Mint Season 5 episode 19 welcomes Mike Dudas, Co-Founder of 6th Man Ventures, LinksDAO, and The Block, who shares his perspective on the current state of venture funding, how he raised $10 million in 24 hours to buy a golf course using membership NFTs, and tips for building tokenized communities.
This one’s quick but jam-packed with valuable info from the practitioner himself, so hope you enjoy our conversation.
In this episode, we discuss:
00:13 – Intro
01:50 – Lessons Learned As An Entrepreneur
05:22 – 6th Man Ventures Investment Thesis
10:30 – NFTs as Media Distribution
13:58 – Underground NFT Usecases
15:42 – What is LinksDAO?
20:55 – Biggest Challenges with Starting a Tokenized Community
22:41 – What’s on Mike’s Radar for the Bear Market?
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Mike, welcome to mint. Thank you for being on. How are you doing?
Mike Dudas: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me on, man.
I’m excited to have you part of season five. I think a great place to start. This is where I start with everyone has a quick intro. Okay, who the hell are you? But more specifically, how did you get your start into crypto?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so, I have been in crypto full time since 2018. And actually, purchased my first crypto in 2013. And it was passively interested, purchased for the first time because I was working at Braintree, and we were thinking about adding Bitcoin payments to Uber and Airbnb in 2013. And I was just interested in global, you know, low fee, censorship resistant, always on payments. Bitcoin obviously proved to be volatile and doesn’t work for that, stable coins actually can serve that purpose now, but that could be interested in them. Enter full time in 2018, saw what was happening with Ethereum. And smart contracts and ICOs are getting really excited about the potential for applications that networks that included you know, money in terms of and tokens to help basically incentivize people to do things, to help with governance, to help with coordination. And, you know, started as a, somebody found a company called the block to educate folks on news research about the space and then spent some time, sold the block last year in Paxus, running their stable coin business. And now, I’m a full-time investor.
Lessons Learned As An Entrepreneur
Nice. So, it seems as if like, you’re quite entrepreneur yourself from starting all these, like crypto companies, for the most part, yet the day to day of your life seems like you manage a fund and you’re betting on other entrepreneurs, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while being an entrepreneur that you look for while betting on other entrepreneurs?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so I think the first thing is just you don’t have to have like, significant. I wouldn’t say like domain expertise, I like to say like a lot of the places that we’re investing in it really early stage of pre seed and seed and web three, your crypto infrastructure applications, you’re investing a place where there are no experts. At the same time, I want to find people who I believe are like, deeply authentic, where when they have a conversation with me, like it’s grounded in, you know, a passion, and there’s a reason for doing what they’re doing. I really like to dig in. As much of people, you know, investor as I am, like an idea investor. So, I like to really understand the authenticity of where somebody’s coming from, and why they’re like trying to solve a particular problem. And then I want them to be realistic about like, not only the technical components of what they’re building, typically, but like, hey, what’s the go to market? And how your why are people going to care about this. So those are just like the things that I look for. I’m not too hung up on the potential for folks to pivot, as I mentioned, like the idea could change, but I just want like a sensible hypothesis.
Got it. I know some of the biggest valuations came out of the bull market, and people were raising money on some of the craziest ideas, whether they’re credible founders and web three, non-credible, whatever it may be, what are some of the biggest mistakes you witnessed entrepreneurs make during this recent bull market?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so I mean, so in crypto specifically, you know, one of the biggest errors that folks could make, and I have my own project called Links DAO that I started with some folks where we raise money by selling NFTs. And that money was denominated in Eth, we immediately convert to stable coin. So, one thing treasury management is just a critical problem that a number of projects have run into, when they kept their treasuries in their own native tokens and or Eth or soul, and therefore they have 75% or more, you know, discounted from the nominal dollar value that they thought they raised. That would be one. Two would be you know, aggressive hiring, by the way, it’s not just a startup problem, you saw Coinbase over hire significantly based on you know, projecting what happened in q3 and q4 of 2021 far into the future. I think a lot of, you’ve seen some correction, you’re gonna continue to see more. And then I mean, look, we all got caught up in it such as the startups like the belief that we were in you know, super cycle was kind of a joke and then that like yeah, now it’s a joke, but I do think a lot of people believe that you know, we were reaching longer cycles and we were gonna stay and that the, we were still so small and there’s such a, by the way, this is the case, but I think a lot of us, including myself, in some cases, and in some of the things I invested in and did and products that I like to price and purchase myself, thought that we would reach a broader audience more quickly, you know, projected maybe what’s going to happen by 2030 into 2023, or 2022.
6th Man Ventures Investment Thesis
So, what’s your investment thesis actually a 6th Man Ventures?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so we’re basically investing in applications and infrastructure. You know, the term is like web three, but we truly believe that your applications and infrastructure that makes it basically easier to utilize crypto and crypto enabled products. Okay. We think that cryptocurrency that tokens, as I mentioned, are tokens for governance, for incentives, for payment, for coordination, can actually add significant value to applications can help to bootstrap networks, you’ve seen this with helium, we’ve seen this with some player in gaming, although the jury is still out on what models will be sustainable there. So, we’re like very, very bullish on the notion of, you know, any merging ownership, but the idea that you can basically have ownership of the networks, that you participate in, a piece of the network that you participate in. So, we believe that’s powerful for both business and consumer used cases. Additionally, you know, we believe that, you know, money and value that separate from any call it centralized authority, a government, a bank, a business as powerful as well. So, we’re investing in businesses and projects and protocols that are creating that, you know, future where, again, they’re networks that are owned, governed, incentivized, and fueled, sort of by their own token economies.
Yeah. Is there anything on that investment thesis or your overall belief in web three that you’d say like others may not agree with, that you guys are just like extremely bullish on?
Mike Dudas: I mean, I think it’s popular, I mean, it’s pretty contrarian to still think even today. If you tune in to Twitter, or the news or anywhere, we’re at a low in terms of people’s, we’re in that trowel of disillusionment, where, you know, you’re gonna hear cryptocurrencies outside of perhaps like Bitcoin and maybe Ethereum. Or maybe even there’ll be included, you know, there’s a lot of comments about these being your vapor and not having value, and you hear a lot of projects pointed to and tossed about as being Ponzi’s. So, I think it’s like, kind of contrarian right now, I see a new blog post every day from people who I know are investing in tokens regularly, that, like, tokens are an innovation, that crypto enabled networks are innovation, we still believe that deeply. And I’ve like seen it at work. You know, so we’re investing like aggressively against that. We are invested in a number of like playground games that will launch later this year. We’re invested in a number of web three enabled networks and to Dao structures where there’ll be launching more publicly later this year. So yeah, we continue to deploy into areas that I would say are publicly unpopular, but you know, we are remain bullish. And the good thing about that is, because they’re unpopular right now, evaluations are more reasonable than they were, as you mentioned earlier, are sort of at the bullish peak here late last year.
Right. You know, so I could assume that building the block, which is one of the more reputable media outlets IN crypto, you’ve learned a lot around the business of traditional media, because inherently it feels like a traditional media business covering the web three, landscape, but I’m curious while building out that business, you probably also discovered a lot of like traditional holes in media, that maybe web three consult, do anything come to mind?
Mike Dudas: Sure, I mean, the biggest is that it’s really difficult to and you learn this, you know, as you’re covering stories that have multiple protagonists and your multiple takes to actually ascertain like, what the truth is, and so, you know, any news story or journalistic piece that’s presented is going to, you know, have the perspective deeply entwined of the person who’s writing it. And, you know, you’re never going to make anywhere near 100% of people who are, the subject of the story or reading it or impacted by it or happy. So, it’s difficult, it’s really difficult to some extent, no, not like it’s a no win. Industry and ecosystem is very, very easy to criticize, even, you know, really high quality journalism. And it’s really difficult in today’s you know, hot, quick take environment to defend, you know, journalism that has integrity against, you know, really loud voices who you cover whether that be, you know, a cryptocurrency exchange leader, you know, an influencer or somebody who has a pulpit to accuse the news of being false.
NFTs as Media Distribution
Right. So, on that note, how do you kind of think about NFTs as a medium for media distribution? Do you see like, how do you think about that really?
Mike Dudas: Maybe clarify that question. I’m not sure I think of NFTs, I haven’t, we haven’t done much in that specific area. I want to make sure I understand the question.
So, I think a good example is like tokenizing art and the collectability of art and the distribution of art, right, as a form of media. Yeah, right. Right. What are your thoughts are on that?
Mike Dudas: Yeah. So, one thing like to date, like, last year, at least, over the last 12 to 15 months, people showed a higher willingness to pay for, you know, to your point media, in the form of NFTs, whether that’d be art, whether that be music, not really video or other things. And even written stuff, like I know, there’s been, there’s mirror and some other NFT enabled publishing platforms. Ultimately, you know, we’ve talked about like, I think played around gaming, where you have NFT’s and tokens, the core of the game and the core of what you own, I think that’s going to be the largest, you know, initial manifestation of NFTs and quote unquote, media. But the, you know, I think it’s, you know, NFTs in their current form, where they’re like, you’re primarily like static Jpegs, or GIFs. Like your gifts, I don’t wanna be a boomer and call it GIFs. But like, it’s just kind of like, I don’t think we’ve really explored the space where we’re really changing the media landscape. I think, you know, there are other experiments that are happening with media that I’m not sold on things like decentralized studios, where you sell NFTs and then that community can sort of like vote on what the story or the IP or the creative, your output will be. I’m not sure that’s gonna work. I’m not super bullish on it. But like, I like to see folks experiment with those sorts of things.
So, I guess, you know, NFTs that is applies to like traditional media, I haven’t thought a lot about NFTs as it applies to the things where they are working with respect to media is they’re helping to create communities where people sort of identify with this new form of media, they’ve bought like the NFT, the picture, the JPEG, the identity that they have. And then you know that that community coalesces around it, to some extent, the art, but really, it’s about like, the value of the thing, and hey, we’re part of this thing together. And we self-identify, these aren’t novel concepts, but they’ve been, you know, really, really powerful in terms of getting people excited. I do think the money aspect of the stuff, you know, this speculative aspect is what has driven a lot of like the behavior and interest in you know, NFT enabled art to date. And so, to go beyond that, to things like more interesting, we’re going to have to give more properties to the NFTs that matter. You know, things like, as I mentioned, governance are input into creative direction. You know, token gated asset, token gated access and things like that. But we haven’t really seen those experiments materialize, other than as, like proof of concepts today.
Underground NFT Usecases
Are there any other experiments that you are kind of like eyeballing that have maybe not hit the main stage just yet around NFTs? Anything come to mind? I guess, I guess, just to add more context, I’m trying to understand what the next wave of NFTs look like, I feel like 10k PFPs have had their era for the most part. Right and trying to understand how this primitive can using other means.
Mike Dudas: we’re interested in like that we’re investing in like, it’s even the next thing, I think it’s just people will recognize that there’s enduring value to utility based NFTs, right? Like I have a project Links Dao, where the NFT that you purchase gives you the ability to purchase membership in the club, the ability to vote on the club’s rules, where the club will be, a bunch of other things then access to perks and benefits. So that’s one. They’re like utility base NFTs, like we invest in a company called po app, proof of attendance that becomes like almost like your passport of things you’ve done in places. So, I think that’s interesting. And then what that enables is okay, you have that po app in your, you know, in your wallet. Okay, that means you qualify for XYZ in the future. Yeah, I think that’s interesting, I think earning NFTs for doing different tasks. So hey, you were developer, you participated in this governance vote, or you built this particular thing. And here’s an NFT as proof of what you’ve done. Those are interesting next steps. But candidly, like, I’m looking for people who can imagine things more exciting and wilder than that, if I had all the good ideas, I probably would be incubating more businesses versus investing other people.
What is LinksDAO?
So, part of that, part one of these businesses is Links DAO. I guess for those who don’t know what it is, can you give a quick intro?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so it’s basically a community-governed and community-created golf and leisure club. So, we sold 9090, NFTs, June, I’m sorry, January first, and second of this year, and the holders of those NFTs, basically have rights to make decisions about what the golf course and club and rules that their participants in and future members of will be. So, the beauty of this quote, unquote, web three golf and leisure club is one, we were able to sell off NFTs, which gave us funding to actually go out and make this reality, right, bring a community together, host events, you put infrastructure together to connect all of us, and you hire a team to go out and execute and scout out and find a course and launch it. And then the NFT allows us to do like token gating, and access to benefits of being a part of this community. So that includes like significant discounts, access to certain events and things of that nature. So, you know, it’s like a web 2.5 type thing. You know, to use a term that’s probably overused, but it’s a pragmatic use of the existing technology for fundraising and for community and governance primarily. And it’s been really, really fun, and the people stick around. Whereas a lot of these projects, you see them rise and fall in like two months. We have a really active community, six months on, and they’re really excited for when we buy this course later this year, and then launch it next year.
So how the hell did you manage to raise $10 million in 24 hours from 9000 memberships?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so the.
And I remember that day explicitly, because it was all over Twitter, people were losing their mind. And the rate at which this community grew was insane. Unlike I’ve ever seen before, maybe the next biggest thing was constitution Dao, like next.
Mike Dudas: So, I think the thing that you learn there, and it ties to the cryptocurrency markets, as we’ve seen, is, you know, a community like that it’s very momentum driven. And so, we got a lot of momentum, like you start with an audacious, but achievable goal, like, we’re gonna, you know, buy or build one of the top 100 golf courses in the world. And then you rally folks around it, and you move fast. So, we went from that initial statement to the actual NFT sales 17 days. And while we did that, we basically put together including me, a very credible team of five or so core folks, and then had a number of folks who were actively involved and excited. It happened over the holidays when folks had a lot of time. And so, they could talk and look at stuff and that was part of the magic was doing it at the end of a long holiday break. And we were fortunate enough, yeah, that it was at a point in time when, you know, NFTs were extremely, extremely hyped. And you know, at that sort of crescendo, so the timing couldn’t have been better. And so, that’s been great. And then we sustained it with you know, media coverage, and now we’re in like, the, you know, like any momentum driven enterprise, we’re in the, okay, now things settle back to like a normal cadence of actually delivering it step by step. So, we have weekly community town halls, weekly updates on progress against you know, course acquisition, or operational things and you know, that cadence is fun and then we do every four to six weeks announcement like our recent one with Callaway where they are, you know, really big partner of ours, and they’re the largest brand of golf.
So that’s been fun. But, yeah, like just the telling a compelling story with a credible team. During the moment, you’ve seen this happen over and over again, it’s like how did you know other side, how to board a yacht selling $100 million worth of you know, digital land, having never built a gaming company. That was certainly momentum. How did, I mean projects that’s suck and like walked away like the pixel. You know. So, I think like, it’s been weird, but a lot of things have happened on momentum. I think the folks who are participating in Links DAO are fortunate that they chose to participate in one that’s like high signal unlike like a pixel, or some of these others where, you know, the folks were just happy to take the money. And we’ve been very transparent in the sense that you can see the Gnosis safe, like, removing like him is off a dime, nor has Jim the CEO, because, frankly, we want to use as little of the treasury on ourselves and as much on actually delivering the value prop that we promised to users. Like I have a full-time job.
Biggest Challenges with Starting a Tokenized Community
What were some of your biggest challenges in starting Links DAO, let alone starting a tokenized community today?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so the biggest challenges are, how do you transition sort of elegantly from that initial burst of energy and momentum, and the idea that we’re all participating, it’s chaos, but there’s some order to a scenario where you can actually execute on like, operationally doing things, and it’s not gonna be like, we like during the month of January, February, probably 100 plus people, you’re reaching out in the name of Links DAO to different partnerships. Prospective partnership partners, and so we had to do a lot over the first three months of putting in place, a true, you know, infrastructure for Links DAO that had your pods, right, so you’re marketing pod, your partnerships pod, your events pod, developer and engineering pod, etc. And then you’re nominating folks to actually lead those so that you had some order and some process, that was probably the most difficult thing that we’ve had to do. The other part is just explaining the fact that the NFT holders don’t actually own that, for us, like don’t own the assets that we purchased like the golf course, that would be an unregistered security sale. So, we’re raising separate funding, equity funding to actually do that purchase. So, we have that interplay between the corporate entity and the community. And just keeping that balance. And it’s similar to Google Labs, and mint DAO and the board ape community, you basically have the corporation, and then you have this community of holders. And really, you have to make sure that you deliver value and that it’s symbiotic. Or else the whole thing fails.
What’s on Mike’s Radar for the Bear Market?
I guess with the last few minutes that we have on the podcast, I really want to understand where your head’s at, for the bear market. bear market is a time of opportunity. You find the best projects, you find the best builders, and the ones who kind of last and stick through thick and thin. What’s on your radar for the bear market? What are you eyeing? What niches are you excited about to throw money at? Walk me through that?
Mike Dudas: Yeah, so the biggest thing is that you have to make an assumption about, like usage of crypto and crypto enabled products. And when that’s going to return and I think like are our guesstimate is it’s going to take some time for things to normalize, we probably aren’t at the bottom as of the end of q2 2022. Particularly as you see problems with these lending desks. And I think we have; we don’t really know how contain that stuff is. So, the assumption then is that, hey, we’re going to be in a bearish market for a decent period of time, most likely. And you have to adjust your expectation of like users. And that means that even a great product, it’s going to take more time for to catch on, because you’re going to have a less, you know, enthusiastic and a smaller base of folks who are looking for like the next great, you know, crypto application. So, what we’re focused on a little bit more than we were called three to four months ago, is investing in infrastructure. So, you know, the big problem right now is, you’re most of the apps we use today, we use on our mobile devices, like while we’re walking around and doing stuff, that’s pretty difficult with web three or crypto enabled applications. So, I’m excited, for example, about what Solana is attempting with this launch service. And we’re looking at different products, whether they be new wallets, and Fiat on off ramps, but other infrastructure that makes it easier to use your applications and mobile devices. And then you know, from a application perspective, I think we’re probably focused a little bit less than like, really, really way out there. Like I talked about tokens, the beginning of the conversation, while we believe in token enable networks, like there’s only a few categories where we think like it makes sense and we have a framework that we’ve developed in totally around that. And so, we’re looking for projects like where we think it naturally makes sense. And it’s not just like a user behavior where somebody is trying to drop a token, you know, on top of like, just an idea that they have. So anyway, yeah, we’re just probably shifted a little bit more to infrastructure and usability versus you know, maybe going way out there on the kind of like app spectrum just knowing that it’s gonna take a little longer for things to develop.
I mean, that’s a perfect place to wrap up, Mike, we’re gonna have to do this again soon. Before I let you go. Where can we find you? Where can we learn more about everything that you’re doing? Show it away?
Mike Dudas: Yeah. So just I mean, I’m on Twitter quite a bit and it’s at Mdudas, that’s the best.
You can’t miss him. You’re loud as hell, we love it. Thank you so much, man, till next time.
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Dot, welcome to mint. Thank you for being on. What’s going on?
Dot: Thank you so much for having me. Oh, I’m good, it’s good week, all things considered. We’re here.
Dot: Making it through. Let’s go.
We’re here we’re alive. Are you in your studio right now? Where are you?
Dot: I am not. I’m actually in Sun Valley, Idaho, crashing out of family member’s house at the moment. So, I have some of my gear with me, but I’m not in my usual environment.
Nice. All right. I think.
Dot: If I’m recording.
I think a good place to start. Okay. And this is kind of where I start with everyone is a quick intro. Okay. For starters, who are you, Dot? What does the world need to know about you? But more specifically, how did you get your way into crypto?
Dot: All good questions. Yes. So, my name is Dot. My real name is Kate. Dot is my artist’s name, I am a music producer, audio engineer, DJ, multi-instrumentalist. I just, I really liked music. That’s an easy answer to that question. I love making music. And, yeah, I got into web three, and crypto, let’s see, initially, it was in like 2020, 2021, I was kind of day trading, swing trading as like a fun side hobby, just various coins and things and then kind of got out of that, because it was taking up so much of my time. And like, at the end of the day, I want to be an artist and a creator, not so much a trader, I just don’t have the bandwidth to stay researching and keep up to date on all the news around all of that. So that was kind of my entry point for about a year or so and then actually got into NFTs and minted some of my work at the top of the year this year of 2022. And so, I’ve mainly been active just as an NF T creator. And also, collector over the past year, I’m just having so much fun with that. So yeah, music definitely my main gig still but just been having fun with exploring web three, and especially at this early point in the whole timeline of things. It’s a really exciting time.
I haven’t met an artist in the space that was also a day trader. That’s first to me, that’s a weird or an interesting combo.
Dot: I was just really curious about it. And, you know, I got super lucky, obviously, the timing of when I was doing that definitely helped. And I happen to just get out at a good time as well, because it took up so much focus, and you know, the markets never close. So, I felt like I was like losing sleep over this sometimes. And got super lucky. There are people that I’m sure do a way better job at it than I do. So yeah, it was fun for time. And it helped for me to fund some music projects and to just reinvest in music and buy some scents and things like that. But that was, it was a very short chapter in my life. But yeah, whenever people asked, like, how did you get into web three, they’re often surprised to like, hear that was my starting point because it’s a little bit far removed from music.
