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Mint Season 3 episode 10 welcomes the founders of the media company nftnow. I sat with Matt Medved, Alejandro Navia, and Sam Hysell to discuss:
- 0:00 – Introductions
- 8:17 – The Vision behind nftnow
- 11:09 – Forming the Trio
- 14:52 – Finding Inspiration in Starting nftnow
- 17:16 – Thinking about Community
- 25:01 – Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 in Media
- 31:34 – The Future of nftnow
- 36:15 – What Comes After Art?
- 43:44 – Psychedelics as a Path to Empathy
- 48:06 – What Will Eat Web 3.0?
- 54:11 – Outro
…and so much more.
Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!
1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/
2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/
3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Matt, Sam Alejandro, welcome to Mint. How are we feeling?
Matt: We’re doing great. Glad to be here.
You got it. This is the first time I have three people on the show simultaneously. We’re breaking goals here. I love it. Okay. Let’s just dive right in. I’m super excited to get into NFT Now. Brand new sexy looking site, authoritative media outlet. I’m personally a big fan and a lot of crypto Twitter is Instagram is et cetera. So super stoked to have you guys on let’s dive right in. Let’s start with you guys’ backgrounds. We’ll go with Matt, Sam, and then hit Alejandro and let’s get started with that, and we’ll go from there. So Matt, who are you bro? What were you doing before crypto and where are you now?
Matt: It’s a great question. So I started dabbling in crypto back in 2013, but I only just really recently got into the space full time. I come from a background with 15 years of music and media experience. So in 2015 I founded billboard dance. Which is billboard’s dance, electronic music, vertical and funny enough, the peak years of that coincided with the rise in the crypto markets in 2016, 2017. And so I was friends with all the DJ guys, like Blau RAC, who were trading crypto, who were getting into the blockchain space. So it was a really organic way for me to sorta find my way into it. Started doing the coverage at billboard for music and blockchain. Did some panels with RAC at south by Southwest spoke at Consensys Ethereal. You know, we all knew that this technology had the power to empower artists, we were just a little too early. So after that I ran Spin Magazine as editor in chief and then was running content at Modern Luxury, when Blau pulled me down the NFT rabbit hole last year and for me, it was the technology I’d believed in for a long time finally disrupting the field I’m actually passionate about; music, art, and culture in a way that empowers artists. So I was hooked and we started the NFT now accounts in January. Alejandro and Sam joined as co-founders and it has been a wild ride since.
Yeah, I think Matt, you have such an interesting insight into the space coming from such a deep media background and being active with all these DJs. Now we’re also seeing the intersection of music and NFTs take on a tremendous wave online. So super interesting. Sam, tell me a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before crypto and where are you at now?
Sam: Yeah, for sure. So definitely starting around like 2011, 2012, 2013. I was very heavy into the kind of New York city’s tech startup ecosystem and I’d have to say too, that this kind of whole web three movement has so many different, similar feelings of optimism and just kind of a communal support. Then, after spending a couple of years really focusing on helping startups leverage and kind of experiment and understand the needs of the early adopters by way of lean startup methodology design thinking methodology, started actually working with Gary V to help him stand up Vayner talent. So Vayner Talent was a division that was kind of replicating what Gary had done with his own personal brand for other talents. So I was able to work with some incredible people, help launch podcasts and YouTube series that are now some top 10 business shows across those respective platforms, but it was very, very passionate about the kind of the music space and the cultures that I was really passionate about. So I actually left to co-found an agency called Knox media. Knox Media is kind of a digital marketing agency that helps talent and brands grow and convert fan bases online. But even then too, was just very passionate at helping creators thrive and helping people lead more fulfilling successful lives. When I had a podcast interview myself on a music business podcast, I was talking about NFTs and how musicians could really tap into the power of NFTs. And I was like, wow, this is a complete game changer. The music industry specifically, you always talk about this notion of there being no middle-class right. You’re either a top 1% artist creating all the revenue in the music industry, or you’re kind of a starving artist. And NFTs as a mechanism and technology are effectively creating this whole new way to foster community engagement, to help creators across all creative domains thrive and prosper and opens up this middle-class. So it was very exciting to kind of come together and build what we’re building now with NFT Now, which is a very exciting company.
Super super exciting. And last but not least, Alejandro. Who are you, man? What were you doing before crypto? And how did you get here today?
