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Why POAP’s Patricio Worthalter Bid $10 million on a CryptoPunk

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Background

Mint Season 3 episode 15 welcomes the founder and CEO of POAP, Patricio Worthalter. I genuinely consider him one of the top 5 best founders in crypto – he’s such a visionary, hardworking individual, inspiring many to be the best version of themselves. POAP is a cornerstone crypto consumer protocol.

In this episode we discuss:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 2:01- Leaving School to Become a Computer Technician
  • 5:03 – Understanding The Importance of Crypto
  • 12:42 – Starting POAP
  • 21:42- Using POAPs to Build Community
  • 30:31 – The Future of POAPs
  • 38:22 – Bidding $10 million on a CryptoPunk
  • 48:38 – What Would Vitalik Do? – A Guiding Light
  • 51:12 – Biggest Mistakes
  • 54:00 – 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

Patricio, welcome to Mint my friend. Thank you so much for being on. How are you doing? 

I’m doing good. I’m happy to be here, finally. 

I know we’ve been going back and forth, but I must start with saying the following. You’ve been one of my biggest supporters since day one, since day zero of Mint you understood the vision, you saw what I was trying to do, you’ve joined in and supported for months and months and months on end. So it’s an honor to have you on. Thank you for making time. Thank you for being on. I’m excited to showcase your story and kind of put more of a spotlight on POAP because you guys are killing it. So let’s just dive right in. Who are you? What do the people need to know about you, but more specifically, what were you like before crypto?

I’m Patricio Worthalter. I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I say this is the capital city of Argentina, which is a quite relevant country in the industry. I’ve been a tech person for most of my life. Like you can trace back memories of myself being five years old, playing with a screwdriver, disassembling things, and trying to understand how they work. So I am clearly a tech person. I cannot tell exactly why I became a tech person because in my household, nobody was too technical. Like my father is a high school teacher and my mother is a therapist. So no tech in my family, but I actually became a tech person and when I was 17 or so I dropped high school because I was so passionate about tech that I wanted to have a shop in tech and make my own money and be on that adventure. It’s like, for me, work has never been work. I mean, it’s been work and there were unfortunate times that I had to work very hard for peanuts. But in general, if you are who you are, it’s clear that I am a tech person that’s been extremely passionate about everything tech and after a very long journey, eventually I got into crypto. 

So what was your first tech job? What was that?

Leaving School to Become a Computer Technician

I’ve done plenty of things. I’m not too proud, but it is what I could do. Eventually I became a computer technician, but what I’m not proud of is maybe the first five years before becoming a computer technician, I was like a computer technician apprentice, and I had to use the computers of everyone in my neighborhood, my social circles to learn. That also, I think it’s part of the buildup of my personality, how I came to be the way I am. It’s like in Argentina, it is a very typical thing that you are on your own. There is very little support from anyone. If you’re the typical average middle class person in the year in the decade that you grow up, if you grow up in the nineties, you were on your own. So I was on my own and I had to find a way out, and there was little to no support. So I started learning about computers, started practicing the idea. It wasn’t like these days where you go online and you find a video and you can access perfectly condensed education on the subject you want. For me, it was like going into a jungle with a machete and having to open my way. And it felt like that. Although it may sound fun, it was somewhat trashy too. The things that I could have learned in not too long, to me, when I was 17, 18, I started a business which was fixing computers at a slightly more professional scale. And I started hiring and having better customers. And for the first six years, we didn’t make any money. We barely pay the bills and the business was poorly structured and everything was a mess. Ultimately, when that business was 10 or 12 years old, I studied it when I was 17. Let’s say when I was 27, I was 10 years old. I eventually had to kind of wind it down because it was impossible to make it sustainable. And if I ask myself, why couldn’t that company go better? Because when it was 10 years old had already like 20 employees and good revenue and it was doing well. It’s because their foundations were so weak. Everything was so poorly planned that it couldn’t even be recovered. So in a way, my upbringing was a huge adventure closely related to business to tech and some lessons were really expensive. When you talk to someone in investment banking and maybe they have a successful career as VCs or something, but they tell you, well, I have been in investment banking for 20 years and maybe you ask them was it worth it. And I am like, I don’t know about the investment bankers, but I say I’m not sure if it was worth it. For me, there was almost 15 years where I had to work extremely hard. Now you barely got anything out of it besides a huge body of experience.

Understanding The Importance of Crypto

Interesting. So how did that lead you into crypto? Like how did that lead into your excitement for not only what you’re doing now, but your journey and first step into the world of web three into the world of crypto? 

It kind of was an accident? This is a long story. I’ve been asked many times how I got into crypto also because my journey into crypto has been so crazy that people want to know how it happened. So it was mainly an accident. So we had this company that had 20 employees and we were every day fixing servers and computers of different companies in Argentina. One of these companies that we were under contract with has a computer like a server that was infected by one of these ransomware viruses that encrypts your data and you have to pay them with Bitcoin or Monero so you get your data back. And it wasn’t a service of our contract. That was good. It was someone else’s responsibility, but they call us and we get the thing and we are like, yeah we won’t be able to decrypt the thing without paying. Let’s see how he takes to pay the ransom and get the data back. So I see they wanted like 11 Bitcoin and these were $3,000 or so, and I went to the Bitcoin embassy Argentina Bitcoin embassy, because at that time we had various strong financial controls. You couldn’t buy foreign currency pretty much. It was impossible. If you were a citizen in Argentina and you wanted to buy Dollars, you couldn’t, but you could buy Bitcoin. So I went to the Bitcoin embassy. They were really welcoming of course, because in that time, it was like 2013 or 14, and Bitcoin wasn’t an established thing like it is today. Every time Bitcoin made headlines at that time, it was something that had everyone talking about it because it’s like adoption is coming. So every person that went to the Bitcoin embassy and wanted to buy Bitcoin was given the King’s treatment. Could you imagine like all the local Bitcoiners, we’re extremely excited about onboarding you into Bitcoin. They onboarded me into Bitcoin and I loved it. I like the whole experience, the idea. I had heard of it before, but I’m so busy running the business. I just started buying as much Bitcoin as I could, which wasn’t much Bitcoin. Maybe it was 10 Bitcoin, 20 Bitcoin. Every disposable income that I had that I wasn’t using for my lifestyle, which was pretty humble, I started using for buying Bitcoin. It was incrementally interesting. It has a thing, I’m sure it has happened to you, and I’m sure almost every. When you get to know cryptocurrencies and you get it, it changes your life. There’s no way back. 

You know, you talk about your journey, I came across Bitcoin in 2014, initially in high school. I was taking an investments course, and we were learning about stocks and mutual funds and all these things. And my teacher was like an ex Charles Schwab broker. He made his money, I guess, and then he was over it and then he got into real estate. He was like, I just want to teach. So all he did was teach us about finance. And I remember we had an entire week about Bitcoin. And I was an idiot. I didn’t pay attention to it as a high schooler. I was like, what is this like, intranet funny money. I didn’t even think twice about it. It was only until a few years later when I got into college and I was like, okay, there’s something over here. Why the hell is a publicly traded asset at 20 K? What is this underlying technology that could be used for much more than just speculative trading on the market, et cetera, et cetera. So I think everybody’s introduction to crypto is super unique, including yours. And I love your point of view of buying incremental amounts, because I think that’s the way. Like, even at the time, I feel like people also think it’s already at $11? It was a hundred dollars. Like, isn’t it too high to buy something like that? You know, people still have that type of mentality. I’m sure it was like that back then as well, no? 

Even worse. So I mentioned the Bitcoin embassy, but before we go into that, let me say something that you haven’t mentioned, and it’s quite important to point out the difference between an American person hearing of Bitcoin at school, and an Argentinian person. For us, when we got to know about Bitcoin, it was an immediate utility because it was useful for doing something that you wanted to do and you couldn’t do otherwise, buying foreign currency. So it makes sense that for us, it was like a strike. It was a solution for the problem we had. For you, it was a funny concept that maybe you wanted to explore or not. And this is one of the reasons Argentina has such a large footprint in the global crypto communities, because for us it was something we needed. Regarding the incremental purchases, we have that unique bias. We believe because the fundamentals are so hard to understand when you are new, it’s impossible that you get all the fundamentals, right? And the market behaves so whimsically, that how much is too much, how low is too low? And one funny story, I go back to the Bitcoin embassy a couple years after the first time I go, I became a regular. They were putting on meetups every week and I had to stop going because I got tired of them making fun of me for having bought ether at $2. I became a meme because I bought at $2 and now it’s 70 cents. It had been like that for like six months. Making fun of me became a thing. 

Wow. So what was it about the ether sale or Ethereum in general that resonated with you?

I didn’t understand anything. 

You were like, fuck it, I’m just going to buy. Like, whatever? 

Well, I got some good advice. It was like that. There was a guy that at that time was a complete nobody. Maybe he was at your show because now he’s a leading voice in the creative economy. His name is Esteban Ordano. 

No, I haven’t had him on. No, not yet. 

He is the Founder of Decentraland. He was working at Bit Pay. When I got into Bitcoin, I had a meeting with him. He was a friend of a friend because I wanted to understand, and he was some sort of an expert. And he said something that was what made me buy ether, like not understanding anything. I say, I have Bitcoin, I’m loving this thing, and I see there are plenty of other assets. Is there something that you would say maybe I should buy? And he’s says, I’m not telling you to buy it, which is like a premium version of non-financial advice, but there is a thing, which is a new technology that had gotten all the most hardcore Bitcoin people attention, and many of them have migrated to it. And the technology is Ethereum. I’m not into it. I don’t have it. I’m not buying it. I may not understand it too much, but there is a shelling point around that asset. And I am like, yeah, let’s get it. I have enough Bitcoin, and if this is so exciting, we need to get it. I have his help getting my first Ether at $2. This is like 60 or 50 days after the mainnet of Ethereum had launched. And it was really hard. Like, I tried to run the node on than the wallet. And although I was a tech person, I failed and I never got that up and running so I ended up paying someone to buy myself Ether. Then I learned to use Poloniex, which was what we used to trade at the time. But it was pretty much a reckless financial decision. But also I was very shaded with my computer. So I kind of felt good buying a lottery ticket. It was like, I’m in a loophole. I’m not being able to do what I want with my life. I’m going to buy this thing that I don’t understand. And maybe it’s a moon shot. And it was right. 

Starting POAP

Yeah, it was. It was a good bet, but like a lot of things that you do that you bet on, you’re typically right. The advice that I’ve gotten from you, the help I’ve gotten from you, I don’t know, you have this level of wisdom from being so early into tech and being so early into crypto, and I don’t want to hype you up too much, but just like, just like really putting it out there. I think it’s super cool to hear your journey from like, starting into tech, running this like a somewhat failed business that wasn’t generating revenue, but you were at it for years to come making your way into crypto. But now we want to transition into POAP. This is why you’re here. This is like one of the most iconic projects in crypto. If you’ve been in crypto long enough, you for sure collected at least one of them. And if not, you’ve, you’ve either engaged in a scavenger hunt or you’ve seen them at conferences. What is POAP? What is it? And is it PO-AP?? Is it POPE? Like, can we solidify this on the show? What is it?

I call it PO-AP, but I am fully respectful of what our people want to mention, and plenty say POAP, and Vitalik keeps saying Pope. So as long as Vitalik keeps telling the Pope, we will allow people to call it that. But we think POAP because POAP works in multiple languages and it has a stronger identity. Like there’s nothing else called POAP, and the Pope could be anything else, like soap or poop, or the Pope at the Vatican. POAP can only be POAP. 

You think there’ll ever be a point where the Pope collects POAPs? For sure. 

I don’t think it’s too far away, even though he’s Argentinian. I mean, I could get him a POAP without too much effort.

I love it. What is POAP? How do you explain it to someone that doesn’t know it? 

For someone who’s not a crypto person, but is a tech person, we say it’s a check-in based social network. Checking, being the action of doing an interactive activity on the metaverse once you have something and that doing something could be going to a wedding, listening to a show, being online when something is happening at a disco, it’s doing a check-in. It’s like I am here. I am stamping my participation in this collective activity, and I am getting additional records out of it that it tamper proof, that are going to be in the blockchain forever, that is indisputably authentic, and that we have perfect provenance, which is an NFT, right? It’s not that we have invented NFTs, but it’s like, POAPs are much more than NFTs, but perhaps inherit all the qualities of NFTs. 

True. 

You get it? 

Yep. 

I mean, it’s a really subtle nuanced definition, but once you get it. It’s much easier to understand the whole landscape. 

You know, you think about it because if we look at Facebook, we look at Yelp. We look at their automatic check-in features that people already inherently do. This is just like the next step into it, but like on a much bigger level. And you own them. 

Every check in you do these days, you don’t know them. Something people have learned about this was with Foursquare. Foursquare was a huge thing in my communities in Argentina, there were people that had thousands of check-ins and when Foursquare decided to give up their business to data weaponization, all the collecting checking thing, activities got like almost shut down and somehow people understood that they weren’t the owners of the check ins. These days, like we are in 2021, I think every millennial and younger of course, but let’s say the millennial generation has learned that you cannot trust big tech with your data. Big tech is going to let you down. You may have had their website on one platform, and you lost it because you got acquired by Yahoo and eventually it was gone. You may have cut a flickr account, and again, you got acquired by Yahoo or maybe you used MSN messenger and it got acquired by Microsoft, or it was Microsoft. And maybe you had ICQ and got acquired by AOL and you lost it. You cannot trust big tech. If your digital assets aren’t yours, they are someone else’s and sooner or later they will either monetize them, weaponize them, or just plain lose them. So the idea is that in POAP, your checkings belong to you. They are NFTs that you hold on your wallet, that use the same standards that the blockchain industry has, and that enable utility as every other NFT, because it’s not just check-ins. The collection of check ins becomes a representation of your persona, but you don’t have to disclose any personal identifiable information about yourself. So I guess that’s what POAP is.

You know, there’s so many different ways to use POAPs beyond check-in right. There’s beyond this level of representation. For example, on mint. One way that I’ve kind of growth hacked the newsletter email subscription or just contacts in crypto is by every single month I issue listener badges as POAPs and have a landing page that says, claim your listener, badge POAP, fill out your email, your Twitter handle, your first name, and last name. Then, I built a database of crypto contacts and I’ve found it to be one of the most low key, but high growth ways to grow a substantial email database. And it’s a cool way because people like collecting this stuff and it’s interesting. Like when you think about it, like, what is it? It’s just a stamp. It’s just a badge, right? It’s something that lives on a chain that can verify that you did X, right? That you were at Y or whatever it may be. But actually it’s really fun. 

But it’s not a little thing you make it look like it’s a little thing, but without POAP and without blockchains, how could you issue verifiable proof of anything? You won’t be calling a notary for validating that someone has listened to a show, so the technology is actually disrupting. It’s not just digital stickers, and this is why we started POAP, which is something that you somehow low key asked, and it’s good to explain in this context. It’s not that I had the dream of creating a social check in based social network then, or maybe I did, but that’s another conversation. We, the founding team of POAP, what we wanted to do, what got us into building POAP was that we wanted to shift. We wanted to shift the narrative of Ethereum’s utility. The Ethereum network in 2018, when we started thinking about POAP, didn’t have any dApps. The only thing you could do with Ethereum was to buy Ether, to sell Ether, and to move tokens around. And there were NFTs, but they were minimal. And nobody was using Ethereum. MakerDAO hadn’t launched, and AAVE hadn’t launched. There were some experiments, but nobody that wasn’t a hardcore crypto person was using crypto, and because of that, there were a big issues. Bitcoin people and other influencers are constantly bashing Ethereum trying to set up a trend about Ethereum not being useful for anything and being, if not a scam, a failed technology. We were like, this is not a failed technology. This is the most important technology being built these days. And we were like, how can we make this point clear? How do we create a product that couldn’t be created without this technology that people want to use? So we do a brainstorming session because we want a solution looking for a problem, which is something that all VCs will tell you that you don’t have to be like. If you have a solution looking for the problem, you don’t have product market fit and they are kinda right. And that was the problem of Ethereum actually, it didn’t have a market product fit. Then POAP came and you started having it. But in the brainstorming session we say, what do we know about Ethereum? What is the kind of thing that you can only do with Ethereum? And we are like, okay, we have a decentralized database that nobody controls, you have some social resistance, you have immutability, you have compostability. Composability wasn’t a thing that it is today, but it was obvious that once the data is on chain, you can compose it with different sources of data and create greater stuff. And then we say what it is that Ethereum does well, and it’s like tokens. People love tokens. So far, they hadn’t been too useful, but the idea of shared equity. Equity, as in ownership, it’s been fairly proven. We’ve seen the DAO and other products. So shortly after, we came up with the idea of doing this check in a social network where the check ins are NFTs, and we launch in November and it immediately clicks. Like they all get it. They all get it that this was something that could only be built on Ethereum orEthereum-like technology that people actually wanted. People wanted to have the sun course on their memories. I mean, they wanted to have items so they could anchor them to memories. So I didn’t know why we came to this, but- 

Using POAPs to Build Community

No, it’s super tied together. You know, one thing I want to ask you is because mint is a lot about focusing on creators, right? How can creators build and own their communities using crypto primitives, POAP is one of the best ways. It’s helped me bootstrap my community. Can you talk about, like, what are some of the more creative ways you’ve seen creator communities use your tech and your system to kind of own a community, build a community and why is it important for them?

 I would say, if creators were to pick a single tool from a toolbox to build their communities, crypto, not just POAP, because saying just POAP probably would be too biased, crypto is a tool that makes the most sense. Let’s say that you are a creator and you’re in a hypothetical scenario where you can decide which qualities you want to have as if you were building your own character. I think for a creator, an extremely good quality that you would love to have is being good looking. If you ask me an ugly looking creator that’s not too charming, that doesn’t know how to speak to the camera that doesn’t have much to say, but understands crypto, it’s highly likely to be more powerful than a good looking sympathetic person that knows how to speak to the camera that doesn’t use crypto. This is because crypto aligns incentives so well, and it opens so many primitives and so many applications on top of it, that that’s the main skill. And of course, POAP is one of the most obvious cases because it’s such an easy to use tool and it’s such an easy to understand thing. Prior to POAP, creators were using ERC-20 a lot and they are still using ERC-20 tokens a lot, but they are just too hard. It’s unrealistic to expect non-tech consumers to engage with a content creator through ERC-20 tokens. You can’t expect them to learn how to use meta mask, to learn how to trade, to learn how to get into uni swap; much less to spend hundreds of dollars on gas fees. So things like popup, and I don’t want to go on so much about POAP, but POAP doesn’t cost any money. There is no safety risk. There is no way that you can be hacked by getting a POAP banner. Because I said so, someone is going to get hacked somehow, but technically POAP doesn’t do anything financially, unless you’re a power user, but let’s say that you have not. Anyone can mint a POAP. It already has deep appeal to existing collectors. It’s impossible to measure it, but the retention rate of POAP collectors is as high as it can be. When someone becomes a POAP collector, and that happens once they have a couple of POAPs, they are a collector forever. Even if they’re aren’t getting more POAPs because POAPs have a serial number and one gets attached to the serial number of the POAP until the event where I got them and something we say when we onboard new people into POAP, you better pay attention to this time because this is like your first kiss. There won’t be another one. This is going to be your first POAP forever, so you better enjoy this and you better be aware of what’s going on. Having such a power as a creator really makes everything much easier. Like I’ve seen creators have a much stronger shot at launch. 

I would agree with you and, you know, some creators, like there’s one creator that I worked with called Daniel Allen. He’s like a top voice in the music NFT world. He’s in the process of releasing his new EP . He’s doing a song at a time. One day, he came over to my place. We set up a landing page for people who basically listen or share or contribute somehow socially to his song to promote and to bring out and to distribute, will receive a PAOP proving that they did that. And we set up that landing page for them to kind of prove the link that they submitted that then would then send them a POAP as a thank you, and kind of verify that they did that they set up the graphic they did everything. What a cool way to kind of incentivize and to keep a creator and his audience engaged, because it’s like you give me, I give you kind of thing.

Which is something that in the creator economy, we don’t have much. Not only in the creator economy, it’s one to many, and there is no way us as creators get more popular. It is really hard to communicate with the audience in a meaningful way sustainably without becoming a slave of your community. While, if you started giving out POAPs in your early presentations, and then you have built a following, you can distinguish those who are loyal, those that had followed you when you went on tour across the estate, and it creates ways of rewarding those interactions that couldn’t exist before. Because even, let’s say that you were an emerging artist, and you’re starting to play for 20 people, and you kind of remember the faces. When you’re playing for a bigger audience it’s definitely impossible to remember the 20 faces that were there when you were just an emerging band. The concept is like POAP, if you were giving POAPs to the first 20 people that went to your show, then you can make them VIP guests in everything you build, because they were there when you wanted. And by that time you’re likely friends, and this happens at every scale in every niche you can imagine. Although this show is focused on creators, this happens with, for example, physicians. There are researchers in science, like in AIDS, vaccines and such that give POAPs to all their fellow peers, because they want to celebrate the time where they were researching a new bias. My point here being this primitive of distributing POAPs to people that engage meaningfully it transcends culture. It has a myriad of applications that we can’t imagine. It’s like if you were pitching the internet in the seventies, or if you were pitching blockchains in the early 2010s, you couldn’t really present accurately, everything you can build with the internet, or with a blockchain. You could say that it will be communication over the internet, there will be media, there will be entertainment business, but you couldn’t say that that is going to be Uber or gaming, or maybe you could. It’s the same with POAP. You can say that POAP is a great tool for musicians. It’s a great tool for corporations. It’s a great tool for collectors, but you cannot enumerate all the values because they’re primitive. It’s so flexible and powerful that most of the use cases, the things Bob will be doing in 10 years, we cannot imagine.

You know, the first mainstream example that comes to mind that reflects the resemblance of collecting a POAP is, I saw this artist called Jack Harlow. He’s one of the top musical artists, rappers in the game right now. He has made songs with Lil NAS, X, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. There was a video that was trending, I think last week, two weeks ago, that basically he went back to perform at his hometown where he had his first live show. And in that crowd, he had like 20, 30 people watching the show and he gave out merch. That merch symbolized that you were there, that you got that merch. A few years later, he came back to perform again, right? The same guy who picked up one of the shirts was holding it in the back, proving that he was there, Jack Harlow shouted them out. Thank you for being there. That’s a use case of a POAP, right? 

It’s really fun, but you get how shallow it is in tech, because anyone could do a counterfeit merch, but you cannot do a counterfeit POAP. There are some things that can only happen when you have these reliable guarantees that it cannot be counterfeit. Beeple was unnoticed for like nine years before he sold a single NFT, and he was just posting on Instagram. Only when the masses had discovered that you could do reliable authentic digital items, it very suddenly became valuable. So it’s the same thing. Artists have been giving unique merch or memories since they exist, but the disruption happens when you can have perfect provenance, perfect in authenticity and the set of tools that then you can use for building on top. So I love your example, just let’s make it clear that we are after much greater than pulling up an old t-shirt 

The Future of POAPs

100%. The only reason I bring that up is because a lot of people that I’ve been talking to that I’m sending the podcast to, they are musicians, they’re creators, they’re artists. And trying to put it like a real world example to what a digital example kind of mimics and then bridging it from there it brings like a surface level of understanding, if you haven’t collected a POAP already. One thing I want to pivot to is you guys are one of the most used social applications, consumer applications in crypto. I have a ton of POAPs that I’ve collected from conferences. I give out POAPs on the show. What do you imagine POAP becoming in like two years, three years, four years, five years, 10 years? What do you kind of see in that vision? I know we talked about it briefly. I don’t know what it’s going to become. This data, this element of collecting, this element of making authenticity and bringing shit on chain, right? There’s a level of value to that, but what do you imagine it kind of becoming, or what could you see it becoming? 

This is a huge challenge for us because there’s such core things that you could be doing with POAP, that we could be doing with POAP, that help us make a decision because we have limited resources like our time and our team’s time. So we have thought a lot about what’s the best usage of our resources, to make POAP the best it can be. And just a little context about when I say we POAP is already a 50 people team. So it’s surely been lonely for a while. When I started, my co-founders left the project shortly after because we were in a deep bear market and they needed to sustain this lifestyle and POAP, not only didn’t make money, it was a money drain. It was very lonely, but it’s no longer. Every person in the POAP team augments our capacity to build cool stuff significantly. So when I say we it’s good to put context. After exploring deeply the plenty of things that could be built with POAP, we noticed that the cleverest thing to do, for us, is to build the lowest layer of the protocol to build a primitive, which is just mainly letting people mint POAPs and letting collectors collect POAPs, and that’s the main way we have to spend our time. Everything else it’s going to be built by the community. And it is being built by the community. For example, since you mentioned a lot about the music industry, we had a great supporter that you know extremely well. He’s a friend of the show who’s Cooper Turley, and Cooper truly has been POAP piling musicians all over the country and explaining them why they should use POAPs, how to use it. Cooper has been great. And now there are things happening like deadmau5 has been using POAPs for some shows, and if you bought the VIP ticket that came with the hotel room, or I don’t remember exactly how it works, then you can show in raffle for some other benefit that only those could get, and we had no intervention of that. I mean, maybe we had a couple of calls with someone from the production company, but they pretty much came and used our technology. So this is the spirit. In POAP, we aren’t building the applications, we are building the tech. When I was in NFT NYC, I was approached by the head of web three or digital experiences or something like that of Coachella. We can say that there was no much higher than Coachella when it comes to music festivals in the US. And we had a nice meeting and he had plenty of ideas, and of course we would love POAP to be in Coachella, but we had to tell him we are not a marketing agency. We don’t do production. The applications, the way you use POAP, how you get your POAP, what does it have on the artwork, the benefits you can get, those things that are going to be built by third parties. The same way that Vitalik has not built DeFi. Vitalik didn’t do anything for deFi besides doing everything he did for Ethereum. DeFi was built by Stani of AAVE or by Robert of Compound, and that’s the same idea we have. We have you using POAP as a growth hack for your newsletter, which was something we haven’t thought about at all, and it is happening. So this is how we think about the future. In the future, we believe in POAP being in a position of complete neutrality. This is really important. We need to give neutrality to all issuers so they can be sure that there aren’t forces that could drive them out, which is what happened with walled gardens. Like it happens to musicians these days, if you publish on Spotify, or if you publish on some sort of network, you have to sign a contract, you have to split shares, and if someone doesn’t like you, or if you do drugs and the corporation didn’t like the drugs you were doing, the way you were doing them, you’re out. In POAP, we need to offer what Ethereum offers. Ethereum offers this credible neutrality, where every person in the planet has the guarantee, and it is fully backed by the whole community that they are free to use Ethereum. It has to be the same with POAP. POAP is going to become, it already is, I mean, PAOP is already a globally scaled social network. Now, it is growing its penetration. It won’t be able to penetrate its full potential, which is pretty much every human, if there’s someone in control that you have to be on good terms with. There are people I don’t like. If I have the ability to get them out of POAP, then we won’t capture that whole market.

It makes a lot of sense. So you guys want to incentivize builders to build applications and use cases for POAP. Do you guys have a grant program that you provide people? Do you have any type of infrastructure in place to incentivize building? Like if I’m building a consumer application, and I want to create a display of proving where you’ve participated, et cetera, how do you guys come to the picture with that?

This is fun because we don’t have any infrastructure for grants. We don’t have a grants program, but we’ve done maybe 50 grants. So we do grants. We do a lot all the time, like every week. We don’t have a program, you have to show up on our Discord, explain what you want to build, and if the idea makes a little sense, you are getting funded. We do grants of a thousand dollars for $5,000, $10,000, and a hundred thousand dollars, depending on how meaningful what you want to build is. Something that we are very lucky and privileged in power is that we have much more capital that we can allocate. Anyone that has a little idea, and is willing to drive it forward and needs money gets funding from POAP. As long as the idea is good for POAP. We should have a program. This year has been crazy on growth. The first time we’d done a drop with Gary Vee, we were really excited, like we are working with Gary Vee! Shortly after it became commonplace, and now we are like, Adidas has done a POAP drop, and we didn’t know. I have an Adidas POAP, and I had to buy it on the open market. 

Wow. 

I mean, of course we take POAP very seriously. There was no way for me to get a privilege, but the point here being we’ve been growing so fast and we have been hitting milestone after milestone so quickly that we are lacking lots of infrastructure, like a proper grants program. 

Bidding $10 million on a CryptoPunk

Makes sense. One thing I want to talk about, because you guys are growing so fast, because you’re hitting milestones, because your brand is like one of the most recognizable brands in crypto, you did something super ballsy online.

We do new things every day. 

I know, but it was to the point where I made you like the Savage of the week in Mint’s newsletter because you put a crazy bid on a punk. 

That happened. What do you want to know about that?

Yeah, that did happen. I want to know what the hell were you thinking? Why would you do that? Despite it creating one of the craziest PR events online. The amount of exposure.

It wasn’t anything about PR. 

I know it wasn’t, that was just the result of it, right? Why did you do it? What’s the story behind that? And for those who don’t know, give us context about what the bid was, how much it was for, and then what was your thought process behind doing that? 

In the NFT communities there’s huge traffic of influence. There are influencers who have the ability to drive markets, some buyers, and sellers to do things, and there is an influencer who’s quite unique. I would say he’s really one of a kind and I can’t think of anyone with his integrity and this influencer is called like, reach out, but with an e. And I’ve been following this guy for a long time because of his integrity. You could see that reecher was different from almost every other. He wasn’t motivated by money. He had very deep insights. He was highly technical. Like the guy is a software developer. He’s been in the industry for a long time. Has he been in this show? Well, I don’t know whether he’s been in this show but he’s really a top influencer and he tweets a lot and one morning he tweets something like I am so- I don’t remember exactly what he said. He said that his profile picture, which was a crypto punk that somewhat looked like him, was so important in his well being and his personality in everything about his life that he was never going to sell it. That it was more important than any amount of money. And because he’s an influencer, an influencer and he gets lots of traffic it doesn’t take long, but like it takes a couple of minutes until someone comments and says, reecher, everyone has a price. And for the right amount of money, you will sell your punk. And I was reading through that the next day after it was posted, and I am like, let’s try this out. And let’s see whether it’s true that everyone has a price or not, and let’s see what the price is. So I think, and I’m making this shorter because actually it took me a while to make the decision. But I decided that I’m going to try it out. So I placed a bid for over 2000 ether, it was like 2,400 Ether or so. Which at the time was the largest bid anyone had ever done for the crypto punk at least measured in dollar value. Maybe on Ether, there were some larger ones earlier when he thought it was less expensive. And my reasoning was this. If the guy doesn’t doesn’t accept the bid, I am proving a really important point. Something I want to have proven, which is these little digital records, whether they are punks or POAPs or other PFPs or Apes, can grow to immense amounts of money and value, and people still won’t sell. That’s something I like to establish with POAP because one responsibility we have in POAP, like in POAP, we are responsible for educating the community. For hundreds of thousands of people, POAPs were or will be their first NFT daycare. So it’s important that they get educated, right? One thing we need to do to educate people about this, is that these digital records can hold value to unprecedented levels. So the purpose of the bid was that. If he doesn’t sell it, we are proving the point that a POAP could very well be worth $10 million anytime. If he accepts the bid, we have bought the most expensive punk ever, who would have had a huge track record of being the punk of the guy that had huge integrity, but decided to sell. So in either case it was a win and that’s why we did it. I am very stingy with my money. If you see my lifestyle, you wouldn’t believe that I made $10 million. Sometimes I walk and not take a taxi, although, because I don’t like taxis, but it’s not that I am throwing money away, much less companies’ money. The point was pretty clear. We were either going to get one of the most important punks ever, or we weren’t going to make a huge service to the whole NFT community, which is what happened. 

Amazing.

Like I am disappointed when people say that maybe it was a marketing stunt, or that it was coordinated. I have a message. Let’s see if I can show you on camera. I hope so. 

Well, here’s my point of view, coming from that angle-

I have a message from Richard that says, Hey, Patricio, it’s recher, you are a wise man. And this is the first message I have. I never talked to him before. I hope I’m not doxing him. And none of this was planned. I knew about his integrity because I followed him for a while, and I felt like I had to do it. And something important for people to understand the psychology behind this. Because media, I don’t remember how you call it, but plenty of media outlets didn’t cover this well, because they say he got an offer, but the way Crypto Punks offers work in Larva Labs, because it wasn’t in Open Sea or anywhere else.In Larva Labs, the offer system is non-custodial, meaning that you have to put the money down and then the seller can either accept or reject or not accept. So, in a way, he has bought the punk for $9 million, right? It’s like he bought it because he had the money, it was to his name and he has still decided to get the punk. It’s like every day you are holding a liquid asset that you could liquidate any time you’re buying it. If you are holding ether at $4,000, you’re buying ETH for $4,000, otherwise go and sell it. So sometimes when my friends hold different crypto assets and some are really controversial, like Dogecoin and, and Shiba. I am like, if I give you $1 million of fresh cash, like in bank notes, are you sinking them all in Doge? I mean, I’m not. If I have $1 million in cash, I’m doing whatever. Well, then go and sell your Doge because you could get dollars out of it immediately, and it is this magical, critical thing of non-custodial assets. He got the money and decided that the punk was worth $9 million. If he didn’t believe that the punk was worth $10M, he would have taken the money.

