"I was never aware of any other option but to question everything" - Noam Chomsky

TrustFabric – Most Ambitious Startup Ever

I think TrustFabric has to be the most ambitious and most important tech startup to ever come out of South Africa. I’m not going to lie, I am in love with the idea. However, the challenge it faces is huge and I believe its over night success will be measured in years.

TrustFabric aims to solve the sweet spot of CRM and VRM, but from the consumer side. Essentially, you keep your personal data up-to-date in one place and TrustFabric allows organisations you have a relationship with to sync that data. Additionally, you can limit what information organisations have access to and TrustFabric will also verify organisations to ensure they are legitimate.

Joe Botha, the founder of TrustFabric, is a well seasoned tech entrepreneur. Prior to TrustFabric he founded three successful technology companies, namely Frogfoot, Amobia and Teraco. It is clear that Joe is extremely ambitious but why would someone want to tackle a problem this big? A problem that is bound to be a cash burner and take years to succeed?

I believe that every now and again somebody steps up to the plate to change how things fundamentally work, because they can. And this is the case with Joe and TrustFabric. We hear every internet and social media guru talk about how the internet has given consumers more power. In the context of being able to control my privacy and information with the companies I deal with, the internet has not given me any power. In fact, modern technology has given companies more ways to irritate me instead.

TrustFabric aims to put the power in the consumers’ hands by saying I will control the flow of information between us, I will let you know how best to communicate with me. I am the customer and I know better, and this will be better for your business.

Allow me to give one example of how TrustFabric could make life easier. Last year I signed up for MWeb ADSL over the phone, as their online process didn’t work for me. After I had given all my details over the phone, I was emailed a form with my details which needed to be signed and faxed back (who uses a fax machine anymore?).

Firstly, I am tired of repeating the same details over the phone, in online forms and even on paper when doing business with a company. Secondly, the form MWeb mailed me with my details on it had almost everything spelt wrong or in the wrong place. It became a nightmare for me and it has happened before with other organisations. Why can’t I just give an organisation my email address (or any other identifier) so they can connect with my TrustFabric account, where I will authorise access to the information and documents they need? As simple as accepting a friend request on Facebook.

As TrustFabric grows, the use case potential is huge. With a retail partnership, TrustFabric could be entrusted with the burden of RICA for internet service providers. TrustFabric Connect already aims to ensure organisations comply with the new Consumer Protection Act after the DMASA failed dismally by having its “do not contact me” database leaked.

It’s going to take a lot of convincing and integration for TrustFabric to work but I want it to succeed, to make my life easier. I want organisations to see TrustFabric as an opportunity to show your customers that you trust and respect them. I want you to sign-up because they need the numbers. It’s ok, you might not use it today but one day you will and you will be glad you supported their vision from the beginning.


  1. @dworrad · July 20, 2011

    I think it is a great idea… but so was OpenID…. and look what happened to that!

    • Bill Barnhill · July 20, 2011

      A very good idea, but I don’t see this working without being based on an open standard as well as involving experienced people in the identity community.

      That’s why I am part of an effort solving almost the same problem on the Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) and XRI Data Interchange Technical Committees in OASIS. The use of XDI will solve this problem.

  2. Joe · July 20, 2011

    Hi Bill

    Open Standards are great, but most people want a simple solution.. I’m thinking Skype vs SIP.

    Getting people to adopt a technology is often much harder than designing a technology. Think OpenID vs Twitter/Facebook login.

    We all want open standards but they have to be easy to use. Things like Webfinger seem to be going in the right direction.

  3. Troy McConaghy · July 20, 2011

    Google+ might be able to help solve this problem as well; we’ll see how open their APIs are. They’re definitely pro-standards. For example, every Google Account is also an OpenID account.

  4. Nathan B · July 21, 2011

    Hmmm, that gives me an idea!
    I am currently working on a CRM product myself, and it WOULD be awesome if a user’s information could be pulled and updated from their facebook or g+ accounts…

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  6. Bernz · July 22, 2011

    Also, updater.com is a recently launched competitor.

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