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When DeFi Meets The Creator Economy: Santiago R. Santos

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Background

Mint Season 3 welcomes Santiago R. Santos, Owner of Punk #9159 🤖.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 2:38 – Growing up in Mexico
  • 6:05 – Life After ParaFi
  • 10:30 – Getting Hooked on Crypto 
  • 17:22 – Defining an Investment Thesis
  • 25:01 – The Future of Social Tokens
  • 30:37 – The Creator Economy 
  • 36:33 – The Intersection of DeFi and NFTs
  • 42:08 – Lifelong Learning
  • 49:44 – What Will Eat Web 3.0?
  • 56:26 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

All right, Santiago. Welcome to mint. How are you feeling, man? Thank you for being on. 

Hey Adam. It’s great. Great to be here. Thanks for having me. 

You got it, man. I think this is round two of our conversations. First time I chatted with you was on the last show of blockchain and booze, and here we are today on Mint. So let’s just jump right into it. Okay. Tell me a bit about yourself, but more specifically, what were you like before crypto? 

Oh, wow. That’s a good question. About myself, I grew up in Mexico I guess. And to me that’s been a hallmark experience of understanding how broken the world is in many ways. I think a lot of people that come to crypto have a better appreciation of why things matter and why we’re building this. And so after that, I spent most of my time in finance, I studied game theory. And for me, when I discovered Bitcoin in 2012, what drew me was the Nakamoto consensus. I emailed all my game theory professors and said, wow, this is like a new chapter in game theory. We’ve got to update all our books. But of course, they dismissed it. But for me, it’s always been this idea of, what I obsessed about is friction. I just can’t stand it. When I go to the doctor, and I get to fill out 20 forms over and over again, or when I need to send a wire or when I need to travel, and I just generally think that that for me has been my framework for understanding investment opportunities. When I see friction, wherever it is, Then I sort of understand, okay, there ought to be a better way to do this or that. And I think like crypto, when anyone that has used a stable coin to send money, doesn’t want to go back to the sending wire transfer. And so for me, it’s sort of an inevitability that we’re moving in this direction. Anyone that is critical of crypto hasn’t used it. I think like, we’re trapped in the state of the world where it was just Bitcoin and you didn’t have a lot of usability in the systems. Whereas today, we are entering a state of the world where crypto applications are providing equal or more functionality across the board than traditional systems. And that’s, I think like any piece of technology that gets adopted it is successful, it needs to provide a 10 X better improvement. Places in crypto are faster, better, sometimes cheaper, but depending on how you define those things, it’s very subjective I understand that. But that’s me. And I know I am shifting toward giving you an answer that is related to crypto. Candidly, it’s been hard for me not to obsess about this stuff, because I think at a very primitive level, it pisses me the fuck off that, people that need it the most are hurt the most in a lot of these systems that have friction. When you think about money, people don’t have access to credit. People can’t charge exorbitant fees and to you an $8 wire transfer fee is not much, but you know, it is a lot for other people. And so you know, I think a lot of consumer surplus, a lot of benefit will come from crypto and it’s going to impact people that need it the most. 

Growing up in Mexico 

No look, I’m Jewish and the $8 fee for a transfer hurts my pocket. And I also like part of the business model of mint is since the get go, I always wanted to make all revenue on chain. So every single season I issue NFTs as sponsorships, and I also try to pay the people who help basically management in crypto, but all these like transaction fees eat up into that. So I still use Venmo sometimes, and I still use other platforms, but I hear you, but let’s, let’s revert back to a key word that you said, okay, friction, a core theme that you said really, really resonated with you growing up. And I guess my, my next question to you is like, what was it like growing up in the Santos household? Like where you, where you just like always trying to fix stuff, or you always you’re like, mom, dad, friction like I gotta fix this it doesn’t make sense? Like what was that like growing up? 

Yeah. It’s funny because I just spent this weekend going back home. Yeah, I think so. I was the youngest two older sisters and I dunno, I do obsess about inefficiencies. I guess you’d have to ask my parents. I was probably a Royal pain in the ass. But I love to travel. I think understanding how different people view the world has really high credit for my parents because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but we did travel. The two buckets where we spent money with travel and education. And my parents were always there for me. And so I think like growing up in that environment allowed me to like, feel comfortable taking outsized risks, because I think ultimately you want to have a cradle where if shit really hits the fan, ultimately you have a support network that you can go back to and say, Hey, you know, you know I lost it all or whatever, but I think ultimately like you have a support network. And I think it’s super important. I’ve always felt really comfortable taking risks. Because for me, it’s like this idea that you can constantly reinvent yourself. Like you have the mental faculties to then say, you’re going to figure it out. And then look, , I’ve been riding crypto. At times I had been terribly wrong. I made a ton of mistakes, but I think the key hallmark and I always credit my parents for this is inspiring me, this idea of just doing stuff that I think matters and not being very complacent. And I think that’s where I just obsessed about when there’s friction. It’s part of this notion that I want to do stuff that one always matters and can have an impact. And two, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone in a public context, but my middle sister is sick and she’s been sick for like eight years. And we didn’t really know what she had. She has a rare form of epilepsy. And going through that process, to me, was very difficult because it’s not like my sister is missing an arm or leg. She’s like there, but she’s not there. And so at the same time for me, it was really difficult because you’re left wondering it could have been me. Probabilistically genetically, like I don’t know, there might be some genetic expression that happened when she was growing up and just triggered this disease of sorts. And so I vividly remember, cause it was just happening when I was at a venture fund investing in like startups and software startups. And I said, does this really matter? Like, okay, do I want to go out and invest and find the next Salesforce? Like, trust me like software as a service has been huge. And it’s been a big transformation, but for me, I was doing crypto by night and I said, well, I’ve seen this entire world, and I think it’s going to have a massive impact on a lot of things. And to me that was like a big catalyst to saying, okay, I just really just want to focus all of my time because I don’t know how much time I have to the things that I think will ultimately matter the most because you know, like it it really centered me and put a lot of perspective into my life around you know, we’re incredibly lucky. And I think, when you see other people that are not, then it really kind of centered in line with my values and principles and how I dedicate my time. 

Life After ParaFi 

What a unique experience to have underneath your belt. Obviously I mean, health is number one, right? But how that kind of translates to how you approach investing and how you approach your professional life and how you value things. And the choices that you make and the teams that you contribute to, all these things kind of trickled down to who you were growing up, the experiences that you had and what you deem as valuable. And that also kind of pivots to my next point of you being at ParaFi for a while, and investing through ParaFi now, you left ParaFi. So I guess, what have you been up to post ParaFi? 

Well, first of all, I had a great run at ParaFi. I mean, I think I’m super proud of what we did there. And you know, a lot of it is we think we built a fantastic team. Anya Nick Mika Ben was my partner and Adrian, like we really just grew the team. And when I joined, we were a team, we were in a we work in San Francisco and we had very little capital, but we have really strong backing from folks like Bain and KKR. And I think ultimately that was a really fun ride. We were, I think, the first vertically focused crypto fund. You know, most crypto funds are just very general, right? So we were not going to just invest broadly in crypto, but we are focused. We think that DeFi is going to be transformational, and we just sort of like focused on that. I credit a lot of our success to that because the founders knew that we were active users in these systems, like early beta testers. And so I think that was a fantastic ride. So what I’m doing now, I see this massive opportunity of a convergence of like three things, really like DAOs as a broader circle, within that you have like a metaverse or something that you have like very interesting stuff happening in NFT land, which is sort of the Trojan horse of crypto. Most people enter, they buy NFTs. Over the last eight years, I’ve tried to explain why crypto to people and it’s been difficult, but NFTs make it very relatable because people love collecting. And I think this is going to be an onboarding mechanism for millions. And then you have gaming attached to that. So what’s happening in Axie has been probably as you’re showing the world and even game studios of how powerful this can be, and then you have DeFi. And so I think there’s going to be a convergence of all these three worlds in the Metaverse, which we’re spending more time in the digital world. And so I’m excited about that. I’m investing as an angel, I’m advising people, helping teams and founders in any way that I can. And then, you know, maybe I’ll launch podcasts, who knows? I think where I want to focus more of my energy, part of my energy is creating just pure educational content without any agenda. I think it is helpful for people because unfortunately people get called up on stage on CNBC and Bloomberg are always talking about price. They are always talking in a very defensive context. I think when you inherently talk about crypto, most of the narrative has always been, we’re going to explode on Wall street as we know it. And we’re gonna like, you know, this very crypto punk attitude. And I think it’s defensive because we all know that, look, we’ve all been in these dinner conversations and Thanksgiving and what have you and people like, oh, this is a scam. This is drug money. This is silk road stuff. And it’s difficult to overcome that. The natural response would be very defensive when someone is constantly asking you questions, but I think generally more and more people are very interested now in crypto because of NFTs or gaming or what have you. And I think there’s an opportunity. All we need to do is just explain this technology for what it is, and go out and encourage people to use it and that’s it. We don’t need to do anything else. I don’t care if doge is a dollar or $5 who like, who fucking cares. Like when you talk about that, it really discredits us because when people see these charlatans and go on TV, naturally, it’s like, oh, this is like the guy that couldn’t get into investment banking that wasn’t successful in wall street ended up going crypto was lucky and now he thinks is a genius. And I think that that doesn’t serve as well because ultimately there’s a lot of really smart people here that don’t have the microphone, but that will be much better stewards of communicating this technology to the broader world. 

So if you had a podcast, what would be your first episode? What do you think? What topic? 

Oh, that’s great. I mean, isn’t that what you’re going through now? I don’t know you have more experience than I do on this, but I would probably bring on Ray Dalio. Someone that’s been critical about this stuff. But he’s sort of gone through the journey of being critical and skeptical. And now, as I understand, I have exposure to it and understand what went into that. And just talking about the hard stuff, like what took him so long. Maybe I’d bring on someone that is extremely critical a bit. I don’t know. I think those are the kinds of discussions that we need to have.

Getting Hooked on Crypto

Why did you hop on the bandwagon of crypto so quickly versus someone let’s say like Ray Dalio , who took his time kind of thing? Like what did you see that you think others missed early on? 

I dunno for me, it was just playing with it. I think I said, this is interesting. It sounds a little crazy. Like I love Harry Potter, I guess. And so, like the magical internet money headline on Reddit forum, like really caught my attention. And then I said, well, I want to try this. Because again, I said remittances to me were an immediate use case for Bitcoin. I said I’m going to, I’m going to go out and try to buy like a bunch of Bitcoin and send it to like 20 people. And if they can convert it, I think it was 10 or 20, and if they can convert it to local currency Pesos then you’re immediately displacing the remittance flows. Like you kill Western unions of the world who are charging you know, 8-10%. And so to me, the hallmark of why I became increasingly interested in this technology is just playing with it, like using it. That’s what led me to DeFi early. That’s what led me to like stuff like Axie like gaming and NFTs. That was probably what was the most interesting to me. The other component is like open source, because I was investing in open source software at this venture fund. This was at a time where it was kind of like how do you monetize stuff that is inherently free. Because open source, like Linux, you just developed this piece of code and can be copied. And it’s very counterintuitive to say, how am I going to monetize something that, you know, is inherently free and open to the world. It sort of comes from like this archaic model, like IP and protection, but, but our thesis there was like a lot of value can be created. Stuff like Mongo or fresco and some of these systems, like red hat, are open source, but they provide value added services or they attract really smart people to develop stuff. And when I saw Ethereum, like to me, that was the aha. It was like, oh, okay. Open source software development is really powerful because it attracts smart people in this collaborative environment, just come and go. Particularly Linux, but you have two problems with that. One is continuity. Like, how do you actually pay these people and incentivize them to continue to develop? . A lot of traditional open-source development is being subsidized by people at Google and Facebook and Netflix that just have spare time, right? Google has this policy, people work on their pet projects for a day. A lot of it is going into open-source development. And the second one is like accruing value to contributors, right? Like mince himself didn’t actually make a lot of money building this system where the developers like Tim Berners Lee didn’t capture as much money as you would have thought, right? You would’ve said, oh, this, this supposed to be the richest guy in the world. Cause he just literally developed the internet, but it’s been like the top aggregators that accrued most value. And so when I saw Ethereum I just said, okay, this generalist smart contract platform can solve a lot of the problems with open source development. And I think what is most exciting is, I didn’t know what DeFi was going to be. The bet there was okay, well, really cool stuff happens in open source development. The pace of innovation and iteration is much, much faster. It’s compounding, and then when you layer on top of that really good token design and economics, then it just like is going to be explosive. And I think that I was lucky that I was in San Francisco at the time. I was investing in open-source software, and I saw it early on, because I’d just been investing by night and crypto and was obsessing about it. I guess the last point I would say is, to this day it is still very encouraging that most of the smartest people of a different era are highly critical of the space without really, truly taking time, I think as far as I understand it, when I talked to them about understanding this technology. And to me, it’s always been like, anytime someone really has a visceral reaction to something, it’s like, well, just probe there, right? Because like nothing is nothing is truly obvious in this world. I think I’ve said it before, but when you think something is obvious, it’s probably not. It’s your perception of it. And you probably do not understand it to the level of granularity because nothing truly is. I mean, at the end of the day, everything is in the state of probabilities. People love to think in binary terms, people love to dismiss stuff because it conflicts with their worldview or it conflicts with their portfolio and their bags or whatever. And I understand that you might not take an interest in something. And I understand that some people might say like buffet say, Hey, look, I, I’m not a technologist, so I’m not gonna invest in the internet. I’m just going to stick to my guns and just buy stuff that I eat and can touch and use every day, my crispy cream and all this stuff. That’s fine. I mean, he’s a great investor, but I think in this state of the world, I think new paradigm shifts are compressing. The state by which the world is changing is radically accelerating largely because of the internet, largely because we’re Uber connected now. And I think the pace of information is this being disseminated and created and then disseminated and an accelerating pace. And so new ideas get adopted and iterated much faster. And so there’s sort of this analogy, like if you were to put someone that was born in the 11th century, in the 16th century, and you just sort of tell him, teleport him to the 16th century, he would have been like, okay, kind of the world has changed a little bit. Like, you know, people kind of do the same stuff, but it largely would have been like, yeah, he would be surprised. But if you do the same, to someone that was born in like the 18th century, and you teleport that today, you’d probably have a heart attack because things are radically different. And I think that timescale of how things are even like your grandmother, or even your parents, it’s really hard for them to understand some of this stuff. It’s like, what do you mean you’re playing this virtual game and what do you mean about punks? Like, my parents were so critical when I was buying punks . I said, all you gotta understand is that like, you know, it’s just an image. And I think like that to me it’s been from first principles, it’s been what has guided my level of interest into probing into certain stuff, when people are really critical about something, because they probably don’t understand it. And there’s probably a lot of substance there. And it’s sort of the analogy of like, if you remember bookstores like Barnes and noble when you walk in there, you naturally like have an affinity towards walking towards aisles that you love, whether it’s comic books or fiction or nonfiction. But you know that there’s people that are spending time in other aisles. . Like there are people that are in that corner of the bookstore that you’ve never ventured out to. And you kind of wonder, like, why are people there? There’s clearly some value that other people are seeing. So wouldn’t it be in your best interest to just occasionally just go up there, ask people questions, like, what do you like here? And then if you don’t like it, it’s okay. You can go back your aisle, but I think there’s a ton of value in just constantly having that intellectual curiosity to venturing into a particular aisle at the bookstore and the library, but you’ve never allowed yourself to go into, because you never know. You might love Stephen King or you might love comic books, or you might love non-fiction, but allowing yourself to be in a position in sort of this frontier. It is sometimes uncomfortable to venture into places where you have no experience. And I think a lot of people will experience that in crypto. They come to this world and there’s all these topics and lingo, and it can be really daunting. But nonetheless, like anyone from the outside in must be realizing at this point. Okay. There’s really smart people here. Okay. There’s a lot of value being created. If you’re an artist looking at NFTs, you’re saying I probably should have an NFT strategy. 

Defining an Investment Thesis

You know, when I walk into Barnes and noble. The first aisle I gravitate to is Starbucks. That’s where my fat ass goes to get like a blueberry muffin. Like you gravitate towards the comic books, I gravitate towards the blueberry muffins. Now all jokes aside. I want to talk more about I guess like you’re investing strategy. The more I consume your content, the more I listen to you on podcasts, the more I read your tweets. You have a very philosophical approach, I think, to the investments that you make. But also you’re very strategic. And beyond being a stellar writer on Twitter and not to toot your horn, but you do a good job conveying thoughts really clearly. What are some principles you live by as an investor? And we talked a little bit about this with your sister, right? But I want to dive a little bit more into it. Like what are some core foundations you hold yourself accountable to, if any, before making a bet? 

Yeah. It’s a great question. First and foremost, it’s stuff that I can see myself using. I love to invest in something I can use. And so that’s one. The second one is, just always finding one or two or three or whatever it is, things that I can help a team with. And if I can’t see that, then I tell them, look, if you’re better off taking money from someone else. So I always want to understand ways that I can help a founder. And a lot of times I just come to them and say, Hey, look, these are the things that I can probably help you with. And these are the things that I can’t help you with. And so there’s alignment. Those are the best relationships. I was talking about this the other day and yesterday tweeted about this. It’s sort of like this idea of diversification and I think for me, it’s served me well just to be more concentrated. And this is not about the quantity of investments. It’s really dramatically focused on things that I think will have, on a relative basis. You always have to think about where my capital is going to be optimized. And so you know, I like not spreading myself too thin. I mean, at ParaFi we were focused on DeFi. Today, I’m increasingly focused on investing a lot in games and NFTs, and still DeFi, but for me it’s been just helpful to know the people that come to me or I go to them understanding the things that I’m investing in, because there’s a lot of leverage that I get for just being very focused on a particular theme and observing trends and how the space is evolving and then leveraging that across. And it’s not sharing insights between protocols. It’s just more so from that vantage point, just being in a position where I can observe what actually is going on. And so that serves me well. So those are sort of the main things that I tell founders. At the core of it is again, you know, it needs to have impact. I think that’s been the case for most crypto investments. I think a lot of times understanding what motivates a founder is super important. Like why are they building? And getting to know them before I make an investment. Because a lot of times, you know, it’s unclear if a founder is going to grind it out through a bear market. And I just want to always see what really motivates them. And I think the founders I’ve had the privilege to back, I think a lot of, most of them, if not all of them have this growing desire to. It’s pretty awesome to be in my position where I get to talk to people that have thought about problems for their entire life and have way more experience in domain expertise. And then it’s you know, just super encouraging to hear them say, Hey, look, I want to truly transform how, you know, banks operate. Or how derivatives work or what have you. And so yeah, those are probably some of the main things.

So you see yourself using it. That’s one principle, the level of impact that it has. The founder’s conviction and their belief and their underlying like motivation and inspiration to solve that problem. Those are like the three main kinds of takeaways that I got, but they know you’ve been investing since early 2012. And being a good investor is kind of revisiting your thesis in altering different variables. From 2012, to like where we are today, one, when was the last time you revisited that thesis and how has that kind of, how has that thesis or hypothesis kind of evolved over time?

Yeah, all the time. Because when you think in probabilities, you inherently need to constantly process new information and update your thinking, right? This goes back to, I never think in binary terms. There is a state of the world if bitcoin is not successful at all, because, you know, who knows how the security budget of Bitcoin is going to work after a certain point where block rewards diminish. So, naturally, I think, you know, you constantly need to think about that. And there is a version of this world where Ethereum is not as successful. There’s also not a zero sum game, I think, in all this space. There’s going to be a lot of value created. So thinking in maximalist terms, I’ve never had it. I’ve had inclinations naturally where I’m investing a lot into the Ethereum ecosystem. Now Solana, and it’s mostly Solana and Ethereum, but you always need to constantly think in probabilities. So, yeah, I made a lot of mistakes. I think the key learning, for instance, in 2017, I was investing in a lot of things like higher up the stack protocols and applications, a lot of which had dependencies, meaning without a, without a highly credible throughput, layer one. Well, a lot of social use cases are not going to work because it’s super expensive. So that’s one example where like, there’s this idea, Hey, let’s just decentralize everything. No, you don’t have to decentralize everything. Cause you need a wonder, like what are you actually gaining? And does it really matter? It works for money, right. The only reason you want to have DeFi is because it minimizes counterparty risk. And that is super valuable to a financial participant, right? Like you know, not relying on a middleman that is going to approve stuff ,that’s going to take time and has counterparty risk because that matters. And so having a highly transparent financial system, that is extremely valuable because the stakes are high. But should you be creating a decentralized Uber? I don’t know. Decentralized Airbnb? I don’t know. Can some of those applications borrow some elements of crypto? Probably. And so I think those were some of the mistakes I made in 2017 was just investing in stuff that went too far ahead of its time . And the reason I kind of then understood that and probably stayed away from a lot of them was because it had a lot of dependencies. You need to have a place where you can store these files correctly. So you need to have something like IPFS and it wasn’t around. You needed to have an L two that could credibly support a lot of transactions, you didn’t have that. Or something like a more throughput blockchain like Solana, which didn’t exist. And so I think like, for me, it’s been investing in stuff that is gaining traction. Like, you know, what drew me to NFTs and revisited that and gaming was just seeing it. It was hard to dismiss the level of attraction something like Axie is getting or yield Guild was getting. And so for me, if I were to just distill it in one is just, you know, in this space, it’s great because you can join the discord channels and understand on chain, how things are working or not working and how much traction they’re getting. All you need to do is probe, and what’s super fascinating is like this data exists and is available to anyone. And so one of the learnings I had was like coming into the space from church, from markets, like I was at JP Morgan and then just investing in venture, which is super competitive asset classes. You sort of think that like, all the opportunities are already arbed out. There’s someone that has better information than you. And so that skepticism for me was kind of difficult to overcome because sometimes I look at something and say, wow, like, how is it that no one has thought about this before? Or why am I not the consensus here? Like, what am I missing? And ultimately I just came to the conclusion that a lot of people don’t do the work. Even though the data is paradoxically, like just open there for anyone to observe. Like how many people actually like using chain analytics? And like, to me, that’s just incredible, right? You’re not relying on the SEC like 10 K 10 QS. Like all this data is perfectly transparent, available to anyone at assess and inspect. All you gotta do is look. And so to me, like a long winded answer, I don’t invest in stuff that I struggled to see any remote traction or has too many dependencies because the opportunity cost is that there is stuff that is getting a ton of traction and just is out of favor or like people haven’t discovered it. And so in the juxtaposition of these two worlds, stuff that, like Cardano, that has never shipped or just shipped for a long time you’re sort of wondering, like, why these things have any value or have any traction. And whereas you have this entire world and ecosystem that is exploding in usage and traction. And so that really just has sharpened my view on where I put my capital. 

The Future of Social Tokens

You’re very much at the type of person that says, just look at the data. Like I don’t invest with emotion rather with logic and rationale. And I know other people make investment decisions based on what their gut tells them. And I think it’s interesting to hear everybody’s point of view. One thing you brought up that’s super interesting, and this kind of takes me back. I’m not going to quote the date. Before the roads, there were the cars, and everybody built the vehicles that drove on dirt before building the highways and the foundation that allowed for a smoother finish. And it feels like we’re first now building the roads, the infrastructure layers like IPFS like Ethereum, all these platforms that are composable and could be built on top of, and now we’re like seeing the rise of the cars and all these different cars being built to use these roads, you know? And I think it’s super applicable to kind of your, your analogy of, we gave people the foundation, right? Let’s see what they do with it. And I’ll bet on the ones that align with my thesis as an investor. I want to take the conversation now to social tokens. And the reason why I want to talk about social tokens, it’s a topic that I bring up with everyone on the podcast. It’s why mint exists. It’s the impetus of where crypto meets the creator, in my opinion, along with enough NFTs along with DAOs , et cetera, et cetera. But I quit my job at DraperGoren Holm, because I had the opportunity to do a social token for a DJ. Okay. And we put it on the back burner because just the tools and platforms weren’t necessarily there to bring it to life, but it got me thinking of social tokens as an alternative investment class. And particularly the first thing that comes to mind is like, FWB. Okay. So I wanna, read a couple of stats from someone the top performing social tokens that I came across and get your opinion on something. So Allie coin which is the coin of Allie McPherson. She was on episode one season, one of Mint. December, 2020, her token hovered around 20 cents. And with its recent peak hitting $53 in September, 2021. Play coin, David play, season one, episode 10, I think of Mint, April 22nd, 2021, started at around $4.50, and now it’s hovering around $40. FWB which I’m looking back to may 20 20 hovered around $6.50 and is now comfortably today October fifth at around $130. Forefront is another good example and the list goes on and on and on. So these social tokens are like an alternative investment class one, how do you feel about them? And second, how do you feel about them kind of playing a more significant role in a hedge funds portfolio in the future? Do you see that happening over time?

Yeah. How’s this social token any different than Facebook equity or Twitter? I mean, it’s just sort of like an aggregation, right? Facebook is doing the aggregation. Everyone’s posting stuff because they’ve created this platform where I’m incentivized to tweet because, you know, I want to get my word out and connect with other people, but at the end of the day, like what drives human activities is this idea of like connecting with other people and blockchains are great coordination mechanisms. And now you’re sort of going direct to your audience. Why wouldn’t you? And I think COVID has been an accelerant to that. People wonder why hasn’t this happened before? So the question that you’re always going to ask yourself, what do I know and why hasn’t this happened before? Or what do I know that others don’t? And I think the key insight for me is like talking to creators and saying, look, they were really hurting from COVID and, I think you needed to have a catalyst like that for them to understand, look, I can’t have real world concerts. I can’t promote my brand in the physical world, but there’s this ability to capture value, with my supporters in a very direct way. And I think that’s super powerful. And I think it’s going to transform how we think about you know, all kinds of industries, but broadly entertainment and media, right? And the same way that YouTube and Spotify came to truly disrupt the entertainment world, and they had to adapt, I think in this case, if you’re a creator, you’re an artist, you know, you have the distribution of the internet. Because again, web 3.0 connects to that, and then you can go direct. Let’s talk about the benefits. You have all the data, right? You can incentivize your early supporters with NFTs that are just digital records of someone saying, Hey, I was here early and I was supporting Calvin Harris or I was, you know, early into Frank Ocean, whatever. And you can mint that NFT around that. You can even give them some of your revenue. Right. You can give them access to certain stuff. And so I think it’s been really interesting, this inversion of how you first create a community and then you build applications and services around that versus to your point around building the road like layer one infrastructure. Like layer one development has been, you have to kind of build something to allow for these state transitions and recording stuff on the blockchain with trust and the ability guarantees that incentivize this whole stack of applications built on top. But that was a very discreet way of developing products in crypto, which is why you kind of have to build it for people to come. Now you have this idea of creating really powerful communities and looking at Bored Ape yacht club. Incredible, right? They’ve first started with a mint and like of just these four dates and then they partnered and created all these different services. Why? Because they have all the attention of users, like 50% or more of people are coming in without any reason, and have never held crypto before, but they’re buying these apes because they’re cute. And now it has access to other stuff. And social tokens are no different. In my mind, it’s this idea of, I own my brand and you created Mint because you want to own your brand. And I think that’s super powerful. Personally, unfortunately I think social networks are going to realize and recognize that, you know, they should’ve probably been more generous to their users, especially early users that have created a ton of value. And I think things are inherently, there’s a lot of friction there and a lot of discontent.

The Creator Economy

What do you kind of see the future of creators and the creative economy in general spiraling towards? And I only bring that up because your last point of social networks will realize that they should have favored their earliest creators much better. I think there’s one platform in particular, that’s doing this like Tik TOK and the most relevant example that comes to mind that they’ve done just to give more context is I remember early on when a lot of early creators were picking up traction, they started sending them care packages, you know, show appreciation. This is like a package that was shipped to them, that they invested money into that they invested time to curate for this individual, you know? So whether it be through a token or whether it be an act of kindness, these types of collaborations, this type of recognition, I think, is forming much better on Tik TOK than Instagram or Twitter, for example. But what do you see this next wave of the creator economy kind of spiraling towards? 

Yeah, I mean, I think we’re just in the very early stages of this explosion of creating social value and capturing this Goodwill that exists. You know, when you think about the popularity of, for instance, sneakers of Nike, like a lot of it is tied to, I don’t know, like Jordans, right? Like Michael Jordan sure, he got endorsements, and he got paid a ton, but still, I mean, I think if you’re not Michael Jordan, if you’re just a really talented developer or a creator then you just go direct and just say, Hey, you know you know, ultimately think about how many people haven’t been discovered, just because they don’t have access to these gatekeepers or the algorithm doesn’t push them up up the stack. It’s really hard, right? It’s really hard to get discovered or it has been. But now you’re sort of seeing in the NFT world where so many people are just being discovered like Fewocious. And, you know, Beeple has been doing a lot for a long time, but like there’s this whole set of artists that are coming and minting NFTs, creating and uploading their art and getting a ton of traction. And so I think like, you know, it starts with just creating art. It’s art with artists maybe issuing their own token. I think what’s going to be super interesting is what else do you do with that? You know, board ape has been, I think one of the more impressive projects that has iterated very quickly on layer on services to their, their core engaged community. But if you’re an artist you know, like, I don’t know, Justin 3LAU has been sort of at the forefront of this and try to experiment and do this since 2017. He’s now come a long way. I think of like perhaps sharing revenue like royalties to the fan base and early adopters. And so I think more and more like NFTs will be the cookies of web three. It will allow you to understand who your core early believers are and fan bases, and then use that mechanism to stitch together the metaverse and the mainstays. If you’re going to have a concert in LA. You know, as opposed to relying on Ticketmaster, then you might just give access to like friends with benefits which has done extremely well and crypto conferences, right. You can go to their events and they did in Miami and Paris. And so I think the use cases are vast, right? It could really be anyone, right. It could be a writer. I don’t want to just say it’s just an artist, like a painter, if you will, it could be a musician, a writer, anything like that.

I think part of people owning their creator economy comes with the element of the level of liquidity, the amount of value that’s captured through, whether it be their NFTs, whether it be through their social token, and something that’s obviously super familiar to you is DeFi lending, DeFi , borrowing , you’re an avid supporter of AAVE and a bunch of other protocols. What do you think about creator economies and these like micro social networks building out their own peer-to-peer lending and borrowing networks? Does that make sense at all? 

Yeah. So what you’re saying is like the ability to borrow and lend money against these social tokens?

Exactly. But do so in a way where communities trust one another. And they trust the people in those communities. And for example, I may be more reluctant to take a loan from someone in FWB that I’ve interacted with, you know, online rather than like, I don’t know, going on AAVE for example. And not to say that I don’t trust AAVE or what they’re building. I think from a more normie point of view, these things are so hard to understand at a higher level that when you live and breathe in these communities, you become so part of them and so ingrained in them that it opens up opportunities for new DeFi products, right? 

Yeah. I mean, basically what you’re describing is the reputation layer, which is now missing in DeFi. Because everything is over collateralized and that ‘s not the optimal solution, right? Like you know, in the traditional world you have under collateralized loans because you have a credit score and their credit can be enforced through violence. Like there’s recourse. And so, you know, you can go to a bank and borrow money without over collateralizing, putting, you know, 120% then borrow, a fresh amount. and so you’re right. I mean, I think social tokens are another component by which you might say, Hey, there’s a lot of richness in your wallet address and things that you’ve, you’ve done or not have done, for instance, have you ever been liquidated? Have you ever sold a token? Have you, you know, whatever. Right. And so I think if you inspect that and you inspect the activity, there’s a lot of value there. Think of it as like a DeFi passport. Other, there are folks that are trying to do this, which there is a lot of data that you can use to construct a credit profile or create a reputation layer, right? Because if you have a wallet address at six years old, for instance, or whatever, there’s a lot of richness there. And if you have a way to look at them all the better, right? Because it really starts creating a rounded profile of who the person or entity is behind that wallet, even though you don’t know their identity. But you know, actions speak louder than words, and so whatever they’ve done on chain can be used to offer them incentives and perhaps better terms, lower interest rate, or better terms on the loan. And so I think we’re going to see, to your point, a lot of social tokens and NFTs, be used as mechanisms to really understand who your counterparty is and this like pseudo anonymous or fully anonymous world, and then offer a bunch of services on that. And so yeah, this is why I think these two worlds or three worlds are going to converge really naturally. 

The Intersection of DeFi and NFTs 

Speaking of NFTs, the conversations around DeFi and NFTs have been pretty loud on Twitter, I’d say, I think you could agree. What are some of the less familiar use cases around the intersection of DeFi and NFTs that kind of excites you? 

I mean, I think most people are really focused on the visualization of the metadata behind the NFT. Like at the end of the day, a punk, all these things that are like being minted have some underlying metadata to them, but you know, like the visual representation of it is very obvious to people. All they see is a nice punk or horrible punk or whatever. But the true value is in the metadata. And when you think about it, it starts with art, but the general logic behind an NFT can be used for any sort of illiquid asset, whether it be a parcel of land in Miami or Hong Kong or accounts receivable invoice from a particular company, all you need to do is again, understand the taxonomy of the data. So I think it starts with art, but it’s proving a use case of saying you take any sort of discreet non fungible thing, and then you create more liquidity to that. So for instance, you know, you just NFT a bunch of parcels of land in Miami. Well, okay. I understand that an apartment in Brickell might be different, but like it’s not one-on-one to an apartment in an adjacent building in Brickell. But you know, you have reasonable data. And the ability to then piece that together and say like, this is no different than like mortgage backed securities. Which in theory, you know, it should work. The problem that in 2008, not to get too technical is, you know, you just were using really bad data around correlation. But what we have learned from NFTs is that, the minute you create sort of like a base floor punk, not every punk is different, but at the same time, it has certain attributes that allow you to construct an index. So for base punk and a base punk should be worth at least X. So there’s a floor around that, because there’s a lot of data behind that. And so mortgage backed securities is an example or an insurance contract is an example. Well, they’re all discreet, but at the same time, they have very overlapping shared properties that allow you to then construct an index or create financial products like mortgage backed securities. And what does that do? That removes friction because it increases the volume and how you can freely trade these things, right? Even if you fractionalize this NFT , like it creates just more volume and velocity and transactions, right? And that creates a better price, discovery, and better price discovery that allows you to, you know, understand how liquid or illiquid an asset is, and then create credit terms around that and create money markets around them. So you start seeing how all of this can work. Anytime you wonder like, Hey, I’m just going to have to ask how easy it is for a company to get liquidity on their accounts receivable. Well, there’s a whole pocket of the market in Wall Street that buys these things at cents on the dollar, but there’s inefficiencies. Whereas, if you could fractionalize pieces of that, then it just creates a more fluid market. And so I think we’re going to see an explosion of using NFTs to bring more liquidity and price discovery to illiquid assets. Just things that don’t get traded as much, because, you know, you can only buy one piece of an apartment. Well, maybe you can just buy a fractional of that. It goes in the same suit for a lot of things, right. I’m just using real estate because it’s perhaps more relatable to a lot of people. 

I want to talk about more of one of the more recent, big headlines that hit NFTs recently with Tik TOK entering the space, and one of your investments being immutable X, supporting that entire wave in which we can confidently say if they do it correctly and the audience on Tik TOK corresponds that it’s going to be one of the catalysts for NFT adoption. And just to give more context for those who are listening, Tik Tok is taking its own play on selling NBA top shot inspired moments on immutable X, which is, correct me if I’m wrong, a layer two of Ethereum, right? And Tik TOK kind of coins it owns the videos that broke the internet. So you were an early investor in immutable. What’s your take on why Tik Tok decided to use immutable over a competitor, like flow , for example? And it’s an indirect competitor. I don’t think it’s a direct competitor, but let’s say someone likes a flow because there was a lot of talk around that on Twitter.

Yeah. I think you have to understand, like what drew me to immutable was it’s a team that understands how painful it is to build on the layer one. So Robby and the team built gods on chain, which was, I think for a long time, one of the highest grossing NFT projects, but it was very expensive. So through that experience, they said, Hey, let’s build a layer two that is specific and very well catered to NFTs and gaming applications. And so you know, I think ultimately each layer 2, starkware, like you know, like arbitrum, optimism, and immutable X have certain trade-offs. And again, immutable X is using starkware technology to build, I think one of the more specific blockchain layer two for NFTs and gaming. And so I think ultimately like if you’re aTik Tok , you can say, Hey, I can deploy on Solana perhaps I can deploy on flow. And I can deploy on immutable X. And I think, you know, to this day, like you just benefit from the security guarantees of Ethereum which is one of the more, if not the more battle-tested networks out there, absent Bitcoin. And then I think it’s in you tapping into the community and user base of Ethereum. And I think that’s ultimately perhaps how others decided to deploy on Ethereum and use Ethereum, and enable USDC transfers. Because Ethereum has been battle-tested, it has more Lindy effect that has more developers behind it, and so, that is sort of my bullish case for Ethereum. If you look at the number of developers and activity, it’s not to say that other ecosystems are not growing, but Ethereum continues to be king in that perspective.

Lifelong Learning

I want to pivot because we only have so much time left, and talk more about personal questions. How you developed as an individual as an investor, as just like a human in crypto. So what is one lesson that’s taken you the longest to learn during your time in the space?

