Raymond St. Martin is genuinely prescient, like the time in 2000 when he conceived of Sports Bar Info, built a peer-review network around it, then chose to keep his job instead of finishing the race, and saw local P2P Networks take off. More about that in a few paragraphs, but suffice to say that St. Martin learned his lesson. He is definitely not giving away his idea for Esaiyo, which is to create unique digital identities of physical and metaphysical objects, known as the “social identity of objects” and connect them in ways that bring about a greater understanding of humans and the things we care about, quite literally giving them life through their experiences.
The SIO standard is the foundation of Esaiyo (Ess-Eye-Oh), the company founded by St. Martin, SIO co-inventor Andrew Van Valer, Ryan Quick and Arno Kolster, the latter two both with deep experience in blockchain and supercomputers. Esaiyo is constructing a system with the potential to be the ultimate source of definitive narratives, authenticity, and provenance data for virtual and physical objects across the universe.
The idea sounds more abstract than it is in practice, as anyone who has read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart will know. The novel is preoccupied with the origins and authenticity of antiques and paintings, because it is nearly impossible for the untrained eye to distinguish between an original and a very good fake. More prosaically, the same thing happens with online sellers of purses that resemble Coach bags or Nike sneakers, but are not.
This phenomenon unfortunately has also transcended into digital assets with the onset of the NFT and digital asset era that is struggling with authenticity, provenance, and historical data related to NFTs especially across the various “walled gardens” of the NFT ecosystem. For this reason Esaiyo is tackling provenance for NFTs–digitally native assets–as its first technical challenge.
“A pen is just a pen, until it belonged to Abraham Lincoln,’” said St. Martin on a recent podcast. “Context is key.”
Esaiyo is working on the Reclaiming Our Atlantic Destiny Initiative with the Government of Barbados. The Esaiyo team is exploring how to use its software to protect the island nation’s ownership of their heritage data and records, and connect that information with the stories of Barbados’ people, culture, places, and significant objects. One can easily imagine how such a system could have lightened the tragedy of the 2018 fire at the National Museum of Brazil or the 2019 fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Sports Bar Info?
During the baseball season in 2000 St. Martin walked through downtown San Jose to what he thought was a popular sports bar to watch a game between the Oakland A’s and the Minnesota Twins with other fans. He was disappointed to find the bar was closed, which got him thinking about a technical solution for finding sports bars when you need one.
“I didn’t get into technology until I needed it,” he explained. With the help of Silicon Valley friends he set about building Sports Bar Info which he envisioned as a website (this was before apps) that would list sports bars in various cities and rely more on people’s opinion and reviews than the opinions or comments of the establishments themselves. When it got to the point that sports bars in distant cities were willing to pay $800 just to be listed, he panicked. St. Martin had a good job as an ad exec for AT&T and saw that Sports Bar Info would compete directly with the product he sold for his day job.
Since all he had really wanted was an easy way to find a bar to watch games with other sports fans, regardless of the city he was in at game time, he literally gave away his idea to anyone who would listen, including a founder of Yelp.
St. Martin was not exactly crushed that Yelp took off – he kept his AT&T job for another 10 years – but he was done giving away his ideas. “I told myself the next time I get an idea like that, and I have actually built it, I am never walking away from it again,” he said.
The idea for the social identity of objects came to St. Martin one day while driving. “Seven years ago, I knew that soon everything would be connected by its context, so I mapped out an idea and shared it with a few friends. Andy (Van Valer) was the only one crazy enough to see it, so we began working together on IP,” St. Martin said. “The concept is called the ‘Social Identity of Objects’.”
St. Martin and Van Valer applied for a patent on the idea of SIO in 2014. The patent was granted in 2020, and he and his co-founders launched ESAIYO in 2020. Now, 8 years after the inception of the idea, he is certain that technology has advanced enough for SIOs, and vice versa.
“As this next version of digital connection, collection and information matures, consumer and brand adoption of digital assets is ramping up,” he said. “Esaiyo aims to be an important player in the space. Every day that goes by without a technology to capture, secure, and connect significant, defining data and ownership is another day lost to history.”