Yeah, it makes sense. Look, the only reason why I said it was an incredible PR stunt, even though it was not planned to be, was because it made so much noise. It brought so much attention and showed the world like, wow, what the hell is going on? Why would someone bid on this, and what’s like the narrative behind this, right? And to have you on this show right now- 

Maybe for the normies, but for the experts, it was just a statement that the offer could have been on a POAP. There’s literally no difference between a punk and a POAP, fundamentally. Spiritually wise, he got affectionate with crypto punk, but there are people that are equally affectionate to certain POAPs they have. Like one of our best POAP drops was during the US Open earlier this year, the tennis tournament in New York. And if you are a fan of Djokovic, and you have the POAP of the day that Djokovic has done something. And I don’t know what that can be because everything he could have done that was great he’s done 10 times. So it’s not like winning a grand slam, but whatever. Maybe someone offers you $10 million for that POAP, and you’d rather keep it because of what it means to you? So the fact wasn’t only for the casual observer, it has helped the expert understand what POAP is building. Sometimes people ask us, me or people from the POAP team, how are you guys going to monetize? And I am like, this is not a concern. POAP is creating so much value for collectors, for brands, for enterprises, for communities that monetization is not concerned at all. There are 20 different ways we could monetize. Even if we wanted to live off donations, we are sure that plenty of POAP collectors would be happy to pledge money for POAPto keep existing because of how much value it creates. And this value eventually translates to dollar signs and the more affectionate people are with their POAPs, the more valuable they will be for them, and the more keen they will be on funding our existence. 

You have such a narrowed strategic, straight cut vision. 

We are not fooling around.

I know. I know, you’re not. We’ve talked a lot, you and I, but to hear you kind of speak this and define the path and to kind of like set forth as a founder, makes me even more excited about what you guys are doing in everything that’s going on.

And you were pretty excited before.

What Would Vitalik Do? – A Guiding Light

Yeah, I know I was. I’m super impressed, you know. Like doing Mint and POAP has been a backbone despite you guys supporting us, you know, and like we’ll disclose it. Yes, you are a sponsor, but even if you weren’t a sponsor, I’d still be using POAPs, and I’d still be having you on the show. 

That’s what happened a lot. Sometimes people say, how much have you paid for the US Open to use POAPs? How much have you paid for the Adidas partnership? Like, do you do revenue sharing? And it’s like every person that ever has dropped a POAP has done it on their own interest. We never told anyone to use POAPs. We didn’t tell you to use POAP, even when we were sponsoring. Although maybe in the early days, like on the first 20 drops, I was pretty annoying with the organizer so they would have POAP, but now it’s important to make this distinction. There are plenty of NFT drops these days that they consume cannot tell exactly what the driving forces are behind those drops. You can tell POAP doesn’t have a commercial business development department. We don’t have anyone in business development. Everything that ever happened to POAP, including again, Gary Vee, the US Open and plenty of other brands like that, they all came because they wanted to use the tech the same way as Ethereum. We are very aligned with the Ethereum mission. The Ethereum foundation has never done any outreach for getting people to use Ethereum, and when they tried, it didn’t even work. People use Ethereum because it does things they want to do in life because it’s valuable for them. And it’s the same for POAP. And that’s what is our guiding light. When we have to make contentious decisions. Even, for example, with treasury we were given huge airdrops across our history for different reasons, and we are constantly thinking what would Vitalik do? It’s not that we do what Vitalik wants. He has helped us a lot, full disclosure, as well. Like he has helped with ideas and endorsements eventually on Twitter, but it’s like, what could someone like Vitalik do in this situation? Because what makes Vitalik such a unique leader is not only he’s arguably the smartest man alive, he has a moral standard and a moral compass that I don’t think anyone else has. So every time we need to make a decision and those decisions apply to business, like, do we reach out to this grant or not? We think what Ethereum-compatible action for this. 

Biggest Mistakes

What’s one thing, Patricio, that you wish you had known that you’ve kind of learned along the way, but when you started would have been helpful? 

I made plenty of mistakes, one of them, and I’m still disappointed when I talk about it, it’s how stingy I was in the early days. We launched in 2019 and for the first year, I was running on a shoestring budget and we got huge brands coming to us like, like even Bank of America, and we were like, these are your options. You go into ETH hub and you’ll learn how to use POAP up, and you set up yourself or you don’t use POAP. And I was like, if I was less fundamentalist and more pragmatic, and hired someone to handle those relationships, adoption would happen much earlier. Because like the bank of America team came to POAP in March, 2020 and there were others selling it, some sport franchises. And I was really focused on how I was, and this spiritual decision. Like I have this mantra of POAP doesn’t do this and that, and I was like, I should have done this and that, and everything would be much easier. So yeah, guys, these things happened because I was a tech person and it happens to tech people all the time that we believe that tech is what matters and that’s not true. What matters is sales. If you have a good sales team and a crappy product, it’s likely that you survive. If you have a great product, but you don’t have sales teams, you probably won’t go anywhere. I mean, there are exceptions for everything, but my point here being, something, I regret, a huge mistake I’ve done, and a lesson learned for really consumer products, you have to follow the consumer product playbook, and that implies lots of top down customer acquisition. 

Outro

I think that’s a perfect place to leave off. Before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find POAP? Shill away, tell me more. 

Our main communication channel is Twitter. So, if you can do only one thing, follow @poapxyz on Twitter. If you want to do two things, you can also follow my account, which is @worthalter, my last name, but I rarely tweet. If you are a passionate POAP collector, be aware that we are aggressively hiring community members, people that understand POAP that love POAP for multiple positions, not only technical, but for running local POAP offices. We are opening an office in Paris and France and like that, we need offices in Asia, in Australia, across the Metro cities in the US. Any passionate POAP collector, please stay around us, let us know that you love our product and you would like to make it better because we need you. 

Amazing. Thank you so much, man. We gotta do this again in like another year or so and see where the growth has been. It’s probably going to be even more exponential in six months, but thank you so much.

It’s been my pleasure and thank you for educating the community. POAP will only become this global escape checking base social network that we dream of only after the collective effort of the whole industry. It’s not going to be because we made it. It’s people like you like Cooper, like even a study from are way all using POAP well, creating exciting experiences is how this is going to happen. So thank you very much for promoting POAP the way you do. 

Of course, man. Thank you. We’ll talk soon. 

Bye. 

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Podcast Transcript

FVCKRENDER and the Journey from Instagram to Christie’s

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 14 welcomes the futuristic tech-digital artist FVCKRENDER, who is a self-taught creative working out of Vancouver. With a defining affinity for sharp architectural geometry, beaming future landscapes, and brilliant crystalline arrangements, his renders pay a dark homage to what may eventually reflect our very existence. His clients include Supreme, Softest Hard, Columbia Records, Lil Nas X, Epic Records, Harpers Bazaar China, TOKiMONSTA, New Retrowave Records, High Snobiety, Puma, Spotify, Instagram, Wieden + Kennedy, Rosalía, Northlane, Damian Lazarus, Le Cirque du Soleil, Lebron James, Primitive Skateboard, OVO, 88 Rising, Dior, Hypebeast and many more.

In this episode we discuss:

  • 2:50 – Who is FVCKRENDER?
  • 6:02 – What does your work represent?
  • 9:21 – FVCKRENDERVERSE
  • 20:22 – A Shift from the Digital Art to Physical Art
  • 27:23 – FVCKRENDER at Christie’s
  • 34:08 – Advice on entering the NFT Space
  • 38:29 – Coping Strategies
  • 45:07 – FVCKRENDER’s Biggest Failures
  • 47:56 – Does Crypto and Web 3 favor new artists?
  • 51:54 – FVCKRENDER influencers
  • 52:50 – Biggest Misunderstanding about You
  • 54:10 – FVCKRENDER’s Long Term Vision
  • 55:15 – Outro

…and so much more.

His Latest and First-Ever Physical Piece Revealed at Christie’s

He debuted his most exciting project yet on Mint, showcasing a physical chain he created, inspired by some of his iconic digital work.

The piece will be auctioned a Christie’s during Art Basel Miami.

I bet it will go for at least $1,000,000, a genuine steal to be honest.


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!


Who is FVCKRENDER?

You got it. I’ve been wanting to have you on for a minute. You are a part of season three super exciting stuff you’ve been working on. You crossed a 100 K followers on Twitter. You’re making a lot of noise online, across, I guess what we call the metaverse currently. Let’s just dive right in. Okay. Who are you? Okay. What were you like before crypto? And kind of, where are you doing? What are you doing now?

So before crypto I was doing commercial work visuals for shows and like advertisements stuff like this. I was pretty much working as many hours as I could to burn out. Basically. That was pretty much what where I was. Now I don’t know. I’m just like doing stuff that I like, which is insane. And I’m doing like, I’m just experimenting with like the crypto and NFC space and see how I can build this environment and community around my art basically. And so, yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m doing right now. I’m trying to just experiment enough fun and trade like the coolest I can do because I don’t have any more barriers or like any guideline on what I should do. It’s literally just me doing shit. So yeah, it’s been, how

How long have you been an artist for?

Seven years now.

And what were some of like the initial pieces you started creating before you kind of dove deeper into the themes kind of like what you’re building right now?

All my career, I was always like trying to experiment with some stuff and like, I never like follow any trend that much, like there’s some trends that are inevitable, but I always tried to do something different than other people. I started to do commercial work, so like my art side, like people were hiring me for what I was doing. So it was pretty cool, but it was still coming with like creative director who has like their crazy vision. But yeah, so I was basically becoming the executor of commercial work and I didn’t like it. I said it on another podcast. I’m so bad at commercial work. Like I’m so bad at commercial work.

Is it because it’s just too limiting to your creative side, you’re following too much structure?

Yeah. I’m not an executant, I consider myself as a true artist where I need to do what I like to do to feel good about my art. Honestly, when I was doing commercial work, I was just burning out. Like every, like every year I was having like a major burnout. So it didn’t make sense. I wasn’t meant to do like art for other people basically. Which is basically like, [inaudible] like in the [inaudible] because like, now it’s just freedom. You can literally build something that you truly believe in and people will support that. And it’s the best feeling. Honestly. It’s crazy.

What does your work represent?

How would you describe your work to people who are unfamiliar with your craft?

I don’t like to put labels on my stuff because I like to experiment too much, but like, I would say like some digital surrealism maybe.

Whoever’s listening right now, you should go to like nifty gateway, go on opensee, look up his Instagram page. You also have your own NFT portfolio and Instagram page. Right? That’s super cool. I highly recommend you check it out. You know, we met, I feel like almost a year ago also through like clubhouse, crypto, Twitter, all of these things. We’ve been creating content through Twitter spaces and whatnot, and I’ve seen your work kind of evolve. And one thing that always sticks out to me about you and kind of like the pieces that you put out is the 3d nature of it, the ambiance behind it, the crystals, right? You have these things that symbolize like who you are as FVCKRENDER, the roses, the chains, all these things kind of like encompass you. Why do you feel like you’re leaning more towards like the crystal side? Like the rose side, the chain side. I’m trying to understand more about your work and your creative process.

And like, that’s actually funny because, if you know me in real life, I hate crystals. I don’t hate crystals, I hate the crystal people where like they put their crystal on their forehead and they’re like, oh, I feel so much better right now. I’m not like this. Some people were like reaching out to me and they were like, oh, do you put like crystals on your forehead and do shit like this? I said no. What I’m interested in the crystal is our planet is forming these crystals. And it’s all about like time, like only time create crystals and extreme forces all together. And like, this is what I like to do with my art is like, take my time and like put every energy I have and create like these artwork basically. There’s so many different phases that you don’t necessarily see when you look at it up front. It just looks so cool and so beautiful. This is the main reason why I like to use crystals. Chains to me is like community and like people chaining together to build something,I’ve always used chain in my art. Growing together is better than growing alone. Like flowers, that’s so simple, but like we’re all blooming and stuff like this. I don’t like to put words in people’s mouth, but that’s, to me, what it represented kind of.

One thing that I’ve noticed that’s super, super unique about your work is, at one point you just said, right now, you don’t like to control the way, kind of like people see and explain it and kind of feel your work. But on the other hand, you’re creating this FVCKRENDER verse, right? This entire metaverse around your art, around the ambient music around the crystals, and all these planets. Right. A part of that is trying to control the experience that people encounter with your art. Can you talk a little bit about FVCKRENDERVERSE? What is going on over there? I remember like six months ago, seven months ago, I downloaded that initial file. We were on Twitter spaces. I was going through it. I was amazed. How has it developed since then? But I guess first, like what is it?

FVCKRENDERVERSE

FVCKRENDERVERSE has changed a lot in the past few months. At first it was like mostly like a art experience, virtual experience for people to see my art in a different way. Now we’re turning it more into a game more like a virtual experience art game. I’m currently working with some of the best to make a social economics and a token economics to help me with the FVCKRENDER verse. This is the first time I say it, I think so publicly, but FVCKRENDER verse changing its name for ellipsy. I wanted to change the name because I want other artists to get involved and I don’t want artists to feel shadowed by the FVCKRENDER verse. I want people to come in and feel like it’s their place as much as it’s my place. So I really want to make this virtual experience really inclusive and let people in and let everybody have fun and don’t feel like, oh, I’m releasing on FVCKRENDER verse platform.

So does that mean you’re building the tools and like foundation people to develop their own metaverse around their artwork?

No, not really. We’re really creating like this environment where people will be able to join in. It’s not going to be super open at first. It’s a project that without the NFTs space, it would take like four years to build, but because it’s a NFT and everything goes so fast, we need to build it in a matter of few months. It’s more like an experience. I wanted to dissociate my art and utility and like this thing that I want to build, like this universe I wanted to build, like, I feel like a lot of people are associating my one-on-ones to this FVCKRENDER verse called Ellipsy. So I wanted to like, create like a separation for people that wants to buy my one-on-one. They don’t feel targeted because I released like 4,000 crystals. Because to me it’s important. Like, my art is really, really important for me. And I felt like in the past few months some collectors were a little bit concerned because I was releasing all these crazy stuff with FVCKRENDER verse. I’m trying to find a way, like, without diluting my work and still creating something that I want to create, which is this meta verse where people can just hang out together and have this art experience altogether and without like sacrificing my one-on-ones and like my personal art, you know? We’re building this. It’s going to be like kind of a free to play, but also play to earn type game where people will be able to, I can’t really talk too much, but our goal is for crystal olders to farm their crystals and like have these social events where you’ll be able to, I really can’t talk too much about this. I’m going to get the slap on the hand a little bit, because we’re building something really, really sick. I heard like some of the best to help for the experience for the economics and for the development sides of it. So in the next few weeks, it’s gonna be pretty wild.

Amazing. We’ll have to do a live show, like on Twitter space.

So one thing I want to say it’s like no more downloadable files, it’s all streamable. So you’ll be able to stream it on your phone or on your laptop, Mac or PC. Like we don’t care. It’s really like, we to make this the most user friendly puzzle, because now downloading files, doesn’t make any more sense in this new era of like [inaudible] and shit like this.

That makes a lot of sense. You know, dude, you really front ran the whole metaverse trend. You were very early on that before Facebook came out, everybody now wants to become, or a lot of people want to become like a metaverse company. You saw that way before a lot of other people did. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you were so early to it?

I don’t know. I’ll blame crypto voxel. I started to see these things coming up and this is why we changed the FVCKRENDER verse name, because everybody’s wants to have a verse. I don’t like to do what other people are doing. I remember like when I started the FVCKRENDER verse so many artists reach out to me and they were like, oh, I’m doing this artist name verse. I was like, oh, okay. I need to do something about this. I’m super pro people do their own things and everything like this, but like, I like to be different. I think the thing that really switched in my brain is like, it was COVID and I haven’t seen my brother in like years, and I was just chilling with my brother in crypto voxels, showing him like my art in crypto voxels. And I was like, this is crazy. I’m spending quality time with my brother that I haven’t seen physically in years. So it was like, so maybe I can create something for my art, because I don’t want people to only see my art on the webpage. Like, I want people to go see like the virtual sculpture of my art in like fucked up surrealistic environment. I was really like intrigued of how can we perceive an NFT’s because I think what’s interesting right now is like, if you have a physical piece only a few people will see it. Like this piece from Libby only people that will come to my place, that they were going to see it. If you have your NFT page, everybody sees it. So I was like, how can I make more people see the kind of physical, so virtual, physical, if that makes sense, but in a virtual world where a lot of people could see the actual, like, sculpture of it basically.

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. How do you feel about like the current state of what people are trying to make of the metaverse for example, Metta and their take on trying, I guess what people think is them trying to own every aspect of it, right. Control and make it look like 3d and caricature type of, you know, access through these VR headsets. Do you agree with that thesis that they kind of presented a few weeks back? Do you imagine another kind of thesis prevailing? What do you think

It’s going to be interesting. I hate to say that I think Metta is going to crush it. Because they have so much more resources than everybody else. And when I say crush it, it doesn’t mean that necessarily, I’m stoked for it. I just think they’re going to do like a good job creating the meta verse. I think it’s going to be really controlled and like not inclusive at all. And I think it goes in the opposite way that we’re trying to go with like the old decentralized point of view. I have no opinion. I’m like praying for it to not crash because of meta basically. But I think there’s so many genuine creators out there that we’re going to be able to compete with meta, I’m pretty sure more than we can with Facebook right now and the web too. It’s going to be easier for us to compete with big brands and stuff like this in web three, because we’re web trees, ownership, it’s giving ownership to your family and your community. So Facebook was never giving ownership to anybody basically. So we’ll see. I don’t know. We’ll see, maybe they’ll change it and it’s going to be really cool.

You know, what comes to mind as you tell me this I’m like imagining like this scenario, okay. Bear with me. Facebook is like the king of the world and you and I, and all these other people are like having like the civil war fare. Right. I’m trying to go after like the big guys and that there’s power in many versus a large entity. Right. And us collectively, we’re building this entire vision of what we deem to be better and more fair for the people. Right. Whatever that means and not competing against like the bigger guys. Right. Yeah. It kind of feels like David and Goliath and David is comprised of many kind of thing. Right. Do you see it the same way?

Yeah, kind of, and to be fair, like I speak for myself, but like, I’m not trying to compete with meta when I’m building FVCKRENDER verse, because I know my vision and I know where I want to go with that and people will love it anyway. So I think there’s room for a lot of platforms and a lot of like meta verse. I think there shouldn’t be just one meta verse. It doesn’t make any sense, but for sure meta is going to try to have control on all the meta verse for sure.

Okay. One thing you brought up is this intertwine between the digital and the physical. One thing we were talking about behind the scenes is this new physical drop you have coming up at, Christie’s what you showed me a picture of and it’s sick. I want to say, are you able to show a picture of it now and like walk us through it? Okay. So this is going to happen at art Basel next week. I’ll be there. So if you’re listening to this before art Basel hit me up on Twitter at levy chain, I want to meet you. FVCKRENDER, will you be there?

I won’t be physically there. Unfortunately I have to go to LA, but I’d wish, honestly, like I love art basel. I’ve been there pretty much every year before COVID for the last few years, but this event is so sick.

Yeah, amazing. Okay. Show me what you showed me behind the scene and walk me through that narrative. You’re planning a really dope piece for Christie’s it’s your first physical piece. Take it away.

A Shift from the Digital Art to Physical Art

My work is mostly like sculptures, like in virtual space and like super surrealist space. It’s been a couple of years I wanted to do a physical, but before it was so broke, I couldn’t even do anything. So with NFTs now I can afford to pay people to help me do a very nice physical. So I wanted to create like this physical, but I’m a digital artist. So doing a physical, I wanted to do something that is like my work in the physical realm that we’re living in. I have so much respect for peoples culture and stuff like this, but personally, I didn’t want to have like any screens or anything that is like, technological about it. I wanted to put my surrealistic sculptures in real life. So I worked probably like three months, and it’s a super simple sculpture, but I worked three months to understand, like, what could be interesting to see in physical life. I came with this piece that I honestly, we painted it yesterday and honestly, I was literally crying at the studio because I can’t believe this is real. And it looks really, really, rally crazy. I’ll show you two pictures. I’ll show you this one here and I’ll show you one where it, the goal was to make the chain-link floating seems like they were floating. So you got this piece here.Yeah. Yeah. It’s about like five feet tall, a little bit more. It’s super reflective and it looks honestly, it looks really, really, really cool. It’s actually not too heavy too. This one is the perfect picture, because the goal was to make it look like all the chain-link was connected but floating. So you see like the gaps between them. In 3d, sometimes I do this, I don’t stretch the chain-link together because it’s in 3d. So I can have so much room for things that wouldn’t happen in real life. So I was like, how can I create something that wouldn’t be physically possible in the physical space?

How did you create that? Are the chains, not touching each other at all?

They are touching, but the touching point are so specific that at certain degrees, it looks like they’re not touching at all.

Geez. One more time. One more time.

For sure. One more time. I’ll show you a video of it getting painted yesterday

As we’re watching it. Okay. Talk to me through, like, what material are you using to paint what’s the base made out of what are the chains made out of?

So we did a couple of tests, but we need to carry it to Miami.

Carrying it from Vancouver?

I’m selling an NFT. I’m not selling the physical. So the collector that’s going to buy the NFT is going to get this sculpture as a gift, because to me, I’m not a physical artist, so the physical doesn’t have the same value as the NFT. I want to prove that without the NFT, this sculpture has no value, basically, because it’s not what I do. My value is sitting in NFTs. So bike by building it, I wanted to make something that is pretty light and something that the collector can carry and move, move around. And it’s not like 600 pounds, you know? It’s about like 50 pounds actually. So it’s pretty, pretty light. It’s made out of a polyurethane and it’s a clear coded with a Chrome finish. It’s really straightforward how it’s made. We made the cast with laser printing so we did like these 3d models of chains. We drip the polyurethane inside, and we merged them together and we put a separation between, so we can like stick them together. And I think I have a picture of when they assembled it, they are to cut the chain so the chain link was done. So they had to cut the chain link. I wasn’t there when they cut it, but I suppose the people were like freaking out, because it was kind of scary because like, there’s a lot of work that has been put in into this physical piece. But it’s mainly polyurethane like a Chrome finish paint.

You seem so proud talking about it.

I’m so proud. I was crying in the studio yesterday because I was like, I can’t believe this is real. Like, this is so sick

And what a cool kind of way that experiment in the physical space and take what you’re so good at designing and putting out digitally and trying to manifest that in real life and kind of see that where you can touch it, you know, you can play with it, you can kind of walk around it. What a cool piece, how long have you been working on that?

So designing the piece took about three months, and it’s not because it’s complicated. It’s just because I was never satisfied of the angle and stuff like this. No, not three months. That’s a lie, maybe like a month or two. I have no sense of time anymore. Maybe a month or two, but I was never really satisfied, like on how the chain was looking and everything. The physical production took 10 people and they were literally working 24 hours a day. They were changing shifts and that was for like a good solid month. Yeah. It’s pretty crazy. Yeah.

Geez. How heavy is that thing?

50 pounds.

How do you plan to ship it? It looks really fragile.

It’s not actually too fragile. It’s actually really well designed and well welded. So we’re hiring this company in Vancouver where they have like these big shipping boxes with foam, so it’s going to be pretty safe.

So this is going to be presented at Christie’s during art Basel, Miami. Open bid? What is it like, how does it work? What’s going on?

FVCKRENDER at Christie’s

So I wanted to put a I reserve price on it, but to me, it didn’t feel right. I like to put open auction, so I can let more people bid on it. As long as it covers my cost of production, I’ll be stoked, but we’ll see how it goes. Like, I don’t like to predict any prices, but it’s for sure a very big piece for me, so I really hope it’s going to go well, and I don’t really care if it goes well, I just hope people will love it as much as I love this piece.

Well said. They’re buying the NFT that then rewards them with this physical piece, correct?

The NFTs is what people are buying.

And Christie’s has that online auction set up where you can basically bid and buy? Is it minted on Christie’s or is it using like a nifty gateway type of approach?

No, I think they’re using their own smart contract. And so there is no atrophy, I think there’s a small percentage, like super I would take, but it’s not like the traditional, like Christie’s with like the crazy armor fee where a lot of crypto collectors doesn’t like, which I totally understand, because it doesn’t make any more sense nowadays with all the platform that we were having and everything that’s getting built. I truly respect Christie’s for going forward and like changing their mentality of how they are approaching the NFT space. I think they’re actually listening to people, which is amazing.

All right. So I have a price prediction. Okay. I think at least $1 million, at least.

That would be my goal. Like that would be insane.

Dude, if a collector understands how, like how detail orientated, how deep into the process you are and have been for years prior to NFTs and kind of seeing your journey as a digital artist on Instagram, doing corporate designs, working with big artists and transitioning to owning your craft now, front running the entire metaverse trend, and kind of like betting on you as an innovator, as an individual, who’s pushing the needle forward. This physical piece, this physical piece is like one that ties it all together. It genuinely ties it all together.

Thank you so much man, for all that. I appreciate these words so much, like it’s wild man. That means a lot and we’ll see, I don’t want to put any price in my head so whatever happens, I’ll be stoked. I think it’s every artist’s dream to sell at least one piece over a million dollars or $4 million. It’s such like a privileged thing to be able to say.

I think what I respect about you the most beyond being like such a good artist is you’re an amazing community builder. You really know how to rally people around what you love and people really know how to find a common theme that they love alongside your passions. And you’ve done an incredible job, rallying people across Twitter, across Twitter spaces, across clubhouse, on discord building that downloadable file for the metaverse like I’ve seen it, I’ve watched it, you know, I’ve participated in the conversations and it’s just amazing to see kind of how far you’ve come you at your new place now to, you know, like just like everything kind of like falling in place.

Thank you so much, man. That’s so nice of you to say like, and then I’m truly like, genuine about like how I’m trying to build stuff as much as like I’m known to be the guy that experiments a lot of stuff, but I’m always cautious in my experiments to make sure that my collectors and my community get rewarded and get what they’re buying. I’m trying to make it the safest possible. So crystals are not pumping, but they’re like growing and they will keep growing because I’m not going to sleep. And I’m just gonna like, build this thing until I die.

My whole thing is it’s I prefer an organic growth versus a synthetic

Dude. I hate bumps and dumps and it’s really staining the community right now because a lot of people are jumping in project and like, they don’t 10 X or 100 X the next day. And they were like, oh, this project is shit. And this is such a toxic mentality. Like, I get it. You want to make as much money as you can in the short amount of time, but understand that like some markets are so controlled and like crypto influencers and stuff like this, like I’m not pumping your bags with crypto influencers because I want this investment to be reliable in the next few years, you know, like, I don’t know. I have a very strong opinion about like these collectible project and I like I’m investing in some.

Advice on entering the NFT Space

Yeah, yeah. But none of this is financial investment advice, purely commentary. Right? So none of this is investment-related. Okay. But I love how deep you’re getting with it. And like how you’re kind of thinking about the growth of the community, the growth of the pieces itself. You’re the definition of a new classic creators. That’s emerging creators that want to own their audience and own their communities and the things that kind of bring them aligned together. And I think you ferocious Victor there’s a ton of them like BLOND:ISH comes to mind Mad Dog Jones, people, obviously all these like individuals, these micro individuals that started on Instagram on web two, right now you guys are building viral audiences on web three. You’re now funneling those audiences to kind of build communities around them. You guys are defining a new class of creators. If someone wants to kind of follow in that footsteps, right. Issue their assets, whether it be art related, whether it be music related, whether it be a cookbook, whatever it may be that they love and adore, and it excites them, how can they get started?

The main thing, and the most important thing is make friends. Everybody is so friendly in the meta verse and like on Twitter, like I would mend some stuff and I would collect some stuff and interact with the community that you’re buying. Because if you buy an NFT that you like, that means that everybody does buying the same project, they have the same interests as you. So just build something with friends that you make online. Like this is the most important thing is be part of the community and try to build something that first, that is not a copy base. It’s something that you’re building for yourself because you think this is, this is not there yet. So like build something that is true to you and is going to either solve a problem or make people laugh or make people have fun, basically.

What do you optimize for? What are the metrics that you optimize for as a creator when you’re building out your pieces, right. To kind of build a community and find like-minded people, how do you, how do you think about it? What’s that strategy you use if any?

I don’t really use any strategy. I’m really just trying to build something that people will like. I think my biggest skill is, I really, really listen to my community. Like when I see one person being pissed on my discord, I make sure that everybody’s super stoked with everything I’m building. And I know I can satisfy everybody. And it’s a very slippery slope, because people can abuse sometime, but I can see who’s genuinely like wondering, or asking questions, stuff like this. I think putting your ego aside and understanding that sometime you make mistake and making sure that you build something from these mistakes, I think that’s how you build your shit.

Yeah. Just create to create right. Create to create. Put it out there, tell people about it, get the feedback, try to find those audiences that kind of align with what you’re creating. I think it’s solid and it’s so simple, you know, in theory, but in practice it gets harder.

It’s really hard, especially for the new creators coming in. It must be really intimidating and especially like, I, as much as I like having big sales, seeing artists, having big sales, when you start, it must be so mentally challenging. And because you’re like, oh, my art is good. Why I’m not selling for a hundred each? And it’s happening to me. Like every auction I’m like, even if I sell for a decent amount, I’m like, oh, this guy sold for X amount. Why I’m not selling for this amount. And it gets too like a repetitive like terrain where it’s kind of annuity. So I’m trying to really, to disconnect with this. And so by saying this, I totally understand like the newcomers coming in the space and be like, oh, like, I’d like to make sales. But at the end of the day, what you need to understand is like, the money is just a bonus. If you really do something from your art and for your art, you’ll eventually make money. You should never be worried about the money at first.

Yeah. I can only imagine how intimidating it is for new NFT art creators, specifically art coming in, seeing a lot of the success that early adopters had, who were popular on Instagram. And now they’re trying to make their way into web three. How do you deal with that? Like that element of mental health? What are like some day-to-day practices that you apply to kind of like rid yourself of that negativity? What are some things that you think other people can do? Cause it’s a big thing because I see the numbers sometimes, you know, even as a podcaster you know, you look at other people and while you’re very proud about the content that you push out and you stay consistent and you’re on your craft, you know, it’s, it’s natural to see what’s happening around you. It’s very natural.

Coping Strategies

Yeah. I drink a lot of tequila. No, I’m kidding. No, no, no. I think it’s important to disconnect and like, it’s so important to connect with physical life and have social life. And I feel like a lot of people, like we see like people promoting like, oh, I never sleep. And I feel good. I hate this mentality. It’s so toxic. I think it’s important to really disconnect and make sure that like you get your sleep and you do exercise. I personally don’t think I do exercise enough and I should do more, but I still try to take some time to go out and go on the water and just chill for an hour. It’s so important to disconnect from your screen. You cannot have great ideas if you’re exhausted. They just have rushed ideas. It’s not healthy. So I think the main thing is like, listen to your body and you’re going to miss maybe a generational wealth project by going on the water, but you’ll be able to stay longer in that space because you won’t burn out in two months. There’s going to be a thousands of potential project that will pump your pockets. I won’t care. Your mental health is way more important than the money you’re going to make this afternoon. I think so. This is my point of view.

Yeah. I agree with you. I agree with you. Sometimes you see these tweets where it’s like, guys, I stepped away from the computer for like three days and Loot came out and what the hell just happened? I missed like what feels like three months?

I wish I missed Loot though. I bought like a divine rope for 38, 8, and now the floor is like five. So I wish I was outside this day. So you never know, maybe you’re gonna win the best project or you’re going to lose the most like money. So go outside anyway.

Does Crypto and Web 3 Favor New Artists?

I hear you. I like that point of view. What about for creators that don’t have the capital to buy or spend $500 on an NFT to get into a community then to make friends, like, for example, a lot of what people preach is buy 10 K worth of FWB get into that community, engrain yourself, meet the other creators and artists and music managers and et cetera, et cetera, of web three, you know, get yourself in the door and then start working on your own projects. Once you build some type of community, a lot of people don’t have that. There’s a long tail of individuals that don’t have that money. Don’t have the financial means to do that. How do they get started? What have you found to be the best way?

So I can relate because I come from a totally different environment than the artists that’s coming right now, because I truly think that for me and like Mad Dog and Victor, it was pretty easy because there wasn’t as many competitor. So we had like more room to experiment and like fail. I still think we’re amazing artists, but I think we had a little bit more room to fail back in the days, than the new artists as right now. So I can’t really relate, but how I can see this right now is like build a community on Twitter, interact with people on Twitter. And like, if you’re a creator who’s selling NFTs and like try to, I don’t know, like it’s hard, man. I think just genuinely put out work that you like and put it out as long as you can. And eventually even if you don’t sell tomorrow, like I have a piece on super that hasn’t sold for four months now and it’s going to sell eventually, I don’t care. Like if you go to an artist studio, all the artwork that you see in their studio, they’re not sold. So I don’t know. I think build a community on Twitter to start, try to make some money by buying cheap and NFTs maybe. This is not FENDER financial advice I don’t know.

