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Mint Season 3 episode 19 welcomes Andile Masuku, founder of the African Tech Roundup. The independent Africa-focused technology, digital, and innovation media platform recently tapped into the world of crypto by launching their social token $ATRU on Socialstack. With the help of their community, they’re exploring new financing paths to bypass traditional corrupt media in Africa.
In this episode we discuss:
- 0:00 – Intro
- 5:09 – About Andile Masuku
- 13:22 – Tell us about $ATRU
- 19: 21 – Journey into Crypto
- 29:08 – Social Tokens and democratized media
- 41:55 – Celo Grant Funding
- 47:47 – How do you educate your audience?
- 55:59 – Is the process automated?
- 61:35 – Minting Social Tokens?
- 74:38 – Learning Incentives
- 78:44 – 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!
Welcome to Mint. How are you doing my friend?
I’m doing fantastic. Thank you for having me, Adam Levy.
I know you have your own podcast and maybe it may be unfamiliar to be on the other side of the stage being interviewed, but I wanted to have you on okay. One, because you’re a fantastic creator yourself. Two you’re dabbling more and more into the world of social tokens. And I think you’re actually getting super creative with how you’re approaching it through your podcast, which I think a lot of other creators can learn. But before we get into that, who are you, what should we know about you? And more specifically, what were you doing before dabbling in the world of crypto?
Firstly, I regret this interview happening at this time of the night because I have amazing natural light during the day. So where I’m sitting, like I’d be bathed in gorgeous light, dude.
You look golden. You’re good. You’re good.
But seriously to your question, I’m being extra and vain. What did I do before crypto? Who am I? So I am the last born of the three boys. I was born in Zimbabwe in the Southern part of Africa. I think the reason I mentioned that is because it seems unlikely that I would later become one of the more pro prominent voices in African tech no small thanks to a little podcast called African Tech Roundup, which I started on my living room couch with a friend. Prior to that, I mean, I studied business school. I studied for a business degree shotgun to the back of my head. My dad forced me to do it. And I’m really grateful at this point that he kind of parent pressured me into, into studying business as a major, but sneaking off to field trips with the media students at adversity is actually what got me into broadcasting, quite literally a trip to the SABC, which is the South African Broadcasting Corporation changed my life. I got the opportunity to spend a few minutes on radio, sort of doing links with aDJ. I knew what I kind of thought I needed to do for the rest of my life. So I spent the rest of the field trip getting lost in the building, quote unquote. By the end of that trip, I had five phone numbers, which I called all of them agents, all five of them told me to get lost, except for the last one, the receptionist felt sorry for me and said, you know, you sound like you’ve got a little talent. You know, you might be good for some voiceovers or whatever. There’s two agents that have just left this agency to start their own. Maybe they’ll see you. So this is like circa 2003 and breaking into mainstream media. Wasn’t something you could just walk off the street and do you kind of had to come through sort of University radio or Community radio or some kind of, sort of formal training, you know, intern someplace and then get into it. So in any case they said, they’d see me if I did a demo, which I had to spend the next month waiting tables to afford to make cuz that’s what it costs. I mean, there weren’t these USB mics like these and like you couldn’t just do a demo. So in any case three weeks after finally getting the gig to see this agent they landed me my first voiceover for Coca-Cola. Not a bad placement. So I mean, by the time I finished university, I was probably in my second or third year of a four year degree. By the time I finished university, I had a little portfolio of work and and of course, so I launched into the world as a professional, doing work that was in line with my degree. But as soon as I could, I basically bolted for a broadcasting career, at least the kind that I could sort of latch onto. And so one thing led to another I had more experience as a broadcaster and TV personality, radio person, voiceover artist eventually writer/producer in mainstream television and radio. When that career stalled suddenly I had this amazing gig in television here in South Africa that just disappeared after four years. And, you know, I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t own the property. Nothing really came next in a way that I thought would, because I felt like this big deal, I was this producer host. But nothing really did. And that’s when I picked up a podcast mic and started trying to piece together my dignity. At the time, I mean, podcasting felt like a joke. It was like, this is what you do when you fall off and you’re desperate to keep being a broadcaster. That’s what it felt like. This is around 2009 and I know America kind of took to podcasting a lot sooner, but right in on the continent and most parts of the world, 2009, nothing was on. Podcasting was not a thing. If you are not a broadcaster link to some kind of network or major sort of radio station or something like don’t call yourself a broadcaster. But I insisted like on my Twitter bio, I was a broadcaster and I was broadcasting these podcasts. These storytelling things that no one would listen to. I’d spent inordinate amounts of time and my me like putting them together and fun fact, and now I’m really digressing but fun fact. The very first few podcasts I made, which was like the series, which was so originally dubbed Andile’s take, right. Because everyone’s waiting to get my take on things. I did this podcast series and at least two or three of them, I’m quite proud of, you know, I feel like they’d stand up with some, you know, some stuff on NPR and stuff. But I did them at a time when literally, no one was listening. Five years later, a producer at the BBC would hear them and go, we have to work with that guy, which is how I ended up working at the BBC and has on basically their biggest storytelling program globally with like an audience of 71 million people around the world. So yeah. So it’s been a ride. So long story short in between all of that, I’ve been like a media consultant. I consult on media strategy and content plays. I’ve got a fairly, impressive list of corporate and high net worth individuals I’ve consulted to over the years, Airbnb, the Caring group, a number of different organizations international and on the continent. And so, so these consulting gigs, stitch together make for a career. So the African Tech Roundup turned into this thing, that actually properly internationalized me because yeah, no one was covering, Tech the way I was doing at the time. And yeah, it got me spending three months out of the last four or five years away from home, all over Europe and other parts of the world basically wrapping the ecosystem for a world that typically has all these over simplifications, embedded in their thinking about, you know, what the African opportunity is, what it actually means to start up in Africa. Are you real, is the hype real? Is there anything worth investing in? And so yeah, the last year or two has been testament to the fact that yes, there is a lot going here, there’s a lot of hype, but there’s also a lot of things worth investigating and investing in. So here we are today. So I’ve given you, a ride around my life.
