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Odisea 02: Decentralized identities for decentralized worlds with Evin McMullen

Hola everyone, we’re back with another episode of Odisea! In this episode, we speak with Evin McMullen, the CEO and Co-Founder of Disco.xyz 🪩 This is an incredible conversation where we got to explore the evolution of digital identities and why we need to focus on human-centric means of delivering the frontier of decentralized identity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFS0OIxKHLY

Also available on: Lens | Spotify | Apple | Google | Simple Cast

In this conversation, Evin and I discuss her background entering the ecosystem, the risk of relying on our incumbent online identity systems, where she saw an opportunity for decentralized identity to emerge, and how Disco is building new means of delivering decentralized identity systems in crypto.

Evin references the Tunisian internet censorship, where Tunisians were barred from accessing social media and organising collectively to build a better future for their country. Around the same time, she read the Bitcoin white paper and immediately began to piece the two pieces of the puzzle whereby you could deliver a sovereign and free monetary system that did not rely on a single, centralised point of failure that could be unjustly manipulated to exploit the masses.

With that intrigue, Evin delved deep into the world of building egalitarian identity systems that did not discriminate based on any traits of individuals, but rather worked identically for all users. She was captivated by the notion that we could build identities that were not under the control of the platforms which we used, as is the case with many of today’s web2 applications. With that conviction, Evin went onto Co-Found Disco, which gives folks the opportunity to build digital identities that belong entirely to them, without relying on third party intermediaries.

As we continue to build out more complex systems in the crypto ecosystem, I can’t help but feel that identity is a really crucial part of the stack that feels like is missing. Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is perhaps the most hailed identity system that has received a strong degree of network effects in the ecosystem.

Reputation and identity could begin to deliver on blockchain’s opportunity to serve as the settlement layer for nation state governance elections, or extend and under-collateralised loan to a credit-worthy borrower that can leverage their onchain (and off-chain) data to prove their reputation. There are a lot of teams tackling to solve the issue of identity and reputation today, some are focusing on privacy-centric identity systems (which in my opinion have the right to win here), but ultimately I’m bullish on those who focus on building inter-operability into the already existing infrastructure.

It’s hard to boot-strap an identity system, particularly in a world where there is already a substantial amount of user fragmentation that occurs in this space. If anything, I would think about where there are already valuable data inputs into a system and see where one could leverage those network effects to build out robust and self-sovereign identity solutions for crypto-natives and beyond.

I’m excited to follow along Disco’s journey and can’t wait to see what they keep shipping!

Remember, you’ve still got time to mint your Odisea Community Collectible below. The collectible is available on the Optimism network, which we have intentionally chosen thanks to their commitment to support public goods, largely through their Retroactive Public Goods Funding (RetroPGF) mechanism, which allocates the fees paid by users of the network and then distributes them retroactively to public goods in the ecosystem. Mint yours below and support public goods :)

If you’d like to connect to discuss the episode and explore ways we can collaborate to build a better future leveraging crypto, let’s chat on Twitter or you can join the Telegram community as well!

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Odisea is produced with the support of Safe and Ambire Wallet.

Safe (previously Gnosis Safe) is a decentralized custody protocol, securing ~$60 Billion in assets today. It is establishing a universal standard for secure custody of digital assets, data, and identity.

Ambire Wallet is an account abstraction-based, self-custodial gateway to Web3 that introduces a range of impressive features like transaction batching, a pre-payment mechanism, and the ability to pay gas fees in stablecoins. By being accessible on both mobile and desktop devices, with a browser extension version on the horizon, Ambire Wallet aims at streamlining the user experience and ensure convenience across different platforms.

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