Yeah, yeah. You know, the way I think about it just cause we’re already on this topic. If you’re a creator that’s listening, you’re getting into crypto or at least you want to get into crypto. You want to learn about social tokens, NFTs, Dows, join some of these dowels. A lot of these dowels they’re free to enter. And there’s a lot of like-minded people that you can start building friends and relationships with. And the best thing that I found to solidify those online interactions is attending conferences. And these conferences are like our pillar because crypto is so online. These in-person events are the things that solidify relationships, long term, all the crazy parties, all the get togethers, all the coffees, all these things. We all share the COVID together. I remember I went to EPCC in Paris and I got COVID over there and I got it really bad, but it was well worth it. And it’s crazy that I’m saying that because a lot of the people that I otherwise interacted with online either had on the podcast, either worked with directly contributed to the Dow’s, whatever it may be. I got to meet them in person and like, we’ve become.

I just want to say one thing still to everybody’s listening. Be really careful with COVID it’s real. Just make sure you guys are safe and wear a mask if you can, because you don’t want to get COVID. Some people are immunosuppressive, I don’t know it’s in English, but so we need to be still careful, but I understand what you mean. When I was in NFD NYC, I didn’t get COVID and I got tested pretty much every day on it for like 14 days, I was like really paranoid about COVID. We didn’t end up getting it, but meeting people in real life that has the same value as you that are building the same thing as you, it’s an amazing experience.

Yeah. I’ll add to that COVID thing, because there’s a lot of like parties and stuff like that, and it does get crazy and people do leave sick, so really understand like your risk tolerance, like understand your surroundings, who you’re staying with at home and all that. It’s super risky. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into before attending a conference. But if you’re in a position that you’re able to financially, definitely do it. I think that’s kind of like one of the best ways to get into the door as a new creator. I want to pivot into more of like a deeper questions, because you talked about you being early adopter there being there being room for more failure, right. As an early NFT creator, what would you say was your biggest failure to date and what did you learn from it?

FVCKRENDER’s Biggest Failures

I think my biggest failure was to do too much. I was like so hot about everything, and that was like, I was taking all of the opportunity because I was really interested in like, how I can create something interesting. How can I work with these guys that could be interesting and stuff like this. Doing visuals for a music artists or like drops with music artists. If I could go back I would maybe not do as much as I did. It’s not a regret because I learned so much about it, from it, but I think the main thing is like, say, no, you don’t need to do everything and be careful about the amount of art you put out there, because it’s really important. You don’t want to put too much pieces out there. I personally think I did the mistake to have too many pieces out there. I don’t think it affects me really much nowadays because I’m always trying to find a way to create more scarcity around my art, like when I burned, like the balance and [inaudible], like the crystals, like I literally shrink down the quantity in half. I think, do stuff that you feel it’s worth it and don’t do it just because like a famous person wants to do something with you, because more likely that famous person don’t care about you and they just want your name to pump their shit.

Do you think crypto and web three favors more of the new artist or the existing artists?

Does Crypto and Web 3 favor new artistes?

What do you mean exactly?

So new artists in terms of like independent artists, let’s talk about Daniel Allen, for example. Okay. If you’re familiar with Daniel Allen, he’s a musician, a producer. He had a really successful bureau campaign where he raised like 180 K in less than 48 hours for an EP that he was working on. Right. And I’d consider them a relatively new artists that I highly respect for his craft and his taste and his songs. But compared to someone like Trey Songz or Tory lanes, orJason Derulo that like are buying punks, or that are issuing NFT albums, I’m comparing like mainstream to up and coming. Right. Do you think crypto favors more of the up-and-coming than the mainstream?

Yeah, but you know why it’s because these up-and-coming artists, they interact with their community. They build something around their community. They don’t just come in, take the cash and get out. I don’t want to bash anybody, but Blau is super active in the community and he’s selling super well. And you see ASAP Rocky coming in ASAP Rocky is way bigger than Blau in the music industry. But ASAP Rocky drop a mess. So the reason why is like people buying NFTs, they know that Blau is here to stay and they know that ASAP Rocky might not stay or might just don’t really give a fuck about NFTs or might just be like his management team that’s taking care of the NFT side. ASAP Rocky doesn’t even know he had a nifty gateway drop. We cannot know for certain what’s happening with like these big artists unless they truly interact with the community. I think up and coming artist and like independent artists has maybe advantage over big celebrities, for sure.

That’s a solid take. I think that it could change really fast if these more mainstream people took more consideration of what community building is at its core and engage with fans beyond streams or beyond likes or, and really like, like not being afraid to come down to the level of an everyday person and being one with everyone, you know?

Exactly. Yeah. At the end of the day, like these guys were the same as us few years ago, like we’re all drinking the same water. We’re all casting the same shadow. Something that I don’t understand though, is they are way more busy than up and coming artists, which makes total sense that they don’t have time to chat with everybody on discord and stuff like this. But I truly think that spending one hour a week going on discord and chatting, could have such a beneficial impact for big artists.

Well think about this. I don’t think it’s that they don’t have time, they don’t prioritize it. Right. Because there is immense value, if you prioritize the time to build a community, right. Some people like to say 1000 true fans or 1000 true owners or whatever it may be. Right. Like if you prioritize that time, you build a community, you engrain yourself and get level-headed with everybody that loves and adores your craft. There’s value in that.

A hundred percent yeah. Saying it that way. That makes sense.

Who are the three people that kind of influenced you the most throughout your early artist’s career and then now you’re NFT career? And is there overlap between those people?

FVCKRENDER influencers

I’m going to sound so boring, but I don’t usually try to get inspired by people because I when I started, I was really inspired by what I was seeing, like on Instagram and other artists and this makes my work going in the direction that it’s not truly me. So I’m going to be more inspired by like the environment and seeing in real life and like reflection sometime like the window will do with like a curve of a lamp and stuff like this. I’m more inspired by this. I would say though, like Mobius has always been one of my biggest inspiration for sure. I think you can see it in my work a lot. I don’t like to be inspired by other people because it’s derailing me from my own vision, if you know what I mean?

Okay. So I have another question. What’s something that people seem to misunderstand about you?

People’s Biggest Understandings about You

So I think because of the FVCKRENDER people think I’m like rough and like always angry. I think that the name there really show something that is like aggressive a little bit. Like it’s the total opposite of me. I’m the smoothest person. I do flowers and trees/ I think like this might be like a misconception. I’m just like chill and I really love my artist name. I think it’s really catchy and people love it. I was in a conference four years ago and I met someone who is like, I’m 5 ft 7″ a little bit more, I’m not really a big guy. And I met this guy and I was like, Hey, I’m, FVCKRENDER, I love your art. He was like your FVCKRENDER? I was like, yeah, for some reason, I thought you were six feet, five and six refrigerator large. And I was like, why? I don’t know your name. I was like, okay. That’s so weird.

Yeah. Interesting. What do you want FVCKRENDER to be five years from now? What’s the vision?

FVCKRENDER’s Long Term Vision

I just want to do cool shit, man. I want to build a [inaudible]. I want to create my own shows. I want to do cool shit, man. As much as like I would like to sell a piece for a million dollar, like my, my ultimate goal is just, I want to be able to keep doing what I’m doing right now and keep experimenting and have fun. And the amount of love I’m receiving right now from like discord and Twitter. If I can keep having this and people like supporting my art, I’m I’m winning. Literally.

I love it. Final question. Okay. Before I let you go, where can we find you? This has been a lot of fun FVCKRENDER. Thank you so much for being on. Where can we find your work? Where can we find what you’re doing? This Christie’s auction, like throw some links, shout yourself out.

How do folks find you?

So you can see my work, I think on Instagram, which is FVCKRENDER I think this is where you can see all my art. If you want to see like all my NFTs, I have some on super air nifty gateway. Christie’s. Sotheby’s, that’s so sick to be able to say that like open see I’m currently minting all my shit with Manifold. Manifold is the best team out there. And there’s literally no one that can take Manifolds place. And I know like some other people are trying to build stuff that are literally copy paste of manifold, but it’s, Manifold only, I just wanted to shout them out. I think it’s important. Twitter is where I do my posting and I ask stupid questions and I complain about stuff. So yeah, it depends on what you’re looking for.

Amazing, amazing. And the Christie’s thing that’s coming up at art Basel, where can we learn more about that?

Yeah. So it’s, I think it’s going to be on the front page of open sea, which is really sick. Like I’m so stoked for this. There’s so many amazing artists part of this. There’s Victor Askira, there’s Beige, which is my fiance. I’m so stoked. That’s her first Christie’s she’s an amazing artist. There’s Blake Katrin. There’s praise station. There’s Mad Dog Jones. There’s so many amazing artists. I’m sorry I can’t mention them all because my brain is too small. I think the auction started December 5th or around December 5th I’ll be like spamming everybody. I’ll be really annoying about this one because it’s one of my favorite piece and like the physical pieces are actually completely insane.

Thank you so much. We will do this again when it Ellipsy’s out right and everything’s coming out and coming into place, we’ll do a live Twitter session, but in the meantime, guys, go check out everything that he’s working on and thank you. We’ll see you soon.

Thank you so much, man. For real.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Music Meets Web3: Maroon 5 DAO, NFT Concert Ticketing & On-chain Fandom

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 13 welcomes the founder and CEO of YellowHeart, Josh Katz, who’s building NFT live event ticketing and collectibles platform for artists, teams, and their authentic fans.

In this episode we discuss:

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 4:11- The “AHA” Moment
  • 7:50 – The Birth of Yellow Heart
  • 8:43 – The Maroon 5 DAO
  • 15:11- Thinking About Governance
  • 19:57 – Bringing Web 2.0 -> Web 3.0
  • 23:13 – Creating NFTs with Utility
  • 26:55 – Connecting with Normies
  • 31:55 – Minting NFTs Live & at Scale
  • 35:10 – What’s Next for Yellow Heart?
  • 41:20 – Friction in Web 3.0 Adoption
  • 49:40 – 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

Mr. Josh Katz, welcome to Mint. How are you feeling, man? 

Doing great, Adam, how are you? 

I’m good, dude. Thank you so much for being on. I’m super, super excited to have you on. You and yellow heart. You guys are doing some of the more cooler mainstream things that I’ve seen, kind of trailing online from the maroon five DAO, the Kings of Leon in the past, and all these other cool things that you’re doing. Let’s just jump right in. Who are you? More specifically, what were you like before crypto and where are you now? 

Cool. So, yeah, you know, Josh Katz, New York native born and raised outside of the city on Long island. Grew up there and have lived in Manhattan ever since I graduated college. Music fanatic, sports fan, liked to go out, have fun, eat at great restaurants, and just enjoy life and have always just followed my passions for work. My work hasn’t been something where it has been divided between the things that I’m passionate about, it’s always been the same. So you know, prior to yellow heart, I built out a company called EL Media, which was really the disruptor of a company called Muzak, which provides elevator music or background music to businesses. So we pioneered putting cool playlists into Nobu and TAO and all of these cool hotspots. And, you know, that was a labor of love around building playlists and music, and just my deep love of music as a whole and yellow heart has really just been a love of live music and going to live events and trying to fix that experience. So both just passion projects and things that have been near and dear to my heart. 

So very much on the music side of things. Do you play an instrument? 

I do, I play the guitar. I collect guitars. I’ve got about 10 of them over here. 

I wonder if you could like switch your camera. I’d be curious to see. How long have you been playing for?

 My whole life. So my father was a guitar collector not by profession, but by hobby and early in the early Greenwich village days, you know, Washington square park, Bob Gill, he was selling instruments and got super into that. I grew up around just like tons of cool guitars in my home as a kid. So it’s something that stuck with me. 

Got it. Biggest music influence on your style and your playing? 

I mean, definitely as a kid Eric Clapton by far, and you know, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Hendrix, you know, but Clapton was definitely out upfront. 

Okay. How do you feel about more of the gen Z guitarists like Omar Fetty kind of coming into the picture?

Incredible. I’m just happy people are pushing the envelope still. That’s what it’s all about. You know, just coming up with new sounds and new cool things and just, you know, the craft that’s what it’s all about. 

I play the drums. I’ve been playing since I was five years old or something like that, and for me it’s always been music and crypto. Like I got into crypto 2017, but prior to that, it was like being in jazz bands, being in the record studio, like I was an amateur at it. I loved it. It was a hobby, but I never thought about taking it mainstream, you know, making a profession out of it. How do you think about that? 

So, you know, I played the guitar and in high school it became really clear to me that I was better at the music business, like I had no skill, other than getting off my couch, so that was fine. With that said, I just literally went into the music business and it was such a passion for me where other friends of mine would like literally out of college, take banking jobs and make money. I made myself like, literally, I think I made 24 K a year, and yet I was working with Tribe Called Quest and all these things that were more important to me than the money, you know, it was there. For me, it’s all about day-to-day life and experiences and really people and continuing to just, you know, have great interactions and relationships and every day just being a great day. So that was more important to me than money always. And what’s really been interesting is with NFTs and crypto, I always saw as, the minute I learned about it, the intersection of like, wow, finally, I could intersect art and money. This is huge. 

The “AHA” Moment 

Yeah. I hear you. You know, for me, the aha moment was different. So what initially attracted me was seeing Bitcoin at 20K, what kept me was seeing what companies like Mediachain were doing. Like Jesse Walden and the startup that he created. Because I was a musician that was like the most relatable thing. There’s like this new financial technology, but also musicians are benefiting from it? This is super cool. I then kind of fell down that rabbit hole. 

Hell yeah. You know, I came at it from just a different spot because, I had built this, you know, subscription background music business, which I had sold. And I, after I sold it, it happened to be 2016, and I was like deep in crypto and Ethereum. It was almost like the perfect time for me because I, for the first time in my life, had a little bit of money and crypto had just started to happen. I just went deep in it, and I realized for me, you know, you could do so many different things, but I still want it to follow the passions that I love, which revolve around really music and the live experience. I thought that distributed ledger was just the perfect opportunity to fix a very broken industry that I witnessed firsthand. And the truth is, is that I went to the labels and to the copyright holders first, and I asked them about putting royalties on the blockchain and making them transparent and giving artists access to see their streams in real time and, you know, using the technology. They were not hearing that. I mean, transparency around royalties was not even something they wanted to discuss. So by default, the next thing to me seemed like ticketing because that had the big middleman population, rent seeking and, bad technology, you know, the whole gamut of issues that I think we all know how blockchain relates to.

Makes a lot of sense. I want to kind of talk about more of your entry-level into crypto and reason being is because everybody has a unique story as to like the first Bitcoin or the first cryptocurrency that they bought and how that kind of transitioned into them, teaching other people about it. You’re in a position where you’re creating more mainstream communities bringing in more of these existing audiences in mass follower groups into what we call web 3.0, right? So what was the first cryptocurrency you bought, was it Bitcoin? 

Yeah, I mean, Bitcoin, you know, early on, which frankly, some of it I don’t even know where it is, but I wish I did. In the end, it was just experimenting with everything. But then it was when Ethereum came out that it suddenly made a lot of sense. I mean, Bitcoin, as a store of value is a cool novelty, but, everyone knew that it would go, but like who knew when and who knew if that was the one and like that tech made sense. The store of value in the whole white paper obviously was brilliant, but like it was unproven and then it took adoption. The adoption happened by having progressive thinkers and people like our community that really want to push the boundaries and see things just get better for everyone. So it’s a timing thing. So for me, once I saw Ethereum and I saw the community that was building particularly around New York with Consensys and other things that were happening, it made tons of sense to me that this was super real and the time was now. You know, I was at a point in my life where I had some success, but I wanted to make sure what I did next wasn’t like me chasing something for seven or eight years and it was in-sight. And when I came in touch with Ethereum and started seeing that ecosystem forming particularly around New York in 2017, I was like, okay, this is happening now. It’s go time. And I went all in and that was it. And I started Yellow Heart and I would never look back and we’re keeping it real and keeping it going. 

The Birth of YellowHeart

So let’s talk about keeping it going. Okay. So this is the birth of yellow heart. What is yellow heart? Give us a brief explanation. What are you aiming to solve? 

So we’re trying to just create a direct relationship between fans and artists. That’s it. 

And it’s through a service play, a software play, what does that look like? 

So essentially it’s through using our platform to create your community and then be able to just interact with them directly through the platform. That’s it. And if you’re an indie artist and an artist that needs assistance, having tools to build that community through community tokens, through the ability to sell NFTs or the ability to make music and the ability to sell tickets. So you come on and you basically, as a musician, will hopefully just be the tools you need in the future that becomes an autonomous network that you can just use and frankly, even own. 

The Maroon5 DAO

Makes sense. So walk me through some examples of let’s talk about like an artist. Let’s talk about a more mainstream artist. I’m going to use maroon five because you guys are working together and building out their modern day fan club, whatever you want to call it. They come to yellow heart. What are the first things that they do on the platform?

Okay, well, in the maroon five case, they came to us looking to enter the space. Jesse from the band is into NFTs and crypto and blockchain and super smart and gets it. We started thinking about stuff and initially they came about in a manner where it was frankly, almost like another piece of merch where it’s like, okay, we’re putting out a new record and we’re making all this other stuff. We should have an NFT, so let’s do a cool NFT. And the NFT is just kind of a short sell of the album, and will our community get it? We don’t know, but we’re young and cool. And let’s try because, you know, sure. Like they were into it, but like knowing very well that their fans might totally miss this. I said to them, which I still think I was like, okay, if this does not sell well, in 20 years, the lore of the maroon five initial authorized band NFT that came out will become like that Ty Cobb, if you’ve seen one of those. So it was pretty funny conversation, but they just kind of went all in and said, fuck it. And as we went down the rabbit hole, like all the other stuff started materializing where they were like, okay, you could do fan tokens. As we had done them for ZHU, and some other artists where we were minting live at shows, you know, off a QR code. So they were like, great. We’d love to collect fan base info and give people a community NFT for joining the Maroon five community and then get further benefits. So we enacted that program on tour where we then, but very organically. All along, you know, one of the things that yellow heart is super passionate about and all of the members of Maroon five are passionate about is giving back. And the fact that we’ve all been blessed to like, you know, have the things that we take for granted like a clean pair of socks and clean water and just like a house. And like we’ve all been through so much in the last two years that I think giving back is super important. Plus environmental issues are clearly super important and climate change. We need to all think about this stuff and take it seriously. So that alignment led us to opening up what we’re calling the maroon five Dao. And the Dao is for the fans to all be on the same footing. Not in a way where everyone can buy a token at a $50 price point and buy in, and the band basically takes that pool of money and it’s going to float initiatives through charities that we’re partnered with for various climate change and environmental issues and the community, everyone having an equal vote we’ll vote on how those initiatives’ dollars are spent, which proposals they go to. Yellow heart and Maroon five zero admin fee, autonomous network, and a hundred percent of the money put into the DAO will go out to each of those charities. So there’ll be various rounds of it where fans can come in and join on that DAO and hopefully it will grow. And we’re looking now for corporate partners, we’ve spoken to some other charitable organizations that we’re going to be partnering on as we launch it later next year. But it’s really all about just giving to environmental and climate change initiatives. 

Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. So the money that basically gets collected from merch, tickets, et cetera, part of that goes to funding the quote, unquote treasury? 

All of it. 

So let’s say they do a world tour right now. They make, let’s say millions of dollars, whatever the number is. All that gets into the treasury?

No, it’s not the money they make on the tour. 

And I’m only asking from this point of view, because these are going to be models that other people use.

I’ll tell you Adam. So what we’re basically trying to do is give every fan the opportunity to contribute as a community. It’s really a donation to give to climate change and then having the vote as a community. Plus, now that you’re in the community, the band clearly wants to give you additional perks because now you’re joining their charitable network as a community. Because their feeling is that, “Hey, there’s a lot more power in numbers going after climate change and environmental and knowing about these charities and there is just as us individually”. So they wanted to interact with the fans and the DAO seemed like a great way to keep everything fair, transparent, equal, where, you know, you could only have one vote in the, in the DAO and hopefully the goal would be, with someone like maroon five, where right now a big DAO might have 30 members who all put in large sums of money and large sums of ETH or whatever they might’ve put in there. This is more about having huge numbers of people that all contribute small amounts of money, maybe corporate matching, and then the DAO basically getting emptied and refilled around utility that the band gives to the DAO, and that’s the band’s contribution. At that level in maroon five, their utility clearly has tremendous value. 

Makes sense. I like the corporate matching idea. That’s pretty cool. That can go a long way. 

You know, let me put it out there that we are looking for people to be involved in this DAO right now. If anyone out there is interested, just like ping me or anyone at yellow heart, because we’re looking for people that are into maroon five to be out just like being part of spreading the goodness of this, because it’s going to come out next year. When we launch it, it’s actually in three phases. I should explain that. We had a seed stage over the, now what’s called the sprout stage. It’s like another, I think, week or so. And then it’s going to become a living DAO next year. And the living DAO actually is tied to the UFC carbon index and the actual item itself is going to flower based on the carbon index. So it’s a very cool NFT that will be coming out to each recipient, but there is the ability to get three different NFTs for each phase of the DAO. Right now it’s in phase two, so it’s a very cool NFT to own all the maroon five, you know sprout the seed is over, and then the living DAO will be coming early next year and that will then be continuous. And I’m sure it will morph and grow. We’ll see what happens, what the band does as that NFT grows, you know what I mean? 

Thinking about Governance

Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. What a cool way and a unique way to bring more novel web 3.0 crypto native design to more of the mainstream and tying a charitable concept to it. Bringing corporations, bringing more normie audiences involved to kind of experience what a modern day kind of fan club looks and feels like from a point of view. One thing I want to talk to you about is, how do you think about governance? Is this something that you’re like starting a snapshot proposal on, or you’re issuing votes on tally? And also, the funds that kind of get collected through the NFT sales and all these other revenue sources, do they sit in a Gnosis safe multisig? Or are there more, I guess, mainstream versions or products that you’re using or that you’re building up?

Well, as far as governance goes, you know, it’s basically in the contract and it’s sitting there. I defer to some of our tech team on more of your technical questions, but at the end of the day, we want full visibility to every single member of the DAO. Of course, you know, you want to see every dime and where it’s going and where it is. That’s what this is all about, these DAOs. It’s giving ultimate transparency to everyone involved. So when the DAO launches, you know, there’s going to be a whole property around it that will give full insight into everything. Into voting and to every single element of the DAO and the charitable donations and everything about it. I think we’re all experiencing this in the world of NFTs where there’s a lot of firsts. So as we put up a charitable DAO of this size, a lot of the decision-making has to be well thought through on how this works and we wanted to keep it very democratic where everyone has an equal say and everyone’s vote counts. So people can come in and say, you know what? This is an important cause I want to make a donation to it. And I know my money’s going there. Plus I know me putting money into this in voting is going to cause other people’s money to go there, which is cool. So we’re going to see how it goes and you know, I think at the end of the day, once again, New tech, new times, and one of the things I will tell you about yellow heart, and this has nothing to do with the maroon five DAO, but like, we look at a lot of the stuff that we’re doing as we have to do it.. And we have to put these types of programs forward. We have to mitigate risk. We have to just for lack of a better term, say F it, because we need to push the NFT industry forward. If we don’t get it right, at least the learning will be there for the entire community. So the next person could do it better than we did. That’s what we want to happen here. So we’re like, okay, let’s go forward with this project, that project, anything , you know, technology, we want to add to a various project, including the maroon five DAO, let’s see how single toking voting goes. Maybe it won’t work. We’ll find out, but at the end of the day, we’re not afraid to kind of move forward and make changes and make them quick, but see through being the first to do something. Being a pioneer saying, okay, we’re willing to get shot coming through the door. Fuck it, we’ll just do it. And if we get shot, we’ll just try again, or come through with a Bulletproof vest. 

I tell you this much, I have a bunch of things and so many more questions to add, but just using that type of mentality, opens so much more opportunity, and let’s say you keep throwing shit at the fan, whatever sticks, that’s just going to keep defining the next wave of technology that’s going to come into the picture and you guys be more receptive to adopting it. But there comes a downside with that, because if you do have that type of brand, you do have that level of audience, because there’s that whole element of NFTs are not super friendly on the environment so how are you going to be doing that? You’re fighting like an environmental cause. All these like misconceptions around crypto that are kind of adding to either positive or negative narrative, which could ultimately deter a brand’s brand. How do you think about that? Like what kind of goes on in your mind? And that also comes to the point of view of you trying to sell this stuff to other artists and other bands and get them more involved, right? How do you think about that?

So, myself, you, a lot of people in this community have spent a tremendous amount of time just educating people. Educating brands, educating traditional artists in all types of different fields of artisticness, musicians. All mediums and education has been kind of the job of all of us that have been in the space. So that’s how we think about it. We just try to educate great artists. Here are your possibilities. The issue with NFTs is that the possibilities are endless. So it’s like a rabbit hole, but at the same time, if you put some stop gates up and you explain the tech to really talented people, they come back with great ways to use it I’m finding. So that’s kind of been the way we’ve been approaching it. 

Bringing Web 2.0 into Web 3.0

That makes sense. Another thing I want to ask you is like a lot of these tools and platforms because we’re crypto native, Josh, you and I, we’ll go through the mountains. We’ll scrape our elbows and we’ll go through like that shitty user experience that comes with not only building a community, but contributing and monetizing, for example. The mainstream audience, they don’t give a shit. Like won’t go through that hurdle, and when you try to build communities from all these mainstream groups, one of the things you obviously think about is like all their audience lives on web 2.0. They live on Instagram, they live on Twitter, Tik, TOK, maybe Snapchat, maybe like email newsletters, et cetera, and that entire funnel of bringing them in from one platform to another currently is really broken, right? Like from creating that wallet to entering the discord, to making a contribution on chain. All those things are hard to kind of communicate. How have you guys kind of been solving those problems or even more so just thinking about tackling them? 

It’s such a weird time right now. I’ll tell you something interesting, Adam. So NFT NYC really opened up I think a lot of people’s eyes, including myself, as to how robust and real this community is. The outlook has always been making non crypto native, non crypto native blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and we lately have been wondering about that because we think there’s going to be a happy medium. What we have actually found through our practice of putting out NFTs and doing large mints is that people are much more adaptive to technology than we give them credit for. We are on our phones, six, seven hours a day on our, you know, laptops and people know how to use tech. So I think the adoption rate here around, you know, custodial and all these other things is going to happen super quick. I think next year, at this time, we’re going to look back and be like that was fast. Okay, it’s on. I think web 2.0 is history, I really do. So I think that there’ll be web 2.0 companies that adapt to web 3.0 maybe kind of like Facebook’s trying to, and we’ll see if that works. Then, I just think web three is going to just blast off faster than anything we’ve ever seen before. I think it’s going to literally just leave everything in the dust. It’s almost going to be similar to web 1.0 where I, just because of my age, remember people were like, oh yeah, what do we need a website for? And like three years later they were out of business. In this case, it could be one year. I think it’s happening that fast. 

So you think these creators, these bands, these artists who don’t become more crypto native will actually fall behind in terms of their audience, in terms of their engagement, et cetera? 

I think that it’s just now par for the course going forward. Period. I think that we’re going to shop in the metaverse. I think we’re going to, you know, be expecting NFTs as a warranty for everything we buy. I think we’re going to have our doctor prescriptions on NFTs. I just think like everything we do is going to adapt to web 3.0 in like a second, it’s like happening now. You know, it’s on, and I just think that like bridging web 2.0, to be like, excuse my French, like who fucking cares? Like fuck web 2.0. Like, let’s just keep going here on the web 3.0, and I think it’s so much better. So like, let’s go. 

Creating NFTs with Utility

Yeah. You know, talking about building a mainstream community with large audiences, either it’s like maroon five or the Kings of Leon, like you did whatever it may be in the future, a lot of questions come to mind. They bought this asset or this token or this ticket or this membership, whatever it may be, what do you do next? Like how do you build utility and how do you do it in a way where it’s designed for your audience and not just in a way where it’s like, let’s just throw cool shit at them kind of thing? For example, one of the coolest utilities is going to NTF NYC having a mutant ape, or a board ape, and like they rented out like a five story yacht, for the board apes of the yacht club, right? How do you think about it? Like, would Maroon 5 five do like a private concert for all their holders? What comes to mind? 

Exactly the things that you could think of, we’re thinking of, and it’s on. Like it’s so on right now and more and more artists are getting it, and I must tell you, like three months ago I was getting push back. I’d be like, yeah, let’s do a token anyway. That’s why I’m so convinced on how quickly this is moving, because I even see it at the celebrity artists level, you know, or they’re just like six months ago, like, “yeah cool thing”. You know, and now like three months ago, like, “yea an NFT”, and now they’re like all in. Like, not just like kind of in, but like all in. So I think it’s on, you know, and I think that doing cool utility driven stuff for celebs and for anyone in the space, it’s just par for the course right now. And it’s just like going to be everyone trying to help the next person, and I don’t think there’s going to be any industry norms anymore, and I just think that it’s going to be a creator’s paradise right now coming up. I’m pretty excited for this time. 

Yeah, it’s definitely exciting. It’s the whole premise of why Mint started in the beginning to kind of capture that corner of where crypto meets creators, crypto meets artists more like the creative, sexy side of this technology. And we’re seeing a lot of it, I think. Like cheers to you for bringing more of that stuff to the mainstream, or at least attempting to and fucking around throwing shit at the fan to see what kind of sticks. 

Yeah, no, listen, we’ve had some amazing successes. We’ve had some drops that haven’t been as well attended for whatever reasons, with the fan bases, but we’re continuing to just do it with more and more fans, you know, we just did a small, early community token for Brandi Carlile, where she did a show at Carnegie hall, and we did a token for anyone that attended the show. There were 2000 attendees and we’ve had 800 redemptions so far, and it’s a pretty high number. We believe literally that a hundred percent of those redemptions are first time NFT holders. We re-engage them a few days later, unbeknownst to them, and we raffled 150 signed heavy tour posters from that show, and that community now is gasping for what’s next. That’s just a recent example over the last week, and we’ve had a lot of those successes that were just ongoing with the fan base. And that’s just something that, you know, continues to happen as we build these really cool fan sanctums, where they can come in and be part of a community that’s just going to keep giving to them, because they own this asset. Like if you look at what Bored Ape has done at the 10,000 scale, which is so sick, where people are using the profile picture as their status the way they used to buy Jordans or a Birkin or whatever it might be now. It’s this 200 K profile picture or whatever they’re going for today, could be more and, you know, that’s awesome. It just all ties into the whole ecosystem. 

Connecting with “Normies”

How have you found the best way to communicate an NFT to a normie? What is the lingo and the verbiage that you use? How do you think about that? How have you approached that in the past? What are some of the biggest learning lessons you’ve experienced from doing it one way and then trying a different way? Walk me through that. 

You know, the most basic thing I explain to people is that basically everything you do in your digital life is a file, and for the first time ever you could actually prove that you own that file. That seems like the most basic approach for people to understand what an NFT is. How do you do it? I’m curious. 

So my whole approach is I like using a visual analogy. So let’s say this right here is like a file, and this is a token. I basically say like the file sits on the token, and for once in your life, you can kind of trace where that goes, and if I give this to you, you’ll be able to tell who owns this right? And the underlying value prop is like the ownership level of being able to see who has what, and doing so in a way where anybody can access it and anybody can buy anything and that any form of digital file will essentially be a token or an NFT for that. So I kind of get into education through the visualization of it. Cause like, if you think about it, we’ve been dealing with files and, and playing with files and downloading files since the Dawn of the internet and I’d assume, okay. I only know it from what I can remember, like two thousands, for example, and this visualization of like, here’s a token, here’s a file, we peg it to one another and now we move that across and this could be a ticket, right? So you’ll never get scammed again by like, that dude standing outside the Staples Center or the crypto.com arena that’s trying to sell you shit, you can now verify that because you’ll see who actually has that token. And then you can use it for merchandise. You use it for this, and you can use it for that, access and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they typically like to start to get it. Then, I send them some ETH. I show them how to basically buy an NFT on Open Sea, and then they experienced the gratification of being able to prove that they own something. Even if it’s some bullshit, JPEG, it doesn’t matter. Then I take them like, okay, now you bought this NFT, download this really confusing chat called discord, enjoy all the communities and see the hype and the amount of excitement that comes around that, and look what you just bought into. Look at what you belong to now, right? Experience that. Go attend an in-person event and see what that gratification is like that other like-minded people also joined a community by going through that same process or not together. Now everything that you do, you can start a business, and you have a database of customers to tap into because everybody’s like minded like that. Like if you have a Bored Ape, people in the Bored Ape yacht club, do business and develop shit with each other, and that level of trust, that level of gratification, that level of, I guess, security that comes with interacting with people also aped into something like minded, you can’t compare. You can’t compare that to anything else. So going through that process of sending Ethereum, buying an NFT, joining a community, attending an in-person event, flying to a conference, going through all that, you kind of brainwash them.

Oh yeah. There’s a good reason though. It’s an incredible community. I mean, I’ve never in all the industries I’ve been through seen a community like this. It’s so sick. It’s awesome. Awesome people. 

There still comes out like a level of misconception of understanding what an NFT is because the press likes to say XYZ about it, you know, and that’s going to die. I think as long as something’s working has the amount of attention you’re going to have your haters, regardless of whatever it is. It doesn’t even have to be technology. It could be fashion, it could be culinary, it could be music. It doesn’t matter. So if anything, it brings more attention to more education, more conversations, and that kind of expands the entire industry as a whole. That’s how I like to think about it. 