So what were you covering that was so original and so unique at ATR?
It’s ATRU, for African Tech Round Up. I coined the, the phrase oversimplification is the enemy. Largely, I think that was really what we were up to. There are a lot of lazy narratives about a lot of things. Blue is great, Red is bad, I’m using these flipping examples. But we typically, especially in the social media era are given to binary responses to most things, you know? For most people in the world Silicon valley, progress, amazing energy, you know, innovation, big business, big tech. African tech, you’re like, is that actually a thing? Anything African is like suspect, problematic, un-investable. Good for foreign aid, but not for investment. So there are a lot of these oversimplifications and then they’re also positive oversimplifications like, yes, Africa’s the future, you know, Africa rising, like the macros of the African opportunity because of the population growth story and there’s all these things, and you start to realize that someone has to make sense of what’s real and what’s actually going on. And there are people who are affected by these stories in unaccepted ways. So when you tell a story that’s oversimplified in the positive and it fails, or in a bubble burst or because it doesn’t account for all the complexities, it actually affects the people on the ground far more than the people who sometimes mean well, and tell those stories abroad to try and drum up interest. In the same way, it also affects the people on the ground, the everyday African negatively, when the truth of their resilience and their innovation and what they bring to the world in a unique way is poorly positioned or sometimes completely ignored by a world that assumes the only way Africa can get ahead is if US aid. So that’s the value proposition. It turns out you just need to care, you need to be blessed with an international grasp of English that most people can understand. You have a talent for sense making and critical thinking and critical reasoning, a legit lack of fear or reverence for the status quo, because I didn’t come from tech, so I don’t know, like, it’s nothing to me to like, meet the CEO of some major corporation and straight up go, you know, why is your corporation bad for Africa? I have nothing to lose. It turns out like even when you come at people with that and they recognize your intent is genuine, and you’re not here to, to sort of build your own thought leadership, they actually find it really refreshing to have a real conversation with a human being, rather than a broadcaster who’s trying to project some kind of eloquence or grasp. And it took me probably a year and a half to figure that out because I was trying to demonstrate that I was as smart as the people I was interviewing. But after a while, it was like, actually, if you just be you in this context and actually serve people and actually have in mind the people who are currently asking these questions and looking all over the internet for answers and not finding them, and you’re serving them, something will come of it. And so that therein lies the long tail value of our platform. In the year we went away for a year, during the first COVID year, we took hiatus. We were averaging, I don’t know, 3,000, 4,000, sometimes 6,000 listens a month without so much as a tweet or, you know, retweet, organically ranking on Google, for search terms like African tech organically, top one or two, three, without having to publish a single piece of content that whole year. So that says something about not just the quality of the content or how well it meets the need, but also are just how great the need is the hunger for answers to basic questions about what’s happening on the ecosystem free of the sort of special interests that typically frame these questions, or like typically just content market the heck out of their position. So that’s what I think is in many words, I think African Tech Roundup did and does well is just keep it real without trying to be like, hey, we’re here to keep it real. In a way that you can’t just be here and do this when your, I don’t know, CNN, like it’s just not on brand to be that way.
So how did that kind of lead into you jumping into crypto?
So I have to sort of shout out the homie Andrew Berkowitz, he’s a CEO and co-founder of a company called Social Stack. He and I were deep into this podcast hustle full-time. So I maybe had a year or two on him. Maybe we started the same year or so. I can’t quite remember, but between the two of us, we probably had interviewed, like we’d spoken to more ecosystem players to do with African Tech than pretty much anyone in the world at a certain point in history. And and so we were both determined to try and figure out a model for not just creating a sustainable lifestyle business out of our love for podcasting and the work we did in media, but, you know, like why couldn’t we thrive? Why couldn’t we create this business? And I mean, we started to see things pop off in the US, but other parts of the world, you see Gimler and you see all these other things and you think why couldn’t we be that, like, why couldn’t we do a version of that. We were brothers in arms for the longest time and we co-consulted together. Like at some point, we had this whole plan to like merge our businesses, you know, his in DC, mine in South Africa. And then COVID hit and it got me rethinking the premise of everything I was doing as a broadcaster. I was confronted with just how much stewardship is required of having this much power. And I didn’t even have that much power, but it did, you know, at its peak African Tech Roundup is standard fare. Either in the written content we put out, or the podcast we put out is like standard fare for anyone within an Africa focused interest in tech, in the highest echelons of power everywhere in the world typically. Right. And so you start to, you start to recognize that this comes with some serious power and I don’t think I was approaching it with the right level of stewardship mentality, which I think I properly addressed since then in my own mind, but certainly even in the practice. And so between those two things, this tension of wanting to do important work as creators, we didn’t even call ourselves creators. Then we thought of ourselves as media makers as podcasters. So there’s this economic sustainability question it feels unjust and frustrating that you can put this much work and passion into work like this and it not deliver an economic benefit that matches it. Something just felt wrong about that on one hand and then the other hand on the other hand, the demand in terms of the ethics of, of media practice are such that, you know, there’s always this question of, you know, in pursuit of like the economic prosperity aspect of the work. To what extent are you compromising the ethics of the practice, which, for a very long time, it didn’t sit well with me to be called a journalist, even though that’s what the PBC called me. I embraced that somewhat. I was definitely a journalist.
It extends away way beyond that. It extends way, way beyond journalism.
