Before discussing Helbiz itself, it is worth discussing the specific niche that its project team is looking to break into – the sharing economy. As per Investopedia’s own definition, the sharing economy is simply any platform where assets are shared between individuals, usually for a fee and usually involving the internet.
Leading examples of sharing economy platforms are Uber, AirBnB and SnapGoods. Whilst these platforms can correctly be described as having a P2P client-service model, they are also managed by a central authority and intermediary which tends to take a sizeable cut.
By migrating this kind of management to the blockchain and into the realm of smart contracts, Helbiz is seeking to create a full-bred P2P solution specifically aimed at transport – cars, bikes and even private jets are to form the object of a business model that is hoping to offer an Uber-like service with reduced costs.
It should be noted, however, that, unlike the Uber model, it is the user himself who takes charge of the vehicle with the owner trusting his assets to both the user and the blockchain.
The white-paper outlines the implementation of a generic platform – the Helbiz Mobility System – upon which specific sharing economy transportation services can operate. This is another departure from the Uber analogy. In other words, this is a platform that has also been conceived for the creation of P2P transportation services.
At the same time, the project team will also be creating its own P2P car sharing business – to be known simply as Helbiz – on top of the Helbiz Mobility System, and it will be the first business to do so.
To put things another way, whilst the project is looking to create a P2P car sharing business model, it is also looking to offer up a more generic platform that will allow anyone to build their own transportation sharing models that may not necessarily carry the Helbiz brand.
And whilst these third-parties may not be branded as Helbiz, they will nonetheless be required to transact in Helbiz Coin, the platform’s native token and which underpins what should be an entire economy built on top of HMS.
In summary, it is the following three elements which underpin the entire business model:
Helbiz Mobility System (HMS): Platform that allows anyone to construct and establish a sharing transportation business through use of API tools that facilitate the development of third-party dApps.
Helbiz Coin (Symbol HBZ): the HMS platform currency.
Helbiz: A car sharing business, the first business to be built on top of the HMS platform.
We have already remarked that the ‘Blockchain Uber’ analogy used for Helbiz is not apt because when owners rent their cars to users, it is users themselves who do the driving. This raises the question of how a user can gain access to a vehicle if the rental is managed by smart-contracts. In other words, how does the user get access to the keys?
The answer, according to the project team, is cryptographic-based user authentication which is tied to his or her smartphone and which communicates with a device that is integrated into the vehicle itself which then grants entry when payment is made and user authentication is confirmed.
The white-paper makes no specific mention of the details of what that device may be and how it will interact with vehicle types from different manufacturers. Speaking with the project team, there was acknowledgement that this aspect of the proposition needs more detail.
With a token circulation of 1 billion if the project team’s $50m hard-cap objective is achieved, the HBZ token will need mass adoption to take on fundamental value which will be determined specifically by its ability to achieve mass adoption.
By offering up the ability for users to monetise their platform usage data to external parties, the model has created an incentive mechanism that will likely attract a higher number of users than otherwise might be the case – a good start. 25% of tokens minted are also being reserved to attract users to the platform.
What seems to lend the project specific advantage over other, similar concepts, however, is the Helbiz Mobility System – i.e. the ability for the platform to act as a white-label platform for new businesses that will likely be locally and regionally focused.
The headline team lists serial entrepreneurs, strategic advisors, marketers and investors, all of which are accompanied by LinkedIn profiles – which can be consulted from the website, not the white-paper.
Only two of the project heads appear to have a solid technical background. Whereas ICOs often struggle to list skillsets outside the field of engineering, this project seems to struggle in the other direction.
With 40% of its budget being handed over to development, however, finding the right technical experience to build the project should not be an issue if the team achieves hard-cap (65000 ETH at the time of writing). The project is Singapore-based and should be able to enjoy the talent on offer in what has become South East Asia’s leading blockchain hub.
When we first looked at the Helbiz proposition, its Telegram following sat at around 12k. Three days later, when we returned to talk once more with the project team, that figure had risen to just over 24k.
This almost meteoric rise in Hebliz Telegram numbers was inspired by an Airdrop incentive strategy. With a Twitter following surpassing 20k on the back of less than fifty tweets, and Facebook showing a similar return for a limited number of posts, there is evidence of a marketing-savvy team with a sizeable budget working on the back-end to bring attention to this project. A range of slick marketing videos add to the general impression.
This is not a project that is going to struggle to get its message out there. Generally, a project team’s ambition – and confidence – can be measured against its willingness to put up sizeable capital for its marketing. And if that is the yardstick, this aspect of the project is unlikely to qualify as anything like its weakest – particularly given its proactive outreach to the US, Chinese, South Korean, Spanish and Italian language markets.
There are plenty of signs for a strong proposition here: aggressive marketing and a white-label business model that should be able to adapt to a large array of types transportation, and which also incorporates user incentives and early partnership signatures.
However, our own feeling from our reading of the white-paper is that, if this project succeeds, it will be down to something more fundamental.
If insurance-brokers streamline and adapt their traditional pricing mechanisms to accommodate short-term transport hire in a price-competitive manner, and if Helbiz do crack the nut on how to grant access to private assets (cars, bikes, yachts – details are still lacking) in a cryptographically secure manner, then traditional transport ownership could find itself giving way to a culture of high-frequency short-term hire, particularly in areas of high urban density.