Yeah, I agree. Really well said. You know, and it’s funny, the whole thing you explained about the apes and about that community interacting with each other is exactly what we’re doing amongst those artists communities. Because when you look at Kings of Leon fans, when you look at XXX fans, when you look at Jerry Garcia, maroon five, any of these, they all want to know each other. They’re all going to events. They’re all part of what old school would call fan clubs, and it’s building each of those. So like, you know, the 7,500 Kings of Leon token holders over July 4th weekend, we offered them all pit tickets, like right in front of the stage, at face value at the time they were on StubHub for like five times face value. But only for the 7,500 token holders community. So like these are the ongoing things, the apes, you know, obviously the best example out there right now, but we’re doing it kind of with all of these different artists. Where it will overlap at some point, we’ll see. It’s an interesting thing, sharing different fan bases and the interoperability of them, but I think the world is going to just become so much more open through this tech. 

Minting NFTs Live & at Scale

So ABA, I’m a big fan of the seventies band, right? Hit, after hit, after hit, like there’s no other other music that I can find myself dancing to with happiness. They released a new album now. They are probably going to go on tour soon and haven’t announced anything public, and probably they’re going to do a reunion that they haven’t done in 30 plus years, something like that. It’s going to be nearly impossible to get any form of tickets. If you do, they’re going to be thousands of dollars. I wish I had the opportunity to buy some type of access pass into their community that they would then provide utility like at face value. With that comes tremendous value, you know? And they’re probably like if they were to do something there could be other forms of utility. Get togethers, pre-show, it goes on and on. 

That’s our model. You get it, yeah. So like, if you’re in one of our communities, of course you’re getting tickets, the best seat, every other part, of course. We want everyone to be a VIP, because you are.

You know, one thing I want to see these bands do, whether bands have social tokens or NFTs, in-person events are so powerful. There’s so much opportunity for experimentation of doing airdrops, of doing other types of artists to fan collaboration, fan to fan collaboration, all through tokenized assets. One thing that I’ve yet to see come to reality, and I saw Justin Blau do this on a very small scale at a venue in Miami, is you throw a concert for your token holders, and the general audience. And you have all these huge led screens all over the stadium, right? You throw up QR codes or some type of link that airdrops tokens that symbolizes not only where they are right, like a POAP or, you know what I mean? I’m thinking out loud here.

So Adam, are you ready for this? You’re gonna love this. Are you ready? So we actually did that back in May at red rocks and we’ve been doing it. So , that exact program, we launched at red rocks the first week of may with ZHU. ZHU reopened red rocks after COVID for six nights, and at those six nights, we had community tokens or QR codes that were part of the dream versus ZHU production, and joined the ZHU NFT community. I could send you a video, it’s sick actually, and people snapped in and they downloaded their NFT, and then anyone who attended all six nights at red rocks, we airdropped them a seventh, like a few days later. Now we’ve actually had merch sales and other things for the ZHU community of those token holders. We started with ZHU, and then we also took that same program on tour this past summer with maroon five. So we did the QR code at the maroon five tour this summer where same thing, on the tour, you’re able to join the NFT community, anyone that grabbed the maroon five community token at the live tour this summer got a commemorative NFT. We’re continuing to do that quite often. You’re there. You’re right with us. 

I want to see that. Like, I want to go to the crypto.com arena and, or like the Madison square garden and see that shit at scale.

It’s on, I’m telling you we’ve done it at scale. We did it at red rocks. We’ve done it. Like it’s on, we have a bunch coming up. We have one in the stadium coming up in Europe, so it’s on.

What’s Next for YellowHeart?

I love it. Another thing I wanna bring up is what else is in the pipeline for yellow heart? Like what else are you guys experimenting with? What do you kind of see as the next big thing for artists in fan engagement? Walk me through that. 

So clearly the experimentation never ends, but for the time being, it’s actually at this moment kind of did end. Where we’re headed right now is full web 3.0 ticketing where we launched our mobile app, which, you know, in our world, we call a wallet, but in the traditional world, they’re still calling them apps. For dream verse, really, we kind of pushed out like, you know, the early version of it, and it is now a fully web 3.0 on polygon ticketing application. So the next two quarters we’re going to really be going through a whole bunch of ticketing use cases for web 3.0 and for NFT and the utility. Essentially our wallet and our mobile app are the same thing and they are interoperable and we’re continuing to add utility to them now. Right now, we have rotating barcodes, metadata. We have the ability to gate content. So if you wanted to put music such as a free download of the concert, you just attended both audio and video content are gated. We’re gonna have Apple TV integration coming. So we’re really focusing on the mobile ticketing experience, and by experience, I don’t just mean buying a ticket and redeeming a ticket and walking into a show. Really the community building and being part of the community where, when you go to see Coldplay, like weeks out you buy tickets, giving you the opportunity to buy tickets and good seats because we know who you are and know that you’re a fan, or we don’t know who you are, but you’re you’re coming in and there’s a chance for you to get good seats because we mitigate scalping. Then basically you’re part of that Coldplay community. So now what’s going to happen next? Do you need transportation? Are you going with friends? Do you want to invite friends? Do you want to be incentivized to get other friends to buy tickets? The day of the show, once again, transportation, would you like a drink or like someplace to eat? The whole experience, just enhancing. Do you want an upgrade, we have unsold seats in the section in front of you? Things like that. Getting to the venue and having a merch booth that was open before the show so you can order through your ticket because you’re part of the community. At the show, your QR code reader at yellow heart comes up and there are screens with hundreds of merch items that are official, and you just scan them and they’re sent to your house and, just really increasing the experience post-show. Would you like to order food? How are you getting home? Do you have the token from the show tonight? Maybe you could share three of them with friends and just enhance how that overall experience works. Now comes what we call long-tail engagement, where you went to see Coldplay, and maybe there are other opportunities that you can either accept or decline that are sent to your yellow heart wallet. But since you’re holding the yellow heart wallet, we will potentially try to airdrop you other things because you’re part of Coldplay. You’ll tell us whether you want them or not, but maybe you’ll get an NFT or, you know, all types of other things. We’re doing generative ticketing right now, which is pretty freaking cool. So we can do shows where every single ticket is unique. And like a lot of really cool applications really into the ticketing space is where our main focus is at this moment.

Because there’s so much level of access, and like it’s an onion that you just keep peeling at. Different utilities and experiences that you can add the second you get them at that top funnel. And you can just layer that as it kind of comes down to the tip.

 We were in a really interesting spot as a company because we were born as a blockchain NFT ticketing company in 2017, and like, we were ready to go, but at the time we had like a hybrid custodial model, and that was pre COVID. Because you know, a lot of people have a belief that you can’t ticket at a large scale, unless you’re custodial. And a lot of that is up for debate. I know how our community feels about that, so that doesn’t have to be discussed here, but at the end of the day, that’s kind of where that was. But coming out of COVID, that game was off. That had to be changed. So we did, but you know, it’s really pushing web 3.0 and being part of that ecosystem. We want to be picketing in the metaverse. We want to be part of our community and our ecosystem. And that’s really kind of what everything we’re doing is about yet, it is ticket and live event driven where the experience, because we do still have to go out of our houses, just becomes better and more what we’re used to in the other parts of our life that are web 3.0.

But you also capture, like, there’s the one element of doing it, in-person kind of, depending on that experience, but also that translate to such a digital virtual type of experience that extends to the metaverse and these communities and all of these, like, nah, it makes a lot of sense. So from a point of view of infrastructure, and I don’t want to get too technical, but just understanding if you’re issuing NFTs as tickets, it’s on chain transactions. This is obviously not happening on Ethereum. Where is this happening? The reason why it’s not happening, for those who don’t understand, is because the gas fees on Ethereum are too high. It doesn’t make sense to pay a $50 ticket with a $300 fee. How are you thinking about this? Only on Polygon, on Matic? 

No. So, right now, we’re on Polygon. Polygon obviously has its capacities, chain line and things like that, but we have literally since we started yellow heart have believed in an interoperable blockchain world where there’d be no one outright winner where different blockchains would be used for different things in different businesses. We see yellow heart, next year, our roadmap takes us to be interoperable with quite a few other blockchains and there’ll be different events. There might have to be multiple tokens that are minted and burned at first, but I have a feeling our community will advance that tech really quick, where we’ll be able to issue cross platform. You know, we love flow. We love Polkadot. We love Polygon too, but like they all I think are going to have various uses and the industry is moving really quickly. Let’s see how all of these chains start to scale as they get more and more production on them. It’s going to be interesting, but we’re big supporters of all the blockchains out there, and we want to inter-operate with everybody who at all touches our ecosystem and we want to support other blockchains.

Friction in Web 3.0 Adoption

What does the tool stack look like for these modern day fan clubs, these DAOs, these communities? Off the get-go, what are the top tools, these top integrations that you’re using to kind of build these things out as a foundation? 

You know a lot of this is done internally. At some point you should grab Thomas Emmanuella, chief product officer, 10 times deeper and smarter than I am.

So what you’re saying is that it’s like building the products internally?

Well, no, now we are highly encouraged to go out, and you know, it’s so funny. So when we started yellow heart pre COVID. The outside community was awesome, but it wasn’t like it is now, so many people have come into it this year. But now, we feel like we have to go out and really embrace other parts of the community to use those tools, so we’re out there looking for them. So we’re actively looking for partnerships all over the place on everything we’re doing now, but Thomas Emmanuel really oversees that you know, some are public, some aren’t, but like we’re looking to inter-operate with everyone in our ecosystem as much as possible. There are certain things just from a business decision standpoint that you’re like, okay, they’re awesome, but we just have to build that ourselves as we need it. You know, it’s part of how our business works. 

How do these artists and their fans feel about discord and telegram?

It depends on the age group. I mean, obviously we love it. So we’ve introduced a ton of new people to discord. It’s crazy how many new people we onboarded. When we did the XXX and passion and drop we were told that it was their biggest hour in history of people onboarding to discord. Yeah, they sent us an email that there was like the largest onboarding in history that they’ve had the largest day or something. And you know, so people like it, I think some people find it confusing, but once you figure out how to use it, they really love it because it’s not. For us, it’s been something where in the traditional world, as much as we wanted to build a community, and in the NFT world, the community is there. In the traditional world, in some cases, depending on how old the fan base is, it’s become almost like a customer service where people aren’t coming with great ideas and like, let’s meet each other. They’re coming with like, oh, this is wrong and that’s wrong. And that’s that two to 5% who have an issue or just like, don’t know how to use their wallet or whatever their problem might’ve been in this space. It’s obviously a little higher with people who like, you know, are confused and transferring on Polygon and just don’t know how to use crypto. That’s what a lot of it is around Discord with some of the older artists. With the younger artists, it’s super engaging and people want to get in there and meet each other. And discord is just obviously the greatest thing. 

Interesting. We were talking earlier about the funnel of being able to onboard an end-user from social media either doing through a swipe up function or a link in bio type of call to action, and then transitioning them into discord and kind of thinking about them if they don’t already have an account, creating an account with an email, with a password and then connecting their wallet, if they don’t, they assume they have one, right? And then typing up exclamation points, joining and triggering out an action that then verifies their wallet and gives them access into the community. From the people that I have either had on or from the creators I try to work with, they say that the entire thing is broken. Like it’s hard to communicate that, right? Like to get them from Instagram, Tik-Tok, Twitch, YouTube, whatever it may be, whatever that pillar platform is, and then funnel them into a sub platform, they find that communication channel, that strategy and just all those steps being super difficult. But you’re saying you found a way to kind of work around it?

No I’m telling you, I haven’t. I’m telling you it’s been really hard. Like, you know, it depends on the fan base. What I’m telling you is that the younger fan base understands tech. They’re up in there, they get it like, oh, this, that they figure it out. A little bit of an older fan base has been a bit of a challenge, and I’ve seen in discord almost become like a customer service channel. And the one cool thing about it though, is that one fan can answer other fan’s questions. So we’ll see someone will answer something and someone else will have asked the same thing a week ago and repost the answer, and like, then they interact, but they’re not interacting saying, “oh, did you also hear about this?” the way we interact in these other channels. And like the older demo, Jerry Garcia, Kings of Leon fans, they’re just around like, not in there for that. If you go into X and Maroon five, they are. 

That’s so funny. You know, in season one, episode one, my very first episode of Mint, I had Allie McPherson. She has like a half a million subscribers across Twitch and YouTube. She’s a gaming creator and she has the $ALLIE coin, which is one of the top performing coins on route. And I think at the time it was like $43. So, the takeaway is when you give the community some type of X, whether it’s a token, a membership, whatever you want to call it, and you have them buy it and then join a community of other people that bought it, you start to see something really interesting that happens. She spent a lot of time onboarding normies and kind of breaking down that customer service pipeline. But then she educated so many people in the community that then they felt more like inapt to be in the community because they got so much personal attention from her, but then they take it upon themselves to educate others in the community, which is what you’re telling me occurred with your community.

We’re building new NFT users every drop, it’s crazy. Like just because we’re working with these large established mainstream artists who have fan followings who want to come on, every NFT drop we do, we’re getting brand new NFT buyers. First time buyers, users. Every job we’ve made, we’ve had those people making instructional videos. This is how you download a wallet. This is what Meta mask is. You know, this is a yellow heart wallet, if you want to pay with a credit card. Then just walking through the steps and literally showing, here’s how you put in your Google Chrome or and like, no seriously, because believe it or not like literally downloading an app on Chrome for most people is challenging, very challenging. But at the end of the day, that’s the thing. So, you know, you have ease of use and people who are building these applications. That’s why everyone’s like, oh, non crypto native, non crypto native. And it’s a fine line to walk where I now am starting to believe that we should just go crypto native. Like, we don’t want to confuse people, but at the end of the day, like nicknames systems are great, and like everyone just keeps making them better as we continue designing cooler products together and copy each other who cares and like, let’s make great stuff, you know? But I do think that the general public is super interested and there’s money involved and art involved and it’s cool. So I think that people are going to catch up quickly, and we’re not going to have to be non crypto native for that long. 

You know, the second you say that the person that comes to mind is that teaser that the CEO of discord put out on Twitter of that meta mask integration directly natively into discord, the amount of backlash they got from their major subscribers, because they have a SaaS model. They don’t have a crypto native and Web 3.0 model. So all the backlash that they got from their web 2.0 users and being how crypto is a scam, and this is weird and that’s weird and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They were like, ah, we’re not doing it, or we’re gonna put it on hold. We have no plans to do anything with it for now. And it’s just like, okay, you realize that the web 2.0 audience is a completely different audience than web 3.0. It’s a different user base, different needs, different preferences, and you have to build accordingly and you have to structure that funnel accordingly. And with doing that is like understanding, how do you bring more people from social media or web 2.0, a lot of these normal people into web 3.0? It’s a whole different product suite. It’s a whole different class of software integrations, et cetera. So the takeaway is that there’s so much opportunity. That’s what I’m getting here, right? 

I mean, I have deep-seated issues because I see it with everything I look at. Like, oh, why are picture frames not on the chain? Why do they even exist, actually? That’s a bad example, but you know what I mean? Why haven’t I gotten an NFT for my grocery delivery? Why am I still getting this long-ass CVS receipt? Why is it not airdropped to my wallet? Josh, 

Outro

I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Before I let you go, where can we find you, yellow heart, all the cool stuff you’re working on? 

Absolutely. I’m @JoshkatzYh on Twitter, I’m at @YellowHeartNFT on Instagram. You know, just so the community knows, we’re just looking for great partnerships and people to be involved with us and, you know, to be doing cool stuff with, with this community. We really want to be deep-seated in helping everyone out there in any way we can. So please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Amazing. Thank you so much for being on. I hope to have you again, soon when this is more advanced, more mainstream, and we’ll chat soon, man. Thank you. 

Thank you, Adam.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Understanding DAOs: Tools, Governance, Pain Points and more

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 12 welcomes the founding members of Agora DAO, Reka and RAZ. Their vision is to supercharge Web3 adoption by creating gasless, multichain, and platform-agnostic solutions, without sacrificing decentralization or privacy.

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 2:13 – The Origins of Agora
  • 5:47 – Digging Into DAOs
  • 8:04 – DAO Tooling 
  • 11:25 – Biggest Pain Points in DAOs
  • 15:09 – The DAO Stack
  • 18:23 – Increasing DAO Adoption
  • 22:55 – What’s Next for Agora?
  • 24:37 – 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!


Introductions

Réka and Raz, welcome to Mint. Thank you so much for being on. How are we feeling? 

Réka: Really good. How are you? 

I’m good. Raz is like smiling in the corner. All right, guys, let’s just jump right into it. The first question I always ask is tell me a little bit about yourself. But, more specifically, what were you guys doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Réka: I’m Réka and I’m originally a veterinarian. Now I build DAO tooling, a really funny story. I’m not going to go in full detail, but like, along the line, I had my own sustainable agriculture startups. I have a little bit of startup experience in web 2.0. I ventured into digital marketing and social media for a little bit. So that’s kind of how I got into this, like being the people’s side of co-foundership here at Agora. I got into crypto on a random volunteering trip when I was in Sweden for a bit, and the host I was staying with knew all about crypto back then in 2016, I was like, whoa, this is cool. So I got familiar with Ethereum then, and then I was following along with the development of things and how the whole market and everything changed and got heavier into it last December, and we started working together this January. Then we co-funded Agora Space and here we are.

Raz: Yeah, and then that was after Réka and got into Forbes for an interview because we knew each other from high school, but then she created this environmentally sustainable startup. 

Cool, and Raz, what were you doing before crypto? 

Raz: Yeah, so I got into programming when I was just six years old because my father was co-founder of the first Hungarian internet provider company, or one of the firsts actually in the early nineties, and because of this I basically grew up on the internet and played a lot of massive multiplayer games. That’s how I learned first about trading and then how to operate like a bigger group of people over the internet. And my interest in virtual economics was very messy, and so I discovered Bitcoin in 2011, and then got into this space with all my savings in 2014. I started a small software firm, which then quickly grew out into a 20 plus people operation, but I also run the family office where we invest in early stage companies in this space. 

The Origins of Agora

Oh, wow. So actively building, actively investing. Réka, you were a vet before, like what is going on here? What a cool team, what a cool dynamic. And I also know you guys have a bigger team behind you as well that you guys are kind of co-building at Agora, what’s the story, I guess, with forming that? Because I remember when you guys launched, you already had a product, right? You had already had a team, you already had these things. As you went to market, typically, it’s just two co-founders, three co-founders kind of like pushing their vision into life, but you guys had a foundation. How did that come about? 

Raz: Yeah. We have a very heavy tech background in the team as well, and most of us are developers. It was really a lot of experiments and for a while the main purpose of the software firm was to build experiments and the exciting new tools for ourselves and for our portfolio companies and to support our investments. When yield farming became a thing, we built our first cross chain yield farming analytic tool, and when the DEX became a thing, we built our own solution, like a member system trading contractor. So we built a lot of different things, even did some ecosystem development for some chains. But to get more deal flow, I participated in different venture DAOs and investor syndicates. I started going through concerns about the tools they use because these communities had a lot of high net worth individuals in small groups discussing all sorts of sensitive information. 

Honestly you never know what happens in the background. It’s private, okay continue. 

Raz: Especially the tool called Collab Land, and I basically just as usual, wanted to create something like Collab Land, but actually make it open source for our own use so we can adopt it and recommend it for our communities. That was last December. We discussed it with a couple of DAOs, they were very, very interested. So we built it in January, but then we quickly realized that token gated access and later NFT gated access and just access control in general will have a huge impact for not just token gated access for discord and telegram, but in many different places, and it’s going to make going to create a lot of different new markets for monetization for artists and all sorts of different things. So we started doing more experiments regarding and around this topic. We also wanted to bring a lot of different mechanisms around DAOs into social media where people actually are because I’m a huge DAO fan. DAO is what initially attracted me to Ethereum and how people coordinate together. I invested in a lot of different DAO frameworks and I am still actively exploring them and trying them out and always trying to be on the edge of these DAO technologies and DAO tools. But what I was really missing is massive user bases when I saw that only these nerds used the DAO frameworks for the last couple of years and we really want to onboard more people to DAOs even without letting them know that they are even part of the DAO. 

Which is a whole nother conversation that I actually want to have with you. But before we get into that, investing through a family office. What’s the fund called? 

Raz: The firm itself is just called cryptocurrency.

And it’s a blockchain and crypto only fund? 

Raz: Yeah. 

And you said, how long have you been investing through that vehicle? 

Raz: Through this vehicle, only like two years. So it’s fairly new, but I’ve invested in many different things since 2014. 

Digging into DAOs

Another question I want to ask you guys is it takes a certain individual to join a DAO and to kind of fall in love with DAOs. Réka, you were a vet. You were working with animals, and Raz I mean, you’ve been programming for what feels like ages, but still. What is it about the DAO that kind of aligns with you guys organically? Like, what is it about that framework, that coordination framework that gets you guys going so much so that now you’re building for it, right? It’s always interesting to kind of hear about how people are wired. So I’m curious to hear from your point of view.

Réka: I think what really, really struck me when I first heard about what a DAO is, is the automatic aspect of it. So I really love how it gives the freedom for the communities to not be like that kind of bound to an organizational structure, but they can vote and discuss things. I am a big fan of starting organizations, I did a little bit of that in university. How I experienced it was so closed up. Like you had this basic structure to follow and I hate it, and I’ve never been at a corporate job, but, you know, I have friends who have been and a lot of other people, and I could never, and I really like how DAOS allow you to basically form companies within almost like friend groups kind of, and have this aligned vision and just work for it from different parts of the world at the time that suits you best. And you have this full freedom of operating in a way that suits that group the best. That kind of struck me first, and then of course I realized all the other potential that it holds. First, like this whole freedom that it allows people to have is what was crazy new to me, and I was like, okay, we have to get on this. I then dug myself deeper in that rabbit hole.

Yeah, it makes sense. 

Raz: Honestly, I hate paperwork, so that’s probably the most important point, but other than that, I always seek out for more freedom and DAOs make it possible to automate in a much deeper sense. Every aspect of a corporation or a foundation or any organization over the internet. So that really attracts me in the line of my vision about the future of the internet. 

DAO Tooling 

Let’s pivot to Agora. What are you guys building exactly at Agora? On the site, it talks a lot about tooling, but that’s also a very broad word. What does tooling kind of mean for you guys and what are some of those initial products that you guys have laid out? 

Réka: So at Agora, we’re basically like the studio of building all of these tools. And what we try to do is build this set of composable tools that are very collaborative and give back the ownership and sovereignty to the founders and the groups themselves. So that kind of is aligned with what got us into DAOs first. Like having this complete sense of sovereignty and freedom for the groups and the founders to do what they do best and do it in a way that suits them. And so we are doing very simple tools that are lacking in the space. If you go on Twitter or anywhere, you see all the problems that DAOs have, like the organizational side, and the governance, and rewarding mechanisms, communications, and time zones even. So there’s a lot of things that need to be solved. And so we started with gated access. That’s kind of like our first cornerstone. That’s like our first step. And then we have a few other tools planned for onboarding, education, and also transforming back to communities to help them through the gate and start utilizing web 3.0 opportunities. So that’s where we’re going.

Raz: To summarize what we are doing, we are building an accessibility layer to Ethereum DAOs and everything around DAOs without sacrificing decentralization or privacy. That’s very important. So we built very user-friendly tools with that user centered design, but still our focus is on keeping the core philosophy behind Ethereum. 

Makes sense. So what would you say is the current state of DAO tooling? Like where are we right now? Cause we’re seeing thousands of new communities pop up, living on discord, living on telegram, WhatsApp, iMessage, whatever platform, right? And then opening up multisig and then opening up snapshots or tallies or any governance from discourse, or whatever it may be. And like everybody’s at like their foundational layer and they need more tools of automation and tools to kind of get them going, so where are we in the world of DAO tooling right now? 

Raz: I think since snapshots, we have experienced a huge boom on the off-chain parts. So there are a lot of new tools now for DAOs, but for off-chain computation basically. What we aim to achieve is to make a bridge between the blockchain and the social media accounts or any platforms or games, the circular information flow. So not just off-chain tools based on activity on blockchain, but also on chain settlement based on activity in social media, in games or anywhere else, physically. So we wanted to create these tools which are really off chain, but eventually work the same as on chain tools, and launching frameworks. 

Réka: I think on a scale of one to 10, I think we’re at a three. Like, it works, it’s okay. We can make it work, but we talk with a lot of founders and community like heads and this space, and also like us forming a DAO ourselves now, it’s a lot of struggle still, and we have a lot to improve on. 

Biggest Pain Points in DAOs

What are the biggest pain points right now? And it could either be from the end user’s point of view of joining an organization or from an organization’s point of view of setting up that organization, right? 

Réka: I think from both points of view. Like starting at a DAO, let’s say you join a DAO that’s already like 300 people, and you’re at the brim. How do you get closer in towards the inner circle and find ways to contribute? Cause you really like the vision. They made a good point of getting their vision on Twitter, and you love it and you’re aligned with it. But like how do you find ways to actually put value there and contribute to them and start working together? I think, for me as well, like I joined a bunch of DAOs and like Discords on a fairly regular basis. If you really, really want it, you can find ways and find the right people to message to get a job or have something to do for them. It’s very hard for users, I think. From a manager’s point of view or the core community’s point of view, they see a lot of people coming filtering in and how do they make sure that, you know, the right people get the right access to things and they can safely have them come closer. So it’s the same issue from two sides. I think that’s something from a social perspective and with tooling as well that we should work on a little better. 

Raz: I think the biggest struggle comes from, as we are trying to innovate on two fronts simultaneously, one of them is the technological front. Obviously we have a distributed ledger and it makes everything different, but on the other hand, people still try to innovate with the social part. They try to be better philosophically and that’s very, very difficult to do. So I would advise them and we always try to innovate just on one side and copy the other from existing mechanisms.

Réka, I like your analogy of saying that we’re at 3 from 1 to 10, right? 10 being like the whole world is tokenized and 3 is like, we only have like a few thousand communities adopting this model. What does five look like from your point of view? 

Réka: I think, when it takes founders way less time to spin up a community and kick it off, and for users to browse and find the communities that are best aligned with their personality, their mission, or their skillset as well. Cause I think users can participate in a lot of DAOs at the same time. So now you can participate full time or like part-time in one or two meaningfully and then have like five others that you visit on a weekly basis and have another then that you don’t actually do anything, you’re just part of the discord. And I think we could do a lot more and do a lot of work. But I think to be a five for that process, to be way more open and accessible and easy to understand, step by step is something that we have to work on. And it’s also like a language barrier as well, because everything is in English. I understand that the younger generations are, you know, fluent without even putting too much effort in it or they’re pretty good at English, but yeah, I don’t know, like making it more accessible. It’s a first world thing.

Is there a bot that translates discord messages to any language?

Réka: I don’t know, maybe. 

All right guys, new opportunity here. Hit Réka, Raz, or myself up. If you’re building this, we want to hear more. So that’s a five. What does an eight look like? Raz, what do you think an eight looks like in terms of adoption? 

Raz: Probably hundreds of millions of people, at least. For that,Discord is probably not enough. So we have our own platforms at that point. 

Réka: I think Discord is probably not enough for a five. 

The DAO Stack

Interesting. Next question. When you’re starting a DAO, you guys obviously have a lot of purview into the tools and development that kind of take place to form a DAO from the ground up. What does the tool stack look like right now? What does every new decentralized community need to kind of get started? What does that look like? List it out for me.

Réka: You could use a few of them, but I think I see a lot of communities using certain tools. You need some sort of voting mechanism for governance and they usually use a snapshot. 

Raz: For treasury it’s better to use on chain mechanisms instead, but yeah, that’s difficult for now. 

So multisig, some governance. What about automation, and reputation, for example? What does that look like? 

Réka: I think we’re just exploring that. I think that’s not in the basic toolkit. I think communities that are a little bit more mature and have a little bit of experience in running the DAO, they’re exploring the reputation system. I think it’s still very new. I see a few projects that are utilizing that like colony, or you could do it to some extent and coordinate for example. And I think that’s something that we should definitely work towards to have this reputation system, because that gives accountability to people long-term to actually perform, not just come in, say they will do something and they don’t provide. So that’s definitely necessary. So yeah, I see an emerging number of DAOs starting to use that, which is very promising. 

Raz: Source Cred is promising as well. 

One thing that also, I think is super unique about you guys is obviously you’re building products in this space essentially, right? Like consumer products for crypto, and you mentioned earlier that we need to find ways to lower the barrier for meaningful contribution, lower the barrier to entry. What does that look like from the point of view of design thinking for building products? How do you guys think about that? 

Raz: So first we don’t want to force the users to leave their desired place, likeDiscord or Telegram. So we want to bring everything inside the chat room. I think one thing we meant before to mention in a DAO stack is that you will definitely need a communication channel as well. It shouldn’t be token gated in every case, but it’s good too if it’s token gated. Yeah, so you need a communication channel and I think it’s still heavily underutilized what you can do with it. It shouldn’t be just the channel, especially in discord, for example, right? There are emoji reactions that you can use eventually to do votings and all sorts of different stuff. The most important thing is to leave everyone where they are already and don’t force them to go to a website or something like this. 

Réka: Can I just add to that? Let’s use less of a hardware wallet situation, because for example, what I don’t like about using snapshots all the time, I don’t really cause I’m lazy, and the point is I have to go to a different website. I have to use my hardware wallet, and that’s like at least two points where I get lost and lose interest. And I think one point is bringing everything to where people are and people are active and have the conversations, which most of it is of course off chain, and it should be that way. And also to kind of find ways to use less hardware wallet action, to minimize that to the maximum. 

Increasing DAO Adoption

Got it. So minimizing the use of hardware, as important as that is, it really risks user experience is what you’re saying, right? I also think part of that is you’re required to hold these assets in a hot wallet, to an extent, to kind of have a seamless flow of an experience, and that within itself is highly risky. Just having so many tokens and so much money in a hot wallet so I agree with you. You know, I think we’re so early with where we’re at. I think it’s very fair. I’d even say, I think we’re at a 2, like maybe like a 1.5, to be honest. But I think the point is like, we’re very early on, on the spectrum. What do you think is missing to kind of get us to that next level to get to the five? Like what steps? What progress, what tools, what interactions, you know, what I mean are missing to kind of reach that next level of adoption? 

Raz: I think what’s missing really is, is not some specific tool itself, but more like the way these already existing tools could cooperate and share data between each other. And that’s obviously not possible if these tools are not open source or cannot be self hosted. So I think the missing part right now is to have an integration layer between all of these different tools or have a suite of tools that cooperate and share data already. 

Réka: We’re trying to do both.

How do you kind of tackle both at the same time? 

Réka: Well, we try to create tools that are interoperable between each other and also make them open source and have APIs for them so that we can have the maximum amount of integrations with other tools and projects and platforms in this space and on the internet basically. I think that may be a good approach, obviously I’m biased, but I think that’s a good approach of maximizing collaboration between DAOs, between communities and tools at the same time. Because that can kind of quicken this whole thing of, we have less tools or we have too few, or this problem is not solved. As Robert said, if they can communicate on the backend and make the user flow way more seamless and maybe find a way to connect it back to the channels and they are using the same tools, but it’s somehow connected back in a way.

Raz: This could also create lazy scenarios. When I use it, I don’t necessarily have to do something immediately, but I can do that later, and I think that’s very important for the next step. 

I think something just like trying to dig through your words, is that better funnel of bringing a user in from one destination to another. And one thing that we were talking about behind the scenes, I think it was even yesterday was, a lot of these let’s say creators that want to build their own creator DAOs, that want to explore modern day fan clubs, all their audience lives on social media. And they only really have 2 calls to action. They have that swipe up on Instagram or a link in bio, right? Or if they post a link in a tweet, still everything is like taking them from one platform and leaving that platform to go to another platform. And that entire funnel from just like entering a community to kind of like making your initial contributions, that entire funnel is really broken. It’s very multi-step. You know, and if you look at web 2.0 solutions, you think of their funnel. Let’s say you’re doing a drop shipping campaign. You’re selling, I don’t know, Christmas lights for the holiday, you open up a Shopify page, you’re on Facebook ads. Every single interaction, if your page doesn’t load fast enough, you will lose user drop off like 50%. I don’t know what the metric is, but it’s really high, right? If one button doesn’t work people leave, right? And I think a lot of products are failing to kind of take into consideration what you said, like optimizing for that user journey. Because it’s one thing, making it super easy for a community to start a community, it’s another thing making it even easier for their audience to join that community. Is that kind of what you’re referring to? 

Raz: We always talk about the onboarding of the next few millions in the next year, and that’s kind of something that creators talk about or founders talk about, and that is a crucial step in that. Because people don’t want to leave their usual platforms to try a new one. It’s weird. It looks different. I have to use my wallet. You have to try to do that, and you can’t just do it when you’re in the bathroom. You have five minutes to do it. People won’t do it if they have to sit down, read everything, think everything through. It takes a lot of time. So we have to make it as smooth as possible for creators and everybody to basically funnel their user base back into some web 3.0 thing so they can start utilizing all the goodies that are available in web 3.0. 

What’s Next for Agora?