It’s not just a question of like journalistic ethics. I think the question is when you have the opportunity to influence listeners, and I don’t mean that in a sort of flippant way, like influence them to get the latest pair of Jordans or whatever, or by an NFT I’m talking about influence from the standpoint of you have earned their trust, and they will make economic decisions, business decisions, life changing decisions, like where to go to university or career choices or which country to invest in which African country to headquarter in. Which founder to back, which area in tech to invest some research in. I mean, these are the sort of decisions, our platform was starting to influence on a regular basis based on a track record of trust and agnostic delivery of insights. So then it becomes, how do you protect that? How do you deliver on that even as you sort of figure out a way to make this a viable business, which almost feels like, yeah, it just creates that tension. And so that gets you thinking about, you know, the model, how we infuse a stewardship model that delivers on economic benefit, but also doesn’t erode the trust and the greater ethic of journalistic integrity that you want to see in great media that you wanna make. And these are obviously problems that have made my life that much harder because there’s a version of my life that would be so much easier and so much more prosperous financially if I didn’t care about any of this stuff. And I could just jump on a mic and do the popular thing, or be popular or not care about whether or not this is good for the world or good for Africa. That doesn’t make me a Saint, it just makes me idealistic and principled, which many people are, and in my position, it’s like you don’t squander the opportunity to try and protect something like this and, and see it outlive you and your personal involvement, which is the other thing that was key to like, thinking about crypto, which is, what does this look like when I’m not on the mic anymore or is this about me? Is this a sort of lifestyle business? At some point, all the podcast was about, remember how I started was it was an accessory to a career that I was trying to resuscitate in an attempt to stay relevant. What I stumbled upon was a responsibility to serve an audience, a community, we call the village a genuine opportunity to impact the trajectory of our continent and the role of technology in that trajectory. Then you think, yeah, no, you gotta take care of this, you gotta do that. Honestly, nothing else about crypto appealed to me, everything else, screamed, scam, stay away. I’m not an early adopter for anything, like, forget about it. I shouted out the homie, Andrew, like he tried, like, I should be sitting on like a decent sort of Bitcoin stash by now, he tried, you know, he’s like, bruh, like, get yourself like a couple of these I’m like, nah.
This internet funny money.
Money, forget this funny money. And so honestly, it sounds kinda bleeding heart, but it really was like, if it wasn’t for these greater bigger I suppose matters of the heart, but honestly, philosophical, moral issues around the practice of media making that I’ve come to love if it wasn’t for those things and the tension between that and needing to basically, you know, you know, be a great husband and provide for my family, and basically benefit economically and create a legacy if it wasn’t for these greater ideas, I wouldn’t be in crypto today,
You know, shout out to Andrew because Andrew has been a big supporter since nearly day one of Mint through sponsorship. And I genuinely love Social Stacks community because one they’re after like pursuing mission driven communities, right. So there’s a lot of like social token projects or token projects in general. That treat their communities as pump and dumps. And one thing that’s super unique about Social Stack is like embedding into their community to be mission driven first, which is super aligned with what ATRU is doing. Right. Yeah. I applaud the way you guys are super aligned with how you want to build community with how you’re thinking about ethics and how you guys are kind of approach crypto as the medium to kind of execute on that vision. So when it comes to building social tokens, right. How do you think social tokens can kind of create new models for democratized media platforms that don’t have to kind of be what’s the word, sucked in by corporate interest funding or sustainability? Like, do you kind of think about that?
So Alex, I’ll answer that question by just telling you how we transitioned. Okay. So you start with this podcast that is designed literally to resuscitate a career and keep you relevant. And therefore is an accessory to a career, right? You start there and then you stumble upon the fact that, oh, this is actually slightly more than that because the first phone call you get a year in is from the Netherlands, from a company called VC for Africa that do great work in terms of mapping and well, I suppose, mapping and convening the, the venture capital and startup community across the continent. And this is the first phone call you get from someone who says, hey, they listen to your podcast, would you be interested in some consulting business? We’re working on a Mook you know, we’d love your input on like the programming and that turns into a two year engagement in creating an online academy for founders on the continent. And your sort of editing, your directing on screen talent, you’re presenting this content. Then you suddenly realize, wait, there’s a direct link between the work I’m doing every week in keeping people informed and sharing insights and sense making, and a pipeline of consulting business. Blank cheque consulting business, cuz it’s different every year, every phone call you gets really different, every asks different. So it’s not a model. The model is continue to invest in the network effect, which delivers predictably unpredictably over time. And so you make that the model and you sort of double down on that. And, but at the center of this whole thing is you because you can’t really share it because you don’t really share the platform. You don’t wanna really share the glow because it really, it does come down to the next phone call, which you really do hope is your next consulting opportunity for you. And so then it transitions to, oh well, it can, and probably should be more than that. Because you know, one you’re reaching, a much wider audience than you even expected. You’re getting syndication opportunities. The BBCs calling you from time to time to do sort of features whenever the important things are happening on the continent or developments and your profiles growing, you suddenly realize that you are in the public service. Now you have to think, well if the BBC thinks of me as a journalist, let me read up on what that is. And you order some masterclasses at universities, journalism department. And you start to realize, okay I’m cynical about this idealism around what journalism can and should be, but there’s a lot in here that I probably can and should be adapting into my practice. And so maybe I should create some kind of safeguards from capture as it were right. Safeguards from myself and my personal interests and safeguards from people who it’s becoming quite apparent are quite willing to hijack the feed to reach the audience. Right. And what does hijacking the feed look like? It’s like, people literally want to turn you into the brand X, African Tech Roundup. So they basically wanna rebrand you or they wanna dominate like two thirds of your feed with their content marketing or whatever. And you suddenly realize, well, no, we can’t have that. We’re gonna need to figure out how to balance the opportunity to benefit economically with the needs to keep this pure. And then the next transition is sort of like, how do you do that? Because ad sales can be problematic, doing the sort of sponsored content stuff is tricky. In an ideal world, you shouldn’t have to think about any of that, right. In an ideal world, you should be resourced by the people who care the most about the work you do and who care the most about keeping it, free of any influences that would influence what they hear or what goes out in the world. And so, I mean, looking around there aren’t that many options for mechanisms to deliver on that. And so there in lies the social tokens, potential utility it’s untested to the degree, to which we envisage it being tested. But we are sure going to try to create an economy of value that leverages the opportunity to democratize who truly owns the platform who truly determines, flow of projects via platform into the public sphere. That’s how the social token fits into everything. And it’s actually what got me in and honestly, I probably wouldn’t be in crypto at all if it wasn’t for this innovation in crypto. So how many generations is probably like two or three generations into the crypto trend. That sort of birthed social tokenry is what caught me. I was like, oh, this makes sense to me.