Before trading, did you have any other like financial or technical background that you kind of like mess around with? Or was that like your first experience doing something like that?
Dot: Not a ton, you know, it’s like, I guess I have like a Roth IRA somewhere, of my. Yeah, like, I don’t know, adventures in finance. So, it was something totally new and I was like, kind of just experimenting with very small amounts of money.
Dot: Yeah, but it did help for me to just understand the space a little bit more and understand the technology behind it before and then entering as an artist and creating NFTs and just having you know, a little bit more of a well-rounded perspective there.
So, I what age did you get into music?
Dot: Oh, I’m always zero. No, that’s not true. I mean, I started playing piano when I was like six or seven, I think is when I first officially started like lessons but there is this hopper a piano at my grandma’s house in Aberdeen and I remember when I was super small a time we’d go Visit her, I just want to like bang around on there and experiment and make noises and so eventually my folks got a piano for our house and which is such a huge gift and put me in lessons and from there also got into singing, a little bit of guitar, had I had a drum set for about six months before that got banished from house, growing up. Yeah, and just always loved music and then I got into Ableton and producing, that came a little bit later in life. I think when I was in college like my sophomore year of college undergrad, I downloaded Ableton for the first time and then it was just like, the game over. I was so excited about all of the things you could do with just a laptop and some headphones. That’s all you really needed. So yeah, it’s been a lifelong thing for me for sure.
So, when you first got into music, did you initially explore like the EDM side of things or were you exploring other genres? Because that’s your main genre, right? EDM? You just performed that EDCs well?
Dot: yeah, it is. But it’s also, I love all different genres. I have like a lot of older releases that are more on kind of like the indie all rock side of things, I’ll pop, and I have just kind of been more into EDM lately because that’s where my music seems to fit best. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself like an EDM native artist, but I love playing those festivals. I love DJing so much. I love dance music. I love dancing. So that’s kind of where I’m exhausting at the moment. We’ll see where it goes. Yeah.
Dot’s EDM Genre
I’ll link your some of your songs in the show notes. But for those who haven’t heard you yet, what, how would you kind of explain your genre to someone in EDM?
Dot: Yeah, it’s like, I eat sometimes, I know, it’s kind of a corny way of putting it. But it’s like, dancing while I’m crying type music, like it’s still very emotional. I’m using less conventional, maybe that’s the wrong word, less common. chord progressions, still throwing in like a lot of sevens and nines and extra notes and things in there. So, there’s still like, there’s a, I’m not, that’s not to say that mainstream media isn’t also emotional or doesn’t sometimes employ those chord progressions. But yeah, it’s definitely not just all about partying and getting drunk at the festival and all of this, like, I do want to convey a wider range of emotions than what I don’t know, some people might think of when they think of EDM, I don’t know.
You know, when I, when I first came across you it was at Eth Denver catalog, the NFT platform, and the one-on-one platform hosted like a really, really great party. They featured a lot of the artists on their platform, and you were one of them. And I remember at the same time, I tweeted about this, around that time, but Tiesto was playing the same, around the same time that you were playing. And my cousin and I we work together. And we were like, should we go to Tiesto? Should we stay here? And thankfully, we stayed because I think out of everyone that was performing. We really enjoyed your set the most. And we like when you got on stage, like the vibes kicked in kind of thing. Right? And I remember we were like looking at each other like, wow, like, who is this? Like, this is really fucking good. Like, who’s playing right now? We’ve never really heard music like this before. So that kind of like intros us into a web three. So, when you first minted that piece on chain, was that on open sea? Was that on Zora? Like, how did you kind of know what platforms to use and how to navigate that landscape?
Dot: Yeah, that’s not a good question. So, my first one was actually on catalog. I was very, like blessed and fortunate to have connected with CeCe from catalog and then through her Jeremy. So, they helped to onboard me onto the platform, walk me through the whole process. I kind of held my hand through the first minting experience. And so that yeah, that was my intro. And since then, I’ve also done a couple of drops on sound. And those are the only two platforms that I’ve worked with so far. And just kind of being very, I got the careful isn’t the right word but selective, where things end up, that’s I don’t want to be. I don’t want this project to be scattered across too many different places, too many different chains, etc. So, I’m just kind of keeping it limited to those two for now. But yeah, my first foray into minting was through catalog. And it was, it’s been such a great experience ever since.
One of the biggest challenges a lot of creators have in the space, whether you’re a musician and artists, whatever is finding that first collector to support you to kind of align with your art. How did you find yours? Like, what was the story behind that.
Dot: The internet, I had never actually spoken to my first collector before, didn’t know who they were. But months leading up into the drop. I mean, I was still very active in a lot of different spaces around music NFTs, supporting other people’s projects, learning as much as I could. So, it wasn’t like, hey, I’m just going to mint this. And, you know, see what happens. Like I had definitely done a few months of work prior to that just learning, understanding, and really just trying to connect with the community. Because that’s been my favorite part of web three. So far, honestly, and I’m sure a lot of people would say the same thing. It’s just the people that they’ve met through this space. And so, I think putting in that time, and making those relationships ahead of time is really what kind of led me to wherever I am now with a client, I have no but, yeah, I didn’t have any personal relationship with them prior, it was just a total surprise.
How To Find Your First Collector
So, that’s kind of like what I preach on the podcast, I think it was Daniel Allen, who introduced this kind of concept of learning and educating yourself and joining communities prior to kind of approaching your first drop and trying to find your first few collectors. When he was on, I think it was like season three kind of reference, like, okay, if you want to drop something, put a pin in it, and then revisit that three to six month from now. Join communities, buy some tokens, support other people, educate yourself meet and make friends online. And then likely, those people will probably be your first few collectors, not your first collector. So, you didn’t know who was your first collector from what you’re telling me?
Dot: No. I didn’t know who they were. Yeah, it was like, who’s, their Twitter handle is side bourgeoisie. I was like, who is that? So funny, so clever. And yeah, so and even since I mean, I think the one collector, who I have now who I knew maybe prior to minting was Cooper, and Cooper is, I think I met him like maybe the year before minting, I was playing exchange in LA. And so, we had some mutual friends and met backstage there. And then I was just being a creepy internet stalker for a few months, and like, just absorbing a lot of what he was sharing. He’s, you know, as many know, you know, such a wealth of information and resources. And so, it was just following a lot of what he was putting out. And so, it was really cool to then, you know, so much later after first meeting him, like, have him collect one of my one on ones on catalog and some other kind of NFT sense. So, yeah, that was one like preexisting connection. But yeah.
Understanding Value in Web3
Yeah, Cooper has been on the pod a bunch as well. Shout out to coop. So, I also want to talk to you about this, like this concept of value because an NFT is just like a token at the end of the day, right? And it derives value somehow, right? Figuring out what to price, your first drop, or your first one of one or your first edition can actually be really challenging. When Verta was on who’s another like, really well-known artist in the crypto space, she basically suggested not putting a price on it rather leaving an open market bid and letting kind of like the market decide what the value is. Right? Did you approach it the same way? Or how did you kind of design decide what value to attribute to your first drop, let alone future drops that you initiated afterwards?
Dot: Yeah, that’s a good question. Because I think my approach to this has sort of changed over the last few months to where, nowadays I really am most comfortable just letting the market decide. I do think it is though important to value yourself, you know, and to value your work and I think you can still do that while letting the market decide via auction or however, you know, what they want to spend on something or value something at. But yeah, a lot of my first drops, I set like a pretty, what I would consider a fairly high reserve price. And then now in a lot of recent drops, I’ve just been setting it at like, point one or something that’s really accessible because I do also want to give folks and I’m talking about this and speaking on this in reference to one on ones. And I do want to give collectors, you know, a chance to maybe get things at more affordable prices, if someone’s not really prepared to spend like, you know, four Eth or five Eth on a one on one like, it’s cool. It’s also like, give folks a window into collecting that doesn’t immediately, you know, price them out at a certain point. So, it varies. I wish I had a clear answer to this question. Ultimately, it’s something that I have decided in this format is out of my control, I can’t really force people to say like, hey, you need to value this at this much money. Because it’s up to the person and it’s up to their relationship with the work. And it’s not so much in my direct control and you know what something sells for doesn’t necessarily dictate, you know, what I consider the work to be worth at the end of the day. Also, you know, and so those two things don’t have to be the same. Basically.
What Makes One Music NFT More Valuable Than Others?
I’ve heard stories of artists getting offended by bids being placed on their work. And I guess that leads me to like my next question, like, what makes one music NFT more valuable than others?
Dot: Yeah, I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that question. Because it’s always going to be different for different people, you know, folks have different motives for collecting things, some people see it, you know, as a way to make money. It’s, you know, a new asset class for them. Some people, it’s about the connection with the artist. And it’s about their, you know, maybe belief or future belief about where the project is going to go over time. Maybe there’s some overlap there with financial gains as well. For some people that’s about the utility of the NFT. And like maybe what that gains access to, either in the moment or in the future, depending on what that particular artist or project is building towards. So, it’s just, I feel like it’s an impossible answer.
What Collectors Look For When Buying a Music NFT
I think like what ends up driving value to music NFTs could be things that occur off chain, like the amount of royalties or streams that song crews that ends up being tokenized. Right, or sort of the community that gets built around the assets, right, and building a band of collectors around your brand, building a band of collectors around your music on chain. And I guess like my next question to you is, what do you think collectors care about the most before they buy a music NFT? Is it the song? Do they actually connect with the music? Do they see a potential to invest in an artist and like a non-equity format? Because they think this artist is going to do well in the future? Do they just want to join a community or be a part of the conversation? Do they want to help the artist? Is there all sorts of answers that I’ve kind of heard trickle in the past? But from your perspective, why do you think collectors care about collecting these music collectibles, and that’s a lot of collects in one sentence.
Dot: Yeah, from who I’ve talked to you, which is you know, it’s a limited perspective. But I find that at least with a lot of my collectors, it really is about community for one thing, and also just wanting to support the artist. Again, everyone is going to have their own unique motives based on their own experiences. But I really, part of the reason why I also wanted to make music NFTs and work with this format and this medium in the first place was because I genuinely, I crave stronger connections with my community. You know, with a platform like Spotify, I might have like, a million plays on a song but I have no idea really who those people are. I can see like breakdowns of demographics, but I don’t have a way to directly reach out to them or start conversations with them. And that’s really disappointing and it’s hard for me to get excited about putting music on those platforms, because it just feels like there’s no real emotional connection to the listener in that way. Whereas, you know, if I’m playing a selling live at a show, I can see everyone in front of me who’s connecting with that, I have that experience. So, I think through music, NFTs this may be offers a way to just improve those connections and that sort of feedback of energy with people. Beyond, you know, the sort of, it’s almost like a one-sided conversation of like, hey, here’s my work, and then the Convo stops there. That’s just not as exciting to me.
So, should artists strive for quantity over quality or vice versa? For example, optimized for streams versus small band of collectors on chain? For example? Like, what’s your mental model around that? Because you need to do both, right? I think they’re not like, I don’t think they live individually. But where’s that happy medium, you know?
Dot: Yeah, I think that’s gonna be different for everyone. I know, for me, and my career, and I’m definitely trying to approach all of this in as balanced of a way as possible. I recognize that within web three, at this point, we don’t really have the reach of that, you know, Spotify, iTunes, or Apple Music, and putting music out on these platforms can have. So, we do need to exist in those spaces. I do appreciate connecting with people in that way, too. I don’t mean to say that I don’t appreciate that. It’s just, I don’t feel as much of an emotional connection to it. Because I there’s no way for me to even really process like the numbers of people that are streaming it. Right. So, it’s like that, to me is still a necessary part. And, you know, interacting with, like, the traditional music industry, in certain ways, for me is still necessary, you know, working with an agent going out, getting on these other festival lineups, and like trying to tour and play as many shows as possible. That’s all super important to me. And it’s something that I just love doing, I’m so thrilled to be able to spend time doing that. And at the same time, you know, like I want to make music that it’s not necessarily for the masses, of course, I want to connect with people as many people as possible through music, but I don’t ever want to compromise my vision to make something that’s maybe more like easily digestible or listenable to someone or fits easier onto a playlist. So, to me, then having a small group of you know, more like hardcore fans, appreciators collectors, who really care about that niche type of music is special to me, as an artist, and sort of from the perspective of like, my own integrity, and just not compromising, you know, the music that I make to fit in these other arenas. If that makes any sense? Kind of, I’m wondering.
How Dot Creates Value for Collectors
That makes a lot of sense. Because I guess you want to create more value and more like, in a personal experience with your listeners, slash collectors. Right? And I know, you’ve been vocal about that. And kind of the conversation that we had prior to the interview was kind of understanding what you have in store for your collectors. So, my next question to you is what has been your experience, one with trying to bring more value to your collectors and two what do you have in store for them in the future?
Dot: Yeah, so my experience so far with utility has been, giving collectors you know, access to my shows for one thing, so if I’m, you know, on tour and in the city, they can email an address that I have, request guest list and come to the show. So, they can just be on my list and in some cases, come hang out backstage, in some cases, also when like festival passes to EDC, or to hard summer, which is coming up. So definitely try to create value through that kind of just preexisting shows and things and sending people merch, sending people signed vinyl, so they have some physical things as well. But going forward, I’m actually really excited to be putting together a new, it’s going to be an annual series. Then the first one is kicking off this August, called Sonic Summit. And so, it’s going to be an intimate kind of, it’s almost like an artist retreat, but you don’t have to be an artist to come and to participate. So, it’s going to be three days here in in Sun Valley, Idaho, which if you’ve never heard of Sun Valley, it’s not maybe like the farmland that comes to mind when you think of Idaho, It’s nestled in between like these five different mountain ranges. It’s a really, really beautiful place. And it’s somewhere that I’ve come to like most summers and winters since I was a kid, I’ve lived here on and off actually a lot in my adult life. I just have such a deep connection with this place, a lot of other artists in the past who have all come here to write, to create music. I know Hemingway has had a very strong presence here. And he’s actually buried here.
So, lots of like, authors, artists from many different points. In the last I guess, decade or so I think this place was started in like the 30s, I should brush up more on the history of Sun Valley, it’s a really cool place, it’s a special place. So, I’m really excited to be bringing people out here for three days of just some hiking, eating some good food in town, having some good conversations, we’ll do some yoga, do a little bit of mindfulness. And on the last day, we’re actually going to do a small outdoor concert. So, it’s going to be open for collectors to come to, we’re going to get a nice production crew out here to come and film it. So, it’ll be streamed for those who aren’t able to travel for it. And then I just, I just want to have recordings of everything. So that way, we also as artists have those assets to then share, use however we want to and it’s, we’re creating something that’s this really special intimate experience. But I also don’t want to like exclude people from experiencing the art. So, we will have like recorded versions of everything too. But I’m just so thrilled to be putting this together. Like I’ve done a lot of artists retreats out here in the past and have been trying to think of ways to like, put something together that also includes fans, includes music appreciators, but not have it be an overwhelmingly large event or something that I can’t reasonably manage with a small team. Because, you know, I’m still independent, I’m not signed any major labels. And it I think, to fund something on a larger scale would be very challenging. So, I think it’s small and intimate. And kind of like a laid-back easygoing approach. It’s like, I don’t want every single second of the day to be scheduled, I want people to be able to come out here and relax. So yeah, putting together something like this has been a dream of mine for a long time. And it just seems like using web three to kind of connect all the dots, no pun intended, is a really a great way to bring together the right community for this. And yeah, execute this project. So, I’m really excited.
I have yet to see an artist do something at this scale for their community. I think it’s really unique. I think it’s really powerful. And I think once you do it, you’re gonna set the example for many other artists to create more like, grandiose experiences around their collective community. Right? I guess my question to you is, what do you hope to achieve by the end of the festival? Like why put something together? Okay, sure, bring people together. But is it to have everybody connected with one another? Are you dropping something during that time? Do you just want to say thank you, like, what’s the goal behind this?
Dot: I just want everyone to make really good memories, honestly, and to have really good experiences that you know, maybe shapes a little bit of their outlook on life in some way or their perspective on life, or just maybe provide them with a little bit of relief from this crazy, crazy world that we’re living in. I know, maybe politically speaking, bringing folks to hide as much in alignment with my values as other locations, but the nature here is really powerful. And that’s something that I just genuinely want to share it with good people. So, there’s not really any bigger motives at play besides just wanting people to have a really good experience here. This is something that it shapes a lot of the music that I create and so I think to have like fans come and be able to see you know, some of the inspiration behind what I’m doing. I just think that’s a really cool thing. That and that’s yeah, I wish I had a cooler answer.
I love it, that’s as cool as it gets. Honestly.
Dot: Like I just want people to have a good time. Yeah, and everyone’s gonna get Airdrop some, I’m calling them adventure passes which I know is a little bit corny and Disney sounding but I thought it was cute. So, all of my holders are getting these adventure passes and then for you know future events and like if we can keep doing these maybe even in other locations around the world. I’m you know this getting a little far ahead of myself. cuz I want to make sure we can just get this one executed so far. But my goal and my plan here is to do these in other locations. And then you can get like your adventure paths stamped for each one you go to. So, it’s kind of like an on-chain passport for this project. So, yeah, I’ve got like a million other ideas be honest, too. But you know, this is what I’m focused on executing right now, and just really excited about it.
I love that what a way to tie value all together and create memorable experiences for the people who kind of bet on you early on. I’m hoping I can make it to the festival.
Dot: You’re gonna come?
Yeah, I’m down
Dot: 19th to 21st. It will be fun.
#1 Tip for New Music Artists Entering Web3
That’s really cool. And actually, a really unique experience that I have yet to see more people do so, props to you. Top. Before I let you go, I want to leave you off with one final question, okay, for new artists entering the space that want to achieve, I guess, a fraction of success or level of success that you’ve achieved so far, finding collectors, building a community, performing at web three conferences, building an audience in the space? What are some tips, three tips that you’d give someone on how to navigate and this could be either from something that you wish you had known prior to starting, that you’ve kind of learned as you as you’ve developed or just whatever comes to mind?
Dot: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think the biggest tip that I would give is just showing, beforehand, showing up in the community as a as a supporter. Even when I was getting my start in music prior to web three, like a lot of where I began as a producer, and as a DJ, all came from, like the LA kind of underground scene. I played at, like Low End Theory, which was this really incredible club that happened every Wednesday night, at the airliner in LA, for I think, over 10 years running. And the reason why I was able to play there so much in and like release records on Alpha pub and be immersed in that communities is because before all that happened, I was just showing up every single week, because I was a huge fan of the music and a huge fan of all the artists who were playing there, and I wouldn’t be there open to close, I would help like, load stuff in and I was like an intern at the label for a while. And so, I think I really just tried to apply a lot of that ethos to my involvement in web three. And it wasn’t even done like on a conscious level. I just understand that like, if you want to participate in a scene, or a community, you have to start as like a supporter and a contributor. Otherwise, you’re just showing up and saying, hey, look at me, this is what I can do. And, and it’s like, people like okay, well, hi. Why should I care? Like, okay, cool. I just think it’s important that you show up as a supporter, and it’s not even something that you know, maybe you should have to think of doing it’s like, if you love that scene, or that community that music, like hopefully that just kind of comes naturally. So that’s definitely a really big tip, just, you know, maybe show up for other artists who you care about and support. If you can’t afford to, like buy someone’s one of one, you know, a retweet is free. Sharing the word is free. So, I think that’s really important. Besides that, as far as tips go, gosh, that’s really my biggest one, can I just have one instead of three.
That works. We’ll wrap up with that. That was the Mic drop. We’d love to hear that. Before I let you go. Where can we find you? Where can we find more about the conference slash event you’re putting together? Yeah, and your music in general? Where can we find that?
Dot: Oh, yes, so I think if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, those are pretty, two pretty good hubs. I am dot music on Twitter. So, D O T M V S I C, dot music, same thing on Instagram. So, there’ll be more information there. You should be able to find like you know there’s a link in my bio that has all the links to all the things, so if you want to jump in my Discord server that’s getting a major update here in the next week and we can connect there. So, I’m really excited to get that hub going again. Music is everywhere you like to listen to internet music. It is on Spotify Apple Music if you just search dot or dot, ambush ep is my latest release. It should pop up for you there. Drops on catalog and sound and yeah everywhere.
Dot: You have to be everywhere.
Dot, thank you so much, we’ll have to do this again soon.
Dot: Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it. I just I love the podcast, I’m such a fan and just so stoked to be here thank you.
Mint Season 5 episode 17 welcomes Sidney Swift, an American entrepreneur and producer who cofounded intellectual property and creative development studio – Defi Entertainment. The studio develops virtual influencers, NFTs, songwriters, producers, campaigns and shows. More recently, he’s built the successful NFT Project Chill Pill – a meta star raking in hundreds of thousands of monthly listeners.
In this episode, we discuss:
00:07 – Intro
08:01 – Hustle Energy: What’s Your Cultural Background?
13:41 – Web2 Fans vs. Web3 Fans
16:36 – How To Find The First 100 Community Members
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Sidney Swift, Welcome to mint. Thank you for being on. What’s going on?
Sidney Swift: Everything’s good. Thanks for having me.
