Understanding On-Chain Identity with Crypto’s Power Couple

James Young and Anjali Young of Abridged unveil the importance of decentralized identity, building in public, and the secret to a 26-year partnership.

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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.

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