Hmm, that’s a really good question. So what is one lesson that is taking me longer to understand in this space? I think it’s this impatience that I feel, I think others feel too. It’s really hard to be in a position where you think that, you know, it’s probably going to sound like I’m contradicting myself because to me, this technology is increasingly obvious, it’s just a matter of when it’s going to be deployed, when it’s going to be adopted. And it’s sort of hard that once you discover crypto and you start using it, and you understand the potential that it might have, just being a little bit more patient in how these things will take to get true mainstream adoption, because I still think we’re super early. We’re all kind of beta testers. But it is difficult because when you juxtapose that with how a lot of world problems that exist today, And you’re saying, well, goddammit, what is it going to take for more people to realize that, you know, the economy is not growing there’s all these different problems, like during COVID. People are getting checks in the mail or not getting them, or like, it was just delayed for three weeks. And that means a lot of people are dying. Right. Because if you’re not getting a check-in in the mail, there’s just a better way to do this. Take all the wallets and the entire population and stream these payments to them and make it conditional. They can only spend it in X or Y. Like universal basic income is something that I’m super fascinated about. I think it solves a lot of the world’s problems. Like at this intersection with automation, you know, a lot of jobs are gonna be displaced, and you’re going to have to retrain and give employment to a lot of people that are just going to go on to work because the machine will do certain roles better than a human. I think universal basic income is the solution to a lot of things. And I think crypto uniquely enables that. I sometimes need to remind myself to be more patient, and serve that as sort of motivation to try to educate and try to expose the benefits of this technology to more and more people. But it can be difficult at times because you know, the world is not necessarily a great spot and in a number of ways, it’s also an in a beautiful spot because there’s a lot of technology and there’s this, you know, pockets of the world that are seeing incredible innovations, like in healthcare biotech, like and crypto. But, you know, there’s many things in this world that are broken, and how do you live knowing that at least from my perspective that you have the key to a lot of these things, and you kind of see the door, but there’s like three bouncers that are like there and blocking you. And it’s really frustrating. It really is very frustrating. Especially when those announcers don’t care and don’t take any interest in understanding how this technology can be used. A lot of it is politicians, but I think ultimately things will sort themselves out because I think in this century, I’ve said it, there will be the countries and the places that were more crypto friendly will come out far ahead than the countries that resisted it. And look, I don’t want to go as far as saying like the separation of money and state, is that going to happen? Is that going to be a thing? It’s probably not going to go down as easily as we think. Like, you know, you look at the separation of church and state, there’s a lot of revolutions attached to that. You know, the separation of money and state that, you know, a non sovereign store value like Ethereum or Bitcoin or some other asset, a social token. The only function of the state at that point becomes, you know, serving some sort of governance and maybe security, but I think it’s going to be difficult. The optimist in me says, well, we just keep pounding the table, just going to create better content, go meet these people, understand their interests. But yeah, it can be frustrating. I don’t know if you felt that, but it can be very frustrating at times to have key decision makers take no interest in crypto and just speak out of their ass without truly understanding how this technology can impact a lot of their constituents. 

Yeah, no, I hear you. Next question is, if you could tokenize Hogwarts, where would you start and why? What blockchain would use? 

Wow, best question, by the way, as you know, I love Harry Potter. I mean, I love Gryffendor naturally, so I would probably just, you know, tokenize Gryffendor. I love the castle too. I have that Lego Harry Potter like castle. Each house should have a social token. but Gryffendor would probably crush because it’s the best house in my opinion. So I would probably tokenize that maybe even wands , but I think Gryffendor, I would start with Gryffindor and just make it a social token. If you meet certain parameters, then you are part of Gryffendor. And so like have a test, but you know, there’s like these tests online that you can take and it tells you if you’re a Griffendor or not at the sorting hat test, which is by the way better than Myers-Briggs and all this random stuff, like personality traits, astrology, whatever. I just think like, everything you need to know is if you’re a Griffendor, or not. And if you’re Gryffindor you get access to this token. So I would do that. 

I feel like you’re, I feel like your Tinder bio is just something like which team are you on? And that’s how, you know, if you’re a match or not. 

Totally. Compatibility is if you’re a Griffendor first year non-mogol, if you are, which means you’re in crypto, then are you Gryffendor and if you’re Gryffendor then all the better.

 Good answer. If you were a ghost in the metaverse, what location do you think you would haunt? 

Hmm, that’s a great question. I don’t know. There’s all these different worlds that are like coming about, so I don’t want to pick one, but I guess I’m really excited about alluvium they have launched, but they’re creating this beautiful world that reminds me a lot of like the games that I grew up with. So I would lurk in these worlds and see that. The other is likeDecentraland. Maybe it would be interesting, like the main hub. And it’s an easy answer because you’re going to see a lot of activity going through there. So I just think that if the level of activity in Decentraland, like main Square, there will be a point where it will probably get more eyeballs than Times Square in the next 20 years. And so if you’re just lurking there, you’re going to probably see a lot of really interesting stuff happen. And who advertised there. Like we’re probably going to see real brands advertise in these Metaverse , like main squares, because like, you know, you get a lot of eyeballs. So I would just kind of lurk in that place.

You missed the most obvious answer, the Aaveverse, what do you mean? Everyone’s a ghost and the Aaveverse. 

Oh, that’s true. Stani might kill me for not saying that, but that is very true. So I’ll be floating AAVE ghosts in these metaverses. 

Nice, nice, nice. So that’s the location you would haunt but who would you haunt in the metaverse if you could haunt someone as a ghost in the metaverse? You’re like Adam, where are these questions coming from? 

 Like kill them? Wow. 

Just like spooking them. No, man. We’re not trying to kill anybody here. This is not that. 

I’m a friendly person. Yeah, I see. Sorry. Hmm. I don’t know. If there is a Voldemort version in the metaverse, I would just probably like to spook them, whoever that may be. And maybe it’s a crypto personality that is Voldemort. Maybe like Craig Wright or whoever, but I dunno. 

Good question. I don’t know. Yeah, I actually haven’t even thought about that. I was kind of hoping you’d lay the foundation. Give me a second. Who, who would I haunt in the metaverse? I’d probably haunt Mark Zuckerberg, probably.

Assuming he’s there.

What Will Eat Web 3.0?

Assuming he’s there, right? Assuming that his vision for the metaverse kind of becomes a reality if and when. I’d spook him and probably a lot of other people in crypto would spook him too out of love. Out of love. Final question. I’m a big fan of watching the history and the growth of the internet and realizing and seeing the development of its different stages, and I like to break them up into three. And I may be too generalizing it, but web 1.0 was super early on. It was like the birth, the Genesis of the internet. It was read only, there wasn’t much activity and utility that you can kind of develop other than really communicating. Then we had the introduction of web 2.0, which ate web 1.0 built on top of web 1.0 . And you had more social networks. You had the Uber of, you had all these internet companies building really interesting products and services online. And now we’re entering into this world of web 3.0 , which many argue is going to eat web 2.0. And the web 3.0 is all about ownership. Web 3.0 is all about the distribution of money at the speed of light of information online, right? And all these core components that allow people to own pieces of the internet. What do you think will eat web 3.0? 

Hmm. I don’t really know. I mean, I want to say the reasons why web 3.0 might not really truly scale. Like is this scalability? I think for me, I sometimes wonder, Hey, like, do people care about decentralization? I don’t know. Like I do. But if it comes at the expense of X or Y then, you know, I was sort of left wondering when I look at Binance Smart Chain level of adoption, it’s like, okay, well, do users actually care about stuff? So it’s just for me a healthy reminder to say, and I’m deflecting because I actually don’t know what, what comes next after web 3.0? In so many ways, it’s like, what is web 3.0? And what is our definition of web 3.0 today? It might change dramatically. Because you know, you really have to just understand. I think for me, it constantly is questioning what people care about. Because users drive options, and if you don’t have adoption, then no one really cares. You know, sometimes the best technology doesn’t win. When you look at VHS Betamax, it was far superior technology, just, you had better marketing, you had better adoption by the porn industry of VHS standard and that made it you know, the best standard and MP3 is no different. It wasn’t like the best standard, but it just had the best support behind it. And sometimes I wonder how this world will evolve. You know, I think and it ultimately starts with, you know, what people care most about. So my answer would be the definition of what we think of web 3.0 is probably going to be very different in the next year or 2, 5, 10. So for me to tell you what comes next after web 3.0, assumes that I understand web 3.0 is, which I don’t think I understand fully. Because it is moving very quickly and it means so many different things for people. A lot of people just think web 3.0 is just gaming. A lot of other people say it’s just DeFi and, I think that’s what’s most exciting about this world, which is, this metaverse that we call it, is going to encompass so many different things. But what is clear to me, is I think for better or for worse, the operating standard of a lot of things is going to radically change. It’s sort of like, I think we are going through that email moment of crypto. Before email no one really understood why the internet was useful, and then ultimately email made it so pervasive. Everyone is using email. Every single business, every single person uses email because it allows us to connect in a more fluid way. And at the end of the day, we are very social beings and love to connect. And so I think it’s just finding those ways that are allowing us to connect and transfer value, not just monetary value, but just value. Social tokens, DeFi, like just money in more fluid and interesting ways. And ultimately that will probably be expressed in so many different ways, that is both daunting, and I think it will get really weird. The minority report will probably be pale in comparison, but it’s moving really fast, and that’s what’s most exciting. What the metaverse and web 3.0 was a year ago is much different than what it is today. And so, yeah. 

You know, I like to think about this question and I ask this to almost everybody on the show. If you look at what people kind of preach and communicate about web 3.0 and how that compares to web 2.0 where web 2.0 is gated. Web 3.0 is borderless. Web 2.0 is centralized. Web 3.0 is decentralized, right? Web 2.0 is controlled and managed by a select group of people that get to see and quote unquote manipulation or use data to their advantage. Everything is public in web 3.0. And I try to think of those types of characteristics and like, what’s the extreme side of that. Like if everything were to be on chain, if everything were to be decentralized, if everything were to be borderless, right? What’s the downside of that? And what will try to fix that, you know? So I don’t know. I dunno. Just something to think about.

I’ll say, I wrote about this a long time ago. Just growing up in Mexico for me, like this idea of human migration, I don’t understand it. Like why are we confined to man made boundaries? And the downside of that is you see places like Africa that were just chopped up like a sandbox by Europeans and like candidly, a lot of the problems that you see in Africa today is because there’s these man-made boundaries. And ultimately what’s most exciting is the idea, I think we are moving to a place where countries will become less important. I think communities will start in their world and then permeate to the physical world. Like you look at e-sports. I don’t have any affiliation to my national team. Like if there’s a soccer team of crypto, that’d be my team, you know? So, you know what I mean? Like the younger generations are really going to just think about nationalism or whatever that means like attached to open source communities that are very fluid. All we need to solve is being able to easily migrate, and when you have the ability to port over money, that is non sovereign, like Bitcoin, and then you can go anywhere in the world. That’s where I think you will see a shift in how we organize as humans. And the communities that we form like cities. A city like New York is more like London than what it is from Plano Texas. But somehow we think about the United States. It goes to the last point, the early point you were saying, which is that there are shared values and principles that ultimately align us and coordinate us as humans. I think we’re going back to that, where that becomes the primary, like gravitational pull to wherever you may go. And it’s not, you go to a particular country. It’s not that you go to a particular jurisdiction, because you’re going to where you really want to be aligned with people that share the same values and principles. That like reorganization, I think will create a lot of value, and that’s what like, is probably most exciting about web 3.0. 

Outro

Love it, man. I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Before I let you go, shill yourself. Where can we find you? Where can we find punk 91 59? Take it away. 

I’m in the metaverse naturally. I’ll probably go to a few conferences. ETH Lisbon and then a few others. So you can find me there naturally, but easier just on Twitter @santiagoroel and yeah. 

Thank you so much. 

Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s always great to be here and really appreciate the time. 

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Podcast Transcript

Public Parks and DAOs: The Rise of Digital Cities with Alex Zhang

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 7 welcomes Alex Zhang, a Co-Founder of Friends with Benefits, and the aspiring Jane Jacobs of DAOs. This was probably the most important conversation I’ve had on Mint so far. He brings so much insight and is really well versed with all things DAOs, aka decentralized autonomous organizations.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 4:10 – Growing up a Son to Immigrants
  • 7:34 – Becoming the Jane Jacobs of DAOs
  • 20:55 – Understanding Dynamism in a Digital City
  • 24:02 – The Differences Between Real Cities and Digital Cities
  • 29:34 – FWB Season 4
  • 39:47 – Crypto as an Incentive
  • 46:49 – Photography and DAOs – The Similarities
  • 49:09 – What Eats Web 3.0?
  • 51:30 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Alex, welcome to Mint. How are you doing, man? 

Good. Happy to be here. 

Yeah. Excited to have you on. I want you to tell me a little bit about yourself, but more specifically, what were you doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Yeah I was pretty recently crypto pilled, maybe about six to eight months ago. So pretty fresh. I would say I had a pretty introductory experience to crypto, mostly through my peers. You know, buy Bitcoin whatever years ago. And never really was interested in like the DeFi yield farming, like that whole category side of the space. My background has always been more in sort of the intersection of culture and technology. More importantly, the sort of layering and aggregating of people and how people interact with each other through those different sort of mediums and industries. So that took shape, and I threw a lot of parties in college, organized a lot of events and experiences. Was mostly fascinated from the technology side, with social networks and marketplaces, like how do people come together? How do people transact together? How do people build to accomplish shared goals? When I started learning about DAOs through friends who were sharing things late last year, earlier this year, that was like the first kind of big click for me. Like NFTs were rad. I understood what it meant, what it meant for my friends who were creating art or to have the sort of non fungibility and the values of non fungibility to those specific assets. But for me, it was really DAOs and the sort of replacement or the future state of the corporation and how people could work together and work towards something that really got me sort of let’s say crypto pill or whatnot.

I like how you brought up the whole reference to college. I think a lot of people who end up going to university start to explore the early interests and the early passions. You kind of got started with organizations by producing events. First of all, where’d you go to school? 

I went to USC.

Right on. Likewise. And second thing, what kind of events did you put together? Like did you run a club over there? What’s the context behind that? 

Yeah. USC was a really interesting place in that it was quite a large university and it was in LA. So we had really strong access to culture and music and art and nightlife, like outside of the city quite early. So for me, I got really involved with the radio station on campus as well as started a handful of my own organizations within the entrepreneurial space. So it was, you know, one finding the radio side of university and working with a hundred or so DJs, and learning how to DJ myself, and having my own radio show and sort of seeing the value of a group of like-minded people who had an obsession over music and curating great music. And then also identifying and kind of this scratching, this sort of let’s call it an entrepreneurial bug where I was like, man, I really want to start a company or I really want to work with people to start companies. But at that time, USC didn’t really have a connected ecosystem for that. It was kind of everyone wanted to go be consultants or investment bankers or work for a big tech company. And so a group of friends of mine, we started an organization called lava lab and we started an organization called spark SC, and we just started really bringing together hackers from all different spaces from the business school, from the engineering school, from the design school and bringing them under sort of one roof. And we created a coworking space and we created all these different resources as a means for sort of this Switzerland on campus. Because we parked it inside of the communication school. And so there wasn’t this ego of like, oh, this is coming out of the business school or this is coming out of the engineering school is kind of like one fluid hybrid space. And so that was kind of an early sort of infrastructure where I learned the value of multidisciplinary sort of cross-pollination right. Bringing artists and creatives into an entrepreneurial space to launch companies and vice versa. I started to throw parties around that in my backyard. I started to throw parties for our university, booking talent and just became kind of obsessed with community architecture, community building. You know, what happens when two people randomly meet and build something together and it becomes a thing. And then in facilitating environments for those connections to kind of occur again. 

Growing up a Son to Immigrants

All right. So I did research about you beforehand, but I didn’t come across the element of spark SC in lava labs. So for those who don’t know, those are like two of the most important organizations on campus. Alongside Troy labs, I’ll shout out Troy labs, which I helped bring to life as well. And the USC blockchain community over there. It was first called the Trojan blockchain society helped do that as well with other friends, and then that kind of merged with blockchain at USC. But super cool. A lot of how I got started, a lot of my inspiration, a lot of my motivations stemmed from organizations on campus, stemmed from all the shit that happened outside of the classroom, all the fun, all the brainstorming that happened with students around me, regardless of what school they were. Super cool, didn’t know that about you. Moving forward, what was it like growing up in the Zang residence? What do you think helped inspire and spark that initial motivation that led you towards leadership, organizational design, decentralized governance? Anything that you kind of like look back at, and you’re like, oh, interesting, I used to do this and this and that and that’s probably why I’m doing this?

That’s a great question. Yeah. My parents were both immigrants from Beijing. Grew up in a suburb of California and so a suburb of LA in Claremont. And so just the family dynamics and having to often explore curiosities and passions outside of the home was just something super critical to me early on. My parents sort of taught me this level of resilience and, you know, sort of the immigrant story where you kind of figured everything out on your own. You know, there’s always a third door, right? It’s not option A or B. There’s always some kind of ingenuity that comes from just having to immigrate to America and deal with all the sort of challenges that come with that. And so it was just really like, you know, my dad is just the most clever person I know, and always coming up with amazing solutions to things. And so I’ve always been sort of a hacker, you can call it, early on. I did sort of institutional things. I did corporational things I hated. This is the way things should be done, so you should follow it. And even though my parents often kind of impressed that upon me, right. They wanted me to go work at big corporations and all these things. And I was like, nah, I like creating things. I like working with sort of undefined things in spaces. And so that was really where I established kind of an early obsession over the unknown on the undefined, then it was really, you know, as sort of in growing up in an immigrant household and then being a minority growing up in the states, you often have to be like, all right, how do I fit in? Like in high school, how do I find my people? If they don’t look like me, how do I find my sort of community? And then it’s often like leaning into whatever strengths that you have at the time, which for me was like my social sort of dexterity and agility, and then my ability to be the floater in terms of moving between different friend groups. So hanging out with, you know, the kids out at the skatepark, hanging out with the homies on the football team and the soccer team or hanging out with, you know, I was in all AP and IB classes. So it was kind of like, I sort of move fluidly throughout these different spaces. And that taught me about being a multidimensional individual and creating bridges between different types of groups and I found that to be way more interesting than just being defined by one specific category. And so, I don’t know. I think that those two experiences were pretty formative. And then now how I treat and design systems today in terms of thinking about diverse systems, organic systems, how do people come together and create things. Sort of, you know, the more diverse the inputs, the more complex the outputs. These types of framings were all from childhood and growing up.

Becoming the Jane Jacobs of DAOs

I think, like you as well, my parents migrated here from the middle east when they were in their twenties and they had my brother and I here and they both came here not knowing the language. Actually, my mom kinda got what’s the word immigrated from, from the Mexican border, kind of thing. And our family snuck her in, and my dad managed to fly over here from the middle east, had my brother and I, didn’t know the language, no nothing, had a couple thousand dollars in his pocket and just made something. Just figured it out. And there’s something about growing up around that energy, around that mentality that teaches you, grit that teaches you that third door mentality, right? One thing that comes to mind, you’re from LA is like, when we’re on the 4 0 5, like merging to the 101 and there’s always a long line of cars just waiting to make that intersection, and then there’s that side lane where you just like drive through and just like cut right in. That’s the type of thinking that parents taught us. At least that’s what I’m picking up from you. That’s how it kind of translated to me as well. So it’s cool to see you also kind of explore that unknown because growing up for me, my dad always told me he’s like, go to Google, go to JP Morgan, go to these big tech firms, and I’m like, no, I’m going to this thing called internet, funny money called Bitcoin. Like, this is what I want to do. Like it’s new, it’s fresh. It’s different. So yeah. Cool to hear that. Let’s dive into DAOs. One thing that stood out to me about yourself is, in your Twitter bio, you aspire to be the Jane Jacobs of DAOs. For starters, who’s Jane Jacobs? And why do you aspire to be her for DAOs?

Yeah. It’s funny how much that bio resonates with different people. But yeah, I mean, so Jane Jacobs, I first encountered her work, she’s a journalist and author activist, sort of urban studies, sociological legend, and was in this camp of you know, Christopher Alexander, a lot of these different individuals who thought intensively and wrote intensively about city design and how cities affect people and how cities affect economics and sort of the relationship between these different environments. But really what I brought from her work was a really empathetic sort of human led lens. And so the first book I read by her was the classic, the death and life of great American cities. And that was sort of my red pill into an urban theory where I was like, whoa, this is really interesting, someone writing about how sidewalk width is important to how cities function and how people bumped into on streets and what that means for how people use them on streets. And all the way down to fuels the work of thinking about the role of parks in cities as these kinds of like main central locations and areas where people could flow in and out and a place where, you know, like New York city has really great socioeconomic stratification. The beauty of New York is you can be, you know, a very wealthy individual billionaire who lives on the upper east side, or you could also be a struggling artist student, and you guys could walk through the street because of how the city is designed. Versus as someone who grew up in LA, you would uniquely understand LA isn’t designed for that, right? LA lacks that space. You don’t bump into people in LA. Everyone’s in their cars. Everyone’s driving from their house to the restaurant that they’re going to go eat at and go back home. In New York, there’s a lot more serendipity. There’s the shared space. There’s the subway system where everyone has to use that to an extent to move and navigate across the city. That work was fundamental for me in my last role, where I was the creative director at a community organization called summit series, where we threw global festivals, events, and crowdfunded to purchase a ski resort in Utah, where we were building a town from scratch. So it was the study of urban studies and how cities are built that I used when designing 3000 person festivals and conferences or designing and working with the team on the foundations of how a ski resort is developed and built in terms of what’s private space, what’s public space, what’s mixed use, what’s the relationship between commercial and residential, what has economic policy affects on how people interact with these cities? And so, I’m like a city nerd and found her work to be really interesting. And she’s sort of revered as the grandmother, alongside like Chris Alexander, on how great cities are sort of built. And I think what we’re seeing now with DAOs and what we’re seeing a lot now with these internet communities that are sort of forming overnight via fractionalized NFTs, or via tokenization of communities, or even the internet at large, no different than let’s say Reddit, is these look like internet cities. And when you apply a similar design thinking framework, like how wide does the virtual sidewalk analogy look, or what is the role of the public park? What does a public good look like on the digital internet? Things like that start to be really exciting and are interesting reference points on making decisions as an architect or as a leader.

You know, and we’ll get to that. I have a long list of questions. Like what does crime look like at a DAO? What does a sidewalk look like in a digital city? We’ll get to that in a minute, but talking more about Jane Jacobs and how she’s inspired a lot of your thinking, a lot of your leadership, what are some of the key takeaways that she writes about that you find yourself applying on a day-to-day basis to let’s say FWB for example? This could even be tied to the upbringing of season four too.

So high level, Jane Jacobs really champions this notion of community-based approaches to city building. And so really studying how a city isn’t ever designed top down. Like a good city has never a mayor being like, all right, this is all, we’re all gonna fall in line. A good city is a really good governmental layer, creating the right infrastructure, the right boundaries and allowing for the citizens to color inside or outside of the lines and to populate it with their own recurring repetition of patterns and interactions. Christopher Alexander, who writes a lot of stuff with the same sort of philosophy. And so, you know, what does that mean on a city level? What that means is like, no, one’s telling you how to live in a city. There’s no instructions for how to live in New York, but the way the city is designed is done in harmony with how people live here in a way that what you come to love and enjoy about New York is the serendipity people say on the streets, right? Like you run into someone on the street and it’s got energy. Everyone’s like the city is alive like that’s intentionally designed, but it’s populated by the people who exist within that framework. And so I think, it was that grassroots bottoms up community built approach that made so much sense to me when it related to internet design and in order sort of internet community design in a way that internet communities are no different, right? You can’t just spin up a discord and have a community. That needs to be like, if you think about your channel design, like all your different discord channels, those are no different than creating your streets and your pathways in city design for playing SIM city or for playing whatever. It’s like, if you have thousands and thousands of channels before you have people, everyone’s going to be dispersed and spread out, and there’s never going to be like sort of a central location where people gather. So for me, it was really thinking about like, okay, what channels are central park? What channels are our main meeting place where, if you think about it, what are the roles of parks in great cities right now? Parks, at least in the last two years, I mean, actually in the last hundreds of years, right, parks were places for either celebration, protest or places where people could immerse themselves in nature and unplug from sort of an intensive city environment. So it’s like, what does that look like in a digital environment? Well, and have to FWB, we have something called FWBgeneral chat, which is sort of like where everything goes down. It’s kind of like the main town square. And it’s designed to be like, where someone’s like lost, or if someone raising a protest, or if someone’s like celebrating some sort of a win, that’s where you go to sort of like be one with the masses and then it all sort of fractionalizes and breaks out into way more specific channels that are based on interests that are based on value set that are based on a whole bunch of different set of criteria. You can think of it no differently than in New York, you hang out in Bushwick or you hang out in the upper east side, or you hang out in Chelsea. These all have different value sets based on architecture cost of living, there are types of people living there and access to whatever, like local resources. So I think we think of channel infrastructure as just one example. If you think about it from a city’s perspective, like what are the public spaces where you can increase the number of interactions between communities with like-minds and the shared interests to like increase serendipity in relationships, but then translating that into you know a digital environment where you want to increase those different connective points.

I have never heard anybody describe a discord channel, the way you just outlined all those channels and how they pertain to IRL type of locations. And it’s actually such a good way to do that because for those who are going to be listening to this, whether they be creators/contributors in that realm, when they’re trying to start their own web three communities, I feel like that’s the right way to look at it. Where are people going to be spending time the most? How do you define every single channel and what they should be doing in there, and kind of zooming out and using a physical location as like your guide from let’s say a city point of view makes everything, I guess, come together much more smoothly in my head. Like, it just makes so much more sense. I’m looking at the discord over here, the friends with benefits discord, and I always just saw them as like channels, but when you put it exactly, they’re literally neighborhoods.

And when you go to things like the NFT channel, it’s got its own vibe. There’s like the same 10 to 15 people who are the most active people driving a lot of the discourse. There’s about a hundred to 300 people who are watching that discourse. NFT general is our most popular neighborhood, and it has sort of its own unique sort of distinct culture. And so my role wearing the sort of mayor hat is really looking at those types of channels and how do we give them resources to continue to develop and enhance and amplify and repeat those patterns that are happening on that local level. And so if we’re really zooming in on this like city analogy, it’s sort of no different than if you think about like, you know, I got really into like parks for a while. What makes a good park, and why do people visit certain parks? One of the things that I was really fascinated by was the role of the park bench and how park benches play in parks. You’ll notice this the next time you walk into a really good park, like one in Paris or one in New York, or you know, any of the major European parks is all the benches face inward, they all face the street, or they all face the walkways. And it’s designed in a way to create a spectator sort of a voyeurist spectator relationship into a public space so it doesn’t feel weird to be sitting there alone. Because if a park bench was facing sort of a random tree or something, it quickly lacks stimulation, and eventually you get bored and you leave. But a park bench faces the walkway because it’s not weird to sit on a bench and smoke a cigarette or like, you know, eat or drink a coffee because you’re watching passer Byers cross every second, and you can sit there for like an hour and just kind of watch people. And I think of, you know, I designed physical massive events around that exact same structure. Like how do you create a festival experience where people are sitting and watching other people, and using that to increase a stronger sense of purpose or belonging in that space. And now I’ve translated the same analogies to the discord where people love to just watch people chat with each other. There’s something weirdly voyeuristic about watching two people chat. People love when people argue with each other, and there’s a little bit of drama or people love when someone’s in the Discord kind of like chatting or typing, and it’s that same voyeuristic perspective that I think about designing for in this sort of park bench example in Jacob’s talks, Jane Jacobs has a whole chapter on park benches.

I used to live in Switzerland and in Austria, and one thing I noticed while living in Europe for about nine months, I noticed how when you look on Google maps, all the cities or a lot of the major cities are designed as rings, right? And rings in a way where, within those rings that have smaller rings and smaller rings and smaller rings. Why is that? I never looked into that. Why do you think they’ve designed it like that? And you probably don’t know the answer, but what’s the context behind that and does that apply to how digital cities work too? 

So the most likely reason behind why cities are designed in ring formats is a function of labor markets and capital markets, as it relates to proximity of commute time between the center of a city and the outside of the city. So for instance, the reason why the sort of ring in the center is smaller, it’s a function of density and labor, right? Asia is a fantastic example or even New York city where like, you know, the middle is more dense with higher skyscrapers because that’s where a lot of the economic value of a city is being driven. You’re commuting to work. And then the public transportation is designed in a way that allows for you to commute from your home, which is typically in a suburb, right? The older you get, most people typically move outside of these rings because it’s cheaper and you get more space. And so this idea that the center is the center of a ring, because it’s the highest density of vertical building, you know, typical, you know, whatever skyscrapers where you have thousands of employees inside of a small radius or a smaller geographic footprint is a function of how cities respond to sort of economic drivers and labor markets and capital markets, if that makes sense. Because if people are too spread out and you don’t have a center of the city, your public transportation, won’t reflect sort of efficient ways to commute to work in a more, you know, this is all obviously before people were working remotely and on the internet, as most of these cities were built, you know, whatever in the last a hundred to 200 years. So a lot of it is defined by I think like labor markets.

Understanding Dynamism in a Digital City

One thing that Jane Jacobs talks about is cities having like certain levels of logic and dynamism. And dynamism is basically the quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress. That’s how I understand the pulse of a community, the vibrancy of the community. How does that translate to a digital city? 

Yeah, I think about that way too much. I mean, that’s pretty much one of the core themes behind friends with benefits. Really thinking about how you increase dynamism or frequency of interactions between individuals. And so I think about that in a couple of ways. I think about that one, understanding that most communities form sort of one to many, right? There’s a central leader, there’s a central creator who comes in and is like, all right, everyone join my discord and we’re all gonna hang out here and I’m going to drop content for you guys. That’s like level one and quite one dimensional. I think what Jane’s referencing there is this idea of like the difference between many to many and the difference between sort of peer to peer. And so peer to peer is like one to one, many to many is like network effects where like you actually now have Of let’s say 50 people, in one to many example, I stand up on a table and I’m like, everyone, what’s up. Welcome to my crib. This is what we’re going to do. Peer to peer is like one person talking to one person, many to many is like all of those each having the ability to talk to the 49 other people. And so I think of dynamism as the acceleration of that with a shared goal and a shared purpose, which in a city example can often be a lot more soft, but it’s essentially people gravitating towards cultural totem poles, if you will, or cultural sort of pockets. In the digital city building context, it’s essentially about establishing as many, many to many relationships as possible, and like creating the infrastructure where people can actually form strong connections with as many different people and be incentivized and encouraged to build things with those people. So in FWB, we do things like hackathons. We do things like town halls. Every two weeks, we do things like public voice chats, where we talk about things. We have a meeting in like two hours where we, as a community are going to be building and re reviewing a code of conduct for this community. We do vision and value sessions where we like to talk about what the values are of FWB as a city. So all of those are like touch points that I think accelerate dynamism so that people feel empowered to then be like, you know what? Like I’m going to do this. I’m going to help out with this. I’m going to contribute, and that recipe of a group of talented, passionate, high quality contributors who feel empowered to participate is essentially dynamism and no different than a city. And what you saw with let’s take George Floyd last summer and his murder, that sparking a sense of dynamism across all of these major cities, where everyone was like, we’re going to now start to self-organize and use networks to march and to protest and to do this. That is a beautiful example of a resilient community or resilient city, is people being able to execute those types of campaigns and initiatives from a grassroots level. 

The Differences Between Real Cities and Digital Cities

You know, one thing you brought up earlier is this concept of sidewalks and park benches. I want to dive into those characteristics of what pertain to a physical city and its different attributes and how that translates into a digital city. For example, like some components that come to mind. Sidewalks, parks, retail design, concepts of self-organization, opera houses, all these things that kind of allow people to congregate, transportation. All these key things that define and give color to a city are now trying to be forced to squeeze into a discord server. Like what, what’s the equivalent of like transportation on the digital side? What does that look like at FWB for example? Like, what does an opera house look like for entertainment on FWB? What does crime look like from a traditional physical setting, but like in FWB for example? 

So a couple of things, I think it’s really important in this city analogy that we don’t also take it too literally. I don’t think it’s like literally all of us living on the internet, exclusively on the internet, but I think of it more of the internet city as a framing from an urban theory perspective of like little bits and pieces that you want to remix. And so I say that as in, I think everyone would have to agree, we don’t want to all live on the internet. Like we view the internet, we view web three, we view blockchain as tools to actually enhance the physical world. It’s why a big part of our experience and roadmap for friends with benefits is throwing wicked parties and having great experiences and like bringing people together in a physical IRL environment, but like facilitating coordinated digitally. Even though some of those examples, for instance, sure. We could think of it explicitly in a digital context in which there are good parallels, right? Crime totally exists. Right? Online harassment, sexual harassment, people, violating codes of conduct, people being assholes to each other in a Discord. That is crime. If it violates a set of rules created by a community that is governed by that community, that’s the police, right? Some sort of enforcement mechanism with some set of consequences that are established, those exist in really mature online communities, codes of conduct and guidelines, things like that. Opera houses, right? I mean, if you distill what an opera house even is, let’s just say that’s a physical place that represents some sort of cultural attraction. That could be no different than like Jess Sloss every Thursday doing his seed club talk. You know what I mean?

I want to hear Jeff sing. That’s what I want to hear.

So yeah, I think they’re both physical and they’re both digital, but I think it’s more important to think about things like the theory around these types of things. So for instance, in FWB, you know, there’s a lot of conversations around like, man, our token price is way too high for people to join dah, dah, dah. And we just launched a new initiative yesterday called FWB local, which is essentially being able to join our city DAOs and our city channels for five FWB versus right now it’s 75 FWB to join the full membership at the discord. What we often think about when we think about this cost of living is we use this analogy of like, well, right now to live in New York city, you pay a pretty penny and you decide where you want to live. But if you want to live in Manhattan, you’re paying an even prettier penny , depending on if you want to live in, you know, Bed-Stuy right in the suburbs. And so it’s like, but why do you pay higher premiums? And then you pay higher premiums for better access to culture, better access to people, right. To eat at really nice restaurants, to go to really great museums and opera houses, to participate in a certain level of cultural production that if it warrants that. So we think friends with benefits is no different. Like right now, our gating mechanism is quite one dimensional, seventy-five FWB to get full membership, five FDB to get access to our events and our cities, one FWB to read our content or to read our newsletter, stuff like that. But that’s all like we’re in the first, second inning of FWB. I think the long term horizon is if you think about it from an urban planning or urban theory perspective is, how does FWB as a token or as a gating mechanism start to be thrusted into the hands of the community where the community can start to set their own thresholds for FWB sort of approved or sanctioned activities, events, experiences, content, where it starts to take a little bit more of a market based approach. Where if someone wants to throw a 20 person dinner in New York and you need 200 FWB to join, great, they should be able to do that on an individual level. But if someone wants to do something for one FWB, they should also be allowed to do that. And then it’s our role as more of a cultural currency to sort of organize index that and communicate that and approve things that fit our brand and community ethos, but ultimately allow for the community in itself to populate the different thresholds and the different access points where I think the long term success of FWB is a diversification of the token and of the access points, so it actually starts to function like a cultural currency. So it’s like if Adam wants to do a hang in LA for 50 people and he wants to price it at 70 or 200 FWB, but only two people show up, then that’s on you. You priced it too high. You know what I mean? Even a restaurant pricing their menu incorrectly, or opening up a restaurant in the wrong location. And so that’s how we’re starting to design the infrastructure in a way where right now it’s, FWB establishing these different gating sort of thresholds, but eventually creating a dynamic, flexible sort of much more antifragile infrastructure where the community can sort of set these different FWB points and diversify no different than if you were in a city, you could choose if you want to go to an expensive restaurant on the upper west side, or you can choose if you want eat a hot dog at the park for like a dollar it’s up to you. 

FWB Season 4

And I want to jump into season four right now because we’re already talking about that. So the whole theme of season four is basically defined by the strength and independence of our local parts. That’s how you kind of summarized it in discord when you guys announced it. And just to quickly recap, season three, You guys had an incredible performance, the community as a whole from, and this is again, picking up notes from what you guys wrote. And also my experience kind of living in, voting on stuff and contributing is having a Chris Dixon pitch to FWB, and getting that capital infusion or increasing membership growth, what by four X, quadrupled? And the community is just pulsating on a whole nother level. And now season four is like, okay, we have all these people in here. How can we empower people to be on their own? And co-create with one another. That’s what I kind of like picking up. So, talk to me more about how do you guys plan to implement that? What does that look like in practice? Beyond just a theoretical point of view. And I know you gave a couple examples, but could you go a little bit more into that?

Yeah. I’m happy to. So yeah, season four is really this idea of the strength of the whole will be defined by our local parts, right? In the sort of interdependence and Nicola collaboration and how these local parts begin to form their own infrastructure tools and decision-making capacities to really enforce the culture within those neighborhoods. And so on the literal example, that’s the city’s initiatives. FWB in the last two seasons was like me Cooper, Trevor, Derek, you know, all of us as like staff members running around these different cities, throwing parties. Like we threw Paris, we threw New York, we threw Miami and that was like us literally picking the location, doing all the organizing, booking the talent, getting the community there. But if you think about it, that doesn’t scale, right? If I want to throw a sick FWB party in Istanbul , it’s like, it doesn’t make sense for me to fly out there and discover that city and figure out where to throw an event. The decentralized way or distributed way would be like, how do we establish the infrastructure for an actual Istanbul city DAO to form or in this season 4, LA New York and London are sort of top three markets to form, to begin to elect their own forms of leadership, to pool capital together, and to begin throwing experiences for themselves. It’s like, I won’t know what the coolest hot new bar is or the new hot cool restaurant is in LA or SF if I don’t live there. And so the idea is to empower local constituents and citizens and token holders to begin to co-create experiences for themselves in those local cities. And then as a community member, you’re then able to visit LA, New York, London and access any of those events that are being planned on a local level. And so you can envision now, if you look at, even FWB , we launched this yesterday, the channels now have an LA dedicated channel with multi sub channels and New York London. Versus before in season one, it was just one channel that was FWB LA. And so what we hope will start to happen is the LA channels will to develop its own patterns, its own culture, its own community members, its own vibe that starts to become a lot more potent than the 400 LA members who are scattered all throughout the discord, but now all working towards shared goals and shared incentives. So that’s what that looks like on a city level. Now what that looks like on an even more galaxy level is take the NFT channel, for instance, this is a channel I’m really, really excited about. It’s our most active neighborhood by far. You’ve got every night you go to bed, you wake up and there’s thousands of new messages. Like no one can even follow along and the amount of alpha and they’re on NFT projects to buy or the amount of artists who are in there who are looking to make their first, you know, NFT project and they come from, you know, a contemporary art space is like really, really impressive. But there’s no way I can properly design the right tools and infrastructure for that group to succeed. Instead, I should empower local constituents leaders in those channels who eat, sleep, and breathe NFT general chat and give them tools, capital resources, and a framework to be able to build their own FWB inside of the NFT channel. The beauty about Web 3.0 is now, we have new value accrual mechanisms and the ability to do token swaps, the ability to do token investments, where we can align incentives. So it’s not like that community forks, but it’s now we’re all working towards the same goal, which is to provide utility and value to the FWB token, but they can do that in a much more local way. So what does that look like? That looks like empowering the NFT channel to essentially create their own investing mechanisms. Community members pool capital together to invest in NFTs. They can start to work together on a curatorial level, right? And the NFT channel can start to signal really cool artists, who they want to back and invest in to launch NFT projects. They can start to build their own tools, right? You can already see the NFT channel created an alpha channel where it’s just leaks and drops of really cool projects so people can invest in those or support those artists. If they miss the larger channels, like they’re going to start creating their own content, their own media. You can start to almost view this as like a city or a neighborhood within a city that starts to create their own brand and their own ethos. But also financial and social incentivize with the FWB sort of main DAO or the parent DAO. And so, yeah, FWB local is like a season motto where you know, the motto is locally sourced. Is it really about identifying these different sub-communities within FWB, whether they’re geographic like LA, New York or London, or whether they’re interest based like NFT general or you know, passion-based, whatever it might be. And if they meet a certain level of like activity and engagement and dynamism is as Mrs. Jacobs would say, the FWB DAO should support that and invest in that and help them create sort of their own squad where FWB starts to look a lot more like a network of a thousand squads kind of working towards the same direction, as opposed to like one big DAO with one multisig making all the decisions.