You know, the first thing that comes to mind when you mentioned that is one, the point of basically building products for two different audiences. Right now, you, I, us, we don’t care eating shit to kind of enjoy the pleasure of being early adopters. Like we’ll go through those additional steps because we have a lot of curiosity, we understand what’s like the opportunity here, right? A lot of other people, and this also comes in tact when discord teases us with their Metamask integration and then kind of being like, Hey guys, we’re actually not doing it because all of our web 2.0 users that kind of run discord in our core audiences and users for a subscription model, they gave us shit for it and we don’t want to risk losing them because we have a SaaS model, you know? But then there’s this small web 3.0 audience that’s kind of like using discord as a way to just kind of bootstrap cause it’s the only thing available. And I think part of what you’re saying, from what I’m understanding, is like it’s also building for that right audience. That web 2.0 audience has different needs, preferences, and wants compared to that web 3.0 audience, you know? And I think part of making a better funnel is kind of capturing both sides of that market without even realizing that they’re joining a DAO to begin with. They’re just joining a community, right? Guys, I know we’re running out of time. Really quick before I let you guys go, I guess I have one final question for you. What’s next for Agora? What can we expect? Cause I know right now you have guild.xyz. What’s coming up next? 

Réka: So we have two MVPs ready. We’re not going to put them out in the open yet. Guild comes out of alpha state now in December, which is fun. The next tools are focusing on onboarding, so that users don’t really realize that they’re doing it, but they get rewarded for every step and it’s much smoother, and for fundraising.

Outro

Cool, amazing. Best of luck! Before I let you go, where can we find both of you and Agora in general? 

Réka: Twitter. Like we’re doing the full web 3.0 thing, so you can find us on Twitter at @L1sp3r, @reka_eth, @AgoraSpaceDAO, at guild.xyz. 

Amazing guys. Thank you so much for joining me. We’ll for sure have to do this again at some point once we’re at stage five, hopefully, but this was fun. Thank you so much. 

Raz: Thank you so much.

Réka: Thank you so much, Adam. That was a blast.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Ownership Reimagined: Music Labels Will Become Creative Hedge Funds

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 11 welcomes Our Zora’s Community Lead and Singer, Songwriter and Producer, LATASHÁ. She’s an NFT thought leader and a FORCE in crypto, having sold tens of thousands worth of music NFTs.

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 2:52 – Opening up for Kanye West
  • 7:56 – Valuing Independence
  • 9:59 – Defining NFTs as an Artist
  • 13:16 – Diving into the Depths of Web 3.0
  • 17:29 – Being an Early Adopter on Zora
  • 19:09 – Working with Zora
  • 22:36 – NFT NYC – The Performance
  • 25:22 – Defining Values
  • 28:51 – Finding Inspiration
  • 32:49 – Artist Management in a Web 3.0 World
  • 38:02 – Governance in Artist Management
  • 40:03 – Valuing Artistry
  • 48:51 – What’s Next?
  • 50:41 – 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

Latasha, welcome to Mint. How are you doing? 

Good. How are you, Adam?

I’m good. Thank you so much for being on. I’m so excited to have you on. You are legit a force on crypto Twitter, a force in person, but before we even get into why, give me a quick brief about yourself. Who are you? What were you doing before crypto and where are you now? 

I’m Latasha. I am a singer songwriter, rapper, producer, artist, and Zora’s artist community lead. Before this, I don’t know what I was really doing, but I know that music was my heart work. I went to Wesleyan university where I studied African-American studies, psychology, and hip hop. I thought I was going to go into Broadway, ended up just rapping my face off in ciphers, and before I knew it, I was opening for like Kanye west, q-tip, big Sean and all these crazy people. And God just was like, I guess you’re going to be a rapper now, so I started moving in the direction of the mainstream rap forces and tried to get into the industry and do the label thing, but it never felt true and in sync with my true being and spirit. So, I quit and then I restarted in 2015, completely independently. I’m a Brooklyn girl, so, you know, I’m all about owning my masters because that’s what Jay Z taught us. And I was like, all right, I’m going to figure this independence out, and it was really tough. Didn’t have all the means to do it. Didn’t really have any support, family, or things like that to do this music thing solo. So, you know, went through all the trials, been homeless, been down and out and all of the things. And then in 2016, a woman bestowed me with a large sum of money to fully quit my nine to five life and do this solo dolo. So I was doing it and it was still tough, but decided to move to California, to just have some expansion in space. Then the pandemic hit, and I was like, oh Lord, no performing, no shows. What am I going to do? And my partner, Jahmel Reynolds, who goes by art by @artbyjah on Twitter, told me about NFTs and he was selling his 2d 3d art on NFTs. And I was like, oh snap, what is this? I was really skeptical about it. I didn’t believe it. I thought it was fake. I was like, where’s the scam? And did all my studies and research and found out there was like a real space growing out of this and a space that could really be healing for artists, especially musicians like myself. So, I got my first NFT minted on Zora in February, and that was the beginning of this new hero’s journey. 

Opening up for Kanye West

What a journey! What a way to start, opening up for some of the greats, experiencing that side of the music industry. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Like how did you get to opening for Kanye and all these big figures? 

To be honest, I always say it was like God magic. I mean, I always believe that my music and my art has like a spiritual tie and a lot of times things just happen to me. So I was a huge and still am a huge fan of Kanye west and created this project called the presentation, which was off of all old school, Kanye west beats. And like, I mean, old school, like things that people never knew, Kanye rapped on. And so that went viral on YouTube for a little bit, and people were like, yo, she’s fire like who’s this girl? And there weren’t really a lot of women artists like rappers at the time. Nikki Minaj was like the thing at the time. And so I remember just getting an email one day, like, “Hey, do you want to, you know, perform at the Brooklyn hip hop festival”? And I was like, hell yeah, and then Kanye was sharing the stage with me. And so was Kendrick and so she was Q-tip and all these crazy people. Then it just kept happening like that. I would just keep getting these crazy emails. Like, do you want to open for big Sean? Do you wanna open for Ghostface Killah? And I was like, yeah, because like, how am I going to say no? So that was like the beginning of my journey, and then I started realizing that you could get paid off of performing and do all these things. So I was like where the cash app?

I’d love to also talk about, cause you brought up being homeless for a minute because I find that hard to believe. Look how successful you are right now, and look how much of an industry leader you are with selling music as NFTs, and really pioneering that space, but also coming from a background of opening for some of the greatest of our time. Talk a little bit more about that.

Yeah, but I feel like a lot of times people think that just because you’re opening for these artists or you’re getting these opportunities that you’re getting fed, that’s not always the case. A lot of times artists are actually struggling big time that are on tour and that are doing these things. I was fully independent. I only had a few managers at the time and most of my managers were learning the industry as we went, you know? And so we were all kind of in the fire. And during that time was also the switch. We were going from, you know, CDs to Spotify and all of that stuff. That was like at the beginnings of Spotify ‘s growth so nobody knew what was what and how to make a buck. So, I went through the trials and industries, you know, I’ve had labels try to transform me and make me into like an artist that I didn’t want to be very hypersexual and things like that. I just knew that that wasn’t it and as many times as I’ve tried to fit myself into a box, it just never was the box for me. And you know, I went on tours and paid for my own tours and then would come back with no money. And so I’ve lost my home one time because of that. And it was like a whole summer just like couch surfing and figuring things out. But I was blessed for those moments because those moments, I really believe, allowed me to align to the moments that I’m in right now. 

Damn, that’s deep. That really sets the tone for who you are and your character. Kind of like your drive and ambition, and this goes back like, now look at you, right? Like owning your shit. And before we even get into the NFT concert, that was at NFT NYC, because you said some really dope stuff on stage. Explain your genre to me. Explain like, for those who aren’t familiar with who you are and the music that you opened for Kendrick and for Kanye, how did you get to that point of finding your voice? 

Wow. That’s such a heavy question. I mean, I think my voice is constantly evolving, but I know the essence and the thing that is consistent with my voice is just being honest and from the heart and connected to the spirit. I think that’s always what my voice will always be. It’s a passionate like real Brooklyn, New York girl voice that will always be there no matter what genre I’m in. Cause I like to twist and turn genres too. Hip hop of course is the core of everything. Cause I believe hip hop is the core of just black sound where we are right now, but I like to turn into a jazz singer sometimes. I like to turn into a pop star sometimes. I like to turn into a reggae dance hall queen sometimes, and just like to do all the things. But at the core, it’s about that story. It’s about that passion. It’s about wanting empowerment and transformation for myself and my peoples. And that’s what I think I vibrate in everything that I do. And I hope I continue to do that. 

Valuing Independence

One thing that you really vibrate is like the essence of independent artistry, right? You’re really big on that. Cause you’ve had labels try to form you, and to try to dictate your image and who you are own you, et cetera. How did you get to like that mental state to be like, I don’t need these people? All I need is myself and the people who love me and support me to kind of bring me to where I want to be. How’d you make that switch? Because I feel like a lot of artists, they get sucked in by that initial check that kind of gets them in the door. How did you bypass that? 

You know, I just always really didn’t understand how a label could tell you and dictate how much you’re worth by just like streaming numbers, by, you know, what YouTube number is. I just was like, that is not worth to me in the same way a performance equates to worth. Like I will do a show and people would be like, this changed my life. That means so much more to me than like a number on YouTube, et cetera, et cetera. But, I think when it really solidified for me was in 2015, 2016, when that woman came into my life and she heard one of my songs called black magic, and she was like, “girl, why are you not famous yet? Why are you not doing these things yet”? And I was just like, you know, I don’t know, just like doing it and seeing how it goes. And she bestowed me $10,000 off just the bat off, just like believing in my art and believing in what I was doing. I always tell people this story and I’m like, maybe that was my first NFT experience. But she just bestowed it to me, and that made me realize like, oh, people will support you if they really believe in it. You don’t really need a label to do it, and I already knew my brand. I already knew my market. I already knew who I wanted to reach out to. And it’s just like, now I just need to expand and, you know, make some more money to keep doing it. But that’s where it really affirmed for me. 

Defining NFTs as an Artist

Because you’re already talking about this NFT thing. Really quick, for those who don’t know, what is an NFT? I hate asking the definition, cause my podcast is about NFTs, but I feel like there’s going to be artists listening to this trying to understand more of your story. So what do you think about NFTs? Because everybody has a different definition. How do you define it for your context as an independent artist? 

Yeah, I call NFTs now fun time. No, I’m just kidding. NFTs are non fungible tokens, but in my mind, I like to think of it as a box where you could put anything inside of it. You could put music, you could put art, you could put a car, you could put literally anything into it. It’s a token that you could pretty much use to play. I also kind of consider it like an autographed form of whatever art. So my definition often is like this music video is autographed by me. This NFT is an autographed form of my music video or an autographed form of my music. Usually that’s when artists are like, oh, I get that, that makes a lot of sense. Because other ways kind of get complicated. 

Yeah, that’s super simple. One thing you tweeted out recently is like NFTs have caused you to fall in love with music again. You tweeted that I think a few days ago. I don’t remember. So sometime recently. Why is that? What is it about their nature or their form? What is about blockchain, crypto, whatever it may be to you that has made you fall in love with music again because that’s really deep? 

There are so many reasons why, but I think it’s seeing my value meet itself in real time. That is really something that I needed to fulfill within myself. I think a lot of people deal with money wounds as artists. Like we have wounds of like, not feeling supported or not feeling cared for. We have a lot of safety wounds within ourselves. When I got into NFTs, I felt like that started to really heal and quickly because I was like, I’ve been putting so much effort into this music. I’ve been putting so much effort into my music videos, how come, you know, nobody’s giving me what I deserve out of it. And when I got into NFTs, it was like, oh wow. I’m seeing my effort in real time, and I’m seeing the investment in real time. So many of the people that I got to partner with in my journey, like my partner Jahmel, my two best friends, Angel and T, they were riding with me before even NFTs. And I wouldn’t have a buck to pay for them to do a music video, and they just rode with me, and now I’m in NFTs and I’m like, yo, when this NFT sells, I could pay you guys now. And that’s like the beauty of this thing, right? Like it’s organic. It’s like an organic form of love for just support and abundance and all of these things. I just love it. And I mostly have been putting up like content that I already had existing on YouTube or, you know, Spotify, and now they’re on NFTs and they’re selling like crazy. I’ve sold over 50 NFTs at this point, and it just goes to show you, like, you think YouTube and you think, you know, Spotify is where, you know, you decide and define what an artist’s success is, but it’s not always the case. Like this is beyond that now.

Diving into the Depths of Web 3.0

Wow. So you’ve repurposed your initial content into the form of non fungible tokens, right? That reduces 50% of the stress of getting into the space because it’s one thing to have the content to use. It’s another thing to understand how to apply it in the setting. When you were getting started as an independent artist in this space, diving head first into web 3.0, what was it like getting started? Can you walk me through those initial days of like, What am I doing? What is crypto? Share with me that thought process? 

Sure. I mean, the first month that I decided I was going to do this, I remember going through my old content and going through my hard drives and being like, okay, what’s a record that I don’t have out. That was one. I was like, I don’t want to release anything that’s on Spotify because I don’t know the nature of this beast yet. So it was one what wasn’t out, and what is something that people haven’t really seen? So I have, I mean, hard drives and hard drives of content from shows, performances, tours, all that kind of stuff. So I just selected some content that I had that I used to use for a show, and then I put it with a song that I would perform on that show, and then I just made this music video out of it. That was my first music video on Zora, and my first NFT on Zuora. I think that made me one of the first people to put a music video on blockchain as well, and so that was like a crazy moment. Like I honestly was just like, let’s put things together and just see what happens, and that thing sold in three minutes. Then as I kept diving into NFTs, I was like, let me try different things. So I don’t only have music up. I have poetry up. I have performance art up. I have just beats that are like no raps on it, my production is up. I would keep saying like, there’s really an important factor about being multidimensional within an NFT. I think this space calls for that, it calls to see all sides of artists, to see like the weird shit that I do, and like the cool drawings and little things that I’m creating on the side that nobody really gets to see. I think that’s what NFTs are calling for. It’s for that cryptic side of us. So that’s kind of how my first couple of months were, and then I started just pushing videos. I was like, all right, let’s do this music video thing.

You made it seem like you didn’t even think twice. You’re just like, I don’t give. Like, I’m going all in. I don’t care if I mess up, this is where it’s at. Everybody’s learning at the same time. There are no rules. 

Yeah. I mean, the space is so brand new, right? Especially at that time, that was like at the beginning. I was like, nobody’s really here. What do I have to lose? I mean, I’ll probably pay some money on gas and that’s probably the hardest part. But, over time, I just realized that it was a space for me to be myself, and just pour out all of the parts of me. I have this one NFT that’s called third eye and it’s like, just me just rhyming, and just this art piece that I have that I created. I just made it in like an hour, and I was like, let me see what it does as an NFT. And it was just like, that’s how freeing it felt like, just do stuff, you know, and see what happens.

Wow. I feel for all the creators, all the artists that are listening and you keep asking, like, how do I get started, what’s my first step? Just use that as your advice. Just get started. Take a piece of paper, open up your memos, record something, take a picture, attach it and upload it, right? Just like breaking the ice. 

I think also, I always tell homies, especially in my Zoratopia classes, for your first NFT, put something out that really speaks to who you fully are. That was like one thing that I feel like my first NFT embodied. It was like this performance art music video song, but those are all the parts of me. I’m a performer, I’m a musician, I like visuals. It all has to encompass all those parts of you. Because then it makes it easier as you go along and give the different pieces.

Being an Early Adopter on Zora

Speaking of Zora, how did you get to Zora? How’d you get to work full-time over there? I remember when that announcement came out, you joined Zora, you’re heading community, a lot of the culture side. How, like, what’s the story behind that? I know you were using the platform earlier, but take it away.

I am an OG Zora user. That’s what they called me. I was one of the first people to use the platform, and I fell in love with the platform to be really honest. I really believe in the ethos and the ideas of autonomy that they spoke on. And the white paper was like a seller. Like I was like, all right, all this thing that the white paper is saying is me pretty much. And so I would just like to always push my homies on Zora whether I was working there or not. Before I even worked there, I was like, you got to use Zora, like that’s the platform. And then I was hyped because there was no commission, like 15% commission, like other platforms that were not there. There was zero commission from Zora. I was hyped because I could put music videos on there and no other platform allowed large size files on it. And then three, I loved the aesthetic. I love this ethereal cryptic aesthetic that Zora was going for. And I was like, ah, this speaks to like all of my identity. So I fell in love and I just kept pushing it, and then in June, the CEO and CFO asked me if I wanted to join. And I was like, hell yeah. And I’m happy they did because they need artists in these spaces. We deserve to be at the tables, making these decisions for these platforms and protocols, you know and I’m really grateful that they did that because it changed the minds of a lot of other platforms and protocols that were released after.

Working with Zora

What does Latasha look like at Zora? 

Oh my gosh. My day is insane. So I start my day around 9:00 AM. I’m checking my slack. I have like six to eight messages on slack from the team. Then I go to my fun Twitter, and I have at least 40 DMS from artists. 10 of them are new artists that are just starting this NFT thing and have no idea. I ship them off to Zoratopia, which is our biweekly hangout where you get to learn about NFTs. I onboard artists, I get them their wallets. I teach them the whole walk of this thing every other week on Wednesday. Then the other DMS will be like group chats talking about projects and ideas that they have coming up and how Zora could support them in real life events that I’m building. So we’re building stuff at art basel and different, you know, exhibits and things of that nature. And then I’m on Twitter tweeting all day. That’s my life. I live on Twitter. That’s my second home. I’m tweeting all day, getting people to just listen and talk. I also host Zora FM, which is like our Twitter spaces. So I interview artists and creatives and developers dropping on Zora. And then I’m building a platform with Zora on the other side of this thing. So my life is chaotic and beautiful, but every day is a new day and we’re building just a lot of different things all the time. I’m also the bug person. So everybody comes to me for the bugs, and then I go and scream about all the bugs.

You know what that reminds me of? You live a very dual life from your artistry, your creative side, but also working professionally in the space and building up your repertoire with a lot of legit people, right beyond the music. And it reminds me of artists who are trying to make it working in restaurants in hospitality, doing their day-to-day just to like pay rent and then doing artistry on the side. So you found a way to kind of mix your love for two, by being an early adopter. How can other artists do that?

I think it’s back to that idea of just stepping in the water and just like, you know, talking to people, connecting with folks. I mean, when I was talking to Jacob from Zora, I was talking his ear off about my ideas for Zora and same to D. Like just saying what you think things need in the space and what you need in the space. I think that’s the best way for folks to really get involved and get jobs and get connected. When I started working for Zora, I was like, okay, like, I’m Jay Z now. Like Jay Z got the business side of him, and he also be rapping. So that’s like how I kind of saw it. And the beauty also with working with Zora is like, I still get to be an artist. Like they want me to push my artistry and do the things that I’m doing. And I’m so grateful and blessed for that.

How do they kind of support you on the creative side beyond kind of managing the platform and the community? What does that look like?

I mean, I get to build in real life events that I get to perform at that too. So that’s a great, you know, win-win and I get to bring on my homies too, you know?

It is such a win-win, yeah.

I get to share experiences like that. I also got to do the NFT fan photo shoot, and get all the artists together, and hang out. But also that fulfills my creative needs too. Like I love taking photos and, you know, telling these stories, and pushing the history. 

NFT NYC – The Performance

Speaking of events. Let’s talk about NFT NYC, more specifically, this NFT music collector named Brett Shear, AKA Blockchain Brett on Twitter. Go check him out. Shout out to Brett. A big collector for music NFTs and is very vocal about his love. He works at Palm tree crew, manages the blockchain fund for Kygo and the team over there, and he put together like this inaugural NFT concert where he basically invited all of the artists that he collects on stage to perform in front of a live audience. Super cool. I told him that was the start of something new, that it’s going to be a reoccurring thing, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger, bigger. I had the honor to watch you perform. I said this in the beginning, you’re a force. You’re a legit force. Your energy on stage, your passion. You can see that you stand for something, right? It goes back to one of my first questions, like finding your voice. How do you find that identity though? How does that come through technology? How does that come through music? Because, you know, you said earlier when you get into crypto, be yourself, but a lot of people have a hard time still finding their identity and who they are. You had that on stage. You were like jumping around, you were going crazy. I can’t explain it. You just have to see. Everybody that’s listening needs to watch you one day in person. How do you find that identity, and how does that translate into how you perform and your passion for technology? 

I don’t know if I found the identity. I think my identity found me. You know what I mean? I think I’ve just always just been who I am, and just let that grow and bubble and boil as big as possible until the pot bursts. You know what I mean? And that day was such a beautiful and epic day. I felt like that week was insane. We had crazy issues at other events, and I was really grateful Brett put me on to that event because that event felt like love. And I felt like I could be my fullest self. I always feel like I could be my fullest self in places that are full of love. So yeah, I mean, as for identity, like I always say, I feel like identity is an evolving transformative thing that is always happening, always being, but at the core it’s about what I value, right? It’s like the things that I value is empowerment. The things that I value are transforming and shifting the paradigm. Those are the things that always are a part of me. And so I think that just exudes through everything that I do and exudes multiple times on stage, because I love the stage. The stage is my heart work, and that’s where I get to really show out.

Defining Values

You can really see that you really, really see that. And I remember we had like 5, 6, 7 performers, and when you got on stage, it was just like what’s going on? From your suit to your hair, to the music that you’re playing to you’re dancing around, to jumping into the crowd, and coming back to the crowd and like having this monologue of who you were and what you stand for and being, I think you said, quote for quote, the first black woman rapper on the blockchain, right? And making that part of your identity of being like an innovator quote unquote, right. It’s something that a lot of artists look forward to and I say that not because I’m assuming that, rather I talk to artists and they’re asking the questions, how can I use NFTs to own my audience, to own my craft, to build communities around myself, in what I believe in to align people, right? When people ask you that, how do you answer that? Like, what are those first steps to kind of getting there?

I think during the pandemic, I did so much healing work and so much like self-work and I used that time to plot out my values, plot out what I want to see. I did a lot of manifesting work. If you guys know me, I own like a million notebooks and in my notebooks, I just write down all the things I want to see, all the things I want to be, all the values that I hold onto and how I want to change the world. I know that’s cliche, but I really want to see things change. And so it’s the steps that I always give to peeps is like, write it down, write down everything that you want to create. All the things that you truly value and then see how your values connect to the things that you want to manifest in the world. If something isn’t fully tied, dig into that thing, understand why that thing is the thing you want. Like I need money, right? We talk about money all the time because we’re in crypto and we’re in ETH and everybody’s excited about making all this bread. Why do we want money? Like, what’s the importance of having money? Like how does that really tie into our deeper values? And for me, it was like the opportunity to give, the opportunity to share, the opportunity to, you know, feel safe and secure and not have the government be chasing me for some dough. Like these are like real things that I really wanted to clear up within myself. So I would write it down and I think writing down is like the best way to see things come to life. So that’s like my number one tool to like manifesting and understanding what your values are and what you want to bring. 

So rather than kind of just like going ham, cause there’s one portion of like going ham and like doing it, and there’s another portion of like taking the steps and taking them to create like a mental model around it, and it kinda like follow through with that, right?

Yeah. I mean, going ham is very important. I feel like you need to go ham so you can see the chaos and be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, right? I feel like the beginnings of my career were very much so go ham, go crazy, see what you like, what you don’t, and then take a step back. Then realize the parts that you want, the parts that you don’t want and kind of walk in that journey. 

Finding Inspiration

Who are some of the other NFT artists that kind of inspire you or you kind of look up to, or get motivation from do any come to mind?

Yeah, I have a ton. I adore, of course, Art by Jah, he is my partner. Like of course my big inspiration. Amir is a huge thought leader in the space and really inspires me. I love Momo pixels who is like this dope video gamer, producer, just everything. Faith, who is also not only an incredible thought leader, but community leader in the space, and I really always give faith mad props because I think she was the beginnings of me seeing the possibility of being a community lead as a black woman and what that equates to. Shout out to ATM who’s like this crazy illustrator, just off the chain creating a really dope PFP project coming up. Shout out to my fan T and angel. T is about to bring a really cool series that I haven’t seen done in NFTs yet, like a film series and angel also is going to bring film and photography. There’s so many. Verite, I got to always give Verite my love because Verite was one of the first women that I watched do the music NFT space and do it differently. Like she was the first time I saw somebody give a part of their masters to someone and experiment and try. She also was so loving to me and just supportive of my walk in this space. Black Dave, also Connie digital. So many. 

You brought up Verite. She comes to mind as well. I remember coming across her work, not necessarily from her music per se, but discovering her music through crypto. I remember specifically during the clubhouse era, and I can’t believe I’m saying era is, it feels like 10 years ago. But like literally seven, eight months ago when Clubhouse was still popping and all these NFT communities were congregating there, she did a session with Justin Blau. It was her, I think Cooper Turley was there, and a couple others preparing for her drop, that masters dropped that you’re talking about. And that was also like the time where I was like, ok, we keep talking about this concept on podcasts. Like I had Justin and Cooper talking about the future of NFTs, like a year and some months ago, and then a few months later, like Justin came out with his big drop. Verite, came out with her drop, and we see more and more artists. Now though, we’re at a stage where catalog.works is bringing so much value. I think they’ve distributed over a million dollars so far directly to fans from collectors to artists which is insane. Just the number of streams that would have been required on Spotify to reach that is number one. Number two, we’re at a pivotal point in NFTs and music, right? We’re seeing a lot of people explore this route. We’re seeing a lot of people make a lot of money from this and kind of realizing what freedom and ownership is which is huge right? People are actually starting to understand that being independent might actually be really good. Being independent and building a team and treating it like a startup and building my team around you. One focuses on publishing PR. I focus on creating, et cetera, et cetera, and building from the core and out. People are starting to realize that, right? 

Yeah. And that’s always been a lot of our dreams. To build our own teams and have the capacity to do it. I mean, I already had that. Like I had a visual team that was sitting there. I had management, I had different things, I just couldn’t pay him because I was like, I don’t have any funds coming in. But now with NFTs, this . Opportunity allows me to fully develop my own team that speaks to my true self, right? Like now I don’t have to deal with a label telling me how I need to be. Like, I could tell everybody this is who I am, and this is how I create my work, and how can we work together to expand that, right?

Artist Management in a Web 3.0 World

What does the future of artist and label relationship look like in the world of web 3.0? 

Everybody always asks me this question about like, eh.

And if you don’t know, that’s okay. Let’s even like walk it through because it’s a future thing, right? Like I see it as a thing where artists stay independent, record labels buy their works to reap the upside and financial value, rather than like holding them by the neck. It could be either through the form of an NFT or through their social token that they might launch. How do you see it? Do you see a similar vision?

Yeah, totally. I do see a similar vision. I also see labels just taking up the marketing route possibly and just becoming more of the marketing rather than actually owning anything. I feel like if they are really about it, like they say they are, they would actually think about the things that artists actually need. Like, we don’t need anybody owning our work. We need companies to come in, support the marketing, support the connectivity. That’s what we really, really need. So if anything, I would love to see labels do more of that work, but your idea is incredible. Like if they decide like, okay, we’ll buy this work, and then we’ll help you with your publishing, we’ll help you with your marketing, we’ll help you with all those things for a short period of time. Let’s talk about that perpetuity issue that we’re dealing with in labels. We need to clear that and make it a short period of time then, yeah, I would be open to that idea definitely. But anything that’s going to take from the artists way too much, I’m against. I think that’s where overall we’re just moving out of that whole idea and paradigm. So I’m ready to shift that completely. 

One thing that I see music labels kind of evolving into, and this might be far-fetched and it might be a hot take, but I think they’re going to be evolving into hedge funds. And the reason why they may maybe evolving into hedge funds is because more and more creators are tokenizing themselves and, or their assets, and putting themselves, their character, their identity, their level of ownership, on chain which makes it publicly accessible by anyone with ETH, whatever the currency is with an internet connection. And if record labels kind of want to keep up with their element of investing in artists, and kind of like seeing their money flip as the creator kind of doubles in fame, and wealth, and streams, and record sales, whatever the metric is, they might be optimizing for around things like which social token projects can we get in early. Is the artist tying in their creations and like the value being captured through their creations, to their tokens and their community holders. Whether it be through a token or an NFT, I kind of see that come into fruition. I don’t know why. I see these record labels acting as big banks essentially. 

I mean, they already do. 

And in essence, that’s what they do now. But how, I guess, like, I’m thinking out loud, how does it evolve with tokenized assets?

I mean, it’s back to that idea that you started touching upon, just them owning these tokens and then figuring out a consistent revenue stream for themselves and the artists as well right? Like, that’s just what it’s going to be. But I don’t know, in my world, I don’t want this ownership thing anymore from them, you know what I mean? It’s been years of this. Like we literally had to deconstruct everything that they’ve done from the twenties till now. Like we’re still on the same walks from the twenties. That’s so crazy. Like where he’s still using the same kind of contracts that were built in the early 1920s. Like we have to just demolish it all and rebuild. 

So from your point of view then, collecting in web 3.0 versus signing an artist in web 2.0, how does that differ? Like when blockchain Brett buys an NFT piece, like an NFT song, for those who don’t understand, he owns that work essentially, right? Let’s say at some point there’s a decentralized Spotify and he lists that song, he’ll earn the royalties and whatever splits occur with the artist as well. But in web 2.0, the record label has a contract and owns the artist. So is it the element of owning the individual versus the work?

Yea , and that’s a huge difference. Like what I’m able to do on blockchain is not what I’m able to do on web 2.0, right? Them owning me as an artist means that every time I sell a t-shirt, they get a percentage of that. Every time I sell any part of myself, they get a percentage of that. So if I decided to do a commercial for let’s say Maybelline, they could get a percentage of that. That’s the problem. Instead, what’s happening here essentially, is okay, you get to own this music onto the blockchain and then you get to resell it and I get a royalty from every time you resell it, amazing. I like that idea more so than you telling me you own everything that I do, right? That’s the scary part of web 2.0. And that’s why artists go homeless and end up on couches and do the things because they ended up with no money after, you know what I mean? So that’s the bigger issue.

Governance in Artist Management

How do you think about governance? Right now it’s collecting. Right now it’s like buying assets and building communities around who owns what of your work. Do you ever imagine a point where you’ll start introducing governance around you as a creator, as an artist? Let’s say, I’m going to bring in blockchain Brett, because I just love his taste. We’re blockchain Brett and a few others collect your work. They love what you do. They’ve supported you for years now, but now they kind of want to vote on the name of your next album, for example, or they want to kind of determine who your next collab is, or have the optionality to have a voice in who your next collab is with. Do you ever imagine introducing that level of on chain governance? Can you walk me through that? 

Absolutely. I’m definitely thinking about a Tash coin, Tash Dow, where folks could literally decide the next moves to an extent. I do not want, you know, too many of the next moves to be controlled by the people, but things that I need support in and are like open to opinions for, I would much rather it be from my fans than or somebody collecting than somebody who is not even a part of the work, you know what I mean? So yeah, I’m definitely open to that idea and I see it being like my own meta city, like an FWB kind of aspect. I love FWB and I think how they’ve built it is so smart. So like the more tokens you get, the more say you get into what the next project is going to be, or the next move is going to be, or the next tour is going to be. If you live in Tash LA, Tash coin LA, right? If you guys got more tokens than Chicago, I might push to LA first before I go to Chicago, and just like to see how it goes. But that’s like really cool things that we could end up doing in the future, and I’m really excited for that. I’m excited for it to just be the people, like that’s where I’m at. Like the people are making the decisions, not so much these higher scary ideas. 

Valuing Artistry

No, I hear you. I hear you. One thing, I also want to pick your brain on, because it seems like you’ve got a knack for it. You talk about this concept of valuing yourself. How do you do it in a way where, when you as an artist consider your work to be a masterpiece, you’re very vulnerable about the art that you’re publishing on chain, how do you do it in a way where you don’t undervalue yourself and you don’t overvalue yourself? And I guess as an add on question, if you want the community to value you, how do you even do that? So I guess the takeaway is like, how do you price a song from your own point of view? 

I guess for me, how I’ve always priced is like what my brain says. So if my brain’s like, this is one ETH, I’m going to go for it for the most part. But that’s not the best answer probably for somebody who’s just starting out. For people that are just starting out, I usually tell them to think about how much money they put into the work. So if you’ve made a song and you’ve put like this amount of money into recording it, into producers, into et cetera, think about how much money you put into the work, and then how much do you want to see come back to you? That’s like a good gauge of it. So some artists are like, yo, I’ve had all my equipment, so I’ve just been doing this, you know, off the fly, you know, this song, I would have sold it to, you know, a company for $800, a thousand dollars. I’m like, cool, that’s a great start. Now multiply that by three or multiply that by five, and that’s like usually what I tell artists to try to do. But for me personally, I just go where my brain and my gut is telling me. And I’m like, all right, if it’s 1 ETH, we’re going to test this one ETH and it usually works for me. I’ve sold everything because of that. 

There you go. You know, and I guess it also depends on who you are as an artist, and how much traction do you have. Have you made money in the past from the songs that you’ve created and how does that kind of equate to you doing this more experimental path on your journey as an artist, because that can be even deemed more valuable right? And also, I guess when I was talking to Justin Blau about it like a year and some months ago, he was talking about from the point of view of like, I have records out, I have millions of streams, I’ve made X amount of money from my work already. If I sell an NFT below this price, I’m like robbing myself. Because if a reseller were to actually try to flip it, that collector, and that audience has like a history of streams for them to kind of refer to and to see them out of money that I made from that. Like you have to strategically price it. But, I don’t think there’s like an official answer and official playbook to kind of do it. Everybody’s just throwing shit at the fan. 