A couple points. Okay. So I make it fully transparent that Mint’s business model is through selling sponsorships. Okay. So up and coming startups or existing companies that want to tap into like unique audiences and specifically creator like audiences they come to Mint. So the way I think about it okay, is I issue three to five NFTs per month or per season. And I look for partners to help support the show in an effort to promote them to the audience. And the way that kind of works is depending on the NFT, they purchase determines their level of promotion for that season. Okay. And I’ve gotten a lot of inbound requests from all these different projects, can we sponsor, can we sponsor, can we sponsor? For me, I always think about what could be the best value add to my audience. So rather than thinking about it from a control point of view, right. I think about it, like, okay, there’s projects like Coinvise, like POAP, like Social Stack like Prime Down, like Cello These are some of the sponsors that have been on projects in the past that are actually super ethical startups. They have ethical founders, they have very transparent missions. You see their actions, they’re actually committing really net positive outcomes for the space in general. What’s the harm? If you make it apparent, if you make it transparent, you let people know that look, they are sponsors, right. They are supporting the podcast. It’s a means of keeping this thing up and running and providing content. I’ve learned to understand and also by the way, all the revenues on chain too. So if you do [inaudible] you can see everything is transparent, clear to the point. You can see all that stuff intentionally that if there is some type of on chain play, whether it be an NFT, whether it be a token, whether it be whatever it may be, we have like a track record of everything that’s been happening transparently and publicly. So I think there’s different ways to approach it. But I do agree with you that if it gets to the point where it’s manipulative, the narrative is being controlled by sponsors. Like I remember seeing this thing on TikTok. In the last year or so, a lot of the, don’t don’t quote me on the media outlet. I think it was CNBC don’t quote me a hundred percent, but they had like a big Pfizer sponsorship and after every single thing, it was like, this episodes brought to by Pfizer and after they’re done interviewing this episode was made possible by Pfizer and Pfizer just kept on popping up everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. And with that came the narrative of the vaccine. So it makes you think actually, what is happening around this? What’s going on? And I don’t know, these are just some thoughts, I guess, from your point of view, it’s like actually media in Africa is super tainted it lacks ethics, it lacks transparency and African Tech Roundup came into the picture to provide more of that color, more of that narrative around what’s actually happening and uplift the entire scene as what was happening on ground. That’s, that’s how I’m kind of understanding it.
I have to, you know, tip my hat to you because I think you have a very evolved sense of ethical practice in the work you do. I would say that what you’ve just described to a large degree, definitely vibes with my sensibilities, for how to balance the pragmatic need to deliver on, building a business on media practice or a media practice based business. Whether you’re doing it for yourself or you’re trying to build something larger than that. I think so having said that like media practice in the context of a continent that African stories or stories about Africa fuel so many nasty agendas around the world, it is such a lucrative business to spin stories about Africa that ultimately are bad for Africa and Africans. And ultimately because of the size of our continent and it’s outsized impact on the world that are ultimately bad for the world. And so in that context, I think there is a slightly more weighted and urgent need to sort of address intent and special interest influencing journalism and storytelling and the dissemination of both around the world. I mean, I worked for the BBC, which is the world’s biggest broadcaster and part of the reason, now I have to say this carefully, because I worked with amazing people and, you know, highly ethical and amazing people. But I mean, there’s very specific reason why the stories you hear about Africa on major platforms around the world are the way they are. And it isn’t just because they sell newspapers or they attract clicks. There are greater agendas at play. And so there’s definitely this question of, okay, if you are gonna be part of this, there’s what works, but then there’s typically what doesn’t work so well. It took a blockchain company, like Cello for us to land our first journalism grant for education sort of media grants.
Which we should talk about more.