I’m thrilled to have you a part of season five bigger than Ellen. As I tell everybody, I think a good place to start my friend is your way into crypto. Okay, I think it’s, everybody has an interesting story. How did you get your start into Crypto, and I guess in music in general?
Sidney Swift: So, start into crypto. Well, I’ll start with the music. Just like I always did that in high school. You know, it was like a side you know, come home from school, you know, hang with my friends. We make beats and rap and shit. I like started off as a rapper and then quickly realized that I was more of a behind the scenes kind of guy. So yeah, just I got some internships and originally from Florida. So got a bunch of internships and some studios out there and lucked up like Right place, right time, ended up interning at one of the studios called Hit Factory that’s like, where young money cash money was, like, kind of planted home base there. So, I got to kind of like, you know, watch, you know, as Drake got signed, Nicky. Wayne was there. And then yeah, just kind of, you know, worked my way through the grind of an internship, getting coffees, sweeping floors. And then one day, like, Jason Derulo was recording. And I was like, Fuck, this is my chance. So, like, I took all my beats and like, I put them onto the computer, and then ran out. And then the next day, the producers that were working with him called me and was like, yo, were those your beats? And I was like, yeah. I went into studio and then like, they like all pissed off because, like, you know, you’re not supposed to, like, you know, do that as an intern or whatever. But I was like, fuck, I’m not going to be, I’m not going to be waiting for another five years until, you know, my shit happened.
So, it just ended up like he loved some of the beats recorded to them. And then that was kind of like the initiation from going from intern to producer and then came out to LA. Quickly after and like, just worked with a bunch of artists, producers, songwriters, like you know, we did Beyonce, we did, Diplo Major Lazer, all that stuff. And just did kind of like the music rounds for a couple of years. And that was kind of also when I started dabbling into crypto This was probably like 2010 ish, 2011 And like, I just remember because like back then weed wasn’t legal. So, like it was like a lightning bolt when like you could buy weed online to the Silk Road. So, I was like oh shit like I’m gonna go you know buy some weed with some bitcoin on the Silk Road. So, I had like at one point I have probably like 1000s of Bitcoin, but I’m set like I’m just like buying grams off of the Silk Road with it. And then like in hindsight now like that shit I made those weed dealers incredibly wealthy but yeah, that was like my first start in crypto I remember having to like to go from my apartment. And like in order to get bitcoin you had to like to go to the Bitcoin ATM. Right? You’ll drive down the street, you’d go into like a Walgreens with had a Bitcoin ATM like you felt like a super fucking hacker. You know, like, crazy, and then you come back and hit the redeposit all that shit.
So, yeah, like, it was like, that’s kind of like my forte into it. And then and then just did the music thing for a while and then around 2000, I don’t know what to say like 2016, 2017 started to get more into the side of things. Because like, I was always into like the gorillas, I was always into, you know, like, quasi motor like idea of like digital artistry and like a anonymity whatever the word is, but yeah, it was like, heavy into that. And it was like a wide-open door at the time, like the gorillas, like, you know, slowed down, like they popped off in the early 2000s. But it was like a wide-open lane. So, we created this like virtual influencer in like 2016 called chill pill. We did a deal with Atlantic Records. We started dropping the project as like a web two artists, you know, like, but we were way too early. And like, nobody understood what we were doing. And like, I would walk into meetings and be like, we have an artist who can do a world tour in one night. Like, do you understand with like, the possibilities of that, like, it takes Beyonce, you know, two years to do a world tour and generate like what she does, like we could do it in one night and like, I was always like, into that, like, you know how big this could possibly be. But I think we were way too early and everybody’s kind of laughed me out the meetings in the beginning.
I mean, luckily Atlanta kind of like took a shot on us, but like, what ended up happening was because I was a producer and songwriter like I didn’t need to spend a lot of the money that we got for songs and beats and studio time. I already had all that. So, we spent all of it on like, you know, game developers and devs. And like it started experimenting in the metaverse back then and like at one point, we had like a motion capture rig where like I could like do studio sessions as the character in mo. cap and invite people in like artists who, it was like a bunch of shit, but like, we’re just having fun experimenting in the metaverse. And then yeah, when NF T started popping off, it was just like a no brainer until like, you know, start to pivot.
So, when you’re when you’re grabbing coffees for people and sweeping floors and doing a lot of the internship, like did you learn anything from that? Yeah, the OG sweeping floors. Yes. Yeah. Did you learn anything from that? Did you take anything away from that? It’s such an, I only ask because that’s the intro for a lot of people getting into the industry right, like entertainment, music, Hollywood, whatever.
Sidney Swift: Yeah, especially the entertainment industry. That’s different tech, right? Is tech, like, you know.
Code. Come on in. Yeah.
Sidney Swift: But like, like, yeah, in entertainment different. But I guess what it taught me was like, it kind of, like, it’s funny, the way that studios usually works back then was like, you know, you would hire 20 interns, right. And like, by week two, or three, there’d be three people left, you know, because not many people want to do bench work, you know, and not get paid for it. So, it kind of really quickly weeds out. Like, who has what it takes like to, like, withstand all the like, you know, long nights in the studio and like the, you know, I mean, the way artists work, I mean, sometimes I would get in the studio at 9pm. And we wouldn’t leave till 9am. You know, that’s just the way creativity works. So, like, you kind of have to be prepared for like, this, like, grinding mentality of like, you know, you never know when inspiration is gonna come, you want to be ready for it. And I think those early years kind of really, like, gets you ready. For like, that lifestyle. And it also like, I have so many people telling me like and asking me like, yo, you’re crazy. Like, why are you going into the studio for 12 hours a day, just sweeping, like not getting paid? Like, you went to school for this? Like, why are you doing it for free. And like, I always just like, you know, I always like try to think about, like, the mentality of like, I would rather be sweeping a floor in like this studio, like, you know, than, like, getting paid to do it at, you know, somewhere where I don’t want to be, you know, like, you know, so like, I would just grind bro and be like, during the day, I would work nine to five, during the night I would do the studio shit and like, it was just, you know, just me like, just kind of like proving to myself like that I had what it takes, like, I was gonna outwork everybody type shit, you know, and that’s really what I learned the most out of it.
Hustle Energy: What’s Your Cultural Background?
You know, like sabotaging that environment and popping up your beats on the screen that takes a lot of balls. Like, it takes a lot of, it takes a certain characteristic to do something like that. What’s your cultural background? Like where are your parents from? What’s your heritage, I only ask that because those traits, those like the hutzpah trait kind of like, I don’t know, it gives me different vibes. And I’m curious, what’s your cultural background?
Sidney Swift: I mean, like, I’m, you know, from America, like, my parents are from America as well. But like, my pops is Jewish, like, from like, the Russian descent side.
There it is.
Sidney Swift: Like, we had like a little mix, like, you know, mixed heritage and like, you know, I think like, really, where it came from was, like, my pops as an entrepreneur at heart and like, before, even like, music or anything like that used to, like, go to the office, like, and watch how he works. And like, he would grind from like, nine, you know, to nine, and like, you know, it was, I got to experience early on, like entrepreneurship and like, you know, the idea of like, you got to go for it, like when you have a chance, or else it could slip through the cracks and like, you’d never get that chance again, right? That’s always kind of been instilled in like, you know, my DNA is just like, I need to like I’m not gonna wait, you know, it’s just funny to bring that up, because it’s like, the biggest shifts in my life, like, and the moments that like take me from like, point A to point B and like, the next iteration of my story or whatever has always been, like the culmination of like, a moment in time when I have to like, go way outside of my comfort zone and just say like, do it like and you know, 90% of people probably would like not do this but like, I’m just gonna go for and it usually, if it doesn’t pay off for me, usually, like, in hindsight, it ends up like, oh, yeah, that’s the decision led to this to lead to that. And like, you know, so it always works out in the end like that.
Yeah. No, I love it. So, your, your vision 2016 way before NFTs existed to do this, like meta star, this virtual character that could travel the world in a day. And create this, like meta figure is very much fits in the context of NFTs, right? Which kind of transitions me into. When did you have that aha moment that this is the perfect medium to do what we envision back in 2016?
Sidney Swift: It’s funny, you say that I know. Brett, is that we’re doing an interview on Brett from launch house to, right? Like.
Yeah, he’s gonna be on.
Sidney Swift: It was at launch house. Like, it was, I had always been into NFTs and always into like, crypto, but like, it wasn’t until like, went to launch house. I’m like saw other builders, you know, like, it wasn’t, they weren’t hidden behind the screen. It was like, right in front of my face. Everybody was like, heavily invested in like, not the like, trading side of things. But like the like potential of the tech. And that’s what I had always been interested in. Right, coming from the entertainment world is like, the potential of what the underlying technology can do. So, like, it was really like launch house that like to be like 100%. Like I don’t even know if Britain knows this. But like, I got back from launch house and like, converted my entire company, from a web two company to a web three company.
Sidney Swift: Like, ended up like literally, because they were like, we had like, like, probably like a 15, 20-person team. And, you know, some of them were into NFT. Some of them were against NF s and I had to like, train everybody. And like, it was just literally like, alright, like, stop what you’re doing. We’re going through like a month of training, I’m gonna, like walk you through why this is important. And like, yeah, we literally, like, converted from that like, and it was such a great decision. And it was, yeah, it really helps.
The team members that were against it, why were they against it? What didn’t they understand? What were they against? What were some of the confusions that sparked you to come and be like, yo, there’s an opportunity here.
Sidney Swift: So, the main, it’s funny, you say that. The main thing is the same confusion that most people have in, most fans having music, which is like, the environmental impact of crypto, like, and that’s first and foremost, like, everybody’s go to like, well, it’s really bad for the environment. Like and, and, you know, it took me like, laying out a whole, like, kind of like presentation.
Explaining logic trail.
Sidney Swift: Exactly, explaining like, yo, the banking system takes up 10 times more like than then crypto does right now. Like any transactions are doing like, it’s just the presentation and the lobbying and all that and the behind the scenes of like, you know, who benefits from what is, you know, skewed right now, but I also feel like it was me explaining to them, like, you know, like, you know, in the early days of the internet, like every, any tech, new technology, right? Like, it always starts with like innovation, and like, and then it, you know, falls into place with like, how that can adapt and scale over like to like, everyday users. So, I think like, right now we’re in that position where like it, everybody needs to be worrying, like mostly about innovating and scaling this, like, you know, then like, rather than just being like, well, we’re not going to touch it until it’s ready. Like, because then nobody’s building.
Web2 Fans vs. Web3 Fans
Right? You know, you bring up the concept, you bring up the concept of a fan. Okay. One of my questions for you is how do you think about the difference between a web two fan and a web three fan?
Sidney Swift: That’s a great question. I think the difference is, that’s a such a good question. I mean, it’s, I like to think about it in terms of like web, instead of web two, versus web three. I like to think of it in like incremental steps to get to web three. So, it’s like, you have a web two person and like that vertical is the person that like, is against NFTs, against crypto. They don’t want to hear about it. They think it’s a scam. They think it’s bad for the environment. Like don’t show that shit to me on my feed. Right? Then you have web 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, like that web 2.5 Yeah, the person that’s like sitting in web 2.5 is like, okay, I’m not against it. I’m not for it. I need to learn more about it like, but I don’t have the time to you know, take that step. So, like and then it’s just about educating from web 2.5 to like, you know, the initial first, you know, moment when you like, get a wallet. And finally find your ground and web three, past the point of like, you know, once you know, one purchase, and then you’re done, like, to really cultivate that fan, like in the web three world, but I think it’s more about like learning the demographic of which vertical you’re dealing with, at the time, and then giving them what they need in order to eventually get to the web three mentality, right? Because people in web two they like just like the employees that I had to like, you know, explain like this. Step one was like, this is, you need to learn more, let me explain to you this stuff. And then they got a little more open minded. And then it was like, okay, let me walk you through some of the lore and like, some projects you like, and some projects I like, why don’t you go find some interesting product like, and like it was slowly weaving into them into it. But like, so I think the only difference between the two is education, is, 1000% education like and then as a business, once you identify the type of fan that you’re dealing with, it goes back to the fundamentals of building a business, which is like, customer satisfaction. So, whatever your product is, whether it’s music, whether it’s, you know, a protocol, whether it’s a Dao, whatever it is, like, are your customer satisfied, like, so, yeah, I think a whole thing right now is education. Right? Like.
How To Find The First 100 Community Members
Yeah, so, part of building that customer base and went through, we call it building a community, right. And it’s incredibly hard to build a community. But if it’s done correctly, it’s incredibly powerful. And the hardest part for many creators is getting started. There’s a lot of buzzwords that kind of get them stuck in the rabbit hole, from understanding how everything kind of works together. But when it comes to actually building the community, it’s a whole another mountain to climb. Right? How do I find my first 100 People that align with my vision? How can I bring them into discord, mutually align them with incentives, and get this entire ship rocking? How do you find your first 100 people to join your community? How did you do it? And what are some tips you can give to others?
Sidney Swift: Slow and steady.
Sidney Swift: Slow and steady for the first 100. Like, I think scaling, you know, I mean, if you if you break it down, like from a numbers game, like going from one to two, and going from, you know, 100 to 1000 is, from a scale scalability wise, it’s like the same kind of leap, you know, without 1000, like, you’re doubling your customer, or whatever, like, you know, so like, you’re growing it at an exponential rate. So, like, you want to take the same kind of like thought, every, like, every time you’re like, I would say 10 axing your customer base. So going from like that first one person, like, think about, like, how much it takes to like, really convinced one person, and then it’s just tweaking and thinking like, okay, so how do I scale that a little bit to like, move to 100 people, right, and then taking the time to tweak their approach. And once you have that, 100 people, it’s scaling to 1000. But like, in the beginning, it’s about persistence, and like, pleasant persistence, and like, you know, like, just making people feel emotions that are positive, right? That’s all people ever want is just to feel good, like, and they don’t want to feel bad. So, it’s like finding like those first 100 people and finding like, what you how do you make people feel good, the best? What can you provide, like for them? And then just doubling down on like that, and like spending, you know, the majority of your existence, like, making sure that, that your community feels good and is excited, and is happy and like, you know, it’s funny, because, like, I think like, going through a couple of drops on our own and learning like, about community building through the whole process. I think that something that a lot of people forget, because it’s easy to get wrapped up in the space and like, what the, like, current trends are for the moment.
But like, one of my big beliefs right now is, you know, I have a shirt that says expectations minus reality equals happiness. Right? And like, I kind of like that’s like my mantra going into like, communities that I’m joining, you know, NFT projects that I believe in, like everything like, because at the end of the day, if I have no expectations, and then you, and then you beat them, it’s like, I’m happy as a customer. Or, again, if you don’t, then, you know, I’m, I’m upset, or if expectations are different than what I assumed they would be, you know, so it’s like, finding that way to, like, cultivate customers or community or whatever you want to call it, cultivate that community to, like, not have expectations, but just be there for the cause and the mission, and the people, you know, and then, like, truly be there for the community. Because then when you start to sprinkle in utility, you sort of sprinkle in expectations. Like, it’s like, oh my god, I’m so surprised. I didn’t know they could pull that shit off. You know, and that and now that’s how you start to grow and develop, and I think that that’s the most exciting, like, one of the most exciting parts about like, the spec the tight like, I know, it sucks because like we’re in like a downtrend. And like the market is crazy right now, obviously, but it’s really interesting that like, how much recalibration is happening for the strategy of collections and like, not just collections of NFTs but like, it’s like all companies are just re strategizing on like, the promises they’re delivering on like, you know, the types of fans and communities they want to like, you know, associate with or the types of, of like, you know, activations that they’re doing and like, I think that like, it’s a recalibration is really healthy, because we got to a point where it’s just like, you know, every other project was like building a metaverse. You know, like, eventually, you know, and like, that’s like a huge. That’s huge.
That’s so funny. You bring that up, because the default thing that many projects do once, they build their 10k Collective, is they just assume everybody just wants a Metaverse next and that’s where their energy goes towards. And it always struck me as like the second meta came out with their Metaverse rebrand, right? Everybody kind of flipped it like, this is the future like, this is what we’re building towards. This is what we’re doing. This is where we’re going. Everybody’s gonna want that. And it like, it makes me think like, does everybody want a metaverse? You know, how many meta verses do we need? Like, how many worlds do we need to take our PFP project through? I don’t play games like I may not be the right user. I don’t spend time through these virtual worlds. I saw some of the snippets from the board club game as well that were trending on crypto Twitter. And I don’t know, I don’t see myself like spending an hour, two hours, three hours a day just like doing W A S D and just like walking around this metaverse. Like just chilling. You know what I mean? I don’t see it. I don’t see it.
Sidney Swift: I agree. I agree. I think it’s like going back to like, what is your community want? What is your customer? Like, it’s interesting, because like, when you do say things like, you know, we’re building a Metaverse, it’s like, it’s really interesting. Like to see the difference in like, are the community members there? Because they want to play the metaverse game, are they there, because they think that if you build a Metaverse, your NFT will go up in value, and then. So, it’s like, by simply stating that, like, you kind of attract, you’re attracting the kind of that type of customer that has expectations for what that is going to do for your collection. So, it’s like you like for me, like finding the right, finding the right customer bases, you know, and like, and letting the product and I hate to talk about it. And like web two terms like it’s like, because I always go back and forth with my marketing director too, I like, you know, do we say it’s like a community manager? Or do we say it’s like a customer experience, you know, director like, what, there’s no difference, you know, except like a company manager does social media, but everything’s merging right now. So, like, at the end of the day, it’s just like, what do your customers want pre-mint? What do your customers want post-mint? And if you can align those two, where you’re finding the right customers, pre mint, and then delivering post-mint, you’re knocking out of the park, you know, and like, you know, if those don’t align, then you find yourself in like a really interesting.
The strategies, the funnels, the under promise over deliver these things that have won the hearts of people in web two, is just rebranded with new keywords in web three. That’s just, it’s just what it is. People still want to feel a part about something, you feel a part of something that hasn’t changed, web three hasn’t changed, web three maybe solidified that even more with better incentives, right? The product is the NFT, the product, we are the product, right? But we’re building collectively amongst each other in this, through this new medium, you know, so I really, I really resonate with a lot what you are saying, it’s funny you bring up the metaverse stuff because I think everybody is just hoping that meta acquires them for something because they’re building a Metaverse and they’re hoping that I don’t know what the strategy is honestly, I don’t know what the strategy is. But to assume that everybody wants to build it like everybody wants a Metaverse because we’ve been living in the metaverse. We’ve been living in the metaverse since 2008. Since Instagram was alive, Twitter, Tik Tok, we live online, right? Meta just rebranded to meta so that they can sell more Oculus, right? Like that’s the whole angle over here. And I don’t know, I’m going on a rant right now, I’m gonna shut up.
Sidney Swift: Well, I agree with you 1,000%. Like the minute like, I think people like I think people forget, like the macro term of Metaverse is just like, it’s the internet with web three technology. You know, so it’s interoperable. Like that said, it’s like an interoperable internet like, and like, you know, so like, on the grand scheme of things like, you know, Twitter is the metaverse right now, you know, like.
Sidney Swift: Discord is the metaverse like.
Sidney Swift: So, like, I think like that’s why goblins nailed it. Man. Goblins fucking nailed it, because like, they realized that they don’t need to build a Metaverse, it already exists. So how do we just give that experience of a Metaverse across all of our Metaverse platforms that we’re already in, like through discord through Twitter, through the smart contract, like, wherever you turn, you’re still in the world of that brand. You know, so you’re still in their Metaverse, which is a really meta thing to say, like, if you scale that out, but like that’s, kind of like, where I feel like, you know, we’re about to start shifting to is like, you know, the realization that like, yo, if that metaphor is already exists, we don’t need to build one, we can build a better iteration of it, but like, you should do it, what your customers are already living, and not just like, you know, yeah, so that’s how.
The Great Traits of a Community Manager
I hear you, bro, I hear you, we’re on the same page, you know, you talked about like marketing directors, community managers, my next question to you is what goes into, I guess? Like, what are the traits, for example of a great community manager? What does that entail?
Sidney Swift: So much.
Give it to me in like a five-point breakdown, three to five-point breakdown.
Sidney Swift: Like a good community manager is an organizer. Like, I think in terms of like, the people organizer. Like it has the traits of like, a founder, or a politician. And I don’t mean like the bad parts of the politician, but I mean, like, the parts of a politician where like, you can get in front of people and say, your mission and people, like, want to rally behind it. And I think a community manager, you know, has those traits of like leadership in the form of like, extroverted leadership. And then I think, like, a good community, I mean, shit, like, now I’m talking it out loud, like, a good community founder is like, it’s a good community manager is a good founder. You know, and they think that like, I think, yeah, like, you know, rallying people behind, like a cause. What else I think like.