Alejandro: Oh man. I’m definitely a career enigma. I definitely dedicated a lot of my twenties into exploration and discovery. So I did a lot of things in terms of politics, policy you know, hospitality, and then I’d landed on what I love to call storytelling and emerging tech. That intersection of storytelling and emerging tech has really been a passion of mine and an underlining method. And in 2014, I joined elite daily as employee 25, doing innovation culture, and that year just kind of visual media boom, and we were able to create some amazing products on giving the generation Y a voice on that platform. We were competing at some point with Buzzfeed and Vice at the time we, I remember our peak month, we had 99 million uniques in a single month which happened three months in a row, which is pretty epic running a team of 45 and then that sold to the daily mail historically. I think that was kind of like the last major media digital media sale in the space before all the algorithms and everything changed afterwards. I was incredibly fascinated because I was like, if we did it for 50 million, what does a billion look like? What does a billion dollar acquisition look like? And so I wanted to look at it from the perspective of the buyer and not the seller. So I joined the team at Verizon doing content strategy and acquisitions, and that’s really when I got mandated to look at emerging tech and storytelling. Again, that theme was going to be very closely related to my personal narrative, and that’s where I got to see blockchain artificial intelligence, smart cities, compression algorithms, delivery methods, 5g. I started seeing how all of these major technologies were going to start affecting content delivery and content stories. And so we saw VR AR and all these concepts, but at the time we ended up purchasing Yahoo, which, you know, everybody can read those headlines now. And I was able to see what the integration of Huffington Post, AOL, and Yahoo looked like at a multi-billion dollar integration process. And so that was really fascinating seeing all the pipes and all the building and like the foundational concepts, because a lot of people just see kind of like the headline. And I just kind of wanted to see a little bit of nitty gritty. Shortly after that I left, and then with my passion for emerging tech and storytelling, I co-founded this agency called Odesia, where we really started helping emerging tech companies specifically in the blockchain space. So we worked very closely, for example, with Consensys , helping them launch Ethereal, open mall,Ethereal conference, you know, the Ethereum enterprise forum and all these different brands. That was in 2015, 2016, and so that’s where I first got introduced to Ethereum and I just got hooked specifically, and that’s just really been the case for me. As well as co-founding an ocean conservation nonprofit organization called oceanic global, where we used emerging tech and storytelling to drive ocean conservation efforts. Shortly after that, I did a stint in my spiritual world. I really wanted to figure out who I was, cause I burnt out. We had a little bit of disagreement with co-founders, and I just kind of wanted to find out who I was and what I was building. Like what’s going to be my role in the world as this human being as a soul, as a creator, actually? So I took 18 months off. I went to Asia, I did a lot of exploration, a lot of deep internal work. And I came back afterwards and I worked at a stealth AI startup that created another burnout in my life. But that burnout really led me to a breakthrough. And that’s when I recognized that my true purpose in life is to help founders and creators create freedom and fulfillment in their lives. I became an executive coach during the pandemic, and it was the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. Working with these boys, Sam and Matt, when they came to me, Alex, with the idea for NFT Now, it was just natural. It was like, sure, no problem. It was just serendipity, divine timing, like the roles, the strengths, the weaknesses, the balance of everything, it was just kind of like, you know, I have a phrase that you let go and you let God, you know?
NFT Now – The Vision
So each of you are media powerhouses in your own respect, bringing super diverse backgrounds into what is now becoming the next form of media,AKA NFTs. We have the birth of NFT Now. Matt, what is NFT Now? What’s the vision? What’s the goal? Why even start this outlet focusing strictly on NFTs?
Matt: Absolutely. Well NFT Now is leading a web three media publication for NFT coverage and curation. And it fills a gap that we saw in the market. When we entered the NFT space early, you know, we saw a lot of platforms with megaphones promoting their own drops, and a lot of talking head influencers, shilling, their own bags. What the space didn’t have was an independent and credible media brand that people could turn to for curation, for news, for analysis, for features, for industry insights, for storytelling, first and foremost for storytelling. And so you know, Alejandro and Sam and I have been friends for a long time and we were both are all aligned around the mission of empowering the creators of culture and helping drive mainstream adoption of NFTs because we believe that NFTs are going to fundamentally redefine how creators engage and interact and create value with their communities across all creative disciplines. So when we founded this, the last thing that we wanted NFT Now to be was just a traditional media company covering NFTs. You know, given my experience at a billboard at spin, these legacy media publications, I can tell you that the web 2.0 media model is broken. It is a clickbait race to the bottom that serves advertisers and intermediaries and sponsors versus a publication’s own community, and we wanted to do something differently. So rather than going down that old web 2.0 model. We wanted to build a community-centric model, essentially pioneer a web 3.0 media model that focuses on creating value and building community and sharing in that value being created. So, you know, we can get more into the details obviously on what that looks like, but you know, I think first and foremost for us too is the idea that NFT Now needs to play a pivotal role in catering to both the purist and the tourists in the space. There are people like us who are in this every day and we’re glued to Twitter. We’re in the spaces we’re in the podcasts, even for us, the space moves so quickly. You know, I always say weeks are months and months are years. So we want to be able to provide actionable insights and that kind of value to that demographic, but at the same time, there’s a vast number of people, an overwhelming number of people, who don’t know anything about NFTs, or if they do a very small amount. So central to our approach, especially in storytelling, is welcoming new people to the space, providing resources and handholding and guides. Because we all know how difficult these learning curves can be.
Forming the Trio
One thing I want to talk about really quickly before we dive deeper into NFT Now, what is the love story between you three? Like how did you meet? What’s the story behind that? Sam or someone, tell me that story. What’s the context?
Alejandro: Well, I’d be happy to jump in here cause I think I’m the cornerstone. So Sam and I met through mutual friends. I think like the first two years of our friendship, we actually just hung out at the bath house. Every Tuesday we’d go hang out and just talk about life. We both love personal development and we love thinking about how we improve ourselves, how to optimize ourselves. We spoke about biohacking and all these different concepts. You know, we just kick it and talk to one another and talk about our businesses and careers and things of that nature. It was just a great sounding board, and finally he was like, “yo, I’m launching this, this podcast called the music business podcast”. And me as a connector, as a lover of supporting my friends, I was like, “yo, I know just the guy who you gotta be introduced to, his name is Matt. He’s the founder of billboard dance. He knows all things, music, like, he’s just amazing. It’s going to be super awesome”. So connected the two of them, and that’s really where the Genesis of the trio happened. Matt and I actually got introduced through our dear friend James. When I was co-leading oceanic global we wanted to bring an element of music into this event that we did in Ibiza for 5,000 people with headliners such as Solomon, blondish, it was a production, it was a movie. And I was like, “yo, what better way to get the word out than through the community itself that we want to impact”. You know, that EDM community has always been at the forefront of technology, at the forefront of social impact, at the forefront of just creating this great Genesis of change. When you look at it historically , I was like, “yo, Matt, we’d love to have you involved in some way, shape or form”. And so he came in as a speaker, as a supporter as also as an interviewer and he supported us throughout the whole process. We just started diving into our friendship in a very organic way. I think both friendships were never forced or anything along those lines. Over the years we just kind of became confidants for each other. We all kinda talked individually about our businesses and our trials and tribulations and our career paths. And so that foundation of trust was already there, because we spoke about a lot of depth , but also a lot of breadth when it came to things. Then finally, when this whole thing happened, it was because my wife and I, Lindsay, we moved out to Jackson hole and Sam was like, “yo, can I tag along”? And we’re like, “Yeah, sure. Come through”. And Sam, my wife and I, we lived in Jacksonville together for the duration of the pandemic in the middle of a beautiful 20 acre property, and Matt then came to Jacksonville to visit us during new year’s Eve. And the whole thing happened where in one moment I was like, “yo, Matt what’s NFTs”? Then I came back from Costa Rica from a trip and Sam’s there on NBA top shot and he’s like, “yo, bro, you gotta get on this pack is about to drop”. And I was like, wait, yeah, I just had a phone call with Matt. Like, because a month ago Matt came here with saliva and eyes pouring out , like “YO NFTs, bro”. And I was just like, when two of your closest friends are just wide-eyed like Sam had his wallet out and he’s like, I’m sitting closer to the router so I can actually catch the drop. Like with this passion, I was like, “yo, there’s something here”. When the two people that I have so much respect and admiration for are acting like this, I got to take a look into this and that’s where the whole Genesis of our relationship and NFT Now started.
