The start-up is presenting its platform at this week’s Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland. It displays a profile of the user that has been verified through several steps and shows a risk assessment of the user, such as verified payment methods or social media.
Bringing people together is the lifeblood of the marketplace, explained Austin O’Brion, who co-founded the start-up with Darrin Edelman and Kevin O’Brien. “If those people can’t trust one another then you don’t have much of a business, so we facilitate that in a safe way.”
“If you are a marketplace that’s buying and selling goods and you have an existing profile, you can embed the Token of Trust widget on that page. You’ll see the credentials to make an informed decision on whether or not you want to do business with that person,” said O’Brion.
Token of Trust takes details from social media accounts and cross references them for the verification. Next, it can verify payment methods. And finally, users can submit government IDs to firmly establish who they are.
A seller can see if a person has a legit payment method or check suspicious-looking social media profiles, which may set off alarm bells.
The beta program of Token of Trust is available now, and developers can request an API key to begin using the widget.
What about privacy and security ,though? Being stuck in the “data breach age,” said Edelman, the company is conscious of becoming a target itself.
“We verify and discard a lot of information. We hold the information long enough to verify it and we discard a good chunk of that information,” he said. “We encrypt anything we do keep around.” Much of this data is made anonymous on the demographic level.
The co-founders claim Token of Trust is ideal for face-to-face interactions that begin online, such as Craigslist purchases or renting an Airbnb. The idea for Token of Trust even emerged from an instance when Edelman was trying to get a sublet through Craigslist, but the person didn’t turn out to be truthful.
“How is that we have moved forward and not addressed this problem?” asks Edelman. “That gave us pause, maybe this is something that’s really hard to do.”
Sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb have experienced nasty issues with people using their services, say the co-founders, but they understand that there’s a demand from users for verification that makes interactions safer, and they believe Token of Trust is that solution.
The team is piloting the widget with some sites and in discussion with a number companies about integrating Token of Trust, but they’re remaining tight-lipped about who they are. As for the future, the start-up is now beginning to kick around the idea of securing seed funding.