IoMob.net co-founder Boyd Cohen discusses how mobility services can use open apps and blockchain to create a more innovative and collaborative effort between startups and transportation systems with Akasha Indream of MissBlockchain.Tech.
Boyd Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of IoMob isn’t just walking his talk. He could be said to multimodal rides his talk, too. On any normal Saturday, you’ll find this stalwart of the smart cities and post-capitalist entrepreneurship movements mountain biking the hills near his home in Barcelona. But this week, like many more to come this year, Boyd is on tour thousands of kilometres from home, presenting at the Travel Tech Con in San Francisco and the Blockchain Asia Summit in Taiwan.
If you ask Boyd how he got here, he’ll tell you it was a bit of a bumpy ride - but a direct route. He knew early in life that he wanted to make an impact of epic proportions on the daily experience of everyday people across the globe - an impact for good.
In his most recent book, Post-Capitalist Entrepreneurship, Boyd writes: “entrepreneurship and the 99% are starting to rise up to challenge our notions of innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism itself.” And Boyd Cohen the entrepreneur is also on the rise.
Like many in his field, he sees urban efficiency, and global sustainability, as critical issues facing human populations. And efficiency, for him, go hand in hand with decentralization and the democratization of power. But, whist a writer, he is also a man of action, not just words - and he is putting his money where his mouth is: on blockchain.
“Some of problems which we are experiencing around mobility in inner cities is that we have extractive global companies that are imposing their will on city infrastructure and mobility and of course this is not always well received,” says Boyd, speaking Uber’s suspension in Spain and other European countries like Hungary.
For Boyd, big picture thinking is about finding a balance between society, nature, and the economy. He strives to paint a picture of what such a balance might look like in Post Capitalist Entrepreneurship. During the process of writing, the many startups that he interviewed and profiled, what he called “B Corps” - Benevolent Corporations - gave him the inspiration to start one for himself - IoMob, a new blockchain technology powered technology stack that will be the new backbone of the Internet of Mobility (IoM).
The real world inspiration for IoMob was to provide a level playing field for local and independent mobility operators to compete meaningfully with platform behemoths like Uber - town by town, city by city, country by country. Whilst researching blockchain technology for his book, Boyd realised it was the means to bridge the success of small town entrepreneurs of the past to the smart city demands of the future.
In his book, Boyd writes that whilst capitalism thrives on concepts of scarcity, post-capitalism operates on concepts of abundance. Abundance of what? And the answer is: open innovation, open data, the commons, cooperative business models, and alternate currencies - like IoMob’s new digital currency, IOM.
“In Barcelona, we have a lot of emerging innovators and startups who are introducing all kinds of cool forms of alternative mobility solutions such as electric scooter sharing or even peer to peer bike sharing, for example. In Barcelona, we even have peer to peer boat sharing!”
But here’s the hitch facing these independently operating platforms, that IoMob, which recently co-hosted a well-attended private meetup for the mobility industry in Barcelona, is here to solve:
“We have 51 identified shared operators in Barcelona alone at last count. Each one of them is independently trying to build their entire technology stack and each one of them is independently trying to build their own network effect. Divided, they are conquered. They can’t hope to compete with the global extractive behemoths - platform death stars as my colleague Neal Gorenflo of Sharable calls them. But IoMob is the resistance. We give them the tool of IoMob to fight back.”
Let’s take a closer look at IoMob. Boyd describes it as a two layer blockchain architecture, supported by smart contracts, with open source protocols all the way to the end user. The technology’s ultimate goal is that the end user, the everyday commuter like you and me, will have seamless access to every legal private and public mobility service in a town or city, instantaneously, and through a single mobile app.
That means bike, car, or boat - IoMob will get you there.
“It’s a platform that even public transit authorities can access. Any legal service, and it can use IoMob as a platform to offer its services to get you there.” Boyd has a vision where regular transport users could subscribe to IoMob, much like Spotify, and get unlimited access to any local mobility services, public or private, during that month i the region they subscribe to.
“We believe that what we're trying to build as the next level internet of mobility, because it is an open platform allowing unlimited public and private services to plug into the platform and also allowing an unlimited variety of options to transport users in whatever ways you can package - what we call a dMaaS, decentralized mobility as a service.”
Whilst his vision is futuristic, it’s not come out of nowhere. For years, Cohen has been a leader in the international entrepreneurship and startup space, completing his Ph. D.in strategy and entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado in 2001 and teaching business students full time as the Deputy Director of Research and professor at EADA Business School and Universitat de Vic in Barcelona.
In Post-Capitalist Entrepreneurship, he profiles a new type of entrepreneur “one who is less focussed on extractive approaches and more interested in creating real value for users and society.” Boyd regarded it as “only a matter of time before we see a proliferation of platform coops seeking to directly compete with platform capitalist enterprise. If you can think of any extractive platform today, you can almost certainly envision how it could be challenged.”
Boyd has taken the bull by the horns and, with his team, designed IoMob as a top down solution providing an enduring technology that will have a transformative impact on the way people access transport and travel globally, as well as how mobility operators earn and work in their industries.
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