Like, what are some of like, the soft skills, for example, because right now in crypto, the two most in demand types of people are developers, and community managers, right, developers, that’s not my wheelhouse. I don’t know what goes into finding a great developer. But I feel like I have a good sense of what entails, what traits kind of like comprise a strong community manager, but you’re on a community, you guys have hundreds of 1000s of people listening to the chill pill music that you’ve kind of created this 9999 PFP community around, right. And it’s no easy feat. Like, those are 1000s of people that have incentives aligned with the success of what you build Sidney and on top of that, everybody that listens to that on Spotify, and Apple Music, etc. Also align with that. So, it’s less maybe about having what goes into a great discord moderator, right. But it’s also kind of like managing the entire brand as a whole, because the people who listen on Spotify are also part of your community. Right? And probably the people who hold also hold your collectibles. also listen to the music, but probably not everybody who listens to the music hold the collectible. So, there’s an interesting like, mix over here of sure. You don’t want to get too lost in the sauce of what happens in discord because there’s more to this community beyond a few servers, right? Yeah. So, I guess like, because you’ve built companies, you have people working for you, you started projects, you had this vision for this meta character, you know, this meta star. And yeah, I guess like bringing it all together. I mean, it’s a founder’s point of view. So maybe you can take it from the point of what goes into a great founder, I guess in web three.
Sidney Swift: Yeah, exactly. I mean, like, you nailed it, like, you know, the community does not just live on Discord like, and, you know, like going back to the old point, like, you know, the metaverse is wherever your customer is, at that time, you know, digitally. So, a good community manager like is somebody who can identify what is reacting, what the community is reacting to, and give the community the tools to build off of what they’re reacting to the most. And then identifying the leaders within the community, and their superpowers. And then in enabling them or incentivizing them to rally their subsection and their superpowers of the community, you know, so like, a good example is like, you know, we have a music community manager, Joe, who’s incredible. Joe was a chill pill fan. Before we even were at NFT. We’re in an NFT project. He was like, you know, always commenting on our stuff. He was doing what a social media manager should be doing on the on the daily, right, like commenting on stuff, responding, retweeting all that. And then like, when we went to, we went to a studio called the Record Plant the month before we mint it, and did like a lot because we were like, how are we going to doc ourselves, like, how are people going to understand like that, like this NFT equals music. So, like, we kind of like, planted our, you know, our project in a major music studio and said, like, yo, everybody come through, like, this is where our home bases and like, early on. And like one of the Twitter spaces, we were talking about, you know, music and all this, you know, what the project has means to us and everything. And Joe started talking about how excited he was and how, like, he’s been following this and whatever. And somehow, I don’t exactly remember what the lead to this, but like, it ended up the conversation going to like, yo, why don’t you fly out to the studio, and like, Come hang out with us, because you’ve just been so like, down and like a such a big believer in this project from the jump.
So, he was like, Yeah, let’s go like, if you guys, I have a couch to stay on. Like, let us let me know, and I’ll come flat. So, he flew out and ended up like, you know, being there during like the sellout, hanging out with us, like, you know, ingraining himself into the community. And then like, you know, post-mint, you know, I saw that, like, the majority of the community was like craving more music activations, more listening sessions, more of that, you know, that vertical. And it just like, it just like made sense, like that Joe was already doing that he already believed in the project, he loved it. So, like, we were like, Joe, Joe, do you want to run, like the music community side of things, and he like, he’s been killing it. He hosts community songwriting sessions on Discord and Twitter, where we’ll have like, 1000 people, like, come in and write one song together, you know, and he runs those events, he like, runs the listening sessions, the beat battles, it’s like, we have like, just so many music, like focused activations, and he runs them all. And, and then what, and then he’s so good at like, also, like he’ll recognize somebody’s, like, a really dope producer, out of the crew, and then he’ll be like, yo, like, why don’t I, you know, why don’t I do, like, let you handle the next couple, you know, music production sessions, you know, and starts to empower the people that like him are, like, involved in the community from the jump and, like, do it naturally. And I think that’s the best community managers, are the people that are excited about the project, believe in the project, 1,000% they live, eat and breathe community and the project’s mission.
And then they’re able to organize people and give them, you know, the tool sets that they need to take the brand and run with it. And like, you know, I mean, that’s the beautiful part about when we’re building it all together. So, like, you know, like, you know, some somebody can submit to us a song, or an idea for a song. And then we can go to the other producers and be like, yo, like, do you guys want to work on this song, and then they send it back to us. And then we send it to our artists and then the artists make some stuff with it. So, it’s just like, you know, interactivity within the community and like that one person driving that needs to be the community manager like, and it need to be so like I said, live, eat breathe, community. It’s like an incredible personality. trait to have right is like being that kind of always on person.
Yeah, I think, Sidney I think I completely agree with you. I have a different take. I think the best community managers don’t manage communities. They empower others to create sub communities. And within that, people congregate independently and have a great example. Okay? Great example is Lady Gaga is probably one of the best community managers ever alive. Why? Because look at how many people created sub communities just on Lady Gaga, I’m looking on Facebook groups for everybody that’s listening on audio only, right? But you have 51,000 members, 21,000 members, people posting 10 plus things a day. They organize independently. And this is without incentives. Right? This is without align incentives to see the success of Lady Gaga, they’re just doing it because they love Lady Gaga, because they aligned with her why, they aligned with her purpose. And through that they create sub communities, and they find other people that align with their why and their purpose. I think the best community managers don’t actually manage communities. They empower others to create sub communities around their purpose. I think that’s what it comes down to. Because this right here, this is an army. This is a fucking army that I’m scrolling through right now, right? This is something that not one individual person can create on their own, can manage Lady Gaga does not manage all these people, it has to come from within the person. Right? And it has to be empowered through independence.
Sidney Swift: 1,000%. Like, especially if you want to community to scale, right? Because, like, you need to figure out the ways in which like, I mean, everybody’s different. And like you nailed it, like sub communities inside of the generalized brand, like you know, going back to like Lady Gaga or even Nike, you know, like, there are runners, there are basketball player like they’re athletes within, you need you need people that are excited about those sub-genres, you know, within it. Yeah. 1000s.
You know, it comes also Flexi from a technical and feature point of view, sub communities can form based off rarity traits, right? Let’s talk about board ape for a second. Okay, so you have the golden apes, you have the board like the one type of facial expression ape, you have all these different variations and all of them kind of congregate, congregate together. For punks. You have the purple hat groups, you have the 3d eyes, right? The three lenses’ glasses, right, you have all these sub type of features that people can independently form a collective around without there needing to be a community manager, right? They find alignment within the features and the rarity traits that kind of bind them together. And they have aligned incentives that take them all the way to the top or to the bottom. You know, and I think that’s the most interesting part about a bear market too, because the bear market, it destroys all the noise. It weaves in quality over quantity, right. And with that, when you’re going through cycles, and you’re going through the highs are highs, the highs are fucking high. You’re celebrating what but when the lows, they can get pretty low. And that’s when you get really tight. Like that’s when the bond it solidifies. Right. And I remember back in season one of the podcasts, I had Dave from Play coin, okay, a social token project. Okay, it has more liquidity, it fluctuates, I think more than the general typical NFT. And he was saying, he’s like, my community got the strongest in a bear market. And it weaved out all the bullshitters, who were just here to flip and fuck around with our token. And we really, we stood and stuck with our purpose during the bear market. And these low prices allowed us to solidify that energy internally, right? And what I’m trying to say is that bear markets are beautiful, bear markets are good. They’re great for communities. You know, that’s the takeaway from this monologue. And I just gave.
Sidney Swift: I agree, 1,000% man, like, don’t get me wrong, it’s sucks to get wrecked. And like, I’m not, I’m not endorsing. I know you’re not either endorsing like. But I do agree with you in the sense that like you need consolidation, or else like there’s no world in which we live, like, where Crypto consistently rises forever, and there’s never a red day or there’s never like, you need the ying yang in order to, in order to even make there be a good and a bad right. So like, I think that like what, like if you’re presenting like the glass half full version of this bear market, it’s exactly what you said, which is you really get to see who’s here for the reasons other than making a quick buck flipping, you know, flipping NFTs or in and out like you really get to see who’s down for the mission behind everything you know, and I mean that sediment traves like through web two and web three, right is like you need, even when you’re building a company like you want the company culture is everything. And it’s like now with the NFTs. And on web three, it’s like the community culture is everything. So, it’s really just scaled that whole idea. It’s exciting.
Web3 Music Movement
Yeah, another thing I want to talk to you about is very much up your alley, and very much on the theme of chill pill is where music meets web three, okay. In the last four or five, six months, things have gone out of control. We’re seeing a wave of creativity of music artists just entering into the space, finding their creative liberation, finding new collectors, building true fans, etc. With aligned incentives. What are your thoughts on this entire movement? Like, what’s your thesis on entire like music NFT movement, right, and you can take this also, and I’d love for you to take it from your lessons learned working in web two music, and how that’s kind of, like, led you on the path to web three music as well, you know, I’d be curious to hear different takes on that.
Sidney Swift: Yeah, I mean, like, from my experience until you hit a certain threshold in web two world of music, or any web two world of entertainment, like, it is really hard to make a living, you know, I mean, just from personal experience, like, you know, I will make, you know, 10,000 beats, you know, or I’ll spend that 10,000 hours making beats, and, you know, a successful producer or songwriter maybe gets, you know, a couple cuts a year, if that, you know, the 1% of the 1% are getting, you know, hitting every album, but like, the majority of successful producers and songwriters in the space, like, you know, they get a cut here, they get it on this album but like, it’s no more than five, you know, cuts, Tennant cuts. So, like, if that’s the majority of what drives the ecosystem, like the other 9999 hours spent making music is just there. Like just sitting there, like, you know, and like you’re not, it’s really, really hard to monetize that, you know, and that’s talking about the 1% of people that actually do get the cuts, like the 99% of people who like are trying to get to that 1% is like so the, the grind for any kind of creative industry is incredibly difficult to, like, make a living out of, and so like, I think web three changes that model 1,000% And it like gives all the power back to the creative to, you know, to make things of value for their audience immediately. And monetize the entire experience rather than just like, you know, the end product of like a song going to market, you know, like something that we’re working on is a plugin, an audio plug in, which is like, you know, when you’re making music, you use plugins to like, either do sounds or make reverbs.
so we’re making one and it’s going to be like the first you know, community made plugin by the community for the community, we’re going to, we’re going to launch that probably in the next like, couple months or probably sooner than later and then and the idea behind it is like, you know, we want one to give our community access to the code base for the plugin, so they can build on top of it and like talk about you know, sub communities like you know, if you’re into music and you’re into coding, you get to play around with this you know, this plug in that we like kind of started for the community and build on top of it, add new reverb, add new delays, add new sims like and the big vision for it is token gated, so that there’s, token gated for the coders and then create like a some kind of internal staking mechanism where like, you can earn crypto as you’re using the plugin and creating the music.
So, like getting paid for the 10,000 hours that like you know, you’re working, you’re actually generating income from it. And, like so like things like that were like crypto, empower and web three empower, like creatives to have opportunities that they like, normally wouldn’t have had with the old model, you know, and the old systems at play, you know, even just artists just being able to, like, you know, sell an NFT for one Eth. You know, like, what I mean, not now but like previously, like, you know, before the bear, like when Eth was at 4k, one Eth equal the same amount as 1 million streams. And that’s if you own 100% of the song. And the majority of songs have co writers and co producers work together. So, like, you know, if you have a million streams, and you have a band of four, you’re only making $1,000 per stream. And then that’s not even counting, like, you know, management fees, and, like, you know, label fees and all that shit. So, like, there is not a lot of money in streaming. So like, they’re like, I think like, the interesting part about going direct to consumer is that like, you can begin to, web three artists can begin to target the web three vertical and monetize immediately, instead of having to wait for their song to hit a million streams and then Spotify to pay the label and then the label to pay the artists nine months later, you know, like, that’s an unrealistic funnel. So, I think that currently, it’s an incredible opportunity to get into for artists and dude, like, I mean, shit over the next couple of years. It’s even, it’s gonna get even crazier. Like, I think, very quickly, artists are going to realize that they that they don’t need these labels, you know, especially labels that don’t adapt to this new tech and like, include it and like, help them use it, you know? So yeah, yeah, it’s exciting.
I think that’s a mic drop moment right there, before I let you go, man, where can we find you? Where can we find more of the project? Show it away.
Sidney Swift: at Sidney Swift is my Twitter. The project is chill pill or it’s at I am Joe pill. I think it’s, yeah, I am chill pill on Twitter. Yeah, that’s like, that’s where we live the most. You know, from there, you can kind of explore all of the different shit we got going on.
Sick. Amazing, dude. Thank you so much, we’ll have to do this again soon.
Sidney Swift: Yeah, dude, I’m excited. I’ll see you NFT NYC. Right?
Mint Season 5 episode 16 welcomes Alex Masmej, creator of $ALEX token and co-founder of the web3 Instagram alternative Showtime.xyz, joins Mint to share why free NFTs will be the trojan horse for creators and new users during the 2022 bear market.
In this episode, we discuss:
00:36 – Intro
07:44 – Showtime’s Origin Story
13:01 – The Evolution of Social Tokens and Creator Coins since $ALEX
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Alex Masmej: Yo, yo, yo. Bang, bang.
Bang, bang. Now that’s Pomp’s thing, I can’t do that on the show.
Alex Masmej: Back to pop when I came in before he said it. Like what the fuck? Mint, mint.
Mint, mint, bang, bang. Thank you for being on. What’s going on?
Alex Masmej: Yeah, I’m doing awesome. I was traveling in France and New York. Maybe I’ll go to New York for NFT NYC next week.
Alex Masmej: Recording maybe? I don’t know, I made FOMO last minutes. What about you? How is it going?
I’m going, I’m going off to NYC, gonna hang there, this is gonna come out on Tuesdays. So, whoever is going to be listening on Tuesday hit me up. Hope to see you around. But welcome to mint, first time on mint, iconic, bigger than Ellen, bang, bang, bang and all these good things. I’m stoked to have you on my friend. A lot of white Mint is here today is because of your entrepreneurial type of mindset, starting the social token movement and kind of sparking this web three creator journey that a lot of us are on. So, I think a good place to start. Okay, for those who don’t know who you are, okay. Who the hell are you, Alex? What does the world need to know about you? But more specifically, how the hell did you get into crypto?
Alex Masmej: All right, sure. So, I guess I grew up from Paris. And I grew up in Paris from zero to 18. And at 18. I studied in the UK. So now I’m bilingual,l as I speak English. And then at 23. After learning about entrepreneurship, and startups, I was always touched by Steve Jobs. Since I’m like 12. I decided to pick a company, sorry to pick an industry that I would work on and really focus heads down for the next 10 years. And so, I think I picked like AI, VR and web three crypto. And at the time, crypto was the one I wanted to list to focus on. But that is it became so obvious that like, anyone can join crypto, it’s very low barriers to entry. It’s kind of like the internet. And I was like, if I want to be a legendary founder, having a massive impact in the world, web three is probably the best industry to spend my 20s in. And it’s going to massively impact the world positively. And so, I decided to join crypto in like 2018, 2019. And I was like 21 something and I joined meta cartel first, which is one of the pioneering Daos, it was based on Moloch Dao, which is kind of like a multisig, where if you disagree of where the funds are going, you can rage quit, and you cannot spend your money. And so, it was a nice way to align people on the same financial decision.
And so, meta cartel was giving grants to startups, it was the bear market, everyone was poor in 2018, 2019. And I discovered some amazing minds like Peter Pan, Cooper Trooper, way before, you know any of those guys were big in crypto Twitter, that was very exciting. I created even my own project that because I’ll give you a grant called rockets, which was NFT as a collateral way before it’s time or NF Ts were a thing. Then I created a marketing Dao with the CMO of consensus and a couple of other forks, other also a Dao, marketing Ethereum and trying to be better at comps and stuff. And then COVID happens, and you know, I was broke. And I was just living off of grants and free flights. And you know, the crypto gift economy that people were willing to give me with Daos and stuff. And I had no choice, but you know, I stuck in Paris. It was I remember March 2020; the Crypto market was crashing. I had like a small Freelancer a gig for like a company that was overfunded that was paying me a little bit every month. And so, I got cut all of that. And I even got screwed up in a defi protocol. And I lost like 80% of my savings.
So, it’s March 2020. And I’m like, I’ve got all of those insights and experimentations and I have to do something, or I’ll just be like a normal guy, you know, doing a normal job in Paris, I was stuck in Paris at my parents’ house. And I remember I had done the Alex token, because Peter Pan flew me out and he wanted me to repay his debt that that he landed me for that flight to my first crypto conference. And he was like, let’s create a token so you can repay me later. Later it was called Alex Masmej lauch 2019, So I had a lot of experiments in rocket them up to Dao, all the stuff I talked about. And I was like, let’s just use one of my experiments. So, the Alex token, which was not really used for anything, it didn’t really work out. It was just like a one hour of my time for like, you know, X number of tokens. I was like let’s use it, but this time as like a crowdfunding tool. That was way before Mirror XYZ, was live, let’s use it to, you know, say I want money to move to San Francisco, and to start a very ambitious company and later on protocol.
And you know, I need the money as a safety net. And I want to create a cryptocurrency where, you know, like, holders can be accessing some new stuff, they can get my future salary, you know, a portion of my future salary. And so, I came to ECC, in real life in 2020, just before COVID was closing down everything. And I said, I’m raising $20,000, to move to San Francisco. At the time, I was so scared, I have never, ever had a salary in my life. And I was promising the mainstage that I would pay back with my salary, but I’d never had a salary, it was very scary and terrifying. And I was like, I don’t think I’ll ever raise the $20,000 and weeks later, I do a medium article because as I said, mirror was not a thing. There was no crowd fund, there was no mirror race, whatever. And turns out, I raised the $20,000 in like four days from really incredible people like Jacob from Zora, or infinite for meta mask. And just like really good people, it was like, it was kept at a hotcake of like, my salary given back. So, it was not like a VC investment. It was like, you know, I’m just giving stuff I don’t really expect anything in return. But maybe the Alex token will go up if you ever become like a big founder. Right. And so that’s kind of the Alex token story. And then it blew up on social media. I kind of went on TV, I did a lot of podcasts. I even created other stuff like I had like a deep fake of myself that you could like speak to and pain Alex stuck in.
I had controlled my life, which also went very viral with Austin Griffis defend developer from defend Foundation, where basically like a vote in my in Alex token like one token, one vote could decide what I would do in July 2020. That went viral. It was kind of like the early days of snapshot like this experiment, voting was inspired snapshot like a guy from balance or just left to do snapshots. And Alex, voting on my life was the first token votes on Snapchat. Anyways, so like, a lot of things went viral consistently with the Alex token. And fast forward, I got my visa and living in the United States. And I saw the NFT boom coming. And I was like, that’s perfect. I always wanted to do a company. That’s why I did the Alex token. And to me, my social token needed a social media, I needed a platform to be on, the token part is the easy part that was already hard to do. But I needed a platform. And, and yeah, I started Showtime in early 2021. And we can talk more into the history of Showtime.
Showtime’s Origin Story
Yeah, why did you start Showtime? Why was that the next obvious thing to do?
Alex Masmej: So, to me, like the crypto space is, as always been very financial. It was all about speculation. And I understand speculation can be good. But the NFT space and the crypto space as a whole because NFTs were not even a thing. When we started short time. It was just people I’d done a sale. But that was basically it. To me, like the space was too transactional and not enough about social and to me like crypto cannot sustain its growth with only self-motivated people. Like right now it’s crypto natives. It’s people who are obsessed with crypto. And they philosophically agree with crypto, so they install a wallet. And that’s kind of how people are independently joining crypto. For crypto to break into mainstream it has to go through. You know, your friend telling you about it. Like it sounds very simple. But there’s no app where your friends tell you to use it in crypto, it doesn’t exist right now you need a friend to onboard you to philosophically tell you in crypto to listen to a podcast. There’s no real app where like, you’re just like, oh, yeah, like I’ll just get it. And then this will trickle down to millions and billions of users. And so, we’re really focused on a social platform. And people don’t actually, you know, are not as excited about money as they are about social stuff and culture.
This is why NFTs boomed. But NFTs people didn’t learn from their friends. They learned it from media headlines. So, it’s like yeah, like we saw some potential with NFTs. And they started becoming viral. But it was mostly about the prices. And you know, the media headlines versus people actually using them, right, like open sea, even though it’s a massively successful company, still doesn’t have over a million users. They have like 1.6 million users, but that’s on genetics. People have multiple wallets. And it’s one-time users. So, like, you know, that’s the potential of crypto, if a million users can shoot up over 20 to 15 billion valuations. I think it’s very exciting to try to invent the web three protocols and products that will guide the next 100 million users. And you know, Stan was one of the first ones, but now there’s lens protocol. There’s forecaster, there’s web three WhatsApp coming up called Bilanz. Like there’s a lot of very exciting social media, even Vitalik is talking about it with cell bound tokens and the paper he wrote. So, I think this next cycle is going to be on social media, on web three social media. And I’m extremely excited about it. And I’ve been preparing it for years. So that’s why I started showtime.
So personal tokens slash social tokens, they came to fruition mainly because of you. And you have about like, one more year out of the three that you committed to revenue sharing with your 30 holders.
Alex Masmej: Yep. Exactly.
Two years into the experiment. Okay. Did it did it pan out, as you imagined so far?