That says something, right? It says something because it took that level of alignment in sort of democratized potential for us to land our first 25 grand in seven years of applying for various grant funds and being part of accelerator programs. And that’s crazy. I being tipped, I mean, I’d get people like in different parts of the world going, oh, these guys are talking about you dudes you’re in someone’s deck at this such and such conference or whatever and we’d be like that’s fantastic. We applied for grant from there. We never get the money, never get the money because we’re just not brand safe. We’ll never be the brand that gets the money and then follows them around the world, like telling the world how great they are, because they give us the money. Like we’ll never be that brand. And so they’re like once that penny drops, like we are just, not people they wanna play with. Yeah. And so that’s when you realize and that’s why I’m saying kudos to you because you’re doing it in an industry that I feel you could get you don’t have to do things the way you’re doing, and care as much about like who gets to advertise and you know, and the nature of it and like keeping it, but also it’s inherent to the blockchain space you’re in where culturally, these are norms. In journalism, like being the insider, owning the story, having the scoop privileged access. Do you get what I’m saying? Like holding certain stories back and certain secrets back. For various interest in doing this as a favor and that’s everyday life and its normalized, beneath a veneer of all this, you know, journalism is this career of integrity, but underneath it, and I’ve been there, it’s, it’s all this other stuff that you actually do have to solve for because it’s poisonous. And if you want things to be done in a way that will benefit society, you are gonna have to solve for that. It’s not gonna happen because your editor says we are gonna be ethical. It’s gonna be like, how do you make sure then that the guy who owns the place, isn’t gonna stop the story when it comes to the grants. How are you gonna solve for it? When you know this sponsor who spent millions of dollars, you know, keeps us from talking when you know, there’s a scandal in their company, how are you gonna solve for those things? And then also in, in typical media organizations, to be fair to these amazing hardworking journalists who work there, they’re so far removed from the economic interests of those or large organizations that however hard they work to be integrous sometimes is undermined by the ownership structures and the lack of proper. So I I’m coming from a world where I’ve been deep fried in these issues, right. In a way that’s different. And also, I think what’s also different with you and what’s refreshing with you and just listening to how you are trying to solve for integrity in your space is that you came out of the gate. And my sense is you’re part of a different generation. I don’t know how much younger you are than me, but I think you’re part of a generation where aspirationally like the younger millennials and Gen Z, like you all are onto a sense of like, we wanna do better than where I’m kind of an older millennial. I’m a millennial by the skin of my teeth and I’m a little more institutionalized than most people. So I had to sort of like see this first hand and realize how I was even part of the problem before it hit me in the face, before I was willing to go, hey, you know? That’s also what I learned from Andrew. UI think he was onto a lot of the stuff in a way from being based in DC. For a lot of his time as a podcaster, he had a front row seat to the interplay between power and media. I had the African experience in media and power and how the African stories often hijacked by big media organizations. I know I’m kind of going on for a bit here.
No, this makes a lot of sense, because again, it all ties back into like the corruption of different business models that play with media in Africa, in how social tokens or crypto in general aims to solve. Right. Okay. Mint is one example making all payments, all transactions from sponsors on chain. So users and listeners can see what exactly is happening underneath the hood. You’re approaching it from the point of view of like, okay, let’s approach social tokens. Let’s try to remove and go straight to the community and the people who love and adore African Tech Roundup, Crowdfund from them, get them involved and have them actually participate in the future success of what this media platform can become. Super unique, super original, and actually quite intuitive to what’s actually happening in the media space in Africa, from what I’m understanding. These business models are corrupt. Crypto is kind of that step forward of trying to solve it and trying to introduce new light into the image. There’s a lot of experimentation though. There’s a lot of education required. My next question to you is how are you thinking about that? Like obviously you guys have a program in place that you’re trying to kind of like create token based engagement, token based listenership, but with kind of implementing something like that comes a lot of education. And I think it’s something that a lot of people have a hard time getting across to their audience because it’s so new because it’s so fresh and it can be quite intimidating to jump in. How have you kind of tackled that? How are you educating your audience to implement these token based listenership engagement programs that you’re kind of experimenting with?
So first inherent to our reboot, which was in June, 2021 we came back from a year long hiatus, which was, you know, my co-founder Musa was very kind to just allow me to sort of figure myself out and figure out what we were gonna bring back when we did decide to come back and what we came back with was an educational premise. Our flagship in the past was the African Tech Roundup flagship podcast, which was, largely me sometimes, a co-host like my co-founder Musa, or another co-host in the past. It was a talking heads format that did grapple with like some of the leading, the most, top of mind things that were happening in the ecosystem and sort of breaking those down and having a guest like unpack a less explored topic and that sort of thing. And then there were interviews and stuff, but what I realized, what I was inspired by was Quora and the normalization that something like Quora has brought to challenging someone who knows a lot about something to place it upon themselves, to share with the ecosystem. Now inherent to this process, there’s a lot of people who’ve now, like literally turned this into a thought leadership exercise, and literally just constantly try and position themselves as the answer to any given question. But I think by and large, the vibe is, hey, if I’ve experienced this thing that I think another hundred people, even 10 people, sometimes a thousand people have also gone through, let me ask this question and answer it and put it out in the world, mo the benefit of everybody. And Quora’s got the system that sort of, allows village credit to accrue, you know, positively towards people who do this, and do this really, really well. And it also helps people discover this stuff, through an up-voting process, et cetera. I don’t know why I’m explaining Quora to your audience because that’s really stupid, but it kind of ties together. So I’m looking at this right alongside everything I’m starting to learn about crypto and everything. And I’m thinking one of the problems of how we were doing this before is we made ourselves so necessary. We made people wait often up to a month sometimes at a time to hear from us and what we would distill. And we took great pride in sort of owning this agenda setting mandate and basically I took great pride in like letting people know what was important to know when we were ready for them to know it was important to know whatever, right? So there was this big flex, this was all about, but it meant that there were 30 other days in the feed, like nothing was happening. And we called dibs on those 30 days and we saw, it was more beneficial in our minds, than have those days be dormant than to put out stuff that wasn’t us like advancing our leadership in the space. Right. And I know this sounds really self-centered and of course there was a lot more heart to it than that. And of course we cared and it wasn’t just about us. But at the heart of it was this, I suppose, this idea that really didn’t account for all the brilliance in our ecosystem. And then it was also counterintuitive, but it was also countered to the need we had of the very same ecosystem to support us because we created a situation that made it so that every time I met somebody, while we were on hiatus, they were like, oh bro, like you, you need to come back cuz nothing’s happening till you do. And I was like, how’s that my job to watch the back of our ecosystem. Like when did that become my job to do that and then I was like, oh, but that’s what I trained them to expect. You know? And then I was like, no, when we come back, we need to crush that nonsense. Right. And so [inaudible] series is literally a series of podcasts 15 minutes or less, that answer questions about the ecosystem that typically are going unanswered, um where on the internet and so that is now the flagship premise. The premise is we are going to seed into the internet a bunch of answers or a bunch of minimum viable responses to questions that are often asked about tech innovation, Africa’s digital transformation that aren’t being answered adequately or in this format or at all. We’re just gonna start doing that and we hope they will inspire even more responses or, you know, rebuttals and, and, and spark debate. And, and before long they’ll start to look and feel like a really well nurtured Quora question that elicits thousands of responses and, and it turns into its own thing. Yeah. And so I’m sharing this because this is the mindset we brought to how I think the ecosystem needs to start to own the responsibility, to nurture itself, to have an other centered approach, to what it means to be part of this community and care about it and do business here and to tell news about it, create stories and tell stories about it and answer questions and ask questions about it. Like this shouldn’t be a question of which questions Andile thinks are worth answering today and which issues does Andile think are worthy of like turning into a podcast tomorrow. This should be a much broader premise of all of us learning and growing together, you know, learning and growing in public together. Sure. And so that’s the general premise. So now, when you think about the social token and who should be able to earn it and why it’s within the context of those exchanges, you know, are you contributing to these processes either by consuming consciously, that is, like taking in really good stuff and sharing it with other people, can we prove you’ve listened, um reward you for that? Can we reward you for sharing it with someone else? Can we reward you for contributing a great theme or question that ends up into a podcast episode? Can we thank you for the time you spend volunteering for the organization in some fashion, or, bringing your insights as someone in the trenches or who as an expert in the space, how do we turn all these positive things we want to see normalized in our ecosystem? How do we create a sensibility of accountability, but also, reward system that is this very organic, thank you for taking part. That’s the spirit behind the social token. And those are the things we are looking to find smart ways to reward. And so that’s what we started with basic things like Easter eggs hidden in our content. You answer a question, send us the answer to that question, reward you with token and things like that.
