Traity, an alumni of Europe’s Seedcamp and Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, has big ambitions. It wants to become the standard for online reputation, an opportunity surely missed by eBay’s reluctance to make its reputation scores transportable back in the Dot Com days. Today the Spain, Madrid-based company is announcing a $4.7 million series A round led by Active Venture Partners to help fuel that mission.
Having already amassed 4.5 million users with an early Facebook-led version of the service, Traity’s attempting to solve the problem whereby we are increasingly doing more transactions with strangers online, “but it is not always easy to know whether we can trust them,” says co-founder and CEO Juan Cartagena.
This trend is being led in particular by the rise in so-called collaborative consumption (or sharing economy) startups; marketplaces that have at their heart transacting with strangers. Though, of course, any kind of transaction, such as financial services, relies on trust, which in turn is fuelled by some definition of reputation.
What we have understood is that we cannot simply give ‘numbers’ to people. We have to appreciate people’s reputation in context.
“Identity” is the most straightforward, providing a way to prove you are who you say you are. To do this Traity employs social network verification (i.e. linking and varifying your Facebook and other social networking accounts), mobile phone verification, and soon passport verification and asking users to record a 5 second video introducing themselves.
“Behaviour”, on the other hand, is a lot more subjective. Here, Cartagena tells me, Traity is trying to establish what kind of person you are. It does this by looking at your “social metrics”, such as who follows you on Twitter, creating a sort of “page rank” for people. For example, if you were found having 5,000 fake Twitter followers, something is potentially up.
A second part to this is what your social networks say about you and consists of looking at your interests and what you are knowledgeable in. The idea is to present some of this information on your Traity profile and let it be one element that is interpreted by others as part of evaluating your reputation, much in the way reputation is weighed up offline.
Lastly, “endorsement” consists of pulling in your reviews on marketplaces such as eBay or Airbnb, but also working with various institutions who can also provide endorsements. This won’t even need to be purely online. In one example Cartagena cites, a person who is a blood donor could be endorsed by the blood bank they donated to. Endorsements also include those from friends and colleagues, which is how I understand Traity got to millions of registrations. Here think LinkedIn references but without the ability to screen negative reviews.
However, I put it to Cartagena that, while I’m a fan of Traity’s nuanced and aggregated approach to online reputation, it is a big ask for users to trust a startup (or any company) with so much data. Transparency is key here, he says, specifically the way the service will present that data and, more importantly, process it.
Again, he was keen to emphasise that Traity isn’t about giving everyone a reputation score — unlike black box credit scores, for example — but presenting information relating to a person’s reputation in an open and transportable way so that others can decide for themselves.
“What we have understood is that we cannot simply give ‘numbers’ to people,” he says. “We have to appreciate people’s reputation in context, and we are subjective animals who understand the reputation of different people differently.”
This leads to perhaps an even bigger challenge: persuading service providers to adopt Traity’s API so that it can truly become a standard. This is particularly important so that a user’s reputation on any third-party marketplace can feed back into their Traity profile. Otherwise what’s the incentive to use the service?
“That’s definitely the toughest part of what we’re trying to achieve, no doubt about it,” concedes Cartagena. For example, he doesn’t think major reputation-based services like eBay or Airbnb will initially want to integrate with Traity because “reputation is their asset”, although Oauth and various other ‘hacks’ offer a way around this.
Instead, the company is targeting collaborative consumption startups with smaller marketshare who can’t necessarily compete in the trust stakes by going it alone but who, in aggregate and by using a service like Traity, can punch above their weight.
Along with Active Venture Partners, others participating in Traity’s series A round are Horizons Ventures, KRW Schindler Private Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Lanta Digital Ventures, 500 Startups, Lisa Gansky, Juan Lopez-Valcarcel, Matthew Bothner, and Dalibor Siroky.