Arcade City has been touted as the new decentralized Ethereum-based ridesharing program that will abolish centralized ridesharing corporations like Uber and Lyft. The new ridesharing project has been gaining traction among riders and drivers in Austin, TX, thanks to the Arcade City Facebook group. After its success in Austin through Facebook, Christopher David, Founder and former CEO of Arcade City started promoting an Ethereum-based decentralized ridesharing model.
Christopher David told ETHNews in an interview in August, “We have our reasons for drawing on the best of both worlds. We didn’t want to just throw up an Ethereum ridesharing Dapp to Github that no one would actually use. We decided to start by answering the burning issues facing today’s rideshare drivers, which we were able to quickly address by relying on social media and more traditional technologies, rapidly iterating to develop a model that works. Our Austin push taught us valuable lessons about how to structure our model going forward, for example- the power of community and group-forming networks. Now, we’re integrating those lessons into our app, building out functionality on the Ethereum blockchain- piece by piece- until we have a totally decentralized marketplace—and with millions of users.”
Christopher David’s idea and model quickly caught on and spread through Ethereum hopefuls like wildfire. Applying Ethereum into the very understood and popular ecosystem of ridesharing could potentially catapult the technology into a larger pool of adoption. Attaining mainstream acceptance would be a monumental step forward for Ethereum. However, there was a lot of concern within the Ethereum community about the governance and viability of this particular ridesharing model. Could a blockchain-based ridesharing program even be feasible or end user-friendly—especially when Ethereum is still in such an early stage of development? Aside from the very pointed questions of real-working mechanics, there were a few people concerned with the reputation of Christopher David himself as the project’s CEO. With his excitement over the project, Christopher David clearly holds big ideas of decentralization and disrupting traditional centralized governance methods of large corporations. However, simply sharing this ideology with others in the Ethereum industry, wasn’t enough for people to adopt Arcade City as a viable concept.
As questions of Christopher David’s authenticity and culpability over his past ventures mounted over time, he took a step back from holding one of the multisig keys to the funds of the Arcade City crowdsale and handed it over to someone with more Ethereum-related experience. Not soon after, Christopher David decided to step away from his CEO position, or as he aptly has titled it “Mayor”, and handed the governance title to Ethereum community member, Bernd Lapp. With this sudden change of administration, it’s clear that Bernd Lapp has quite the adjustment ahead of him.
ETHNews: Welcome to Arcade City. Has it been a challenge becoming the new ‘Mayor’?
Bernd Lapp: I had just started a few days before as their first advisory board member and was looking at a lot of the topics with an outside view, and suddenly I was asked to jump right into operations. Overall it was a challenge, but thanks to the great team that has already been working hard on many topics, I was able to quickly focus on a few things that were in my opinion, the most important. For example, the ongoing token sale, and clarifying the legal situation of the whole project.
E: Have you received any negative feedback from taking on this new project?
BL: Actually, the negative feedback was more on me becoming a member of the advisory board. When I took over the project from Chris I actually received a lot of positive feedback and saw that the crowdsale ended up having an upward trend. Although, that could be wishful thinking.
E: How has it been filling Christopher David’s seat?
BL: I am a very different type of person than Chris. He is great in creating a vision and getting people excited for that vision. My motivation comes from solving problems and getting things done. The focus I have is in business development, which starts by building the product. Therefore, I think the timing for this change was helpful because now the vision that Chris created will get built.
E: How much of this ridesharing app will actually be built on the blockchain?
BL: Overall, we want to overcome a lot of the issues that Uber and Lyft and most other centralized systems have. Which is: They dictate how the business has to be run and enforce their pricing on the drivers and riders. Using blockchain technology, we are solely the communication service for the driver and rider and allow them to have a true peer-to-peer business. We don’t interfere in that part. Blockchain allows us to use encrypted communication channels, like Ethereum’s Whisper, between driver and rider, which allows for direct payment by using the token and the private and public keys. Even the price is negotiated between driver and rider, but that is actually nothing we need the blockchain for.
E: There’s been a lot of concern that building an app on the blockchain is not viable or end-user friendly. What’s your opinion on that? Do you feel that a ridesharing app could feasibly work on the blockchain?
BL: Yes, the challenge will be to integrate blockchain tech without compromising the user experience. Since we will have a lot of non-crypto users using the service, we will face problems that maybe only a few other blockchain projects have been facing. Most of the successful blockchain products out there today are wallets or products building the core protocol ecosystem. We would love to get feedback from startups that already had problems in using blockchain tech with end-users and hear what problems they face and how they overcame them. The same goes the other way. We are open to having others participate in our challenges and how they think they can, best, be solved. Take the key storage as an example: Definitely, I think that private keys need to be stored on the device itself. On the other side, I think about how often you lose or forget your password. If you don’t understand that you are the only one responsible, it will create a lot of unsatisfied customers. Another part is, how long will the payment process take once the rider has come to his destination? I can almost see drivers and riders sitting in the car waiting for ten minutes to have the transaction signed by enough miners, so that needs to be handled differently and is more of a matter of risk assessment. We will come up with solutions for these problems and others can then, probably, use our solution or find better ones that we can implement.
E: Are you still going to maintain the Arcade City Facebook group or will that dissolve altogether?
BL: Since we are creating a product for the sharing economy, which is truly peer-to-peer, it is essential to have a community that uses and promotes the service. Luckily, we have a great community that we call the “Swarm“. So the Facebook group will be essential in making more people aware of the app. But hopefully, our product has a better user experience than booking your ride through Facebook. And don’t forget Facebook is centralized. They could shut down the group anytime, for whatever reason. Which is also why we want to have a decentralized product.
E: How has the crowdsale been going? Has it been difficult to raise funds due to the past negative feedback?
BL: If you compare it to other recent token crowdsales, yes it was difficult, and I think mainly because the communication was focused too much on the vision and less on the tangibility of the product. Looking at other crowdsales, I guess some people were expecting it to be sold out in half an hour like those other projects did. But if you compare it to how much startups usually receive through a crowdsale, it is a success. We have a budget right now that allows us to create the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and even more. We were not planning on competing with Uber and Lyft as far as the funding goes, but still, that doesn’t mean we cannot have a great product out there. And the crowdsale is not over yet, people can still buy the token.
We now have a ShapeShift integration that allows users to buy ARC tokens with any cryptocurrency that ShapShift can turn into Ether. We, therefore, created the Arcade City Wallet, so that anyone can see their token right away. The next step is to get Bittrex or Poloniex or any other exchanges to list the token.
E: Where do you see Arcade City in the next year?
BL: 2017 will be a challenging year. We will have an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in the market, and our goal is to have this running flawlessly before we add more features to it. In addition, we need to have a good marketing plan in place to get recognized and used. That includes an easy onboarding process for new customers. Right now, we have a budget available based on the crowdsale that will take us through August of next year. The main focus of the budget is on developing the product (including a lot of testing and market research) and viral marketing to get the product into the consumers’ hands. Fortunately, we already have a very efficient and active Facebook group and get interest from all over the world to use the product. However, it still needs drivers and riders to make it work.
With the new change of regime, it would be prudent to continue to watch Arcade City’s development over the course of the next year.