Yeah, I think it’s literally that. I think everybody’s just trying different things. NFTs are still very new too, right? So we can’t always expect the same amounts from a very traditional space to this new baby that’s growing. We don’t know how much values is in an NFT. I mean, we know that it’s a lot, but we don’t know how much is meeting us yet. So I think it’s all about just experimentation. I talk to V about that all the time. We’re just experimenting and trying new things and seeing what hits and what doesn’t. But I definitely have had records that were on, you know, sink that got on TV and Grown-ish and all these places. And then I put them on NFTs and I’ve definitely seen them equate in value which is so interesting to witness. Like I have glow up. Ironically, who I am is a great example, because when we shot the music video, we were like, this is a $20,000 music video, and then we made $20,000 as an NFT. So that just tells you something’s up. Something’s definitely happening. 

You had another bid that went to like $4 million on Party Bid. Did I see that correctly? 

Yeah, I have a secondary market that’s on sale right now for $4 million, 5 million now, because ETH went up. So we have a party bid for it. Cause I want everybody to come in. We can get this 4 million dollars popping. Yeah, that’s insane. Like this was a music video that we shot in the garage off of the whim. It was just like, let’s do some, you know, green-screen shit. And let me rap real quick and let me talk my shit. The song is amazing and powerful. It’s a beautiful record. I love that verse, it’s one of my favorite records that I got to collaborate with two artists on. Shout out to Witch Prophet and SUN SUN. So, to see it now be worth $4 million feels so fulfilling for the moment that I was in when I wrote that song. Because when I wrote that song, I was pissed with the world. This was before NFTs. I was like, all right, I’m done with all this music stuff. I don’t know, but I’m going t o put my heart into this. And so to feel like my heart is worth that to folks means a lot. It’s also a historical piece. It was one of the first music videos and the first to like, hit that number as well. So, I’m really excited to see it hit 5 million.

I have like a couple more questions I want to ask you before we wrap this up. Do you think web 3.0 favors the new artist or the existing artist?

I think web 3.0 favors the artist that cares about community. I don’t think it’s about new or old. I think it’s about the artist that connects with the community. Cause I’ve seen both sides. I’ve connected with Mick Jenkins and Aluna and all these dope artists who are usually web 2.0 artists, but because they care about the community, the community cares about them. And so they’re connecting that way, but the new artists that are coming in are feeling that same vibration too, so it’s about connecting with the community. 

I only asked that because, let’s look at someone like Daniel Allen. Which was, I want to say, an overnight success in crypto, but it wasn’t. It was like four to five months of grinding and making friends and ingraining himself into the world of web 3.0. And then that kind of came to fruition, but people don’t see that. People just see a 48 hour sale of like $180K. And then we see someone like Tory Lanez doing an NFT album. We’re selling a million copies in less than a minute for a dollar an NFT. Which one? Like new versus existing, right? 

That’s Tory Lanez was a different game, right? Like that’s like a whole different smart contract, all that stuff was very different. Not very in our space, like Tory Lanez wasn’t on Catalog. You know what I mean? Like Tory Lanez was on something completely different. If anything, that’s like what Nipsey did back in the day when Nipsey sold each record for a hundred dollars and wanted to see who’s going to cop it, you know what I mean? So what Tory Lanez did was like actually tap into the technology which is cool. I have a lot of issues with Tory Lanez obviously, but he tapped him with the technology, but he didn’t tap in with the community. So I can’t see him doing as well if he didn’t have a developer to create his smart contract and do all the developments without tapping into the community, you know? But Daniel tapped into the community, tapped into the people, wanting to know what was going on. You know, him, Alik, all of these artists are really engaging with people. And that’s what makes it really different and have more weight and value. I don’t know if Tory Lanez could do that every month, but I know Daniel probably can. 

That’s such a good line. People who engage and build for the community. I don’t want to sound like a soap box right now, because everybody loves using the word community. We gotta find a new word for community. I don’t know. Another question I wanna ask you is like a more personal question. Biggest influence so far in music for yourself? 

In music? I mean, I said music in itself. Like it’s not one. I have a conglomerate of mothers. So, it’s Queen Latifa, Missy Elliott, Lauren Hill, little Kim. That’s my conglomerate of mothers for lyricism. And then for the art and visual, et cetera, it’s I’m Tyler the Creator, Childish Gambino. Those are my guys. But kind of all ranges and Andre 3000. I love Andre 3000.

Kendrick Lamar? 

Obviously Kendrick is always on the list, but I feel like Kendrick, like I don’t know- I feel like we have some kind of north star vibe, you know? I’m watching him and I’m like, I see what you’re doing. I’m going to shoot that. But that’s my, that’s my guy. I love Kendrick. I think he’s incredible and excited for his new projects for real, for real. 

What’s Next?

What can we expect from you in the future? You hinted at a city, you hinted at like a new drop. Like what are we going to see? When are we going to see it? Give us some alpha here, come on.

It’s not going to be a city, it’s going to be an island. That’s what we’re calling it. So Tash island is coming soon, and just get your coins ready for that. We got some really dope music videos coming out for December. It’s going to be like heavy music video drops, all hip hop, going real hard on the hip hop tip in December. January, we’re going hard on this new project I got coming out called joy ride. That’s going to be a bit web 2.0 meets web 3.0. I’m going to really tap in on how to bring my community from web 2.0 to web 3.0 and see how the joy ride goes. And then I have a platform that I’m building for all artists to do music videos and bring their music videos onto NFTs through Zora. It’s going to be like a streaming platform for music videos. So that’s the alpha and do not steal that alpha.

Like a decentralized YouTube?

I can’t say anything else, but we have some cool things in the works with Zora, and then just all the projects that I’m working on and probably touring next year. Let’s cross our fingers. NFT tour next year. So it’s going to be really epic. 

That’s pretty cool. Do you imagine selling tickets as NFTs? 

Hell yeah, we’re going to have NFT tickets. That’s what this is all about, right? We’re tokenizing these tickets now. That’s the whole vibe. I want to make sure that, you know, you’re getting that whole experience, and I think that’s going to really be the bridge. You know, like when the tokens become the tickets, people are really going to start understanding what NFTs can do on a larger capacity.

Outro

Last question, before I let you go. Where can we find you? This has been a lot of fun. Where are you online? 

I am Latasha. You can find me on Twitter at @CallMeLatasha, I live on Twitter, like I said. I’m also an Instagram at @CallMeLatasha, and then my website is callmelatasha.com, and you will be able to see my NFTs on my website now thanks to Zora’s embed feature now too. So that’s where you can find me. 

Is your website like a WordPress site? 

It’s a Squarespace site, and now you could put your NFTs directly on it from Zora. So that’s really cool. 

That is pretty cool. I have to check that out. Latasha, this was a lot of fun. Thank you so much. When your platforms come out, when your drops come out, we’ll be supporting, we’ll be promoting, and I hope to have you again soon. 

Talk to you guys soon, peace!

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Psychedelics meet NFTs, the Creator Economy, and the Future of Web3 Media

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 10 welcomes the founders of the media company nftnow. I sat with Matt Medved, Alejandro Navia, and Sam Hysell to discuss:

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 8:17 – The Vision behind nftnow
  • 11:09 – Forming the Trio
  • 14:52 – Finding Inspiration in Starting nftnow
  • 17:16 – Thinking about Community
  • 25:01 – Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 in Media
  • 31:34 – The Future of nftnow
  • 36:15 – What Comes After Art?
  • 43:44 – Psychedelics as a Path to Empathy 
  • 48:06 – What Will Eat Web 3.0?
  • 54:11 – 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!


Introductions

Matt, Sam Alejandro, welcome to Mint. How are we feeling?

Matt: We’re doing great. Glad to be here. 

You got it. This is the first time I have three people on the show simultaneously. We’re breaking goals here. I love it. Okay. Let’s just dive right in. I’m super excited to get into NFT Now. Brand new sexy looking site, authoritative media outlet. I’m personally a big fan and a lot of crypto Twitter is Instagram is et cetera. So super stoked to have you guys on let’s dive right in. Let’s start with you guys’ backgrounds. We’ll go with Matt, Sam, and then hit Alejandro and let’s get started with that, and we’ll go from there. So Matt, who are you bro? What were you doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Matt: It’s a great question. So I started dabbling in crypto back in 2013, but I only just really recently got into the space full time. I come from a background with 15 years of music and media experience. So in 2015 I founded billboard dance. Which is billboard’s dance, electronic music, vertical and funny enough, the peak years of that coincided with the rise in the crypto markets in 2016, 2017. And so I was friends with all the DJ guys, like Blau RAC, who were trading crypto, who were getting into the blockchain space. So it was a really organic way for me to sorta find my way into it. Started doing the coverage at billboard for music and blockchain. Did some panels with RAC at south by Southwest spoke at Consensys Ethereal. You know, we all knew that this technology had the power to empower artists, we were just a little too early. So after that I ran Spin Magazine as editor in chief and then was running content at Modern Luxury, when Blau pulled me down the NFT rabbit hole last year and for me, it was the technology I’d believed in for a long time finally disrupting the field I’m actually passionate about; music, art, and culture in a way that empowers artists. So I was hooked and we started the NFT now accounts in January. Alejandro and Sam joined as co-founders and it has been a wild ride since. 

Yeah, I think Matt, you have such an interesting insight into the space coming from such a deep media background and being active with all these DJs. Now we’re also seeing the intersection of music and NFTs take on a tremendous wave online. So super interesting. Sam, tell me a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before crypto and where are you at now? 

Sam: Yeah, for sure. So definitely starting around like 2011, 2012, 2013. I was very heavy into the kind of New York city’s tech startup ecosystem and I’d have to say too, that this kind of whole web three movement has so many different, similar feelings of optimism and just kind of a communal support. Then, after spending a couple of years really focusing on helping startups leverage and kind of experiment and understand the needs of the early adopters by way of lean startup methodology design thinking methodology, started actually working with Gary V to help him stand up Vayner talent. So Vayner Talent was a division that was kind of replicating what Gary had done with his own personal brand for other talents. So I was able to work with some incredible people, help launch podcasts and YouTube series that are now some top 10 business shows across those respective platforms, but it was very, very passionate about the kind of the music space and the cultures that I was really passionate about. So I actually left to co-found an agency called Knox media. Knox Media is kind of a digital marketing agency that helps talent and brands grow and convert fan bases online. But even then too, was just very passionate at helping creators thrive and helping people lead more fulfilling successful lives. When I had a podcast interview myself on a music business podcast, I was talking about NFTs and how musicians could really tap into the power of NFTs. And I was like, wow, this is a complete game changer. The music industry specifically, you always talk about this notion of there being no middle-class right. You’re either a top 1% artist creating all the revenue in the music industry, or you’re kind of a starving artist. And NFTs as a mechanism and technology are effectively creating this whole new way to foster community engagement, to help creators across all creative domains thrive and prosper and opens up this middle-class. So it was very exciting to kind of come together and build what we’re building now with NFT Now, which is a very exciting company. 

Super super exciting. And last but not least, Alejandro. Who are you, man? What were you doing before crypto? And how did you get here today? 

Alejandro: Oh man. I’m definitely a career enigma. I definitely dedicated a lot of my twenties into exploration and discovery. So I did a lot of things in terms of politics, policy you know, hospitality, and then I’d landed on what I love to call storytelling and emerging tech. That intersection of storytelling and emerging tech has really been a passion of mine and an underlining method. And in 2014, I joined elite daily as employee 25, doing innovation culture, and that year just kind of visual media boom, and we were able to create some amazing products on giving the generation Y a voice on that platform. We were competing at some point with Buzzfeed and Vice at the time we, I remember our peak month, we had 99 million uniques in a single month which happened three months in a row, which is pretty epic running a team of 45 and then that sold to the daily mail historically. I think that was kind of like the last major media digital media sale in the space before all the algorithms and everything changed afterwards. I was incredibly fascinated because I was like, if we did it for 50 million, what does a billion look like? What does a billion dollar acquisition look like? And so I wanted to look at it from the perspective of the buyer and not the seller. So I joined the team at Verizon doing content strategy and acquisitions, and that’s really when I got mandated to look at emerging tech and storytelling. Again, that theme was going to be very closely related to my personal narrative, and that’s where I got to see blockchain artificial intelligence, smart cities, compression algorithms, delivery methods, 5g. I started seeing how all of these major technologies were going to start affecting content delivery and content stories. And so we saw VR AR and all these concepts, but at the time we ended up purchasing Yahoo, which, you know, everybody can read those headlines now. And I was able to see what the integration of Huffington Post, AOL, and Yahoo looked like at a multi-billion dollar integration process. And so that was really fascinating seeing all the pipes and all the building and like the foundational concepts, because a lot of people just see kind of like the headline. And I just kind of wanted to see a little bit of nitty gritty. Shortly after that I left, and then with my passion for emerging tech and storytelling, I co-founded this agency called Odesia, where we really started helping emerging tech companies specifically in the blockchain space. So we worked very closely, for example, with Consensys , helping them launch Ethereal, open mall,Ethereal conference, you know, the Ethereum enterprise forum and all these different brands. That was in 2015, 2016, and so that’s where I first got introduced to Ethereum and I just got hooked specifically, and that’s just really been the case for me. As well as co-founding an ocean conservation nonprofit organization called oceanic global, where we used emerging tech and storytelling to drive ocean conservation efforts. Shortly after that, I did a stint in my spiritual world. I really wanted to figure out who I was, cause I burnt out. We had a little bit of disagreement with co-founders, and I just kind of wanted to find out who I was and what I was building. Like what’s going to be my role in the world as this human being as a soul, as a creator, actually? So I took 18 months off. I went to Asia, I did a lot of exploration, a lot of deep internal work. And I came back afterwards and I worked at a stealth AI startup that created another burnout in my life. But that burnout really led me to a breakthrough. And that’s when I recognized that my true purpose in life is to help founders and creators create freedom and fulfillment in their lives. I became an executive coach during the pandemic, and it was the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. Working with these boys, Sam and Matt, when they came to me, Alex, with the idea for NFT Now, it was just natural. It was like, sure, no problem. It was just serendipity, divine timing, like the roles, the strengths, the weaknesses, the balance of everything, it was just kind of like, you know, I have a phrase that you let go and you let God, you know? 

NFT Now – The Vision 

So each of you are media powerhouses in your own respect, bringing super diverse backgrounds into what is now becoming the next form of media,AKA NFTs. We have the birth of NFT Now. Matt, what is NFT Now? What’s the vision? What’s the goal? Why even start this outlet focusing strictly on NFTs? 

Matt: Absolutely. Well NFT Now is leading a web three media publication for NFT coverage and curation. And it fills a gap that we saw in the market. When we entered the NFT space early, you know, we saw a lot of platforms with megaphones promoting their own drops, and a lot of talking head influencers, shilling, their own bags. What the space didn’t have was an independent and credible media brand that people could turn to for curation, for news, for analysis, for features, for industry insights, for storytelling, first and foremost for storytelling. And so you know, Alejandro and Sam and I have been friends for a long time and we were both are all aligned around the mission of empowering the creators of culture and helping drive mainstream adoption of NFTs because we believe that NFTs are going to fundamentally redefine how creators engage and interact and create value with their communities across all creative disciplines. So when we founded this, the last thing that we wanted NFT Now to be was just a traditional media company covering NFTs. You know, given my experience at a billboard at spin, these legacy media publications, I can tell you that the web 2.0 media model is broken. It is a clickbait race to the bottom that serves advertisers and intermediaries and sponsors versus a publication’s own community, and we wanted to do something differently. So rather than going down that old web 2.0 model. We wanted to build a community-centric model, essentially pioneer a web 3.0 media model that focuses on creating value and building community and sharing in that value being created. So, you know, we can get more into the details obviously on what that looks like, but you know, I think first and foremost for us too is the idea that NFT Now needs to play a pivotal role in catering to both the purist and the tourists in the space. There are people like us who are in this every day and we’re glued to Twitter. We’re in the spaces we’re in the podcasts, even for us, the space moves so quickly. You know, I always say weeks are months and months are years. So we want to be able to provide actionable insights and that kind of value to that demographic, but at the same time, there’s a vast number of people, an overwhelming number of people, who don’t know anything about NFTs, or if they do a very small amount. So central to our approach, especially in storytelling, is welcoming new people to the space, providing resources and handholding and guides. Because we all know how difficult these learning curves can be. 

Forming the Trio

One thing I want to talk about really quickly before we dive deeper into NFT Now, what is the love story between you three? Like how did you meet? What’s the story behind that? Sam or someone, tell me that story. What’s the context? 

Alejandro: Well, I’d be happy to jump in here cause I think I’m the cornerstone. So Sam and I met through mutual friends. I think like the first two years of our friendship, we actually just hung out at the bath house. Every Tuesday we’d go hang out and just talk about life. We both love personal development and we love thinking about how we improve ourselves, how to optimize ourselves. We spoke about biohacking and all these different concepts. You know, we just kick it and talk to one another and talk about our businesses and careers and things of that nature. It was just a great sounding board, and finally he was like, “yo, I’m launching this, this podcast called the music business podcast”. And me as a connector, as a lover of supporting my friends, I was like, “yo, I know just the guy who you gotta be introduced to, his name is Matt. He’s the founder of billboard dance. He knows all things, music, like, he’s just amazing. It’s going to be super awesome”. So connected the two of them, and that’s really where the Genesis of the trio happened. Matt and I actually got introduced through our dear friend James. When I was co-leading oceanic global we wanted to bring an element of music into this event that we did in Ibiza for 5,000 people with headliners such as Solomon, blondish, it was a production, it was a movie. And I was like, “yo, what better way to get the word out than through the community itself that we want to impact”. You know, that EDM community has always been at the forefront of technology, at the forefront of social impact, at the forefront of just creating this great Genesis of change. When you look at it historically , I was like, “yo, Matt, we’d love to have you involved in some way, shape or form”. And so he came in as a speaker, as a supporter as also as an interviewer and he supported us throughout the whole process. We just started diving into our friendship in a very organic way. I think both friendships were never forced or anything along those lines. Over the years we just kind of became confidants for each other. We all kinda talked individually about our businesses and our trials and tribulations and our career paths. And so that foundation of trust was already there, because we spoke about a lot of depth , but also a lot of breadth when it came to things. Then finally, when this whole thing happened, it was because my wife and I, Lindsay, we moved out to Jackson hole and Sam was like, “yo, can I tag along”? And we’re like, “Yeah, sure. Come through”. And Sam, my wife and I, we lived in Jacksonville together for the duration of the pandemic in the middle of a beautiful 20 acre property, and Matt then came to Jacksonville to visit us during new year’s Eve. And the whole thing happened where in one moment I was like, “yo, Matt what’s NFTs”? Then I came back from Costa Rica from a trip and Sam’s there on NBA top shot and he’s like, “yo, bro, you gotta get on this pack is about to drop”. And I was like, wait, yeah, I just had a phone call with Matt. Like, because a month ago Matt came here with saliva and eyes pouring out , like “YO NFTs, bro”. And I was just like, when two of your closest friends are just wide-eyed like Sam had his wallet out and he’s like, I’m sitting closer to the router so I can actually catch the drop. Like with this passion, I was like, “yo, there’s something here”. When the two people that I have so much respect and admiration for are acting like this, I got to take a look into this and that’s where the whole Genesis of our relationship and NFT Now started. 

Sam, anything to add to that? I feel like everybody has their own point of view as to how they meet.

Sam: Russian and Turkish baths are great for personal health and human optimization. So strong endorsement goes to sauna sessions and ice baths. 

Finding Inspiration

I love it. All right. Let’s dive into storytelling. One key part that I want to cover is March, 2021. Specifically that whole clubhouse era that kind of drove a lot of the storytelling and the narratives and the community around NFTs. I know you guys were extremely active in clubhouse. Matt, I think that’s how I met you virtually, Alejandro and Sam, I think we crossed paths here and there on different clubhouse sessions. What are some of the biggest takeaways you guys kind of learned going through that time, that kind of influenced the start of NFT Now? Because your focus is on storytelling, and I see the content that you push and the interviews that you host. They are high quality, they’re superb, and it references, or at least has a resemblance of those inner community sessions that kind of spurred as a dropper occurs, and somebody talks about a post drop success, et cetera. Talk to me about that. 

Matt: Well, you know, it really was a bit of a perfect storm when you think back on it. You know, we were largely relegated to our homes due to the COVID pandemic. I think people were all looking to connect and when you have this absolutely explosive development, the creation of an entirely new creative asset class that empowers artists happens, and we’re all stuck at home. You know, we all want to get it out, and so clubhouse became a very critical forum and avenue for people in the community to meet and share ideas and collaborate. And you know, I think we’ll look back on that era as a really formative time. Some of the best friends that I have made in the space, and I know Alejandro and Sam similarly, originally stemmed from conversations on clubhouse. And you know, I think that that moment in time showed the power of digital connection and digital ownership as well. The fact that some of our best friends are people we actually haven’t met yet. I remember when I met the first friends I had made on the internet, the first URL to IRL in the NFT space was Parrot and Roger Dickerman when they visited time square for artifacts, and I felt like I already knew them, you know? And what’s funny is they had been hosting a podcast together for months, and that was their first meeting too. So I think it just proves that distance is increasingly irrelevant as we look forward to a metaverse future. And I will always cherish that period because it was so wide-eyed and innocent and positive. So many artists coming together, creatives coming together, builders, collectors, dreamers, coming together to share their excitement and support each other. 

Thinking about Community

Sam, one thing that’s super unique about your background and also like your role atNFT Now, and Matt this also piggybacks a lot about what you’re saying on clubhouse and the value of community. Well, Sam, you’re spearheading the community at NFT Now. What does that look and feel like from your point of view? 

Sam: So I think I mean, collectively we’re all spearheading community. I mean, we think about community in a couple of different ways. And I think at the end of the day, first and foremost, before I like nerd out from marketing speak, like community is authentic, empathetic connection. People feeling like they’re able to get and give value to the other people that they’re engaging with. So the foundation is really that core principle. As we extrapolate when it comes to like scaling community, I mean, there’s also a challenge too in scaling community, right? Oftentimes it’s like communities can often have an indirect proportion as they grow the value of being in the community actually dissipates. So I think it’s something that we keep top of mind. How can we ensure that as we grow and as we grow our aggregate community, it’s only strengthening the value to every single community member involved? As we get further out from that, to some extent, we do see community as a bit of a funnel, right? Like there’s a top of funnel community that’s engaging on Twitter posts or tweets and Instagram posts and in the YouTube comments. And then, further down the funnel is kind of like in our discord, and that’s really kind of the most engaged people in our community. And there it’s really just trying to come up with unique ways to understand what are some of their core needs and how can we create value for them too. I think we won’t necessarily be able to share too much, but as we look further out into the future and think about how the community live in a web 3.0 context? I mean, we’re seeing lots of different, interesting projects in the NFT space and our community is really . Forming and now NFTs are becoming really just access into those communities, right? You look at V friends and all the community utility that provides for people that really just want to either have access to Gary or participate in the Vee Con conference he’s hosting. So I think we think about it as a funnel, from top of funnel being a lot of social and editorial content we’re pumping out, as we move further down towards a place like Discord. And as we kind of project into the future and won’t necessarily be able to share too much now, but what does that very web 3.0 native layer of community look like for us and the people we serve?

I want to highlight one thing that you just said, empathetic connections. A lot of people that come into the space forget that we’re people at the end of the day, right? It’s people interacting with people, it’s people talking to people, people trading with people. And I love how you use that, but how do you actually go by approaching empathetic connection? Like what does that mean to you on an operational level? 

Sam: Yeah, so I think like the principles of customer empathy and really, I think there’s ways in which you’re doing this at scale in which you’re doing this on a one-to-one level. But I think like really having a deep understanding of who our customers are, what are the specific goals they have? What are the behaviors that they’re currently exuding in order to accomplish those goals? And what are some of the pains that are involved in the process? And I think really seeking to have a deep understanding of all those different elements at play and having that really be like plastered at the front of our minds and at the forefront of everything we do. So when we’re creating content, we’re often referencing back to these different customer personas. So that way there really is this kind of reverse engineering, the value we create from the needs and perspectives of our customers and the people that we’re serving. But then I think that is kind of a more like scaled approach. And that’s why also too, it’s like in Twitter and in discord, there’s these places where we can actually have open forum and conversation with people. So people feel as if they’re genuinely being heard. It’s not even just so that they can feel like that, but it’s because we very much are not only creating for our community, but with our community. So when we’re figuring out what are the different types of content we want to create as we’re kind of developing some elements of our different roadmap and plan it very much is this collaborative sense of a very collaborative development of our roadmap. So it’s being able to make sure that we have constant contact, constant communication with the people in our community. So it’s not just this us and them dynamic, but we really are just kind of one big unit serving each other. 

It makes a lot of sense. One thing that I like about how you guys are kind of spearheading is one, the high quality content with the pushing out and the amount of emphasis and detail that goes to doing behind the drop. I think that’s super unique and stands out. So, applause to you. And I guess like when you guys are creating that, how to content, how do you think about how to? It’s like, how do you approach creating a piece of, let’s say an article, a blog, whatever it may be, that taps into the minds and some of the biggest questions that people are facing? Like, what does that thought process look like when you’re creating that content?

Matt: And I think that it comes back to empathy, just like you spoke to. At the end of the day, you know, looking at Sam, looking at Alejandro, our whole team, we have all been novices to the space. We all know that feeling of excitement, but uncertainty and being overwhelmed and realizing that the rabbit holes are endless and knowing that you want to be a part of something, but you don’t fully understand it yet. And having been there, you know, I always say, you know, I went through the crypto learning curve in 2013 when there were far fewer guardrails, but I still had to go through the NFT learning curve last year, and I’m not going to minimize the difficulty of it. There are a lot of people who are going through both learning curves, concurrently. One thing that we really pride ourselves with at NFT Now, is that our team has varying degrees of expertise in NFTs. Some people are very fully down the rabbit hole. Others are just getting their feet wet. And I actually think it’s incredibly valuable to have all of these perspectives on our team because it’s easy when you get, you know, in it day to day, to forget the learning curves that got you there and certain things that you just assume people know, and you realize that you’re speaking another language. That keeps us in check. Then at the same time, being down that rabbit hole, having the connections and all that, it gives us access to all of the information we need. It’s a really great balance. So I would say that that content process comes from a place of empathy and also listening. There are members of our team who have said, “Hey, some of our best story ideas, some of our best guides and resources have come from questions that our own team had as they were learning about the space”.

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Alejandro, I saw you wanting to add something in the background. You want to add more salt to that?

Alejandro: I think Matt just hit the nail on the head, but to piggyback on that, the guides in the content are really the similar content that we need, that I needed, that I wanted to read. This is why we jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t so much that we created this idea because it was there and it was this major gap and the market was asking for it. And so when I went to look into my own journey from an NFT perspective, there weren’t these guides, there wasn’t an NFT 101, there wasn’t like how to reset your Metamask wallet, you know, these types of things. I’m in crypto, right? Like I’ve been in crypto since 2014, but these questions started happening and connecting. So, Matt just hit the nail on the head. It’s really about our team leading the way by asking the right questions. Our editorial staff is incredibly amazing. As Matt mentioned, some of them are getting their feet wet just now. And so their feedback and their perspective is really what’s making it happen. And when we speak about the premium aspect of the product that you mentioned, that’s really the bar that we have internally as a culture, excellence is really one of the values that we drive and we want to make sure that that’s reflected beyond the internal culture, but also the culture that we’re creating for our community and for our partners. When I say partners, I mean anyone that reads us. Really, we don’t see them as an audience, we see them as a partner. We want to make sure that we’re creating value, and these experiences at a premium level are really, really important. So we always have this phrase internally, like there’s always time to do it right. And we want to make sure that we deliver best in class products with everything that we do. 

Web 2.0 v. Web 3.0 in Media

What does it mean to build a media company in web 3.0? What does it mean to you guys? It’s a big question. I’d love to hear from all of you, so we can start from that. We can go to Alejandro and then we can even hit Sam. 

Matt: Sure. Well look, you know, it’s something we say internally. In web 2.0, media companies create a lot of value, but can’t capture it. That’s why we’ve seen so many media companies failing at a time when information has become more important. And so for us we see it as a transition from the old model of building an audience as a means to an end of monetizing by being a middleman for brands, to actually building a community as an end in itself and directly creating value for that community. Whether that’s news, breaking news, resources, guides, thoughts on the upcoming drops, alpha for the the projects that are coming, bringing in AMAs, podcasts, video, all of these pillars to engage our community and provide them with value. Then, through this, through our web 3.0 roadmap, creating a way to share in that value too. For those of our community members who are really, who are really passionate about NFT Now, who want to take their memberships to the next level, they’re going to be able to. It’ll involve NFTs and we’ll be able to share in that value as well. But that’s, I think, the really fundamental difference between the media model in web 2.0 and the media model in web 3.0.

That was an alpha leak really quick. That was the utmost alpha. Like, I’m just going to throw that out there, but okay continue with the media model of web 2.0. 

Matt: Say no more. But NFT Now’s future does include NFTs. But you know, I do think, boiling it down, there is a huge difference between building an audience and building a community. And there’s a huge difference between extracting value and creating value and then sharing in that value. And we’re pioneering what the latter web 3.0 looks like for media.

That’s super powerful. You’re seeing more of the legacy brands use this NFT model by doing their first drops by kind of rallying some of the existing successful NFT creators to create content, right? But I don’t think they’re thinking about it to that extent. You know, one of the most interesting models that comes to mind is stripping away these credit card subscription models, and having people own an cryptographic asset that gets them access into XYZ, whatever it may be. And not to like talk about other publications, but one thing that comes to mind, I had Joyce from global coin research on Mint, where they’re like an investment arm, they do specific type of analysis on coins and what not, and one thing that was super interesting is they’re like, “we’re realizing that people don’t want to pay one dollar for three months to get access into the wall street journal”, for example. People don’t like that. And they don’t like the ability of being able to input their credit card, their email, their address, all that stuff, and then that gets them access to gated content. Rather, why not make it more web 3.0 native, share that value that gets captured, and give people access based on their contributions to that entire community as a whole. Is that how you guys were thinking about it?

Alejandro: From a revenue standpoint I think that that’s really a web 2.0 centric focus, right? Like there’s a transaction, right? There’s a transaction involved in that capacity, where we’re looking at it as more of a transformational play. For us it’s about making sure that our community receives the value themselves that is being created within this space. So when we think about the dollar transaction or this concept barrier to entries, I believe that the barrier to entry is always going to be present, especially in web 3.0. We see this with models such as friends with benefits, who have like a token gated community. You know, there’s even NFTs themselves with specific communities, I’m thinking of like atom bombs, for example, who were like, “Hey, our holders will have different concepts”. So yes, there is an evolution of what that NFT pass or that NFT holder aspect gives you in terms of the crypto as a community concept, but that’s something that’s kind of similar to what I like to call the elevator model. A lot of it needs to come in. What I mean by the elevator model is, you know, you got to meet your audience where they are and bring them to where you want to be. Because if you kind of just disrupt from the very beginning, people will misunderstand. And a lot of our thesis internally is that what people don’t understand, they fear, and what they fear they reject. So, when we come back to the source of it, and it’s helping them understand what it is, and how it functions, and walking them through the process of onboarding those different levels of membership or what the benefits are to holding an NFT or social token, whatever it may be in terms of the next evolution of token gate or paywalls in that capacity, is really about helping them feel like they understand and that they own the power, beyond just a credit card transaction for token gated access or paywall. And it’s beyond the content. For us, it’s also about thinking about what experiences can we give them? What type of things can they carry in IRL? One thing that Matt, I’ve heard him say one time, and we hear this now constantly internally in the company is like, how do we make sure that we drive the URL to the IRL and the IRL back to the URL and how do we continue making that fly wheel very real? I think web 3.0 is definitely leading the way in that capacity, because web 2.0 has had a very difficult time of marrying those two, the URL and the IRL. And so that’s really where I’m thinking about those thoughts when I think about the transaction versus the transformation. So for us, we’re really focused on transforming our community versus creating a transaction for ourselves.

It makes a lot of sense, and I love the community first approach. Sam, what do you kind of think about a web 3.0 community or a web 3.0 media outlet? What does that mean exactly to you? 

Sam: Yeah, I think a lot of the core points were raised, so I’ll just kind of highlight what stands out. But yeah, I think from a business model perspective, it’s not being reliant on advertisers as the core engine for our business and for us to continue to level up what we’re doing and how we serve our audience. It’s really, like Matt mentioned, creating and giving our community a chance to share in the value that we’re all creating together. I think that’s the foundation and that’s really the core element. So I think that gives us an opportunity to innovate on how we serve our audience. It gives us an opportunity to innovate in how our audience gets to contribute to what we’re building and, and really kind of have a stake in that future and what that future looks like.

The Future of NFT Now

I love it. I want to talk about the future of NFT Now. Cause right now you guys are posting, again, killer content, quality videos, dope articles, dope how to’s. I would argue your Instagram account is probably one of the more authoritative Instagram accounts on NFTs, so props to you guys for building that up to where it’s at right now. What can we expect in the future? What can the community expect?