Interesting. How long did it take you guys to come to that conclusion? We’re four seasons deep now. Season one, it was just a social experiment. Season two was like, shit, shit’s getting real, like what’s happening over here. Season three was like trying to understand, make some structures, make some parties, all that. Now season four is in the picture. It feels so defined. It feels so focused. Like I align with that. And I’m not such a crazy contributor. But I vote on stuff occasionally. I was in like the investment channels and whatever when you guys were doing the fundraiser, when we were doing the fundraising, if you want to put it like that. But now it feels so defined. And it’s going to set an example for how many other communities operate, communicate, and how they think about their social layers. How did you guys get to that conclusion? The core team, at least in the community. I wasn’t a part of that. I guess I’m more like the outer ring kind of thing. But how did the core community come to that conclusion? 

Yeah. That’s a great question and most of these are organic, right? And emergent is like a phrase we’ll use a lot. It sort of emerges over a period of time through multiple different sorts of inputs and organic sort of structures. I think it really was a beautiful chaotic culmination of like a lot of major pivotal moments for friends with benefits. I think it was the fundraiser where we got approached by pretty incredible partners from within the community and outside the community who started to ask some of these really, really hard questions. What’s the vision of FWB? I think season two and three, it was like, we all had our own little visions, but when you start to like, discuss that in a more institutional capacity you know, the need to sort of refine and crystallize that vision becomes a lot more apparent, right? So it was like a lot of people who had just really good bird’s eye views of the space. So it was like those gradual conversations being had with different partners. It really also was one of these really beautiful community exercises we started to do that started to provide a lot of value. So every other Friday, we started to do these things called like FWB vision values and mission sessions, where essentially, I would open up a town hall, our main stage chat and like a hundred, 150 people would show up on a Friday afternoon, and I would start pulling people up and asking them, like, what does FWB mean to you? And I started taking notes and I would start to ask guiding questions. I would interview people who had really interesting perspectives and we slowly started morphing from FWB as this ultimate cultural membership, which was really season two, season three, Into FWB as a city. And it was a couple of key stakeholders who really drove that vision, right. Jacob Horn from Zuora you know, Chris Dixon, Tina from pace like different people who were like really kind of geeking out about this urban perspective, as well as our core team members who have been immersed in a lot of this thinking Dexter, who really leads a lot of the product side of it, like is deep in this sort of urban planning you know, framing. And so it was like this connective tissue between needing to refine a vision when starting to like entertain large scale capital as well as like community organic bubbling up of people really resonating towards the city framework as something a lot more inspirational than building a digital social club or like a social experiment that I think once it started to hit, then I as one of the core drivers was really like this feels really good. Like I need to start immersing myself deeply in this culture. And what was great was I already had a lot of homework done on this. So it was now just contextualizing it for this sort of digital environment. So I started reading all these books, order without design, like all these sort of really dense theoretical books on things like city design, urban planning, labor markets, internet community building, and then having these conversations over a repetitive course of time. And then just testing things, right. Lobbing something out in a blog post and seeing if people pick up on it, dropping something in the discord. And it just seemed like the community really sort of rallied around it. And it felt like for the first time we had a proper framing of what we’re trying to do here. It’s all organic which is so interesting about it. I always tell people like, you know, this stuff is gardening, not architecture and it’s like art. You have no idea what direction that plant is going to grow. And it’s a weird combination of sunlight, water and soil conditions. It’s not like you can plan it out. You can’t be like, we’re going to arrive here and we’re going to work backwards from there. It was way more like leaning towards what felt good. And that’s why I think for a lot of DAOs it requires intuition and gut and like listening to your people and like going where those people are, and like having conversations with those people and then compounding and developing a thesis over time that you’re kind of like gut checking in public forums.

Crypto as an Incentive

Can these urban city primitives, the digital city ideas, principles be applied to let’s say like traditional, hardcore DeFi type of servers, or are they only applicable to social DAOs? Like could a creator who was an internet personality and has random Facebook group fan clubs of randomly populated channels online, could he, or she, or they, or whoever form these types of communities as well? Is that super applicable to them? Like, what’s the right DAO to do this? Obviously social DAOs, but maybe not all social DAOs.

 I think everything, that’s human. It’s human, it’s on the human level. It has nothing to do with industry. Has everything to do with, like, I think it is human nature to seek belonging and community. I think frankly, why blockchain and why crypto is so strong and cult-like is because of this sense of belonging and an intensity that it creates when you join. It’s like when everyone first discovers crypto, you’re like down this crazy- name another industry where people talk about it as like a rabbit hole.Everyone is like, oh my God, I just got so rabbit Holed, and, you know, organic food pill. But it’s because there’s such a strong community layer to it. Like only less than a year in my Twitter timeline is entirely web three now. I’m like what happened? Like I had Twitter before. I followed like tons of other people. My timeline is entirely, like I’m in this weird little echo chamber where everyone’s talking about super nuanced DAO infrastructure tooling, and it’s getting like hundreds of retweets. And I’m just like, this is crazy. But to me, it shows that like, we’re part of a movement, a movement is composed of smaller movements, and like anyone building a DeFi protocol or a creator, who’s looking to bring their community online, these theories can be applied to anything. Like if I were to boil it down, it’s just like listening to your people, creating the right avenues and opportunities for those people to build relationships with each other, and then creating the framework and the infrastructure where those people can then be incentivized to build together. That’s the holy grail of crypto, because before this, all of those things were happening. There was just never a way to incentivize people. Everyone just did it from a social status perspective or an emotional perspective. People spend time in these different, you know, Reddit channels or Facebook groups. They’re no different. They all have very similar traits. People are building relationships one-on-one with each other, a natural leader emerges, like all these things. Crypto now actually allows these to turn into economies via shared bank accounts and financial incentive. So it’s no different than when wall street bets kind of showed the world a year or whatever ago where it was a group of people on the internet, moving markets, making money together. That’s no different than crypto. And so, it was people working together to align financial and social incentives. And so, I think these theories can be applied to any social organism as a way to essentially create emergent patterns and emergent strategies to accomplish any sort of goal that a group of people define to go accomplish.

What else can we expect from season four? Like what should we look forward to?

I mean, beyond amazing experiences in your city, to more and more really interesting neighborhoods electing their own leadership and forming their own sort of structure and creating their own-

Which, by the way, I started getting DMS from people like I’m running as mayor or something for this chapter, can you vote for me? I was like, shit, like it’s actually getting like, political like that. Like where have we gotten? 

Yeah, that was crazy. It was amazing seeing like full grown adults who are so accomplished in their own individual professional and personal lives, like getting so invested in the process because they cared to campaign and create flyers and market. Like someone gave a concession speech, it was like, incredible to see. And I was like, this shows it’s human nature. We were joking, like it’s all student body government vibes. But yeah, that was pretty entertaining. 

So what else, tell me more. What else can we expect from season four? You said like people forming their own initiatives, collaborating, connecting all that stuff. That’s what you guys are focusing on, but what does that look like? So more parties, right? 

Maybe the alpha that I’ll share is that we’re getting ready to launch our very own sort of FWB owned social network. And so thinking about what a web three community owned direct member directory looks like. You sort of think of the utility of like a Facebook or LinkedIn, but being community owned and indexing and creating an identity layer on top of our community as for a way for token holders and community members to connect with each other, and not only like find potential collaborators based on like skillsets or interests, but to really start to serve as like the central infrastructure, the central on chain, online identity infrastructure for our entire ecosystem, where you can imagine a place to start displaying your POAPs, right? You voted on different initiatives, you can now display your POAP on your member directory on your profile. The ability when you check into the different events through the city DAOs , that all starts to aggregate on your profile. The number of governance proposals you vote on. Starting to create this FWB on chain reputation that is displayed and visualized in a fun FWB way, where we want to recreate myspace top eight. Who are your top eight friends in web three? We want to start to create all of these really sticky sort of social components that our product team has been heads down on for the last couple of months to really think about like, yeah, what is the identity later? What is the member directory? What does a social network that’s community owned look like in a way that can actually be governed by the community and can really be this central connecting point between our entire ecosystem of experiences as well as people? And I’m really excited about that. It’s still some ways out, but we’re hoping that that’s a mid season four type of initiative that we launch.

That’s really exciting. That’s really cool. I like to think about how we’re still in the Friendster phase of web three where we still have myspace and Facebook to go through. Not evenTik Tok has come into the picture. There’s so much development and so much growth to go through. All right. I have a couple more questions for you. I know I want to channel it back to you as a person. I know you’re a photographer. You love photography. For starters, how long have you been a photographer for, and are you still active with it?

Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m a photographer. I would just say I take photos, you know. I mean, I don’t know. I just think there’s so many amazing photographers that like to do photography and that is their primary thing. I just love just capturing people. I love taking photos of people. I love portraits. I love party photography. There’s something about that. I love being in a social environment and having a camera on me or, you know, having a point and shoot and being able to capture the fabric or the texture of something like a really good party or a really good experience. It’s just a way to kind of capture those sorts of memories and share them with friends and sort of apply my own approach to that. But yeah, more of just like a fun little thing, and bringing it around to these different web three parties we’ve been throwing has been really fun as a way to kind of just document everything. 

Photography and DAOs – The Similarities

Cool. Are there any similarities between photography and internet communities? Just off the bat? You can name one. We don’t have to dive too into it. I’m just curious because I look back and everything that we do as kids, as early teenagers, as adults, all the dots connect, you know, and there’s similarities and themes in everything that we do. Whether we like to admit it or not, who we are basically consists of what we’ve done in the past. So from a photography point of view, what is a similarity? Just one, if any, we can even skip it. 

Yeah. And I don’t know. I think the ephemeral nature of it. I think with photography, while the photograph is static, you’re capturing a dynamic experience. You’re capturing reality, right? I think that approach to understanding you can ever own that moment, but you’re just sort of like capturing one frame of it, and not being too attached. There’s sort of this idea of no cherished outcome, like not being attached to a specific outcome with photography, is incredibly resonant and relevant to what’s happening right now in web three and the internet. Like you can’t recreate something. Like FWB is a constantly moving, living, breathing organism, and then there will never be another FWB. There’ll be many, many things like FWB, but FWB is a combination of the people and the time and the place and the energy that then creates what we’re experiencing no different than a photograph can never be recreated twice. The light will never be exactly the same. Definitely not party photography, which is my favorite. I never make people pose. I fucking hate when people pose. I’m never like, oh, you guys stand here. I like being like watching a group of people interact, and then I’ll take that photo as, like, this was a thing that was happening at this moment in time. So I guess the ephemerality of it. 

All right, great answer. I did not expect that great answer. All right. Two more questions. If Jane Jacobs were to start a DAO, what would she kick off and what would be your role in it?

 Jane Jacobs would call other internet and get involved with the Git coin public goods DAO and help think about ways that crypto can do a much better job of supporting public infrastructure and public goods.

And then what would be your role in that? 

I would be a mere janitor or gardener pulling the weeds.

What Eats Web 3.0?

Last question. Before I let you go, I’m a big fan of the development of the internet. I love seeing the stages of the internet from web one to web two and now web three. Web one was very much read only, and then web two came into the picture and ate web one. We developed social networks. We developed all these SAAS models. We developed all these internet companies and communities. People were products of the platform and now web three is coming along where there’s co-ownership, everything is transparent, there’s borderless. People are making a lot of money. And web three is supposedly eating web two. What do you think is going to eat web three?

I think if web three is about ownership and co-ownership, web 4.0 four will be about governance. I think we’re still so early in that. Like how are we governing these massive platforms that are now co-owned, right? Like what’s the technology that’s going to revolutionize and improve the governing infrastructure that ensures that web three doesn’t make the same mistakes as Web 2.0. I think that everyone is hurdling down this web three route right now. Very few people are thinking about the role of governance and how most of these token voting models are not sophisticated enough as they should be, because the stakes aren’t high enough yet, but what happens when the stakes become high? And are we building that in a way to ensure that it is an equitable process and it’s not just one token, one vote, which anyone can see the flaws in a model like that. And so, yeah, I think web four will be the technology around governing and how that affects our physical lives in a metaverse context, not as in we’re uploading our brains in a digital environment, but in a voting now affects your day-to-day life because everything has been co owned and fractionalized, and your vote, and input is necessary to determine the success or an outcome of that specific thing that you own, where everything eventually will be fractionalized. So everything will need governing structures and if we don’t have the right technology for that I think that it’s going to be really, really bad or repetitive of the past.

Outro

Perfect. I think that’s a great place to end off. Before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find your work online in discord, et cetera? Shill yourself for a minute and the projects you’re working on.

Yeah, just, my Twitter @alexxzzhang. I don’t really tweet as much as I should, but yeah, most of my work honestly is FWB so y’all can find me the discord. And then I try to write whenever I get time to share my learnings with other people who are building DAOs, which I think it’s on my mirror. So you just go to my zhang.Mirror.xyz. 

Nice, man. Thank you so much. Well, this was fun. I hope to have you on again.

Yeah. Peace. 

Categories
Podcast Transcript

How To Build An MVC: Minimum Viable Community in Crypto

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 6 welcomes Joyce Yang, the founder of Global Coin Research, a subscription-based media platform that provides insights and analysis into the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain space, with a focus on Asia. She is also a contributor at TechCrunch covering Cryptocurrency and Blockchain.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 3:56 – Growing up in China & Going Global
  • 9:57 – Launching Global Coin Research
  • 12:05 – Investing as a Community
  • 19:11 – Encouraging Participation
  • 23:22 – Token-Gated Content
  • 37:56 – Building an MVC: Minimum Viable Community
  • 45:11 – What Comes After Web 3.0?
  • 50:14 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Joyce, welcome to Mint. How are you doing? 

Good. Thanks for having me, Adam. 

Let’s get right into it. Give me a brief about yourself, but more specifically, what were you like before crypto?

Yeah, this kind of goes back a long way for me now. I’ve been in crypto for quite some time, about four to five years now at this point, building out Global Coin Research and building out communities in crypto in general. Prior to crypto, I kind of did the pretty typical track of going to college, trying to express my parents with a good school, and then after that, I go into finance learning some of the rudimentary skillsets that folks sometimes get from finance, such as working long hours and not sleeping. And that’s kind of turned out to be translatable and helpful in crypto in some way. I spent some time in finance, spent some time in tech, stumbled my way into crypto, and I have never looked back. 

So do you remember the first crypto you bought? 

I’m pretty sure it was Ethereum. It wasn’t. It wasn’t the Ethereum token sale, but it was like shortly after when I bought my first Ethereum. 

Wow. So super early, super early. Where did you study? Where did you stay?

I went to a small school in Boston.

What did you study there? 

Economics.

Do you feel like it’s super applicable at all to what you’re doing right now to an extent? 

Yeah, for sure. I think it definitely kind of made me think a bit more about tokenomics and how it applies to, for example, our tokens now that we have, and that’s on the market for global coin research. But, I think what was really eye-opening for me in college was kind of the type of people that were there. Our school had a number of international students and a number of folks just coming from all over the place. I grew up in New York really, and it was similar to you, kind of growing up in LA, and didn’t really know anything else. And I think just that opened up my eyes to the number of types of people that are out there, the curiosities of these individuals. That’s what I really sought and, kind of found, I think, in crypto as well. You really find a lot of young people with so much energy and it feels like college if you really find the right type of people and you go to the right type of events. And we try to foster that actually in many ways through global coin research probably not through the frat parties.

I was just, I was like, there are two sides of college. There’s the nerd doing like organizational clubs on campus, and then there’s like the Chads that just do all the frat shit. But yeah. Okay. Continue. 

I think global coin research has some great Chads in there and I’m happy with that, but you got to have a good combination of both, right? And we try to orient ourselves towards research and kind of being more rigorous about our kind of thinking around tokens and learning about token projects. But at the same time, I think you always got to have fun. I had the best fun in college. Definitely was not the best student personally. 

I sucked at school. I did okay in community college, but when I transferred from community to like more of a university in LA, I remember eating so much shit my first year, and I was like, oh, community college. I was getting good grades. I was working a couple of jobs, doing fine. And then I get to this university, I was like, shit, I can’t even keep myself afloat. And then I realized that after going through, my first semester at a mainstream university, I’m like, forget this. I’ve been locked in the study room forever, and I’m so much more of a communications front person. I was like, I need to get involved with clubs. I need to get involved with my interests. Like I know that’s where the value is going to be, not my grades. And I’m glad I did, cause somehow I ended up working in crypto. All right. Let’s talk more about your upbringing, and the only reason I want to pivot to this topic as we’re still in the introduction phase of the podcast is because you’re doing something that’s very media-focused at GCR. It also has an investment arm and a couple of other arms, but how was it like growing up in the Yang residence? Were you a very, I guess, extroverted type of person doing newsletters, and how does that translate? You know what I mean? Like how did you grow up that kind of led you to where you are today? 

Growing up in China & Going Global

Yeah, for sure. So there are so many defining moments in my upbringing that kind of drove me the way I am today, and part of it was actually me growing up in China. I spent my first 10 years growing up in China and then kind of integrated with my family to New York. And I have kind of strong roots back in Asia, and I kind of discovered and rediscovered it again when I was in crypto. When crypto first surfaced with such a global presence initially. And global coin research actually was originally focusing on Asia and kind of building out communities between Asia and the US and kind of the Western hemisphere and connecting those two. So we would go out there and help projects such as Starkware or crypto kitties or Tezos, in identifying the right type of people to connect with on either side of the hemisphere and helping them build out communities locally in Asia. So, you know, countries in Singapore, countries and China, Korea, and Japan, and many of those other countries. So that’s what I felt kind of rediscovering my roots back from Asia when I was kind of first pursuing that for global coin research, and then, over time I realized that you know Crypto’s global, but at the same time, there are so many on tap opportunities in growing and identifying really high-quality content that, you know, global coin research originally was resonating with and was really aligning ourselves with. And shortly after, we kind of expanded our focus from Asia to kind of globally overall. Right. And that’s actually very much rooted in my experience back in finance, where I was actually writing a lot of research papers about crypto, not crypto, there wasn’t token crypto back then, but there’s crypto now. I was writing a lot of research about software to software projects and software companies. So, very technical projects and companies that were going through an IPO and, you know, doing their quarterly earnings. And I was writing a lot of research on those types of projects and companies, and shortly after the finance stint, I also spent some time as a tech crunch journalist, as well as a reporter for the information. So for those experiences, I’ve learned a lot about reporting and actually kind of uncovering stories of projects. And I think combining those things, communities and connecting communities on top of really trying to uncover and share great content were like the two passions of mine. I would say I’m probably better at one, at probably community building than writing given my immigrant background. But at the same time, I do enjoy that kind of providing value and sharing and uncovering the opaqueness of the crypto space to folks. Because, even though we are a very interactive community, there’s still a lot of information disconnect between different communities and different regions. So, like what you said, global coin research is a tokenized DAO for research and investment purposes, and our community is really worldwide and everyone joins in from Europe, from Asia and they come in and learn about different projects and meet different founders of projects. We incubate projects and founding teams when they need help or get feedback for their products, and it’s been really fun. I think that’s really been able to kind of connect what we used to do as global coin research, and now, participating not only as a community, but also financially if the project allows us to.

I think something that’s really cool about your background is you have the traditional journalism side and now you’re trying to build a disruptive model around that with crypto. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned working and writing for tech crunch and all these other publications that you’re applying to GCR? 

Yeah, so I think some of the lessons I particularly learned about these centralized models of publishing, tech crunch, my experience there was, I write a piece and I get paid, and there was an editor that was actually filtering my piece and helping me improve my piece. I thought that those. Features are actually really great to have when it comes to someone having an editor helping and overlooking your products so that your piece actually becomes a really good product when it goes out to the world, but there’s always this centralized entity that tells you exactly what to write or gives you an idea for what you want to write. And then you kind of try to write about that, that appeals to them, for example. And what I realized for global coin research is that we want to be a model that’s similar in product quality, but different in that the writers have control over what they write. Global coin research now is a writing platform or global coinresearch.com specifically is a writing platform where folks can go on there, write a piece about NFTs, crypto tokens, anything you really want, as long as they’re very high quality and research-driven, we’ll prove it. We have an editorial team that will actually look through the pieces to make sure that, you know, all the grammar is going smoothly, and also that, you know, the template and the format look good so that it appeals to every average type of consumer in crypto. 

And that was actually my next question. What is an editorial process look like for a decentralized media company? 

Right now, for a decentralized media company, I think there still needs to be some kind of centralized powers. We don’t have five eyes looking at this content. We have just one editor looking at some content and another editor looking at the other content because we don’t have that kind of structure built out yet. The way we’re thinking about global coin research as a decentralized institution or project itself is, first we want to generate a platform to allow anybody to contribute content in a very high-quality way, and then, by having that content layer, we’ll be able to attract folks who are into this type of research, right? It’s not everyone was into long-form pieces that are about, you know, here’s a deep guide on learning about NFTs. Sometimes people just like to chase the latest NFT and never think about the income. So we want to attract those types of people, and in turn, by having this content layer, we’re able to get them onto our content platform. And then eventually they may discover our discord, which is the next layer of product. This core product itself is the community, right? The community is where we’re actually doing these AMAs with founders kind of incubating with projects directly on a weekly and daily basis in our discord, and we’re interfacing them through zoom calls or discord channels and learning about them on a more deep level and providing our feedback. In some cases, the founding team will let us invest in the upcoming rounds that they have.

Launching Global Coin Research

What was the inspiration behind GCR, and as a follow-up, can you walk me through your process from going from idea to where you are today? 

Yeah, I think for crypto there’s always an innovative process because you’re always trying to figure out what does a community actually want. For us, we never started out as a community with thousands of members from day one. It first started as a newsletter where we were just sharing ideas and sharing information to the public, originally about Asia, crypto, and the communities that were happening out of there. Over time we had garnered, at this point, 31,000 subscribers who are all very global, but are interested or learning about crypto. Before, it was about Asia, but now it’s really about anything that is the latest of the latest kind of importance. We evolved from there. From the newsletter, we have the writing platform, and we also have these events that we’re doing; not only online, but also in person. So for example, in the last three weeks, we’ve done one physical event with Axie infinity. We did another physical event with Yield Guild Games, and then now we’re doing another physical event with Axie infinity next week in LA. So, you know, these are all different ways to kind of really engage with the community, and I really enjoy that part specifically because it’s very ironic. I think someone said this before, and I think it’s really funny because the crypto people love parties and getting together and physical events, which is super ironic.

It’s amazing by the way. Probably my favorite part is okay there’s like two weeks of conferences and two weeks of traveling, you lose your mind and you have the best time meeting all these internet characters, and it just solidifies your entire relationship with all these anons, you know, and all these voices and like fortune cookies. 

I totally agree. I mean, I love hanging out with great thoughtful people and that’s kind of how our community has really formed as well, as just people who really like thinking through things or talking about a project at an in-depth level, and you form a community naturally around that. In-person, it becomes even more interesting because you have multiple voices all happening at the same time. So totally agree with you.

Investing as a Community

So you guys do the events, you have the content arm, you have the investment arm. Can you talk to me more about the investment arm? So I know you basically do like these events and whatnot for these communities and these founders. Is that something that, that community participates in as an investment and then gets like carry through the social token or how does that work? 

So for folks who are not familiar with our investment arm, essentially GCR is a community that invests together. So what that means is, whenever we do an investment call with a founder, you’ll have about 10 to 20 people showing up from our community, actually at the diligence call level. And then after the call, we have team members who are actually sharing notes about their takeaways from the call and their feedback on the founders. From there, any member actually who has access to the investment products needs a certain number of tokens to get to that threshold, but once any member joins our membership at that level, they’re able to participate and put in a check. And the way we’re thinking about it here is that you know crypto really democratizes a lot of things. It allows individuals to participate in multiple networks, but they should also allow individuals, especially accredited individuals, to participate in fundraisers because these are the type of individuals that these projects are looking for to be part of the community in the first place. So how we think about ourselves is actually we’re lending ourselves as effectively a quality audience for them to raise from initially and to bootstrap a community, similarly, to actually how the YGG model works. So for folks who are not familiar with yoyo games, they have an army of game players from the Philippines and elsewhere, and many other countries and they really help bootstrap many of the kind of Axie infinity game-playing activity early days, because there was so much demand from those communities. And the way we’re thinking about it here is that for our community, that’s very research-driven and very thoughtful who asks really great questions, anyone would like to have them in the early community as a member because you would like those types of community members to be participating in your network and giving you feedback and iterating on your product. So long story short, we allow anyone to invest with us as long as you’re accredited, and you of course acknowledge the risks that you have when you’re investing in crypto tokens. And then, we actually just most recently yesterday announced a partnership with syndicate DAO, where we’re bringing all of our deal investing into syndicate DAO. The syndicate protocol specifically, and members can, you know, pool capital together and invest together. We generally take a carry of some sort as kind of the liaison and the platform that kind of bridges the communities, but at the same time we’re actually in the process of figuring out how to return or how to share that carry with our members, the token holders.

You know, one thing that you brought up that’s super controversial in crypto is the element of being an accredited investor, and what you’re legally allowed to invest in and what you’re not legally allowed to invest in based on your net worth, right? How much you have liquid and whatnot. So from what I understand accreditation laws, you basically have to have at least a million dollars liquid in the bank to be qualified as an accredited investor, it can’t be locked up in assets or anything like that. Part of the argument behind crypto and money flowing at the speed of information is being able to invest and connect your wallet and bind to anything creator, open crowdfund, whatever it may be, as quick as possible and as easy as possible. But you’re coming from the point of view of the accreditation is more important, right? I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I think it’s an important topic because you specifically mentioned that. So how do you feel about that? Do you feel like crypto investment, deal flow, and venture investing should be strictly for accredited investors? Or do you think because crypto is so open, transparent, borderless, allows anybody to throw money at anything at any time. How do you feel about that? 

 I think crypto is very natively kind of connected with financially participating in a network, and I think it’s often very appealing and tempting when someone reads on Twitter, you know, I made, you know, a million dollars and I started it from the 10 K or a thousand dollars, and here’s my story, here’s how I did it. Everyone seems like they could do that, but it’s actually not true, right? At one side of the table, there’s someone who’s winning on the other side, there’s someone losing, but no one ever talks about how much money they lose. So what I caution folks on when they’re actually participating in these different kinds of investing activities is, do know the risks, because the space is still very early and there are still a lot of unknowns. For example, this is probably a pretty extreme example, but I’m not sure if you’ve been following the China Evergrande real estate property phenomenon. So, actually, it’s not even about that. It’s about stepping back a little bit. In the most recent few months, China has been putting a lot of bans and limitations on the tech conglomerates. So for example, you could only play an hour or two of games per day on a gaming platform if you’re under 18, and they will monitor that. So, and then in addition to that, they’ve been actually turning all these for-profit tutoring companies that are actually in the billions of dollars in market cap companies, and they’re telling them that they have to be a nonprofit now. So like, imagine in a single day, how much of that market cap gets lost because you basically have to turn your business model upside down to become a nonprofit. So these things happen and, it’s not to say that it will happen to us in the US, where the regulators come in and actually put a strict ban. Because I think Gary, from the SEC, who is the head of the sec, Gensler is very friendly to crypto. But at the same time, there are definitely risks, right? There are some unknown risks and there are known risks, and there are many of those for each category. So going back to what we’re talking about, accredited investors, I think when it comes to us, we definitely want to make sure that investors and the individuals in our network and the community are protected or acknowledging the risks that they’re taking when they’re participating in these deals. And I think there are many other outlets that you could do to participate in NFT drops and you could continue to do that. We talk about them in the community, but we don’t participate in those, not yet at least. I think we definitely want to make sure that everyone understands what they’re getting into though, whenever they’re getting into something. 

So how big is the GCR community today? 

So we have about 1500 discord communities. We have 31,000 other subscribers. We have done events with over 2000 people physically and virtually cumulatively. So take all those numbers whichever way you want to, but I think that the way to think about the community, for us is how often that these members are coming back. How much are they posting on a discord? What’s the retention rate like, and for us, actually, it’s pretty interesting. For the GCR token, you need to hold GCR token to participate in a deal, for example, and if anyone participates in a deal with us, they actually would almost never sell their tokens after that, because there are these kinds of retention factors that we need to consider, which is that they need to follow up with a deal. There needs to be ongoing processes with a deal. So it will take almost two, three years to actually be able to give up your token because the cost of giving up the token versus giving up your investment essentially is very high.

Encouraging Participation

Pretty cool. That’s a unique way to incentivize utility and retention. What other things have you seen work for you guys or for others in terms of basically encouraging people to HODL? Like what else has worked for you? 

I think having a really great community to bind with and having that intimate feel even while you’re growing is very important for us. So, segmenting our members into new members versus old members, and what do the new members want? For example, introduction to GCR and what they could do on GCR. So, segregating all these different types of products and members into their needs so that they feel more intimate. They have a class that they’re entering with, for example, when they’re first kind of joining GCR, and they know some of the new people that joined with them and they all ask similar questions and have that feel. That is very important to me, and we’re going through that, right? So it’s an ongoing growing pain and management and lots of discord acrobatics that you have to do to manage the discord communities. But I think it’s very fun, right? There’s lots of new energy, and that’s always really nice to see. 

Yeah, I think it’s such a cool factor that you guys have the investment arm because you’re right. If I were to invest with a community, I’d be more incentivized to hold that token. Cause I have so much skin in the game now beyond just me purchasing that initial asset. There are layers to it now. So, I really like that. I want to talk to you more about token gated content. I tweeted this a while back, and I remember coming across fortune or the New York Times. I think it was in the New York Times where I wanted to read an article, there was a paywall, I couldn’t read the article, I could only read it if I subscribed with a dollar for like three months. I went up, click the exit on the tab, and never saw that article again, and it’s only a dollar. Like I drop hundreds of thousands of dollars every week on crypto shit, and part of me was thinking and reflecting on that. I was like, why am I not down to pay a dollar, but down to buy a thousand dollars worth of GCR, right? Like why am I more incentivized to do that, and what does that mean for the greater creator economy as a whole? Do you think about that? So what do you feel about that? Like, share with me your thoughts.

It’s pretty interesting because I think, you know, a parallel to that is when you’re trying to pay $6,000 for a friends with benefits membership and then Soho house only costs $2,000. You’re like, oh my God, how is this so expensive? And you have physical venues, you hang out with. 

Meanwhile, all I get is the discord chat in some way, then parties at random conferences.

It’s just random parties. So yeah, I totally agree with you. The community is surprisingly sticky, right? Because you know, someone else is a part of it, and you want to be part of it because they’re part of it because they bring you joy. So I think that’s very much under-appreciated and it’s kind of the secret sauce to building great communities, right? Because you want to encourage that member to bring in their friends. So what we’re doing now actually is a GCR six-month birthday campaign, cause we just issued our token six months ago and we wanted to celebrate. We’ve been encouraging members to gift their friends memberships. So for every time a member comes and joins our calls, either that’s an AMA or with a founder or incubation call to learn more about a project, our members are able to earn free memberships and they could give that to other people. And I think that’s really a way for us to grow. We want to grow very thoughtfully and we’re not trying to grow very quickly. The idea is to have someone join, learn about us and everything that we’re doing, because we do a lot of stuff, but also kind of partake in either doing investing with us or kinda participating in these calls or leading these calls. Eventually, we want members to be driving and actually sourcing these calls, right? Because the idea is that we want to be decentralized on the content layer by having members contribute content. We want to be decentralized on the events layer, where members are creating their own events, and we give them a pool of capital for them to run it. And then, for deal sourcing as well actually. This is something that we’re working on right now, where members are actually able to source deals with the community and we gave them part of the carry. And I think that that’s what we should do. And that’s what I think will be fair and be really encouraging for our members to kind of participate.

Token-Gated Content

There are layers again. There are layers to GCR that there aren’t for example, for the New York times, but it still brings me back to my first question. Like, why am I more down to spend a thousand dollars on GCR, and I’m getting access to gated content that otherwise would have been behind a subscription paywall, versus paying a dollar to $5 for the year sometimes. Like I remember the wall street journal had to pay $1 for the entire year and get access to the wall street journal end to end. And it gets me thinking. The reason, for me personally, is like I know I’ll be growing with GCR, and by no means is this financial advice, right? I made my first purchase into GCR last week. And I’m planning to hold and I want to get myself involved in the community, but again, not financial advice, just observations here. But then I don’t want to spend a dime on the New York Times. Like, I don’t know why I’m more obligated and it feels more right to pay for crypto gated content versus trad fi or normal business content, you know what I mean? And it’s something that I spend time thinking about because imagine if the New York times were to launch the NYT token, you know, and instead of having everybody pay a dollar and they’re trying to suck $1 from someone for three months of access, I wonder what the conversion would be if they do so in a way where they can buy like a hundred dollars worth of their tokens. Now there’s a pool of liquidity and that’s like what, a hundred years or something. Like such a longer subscription rate and turnover than there otherwise would have been with a standard credit card subscription model. And obviously, there are pros and cons. Crypto is not there yet to really abide to the masses to actually implement something like this. I get it, but still, why am I more obligated to buy a much larger and a thousand X more position in a different media company than paying a dollar for the New York times? It’s a rhetorical question. I’m throwing it out there. For anybody that’s listening. And that is feeling the same thing, hit me up, tweet at me hit up GCR. But do you have any other comments to end on that? 

I was just wondering whether or not you denominate it in ETH, and maybe that’s why. What partially, I think also, for example, when you bought GCR, and just a week later, we have tokens up 50%, right?

Actually $630. It wasn’t a complete thousand, but it grew to over a thousand. 

Oh, sweet, nice. That’s awesome to see. And you know, I think part of what we ask for is you holding the token and contributing by holding the token and actually not spending it. I think at some point we wanted to have the content be in different segments, where certain types of content you could read by holding a token, a GCR token. But there’s some other really, really high-quality content that you can only read by spending the value of the token and actually paying the writers directly. So that’s the eventual goal for the global coin research writing platform. But yeah, I think what we value right now is HODLing, and I think by HODLing, members are able to enjoy the recognition of our value over time, and I think that’s something that we want to make sure that they feel awarded to. 

So I use HubSpot as my CRM across like Adam levy.io, and HubSpot is a public company on the stock market. It’s as if I were to buy some shares of HubSpot’s stock, and I’d be forced to hold and I can only access their CRM, not based off like a monthly tiered subscription model, but rather based on how many shares I own. That model is just so much more enticing for me. In terms of all types of content access, I’d rather spend $30 on a creator’s content and hold that, get exclusive content to them in their community and grow with them as they develop themselves, then I don’t know, pay $15 to their subify per month as a subscription rate, you know? Then with that, I remember FWB did that, and then there was like 66 FWB to get and then a month, two months after I joined, three months, it was like 77. And I don’t know if they’re gonna continue increasing it. Anyway, something to think about something to ponder over.

I do want to caveat though that we and FWB, along with like four or five and many other social token DAOs, definitely don’t want to be financially tied to our token. We’re just membership tokens, at least for GCR. We’re a membership token, and so is FWB right? By holding this token, you get access to membership. We may have a treasury that’s very robust filled with NFTs, or you know, for example, our carry that we may return to the treasury, but it’s not financially tied to the token. The token holder does not have a claim to the treasury if that makes sense. 

That makes sense. All right. Let’s kind of pivot a little bit more into what does the future of media in crypto look like? How do you think about that? 

Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I think you should definitely ask The Defiant and Decrypt, because they’re all looking to issue tokens at this point or starting to become a DAO. I’m not sure if this is an alpha leak. 

No, I mean, we see on the Decrypt app that they have their points and rewards, and those are tokens essentially, for consuming the content. I feel like sooner or later the defiant is going to do something like that. I feel like CoinDesk and coin Telegraph are going to explore that with membership tiers, like exclusive content. How do you think about that being literally one of the first people to do it? 

I think it’s the right way to go, honestly. So to be fair, the media space has always been kind of the laggards in technology adoption. You know, if you look at traditional media from print to online, the experience hasn’t really changed much, and you’re just kind of reading the content in different forms. I think when I was running global coin research, initially for the first few years, we actually didn’t think about tokens at all. Cause we’re like, we don’t want to be one of those projects that just issued token for no reason, and so we really wanted to bring utility and actual usage to the token. Now it has governance applications. Now it has membership applications, and that’s when I felt like it actually was making sense for us to have a token. So I think for media companies, you really have to be thinking about, am I going to use the token just to replace a traditional paywall? Because in that sense, it’s like the same thing, right? And the way we’re thinking about crypto content and global coin research is a network, right? Because traditionally, for example, we have these investors and consumers who were readers of tech crunch, for example, and these folks were just reading and they’re paying a subscription for reading the content. But the way we’re thinking about it is, by having these investors now in the crypto space actually holding the token to be able to participate in our network and participate in our deal flow, they are indirectly supporting the price of the token. And this is a token that we also kind of reward our writers with. So there’s a direct value transfer in terms of the investors and the consumers of the content actually directly supporting the token itself, and that goes back to the writers. So that’s how we thought about it because we think that, you know Networks are financially tied to the members and the community. And that is one model that we can now apply for. But you know, I love to see how more DAOs like the Bankless go about things. So for example, Bankless is interesting because they separate their DAO from their content side. I think that’s one way to do it, and there’s our way of doing it, which is connecting those two together. So we’ll see. I think there’ll be a lot of innovations on the side. 