Alex Masmej: Honestly. Yeah. I mean, better. Like, I was always extremely ambitious. So, like, I don’t think I’ll ever say, oh, like this is way more than I expected. This is exactly what I expected, I expected to raise from the best investors to move to San Francisco. And then to really dedicate the next few years of my life to building a world changing startups. But salary wise, at the time, I remember, like it felt weird, promising future income that I’ve never gained. But turns out I met him versus co-founder, you know, I’m making a six-figure center salary. And so, for holders, it’s actually way more than the maths that I was giving them because I think I needed to do like to make $60,000 per year or so to break even. But I’m way more than breaking even. I don’t think I’m going to 5x or 10x. But like they are getting their money back. And it was also a fun journey. I don’t think even people did it for money that much but did not cost them money. It was fun. And they’re part of the first social token in history, which is very exciting. So, I’m very grateful for them.
So how much revenue have you given to your 30 token holders to date if you’re open to sharing?
Alex Masmej: Interesting? I don’t know exactly. Because so like some I’ve asked like for USDC. Very famous, like coin market cap competitor, founder asked me for USDC. I mean, yeah, some people some sometimes I’ve like did it in Alex, LP tokens on Uniswap, it was very weird. I would say. I don’t even know honestly; I think I’ve probably given back roughly the same. So, I’ve probably given back $20,000, maybe a little bit more so far. But however, does a Euro left. So, the Euro left now is a bonus for them.
If there’s an exit that show time, everybody’s gonna be really, really happy.
Alex Masmej: I think, yeah, like we’re brainstorming it. I don’t think I can promise anything. But I think it’ll be very exciting to time showtime, maybe even if it’s just personally not via company, because that would not work legally. But I’ll be committed to like, like, you know, reward people with the Alex token, especially the early ones. But I can’t commit to anything because I don’t want to have any investment advice or anything.
The Evolution of Social Tokens and Creator Coins since $ALEX
There’s never any investment advice given here. Okay, so how have personal coins sort of evolved since the launch of Alex token? It’s quite a journey.
Alex Masmej: So, the story is very interesting, because I launched social tokens kind of out of desperation, almost like it was like a forced innovation. He was like, if I don’t innovate, I literally cannot say if I have to get a job. And I did it. And it very, very, it triggered a lot of people’s instincts about the fact that it was a little bit like black mirror because it was kind of like undeterred servitude, meaning that, you know, I would be liable to my shareholders. And that’s kind of a weird dynamic. Also, people push back because they were like the opposite where oh, like you actually have too much power. It’s the opposite of black mirror. Well, actually, now you can record people. And that’s not trustless like Defi. I had some push backs. I have a lot of people who really liked it. Other people did it. Actually Kerman, Callie a founder and newsletter writer and crypto. Also did like a few weeks after also raising $20,000. So, I think it just did a massive amount of noise. That got me very excited because crypto doesn’t do noise very often. So, it did with NFTs, social tokens also, although it doesn’t have product market fit as much as NFTs did a lot of noise every time, sometimes for the worse. So, as I said the Alex token had its critics. It also you know, big clouds also had its critics because it started trading tokens without people’s consent and that pissed a lot of people off rightly so.
And so, to me, you know, a lot of people got excited, even Cooper Turley actually like started being like a social token manager and coin artists did one and other very prominent people did one brand slant did one. And I think what people started realizing is that community tokens are better like friends with benefit started. And so, the personal token, the narrative shifted, I remember there’s like a podcast on seat club or something where Jess and like Patrick Firmare are basically saying, well, social tokens versus, like Alex were fun, but it seems like community tokens are better because look at C club and look at friends of benefits and look at others.
And so, this shifted. And I was like, Man, I don’t really get I don’t really agree with this. And like, I even wrote a blog post on Andreessen Horowitz, future.com blog about this, where I’m like, crater tokens, personal tokens will boom before Dao as will. But right now, I guess crypto is kind of clunky. And people love chatting on Discord. And so temporarily, you know, community tokens are winning. But I’m very excited about the future of creator tokens. Because every time it’s been tried, it really became viral way more than friends with benefits, way more than C club it really started, like people were like, oh, being early in a creator, I get it. And you know, I think there’s a lot of things to say about creator tokens, and I’m happy to dive into it more.
If you were to do Alex again, would you go the fungible route or the non-fungible route?
Alex Masmej: I think I would probably go the non-fungible route, if I had to do it another time.
Why is that?
Alex Masmej: Well, I could go like the crowdfunding route again. And so maybe I would have done it on mirror dot XYZ, for instance, with the NFT crowd fund, but I think, you know, even the Alex token before my Crowd Fund started at zero. And so, to me, the psychological, you know, dollar ticker next to an experiment that starts at zero is weird. I think NFT to a better place for that, especially free NFTs, I would have probably maybe made a drop a Free NFT drop of Alex tokens. And I’m like, hey, like, you know, I’m taking 10% royalties, and I’m giving you access to like XYZ things. And the trading would have maybe made me some money or, to me, yeah, like I yeah, I think I would have thought at least I’d have NFT craft on mirror or try to do something for free to more people and have something at scale, like maybe like a bigger group chat or a zoom call, or people voting on my life would have like used it. And that would have made me some money somehow, like, I would say, like most expensive Cryptos start at zero. And even like board apes were like very cheap or even free to mint and crypto things were free to mint. I think started without price as a NFT is probably better and feels more like a badge than a currency. So, I’ve probably started with the NFT, if it was the case today, but at the time NFTs were not even a thing. It was very, very little.
Thesis on Web3 Social
Yeah. So, I want to put it back to showtime. Okay, what is your thesis on the web three social movement? What does that really entail?
Alex Masmej: So, to me, content creators are vastly under monetized. I think this is not, you know, a very crazy thesis to have. Everyone knows this. I think that web three social lets you own your content. So, like, you know, NFT can literally be a piece of social media content, like a podcast episode, a photo, or whatever. And that is extremely valuable. Like, you know, Facebook is worth a trillion dollars owning all the NFT is of everyone. Plus, it’s only using it as a black box for advertisers. So, for one used case NFTs because it’s composable can have not one used case, but a million used cases, meaning that the total value if we unlock Facebook, as a web three platform will be even bigger than Facebook. So, there’s literally trillions of dollars of value that could be liberated, given to people who actually produce the value. And that’s extremely exciting. And so, in concrete terms, if you’re a podcaster, maybe you can sell an NFT of sponsor slots. And literally you get an inbound of all the 30 seconds audio clips you receive that were purchased, that you know you can just plug into your podcast and dramatically and that makes it very easy.
So, like sponsor slots is just one idea. Or you know, Beyonce fans for instance, if they ever want to buy tickets at a concert, tickets sold out in a second for Beyonce, and they feel ripped off like they’ve listened to her songs way more like they deserve, they’ve done work to prove that their fans, they deserve to get some VIP access. You know, like I feel like social media not only doesn’t monetize well, but he’s extremely superficial. Like social media is really maximum with right now. Especially with Tik Tok right like Tik Tok, a follower on Tik Tok really means nothing, It means like you double tap and you clicked on follow, and you like literally gave three seconds of your attention. So, like web two doesn’t make money and it has zero depths. With web three, you can make money. And you can also use those web three assets to create depths like, oh, those are my, you know, fans are like who listen to one show or two shows, or those are like extra, extra fans like it can really recreate how deep of a fan you are to someone. And that’s really good, because right now, sure, everyone is online, there’s millions of people, even billions of people on social media, but we should probably recreate depths of the internet. Because otherwise, you know, it’s very hard to actually get to a community that we like that has high signal, a lot of trolls, a lot of negative people, a lot of, you know, clickbait things can happen when there is no depths because everyone is treated the same, bots are treated the same, bad people are treat the same, insulting people are treated the same. We can change this with NFTs and tokens because we can read the chain on what exactly has, they done. And so, we can have better communities online.
And so, to me, like web three fixes a lot of things about the space, monetization, it fixes the depths of how much of a fan you are, and all the perks that you can get. It also fixes social media addiction, creators are addicted to social media, because they cannot make money unless they really drowned the algorithm and content. If you’re making 100k a year and that’s enough for the city you live in, then you don’t need to be as much plugged then, if you are a user, you’re going to start making money off maybe sharing early fans, sorry, creators and stuff like that. So, like there’s going to be time manager who are going to be like kids in India that no one knows who’s going to discover the next Justin Bieber on like the web three YouTube. And that’s going to be wealthy. So, people are going to realize, wow, I’m making money off social media, as a user or as a creator, that’s changing my life. And I can recognize the value. And so now I don’t have to abuse social media as much because I’m getting the value. The attention economy on web two right now is like I’m giving away my value. But web three gives you back that value. And I think it can really make people understand oh, like my time is very valuable. I could spend it doing something else. Because now I’m getting the money. I know exactly the value that I’m getting in web three. So social media addiction, moderation, depths in concreters, which is very exciting. Obviously, motorization. It’s literally solving a lot of problems. And I think also the obviously bigger and meta one is that people will only join a social network to join crypto and web three, like they don’t care about installing Meta mask or zerion. Those are self-motivated people, which is amazing. And we love those apps.
But basically, the first wallets of people will be created because they need a social media. And so, this also is a massive benefit in itself, which is people will use social media because they’re much better in web three. And then that’s their starting point. And then they can go on to do device stuff, NFT stuff, other, other games and whatever things. But whatever will break out is social because social is literally like a marketing first product, it’s literally the goal of the product is for everyone to use it. And so, if we want to get more people to crypto because it’s so amazing, we should probably have them use a social network, because that’s the only way to get people like the most used apps online are all social networks, there is no way around it. That’s where people hang out. If we don’t create a place for people to hang out in web three, they will not come, and it has to come from other people telling them because that’s how people operate. Not self-motivated, you know, nerds like us. That’s the vast majority of people. And we’re just a tiny minority.
So where does Showtime fit in that thesis then? Because you just explained a bunch of like, why like the purpose behind this stuff, right? So, from a product point of view, out of those problems, which ones are you after?
Alex Masmej: Right? So, I think to me, the best things to do is to be product first, to build a product that people care about. They don’t care about a protocol; they don’t care about just a tool that they use once; they care about a platform to hang it on. And so, with this thesis, there’s many things you can do. You can do a Twitter web three, which is you know, short form text. And so, there’s forecaster who’s very exciting, started by this Coinbase alumni, John Romero, which I’m very excited about. There is Showtime, which in our case is an Instagram, you know, media content. The reason why I chose media was it seems like it’s some of the biggest markets in social media like Tik Tok is massive. Instagram is kind of like slowly decreasing and users but it’s still a massive, massive social network. So, I’m like people care about media based social networks. So, let’s build one and rethink it with web three. And so, in short time, your content is your NFT, your username is maybe an ENS in the future, or at least an ETH address. You know, we are rethinking every primitive with web three. And we just started scratching the surface. The next thing we’re excited as free NFTs, it’s the social media version of NFTs. It’s not about price. It’s about utility. It’s about unlocking something special. For the first time, we have depth in social media, again, where some users are not treated the same as others. And that’s super cool, because that means you can give discounts to some people, you can give, you know, exclusive access to a community or a group chat or stuff like this. And I’m very excited to see because we blocked the price with free NFTs, there’s no way to price, a lot of creators are going to be very creative about what they offer cannot like mirror, you know mirror, a lot of people are really creative about what to crowdfund with. And we’re kind of doing a similar distribution product. But this time, it’s media based. It’s for content creators, podcasters musicians, anyone who has more than 10 NFT collectors, like digital artists, digital artists, they don’t really need a social network. You know, they have open sea the trade, they have maybe music NFT for like the rare vinyls. But for social media, they don’t have a platform. And they need tools like forecaster for Twitter, Showtime for Instagram binance for WhatsApp, those are the future. And every single web three, you know, every single social network today is going to be disrupted by its web three version, it may look a little different, but there will be a text based one and media based one. Maybe they will be aggregators reading a little bit of everything, and millions of different interfaces will come up. But I think this is where we’re heading. And so yeah, Showtime is media based, Instagram, like, but different features, then it’s free.
Understanding Soulbound Tokens
Free NFTs are the Trojan horse, in my opinion for content creators. I think it’s a number one way to build a top-level funnel to find those collectors who will end up buying something from you. I’ve given out 1000s of free NFTs on the podcast over 8000 to date, across every single season in an effort to kind of put a cookie in someone’s wallet, in an effort to kind of learn and prove that they’ve been a part of my journey since that episode. And as I figure out what my content journey is, I can bring them alongside me, right? I think it’s the ultimate when people go absolutely crazy for that people love them. People love free NFTs let alone free shit. And you guys are starting to focus on free NFTs, you just posted a long ass thread on Twitter yesterday, talking about your excitement. And I know this is kind of like what we connected over as well. We share the similar sentiment over that. But elaborate more on that. And I want you to touch upon like soulbound tokens as well, because they very much have a free element to them. Yeah.
Alex Masmej: For sure. Yeah, so as I said, like, it’s really free NFT season, it’s gonna be absolutely incredible. I think we’re like some of the first to talk about this. But free NFTs have been trending on Twitter, some weeks, obviously, you’re very bullish on it. You know, a lot of creators and influencers are starting to tweet about it, Chainsmokers to the free NFT drop. So, like, it seems like there’s some enthusiasm, and it’s only going to increase. I think the reason for free NFTs is very simple. And as I said, it goes back to like caring about mainstream people, caring about social media users, and not crypto native collectors, like some very small niche. And it’s very striking that most people in this world don’t have NFT, it’s very much that simple. And we’re like, how can we make people earn their first NFT? How can we make people own their first NFT? And it’s really that simple. Like, you know, it’s like, well, should they pay for it? Maybe most people can afford $5. So, we can maybe do a like on Polygon like a $5 sale. But then he gets blocked from the App Store, because Apple doesn’t like digital items and Appstore policies have not caught up to NFT innovation. So, we’re like, okay, people like free stuff. Apple like free stuff. The markets are crashing, so people don’t even want to spend money anymore. NFTs are not as blooming and value as before. And so, this is the perfect time to focus not on prices, but on what the NFT can offer.
And so, we want to do free NFT for any creator to share a simple link to their audience, for whatever that is we leave them the expression and some ideas include a private group chat, a private community, you know, showing up to an event, participating to something. The goal I think, is to kind of prove some work. The simplest form would be being early in someone but doing something thing, like proving that you have some depth as a fan, not just a person who randomly followed someone is very exciting. And I think it links to soulbound NFT, soulbound tokens, as you said, because, you know, soul ban tokens. So just to define it is basically nontransferable things, things are tied to you, as a person, as a soul. And I think one early example of that is poups, where it is transferable, poups are NFTs, but people don’t really sell poups, because it tells us about them. Poups is NFT that you gain from attending a crypto conference. And what’s very exciting is that, you know, you get to prove that you are an OG in the space. And, you know, maybe one free NFT or one poups will not give you daps. Because it’s like, okay, you just claim one, that’s like a 10 second action. But what’s very exciting, and what we saw with poups is that the accumulation of poups is interesting.
You know, some of people that are new to crypto, they have one poups from ETH Denver, that’s not that high signal. But people looking at my account, I’ve been in for poups, like events for like three years, I have 22 poups, now the accumulation of them are, it tells a story about my life, like okay, I started a mega cartel, demoted Day 2019. And, you know, those are NFT. So, this can be faked because you can buy them, but we soulbound tokens, I would not be able to buy them. And so, my account will truly reflect this as someone who probably is a human being, because he’s been traveling the world doing stuff. And above doing all of this over the past, over the past three years would be insane. So, like, you know, that’s probably a human. And then this can give you like status, I’m, you know, prominent Ethereum person, because I’ve attended this, I’ve spoken at conferences, I have, you know, poups speaker badges, whatever, self-expression, you know, I care about a woman in web three, because I attended a woman in web three events and have the poup to show it. And so all of those things are the basis of social media, status, self-expression. And so, if you can transfer them, if it’s not about money anymore, if it’s free to get, if anyone can get it, and they can prove something. We are really recreating social networks. But this time, it’s not, you know, virtue signaling. It’s not all of those superficial things. It truly shows what you’ve done. And to me, that’s extremely exciting. And a lot of people in web two, like don’t like social media creators, that seems professional and like seem to be faking their lives and stuff like that. There’s a lack of authenticity that web three can provide with those soulbound tokens and free NFTs.
But human nature is programmed for web to like we are, we spend so much time doing the things acting the way we do on web two, because we naturally, organically are like that, right? posting a picture next to a Bentley on the way to fly in your private jet is some shit that people love to do. And that gets clicks, attention, attribution, all these things, right? Why would web three make that different? That’s just human nature.
Alex Masmej: Well, I think what’s very exciting is that I completely agree with you. And this is why the startups that I mentioned, which is forecaster, Showtime, and Bilanz, which is kind of low key but will come out very soon, are literally copying WhatsApp and, you know, Twitter and Instagram that people absolutely love. Because web three is a financial innovation, and it’s self-custody innovation, but it’s not a user interface innovation. So, we’re gonna keep the same interaction things that probably will also make someone in a private jet, you know, do well, but this ain’t web three, you know, that influencer, you know, let’s say they’re promoting Bentley, they are gonna say, you know, like the first 1000 people liking this, we’ll get some of the money Bentley paid me to do this Instagram post. And that means all of my users have now discounts buying Bentley stuff. Well, I guess Bentley is kind of super expensive. So, it’s a bad example, but it could happen with Nike. And so that way, the social media platform doesn’t take a high person costs and literal users, literal social media users will get discounts from Nike from the money they are giving to the influencer. And the value flow is going to be very exciting to see. So, like, not only you’re gonna get status in web three, but you’re also gonna get money. So, you’re gonna get the best of web two with the best of web three, and people can still flex and do some cool stuff. They can flex even more now because they can literally show their holdings and their earnings if they want to, because it’s got be more traceable and visible. So, I don’t worry about replicating some of those dynamics. But at least users will make money even if they start doing cool stuff, brands will be more loved. Because you know, users will start making money from brands by interacting with them in web three. So now it won’t be a cash grab, it will be about receiving money in value. So, advertising will actually be like giving money. Because the advertising platform does not exist. It’s someone giving money to someone that’s super exciting to me.
How To Make Money Off Free NFTs
There was a gaming creator on the podcast in season one where she did this collaboration later on a few months later with a hardware company for gaming. And she basically allowed her audience who hold the coin to purchase the hardware, but at a discount, and you saw the brands interacting with these on chain provenance and providing utility to fans because she brings in an entire customer base that are loyal with her that can buy these products and services, using their native currency, using their membership paths, using whatever is a value on chain, you know, and seeing brands actually interact with web three native creators by buying into their communities versus doing one off sponsorships is the most interesting thing for me as a creator, right? How can the brand that I collab with actually be a part of my journey for a while not just a one type off transaction where I do swipe up if I have a few conversions? And that’s it, right, like building long term sustainable partnerships on chain. That’s something that’s also really exciting for me using these primitives. I wanted to ask you, what does the monetization funnel look like for free NFTs? What does the value funnel look like? Because if you use NFTs as a top-level funnel, to attract or to reward, right, how do you actually monetize these collectors down the line?
Alex Masmej: Right, so I guess there’s two ways. So, one, either the free NFTs or some utility that people price on secondary markets. And so, there is an open sea. And that’s very exciting, because what it means is that it’s no longer a cash grab, you’re literally giving value with your free NFTs. And as a creator, you only make money. If your fans make money through NFTs, they set them open sea, you get the royalties, everyone’s happy, no more backlash against creators. So that’s great. And also, we’re using polygon and sensations are coming. So, they’re eco-friendly. So, mainstream will not complain about environmental damage to society. So that’s perfect. That’s one thing. So obviously make different apps is valuable, I guess. The second one is, well, now that we are free NFTs, it doesn’t have to be valuable, you can drop 100,000 of them. And then you can maybe like drop some valuable things to those people who hold free NFTs. And the cool thing here is that we differentiate the status from the money. And that’s amazing. With the Alex token, people felt really weird, because they started becoming more and more knowledgeable and known in crypto and notable in the space, and they started making a lot of money. And they were like, can I like sell Alex tokens because I was early in them like I’m a shorting Alex, and we’re going to be not friends anymore with Alex because it feels weird. With free NFTs I would have given them at the start free NFTs. And I would have given the income independent of the free NFTs, so that they can cash out. And you can have financial assets like tokens and NFTs dropped to you. And you can make profit of them. And you can use those discounts to, you know, sponsors and advertisers, but you still keep the status and the self-expression.
And so, if you don’t make finances valuable, which is option one, give valuable things to free NFT holders, and that will be monetizable with royalties and other stuff, but free NFTs and soulbound tokens which are kind of similar in vision are basically like for the first time in crypto, we are using assets that are not financial. And that in turn will means that if you want to Airdrop financial stuff, it will be more precise, and it will be different. And so, you don’t have to sacrifice status or self-expression or stuff like that. Like if you’re a member of friends with benefits, and now it’s $10,000 at the peak of the pull market. Like that’s a very stupid choice to make. It’s like you know, a lot of people would probably sell and leave a great community just because it makes money that should have been a free NFT, and they you get tokens for friends who benefits something that is different and that’s better. And I felt the pain with the Alex token because the accident was like an umbrella of all things Alex and it started getting very confusing because if you don’t get the income and the Alex token boom, and you just have to sort of take shots you’re gonna sell Alex, so it’s kind of the opposite of what I want. It’s people literally turning down the price. And that’s kind of weird like this you are proud of being OG Alex holders. Why should they be forced to sell to make money because the market is much higher.