Sam: Lots. We’ve got lots of amazing things in the pipeline. So I think from a long-term perspective, I think we have, over the course of the next three to six months, some exciting things in the pipeline as it pertains to what our web 3.0 roadmap looks like. So, stay tuned for that. I think we’re continuing to just scale up the actual content output. I think at the foundation of our mission, one is really helping foster mainstream adoption around NFTs. I think Matt already mentioned this notion of like purists versus tourists. So as much as we’re really seeking to make sure that we’re serving a lot of the purists in the space that are very kind of deep down the rabbit hole, if you will, we also really want to help make sure we’re creating content for different verticals that are looking and considering how to engage in the space, right? Whether it’s music industry fashion, we’re already seeing lots of different rumblings, but there’s still a lot of people in these industries that really have no idea where to begin or how to become internal champions within their own industries within their own verticals. So I think it’s continuing to scale up production and content and output in the communities so that we’re really able to kind of help fulfill and accomplish our mission. Those are a couple of the core things, but I’ll let Alejandro and Matt dive even deeper. 

Alejandro: I think for us, it’s important to kind of bring up what’s not going to be in our future. And I want to highlight very clearly that programmatic advertising has no room or no space within the web 3.0 media model. Like that whole click and follow you through, being intrusive to your privacy, and like, you know, pixels and cookies and all these different things. So, one thing that I love about our website is that it was our unanimous decision from day one, no programmatic advertising. There’s not going to be banners, there’s not going to be refreshes. There’s not going to be anything along those lines anywhere near our roadmap or future of web 3.0, and so we’re really looking at creating different partnerships and how we are going to deliver great products for both our revenue generating partners that actually drive value and create value to our community members in that capacity. The other area that we’re really looking at is innovating how we can actually create interactive IRL experiences that bring the digital forefront experience right to the user, beyond the URL or behind their screen on their computer. We want people to start interacting with NFTs in a completely different shape. The other thing that we’re looking at in terms of web 3.0 in our future is we’re listening. As we know, we’re in the bleeding edge or the cutting edge. We are at the forefront of these new technologies. So, for us, it’s also very important to listen as to what is occurring in the space, paying attention and observing what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and also making sure that we experiment and optimize ourselves. That’s really going to be a key driver for what we want to do in this space, because the mental model that I really love in this, kind of like to wrap it up, is that the map is not the terrain. And so we may have all these different goals in terms of our roadmap, but it could completely shift within the market. So, we’re really actively paying attention and making sure that this is user and community centric first. 

Matt: Yeah, those are great points. I just want to add, obviously I can’t reveal too many details, but we have very ambitious plans when it comes to events. We have very ambitious plans when it comes to tent poles, we are thinking big. We have so many exciting ideas when it comes to editorial and new franchises for storytelling. In this game, information is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. So I also want to highlight the fact that it is extremely important to us as we look to the future of NFT Now, that the future that we are building is equitable, diverse representative, and does not squander the opportunity that we have with web 3.0 and this new metaverse future that we are all building and excited about building together. What a shame it would be if we just rebuilt the same traditional hierarchies, power structures and inequities that have existed IRL for centuries in this new digital world. NFT Now is committed to ensuring that artists get their due, that diverse voices are heard, and to helping build a new collaborative future that we can all be proud of.

What Comes After Art?

I think that’s super, super well said. I think we’re starting to see, well, at least we saw a lot of those ecosystems that you guys are picking up on. The early days of clubhouse and the types of conversations that were happening. You know, being in these communities, you really realize like what you guys just went over was truly what’s at their core, right? And truly understanding like this is what the people need. Better education, artists need to be highlighted despite their background in spite of their past opportunities, and we need to create a better future for NFTs and how they’re consumed and the education that comes around that. I love it. One thing I want to kind of pivot into next is I know you guys focus a lot on the art side of NFTs. It’s very much a focus. What is exciting to you, I guess like in the future, other topics that you plan to cover or that you guys try to front run? Whether it’d be the music side, whether it be the metaverse side of NFTs, what are you guys thinking about that’s next?

Sam: Sure. So I think art is the initial breakout category, but very much just the tip of the iceberg. I think we saw that largely because this truly created just an actual way for digital artists to be able to sell their work online and create scarcity around some of these digital goods. I think we’ll see tons of different creators across all domains, all sorts of creative industries now have a mechanism to actually earn a meaningful income with their community. I think the notion has always been like 1000 true fans, where you don’t necessarily need tens of millions of fans in order to create a massive business or truly follow your creative pursuit. I think now there’s actual merit to this notion of a thousand true fans because I think now creators are able to have a new model to generate income with their community. I think when we think about what happens at scale, like we’ve spoken with various creatives that have always had to sell their services to brands, and the whole game was trying to build leverage and build community online on platforms that they don’t own so that way they can have more credibility to get better brand rates if they want to effectively sell their services to another brand. Now we’re seeing creators across different creative industries that are able to actually earn directly with their community. I think, like we mentioned with the music industry, like that’s always just been such a tough industry to make it because like that whole no middle-class thing I mentioned the very beginning rings so true. I think NFTs changed that paradigm, and I think when we think about this at scale for creatives across domains, it gets fascinating because this is literally just unlocking a whole new realm of creative expression and kind of creates a whole new economic model for people to earn an income off of their own creative expression, which I think is like very inspiring at scale. But I know Matt and Alejandro will have some other thoughts here as well. 

I’d love to hear your point of view because you have such a deep music background and across crypto Twitter we’re seeing a lot of independent artists hop into products like catalog, like mirror, or give equity of 50% of their album. How are you guys thinking about that at NFT Now? 

Matt: Well, look, you know, Sam and I both have a history in the music industry. Music has obviously been a driving force in my career. And you know, I think that I’ve long been frustrated by the centralized structures in the music industry. Songs are worth more than fractions of a penny for a stream. And I think NFTs helped prove that. People were surprised when a music NFT started selling. I think we should have been surprised that anyone thought that they were worth as little as the traditional structures are incentivized to make us feel, but as we look forward I think you know, kind of bringing up that that’s similar to what Sam said on the idea of that, what those 1000 true fans. Gone are the days where you had to rely on a likes and comments based economy, build an audience so that you could use it as a means to an end, to monetize with brands. All you need is to build a community of fans who are going to show up for you, that idea of those true fans. Because if you have 1000 true fans and you put out a music NFT for a hundred dollars which is not that much in Ether terms, and they show up for you, that’s a hundred thousand dollars in revenue, and that’s more than most musicians that I know have ever seen from the streaming services. I also think, as we look forward to the future of music NFTs, I’m excited to see music get out of the arts lane and build its own lane. You know, actually my father is a brain doctor, but he’s a huge Beatles fan and he actually collects Beatles memorabilia. And one thing I learned about the music memorabilia market is that it’s not super valuable until that artist isn’t around anymore. So, you know, I think that the music industry, looking towards NFTs, should be thinking about access and fandom, like a new age fan club. We’re bringing back the fan club, you know? Owning that NFT gets you exclusive access to exclusive merchandise, backstage at events, all of that. And you begin to nurture this great community and this great interaction. You know, one thing that always stuck with me, you know, as I mentioned, Blau was the one who introduced me to NFTs. It was a two-hour phone call with him. That pretty much changed my life and took me down on this path. But he said, look, I know I have fans in Mexico city. I know Spotify tells me I have this many thousand streams in there, but I can’t reach them. I don’t know who they are. If I’m throwing a show, I can’t let them know because Spotify has all that data. The amazing thing about NFTs is that it’s the beginning of an incredible connection with your fans. You can reach them immediately. You can take a snapshot and reward them the possibilities and potential for musicians to engage and reward their fans in web 3.0 is, I mean, we’ve barely scratched the surface of it. I’m very excited.

Well said. Alejandro, do you want to add anything to that?

Alejandro: Yeah, man, I think like what Matt and Sam touched on, I think it’s like the second iteration of NFTs and the diversification of specific verticals and creator economy. One thing that I’m really excited about is going beyond the creator economy and actually real-world utility and starting to see how the everyday person can actually interact with NFTs. And you know, one thing that I had is this issue with my car title being lost when they transferred it from New York to Wyoming, when I made the move and I was like, Hey, if this was an NFT, this could be super simple. It could be like, Hey, here’s my proof of ownership here it is. Even if I’m just paying down the the car payment, the NFT wouldn’t be released until full payment is done. So there’s no need for middlemen in terms of this. I’m also looking up super, super exciting use cases in real estate. How can you commodify the NFT space in real estate? Can you rent NFTs? Like Gary V just had launched this restaurant with NFTs, which is following a trend. I’ve just been receiving a lot of information and a lot of emails from friends who are like in the hospitality business saying, Hey, this is what we’re thinking about. Incorporating in terms of experiences in the real world for these types of things. Like, for example, there’s this really big winemaker that reached out to me and they’re like, Hey, we want to create wine lockers, but sell them as an NFT and your NFT will actually give you this wine locker with exclusive experiences. So it kind of comes back to what Matt and Sam were saying about creating the direct interaction between a provider and the community. And when you started looking at real-world utility, that’s when the excitement’s really is gonna to start. And I’m just so grateful that it began with art and creators, and I’m really excited to see what like the third generation fourth generation of NFT integration of real world interactions is going to look like.

Psychedelics as a path to Empathy

One thing I wanted to ask you, I know you’re very vocal on like the benefits of psychedelics and all. You have a lot of excitement around that. How do you see the merge between NFTs and psychedelics kind of take into effect? 

Alejandro: This is a really, really passionate topic that’s near and dear to my life. Psychedelics helped save my life full stop. As a high achiever, you know, society conditions us to believe that it’s all about achievement. It’s all about the diploma you have, the income you have, the house you live in, the car you’re driving. We can get lost in that sauce very easily. I think that NFTs are really powerfully breaking that mold of saying, Hey, creators can now reclaim this financial infrastructure of status of societal conditioning and allow us to do what we need to do. And we see that with like this young talent, as young, as 14 years old, you know, creating art that’s being sold in the blockchain and then making $400,000 or, you know, the likes of Fewocious who is only 18 years old and lived through a horrific childhood experience only to come out on top because of his expression and his voice. What I really love about psychedelics, and specifically for me, I just want to make sure that this is known, I am not a doctor. This is not any medical advice in any way, shape or form. Please look into the legalities of where you’re at or where you speak to because this is still schedule one drug, and even though we are seeing a forefront in society, the government has been slow to catch up. We’re still seeing some policy reforms at the local and state level. With that disclaimer, we’re starting to see psilocybin specifically for me, it’s starting to create this conversation around mental health, that it’s okay not to be okay. And it’s okay to share vulnerably it’s okay to share openly. But, there is a solution that goes beyond a chemical kind of I want to say castration of emotions. Because when you use these pharmaceuticals, they actually just numb all emotions. They’re not just like taking you out of your depression, they’re just saying, Hey, we’re just not going to make you feel anything. And so when you start looking at psilocybin specifically, I love two things that it does for me specifically. I can only speak to what my experience is. It gives me two things. It gives me courage and it gives me empathy. When you’re an empathetic person, you can understand people in completely different ways, and that builds community. Coming back to what Sam was saying, empathy is at the core of community. So when you can understand someone and you can understand where they’re coming from, then when you understand something you don’t want to judge it. You don’t want to influence it. You don’t want to change it. You just allow it to be. And the second part of this is like courage. You know, to be a creator, it takes a lot of courage. It’s almost an act of rebellion to put your art out there, to put out your creations, to be out there in the space to say, Hey, this is who I am. This is what I’ve done. And take it or leave it. I’m actually creating something that goes beyond me and bigger than me. And so there’s a lot of parallels when it comes to the psychedelics and the NFT communities around that. I’ll pop this off really quickly, but I’m learning so much about the future of web 3.0. For me, I’m obsessed with DAOs, decentralized organizations. Like I’m obsessed with them because I just love the whole concept of society building and community building in a decentralized way, and when I was diving into the technical aspects of the technical stacks of DAOs, I was like, holy shit, I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this resource allocation. I’ve seen this decentralized model. I’ve seen this kind of activity. It’s fucking mycelium, it’s mustard. So when I’m looking at DAOs now it’s through the lens of mycelium. The greatest DAO that’s been created has already existed for hundreds and even billions of years, and it’s mycelium and mushrooms. So I feel that mushrooms are intelligent species and that we can actually learn a lot from them from the physiology and the biology of them to see how we can actually start bringing into the web 3.0 model of DAOs and the future of NFTs. 

What Eats Web 3.0?

The only reason why I wanted to bring that up, and not to diverge too much on like psychedelic trips and all the pros and cons, whatever it may bring, I know it’s been a hot topic in tech, right? And there’s been a lot of funding around laboratories or companies that are experimenting with this stuff. And it’s always interesting to kind of dive into a new topic that might have some crossover with new technology. And you’re talking about how it’s influential from an organizational point of view, right? In the empathetic point of view, courageous point of view, and even the creator point of view. So it’s interesting how things kind of tie together. I know we’re wrapping up on time, but I want to finish off with one final question that I ask every single guest on the show. And don’t feel the need to answer right away. You can take a minute to think about it. One thing that I love to look into is the history of the internet. We saw how web 1.0 was very much read only, you couldn’t really do much other than kind of like communicate. Web 2.0 came into the picture, ate web 1.0, introduced social graphs, introduced all these different SaaS models, people were the products of the companies. Now we’re introducing this concept of web 3.0 that’s supposedly eating web 2.0, where people are co-owners of the products they use. People capture the value that they create and all the other narratives that tie into that. What do you think will eat web 3.0? Take a moment. And you guys can even take this from a media point of view, too, which could be super interesting.

Matt: Well, I think this. The creation of blockchain technology, NFTs, web 3.0 is a once in a millennium inflection point. We’re entering another age. There was the stone age, there was the bronze age, we’re entering the imagination age, and I believe that our current conception of web 3.0 is early. I think we’re still in web 2.5, to be honest, you know, and like, I think our current conception of web three still relies on mediums, like our iPhones and our screens and our Mac book pros and the like that we’ve been using for a long time. To me, web 4.0, if we could call it that, is that metaverse future, fully immersive environments, virtual worlds where our communities and our connection are taking place across entirely new mediums. I think that what’s interesting is, like anything, you know, the saying any technology there’s a dark side too. I think we’ve explored what this web 4.0 potentially looks like in some very dystopian pieces of science fiction, and I think that there’s a definite need to think about that as we chart that path forward. We’re not that far off from ready player one and a snow crash, but, there’s also incredible opportunity there. The opportunity for people to construct their own worlds for better or for worse and not just construct them, but own them too. That was the biggest shift from web 2.0 to web 3.0 is going from a renter to an owner. As an extension of this idea of an imagination age, I think web 4.0 is about going from an owner to a creator in a way that we may not even fully be able to conceive of yet. 

Sure. And I think that’s the beauty behind this question is like, nobody knows what’s going to eat what 3.0 , but each of you brings such interesting insight from your past experiences working in web 2.0 media and now trying to produce a web 3.0 media company and leveraging web 3.0 technology, right? Alejandro, what’s your hot take, if any? 

Alejandro: Matt brought up a really excellent point about the emergence of these worlds. I really don’t know what’s going to eat web 3.0, but I do know what’s going to always be present regardless of what technology is, and that’s going to be human connection. And I think the human element will outlive and outperform any platform, any device. You know, we can merge the world’s metaverse or not. And I think that what will be, web 3.0 , it’s not so much about eating it, but optimizing it, and evolutionize in it, and iterating on it, is really the value of human connection. So the human element will outlive whatever technology is there, because there’s nothing like human connection. 

And Sam last, but not least. What is your hot take? 

Sam: So I think a couple of things. Without saying what will eat web 3.0, I think I’ll just frame it more in the perspective of like, what will be an emergent outcome of the next 20 years. I think we’ve already seen this general emergence of niche communities starting to formulate online. I remember when I was in high school, I’ve always been into cars and motorsports. I was like a big Volkswagen fan, believe it or not, and there’s like VW vortex, which was like a leading forum for the Volkswagen community and people just pimping out Jettas. What we’re going to see more and more of is like we’re already seeing, like, I think web 3.0 , just a lot of the democratization of media in general has just created new economic models for niche communities to prosper, both as creators, as well as community participants. Even outside of a pure kind of web 3.0 lens, we’ve already seen like a Patreon and how that’s created this new economic model. Whether you’re a podcaster that has an entertainment oriented podcast, or you have some niche topic of expertise that you’re formulating a community around. I think we’re going to see new economic models and a more sustainable model for economic sustenance within niche communities. I think that’s cool, because I think tribes naturally form and people have different interests, and I think now they’ll be able to actually participate in communities that may have been this like fringe hobby, but in a more professional way where they can really start to dedicate their lives towards some of the things that they derive fulfillment and enjoyment from. So I’d say that’s one thing I’m excited to see. I think, like from forums, to Patreon, to this new mechanism of shared community ownership, I’m excited to see all the different niches that break out. 

Outro

I love it. I think that’s a perfect place to end off guys. Before I let you go, Matt, Alejandro, Sam, where can we find you individually? Where can we find NFT Now? Shill it away. 

Matt: NFT Now. nftnow.com. @NFTNow on all of the handles. Encourage you to sign up for our newsletter where we’re, you know, distilling all of the market happenings into actionable insights, you can find that on NFTNow.com. Check out our podcast, check out our videos, YouTube. If there’s a resource you need, we’re here to hear about it and to help provide it.

And Matt, where can we find you specifically?

Matt: @mattmedved on most web 2.0 handles and Medved web 3.0.

Alejandro: So I’m going through a transition period cause I changed my name last year. So on Twitter, you can find me @LuisANavia. On Instagram, you can find me as AlejandroNavia_ , and then on web 3.0 platforms, just Navia. Come check out my wallet, come say what’s up, you know, whatever it is. And then my email is wide open to the whole community. It’s navia@nftnavia.com. I read every email. I don’t respond to every email, but I do see them. So, I just want to make sure that you’re aware of it. And you know, they always say that following up is an act of service. So if you don’t hear from me, follow up. 

Nice. And Sam, where can we find you man? 

Sam: @samhysell, simple. 

Amazing guys. Thank you. We gotta do another one of these when NFT Now is like a year into the space and killing it and creating all this insane content. We’ll have to do a recap soon, but for now, thank you so much, guys.

Sam: Thank you, man. 

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Podcast Transcript

Understanding On-Chain Identity with Crypto’s Power Couple

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 9 welcomes crypto’s power couple, James Young and Anjali Young. They founded Abridged, a no-code technology stack to build and manage decentralized projects. You may know them for the infamous discord bot called Collab Land.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 3:23 – The Dynamic Duo – 26 Years
  • 9:06 – Leading a Crypto Community
  • 19:22 – Being Grounded in Community First 
  • 26:03 – The Importance of Decentralized Identity
  • 32:33 – Macro & Micro Trends in Communities
  • 38:15 – Building in Public
  • 40:10 – Realizing the Freedoms of Decentralized Identity
  • 42:48 – Web 2.0 in the Metaverse
  • 53:07 – Working with Fox Studios and Axie infinity
  • 1:03:49 – 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, James and Anjali, welcome to the podcast. How are you feeling? Thank you for being on. 

James Young: Yeah. Thanks for having us out.

I’m excited to have you guys on. You are destroying the Discord servers, enabling the innovation behind these DAOs, these communities, whatever buzzword you want to title them. So, super excited to have you on. Thanks for being on. Let’s jump into it. James, tell me, who are you? What should we know about you? What were you like before crypto and where are you now? And same thing for you Anjali, like we can start with James.

James Young: Yeah. First thing. Before crypto, I didn’t have any grey hair. So I have a prior life in video streaming and so in video streaming I had two exits start-ups in gaming. I worked at a company called Zynga, launched a game called Farmville and then got into crypto, did a project called atching, where I co authored the white paper for and created registries. Also helped with the VP of engineering where we created the first layer, two payment channels into production. And then on the side also helped with a DAO framework called Moloch , launched Moloch , and then helped launch Meta cartel as well. And then from that was really interested in DAOs and using crypto to reduce coordination when it comes to organizations, and that really is kind of what gave birth to Collabland, what you see now.

Anjali Young: Let’s see. So I’ve been partners with James for 26 years. We’ve been married 21 years and this is the first time that we are working together in any capacity. Starting around March of this year, he said, The community part of this project, like what we originally thought it was versus what it’s turning into, is just growing. I think initially that, oh, the devs are going to be able to handle all of the business, and then the community aspect of it kept growing and growing and growing to where we are now, which is over a million users. But he’s like, can you please join and help manage those relationships and help manage those communities to the extent that collaboration needs to be involved. Prior to being in this job, I homeschool both of our children. And I’ve been managing online communities, different types of online communities from handbag communities to adoption communities, race relations communities. So I’ve had a lot of interests, attachment parenting. I’ve had a lot of interests that have grown into communities where I’ve been either a mod or started the communities. And so I’ve had that experience outside of crypto. This is similar enough in that their communities, people getting together with similar interests, wanting to accomplish similar goals. So he says, can you join in and help with this aspect of it? And also it’s that I’m here, you know, as far as the communication between us, there isn’t much lag time. All of our team is remote, and it’s wonderful and this is working out and we’re happy. But for this work, which is the community work and for James’s part in it, it’s nice to be in the same room, working together, being able to talk about it. I dunno, blessing and a curse talking about it all the time. It’s definitely infiltrated all aspects of our lives, and I think that’s what makes it fun right now and exciting. 

The Dynamic Duo

You know, you guys are the first project that I’ve come across in the space that actually has this power group between you two. What is that like? I know you talked a little bit about it, but can you elaborate? What are some challenges that come with that? What are the benefits that come with that? Tell me. 

James Young: Well, I think, I think that like talking in, NFTs, you know, this looks rare, right? This is the one. And I do think really what we do from a Collabland perspective is an extension of like this DAO here, right? And it’s this trust and safety and growing community and connection that I think intrinsically kind of starts kind of, I don’t want to get too sappy or anything, with this relationship. And I think it’s all an extension. And for us, it’s really being able to kind of embrace that on a kind of a wide scale. So I think it’s consistent that way. We’ve been online all of our lives even before the internet, when it was called BBS or Bulletin Boards, and I think we’re very much at home in this blended online, offline capacity. 

Anjali Young: It presents some different aspects to the marriage because we work together now. I don’t think the fact that it’s all online affects us really. I think both of us have always had close relationships with people online. And we understand that the relationships that you make online are just as significant as the relationship that you make, you know, IRL. And so like a lot of our closest friends are online. I mean, I haven’t met some of my best friends who have helped guide me through our adoption journey and through my parenting journey. Actually my real life friends have much younger children. Our children are 16 and 13. So you know, we’ve just been parents a lot longer. And so these relationships that I have with people that I’ve met online over the years are just as close to me in terms of intimacy and guidance as any relationships that I have in person. So that part of it is not different. In that we see the value that’s being built here and it feels just as legitimate to us. We’re not like old timers that way. Like I was dialing into BBS when I was in high school, and even meeting random people on the internet that we were having meetups with when I was a teenager. So but as far as our relationship is concerned, I don’t know who could do this. We have 26 years of being together. And so it’s like, we don’t have that kind of “spend time with me right now”. I like it and I’m excited, but I’m also excited to see him doing work that is so meaningful. I see that within him. And I think he sees that within me, which is we’re able to partner and contribute to something together and build something together. And it’s not necessarily about us individually, but this thing that we’re creating together, something new. And just having this opportunity, I think, you know, with your partner, I feel grateful. 

I think you guys are like the definition of goals as we like to say, right? Like goals in the sense where you’ve had a beautiful marriage, you guys have kids and you’re doing this kick ass business that it’s impacting a lot of people online, and I guess my next question is like, do you imagine a bridge and all the tools that you guys are building becoming like a family business, like you see your kids kind of joining the pack as well? And like that young DAO, you know what I mean? 

James Young: You know, I would love to be able to have our kids start trading in NTFs now and be able to teach their friends. Cause I think it’s inevitable. Like it’s our children’s generation that inherently are going to understand and have a life that only understands crypto and that’s really when the generational change will happen. But I want to give them as a father and a parent, my first priority is to make sure that they’re safe and that they’re happy and you know, that they live responsible and fulfilling lives. And if that has to do with crypto, great, if not, like my son is now saying he wants to be a toy maker, I want to give him all the power to do that. He’s not trading NFTs, but would rather do 3d modeling, so he can 3D print a new idea or a toy. I would encourage that. So I would love it, but I’m not going to be that parent, that dad that says you must do X, Y, or Z.

Anjali Young: Yeah, exactly. Like our daughter, she’s into performing arts and so that’s, her passion is singing and performance. And so that would be great, but from a parent point of view, you live their dreams. And so what we want to do is support their dreams and, you know, crypto makes that possible for us because we can work together. We work from home, we’re able to be supportive of them. So yes, it would be great, but…

It’s not mandatory. I love that approach. How was the skill dynamic between you two? So I know behind the scenes you were telling me someone’s more of a community person. What do you tend to focus on? Can you explain to me both of your dynamics?

James Young: Yeah. So I am more kind of a lower level kind of tech about what technology can do, and then helping implement and guide the implementation and the product roadmap and all of that. So it was really kind of my idea to bring crypto to people through this Collabland bot, to meet people where they’re at. And then that’s kind of where I stopped and then kind of all of the human kind of interactions and the actual operational things that require talking to a decent, nice human being I leave up to her. So I take the technical stuff and then I lob it up to her. 

Leading a Crypto Community

What is it like leading a community in crypto?

Anjali Young: Yeah. So my job isn’t, well, actually in this one case, it is, we just launched a new discord with the mass singer, which was our first project with Fox and blockchain creative labs, which is like the crypto arm of Fox. And so in that situation, I’m in there, you know, with a mod team that we’ve brought together through a DAO and we are actually doing community building. So this is actually my first time doing like an NFT community building and more of an admin mod role, before that it was more of like a community of communities in which like I’m in direct relationship with the admins and what the admins need, going into the community and saying, okay, what is it that’s going on here? And how can I help? So it was more of a troubleshooter role as well as triaging what their needs are and trying to get them onto our engineering roadmap and really being an advocate for the communities and saying, this is a need. I’ve seen this in multiple groups, let’s do this. So that was my role a little bit higher up. This is a particular situation where I’m actually building one from scratch and that, you know, it’s actually really cool. I’m really grateful to be in this position because it then gives me that hands-on advice to now give new communities that maybe are just getting off the ground. Before that, when you brought in Collabland, now we’re seeing kind of a change where we have people brand new to crypto coming in and using collabland. That wasn’t true before. You know, if you’re using Collabland it’s because you’ve heard of Collabland from the other NFT communities that you’re in or from a DAO that you’re in or friends with benefits or, you know, something that you’ve already been in, or meme. So it’s like, you’re kind of in it. You’re in crypto already. And so then they didn’t need me for that part of it. They knew their community. They knew what they needed from Collabland, and I could triage and decide how to prioritize that. But now, we’re seeing a change where it’s like, people that don’t know anything about crypto are coming into crypto and they’re saying, oh, community first, and we’re echoing that. Yes, community first, you have to start with community. So that’s been a new experience for me. But otherwise I’d say it’s pretty great. You know, it’s like, whenever I complain about it at all, and I say, oh, people complain all the time. You know, James tells me like, you don’t understand, this is good, cause in the bear market, nobody even calls you. Anytime I even get a little bit sensitive to it, like, oh, you know, everyone wants something from me. No one’s telling me like that, it’s great. No one contacts you to be like everything’s working perfectly. We’re so happy. That doesn’t happen.

Super cool guys. I want to talk about a bridge first of all. And because I know a lot of people may be more familiar with Collabland. Can you kind of give me the grandiose vision behind the bridge and how Collabland is an extension of that? 

James Young: Yeah. Abridged is a company and initially it was dev tooling and Collabland was actually a reference implementation of what you could build with the abridged tools. And what we saw early on was this tremendous product market fit. I don’t know how to explain it other than it was a feeling or a sense because I had that sense before when dealing with, you know, other hits like Farmville being the most obvious. And so what we did was we shifted focus of abridged from a dev tooling developer centric company to a consumer, you know, perspective with Collabland. But yeah, you know, we have big plans for Collabland as a product. And then also from that being able to spin off no code tools, cause that’s what we were doing at abridged, to help enhance communities through Collabland. And so what we plan to do is, we plan to eventually decentralize Collabland and we’re working really hard with DID providers, decentralized ID providers and working on VCs or verifiable credentials. And what that will allow is the user to be able to control what other people see, and what their reputation is. So right now, when you look at Collabland, it’s a bunch it’s tools for individual communities. We want to create this network effect of not only communities of communities, but the people in those communities connecting with each other. And we think that allowing users to own their own identity. Identity is a super set of privacy. And we want to give that back cause we think that is what the internet was meant to be like. So we are starting in the centralized fashion through Collabland from abridged , but we plan to decentralize eventually. So this is my fourth startup and I understand kind of the power of like command and control top down bootstrapping and getting something up as quickly as possible. But I understand over time how the lopsided incentives come into play. I also have this perspective of something that’s completely decentralized from the beginning. Helped launch Moloch, helped with Meta Cartel and involved in a lot of DAOs. And at the very beginning, it’s like herding cats, once in a while you get it right, but more often times it’s hard. So through Collabland , our experiment to decentralize is to start centralized, bootstrap, and create a situation where I can fulfill my fiduciary duty as CEO of abridged and align that with the decentralization that is required for people to have their own sovereignty. So what we’re going to do, and just to give you some context is, we’re going to have a fan batch. So we initially, because of our growth, have gotten a lot of interest from investors, but we’ve decided to defer that for now and go to the community to see if they can help support us. And what we’re going to do is go back to kind of the old school shareware concept, but in the context of community and crypto. This way, from a funding perspective, if our customers are saying they value what Collabland is doing, and they want to help keep the lights on, they can have this fan badge that they can buy as an NFT. The primary sales of that NFT will go to abridged to help the core team at Collabland, but the secondary sales will go to a DAO, the collab DAO . Now you have funding for the core team, but you also have, if we are over time doing our jobs correctly, you’re building up a treasury before the DAO. And so the core team will move forward and move things along in time, the DAO will follow behind and it’ll take time for the DAO to coordinate, but hopefully if the DAO gets momentum at one point, it’ll kind of supersede the centralized community. And at that point we can figure out how to exit to community. So, that’s kind of the overall plan. And then what we can do is create some other tooling or some other projects through abridged you know, maybe, or may not be affiliated with Collabland . 

Anjali Young: And that’s important I think with Collabland is that collaboration is built from these communities. You know, it’s like, yes, we were there. We’re here. We’re providing the support. But if it wasn’t for the communities themselves, we wouldn’t be here right now. And so just saying, oh, we had an offer for a hundred million dollar evaluation and 15 million to us, to the company it’s like why didn’t that feel? Why doesn’t it feel right? And the reason is that the value belongs to all of us. Like this is a collaborative project. Yes. We’re the ones that are building the tools and supporting, and listening and working together, but it’s really a collaborative process in that the admins themselves are the ones that say we need this, or we need that, and we are here to provide, but it’s something that we’ve all built up together. And so if there’s an opportunity right now to try something different in web three, find a new way to do this that’s different from web two or typical startups, then why not do it? You know, why not try it? You know, we’ve been able to stay very lean, you know, grateful that crypto has gone up since we fundraised. We got our seed round. You know, our seed round was really just to say, Hey, try something. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just try it. Literally the seed round came when we had nothing. And it was just, “here. Experiment”. And thankfully with that, just with that seed round, we’ve been able to stay really lean. And so we’re not in a situation where we have to say, we need the money, we’re just thinking ahead into what our community will want and need and how we can keep this free and sustainable for new communities that come in. Like I said, you know, now we have non-project communities come in and everyone should be able to benefit from this. And so, you know, James and I, especially, and the rest of the team you know, we think, why not give this a chance? And it’s a huge risk because asking people to just say, are you a fan? Like, are you a fan then, you know, then do you want to buy this NFT? Cause you’re a fan. And do you want to do what we’ve done? Like that’s a huge trust that falls into the web 3.0 community, you know, into crypto. But if not us then who, and if not now, then when? 

Being Grounded in Community First

Well I’ll tell you this much. I think you’re approaching it the right way. I think we’re seeing, and by the way, there’s so many things to unpack over there from fundraising in web three to identity. And why do you believe that that’s the next step in web three? We have so much to cover, but for starters, I support that, right? Like if you guys come out with an identity badge, like, I just love that stuff. You have me and my support, right? So that’s number one. Number two is like, thinking like that, community first, and realizing that you built a community for this product and that every action from there on out needs to be community first is a very valuable thing to recognize. And many people forget and get sucked into valuations and want the high status of saying I raised this much at that valuation and the cockiness and all the ego boost that comes from that, and I think keeping it, raising with what you need ,starting and just getting it out there, validating that traction and then trying to go for the community that supports, loves and adores you that have treasury rich network effects. I think it’s a smart move.

Anjali Young: We’ll see how it goes. But we feel exactly the way you do. I don’t know if we could have done this at 25, you know, it’s like, there’s a different situation when you’re almost 50 and you know, you built a life and it’s a, it’s a good life. And so all those kinds of ideas of, oh, you know, we’ve raised this much at this valuation and look at this, you know, I’m grateful, but we don’t have those same trappings for better or worse. We don’t have those trappings. 

