Back in June 2000, a certain Andrew Black and Edward Wray, riding on the back of what was then the dotcom boom, set up a UK-based online betting exchange that went by the name of Betfair.
The idea behind the Betfair project was simple: to give users on its platform the ability to create their own betting markets. If other users agreed to the terms of those markets, they simply clicked on a button which effectively locked the two parties into a contract – along with their funds. The entirety of those funds (minus commission for the platform itself) was then reallocated to the winner once the outcome of the event was known.
It was a use of internet technology which we now take for granted. At the time, however, the idea was so novel that the platform’s popularity grew exponentially, resulting in a business which was valued at $2.3bn just six years later, a figure which has since risen fourfold.
Of course, Betfair was one of a large number of start-ups around that time which sought to leverage the novelty of the internet to disrupt the gambling industry as it existed then. Most of them, naturally, failed – but Betfair’s success demonstrated one important point: many gamblers like to be something more than passive participants; they want to be able to create markets and dictate the terms of those markets in alignment with their own assessment of the risks vs. rewards of a betting outcome.
Fast-forward just over fifteen years. We are now firmly implanted in an internet age which is itself undergoing the metamorphosis that is arising out of blockchain technology. Arguably, the most fundamental change that the blockchain will bring is the trust-less platforms that it is inspiring – decentralised networks where no-one is in control, and it is community consensus that dictates which transactions are committed and which are omitted.
And it is precisely on the back of this trust-less concept that the meVu project team are looking to create a P2P gambling platform that will offer the kind of flexibility that Betfair is unable to accommodate.
The meVu proposition is simple: the platform gives users the ability to engage in bets with other users. Many of the bets on offer will be on traditional, pre-existing sports markets: soccer, American football, tennis, rugby, cricket and basketball, for example. Others, on the other hand, will be created by users themselves – and those markets will simply be defined by the limits of our own imaginations, and not necessarily sports-related.
Some-one may offer, for example, a market with attractive odds on, say, Donald Trump re-painting the White House red. And, let’s say for argument’s sake, that he does have it painted – but now there’s debate on the actual colour which some believe qualifies as something more like a fleshy pink.
So how do you resolve the bet? The answer is meVu’s dispute resolution mechanism which asks Oracles – holders of MVU token who submit their opinion on a controversial outcome – to make a call, and the correct answer is deemed to be that which aligns with the majority.
Naturally, this is all managed by blockchain-based smart contracts – which means that the results are not open to manipulation – unless someone went to the unlikely depths of buying up a majority of MVU token to ensure that the outcome emerged in their favour (an expensive and likely counterproductive strategy to win the bet).
Oracles whose submission align with the majority are rewarded, whilst those who were deemed to have submitted an incorrect answer are penalised. In other words, liars and manipulators will be made to pay. Smart contract-guaranteed transparency and a series of incentive mechanisms which discourage bad actors, then, form the core of this trust-less gambling eco-system.
One other important aspect of the platform is the emphasis it places on the social aspect of interactive, P2P gambling. Through their Avatars, online users will be able to chat with other users, and combine and form pools to create markets together. This is a differentiator which may just give the platform the ability to create the kind of network effect that other ICO-funded projects generally struggle with.
The platform’s native MVU token does not necessarily serve (but can do) as its medium of exchange. meVu is expected to run on the Ethereum platform and, for desktop browser users, will involve use of the MetaMask browser plug-in. Users will, then, be offered the ability to submit their bets in Ether as well.
Whether those bets are submitted in Ether or MVU, a commission is taken by the platform itself – anything from 1.5% to 3% depending on the nature of the market entered into, the medium of payment (ETH or MVU – fees are smaller for the latter) and whether or not there is a dispute at the final outcome.
Where the token’s economics get interesting, however, is in how this fee is then managed: full details can be consulted in the white-paper, but one fraction is allocated for Oracles, one fraction is sent to a pool which funds a monthly lottery, and yet another fraction is simply burned (when payment is made in MVU).
In other words, the entire ecosystem is rigged to encourage increased participation (demand) whilst reducing the amount of MVU in circulation (supply). Participation will also be encouraged through a referral program where users are rewarded (along with those they introduce) for bringing others into the network.
The project team’s two main leads are founders, Kelvin Coelho and Tim McCulloch, both Canadian by background and by education, judging from their LinkedIn accounts. Their young ages will likely raise some question marks in relation to a lack of industry experience – an observation which also applies to the rest of its headline team – but that does not appear to have discouraged a series of venture capital funds from taking an active financial interest in the project.
Coelho has a business background, McCulloch’s own background is in development, a complementary mix which is further complemented by five other figures in its headline team who cover a range of skills from blockchain and full-stack through to marketing and sports business.
The roadmap is straight-forward in most respects, covering a period of eighteen months which began back in September 2017 when the project was first conceived.
One highlight is the release of the MVP product, timed to coincide with the upcoming World Cup (soccer) in mid-June – in which early adopters of the platform will be able to test out its early functionality as well as earn rewards for correct outcome predictions.
There are two key aspects to any ICO when judging its capacity to attract the kind of mass user base to make its product a success: concept and execution.
We have pointed out before in previous reviews that execution is exceedingly difficult to judge, particularly for projects like these which, by definition, remain at a very early stage in their development, and we therefore generally refrain from doing so.
With respect to the concept itself, however, we feel that the team here has come up with something that i) makes for a perfect blockchain fit, and ii) through its personalisation by means of avatars as well as its focus on social interaction, we feel there is the foundation here for the kind of proposition that sees the blockchain era introduce its own Betfair equivalent.