For a Southern California guy like Mike Platis, “dude” means something just a little bit different than it might mean to the rest of us. The junior in finance at the Lundquist College of Business seems to look at the word less as a gendered pronoun, and more as a descriptive word for a particular way of life: inclusive, growth-oriented, and positive.
And it’s these values Platis hopes to bring to his startup DudeCoin: a community-focused social media platform, fueled by its own cryptocurrency, that incentivizes positive online interactions. Platis is the first undergraduate business student to receive a mini-grant from the university’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, which he used to explore and develop his concept. On May 16, Platis will present his findings at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on the University of Oregon campus.
Platis and his older brother were raised by their single mother in Southern California.
“She’s an educational therapist, special education,” Platis said. “Seven days a week working her private practice for my entire life, put me and my brother through college. My mom was always teaching us, ‘Make sure you’re doing good in school, and you present yourself well. But when you’re with your friends it’s okay to be roughhousing.’”
Platis grew up without a father-figure in his life, but plenty of role models in the form of his close friends, their dads, and his older brother. He also had a close relationship with his grandfather. Platis calls his grandfather a stock market genius, and he mentored Platis in the world of finance, teaching him to “buy low and sell high,” Platis said.
“I love finance, stock market stuff,” Platis continued. “When I found out money can make money, I was like, ‘This doesn’t make sense? Let’s figure this out!’”
“In high school, I was the stock market guy. I learned very quickly about human psychology and market cycles,” he said.
Even in those days, Platis did well for himself playing the stock market and dabbling in Bitcoin. He took the money he made and created his own cryptocurrency. The question Platis wanted to answer was could constructive discourse on social media be fostered by adding a little financial incentive in the form of DudeCoin. He also wanted to create an online place for “dudes” of all sorts to be, well, better dudes.
The idea for DudeCoin came to Platis when he joined the “More Dudes: The Renaissance” Facebook page, started at the University of Oregon. This “Add More Dudes” group was simply a page of memes. Soon, conversation shifted to subjects like how to quit smoking. Membership skyrocketed to around 400,000, according to Platis.
“It just grew like wildfire,” he said.
Platis sees increasing social isolation and lack of positive role models as a contributing factor in the radicalization of young men all over the world—something he hopes his social media platform will take steps to address. It’s where he hopes to direct his research.
“My aim is to make a place for guys to be ‘dudes—allowed to interact with one another within their own private social media,” Platis said. “But when they post, they get paid for what they contribute.”
The DudeCoin cryptocurrency powers the platform's ecosystem. Users on the platform need a wallet balance in order to like somebody else’s post.
“We call those a fistbump,” Platis said. “Right off the bat you can get two DudeCoins for adding another dude. Fistbumps will be a microtransaction between the liker and the content creator—always fixed to one cent USD but denominated in DudeCoin’s trading value.”
“I looked at the economic paradigms of what a fixed supply crypto-economic token system is and created a place where they feed off this token,” Platis explained. “So like every startup, we hope to have a growing demand for the use of our app.”
The goal is to incentivize conversation that explores and expands the definition of “being a man,” in a growth-oriented environment. There will be flags for targeting, attacking, and name-calling.
In addition to the UO research mini-grant, Platis has completed DudeCoin’s white paper and the platform’s landing page.
“I’m working on getting the token distribution model set up,” Platis added.
So how does it feel to be the first undergraduate to be awarded an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program mini-grant?
“I’m proud to represent UO’s supportive entrepreneurial eco-system and I know it makes my mom proud, too,” Platis said with a smile. “Both of those things really matter to me.”