One story I want to bring up is the fortune magazine and the people pleaser drop that they did. They did a one of one, and I think also a few other ones in that collection. That’s like their start to issuing tokenized assets, that they could technically build a community around, right? It might be a niche community, but it’s a start to people and your readers collecting those assets, right? When do you think we’ll start seeing one of the more mainstream brands like Forbes, CNN, Fox Bloomberg, et cetera, et cetera, issuing assets, whether they be a token, whether they be a membership badge or pass as an NFT and then building communities and creating exclusive content around that? How far away are we from that? 

I think we could definitely imagine NFTs being dropped by these publications very soon, but it may be more experimental. With that, in my opinion, because it is really hard to kind of really move a whole thousand-person company towards that direction in a very short period of time, and one year is pretty short for these companies. So I mean, I think there’s always going to be innovation arms that aren’t all looking at crypto now, but the question is how much are they going to be pushing the entire company or disrupting their own existing model that they have currently? That will probably be at least 5 years. I think five years probably would be good enough. But yeah, I think, you know, global coin research may become a more mainstream model and I would love more projects to do what we do because we want to be supportive. The token itself is there to support the writers, and the token is there to kind of maintain and create a high-quality community, and I think this is what many of the writing publications will want. 

One thing that I liked that you guys do, so you guys are based on WordPress, and your entire funnel for creating an account and then wanting to contribute it just makes sense, right? That whole entire onboard process. And I like your open-mindedness and the community’s approach to basically letting anybody contribute that’s in the community. Have you ever encountered points where like, sorry, this isn’t the right fit for GCR, try something else. Or is it because it’s community-led, you just have to say, okay, because they’re in the community because they’re vested we have to let them publish or how do you think about that? 

We’ve looked for quality first and foremost. So for example, for content, if a member is a part of the community, but their content is not great, we still have to say no. Because I think content is what ultimately attracts the eye first, because having communities and experience and having this like initial kind of marketing, if you think about it that way as a marketing interface, is something that’s super important for us. And I think just that will benefit the community member overall because they will attract the right type of people into the community. So, you know, this is something I think we’re seeing friends with benefits coming out with, their editorial arm, for example, right? And they’re starting out to kind of have that because I think every community needs a good voice, but that voice needs to represent the community. So if that voice doesn’t fit us, then it doesn’t work. For us, our bar is just great research, great deep dives, great guides into helping people understand crypto. And we’re still just purely focused on Web 3.0 and NFTs and then crypto. 

I want to talk about more behind the employment side of incentivizing writers to contribute. What does that structure look like? So let’s say I’m a writer. I produce content on Adam levy.io. I want to start contributing to other communities like GCR, FWB, forefront, whatever. So I come in, I create an account, I get myself set up with WordPress, right? I write an article, I draft it, I share it with the editorial team, they review it for grammar, and see if it’s the right tone, the right vibe, the right fit for GCR. And based on what they publish, I already am financially motivated to contribute because I have the tokens. What happens beyond that once I publish and I become a frequent publisher, is there more incentivization? I only ask that because I want this to be like a learning lesson for creators that are trying to build out communities. How should they be thinking about employment? How should they be thinking about pay? What does that look like from GCR? 

Yeah, no, that’s an awesome question. I think, just to kind of finish up that process that you described after someone gets accepted for their content, they immediately earn the tokens in their wallet. So there’s a dashboard that shows how many tokens they earned, and they could withdraw from the global coin research.com website into their actual wallet of the number of tokens they earned. So that’s the process that we have set up now, and I think it’s pretty kind of seamless in terms of experience. And I think for writers, the way we’re thinking about kind of employment, I think the whole point of having global coin research as an open platform, is that you could write in any cadence you want and you’ll get paid for it if you have really good content. If you compare that with existing solutions out there, like medium or substack. For substack, you have to be recurrently writing and you have to build an audience yourself before actually having someone to pay attention to you or discover you, and then maybe potentially you could have a paid subscription. If you’re lucky and consistent. For us, the way we’ve been presenting it to writers, and I think this is kind of a good appeal that’s been working well is that we have this audience of readers who are coming to our website and people who are in our community, and we also have a 31,000 people subscriber newsletter, where there is a number of people from wall street journal, New York times on chain as well as crypto investors and crypto influencers such as pomp. Then the shift from scalar or Brian Armstrong from Coinbase who are actually opening these emails and seeing your content, right? So we give you a direct audience just by having your content on our website, and I think that that’s really hard to build for any kind of up-and-coming individual. On top of that, we want to provide this flexibility. Whenever anyone feels like writing, they could write, they’ll get approved within a few days, and then they get GCR tokens immediately. They could sell those tokens if they want to pay their bills. So over time, when those writers write reoccurring, we love to invite them to become an editor. And I think that’s something that we’d love to do because they understand our voice and they understand our style.

So that was the point I was getting at. So you contribute, you get paid in tokens, you can cash out, pay your bills, buy your milk, make your eggs, literally live life contributing to GCR, right? How do you prevent it from reaching the extreme side of that? So meaning you have a lot of contributors, people love your model, they want to create content, grow GCR. They’re already financially staked and they want to earn a paycheck essentially. Could they do it full-time?

Yeah, I think so. Especially with their content skillset, it’s very much sought out I think in crypto, right? We have an amazing person called Antonio who’s doing our newsletter, and he had experience in marketing and content marketing, and that’s super sought out, I think, in crypto. Especially when you’re trying to break down complex ideas for individuals and people sometimes who may not be familiar with crypto. So for these individuals, we often want to offer them more responsibilities and roles and have them more involved. Not only just become a writer, but also help these projects that we’re actually incubating and directly investing in. Because we actually do have a portfolio success arm now in the community, because the idea is that, when we’re investing with a project, we want to be with them for the rest of their lives. Not only are we supporting you when you’re fundraising financially, but we’re also helping you with content, we’re helping with your strategy. We’re helping you with having an audience in global coin research, but also beyond with our partners, who we kind of interact with or do events with. And we want to continue to surface you to the right people, and the high-quality audience by that means. 

Building an MVC: Minimum Viable Community

I’m so excited to see more creators, more communities approach this model and build incentives, pay people, and literally create their own micro-economy, using their token right? And doing so where people can ditch, or maybe not completely ditch, but work across multiple organizations, whether they be also media or finance that all live on the internet, that all operate on-chain, that all have crypto assets that allow for the foundation to get paid, to contribute and see your stuff come to life in a cryptographic manner. And a lot of people are asking, how can I jump into crypto? How can I jump into DAOs? Where can I contribute? Like, I have these skills, and I think people like you are kind of like designing these systems to make it applicable, to make it happen. If somebody wanted to go and start a DAO right now, wanted to start a decentralized community, what are some tips you would give them?

 This is an awesome, awesome question, and honestly, I want to give a shout out first to our core contributors at global coin research, like Arthur, Antonio Carol, Leanne, Dan, these guys. They’re amazing. Like anyone who gets them in their communities is going to be so lucky, and I feel so lucky just to have met them from building global coin research. And every day actually seems so much fun. And those guys seem like they enjoy it as well, which is what makes it really important for building communities from the beginning. And I think that’s actually a very key point, which is, find friends that you actually drive with that you want to build a community of the type of people that you like, and then you drive and continue to do so until you grow from two people to five people. Then, go from five to 12 or 20. So, I think that’s actually how people build products, where you start with MVP, and you find the initial few customers that are really, really happy with your products. I think community building is also the same way. You find a few people that view really like your product and you just keep giving them the same things that they love, and they’ll just stick with you forever. And this is not just about the employees, this is just about like members in general.

I think I like that. Building a community MVP, aka MVC, versus a product MVP, and what does that look like at the get-go? I like that. I’m going to start using that in the interviews. What does a community MVP look like and how do you build that? It’s one of my questions, inspired by Joyce Yang. I love it. I want to pivot to more fun, personal questions cause we only have so much time left. So I’m in your discord. I’m a member of the discord, I own the tokens that connect to my wallet. I’ve done all that stuff. There’s a ton of different channels. If there was one channel that you’d have to choose from, you’d be required to forever live in which one would it be and why?

Oh, it will be our birthday audio channel. We had such a blast with our birthday. So actually, a funny story, yesterday we had our birthday launch. It was so fun. So we had about 108 people joining for a one-hour event, and the event consists of kind of us recapping what’s happened for GCR in the last six months because this is our birthday. So we want to share and be thankful for the community. And then we also invited Ian, the founder of syndicate protocol. Jenny O, CEO of Coinvise, as well as Peter pan from 1KX, who’s, you know, the awesome community builder who we all want. A funny story is, near the end when Peter pan was talking, I didn’t realize this, but someone told me afterward, because of my phone, my audio was muted for some reason from other members for talking. But there was like a peeing sound coming from the audience. So, there was a series of peeing sounds and then also a series of flushing sounds, and then like that interrupted Peter in a very awkward way. And he’s just like, Hmm, I can’t keep talking. I just stopped right now. 

Was that on his end or was that somebody else?

No, it was someone else’s end. It was someone else, and I think it was just like accidentally unmuting. But now we have been referring to that call as the great kickoff.

So I was going to say, what a great way, first of all, happy birthday. Happy belated birthday. Six months of starting a crypto community feels like six years I feel like, especially when all these other communities are forming and manifesting and launching, and everybody’s doing their own thing. So, cheers to you. The second thing I want to ask you is after six months of starting and growing and building a decentralized community around media, what are some things you wish you knew before starting that you kind of know now?

Yeah, I think the first thing when you said media is something that I wish we kind of focused on less. So meaning, I wish we actually were a community first, media second, and now we are a community first, media second platform. Before, we were media first, and I think media does not stick enough, community sticks. So that’s something I think we learned over time, and it’s like a transition for us. Then, constantly awarding your members for participation is something that I’m starting to learn more of and become more proactive about. Because, for example, we have these AMA calls with founders and we’re learning about other projects, and we have over 30 members who are joining at any given event. Events like twice a day, and there are so many members joining, right? All you needed to do was give them some incentive. And for one, we started dropping these free memberships to these members. You know, we randomly lottery from the participants and we give one person a free membership, and that really got them excited. I think just becoming more incentive-driven while giving them great things will really amplify the effects that you’re looking for. 

That’s a good takeaway. All right. Bouncing back to personal questions. If you were a ghost in the metaverse, who, what, where would you haunt? 

I feel like I didn’t do enough homework to prepare for this question. 

No, it’s more of a creative question.

 If I were a ghost in the metaverse-

Who would you haunt? What would you haunt or where? 

What do you mean by hunting?

Haunt, like boo, like scare. Not hunt, not kill. No. I got to emphasize haunt, like creep up. So you could start where, where would you hunt? So like a discord server could be a haunt, and it can’t be GCR. People say like, Decentraland, people say FWB, I don’t know. It’s up to you to decide who or where would you haunt? 

But when you’re haunting them, does that mean you’re scaring them, or is that just like a fun thing to do?

Just like a frequent boo or like knocking a fork off the counter?

I think it will be probably the Axie infinity team because we co-hosted an event with Axie folks, Jiho, the co-founder of growth, and the community was just crazy and exciting. And, you know, we had some really early members from the Axie infinity team at the event. It was like an event in Korea Town, New York, so very standard event, but the vibe was just so different. It’s even crazier than any crypto card party you went to because there’s so much passion and Jiho is literally like, people call him father and dad in the Axie infinity community because he’s like the God figure that people look up to. But, you know, his emphasis has always been just like, even despite the size of where we’re at, and now they were just announced to have raised the valuation of 3 billion, right by A16z in the last round. And they’re like, we’re still going to be driven by the community. Whatever you want to build, we’re going to listen to you guys and hear what you would have to say, and that is just super astounding. Cause that’s a model you’ve never seen before at that scale. And that’s really cool. 

What Comes After Web 3.0?

So haunt the Axie infinity team. Final question and this is a question that I ask everybody. So I’m a big fan of the development of the internet, particularly speaking about Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and now Web 3.0. Web 1.0 was very much read-only. It was very static. Web2.0 introduced social networks, introduced SAS models, introduced gates, data manipulation. Networks knew more about users than users knew about themselves, and now we’re getting into this phase of Web 3.0, where people are no longer the products of the platform versus co-owners of the platform, right? Ownership online pseudo-anonymous entity, keyword after keyword after keyword. And what’s interesting is Web 2.0 ate Web 1.0, and Web 3.0 is supposedly eating Web 2.0. What will eat Web 3.0?

I don’t know. I feel like you have to ask someone who’s like a third of my age. I’m not even that old, but the question is more like, what do they want? And if you know what they want, then you could be that, you know exactly. 

So let’s talk about it from a community content creation, community investment perspective. What do they want?

I think for content creation, it’s about having the right tools in hand to have an audience. And we’re seeing that with Web 3.0, with really successful subsets that are forming, right? So, what we’re trying to do is, GCR is something that we want to empower the writers continuously on a financial level on top of giving a voice and a platform. But I think that’s going to continue to iterate, emphasize on the writers and continue to bring value to the writers, but in terms of actual what that looks like, I probably wouldn’t know at this point. I think maybe in a year or two, you could actually come back to us and then we’ll probably come up with something new as well. Because we’re trying to constantly reinvent the wheel here. And then for investing, I think it’s always about making sure that it’s never just about the big funds, and we’re seeing that in crypto already. It’s about the communities, it’s about the DAOs. It’s about the individual angel investors, actually more so than many of the funds and you know, what value they bring, which actually often could be less than the angels themselves.

Now that I think about it, that was like from the point of view of what will eat GCR, and that’s not the intention. Rather, what’s the intention of when everything is on-chain when we get to the extreme side of Web 3.0 and data is on-chain, all transactions are on-chain, identities are on-chain. What’s the extreme side of that, right? Cause anything too extreme of anything is bad. That’s my opinion. Others may argue differently, but that’s what I believe. Do you feel the same? Anything extreme at one end of the spectrum that is just like too much that needs to be balanced? 

I mean, I think we’re always in a transition phase. It’s never going to be extreme in reality, but yeah, I agree with you. Like I don’t imagine our world to be everyone all on the blockchain. 

So I feel like we’re like swinging. We’re swinging from centralized to decentralized and right now we’re shifting towards decentralized, everything on-chain, community-owned everything. Everybody has a co-share co voice co everything into everything that they do through crypto-assets. What does that middle look like? 

I mean, that’s it. Yeah. I feel like you have something in mind. 

I honestly don’t. I genuinely don’t. I’m just curious to hear your point of view on the space about this because I think you bring such interesting insight developing the community that you built, the amount of excitement that you have in your discord, the unique individuals that contribute to GCR. You have purview into something that many people don’t. One, because you’re living it one, because you contribute to it outside of GCR, and you’re a voice in this space, right? So I think I’m hitting you with that question because you have so much purview, because you have so much experience on the decentralized route, what do you think could be the other side? And we can end there. This is more meant to be like a robust question where we just bounce ideas back and forth.

I mean, I think that’s a really valid point and I appreciate all those nice things you said about me. But, I actually think one of the problems with crypto now is that, as we have more people joining the space, there are these centralized kinds of cliques that are forming naturally, even with a decentralized model, right? For example, friends with benefits. I think they are just by having a high price point they’re blocking out and preventing many members who otherwise could be great contributors to join. But it’s like, artists are not rich by default. Think about it that way. If you are really vibrant in the community, how do you actually, I mean, they’d give scholarships and sorts, but at the same time, it’s like that price point. It’s like, you’re really creating a new Soho house and there’s nothing different about it. So, I think this is something that we as creators in the decentralized world need to think about, is are you actually just re-creating a new paradigm of the same existing social norms? Because, that’s cool, but you know, it could be cooler. And I’m not saying FWB is not cool. They’re cool. They’re very cool. They’re super cool. 

Outro

I’m a holder of FWB, so they’re cool. I love them. They’ve generated a lot of value for me. Not financial advice, but yes. And by the way, that’s a new take. That’s a take that nobody has said on the podcast before. So, I like that. I love that. Joyce, before I let you go, anything you want to end off with and that can also include you plugging yourself, plugging, GCR, plugging the site, all that, anything you want to end off with? 

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Adam. I mean, I think if this podcast comes out before October 25th, then we have our daily events going on in global coin research in our discord so that you could check out and it’ll be lotteries for a free membership or free GCR tokens. It’s really fun to be actually just hanging out with smart people in there. So I hope people could join us, and honestly just have lots of fun and I think, pursuing that fun while building something nice is like the ultimate dream for any creator in this space. I think you got to keep doing that and just fulfilling yourself.

And last but not least, where can we find you personally online? 

You can follow me and @JoyceinNYC on Twitter.

Cool. Thank you so much, Joyce. It was a pleasure. Shout out to the GCR community. Shout out to all the contributors that you shouted out, and thank you so much. I hope to have you again soon. 

Thank you, Adam.

Categories
Blog Post

A New Experiment via Catalog Works and Party Bid Reveals New Financing Paths for Creators

In this post, we’re diving into the creative and crypto-curious mind of Daniel Allan.

After his successful crowdfunding campaign on Mirror for his EP Overstimulated, Daniel came up with a new experiment. After spending 36 hours of creative boot camp in Idaho with his friends, he dropped five songs on Catalog Works and set up a Party Bid for every single. I wrote about his first experiment a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to talk with him to learn his motivation and creative process behind this new project.

Aleyna: Can you tell me the story behind IDLEWILDE?

Daniel: The first project I did was drifter series. I went to a random location on the map, took photographs with a disposable camera, made artwork from it, and I made a song in the location, and that was the NFT. The second project was I helped to bring some friends on Catalog by making a song with them and putting it on Catalog.

After doing that, I wanted to scale it up a little bit. 2 things that I value a lot are collaborating with others and traveling — pointing to a random place on the map, and making music there. What I wanted to do here is to combine these two, both going to a random place and working with friends. This seemed like the best of both worlds. So it was me, my creative director Lisa, and White Lucas, another artist in the web3 space. We decided to go to Idaho in the mountains. We went there and made this project together called IDLEWILDE.

We have a 5 track EP, we did it in 36 hours. 36 hours of art essentially. What I wanted to experiment with is Party Bid. I have experience with crowdfunding because of my project on Mirror, and I wanted to experiment with what happens if I make a Party Bid for each song. The barrier of entry is a bit difficult sometimes because you need to have $300-500, and for a lot of people, that’s a lot of money. So I wanted to bring the barrier of entry down a little bit.

Aleyna: Wow, that’s amazing. I agree – 1 ETH might be nothing in crypto for some people, but IRL that’s a lot of money. What made you decide to go with Catalog Works since there are others like Audius?

Daniel: I like both Catalog and Audius, but for Catalog specifically, a lot of collectors know I am there. Catalog for me is, I treated as SoundCloud in 2014. Essentially I have an idea, and I want to share my demos with no judgment really. In Audius, they have really cool full songs.

Aleyna: Perhaps a little like Spotify and SoundCloud difference.

Daniel: Yeah, I would say that’s a really good way to put it. They would kill me for saying that but for the sake of this analogy.

Aleyna: I want to go back a little bit and ask how you got started in web3.

Daniel: Around March, I played a show in a friend’s backyard, and I put the show into 2 parts. The first show was music that was already out. The second show was unreleased music. The objective there was to showcase my music to a bunch of A&Rs and industry people there. A&Rs and industry people said music is great; let’s find a home for it. One of the people who came was Cooper Turley, who ended up being my project manager for the Mirror crowdfund. He said, “If you’re ever looking for a way to put this music up, let’s see if there is a way for us to work together.” I wasn’t really sure then what web3 was, to be fair.

The next month I went through all the various label opportunities, and I wasn’t in love with any of them. So I reached out to Cooper and asked how I can get involved. He said, “okay you need to start making NFTs.” In my mind, NFT was this crazy visual rendering that 3d animators do. He said, “no, no, my buddy Jeremy is working on this thing called Catalog.” That changed things for me because it made it very accessible. I just needed a still artwork and the music. All I needed to do was figure out how to put an artwork together. For the next month or so after I minted and sold a couple of works on Catalog, I said I’m ready to go. He said, “no you need to spend a couple of months initiating yourself in the community.” And the rest is history.

Aleyna: That’s a really cool onboarding story. Especially I think the music industry in web3 is very early and there are a lot of opportunities. It’s also an industry where the technological developments like streaming have made it difficult for artists to make a living.

Daniel: You hear it every day we’re early, but we’re especially early in the music space. Visual NFTs have seen their moment in the mainstream; this is the potential of how the space looks like. I don’t think outside of LAU in the music space that something like that got as popular. Lau is the biggest project that found a home in web3. I think the most interesting with my case study is that I had 200 followers on Twitter, so it shows how accessible this is. I think in the next 12 months there will be a lot of web3 music artists.

Aleyna: What did you learn and took away from Overstimulated?

Daniel: In full disclosure, OVERSTIM is my number one priority. That was a life-changing moment for me because a lot of people were interested in it. And that kinda changed my perspective on the music industry in general. So while OVERSTIM is my number one priority, I’m always down to experiment. One piece of advice I got early on was too many people in crypto space spend a lot of time thinking but not a lot of time doing so I’m in the mindset that I’d rather throw shit on the wall and see what sticks.

So with this project, that’s just me doing it. I wanted to see how it would look scaled up. Musically and artistically, I wanted to put up this medium-scale project that isn’t as big as OVERSTIM, but we curated and put it together. My takeaway from OVERSTIM is nothing happens overnight. A lot of people looked and said, “wow you sold out in 12 hours”, and multiple people tried doing it afterward. But what a lot of people didn’t see is, for 3 months, I really didn’t put up any music because I was probably spending 10 hours a day on discord saying hi to people individually and being a newbie and asking very newbie questions. That isn’t a sexy thing you know. If you want to do something, you need to pay due diligence and introduce yourself to the community.

Aleyna: How about IDLEWILDE?

Daniel: I think my takeaway from IDLEWILDE, I mean, it was a couple of days ago, so I need time to process it, but in general, my takeaway is you can scale art to whatever degree you want to as long as you have a community behind you.

But I also think that going to a super nice Airbnb and making music with friends was super liberating for me, to be able to have the financial freedom to be able to do that off the back of OVERSTIM and being a web3 artist with my Catalog sales. It was very empowering. If anything, IDLEWILDE has reinforced what I felt about web3 and the music industry in general. Generally, it’s a really good model to live off the back of your patrons. You don’t have to have a million fans; one thousand fans are plenty as long as they’re devoted.

Aleyna: Your experiments will definitely push forward what is possible, which is very exciting to watch. You might be Dom Hoffman for music in web3.

Daniel: In this space, if you’re not pushing boundaries and what is possible, then you’re NGMI. A lot of people after my crowdfund tried to replicate it — it didn’t necessarily do as well. When I do the next crowdfund, which won’t be for a while, it has to be drastically different. 2 weeks in real life is one day in crypto. If you’re not doing something new and radically different, it’s not necessarily a winning formula, and the only way to find that is to experiment.

Aleyna: I totally agree with what you’re saying. When I dove into NFTs this year, I thought I wanted to make my own collectibles project for the sake of understanding the process and seeing it first hand, and learning it. From the outside, it seems so easy, but when you actually get down to it, it’s way more complicated.

Daniel: Yeah, there is also something to be said about having skin in the game. I feel like if you put your money in and lose money, you’ll remember it. You’ll learn a lot about it. When I was getting started, I made a point that I wanted to do it myself.

Aleyna: I’m really excited to see what you come up with next and your new and exciting experiments.

This background story gave me even more excitement about IDLEWILDE and what Daniel will come up with next. Stay tuned for his future projects as he will continue to experiment with new ideas, and push boundaries in music industry with web3 tools. Check out his songs on Catalog here, and find the Party Bid links on his thread here.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Daniel Allan is Eating Web3: The Future for Independent Music Artists

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 5 welcomes music producer and artist Daniel Allan.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 2:55 – Getting Started in Web 3.0 
  • 7:16 – The Future of Artist Management
  • 12:37 – Overstimulated
  • 19:55 – Selling out in 12 Hours
  • 24:30 – Getting the Fans Involved
  • 25:51 – Launching on Party Bid 
  • 34:09 – Outro

…and so much more.

Show Notes

Pre-save song 1 ‘Say What You Want’ from his EP ‘Overstimulated’ debuting Friday! https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/danielallandeegan1/say-what-you-want

Check out his Mirror campaign that raised 50 ETH in less than 12 hours: https://danielallan.mirror.xyz/crowdfunds/0x18f623e397EF28F1A5a094840f7F6f5587828b94


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Mr. Daniel Allan, welcome to Mint. How are you doing, man? 

I’m good, man. Thank you for having me. 

Thank you for being on. Let’s jump right in. You made a lot of noise on Twitter in the last couple of weeks. First off, congratulations on launching your first crypto project overstimulated, which is based off an EP that you’re releasing soon, but before we even go into that, tell me about yourself. Who the hell are you? What should people know about you? We’ll start there. Take it away.

For sure, man. Yeah. So I am Daniel. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky originally. My family is from Kiev Ukraine, former Soviet union. So, shout out to them. But yeah, I had a pretty musical upbringing for the most part. In some senses, I think both of my parents were in music, like my mom’s degree is in musicology, and then my dad was in bands growing up. So I had always seen it my whole life, but I kind of did the route where I took piano lessons as a kid, and was kind of forced into them. Like I had a super Russian piano teacher, and I remember she would take her thumb and put it into my back for good posture, and I never really had a choice of what kind of music I could play. So, I kind of fell out of love with music I think in a lot of ways when I was a kid. And then funnily enough, I ended up playing tennis. That was my way out of doing music. So I took tennis really seriously, and when I was like 15 or 16, I kind of started to get a little bit burnt out on that. So music actually became my outlet in general. So yeah. 

Are your parents musicians?

Yeah. My mom is. In fact, when I took piano lessons, I was really bad at reading music, but my mom could read music like none other. So to get ready for recitals, I would just ask her to play what I was supposed to play and I would just memorize it as she played it. And yeah, my dad grew up in bands and was super cool. I mean, he ended up being like a scientist essentially, but it was more like throughout high school. My mom did pursue it a little bit more seriously. So I grew up like having it around me for sure. 

Got it. And siblings, do you have any siblings?

Yes. I have one older brother whose name is max. 

So are they musical as well? 

No, he is creative though. For a long time he was working on cinematography and stuff. 

Got it. Okay. So you’re a musician at heart, super talented. And how many instruments do you play? 

 Just piano and I’m really good at computer stuff.

Do you find that a lot of musicians nowadays tend to have very dual skills between the tech side and the musicianship?

Yeah. So I think that, just generally, things in the boxes we call it, which are like, just being on the computer has opened a lot of doors for people who maybe don’t have as much of a standard musical background. I think that for someone like me, I know enough piano to write songs, but I definitely don’t consider myself a pianist. However, I think that having this many resources, I use Ableton and things like splice, the accessibility to people becoming artists and them becoming producers is a lot easier. So I think that there are multiple types of producers. I think that there are people who maybe approach things from the technical side a little bit more and kind of just strictly stick in the box, kind of like myself. And there are people who literally will just use their computer as a way to record their instrumentation. But I think that it’s kind of like the best time right now to be a producer. 

Getting Started in Web 3.0 

You know, I wanted to have you on because one, full disclosure I bought into your Overstimulated project on mirror for everybody that’s listening. And the second thing is, everybody has a unique journey into crypto, into web three. What was yours? And as a follow up, what were you like before crypto?

Hm. Okay. So let me start with the first question. So the way that I got into Crypto was through my friend Cooper, Cooper Turley, who’s like, he was a project manager on Overstimulated and he’s like now become one of my closest friends. But, the way that he and I met actually, I was doing a show in March or April. It was low key. It was like still very much at the height of COVID, and I did a show in my friend’s backyard in Sherman Oaks. I did two parts of the show. So the first part was me playing music that was already coming out, but then the second half of the show was me playing seven or eight, just totally unreleased songs. And I invited a bunch of music industry A&Rs, friends, things like that. And after the show they had all come up to me and they were like, “oh man, we’re really stoked on your new music blah, blah, blah. Like let’s, let’s keep the conversation going”. And one of the other people that came up to me was Cooper, and he kind of mentioned, “Hey man, if there’s ever a way that I can help you put out music, then you know, I’m happy to have that conversation with you. So a month passed, and I had advanced in some of the discussions with various labels and whatnot. I just wasn’t a proponent of some of the deals that were on the table to be blunt, and so I revisited the conversation with Cooper and I was like, “Hey man, you know, I’ve kind of shopped these around a little bit. I haven’t really found anything that I’m super stoked on. Why don’t we talk a little bit about, you know, you think this can work”. And from that point on, he was like, my first steps were minting on catalogs. So I did my first series. It was called the drifter series, where I would go to a random location, take a disposable camera and mint NFTs like that. Just with audio and the cover art, and I entered those on catalog. That was definitely my first foray into it. Then after that, I spent three months kind of in discord servers and individually talking to people on Twitter and whatnot. But the second question that you asked, what was I like before web three. So I moved to LA in January of 2020. When I was in school, I was very much doing music with school on the side, rather than the school with music on the side. So every summer, I wasn’t seeking out any internships or anything traditional like that. I would just be here, live on my friend’s couch, and just try to do as many sessions as I could. So when I moved in January of 2020, I definitely had the privilege in a lot of ways to wave the full-time musician flag. But, by the same token, It wasn’t very glamorous. I think that I had done some small deals and whatnot, but primarily I was doing a lot of things that I wasn’t passionate about. Because in my mind I was like, oh man, if I can just weather this storm of being here and doing it, then eventually something will figure itself out. But I think that the nature of it was really, I was just doing a lot of mix work, which mixing is really important to me. I understand the technicalities of it. I just wasn’t necessarily as passionate about it as I am about just creating music in general. So, I think in some ways I was happy that I was in LA and doing it, but I think at the same time, I thought that there was a lot more out there. So kind of the intersection of my music career and then web three was like a perfect fit.

So when you got into Web 3.0 first,, you just mentioned that there was a lot more out there. What does Web 3.0 have that kind of possesses more out there? What did you come across that you’re like, “shit, like, this is where I belong.” This is what I need to be doing. This is where my focus needs to be?

Sure. Well, I think the first thing that stands out is definitely, there’s a very big sense of community. I think that people throw that word out a lot, but one thing that I kind of realized early on was , If I’m to put out music, I really don’t have a direct way of talking to fans. Like I can post something on Instagram and someone can like, and comment on it. I can put out a tweet and someone can, you know, maybe respond or like it or retweet it, but Web 3.0 and discord, I mean, I know Discord is typically a web platform, but so much of Web 3.0 lives on discord. And that was the first way that I could directly talk to people who care about me and care about my music. And that was something that Web 3.0 aside, didn’t really exist, you know? And Web 3.0 was kind of what got me into discord in general. I think another thing was, when I started my mirror crowdfund, I had like 200 Twitter followers or 300 Twitter followers. Like Blau, who was so incredible for what he did, was already somewhat established as an artist, very established. For me, I was just at ground zero for the most part, and for people to really take a risk on me and to believe in me, that was something that I don’t think could have happened in a Web 2.0 world. 

So interesting. Such a unique insight coming from someone who is as rounded as you, and then comparing it to someone like, wow, you killed the game. You set the example for many artists, and I’d even argue one of the core reasons why we saw a lot of the snowball effect in March. And I think it’s so cool. You as a musician, what are the details? You’re not signed to a label, you’re independent, right? 

Not right now. 

The Future of Artist Management

Oh, really? Okay. I feel you’re gonna get a lot of DMs after this now. So you’re independent. You don’t have a manager. It’s just you and your creative team, and pieces of individuals from Web 3.0, from crypto, et cetera. Do you think that’s the future of how artists are going to be organizing?

I mean, to be honest, I’ve had this conversation a few times with friends because we’ve all talked about management and things of that nature, and without getting too much into management, I think that probably. Because, with management, I think that it’s kind of a tall ask unless someone is already in Web 3.0 to kind of pursue that in general. My kind of philosophy with this is pretty entrepreneurial. I just kind of find people that are really good at what they do and I give them the keys and I’m just like, this is your thing, you know? Cooper, for example, with him, I was just like, yo dude, anything that is like super logistics, super tokenomics wise, I’m going to lean on you for, but nothing else. For Lisa, my creative director, girl of the year. I’m just like, dude, like everything creative, the way that we want this to look , that’s you. For me, I want to focus on two things and that’s making music and being as involved in the community as possible. Those are the two things that are coming from me. I have Henry, my community manager, I have Maria who’s in charge of finance and budgeting on things, but generally speaking, I really like how this is working. I think that I just trust everyone who’s involved, you know? And I don’t think that there are any hidden motives, you know? 

So for those who aren’t familiar with your music, can you talk a little bit about your genre? 

Yeah, for sure. I think that the music that I have out is somewhere between that electronic and pop realm. I think that with overstimulated, I am taking a little bit of a turn. I think that I’ve always enjoyed working in a hip hop space, enjoy the more electronic side of things. So I think that moving forward, a lot of my music is definitely going to be electronic without a doubt, but has more Indy and hip hop influence. But yeah, I think that’s the genre. I mean, when I’m asked that at a party, that’s my answer. 

And when people ask you some of your biggest inspirations that led you to pushing out your most recent pieces, what do you fall back on? 

Yeah, for sure. I think actually, recently, I think Kanye west. I have a picture of him right over here, but I think for better or worse, like politics aside, I think that he’s an incredible creator and an incredible musician. And I think that Chicago, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, but my brother moved to Chicago when I was a kid, he’s 15 years older than me. So Chicago was very much my city growing up. I mean, it was the first time I went to a music festival and, you know, it was really the first downtown that I had ever seen, the first skyline I’d ever seen. So I think there are a lot of reasons that I resonated with him and his music. I think that Flume is like the first artists that I’ve ever seen live, and that definitely changed my shit up for sure. But yeah, he was definitely one of the first artists that I saw live and I was like, wow, that’s really cool. So I would say, primarily, those two are in the conversation of people that inspire me the most, but there’s so many others I can think of. 

All right. Let’s jump into the Web 3.0 side more. And specifically, focusing more on you as an independent artist and using cryptocurrency to own your creator economy, as people like to say. And doing so in a way where you’re building your own team, that each individual in that team specializes in their own respect, giving them the autonomy to do what they do best. And you focus on the music, this person, focuses on the crypto, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. When you were building this team out, when you’re preparing for your mirror posts, when you were about to go live and literally getting into the trenches of discord, how was that process like getting started, and what were some of your biggest fears, if any, or concerns that you had getting started? 

I mean, I generally think if you have fears, you are NGMI. I think that generally speaking, you have to just kind of go all in on it and send it. Because for me, like my worst case scenario here was I put out an EP that maybe has like a thousand or a couple thousand dollars into it, and I could make that work. That was my worst case scenario, but my best case scenario is kind of a small part in my changing the narrative and the music discussion. I think, as you mentioned, I was definitely in the trenches and I think that was probably the scariest part. In full disclosure guys, I’m in the scheme of things, a noob. I have fundamental understandings of a lot of things in the Web 3.0 space, but I’ve had to lean on a lot of my friends for advice. But I think the hardest part of all of that early on was like finding the people that weren’t embarrassed to answer my questions. I’ve had this conversation with Cooper before. When I was first starting out in music, all of my friends stuck with me, so we could send each other stuff and we weren’t embarrassed to be bad. And we weren’t embarrassed to send bad music together because we knew that we were all on that level. When I had first started out in this Web 3.0 world, which hasn’t been too long, it was really intimidating to find people that were also noobs like me. So what I did in building out my team was kind of just being as transparent as possible and asking stupid questions. For every 10 questions that I would ask in random discord servers, like maybe one or two people would get back to you, but those people are my friends now and people that I can really rely on. And so, I think that kind of the biggest fear here was just being afraid of sounding like a noob, but I think as I joined, I was fortunate enough to get in FWB early, and obviously like that’s one of the best platforms to kind of openly ask questions, you know? And I think finding those communities early on, as soon as I did that, was kind of the catalyst where I was , okay, I can really get moving on this.

I think the hardest thing to do is to get to that mentality where you feel comfortable feeling like a noob. Feeling like you know nothing, and not being scared to ask random people, random questions. And being okay with being the dumbest person in the room, because that’s part of growth. That’s part of learning something new, it’s part of experimentation. So I think you’re spot on with that. 

Sorry, just one note. I hope that I’m the dumbest person in the room for the rest of my life. Like that’s the best case scenario, because then you can learn from everyone. 

Overstimulated

That’s spot on. Let’s talk about Overstimulated. The reason why I have you here and also we’ll get into the party bid stuff that you’re messing with too, which is super, super exciting. But for starters, overstimulated, the EP. The monumental post, making a hundred K in one hour, 20 ETH in one hour, and filling your crowd fund, in what about 24 hours? Less than 24 hours. 12 hours. Take me from, start to finish. What is overstimulated? What is over stim? How did that come to fruition? 

All right. So I’m going to go back just really quickly to the Cooper story. I had started mentioning on catalog because I wanted autonomy in the NFT space. What minting on catalog did for me, was it kind of showed me the super bare essentials. I set up my Metamask, I got on Uniswap, you know, just very simple stuff. And after about a month of posting on catalog, and people, gauging some sort of interest and it’s like my art and like what I’m working on. When I went back to Cooper, this was about may, and I was like, “okay, man, I am ready to drop.” Like the songs are all ready, let’s send it. And he was like, “absolutely not. You have to spend months in the community.” So for three months, really all I did was talk to people and say hello. And it was stuff behind the scenes. It was like most of my days were on Twitter and discord reaching out to people individually. So in terms of overstimulated, after I had kind, I think, paid my due diligence in that sense, when we were ready to go, I mean, there were a lot of Setbacks. I mean, we had to find artwork people. We had to find canvas people and, you know, we had to make sure that the distribution was set. But in terms of how it came together, I think that Cooper kind of had assigned things to me. He was like, look, I can take care of like the tokenomics and things of that nature so long as you write a story, and for me, I’ve been a passionate music maker for all my life, and I’ve enjoyed writing as well, but even then, I felt a lot of pressure to make sure that I really got the story right. Because for me, like I said, this was the first time outside of, I guess, blogging like a big artist, like a small artist like myself was going to do something like this. I mean, if you want me to talk more about what overstimulated is for people who don’t know I’m happy to do that.