Sam, anything to add to that? I feel like everybody has their own point of view as to how they meet.
Sam: Russian and Turkish baths are great for personal health and human optimization. So strong endorsement goes to sauna sessions and ice baths.
I love it. All right. Let’s dive into storytelling. One key part that I want to cover is March, 2021. Specifically that whole clubhouse era that kind of drove a lot of the storytelling and the narratives and the community around NFTs. I know you guys were extremely active in clubhouse. Matt, I think that’s how I met you virtually, Alejandro and Sam, I think we crossed paths here and there on different clubhouse sessions. What are some of the biggest takeaways you guys kind of learned going through that time, that kind of influenced the start of NFT Now? Because your focus is on storytelling, and I see the content that you push and the interviews that you host. They are high quality, they’re superb, and it references, or at least has a resemblance of those inner community sessions that kind of spurred as a dropper occurs, and somebody talks about a post drop success, et cetera. Talk to me about that.
Matt: Well, you know, it really was a bit of a perfect storm when you think back on it. You know, we were largely relegated to our homes due to the COVID pandemic. I think people were all looking to connect and when you have this absolutely explosive development, the creation of an entirely new creative asset class that empowers artists happens, and we’re all stuck at home. You know, we all want to get it out, and so clubhouse became a very critical forum and avenue for people in the community to meet and share ideas and collaborate. And you know, I think we’ll look back on that era as a really formative time. Some of the best friends that I have made in the space, and I know Alejandro and Sam similarly, originally stemmed from conversations on clubhouse. And you know, I think that that moment in time showed the power of digital connection and digital ownership as well. The fact that some of our best friends are people we actually haven’t met yet. I remember when I met the first friends I had made on the internet, the first URL to IRL in the NFT space was Parrot and Roger Dickerman when they visited time square for artifacts, and I felt like I already knew them, you know? And what’s funny is they had been hosting a podcast together for months, and that was their first meeting too. So I think it just proves that distance is increasingly irrelevant as we look forward to a metaverse future. And I will always cherish that period because it was so wide-eyed and innocent and positive. So many artists coming together, creatives coming together, builders, collectors, dreamers, coming together to share their excitement and support each other.
Thinking about Community
Sam, one thing that’s super unique about your background and also like your role atNFT Now, and Matt this also piggybacks a lot about what you’re saying on clubhouse and the value of community. Well, Sam, you’re spearheading the community at NFT Now. What does that look and feel like from your point of view?
Sam: So I think I mean, collectively we’re all spearheading community. I mean, we think about community in a couple of different ways. And I think at the end of the day, first and foremost, before I like nerd out from marketing speak, like community is authentic, empathetic connection. People feeling like they’re able to get and give value to the other people that they’re engaging with. So the foundation is really that core principle. As we extrapolate when it comes to like scaling community, I mean, there’s also a challenge too in scaling community, right? Oftentimes it’s like communities can often have an indirect proportion as they grow the value of being in the community actually dissipates. So I think it’s something that we keep top of mind. How can we ensure that as we grow and as we grow our aggregate community, it’s only strengthening the value to every single community member involved? As we get further out from that, to some extent, we do see community as a bit of a funnel, right? Like there’s a top of funnel community that’s engaging on Twitter posts or tweets and Instagram posts and in the YouTube comments. And then, further down the funnel is kind of like in our discord, and that’s really kind of the most engaged people in our community. And there it’s really just trying to come up with unique ways to understand what are some of their core needs and how can we create value for them too. I think we won’t necessarily be able to share too much, but as we look further out into the future and think about how the community live in a web 3.0 context? I mean, we’re seeing lots of different, interesting projects in the NFT space and our community is really . Forming and now NFTs are becoming really just access into those communities, right? You look at V friends and all the community utility that provides for people that really just want to either have access to Gary or participate in the Vee Con conference he’s hosting. So I think we think about it as a funnel, from top of funnel being a lot of social and editorial content we’re pumping out, as we move further down towards a place like Discord. And as we kind of project into the future and won’t necessarily be able to share too much now, but what does that very web 3.0 native layer of community look like for us and the people we serve?
I want to highlight one thing that you just said, empathetic connections. A lot of people that come into the space forget that we’re people at the end of the day, right? It’s people interacting with people, it’s people talking to people, people trading with people. And I love how you use that, but how do you actually go by approaching empathetic connection? Like what does that mean to you on an operational level?
