Galya Westler, Plazus Technologies: On the importance of users owning, controlling, and monetising on their data

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

The benefits of social media as a tool for online communication – real-time discussion, becoming a new portal for breaking news – are evident. But what have the ramifications been?

From the technical side, the old adage ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ comes to mind. Plazus, a startup based in Vancouver, proffers that today’s social media platforms ‘are not equipped to manage large groups in an efficient and effective manner’, and that decentralisation is the way forward.

“We have a second chance of re-imagining how we choose to communicate online,” the company writes in its mission statement. “Let’s work together to make the world a better place.”

In the run up to Blockchain Expo Global, taking place in London from 25-26 April, The Block spoke with Galya Westler (left), founder and CEO at Plazus Technologies, on the company’s roadmap, as well as the benefits and challenges of current social communication.

The Block: Hi Galya. How did the company come about and what were its primary influences?

Galya Westler: Plazus started as a decentralised communication protocol to allow for business to broadcast their brand using customer loyalty methods where people’s actions would get rewarded with cryptocurrencies and conditions of the loyalty terms are done using smart contracts on Ethereum. Plazus also added as it’s development arm for integration projects and to help companies automate their business flows

TB: How did you become interested in blockchain technologies – and why this route for your company? Was it a case of waiting for the right technology to make the most out of the idea or using the rise of blockchain as a springboard?

GW: We always believed in the foundation of decentralisation, trust and removing middleman type behaviours. In late 2017 we faced with technical difficulties and limitation from Apple and Google to expand our customer loyalty native app tool, to solve that we looked for a robust tamper free technology that will fulfil our promise for a self-serve communication tool to allow brand followers to own, control, and monetise on their data. 

TB: What are the primary concerns you see with social platforms today? Do you agree with the ‘surveillance capitalism’ thesis put forward by Shusana Zuboff in her recent book?

GW: When we implement customer loyalty using blockchain technology for businesses, our promise to our users is for them to own, control, and monetise on their data (in an answer to the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal). With one of our use cases presented at the conference you will learn how big companies holding large amounts of financial and personal data are involving multiple participants such as advertisers in their ecosystem; [for example] a payment app that allows for students to get paid their scholarships with digital money in Mexico where there is a huge lack of trust in the banks.

Using the Plazus decentralised tool, advertisers can target only relevant demographics of the users – e.g. “I am in my 30s, study software engineering and bought a Mac computer in the past 30 days.” Only specific data points are being exposed on an advertiser dashboard without linking it to the full users’ profile and only the pieces of demographics that are needed are shared by the user to the advertiser directly that pays them for their online attention.

TB: What have customers and investors been saying about Plazus to date?

GW: In our talk [on the 26th], you will also hear our customer John Ellis, head of Mauve Group, explain their challenges and how Plazus helps solve some of it when we present another use case of dealing with sensitive HR data and GDPR using blockchain technology.

TB: What is the most interesting use case you have seen – personally or professionally – with blockchain technologies to date?

GW: The most common well known one is of course Bitcoin, but an interesting one is for supply chain where Walmart now onboards all of their vendors to track their supply chain using IBM Hyperledger. Many more companies can and should implement that to positively impact their bottom line and create transparency to the way they do business.

TB: What are you looking forward to most at Blockchain Expo and what are you hoping to get out of the event?

GW: We are here to learn from other experts in the industry and look at other interesting use cases and present about our experiences helping businesses with customer loyalty, sensitive HR data and business wanting to overcome security gaps and automation of business flows using blockchain technology. 

TB: What does the roadmap look like for Plazus in the coming 12/18 months?

GW: In 2019/20 we will be focusing on automation and building tools for small- medium sized businesses that offer their services on the blockchain without needing to have any technical skills and with simple drag and drop capabilities.

For example, copyright on the blockchain is a huge topic right now. Imagine you create a song or a dance and post it online with the ability to have a blockchain watermark on it to protect your copyright asset online and to have proof in case someone tries to infringe such rights. Lawyers or other service providers can combine what they do today with their legal knowledge along with automatic proof using blockchain technology to add integrity and structure around their business value to their customers.

Interested in hearing more in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.


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