Yesterday we asked the question: “What would you do with a lot of money?” The project started by a wealthy and anonymous benefactor gives out a thousand dollars away every day to a stranger with the expectation that the money be used to do good – “Paying It Forward”. Tokken is a soon to be launched website that advocates the same “Pay It Forward” concept and believes that it’s more than a concept but a truly practical way to make the world a better place.
Tokken, founded by Bryan Xu and Raymond Tsang – Toronto based designers, developers and strategists from IdeaNotion, serves as a channel for people to practice the kind act of continuing to give after another “gives” to you, because “Pay It Forward” isn’t a concept, but a movement. People in general will reciprocate when something good is done onto them, and it’s those principles, Reciprocation and Paying It Forward that Tokken is built upon. Dr. Robert Cialdini – a respected expert in the field of persuasion, compliance and negotiation says:
“I am obligated to give back to you the form of behavior that you first give to me. If you invite me to one of your parties, I will invite you to one of my own. If you remember my birthday to a gift, I should remember yours. If you do me a favor, I owe you a favor. In the context of obligation, people say yes to what they owed. “
Tokken works as the online platform to allow individuals or communities to connect and extend help to each other. Students, professionals, universities, charities, and many other people and organizations can interact with each other and exercise their kind acts to give back to the society. It not only breaks the barrier of where to look for help, but also tracks such kind acts amongst people and communities to demonstrate the influence. Co-founder Bryan Xu tells us:
“We truly believe that community with members helping each other will ultimately be more competitive, and that starts with an individual paying the good deed forward.”
While building their platform Tokken utilized key features to build the framework of their system, such as a Circle that is similar to the “Circles” in Google+ where groups, organization or those in common groups can be categorized and managed. While a feature utilizing their same namesake, Tokken, is used as virtual currency that allows organizations to trade favors/kind acts/helping hands. Users in the system can receive a favor and use up a token or give a favor to gain a token, and it’s that system of virtual currency that will promote the applications reciprocation and Pay It Forward principles.
The application does this all through an infrastructure that surprisingly is on the new Windows Azure IaaS. We were particularly astonished when we heard that a startup had adopted the use of an Infrastructure Cloud Platform such as Windows over Amazon, but the newly re-launched service by Microsoft is an ideal location for Tokken and a solution that more startups should be looking at as well. We usually do not get into the nitty-gritty of why a startup chooses one infrastructure over another, but while discussing the project with the founders we thought it would be great to dig a bit deeper.
Because Tokken aims to be a network for promoting Pay It Forward and Reciprocation, for them technologies that they use must allow the application to be reliable, scalable, and interoperable. The application also builds out an “Influence Graph” and this graph tracks the number of people one has extended to help. This graph states ones philanthropic social status and as more acts of kindness are conducted one’s influential status improves. But because these levels of computation and application management are needed – that helped the team guide their decisions to use technologies such as Windows Azure.
Tokken analyzed Amazon EC2, the Google App Engine and Windows Azure and the Azure came out on top for performance, storage, development environment, interoperability and adoption / support for their needs. In comparison to the Google App Engine, Azure provided them with a staging environment, multi-language support and large database storage as huge benefits. Startups like Tokken are then able to use the new Azure virtual machines to “instantly run their existing applications in the cloud.” It’s because VMs allow customers to easily move applications they have already created with their infrastructures whether on Windows or Linux, to the cloud without changing existing code. According to Bryan:
“The use of Windows Azure platform not only propels the development, but also gives Tokken.cc flexibility and scalability with minimum investment on infrastructure.”
We generally assume that Microsoft is developing tools that benefit their own programming languages, but the new Azure is a huge step to change that notion. By developing a flexible service platform that is comparable in price and offering to Amazon, Microsoft is hoping developers and startups take notice – and they should. It was eye-opening to us to see an early-stage startup such as Tokken adopt a new robust Microsoft platform usually not discussed amongst startup teams and we encourage any new business idea developers to take a look at what Azure offers because in terms of price point, user experience and usage opportunities it is comparable to everything else on the market.
Technology aside, Tokken is in the final stages of development and testing and will be launching its beta version in the coming months. And it’s here we will see how a startup is using Microsoft technology to build, launch and deliver an application that captures the meaning behind “Pay It Forward”.