Is that process automated?
So we are working with social stack to get it done, but no, it’s not automated. I’m afraid. It’s in some respects as clumsy as it sounds. I don’t wanna sort of scoop some of the things social stacks working on to like, get this really slick because there’s really some cool stuff currently in beta that I can’t talk about right now, but I mean, no, for the moment it is, as clumsy as you might expect, it’s a Google form, you fill out, you ping us and you send us your cello address, and then we reward you. It’s like your social stack. It’s no where near the ideal.
Yeah. Okay. So this is how I’ve been doing it on Mint, because I also try to implement like a proof of participation type of…..
We call it proof of play.
Okay. There you go. Proof of play. Proof of participation. The way I do it. Okay. And if anybody that’s listening that also has a podcast, or also has some type of content channel has find a better way, hit us up. I’m actually super curious, but the way I’ve been doing it is I have a landing page called Adam levy.io/season-3-coop. I don’t know exactly what the URL is. Okay. But the point is, I have people submit their first name, last name, email, Twitter, stuff like that. So I can create some type of like community right, written that I can see. Cause the thing that like, I don’t like is like, I push this content out there on audio and also on video, like I have no way of kind of seeing who’s listening. They gave me data, they gave me metrics. They let me know who’s male, who’s female, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But I don’t have an email. I don’t have an address. I don’t have anything that I can follow up with. So I basically issue POAPS. Proof of attendance protocol. It’s basically like a free NFT essentially that allows people to basically prove that they’ve participated. And at the end of the season, I send out a mass email through mail merge and I send everybody a link to claim a POAP. And I basically do this for people who’ve submitted their email in the newsletter who open the newsletter. Who’ve consistently engaged in the discord community and have kind of like proven that they’ve participated essentially. And there’s different forms of participation, but again, similar to what you guys are doing, which is super cool because it’s like you’re verifying participation. Side tangent. You’re seeing a lot of music products in crypto, now introduce this level of fandom that allows people to prove that they’ve listened to an artist prior to them exploding. So imagine if you could be on SoundCloud. And basically like, I was able to listen, I was in Juice worlds top 100 listeners right prior to Juice world becoming Juice world. And I can like flex that. Right. So it’s like the same concept. It’s like, okay, if you’re listening to Mint, hopefully one day is gonna be this big, bad podcast and media outlet. That is gonna be like a resource to creators and crypto individuals alike and people who kind of like participate early on can prove that you’re taking the same approach.
So here’s my question to you though. How are people taking to that? Like, because I think the challenge is, like hacking habits. How do you make this part of people’s lives in a way that isn’t an interruption to it? What are you finding as far as that’s concerned?
So how do you apply this to people’s lives without being an interruption? The beauty behind POAPS it’s already ingrained in crypto culture. People love collecting free NFTs, these moments that kind of prove that you’ve participated or you were at a location. So for example, you go to an event, you prove that you were there physically, the organizers, hand you a POAP that goes to your address. You can prove you are at that event. You come to Mint, you join the discord, you join the newsletter, you’re automatically qualified for a POAP you’ve joined, you’ve entered, you’ve taken that step. POAPS are things that have already naturally ingrained in like crypto culture. So it actually just like, it just follows them along their journey. You know, it’s nothing like new that they have to do or anything like that. And to be honest, and I’ve talked about this very publicly on the podcast is like, has been the best growth hack to kind of bootstrap, newsletter in a crypto community and in an audience, and get like a certificate. I’ve gotten thousands upon thousands of registrations, and submissions for these POAPS as proof of participation because people, the assumption is essentially is like, and you’ve seen this with communities Bankless shout out to Bankless, they kill it and other communities that if they have a database of your addresses, then if there is some type of token event or NFT event that people who have participated early on will get priority in airdrops, that’s kind of like the mentality. Whether or not that’s gonna happen with Mint is not the point. Rather, it’s kind of like ingraining and sucking people into the process and having them participate and contribute and being able to celebrate that participation by giving something. So it’s a very, like you, listen, I give you kind of relationship that I love that I’m trying to cultivate.
