Booking.com has signed on to try a new blockchain-based data
marketplace aimed at helping brands connect with users in emerging markets.
Through its partnership with the new ODX, or Open Data
Exchange, consumers will be able to access the Booking.com site without paying
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That alleviates the primary barrier to entry for online shopping
for millions of consumers in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin
“Eighty-percent of all internet users in the world live in
an emerging market,” says Nix Nolledo, founder and CEO of ODX.
“And more than 90% of internet users in those markets are
online less than six days a month because mobile data access is prohibitively
expensive, and free public Wi-Fi is scarce.
"The user constantly has to decide, 'Do I buy internet access today?' You have another layer of friction and that is
the pain point we want to solve.”
The premise is simple: bring together publishers - any
companies that rely on e-commerce - to buy data at scale and use it to provide
free access to their site for consumers.
ODX currently has more than 50 partners signed up across a variety
of sectors, from travel and dining to entertainment, retail and home goods. In
addition to Booking.com, travel partners include Asian hotel companies Red
Planet Hotels, Zen Rooms and Artemis Place Makati, taxi-hailing app Hirna and
bus booking platform Biyaheroes.
says there are often challenges to connecting to the internet in emerging
markets and says it has chosen to test the ODX platform because unlimited,
data-free access to its site fits with its goal to take friction out of travel
and empower people to experience the world.
Test and learn
Nolledo tested the concept late last year under the name
MakeFree with a handful of e-commerce partners. For that test, MakeFree paid
for the internet access for users.
“The results were transformative,” he says.
“The customer acquisition cost dropped from $4 to less than
a dollar. The average time spent on those various apps and websites more than
doubled. And for every 100 gigabytes of data we sponsored, we drove more than
$18,000 worth of transactions across the platform."
In order to scale the platform, Nolledo knew he would need
to decentralize it from a governance perspective, so any stakeholder large or
small could participate equally.
The user constantly has to decide, 'Do I buy internet access today?' You have another layer of friction and that is the pain point we want to solve.
Nix Nolledo - ODX
“If we don’t do that, we’d become a centralized authority who
gets to decide who’s in and who’s out,” he says.
“And if you rely on management to decide and to physically
onboard each and every partner, in some countries that’s actually technically
To create an open platform that anyone can join, Nolledo
turned to blockchain, which is inherently transparent, accessible and immutable,
to house the ODX marketplace.
Through a private token sale, ODX has raised $60 million,
backed by investors including Andromeda Capital, BlockTower Capital, Pantera Capital,
Strong Ventures and Wavemaker Genesis.
Nolledo says it's using the ODX tokens to give the launch
partner publishers a free trial when the marketplace opens in the next few
months, so they can test the concept and “compare unit economics.” The service
will begin in the Philippines with plans to roll it out in other parts of
Southeast Asia next.
After the trial, publishers will have to pay to provide data
for users to access their sites, but he says all publishers will pay the same rate
regardless of the quantity of data they buy.
ODX will also have a public initial coin offering at a later
The Facebook effect
Years ago Facebook took steps to provide access to users in emerging
markets through its Facebook Zero and Free Basics initiatives. Nolledo says Facebook’s
success inspired him to create ODX.
“In most emerging markets, Facebook is free to surf,”
“What if any website or app can be like a free Facebook and
get ultra-high consumer engagement? If you have a strong business model,
certainly if users are able to spend more time with you, the opportunity to
generate more revenue and deliver value is very high.”
REGISTER NOW! Booking Holdings, Expedia Group, Ctrip, MakeMyTrip and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
for details, tickets and the program for this year's
event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.