TrustNet has emerged through the shared beliefs of its four founding members that there is a
compelling need to advance trust in organizations, communities, and society at large. The
founders have, therefore, come together to conceive and create the TrustNet organization with the
sole purpose of meeting this need. At present TrustNet is in formative stage and the founders are
engaged in discussions with trusted colleagues to get feedback and advice on the TrustNet vision,
scope of activities, and sources of revenue. A formal business plan will then be developed by
TrustNet’s vision is to significantly advance trust in the world by engaging with communities and
organizations in building trust; engaging with researchers in synthesizing knowledge about trust;
and engaging with the systems people in realizing the technological systems of support.
TrustNet sources of revenue would be based on products and services it would develop to serve
organizations, communities, and society. The focus of TrustNet’s initial service offerings is to
meet the needs of business organizations. TrustNet is prepared to introduce five such services at
this time. These services are primarily aimed to serve the needs of venture capital community and
their portfolio companies in this critical ‘post-Internet’ environment.
1. Strategic Advisory Services:
The builders of Oxford university campus envisioned, over a hundred years ago, that some day
the large beams supporting the campus buildings would need to be replaced., and inIn order to
meet this need, they planted trees that would grow and be available as the source of timber when
needed. We are building a practice called Strategic Industry Advisory services to help take the
long-view and plant seeds of trust that will sustain industries and make them thrive and given
them a chance to renew themselves periodically.
We have developed a trust-level analysis of the dynamics of the IT industry, specifically tracing
the genesis of the trusted intermediary role of consultancies such as the Gartner Group and the
Mega Group. The structure and dynamics of trust points out the high level of trust that exists, yet
shows the fragility of this trust as it is mediated by a small number of such intermediaries. This
Fall when it was revealed that these intermediaries were taking “sponsorship” money from
leading large vendors of IT it caused a rapid shift in the level of trust. Industry-wide analysis
such as these can form the basis of educating about the vital role of trust for the entire industry
and help companies take action that would preserve and promote trust.
Similar analysis for the Healthcare industry (Prof Brad Kirkman) and ECM electronic component
manufacturers (Prof Dan Shunk). A similar analysis is in the works for the high-technology
venture capital industry. Our intent is to cover several vital areas such as Phramaceuticals,
Biotechnology, Energy and so on.
The Venture Capital community needs such a strategy that would foster sustainable innovation
rather than the current boom and bust predicament. This is vital to the entire nation. We believe
that trust can be the basis for developing a strategy for creating sustainable innovation in the
venture capital industry and for providing a framework for identifying investment opportunities
in the emerging trust-based industry. TrustNet is prepared to work with leaders in the venture
capital industry to create trusted systems to nurture and build portfolio companies after
investment; to foster existing portfolio- companies; and to integrate new enterprise formation
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within established companies.
2. Enterprise Design Laboratory:
With the accelerating pace of modern society, a complex organization’s knowledge is becoming
more collective than individual. The degree of complexity involved means that much of the work
is being done by teams. As much of the valuable knowledge is tacit, the performance of a team is
contingent on its ability to efficiently share and create knowledge. Trust is one of the essential
enablers critical to in the overall performance of teams. NASA has already demonstrated that
simulation assisted expert teams brought together to design spacecrafts can accomplish in hours
what used to take months, resulting in over 900% efficiency increase while producing higher
quality designs at much lower cost. In addition, Zero Time Labs (ZTL) has developed advanced
methodology for integrating IT infrastructure, capital and global network into a 21st century
business operating system that would accelerate the formation of Zero Time enterprises.
Enterprise Design Laboratory (EDL) would integrate and extend the NASA model and ZTL
methodology into capability for rapid assessment and improvement of business models, with an
emphasis on trust. This would help eliminate poor investment early, increase the venture success
probability and reduce potential claim on investor’s time commitment in the futuredevelop viable
organizations that co-exist in their industry and develop cooperative initiatives. EDL would
work in partnership with venture capital organizations to design venture assessment team(s) for
real-time coordination of knowledge across enterprise domains (people, finance, marketing,
manufacturing, product design, sales, etc.). This would bring together expert knowledge and
simulation modeling capability in a team environment within the EDL for accelerating enterprise
evaluation and redesign. EDL will continue to serve as a laboratory for the portfolio companies
by helping them coordinate their enterprise design evolutions with team performance on an
ongoing basis. An EDL capabilities would prove to be invaluable to several industry
collaborative efforts such as CommerceNet, RosettaNet, Covisint and several of the vertical
exchanges that are struggling to gain a foothold in the B2B marketplace.
