners and others. In fact, users are the central focus of our efforts.”
Weeding out fake profiles and credentials
SpringRole was started in 2014 by Mandaville, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in the US and an expert in machine learning and blockchain. A serial entrepreneur, he has earlier developed AutoBudder, a software that automatically wishes friends on their birthdays. In the past, he has also served as CTO of LetMeKnow.com, an online portal delivering internships, scholarships, conferences etc to college students in India. He is also a Kairos Global Fellow (2012).
Bangalore- and US-based SpringRole is a recruiting startup, which essentially provides verified resumes/profiles using the blockchain technology and a system of incentives.
“Resumes are usually the first point of contact that potential future employees have with candidates. They contain the key facets that we would like to showcase about our professional profiles,” Mandaville said. “However, these days it has become common to have falsified or incorrect information on resumes. The onus is on the employer to comb through resumes and use background verification and reference checks to make sure everything is valid.”
As per a study, Mandaville shared, about 53 per cent of resumes posted on various social networks contain some forms of factual inaccuracy. Thus, validation is important in hiring a new candidate. If the documents or claims are not genuine, they can become a major concern for employers and can eventually lead to rejection of the candidate. Plus, the existing attestation system is fraught with a lot of problems.
“There are many flaws in the current attestation system. They are time-consuming and expensive. There are very few practical methods for assessing the quality or the reliability of such claims apart from manual verification and engagement of third-party services. The current system is also inadequate while dealing with forged or inaccurate credentials. This can involve a lot of middlemen and is susceptible to fraud,” Mandaville said.
This is where blockchain comes into play. This centralised technology enables recruitment platform to develop an integrable and scalable solution, where everyone can have an immutable and synchronised digital ledger. “We feel this is the right time to build a protocol that allows people to have verified resumes and recommendations powered by blockchain. With this tech, it is now possible to cryptographically verify the information as and when you needed,” he added.
In his opinion, effective reference checking can prevent companies from making bad hires and weed out candidates who make false claims. Most reference checks involve checking attestations first made long ago, and these checks are repeated by many subsequent reviewers. “On SpringRole, people can view, get and share attestations on their professional profile, thereby creating a verified resume that they can share and use.”
Essentially, a user’s professional profile contains three parts: 1) educational qualifications, 2) work experience, and 3) skillsets. Each of these three will have their own flows to get attested. Once they are verified, SpringRole writes them to the blockchain. Claims related to educational and employment history will be verified by the respective organisations and can often be resolved with ‘True’ or ‘False’ attestation.
“Having said that, verifying the claim of being well-versed in a particular skillset is often harder. Other platforms have increasingly been incorporating tests and challenges to provide proficiency. While this does make it more objective, these exams can be gamed and must be maintained and standardised by a central authority. They also suffer from narrow scope — they are only able to capture the facets of skillsets that are objective in nature. Moreover, skillsets are not an exact science and there are varying degrees of proficiency in particular skillsets,” Mandaville elaborated.
“We tackle this problem by crowdsourcing a user’s reputation on a particular skill. People in the user’s network endorse his/her proficiency in a skill independently or at the user’s request. The number of people endorsing it and their individual scores in the particular skill that they are endorsing lets us compute a score for each user per skill and is a way to assess the skill level of a person,” he added.
The SpringRole will have two key facets: one, crowdcourcing the user’s reputation in a particular skill via endorsements, and two, verifying and validating your professional details via organisational attestations.
How it works
When you sign up on SpringRole, you import or add your profile to the platform. This generally includes your work experience, educational experience and your skill sets. Each of these claims once listed on the platform is verified by the concerned people or organizations.
For work experience and educational qualifications, the universities and companies concerned verify details and attest the claim with the protocol on the blockchain. This is a one-time verification and can be used whenever needed.
On SpringRole, your skill reputation is crowdsourced and depends on the people who endorse you on your skillsets. Skill endorsements are weighted according to the skill level of the person endorsing you and endorsements need to be accepted by the sender and the receiver before it counts.
Whenever people in your network earn rewards on SpringRole, you also gain a percentage of it along with the other users and organisations who have attested for that person.
SpringRole Tokens (SRT)
The startup incentivises attesters (it can be a person, companies, universities, course provider or examination provider) with SpringRole Tokens for referring somebody/company, or based on the weight of endorsements. Each action in linked to SRT and can be used for various transactions on the platform. The tokens will be deposited in the attesters’ blockchain wallet.
Incubated and seed-funded by US-based blockchain incubator ‘Science‘, SpringRole has also raised money from investors, including Bloomberg Beta and high-profile angels like Gil Penchina and Mike Jones.
But isn’t easy for sites like LinkedIn, which have billions of dollars in cash, to easily integrate blockchain into its platform and cannibalise your business?
“Of course, LinkedIn can do it, but they will not. Their revenues come mainly from recruiting and that’s their bread and butter, so it isn’t logical for them to focus on blockchain-based verifications. More importantly, of late LinkedIn has been focussing on newsfeed rather than user profiles. So they don’t seem to be adopting blockchain in the near future. If they do it, then it is very good for the world, and we can think of ways to work to with them,” Mandaville concluded.
According to Nitin Sharma, Advisor to SpringRole and a few other blockchain ventures, and ex-founding Principal at Lightbox Ventures, recruitment and verification are giant, broken markets that can naturally benefit from key facets of blockchain — reliability and immutability of the data, decentralisation and new ways of incentivising participants.
“Both credentials and attestations can mean so much more when cryptographically verified and backed by clever, weightage algorithms. That’s why Springrole is pursuing a very interesting problem,” Sharma said.