Basically, status and self-expression don’t have a price You can drop discounts and stuff to your top clients, but you should not as a brand, like have your loyalty program being sellable. That’s weird. And we did this because crypto obviously is very early. We packed everything into NFT and tokens because that’s all we have. But with non-transferable tokens, differentiating both can lead us to monetize via different tokens and NFTs. And so, I actually think that the next pull market will be even crazier and speculation, but this time this discussion will be better oriented. It will be targeted airdrops to actual people so brands and you know, airdrops from companies and projects starting out will be more efficient. airdrops will get more efficient and people they retain their OG status. They don’t have to sell, or they don’t have to question like, when you have ERC 20 us question Is this worth selling? Like, what do I do? Like, no, you can be an OG fan of levy chain, you don’t have to like dump it because now it’s so valuable, like your status as an OG fan is not related to how much money this is worth. And so, if we differentiate both free NFTs can be like a pass, and you Airdrop stuff to that pass, but maybe that pass will be non-transferable. So, we lock in the status and self-expression. So, to me, that’s how we’re going to monetize free NFTs. And also yeah, as I said, royalties, it’s always royalty. That’s very exciting. Because to me, like a million additions, with 10%, royalties given for free probably will get way more money than 10,000 additions sell to like an incredible price to a very few niches of wealthy collectors.
Now, if you go on G Money, he just did his admit, one 1000 membership group, a community online was a free mint to access. And it’s already done 4.2k in secondary volume. And he made nothing off the primary sale, but he’s making 10% off the secondary sale, right. So, it’s cool, because a lot of these new music artists that are coming to the space, they’re experimenting with free NFTs as a way to mint their songs on chain for free to find a few collectors. And then few days later, there becomes a point one floor, a point one eight floor. And with that they get all the secondary royalties that come alongside that. Another thing that I want to see creators’ experiment with is, if I come to a drop, and I mint your collectible, and I pay for it, I want to be able to receive a non-transferable soulbound token. The second I meant that collectible, because if I decide to sell it, I still want to be recognized and known that I was there before anybody else. Have you seen anybody do something like that?
Alex Masmej: Well, to like for the royalty stuff, or like the sound tokens? Well,
Yeah. So, and I’m talking about specifically the funnel of coming to someone’s drop, minting their content and adding a soulbound token.
Alex Masmej: So, I don’t want to leak short term roadmap, but we are literally, we are literally exactly thinking about this, where basically, you could get, what if like your profile was a soul. And that way, it’s easier for anyone to recognize you as a social media user. I think that’ll be very useful. And then you can, we can also make the free NFTs nontransferable, and we can rebrand it something else. And so yeah, I think minting nontransferable stuff is gonna get much, much cooler. And if any creator could have the non-transferable stuff, that’ll be super, super cool.
Downside of Soulbound Tokens
But what about people that don’t want something that’s soulbound to their wallet? Because a lot of people, like many people buy shit that’s never really sold bound to their life in the physical world. Right? It’s like, there’s beauty behind selling something off and getting rid of something. But then this, becomes an opportunity for like Ill minded people to just consistently Airdrop these, like, whatever, these tokens in their wallet as a way to permanently stay in there. And I don’t know, I see a dystopian future kind of evolving from that. Do you think about that? Like, what are your thoughts around the I guess the cons of soulbound?
Alex Masmej: Right, so I guess one thing so like the short-term leak that I just said, which is like we could maybe you have an SPG per profile means that you could move your profile around, so you can see someone else, and all your soulbound NFT sites would go with it. So that would be cool. Because you can make it portable, it’s not soulbound to an address, it’s sou bound to an identity and you can have a multiple one, you can have an anon, you can have like, you know, another, you know, profile identities, so that’s okay. The second thing is about like, you know, everyone Airdropping your stuff, and like kind of ruining your soulbound because everyone’s gonna Airdrop your stuff. Well, that’s why we made free NFTs claimable. It’s like we have precise intent from the user. We make it very easy. We don’t want to like have any friction. It’s literally one click. It’s pretty easy to use. But we don’t want people to be airdropped, scam NFTs all the time. And I don’t think we’re the only one here because you know, Coinbase NFT, open sea, a lot of companies are literally blocking Airdrops from like they just don’t display them. So, like I’m kind of short airdrops but you know if you have a free NFT and the same creator, if you have an SPT maybe that could, you know, whitelist Airdrops from the address who gave it to you because you signal that you like that. So maybe in the future, it could be a dropable without the scams, without the spams. And that’s a good thing.
What Would You Ask Steve Jobs Today?
Yeah, I just see everything that we’re doing online is soulbound activity at this point. And we’re able to trace every single interaction, every single type of movement that our wallet, kind of like, kind of acts. Right. So yeah, I’m super excited for show time. I’m super excited for where your head’s at. I think it’s free NFT summer, in my opinion. And we’re about to see, we’re about to see it go live. Before we kind of wrap this up. Okay. I want to end with one final question. Because you love Steve Jobs so much. Let’s do something fun. Okay. If Steve Jobs was here today and if you had the opportunity to ask him one question. What would it be and why?
Alex Masmej: Well, I would ask him to maybe make apple accelerate the web three, transition or like be maybe even innovating.
That’s what you would ask him. Okay. All right.
Alex Masmej: I think well, I guess like
He is your idol. Remember, he’s your idol. You’ve idolized him since 14 years old?
Alex Masmej: Well, I think I’ll just be so excited. I’ll just ask him like some philosophical questions. But I mostly understand his philosophy. That’s kind of my philosophy. Now, at least the perception of his philosophy is my philosophy. I don’t know how he actually thinks. So yeah, I think I love to ask him more than one question. I’ll just say like, thanks. Like, it’s literally because of him that I’m in tech, honestly. Otherwise, I’m just a random dude in Paris. And so, I would yeah, I would probably work on crypto I guess, I think he probably would dismiss it and be like this so bullshit. Like, you know, the companies are supposed to protect you. But I think that he is just because like he’s just back from the dance. And so that’s an artist anything, but with more context, with more context, I think he would probably warm up to the idea and maybe even like innovate with Apple and in very cool ways. That’s not really happening with Apple right now. But Apple is like seems to be listening. And you know, we’re talking with open sea mobile team and stuff like that. And it’s a lot of pain for now, but we’re fighting the good fight. And I think it’ll be exciting. So yeah, I would say I don’t know exactly what I would say just Steve Jobs. But I’ll probably ask you about web three.
Solid, typical, alright, I love it. I’ll take it. Before I let you go Alex, where can we find you. Where can we find Show time. Show it away.
Alex Masmej: Sure, for sure. So, you can find me Alex masmej on Twitter at Alex masmej. M a s m e j, and then show time is show time XYZ or show time underscore XYZ everywhere.
Let’s go, Alex, thank you so much. We wanna do this again.
Mint Season 5 episode 15 welcomes Erik Reppel, head of Data at Zora, who joins Mint to give us an intro on all things blockchain data: from why NFT project founders and creators should analyze their collector’s activity to how to apply these insights to grow their community.
In this episode, we discuss:
00:09 – Intro
13:10 – What Does Ownership Mean in Web3?
26:27 – Designing Custom Experiences for Collectors using Data
27:40 – The Downside of Blockchain Transparency
34:44 – Web3 Has a Metadata Problem
41:17 – Where Does Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Play a Role in Web3?
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Erik, welcome to Mint, my friend. Good to meet you. Thank you for being on. How’s it going?
Erik Reppel: Good man. Happy Memorial Day.
Yes, sir. Happy Memorial Day. Yeah. So, what turned into a bidding frenzy for a little noun has now turned into a podcast episode. So, I’m stoked to have you on and prior to the bid. I actually, I didn’t know who you were. But when I, I forgot who it was posted a thread as to who was competing for the noun. I was kind of like doing some more research as to who was who and actually came across her profile and found it really interesting. Zora has been represented on the podcast before and for a minute now, we’ve been talking about the data side of things and you’re no stranger, so I’ll shut up because it’s all about you. But before we kind of dive in, who are you Erik, what does the world need to know about you? And how did you get your start into crypto?
Erik Reppel: Yeah. So, I’ve been in crypto for, I first got into crypto in like 2010 like I was like, like on the Bitcoin forums way back in the day. I don’t know if you remember stumble upon it was like browser extension that. I like love stumble upon when I was in high school. I like randomly to hit the Bitcoin forums one day, the Bitcoin white paper and in like 2010, 2011. And immediately was like, wow, that’s super interesting. I was like, 16 at the time. And so, it wasn’t a like technical thing. But I thought it was like, the idea is really fascinating. And, you know, it’s this interesting mystery of like, who is a Satoshi guy. And me and a buddy of mine, ended up buying, like a tiny, tiny, like 100 bucks with a Bitcoin, the coin was like, I don’t know, $90 at the time. And we were like day trading in the back of our like, high school chemistry class on like, a little laptop. And that’s like my first foray into crypto. And then I kind of forgot about it for a couple years. And then, you know, went and did a degree in computer science with a specialization in ML. And like, as I was, you know, a couple years into the degree, I realized, I could probably understand how this stuff works technically now, and kind of went back through it. This was like the early Ethereum days like 2015, 2016. And yeah, an ever since I was at Coinbase for about four years there. I was the first ML platform engineer slash ml engineer at Coinbase. Yeah, led that team for a while and then actually left the crypto realm for three months went to clubhouse for I was there for just under three months, and ended up just missing crypto too much. And now I’m here at Zora as the head of data.
Nice. So early, early career prior to college, were you just amateur early building software and coding? Or was your first kind of like, stab at it during school?
Erik Reppel: So, I didn’t really start coding in earnest until I was about 20. Oh, yeah. My dad is an engineer, though. And I always thought like, I don’t want to do what my dad does. He was a software engineer, of course. And so, I actually went started my degrees as a mechanical engineer. And then, you know, I’d coded a few things on the side. But one summer in after my first year, I really had this idea where I really wanted to build this like IOT device for tracking like dynamic path of a barbell, while you’re lifting as a competitive power lifter at the time, and I needed code to do it. And so, I kind of taught myself how to code and I was like, oh, actually, this is pretty sick. And it’s way higher leverage than mechanical engineering. It’s way quicker feedback cycle. It’s much more addicting than being in cat all day. And yeah, switch my degree never went back.
Wow. bodybuilder, are you like, are you pretty much incisively? I can tell your shoulders are pretty like wide. Do you still do that consistently? Weight lift?
Erik Reppel: Powerlifter not a bodybuilder.
Okay, it shows you shows you my skinny ass arm. How uneducated I am about it. Wait, teach me about that for a sec. What does that entail? So, what’s the difference really?
Erik Reppel: bodybuilding is like how jacked can you look and powerlifting is like how strong you can be and, so, competitive powerlifting is really just how what’s your one rep maximum for a bench press, a squat and then a deadlift and then add those together and you get a total. So, I one point was the um, from encova, I was at one point the provincial champion in my weight class for the junior division in powerlifting, which sounds really impressive, except that it was like when I want to, I was, I came first out of two people.
Came first. That’s all that matters. Excuse me, what would you say the similarities are between powerlifting and I guess, programming ML? Essentially what you do professionally full time, Like, are there any similarities?
Erik Reppel: Yeah, I think so I think like people who get really good at powerlifting, you end up having to be very data driven. This sounds like a cop out answer. This sounds like I’m telling you, but it’s like, you have to actually get very data driven and how you train because especially as a natural powerlifter, like I was you hit kind of your natural potential pretty quickly. And then a lot of it comes down to like, how good is your training regimen and a lot of things like volume and accommodation is very, like biomechanical and technique driven. And then also, like, can you design a program that fits your physiology correctly to maximize your potential? And so, a lot of that is like, really analytical and like breaking down, you know, sets reps approach. It’s like a whole field.
Yeah. You know, when you were at clubhouse, clubhouse has like a unique point in history in crypto, specifically in the NFT, like early, early NFT days. Blau, Justin Blau, DJ, founder and CEO of Royal I don’t know if he’s the co-founder of royal he basically leveraged clubhouse and I guess like audio-based marketing as a way to kind of point himself into the web two role as an icon of having this glorious drop that he did with the live room. And I just remember clubhouse being like this point in NFT and crypto history as being like this remarkable platform that helped spearhead a lot of education in this space. Right. Were you in at clubhouse during that time or what was your experience like over there?
Erik Reppel: I kind of entered clubhouse near the end of that time, like as it was kind of, on the like, second peak of the cycle. I had a great time at clubhouse like I really like all the people at clubhouse I saw a bunch of friends who work there. I think the thing people don’t realize is that clubhouse is insanely popular everywhere except for North America. Like they are huge. If you ever want to trip, go search out Persian clubhouse. It’s like huge like, last week, there was a room with like, 20,000 people in it for like.
Erik Reppel: On Persian clubhouse, and it’s the same is true is like India and Brazil and a bunch of other like places that I think once you lose the US like Silicon Valley narrative, people just think that you’re gone. Yeah, internationally, the people forget, there’s like 8 billion people on the planet and lot of it like, especially India, there’s like a culture of you are kind of always on the phone with your family and friends. And so, clubhouse is like the natural product for certain markets that have that kind of like, casual conversational demo. I had a great time at clubhouse. I don’t think people realize this. The other thing I think people don’t realize about clubhouse is that they’ve had like genuinely one of the strongest engineering teams that I’ve seen, like, they were super under water, like during that first Elon peak, I think they had like five employees or something. But they’ve assembled like a really, really like top group of talent over there. So, they’re amazing. I just miss crypto too much.
Once you get into the hole, it’s kind of hard to get out. It’s just, it’s vast. And I remember when I first got in in 2017. And the second I kind of discovered what you could do with the technology and learn more about the white paper, whatever. I was like, this is what I want to commit myself to I don’t know for how long but it’s the only thing I can see. And that kind of brings you after clubhouse, I guess like to Zora itself. And the reason also why I reached out, I wanted to do an episode around data coming from someone who’s been in the weaves of it for quite a bit of time. So, on your Twitter bio, on your LinkedIn, it says your head of data, okay, but what does that mean for those who don’t know?
Erik Reppel: Yeah, so I think head of data means something that you, most people wouldn’t guess. So, most people think data, they think data science. What I do is actually the team that does everything between the blockchain and up to an including the APIs. So, we do indexing, we do search, we’re planning on doing recommendations. We do API design, but everything that actually takes what is on chain, and makes it available for people to use through applications and then those APIs, we’re actually launching our new newest version of our API on Wednesday, two days from now, as we’re filming. Those APIs are used by Zakho like our marketplace and then other people who build both major projects and like, more kind of in these things on top of it. And so, it’s like, there’s a data science aspects and ml aspects that we’re kind of planning on getting to and investing more in the coming months. but really like, the thing I’ve been spending my last like five months on is like building a really powerful indexer. So that we can take all the data that’s on chain and make it, curate it and make it available in a way that I don’t think is currently possible.
Got it. So, for those who aren’t familiar with Zara, or at least from the consumer facing side, I think a lot of creators can understand that Zora or maybe interact with Zora as like a marketplace for buying and selling NFTs, listing NFTs. But on the back end, you guys have this entire vehicle, where a bunch of marketplaces have kind of like built their foundation off of initially catalog sound dot XYZ, if I’m not mistaken, in many, many, many others. So, when you talk about these APIs, I just want to add a clarification. I guess for those who don’t really understand, there’s an entire like engine behind Zora, which, from what I understand the consumer facing marketplace is just to kind of like encapsulate the vision of what it can be. The real product is what’s happening underneath the hood. Did I get that right?
Erik Reppel: Yeah, that’s totally right. I think a lot of people don’t get that. And you explained it really well. The way I think about Zora is like the layers, right? So, the lowest layer of what Zora is, is the protocol, which is the on chain NFT marketplace. So that’s a lot of words. What does that mean? It means that, take open sea for example, the settlement of NFTs and the transfers on chain using the Wyvern protocol, which is kind of like what Zora’s protocol competes with in quotes. I think there’s a lot of differences between Zora’s marketplaces and Wyvern, but let’s set that aside, the order book for those markets is actually stored in open seas database. So, you can’t actually see what people want to buy or sell on chain was something like open sea right now. The bizarre like all of the data, like who’s, who’s been on what, who’s asked what, what options are available, all that lives on chain. And so, you don’t need access to open seas API in order to like to build these interfaces. And so that’s kind of like the lowest layer and then what my team works on is making all that on chain data available in a way that’s like not crazy, like it is hard to read blockchain, it is still, and it’s I think, kind of a niche skill. But people know how to build, people know how to use REST APIs and how to use Graph QL. We try to make that data more palatable and easier to use and also, index every NFT, like find all the NFTs make that data available, as well as on market data. And then like, if we go one level up the stack, we have like a community tools team that tries to make those API’s as easy to use and like as low code as possible. My team focuses on like, how can we expose and have the most amount of data, community tools say like, hey, let’s take that complexity and try to roll it up into like opinionated, nicer tools that are a little higher level. And then zordac increasingly it’s kind of this, like, roll up of all those three layers of the stack that kind of shows you what you can build using all the tools that we have in the open. But it’s like this vertical approach versus this horizontal approach that some of the places are taking.
What Does Ownership Mean in Web3?
A lot of creators understand, or at least try to understand and crypto and web three, from the NFT point of view, a lot of the narrative around the web three and why it’s so powerful is because it’s the ownership layer to the internet. And you coming from a data background, I think you would understand this kind of like this thesis better than anybody else, right? Because you’re actually playing with the data that people own. You’re indexing and creating APIs with what people kind of own on chain. So, from your point of view, what does ownership really mean on chain? Right, I guess we can just start there.
Erik Reppel: This is a really good question that I think, so what is ownership, right? The only thing that you actually own in an NFT contract is an effectively like a row in a table in the contract. So, when you have a collection, there’s what’s called like a token URI, you as a person, you as an address or a wallet can look up what your fit, what your pieces within a collection or a contract are. And so, you own whatever is at that token URI. But that token URI, oftentimes links off chain, and is on like some centralized server or links to an NS3 bucket or something like that. And so like, technically, the thing that you own is just the thing that’s on chain. And I’m glossing over things like on chain NFTs and on chain metadata. But there’s a ton of stuff that if someone who isn’t you decides to stop paying their AWS bill, like it’ll just disappear. And that’s like, I think a lot of like the JPEG era NFTs aren’t actually decentralized. Like they’re either surfaced through other people’s API’s or they’re just an NS3 bucket or wherever they may be. But you don’t actually, if you do you own that JPEG in an NS3 bucket that you don’t pay the bill for is is kind of a like, philosophical question almost.
And so, I think like, eventually, over time, especially in a bear market, we’re gonna see more projects lean into, on chain and on chain metadata on chain SVGs, things like IPFS, for hosting as an alternative to NS3. Because let’s take an example, right? If you have a project, and the artists mints, and all their assets are in an NS3 bucket, and they, you know, get hit by a bus, and their state doesn’t cover their AWS, oh, that bucket is getting deleted and your content, maybe you made a copy of it, but the thing that’s on chain, links to that bucket. And so, you may have the copy, but you have no way of proving like, I swear that like, this is the JPEG that was linked in that bucket that we have. But if it’s IPFS, like, you know, IPFS, the interplanetary file system, a decentralized storage layer, you have the ability to, even if the artist, you know, vanishes, you can still keep paying for the pinning of that content. And like, the link will resolve, so to say. But I think like, from an IP perspective, this is kind of like an interesting rabbit hole that like, I’m not an IP lawyer, but I think that IP within NFTs is also like, super under explored right now.
So that’s like also another huge discussion, for example, the music NFT side, like when you buy music NFT what do you actually own, right? And you have projects like royal, like decent, well, this goes on and on, that are trying to tokenize IP rights or fractionalized IP rights, right, and the associated collectible to buy with it, you also get whatever, I guess, like real world value, kind of like a crude with it. And even then, like people still don’t really have an understanding of what they’re buying, right. And I was kind of like, at fault for that too. When I initially started buying things, I was like, okay, like, if I buy the NFT, then the song is in my wallet, you know, so I own the song now, right? But the funny thing is, is like the real world and the online world are not always connected, right from like a legal and IP point of view. So, having a definition from your kind of like perspective on what ownership is actually kind of like really helps the next, like piece of this conversation, because part of owning your data, right? You should be able to do cool things with that, right? And I feel like it’s a subject like that element of doing cool things with the data that you own, is really under explored, creators, they have a band of collectors online, they have anonymous wallet addresses. But underneath that, they have layers and layers of information that they kind of can tap into on their individual collectors, which all shut up. And I’d love for you to kind of explain this kind of like this, what this call, about to go on, like a rampage, like my love for this type of conversation, but take it away.
Erik Reppel: I want to hear your thoughts on this too. I feel like he had some good thoughts here.
Yeah, go ahead.