So fascinating, man. So now I’m thinking, you know, at what point does a social token makes sense for you, in the context of what you’re building,
You know, I’ve been thinking about levy coin, for example. I’ve personally haven’t found the right model to do it yet. So I recorded an episode with shenanigans. Okay. Which is basically a platform that creates social tokens for athletes. Okay. A whole different class of creators and me, and I think me and Victor, we were kind of like going back and forth and we were like, wait, there’s actually a new, interesting model that has yet to be explored that I’m like, I may or may not be exploring. Okay. that rather than minting a certain amount of tokens off the bat, like 10 million tokens, like, or a thousand tokens, like what a lot of people are doing, what if you could actually print and mint tokens based off your contribution to your community. For example, every Tuesday and Thursday, I publish an episode of the podcast. What if there was a smart contract that would basically be able to verify the RSS feed and see that I’ve contributed and push on an episode and accordingly print and mint tokens and airdrop in distribute to me and like pay me. Right. And also like distribute it to the community, who’ve listened. So that way my content and my incentives are aligned with publishing and contribution rather than minting a bunch of tokens and keeping them in a multi-sign in a treasury. What if we could just do them off the bat, but based off participation, you know what I mean? Now there’s a few issues with that. Okay. How do you kind of like mitigate inflation? Because this would be a token supply that’s uncapped. You’d have to have some that would qualify as burning token. So let’s say if I publish on Tuesday and Thursday, okay, then the days that I don’t publish Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, things get burned because I’m not actively giving and contributing that way. You kind of mitigate inflation, but this is something that it’s like, if you talk about a creator coin, okay. These contracts, they need to extend way beyond 10 million. Because 10 million is just an arbitrary number, creators grow. They live to 80, 75 years old. How do you stay along that, that journey? Right. And what does that look like from a tokenomics point of view? And I don’t know, like I like this model of being able to give, as you grow right. Being aligned with your community and minting and printing and distributing, the more you contribute, the more you give, the more value you create. I thought that was a super cool model.
Is that you trying to navigate away from the sense that when you dictate a finite supply upfront, you are essentially tying your community into a form of enrichment for you that might not necessarily be linked to output?
So you wanna be able to earn it as things grow,
Correct. Right. So who knows Mint may even produce products in the future, right? Like software products for creators. Right. How can I kind of capture that value as an individual and as a brand, beyond having like a limited token supply, and again, it comes back to like, so I’m motivated for multiple reasons. One, my incentives are aligned, so if I don’t contribute, I don’t get, if I contribute, I get, and so does everybody else. So I like that. I also like the idea that this hasn’t really been like messed around with a hundred percent. It could be a really interesting model that people kind of engage with in the future. Like I haven’t seen someone kind of do an infinite token supply and Mint as you go. One thing that made a lot of sense in going back to shenanigans, Victor is like, this works really well for athletes and could work really well because an athlete’s career kind of lasts 2, 3, 5 years. What happens after that? You know, like how do they build brand? How do they build community? How do they build fan bases, et cetera, fandom, et cetera, et cetera. And if you only basically create a coin for an athlete during his two to three to five year period, what happens when they kind of graduate? What happens to that coin? What happens to that community? You know, and so, I don’t know, these are things I’ve like been experimenting. It’s a very like early, early concept that I haven’t seen implemented, but I just like it to summarize, because incentives are aligned for me as a creator in my community, what needs to be kinda worked out is that burning mechanism. How do you mitigate inflation down the line?
So my question then in the context of how quickly things move I mean, what are you giving yourself? Like two, three years? What’s the opportunity cost of not getting in now?
What do you mean one more time?
I don’t know how fast you’re moving on trying to work on this idea or this model you’re working on, but there’s a sense get that for every year, let’s call it, not even a year, for every six months you wait to sort of position your brand to capture value or to sort of build and groom value in this way. I feel like you run the risk of coming in with like hundreds of thousands of people who are like late to the party on it. And then look a little more opportunistic and perhaps less organic about it. Where, I mean, you’re early now and we are all early in a sense and so maybe that’s me sort of projecting.I asked myself why now? Like, why would we do the token now? Why wouldn’t we do other things first as a dibble dabble towards, at some point sort of launching it when I don’t know, social token economy, infrastructure plays mature, for instance, right? Why subject ourselves to all these platforms forming around us as we do what we are trying to do, why not wait until everything’s formed?
Well I think there’s the beauty of being an early adopter and by being an early adopter if done right, you deem a lot of the early success and you capture a lot of the value. We saw this really, really well with the NFT wave. A lot of the Instagram and corporate designers that kind of were very, very talented, had thousands to hundreds of thousands to million of followers on Instagram, because they were just constantly post content pivoted into NFT, started selling their work and understanding what ownership meant on chain. And now they’re selling work in Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and the auction houses, the list goes on and on and on, right. Social tokens haven’t had their moment just yet. We’ve seen iconic players that have kind of like brought new light to social tokens and creator coins. We’re seeing platforms in organizations that are building tech, like Social Stack, like Coinvise, like Rally the list goes on and on and on trying to kind of like bring this vision and this reality to life, because there is a lot of value from it, but they haven’t had their moment yet. I think starting early, the why now portion is because why not? That’s how I think about it. Why not start now? Like what are the risks inherently? I don’t think there are that many risks if anything. I think it would actually like all the creators that are kind of dabbling with crypto and all the creators that are dabbling with social tokens and NFTs, they’re positioning themselves, just adopting that mentality of being early adopters, testing, throwing shit at the fan, trying to see what works, that level of mentality, whether it’s gonna be social tokens, NFTs, whatever’s gonna come in the future is gonna position them up for success down the line. So I think there’s many other factors that come into place.
