Our guest Cameron Powell the founder of Credoscore™ discusses the digital social reality platform that will let ordinary people wield *trillions* in consumer spending power, and leverage the value of their labor, to vote, buy, invest, partner, and work according to their own values. People’s aggregated power will also influence corporations’ policies, their campaign contributions, and the laws we get in ways that serve the many more than the few. Americans alone channel $15 trillion a year in consumer spending. Combining such market power with transparency and accountability can, at scale, change the world. In this Podcast we answer such questions about Credoscore such as: Does a company making the product or providing the services line up with my values? Does the product or service line up with my values? How close are they to my values? How does Credoscore help answer these questions?
Join us for interesting conversations about technology and the business of IT.
SCREAMINGBOX TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS RUNDOWN PODCAST #5
Credoscore Moral Ranking - Guest: Cameron Powell
Dave Erickson 0:32
Welcome everybody to the ScreamingBox technology and business rundown podcast. Today we have Cameron Powell from Credoscore as our guest; he's going to talk a little bit about social ranking of companies and entities, and how you can use some concept of credo score to judge how you're going to purchase products, who you're going to support, or the businesses that you're going to relate to. So without further ado, Cameron, maybe you can give a brief background of who you are and the concept of Credoscore.
Cameron Powell 1:07
Okay, I started my professional life as a lawyer. I went to law school because I thought I was going to go into politics. I've always been interested in public policy and how we make the world a better place through the law. I realized I wasn't going to go into elected politics. I practiced law for a few years, did a clerkship for a federal judge, I was a trial lawyer at the Department of Justice, I worked in a big firm doing mostly intellectual property law, and more litigation. Then about 20 years ago, I started doing startups and doing executive and career coaching. I started writing books on various things. Credoscore was an idea first probably started around five plus years ago. I was studying things like some of the, like the dating apps, and how they were matching people. I guess one of the genesis of the idea was, I'm looking at Ok Cupid, which has this interesting matching algorithm It gives every user on the platform a percentage score, between themselves and every other user on the platform. From the questions, I realized what that score amounted to was the percentage of alignment and values of match people up. I thought, why can't we do that for corporations? Why can't I get a percentage that represents how much a corporation agrees with my values, supports or promotes my values, or politicians for that matter? So, I started to think, how would you do that? Could you do it similarly to OK Cupid, where there's a fixed body of questions that you have people answer to get data about the corporations? How do you get the data about the corporations into the system? There're a lot of issues with finding data. Later, it occurred to me that I could present people in a social feed. I saw something that said Delta Airlines is going to start to charge its employees $200 a month for possible health care costs if they're not vaccinated and United Airlines is now requiring vaccination of all of its passengers.These are the sorts of things that people have opinions on. You could say, I really approve of this policy and here's how important it is to me, on a scale from one to ten. I started to think in terms of really allowing a different kind of reaction to the news of the day than what social media provides us. If you go on Facebook today, and you see a post that says, Here are 147 members of Congress who just voted to decertify state elections; they are trying to overrule state elections. Facebook gives you six really pathetic responses, right? You can like, make an angry face, heart it and nothing happens in the real world whatsoever. But,the topic is targeted and you increase Facebook's bottom line. I thought, well, what if you had a kind of a post in which people could react by saying, here's how much I approve of that,and these start adding up; the approval levels time the weight for every company, for every politician, based on how they vote on things, the policies they have, and so forth. So ultimately, what you get is what I call a moral price to do business. The output of my interactions on the platform would be that I go to LinkedIn, or Glassdoor looking at who to work for, I see a percentage number next to each of the companies that reflect our alignment and values, their employee policies, their sustainability, where they source their goods, how many minorities they have on your board, whatever is important to me and all of the existing indexes today All these indexes, ESG indexes, a boycott app, they all have the same flaw, which is somebody else decides what values are important and someone else decides how a corporation or politician scores on that value. It's not really representative as a number that I can trust. I need a number that, if I'm on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Amazon, or another shopping website and see that company’s Credoscore is 37%. That's not a high percent alignment; we must have a large gap in our values. I might get an offer that says click here for five similar products with a credo score all over 80%.and I can purchase according to my values. Millennials and Gen Xers are crazy about the values they have and want to decide, according to their values, where they want to invest. This percentage score represents a moral price. With any product, we've always wanted three things,to know the features, the cash price, and the value. That's the part that has not been available in a cognitive manner, that you can understand. This is really the third piece. I think what people want when they do business are the features, including the benefits. What's it going to cost in terms of cash and what's it going to cost my conscience? That was the basic idea. We've started to work toward a minimum viable product and a prototype. It's still unfolding. How does this work? What technology stack would we be using? We know that there are business models that are similar to social media where you can charge corporations and politicians for advertising, or messaging on a platform to try to influence their Credoscore. Consumer research is a $20 billion industry that you could sell; political advocacy is a $30 billion industry. So there are ways to make money as well. That's What we've been building. What do you guys think so far?