3. Multi-disciplinary synthesis of research
Research on trust is carried out in many disciplines: psychology, sociology, management science,
anthropology, economics, political science, conflict management and also technology (internet,
security, privacy). In psychology (e.g. Kramer), the focus is usually on interpersonal trust and
relationships. Concepts such as Dispositional Trust and Calculative Trust are explored.
Philosophical literature (Solomon) introduces notions such as Blind Trust and Authentic Trust.
Management Science (Lewicki) explores the possibility of knowledge-based trust with obvious
relation to knowledge management. Economics (Fukuyama) and Political Science (North) look at
social capital and its relationship to trust and its impact on economic well-being. Prusak in the
area of Knowledge Management is attempting some synthesis of all this has published recently a
book and also an article in HBR. Giddens in Social Science introduces the idea of Institutional
Trust, which is a surrogate for trust. There is also extensive material in Law about the nature of
contracting and its enforcement methods as an instrument of trust. Those involve in Conflict
Management (Isaacs) and Peace movements (Lederach) also emphasize Compassionate Listening
and other tacit knowledge methods for improving trust. One of the functions of TrustNet would
be to serve as a catalyst for synthesizing these manifold and multi-disciplinary studies. TrustNet
members would develop synthesizing frameworks through original research, present them at
multi-disciplinary conferences (organized by TrustNet and others) and promote (provoke)
research to fill gaps where we can identify them.
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Finally there will be a very strong bridge developed between this synthesis and the intense
interest in matters Trust on the Internet and its various embodiments in technologies of Trust.
Technologies of privacy and security often utilize quite confused definitions of trust and types of
trust. We hope to provide or stimulate the development of more carefully thought out foundations
of real trust, rather than poor substitutes.
4. Organizational Trust Workshops:
The purpose of this work is to provide an environment and tools that CEOs can use to understand
and improve the ‘trust climate’ of his/her organization. The target audience is Chief Executive
Officers (CEOs) and executive staff of interested organizations. The broader and deeper
understanding gained can then serve as the basis for change in ways that exemplify trust.
Research and our experience indicate that there is a gap between the significance of trust and the
attention it is given as a focus in learning. This is especially important when we consider the
shifts in environmental factors that once supported trust relationships.
We are developing content and methods that will allow CEOs to explore timely issues related to
person-to-person, person-organization and inter-organizational trust, including the impact of new
technologies. The topics of interest include:
How is trust created in the first place?
How is trust sustained?
How do we recognize trust is broken?
When broken how we mend it and regain trust?
What particular issues are brought up by the pervasive presence of the Internet and new
What are the foundations of interpersonal and inter-organizational trust, personal
integrity, trusted conduct, self-awareness, and self-assessment?
“Trust is what makes my business work.”
“I’ve seen the difference in my performance when I trust the organization and when I don’t—everybody wins when I
“My job is much easier and results are better when a patient [client/customer] trusts me.”
These quotes are from CEOs we have interviewed, and illustrate the significance of trust for
business leaders, employees, and service providers.
5. Trust Technology for Internet Interaction
The Internet was designed to be a decentralized, peer-to-peer, trusted network; however, its
trajectory over the past five years has resulted in something more like a centralized, open,
untrusted network. This disconnect between design and realization of the Internet has had
profound consequences. Protocols and infrastructure designed for use by trusted peers are easily
exploited for aberrant behaviors—like identity theft, spoofing, hacking, and spamming—that are
costing business and society large sums in lost productivity. The anonymity afforded by the
Internet also opens the door for other more mundane crimes like fraud, and makes it hard for
strong communities to develop. In particular, it creates risks for B2B transactions because one is
never completely sure who is “on the other end of the line.”
TNET is trust technology for Internet interaction that supports authentication of users and access
to a reliable history of interactions. TNET incorporates human nodes, machine nodes, and
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collectives of humans and/or machine nodes in its object model. TNET objects have properties,
methods, and relationships through which interactions occur. Like the original Internet, the
system it is based on simple design principles that allow for development of a complex system.
The four main principles are:
• Positive identification of human nodes using biometrics and machine nodes using
hardware-encoded, encrypted keys.
• Reliable history of all TNET nodes maintained by TNET in a decentralized, distributed
• Controlled opacity that gives all nodes control over disclosure of their history
information on a need-to-know basis, to prevent TNET from becoming an unchecked
• A relational trust model that recognizes bi-directional trust between nodes as the primary
basis for operation of the network.