Erik Reppel: I think like the fundamental thing is, like, a lot of the state is actually hard to get on chain. And it’s hard to get period in from APIs and stuff. And so, I think the barrier to entry for a lot of artists is higher than it probably should be. And that’s where we’re trying to, you know, build some of these products and things that make that easier. The other thing is, a lot of these things are only licensed for like noncommercial use, and you can really make an argument that you know, making a derivative Mint is commercial use. And so, this is why I think like things like nouns and more like CCO projects like Creative Commons projects are really compelling because depending on the like your gradients, as an artist or creator depending on your like where on the decentralization spectrum you want to fall, I think there’s like a more or less correct model for you. And so, the, I think if you’re if you’re BTS, right you have a billion fans you have no use every piece of your IP is worth just so much. You probably just want to do like a hey, this is an NBA top shot equivalent like you have it’s like a trading card kind of thing. It’s commemorative, if you’re trying to bootstrap community you, I would argue like nouns has proven you want to go full CCO, no one owns it, everyone owns it, anybody can do anything with the art commercially, non-commercially, personally, whatever, make derivatives everything because you want to propagate a mean as far as it’ll go and I think there’s a middle ground in there where the, if you’re an independent artist, you may want to use something like royal I think royal makes a lot of sense, where as a fan, you’re almost, I don’t want to call it speculating, but you’re investing in the artists, if you think If that they’re an artist that’ll blow up and increase the streaming revenue, your cut will like appreciate over time, it’s very close to an investment asset, which I’m sure the royal legal team wouldn’t appreciate me saying, but I think like, people don’t think enough about where they want to fit on that, fit on that spectrum. And then I think that the technology side of it, right now, it’s not easy enough to take advantage of that composability. And that, how you can kind of remix different platforms and different concepts, because a lot of the state isn’t open.
Yeah. So back on that subject, because BTS knows their Spotify data to an extent, they know their social media web two data to an extent. But they still don’t own that data, right. And with not owning that data, you risk the platformization, if that’s even a word, where you see this happen all the time, when you see people build an audience on tick tock, and then for whatever reason, they did something that could be like gray area that got them removed and banned forever. And so goes, they’re following all their audience and everything. And, you know, you’re asked about my point of view. So, I issue free NFTs for my listeners to collect every single season. I’ve done it since season two. And these are free NFTs, free to mint, or at least almost free to mint. And for season four, I made them nontransferable, I made them soul bound. Because in the future as the podcast grows, I envision me doing something really valuable with me being able to prove who are my additional contributors and participants, right. But my dilemma as a podcaster, as a creator is, while I see who men and women from Spotify data and Apple Music data are, through Buzz sprout, I see the type of traffic that I get on my website, and Google is able to decipher what’s male, what’s female, the trends of audiences, where they came from, heat maps, etc. I know nothing about who’s collected my free NFTs online, right? When in reality, like all the information there.
So, for example, okay, I want to know how many of them are holding board apes. Okay, I want to know how many of them also hold I don’t know, FWB? What poups have they collected from Eth Denver and from Eth Amsterdam, etc. I can maybe tell if they’re male or female based off the assets that they hold, for example, are they in boys club, which is a female only club, right? And I can tell how many of my collectors may be female. So, if I start seeing all these, like these trends and these touch points, I can then create better tailored content for them, I can bring in better sponsors, because if I know let’s say, I don’t know, 70% have at least one Eth in their wallet, then I can create interesting, curated experiences for those early supporters from there on out, right. That’s kind of like my mentality and my understanding about this as a as someone who doesn’t code, who doesn’t know how to query, use sequel from like doing analytics, for example. And I don’t know how to kind of propagate that custom data for me. But that’s kind of like my, my understanding from a high-level point of view. Am I in the right direction here? What am I missing?
Erik Reppel: Yeah, I think you’re losing me for a second, though. And you’re like, I want all this demographic data. But you brought it back around to like, exactly. So, I think like the real power of these things, right? Where you, the tradeoff of on chain data is, is it’s fully open. But it’s higher intent. And so, the reason why Google can kind of tell, you know, gender and all these things is because they associate many different, you don’t enter your gender on Google typically, right? You, they have a model that kind of predicts what you are, I assume that if I was Google, I would have a model that predicts who you are based off your activity, gender being one dimension to potentially who you are. And the all the other things like how targetable you are, how like potentially valuable you are as a like recurring user, all these things are like things that you can model based off of aggregated activity. Whereas on chain, you don’t have clicks, you only have the highest intention things because someone has spent money or gas to do that thing. And so, in a way your users are like way more valuable if because they’re higher conviction for the things that they’ve done. But you have way less some aggregate data. And so, to your point, I think right now, there’s one deficiency, that tooling is really bad. And this is why, you know, we’re why we ended up building a full API instead of just relying on stuff like the graph or like other APIs is because we think that we have a take, that’ll make some of those things a lot easier. And over time, we can start to expose that power and like no code and low code solutions. But you have to start with access and like availability of that aggregate data. You have to like to have everything before you can make it available. So do your like quarry of how many of my users hold board apes.
That’s a thing that you can totally do from this API not to pick up my own book. But the thing you can totally do from our API that we’re launching on Wednesday. And I think that the ability for, to like easily get things like that is going to make a lot of experiences a lot more robust, because you’re going to now be able to know like, what’s in your wallet is relatively easy. But there’s a whole bunch of like, extra steps that you described. They can do if you just have more data. And yeah, I think like this, like centralization, decentralization tradeoff is like really underplayed, especially for creators, minting because there’s no, even on chain like you can know if someone owns up like an ape, from within a contract. And so, if you’re a developer, you can write a contract where every mint that is held, every mint, by a wall that’s holding this type of thing gets like some, you know, at mint time special treatment, similar to like, the similar names, right? I think things like that, where you actually compose ownership and tailor experience based off not only what are in people’s wallets, but like, aggregates for, like, both viewing websites, and also like, on screen experiences is like very, very under explored.
Designing Custom Experiences for Collectors using Data
So how would one creator kind of go by doing that right now? Like, how can a creator, let’s assume a creator that doesn’t know how to code? Okay, how can they go by creating these custom experiences that you and I were just talking about, for their collectors using that data? Like, what’s the best way to do that right now?
Erik Reppel: I don’t think there’s a good way of doing it right now. Like, I think that the, a lot of the tools that exists currently are very limited, and they’re very kind of like, let’s publish your catalog of JPEGs. And to be honest with you, I don’t know if you can make a local tool with as much power of this unless it’s a very, very specialized local tool. And the I think those very, like hyper specialized local tools tend to have a lower tam than, like more general tooling, right. And that’s kind of like the market reason why you see things like open seas, like lazy mint, but you don’t see open seas like complex mint. There’s no equivalent. So, like, I think, theoretically, you could make a more generalized tool that hybridizes both, but it’s, I don’t think that this is an underexplored niche in the market. And I think that someone will probably fill it at some point.
The Downside of Blockchain Transparency
Yeah. So, I also want to talk about, like, the pros and cons of data being like, inherently public, right? And does that sway us to more of like a dystopian future of some sort. And I only bring this up, Erik, because in web two, platforms are inherently really powerful because of the data that they collect on their users, right. And also, the shelter of that data. Spotify collects a ton of data on their artists, streaming data, etc. But they only provide so much to the artists themselves, right. And it’s like, it’s like a big complaint in the industry. While there are dashboards to kind of understand it’s very limited from what I understand. In Web three, everything is inherently public, and you’re relying on entrepreneurs to build these tools that kind of contextualize the blockchain. But with that can kind of come its pros and cons. And I’m curious, from your point of view, like what are, I guess more of the cons, because we talked a lot about the pros and the benefits that come with a transparent database. Were more of the cons of kind of like making data more inherently public. What are your thoughts around that?
Erik Reppel: I think I think the biggest con is also the Pro that I mean, you can see everything right. And so, if you can see everything, people know exactly who you are, if you’ve doxed your wallet, they know exactly what you’ve done. I think there’s a lot of like, there’s a lot more sophistication about around doxing wallets. And I think people anticipate I think services like chain analysis and Coinbase analytics actually work really well, if you’re high intent. And so that’s kind of the you know, you assume Google has all your data and you assume that, you know, if you’re an admin within a Google system, you can probably read some of your data, but everyone is effectively a read admin on the blockchain which is maybe okay because the data is, it’s less, it’s more consented right? Everything that you, every time you interact with the blockchain, you know that the thing that you’re doing is going to be on chain, it’s going to be associated with your wallet. And so, like depending on how comfortable you feel like you know, I’m sure a lot of people, yourself included, myself included, have kind of like doxed wallets and then like, semi doxed or fully undoxed wallets. And you can kind of like opt in into your level of privacy and bring whatever identity with you to whatever place you want to go. So that’s like, quite nice. But if someone manages to dock your wallet, they can see everything that you’ve done. And so, there is that level of concern. And yeah, I mean, most of its like, probably the worst part is like, oh man, like you did some, like cringe thing, hopefully down the road like, that’s like cringe in retrospect. But like, we’ll see, right? It’s early days. And you know, that was a dark place if you?
Yeah, well, I feel like the ultimate recipe is connecting, like, on chain data to off chain data, for example, associating like social profiles with anonymous addresses, like, that’s when it kind of gets scary. And honestly, I don’t think we’re far away from it. I don’t know of anybody doing that. But you’d have better context to this. I feel like then, then I would, but I feel like that’s like the red line kind of thing.
Erik Reppel: Yeah, it’s, all these things are a spectrum, right. So, if you’ve done a poor job of doxing, your wallet, or sorry, if you’ve done a poor job of obfuscating your wallet, like, you can probably be doxed by a very motivated actor. There are some ways of you know, spinning up a wallet and funding it that are pretty hard to track, to trace, especially for smaller amounts of currency. You know, tornado cash and stuff. But ultimately, I think no one really cares. Like, unless you’ve broken the law or done something sketchy, like transferring from an exchange to a new wallet you spin up is like probably enough security for 99.9% of people. You know, coming from the Coinbase hot wallet to a new meta mask. It’s like, oh, well, Coinbase hot wallet, that can be one of 90 million users. And so, it doesn’t mean anything. And that’s enough anonymity to, you know, be comfortable. It’s like if the FBI wants you or something or, like they might, you know, subpoena Coinbase or something crazy. But ultimately, like, if you haven’t broken the law, I think that’s like enough. But there’s value in being in public too. That’s how we got to this conversation, right? The I think, having a kind of gradients of anonymous, anonymity, is that word?
I think so.
Erik Reppel: Yeah. Anonymity. That’s the word.
Oh, yeah. Well, I’ve been saying it wrong all along.
Erik Reppel: I think it’s good, like it’s, but the key is, like, be able to opt into the level that you want, and being able to, like see each experience being able to accept multiple logins, right? That’s the value of being able to bring your wallet anywhere.
Web3 Has a Metadata Problem
I remember, Season Four was all about the music industry. And I remember having like the catalog guys on, the mint songs guys on, I had Blau on, a bunch of people. And a big point of, I guess, conversation was metadata in web three, and how metadata is very much of a mess. And this vision of creating this music NFT application, where you can organize all these different songs in a very seamless, intuitive way, is actually quite difficult, because the songs that are being published in the form of NFT are not organizing categorized correctly, so that indexers can kind of like, eat all the data and spit it out in a very like, I guess, user friendly manner from what I understand. And I guess, like, what’s your perspective, in terms of how data is kind of comprehended and written at least in the form of smart contracts or web three in general? And I know, I’m butchering that question, because I don’t have the best insight as to what these like terminologies are, and hence why you’re here. But I think you know where I’m coming from.
Erik Reppel: Yeah, totally.
And help me rephrase that question, too. Yeah.
Erik Reppel: So, I think like, let’s do any in between on chain and off chain. So okay, off chain metadata is typically off chain, but the, sorry, are you familiar with like, EIPs?
Remind me for those who don’t know.
Erik Reppel: So, EIP is Ethereum improvement plans, they get turned into ERC. And so, whenever you see like ERC 721 which is like the NFT standard, or ERC 1155, ERC 20. These are like improvement proposals that get turned into the things that people actually do. And those become the standards that everyone builds on top of. So, there’s EIP is around pretty much everything that’s on chain and so on chain it is like relatively consistent. It’s not, it’s a dark forest and it’s really not as good as you would hope it would be, a lot of people don’t implement ERC 721 correctly, this is what I learned building an indexer. But at least there are standards that people are supposed to adhere to. Metadata, there’s really no standard. There’s kind of like the open sea standard, like the way that open sea publishes metadata and there’s a there’s a few others out there. But metadata is a mess. Because of the lack of standardization, and no one really, there being anyone who mentioned NFT can basically make up their own metadata standard. And then it’s like, how do you access that data, like I said, like every NFT is actually just a reference to a token URI. And so, if that token URI point to a server that you need to grab a JSON file from that contains the metadata that links to an image and an audio track. And that’s like the happy path, right? The NFT could also be on chain metadata, which is something I personally am a fan of where the metadata is actually encoded into the token URI. Which sounds ominous, but it means that it’s actually on chain instead of being off chain and you having to, like, rely on if you remember that server going down the example, I gave it’s, that applies to metadata too. And then there’s the like, what’s the format? What’s the schemat? Does it have attributes? Does it have, if it’s a song, does it have album? Does it have content? What do you do if it’s a gift, all these things? And there’s no there’s some standardization, but like, no, nowhere near enough. And that’s why it’s hard to build indexes, because it’s easy to index on chain data, because of the standards. It’s really hard to index metadata well, because there’s less standards, and it can really be anything. And if you try to, if you try to build an indexer, and an artist is going to be like, why doesn’t my NFT show up? You’re gonna be like, well, your metadata is, like, just you made up the standard, like, how would we be able to parse your metadata? There’s like, no, and because NFTs very rarely linked directly to the media, they link to metadata that links to the media. These, it’s hard to like to get a render, which is like, I think an underappreciated aspect. I can give you too, but.
Yeah, go for it. Go for it. Yeah, that is useful. And the on-chain rant, what does that entail?
Erik Reppel: So, I think that people are bad at events overall. So, do you kind of understand what like a contract event is?
Assume I do, but those who don’t explain what an event is? Yeah.
Erik Reppel: So, when you’re writing a smart contract, there’s two ways to access data from a smart contract. There’s functions that you can call on the blockchain that returned data to you. This is called like, read functions. And then there’s events that these contracts emit as they do things. And so, if you want the current owner, here’s an example, right? If you want the current owner of a token, you can just call owner of on an ERC 721 contract. And that involves like calling an RPC node. And then it would like a token ID and it’ll return the address to you. And that’s really easy. And like, you have to have an RPC node. But that’s, you know, Alchemy. And all these services are really good. It’s not that hard. Events are, as the developer writes the contract, they write events, which are emitted by the contract like this is code that they write that then emit data from the contract. And so, for example, when you transfer a token, there’s what’s called a transfer event, which says, It’s an event that says from this address to this address this token it was transferred. And the transfer event is kind of like a tricky one. Because the way that events work in Ethereum, the transfer event for an NFT looks exactly like the transfer event for an ERC 20. Like a fungible token. And so, if you’ve ever seen wallets that says like you have this balance of NFT, and like with an integer next to it, that’s the token ID because they think that your token was a fungible token instead of a non-fungible token.
Erik Reppel: But because your ERC 721 is like very well, Spec and events are part of the spec. NFT events are pretty good. markets don’t have specs, like markets don’t have a de facto ERC. And so, what events come out of markets is like all over the place. And so, if you’re trying to understand like, how much someone paid and in what currency and everything it can get, like really, really gnarly. And so, it’s my kind of like, takeaway point to all of this is that and I think we’re gonna probably as well write a blog post about this at some point. Right now, everyone optimizes contracts for gas, but optimizing your contracts for like programmatic readability is also really important both from a like what read methods do you expose on your contract and also like, what events you emit?
Got it. So as an industry, how do you imagine everybody kind of getting more on the same page with a lot of these standards with organizing everything? What’s kind of required to get there?
Erik Reppel: Time. I think, I think it’s just an immature industry, right. And People talk about things like HTTP. If you think about it every ERC, or many years, these are kind of de facto protocols for different things. Right? NFT’s ERC. 721 is a protocol for non-fungible ownership. It takes time to develop these things well, and there are plenty of optimizations that can be made. And I think it takes time for people to get on the same page as to how to structure things because everyone has an opinion. And over time, I think convenience makes those opinions converge. And so, I think one day would be great to have, like, EIP is around like, okay, do you have an NFT image? Does that image have attributes like, this is how your metadata should be structured? Those like, the tricky thing is that those aren’t actually Ethereum improvements. So, they shouldn’t really be Ethereum improvement proposals. They should almost be like web three consortium type things, where it’s like, a metadata encoding standard for any chain, right? Because every chain, not just a Ethereum runs into this problem. Just because you’re an NFT on, doesn’t mean that you have the metadata problem, doesn’t mean that you don’t have the metadata problem. That was the sentence.
Where Does Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Play a Role in Web3?
Got it. Got it. So, another point of expertise, which I wanted to have you on, again, is because your machine learning background, and AI, and ML is something that I know very little about. But I feel like when the two, when the three worlds kind of collide ML, AI and web three, we could have some pretty interesting stuff happen. Specifically on the data side, I’d love to get some context and help me understand this better. All this data that you’re indexing., where does AI, where does ML kind of come into play?
Erik Reppel: For sure. So, I think for NFTs right now, there’s two. There’s a bunch of like financialization applications that you can use ML for and, you know, projection, prediction, etc. I think the most compelling use cases near term, search and recommendation. So, searches, search kind of falls into two steps, it’s retrieval, does this thing match this thing I’m looking for. And then it’s ranking. So, an example of this is, let’s say I search for ape, right? There’s a million tokens now that have ape in the name or in the metadata or somewhere, are somehow associating themselves with the word ape, because boards are so popular. How to rank those things is where ML comes in. So usually, you can use machine learning to understand like, based off of these features that you derive about the token, for example, a really good feature might be like the age of the token, how long it’s been on the blockchain. Another one might be like number of transfers, might be a really good feature. You can derive rankings based off of what is, what’s probably relevant to a user when you’re showing them a list of the results for the search term ape.
The second thing is recommendation where for a user, what else is relevant to that user? So, for example, like, if you’re a person who collects rare NFTs, like everything in your wallet, is like, you know, top five percentile rarity NFTs from various collections. You should be recommended tokens from collections that are rare or have rare attributes, right? And that’s the thing that you can actually fully understand based off of metadata and derive that like, hey, this is an interesting feature. This is an interesting item for a user instead of showing them, if we’re trying to show them something from, you know, what’s a random collection? If we’re trying to show them a crypto coven, we should show them a cryptic coven with a rare attribute rather than a common attribute, because they’re willing to pay more for a premium for that piece, right. So, I think those are the two like first and like, biggest things that aren’t quite cracked yet, we’re taking a crack at that. Our search is currently really good at retrieval. I think the recommendation needs a little bit of or sorry, the ranking needs a little bit of work. And then we’re planning on doing some stuff around recommendation in the future.
Got it. Got it. I’m trying to think about what other questions to kind of pick your brain about I mean, what else are you seeing, I guess on the data landscape that you think creators should be more aware of, should be more alert to whether it be tools, whether it be ways as to kind of grow a community using data? What are your thoughts around that?
Erik Reppel: I think I think growing your community using data is really powerful. The finding like who your target audiences is really important I think, it’s harder than it sounds. It’s not like it is with like ad targeting where you can just say like this is the exact type of person I want to identify and pitch to. But I think that there’s a lot of value in creators trying to become a little bit more technical. Like, for example, learning sequel is not that hard. And something like doing will let you answer a lot of questions that you may have about who owns your stuff. And it’s like, I think in an afternoon, if you just take a sequel course, you’ll be able to query for how many of your token holders also hold a board ape. And it’s, I think a lot of people see the technical side and get really intimidated. And it’s actually, I think, more approachable than I think people would generally expect. But the problem of being early days and why being early is so alpha is that it requires more depth and technical knowledge. And so, if you want to be a on the bleeding edge, creators are like, fairly tactical, like Blau, like actually very technical. So is ERC, so, a lot of these artists, Latasha is very technical. But there’s a lot of these artists are like, they may not, not all of them, like are writing code all the time. Some of them are. But they all like, understand how these systems work very fundamentally, we’re at a level that I think is deeper than your average consumer. And I think, especially during a bear market, the thing that I think people should really be doing is trying to innovate with the form. And like stretch themselves to do not just community building but try new ways of doing community. For example, like, you know, you could have a mint, you have a mint season pass, you could easily have a mint membership card that gets you like early access to things and like, gates your community, but right now that requires some technical knowledge that isn’t like super easy to have. But hopefully, we’re gonna get there. Hopefully, the tooling gets better. Hopefully, these things become no code or low code. And people can kind of compose these experiences that use like, hey, this is who is the person right now? Oh, they’re X person? Well, then we should show this or then we should let them into this new mint, or we should do whatever it is. But those are, they’re hard to do right now, just because they’re inherently technical. Yeah.
Well, listen, I learned a lot throughout this conversation. I think before I let you go, tell me more about what’s coming out on Wednesday with soar and this new API that you guys are pushing out, what can we expect from there.
