Q&A: Jacob Andra, Chief Marketing Officer, SOMA
RTIH: Tell us about SOMA.
Jacob Andra: SOMA is a blockchain e-commerce platform going live in 2019. Our ecosystem integrates social media functionality with the buying and selling process, allowing users to monetise social capital. Additionally, SOMA features a robust tracking protocol for the verification of provenance and the capturing of item history.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?
JA: The company founders had an import business and observed firstly that e-commerce is rife with fraud, and secondly that people want a more localised, personalised experience, harking back to the face-to-face trading of premodern human history. Accordingly, SOMA seeks to eliminate fraud via blockchain-based proofs, and to bring social connection with the integration of a system of rewards for collaborative behaviour.
"Everybody's so obsessed with the crypto 'bubble' metaphor. Ocean tide is a better one; it waxes and wanes. We've had this cycle over and over. Right now, the tide is definitely out. It'll come in again"
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
JA: We have flown largely under the radar: there hasn't been much mainstream awareness until recently. Recent reactions tend towards 'something like this is really needed’.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
JA: The blockchain sector is still in its infancy, and we're not immune to that. There are important pieces that we're figuring out, right along with other players.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?
JA: Aside from the 'retail apocalypse' of bricks and mortar losing to e-commerce? I think many of the other challenges will only be seen in hindsight, just as people didn't realise the challenges to horses and buggies until they had cars. I'm guessing they'll include the inability to successfully thwart fraud, and the lack of meaningful connection. I'm sure there will be others as well.
RTIH: Blockchain has more than its fair share of critics, who label it ‘all hype, no substance’. How do you respond to that?
JA: 'Blockchain' is not some homunculus that fits a single description. It's messy, chaotic, and full of good, bad, and everything in between. There's no doubt that distributed ledger technology (DLT) has the potential to revolutionise the way human beings transact. I'd say that's pretty substantial. But there's hype aplenty, as well.
RTIH: What’s your take on the current state of the cryptocurrencies space? Has the bubble burst?
JA: Everybody's so obsessed with the 'bubble' metaphor. Ocean tide is a better one; it waxes and wanes. We've had this cycle over and over. Right now, the tide is definitely out. It'll come in again. And each time, the sector is further along from lessons learned, more advanced infrastructure, and greater mainstream recognition. The lean times keep the genetic pool healthy (if I may horribly mix my metaphors).
RTIH: What can we expect to see from SOMA over the next 12 months?
JA: We've secured round one funding from Business Finland, and we're well on our way to qualifying for round two in 2019. Parallel to that, we're launching our e-commerce marketplace in Q1 2019, initially targeted to the luxury goods industry.
We already have several merchant partners in the luxury watch sector, and we'll be onboarding more. We'll also run a user acquisition campaign, initially targeted to lovers of fine watches and fashion. By Q3 2019, we'll be branching into adjacent sectors and growing our user base even more.