One candidate environment for deploying TNET protocols would be in security screening at
airports. The FAA is considering implementing a system in which passengers, after undergoing a
background check, would be biometrically measured allowing them to be positively identified
and to bypass extra security screening at airports. This idea applies one principle of TNET
(Positive identification) to solve an immediate problem, but the long-term success of the system
depends on factors addressed in the other principles. If people cannot trust the system to protect
their personal information and to provide accurate information about them, it will not become
widely used. Using the relational trust model directs the design to pay attention to the bi-
directional nature of trust; if executed well, this could result in increased trust in the system.
This is just one area where TNET principles could be profitably applied. Once people are
biometrically identified for the purposes of airport security, the same system—if trusted—can be
extended to address problems of identity and trustworthiness in online transactions and
communication where identity is a crucial issue. We will work government agencies like the
FAA, NASA Civil Aviation, industrial partners such as Intel and Cisco, and groups like the
Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and CommerceNet to advocate
TNET design principles and object models as standards in emerging identity verification systems.
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Sri Sridharan is currently a principal in Infinisri Resources, a mentoring firm for start-up
companies. Recently retired after ten years at Intel as Chief Architect of Knowledge
Management, He was widely regarded as technical authority with a strategic vision. He
participated in developing IT technology roadmaps for Intel use, influenced manufacturing,
planning, logistics and IT directions. Prior to this, he served in Technology Applicationsand
Artificial Intelligence at FMC Corp, as Division Scientist & PI at BBN Labs, and as Associate
Professor of Computer Science at Rutgers. Past member of Board of Directors, Arizona Software
Association and Advisory Council, Phoenix Environmental Commission. Highly published with
over 35 papers in journals, conferences in the fields of Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence,
Cognitive Science, Chemistry and Law.
Syed Shariq is RGK Foundation Senior Research Scholar, and Leader, RGK Program on the
Knowledge Economy (Knexus) at the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University,
Senior Advisor for Information and Knowledge Management Technologies at NASA Ames
Research Center and, President and Chairman of Knowledgen, Inc. He is a member of National
Research Council’s Board on the Assessment of National Institute for Standards and Technology
Programs, and Inclusion, Inc., and Senior Fellow of the IC2 Institute at University of Texas at
Austin and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Knowledge Management. He has been
on the faculty of several universities, including Duke and Johns Hopkins. His private sector
experiences include: Senior Associate with Montgomery Securities’ venture capital group,
Associate Director of Research and Development Group with SRI International. He is an active
community volunteer in Silicon Valley serving as a founding member of the board of directors of
four non-profit Silicon Valley business initiatives; a member of Governor's California
Information Technology Commission; and the founder of the NASA’s Silicon Valley incubator
and a founding member of the board of The Enterprise Network – the two leading Silicon Valley
nonprofit resource centers for high-tech startups and early stage companies that have over the last
seven years helped over 60 successful high-tech companies raise over $600 million in equity
capital and represents a portfolio that includes - eBay, iPrint, Xros Inc. (acquired by Nortel
Networks) valued at over $40 billion. He is recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership
Medal, and the U.S. Technology Utilization Foundation’s Life Time Achievement Award.
Steve Corman is an Associate Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
at Arizona State University. He received his Ph.D. in Communication Theory from the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1988. He serves on the editorial boards of
Communication Monographs, Human Communication Research, Management Communication
Quarterly, and Progress in Communication Sciences. His publications on communication
networks, interaction processes and content analysis, and computer models of communication
have appeared in these outlets, and in others such as Communication Theory, Communication
Research, Social Networks, and Technology Studies. He recently edited (with Scott Poole) a
volume entitled Perspectives on Organizational Communication: Finding Common Ground
Karen Aiken has ten years marketing experience in the technology sector, with expertise in
positioning, branding, marketing research and program development. She has consulted to large
companies such as AOL, Oracle, IBM, and Cisco and with start-ups such as NetChannel (now
AOL-TV), CoreTalk, Cubicon, Scala, and MediaFlex. She filled multiple marketing and PR roles
with iMinds Ventures, as a marketing catalyst assisting their portfolio companies to ramp up
rapidly and as Executive Producer with Krysp, an Internet marketing development firm. Most
recently, she was Senior Strategist for Emerging Markets at Nortel Networks.
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