Tru began at the Planetwork conference in San Francisco in May 2000. Our focus was global ecology and information technology, but that seminal event attracted everyone from online activists after the WTO protests in Seattle, to techies searching for meaning after the dot.com's had "dot.bombed".
A group came together around a shared vision of a global network for civil society – before Linkedin. We formed LinkTank, an invitational network of 50 tech and media professionals, who met for two years to publish the Augmented Social Network ASN White Paper in 2003 – before Facebook.
Planetwork also launched the “user centric digital identity” community. Identity Commons was a fiscal project, which started the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW), a bi-annual “un-conference” where many standards and protocols for digital identity were first proposed over the past 13 years.
A developer community gathered around the idea of a decentralized network protocol called XDI. I served on the board of XDI.org for almost a decade and Victor Grey, who had written one of the first social networks in the 90’s, emerged as a thought leader in the XDI technical development effort. But, XDI was ultimately not a viable approach.
I returned to my focus on climate, founding Biochar Engineering Corp in Colorado, which became a finalist for the Branson Prize to remove a gigaton of CO2. I had also helped fund a key social network patent, later acquired by Linkedin, resulting in founders shares in the IPO.
Following the Linkedin IPO I hired Victor to build a collaboratively curated cross-site media platform. While working on that, we realized how to finally create the truly decentralized technology required to fulfill the XDI vision. We filed the core patent on JLINC in April 2015, founded Portable Data Corp and began work on the technology stack that was to culminate in Tru.
JLINC provides cryptographically signed, human-readable, and therefore legally valid, automated data exchange contracts across the internet – with audit proof written to any combination of logs, ledgers or blockchains. It offers a truly decentralized, scalable way to comply with all “personal data rights” laws.
JLINC was ready for GDPR on May 25, 2018, but the EU regulators were slow to move. So, in Dec 2018, when it was announced after COP24 that we have carbon accounting standards, but need binding agreements, I said to myself, "JLINC can automate data accounting agreements," and I founded a new company to provide a social marketplace built on JLINC specifically to address climate.
Tru Social Inc. was originally founded in April 2019 as Carbon Path, a California Benefit Corporation, with both personal data rights and environmental covenants in its articles of incorporation.
In many domains, including COVID, the world literally needs a new way of “thinking together”, new ways of engaging in a deliberative process, where content can be traced to its source, information has real accountability, and we can choose what to disseminate across society-at-large. Social media has instead been fueled by a business model that earns ad revenue by circulating disinformation and lies in place of news. As the realization of the need for a real alternative erupted into the mainstream, it was clear that a network solution is needed across all sectors, and Tru was born.
Founder & CEO