Sam: Yeah, so I think like the principles of customer empathy and really, I think there’s ways in which you’re doing this at scale in which you’re doing this on a one-to-one level. But I think like really having a deep understanding of who our customers are, what are the specific goals they have? What are the behaviors that they’re currently exuding in order to accomplish those goals? And what are some of the pains that are involved in the process? And I think really seeking to have a deep understanding of all those different elements at play and having that really be like plastered at the front of our minds and at the forefront of everything we do. So when we’re creating content, we’re often referencing back to these different customer personas. So that way there really is this kind of reverse engineering, the value we create from the needs and perspectives of our customers and the people that we’re serving. But then I think that is kind of a more like scaled approach. And that’s why also too, it’s like in Twitter and in discord, there’s these places where we can actually have open forum and conversation with people. So people feel as if they’re genuinely being heard. It’s not even just so that they can feel like that, but it’s because we very much are not only creating for our community, but with our community. So when we’re figuring out what are the different types of content we want to create as we’re kind of developing some elements of our different roadmap and plan it very much is this collaborative sense of a very collaborative development of our roadmap. So it’s being able to make sure that we have constant contact, constant communication with the people in our community. So it’s not just this us and them dynamic, but we really are just kind of one big unit serving each other.
It makes a lot of sense. One thing that I like about how you guys are kind of spearheading is one, the high quality content with the pushing out and the amount of emphasis and detail that goes to doing behind the drop. I think that’s super unique and stands out. So, applause to you. And I guess like when you guys are creating that, how to content, how do you think about how to? It’s like, how do you approach creating a piece of, let’s say an article, a blog, whatever it may be, that taps into the minds and some of the biggest questions that people are facing? Like, what does that thought process look like when you’re creating that content?
Matt: And I think that it comes back to empathy, just like you spoke to. At the end of the day, you know, looking at Sam, looking at Alejandro, our whole team, we have all been novices to the space. We all know that feeling of excitement, but uncertainty and being overwhelmed and realizing that the rabbit holes are endless and knowing that you want to be a part of something, but you don’t fully understand it yet. And having been there, you know, I always say, you know, I went through the crypto learning curve in 2013 when there were far fewer guardrails, but I still had to go through the NFT learning curve last year, and I’m not going to minimize the difficulty of it. There are a lot of people who are going through both learning curves, concurrently. One thing that we really pride ourselves with at NFT Now, is that our team has varying degrees of expertise in NFTs. Some people are very fully down the rabbit hole. Others are just getting their feet wet. And I actually think it’s incredibly valuable to have all of these perspectives on our team because it’s easy when you get, you know, in it day to day, to forget the learning curves that got you there and certain things that you just assume people know, and you realize that you’re speaking another language. That keeps us in check. Then at the same time, being down that rabbit hole, having the connections and all that, it gives us access to all of the information we need. It’s a really great balance. So I would say that that content process comes from a place of empathy and also listening. There are members of our team who have said, “Hey, some of our best story ideas, some of our best guides and resources have come from questions that our own team had as they were learning about the space”.
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Alejandro, I saw you wanting to add something in the background. You want to add more salt to that?
Alejandro: I think Matt just hit the nail on the head, but to piggyback on that, the guides in the content are really the similar content that we need, that I needed, that I wanted to read. This is why we jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t so much that we created this idea because it was there and it was this major gap and the market was asking for it. And so when I went to look into my own journey from an NFT perspective, there weren’t these guides, there wasn’t an NFT 101, there wasn’t like how to reset your Metamask wallet, you know, these types of things. I’m in crypto, right? Like I’ve been in crypto since 2014, but these questions started happening and connecting. So, Matt just hit the nail on the head. It’s really about our team leading the way by asking the right questions. Our editorial staff is incredibly amazing. As Matt mentioned, some of them are getting their feet wet just now. And so their feedback and their perspective is really what’s making it happen. And when we speak about the premium aspect of the product that you mentioned, that’s really the bar that we have internally as a culture, excellence is really one of the values that we drive and we want to make sure that that’s reflected beyond the internal culture, but also the culture that we’re creating for our community and for our partners. When I say partners, I mean anyone that reads us. Really, we don’t see them as an audience, we see them as a partner. We want to make sure that we’re creating value, and these experiences at a premium level are really, really important. So we always have this phrase internally, like there’s always time to do it right. And we want to make sure that we deliver best in class products with everything that we do.
Web 2.0 v. Web 3.0 in Media
What does it mean to build a media company in web 3.0? What does it mean to you guys? It’s a big question. I’d love to hear from all of you, so we can start from that. We can go to Alejandro and then we can even hit Sam.
Matt: Sure. Well look, you know, it’s something we say internally. In web 2.0, media companies create a lot of value, but can’t capture it. That’s why we’ve seen so many media companies failing at a time when information has become more important. And so for us we see it as a transition from the old model of building an audience as a means to an end of monetizing by being a middleman for brands, to actually building a community as an end in itself and directly creating value for that community. Whether that’s news, breaking news, resources, guides, thoughts on the upcoming drops, alpha for the the projects that are coming, bringing in AMAs, podcasts, video, all of these pillars to engage our community and provide them with value. Then, through this, through our web 3.0 roadmap, creating a way to share in that value too. For those of our community members who are really, who are really passionate about NFT Now, who want to take their memberships to the next level, they’re going to be able to. It’ll involve NFTs and we’ll be able to share in that value as well. But that’s, I think, the really fundamental difference between the media model in web 2.0 and the media model in web 3.0.
That was an alpha leak really quick. That was the utmost alpha. Like, I’m just going to throw that out there, but okay continue with the media model of web 2.0.
