The founders of Credport are busy building a startup while on a leave of absence from Boston University – and a trip to their office confirms the fact their lifestyle is somewhere between that of the student and the entrepreneur. There is plenty of paperwork piled high, and then after a detailed talk about the concept behind Credport, there is always time for a few games of FIFA.
You may well already have heard of the pair. Connor McEwan and Nam Chu Hoai have been doing the rounds recently in Berlin, taking part in Startupbootcamp, pitching at HY Berlin and even speaking at a TEDx event. They are pretty young even by startup standards – Connor is 20, Nam 21 – though that means, as genuine children of social media, they know what they are talking about when it comes to online trust.
The idea for Credport came while they were still in Boston when a friend became increasingly frustrated with a tortuous internship application process. Having to type in personal information over and over again seemed stupid; surely there should be a way to enter in all your details just one time. Then Airbnb took off, and suddenly there was a pressing need for people to know who you really are – and that you are credible.
Credport aims to do this in three ways. Firstly, it sets out to prove users are real people, by pulling select information from Facebook, or by verifying the existence of a PayPal account. Then it aggregates your history, showing your past reliability with, for example, eBay or Airbnb. Finally, it shows your connections, working on the basis that if there is a mutual friend, you are likely to be more trustworthy.
A ‘verify with Credport’ button will pop up whenever users need to prove who they are, but the platform will also help people start trading on new websites as credibility will be sourced from other places. It’s also partly immune to a problem eBay suffers from – if a user is badly rated, they can simply make a new profile. Credport users are unlikely to want to have to redo their entire social graph.
The concept is a sound one, and goes some way to explain why Nam, who is originally from Berlin, and Connor, from Ohio, are willing to put their studies on hold. What clinched it was entry to Startupbootcamp.
‘Now is the Time’
The accelerator was a valuable experience for them; working next to other teams, being able to access people in the know and sourcing a little bit of investment money. Furthermore, they won tickets to represent Berlin at the SXSW festival at Startupbootcamp’s demo day last month.
The decision to take a year out from their studies does not look a bad one from a market perspective, Connor said, due to all the new sites springing up for which Credport could be a useful tool: “It’s just the right time; there are so many marketplaces being started now. If we’re too late, everyone will already have the trust problem figured for themselves, and in 2006, a company was doing something very similar to ourselves, and it didn’t work because there wasn’t anywhere to use it.” Nam added: “If ever we’re going to do it, now is the time.”
Tamyca, the car sharing website, is the first to sign up, and Nam and Connor are hopeful more will follow soon, but as Nam said: “It’s very early days. If we were entirely consumer facing we would want our message out there, but we need product first.”
Indeed, the duo stressed that Credport is not the finished article. “We’re just two guys working on a project.” Connor added. “Twelve months from now we’ll either be more successful, or we will have proven that this idea won’t be accepted.”
When it comes to potential consumers, Credport will need to command upmost trust from users, with access to so much information. But Connor said most of what they pull from sources is at the users’ say so: “Privacy is a critical part of what we do. We don’t go out there and scrape; users have to make a conscious decision to share information, to opt in across the board. We try to only share public information. With LinkedIn, for example, we pull work and education history, and then from elsewhere your user ratings, and your social connections.”
The idea is for revenue to come from premium verifications, potentially going as far as background checks, and personal reviews, with also the possibility of partnering other sites so the accredited users will pay lower transaction fees.
But for now Credport’s quest for credibility will come in the number of partners they can find to integrate the platform onto their website.