I want you to take me from a to Z. So keep on going where you’re going, because I think that’s also a good point to bring up the whole comparison to Blau again. But continue. 

Yeah. So, I mean, I think that for me, the first thing that we had to kind of go through was the logistics. I think that most major label deals are like an 80 20 split. For me, I was like, okay, look, I’m just going to give up 50% of my artists share, and I just want to gauge the interest to see who’s down. Maybe the people who I’ve spoken to over the past few months are interested. Maybe there are other people in the project management network or whatever the case may be. Maybe there’s some people in FWB. I think that a lot of the way that these things work sometimes is like, here’s a sum of money, whether it’s a label or whatever the case may be, and then we want you to give us an album down the line. Some people have the album ready, some people don’t. For me, it was like I had the music ready to go. I think that the craziest thing of all of this is that people believed in the project without hearing the music. I think that’s pretty crazy to me.

Let’s pause there. They believed in the project, they believed in you without actually hearing the music. They might have searched you up on Spotify and saw over a million streams on this one song, and you’re active, you’re publishing stuff. So you have some type of presence, but people believed in you and the idea of the model that you presented to the crypto world, right? Continue on that. 

And I think that that’s something that I was a little bit scared of at first, because in some of my preliminary meetings, I was like, man, I want people to really mess with the music. And I think Cooper just kind of reassured me on it and he’s like, trust me. If they believe in you, then when the music comes out, it’s only going to be a cherry on top. So, I thought of some artists for example, and one artist that came to mind is Lil Yachty, right? A lot of people just really like him as a person, music aside, cause he just does cool shit. He has a cool personality and he’s just a fun guy to be around. Or even like Omer Fedi, right? A lot of people just know that he’s the super sick energy in a room, and then when his music comes out, it obviously speaks for itself, but it’s just like a cherry on top of him being a cool person, you know? So for me, I kind of wanted to reverse engineer it that way as well, where I was like, look like I’m trying something totally new, here’s the story. I have 200 Twitter followers. And if you guys believe in this, I promise that the music will be worth it, you know? And because to me, this is definitely ,without a doubt, my best body of work. I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of it, and that’s why the risk was so big to me early on, because I was like, man, I don’t want to jeopardize the music doing well. This is like me, my thought process, like six months ago, really. But I was like, man, I don’t want to jeopardize the music doing well on traditional metrics because I’m so immensely proud of it. But I just tried to explain that in the post. I tried to like, bring that emotion over into it and hoped that people bought into it.

And one thing that you brought up that cannot go looked over is that beginning component of spending time in crypto, and being in the trenches of all these different collector communities, discord communities, et cetera. So walk me through those first three months too. I remember when we were talking behind the scenes, you’re like, that was the most critical thing that I feel like spiraled the success of overstep. And by the way, I think that’s something that people look over and they’re like, okay, I’ll draft your post. I have this idea. I’ll put it out there. Let’s get the money, you know? But, it’s not like that.

I think it’s not like that because it’s not glamorous. Like I said, I came to Cooper, and I said the music is ready, and he was like, you’re not even close. That three-month window. I had put out music once a month for 15 months. And someone who I barely knew came up to me, Cooper, and he was like, yo dude, you have to focus on this. Like you have to go all in. So for a three month period, all I was doing was, one figuring out what discord was cause I had no reference point for that, two, figuring out the servers and just doing my research on Twitter. I would say 10 hours of my day, probably like 8 to 10 hours of my day was individual outreach. I think that some people had tried doing the crowdfund or similar things to it, and I think that that’s the missing component, that because it’s not something that’s advertised. It’s not sexy or cool to get laughed at for asking stupid questions for like six or seven hours out of your day. But as soon as I made my first friend there, early on, was Jeremy Stern, who’s one of the guys on the dev team at catalog. And he was down to help me, and then Brett shear who bought some of my first early NFTs. As soon as I met those people, they were just down to help me, and these are people who were very knowledgeable in the space. Like they work on life-changing platforms or with super prominent investors. When they were down to help me, then that just gave me all the confidence thatI needed. Just the first and second friends. So then when I was getting all those nos for three months, it was no biggie to me. Cause I was like, I know there’s another Jeremy and another Brett out there that are just down to help me down the line. And now I’m at a point where like, if I have a super specific question, I know which friends I can rely on, and that’s a pretty great place to be. 

That’s awesome. I looked at the amount of collectors, if I recall, there were 87 exactly. I want to ask you this question, because I think new people coming to the space don’t realize the proportion between how many collectors, you know, versus how many are your friends. So for those who put a dollar where their mouth was and supported you, how many of those did you know and how many of those did you not know? 

So I need to look at the list, but I would say it’s probably between 40 and 50% of the people I had spoken to in one way or another, and I think the rest was organic after it took off. I would say that’s where it’s at. 

And did you get any legal help before?

Yeah, I mean, I had asked a lot of music industry friends, and just had asked a lot of my lawyer friends just like, is this okay? How do things look? But I never hired a lawyer to actually look at everything. It was more just asking me favors and just being like, yo, does this section make sense?

Selling out in 12 Hours

Can you walk me through your emotions at the first hour of seeing 20 ETH? What were you doing? Where were you? Like walk me through that day.

 Funnily enough, I was at my friend Grady’s. Grady is also a musician who’s pretty involved in the space. It was me, him, and bloody white who is also super involved. Grady had just dropped an album yesterday and he was showing it to us. He wanted us to come in and listen to it, and I had heard it a few times cause he had sent it to me. So this was kind of my third time listening through, and I think the weird thing about the fund is we dropped it at a weird hour. Like me and Cooper went back and forth on when to do it. We were going to do it the next day. Actually the morning of when we were doing it on mirror, we were going to drop it at 11:00 AM. The way that it was structured was there were the three categories, silver, gold platinum, and then there was one winner. Then we realized that you have to do a podium and then you have to have a big pool for all the other bidders, but you can’t have one winner. So we needed two additional NFTs made that day. So because we had the NFTs for silver, platinum, gold, and winner, but we had to make two more. So shout out to Metsa, because he made the other two podium NFTs that day. He sent it to me after he got off work because he has a full-time job, and it was like 7:00 or 8:00 PM and we were still making edits to it after months of staring at this stuff. I think it was 9:00 or 10:00 PM, something like that in the evening when we had to put it up. So I was in the other room, and I had clicked submit, published this crowdfund. I was on FaceTime with Cooper, had published this crowdfund, and then I sent the link to my phone just to make sure that it worked. And it was at 1 ETH. Just from sending it to my phone. Cause I had published, hit the tweetstorm, texted it to myself, and checked and it was at 1 ETH. I was like, okay, crazy, whatever. So I go and I sit down and Grady’s gonna show us his album, and I was like, yo, I just published it, now I can chill out, relax. But of course, I have the urge to check because I saw that I texted it to myself and it was at 1 ETH. He plays the first song out. It’s like two minutes long, and I check it. It’s at 3 ETH. I show bloody, Lucas sitting next to me was like, “yo, this is crazy.” And the album just keeps going, and Grady is just kind of vibing out. And he just looked back at me, and my eyes were just huge because it was like 3 ETH , and then it was like 7 ETH, and then it was like 10 ETH. I’m just like sitting here, and Lucas was just like, “yo, this is nuts.” Then I go on Instagram and everyone’s posting about me on Instagram. And then I go on Twitter and everyone’s talking about me on Twitter. And this is all within like the 40 minutes or however long Grady’s album is. By the end of the album, it was maybe 15, 16, Ether or something, and I’m just sitting there. That’s when Grady was like, “oh man, tell me more about what you’re doing.” That night it was just a blur because I felt like everyone in my life called me, you know? I stayed up just talking to people. Everyone’s asking questions. Everyone’s like, “oh, how did you do this?” Yeah, dude, it was a trip. That’s the way that it all happened. I remember the feeling very well. I texted my parents. It was a proud moment. 

So today’s Saturday, October 16th. This is the day we’re recording. Overstim crowdfund finished what, september 28th? What has the progress been like so far? What has went down? Talk to us. As a collector, and as others who are listening. Because in that mirror post and I’ll link it into the show notes, you go very detailed into what are you spending my money on, how long the timeline’s going to be from when you guys are actually going to see the EP, et cetera.

So right now we’re six days out from the first single, which is coming out October 22nd. So the way that it’s set up is there are three singles. Say what you want with Deegan is out October 22nd, feel like that with Idarose is out November 12th, too close with bloody white is out December 3rd, and the project is out January 7th. I think so far, what we’ve done is I have all of the artworks ready for every project. I’m still working on finalizing the visualizers for it, and I just got someone on PR. So we’re finalizing, just the general marketing push and things of that nature. I think that for me, the music part to me is pretty standard. I’ve always understood how the distribution has worked. I’ve been in music, I think, for a few years now. I think that to me, the biggest learning curve and the things that I’m personally focused on the most is making sure that I’m being active and to kind of hold the attention of everyone. So I’m just being as active as I can on Twitter and really, really, really hyper-focused on the discord community. For the first time in my life, I have this responsibility to 87 people. I don’t necessarily like to think of them as shareholders because I think that that’s a little bit too proper for the scenario, but even some people that believed in me and I kind of have this duty to be like, “yo, like I’m working my ass off.” So for me, I’m trying to just live on the discord and I’m trying to make that as cool as I can and make sure that really every single part of the project, people feel like they got their money’s worth for essentially, you know? So yeah, for me, that’s about where it’s at. It’s really exciting. I mean, there is definitely this awkward buffer period of like a month, from the fund ending to the first song coming out. So it’s kind of a relief that I can finally be like, “yo, here’s the package and it’s coming soon.” So we’re making really good strides and I’m really excited about it. I’m doing an Overstim call in like 15 minutes.

Getting the Fans Involved

And before we pivot to this new project that you’re working on as well, while you’re pushing this project, me being a collector, 86 other people in the discord being collectors and contributors, do you imagine including them in the creative process? For example, do a live stream in a discord and be like, “yo, this is track number three what do you guys think? Should this snare be on it, it or that snare? Do you imagine yourself doing stuff like that? 

I mean, I think for overstimulated, I already have the masters for it, but I think that in general it goes beyond overstimulated. And I think that there’s still plenty of creative ways for people to get involved. Like on the artwork, front on the visualizer front, especially. Like there’s a drop that I’m going to do in there that’s like, okay, here are artists, here are people that I want to work with, I want y’all’s thoughts. I think that that’s definitely the development of what I want in my career. I essentially want to have all the people backing me and all the patrons would be as involved in the creative process as possible. Like I want to send 30 demos and be like, which of these are the sickest? Let’s do a poll. Like, do you guys have any thoughts on who this can sound like? Who could be on this song? The big picture thing is to have the patrons involved in the creative process. A hundred percent. 

Launching on Party Bid

I think that’s the way to go. I really think so. Let’s pivot for a minute. Party bid. So catalog, party bid, new songs that you spun out of nowhere, and you just published and tokenized and spent what you told me behind the scenes, like $5k uploading and making sure they’re on chain. What is going on there? You published a tweet storm too a couple of days ago. Walk me through that, and how does that differ from Overstimultated? 

So kind of to preface that, overstimulated is my number one priority. I think that it’s definitely the biggest project that I’m working on. It’s the one that means the most to me. It’s all of my music. I think at the same time, and I got this advice early on, I think that a lot of people think a lot in this space and don’t necessarily do as much, and I’m for better or worse, just an executor at heart. So I just like, if I have an idea, just acting on it, and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I think that generally speaking, like everything I’m doing, hopefully will lead back to Overstim because I’m giving a percentage of all of my sales from NFTs back into Overstim. So, the project that I just dropped was more of like a passion project to drive eyes back into it, but generally it’s called Idlewild cause we did it in Idlewild. We as me, bloody white, and my creative director, Lisa. And so bloody and I guess this is my first time publicly saying this, but we’re starting a band next year called pollen. It’s going to be all after overstimulated comes out. Totally separate thing, but we wanted to do a soft debut to kind of get ingratiated into the Web 3.0 world in general. So, in 36 hours we did five songs together. Lisa did all of the artwork for it. It’s probably, I think, the coolest shit that I’ve put out on catalog in terms of, definitely height, like from an artistic and musical perspective. I think that it was the first music that I’ve been able to put out since the whole crowd fund has happened, which has obviously been very creatively liberating for me. So, yeah, these five songs. We threw them into a project and we wanted to kind of act quick on it because Overstim is coming out next Friday, and that’s what my week is about. But yeah, I’ve never done party bids before. I wanted to experiment with that. So all five of the songs are up on catalog using their new spaces feature, which I wanted to experiment with, and there was a party that was set up for every single. 

For those who don’t know what party it is, give us a quick recap, and why is it so critical to music? 

Yeah, I think that party bid is sick. This is my first time using it, but I think it’s critical because to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong, I think that you can contribute any amount of ETH and then you essentially just own a percentage of that NFT. Typically I think that their biggest one was a zombie punk, which was like 3.5 million USD, but it’s like people can contribute X amount and just own X amount of the NFT. I think that the thing about my crowd fund is I think the lowest contributor was 0.05 ETH, which is what like $170 bucks give or take. To some people, I mean, I think that is a lot of money in general, but what if someone wants to contribute with like 30 or 50 ETH on a smaller scale? That’s why I think part of it is really interesting, and the other thing about it is it definitely creates community because it’s like, oh, like, I feel like I am involved in this regardless of my stake. It’s not necessarily a competition or whatever, or about the money per se. It’s just about creating a group. Some are owners of a crypto punk. So I think that’s what’s really interesting about party bid and why I’m super keen on experimenting with it.

Just to add more context for creators who are listening, part bid is basically a way for you to collectively bid on an asset that you want to own together. So you basically have an asset, there’s a shared link, you access that link, and then if the community reaches a threshold of what they want to purchase, then collectively split that asset. So if it’s an NFT, it’s fragmented and split it to everybody that bid on it. So in the use case of a song, you crowd fund the success of an NFT from even your micro collectors, your macro collectors, or like everyday fans, right? That’s the inspiration, from what I understand, right?

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I just want everyone to feel involved, even if they don’t have the financial leverage of a whale, you know?

And how is that going so far? 

I mean, I need to promote it more for sure. Like I said, it was definitely a quick window of experimentation, but I’ve had people hitting me up about it, which I think is super encouraging. I want to talk about how it’s like relating it’s Overstim a little bit more because I don’t want anyone to be confused. My portion of sales on this is going to go back into the Overstim treasury. This was like more of a passion project for me.

I think that’s important because that was my next question. How do the two tie together? Also behind the scenes, when we met up yesterday, I was like, it all works together. It’s all tied together. And you take the Gary V approach. Gary V tells people to just post shit. Just post content. Nobody cares. Post post, post, post, post. You know, you’re taking that approach.

Yeah, dude, it’s just like people remember the W’s, you know? That’s kind of my approach here. Like have I had NFTs not sell on catalog? Sure. Have I had things to do well? Of course. When I was in college, I did this thing where every single day for my entire career in college, I sent out five emails to music industry people a day, weekends included. So the way that the breakdown was, it was 35 emails a week, five of them would respond, three of them would respond with a no, one would re would respond with a maybe I’ll get back to you, and one would respond with a yes. And over the course of the year, that’s 52 new people and new approaches that are involved, but you can’t find who that one in 52 is if you don’t send the other 35. So for me, like I said man, this is so much of the wild west right now that I am just going all in on experimentation in general. So I think that in a way they all tie into Daniel Allen, like myself as a project, whether it’s Overstim or it’s not. It was also kind of the last thing that I’m going to be doing before Overstim in general, so it’s just something that I wanted to get out there and not wait until later. Because my next few months are really just, you know, 110% focused on Overstim. 

That’s awesome. Before I let you go, I want to ask you a little more technical questions for anybody else that wants to follow your footsteps, and is exploring this independent route of crowdfunding success, successful project album, whatever may be and building a team around it. So for starters, how do you go about pricing a song? What goes into that? How do you determine if something is like $100k a song or like one $1k? How do you feel about it?

Are you talking about a catalog post or for a mirror crowd fund?

For example, like a catalog post. 

 So a catalog post, the thing about digital assets is, the value is only created by the creators. Like before that, a value doesn’t necessarily exist, so it’s kind of up on the onus of the creator to decide. So if you throw something up on catalog, which I would encourage people to do, you just need 0.05, ETH in gas, maybe with how things are right now, 0.07 ETH. You don’t even have to set up an auction. People can just throw offers at you. My first NFTs were selling for like 0.2 ETH and I was so grateful that anyone was even interested in doing that. So I think that for artists who are looking to get into it, you’d have to invest like a couple of hundred bucks to cover your gas fees, but you’d be surprised because catalog is still very early on, even though it’s starting to gain a lot more traction. You could just put it up and see what offers come at you. Because at first I also had no idea what to price mine at. I only decided on pricing for the crowdfund and things of that nature, after I found out that there was interest in general, but any new artists can just post on there once they got onto the platform. 

And how much does it cost to put something like Overstim together?

I mean, are you referring to putting the project out? 

The project has variable costs depending on the artist, depending on the project. I’m talking from the point of view, the project is ready now, let’s bring it on chain, mint it, start a mirror campaign and go through that process.

Dude, I think the main thing was like 0.1 or 0.15 ETH. Like it wasn’t crazy. Like I said, the kind of crux of all of this was my individual reaching out to people and just making sure that there was a really dope story behind it because the price of putting it up wasn’t too crazy. I don’t think it was that heavy of an on-chain lift because it’s not like I was uploading the actual WAV files. All I was uploading was a document.

I love it, man. What an example to future creators, future musicians. What an exciting time to be in the space, throw shit at the fans, see what sticks, and have success come from that as well.

One note I just want to give to every creator is like, you guys are early. You can play outside of the rules and kind of make your own job description and do it your own way. I know that it takes a leap of faith, not to be cliche, until you jump your parachute won’t open, you know what I mean? So you should definitely go all in on it and just see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you can go back to trying your own thing. But I think that it’s such an exciting time. For me, after my crowd fund, the money was cool, but the coolest part was the 250 plus artists that have reached out and were like, “man, I want to try this, like, I feel like there’s a new way now.” That way exists if you really just put time and effort into it, and I don’t think that it takes a super smart person. I just think it takes someone that is down to experiment and down to try things out, because there’s definitely a way that isn’t the traditional label that owns your masters and you just kind of see what happens.

Outro

I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Daniel, you’re the man, bro. Where can we find you? Where can we learn more about you and your upcoming EP? Shill yourself. Shout it out. 

So definitely join my discord. I’m sure we’ll find a way to link that in here, but on Twitter, it’s @imdanielallan. I’m on Instagram as Daniel Allen music. And yeah, I think that hits everything. If you want to look on my mirror posts, it’s DanAllan.mirror.xyz. Carpet. 

Perfect. And we’ll have you again soon, after the EP comes out, and we’ll do recaps every now and then kind of following your career, following your journey in Web 3.0. Bro, I appreciate you being on. Much success, you’re going to kill it obviously, but we’ll get you next time peace.

Awesome. Thank you for having me brother.

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Podcast Transcript

What Creators Should Know About Decentralized Governance

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 4 welcomes Tally’s Founder and CEO Dennison Bertram. Tally is a platform that builds governance infrastructure for decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 2:24 – Magic Internet Money, Organization, & Society 
  • 9:15 – Creator DAOs and The Value of Decentralized Governance
  • 20:08 – Making DAOs Mainstream
  • 28:20 – National Elections, Radical Transparency & its Pitfalls
  • 35:10 – What are you Excited About in Crypto?
  • 40:03 – Borderless Employment
  • 46:39 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Let’s just jump right in. Who are you, what were you doing before crypto, and what are you doing now? 

There is no before crypto. I was just kidding. So my name is Dennison Bertram. I’m CEO and co-founder of Tally, and we are DAO tooling and a dashboard provider. Basically, our goal is to make on-chain governance. We believe that governance is critical to the future. DAOs are critical to the future, but there’s a lot of tooling necessary to make that work. So we are really building a lot of this tooling, trying to give insight into communities, help people participate, drive participation, help people build functional DAOs, sort of all that. We’re really steep in the DAO. I haven’t always been in DAOs, although I have kind of always been in a crypto. I entered the space in 2011, 2012, actually ran one of the first Bitcoin exchanges in the Czech Republic in 2012, and then did a whole. Sort of slew of things. Those are like the early post-Satoshi crypto days. But the biggest thing I was before full-time, I was a fashion photographer for a very long time and had a creative technology company that really worked on helping fashion brands be more modern and, in some cases, even actually try and sell them on blockchain for supply chain solutions. Although up until the recent history, you sort of mentioned that DAOs are like the hot thing, I think crypto’s the hot thing now. It’s kind of awesome to have been in the space long enough to sort of recognize it’s only been the past couple of years that we weren’t the crazies. Almost all of crypto history, we’re just crazy, and then one day suddenly we weren’t crazy anymore, right? Like Snoop Dogg is buying NFTs, and you just think, wow, all right, that happened. Like, so suddenly you go from a world where everything is crazy that you’re doing. Everything’s magical internet money, magical internet art, selling JPEGs, and then all of a sudden, it’s the future. 

Magic Internet Money, Organization, & Society 

What led that transition of it no longer being the weird kids club to the cool kids club? 

So I think about this a lot, and my sort of philosophy around it, or the way I like to think about, and I talked about this a lot; there was an article a long time ago that said, “you don’t understand Bitcoin because you think money is real.” That is, I think probably the best way to sort of wrap your head around crypto from the beginning anyway, that money is kind of the only human concept that’s not native to the internet. Like I can send you a letter and transmit my love for you. You know, “Dear Adam, how I love you and miss you signed yours forever, Tally.” Right? You’ll get the email, and you’ll feel loved, right? I’ve sent love to you in an email. I can’t send you an email, certainly in 2007, that says, “Hey Adam, here’s a dollar,” right? So money is like the only human concept that really can’t be transmitted natively on the internet, and machines can’t natively transact with one another. So we have this sort of like history of primitives that was necessary. In the very beginning, it was magic internet money, right? Like Bitcoin was magic internet money. And when Bitcoin was created, it was quite literally magic internet money. Years ago, I think the economist, they’re late to the game, but they did a cover about bitcoin and Ethereum, cryptos, unicorns; it’s like magic internet money. But this primitive is a concept, right? The first thing that we had to do, and it took me years to do, was to make magic internet money, a concept that was real. We had to make it real. So once magic internet money was a real idea, then you can start building things on magic internet money. You can build magic internet banks, right? The only thing crazier in 2017 than magic internet money is magic internet banks. Like people can kind of get their head around like monopoly. People can’t really get their head around you going to build a bank, but trades in monopoly money. Like that’s just like, okay, that’s really stupid. If you were to then tell them that they could go take their magic monopoly money, put it in Adam’s monopoly bank, and earn monopoly APY interest on it, you know, at some point, it’s just like stupid. 

But then, if everybody accepts that monopoly money, then we’re golden. 

Well, that’s the thing, right? So, first, we have to make magic internet money a primitive that’s real, right? Once that’s real in people’s heads, then you can build magic internet banks. MakerDAO is a really great example of this. The idea that you could have dollar-denominated monopoly money is stupid until you have real monopoly money, and then suddenly, building a bank on top of the monopoly money is not so crazy anymore. But even when we first had Bitcoin, and once we started to sort of accept that primitive, the magic internet bank was still a leap too far. People had to build that, and that had to work. So you have folks like maker, native magic internet banks. Well, now that you have magic internet banks, you can build magic internet finance. You can build a magic internet financial system. If you said millions of people around the world are going to take monopoly money and quit their jobs to go build monopoly money farms and monopoly money this, it would have just been super, super ludicrous, right? Then you’re just in the absurdist land, but once magic internet banks is real, the magic internet financial system is real. So we had to build these primitives and make these things real in our minds as concepts, and once you got to that point, then we really can start solidifying magic internet organizations. And magic internet organizations actually start earlier. They probably would argue they were around in some shape and form since probably the beginning of the internet, depending on how you define, like what a DAO is. Really what sort of happened, you know, in 2017, you started to see folks really saying, ” no, we can build this magic internet, organizational tool, this magic internet decentralized autonomous organization.” But a little bit early, right? Some people were trying it, and some people were on it. But it wasn’t really high throughput, and there wasn’t that much yet to really govern because it still wasn’t real in people’s minds. Even today, folks really have trouble on Twitter. Some days they love DAOs. Some days they hate DAOs. Some days they love governance; some days they hate governance. They’re like, “ah, governance minimization.” It’s sort of like, “ah, magic money minimization”. It’s sorta like this concept is kind of like a bridge too far. But now it’s becoming real, and we see it becoming real. The steps to getting to these places gets shorter and shorter and shorter, right? Convincing you of DeFi was a lot easier than convincing you of Bitcoin. So these primitives, the time that it takes to become real, gets shorter, shorter, shorter. Now we’re kind of at the phase of magic internet organizations. That’s why it’s kind of the moment because suddenly we have a really big magic internet financial system running. Like DeFi, it’s a huge machine. There’s tons of legal liability. There’s tons of money. There’s tons of individuals. There’s tons of stakeholders. How are we going to balance all these things? You kind of need DAOs to manage all these things, but at the same time, you have something else going on, which is, somewhere on the side path of history, people go magic internet money, well, what do I do with that? And they’re like, well, you know, I guess, buy a JPEG, which was again, the day before the first JPEG was sold, the dumbest shit you ever heard of. Like why would you buy a JPEG? I’ll just go on Tumblr and click it. You know, earlier in the NFT craze, I’m going to say like, you know, a few months back, you saw a lot of people being like, oh, I’m so funny. I’ll just right-click and save your JPEG on Twitter. It was like a meme. You don’t really hear that anymore, right? Like, it’s not that it’s just not funny anymore, but it’s also, yeah, you buy JPEGs. The people who mocked it kind of have to accept the fact that that’s what we do now. So you have this other primitive that’s become real, and sort of what you see now is you see the people who create JPEGs and people who are James from cloud lab put this really well at MCON, even these JPEG groups are kind of a DAO, right? Suddenly you see magic internet organizations for everything. You got Opolis which is doing healthcare for freelancers. You’ve got the graph, which is doing data for blockchains. You’ve got nexus mutual that’s doing insurance for DeFi, and maybe more stuff. So suddenly, oh, magic internet organization, DAOs, this is not just real, but it’s necessary. In my own personal opinion, and in sort of the grand scheme and goal of Tally, the end state is magic internet society. Which, of course, sounds ludicrous, right? Like this is the dumbest thing ever, but you know, probably to, you and me it doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. We get it. Like, yes, it’s going to be hard. Getting there is going to be long. It’s going to be fraught with difficulties, but the leap to accepting Bitcoin was a million times bigger than the leap to accepting this will be all things.

Creator DAOs and The Value of Decentralized Governance

A million times bigger and like 10 million times harder. And as people adopted Bitcoin, then they transitioned into DeFi, and then you were talking about how it was easier to get convinced about DeFi. Now it’s becoming easier to convince them about NFTs. As skeptical as people are about these digital JPEGs, these MP4 files, MP3 files, they’re buying into them. And when I was explaining it to more normies, why is this craze happening? Value is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and a lot of people see value in different things. Back to this magic internet concept, now we’re diving into magic internet governance. And this is something that you brought up in the beginning. As you were introducing yourself, you’re like governance is critical to the future, and I want to reverse it on you. Why is governance critical to the future? 

Because governance represents participation by the users, and this can look like a lot of different things. From a really practical point of view, governance is critical from the future because we today do not actually know exactly what the future looks like, but we know that we need tools to allow us to adapt to whatever that future is. Folks like to talk about governance, minimization. That’s great, but you don’t know what the future looks like. Imagine if we had created some sort of protocol standard three years ago. Would we still be using it? Even solidity is different today. So from the sort of base case, I think the most convincing reason why we need governance when it comes to the idea of constructing things like protocols is because we don’t know what the future looks like, and we need to leave the optionality to be able to adapt to what that feature may or may not be. From the community side of it, it’s effectively, would you rather join something you’re a part of or join something that… 

Exactly. We’ll just leave it at that. Join something you’re a part of. The way you become a part of it is by buying into it, or like allocating it or earning it. There are different ways, but okay, continue. 

Well, you don’t actually even need to buy into it, right? Like if you think about it, Ethereum is a kind of DAO, right? It’s decentralized, it’s autonomous, I don’t do anything, and it keeps going, other people who do do important things, if they stop, Ethereum would keep going, and it’s kind of an organization, right? Like we believe in Ethereum. We try to get it when it’s cheap, and hopefully, we do something useful with it. When it’s expensive, we cry together when gas is expensive. We send out little tweets, and we’re like, oh shit, gas is cheap. Like we are an organization, it is decentralized. It is more or less autonomous. So how did we get into it? Yeah, I guess you could argue that we bought ether, maybe we’ve earned it or something like that, but maybe that doesn’t have to be a prerequisite. You could gain membership to an organization by virtue of who knows. Maybe you own a punk, and somebody else creates an organization just for punk holders. I guess he bought the punk. I don’t know, membership, I don’t think needs to be a buy-in, but it certainly could be. I mean, it’s certainly the easiest way to get into something is to buy a membership. 

You know, one of the most exciting DAOs for me right now are friends with benefits, forefront, M club, and seed club in general, and a lot more of these creator DAOs that are forming by these individual talented people that just are scattered online that are good with graphic design, creating really cool pieces of art, and rather than for collectors, into more of an intimate type of circle that they’re building. I believe we’re going to increasingly see creators create their own creator DAOs, right? Creators will be forming their creator DAOs. They can call the fan clubs, and they can call them online organizations, group chats, whatever. You want to call them. How far away are we from seeing that? Right now, we saw that with DeFi, everybody’s forming DAOs with DeFi. It’s already been a thing. We’re seeing that more and more with NFT collector groups, like fingerprint or pleaser DAO, et cetera, all these investment collective groups. When are creators going to start forming what we call fan clubs, like their creator DAOs? 

They’re either already here. For example, I worked on a project with a friend of mine called solos a number of months back. It’s an artist, Jeremiah Palecek, based in Prague. He did a line of generative NFTs on his paintings. He’s on Twitch every day, just painting. So he’s interacting with this community, and the users actually earn a governance token for having done an action, which was putting the metadata of their token into Arweave as a permanent hash for the token, and they receive royalties from their Open Sea sales, and that’s what they get to manage. So the users there have the ability to spend money on doing things like putting on exhibitions or hiring somebody to print something. Another great example, a project that I worked on too is the Dope Wars DAO. I always shill this stuff. It’s always a shill to be on television. “Hey mom, how are you”? The dope wars DAO is based on loot. So loot is a really great idea of a creator DAO, really creator at its core, right? Like the NFTs are just ideas, and the creator has to go make it real, and people are going and making it real. 

This is like a TV show, just so you know. A live TV show. I’m just giving you the supplies to build something. 

Do you know what I mean? Like ideas are forming right now. Put a bunch of artists in a house. They got to create it at a T. Whoever has got the most sales on Open Sea. We got like Tyra banks to come in and put them through challenges. “I don’t know your floor price, it’s gotta be over 0.1 or you are cut”. “I really thought my Bored Panda ape crossover would be a hit”.

Which network are we going to get to do that on? 

It is definitely going to be on the history channel since they don’t show shit anymore that has anything to do with anything, right? They released like ancient aliens or whatever that it was just like, alright. I don’t know why I haven’t done those yet. So yeah, the dope wars DAO, right? It’s like loot, except for it’s based around the old calculator game, dope wars, and the community actually built it from scratch. Well, I mean, they actually didn’t build it from scratch. They took the loot contracts and just swapped everything out for stuff like guns and drugs, rather than frail armor or the sword of Damocles. So anyway, it’s dope wars, and again, they are an NFT. What we did was we swapped out the ERC -721 for the nouns DAO, ERC-721, which is checkpointing built-in. So it’s compatible with open zeppelin governor right out of the box. So what that means is you can vote directly using our NFTs. All the dope wars NFT holders have the ability to vote in on-chain governance, and the governance receives 5% of the sales on Open Sea, which today is sort of like somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000. So this community that’s this fan club of this calculator game from the nineties; they’ve come together, they’re building games and a kind of universe altogether, and they’re paying other creative artists that have applied for grant money to do the pixel art. There’s a guy building a Starkware version of the game in collaboration with Starknet. They’re building out all this crazy stuff, and that’s a crater DAO, right? Like, that is just creators. Right now, it’s just creators creating stuff from stuff that other people created. And again, a lot of creators in that line, but what’s kind of amazing and the sort of like unlock that you see here is, you know, if you remember high school, there was always like some kid who was drawing some manga, or like swords of Damocles.

Was that you?

That was definitely not me, and I could not draw at all to save my life. They are going to be stick figures, which would be a great NFT. But, suddenly, these people can start an organization. Thousands of people, millions of dollars doing what they love, doing stuff that other people appreciate, and when you think about where are you better off spending your money? Well, I could give my money to some huge faceless corporation that imports stuff manufactured somewhere far, far away or, “Hey, Adam is drawing these really cool orangutans that look drunk and high most of the time, and I’m into drunk and high orangutans. And oh, by the way, now there’s a lot of us into drunken and stoned orangutans, and now he’s starting a bar, and you can only go to the bar if you haven’t drunk orangutan, and you spend all Saturday on like a discord channel. Like, that is such an incredible, powerful idea because that’s silly. Another example that I pull out a lot is Pizza DAO, and I always get the mechanics of how they did it wrong because it’s kind of crazy, but someone had said, “Hey, let’s raise a bunch of money and on pizza day, give away free pizza around the world.” To fund it, they did NFTs with pizza toppings. This is the part I’m always a little bit fuzzy on. They did like NFTs of pizza toppings, like pepperoni or something like that. And they put out just a spreadsheet being like, “oh, sign up if you want to be into it,” and they raised a million dollars. I think here in New York, and I think they ended up partnering with slice again, maybe the details are wrong. And then they gave away pizza around the world. Which again, sounds like a pretty ludicrous, dumb idea. “Oh, you’re just going to waste all your time and energy, kids, and give away pizza around the world?” But this NFT DAO, what they actually do when you really think about what happened is, they organized individuals globally to raise money, to address food insecurity on a global scale, right? Maybe it’s just giving pizza away. So it’s not actually food insecurity, but that’s the concept that’s being trialed. And they did it at an efficiency rate that’s like a quadrillion million times higher than the US, right? So, this loose-knit organization was able to do something at an efficiency rate, that all those funds that are like asking for your money on TV and showing you pictures of starving people never managed to do. And so there you start to see, as we started talking about how we make magic internet organizations real, you start to see what the power of that might be. My co-founder Raphael Solari is frequently talking about how people might start building these collective fan fiction universes, right? What if Marvel was actually owned by the people who drew the pictures and wrote stories and went to the movies, rather than the people who were just making it for us. I mean, I don’t want to put Marvel on the spot cause, actually I love them. They’re doing great. I watch everything they put out, but let’s say DC and Warner bros-

Making DAOs Mainstream

Whatever it may be. Just that concept of people who contribute, make the vision, the movie, the TV show reality are co-owners in that, but it’s such a different model though because Web 2.0 models are traditional LLC corporate models. There’s the executive team, and then you’re getting a salary. Maybe you get some stock options for making this a reality. Obviously, now that people have tasted the sugar, there’s no going back, and now anybody who is already in the space, they’re going to expect that when they join a project. But there’s millions upon millions of people who are so used to the traditional way. How do we get to a much more mainstream adoption of people understanding that they can not only contribute and do what they love, but also co-own that process at the same time?

So I think that is happening. I think that’s kind of like an invisible hand in the market, just like the evolution of culture, right? Someone told me the other day that 40% of Americans hold crypto, something crazy like that. You look at the success of Robin hood and meme stocks, right? AMC, last quarter announced on their call, the majority of AMC shareholders are just retail. And the retail probably was focused on Robin Hood, who probably goes to the movies, probably goes to AMC, so you had this really weird thing where he was offering to create some sort of shareholder program where if you’re an AMC shareholder, you get free popcorn, and some other benefits. 

They did that.

That is a DAO, right? Like, I mean, that’s a corporation realizing to innovate or die, but at the same time, the idea is reaching back into the regular world, right? It’s like Twitter adding your NFTs for your verified picture on Twitter. That’s the crypto primitives becoming real in the minds of ordinary people. “Oh, would you like to upload this JPEG to Twitter”? Sorry, you didn’t buy that JPEG, so you can’t use that JPEG. 

It’s like identity theft. 