Matt: Say no more. But NFT Now’s future does include NFTs. But you know, I do think, boiling it down, there is a huge difference between building an audience and building a community. And there’s a huge difference between extracting value and creating value and then sharing in that value. And we’re pioneering what the latter web 3.0 looks like for media.
That’s super powerful. You’re seeing more of the legacy brands use this NFT model by doing their first drops by kind of rallying some of the existing successful NFT creators to create content, right? But I don’t think they’re thinking about it to that extent. You know, one of the most interesting models that comes to mind is stripping away these credit card subscription models, and having people own an cryptographic asset that gets them access into XYZ, whatever it may be. And not to like talk about other publications, but one thing that comes to mind, I had Joyce from global coin research on Mint, where they’re like an investment arm, they do specific type of analysis on coins and what not, and one thing that was super interesting is they’re like, “we’re realizing that people don’t want to pay one dollar for three months to get access into the wall street journal”, for example. People don’t like that. And they don’t like the ability of being able to input their credit card, their email, their address, all that stuff, and then that gets them access to gated content. Rather, why not make it more web 3.0 native, share that value that gets captured, and give people access based on their contributions to that entire community as a whole. Is that how you guys were thinking about it?
Alejandro: From a revenue standpoint I think that that’s really a web 2.0 centric focus, right? Like there’s a transaction, right? There’s a transaction involved in that capacity, where we’re looking at it as more of a transformational play. For us it’s about making sure that our community receives the value themselves that is being created within this space. So when we think about the dollar transaction or this concept barrier to entries, I believe that the barrier to entry is always going to be present, especially in web 3.0. We see this with models such as friends with benefits, who have like a token gated community. You know, there’s even NFTs themselves with specific communities, I’m thinking of like atom bombs, for example, who were like, “Hey, our holders will have different concepts”. So yes, there is an evolution of what that NFT pass or that NFT holder aspect gives you in terms of the crypto as a community concept, but that’s something that’s kind of similar to what I like to call the elevator model. A lot of it needs to come in. What I mean by the elevator model is, you know, you got to meet your audience where they are and bring them to where you want to be. Because if you kind of just disrupt from the very beginning, people will misunderstand. And a lot of our thesis internally is that what people don’t understand, they fear, and what they fear they reject. So, when we come back to the source of it, and it’s helping them understand what it is, and how it functions, and walking them through the process of onboarding those different levels of membership or what the benefits are to holding an NFT or social token, whatever it may be in terms of the next evolution of token gate or paywalls in that capacity, is really about helping them feel like they understand and that they own the power, beyond just a credit card transaction for token gated access or paywall. And it’s beyond the content. For us, it’s also about thinking about what experiences can we give them? What type of things can they carry in IRL? One thing that Matt, I’ve heard him say one time, and we hear this now constantly internally in the company is like, how do we make sure that we drive the URL to the IRL and the IRL back to the URL and how do we continue making that fly wheel very real? I think web 3.0 is definitely leading the way in that capacity, because web 2.0 has had a very difficult time of marrying those two, the URL and the IRL. And so that’s really where I’m thinking about those thoughts when I think about the transaction versus the transformation. So for us, we’re really focused on transforming our community versus creating a transaction for ourselves.
It makes a lot of sense, and I love the community first approach. Sam, what do you kind of think about a web 3.0 community or a web 3.0 media outlet? What does that mean exactly to you?
Sam: Yeah, I think a lot of the core points were raised, so I’ll just kind of highlight what stands out. But yeah, I think from a business model perspective, it’s not being reliant on advertisers as the core engine for our business and for us to continue to level up what we’re doing and how we serve our audience. It’s really, like Matt mentioned, creating and giving our community a chance to share in the value that we’re all creating together. I think that’s the foundation and that’s really the core element. So I think that gives us an opportunity to innovate on how we serve our audience. It gives us an opportunity to innovate in how our audience gets to contribute to what we’re building and, and really kind of have a stake in that future and what that future looks like.
The Future of NFT Now
I love it. I want to talk about the future of NFT Now. Cause right now you guys are posting, again, killer content, quality videos, dope articles, dope how to’s. I would argue your Instagram account is probably one of the more authoritative Instagram accounts on NFTs, so props to you guys for building that up to where it’s at right now. What can we expect in the future? What can the community expect?
Sam: Lots. We’ve got lots of amazing things in the pipeline. So I think from a long-term perspective, I think we have, over the course of the next three to six months, some exciting things in the pipeline as it pertains to what our web 3.0 roadmap looks like. So, stay tuned for that. I think we’re continuing to just scale up the actual content output. I think at the foundation of our mission, one is really helping foster mainstream adoption around NFTs. I think Matt already mentioned this notion of like purists versus tourists. So as much as we’re really seeking to make sure that we’re serving a lot of the purists in the space that are very kind of deep down the rabbit hole, if you will, we also really want to help make sure we’re creating content for different verticals that are looking and considering how to engage in the space, right? Whether it’s music industry fashion, we’re already seeing lots of different rumblings, but there’s still a lot of people in these industries that really have no idea where to begin or how to become internal champions within their own industries within their own verticals. So I think it’s continuing to scale up production and content and output in the communities so that we’re really able to kind of help fulfill and accomplish our mission. Those are a couple of the core things, but I’ll let Alejandro and Matt dive even deeper.