Iman Kaur 8:30
Do you think Credoscore would be beneficial for companies who have been in the industry for a long time or for the newer companies who do not have a large enough amount of data for a real score? Do you think it would be helpful for them?
Cameron Powell 8:49
I think you'd want to make sure that before you have a score, you have enough data. There are quick and dirty ways to get data. One is to contribute to a corporation; votes are made in Congress and in state legislatures. There are companies that don’t have enough data for a score. I'm not sure we'd even want to start with small mom and pop stores; partly because I don't want people to gang up on them.
Dave Erickson 9:31
It could be that you start with the top 1000 enterprise companies, which have ample data. That's one way to do it.
Cameron Powell 9:45
If they're in the news frequently, a lot of information comes out about the practices. Some data you can get from government agencies. For example, the FEC will tell us how much money a corporation gave to which politicians. So, if I asked you as the user, what do you think about this vote, and you say you hated that vote, from you they have a 0% approval rating. That 0% goes from that politician all the way to the corporation that donated money to them and made that vote possible. One of the big data sources that immediately came to my mind was using campaign finance records to hold corporations accountable for the votes that they're basically paying for. That tends to be larger companies. There are other shortcuts. You can take data like their legislative scorecards. A lot of organizations like the Sierra Club Planned Parenthood or the NRA will look at the voting records of representatives, senators, and congressmen and say, this senator gets 75%. If you apply this across 25 different legislative scorecards, you start to get percentages for every politician. Once again, you can convert that into data for the corporation that is supporting them. A lot of the data would eventually come from users posting information on the platform. It could be the New York Times or someone at a science department of the university posting, hey, look at what just happened, what this corporation did or this policy or this fact, we've uncovered. Instead of clicking a like, angry face, or share, I'm going to weigh in on it. That corporation's Credoscore can change within minutes, just like the stock market.
Botond Seres 12:00
Giving it some thought, explaining the details of what the plan is with Credoscore, I think that lends itself to a different algorithm than the more to see on Facebook with the hearts and the angry faces. What immediately comes to mind is Reddit, where basically downloads are on the front page where we see all of the most controversial, and also the most upvoted topics. I think it can be really interesting. If something big happens, for example, Apple successfully lobbies against the right to repair, it can immediately jump to the front page and get tons of reports or fans of Tom wood; I'm not sure about the way credo score would handle just this binary ranking; a, percentage approval.. More often, I see big companies such as Google, and YouTube moving in this direction, they remove likes completely. There's no longer a like-dislike ratio, it's all hidden. It might be interesting to explore. Instead of saying, I agree with something, let's say 70%, I could say, I agree with this, or I don't agree with this, but this is a second option. Increasingly, we form this bubble around us where we only see what’s in front of us and listen to things that we like, right? We are less exposed to anything that might upset our fragile egos with today's climate, especially for the new generation.
Dave Erickson 14:15
With Credoscore, it could be that even an up or down vote can be translated into a percentage. It doesn't necessarily mean the person responds to something with 100% or 75%. I think from what I understand, correct me if I'm wrong, Cameron, the percentage is more of a conglomeration of data; it's taking various inputs and data and creating a percentage based on the values that are important to the person who's seeing the number. Is that correct? Did I get that right?
