Decentralization is rapidly emerging as the key pillar of today’s sharing economy. Over time, third-party intermediaries are seen as unnecessary bottlenecks, impeding free enterprise and collaborative engagement. For Christopher David, founder and CEO of the new ride-sharing mobile app Arcade City, fostering a model that promotes the free exchange of goods and services is essential to the future of business and commerce.
David’s innovation comes at a time when a new sharing economy infrastructure is being developed worldwide, fueling a transformative new normal for how people live, work and play. This revolution, both seismic and disruptive in its implications, dovetails off a movement ignited by the bestselling book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, a bestseller by Rachel Botsman. It espouses ideas of economic efficiencies, shared values, and community connection. Moreover, it suggests that concepts like Arcade City, once they take hold, will revolutionize the economic and social fabric that undergirds our universal quest for freedom.
So what exactly is Arcade City?
Arcade City is a ride-sharing startup, arguably aiming for the same space as Uber and Lyft. But according to David, his startup extends beyond this set-up, offering drivers the type of decentralized autonomy and freedom that they’re unlikely to find elsewhere. In turn, riders are given the opportunity to review driver profiles in advance, sort of “Tinder” style, and select the ones they prefer. Drivers have the liberty to determine their own rates using a ‘pay what you think is fair’ model and can offer additional services like roadside assistance, package pickup or even grocery store deliveries.
Arcade City’s mobile app launched this month on the Apple and Android app stores to much acclaim. And there has already been a tsunami of interest with over 1,000 rides facilitated in hundreds of cities across 27 states, as well as in Australia (Mexico, Canada, and Sweden are commencing this spring).
Launched in the wake of massive rate cuts by Uber and Lyft that adversely impacted driver pay, Arcade City quickly attracted a mother lode of current or former drivers from these two companies. Now David and his bootstrapped team are in full throttle, working to keep up with demand while building a foundation for the future.
David’s path and an Ethereum moment
BTCMANAGER had a chance to talk directly with Christopher David by phone from his home base of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Thoughtful, open and passionate in his words, David started by explaining how it all got started.
“I’d been an Uber driver the second half of last year, on and off for four months, and started toying and kicking around an idea in my head while driving. I kept wondering whether it was possible to provide a similar type of service on the blockchain and decentralize it.”
David has been involved with bitcoin since 2012 or so and even had tried to launch a startup featuring the cryptocurrency in 2014. “It didn’t work out. I got all caught up with the Uber situation as they were under threat by regulators in my adopted hometown of Portsmouth. I wanted to ensure that the city remained a haven for free consumer choice, which was being threatened the end of last year as well as now. So it was kind of a natural fit for me to throw myself into Arcade City and explore ways of using technology to fuel my activism desires.”
Amid his advocacy efforts, David noticed that Uber had been busy lobbying Congress in a way that he felt limited consumer choice. Seeing Uber’s gameplan he opted to form a competitor.
“We soft-launched Arcade City this past New Year’s Eve just to test out some basic concepts and had a very favorable response. It started with a very simple app that could connect riders and drivers so we could just see how it worked. As the very basic idea began to take off massively, I started to get a bit even more tuned in to what is happening nationally and globally with Uber drivers and saw an opportunity to address that.”
With any good tech innovation, David recognizes that there needs to be a solid infrastructure in place for Arcade City to drive it. In his case, he wanted a system that aligned with his desire for a member driven decentralized model. This is where Ethereum, the blockchain app platform and global infrastructure, immediately jumped out at him. The company has begun integrating its service with blockchain technology using Ethereum’s decentralized application platform. Ultimately it endeavors to use Ethereum to issue ‘crypto-equity’ to put these drivers in the proverbial drivers seat to own upwards of 100% of Arcade City by 2020.
“We’ve begun doing the kind of analysis planning needed to develop road maps for Ethereum. Our integration will begin in the spring and we are excited that the Ethereum people are reaching out to support us and help us get acquainted with their ecosystem.”
David points out that an identity system for verifying who is participating in the Arcade City community, whether drivers or consumers, will be largely predicated on the blockchain. Ethereum’s reputation system will play a key role in managing what George calls “a network of smart contracts’ with rules governing our rating, reputations, and tier levels. Here he notes that algorithms will be encoded into the systems so that key information is transparent and people can see for themselves what the rules of engagement are.
David believes strongly in the importance of getting this identity component exquisitely correct to ensure the safety of Arcade’s riders. “We have discussed integrating with Blockstack and Onename, two companies that are heavily involved in blockchain identity, but haven’t made any final decisions. We do want to get this going soon and yet we’re not sure as to whether it makes sense to wait for the Ethereum version of this. We’re still piecing things together and matching everything up with what our timelines are.”
When asked about Arcade City’s payment model, David says that they’re still in the planning stages of that. “We know at some point we are going to move to some sort of digital tokenization system. It was easy for us to already name it: Arcade Token. Just like when you go into a traditional arcade, the first thing you have to do is to purchase token to play the game.”
The current iteration of Arcade has different rider tiers which David calls “classes.” At present, according to David, anyone can sign up as a driver, offering what he calls “friend” or “peer-to-peer” rides where there is an existing relationship between rider and driver. And as for those random situations, a person can elect to ride at their own risk.
For drivers who currently want access credit card payments through the app right, they can choose to be upgraded to “Arcade Level” by submitting proof of a background check, commercial insurance, and a video interview. “We are still working out the full details of the approval process.”
Advancing down the highway of decentralization
With respect to Arcade City’s collaborative efforts with Ethereum in their quest for a decentralized model, David is thoughtful in his perspectives. He is under no false illusions about rapid progress, pointing out that progress is largely contingent on funding. He feels the same about regulatory concerns which he believes are currently handled best by decentralizing those decisions to the level of both the rider and the driver so they can do what makes sense to them.
David’s grand vision is to create a marketplace that addresses the needs of people while allowing the market to evolve naturally. He is particularly enamored with the idea of pushing all choices and accountability out to the driver. While all of the pieces for this are far from being in place, he endeavors to make steady progress toward the complete decentralization of Arcade City on the blockchain by the year 2020 at the latest. “We’ll be removing ourselves from the picture as any sort of centralized intermediary. By decentralizing decisions, Arcade City frees the driver to be a creative entrepreneur while providing the consumer with control over their entire experience.”
In the end says David, what will distinguish Arcade City from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft is its ability to offer a marketplace specializing in real world logistics that are not just limited to ride sharing.
“I can envision a time when, whether it be fixing a flat tire or dealing with an emergency situation, there is always someone right around the corner to help. Arcade City would function as this omnipresent network of people, with the benefit of the blockchain as the catalyst for logistical coordination. There is certainly lots of interest now in creating an alternative to the current Uber model and we see the possibilities, the potential, to do that in a big way.”