Alejandro: I think for us, it’s important to kind of bring up what’s not going to be in our future. And I want to highlight very clearly that programmatic advertising has no room or no space within the web 3.0 media model. Like that whole click and follow you through, being intrusive to your privacy, and like, you know, pixels and cookies and all these different things. So, one thing that I love about our website is that it was our unanimous decision from day one, no programmatic advertising. There’s not going to be banners, there’s not going to be refreshes. There’s not going to be anything along those lines anywhere near our roadmap or future of web 3.0, and so we’re really looking at creating different partnerships and how we are going to deliver great products for both our revenue generating partners that actually drive value and create value to our community members in that capacity. The other area that we’re really looking at is innovating how we can actually create interactive IRL experiences that bring the digital forefront experience right to the user, beyond the URL or behind their screen on their computer. We want people to start interacting with NFTs in a completely different shape. The other thing that we’re looking at in terms of web 3.0 in our future is we’re listening. As we know, we’re in the bleeding edge or the cutting edge. We are at the forefront of these new technologies. So, for us, it’s also very important to listen as to what is occurring in the space, paying attention and observing what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and also making sure that we experiment and optimize ourselves. That’s really going to be a key driver for what we want to do in this space, because the mental model that I really love in this, kind of like to wrap it up, is that the map is not the terrain. And so we may have all these different goals in terms of our roadmap, but it could completely shift within the market. So, we’re really actively paying attention and making sure that this is user and community centric first.
Matt: Yeah, those are great points. I just want to add, obviously I can’t reveal too many details, but we have very ambitious plans when it comes to events. We have very ambitious plans when it comes to tent poles, we are thinking big. We have so many exciting ideas when it comes to editorial and new franchises for storytelling. In this game, information is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. So I also want to highlight the fact that it is extremely important to us as we look to the future of NFT Now, that the future that we are building is equitable, diverse representative, and does not squander the opportunity that we have with web 3.0 and this new metaverse future that we are all building and excited about building together. What a shame it would be if we just rebuilt the same traditional hierarchies, power structures and inequities that have existed IRL for centuries in this new digital world. NFT Now is committed to ensuring that artists get their due, that diverse voices are heard, and to helping build a new collaborative future that we can all be proud of.
What Comes After Art?
I think that’s super, super well said. I think we’re starting to see, well, at least we saw a lot of those ecosystems that you guys are picking up on. The early days of clubhouse and the types of conversations that were happening. You know, being in these communities, you really realize like what you guys just went over was truly what’s at their core, right? And truly understanding like this is what the people need. Better education, artists need to be highlighted despite their background in spite of their past opportunities, and we need to create a better future for NFTs and how they’re consumed and the education that comes around that. I love it. One thing I want to kind of pivot into next is I know you guys focus a lot on the art side of NFTs. It’s very much a focus. What is exciting to you, I guess like in the future, other topics that you plan to cover or that you guys try to front run? Whether it’d be the music side, whether it be the metaverse side of NFTs, what are you guys thinking about that’s next?
Sam: Sure. So I think art is the initial breakout category, but very much just the tip of the iceberg. I think we saw that largely because this truly created just an actual way for digital artists to be able to sell their work online and create scarcity around some of these digital goods. I think we’ll see tons of different creators across all domains, all sorts of creative industries now have a mechanism to actually earn a meaningful income with their community. I think the notion has always been like 1000 true fans, where you don’t necessarily need tens of millions of fans in order to create a massive business or truly follow your creative pursuit. I think now there’s actual merit to this notion of a thousand true fans because I think now creators are able to have a new model to generate income with their community. I think when we think about what happens at scale, like we’ve spoken with various creatives that have always had to sell their services to brands, and the whole game was trying to build leverage and build community online on platforms that they don’t own so that way they can have more credibility to get better brand rates if they want to effectively sell their services to another brand. Now we’re seeing creators across different creative industries that are able to actually earn directly with their community. I think, like we mentioned with the music industry, like that’s always just been such a tough industry to make it because like that whole no middle-class thing I mentioned the very beginning rings so true. I think NFTs changed that paradigm, and I think when we think about this at scale for creatives across domains, it gets fascinating because this is literally just unlocking a whole new realm of creative expression and kind of creates a whole new economic model for people to earn an income off of their own creative expression, which I think is like very inspiring at scale. But I know Matt and Alejandro will have some other thoughts here as well.
I’d love to hear your point of view because you have such a deep music background and across crypto Twitter we’re seeing a lot of independent artists hop into products like catalog, like mirror, or give equity of 50% of their album. How are you guys thinking about that at NFT Now?
Matt: Well, look, you know, Sam and I both have a history in the music industry. Music has obviously been a driving force in my career. And you know, I think that I’ve long been frustrated by the centralized structures in the music industry. Songs are worth more than fractions of a penny for a stream. And I think NFTs helped prove that. People were surprised when a music NFT started selling. I think we should have been surprised that anyone thought that they were worth as little as the traditional structures are incentivized to make us feel, but as we look forward I think you know, kind of bringing up that that’s similar to what Sam said on the idea of that, what those 1000 true fans. Gone are the days where you had to rely on a likes and comments based economy, build an audience so that you could use it as a means to an end, to monetize with brands. All you need is to build a community of fans who are going to show up for you, that idea of those true fans. Because if you have 1000 true fans and you put out a music NFT for a hundred dollars which is not that much in Ether terms, and they show up for you, that’s a hundred thousand dollars in revenue, and that’s more than most musicians that I know have ever seen from the streaming services. I also think, as we look forward to the future of music NFTs, I’m excited to see music get out of the arts lane and build its own lane. You know, actually my father is a brain doctor, but he’s a huge Beatles fan and he actually collects Beatles memorabilia. And one thing I learned about the music memorabilia market is that it’s not super valuable until that artist isn’t around anymore. So, you know, I think that the music industry, looking towards NFTs, should be thinking about access and fandom, like a new age fan club. We’re bringing back the fan club, you know? Owning that NFT gets you exclusive access to exclusive merchandise, backstage at events, all of that. And you begin to nurture this great community and this great interaction. You know, one thing that always stuck with me, you know, as I mentioned, Blau was the one who introduced me to NFTs. It was a two-hour phone call with him. That pretty much changed my life and took me down on this path. But he said, look, I know I have fans in Mexico city. I know Spotify tells me I have this many thousand streams in there, but I can’t reach them. I don’t know who they are. If I’m throwing a show, I can’t let them know because Spotify has all that data. The amazing thing about NFTs is that it’s the beginning of an incredible connection with your fans. You can reach them immediately. You can take a snapshot and reward them the possibilities and potential for musicians to engage and reward their fans in web 3.0 is, I mean, we’ve barely scratched the surface of it. I’m very excited.