Cameron Powell 14:50
Yeah, but you have to distinguish a couple of things. There's a percentage approval I might have for one particular Issue. It might be this corporation’s position on abortion, gun control or riots in the Capitol. That's an individual approval rating for a particular issue. Then the second piece of data on that post would be the user saying, here's how important this issue is to me. When you sum up all those issues and their percentages, you get the Credoscore; a blended weighted average. I might score 60% at Starbucks, but three people could have completely different numbers; one might be 25%, one might be 45%, and one might be 89%. So we all could have a different Credoscore for each corporation. Another number that you could report in the media, and you could report to Starbucks is the average percentage across all users, their average by demographic, and what the main causes of that average are. These are the main drivers, click here for predictive analytics on how to increase your Credoscore by changing five things about your business. There are different ways to talk about Credoscore as a national average versus our individual score with a corporation. Then there's a percentage approval rating. What I think is important is to keep it simple. My initial idea was not even to use AI or machine learning. OkCupid has a very simple algorithm that's composed of how close your values are? How much weight is there? It’s algebraic, you can see how the answer is arrived at without AI. That simplicity, legitimacy, and transparency is one thing that appealed to me. But I also think that as you get into it, you're probably going to add AI and machine learning as well as many other things, to get people's weigh-in on how important this really is to you? For example, I might say something is super important and also provide a Credoscore for an app with access to my credit card statement, like Mint TurboTax, Quicken, or QuickBooks. Then the system sees what is important to me and that I keep making purchases. So you'd want a system that does a comparison about what people say, how people act, and what they do. Imagine if you did this on a large scale, you could influence public policy. My hypothesis is that if you influence laws, we may get more laws that are for the benefit of the many, rather than just a few. 70% of our GDP is consumer spending. A huge percentage of investing is done by individuals. Then, of course, there's the labor force. We are the people that make companies work. Your influence could start to get them. If they're looking at bad news on Reddit, they could really start to pay attention to how their policies are affecting their ability to hire workers, their ability to sell products, and their stock price. Fewer people could be investing in them right now. Their average Credoscoren is 35% because they did some terrible thing last month. It would add another layer to voting which can be corrupted, right? With gerrymandering, voter suppression, and Electoral College manipulation, the fact Californians share two senators with 40 million other people but in South Dakota, 12 people get two senators. So there are a lot of inefficiencies in our democracy I think could be an additional way to vote in essence and to express what I call public policy preferences.
Iman Kaur 19:42
I actually like the fact that they say having everything is not good for everyone. So it's a good thing to find it relatable to something which benefits you and not for others and you're actually looking at your own Credoscore, which makes perfect sense.
Dave Erickson 20:03
One of the points that you made, Cameron, that I think is really important, is that companies are very focused on what generates the most profit for them. They are selling products so anything that affects profit margin, which generally comes down to sales, is something that they need to focus on. I think, from that aspect, Credoscore can have a big impact on companies who are selling products, and particularly those who are selling products over the internet, because Credoscore affects buying decisions. Did any of the research that you do kind of indicate how much of an effect that could have?
Cameron Powell 20:58
Yeah, there are a number of data points. What I mentioned just now is simply that consumer spending is such a big part of the economy that it could be an enormous lever. We also see, there have been some studies. I don't recall the name of the academic who did this study, but he looked at a number of situations where corporations had some negative PR in the press and what he determined was that, before anyone was calling for a boycott, the company didn’t have a bad reputation. Only in the cases that bad news about the company appeared in five major media outlets, would they backtrack or fold, 70-80% of the time. At that point, they would issue some press releases, or they would make some rebuttal, just at the threat of having bad PR/ boycott. It's similar to investing. A low credit score for a corporation will affect my decision to buy from them. Ultimately, my idea is that you would have an individual credit score for each product. So an iPhone 10 would have a different Credoscore from a MacBook depending on their profile, for instance, where does it come from? How much slave labor is involved? What are the employment practices, what about their sustainability? But people also make buying decisions about who they're going to invest in, and who they're going to work for. So we have this concept in business called the employer brand. There's been a lot of research done, that having a strong employer brand makes it much less expensive to recruit talent. You have an easier time filling a role and less productivity is lost, while the role is empty. The person in the role is more engaged at a company with a great employer brand, and they stay longer. The outcome for human resources is better if the company has a good employer brand. Whereas if you have a poor employer brand it takes longer to fill the position, you get a less qualified candidate who's less engaged on the job, and then leave sooner. So there's a big productivity element here and an employer attractiveness element. It’s similar to whether a company is trying to attract a worker, investor, or buyer. And again, that's part of what made me realize there's an enormous amount of leverage that could be brought to bear by basically creating the world's largest union. In a sense, the world's largest buying club, the world's largest investors club.
