It’s fair to say that Ethereum is a pretty hot topic right now. Following on from Devcon1 in November last year, there have been a number of positive news stories and the price of Ether has risen by over 100% in the last seven days. Whilst not wanting to get too caught up in the hype around the price, and acknowledging that it is still very early days for the platform, we’re starting to see the first signs of what is possible with Ethereum. One of the most exciting projects in this space is Augur – a decentralised prediction market that utilises the wisdom of the crowd to make accurate forecasts on any subject imaginable. I spoke to Director of Marketing at Augur, Tony Sakich, to find out more…
What is your background and how did you first get involved in this space?
TS: My background was actually in music as I worked for Eminem’s local Detroit label Web Entertainment, seeing the changes in the music industry as well as the industry’s reaction during the 2000s is what ultimately led me to bitcoin and blockchain tech. I was introduced to bitcoin in 2012 and in the beginning of 2014, I was hired by BitPay to lead all of the digital marketing for the brand. In 2014 we had monumental successes and I was responsible for managing the first nationally broadcast bitcoin TV commercials, the launch of projects including Copay and Get Bits, partnering with major firms that began accepting Bitcoin (NewEgg, Warner Bros., Microsoft) and capped off the year with an innovative social media campaign surrounding the Bitcoin Bowl that ended up being the most successful social campaign in Bitcoin history. In January of last year I joined Augur, we have had an amazing journey as we raised $5+ million dollars in our crowdsale and received an amazing response from both the community and industry leaders who have helped us to grow and obtain invaluable relationships.
Augur is billed as ‘the world’s first decentralised prediction market’ – could you explain exactly how it works?
TS: My favorite thing I have been a part of with Augur is the creation of an incredible (and short) “How Augur Works” video narrated by Country singer Shooter Jennings. I would recommend that as a start:
How does the decentralised nature of Augur distinguish it from more traditional prediction markets?
TS: The most important feature is that it enables markets to be used on a global basis, increasing the amount of users as well as opening doors to those with expertise in many fields that may have not been able to participate in markets in the past. Decentralization also helps in eliminating counterparty risks, eliminating centralized servers as well as the utilizing contracts for fund storage.
Augur is built on the Ethereum blockchain. What are the benefits of this over the Bitcoin blockchain?
TS: As I am not a developer I would like to highly recommend Joey Krug’s blog post “Why Ethereum”, as it goes in depth to this subject. A basic explanation we have used is that it is simply easier to develop for, which helps all aspects of the development process.
You sold 11 million Reputation tokens in your crowdsale last year – can you explain what these are and how they will be used?
TS: Users who have REP Tokens will be the ones responsible for reporting event outcomes to the system, servicing as the decentralized oracle within Augur. We made a fantastic short animated video explaining the role of these tokens that can be seen here:
Additionally, the infographic below explains this process and we have a blog post going more in depth into Rep tokens here – augur.net/blog/what-is-reputation
There are obvious markets where Augur would work well, for example, politics and sports betting – but are there other, maybe less traditional sectors or areas where you see Augur being used?
TS: Absolutely, this is one of the areas where I find Augur has incredible potential. One example I love is that Augur could serve as a hedging mechanism for farmers against bad weather and/or yields each season. These areas will enable millions to have tools that will help them in a variety of ways throughout their business, regardless of industry or field.
In the past, prediction markets have faced regulatory issues – Intrade being one recent example of this. Do you see the current lack of regulation in this space as a help or hindrance for you?
TS: Our legal team at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman have been a tremendous help and Augur’s transparency due to it’s utilization of blockchain tech along with the use of smart contracts to eliminate the need for humans are both huge benefits to our platform. Like a few of the other topics, we have gone in depth in a previous blog and I highly recommend it to anyone interested as speaking on this at length would reiterate what was stated there – augur.net/blog/regulation-and-augur
Finally, have you got a launch date yet and what else do you have planned for the next 12 months?
TS: Since our project started we have made sure to communicate that any dates shared for milestones are estimates and this is a software project, so delays can and will happen. Joey just shared on February 5th that 53 hours of development for the frontend and 40 hours of development for the backend are needed for the beta, which means it will be released soon. We recommend everyone following our Twitter , our blog and our GitHub page for the latest updates and timelines on the project!