Well said. Alejandro, do you want to add anything to that?
Alejandro: Yeah, man, I think like what Matt and Sam touched on, I think it’s like the second iteration of NFTs and the diversification of specific verticals and creator economy. One thing that I’m really excited about is going beyond the creator economy and actually real-world utility and starting to see how the everyday person can actually interact with NFTs. And you know, one thing that I had is this issue with my car title being lost when they transferred it from New York to Wyoming, when I made the move and I was like, Hey, if this was an NFT, this could be super simple. It could be like, Hey, here’s my proof of ownership here it is. Even if I’m just paying down the the car payment, the NFT wouldn’t be released until full payment is done. So there’s no need for middlemen in terms of this. I’m also looking up super, super exciting use cases in real estate. How can you commodify the NFT space in real estate? Can you rent NFTs? Like Gary V just had launched this restaurant with NFTs, which is following a trend. I’ve just been receiving a lot of information and a lot of emails from friends who are like in the hospitality business saying, Hey, this is what we’re thinking about. Incorporating in terms of experiences in the real world for these types of things. Like, for example, there’s this really big winemaker that reached out to me and they’re like, Hey, we want to create wine lockers, but sell them as an NFT and your NFT will actually give you this wine locker with exclusive experiences. So it kind of comes back to what Matt and Sam were saying about creating the direct interaction between a provider and the community. And when you started looking at real-world utility, that’s when the excitement’s really is gonna to start. And I’m just so grateful that it began with art and creators, and I’m really excited to see what like the third generation fourth generation of NFT integration of real world interactions is going to look like.
Psychedelics as a path to Empathy
One thing I wanted to ask you, I know you’re very vocal on like the benefits of psychedelics and all. You have a lot of excitement around that. How do you see the merge between NFTs and psychedelics kind of take into effect?
Alejandro: This is a really, really passionate topic that’s near and dear to my life. Psychedelics helped save my life full stop. As a high achiever, you know, society conditions us to believe that it’s all about achievement. It’s all about the diploma you have, the income you have, the house you live in, the car you’re driving. We can get lost in that sauce very easily. I think that NFTs are really powerfully breaking that mold of saying, Hey, creators can now reclaim this financial infrastructure of status of societal conditioning and allow us to do what we need to do. And we see that with like this young talent, as young, as 14 years old, you know, creating art that’s being sold in the blockchain and then making $400,000 or, you know, the likes of Fewocious who is only 18 years old and lived through a horrific childhood experience only to come out on top because of his expression and his voice. What I really love about psychedelics, and specifically for me, I just want to make sure that this is known, I am not a doctor. This is not any medical advice in any way, shape or form. Please look into the legalities of where you’re at or where you speak to because this is still schedule one drug, and even though we are seeing a forefront in society, the government has been slow to catch up. We’re still seeing some policy reforms at the local and state level. With that disclaimer, we’re starting to see psilocybin specifically for me, it’s starting to create this conversation around mental health, that it’s okay not to be okay. And it’s okay to share vulnerably it’s okay to share openly. But, there is a solution that goes beyond a chemical kind of I want to say castration of emotions. Because when you use these pharmaceuticals, they actually just numb all emotions. They’re not just like taking you out of your depression, they’re just saying, Hey, we’re just not going to make you feel anything. And so when you start looking at psilocybin specifically, I love two things that it does for me specifically. I can only speak to what my experience is. It gives me two things. It gives me courage and it gives me empathy. When you’re an empathetic person, you can understand people in completely different ways, and that builds community. Coming back to what Sam was saying, empathy is at the core of community. So when you can understand someone and you can understand where they’re coming from, then when you understand something you don’t want to judge it. You don’t want to influence it. You don’t want to change it. You just allow it to be. And the second part of this is like courage. You know, to be a creator, it takes a lot of courage. It’s almost an act of rebellion to put your art out there, to put out your creations, to be out there in the space to say, Hey, this is who I am. This is what I’ve done. And take it or leave it. I’m actually creating something that goes beyond me and bigger than me. And so there’s a lot of parallels when it comes to the psychedelics and the NFT communities around that. I’ll pop this off really quickly, but I’m learning so much about the future of web 3.0. For me, I’m obsessed with DAOs, decentralized organizations. Like I’m obsessed with them because I just love the whole concept of society building and community building in a decentralized way, and when I was diving into the technical aspects of the technical stacks of DAOs, I was like, holy shit, I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this resource allocation. I’ve seen this decentralized model. I’ve seen this kind of activity. It’s fucking mycelium, it’s mustard. So when I’m looking at DAOs now it’s through the lens of mycelium. The greatest DAO that’s been created has already existed for hundreds and even billions of years, and it’s mycelium and mushrooms. So I feel that mushrooms are intelligent species and that we can actually learn a lot from them from the physiology and the biology of them to see how we can actually start bringing into the web 3.0 model of DAOs and the future of NFTs.
What Eats Web 3.0?