Dave Erickson 24:09
I think applying Credoscore to any kind of selling site or e-commerce site that is representing large brands, is probably going to be the most effective first step. What are your thoughts on that? How do you think that Credoscore would be integrated into the economy and do you have any ideas from discussions about that?
Cameron Powell 24:37
Well, some of the things I can talk about are things that we're looking at. I'm certainly open to people who are more technologically savvy than I am. But, I think before widespread adoption the solutions are probably something like a browser plugin that acts like Honey or Wiki Buy the browser plug-ins, sit there as I shop, seeing the products I'm looking at and the websites I'm on. Maybe it's looking at what I'm doing on LinkedIn and, it's able to provide additional overlaying information about the Credoscore of the company or products that I'm looking at. I think you could have a fee that allows companies to buy a license so that in search results on Amazon, Best Buy, or other websites, the Credoscore shows up along with other data points about a product. You can even sort or do your search based on the data you want. So on Amazon, you can specify the price or how many stars, but you could also specify Credoscores above 70%. So that's, I think, where you could get the most adoption is where it is, it is sufficiently desirable to so many shoppers. The websites themselves say we'd like to feature this information, it's the way that I wish Netflix would really embed rotten tomatoes in IMDb scores. Instead of giving you this, this little thumb up, thumb down nonsense that they provide, which is really a terrible metric for how I might like a movie. It's not my metric, but again, are other people's scores. I'd love to see my score reflected on the website. My personal score with a company. That's the only way you can really get people to make clear decisions is if it's simple. I understand that represents me, and not some other third parties, or some triangulation and guesswork.
Dave Erickson 26:57
I agree. I think that the relationship that the viewer has with their number, the understanding that that number is a percentage based on their own values versus the values of somebody else; I think that's going to be the critical component. That's going to be where the education of Credoscore will be needed; when consumers understand that when they generate their Credoscore it's really about them, even though they're seeing it on a Netflix website; that number represents them, and how they feel about things. I think that'll be where a lot of the challenge will be. And what about politicians? What do you think? Have you talked to any politicians about the concept of Credoscore? Would they feel it's a value to them as well to figure out how their constituents feel about their votes? Or have you gotten into that?.
