Australian blockchain based decision-making platform Horizon State was too swamped with demand to attend Consensus in New York this year.
They’re onboarding four new clients at the moment and couldn’t spare the time off work – even though they’d already been announced as part of the 30 strong Austrade mission.
“At the end of the day our focus is to get customers on board and ensure that they have a positive experience” Chief Product Officer, Andy Ellis explained.
“Right now we are flat out with demand,” Head of Research and Innovation Dan Crane told the HS Telegram group during Friday’s AMA.
“There is a lot of interest from potential customers, as well as customers who have decided they want to utilise our system,” Ellis added.
“The sentiment within the team is at an all-time high – just ask our wives/girlfriends!”
Horizon State has been contracted to help gather ongoing community feedback for the NZ Government’s ambitious $1.5B eastern Porirua redevelopment.
The massive 25-year long project aims to revitalise the eastern Porirua area by redeveloping 2900 state houses (with a net 150 home increase) and building around 2,000 affordable KiwiBuild and market homes.
Housing New Zealand subsidiary HLC kicked off person to person interviews with local residents last weekend, recording their thoughts and preferences securely using Horizon State products on a tablet.
“It’s been our biggest opportunity to date,” Ellis said. “We are loving working with this client on such a significant project, and they are extremely happy with the uniqueness of our solution to date.”
Aussie council conducts employee vote
Another ‘hush hush’ new customer is an Australian local council who will be running an internal vote on an Enterprise Bargaining agreement, in what would be a world first.
If this is successful, the system will potentially be expanded to regularly take the pulse of voters on issues and proposals.
It’s not just good for democracy – it’s good for business.
“From a business perspective we prefer ongoing engagements,” said Chief Executive Officer Nimo Naamani.
“I’d rather have 15-20% of the people voting regularly than having 150,000 people vote in a one off election”.
It’s a big potential market, with hundreds of councils already doing community engagement via the web. “We can offer a formal vote that is transparent and auditable,” Naamani said.
Councils one of two major verticals
Councils are one of two major ‘verticals’ Horizon State is targeting at present in Australia and New Zealand – the other is cooperative/mutual organisations.
They recently onboarded an insurance company and will be running the votes for their AGM in the coming months.
Horizon State’s tech has been deployed for half a dozen clients so far, including the South Australian Government, the REMTECH awards in Malaysia and a political party in New Zealand, but the pair think it’s unlikely a state or federal government will run a blockchain based parliamentary election anytime soon.
“Governments are trying to use these systems for small scale and easy to control votes to run a pilot to see if it can be used on a larger scale,” Naamani explained.
They’re also in the process of developing a ‘Turnkey’ solution so that smaller customers who can’t afford customised solutions – such as “Surf Life Saving Clubs or body corporates or small competitions” – can design and run their own votes.
It’ll roll out in the next couple of months, although it sounds like the dev team has got its hands full with their new clients at present.
ICO a disaster, but company a success
The company held its ICO in late 2017, but only managed to raise $1 million.
Due to the way they’d set up the smart contract, they ended up with 362 million tokens they didn’t need, which they ended up sending on a one-way mission to a wallet from which it can never be recovered.
Naamani said if they had the opportunity to do it over again: “We would definitely take more time to prepare – we only had about three months. The short timeframe definitely wasn’t ideal. But the amount raised was enough to market, build and deliver our product.”
He adds they had some “cash injections” outside of the ICO and were able to sell off tokens afterward.
“We did hunker down and spend as little as possible on outgoings, trying to be as frugal and smart as we can with the money we had,” he said.
They closed the Melbourne office and they’re now headquartered in Wellington with another office in Brisbane. They see themselves as “Australasian”.
“We are an Australian company but because both Andy and myself are in New Zealand it’s easier to get good customers here,” Naamani said. “But we do run the business and pay taxes in Australia.”
Naamani hopes the company will be self sustaining on customer revenue in six to nine months.
World Economic Forum ‘technology pioneer’ award
In June last year, Horizon State was selected from hundreds of candidates as one of the World Economic Forum’s ‘technology pioneers’ for 2018. Previous winners have included Google, Dropbox, and Spotify.
“One of the people in the (HS) community suggested we apply,” Naamani said. “Other companies that have won the award were around for years, but we were around for less than 12 months. It gets us in front of the movers and shakers … and you get exposed to things that happen on levels you didn’t even know existed. ”
Naamani said the organisations and governments in the WEF have timeframes measured in years.
“It’s definitely a long term strategic thing rather than you get five deals in seven different countries straight away.
“I think it’s a bit too early to say what will come out of it.
What is Horizon State?
Horizon State has built a blockchain based voting and decision-making platform. Blockchain ensures transparency and HS’s secure digital ballot box cannot be hacked. The platform is ‘chain agnostic’ and can run on Ethereum, Halo or NEM.
Horizon State Decision Token
Decision Tokens (HST) are required to get access rights for customers and third-party developers, for permission to submit votes or opinions to the distributed ledger.
Customers don’t need to buy HST themselves as the platform allows them to pay in fiat. HST is available on major exchanges including UpBit, Bittrex, Coinspot, KuCoin. Five percent of turnover goes to charity.
ID decisions left to clients
While blockchain can’t be hacked, it still depends on the accuracy of the data being fed into it. Early on HS took the decision to let clients decide on the ID process required.
A ‘people’s choice’ award may not require as stringent checks as a council election.
“We integrate with the ID scheme the organisation itself uses,” Naamani said. “Some are using text messages, others use full KYC (Know Your Customer ID checks).” If required, people could even attend polling booths for in-person checks before voting on a tablet
The Opportunities Party in New Zealand
A first for New Zealand, The Opportunities Party used Horizon State’s blockchain voting systems in its leadership elections over a week long election in December 2018.
The party has about 4500 members and used a preferential voting system, ranking eight candidates from first to last.
HS ran a simultaneous election for a position on their board.
“It went really well and it looks like we’ll run a few other engagements for them in future, including their AGM,” said Ellis.
The South Australian Government hired HS to conduct elections for the Minister’s Recreational Fishing Council in March and April last year.
Sure, it may not sound that impressive – a poll open to around 20,000 fisherpeople, with 1450 participating in this engagement – but it demonstrated the technology in action for a client that has plenty of potential use cases.
“We got a foot in the door with a government and proved the security, reliability and user experience of our system,” Ellis said.
The Scottish Referendum
While HS has been approached by a very passionate Scottish organization, seeking to run a referendum to approve a new constitution in Scotland, it’s still at a very early stage.
“It is not a signed customer, we don’t know if it will happen and they have a lot of legal hoops to jump through,” Naamani said.
Not least, getting permission from the UK government to run a referendum.