The only reason why I wanted to bring that up, and not to diverge too much on like psychedelic trips and all the pros and cons, whatever it may bring, I know it’s been a hot topic in tech, right? And there’s been a lot of funding around laboratories or companies that are experimenting with this stuff. And it’s always interesting to kind of dive into a new topic that might have some crossover with new technology. And you’re talking about how it’s influential from an organizational point of view, right? In the empathetic point of view, courageous point of view, and even the creator point of view. So it’s interesting how things kind of tie together. I know we’re wrapping up on time, but I want to finish off with one final question that I ask every single guest on the show. And don’t feel the need to answer right away. You can take a minute to think about it. One thing that I love to look into is the history of the internet. We saw how web 1.0 was very much read only, you couldn’t really do much other than kind of like communicate. Web 2.0 came into the picture, ate web 1.0, introduced social graphs, introduced all these different SaaS models, people were the products of the companies. Now we’re introducing this concept of web 3.0 that’s supposedly eating web 2.0, where people are co-owners of the products they use. People capture the value that they create and all the other narratives that tie into that. What do you think will eat web 3.0? Take a moment. And you guys can even take this from a media point of view, too, which could be super interesting.
Matt: Well, I think this. The creation of blockchain technology, NFTs, web 3.0 is a once in a millennium inflection point. We’re entering another age. There was the stone age, there was the bronze age, we’re entering the imagination age, and I believe that our current conception of web 3.0 is early. I think we’re still in web 2.5, to be honest, you know, and like, I think our current conception of web three still relies on mediums, like our iPhones and our screens and our Mac book pros and the like that we’ve been using for a long time. To me, web 4.0, if we could call it that, is that metaverse future, fully immersive environments, virtual worlds where our communities and our connection are taking place across entirely new mediums. I think that what’s interesting is, like anything, you know, the saying any technology there’s a dark side too. I think we’ve explored what this web 4.0 potentially looks like in some very dystopian pieces of science fiction, and I think that there’s a definite need to think about that as we chart that path forward. We’re not that far off from ready player one and a snow crash, but, there’s also incredible opportunity there. The opportunity for people to construct their own worlds for better or for worse and not just construct them, but own them too. That was the biggest shift from web 2.0 to web 3.0 is going from a renter to an owner. As an extension of this idea of an imagination age, I think web 4.0 is about going from an owner to a creator in a way that we may not even fully be able to conceive of yet.
Sure. And I think that’s the beauty behind this question is like, nobody knows what’s going to eat what 3.0 , but each of you brings such interesting insight from your past experiences working in web 2.0 media and now trying to produce a web 3.0 media company and leveraging web 3.0 technology, right? Alejandro, what’s your hot take, if any?
Alejandro: Matt brought up a really excellent point about the emergence of these worlds. I really don’t know what’s going to eat web 3.0, but I do know what’s going to always be present regardless of what technology is, and that’s going to be human connection. And I think the human element will outlive and outperform any platform, any device. You know, we can merge the world’s metaverse or not. And I think that what will be, web 3.0 , it’s not so much about eating it, but optimizing it, and evolutionize in it, and iterating on it, is really the value of human connection. So the human element will outlive whatever technology is there, because there’s nothing like human connection.
And Sam last, but not least. What is your hot take?
Sam: So I think a couple of things. Without saying what will eat web 3.0, I think I’ll just frame it more in the perspective of like, what will be an emergent outcome of the next 20 years. I think we’ve already seen this general emergence of niche communities starting to formulate online. I remember when I was in high school, I’ve always been into cars and motorsports. I was like a big Volkswagen fan, believe it or not, and there’s like VW vortex, which was like a leading forum for the Volkswagen community and people just pimping out Jettas. What we’re going to see more and more of is like we’re already seeing, like, I think web 3.0 , just a lot of the democratization of media in general has just created new economic models for niche communities to prosper, both as creators, as well as community participants. Even outside of a pure kind of web 3.0 lens, we’ve already seen like a Patreon and how that’s created this new economic model. Whether you’re a podcaster that has an entertainment oriented podcast, or you have some niche topic of expertise that you’re formulating a community around. I think we’re going to see new economic models and a more sustainable model for economic sustenance within niche communities. I think that’s cool, because I think tribes naturally form and people have different interests, and I think now they’ll be able to actually participate in communities that may have been this like fringe hobby, but in a more professional way where they can really start to dedicate their lives towards some of the things that they derive fulfillment and enjoyment from. So I’d say that’s one thing I’m excited to see. I think, like from forums, to Patreon, to this new mechanism of shared community ownership, I’m excited to see all the different niches that break out.
I love it. I think that’s a perfect place to end off guys. Before I let you go, Matt, Alejandro, Sam, where can we find you individually? Where can we find NFT Now? Shill it away.
Matt: NFT Now. nftnow.com. @NFTNow on all of the handles. Encourage you to sign up for our newsletter where we’re, you know, distilling all of the market happenings into actionable insights, you can find that on NFTNow.com. Check out our podcast, check out our videos, YouTube. If there’s a resource you need, we’re here to hear about it and to help provide it.
And Matt, where can we find you specifically?
Matt: @mattmedved on most web 2.0 handles and Medved web 3.0.
Alejandro: So I’m going through a transition period cause I changed my name last year. So on Twitter, you can find me @LuisANavia. On Instagram, you can find me as AlejandroNavia_ , and then on web 3.0 platforms, just Navia. Come check out my wallet, come say what’s up, you know, whatever it is. And then my email is wide open to the whole community. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I read every email. I don’t respond to every email, but I do see them. So, I just want to make sure that you’re aware of it. And you know, they always say that following up is an act of service. So if you don’t hear from me, follow up.
Nice. And Sam, where can we find you man?
Sam: @samhysell, simple.
Amazing guys. Thank you. We gotta do another one of these when NFT Now is like a year into the space and killing it and creating all this insane content. We’ll have to do a recap soon, but for now, thank you so much, guys.
Sam: Thank you, man.