Cameron Powell 28:04
I have received some feedback. They say this would be priceless information to have. It's much more fine-grained than a vote every 2, 4, 6 years, which is what representatives, presidents, governors, senators, respectively, get. This would work live so people would see what Andrew Cuomo just did this morning. By afternoon, he's got a new Credoscore. That is what makes people more or less likely to donate money; that makes them more or less likely to vote for that person. You can give them data The politician or the campaign saying, here's your PT score by demographic; we think that you could increase your average Credoscore, without significant loss of votes or veto score, by making a couple of adjustments in your policy or your behavior. I've had people say, Well, I'm like an expert. The Capitol Hill staffer said I don't think you should try to rate politicians at all, just stick to corporations. I said, Why? He responded because people don't really understand everything that goes into making a bill. Sometimes a bill has many parts, and there are many things being voted on. You have an omnibus bill, which is part of my approval or disapproval if a representative votes for or against it. I think you can break things down into simpler bills. More importantly, I think we already judge people based on their vote on an omnibus bill even though it has 1600 parts to it. So to me, I'm not really persuaded by a kind of paternalistic view that people shouldn't be allowed to do this because they can't do it. Well, when they're trying to do it anyway and still not doing it very well, maybe we can help them do it a little more carefully. Most people don't have time to research more than one or two presidential candidates. They look at the list a couple of years, a year and a half, two years ago of the Democratic field of 23 candidates, like oh my God, I'm just gonna have to go based on who looks really good on stage and speaks clearly. I'm a Pete Budajeudge guy, that guy is just fire so you base your decision on a couple of things like personality, appearance, and a couple of policies. If you decide who you're gonna vote for based on his Credoscore, you could say, actually, we researched these people's websites, we looked at their votes, we looked at their positions and turns out Budajudge comes in number four for you. Actually, Amy Clover is your number one. Bernie Sanders, who you think you hate, but you're much more in alignment with policies is your number two. Number three is Elizabeth Warren. Budajudge was number four for you. You get that with corporations as well. In the United States, there are a lot of liberals who have decided that you can't buy from Chick fil a, Home Depot, or Hobby Lobby, because of one thing that they did, usually about a decade ago. This is like single-issue voting. A democracy is more than for people to vote on a single issue, especially if the company's changed in the meantime. So the idea of a dynamic moral price that changes based on the company's own evolution, and gives me a sense of how well and aligned I am with the countless number of companies and politicians that I can't possibly do enough research on. And since I can't possibly do enough research, I'm going to go with one data point that I heard from a friend that’s a problem. There are technology solutions that are inevitable, whether they come from us or someone else. I think this idea of a sort of a moral price to a relationship or a transaction is inevitable. Someone's going to do this and do it well, in the next five or ten years. China's already doing it to its own people. My position is, Oh, you think you're gonna punch down? No, we're gonna punch up, right? We're gonna write to you.
Dave Erickson 32:45
Yeah, Botond, could you imagine having to try to develop the data analytics for something like this?
Botond Seres 32:54
Although I would be more interested in creating the integration for a marketplace, such as Amazon because that would be a whole other challenge, to create an extension, which can determine what product you're looking at, what company makes a product, and what Credoscore you would have with that company. So it's a whole huge process. It sounds incredibly exciting. To be honest, it's not something that we see often in this field, because more often than not, some company comes up with an idea and it is really simple, it's just a lot of work, and really boring work. In this case, I'm convinced that if you wanted to get developers for this project, you would have a really easy time.
Dave Erickson 33:50
Yeah, because the concept of the project is something that they can connect with, emotionally; developers like doing work that has an impact. Credoscore is definitely a product that would have an impact.
Cameron Powell 34:03
The huge potential impact, right? This is what I’m talking about. I love the idea of solving a problem that a consumer has, so they can buy smarter. I think you could build a perfectly great business on that. You could have very happy employees who love the mission. But the even bigger mission is to change public policy to really work for the many and not just a few by aggregating our power. That, to me, is the most exciting idea of all; it's just the leverage. I think at this point, we've been bootstrapping a number of things. We've been no coding at all, but have some technical co-founders, some people with co-founder energy and drive, who are good with data, who are Good at the tech stuff that I'm not good at. I have a different vision and I see how a lot of the parts work. I've pulled a lot of parts from all different aspects of my background and experience and put them together. I know what my strengths are and I know what my weaknesses are. Having that tech support, I think could be really valuable if you know people who might be passionate about this.
Dave Erickson 35:30
This has been a very fascinating discussion. Cameron, thank you so much for taking time with us to go through Credoscore. We look forward to seeing how it will develop. And for our listeners. Next month, we will have another episode of ScreamingBox technology and business rundown. For links to information about Cameron and his ideas, I will put them in any of the follow-ups. We look forward to having next month's podcast in the first week of the month. Thank you very much Botond and Iman and Cameron for your time, and we look forward to next month's podcast. Well, thank you very much for taking this journey with us. Join us for our next exciting exploration of technology and business in the first week of every month. And for our next podcast. Please subscribe, like, and follow us on whichever platform you're listening to or watching us on. We hope you enjoyed this podcast and please let us know any subjects, topics, or anything else you'd like us to discuss in the next podcast on the comment sections or in a Twitter dm. Till next month. Please stay happy and healthy.