Right. But, the thing of the year is that music corporations were trying to put some sort of weird copyright protection into the software to keep us from playing music. All of a sudden, there’s no JPEG lobby that’s lobbying Congress saying, “Hey, people cannot be allowed to use those JPEGs,” but we have actually shifted the thought process of, “oh, you don’t own that Ape. “Man, that’s pretty lame if you’re trying to pretend like you own that Ape,” and Twitter is like, “yeah, we agree. We think that was lame. So now we’re going to let you verify that you really have the NFT”. I think that mainstream adoption is actually happening. It’s happening in a way that maybe people didn’t expect. I think a lot of people coming out of the magic internet bank imagine or like magic internet financial system primitives are thinking we’re going to onboard the world with 2000000% APY, and what I think they are overlooking is that most people aren’t really motivated by money. People are motivated by money in the sense that they need jobs, and they would like a job that pays more than the last job they had, but people aren’t motivated by money if you say, “take magic potion a, mix it with magic potion b, do all this weird shit with Metamask, and if you fuck up, you lose everything you’ve ever owned, and if you’re lucky and it was audited and doesn’t get hacked, you will have a little bit more magic potion A than when you started. That’s not really incentive, but if you tell them, “Hey, remember how you used to stand in line at like a Supreme drop to get something in the run home on eBay and flip it for three times the price. Remember how you did that”? Well, now you can do that on Open Sea. People are like, “yeah, I was already there earlier this morning,” right? So people are onboarded because also, like when you go through Twitter, “OMG, I just sold my first NFT collection. It all sold out”. There’s this one NFT that somehow always comes up on my thread, and it’s an animated pixel art of these just butt cheeks. It shows up on my feed all the time. Maybe I’m following the crypto butt cheeks NFT crew or something like that, and it sounds crazy, but somebody out there is making a living drawing animated pixel art but cheeks, which probably sounds crazy to everybody outside on the street, but it’s actually really liberating. Because that’s if that person makes it. Grammy award-winning like a musician can make it. People were so pissed when Beeple sold. So angry. They were like, “how dare that guy who committed to something that he had no idea what the outcome would be for years and put in his labor and creativity get rewarded for it”? Meanwhile, you know, some other corporation’s CEO robbed everybody and got like suspended three months, house arrest, and a Cayman island sentence and still got his like bonus payment of a hundred million dollars. But no one really cares about that, and they got to shit on Beeple, the artist in high school, who’s like sketching his notebooks sitting in the hall. And it’s just like of all the people in the world who deserve $60 million, Beeple is just like so much higher than so many people who are ostensibly doing the real work. So what we’re doing is we’re unlocking the power of individuals to care about other individuals, and that is really core to the whole DAO concept, right? Because prior to NFTs, prior to crypto, it was really hard for me to appreciate you, Adam, in a way that you could live off of. I think it’s been a horrible failing of Ethereum so far that somehow they haven’t been able to transition only fans. How that business model hasn’t been able to be disrupted. People can actually reward other people directly. Obviously, only fans is a specific kind of genre, but you know, when you look at NFTs, they are kind of the only fans for everything else, right? If someone had said that Bored Apes would have made a hundred million dollars in one day because they drew a whole bunch of pictures of stoned apes, that would have been crazy, but it’s just as crazy as anything else. Like, Why not, right? We enable so many things. Everything in between, you know, the volume Open Sea does is just insane, right? There’s a world filled with people being artists, making stuff, and other people liking it and then connecting directly over the internet. And now, because of DAOs, they can organize together, do something over the internet. Like they all hold this like text NFT, but now they actually can vote, and their voice matters, and they’re part of it. So when we talk about how we’re going to like, make this mainstream, the option sort of starts to be, when you join a company, you kind of expect that you’re getting screwed somehow, right? You’re definitely not getting paid as much as the guy at the top, and there’s nothing you’re ever going to be able to do at that. And like, best case scenario is, you’re able to go earn marginally more money, getting screwed by somebody else. With DAOs, it is very different. You go in, and the community is like, well, what can you do? And you’d be like, and I can offer the community this. The community can either be like, you know, screw off, we don’t want you, or are they going to be like, all right, join. When you join, you see everything. People are literally saying, Hey, we have a vote on how much to pay you. How much should we pay you? And everyone votes on it. And if you can say, Hey, this is the value I bring, people are like, okay, because they’re all like, well, I’m trying to bring value too, so we should reward it, and there’s no pie to take away from someone, right? Like if you join Facebook, every like, you know, whatever 0.0001% share of Facebook stock you get is like that much less that’s available total percentage to Zuckerberg, but in DAOs, it’s very different, right? Like you can work for, you know, I mean, Uniswap and Sushiswap, maybe no,t because they are a little bit like a classroom community, but really you can work for all the DAOs at one. Like you can work for Compound and AAVE and Uniswap all at the same time, and it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not like, “oh man, you know, Uniswap has got to destroy Compound. No, actually, you’re working for both of them to go up, and you see people on Twitter. They’re like, oh yeah, my comp is going up, or my uni is going up, and it becomes more collaborative. It’s just a different way of working, but we need a lot of tools to make it work better.

National Elections, Radical Transparency & its Pitfalls

We’ll talk about the tools in a minute, but I want to talk to you about the comparison behind structured, closed organizations and radical transparency through decentralized organizations. What’s the downside of radical transparency?

So in college, I was a political science major in, you know, early two thousands. You know, and anarchy was still something that kids were like, yeah, anarchy at school.

By the way, like all these Bitcoin conferences, for example, a lot of the core developers are in our case. They believe that they shouldn’t be reliant on anybody. They should be their own banks. They should have their own financial system. They should have their own, et cetera. So fuck the government. But anyways, okay.

I think that doesn’t rise to true anarchy anarchism, but I’m totally convinced it’ll never work. A thousand percent convinced that will never work. If anyone has ever run a discord room, a discord chat group, you will know you’re a hundred percent convinced anarchy can’t work, right? Like you take any anarchism in the world and be like, all right, run this Discord Chat, man, and by the way, there are 10,000 people in it. It is never going to work. Why do you get to pick the channels, man? That is never going to work. Because he started this discord group, he gets to choose the mods? Never gonna work. So radical transparency isn’t for every organization. And indeed, there’s like a faction in crypto Twitter that’s trying to figure out how to do private voting, which I personally am not yet convinced how well that would work, but are trying to figure out how to do transparency and lack of transparency. I think in crypto, it’s different than transparency. It’s maybe some things need to happen secretly, but they can’t be nefarious. It’s a very strange balance, and I don’t think anyone’s actually gotten it just right. This sort of structure sort of happened naturally, right? There’s an asymmetry between some members of the DAO, like some members that know each other better, we’re able to coordinate better, they have a little bit maybe even greater access to information than other members of the DAO. Also, maybe they’re just more interested in the DAO. Sometimes people like to really crap on some DAOs when they have a small number of people who make all the decisions, and they kind of discount the fact that maybe that small group of people actually just pays attention all the time, whereas everybody else maybe checks in every now and then, or they show up when there’s a big boat, and it’s like, yo, where have you been for four weeks? But the communities end up deciding what the organization looks like in many ways. So I think that people like to attach to the sort of transparency natively to DAOs. I don’t think that those two are actually bonded to one another. I think that they are sort of two concepts that tend to overlap because we are on a blockchain, so we can generally look in and understand what’s happening. That may not always be true in the near future, right? Like a lot of the moon path kind of allows you to prove things about knowing exactly what those things are. So we may be seeing more of that, but I would say something that distinguishes a DAO is not necessarily only like the permissionless ness of the entry and exit, kind of the permissionlessness at the entry and exit. Forgive me for never having bought a Bored Ape, but like today, I could join the Bored Ape club. So you could argue that nobody can stop me from joining theBored Ape club. Of course, I would have to have a lot more money to join, so you can say that’s the barrier to entry. But also, the barrier to entry is like a function of time. Like the day Bored Apes came out, if I had known and gotten into it and believed in it, I could have been a member right away. So yeah, I’m not sure if that answers your question. 

No, that answers my question. I guess I want to get more futuristic now. Let’s say we get to a point where everything is tokenized, and all forms of voting occur on-chain to the extent where now we have either a local election or a national election conducted in token format, where everybody can sign onto their computer, cast their vote on Tally, for example, for the next president of the United States. Do you see that happening? 

I do see that happening. I don’t see that happening in the next election, unfortunately. You know, Joe Biden, give me a call. I don’t imagine that happening anytime soon, like magic internet society, right? That’s still primitive. That’s a bridge too far for most people, right? Like we’re working on magic internet organization, but magic internet society is still a little ways away, but I think we’ll get there. Blockchain does enable us to do better forms of running elections. Of course, DAOs run into the same problems that the federal government does. It’s not the machines that count the ballots that are the problem in the system. So, will we solve that aspect right away? Probably not. I think that we’ll probably end up getting to the future in a way that people don’t expect. People thought self-sovereign money was going to revolutionize the world. It is, but not in the way that people thought. Like people didn’t really care that they could go open a Bitcoin wallet and they would have their own Bitcoin. People started to care when the price went up, but most people still didn’t care just because the price is going up. The price is going up on something all the time, and you’re not freaking out. Holy shit. Beyond meat signed the deal with burger king. It’s going up. Yeah, I don’t really care. So that’s not really what would revolutionize the world. NFTs, I kind of feel like they’re revolutionizing the world. Like NBA top shot, dapper labs just did a deal with NFL. That’s mainstream, and if I was going to be like, “now for the halftime show, we have, I don’t know, crypto punk number 8946, look at those pixels.” Wild, but maybe that’s how we actually get there because that’s how we’re actually getting there right now. So I think when we talk about how we get to voting in your local elections, I think something’s going to happen differently before that. I think somehow the politicians are gonna raise money with crypto, or the politicians are going to get elected talking about crypto. Or crypto is going to solve some sort of major problem, or eventually, the fed is going to be forced to tokenize the dollar, and then it’ll just be this weird flip over where it’s just suddenly how it is. Of course, behind the scenes, there will just be countless innovators and entrepreneurs trying to build things to make these things sort of work, but you think of how at one point in time, you had to go sign some shit with a notary. You’re like, oh yeah, I’m doing this. I got to go find a notary who is open after five and get them to notarize something. And then, all of a sudden, you were using DocuSign for everything. And now people send me contracts, they’re like, “can you send me a DocuSign? Otherwise, deal’s off”. I’m not opening this PDF shit, downloading Adobe Acrobat, and like signing, you know? So I think the flip is going to happen in a way that we really sort of don’t anticipate, but it’s happening right now.

What are you Excited about in Crypto?

It’s happening right now on a small scale on an inter-DAO level when DAOs like, let’s say FWB, and they’re scaling and growing at a rapid rate. Then being a social DAO, now they’re opening up different chapters in different cities, from what I’m understanding. Now I’m getting DMS from members, “we’re running for governance and operations roles,” and they need to be voted in and elected at those positions. So you see these things happen on a very micro, micro level, and I think that’s just the only way they happen. Right now, the government is still fighting crypto. They’re still fighting blockchain. The people in power that are governing the US they’re anti-crypto, some may be pro, but the ones that really matter are anti, and they’re making all the headlines. So, starting small, experimenting small, building from there, that’s just the way to do it. What are you excited about right now in crypto that’s happening around the world of governance? And this could be within Tally, but preferably outside of Tally. What are you starting to see that’s like, wow, this is super cool, I’m fired up, et cetera? 

For me to not say NFTs and DAOs, I mean, that is, what’s really exciting right now. 

The formation of DAOs via non fungible tokens.

Yes. For me, that just is wild. 

And is that from the point of view of collector DAOs? Like fingerprint or Pleaser DAO, or like NFT artists who sold open editions to collectors forming DAOs? Like, how do you define that?

I would say more of that, right? Like, yeah. Okay. Let’s all get together and invest in NFTs together. Sure. Okay. Got it. I’m going to go draw some pictures, I’m going to make like 10,000 iterations of them and sell them, and then we’re going to all vote on how to spend that money. And maybe, we’ll just do crazy burning man out in the forest and all take our Bored Apes with us. Wow. That’s pretty cool, right? I keep on DM-ing Open Sea, so I hope they write me back one day, but like when you combine the fact that you can create an NFT, which sort of self-selects for a community that cares, and then you can fund it by the sales between one another, suddenly, you have this incredible vehicle, right? If you look at nouns DAO, which they don’t really trade the token on like Open Sea, although I guess they could, they’ve amassed, I dunno, like 7,008, some crazy amount of ETH, and the sort of opportunity for them to use that is sky-high. It’s one thing to create a DAO around like, oh, we’re going to pool our money, and we’re going to buy stuff that’s going to go up. It’s another thing to say, like, oh, we’re going to start a doubt. We’re going to make something that people care about, and the velocity of people caring about it, moving in and out of our organization is going to actually power our organization’s ability to move forward. The idea that you can raise capital via creating artwork is just really fascinating, and it’s going to come down to some legal showdown at some point, right? Someone the other day said, all NFTs are equity, and I think in some ways they’re right. I countered that all NFTs are free speech, which I also think is right. Like, there should be no limit in these great United States for me to draw a picture of a stone ape and sell it to you for $5 million. There’s no reason why I should not be allowed to do that, and people are doing that. Maybe not apes or punks, but people are doing that. Right now, the thing that gets me really excited is that we can mix the NFTs with DAOs. So the NFTs represent your membership in this community, and the DAO represents your community’s collective ability to take action. That’s what gets me really excited.

So, you’re saying like, NFTs are the top funnel layer of issuing membership, right? And then it kinda comes in like that a little bit.

Yeah. Because you could do it for anything. I’m sure you went to high school, and if you were in some sort of sports or track. In my high school, before we would do track events or whatever, we would do a spaghetti dinner, and, you know, a bunch of kids would just cook a metric ton of spaghetti and sell it to parents for like 50 bucks a pop to raise enough money to pay for a bus, to drive the track team to like state or nationals or something like that. Because school wasn’t going like pay this shit. Let me just say that. But suddenly, you can do that for any idea you want, right? Like you could say, Hey, let’s make a nudist cabin retreat in Saskatchewan, and we’re gonna all draw pictures of naked people and sell them, and if you own it, you’re a member, and you can come to take off your clothes, and we’ll take the money from the treasury to build the cabin so we can all hang out here naked every year. And when you’re done being naked, you can sell it on Open Sea, and the proceeds from that go back to the fund cause you got to repaint the cabins every year. 

You must drop your gig at Tally and start consulting nudist groups about their NFT strategy.

I’m going to travel the world, and then I won’t need any of this stuff. It’s like two, three months. Let’s go around.

Think about the money you’ll save. 

Borderless Employment

Totally. But you know, what’s crazy is that that would have been so hard to do two years ago. What are you going to do? Open an LLC and, you know, mail people invites to your naked club in upper Canada? It’d be like, “Hey, send me 20 bucks.” But it could be anything, right? Like you can feed Peeps around the world. You could do Bored Apes, so they go build a club or bar or whatever cool thing that they’re going to try and do now. People are trying to NFT buildings. So you’re going to see Tik TOK houses that are like an NFT house, right? Like buy this NFT, We build something, a percentage of whatever you build goes back to the house so that the house can continue on as this autonomous organization. And as we start to wrap DAOs and legal entities, we can say, oh yeah, this Bored Ape guy actually owns the building. And this building is owned by this corporation, which is represented by the NFT token holders, but that audience could always be changing. So suddenly, you can create things that you could never have created before. And that means there’s really not a limit to what people might do with this. Like clubs, organizations are everywhere you look. Parent teachers association, block associations, those addicted to something or whatever you’re trying to get off. Like there’s everything. And all of that is so highly frictioned by setting up an LLC. You know, one example that I haven’t given yet today, which I think is really critical about DAOs, is that, in the United States, and in most places actually, we don’t even think about this. It’s kind of like a fish don’t know they’re wet type of thing. If you come up with a cool idea, wherever you are, let’s say you’re in Detroit, and you have a really good idea. You’re like, okay, I’m going to go start a company and start an LLC, or start a C Corp. You’re like, all right, I’m going to go hire Adam. It’s pretty easy to hire you, but what happens in that onboarding, hiring process? I mean, if you accept the offer. I have to verify yourUncleoyment eligibility. I have to ask the federal government, please, uncle Sam, may I please hire Adam? And maybe Adam, you are the best person for this job on planet earth, but uncle Sam could be like, “nope.” “Oh yeah, we checked this cryptographer. Yeah, he’s in Somalia. It sucks for you. You can’t have him. But, you know, Apple could, because they’re rich enough to be able to go hire him, or Facebook could cause they’re a global organization with billions of dollars. But oh, you with your idea, wherever your base. No, you’re not allowed to go hire that person because we have rules, right? I think rules are important. I’m really pro-rules. 

But it’s also the point of being borderless, right? It’s also the point of accruing value and contributing, collaborating, no matter where you are in the world.

Yes. If I go hire you in Somalia, and you are contributing to whatever knowledge or application we’re doing, right? What are you actually doing? I call you up and say, Adam, Hey, you know, you’re the best guy in the world for this uncle Sam won’t let me hire you. I just need you to tell me what to do cause you’re a consultant. Uncle Sam says you can’t tell me. Like you can’t share that information with me. You’re forbidden from giving that information to me, and I’m forbidden from compensating you for it. And if you start to think of the level of friction that that actually is on our economy and the level of friction that is on if you start a small business in Detroit, you can’t get access to the best talent in the world. You can go through a green card lottery where we like dangle citizenship like a pinata over people’s heads and be like, you got lucky. But, you can’t go hire someone anywhere in the world who’s the best. And there’s this great term. I bring this up all the time, talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not, and I think DAOs can help distribute opportunity more fairly, and that is really important. Because the vast amount of the world, right, we’re watching right now, it’s like Taliban says, oh, women can’t go to the university anymore. Pretty soon, they’ll be like, ah, they can’t even hold money or earn money or do anything like that. So many parts of the world are just not privy to opportunity, and that is because our existing structures are just so ingrained in us that we just accept them as normal. Of course, you can’t hire someone in Somalia. Are you crazy? Who cares if you’re the smartest mathematician, cryptographer on earth, and absolutely perfect for what you’re doing and you pay taxes here in the United States? You can’t hire them period. End of story. I talked to someone before who was like, oh, you can PayPal them, and it’s just like, maybe you could PayPal them. But then, the flip side of that. Let’s say you do hire someone in Somalia, and you do find a way to wire them money. Can you give them equity in your company? Can you give them healthcare benefits? Suddenly, you could build an organization where you say, “Hey, I’m going to start an idea here,” and they don’t do this yet, but I think it’s on the roadmap, and I’m going use Opulus so that all the people who work for us can get health insurance benefits that travel portable with them so that their dependence on being able to stay alive doesn’t depend on me. Like their health benefits come from a collective organization that do collective bargaining on their behalf, and we’re going to get decentralized insurance, and then we are going to issue a token so that they can actually have access to the upside of this idea. It’s incredible, and people don’t appreciate how big a shift that is. Because like, when we started this company, we have team members outside of the United States, we were trying to figure out, “oh, how do we pay them”? And it’s still an ongoing thing where we’re trying to figure out the best thing. But you know, we talked with these PEO firms. They’re like, oh yeah, we can help you hire people in other countries. It’s like, okay, this is great. Sounds good. They’re like, yeah, these people? You don’t owe them shit. We lend them to you. We hire them. We take 20% off the top, but you don’t owe them anything. You don’t have to give them equity. You don’t have to give them health insurance. You don’t have to do any of that, don’t worry. It’s just like, yeah, that’s the future? They’re like rattling off this list, “oh, you know, we work with these VCs, we work with these companies where this is great. Everybody’s doing this. It’s like, that’s the shit we’re done with, right? Like that’s what we’re trying to get rid of. That inefficiency. I’m going to pay you 20%, so we have no obligation to our team members who are helping to build the future? And that’s the fish don’t know water is wet. It’s just so normal that people don’t walk around outside noticing that that’s just like another layer of inequity, and I think that DAOs fix that. 

Outro

I think that’s a perfect place to end off. What a powerful, final statement. Before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we learn more about yourself, Tally, everything that you guys are up to? Shill. 

 So I am always in this room. You always find me here. You can find me at Tally. So that’s. www.withtally.com. You can find us on Twitter @votewithtally. We have a link to our discord as well. You can also always email me dennison@withtally.com. Maybe I’ll write back. I’ll try. I’ve got a lot of spam. But no, seriously, reach out. If you’re building a DAO and have questions, just email me directly. I love talking to people about how to build DAOs. We really think the future, right now, is currently in NFT DAOs. Like you see what’s happening in DeFi with inflation, a little bit of a chill in the room around that, but, you know, NFTs are freedom of speech. Like it’s your right to draw a picture of a stone ape and sell it to me for a million dollars. That’s your right. So we’re really pushing hard to help people build and deploy these DAOs, so if you have any questions, we are here to answer them. I’m not sure when this is going to go out, but we will be at ETH Lisbon. So we will be at DAOist, and ETH Lisbon. So if you are around, we will be walking around. Feel free to hit us up and buy us a drink.

Love it, man. Thank you for being on. I hope to have you guys on again soon. This was a great conversation. You’re super knowledgeable, and it’s been a pleasure. 

My pleasure as well. Thank you so much.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Crypto Mobile Apps, Governance Tokens and The Future of NFTs

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 3 welcomes OpenSea’s CEO and Founder, Devin Finzer.  

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 1:07 – Devin’s Startup Background
  • 2:35 – NFTs in 2021
  • 3:31 – The Explosion at OpenSea
  • 9:57 – The Future of Web 3.0
  • 13:44 – Governance Tokens and the Gatekeepers
  • 16:48 – Valuing Community
  • 18:42 – What Will Eat Web 3.0?
  • 20:37 – Advice to Newcomers 
  • 21:21 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Let’s jump right into it. You guys had one of the craziest years, specifically in August. $3 billion in total volume. How was that period for you? What was going through your head? How was your team dealing with that? Walk me through that. 

That was a really exciting time, but also a very chaotic time for the team. We went through this sort of hyper-growth phase as a company. We were really, hands-on; all hands on deck. Really proud of the team that really stepped up and filled in the gaps. We brought on more members of the team. We have really great people joining. We’ve really shored up the operations and the product development at OpenSea, but we know we also have a long way to go in terms of building really great products for users, and it’s been pretty amazing just to see how much excitement there has been in the NFT industry. I think it’s a testament to all the hard work that the whole ecosystem has then been putting in over the last four years and really building out the core NFT experiences that, you know, delight the users of today. So, it’s really fun to see this.

Devin’s Startup Background

So walk me through a little bit of your startup background. Obviously OpenSea, I feel like, is that one thing that really snowballed to be this insane startup that has a lot of exciting potential. Around when you guys were going through this phase of the month before August, we went through August now. It’s September, and we’re approaching October, right? Even September is what over $2 billion right now? Did you ever imagine you’d be running a company at this scale with this much excitement? Like how did that come to fruition? Talk to me about your thoughts. 

No, I actually never quite envisioned that. I mean, I didn’t not envision it as something that could happen, but it was more just, you know, starting with following our curiosity. So yeah, great question. I did not envision this exact outcome for OpenSea, but also just didn’t really have specific expectations when we started. It was more kind of following our curiosity and just doing things that we were excited about, and building a space that we thought was early, but had really incredible long-term potential. Yeah, the excitement and enthusiasm around NFTs was just so remarkable that we just kind of had to keep on building. But it is definitely a bit surreal to be in a position where we’re able to drive so much volume and have such a big impact on people. I do think at the same time, despite these sort of crazy growth numbers, we’re still at day zero for the NFT space. It’s really just kind of the wild west days, comparable to the early internet. So it’s really exciting to be in this position, but we have a long way to go.

What’s Exciting about NFTs?

So as the craziness kind of spun out, what are some of the more exciting use cases you’ve seen come to fruition around NFTs? Whether it’d be like profile pictures or individual drops, it could be anything.

Yeah. I mean, I think gaming is really exciting as a use case it’s been in the works for a really long time. There’s a lot of really cool projects like Axie Infinity that run these sorts of things, virtual worlds. So, I’m really excited to see what comes out of gaming in the next while. The other areas that people have been talking about for a while are music, event tickets, even physical items represented as NFTs and traded around and then redeemed for the actual physical. Those sorts of use cases I think are really cool and really interesting. So, for people who are kind of looking to build new projects in this space, I would look to some of the early experiments of late 2017, early 2018, where people tried things out, but the market maybe wasn’t ready for them. I think we’ll see a lot of those experiments come back and really start to resonate with people as there’s a little bit more mind share around NFTs. 

The Explosion on OpenSea

Yeah. During that crazy period for you guys, on average, how much sleep did you get? Were you always online, were you buying stuff yourself, were you just trying to burn fires if any arose? What was that time like for you personally?

Well, I wasn’t making a lot of purchases myself just because I do tend to focus on just the company building side of things. I find that I’m not able to multitask super effectively, but yeah, definitely. You know, there were some nights where it was a lot less sleep, but I think it was also really important to be able to function effectively and make good decisions. So, it’s certainly been an extremely busy time for the whole team, but we do try to make sure that we’re lifting our heads up and not being sort of silly about getting that right healthy balance. 

What would you say was one of the most challenging parts in the business when you guys encounter that growth wave? Any things that you expected to happen that happened? Anything that happened that you didn’t expect? What was that like? 

Good question. Well, I think it was sort of expected was everything just started breaking, but I think we didn’t expect it to happen so fast. I do think that our trajectory is pretty unique relative to other companies. You know, when companies get to undergo this type of growth, it is always pretty crazy, but ours was particularly unique in just the amount of transaction volume that was happening on the marketplace. So, things definitely started breaking. In terms of surprising things, I guess it was surprising, or pleasantly surprising, just that the culture was able to kind of hold up pretty well. I think we made some great hires early on, and we continue to have a high bar for our culture when we think about new employees. I think everyone on the team is really there for the right reasons and is really strong and works well together. So it’s been surprising, I guess, that things haven’t broken down more on the cultural side, but I will say that it has not been surprising that things have become kind of chaotic on operations. 

One of the most exciting things for me seeing this entire NFT wave, and I’d love to get your point of view on this, is we had that DeFi summer of August, 2020, where we had like a lot of financial buzz, a lot of all these DEXs, all this yield farming, liquidity pools, a lot of the non-sexy side of crypto, and then NFTs come into the picture; and you have a lot of the creativity coming in. You have artists coming in, musicians coming in. One thing that I love that’s happening for crypto, is that it’s becoming more maintstream, and I think it was important that NFTs had their moment of fame to bring in all these creative minds to make crypto more interesting essentially. As you guys were building OpenSea, and you went through these last three months, and I emphasize these three months because it was a milestone for NFTs, what was some of the biggest feedback you got from newcomers coming into the space? Like artists that jumped in, creators that jumped in, musicians that jumped in that issued stuff on OpenSea, from a talent point of view, from a market point of view, what was some of the feedback that you got from these individuals?

I think the feedback is still just talking to people who are trying to use these sorts of products for the first time. It’s very challenging, right? A brand new space where you have to kind of understand all these things, still a lot of technical overhead and, you have to learn about everything before you can even really try it. So I think that’s an area where the whole space, and especially ourselves, has to improve. But, on the flip side, it’s also impressive that people are just kind of willing to get their hands dirty and try these things out and go through those hoops. So sort of two sides of the same. There’s lots of things that people want to improve the platform, better discovery, better onboarding, you know, better curation, all of these things. We have long lists of feedback that we want to integrate into our roadmap, but overall, the high level, it’s exciting to see people really dig in and kind of experience Web 3.0 in a real way. I think there was a lot of conversation around like, how do we make Web 3.0 seem opaque to users, so that people don’t have to worry about blockchain. Well, the reality is I think people are kind of still worrying about figuring it out and how strong of a pull there is for all this stuff. 

What does a marketplace like OpenSea evolve into as the space matures? Is it more the social side, is it more the DeFi side, is it more the wallet side, or just really dialing on the NFT market? 

I would say that we’ve remained really focused on just building the best possible NFT marketplace. We want to sort of be the one-stop shop to buy, sell, and discover NFT projects, and for now that’s a pretty big undertaking, and there are a lot of challenges surrounding it. So yeah, we’re pretty simple that we’re really investing in our core and just ensuring that we can serve projects, developers, and users effectively. 

How do you feel about all these new NFT decentralized exchanges slowly coming to market. While there aren’t really like main ones yet, but there’s a lot of talk across crypto Twitter, do you think it can be done efficiently in a decentralized way? 

Well, it depends what your definition of decentralized. I mean, we’re a decentralized marketplace in the sense that we facilitate transactions through a set of smart contracts. So yeah, it depends on what you mean by that. But you know, I would say I think the critique of OpenSea is that there are these centralized components to it. Which items show up in the feed, which items are promoted, which items are verified, and those sorts of things. I think there are definitely interesting solutions where you can try to decentralize more and more, but I think you also have to balance that with being practical around like, you know, some things do make sense to sort of have managed by one single entity or company. So we try to take a practical approach. You know, we obviously want to be contributors to the ecosystem. We want to embrace these ideals of decentralization, but then we also want to build a great product that people will use. 

Give me an example of some of these critiques, right? I know you talked about curation as being one of them. What are some other critiques that could be fixed through decentralization or that should be centralized to begin with? What are some things that come to mind? 

I think, for example, we do as the best we can to ensure that there’s strong trust and safety on the platform so that the item that you see is actually the item that you want to purchase, not a knockoff. And so we have a lot of measures in place to have warnings if the collection hasn’t been reviewed, indicate that this is a collection with low volume, give the buyers more education about NFTs or about what NFTs are buying. So, I actually think building out a core competency around trust and safety is something that a entity like ourselves really add a lot of value in. There’s certainly approaches where you try to kind of decentralize that, but for now, we’re sort of starting as kind of the lowest hanging fruit. So that’s probably a good example. 

The Future of Web 3.0

I want to pick your brain more on the keyword that you brought up Web 3.0. I guess nobody really imagined NFTs being a cornerstone in onboarding a lot of normies into crypto. What do you imagine Web 3.0 looking like as the next billion users usher in? 

I think there’s going to be lots of different applications. Some of them you can kind of predict today, and then some of them are impossible to predict honestly. I mean, NFTs are one of those applications where you have these unique digital items. You can kind of move between different applications, where you can connect your Metamask to one site or OpenSea and buy and sell. Then you can connect your Metamask to the Decentraland and use your NFTs inside of that virtual world. So sort of this identity layer. I’m not sure if it’ll be a specific company or specific project that sort of manages identity, but I think those will emerge from your wallet and the things that are inside your wallet. So that’s a really interesting thing, to have this identity that’s not tethered to any specific application provider, but rather has sort of this third-party blockchain platform. So that’s kind of how I see it as a sort of a new online identity that really works across many different platforms.

As Web 3.0 matures and evolves, do you think it’s going to be more of the composable point of view where protocols are building on top of each other and there’s an application layer that integrates all these protocols? Or do you think it’s going to be more of the Google approach where they can speed up production and software development by centralizing a lot of core components of their services? How do you kind of imagine that evolving? Let’s say there’s social application layers that use different crypto protocols, NFT protocols, DeFi protocols to build on top of. Do you imagine it being more in-house, a centralized entity building trusted tools and services for crypto? Do you imagine it being more spread out from a decentralized point of view or is it in between? What do you think?

It’s a good question. I think there’s services that will provide certain things, right? We provide a marketplace, and we kind of bundle it with other things. You can bundle it with maybe the ability to display your items in certain ways, like connect a social profile or something like that. But ultimately, I think lots of applications are going to be messy. I think probably in the short run, where there’s lots of apps that have some way to connect your social media profiles to them, I’m not sure that there’ll be one identity service that emerges. I mean, maybe it’ll sort of emerge from one of the platforms. It’s hard to say, but it’s a good question. I gotta think about it. I don’t know if I have a great answer. I think some of the most successful companies might end up building something like identity solutions. 

Speaking of applications, you guys just came out with your mobile app in the app store. A lot of attention on crypto Twitter. Congratulations. It looks beautiful. I use it. I look to see the explore tab and all the cool features that you guys rolled out. What do you imagine the future of mobile applications looking like specifically in crypto? We can take it from like an NFT point of view, and then I guess from a broad point of view. 

That’s a great question. I think what ‘s cool is that the infrastructure around mobile for crypto has evolved quite a lot, right? Like when you rewind to 2017, you couldn’t even use anything on mobile. It didn’t exist. There was a wallet called Toshi, which was Coinbase’s first iteration of Coinbase Wallet, and that was the only place, and I think you could barely even do anything on it. It was just so basic. Now you have so many different wallets. You have metamask obviously, and then you have rainbow wallet, which is more geared around NFTs. And interoperability is starting to emerge too. For example, with the OpenSea app, which is still really in its infancy, you can go connect to your Metamask and link your NFTs in in, and then you come back. It’s not not necessarily the smoothest thing, but you can actually have a mobile experience, which is awesome. So I think like it’s hard to say exactly how it plays out. I mean, there’s a world where a lot of stuff still happens on mobile, but I do think the OpenSea app is kind of a cool example of us going native, and you can still bring your own wallet. Which I think is actually, right now, really important for users to be able to connect their Metamask with their existing stuff without having to kind of have an OpenSea specific wallet.

Governance Tokens & The Gatekeepers

How do you feel about the whole Apple monopoly, and more specifically, when it comes to in-app transactions, how do you guys think about that at OpenSea? Cause it’s not just an OpenSea problem. It’s an entire industry problem, right? With more and more transactions obviously being on chain, using Ethereum, crypto, whatever it may be, and Apple sticking to traditional Web 2.0 type of payments, how do you guys plan to overcome that? How are you guys thinking about that?

Well, I think it’s exciting because, you know, there was recent news that is driving apple to be a little more lenient on what kind of payment applications that we are allowed to use. And I do think that the 30% has just been so problematic. Having these like gatekeepers for mobile payments, and I think that really needs to change. Finally, they’re getting some pushback on it. And so it’s hard to say the exact timeline around these things, but I think eventually there will be other ways of purchasing digital items that don’t go through these kinds of more centralized gatekeepers, and that’s really ultimately very, very important. So excited to see that space move forward. 

Speaking of gatekeepers, obviously a lot of the ethos of crypto, a lot of the ethos of decentralization, is removing those gatekeepers, pushing down the boundaries, making users owners of the protocol and the products they use and consume. The next thing I want to talk to you about is how you’ve been building OpenSea for four years. You’ve seen a lot of successful token launches, a lot of failed tokens, and I would think that you guys explored this idea of what does a fully decentralized marketplace look and feel like. What do you think are the pros and cons of shifting towards a token route, specifically for an NFT marketplace? 

So, what I’d say is I think we’re still in the early days of understanding how token models work more generally, right? If you asked me to kind of point to the most successful token models today, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other layer ones, I think that it makes total sense to have a token baked into the layer one. But if you look beyond that, if you look at DeFi, if you look at other projects, obviously the ICO wave, if you look and you try to point to kind of one that has really nailed it, I think it’s hard. To use an example, you can point to tokens that have really high market caps, but one that has nailed the sort of incentive structure and like it’s actually working from like an adoption perspective, I don’t think you can really say that there’s one that stands out. And it’s just because we’re such early days. I do think if you’re a company, you have to decide where you’re going to innovate. Are you gonna innovate on the product and the core user experience? I do think this is sort of uncharted waters and that’s the decision, right? You can certainly sort of dive down the path of unchartered waters, but you may find that you get into areas that maybe you didn’t expect to be in if you’re thinking long term. It can be great to have these short-term growth hacks around distributing tokens, or maybe you’re both competitors and use it for that reason. I think if you look at these DeFi projects, they’re in a sticky situation when it comes to how to actually build the protocol, how to get the right governance. And I think there’s a lot of merit to focusing on product and product marketing.

Valuing Community

I agree with you. I think there are many different types of models and there’s not one yet that kind of proves to be the one, right? A lot of people, they go and start centralized. They build a product, they find a product market fit, they build a network effect, right. And then they issue the token, rather than with others based off of these centralized platforms, moving to decentralized after that, forming a DAO, issuing a token and building decentralized. My next question to you. There’s a lot of commentary online of super users of OpenSea, fans of OpenSea, people who buy and sell or whatever category they are in as a user, who want to see OpenSea launch a token. They want to see the open sourcing of smart contracts. What is your response to that? Like how do you feel about the community ushering in their voices and their opinions and trying to push more towards traditional decentralization? 

Well, I think some of the criticism was specifically a contract that has not yet been open sourced, but our core marketplace is open source fully. I think there’s maybe some kind of like misinterpretation or just confusion because it’s a new space. If you look at OpenSea, the way that we operate is we’re a peer to peer decentralized marketplace for digital items, and the facilitation of the the buying and selling is all done through a single smart contract that is open-source. So, whether or not we have a token is a sort of governance decision. I think it comes down to that math equation that we did before, but generally, I would say I think that OpenSea can do a lot better when it comes to really fostering the ecosystem and fostering the community. A lot of the ways that we’ve been behind there are really just resourcing. We’re a small team. The number one priority is keep the website running and keep things operating effectively and investing in areas where we can do more outreach and do more ecosystem work, but it has taken us a little time to catch up because of this crazy growth. We know that we can do better there, and we definitely want to.

What Will Eat Web 3.0?

I want to kind of pivot and end off with this final question here. I’m a big fan of watching the growth of the internet, specifically learning about the history of Web 1.0 and how that transition to Web 2.0, and how Web 2.0 ate Web 1.0, and now Web 3.0 is supposedly gonna eat Web 2.0. What do you think is going to eat Web 3.0? 

Oh, man. I have no idea. I mean, Web 3.0 basically doesn’t exist. I mean, it exists, but it’s infantile. Gosh. Oh man. 

Let’s take this from the point of super extreme. The whole concept of Web 3.0 is like ownership, right? All data is public on-chain, right? So I guess a follow-up question is, what happens when all data is on chain? What’s the downside?

Okay. Well, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the exact description of Web 3.0. I think you said that all data would be public. I don’t think that’s actually the case.

On-chain I meant. There’s going to be privacy, but all like technically on a blockchain, right?

Yeah. What happens after that? I mean, maybe humanity turns into like this giant hive mind, where we’re like, all like coordinating across the blockchain. I don’t know. Like AI maybe emerges. Or actually, here’s a good one. Imagine an autonomous agent, running on this thing, where it’s sort of plugged into all the humans and it sort of emerges as this kind of smart intelligent being and sort of takes on a mind of its own, and then I don’t know if humanity gets replaced or something. I think that’s kind of possible. Because if you think about these things, they are unstoppable, right? They’re unsolvable programs. And so what happens when you create an unstopppable program that happened to tap into everything, and has intelligence associated with it? I think that’s pretty interesting to think about, I’m not saying that’s going to happen anytime soon. 

Would you like to see that happening?

I don’t know.

Advice to Newcomers

No, this is great. I’ll leave you with this final question. For all the new creators, all the new artists, all the new graphic designers, wanting to enter the NFT space, make a career; give them some words of wisdom. What can you recommend to them starting off in the space?

I think just sink your teeth in and try everything out or go down all the discords, go through all of the Twitter accounts, go use all the applications. If you’re not doing that, it’s really hard to just get involved. And then, if you’re up for it, be public and interact with people and make friends. I think what’s underrated, especially now that things are opening up again, an underrated opportunity is to go to meetups and things and just meet people. Get all the information you can from them and then make friends with them, and learn from there. I did that in 2017 when I was first learning about crypto, it was really helpful.

Outro

That’s a perfect place to end off. Devin, really quick, where can we find you on Twitter? Where can people follow you? 

@Dfinzer is my Twitter handle and then@opensea is the company.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

When In Doubt, Keep Creating: Tyler Hobbs and Generative Art

Listen: Spotify | Apple Podcast | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 2 welcomes the iconic generative algorithmic artist Tyler Hobbs, who’s most recently known for his work Fidenza.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:19 – Getting started in crypto
  • 3:15 – Thinking like a creative in tech
  • 8:42 – His first mint
  • 10:28 – Art Blocks
  • 14:49 – The Crypto Renaissance
  • 16:03 – The birth of fidenza
  • 23:24 – Getting technical
  • 31:39 – NFTs in the creator economy
  • 35:45 – Fidenza in the future
  • 39:47 – Painting the impact
  • 44:37 – Outro

…and so much more.


