As soon as we enter into any commodity-money relations, we cease to be human beings and become payers: FSFH, VAT and other abbreviations enter the arena, forcing us to share earnings with the powerful. A tempting idea occurred to the Belarusian: to get out from under the yoke of commodity-money relations, which were regulated by the state from head to toe, and go back to barter exchange. Thanks to the global web, this exchange can become equally global. The application was launched three weeks ago, but about 7,000 users have already downloaded it. Most of them exchange services without using money. On utopia in a single corner of cyber reality and how to monetize it – in the material.
In 2000, Pavel Sakurets left Belarus for the United States. Then he was 19, now – 37. For the time spent in a foreign land, he completely assimilated: he says “we”, meaning the States, inserts English words where he cannot remember the Russians, and considers the Belarusian IT people to be strange .
Pavel has 4 daughters, 10 startups, and all of different ages. Until now, he has been building a business around real estate and securities, but 1.5 years ago he came up with an idea from a completely different sphere. The entrepreneur spent more than $ 100 thousand on it and showed it to the world three weeks ago.
How it works
The idea is simple: suppose you like to walk, but you can’t stand cooking. You place an ad in the “I offer” section: “Take a walk with your dog through the most beautiful parks of the city”. And then in the “I need” section you are looking for a person who made a pet, but would prefer to conjure borscht over a pan in securely closed four walls. The exchange of services can occur without the participation of money. But in order to simplify it, the internal “currency” – “t” is introduced in the application.
“T” – conditional value. It is tied to time, but equates to money in the proportion of 1t = $ 1. Therefore, if you charge 10t for your service, and your exchange partner – 15t for cooking dinner, you will have to pay 5t ($ 5) for this transaction to take place. At the same time, the service will take 1t for its services (it hasn’t been done completely without taxes).
As soon as users transfer their relationship to financial, the service is no longer free and requires $ 1 for each transaction. This kind of social network for sharing time is called Swap Your Time. The project has a websiteand an application for mobile devices.
“This is somewhat reminiscent of the movie In time, ” says Pavel, “ where instead of money for work, people were given time to live. However, in the picture this idea is passed through the filter of social inequality: the rich have at their disposal hundreds of years of immortality, and the poor are forced every day to fight for tomorrow for them. In general, this is a metaphor of our objective reality, in which time is easily converted into money and vice versa.
Why would this strange startup conquer the world? According to the interlocutor, his advantage over ordinary services for the exchange of services is that the time on the account is not taxed. At the same time, it can be exchanged for any services, products and even money. The service promises to buy “t” from its users at a price that would figure during the return transaction: 1t = $ 1. The course is valid in both directions.
“We consulted with lawyers, and they competently stated to us that, according to American laws, it is impossible to force users to pay tax from the“ time ”that people exchange within our service, ” the entrepreneur clarifies. –So far, the US has not figured out how to tax us. They will probably come up with someday, but this should be a new law, it should be signed in parliament, it will have to pass the House of Representatives, and so on – the whole routine will take about five years. And barter in exchange will always remain inviolable: if the money does not participate in the transaction, then nothing and no one needs to pay. And imagine what the prospects for barter are the global web: if before people could only change with their neighbors, now millions of people can participate in this process.
As in many services, the transaction between users of Swap Your Time is not legally executed. The guarantor is the rating, which can be lowered in case the service is not performed or rendered poorly.
“Of course, if we are talking about transactions worth tens of thousands of dollars, it may make sense to sign a paper or cryptocontract, ” says the author of the idea. – But this can be done outside the service. Our task is to help the parties find each other and exchange agreement. While the service works with small transactions, no one is worried about this.
Development and distribution of roles
Pavel is far from developing web applications, so he invested only an idea and his own money in a startup. Now he collects feedback among users so that the service works better. The code was written by hired employees. Interestingly, there are no Belarusians among them.
“ At first, the idea was to involve former compatriots in the development, but I absolutely did not like to negotiate with them, ” the entrepreneur notes. – They are some strange. In our US, a person either gets down to business or refuses it, and Belarusian IT specialists say “I will think it over”, “I will take it in two weeks.” At least, I got the guys slow and hard to make decisions. Instead of quickly making, they took time to think and did not give clear answers. I do not work with such people. I am ready to pay more for the service if I really get it, and exactly when I need it. My partner said that he would attract his development team, and I didn’t do it anymore.
Problems and running in
The program was released in the App Store and Google Play about three weeks ago. Since then, it has downloaded more than 7,000 people. The main role in the promotion was played by advertising in the stores of mobile applications, however, word of mouth also helped. Every day Swap Your Time has several hundred new users.
Nevertheless, there are enough nuances. In the current version of the program, it is quite difficult to make a natural exchange: they just show you a list of offers with basic navigation through them. If you really want to conduct a transaction without the participation of money, then you have to offer your services to everyone in a row before you find the person concerned. In general, we would not be surprised if the exchange between users is still sluggish.
Perhaps when the number of users exceeds the critical mass, the application will have a filter system that will show a person only selected categories of services from those who are interested in the services that he provides (a sort of Tinder for fans to change).
Another problem is that the service requires constant work of moderators.
– Every day we block users who offer illegal services. Most often it is a prostitute. No matter how sad it may sound, sex is the most service offered through our app. Someone writes about him openly, someone – veiled: “I will do anything,” “I will fulfill any whim” and places a frank photo. Or the girl writes: “Hungry?”, And after carefully reading her “listing”, you understand that she offers no food at all. Sometimes it seems to me that our startup should not be called Swap Your Time, but Swap Your Liquid (“Exchange Fluids”) , Paul jokes.
Many offers look like they were left by very young people in an attempt to earn their first money: “I will teach you to bake bread”, “I will teach you to prepare Uzbek pilaf”, “I will edit your photos” … However, within three weeks the backbone formed in the application popular services for all occasions: construction and repair, housework, courier services, programmer, designer. Will Swap Your Time become a self-sufficient service exchange service? Time will tell.
– Now we have “thrown out” a startup on Kickstarter simply because for us it is free advertising. From there, too, come new users. But when their number exceeds 10,000, we will begin a serious search for investors. I still do not like everything: you need to clean the bugs, invest more money in the application so that it works better. In addition, a startup needs constant moderation. And later, when the sales turnover of services grows, a good team of IT specialists will be needed to prevent cybercrime. In general, we have something to work on and there is something to invest in, – the businessman admits.