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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!
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.
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.
You get it?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.