Show Notes

I asked Tyler to share some of his early works as a kid. So here they are:


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Getting Started in Crypto

Let’s just dive right in. I want to talk about you specifically and start with your background. What were you doing before crypto, and where are you now? 

So before crypto, I was working as an artist and spending a considerable amount of time doing that. Mostly selling my work through my website and selling a lot of prints, doing commissions, commission murals, things like that. Also, I worked some day jobs as a software engineer, which I did enjoy doing. I had a couple of different tech startups here in Austin. But generally, my life was kind of a balance between doing my artwork stuff, doing kind of the day job, of course, normal everyday activities. But post crypto. So I heard about art blocks earlier this year, which I’m sure we’ll talk about, and released Fidenza in June of this year, 2021. That was really my first real NFT drop. And that’s sort of went bananas. People seem to really like that. And since then, everything has been totally different, like living in a different universe now. And I’m really tied up in the crypto world. Like I’ve gotten to meet all these really interesting people. I mean, it’s a wild scene, and there are so many new things happening every day. It’s a struggle to keep up with. I get some really amazing offers for project ideas or collaborations or things like that every day at this point. It’s so cool to get all those opportunities. I can’t keep up with it, and I need help, but I’m really enjoying trying to keep up with it.

All right. So what were you doing at tech startups? Like you’ve been talking about generative art, algorithmic art for years now. I’ve seen like a catalog of you doing speeches, talks, et cetera. What were you doing working at startups and why? 

Well, normally, it doesn’t really pay to be an artist. Maybe that’s a little bit different now with NFTs. But man, to be a full-time artist, let’s say in 2020, you have to grind it out really hard. Like I’ve been working for years to build up my sales number. To build up a network of collectors and fans. And I was doing really well. I felt like I was building a pretty solid base to where I was able to go full time back to creating artwork full-time in February of this year before I did any sort of NFT stuff, and I felt pretty comfortable with that. So I was making it okay. But it can be tough to transition from something like a software engineer salary to an artist salary. I mean, there’s a pretty big difference in pay. Also, I studied computer science. 

Where did you study? 

I studied computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, which is a fantastic school. Yeah, I was working at tech startups. The one that I spent the most time at was a company called data stacks, and I worked on an open-source, distributed database called Apache Cassandra. And I worked on the database itself, sort of the internals of the database engine. I spent a lot of time working on the client drivers, so the Python driver for interacting with the database. So that was a lot of actually really interesting engineering work. It was very challenging, very performance sensitive. There was a lot of a community aspect to it since it’s an open-source project, which I really liked. So overall, it was a really good job. There’s very little for me to complain about with those jobs, which is part of why I think I continue doing it for so long.

Thinking Like a Creative in Tech

How has your time working at startups kind of translated to what you’re doing now? Is there any correlation? 

Yeah, absolutely. When you’re an artist, you’re ultimately also an entrepreneur. The product you’re selling is your own artwork. Sometimes as an artist, it’s not comfortable to think about it that way, but if you’re going to be pragmatic and realistic, I think that’s ultimately the story. And so, working at startups gave me a much stronger sense of how to run a business. And I was lucky enough to be in really early stages at the startups I worked at. So I got a really clear firsthand view of how you think about marketing and sales and accounting and things like I don’t know total addressable market. It’s nice to be able to put on that businessman hat and analyze things through that lens. I definitely have to play a lot of roles. As I said, there’s like a marketing role to it, and as much as it makes me uncomfortable, I have to sometimes sort of put on that marketing hat and look at these things through a marketing lens and say, okay, who’s my audience? Who are my fans? Like who really enjoys this artwork? Who do I want to connect with the most? And so my time working at startups really helped solidify that mindset for me, and also the mindset of sort of being able to tackle any problem that you set your mind to. When you’re at a startup, you encounter all these really unique challenges all the time, and you have no choice but to try to tackle them. Otherwise, your company is not going to make it. So, I think it kind of taught me a little bit of resiliency as well. That’s been really beneficial. 

Can you talk to me a bit about your upbringing? I know behind the scenes, we said you’re a drummer, but how creative were you growing up too? Like when did you start tinkering with software? What’s the story behind that as you grew up?

Sure. I grew up probably a pretty vanilla childhood. I grew up in central Texas. Middle-class. I went to a pretty good school. I was a good kid. I did do a lot of creative activities. I was always drawing and painting. I loved Legos and Play-Doh, and I remember going to a lot of afterschool art classes and painting and things like that. My first encounter with programming. I have an older brother who’s about four or five years older, and he taught himself to program pretty early on, and he was always kind of an inspiration to me. So I think I first started dabbling with programming when I was, let’s say, about 14 or so. I remember writing a Q basic program, one that made a ball bounce around to the screen and another one that played a tune with the little beeper on the computer. And from there, I took computer science classes in high school. And when it came time for college, I wanted to go to art school. I felt a little more strongly about that. But my dad kind of talked me into studying computer science for more pragmatic reasons, which is not necessarily bad advice. And so that’s why I kind of went down that route. But yeah, I’ve always had a little bit more of an independent history. When I was a teenager, I spent the majority of my free time actually skateboarding. That was probably the dominant thing that I did. If I had the athletic ability to be a pro skater, I think that’s probably what I would’ve done, but I just wasn’t blessed in that way. And maybe I didn’t have the full level of insanity that’s required for that as well. But music as well. Yeah, you mentioned drumming. I’ve been playing musical instruments since I was about 10. I think I can play maybe five or six different instruments decently at this point. Drumming is my favorite one. Yeah, I played in some punk bands when I was in high school. And then later on, a little more interesting music. I got into post-rock a lot and played in some post-rock bands. So creativity has always been a huge part of my life. I considered skateboarding to be a really creative activity. And so for me, it’s always just been kind of like a choice of which one of those I want to focus on, and ultimately art kind of won out over skateboarding and drumming. 

So at what point did you kind of become self-aware enough to see that your creative side was merging with your development side?

That was actually a really explicit thing. It didn’t happen by accident. I was working at these tech startup jobs. I enjoyed it, but in the background, I was starting to take art way more seriously. And I was spending a lot of my free time pretty intently trying to learn and create new artwork. I remember hearing advice that artists should try to create work that only they could create. And part of how you do that is by involving as many aspects of yourself and your life and your personality as you can into the artwork. And for me at that time, programming was such a big part of my life that it would have been a mistake not to try to involve it in my artwork in some way. And so I started actively thinking about how I could involve programming in my artwork, and that wasn’t as clear of a thing to do either, as you might think. I had a few missteps. But eventually, I kind of had the idea to create a program that generated a painting. That was my sort of initial thought. Those were kind of the first steps that I took in. I wasn’t really aware of the generative art scene or the history of it at that point. That was just kinda my first step into merging the two, and it went so well right away. It wasn’t polished, but it was interesting right away. I could tell that it was worth investigating. That was about seven years ago, and I really haven’t looked back since. 

I’d be curious to see some of your sketches as a child and see what that was like compared to what you’re creating now. Do you have any of those? 

I have like a lunch bag that I drew on and wrote, like, I love you, mom that’s hanging on my wall. I think I must’ve been four. So I don’t know if you’re going to be able to connect a lot of dots between those two. I’ll dig some up, and we’ll put them in the show notes.

His first mint

Let’s dive more into the crypto side of things. I know that you grew up super creative. By the way, it’s somewhat like me. I got started playing the drums at like five years old. I also doodled, but not to the extent that you did. Unlike you, I only know the drums, and I always still stuck with the drums. Growing up, it was one of those things where my dad, when I told him I wanted to play the drums and I was five years old, and he’s like, what about piano? I was like, I want to play the drums. What about guitar? He’s like, no, I was like, no, not guitar. And then we got a drum set, and the rest is history. I think starting as a creative and then transitioning into crypto, transitioning into NFTs, I think there’s a lot of interesting purview insight. Because you see the world of like the creative side merge with what started as very technical. Very experimentative. Now it’s more creative through NFTs and whatnot. But, you get to see the merge of two different worlds. I want to talk more about that merge with you, but more specifically, you came across NFTs this year through art blocks. What was the first NFT you bought, and if not, was it just one that you listed for sale? 

Yeah, that’s a great question. The first one that I bought, I minted something through art blocks. I want to say it might’ve been sub scape by Matt Doloria, which is a fantastic art blocks release. That was either the first one or something soon after or something shortly before that. However, I’ll say I did do a little test mint on HEN. Mostly because there was a specific show that I wanted to get into, you had to have an NFT in order to get into the show, and although I had this art blocks release coming up, the deadline was earlier than that. So I put something out there without really talking about it in order to get it into the show. So I have a couple of really early things on HEN. 

Art Blocks

So for those who don’t know what art blocks is, can you give a quick breakdown?

Yeah, absolutely. So art blocks is a platform based on top of Ethereum, and essentially they’ve designed a smart contract and a website that enables generative artists like me to do the following. Basically, we can write a program that generates artwork in JavaScript. We actually write it to the blockchain, to the Ethereum blockchain. Then whenever collectors use our blocks, they go to the website interface, and when they click the mint button, at that point, it triggers the script to be run and to generate a new piece of artwork and to generate an NFT that is then instantly transferred to the collector. So at the time of purchase, neither the collector nor the artists or art blocks knows exactly what’s going to come out. Everybody has seen some of the output from the script. So you have a general idea of what you’re going to get, but you don’t know the specifics of it. And the artists also set some basic parameters, like the number of mints. For example, with my project Fidenza, there were 999, and they had a fixed price at the time. Now there are some more complex auction models, but essentially the gist of it is, generative artists can put up these programs that generate artwork and NFTs, and collectors are able to enjoy and purchase.

So can you talk to me more about your aha moment? Do you remember where you were when you said, holy shit, I should be making art here. Everything that I’ve been preaching, this was made for the last few years. Talk to me about that. 

Yeah. I think the exact moment for me was, I saw an archetype program. I think he tweeted about it. This was his big art blocks release. And I’ve been a big fan of his work for years. I’ve been following his work for years. Seeing how he did it for art blocks just instantly sold me on the concept. And I could just tell how perfect of a fit this was regenerative art. And generative art has had such a hard time being monetized in the past, like earning a living for the artists. And this was the first time where it felt like such a good fit between the artists, the collector, kind of the purity of all these outputs coming straight from the program—this totally provable documented way. I was fortunate enough to be able to see he had done his work, and Dimitri Chernick had also done ringers. Just by looking at those two projects, I could tell this was going to be amazing. I think the exact same day that I saw that I put in my application to be on the art blocks program.

That’s pretty big. That’s pretty cool. And how long have you been preaching about generative art? And I only asked that because I literally came across a video of you doing a lecture on YouTube that was dated two years ago. So you’ve been at it for some time.

Let’s see here. I’ve been writing essays about it since I think 2015. Maybe it was 2014. Because I found the ideas and the conceptual aspect of it to be really interesting, I think it’s a whole new design paradigm introducing randomness into how you do design, and it’s about building a system. There are so many interesting aspects of, like, what does the computer mean to the artwork? How is it involved in the artwork? How does it affect our aesthetics? How do we take the outside world and view it through the lens of computers? Like, what’s the relationship there? There are so many interesting aspects to it. So I’ve been trying to write about it and talk about it at conferences for years now. I think, let’s see, I did a strange loop talk called “how to hack a painting” in 2017. It was about a watercolor algorithm that I designed that a lot of people found to be kind of inspiring. I did that to show them a little bit about what generative art means. But all the way to this day, I continue to write essays. I wrote a couple this year that I feel pretty proud of. There’s not a lot of thought leadership in the generative art community and from a perspective of thoughtful analysis of what the word means, how it’s different from what preceded it, and where it has the potential to go. Art critics have sort of distanced themselves from this medium for decades now. Very few of them have any idea what’s going on here. And so I think it’s kind of up to people in my position. Like artists who actually know what’s going on to try to educate about it, and evolve and advance our view of what’s possible and what’s going on. That’s part of why I write those essays. To help educate collectors and other artists as well. 

The Crypto Renaissance

I want to pivot for a minute and talk about this creative Renaissance. Some call it a Renaissance, and I’d love to hear your point of view. Are we in the middle of a Renaissance? 

Oh, I would be surprised if we weren’t. This is basically the first time that digital artists have ever been able to earn a living creating their artwork. Not just generative artists, but digital artists in general. Usually, that was a sentence to poverty. And digital art is so important. So much of our lives are digital now. We spend so much time in front of computers. You and I are talking through a computer right now. And you probably spent the six hours before this looking at a computer, and I’ll probably spend the next six hours looking at a computer. Digital art is created and exists in a realm that we spend a lot of our time on now. And I think it’s so important to bring that artistic influence into the digital realm and to value it there just as much as we value it in the physical realm. So this has been such an important opportunity. Now that digital artists actually have the opportunity to focus on this work and earn a living from it, I think the results are going to be absolutely incredible. So it’s still early days, but as I said, I would be incredibly surprised if this wasn’t the start of a sort of Renaissance. 

The Birth of Fidenza

It’s cool. My earliest interaction with NFTs started in 2017 with crypto kitties. And I would argue that maybe that was a lot of other people’s entrance into NFTs, but I never did anything about it. I was in college at that time. I was just taking my first blockchain course, learning about smart contracts and even programming a little bit, or at least attempting to. It wasn’t until October, probably also September of last year, September 2020, where it really started kicking in. I finally understood what this media was. And then I saw artists doing really cool things with it. And then I saw musicians monetizing and fractionalizing their songs with it. And then I saw people who otherwise wouldn’t have made a dime off their work, becoming hot shots online. It’s almost as if the stigma of the starving artist was starting to decline, but only for a certain group of people, maybe not for everybody. Cause a lot of people are trying to become NFT artists and do their thing, and I’m sure everybody has their own unique approach. For you specifically, Fidenza is something that stood out to me. I saw it trending on Twitter, and the likes of the founders of Three Arrows Capital talking a lot about it made me absolutely fall in love with the work as well as other people. And I got to tell you it’s super unique and not to toot your own horn. I really enjoy looking at your stuff. I’ll tell you that. I love the color palettes that you use. And I think it’s super neat. My next question is, how did we get there? How did we get to this style of art? How did you get to the point where you were inputting something and outputting another, and it was outputting another thing? You’re like, wow, this is it. This is Fidenza. This is me. Talk to me about that. 

Yeah, absolutely. Fantastic question. So Fidenza did not come from a vacuum. It is absolutely the culmination of years of work. With all of my work, I tend to use parts and pieces of previous algorithms. One of the amazing things about this medium is that you can do that so easily. And so some of those pieces that I’ve reused a lot one that I’ve written about is called flow fields. This is not necessarily something that I came up with. It’s kind of a general algorithm that some other artists use as well, but it’s something that I find very special, and I’ve had a lot of creative luck with it. Let’s put it that way. And so that’s sort of the basis of the Fidenza algorithm. And I’ve been experimenting with flow fields for about four years now, and I’m just trying everything I can think of really to see how it looks and to create something new. During that time, I’ve also been experimenting with different color palettes and building my taste for colors. That’s not something that comes easily. I think every artist has to discover their own set of colors that works for them. It takes a long time to find those color relationships that are harmonious or that offer the types of interests that you enjoy. So those sorts of things built up. Over the years, I’ve been influenced by so many artists, particularly a lot of painters; honestly, my biggest influences, I would say, are painters. So I think you can look at, for example, there’s a particular set of Kandinsky paintings that I think are probably pretty influential with Fidenza in terms of the color palette and kind of the rhythm and spacing of the shapes and the use of negative space. But yeah, there are so many different artistic influences that have all played subtle roles in shaping Fidenza as well. I think if you look at my past work and trace it up. I think you’ll see that chain of influence and how those ideas evolved, and how I was able to build on them. I think it’ll continue to go that way. I don’t plan to do any sort of like Fidenza 2.0, but all those ideas are still available and in play for my future work as well. I think it’s just been sort of the culmination of all these parts and pieces that have stacked up. They all kind of came together at the right moment and sort of the stars aligned. I got lucky that I had the right algorithm ready to go at the right time for Fidenza to be a thing.

Well, one thing that’s super unique about Fidenza, and I guess your work in general, is the aesthetic portion behind it. And one thing that you do really well is turning aesthetics into code. What does that mental model look like? How does that work in your head? Do you know what I mean? Like, paint that for me. How do you turn aesthetics into code? 

Yeah, that’s the real challenge, isn’t it? It’s so interesting with generative art. So I’m going to compare and contrast with painting a little bit. When you create a painting as an artist, you have an internal sense of aesthetic, and you kind of learn to follow your intuition when you create a painting. Sometimes you’re explicitly thinking about, like, I don’t know, leaving a particular amount of margin or leaving more space at the bottom or not making things top-heavy or focal points or whatever. But by and large, you’re following your intuition, and you’re saying, like, let me try this. Does this look good? Or does this look bad? If it looks good, I’ll keep it. If it looks bad, I’m going to try and change it. So you’re making all these sorts of micro decisions. Based on this loose internal aesthetic guide that you have. When you’re a generative artist, you can’t do that. You have to make everything much more explicit in the sense that it has to go into the code somehow, especially with something like Fidenza, where there’s no room for curation. Anything that comes out of the program might end up in the hands of a collector as a finished work. So you have to do your best to figure out why you have a particular aesthetic, why you enjoy something looking a particular way, and you try to turn that into kind of a set of guidelines. Now with generative art or most of it, especially something like Fidenza, the program is not an explicit set of instructions to generate one image. You’re designing a whole system or a whole program that can generate sort of a realm of different artwork. There’s randomness that’s very carefully mixed into the program at a kind of a structural level so that each time you’re on the program, you get something different. As a result, the program becomes a really loose set of guidelines rather than an explicit design for one image. You start thinking, generally, a lot more systematically about those aesthetics. You start thinking a lot about the relationship between the components, and you start thinking about probabilities. I spend a lot of time fine-tuning probabilities. So there’s a lot of functions that are dedicated to picking colors or shapes. Those will have probabilities of selecting different colors. The probabilities of each of those are very fine-tuned. Sometimes they are influenced by things like proximity to other colors or the size of the shape, or the position of the shape. You do your best to come up with these rules that might, on average, make it look better. But you also have to be careful not to stifle the program. There’s a lot to be said for this property of emergence, which is when something happens that you don’t expect, right? So these programs have relatively simple rules, but sometimes the randomness and the rules interact in a really unexpected way, and these really cool results emerge. If it’s at all possible as a generative artist, you want to allow room for that emergence to happen. So there’s a careful tension between trying to lock down the program so that it only has sort of good output and still leaving enough breathing room so that this sort of emergence can happen. It’s really tough to achieve both of those at the same time. 

Getting Technical

I gotta be honest, you lost me, but listen, I’ll take your word for it. What I imagine, please correct me if I’m wrong, is when you’re looking at your screen or screens, and you’re developing these probabilities, writing this code, is it just like you have a terminal, and then you have like what the output would look like, and you’re constantly changing different variables until it looks like what you want it to look like?

Yeah. More or less. Basically, what I’m looking at is a screen full of code. Like take your stereotypical hacker on a movie, and that’s basically what I’m looking at. And then, yeah, I have a second window that has the output from the program. And so I change some code, I rerun it, and the image updates and I’m able to tell whether it looks good or not. I repeat that cycle over and over again, hundreds of times while working on a new program. 

What goes into choosing the probabilistic color palettes that you choose and that you’re after? How do you find that inspiration? Where does that come from? 

Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s really tricky. Sometimes I have sort of sets. Sets of colors and balances that I’ve used before that tend to work, and I’ll use those as a starting point. So like with Fidenza, the most likely color palette, whilst it is the main color palette, it’s the Lux color palette. This is the one that kind of has a cream background and a lot of color variety. There are about 16 different colors involved in it. Those, I started with a core set of colors that I really enjoy working with. So some reds, some yellows, some pinks, particular shades of blue. I was just looking for ways to expand that and so adding colors that didn’t conflict with what was there. And so sometimes that means adding more, you know, more neutral colors in order to add variety without a sort of turning it into a giant rainbow. So I might, in that case, add Browns or tans, or like a really desaturated yellow or something like that. In other cases, for other color palettes, maybe I had more specific thoughts. So another Fidessa one, there’s the rose palette. For that one, I was really thinking about a Rose Bush. I think I’d absolutely like sort of floral combinations in the sense of the tones of the foliage and kind of the depth you get there. Then just these pops of the really saturated reds and pinks and peach colors. So sometimes, I have maybe a physical reference that I’m at least thinking about. I don’t really ever use a photo reference. I never take colors directly from somebody else’s work. But sometimes I’ll think about things. I’ll think about a sunset or a landscape or a Rose Bush and Kind of use that as a conceptual starting point for the color palettes. 

Do you know what I think about when I see your work? It’s actually so funny that you tell me your background. I don’t think you mentioned this live, but you told me behind the scenes that you were a jazz drummer, right? Your art really reminds me of jazz music for whatever reason. And you use certain keywords to describe the curves and straightness and the edginess and whatnot. So forgive me if I butcher it, but I imagine the one specifically with, I think, the Lux color palette or the tan background. That really reminds me of jazz music. It really reminds me of all the curviness on how everything is literally about to touch each other and how that feels, but it just fits. It works. It looks, and it feels good. And when you’re listening to jazz, it’s so experimentative. It’s so out there, but it gets you thinking, it gets your curiosity going, and it’s weird. Is there any correlation?

I think about the relationship between music and visual art all the time. I love that you brought up that connection. I think it’s a fantastic one. I mean, so for people that aren’t familiar with jazz, kind of the way it works is there’s usually a set of standards. So there’s like one or two or 300 songs that basically every jazz musician knows, but the part that they know is like, it’s kind of like the intro and like maybe like the chords for the chorus. Then so they’ll start out. They have that structure just to get started. That’s the standard part of it. Then there’s all this room for improvisation in the middle, and that’s where they take solos and do whatever they want to do, really. So it’s this really interesting blend of structure, and let’s call it chaos or creativity. Generative art is very much the same way. It’s very much, at least for me, very much a blend of that order and chaos. I love taking that structure and then just bending it and warping it and seeing what direction it can go when you inject that kind of chaotic element to it. So yeah, there’s, there’s a big parallel with jazz there. So I love that you spotted that out. 

Who were some of your favorite jazz artists, whether they be individual players, groups, or generally?

Let’s see here. I mean, maybe this is too cliche, but miles Davis has always been huge for me. Let’s see. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jack Wilkins, who was a jazz guitarist. A lot of bill Evans, who’s a great pianist. Some of my favorite drummers, I’m going to say probably Tony Williams, Mel Lewis a lot as well. That’s not going to mean anything to anybody, unfortunately, so I won’t keep going, but I love some contemporary stuff as well. Makaya McCraven is super cool because they take jazz, and they start to blend it with this like real electronic computer influence. So there’s a lot of parallel with generative art. 

Do you listen to jazz, or did you listen to jazz, or what type of music, if any, did you listen to when you were creating Fidenza? 

I’m certain I listened to jazz. I tend to listen to instrumental music. It was probably either jazz or post-rock. I listen to a lot of Spanish language basically because it’s a little easier to kind of have in the background in my head. 

If I could name one song that reminds me of Fidenza, it starts like standard experimentation and giant steps. I’d say that’s a good comparison for me. At least subjective. 

No, I like that. I’m going to need to listen to that while looking at the artwork now. 

I wanna pivot more and talk about the creator economy with you. Because I think you’re the epitome or not the epitome, but you’re a good example of people tapping into their creative side and taking it one step further and being experimentative and exploring your medium. For example, your base and your foundation growing up or in your early career was software engineering, working with startups. You build traditional and non-traditional products for companies. But you always had your creative side. You still practice what you preach. You still did the conferences, you still talked about generative art, and it wasn’t until you met the medium of NFTs where everything I feel like kind of at least started to sink, and here we are today on this podcast. And I think you’re a good example of maybe there’s a lot of software engineers out there that have yet to tap into their creative side and experiment more. How can we get more developers to tap into their creative side? 

Wonderful question. First of all, I think you’re spot on. I think programmers, in general, are a very creative bunch. I mean, when you’re programming, there’s not a set way to tackle any problem. There’s always a huge number of trade-offs and a huge number of options, and coming up with those designs is a very creative enterprise. So I think there’s a huge potential for programmers to get involved in a more creative medium. Just like you say, whether that’s a visual art, whether that’s music, whether that’s film, architecture, textiles, the list goes on and on and on. I think there’s a couple of aspects to how we can get more people doing that. First of all, it’s just showing those people the opportunity. So I get emails literally every day from software engineers saying they saw my artwork or they listened to one of my talks or they read one of my essays, and they had a mind-blowing experience when they realized that they could take this skill that they’ve honed for years and they could use it towards creative personally fulfilling means or ends, I should say. I think part of it’s just creating that awareness that this is even an option. I think the second part would actually be kind of going the opposite direction. So making people in those fields, let’s say architecture and textiles and whatever, making them aware that programming is a technique that they could use for their own work because it’s so, so powerful. It almost doesn’t matter what you apply. There are exciting things that you can do whenever you involve programming in your field. So I think making the tools more accessible, making the education more widespread so that more people have programming skills will play a role, and just creating some opportunities for crossover, like allowing software engineers to pair up with these people in their existing industries. I think all those things will help to unleash more creative power around computation. 

NFTs in the Creator Economy

How do you see the future of NFTs kind of transforming the creator economy as we know?

Big question. I think that there’s a chance that it changes the relationship that artists have had with existing institutions. So specifically, I’m thinking of galleries and museums. People have played a gatekeeping role in some ways. Gatekeeping has a strong negative connotation, and I don’t necessarily mean it in that way. I think they bring a lot of value in terms of bringing an open-minded and educated background to evaluating artists and doing their best to expose what they consider to be the best work to collectors. But definitely, NFTs create the opportunity for a much more direct relationship between collectors and artists, and that can be healthier. In some ways, it’s probably not the right model for everybody, but I think that’s a possibility. I’m really interested to see how DAOs play out long-term. Like I’ve been hearing about DAOs funding feature films and new style museums and funding new work by artists. That’ll be really interesting to see. Man, it still feels so early, and everything is changing so fast that even being in the middle of it, I have a hard time predicting where it’s gonna go. I’ll just say overall, I have really positive expectations for the impact of NFTs on artists and other creators.

Why do you think collectors woke up to the idea and value behind generative art and algorithmic art all of a sudden? Because you’ve been doing that for years, right? Do you think it’s because of the art blocks platform? Do you think it’s partly because of the timing of NFTs and people looking for pieces and one-on-ones? What is the explanation here for why the world is waking up to this today? 

That’s a great question. Behind the scenes, I felt like the energy for generative art has been building over the last few years. So just to give a quick history lesson, generative art has existed since the 1960s. And it was pretty rudimentary back then, but basically, since then, it’s been panned by critics and mostly ignored by collectors. Right now, we’re on what I think is fair to call the third wave of generative art. And so I would put artists like myself Dmitri Chernick and Matt Deloria and Alexia Andre, and so on and so forth, in sort of a third wave where I personally feel like the quality of the work has gone up a lot. I think we’re starting to get a more diverse set of backgrounds, focusing on creating generative art. So I think there’s more interesting artwork for one. I think that NFTs have essentially made collecting digital work palatable. Like you know, everybody jokes about buying a JPEG or whatever, but collecting digital art in 2016 literally meant buying a JPEG. Like you would charge your credit card, and they would email you a JPEG, right? Like it’s just not satisfying. There’s something deeply not satisfying about that, and for whatever reason, NFTs changed that. Like we have built a social consensus that owning an NFT means something, and when that social consensus exists, almost nothing else matters. If we all say it means something, then it means something. So I think people feel empowered to collect NFTs. I think they feel that it’s meaningful now. I think they enjoy that it goes directly to the artists in most cases. I think that it creates so much more of a community now. Everybody can see who’s holding all of the pieces from an artist. You can see exactly who bought and sold and for how much. And you can trace the history of every individual piece, and with something like generative art, it almost kind of for like something like Fidenza, like a long-form generative algorithm. It almost builds a community itself. Like there’s a set of Fidenza holders that have overlapping interests, and they sort of all meet through the artwork, and it builds a community pretty naturally. There’s a real culmination of factors that it feels like almost overnight have really enabled generative art to finally have a moment in the sun.

How do you imagine the future of your creator economy? Your personal economy forming and manifesting over time? 

Oh, you’re essentially asking, like, what do I see for my future? 

Fidenza in the Future

Yeah. But, but in a sense, where, because now you’re at the core of ownership, right? The core monetization, direct to the buyer. You’re now developing a unique relationship and unique communication channel with your collectors and the rest of the world who’s watching, which over time will manifest. You’ll build an even bigger audience. At least, I’m betting on that. You’ll build an even larger collector base. You’re basically redefining what it means to be a creator. You’re building your own micro-economies essentially, right? How do you see that kind of forming and transforming, and manifesting over time? 

Oh, man. I wish somebody could tell me that. Here are my main goals. It’s easier for me to talk about what I would like to see happen. First of all, I like to make artwork, and I like to try to make good artwork. That’s something I think about every day. What steps can I take that will help to make sure that I make good artwork? I’m definitely interested in the quality of it and trying to do something new and trying to just keep myself interested. Like that’s why I started making art in the first place. And I think it would be really foolish for me to put that aside. Like I’m doing my best to keep that front and center just because I love doing it, and it makes me really happy to make artwork. So whatever helps me to make artwork is kind of at the front. And second, I would say I really do love the community aspect of it, and I want positive outcomes for the community. I’m hoping that that involves learning. I’m going to do my best to help to educate people about generative art, about what makes it interesting, about what other artists are doing great work, and maybe just about, you know, the history of artwork in general. Just helping to educate people and get people interested in artwork is a beautiful thing. I love helping to grow a community that has positive vibes. Maybe that sounds naive or whatever, but anything we can do to just make happy places where we get to just be friends and hang out and enjoy things is awesome. Like there’s no reason that we can’t do that. I’m sure there’ll be challenges, but I would love to help cultivate that sort of sense of positive community as well. Maybe a community of giving back and being charitable. That’s something I think about a lot as well and have plans for. I think that’s what I would like to see the most are those things, and who knows what sort of financial things will happen to affect that. That’ll go however it goes. I think as long as we keep our eye on the important goals that we can tolerate sort of whatever else happens along the way.

Part of your important goals, the community side, and part of growing a community is increasing the amount of collectors that collect Fidenza, and part of increasing the amount of collectors I could argue is also the fractionalization of Fidenza. Does seeing your piece fractionalized excite you? Does that scare you? Does that say yes, more people get to have a piece of my vision and what I’m creating? Like what, what does that mean? 

 It’s such a weird new experience that I never imagined people hunting fractions of my artwork before until this year. So I haven’t had time to develop a full set of thoughts on it. It is strange not to have one specific owner for a piece of your work. There’s definitely probably a part of me that’s coming from a traditional sense that wants to see just a single owner of the work, maybe hoping that they take care of it in some way. I mean, it’s silly with digital work, but there’s some part of my brain that’s telling me that. Then I also think about it, and it is democratizing the work in the sense that it’s allowing for communal participation in any sort of financial upside. I really try not to think too much about the financial upside and all that, but I’m sure that for collectors, that’s part of the equation for them or at least some of them. So yeah, I’m well aware that Fidenzas are out of the price range for many people. Like, I couldn’t really buy one of my own. Like it would be a stretch for me. So I’m well aware of that. If there is a financial upside, I don’t know that art is necessarily like a great investment strategy necessarily, right? Like it’s artwork. But if there’s a financial upside, I guess allowing regular people to participate in it too is a good thing. So yeah, it’s a weird thing, but overall I think there are some positive aspects to fractionalization. 

Painting the Impact

That’s a good way to look at it. I think just because you talked about the financial side, I want to ask you one thing. But when you saw one of your pieces for the first time get sold for seven figures, what was that feeling like to you? 

Man, I feel like I’ve been in Wonderland for like months. It’s just been a daily progression of things that I can’t believe stacking on top of each other. I feel like I left reality a long time ago now at this point. And so you know, like a seven-figure sale was just like another wild thing on the list. I don’t even know if the impact of it has fully sunk in yet because it’s so far from what I expected to happen this year. Yeah, I mean, it puts me in a small group of very fortunate artists. I’m very fortunate to be in this position. Absolutely. I believe my work is good, but there’s a lot of artists out there that have fantastic work and don’t get the same sort of opportunity. And so, I feel incredibly privileged to be in this position. I don’t know. Hopefully, I can do something good with that. That’s all. 

I love to hear it. Pre NFTs, when you are creating your pieces, did you ever feel at the moment like, why am I doing this? Like, what’s the point? Like people don’t get it. Should I just stop and focus on something else? Did you ever have those doubts, those fears? Can you walk me through that? 

Yeah, absolutely. I said this a little bit earlier, but pre NFT, making it as an artist is a real grind. I had lots of months with no sales. I had lots of commissions that went poorly. Clients didn’t like the work. I got turned down from numerous shows and other things that I had to apply to after working as hard as I could for years on something just kind of barely scraping along. Yeah, I absolutely questioned things and kind of wondered if I should just go skateboarding instead and just enjoy my life a little bit more. But ultimately, I mentioned that doing artwork makes me happy, and anytime that I stopped making artwork for better or for worse, I would get unhappy. And so I always went back to making the artwork, and I was fortunate enough that there were other people out there that believed in me. I had a core set of collectors and friends that enjoyed my work and supported me in every way they could. And all those small positive interactions stacked up and kept me going and made me feel like I actually had a chance and that I was on the right track. So even though I did have doubts, I also felt well supported and had some faith in myself.

Powerful. Super powerful. Do you ever take a minute to think about that and reflect on those days and kind of see how that changed? It feels like overnight, a lot of people would say. I only asked that because you’re saying every single day just beats the next, and you see seven-figure sales. Not to talk about the money, but more about the awareness that you’re creating around this type of art and the level of appreciation that people are having for it. Back in the day, you went through so many days where it was just like, like, what the hell? Or at least from what you’re telling me. And I only highlight that because it’s interesting to hear you as a creator, you as an artist to just go through that wave. Seeing where you are today, it’s really beautiful. 

 I hope that that maybe provide some motivation for other artists that are out there. I mean, I think it would be extremely unrealistic for me to promise anywhere near what I’ve been lucky enough to experience this year. But, if you do keep grinding it out, I mean, you will catch a break sooner or later. Not always huge breaks, but there will be something there. And again, it’s kind of a cliche saying, but luck is at the intersection of preparation and opportunity, right? So like if I hadn’t had everything ready to go for this Fidenza algorithm at the same time that art blocks were coming up, then Fidenza never would have been the thing that it was. As I’ve already admitted, I did get very lucky with that, but if I hadn’t been preparing for years, then I wouldn’t have even been able to be lucky. If you’re an artist or a creator, you sort of have to just accept it might take some time and just keep working and make smart decisions every day, and hopefully, those add up to something positive for you. 

I’m going to ask you this final question. What can we expect next for you? Are we thinking Sotheby’s or Christie’s? What are we thinking over here in terms of art?

No, I don’t think about auction houses or anything like that. I have announced that I plan to put out more work this year. I haven’t said anything about it yet, but what I’ll say is For this year, this will be a little bit smaller projects. So I’m not looking to like one up Fidenza this year.

Which, by the way, I don’t think is in your control per se. Right? 

But I do plan to continue working on more long-form generative work like Fidenza. I have some ideas that I’ve been playing with around that which I’m really excited about. Mostly I think about just ways to create new artwork that I think is going to be interesting and try to do the best work that I can. There’ll be new work; hopefully, it’ll be good. I think it’ll be good. Other than that, you’d have to wait and see. 

Do you have a date for when the next piece is going to come up?

I have not announced any dates yet. 

Okay. I’m trying to get some alpha here, man. It’s all good, man. It’s all good. Before I let you go, shout yourself out. Where can we find you? Where can we learn more about your pieces? Give us the show. 

So pretty much everywhere online. My handle is @tylerxhobbs. So on Instagram and Twitter, I’m @tylerxhobbs. My website is tylerxhobbs.com. Those are pretty much the three places to go. I have a discord channel now as well, and I hang around the art block scene as well. So that’s pretty much where you can find me, and I hope to see some of y’all and meet some of y’all sooner rather than later. 

Awesome. What a good way to end Tyler. Thank you so much for being on Mint, and I hope to have you on again soon. 

Thank you so much, Adam. This has been. Awesome. 

Categories
Podcast Transcript

How Crypto is Transforming Collaborations Between Brands and Creators

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 1 welcomes the President of Vayner NFT Avery Akkineni. She leads the company’s mission to build long-term strategic NFT projects for the world’s leading intellectual property owners serving brands, celebrities, athletes and associations looking to incentivize and reward brand advocacy and customer loyalty.  

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 1:39 – From Google to VaynerMedia
  • 4:18 – VaynerNFTs
  • 8:37 – The Vayner Group
  • 11:57 – Defining Web 3.0
  • 13:08 -NFTs and Intellectual Property
  • 25:48 -How NFTs Lead to Enhanced D2C Models
  • 35:20 – Creating Mutual Value Through Collaboration
  • 40:11 – Outro – Closing Out

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 2’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

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Tell me about yourself. What were you doing before crypto? And like, what are you doing now?

Awesome. So I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Southeast part of the United States. Music City. Amazing place to grow up, and I moved to California for university, and I loved it there. I thought it was amazing. I started my career in marketing at Target corporate, where I worked in the Southern California division. And after that, I had this incredible opportunity in 2011 to go work at Google, which was a major dream job for me at the time. And I learned so much and stayed there for like seven years. And during the course of my time at Google, we launched a bunch of awesome products and a bunch of amazing campaigns. The company grew and grew and grew. And I also kind of came in touch with the Vayner team and Gary, and I was really impressed with what they were doing. So much so that I jumped from Google to join Vayner, which was a little bit of a crazy thing at the time. But ultimately, it was a really exciting move for me. And I’ve been at Vayner for about four years, helping to lead our media team. I moved to Singapore to open our Asia Pacific offices. And then I just came back here in July to open up our Vayner NFT practice. I’m currently in Miami, but we’re, we’re all over the United States. 

