SpringRole is a professional networking site using blockchain to reward users for actions which improve its data set – e.g. endorsing another user, or confirming that user has the employment history he or she claims to have.
The obvious comparison here is with LinkedIn, the enormously powerful encumbent in the professional networking market, and it is a comparison SpringRole is keen to make.
Under the current model, a social network’s value “is derived from the individuals that use the network.” Those users lend their value, and without them “the platform cannot thrive.” The service will normally be free to users, with revenue coming from advertising or selling of user data. The better data the platform has, the more money it will make. However, as the team behind SpringRole points out, this money does not go to the users.
The SpringRole offering aims instead to incentivise all stakeholders. Users and attesters – those who certify or witness a claim – are incentivised with the SPRING token, while recruiters and employers benefit from more accurate and trusted candidate data. Currently employing a candidate requires lengthy and expensive background checks. With the SpringRole platform users are able to take their background checks with them, secured to the blockchain.
Concept and White Paper
SpringRole’s platform is a way of putting reputation on the blockchain. Central to this is the concept of “attestations”.
According to the white-paper, under the current system 53% of CVs or resumes contain factual inaccuracies. Once a potential candidate has made a claim about his or her experience or skills, these claims must be verified, or attested to, which can be expensive. For example, if a candidate says she has a degree from a particular university, that university will be asked to confirm if that is true, which could take weeks.
In an increasingly globalised job market, credentials and qualifications may be easily forged, making recruitment even more problematic.
Users of the Spring platform will have three parts their profiles, education, work experience and skills, each of which will be recorded to blockchain. Once an educational achievement or piece of employment history has been verified it need never be verified again. The verifications will travel with the employee, rather than have to be recreated with each new employer.
There are two major kinds of attestations.
Professional details: these are often Yes/No propositions along the lines of, “Did candidate x go to y university between particular dates?” or “did she work at your company in this particular role?”
Skills: these are attested to by colleagues and co-workers. Most current reputation recommendations are “flat”, that is, they do not take into account the skill of the person making the recommendation. As SpringRole put it, “the impact of Alice’s attestation that Bob possesses a given skill should be based on the reputation and skill level of Alice for that skill.”
To avoid spam recommendations which are irrelevant or unwanted, in the Spring network there is a small charge to make an endorsement, and the weight of the endorser’s expertise is taken into account.
Attestors in the SpringRole ecosystem may be people, companies, educational establishments, both traditional and online, or exam providers. The white-paper includes a wealth of examples of how the system works in practice and under different circumstances, for instance for freelancers.
SpringRole has also taken time to identify the potential liabilities and downsides of the scheme. It notes the scaling limitations of the Ethereum blockchain and says development there will be “closely monitored”. Though it has worked hard to engineer a fraud-resistant platform, “any system that relies on the network effect and on people endorsing each other is susceptible to fraud.”
The platform also uses Civic for identity verification, and notes that this may lead to “bugs and other challenges” as Civic “is still in its early days.”
SpringRole has provided its roadmap for 2018 with future plans expected by the end of the year.
Already this year the company has released the option to make a public profile as well as the attestation framework and endorsement system. This quarter sees the release of the directory listing, search functions and job board. Later this year the freelancer network should be up too.
SpringRole was founded by Kartik Mandaville in 2014 while he was a still a graduate student in computer science at Carnegie Mellon university. The business is already profitable, “with a growing user base and six figures in annual revenue.” Working within the recruitment industry has given the team an understanding of the space and its opportunities.
There would be few concerns regarding the level of technical knowledge and expertise within the core team. Mandaville is the senior technical advisor at Science-Inc, Handstand and Lenny, and has a wealth of experience in computer science and software engineering.
Product manager Shivhari Shankar is both software engineer and expert in recruitment while Director of Engineering Vinay Agarwal also comes with a strong pedigree. They describe themselves as “long-term holders of cryptocurrencies” and in 2011 collaborated on the creation of a bitcoin exchange.
As can often be the case with ICOs, though the technical expertise feels undeniable, the project may perhaps lack marketing and sales specialists with real power. For an offering which relies so heavily on network effects for its success, some marketing heft at the top would have been welcome.
However, SpringRole has managed to bring in an impressive roster of advisors who should be able to fill any holes in team expertise. Legendary angel investor Mike Jones is onboard, as is Greg Gilman, co-founder of the Science venture fund.
Token and Token Value
There are several ways that users may earn SPRING tokens. Any referrals of new users, be they individuals or companies, will be rewarded, providing the referral invitation is accepted and the new account performs a certain number of transactions. Endorsing another user is rewarded with SPRING, as are validations and attestations by educational establishments or employers.
Within the SPRING ecosystem these tokens can then be used to endorse someone or attest to their skill, or to gain access to the profiles of now attested and trustworthy employee profiles.
10 billion SPRING tokens will be created with 25.5% available for purchase, just larger than the share for the team and its founders.
The largest use of the tokens will be for market development. The first 20% of these tokens will be released on network launch, with the next 20% coming exactly one year later. Distribution of the remaining 60% will spread over the following year and issued monthly.
Team and founder tokens are vested for four years. 20% are available on launch, 20% the following year, and the remaining 60% distributed over the following three years.
Advisors will receive half of their tokens at launch with the remainder made available over the next two years.
Founder Kartik Mandaville is a likeable and charismatic presence and SpringRole have wisely put him in front of as many microphones and cameras as possible.
The team have made the most of any opportunities which have come their way to spread their message, and are now receiving decent media coverage. Many other ICOs have something to learn from the way that SpringRole uses social media to build a connection to its audience while telling a simple story that people can get excited about.
There is an active Telegram channel as well as a decent level of activity on Twitter, Facebook and Medium. Though their website and marketing materials are polished and well-presented, it is the use of social media which is most encouraging. The team has done well to create a community around their company, something which will be essential if their product is to take off.
The engineering strength within the team is such that the first big question, “Can this be done, technically?” appears satisfied. The second question which comes to mind, “Can they persuade people to use the platform?” remains open. It would have been encouraging to have seen more marketing experience in the top rungs of the project, but so far seem to be doing perfectly well without it.
Overall this is a solid proposition by an experienced team who are already running a profitable company in the recruitment industry.
The idea is easy to grasp and there is a clear use case for blockchain in managing employment history and reputation. With the technical knowledge within the SpringRole ICO, getting the technology right should not be a problem.
However, the success of this ICO is almost entirely down to network effects, and at this stage in the company’s development, these are highly unpredictable. The platform will likely stand or fall on how easy it is for institutions and organisations to make attestations. With the right kind of execution, the project may just have a shot in becoming the ‘Blockchain’s LinkedIn’.