After his trip to Africa, Garrett Camp said it was an “eye-opening” experience.
Camp also said he would donate half his riches to charity.
However, prior to that announcement Camp didn’t mention that is intended to do more than just give away money.
Indeed, the Uber co-founder and chairman had resolved to invent his own.
Over the past five months, Camp has been sketching out plans for a brand new cryptocurrency that aims to fix technical and other challenges plaguing existing projects, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
In his interview with Fortune, he said the venture is about resuscitate virtual currency’s original promise: an instant, affordable, and borderless means of payment for the masses.
Almost a year ago in May, Camp bought his first Bitcoin along with 10 Ether, Ethereum’s native token, on Coinbase, a popular online exchange in the U.S. But as he looked to invest further in the ballooning field of digital tokens and alternative cryptocurrencies, he was let down.
“The more research I did, the more I was not really wanting to buy a large amount of any one of them,” Camp told Fortune.
“I realized it might be better to release a new project from a different philosophical standpoint with cooperation from a lot of universities, scientists, and research institutes—like the Internet,” he said, in terms of its path to development.
Camp has christened his rival project “Eco,” a name he settled on because it is short, easy to pronounce in many languages, and evokes concepts like “ecosystem,” “economics,” and “ecommerce.”
Camp is one of a number of entrepreneurs who have thrown their hats into the cryptocurrency ring in recent months. Pavel Durav, the CEO and founder of chat app Telegram, has been building buzz around a billion-dollar “initial coin offering.” Other businesses like Overstock, Kodak, and chat app Kik have either held or intend to hold ICOs.
Even Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook’s CEO, said that he planned to focus this year on fixing Facebook, a goal that included exploring “encryption and cryptocurrency.”
“Eco seeks to create the most usable digital currency platform to date, offering users an alternative to bitcoin, gold and fiat currency at Eco.com,” says Eco’s white paper, a draft of which Fortune reviewed. “New payment systems are needed which are not controlled by a central institution, and provide better user experiences using mobile devices.”
Camp says he’s initially seeking to partner with the top 5% universities and research institutes around the world, which number in the couple thousands, to run these early nodes.
In fact, Camp is giving away free money to prime the pump. Out of a total of 1 trillion tokens to be generated over several years, the project plans to disseminate half the supply to the first 1 billion users. Camp plans to set aside a fifth of the tokens for verified nodes (in this case, university partners and researchers), a tenth for the Eco Foundation, to pay operational expenses and fund research grants, another tenth for advisors and active contributors, and a final tenth for “strategic partners worldwide.”
To spearhead the Eco effort, Camp said he is creating a new non-profit organization, the Eco Foundation, that he plans to fund with $10 million from himself and a small number of partners affiliated with Expa, his 4-year-old startup accelerator. The foundation’s board—whose seats have yet to be filled—will likely consist of as many as nine people ranging from a diversity of intellectual and geographic backgrounds, Camp said.
The project is still in the early stages. “This is the design phase,” Camp says. “We intentionally have not written a lot of code yet. Before we start getting deep into the implementation of the system, we want more experts, researchers, and scientists to weigh in.”
Camp is, in other words, inviting people to participate in a virtual jam session—not unlike the brainstorming huddle that led to Uber’s creation in 2009.
“If you are an expert in technology, security, economics, governance, policy or design and are interested in helping build Eco into a global currency, please email us at email@example.com. Universities, open-source projects, companies and non-profits who are interested in partnering with Eco can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you have feedback on Eco, please send ideas and suggestions to email@example.com,” Camp writes in a white paper reviewed by Fortune.