Nice. So how was it jumping from Google, like an insane corporation with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of employees, to, well, how big was Vayner when you joined? How many people was it? 

Several hundred. So it was a medium-sized company. Going from a company that had, you know, hundreds of thousands to hundreds was a big adjustment just in terms of how we like to operationalize at Google versus kind of being more of an emerging company who is really different. But one thing that I loved, and this is something that, you know, everyone decides for themselves, but for me, I was really interested in being in a place where your work and every person really matters. Every person’s work sort of shapes the future of the company in a much more dramatic way when you’re working at a smaller-sized company. You get better access to executive leadership. You know, you can really see what your work is building in a really direct fashion, which is awesome. And at Google, it’s just such a big place. And like, you know, it’s billions of dollars per second; basically, it’s a bit of a different ball game. So I really appreciated the ability to take on sort of a more direct role, where you see your impact pretty fast. 

When you pivoted into Vayner, what were some of like, I guess the biggest shockers moving from such a big corporation to, I wouldn’t call it boutique, but Gary himself was such a powerhouse. And it still is at that time, moving from that end to that and like, what was that?

Well, everybody thought I was crazy. Especially since, you know, when your brand side is often perceived to be like the good side of it and going agency side is not very common for brand people. So everyone was like, whoa, are you serious? But I was really excited about it and excited to learn. I think that’s one thing that you’ve really got at an agency, and the way that Gary runs Vayner is so fundamentally, hugely different from how other agencies operate. And I was excited about that. So I think a lot of people might have questioned that decision because I was going from a really stable thing to, you know, still a relatively unknown company at the time. Certainly, it’s nowhere near this. Vayner is nowhere near the size and the scale of Google yet. But I knew it was the right decision for me, and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from people who were really at the time; Vayner were known to be experts in the social media space. It’s a place that Gary stakes a lot of his career. He really built his personal brand on social media, on YouTube, on Twitter, on Instagram. And then we were helping our clients, who were mostly enterprise brands, to build sort of their social presence. So I wanted to learn about social. I wanted to get really hands-on with it and kind of learn from the best of the best as it related to social. 

Adam: You know, one thing that I love about Gary’s story, particularly, just because we’re talking about Gary is he’s a type of person that experiments on the personal level before scaling it to other people. He verifies and proves that he can do it. And he’s the example of that and then makes the example for other people. And we saw that with social media, and now we saw that with NFTs and that insane campaign with VeeFriends. Starting Vayner NFT, and doing that for others and taking those learnings, taking those principles and applying it to mainstream corporations or whatever that the customer is at the end of the day.

So I guess my next question too is why NFTs for you? Like, what is it about the medium of NFTs that gets you fired up?

Yeah, it’s a good question. And Adam, I appreciate that you can just see, like, you can read our strategy, like a book, right? Like it’s the same way that, you know, we put Gary on Tik TOK first, then we start doing it for brands. Like, you know, that’s kind of our rinse and repeat formula is using Gary as our first test case to make sure we understand the media before we go and, you know, help other brands do the same thing. And I think that level of practitioners hip is really rare when you look at the professional services ecosystem, you know, consultants and most ad agencies, they’re not like doing it themselves, like putting their money on this. And I think that’s helped us stand out. But for me, it’s a good question. So I’ve been investing, you know, on a personal level in crypto for many years, I lived in San Francisco for quite a long time, and it was pretty normal. And I remember sort of the first boom of Bitcoin being an exciting time. And obviously, that you know, it goes into ebbs and flows. But I’ve been personally interested in that. And I remember, you know, in maybe 2017, my friend first telling you about Ethereum and how that was going to be like the next big thing. And he was definitely right. So shout out to this guy, Oren Barak. And yeah, so I, I was a little bit interested in that. I think NFTs, it’s more like reading the consumer adoption cycle. I think we’ve seen this type of thing happen before many times in Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, and it’s happening for Web 3.0. And if any of your listeners are familiar with this sort of like market adoption curve kind of goes like this and it starts, you know, like there’s the early minority, then you get into early adopters, and there’s the early majority, the late majority. And then it gets into the laggards, and you can see a lot of this like fundamental tech setup is happening now for there to be a really massive shift in the way that consumers use the internet. NFTs, I think are just one part of Web 3.0. We called it VaynerNFTs because we think it’s a big part. And we think, you know, it’s, it’s something that people can understand. People understand collectibles. It’s kind of started with collectibles. But this is going to be much bigger than just collectible NFTs. And I think how I got into it was, I started talking to Gary about NFTs, like almost a year ago now. And when he was first kicking around the concept for VeeFriends and creating a community around his values and his doodles. But, more importantly than that was just understanding and seeing all of the variables in place that I think are going to drive a huge consumer trend. And I saw that before, like I mentioned, I worked at Google and when I started working there in 2011, like, it wasn’t like everyone Googles, everything. Like it was still like, this was a startup, and this was a new thing. And, you know, people would say like, oh, You know, they didn’t believe in it the same way that you do now. Even email, like Gmail was like a new thing, which now, of course, it’s so prevalent, it’s just so everywhere. But I think I had done a good job of sort of understanding that’s where things were headed. And I started to see how Google was building something, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of it. And then you know, Google made an acquisition of a company called DoubleClick. In, in sort of the late 20 teens, and I was on that team as well. And it was all about programmatic media, which is basically just using machine learning and AI to automate a lot of manual tasks. So I went to that. I saw that as being a huge change in the way that people bought media to do it more transparently and more fairly, and all these things. And then I wanted to go do social media, cause I thought that was also another thing that was really changing, which is why I joined Vayner. And now I say this with NFTs. So I think, you know, in my career, I’ve really tried to understand where consumer adoption is going as it relates to sort of consumer technology and, and then hopefully, you know, catch the right trend at the right time to see if I can help contribute in my own small way to being part of something that fundamentally makes people’s lives better.

Talk to me a bit about the branches at Vayner. So there’s VaynerMedia. There’s VaynerNFTS. What else is there at Vayner? Fill in the blank. 

Yeah. So VaynerX is our kind of holding company for all of the inner companies. And Gary himself has other companies outside that interacts, which could be like a Resy where Gary’s the Co-founder or Empathy Wines that Gary is also a co-founder at. And so Gary himself is probably the CEO of like a hundred businesses, but a lot of them are in Vayner X. VaynerX is very heavily Vayner media in terms of just number of staff perspective. But we also have a company called gallery media group, which does publishing. So we have a site called pure wow or 1:37 PM that is focused on lifestyle. Some focused on women, some focused on male content. So there’s Gallery Media Group. You also have Vayner productions, which is a production studio. We have a huge studio in Long Island City where we help, you know, shoot commercials and have directors and editing and all that stuff. So more of a traditional production house. Then we have Vayner speakers, which is an amazing group of speakers. 

Adam: The only reason I jumped into that is because Vayner is like the one-stop destination, right? Like there’s all these different branches. And Gary’s like really good at jumping on these trends and realizing what’s important and making an example of himself before or licensing it or whatever scaling it, you know, to many other people. And now that Vayner NFTs is not just another branch of that, but it’s such a core component. All these other branches, I feel like fit into this greater vision of what’s to come. Do you know what I mean? And I see this, like when a brand comes to you guys and like, all right, what’s our media strategy. Well, the media strategy comprises many things. It’s not just the media. It’s also production. It’s also this, and it’s also NFTs now. And you guys have all those vehicles under one roof. 

That’s exactly right. Yeah. We can do many different things in house. Everything from, we have Vayner talent to Vayner speakers, to Vayner productions, to VaynerMedia where, yeah, we want to be the one-stop-shop for modern marketers and modern communications. 

The problem that you guys are set to solve at VaynerNFTs, what is that? What is it exactly like what’s missing in the world that Vayner is like, this is where we come into place? 

I think there is no other NFT consultancy that does what we’re doing. To my knowledge, I think we’re the first NFT agency. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot, but we’re probably the first mover. What you see in the NFT space is there’s a lot of technology solutions. So it’s like you can work with dapper on what they’ve built, or you could work with open sea and just mint directly there. But there isn’t a consultancy that exists today outside of Vayner, whose role is solely to focus on helping intellectual property owners navigate the world of NFTs. It’s just too new. So you know that the more traditional consultancies and advertising agencies and marketing firms haven’t yet dedicated a practice just to help this happen. I’m sure that they will, but I think the role we play is really that strategic partner to help understand what’s the right tech stack. What’s the right strategy with the right launch? What’s the right creative? Bring all that stuff together for awesome NFT projects that are not just for today and not as part of a marketing effort, but really as, as an NFT program, that’s designed to be successful, not just in, in 40 days, but in 40 years.

No, that makes a lot of sense. At Vayner, how do you guys kind of define Web 3.0? What does that look like from your point of view? 

It’s a great question. And you know, I think that what it looks like right now, like connecting your wallet in the top right-hand side, is just such a little tiny part of it. That’s what it looks like today. What that’s gonna look like in the future is authenticating your access in various ways, much more blockchain-enabled than it is now. Think with the fundamental principles of decentralization being much more prevalent than they are in today’s sort of Web 2.0 world, which is pretty centralized. I can’t predict exactly what Web 3.0 is going to look like, but we see, you know, a huge future, probably not in the next year, but in the next few years around the metaverse I think there’s a lot that can happen with AR that still hasn’t happened. It’s really cool, but so few people use it right now that it’s just not even mainstream enough to really drive any massive behavior shifts. But yeah, I think that, you know, crypto is gonna be a big part of it. Blockchain is going to be a big part of it and NFTs will be a part of it, the metaverse will be a part of it. But it’s just, you know, fundamental, huge evolution of the way that people communicate and the way that people use what we see as the internet.

You know, one of the main things that got me excited personally about Web 3.0 is the ability to own. And this layer of what this gentleman, Jesse Walden, coins as the ownership economy and how tokenized assets allow people to basically be co-owners of the products and platforms that they use. And if you look at the traditional sense of Web 2.0, Web 2.5, is people are the products of the platform, versus the owners of the platform, like there’s starting to be in Web 3.0. Do you think that’s going to be like a point of hesitation, a point of friction when brands start to kind of understand, like, wait a minute, the people that we’ve been selling to and trying to provide products and services for now, they need to, co-own the things that we provide them value for, do you think that will resonate well? Do you think there’ll be some friction with that? And I only bring that up because it’s such a core primitive to like crypto, it’s such a core primitive to Web 3.0 as a whole. It’s such a corporate motive to NFTs. Buying into an artist, let’s say from an art point of view and following them, not only on their social timeline, but also having co-ownership in their assets and the things that they produce.

Do you think this concept of ownership is going to translate well in the corporate world, for example? 

Yeah. You know, it’s a relevant comment. And there are some products, some really successful NFT projects where you do co-own, but there are somewhere you don’t. Like you don’t have the IP rights to a CryptoPunk, like Larva Labs does. You know there are cases where what you’re saying is definitely true, but there are also cases where it isn’t. I think that co-ownership is more of participation. And of course, it’s important for brands to be thoughtful about the way that they’re entering the space and that they do so in the right way. But branding fundamentally like that’s just a consumer behavior, right? Like the reason that people are going to pay 40 ETH for a Bored ape is that that’s the new hot brand. That’s the Nike of the profile pack world. So I still think a lot of the principles that built value for brands in consumer goods as an example; you see that exact same consumer trend happening in the world of NFTs already. So I think brands just have to be smart around the way that they think about their IP and the value that they can bring to users. Because you know, if you’re into gaming, you’re with this space, Adam, you know, wearables, people are spending more for a Gucci virtual bag than they are for a real bag. So I think that, ownership, there’s a way to create value for both parties, which I think would always be our goal, right? Like, do I think that Gucci is going to be licensing their IP, and they’re not a client of ours, so I’ve no idea, but I don’t think it would be licensing their IP to every person who buys an NFT. But I think they would be limiting the number of pieces that they create to create rarity and scarcity and value which would then appreciate. And that still is valuable to the holders of that. But, you know, maybe some brands will be smart and very forward-thinking and license out some of their IP, but a lot of them are also multi-billion dollar companies and even like their own IP structures are set up in a crazy complicated way, global companies where you know, subsidiaries own certain things. So it’ll be interesting to see how that happens, but I don’t think that joint ownership of brand IP is a necessary requirement for brands to enter the space successfully. 

Adam: Interesting. You know, you’re seeing a lot of the ownership model kind of take place with defi protocols, people owning governance tokens, and voting on the future direction of a decentralized organization. Obviously, you’re also seeing artists issue their own art NFTs and merely just buying that piece of IP for the sake of buying it like they would buy any art piece. I don’t own the artist, rather I just buy to enjoy, you know, buy, to collect, buy to flip kind of thing. So there’s definitely multiple worlds and Web 3.0 has yet to be defined exactly. All we’re seeing is that it has to do with the next evolution of where digital is going.

I want to jump into more of the Vayner side of things even. What are you guys most excited about? Like what’s getting you guys going?

Well, what we’re excited about this afternoon is, you know, the demo that the Twitter engineer put up, we thought that was pretty fun. And you know, I’m excited to see what other social platforms do to follow. I think what we’re most excited about is the fact that it’s super day one and, you know, people are like, oh, we missed the boat on this. And that it’s like the boat, the boat hasn’t even like-it’s not even in the water. It literally felt like building the boat. Like, don’t worry, you didn’t. Because it’s so super early and that makes us excited because we can contest a lot of things. And some of the things we do have been slam dunks, and some haven’t, and that’s okay. And, you know, we get better every day, and we learn what’s resonating, and what’s also resonated a few months ago that doesn’t resonate anymore, and we have to stay sharp on these things. I’m excited and my team is excited around the potential that NFT provides both for celebrities, for brands, for IP owners, for new IP. There are just so many different things that you can do as part of the smart contract, and we’re excited how early we are and how much there still is to figure out because it gives us a lot to do and a lot to think about. And yeah, we love following the news. We’ve got you know, just this awesome squad of people who are super into the NFT space and really genuinely care about the community and, and how to get NFTs in the hands of more people. And the reason I bring up sort of the Twitter demo of, you know, they were doing like a demo showing how you could verify your profile picture and that that was your own avatar. It’s pretty cool because it’s not just going to be Twitter. It’s going to be Instagram. It’s going to be Tik Tok. It’s going to be like other social platforms will follow. Like Mark Zuckerberg has been very open about his designs on building the metaverse, whatever that means. I think that right now there’s such a relatively small group of like, you know, people flipping on Open Sea it’s, you know, 200,000 is like the latest estimate for sort of active users. And we know there’s 10 million out of another, which is just great. Still a very, very, very small number. We’re excited for that number to be sort of 200,000, 200 million and then 2 billion, you know, there’s just so much more to go. We want to spread NFTs to the world. 

So who are the ideal customers you see rallying into the NFT side that come to help? Is it big corporations? Is it individual internet personalities? Is it celebrities? Like who’s coming to you right now?

Okay. A lot of people are coming to us. I think our sweet spot and where we can probably drive the most value is helping current IP holders, whether they are athletes, mainstream, celebrities, influencers, people of interest creators, helping them understand of course brands, helping them understand the world of NFTs today, and then what might make sense for them on how to launch a program. Like, you know, what we did with Gary’s was one example, but what we did with Nastya , who’s the most followed YouTuber in the world, even though she’s seven years old, was a completely different program that was designed for her fans. And, you know, if you look at the artificial project that was designed for high-end art collectors, versus what we did for the US Open, which was designed for tennis fans, like there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach. And you know, I think that helping IP owners understand the space and then navigate it is really our role. But primarily like enterprise folks, I think we’re sort of caught up fast to help enterprise folks. And, because we have had a lot of demand, we’re kind of prioritizing those who’ve been in the Vayner network, like friends of Vayner are getting first dibs on us since we are still only about 30 people. So we have to prioritize where we feel we can really make an impact. 

Yeah, that makes sense. So from all these people that are coming to you, let’s say you’re focusing first on the Vayner family. What are some of the biggest, I guess, questions and or misconceptions that they have before entering the space? 

Yes, the questions are, where do we start? They will hear about what an NFT is and say, oh my God, we have to call Gary and the Vayner guys. We have to do something with them. And then, you know, I think misconceptions are, people don’t understand the amount of work and thought that it takes to really strategically launch an NFC program just because you’re a celebrity and you have 50 million followers doesn’t mean we can do an NFT launch next week. The reason VeeFriends has been so successful is if you look at, I mean, you can look at the floor in June or anywhere. Like that has built over time, that wasn’t something that was like a super hot initial drop. Yes. The initial drop was solid, but the value is really created on the backend and on secondary, even though it’s only been a few months. So I think that’s a misconception. If you’re a big name or someone, you know, a household name, that this will be a success. There’s plenty of celebrity and brand NFT drops that have been a total flop, and we are trying to help advise at least friends of Vayner; even if they don’t do it with us, we can be friendly and help them think about the space in the right way. Because the thing about the blockchain, the beauty and the curse of the blockchain is everyone can see it. Everybody knows. So it’s important to be really thoughtful around it and make sure that your first impression is strong because it does matter. 

Adam: Yeah, but how do you teach that thoughtfulness? When it’s so easy to fall short of all the cash grabs that are happening in the scams that are happening, that are setting a bitter taste a little bit. Obviously, there’s a big picture here. This is a big opportunity. How do you guys find yourself educating these people to say that this is a long-term play? Like Gary makes it explicitly vividly known that this is a 45-year, what’s his number that he throws out there, 49, 39-year plan? Do you know what I mean?

How do you communicate that same feeling, that same emotion, that same level of long-term thinking to these corporations or celebrities or brands that are trying to issue NFTs?

Yeah. Transparently, I show examples. I show like, Hey, this works, this is how this worked. This is how this works. These are like 10 successes across categories, across music, sports, art, you know, whatever. And then we show some notable successes, and you’re like, “Hey, like actually, the same week that Coca-Cola dropped an NFT and sold it for 600 grand, another very, very, very well-known American brand dropped an NFT that sold for $600”. So there’s like a huge spectrum. And you can see the difference and the thought that needs to go into it in order for it to hit. Because I think particularly on the celeb side, they’ll just be like, “Hey, I’m doing an NFT. I want to get $20 million from this”. It’s like in order to get $20 million, you have to really invest and like to educate your community. And these are parts that we need to go to. And I mean, there’s a lot of operationalization that goes into launching an NFT if you are an established company. Because there’s no consumer regulation, there’s anti-money laundering. There is, you know, potentially needing the ability to pay in credit card versus cryptocurrency. There is the requirement that you’re actually holding a wallet that’s holding that key. Yeah, there’s real thought that needs to go into that. And I think that’s also another thing that we spend a lot of time doing is building the right operational infrastructure for some of these projects to be successful in 45 years. So I think with Gary’s project, it’s a little bit, you know, we’re not a publicly-traded company, it’s not the same level of scrutiny, and yeah, we have a little bit more flexibility than some of our partners who are much bigger international entities that you know, of course require a lot of diligence behind every partner they’re working with. And there’s, unfortunately, some nefarious stuff that does happen. And we want to make sure they’re super clear about that because there are some real risks. 

You guys are increasingly working with more of the mainstream crowd that’s trying to transition into this new crypto-cool kids club, you know? When do you imagine we’re going to see the majority of fortune 500 companies either holding an NFT, issuing an NFT or holding some type of crypto asset on their balance sheet?

Maybe five years.

Why five years? Because some people like to put things in a 5 to 10 years time frame. Why are you leaning more on the five years?

I think that there will need to be maybe one or two players that drive a big shift in consumers. If consumers are there, companies will get there. Like if this becomes a thing where a lot of consumers care, then the companies will have to support it. And you do see some companies taking cryptocurrency already. It’s just a space where there isn’t a lot of precedent when it comes to law. And I mean, you probably know too, taxation. It’s not very clear right now. So when councils and legal teams are doing due diligence, it’s hard to have a very clear direction of this. It’s not black and white necessarily. Consumer adoption will need to drive it to a point where there is clear sort of legal guidance and companies can be set up to do this. I definitely think they will like a hundred percent. And then it also, you know, starts little by little the same way, like companies started their social media pages or their websites. Like it starts a little by little and then, then they start selling e-com, and you know, now it’s a supernormal thing, but even 10 years ago, it wasn’t.

Adam: Yeah. You know, I can’t wait until corporations and big brands like the Nike’s of the world start realizing the potential of opening and issuing token gated communities. Right. So once they have their assets in place, and then they’re creating micro-communities or macro communities around these assets and the people that invested into, whatever it is they sold, you know? And I think down the line, Like obviously we saw at least like shifts in how people use social media, whether it was from Instagram to Snapchat, to Tik Tok. And now, these new digital assets are proving to be interesting ways to not only foster but create new communities and introduce new people to your brand. And they’re doing that by having token-gated Discords, right. And issuing proposals and having their consumers or their customers vote on things for the brand, you know, and having a more of an active voice.

I forgot where I read this, but there were some stats, and you’d probably know way better than I do, so please correct me if I’m wrong. But brands are increasingly after having a direct to consumer experience, and really capitalizing on that intimate level of relationship that they can form. And I think NFTs are the medium and the primitive to do that. Would you agree, would you disagree? How do you feel about that? 

I couldn’t agree more with you. So direct to consumer, just for it to give like a little context, the people who, who might be listening, there are a number of, I think in the last five years, there’s been a big shift to brands going more directly to consumers. But if you think about it in the past, like say you were buying a mattress, you would go to the mattress store, and you would try out many different brands, and then you would buy it from the mattress store. Or if you’re buying, you know, a bag of Halloween candy, you got it from the grocery store. And you were, you know, buying many different things and paying the grocery store. So if you think about it, if you were actually a mattress brand or Halloween candy brand, you weren’t actually in direct communication with your consumer. That transaction happened through a sort of intermediary, which would be their mattress store, the grocery store. And then that started to break down. Right? You see a lot of direct-to-consumer everything, whether it’s a vitamin brand or a skincare brand. Some of those types of brands started this revolution where, Hey, you can save 40%. You can save that grocery store margin, or you can save that mattress store margin and also get better pricing and also learn way more about your consumers directly if you have that relationship with them. So this then sparked a kind of mass movement for not just niche brands, but like bigger corporations to not only sell through retailers. But to sell directly to consumers where they could often, you know, have a better understanding of what their consumers wanted and blah, blah, blah. And there were some, a better experience because then, oh, your mattress ripped, you can go directly back to people who made it, not to some intermediary. So that was really cool and NFTs. That’s like the perfect place to not just have that relationship, but have it an authenticated way that’s transparent and sort of provable that you have purchased this on the blockchain. And I think loyalty programs that are powered by NFTs are certainly going to become way more mainstream because loyalty like I remember I was like in the Britney Spears fan club and I was like 10 right, posters, nails. And that behavior isn’t new, it’s a behavior that’s existed forever, but now you can authenticate that with NFTs and have, instead of shipping posters, you can say, Hey, download this link or join this virtual concert or whatever, and have that token game, which is just such a smarter way to do it. I think the same way with like, you know, loyalty programs like savings cards or whatever. Like you can do all of that through NFTs. And because everything is going to be powered by smart contracts, it’s just so much more scalable and efficient. 

Adam: It’s almost as if, like, if you’re already talking about Britney Spears, which part of me wants to film an entire episode of understanding, like your love for Brittney stare. All of these like big media music, publishers, and recording record labels that manage all these artists. You know, I think it’s going to get to a point where they need to start waking up and realize there’s a level of fandom that comes from NFTs and that I was able to buy a juice world NFT while he was still on sound cloud, and prove that I was a juice world fan before he became juice world and develop that level of fandom, that provability and showcasing my love for something. That’s the equivalent of you buying a Brittany Spears poster, but now you’re able to prove it. Beyond just like crippling beyond just like getting old and the color fading. That lives immutably on a shared ledger on a shared internet network that’s literally taking over the world, right? And I think like all of these utility-driven use cases are things that brands are gonna wake up to. And I think there are reasons why we saw it kind of develop on the individual artists’ level, but like really talented graphic designers. And now we’re seeing that shift into the music scene in artists, tokenizing their albums and issuing shares of their songs or fundraising for EPs.

Where are NFTs going to go next? And how are brands going to like, take that and hold it by the neck, for example, you know, and like make the lead and make the noise around that? Do you have any thoughts on that? 

Yeah. So I think the first thing that brands need to shift into doing is instead of one-off drops, which is what you see a lot of today, it’s like, Hey, one job. Like, we’re just doing this as a campaign. I think it starts with fundamentally launching an NFT program, which is designed for long-term success. And like, you can use Adam Bomb as a reference. Cause it’s probably like the first brand who’s done something, it’s part of the hundreds, which is a streetwear brand. To me, they’re the first actual brand that is launching a full-on program. You’ve seen a lot of flirting dabbling, but this is like an actual, you know, committed program. And you can see it on their site. You get access to things like the t-shirt. You actually do have ownership if, you know, your bomb is put on a piece of merchandise, you actually get a commercial rupture of that and some cool stuff that’s a little bit more in that line. I think you’ll see a lot of that. Dropping an initial NFT program. That’s kind of the key that can give you access to different things. And brands have access to a lot of cool shit. Like they sponsor leagues, they get free tickets. They have celebrity endorsement partnerships. They have new flavors that they launch. And I think a lot of that they can tie up in the value of the NFT. And you know, you might be a huge fan of Juice WRLD. Some people are a huge fan of bud light. You know, people love it. And you know, if that’s a way for you to reward your community and give to people who are in on stuff. You know, I’ve worked for brands for my whole career. And like people line up, like, you know, they sleep outside, like in the wet storms. I was going to say, yeah, people do that for I-phones. And like everybody knows that people like to wait outside for Black Friday sales, like in the sleet, people line up around the block when like we’re launching new flavors for different brands. So I feel like that is awesome. If you have the token, then you get first access, which is already a huge value. And then you can get special perks. Like when we have an extra club level, Or, you know, we can create so much value on the backend. It’s so much more beyond just the primary sale. And I think that’s what you’ll see brands do is realize that we have like, Hey, you want to have Leo Messi do a private chat with you. Like, that’s something we could give to a holder. You know, if a brand is sponsoring him, there are 1,000,001 ways we can create value for our holders. 

Adam: Yeah. Like, think about that in a function. Let’s say Budweiser was to do a collab with Messi, and only the top 1% of Budweiser NFT holders would get access to this secret group chat that would unlock that only them and Messi could join, and then they would be in that group chat, and then that channel would close, and they’d be back into the greater sense of the discord server, you know? Like unlocking perks and utility and levels of access based on your level of membership and your level of, I guess, stake in the community is definitely something that I’m excited to see brands go out and do. And it’s almost as if these NFTs, like there are layers to this. They peel like an onion. And I think many people are going to be experiencing NFTs as a top-level funnel of getting people just to have a membership badge. A level of loyalty, a level of rewards that then kind of funnels them down into more purchasing layers and upselling them within the ecosystem. I saw this prevail primarily with this guy. His name is Mad Dog Jones. He did a really cool NFT drop, and he was the first person I saw to do this, where he had one drop on Nifty gateway, and then he did a special drop just for his NFT holders that only they could buy, if they had these certain tokens in their wallet, they get access to it. And it’s almost like he was bundling them in more and more and more, more and more.

How do you think brands are going to be approaching their web3 funnel? 

You can look at what we did with Gary’s project, which isn’t necessarily a funnel. I mean, because we are sort of communicating that on the outside. It was like, Hey, do you want to FaceTime frog or a core? And obviously, there’s a price differential there, but there’s an access differential as well. And we did various ones. Some are courtside, which is like, you can go to a game courtside with Gary, and some are hangout Hawk, where you can be on a group hangout. So I love the way you put that with the onion and the tiers. Cause I think we think about it a lot the same way. Like we know that not everyone will be able to pay for courtside, and even a VeeFriend, in general, is a big investment. But yeah, I think that that’s probably the right way to think about it. We often think in three tiers it’s like core, which is basically maybe you get the collectible and some kind of group-level then there’s maybe the rare which would be, you get some kind of access. You get some kind of perk that’s a little bit more rare and unusual. And then of course there’s the ultra-rare. One of the ones that are, you know, really incredible experiences that money can’t buy kind of thing.

Yeah. How do you imagine the evolution of creator-to-brand collaboration? For being over time with the adoption of these digital assets? And just to add a little bit more to that, let’s say from the point of view of creators, we’re seeing a trend of them tokenizing themselves and launching their own creator coins, and building their own micro-economies within their communities. How do you imagine brands kind of taking advantage of these influencer circles or influencer communities and shilling their products into these micro-groups? 

So, I wouldn’t say taking advantage. We never want to take advantage. We want to create. 

Adam: That’s not the right word. You’re right. 

Create mutual value. And I’ll just give you one reference that we can speak to you of what my advisor Tom Sachs did. You know the Tom Sachs like rocket factory project is amazing, but it has like 10,000 followers, versus you have like Budweiser, which has millions. So I think that the right collaborations come when it’s of value to both parties, and it’s like, okay, great. You get a lot of distribution, and you get a lot more reach, you know, a lot more awareness for your product in a more mainstream level, if you do some kind of collaboration. And that one was natural because like the rocket literally said Budweiser on it and that wasn’t planned. It was just like something that happened and it kind of tied. So I think that’s one example, and I think of brands the same way that we did Peeps. Like okay, Pepsi with peeps. You know, that was just like a fun thing. I think co-marketing works. It always has. And always will. And when you’re able to bring both creators together to co-create something cool, that’s when it’s the most valuable and fun. And you got value for those existing communities. I think the smart way to do it would be also like, great, so you should be giving a value to the existing token holders, that’s like the joint thing, and then you can launch your own thing and maybe get some credibility in the space. I think that’s a really smart and really strategic way for brands to enter the space and build that authentic connection and credibility, rather than just launching a cringey drop that, you know, sells for 0.2 ETH on Open Sea. 

One thing that I kind of see happening down the line is all these creator communities that have their fan bases that are co-owners of the community itself that have some form of a voice in determining the path of that community. I think we’re going to see buy-in from brands that they’re going to buy into their tokens. They’re going to buy and have a heavy stake into their market caps, for example, and be core contributors in developing their communities. And I think this is a really strategic play for brands who have a lot of money, but how can people do this? Like how can brands do this if they’re like a startup, and they’re trying to tap into these micro-economies and these micro-communities? They’re niche, but powerful within themselves. What do you think is a good approach? 

I think it’s almost easier if you’re a startup cause you don’t have a, you know, to worry about being a publicly-traded company and all the shit that goes along with that. I think if you’re a startup, I would be thinking much more like, how can I make NFTs part of my core business from the get-go. Not like how I can retrofit my multi-hundred-year-old business to now include NFTs. I would think like great, I wouldn’t even launch a loyalty program that wasn’t based on NFTs. Like, I’d be like, okay, awesome, my tickets are going to be based on NFTs. This is how I’m going to fundraise. This is how I’m going to have my loyalty programming. I think if you’re forward-thinking you can embed NFTs into your business much more proactively versus reactively. So it’s an incredibly exciting time for startups to think about NFTs and, you know, set yourselves up to take crypto, immediately. And set up collaborations with different NFT groups already. And there’s so many cool things that you can do. I would be super jazzed to be at a startup right now if I was passionate about NFTs because you can really build that in at the forefront versus trying to fit it into an old school model. 

I want to pivot for a minute and talk about this $25 million fund that you guys set up at VaynerNFT. Can you talk to me more about that? What are those millions of dollars going to go towards? Are you guys investing in startups that are pushing the needle forward? Like where’s that going? 

Yeah. So that is actually outside of Vayner NFT. That is the Vayner fund which is an important clarification. But I think that actually, that’s provided us with a lot of interesting understanding of the market and access. There’s a guy called Phil Toronto who runs that fund for Gary. But, like you said before, we kind of are a one-stop-shop. So, sometimes people will be pitching me something. I’m like, Hey, you guys should talk to the Vayner fund or vice versa, right? Like they hear an interesting pitch or a solution, and they’re like, Hey, you should talk to VaynerNFT because they might be able to use what you guys are building and partner with you. So I think that Gary is a very successful angel investor, and there’s no secret about that. He likes to be in on things very early and help sort of shape the direction of it. And I think through his investments, Gary gets a really good sense of what works, what doesn’t. He believes in investing in founders that he thinks are game-changers at an early stage, and yeah. I think it’s 25 million in some NFT programs has been quite exciting and something that Gary will probably continue growing with Phil, but slightly outside of the VaynerNFT world.

Cool. I love to hear it. I’m excited for you guys. It’s an exciting time to be in the space. I’m glad to see all the energy and positive vibes coming and from your team. The success that you guys have had, I’m here for it, you know, so I keep at it. Before I let you go, can you let us know where we can find you where we can learn more? If people wanted to do something with VaynerNFT, where could they go? Give me the whole spiel.

Awesome. So I’m Avery Akkineni. Long last name, but you can find me on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Instagram, Discord, all the places. So that’s me. And VaynerNFT is VaynerNFT.co. You can find us at our website. You can find us on Twitter. You can find us on Discord. You can find us on Instagram. So, reach us in whatever form of DM is convenient for you, email, all that. We are happy to explore new partnerships. Whether some of your listeners have an NFT program that they’re looking to find people to work with or brands or celebrities, we’re happy to help. And yeah, super excited to be on your podcast, Adam. I love your stuff. I love what you guys are up to and am honored to be here. Thank you all for taking the time to listen. 

Categories
Press Release

‘Mint’ Season 3 with Adam Levy Debuts Today Featuring 18 Web3 Disrupters

Los Angeles, CA — October 5, 2021 —  Adam Levy today announces the release of Mint Season 3, a leading audio and video series exploring how the creators of today are building the communities of tomorrow using web3 primitives like social tokens, NFTs, and DAOs, to name a few. Check out episode one by visiting https://adamlevy.io/mint-season-3/.

Those who register for season 3 will have the opportunity to claim an exclusive Mint POAP proving one’s participation in this month’s series. As Mint’s community develops, claimed POAPs will unlock future perks and provide access to unique content, proposal votes, and more. Get yours now by submitting your email at https://adamlevy.io/mint-season-3/.

Today’s premiere of season three includes 18 exclusive episodes consisting of 1-on-1 interviews from top web3 creators, investors, and founders, all collectively tinkering with cryptography to help make their creator economy a reality. Available to enjoy across all video and audio streaming platforms, the podcast answers the most frequent questions creators and communities have when tinkering with web3 technology.

“Season 3 welcomes some of the brightest people building in web3 and I’m so excited to be sharing their stories across 18+ hours of content,” said Mint Founder and host Adam Levy. “I’m hoping that future creators and web3 communities leverage their stories when kickstarting their own path into the crazy world of crypto.”

Having recently managed Operations for the blockchain fund Draper Goren Holm, Adam has helped incubate and accelerate over 15 leading crypto and blockchain startups like LunarCRUSH, Totle, PrimeDAO, and CasperLabs, to name a few, while producing mass community events like LA Blockchain Summit and Blockchain & Booze. Now, he’s helping onboard creators and their communities into web3 with Mint.

From modern fan clubs where the people own the artist to multi-million dollar communities surfacing overnight, this season welcomes the best stories emerging out of web3. Hear the untold journeys from 18 notable creators, founders, and thought leaders who are tinkering with web3 primitives to make their creator economy a reality.

Season three’s guests include:

Tyler Hobbs | Visual artist from Austin, Texas who works primarily with algorithms, plotters, and paint. His artwork is recently known for the iconic Fidenza series, which focuses on computational aesthetics.

Devin Finzer | Co-founder and CEO of OpenSea — a peer-to-peer marketplace for blockchain-based digital collectibles.

Santiago R. Santos | Owner of Punk #9159 🤖. 

Joyce Yang | Creator of Global Coin Research, a content platform that primarily focuses on Asia Cryptocurrency. 

Dennison Bertram |  Founder of Tally, providing tools for decentralized decision making and governance for distributed ledger ecosystems.

RAZ | Founder of Social oracle & token utility toolkit Agora Space DAO.

FVCKRENDER | The futuristic, self-taught, tech-digital artist working out of Montreal.

Brett Shear | Co-Founder and partner of Palm Tree Crew Crypto, investing in the decentralized creator economy.

LATASHÁ |  LATASHÁ is an artist and holistic entrepreneur who connects fans with their highest, most powerful selves through music, film, and performance art.

Oliver Bell | CEO and Founder of XCAD Network, a content creator tokenization platform

where you can earn and trade your favorite creators tokens.

Marek Olszewski |  A partner at cLabs, one of the companies working on Celo, a mobile-first permissionless platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone.

Andy Chorlian | Founder of Fractional.Art, a platform where you can own fragments of the world’s most sought-after NFTs.

Avery Akkineni | An Ex-Googler with a passion for digital marketing; currently leading VaynerNFT, a venture created to help the world’s leading intellectual property owners navigate the wild and wonderful world of NFTs.

Lorens Huculak | Co-Founder of Genie where you can buy, sell, and trade across all NFT and token markets instantly.

Alex Zhang | Mayor of FWB (Friends With Benefits), a collective of unique individuals pushing for a bright future.

Seth Goldstein | Founding member of Bright Moments, the Venice-based NFT Gallery DAO that opened its physical doors in May 2021.

Patricio Worthalter | Founder of Proof of Attendance Protocol, an ecosystem of applications for the preservation of memories using NFTs as digital records.

James Young | Founder of Abridged, who provides tools that empower developers to build an intuitive Web3 experience into familiar interfaces.

Season three sponsors include Coinvise, POAP (aka Proof of Attendance Protocol), and Socialstack who are supporting Mint by collecting the show’s three non-transferable NFTs. The NFT grants each sponsor a shared vote into proposals, ideas, and future updates being implemented into Mint’s ecosystem as well as certain promotions across the entire season.

Submit your email to receive all 18 episodes for free by visiting https://adamlevy.io/mint-season-3/.

About Mint

Mint with Adam Levy is a new audio and video series exploring how the creators of today are building the communities of tomorrow using web3 primitives like social tokens, NFTs, and DAOs, to name a few. Each month, a new season rolls out with ten to fifteen untold journeys from notable creators, web3 founders, and thought leaders, who are tinkering with social money to make their creator economy a reality.
Learn more by visiting https://adamlevy.io/mint.