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  • Writer's pictureRc Diedrich

The Origins of Alset: A Conversation with the Founder of Alset, Rob Lo (Part I)

Updated: Feb 23

I recently had a conversation with Founder and CEO of Alset, Rob Lo. We talked about the origins of the platform, the values and mission of the app and what the future of our world is going to look like. Below you’ll find the first part of our conversation, make sure to check out Part II as well!

Rc Diedrich: How did you come up with Alset?

Rob Lo: I traveled to a lot of countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Mexico. Going to Costa Rica had a really big impression on me because there was this one area called La Carpio that most people didn't go to because it's where the refugees go. A lot of countries around Costa Rica are war-torn, like El Salvador and Nicaragua, so there are a lot of refugees that enter the country. Instead of being adopted and accepted, these people are pushed into one section of the barrio and so it has become a very impoverished area. When I was visiting during my graduate years, I went to talk with the older members of the community who took me in and accepted me which was amazing. When you go to these parts of the country, you might expect things to be dirty and to see kids unwell or unsupervised but this was not the case. My own preconceptions were corrected immediately because what I observed first hand was that the people were taking care of the space and each other. Parents were tending to their children, holding their hands in the street and often the children were better dressed than the parents. That’s when I realized that the most important part of community is how they care for the most disenfranchised and vulnerable members of the society, and in this case, it was the children. The approach to caring for these individuals speaks volumes about how community is created because when you are taking care of people or the things that those people value most, it shows a level of compassion and sacrifice that is crucial for a group to flourish.

Similarly, when I was in Turkey, I witnessed many cats and dogs on the streets. Often these animals are dirty and not being taken care of. They are a type of disenfranchised group of beings. However, in Turkey I found that they took very good care of the animals in the streets even though they didn’t have to. They cared about the animals and made sacrifices to ensure their well-being. These experiences, along with many others, started to open my eyes to the fact that there was, and still is, a lack of community in the United States. I realized that this was an issue that I wanted to address and so the seeds of Alset were planted in my brain.

Now, during my graduate program I was looking at the world and watching the types of tools and apps that were emerging and I thought to myself, “how is it possible that an app like snapchat (that doesn’t have our best interests in mind) is becoming the next big app and yet we still haven’t solved many of the basic problems of our society?” I was thinking about this in the context of some of the communities I had experienced and that’s when I said to myself, “wow, why don’t we have a community based system that allows people to exchange goods and services with others?” I wanted to create a space where everyone could easily get what they need. A space where a newcomer with little to no experience could come and offer a good or service as a favor (for free) to start gaining experience and building credibility. I also wanted it to be a space where people with more experience or things of higher value could barter or buy/sell goods and services as well. At the core of the idea was that the platform would allow people to get what they need by engaging with their community. A lot of this was inspired by Nikola Tesla and what he was trying to do which was to give the world free energy. We are nothing but energy, constantly exchanging energy so why aren’t we bartering? Bartering is such a fundamental part of being human, and when people have extra things, they want to exchange with others for the things they need or want. I think that life would be a lot easier and more sustainable if people were constantly bartering with each other. People would not only be able to get what they need but also what they want.

Rc Diedrich: Do you think people understand how bartering can be implemented into their lives today?

Rob Lo: No, I don’t think they can see it yet which is why I am constantly drumming my chest, spreading the message, making sure that people can hear about how bartering can be reintegrated into society. It is a primitive form of exchange and in a lot of people’s heads, advancement means that we are pulling away from the old ways of doing things but that isn’t necessarily true. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel if it was done well so why not keep it? Right now it’s like we are driving with square wheels which is not efficient or sustainable but our modern system is set up to discourage us from making changes and so it can be difficult to show people the alternatives. That said, I mentioned earlier that it's a numbers game, and it is strength by numbers. If there are enough people exchanging on a regular basis then this will allow for infinite possibilities, allowing communities to create a more altruistic society. It will also give people their time back to create and co-create with others. Through giving freely and fostering free education and material, we can co-create financial freedom and switch the mindset. It’s starting to happen now with other platforms that are beginning to realize that there is a demand for a platform that is set up for exchanging with one’s community. The first thing that makes Alset unique in this space is that it’s free. Free is great because everyone gets what they need, it’s a win-win situation. The second thing is that it’s an open-source system, so there’s no ruling class or elite group of people controlling the communities. Instead, each community sets the parameters of their space of interaction through a vetting process. The third thing, though there are more, is that Alset is reinventing what it means to be part of an efficient community, which ironically is through reintegrating some practices that are considered to be primitive, as I mentioned earlier. A lot of people have to go through a paradigm shift because they’ve bought into the notion that our current system is the one and only way that things can be. There’s nothing actually stopping people from adopting bartering on a large scale. There is potential for people to barter living spaces, vehicles and so much more. People can get what they want and need, the sky’s the real limit, we’ve just limited ourselves down to what bartering can be, what the alternatives can be. We’ve seen examples of people trading up from paper clips to sports cars and with that as a possibility, the sky’s truly the limit.

As you can probably tell from this conversation so far, bartering lies at the core of Alset. Although there is a buy/sell feature in the Alset app, I believe that bartering is really the optimal method for humans to be transacting with each other and so we are putting more emphasis on this aspect of the platform as we move forward, trying to wean people off the fiat system. We want to give people options while also guiding them towards more sustainable alternative solutions.

(This is only part 1 of our conversation so keep an eye out for part 2 which is coming soon!)

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This post was written by Rc Diedrich. You can contact him at



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