You’re also quite evolved. You’re also quite evolved even in the way you think about NFTs and how you’re using them. I mean, it’s quite clear that you’re thinking about it as much more than just an opportunity to capture value or ride the hype. So in a sense you are approaching NFT with like some of the sensibilities we are approaching social tokenry with in a way. So there’s a kinship there that listening to you is actually quite interesting, to observe and to learn from it really appreciate it. Yeah. Thank
Thank You. When it comes to social tokens, I’ll say this again, they haven’t had their moment yet. And a lot of what Mint aims to do is provide that public roadmap from public being like the transparency of that ENS domain that tracks all of the sponsorships to transparency of how to content from things that kind of like, we start as doing audio that then get transcribed to video that then gets transcribed to the blog and then the newsletter and creating multiple destinations of like how to guides for how creators can get started using crypto to own their audience and build community. You know, and I think we’re super, super early on that concept. People are still used to renting, people rent their audiences off these big platforms, people rent their followers, their fan base, their likes, everything lives on a platform that they do not own. I’m trying to create this message and get people to wake up and see that there’s value in owning and not even that there’s value in co-owning and building community around those values. Right? And by launching NFTs, by launching social tokens, opening up a discord, a telegram, taking your audience from web two into web three. Now you have a direct concrete funnel of direct line of communication to work with them, to build with them, to grow with them. Something that you don’t own on web two that you now own in web three, right? Because you can get shadow banned, you can get discontinued, like Spotify can remove your podcast. Something that I’m trying to discover. I was like, how do I upload this stuff to IPFS? There’s a problem. I can’t really upload like really, really long files on there yet. Not even that there aren’t products, apps and platforms that allow people to consume this content. So it’s still like, that just shows you how early we are.
We need these guys so much. We need these major platforms far too much.
My head is like, I’m always thinking like, okay, you’re doing in a super creative way, you’re trying to create more transparency when it comes to media on Africa. I use that as an example for other areas that kind of face same issues and add a level of influence changed the narrative around tech startups and do it in a way where people can kind of co-own be involved and join along the process now through a new means, AKA crypto, AKA social tokens. And I think it it’s really cool how creators, like you are kind of tinkering around with these models because it’s people like us, and I’m not even gonna talk about myself. People like you. Okay. People like other people that I’ve had on the podcast, it’s up to them to do the education. There’s not gonna be a big entity that comes into place and sets global education guidelines. It’s all through community. It’s all through people, these types of conversations, it’s all organic. Right. So, yeah. Yeah. I guess that’s just like my 2 cents
Great segue to this shameless plug I’m about to make about what we’re doing with all this grant funds, all this grant money we got from Cello all thousands of it. It’s not like that much.
That was gonna be my next question. So you did get grant money over the last few years, you’ve been having a hard time getting grant money. You tapped into crypto, got a grant you’re building towards this vision of equitable media. Right. And along the way where community can co own and be a part of that process, what is that grant gonna be used for? Why cello like walk me through that.
So our social tokens are minted on Cello. Why Cello? Because we thought long and hard about all kinds of things. The pros and pitfalls of this whole new sort of blockchain wave and I mean, things like the environmental impact can’t be ignored. Things like the inherent sort of non inclusiveness of certain blockchains, just the sheer cost of gas prices on Ethereum, for example. It’s such a loaded issue for a media entity that’s building for and on the African continent. And so Cello, when you research its credentials and the technicalities of the blockchain itself. It’s mobile forward sensibilities and the intentionality around being designed for adoption or mass adoption in developing markets. These are all things that we thought about and I know they’re not unique in this instance, but they’ve certainly been among the first and perhaps most well executed projects leaning into these ideals. And so that’s why Cello as a place to mint our social token and as a logical place to go, asking for support to educate people on blockchain tech in general on the Africa blockchain opportunity blockchain, Africa opportunity, shout out to Michael Kimani, who’s sort of coining that term, this idea of there’s a unique sort of version of what blockchain can do and how and why and a unique utility and usefulness that is specific to various African markets in their context. And so I think there’s just so much to learn. You touched on web three and there’s the overused term, the fourth industrial revolution, which is so thoroughly overused and almost means nothing on the African continent because it’s a projected term that hasn’t meant much. And here’s an opportunity for us to have something and be a part of genuinely a part of something that isn’t just an intellectual notion. So we are really given to helping people understand these things, in an accessible manner in a first person manner. So what are we using the money for while it’s straight up an education project? You know, it’s, we’re gonna be doing more of these in a short form, podcasts, miniseries, you know, answering questions that we think, where we hear people in the streets asking about, what’s this whole blockchain thing about, how do you get involved? You know, what’s the investment opportunity. That’s unique to the African continent. We’re gonna have long form podcast conversations as well. We’re gonna take them to other platforms where people can convene and sort of have more interactive conversations around them. We’re gonna commission some long form writing and, look to syndicate that sort of thing, translate that into a number of different African languages. That’s what we’re doing with this. We want people to be a part of what’s going on in a way that in the past, we would’ve just sort of seen this as an opportunity to sort of double down on our place in the ecosystem. We literally want this to be a village activity. If what we are up to doesn’t turn into a village activity, if it stays something they’re doing over there, messing around in their little sort of sand pit over there, then we failed. And so that’s the grand plan. And thank you Cello and shout out to anybody who’s listening to this and thinks they need to get involved. You probably should.
It pays to be an early adopter whether through airdrops or through value or through knowledge accumulated or through failing and learning. I’m super excited for you. I’m really thrilled to kind of like stay along your journey and see the success of the community and the lessons learned. And we should definitely do this again in like six months to a year and see what the progress has been. But thank you so much being on. I think it’s great place to end off. Where can we find you? Where can we learn more about you? Where can we stay in touch? Give me the spiel.
All right. Well, Africantechroundup.com. That is the mothership. You’ll find us on, on Twitter@AfricanRoundup. You’ll find us on Facebook, Facebook.com/africantechroundup. We are Instagram also as @africanroundup.