Wow. And why do you think identity is the next step forward? Why are you so bullish on the identity component? 

James Young: Because like what we’re seeing, when you see DAOs right? Like you go from sweat equity, earn your way up, from friends with benefits as the example essentially you were saying before, you have to kind of start all over again, reputationally, when you go to a new DAO. That doesn’t make sense, right? Like all of this on-chain activity, all this DAO activity needs to be portable, and we need to use this technology to be able to further it along. It’s like dogfooding. My vision is like when my son is going to get a job, he’s going to be going on to discord or whatever, AR VR, whatever platform is in the future, and he’s going to be a part of like 10, 15 different DAOs that are gonna be more fluid. And when he wants to start a new one with his other friends and other people want to join in, they need to be able to understand like, who are these people? Like, this is why crypto right now is so insular. And this is why, you know, you have to stay engaged with crypto Twitter because that’s where all the action is. It shouldn’t be on these platforms, but we need to transition into something that is more on-chain and it is owned by the individual because it all starts with some kind of funding incentives, right? Like the problem with the internet is, you know, the good and the bad is it’s advertising base. We’re trying to figure out a different model so that like, you know, being exploited for your privacy or identity, you’re in control of that, and you have sovereignty over that. I think that is what the real kind of ethos of crypto is. Or like the internet is essentially peer-to-peer. Why do we have like these FAANG companies, like a bunch of centralized companies controlling most of the internet? It’s because we, as human beings, haven’t had the technology to be able to work in a decentralized manner. And now I have this opportunity that I’m not limited to geographically. Like I can connect with a 19 year old kid in some other country, and you know, if we vibe, then we can actually get work done on our own time. I think this is really the future of work. And this is the future of communities. That depends on the kind of this decentralized identity that is owned by the user. It’s critical. It’s a super deep and wide rabbit hole, and so we have to be very careful because for all of the, you know positives, I don’t want to set a situation where like I’m living my own black mirror episode. So we have to be very careful at the same time. So we’re understanding and we’re really learning this technology and how people will embrace it. So this is why we have to be community first as well. 

Anjali Young: Yeah. I was going to say owning your own identity, even on, for example, Facebook, I got off of Facebook in may of 2020. And since then, I’m like, where are my friends? Like, where do I get this, it’s gone, right? Unless people are willing to text me individually, but they’re not, they’re going there. And I say, why don’t you get off Facebook? They’re like, well, all of my stuff is. Like all my pictures are there, whatever everything people have said to me is there. It’s like, we don’t want to be that, we don’t want to say you have to be in a certain place to own your identity. You should be able to take it with you and nobody should own it and be able to sell it. Like, that’s really what this is about. Like, people should not be making money off of your identity. And up until this point, up until crypto, like even on Instagram, they’re selling ads based on what pictures you post or on Facebook or whatever, even Twitter, I guess. But like we were trying to break that model and say, how can we break that model? Like who you are online, which is really where we all are because of COVID it’s even exasperated that like we’re all online. Why do you think profile pictures are so popular now? It’s like, this is who I am. And why would you spend $150,000 on a profile picture when you can buy, I don’t know, new backyard remodel or a fancy car? Because what you are online is who you are. That’s who I am. I don’t care how many people see me driving a fancy car, but millions of people are going to see me with my profile pic. And so it’s like, we’re seeing this shift of online presence is our presence. For better or worse it is who we are. 

James Young: And I think in the same way, as she was saying, like NFTs people are just scratching the surface. You own that asset. What does that ownership mean? And what does that mean to like, have that stake into the community? We are just scratching the surface of asset ownership. What does it look like when you have identity ownership? So I think there’s a lot to experiment and learn, and we’re going to do this in public. The only way to learn about this and to figure this out is to do this in public with the community. 

The Importance of Decentralized Identity

I feel the fire in your souls preaching over here, and it’s so nice to hear. You know, one thing that kind of comes to mind when you’re talking about being able to take your identity from one platform to another, not being restricted to their orders. I think of it as a social protocol, essentially. And some things that come to mind are like, I know AAVE hinted at social protocols, I know Deso just launched, Bit Clout social protocol, all these other social networks that are attempting to do basically decentralized social media. Is that the direction you guys are leaning towards? Are you envisioning another path, but that ties onto this concept of identity?

James Young: That’s a big question. Honestly, I don’t know. I think that we don’t understand this technology. We don’t. We understand how it works, but we have no idea what this really means. Right? Like we can only understand from where we’re sitting and what we know now. This is why you measure a car engine in horsepower, because that’s all people knew before the automobile. Like we’re trying to project what we already understand onto technology, but the meat itself is the message. Like, we have to understand how people are using it. This is why we need to build it public. And we’re not going to be too prescriptive about it just yet. We want to take the time to do this. And as Anjali was saying, this is why we’re going to like, do this trust fall to the community. Because this is not a scripted show where we know what the ending is going to be. This is more of an interactive, Rocky horror picture show where we’re interacting with the audience and just guiding them along.

What if the community approach doesn’t work? 

James Young: Then it doesn’t.

Then what is the next step you think? 

James Young: Then the next step is we have other products. We go through the other experiments with our building tools, right. And we’ll be able to be one step ahead of potentially the competition. Our no-code tools make web three super fast. 

Anjali Young: Yea, you can make DAOs with the no-code tooling, like when the no-code tools first were presented, there weren’t people in crypto. And so we couldn’t bring more people into using the no-code tools because there were no developers. They’re like, why would we come there? Because there’s no users. Well, there’s users now. And so there’s still a market for no code tools, but if the community doesn’t work, I don’t even know how to think about it. I mean, yes, it may not work the way we think it’s gonna work, but really like James says, you know, this is improv. Like we take a step, the community takes a step, and if it doesn’t work, then we try a new step and then they tell us if that works. And so it’s improvisation right now. It’s a collaboration right now. So I don’t know how to describe what happens if it doesn’t work, because we’re not saying it’s going to have to be a certain way. We’re saying, come with us on this journey. You know, we all want the same things. And so if you want what we want, come with us. And so I don’t worry about becoming obsolete or irrelevant. I feel like as long as our motivations are true, which is to support the communities, there’s always going to be communities. You know, we’ve been in communities for 150,000 years. Like humans only know how to be in communities for protection first and for identity second. And so, how is that going to go away? We’re not an evolution of humans just yet. 

James Young: It’s not a stretch. Bitcoin is the original social economic community. Then you had all these other coins. You have Doge, Shiba, you have Ethereum. These are all social networks because they all are incentivized to do the same thing because they hold similar assets. You can just create a closer closed loop as much as you want. You can have, you know, Ethereum , but then have an NFT, within our NFTs, you can actually get into that one NFT community, and have sub communities.

Anjali Young: Which already exists. There’s sub communities within communities. 

What a cool way to look at it. You know, I’m a contributor in different DAOs, and have obviously used Collabland. You can’t use the crypto discord without touching Collabland. You just can’t. Okay. And this concept of being able to transfer your identity from one DAO to another, without going into the introductions and being like, Hey guys, I’m doing X, Y, and Z. Like, forget that. Just like, look at my resume. Look at what I’ve done. Look at my on-chain votes. Look at my contributions on GitHub. Look at this. And it’s actually like, I can just plug and play based on my expertise without killing time kind of thing. Right. So very much, I get that. 

James Young: That’s the next step. Like now we’re able to organize, we’re using platforms like Telegram discord, we’re going to come out with a Reddit bot, we have a Twitch bot. Like these platforms will sit on top. These siloed platforms will sit on top and like these tokenized communities will move fluidly across different platforms. But then how do you like to go from one DAO to another? And this is what we see as the next evolution. Exactly like what you’re saying. 

Anjali Young: Well, and I mean, the blockchain allows for coordination, you know, on a dime. Like you’re able to collect money, you know, an NFT project can come out and raise a few million dollars immediately. We have the ability to coordinate right now and get everybody in a discord together and start talking. So now being able to coordinate even faster, if you have your decentralized identity badge. And so it’s like, I don’t even have to go through the effort of being like, is James a good guy? Is he aligned with what I align with? Let me just check it out, let me see what he’s about. And I see his history, his transactions, his votes, see what he’s about, then I don’t even have to waste that time. And that’s kind of the beauty of crypto, right? Not having to waste time. We don’t have to go to the bank and everyone puts in their money and then the money gets distributed. Like we can send money instantly. 

Anjali Young: Yeah the base technology is basically a side message, right based off of cryptography, money is a killer app, but identity reputation voting are all other killer apps because of this scarce digital asset that now is techno technically viable. And now we’ve just found the, the kind of hook with Collabland, as you were saying, you know, we’re just discord just everywhere in Dysport.

James Young: Right. And we see that product market fit. And so this is what we want, at least this is more than money. 

Anjali Young: It’s more than money. It’s an opportunity to free people. So it’s something that’s more than money. 

Macro & Micro Trends in Communities

Wow. Yeah. Super inspiring guys. I wanna kind of pivot, because you have so much purview as to how these different communities are utilizing the token native feature, what are some of the biggest themes that you’ve come across? Cause I know you guys just did a launch with for example, with bots, right? You guys integrated with Axie affinity, two separate communities, but have a lot in common. What are those types of seen themes that you see developing micro communities as well as macro communities? Can you talk a little bit about that? 

Anjali Young: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because it’s really, you wouldn’t imagine that just because you all own the same financial asset that you’re going to have any kind of relationship with each other. You know, I have dollars. James has dollars. You have dollars. That’s not enough to make us best friends or want to work together instantly, or be buddies or anything like that. But in these tokenized communities, it’s like a transaction first and then they become trust relationships. And that is something that is, I think, very unique to crypto. And it’s just been a huge unlock for us emotionally and mentally to see. That just having the same financial assets aligns you in a way that’s deeper than you would imagine in a nonfinancial relationship. Cause we think of finances as being so cold and that just has not been the case. And so the one main thing I would say is what we’ve seen and that’s a throughput through all the communities is that, you buy into this community, now you’re a part of that community, and you’re welcomed as if you’re a member of that community. And then once you’re there, you can start working together because everyone says, Hey, you have that asset, you know, because of Collabland , you can see the discord, roll ID . Oh, you have that, that asset. I have that asset. Okay. We’re on the same team. And what comes from that is innovation, relationships, collaboration, you know, you see these Twitter raids happening all the time. Like how do you get so many people to get together and like work for the same project. Like that motivation comes from within. It comes from these communities and it’s all based on them owning the same, you know, cold, icy financial asset. In terms of social tokens versus like NFTs, NFTs I would say is even closer. You know, when you buy an NFT into a community, it’s like, that’s you. So people feel more strongly about even holding that token. You know what? We were at M con a few weeks ago, and I was talking to somebody who had social tokens and he’s like, oh, I sell my token sometimes. And then I go back and I buy them again, and then I just hop in and out of discords based on my token holding. And I said that doesn’t happen in NFT communities, or it’s more rare, because once you buy your NFT, it’s like you have a relationship with that particular NFT. Or maybe you bought multiples so you can sell some, but you’re always going to hold on to your identity like NFT. So it actually makes these NFT communities even more stable, if I can even say that. It’s not stable.

James Young: What we see, I would point out two things as well, online communities when they get big enough, they devolve because of trolls and all of that. But,NFT based communities or token based communities, you don’t have that because everyone has skin in the game. Like you have to pay to get in, and so that raises the stakes and the caliber and the quality of conversation. Like it’s day and night, day and night. 

Anjali Young: Well, the attention doesn’t go to the trolls because if there is a troll or there’s someone, you know, like that’s participating in that type of language, the other members will say, Hey, either tell us what your point is to fix this or sell your token. Like help us. Cause we’re all working together to raise the floor or get more members in or whatever it is or what is the point? Like, you’re dismissed in a way that you’re not dismissed on Facebook, for example, or, you know, there’s certain politicians based their whole identity on being a troll. Because we give attention to trolls, but somehow token gated communities have been able to pull us out of that muck. They just have.

James Young: Also, you know, when you have an asset that you can sell immediately, and then honestly, we can talk about the kind of MarketWatch and secondary market. It actually helps push people to psychologically be engaged. So you don’t have as much voter apathy as you do in generalizing DAOs that we’re seeing, but you can talk more about that. 

Anjali Young: Oh, I mean, sure. But for example, you know, James has a board ape, so I like to use it as an example. But when the board ape price goes up, and people that bought at mint, let’s say, why are you staying? What makes you stay? You have to ask yourself that question all the time. Like, do I want to stay here? And so there’s that pressure on you, right? Like your real life, existing people in your life need money. Maybe you need money. It’s like, you have to decide if you’re going to sell. And that type of pressure brings the quality of the community even higher because everybody who’s in there wants to be there, and anyone who buys into that community, as the community grows, there’s no idea of like, oh, I was in, OG. It’s like, you all own the assets. If someone buys at 100 ETH, , you’re going to say, welcome. Thank you for being here. Because that means your asset goes up. And so it’s like that market watch that sells pressure is completely different, but you know, that, that also brings people together to do market watches together. It turns them into mini businesses, but the pressure, specifically the back sell pressure, actually elevates the community itself as well. 

Building in Public

Super deep. You guys have so much purview into all these communities and so much knowledgeable insight. And one thing that I love that you keep referencing is building it public. And I think a lot of people fear that. A lot of people want to hold onto their things to their life, you know, and they don’t want to show it off to the world as publicly as they maybe should. And one thing that I find, well, it’s a common theme in crypto to build publicly. Some people do it better than others. How do you build in public? Like how do you do that? How do you actually, in a way where you don’t get like, caught up on the fact that someone’s going to steal your idea? 

James Young: It happens and you have to be okay with that, but the motivation is like, it’s this oxymoron, right? Because of crypto, a lot of people want to be pseudo anon’s, , but I would argue, they really want to be known. Like at least a portion of the personality and in crypto, what we’re seeing with these communities, is being known. This is why you have identity, attachment to these pFPs, like you want to be seen. And maybe you want to be seen in a certain way or in a very limited way. So you may have a pseudo anon , but like that is the real you. 

Anjali Young: Let’s talk about PFPs. You know, I made a comment the other day, which is I love PFPs because no one with a PFP is using a filter on their face. And to me, I feel like we’re being liberated by bodies, that we were born in, the faces that we were born in, the genders that were born in, and I want to cry, but we’re no longer limited by that, but we’re free. You know, we’re free to show what we want to show. We’re free to be who we want to be.

James Young: And once you know that, it’s very hard to unknow.. That’s the thing about freedom. That’s the thing about sovereignty. That’s what we’re banking on. Once people know it’s hard to un-know that.

Realizing the Sovereignty of Decentralized Identity

What do you think it’s going to take for people to know that? To more deeply understand that and connect to that? 

James Young: It’s all about good vibes. You just gotta make it light ,you gotta make it fun. You hit people over the head with all these hard concepts, they’re like, whoa, like that’s just too much. Like, let’s just have fun. 

Anjali Young: And also like a lot of times people are like, this is a competitor, this is a competitor. Oh, this person’s a competitor. Or they’ll post something on Twitter, and they’re like, oh, we made this and it’s better than Collabland. And I always say, great, congratulations. I like it. I’m like, this is not a competition. What are we trying to do here? We’re trying to bring web three and crypto to the world, like, why would I compete with somebody else that wants to do that? That’s not a part of what we are. So it’s like living what you want to see in the world. Like, we want to see collaboration. We want to see everyone working together to build a greater world, so what does that have to do with competition? So it’s like living your beliefs and hoping that at some point they will come back in and be something, you know, just taking a chance.

James Young: And I think we’re still early on, and this is kind of the core values that we want to help promote in web three is positive sum. It’s a co-op game. It’s not single-player, where if I win, you lose. And this is the ethos, this is part of the values that go behind the technology. That’s what we really are trying to do. Like, we have this one line, we have one life , what are we going to do with it?

I’m kind of blown away right now. I have to take a moment. You know, you talked to a lot of people in crypto and many people they get lost in the month. They get lost in what can it do for my pocket? Cool. The concept of decentralization is fun. It’s sparkly. It’s nice. Well, beneath that, there’s a lot of money. And, you know, as you guys are talking to me about your vision, you guys are talking to me about what the strategy is, at Collabland. Positive sum games. You think for a moment. And I’m trying to find a way to say this. Like it’s pure. It feels here is what I’m trying to say. And you know, you hear this concept of competition in crypto that people forget to zoom out. They forget to look from above and realize that we’re all collectively building towards the same exact thing. All boats rise with the tide. And that everybody’s going to make it, we’re all going to make it, right? As cringy as that meme is, it’s as true as it gets, and I hear you guys speaking and what it makes me want to support your community even more, so I’ll put that over there. The second thing is like, you’re right. Like everybody wins here, everybody wins here. 

Anjali Young: Not just us, but all the people who are not here yet. Like, can we think about them? Like all the people who are not in crypto yet, what can this mean for people? 

James Young: What can this unlock? Just imagine what this can unlock. Like, I think that the biggest thing is, you know, andAnjali has talked about this a lot, like, what if the challenge is climate change? Like collectively, we can solve it if we are all aligned and have the same incentives to do so. We can do anything. 

Anjali Young: You can do anything. The brightest minds, this is an international movement, a global movement. When else in the history of the world have people from every single place at every single economic status come together and participated in something together? Like it’s just too much. When you think about it, you know, I say to James and I’ve said to other people too, it’s like, I’m 47, like how many more years do I have left? And I’ve never worried about that. But now I think, oh crap, I wish I could live to see, you know, what this could be. This is the first time I’ve ever felt that. That feeling of like, it’s not enough. Even if I get another 50 years, it won’t be enough because this is going to be it. Human coordination.

Anjali Young: Well, we need to start and we just have to make this fun. So we have walks that are going to be entertaining. It’s going to be light and then people will come to it on their own. We cannot tell people this, they need to turn on the light themselves. That’s the, once you know you, you can’t unknow. So let’s keep it light. Let’s keep it fun. It’s all about the vibes, and then see where this goes, because none of us know where this is going to go. It has a meaningful impact. We’re all value aligned, but it doesn’t mean we have to be super serious about it. 

Web 2.0 in the Metaverse

I wanna talk about this Facebook thing for a minute. And they announced it today. So today we’re recording, it’s Thursday, October 28th. Facebook announced the brand revamp, Meta with Facebook and their emphasis on the metaverse. Mark, in previous interviews, emphasizes this, this ethos of like it’s a positive sum game, but if you look at past history and past experiences, these social networks dominate and they eat everything in plain sight. How do you think these traditional social networks like Facebook are going to approach, let’s say token gated access for groups or communities? How do you think they’re going to think about that? How do you think they might approach it down the line? I know we’re like making predictions here, and we’re thinking future, but part of this is like a creative experiment to kind of see like, are they aligned with what’s about to happen and what’s been happening or are they trying to re-imagine their own variation of what a metaverse may look and feel like? 

James Young: That it’s fine if they do, and we should encourage it, right? Because now we have the power. If we have self sovereignty and we have community sovereignty, then if collectively we don’t like a platform, we can just walk away. There’ll be other platforms, other things that will meet the needs. So now, we can level the playing field, right? So we’ve seen this already, actually with Collabland. Initially we were only on telegram, and we’ve seen hundreds of communities that were token based be able to move from telegram to discord very easily. So if the platform doesn’t play with you nicely, and it’s not being amenable to you, can you have that collective voice from your community to switch over?

Anjali Young: I think they can make their own blockchain and that you can only use if you’re using their product so that they wouldn’t be interchangeable or Bridgeable to other chains, and then you can’t get off or leave the platform. So I don’t know yet. 

James Young: So that argument is like, kind of like what you see in the media, right? Can the new guard, Netflix become HBO faster than HBO can become Netflix. So for us, Web three, can we coordinate? And this is another reason why we can’t just take the traditional VC funding route right now, is the market ready for this trust fall so that this community can coordinate faster than Facebook can dominate a chain. 

Anjali Young: But you don’t know. I mean, speaking from past experience, do I have confidence about Facebook? I would say no, they’ve always chosen money first. So just from my perspective and what I’ve seen in the news, and just the way they’ve tried to incentivize conflict in order to have more engagement and what that’s done to our society. I mean, I feel like that’s not necessarily with the same ethos as crypto, but would I like to be surprised? I’d like to be surprised. 

James Young: We don’t know, like, can we actually make a dent in the universe? Can our values actually be echoed, right? Like, this is what we’re doing at Collabland. That’s why it starts with us. And it’s going to be this, we’ll see where it goes. But we can only be ourselves, that’s it. We can only be us, and that’s what we want to empower with these communities. For them to be sovereign and for them to be them, to have their own governance. So it’s like, I hope so. And this is kind of a curiosity, and this is like a social experiment. This is why we’re building in public.

Anjali Young: And, you know, with facebook is interesting because what I’ve been reading on Twitter, and of course my Twitter is focused toward crypto NFTs, like who’s on Facebook anyway? It’s all people over 30, which I’m offended by. I’m well over 30, but no. It’s like, it’s a really different demographic, isn’t it? So I don’t even know if it’s necessarily a competition. It might be a gateway. Like, you know, when we talk about centralized, blockchains are blockchains where they don’t play nicely with the rest of the blockchains. That doesn’t really bother me initially, because anyone who’s interested once you get your taste of crypto, maybe in a certain blockchain, I don’t want to name any, then there’s spillover into the wild west with the rest of us. And so maybe people will learn about crypto on Facebook, but then they’re gonna move out of it anyway. Maybe they’ll have to start over because they can’t take it with them. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to give people a taste of what crypto is and that alone, you know, just like the foray into mass media, it’s like that alone has tremendous value. You know, like we put out a PFP verifier on Twitter, some people use it and then Twitter said, oh, we’re doing a PFP verifier. And we’re like, great. Because the more people that validate cryptocurrency, the better. So I don’t know what the plans are at Facebook. But the fact that they’re getting into it, does that not validate all of this?

James Young: And everybody wins. We’ve already won. It’s just taking time for it to become well-known. So we all made it already, and so I think that’s the perspective we have. So let’s have fun along the way. 

Anjali Young: So we don’t know the details, but it’s still good. 

You know, one thing I got to ask you. So as you guys dominate a certain portion of Discord, I have to be frank, has Discord ever offered to acquire you guys yet? Because of all the utility and all the demand and all the interests that you guys have brought?

James Young: I cannot confirm or deny that, but I am in DMS with the head of growth kind, head of trust and safety and head of communities at a discord.

Anjali Young: They want to support, they want to support web three, this kind of came out of nowhere for them. Like they were a gaming discord and Twitch took off and then their pocket. So they had different user bases and because of the success of our bot, they’re like, hold on a second. Now we’re in, I think over 7,500 communities in discord and each of those communities can be thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people. So they can’t ignore what we’re doing with our bot, and so they’re very interested and excited about it and have been supportive about wanting to bring more web three and crypto communities to discord and Collabland is why they’re there. You know, we were all on telegram before, and so the crypto communities were there, and once we needed more robust features for our communities, then we moved to discord and then everyone came to discord. And so Discord is aware that Collabland is the draw for crypto communities, and so they’ve been very supportive and excited about working with us and helping us. Especially when we reach late rate limits, that happens a lot, you know, with bots and our bot is so robust in that we have a lot of activity happening with our bot all the time. And so that does require that we work with discord and they’ve been very supportive so far. And we’re grateful for that because James’ former boss is on the board of directors and his coworker started discord, Jason Sichuan, his previous coworker. James has been working, you know, he’s 49, so he’s been working as an engineer since he was 22. And a lot of those developers that he’s worked with, they’re now in, in web three. So it’s been those relationships.

James Young: I mean, I look forward to today when, as a user, because of my token holdings and communities, I can move fluidly between discord Facebook, some AR VR thing, Reddit, Twitch. And it doesn’t matter what platform I’m on, right? Cause I’m rooted by my tokenized communities. This is why we win. This is why sovereignty matters. This is why we have to take back the internet. I feel like I’m an activist, but that’s what this whole thing is. It’s like investment as activism, right? And that’s kind of what we’re doing here. What we’re trying to promote is us being able to do this together. We’re all gonna make it.

Anjali Young: It’s like, come for the money because you need some reason to be here, but stay for the revolution. 

Working with Fox Studios and Axie Infinity

Come for the money, stay for the revolution. I think that’s going to be the title of this episode. I think this is great. I want to talk about more of the key partnerships that you guys brought. Tell me about that. How did that come to fruition? How’d you guys get in touch with Fox? What was the process of getting Axie Infinity on board? Talk to me about that. 

James Young: It just happened kind of serendipitously. Like we were at the right place kind of at the right time, and that’s the kind of lightning in the bottle of product market fit that we saw. It was just this traction and engagement when it came to like NBA top shot or Axie infinity or sandbox games. I have a go-to like, it was just kind of natural, but I think with Fox, it really was undulating. You know, helping that, she can talk about that.

Anjali Young: I mean, it was a cold call, you know, it was on Twitter. So I manage the Collabland Twitter. I don’t think people know there’s a real person, it’s me. Some people are like, you know, whatever, there’s like rants that’s about it. I’m like, don’t they know I’m a real person. Like he talked to me like literally sobbing on my computer. James always reminds me, this is a good problem. Don’t complain right now.

James Young: Because I remember the beginnings of web two. It was so kind of electric and exciting. Google don’t be evil. Like it was so kind of naive, but so kind of optimistic. And I feel like we have a second chance. Let’s not blow it this time. 

Anjali Young: We have a second chance really at this, like trying to do the internet, right. Like, can this be the internet? Cause look what we did the first time around and look what we turned it into. But now we have a chance at the real internet. Should we do it? Let’s see if we can do it. So let me tell you about Fox real quick. It was just a tweet. Not tweet, but you know, someone DMD me. How was it a DMD? Someone called me out on Twitter, and so I sent a DM and then I was like, what is this? Like, I was pretty suspicious. Like this can’t be real. And then we got on some calls and even then I was pretty suspicious about what this could all be. And I thought, you know what? And I told James, like, I don’t know what they want. Like, do they know what this is? Like, do they know what we’re doing? Because what we’re doing is different. I don’t know what they’re successful at. Are they willing to do this and fail? Like, because if they’re going to do it with us, they’re doing it for real. And there’s no safeguards. There’s no pretending like this is the real deal. So are they willing to do this? The real deal and after multiple conversations and it was like, yeah, they want to do this. Like, they really want to do this community first. And they really want to be integrated with what the values and the ethos of crypto and web three are. And they convinced me and they convinced James and we’re like, okay, let’s do this. And so we’ve been working with them now for probably a few months and every part of our relationship so far, I’ve been really impressed with their innovation. And they’re willing to take a leap into the deep end here because you know, they started with a messenger and it’s the number one TV show in America, like broadcast television, like why would they then want to launch an NFT and take a chance at making sure that the community has an opportunity to decide on which direction that the NFT project and the community is going to go? And why are they listening to me, who just comes from NFT communities, that’s all and say, this is the way I want you to do it? And they’re not going to some multi-million dollar marketing firm and making sure they go with some chain that, you know, whatever, there’s lots of different options, people that are much flashier than us with a very different perspective, promising everything. And the way we look at it is like, you need to listen to the community first, you need to build this with the community. This is building in public. You may fail and fall on your face, and then what. Then this is what it is. Do you want to do this with us? You know, like we’re making it very clear that they need to follow the rules of what we think are the rules that are what crypto we’re about right now. And they want to do it.

James Young: The saying was, if we fail, at least we’re going to fail for the right reasons.

Anjali Young: Yeah. So they’re recognizing that these are the right reasons. And so I was convinced. And so then James said, well, we need to have a DAO then, he’s stuck in the DAO . And so we have a DAO with Fox as well. And then we have other DAOs that are participating to get, you know, we have funding from Fox initially, and then it’s getting paid to the different discord mods being paid out of that DAO, and so, you know, we’re like, we’re kinda like bringing them in.

James Young: Yeah, I was doing a little bit of history because you know, I’m a technologist, I’m not a media person, but when you peel back and you just read a little bit of a history of like the entertainment. Edison started the first studio, because he needed to promote his technology. When you look at the summer blockbuster that was invented by, like jaws was first, but really star wars right? Because star wars still lives on. And when you look back, I was listening the other day to George Lucas and 20th century Fox greenlit Star Wars because these other studios were like, this is a crazy movie. What are you trying to do? And at Fox, the reason why it was green-lit was because Lucas had done American graffiti and they’re like, I don’t know what the space thing is, but because you did a good job, American graffiti goes for it. And I feel like that ethos is like now with Fox. And I was like, wait, this is kind of consistent. I was like, wait, I’m kind of mind blown here. Like we have an opportunity to reinvent like the summer blockbuster from entertainment, but community driven and community owned. Like, we’re at the precipice. We have a window, the clay is still wet. We can make our fingerprints on this. Instead of fighting it, let’s double down into it. 

Anjali Young: And that’s the main thing it’s like initially there’s some skepticism of having outsiders come in, but really, you know, for us, the mass adoption and everyone having access to this is the goal. Like everyone being able to have a crypto wallet, get paid for what they’re doing, get paid for their whatever. However, they contribute online, their fandom, their retweets, their likes, like that’s you, that’s your life. Like we’re paying with our minutes, right? Like we should be paid for that, and Fox is coming along on that with us. And so I’m nothing but grateful right now. 

Crazy. That’s crazy. Do you ever take a minute and just reflect on everything that’s happening? 

James Young: It’s too hard.

I know it’s too hard. 

James Young: You look back, you’re going to hit something. You have to always keep forward and just like, go, go, go, go. Cause all this emergent opportunity. It’s fascinating. It’s like a Petri dish. Things are growing and dying and moving, and like in ways that we can’t even imagine, right? Not only from a consumer aspect, like web two turned the consumer into a producer, web three turns everything upside down.

Anjali Young: Investor, employee, employer, or the director. It’s all kind of the same. 

James Young: And so it’s like not only do you see the impact on the consumer side, but you see the impact on the organizational side. Like we didn’t exist a few years ago. Now we have a DAO with Fox. This is how quickly and how much impact we can have. Bored apes, Crypto punks, crypto punks, didn’t exist nine months ago.

Anjali Young: Crypto punks existed, But it wasn’t what it is now.

James Young: Crypto punks , they were there, but it’s like, it was late, right? Like that may not have been the initial intention, but that’s what emerged. And that gave birth to this whole industry of PFP NFTs. That got like, I think it was Disney yesterday saying that they’re going to be doing NFTs now. Like how quick is this happening? Like, people are converging, the reduced coordination costs, reducing the middlemen and like having everything kind of come together. It’s like, you know, hyper-speed right now. And I don’t know if it’s going to slow down. 

Anjali Young: We just gotta go how we can go, you know, cause even if it does slow down. James is like I say, he’s like a depression era kid where he’s still like, well, it’s around the corner. You never know. You never know. Even if it does come that’s okay, because people aren’t going to go back to not knowing that this exists. 

James Young: I kind of am looking forward in a way to the bear market again, cause then you can filter out all the noise and you get the real builders in. I think the bull market gets a lot of attention, and I think the bear market is a great filter to get all the noise out and you get the true builders. So that’s why, you know, relationships matter in crypto. Knowing people that have stuck it out a couple of bear cycles before really like, kinda gives you that kind of confidence. 

Literally both of you sound like you’re leading like the next state or the next nation state. Like it’s crazy, the energy, the passion, the fire between you two, it’s really inspiring and really, really amazing to see. And I love what you guys are doing. I love what you’re about, what you stand for. You guys deserve all the success that hits you so far and more. And I think it’s a perfect place also to wrap up because I know we’ve been at it for almost an hour and a half in the green room and now almost an hour and 10 minutes on stage. Good shit guys. I’m excited for this community drop. When is it going to go live? Do you have a date?

James Young: We’re going to announce it to make it as fair as possible.

Anjali Young: We don’t really know. And we’re not saying, ’cause we expect it to sell out, we really don’t have any expectations at all, but we want to keep it as fair as possible. So when people learn about it, then they can participate if they want to. And that’s the same thing we said to all of the investors too. They are like, oh, we want to get in on this. We want to buy one of your NFTs. And we’re like, well, we’re not announcing it to anybody. Like, we’re literally just, we’re going to have it. We’re going to say it on Twitter. And then it’ll just be announced, and then however that happens because we don’t want it to be unfair to anybody. You know, an investor will be on the exact same footing as someone who wants to purchase it. So we just, so we can’t say that, but it’s imminent. I’ll say that. 

Outro 

I think that’s a perfect place. Guys, where can we find each of you on Twitter?. Shout yourselves out and then where can we find Collabland? 

Anjali Young: Yeah. So Collabland is at collab_land_ .We purchased Collabland. We got clever, but Twitter is not letting us switch it over for who knows what reason. But I also have a personal account, which is a little complicated to spell, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s @damaderoca. 

James Young: I’m just @jamesyoung on Twitter. 

Adam Levy: Amazing. Killed it. Amazing conversation. Probably one of my favorites so far guys, thank you so much for being on, and I hope to have you on again soon. 

Anjali Young: Yeah, absolutely. 

James Young: Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun. We actually don’t get to talk about this stuff at all, because we’re just working, it’s literally just work, and so being able to just have the moment to like, talk about this stuff, this is that moment that you said. Like do you have time to reflect? No, but you just gave us that. 

That’s my fulfillment for doing all this. Guys, thank you so much we’ll have you on again soon.