Erik Reppel: So, I think we have a new API out, if for the developers in the audience, we have a new Graph QL API, it’s got a lot of really cool features, it’s got, using our API, you can effectively see for a token, every like sale that was settled on chain, including how much they paid to mint it. And so, you can actually see, like, for an individual token, here’s the start value, here’s the first sale, here’s the second sale, yada, yada. You can do all the regular, like, here’s what’s in a wallet, here’s what’s in a collection type thing. But I think we’ve managed to do some really powerful stuff around like transcoding media, and metadata standardization that should help a lot of people build kind of these experiences. And then I think we’ve done a lot of interesting data level stuff for analytics and being able to understand, like price over time and history of NFTs. So, I think that’s gonna be, I’m excited for it, I think it’s gonna be really cool. I was telling someone; I think some of the inevitably is gonna build a tax tool on top of it. But that’s kind of cool that I think we can both be the underpinnings for like an artist trying to do a drop and also be like a tax person’s like, you know, fantasy scenario.
Interesting. Yeah, I guess a whole, I’d even argue that a lot of the tax applications are incredibly early and need a ton of improvement. So, I’m excited to see what you guys roll out. And I guess, Erik, before I let you go, where can we find you specifically, and kind of learn more about what you’re doing as well?
Erik Reppel: Yeah, definitely. The best place is Twitter. I’m at programmer on Twitter.
It’s a good, that’s a good handle.
Erik Reppel: I wish it was an NFT.
Love it, Eric. We got to do this again soon. Thanks again.
Erik Reppel: Yeah, it’s great chatting, Adam. Thank you.
Mint Season 5 episode 14 welcomes Nass, Chief Information Security Officer at a16z, who joins Mint to share his life as an early graffiti artist, to leading Facebook’s crypto arm, and now building his NFT side hustle, Rebels.
In this episode, we discuss:
00:07 – Intro
04:24 – Most Common Security Vulnerabilities NFT Projects Adopt
06:42 – Lessons Learned While Building Facebook’s Crypto Arm
15:55 – What is Rebels?
18:11 – Rebel’s Innovative NFT Features
29:58 – Building a Multi-dimensional NFT Project
33:47 – How To Show Off That You Own an Audio NFT?
47:00 – How Did You Get Into Graffiti Art?
48:41 – Building Hype: How To Build a Die Hard NFT Community
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Nass. Welcome to mint. Thank you for being on. What’s going on my man?
Nass: Yeah, doing great, doing great. Thank you so much for having me, Adam.
Dude, I’m thrilled to have you on. It’s not every day that you get to talk with someone of your kind of like stature, at least from the professional experience side. So, we have a lot to talk about from Rebels, a16z and all the good stuff, but I think a good place to start. And kind of where I start with everybody is a quick intro. Okay, who are you Nass? What does the world need to know about you? But more specifically, how did you get your start into crypto?
Nass: Yeah, great, great question. So, my name is Nass. I’m the Chief Information Security Officer at a16z Crypto, leading a lot of efforts both like internally for the security and safety of the company internally, but also and that’s kind of like the vast majority of my work is working with the portfolio of companies, you know, whether that’s open sea uniswap and others, you know, like the entire portfolio of a16z, which is pretty broad on all things security, whether that’s you know, building features, preparing or helping to audits, hiring really the entire the entire range right. Prior to that, was working at Facebook, in the blockchain, the blockchain organization called Novi, where I was kind of responsible for blockchain features within the wallet and co-created the custody infrastructure for the wallet to kind of like the key protection that is going to safeguard all the assets. Prior to that, there was an engineer at Anchorage, which is a crypto custodian in the space serving institutional customers. And yeah, that’s actually how I got into web three. Before that, I was actually at a Docker, which is like a dev tooling startup, working with the founders of Anchorage, in when they kind of like, you know, decided to leave what do to get into web three and create their own venture then kind of like join along with them and start building the critical key management infrastructure. I come from a very deep security, like technical security, background with operating systems security, applied cryptography. And so, this is something that I love to, you know, to make evolve to like with technologies right.
Nass you’re giving me giga bearing vibes, like major giga bearing vibes, I’m curious, what was it like growing up? Like, what were your activities and interests, that kind of got you into the scope of information, security, computers, and everything that you are kind of doing today?
Nass: Well, so I was always in love with computers, but like, believe it or not actually went into med school, I started there going into med school, and did like three years in med school prior to realizing that, like, it was not really for me, it was not deterministic enough, I wanted to have like, you know, to basically say, like, look, computer, I’m gonna write like these things, and you’re gonna do them, and you’re gonna do them every single time the same way. And so, I was just like, okay, let’s, uh, I kind of like fell in love as soon as I wrote my first line of code, then spent kind of like, the five years after that, just like working day and night, probably like, I would say, like, 18 hours a day, like seven, seven, like seven days a week. I just love coding, I just love. So, I also did like a lot of CTF, which are security competitions, hacking competitions, on kind of like weekends. And it’s something that I was doing on a weekly basis with a team of people who are really into security and offensive security. And that part actually was extremely interesting, because like learning how to break a system is the best way to learn how to defend it, because then you have like this mindset and everything that you do, right? Like, even I, as a software engineer, as a developer, the first thing that I’m going to think of even when I’m doing something rebel is going to be like, how is my system going to be vulnerable? And I’m thinking about that from like, first principle at the very beginning. And they really helped me being a better engineer in general. So that’s something that I definitely have.
Most Common Security Vulnerabilities NFT Projects Adopt
So, what are some of the more common security vulnerabilities that you see NFT projects kind of fall trap to?
Nass: That’s, that’s an interesting one. So, because NFT contracts are actually a lot simpler than, you know, most blockchain protocols, you know, they don’t have to handle like a bunch of various trades and complex interactions. It tends to be easy to template. So what you end up seeing most of the time, is people just having logic bugs, you know, like, we saw that kind of like, more recently with akitars, you know, kind of like the $34 million that were kind of like locked within the, within the contract and so like, it’s mostly logic bugs, you know, it’s a lot less about reentrancy, it’s a lot less about like mispricing, you know, price, Oracle Tax and so on like, this is very kind of like straightforward business logic, issues that can, in general, be caught with just more testing. And I think that the, there will be a lot of value in the NFT space, kind of like slowing down to give the opportunity for people who build technology in the NFT space to just have more time to test, have more time to like, do security audits, etc, right? Because like, right now, you’re basically saying, like, as soon as like, someone announces, NFT project, everyone is like, hey, come on, like, what are you releasing? Right, like and right, waiting for? Like, you know, the thing
Nass: Yeah, exactly. It’s like when token, when mint, like, I want everything right away. But like in reality, you know, having like $34 million locked in a contract is like a direct byproduct of that, right? And so very important, and just like not, don’t overestimate like, everything that has been done in the software engineering space for such a long time, you know, like, test your software, have it audited, you know, manual reviews, and so on is extremely important.
Lessons Learned While Building Facebook’s Crypto Arm
Now, it’s, what’s it like working at Facebook, especially on the on the crypto team, I remember when crypto, when Facebook, the news of Facebook doing crypto came out, it was huge. It was like such an indicator that the space is going in some type of direction, and that it’s here to stay. And I remember when I was in college, I think it was like 2018, 2019, something like that, where the news came out. And I remember instantly buying Facebook, it was like, Alright, this is gonna be a game changer, right? So, from your point of view, you had such a pivotal role, kind of like developing that team working on the products in that house. What’s it like working at Facebook, especially during that time?
Nass: That’s a great question. There were several phases, there is kind of like, there were multiple phases where like, first there is the research, like the early research on just, okay, so first, I’m gonna like to take a step back to it, there is the blockchain, and then there is the wallet that integrates with this blockchain. So, like, these, this organization that is almost like, split into and so that still works together. And like, I was kind of like one of the links basically, for this. But you have like these two separate entities that like one works and more like infrastructure for the L one, and then there is the wallet, I was on the wallet side. And so, there is a early part that is more kind of like research, right? It kind of like starts with research, especially on the blockchain side, then you apply it, and you try to kind of like get this through the door, then you can have like, hits, you know, the US multiple, you know, US regulators that are basically like, I don’t want this, you know, lack of transparency. And then on the wallet side, you are also like receiving all the heat, you know, even though you’re doing almost the same thing as like everyone else, you’re doing the same thing, as you know, Gemini and Coinbase, etc, right, you’re just building a custodial wallet, you’re doing the same thing. But again, you know, regulators go, like even hard to argue they’re basically coming at you with stuff like requirements or that are not applied to any anything else. So, for example, there is this thing in like financial systems called the trouble rule, where when to track basically like how money flows from person to person above certain thresholds of money, you need to have financial institutions on both sides of the transfer to actually KYC the other user, right? Like you have like a like a cross checking for every step along the way above certain thresholds.
And basically, regulators said like, well, you see the trouble rule, you have to like to do it within the blockchain protocol itself. So that the L one, it’s almost like you basically have need like a way to validate the blockchain level that KYC was verified on both ends above a certain threshold, which is like crazy to us, right? Like, no one would ever add that to Ethereum on purpose. That’s just like, that’s just nuts. And so, you start having like, all these requirements, and you’re fighting more and more and people telling you like, well, you know, like the blockchain data, really, it’s private data. It’s user data. So, like and you’re like nothing that isn’t the blockchain is public. So, you basically try to build a product, right? But you get a lot of heat and requirements from people who first don’t understand the technical tradeoffs. Some of them can be kind of like doing that kind of like a malicious way. But a lot of them actually just don’t understand, right. And it’s just like, a lot of education that needs to happen. It’s a lot of knowledge sharing. And so, you end up like doing a lot of things, you end up building the product, you end up like writing a lot of documents to educate the people. And then you start kind of like understanding, like, how do I battle these, like constant requirements on top of like, the base product. And so, there was a lot of that, you know, we were ready to launch the blockchain wallet many times and carefully, like, actually the day before, like, you know, receiving basically the information that like, nope, they’re blocking it, you know, and it was like, multiple times. And so, you know, it’s, it’s very hard, you know, I’m not gonna lie, it’s very hard, especially as a product builder, where you like you know, what prevents you from launching in general is like, bugs, user experience not being there, you know, all that stuff, right? But it’s very rare for someone to basically say, like, I don’t like I don’t like your company. So, I’m gonna, I’m basically gonna block.
So, you know, the stories that you’re telling me are basically the antithesis of like, why Crypto is here? I mean, early, early crypto was very anarchy, right? Like, a lot of anarchy is kind of going, we’re going against the grain, like, where are you going to use Bitcoin, like decentralized systems on the way, peer to peer payments is the way, being able to do what I want on my own terms, being self-sovereign, like those are the core kind of principles that people started kind of, like, got this movement starting, right? And to hear this story, it’s like the exact opposite of like, what we want to happen.
And if you’re telling me that they’re just doing the same thing as Coinbase, and Gemini and just because it’s Facebook, just because it’s meta, they’re getting kind of like, blocked because of past experiences and stories. I don’t know, it’s, it’s wild to kind of think about, because, obviously, I feel like we’re all building towards the same mission, give or take, you know, there may be some interesting actors out there. But just to hear that, you know, and from your experience, what were some of the biggest takeaways, working through that process, working through that situation, that has maybe led you to kind of this path that you’re on today, whether it’s a16z, Rebels or other things that you kind of do on your day to day professionally?
Nass: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that like, honestly, the very few people understand the weight of like regulations on the space, and they don’t understand that it can be kind of like a make-or-break type of situation. And that we have to actively educate the people actively, like, really fight for this future to happen. Because if we don’t do anything, the other side is going to win. And so, we need to be extremely proactive and thoughtful about how we work with regulators, in order to, you know, basically build the best technology to lay down kind of like the best word that we can do that works. And, you know, obviously flank transparency of the system, right? The system safety of everyone, right? Like, how do we lower money laundering, how do we lower terrorism financing and so on, which are like, real issues, right, while guaranteeing, you know, like some self-sovereignty for the users. And so, this is something that we work very hard with, you know, the ESCC at a16z, and various like other agencies and commissions, it’s like really helping them make the best decisions and trying to educate them, put them in front of the right people, for them to have the conversations that we’re going to make there. They’re going to like kind of like lead the thought process in the right direction. So that’s something that we do very often. And similarly, like at Rebels, you know, myself being very conscious about the securities laws, etc. Actually, we took and my co-founder, Stefan is also working also at a financial institution. He was actually one of the first like very early engineers on the Libra blockchain. He was the person who kind of like delve into Facebook blockchain. So, when we co-founded Rebels, it was very clear from the get-go that like we could not make promises we could not set a roadmap that would kind of like put us in jeopardy when it comes to securities laws. I found that from the very first time and like every single person in the community, like there are these big means of like, when roadmap and there is me with a with a gun that they added up, like, tell me what because like they know that like, you know, we will not do that, like we don’t want to be like the sole creators of value. We’re not here to create like investment, you know, investment instruments and financial instruments for people, we’re here to create experiences products. And so, this is really how we thought about it, you know, like when I think Rebels NFTs, I think iPhone, I don’t think I don’t think, you know, financial instrument. And so that’s really like how I define everything, like we talk about features, we don’t really talk about utility. And so that’s kind of like, it kind of dictates everything that video.
What is Rebels?
So that brings us to Rebels, because we’ve named dropped that keyword a bunch of times. Nass what is the Rebels like you keep bringing it up, comparing it to the iPhone, like what is the pitch? What should we know about Rebels?
Nass: Yeah, so Rebels is a project, co-founded by people who really are passionate about technology, fashion, you know, gaming, and really kind of like, the idea is to build a NFT project that actually pushes the narrative in each one of the areas for referring to projects in NFT projects tend to be kind of like, if I had just simplified it, I would say kind of like art, technology, and community, right, kind of like three verticals. And like our vision is essentially building a canvas for digital identities, we feel like the NFT space right now doesn’t really help you show who you truly are, right? You may be some person at a given point in time, you know, and like, identify into like a unique NFT. But you change, I change, we join communities, we start, you know, having roles and accumulating achievements in these communities. And right now, it’s impossible to signal of that, right, like the most of the NFT pictures we’re seeing, they’re very static. And so, our goal is to build a dynamic, kind of like a dynamic front end, for us to communicate, you know who we are to the rest of the, of the rest of the space. And so that comes with a customization feature for the Rebels that are native, your NFT will change over time, you will have the capability to make it evolve, basically, first with patches of other NFTs and your wallet, but also patches that recreate to kind of like for you to be able to flex and signal the roles that you have within the community, right. Like maybe you did something amazing within the community, maybe you helped onboard many other people, and so on. And just like kind of building, helping also foster sub communities, right? Very, very important.
Rebel’s Innovative NFT Features
Got it. So, when you talk about expression, it’s obviously a key kind of ethos in web three with NFTs as the medium kind of bridging that digitally. And you tell me, there’s this feature coming out that you guys are doing where you’ll be able to consistently evolve your identity through different types of UX, UI features that you guys would be implementing for PSP holders, right, from what I understand correctly, so from what I’ve seen in crypto Twitter, and whether in general, like the PFP format, is actually quite limiting. Like you consistently have to swap your JPEG to kind of express your significance in different communities, in different styles and at different times. And let alone having the NFT in your wallet to be forced to connect to Twitter’s API’s or Twitter’s wallet, right? And being able to signify the hexagon that you own it, there’s a lot of like, risk associated with that. There’s a lot of nuances associated with that. Every single time you buy a JPEG, you have to download the image and then upload the image. And there’s all these kind of like, interesting kind of user experiences that are involved. So, when you’re designing a product at Rebels, how do you guys actually solve that problem? So, you told me you can swap UI UX features, elaborate on that a little bit more?
Nass: Yeah. So, you know, we’re security first, you know, very security minded. I covered that already. So, we really think that the, using your NFT is critical, right? Like a lot of people just don’t feel like they use the NFT. And this is why like the over financialization happens. And so, making people get used to just using them as a product is the paradigm shift that needs to happen. And so, the thing that you pointed out is critical, basically the friction that happens from balancing the security versus like, do I keep this thing in my cold storage, you have to like to move it, do I have to like do things, instead of having like a very simple way to do it. And a very safe way to do it is something that we decided very, very early to tackle and like, because we want to be, the customization happens with, you know, what are the other NFTs in the same wallet as your rebel and like, let’s allow you to customize your rebel with these NFTs in your wallet. You don’t want to have everything come to, you know, to your hot wallet all the time, especially if you want to like change it on a daily basis, right? Like, I may want to like put my crypto bunk and like every day, what we want is for you to be able to pilot to drive this process from the hot wallet. And so, we’re actually working on something that is called customization permission delegation, where you can actually have from a certain wallet, the ability to delegate the authorization to customize to another wallet, that doesn’t need to hold, it would not be able to transfer, it would not have any other permission than just customizing. And you can revoke this at any given time, right. And this is very important for you to have the ability to just have this highly available wallet that can actually be used to like, use your NFT while keeping your NFT safe. That’s extremely critical. We need to implement these things and make it safe by default for people to you know, just use their NFT on a daily basis.
Wow, that’s actually really, really cool. So how do you go by tackling a problem like that? Like, what are the steps involved? If you’ve been thinking about this since the genesis of Rebels? How did you guys approach this problem space and trying to find that right solution?
Nass: Yeah, this is a great question. So, the idea is that you essentially have several ways to do it, right? You have kind of like, I want to do everything on chain, I want to do everything off chain, and so on. And so, we really felt like the idea of permission delegation already exists. You know, for example, like when you want to make a trade on open sea, right and kind of like start a sale, what you do, actually, when you kind of like click on Meta mask, and you authorize it, this kind of you actually authorize open sea to set approval for all, to move assets on your behalf. So right now, what you’re doing is actually just that you’re actually delegating the permission, a specific permission, in that case, moving the asset to open sea. And what we want is kind of, like, generalize that, and apply it to customization in the future, we want to apply to more features, right? And so, something that is like fully on chain, where like, there is like full transparency, everyone can check who else has like the customization features, allows the system to work even without us. So essentially, once you have kind of like a smart contract that works almost as like, a registry, right? That registers who has the authorization to customize what, then that means that like, you can even show that if you are Twitter, if you were Instagram and so on, right, like you can even have basically say, like, this is, you know, this is this is the wallet that did the action, but actually, this is the actual wallet that holds the rebel and this thing is actually what will allow this to be kind of cross platform. And you know, no one we’re not going to ask him you know, Twitter to integrate with us, Instagram to integrate with us, they just need to integrate with Ethereum and that’s it, there is nothing else that is necessary.
So, what that feature that you guys built that can’t be a stand-alone product on its own.
Nass: Okay, so like basically the customization will happen on our platform and will be propagated, but say that like in the future you want ads Twitter, ads Instagram to provide basically integration, customization integration, and I’m gonna even games because I feel like games are extremely relevant for this right? Games are like killer used case for this because when I have my board ape, I don’t want to play like, you know, the metaverse games from the lab, you know, with my thing plugged on like 24/7, right, like, especially if I’m going to play at a land with other people, etc. Right? It’s gonna be.
Nass: Exactly. You don’t want people to like necessarily like a press would like all that stuff. So, you know, the idea is that you want to integrate with a mechanism to, you know, check basically to do the customization from within the game itself, right. But we would kind of like on this, this part for now. And other things that were you know, then you can build on top of it, right? You have like the customization and now that you are kind of like own this interface for the customization and this layer, which is almost like a meta layer, when you can actually lay things. And by the way, we talked about visual NFTs, but like in visual information, but what about nonvisual information, right, like your rebel could be like, the meta layer as a whole for any form of identity, right? It could be configuration of like, when you go on, you know, in games, do you prefer like dark mode or light mode, do you want to have like specific settings that you want to kind of register and like, you can accumulate that in this kind of like dynamic NFT, that would add as, you know, this digital layer, and it doesn’t even need to be like, solely, solely visual. So, this is something that like, we really want to have, we’re gonna kind of like have that on our platform. But if someone didn’t trust us to do it, or if someone in the community wanted to build a better product, then they should be able to do so, this is the whole ethos around the three, right? It’s kind of like we put it on chain, you have access to the registry, if you think you can better provide a better customization than us, you should be able to do so. And we really want to provide the right incentive for people to build on top of Rebels and so that’s one of them.
That’s so cool. And now I’m trying to visualize this now. Because from a tech point of view, it makes a lot of sense, like problem solution, peanut butter and jelly, legit. But now I’m trying to understand what does that look like visually, right? Have you guys revealed that already to the community of what that process would look like or are you guys holding off on that?
Nass: Yeah, so you know, the whole, like, no promise, under promise, over deliver, right? It’s very important to us. So, what we revealed is the first iteration that is coming pretty shortly after the, the reveal, where people are going to be able to add patches with collections that like we would approve. So, like, we would basically kind of like, you know, build a like a whitelist of like, one by one of the collections that like we want to, like authorize through the customization probably going to like better test with like a few ones, have people kind of like see the feeling, see if we have like a product market fit. And then kind of iterate over that also. And by the way, we also want to leverage roles within the community to test this feature. So we’re actually creating our patch system, where if you have a role within our community, you will be able to display it on your rebel and like customizer, rebel, it’s kind of like, and so for example, like people who got leads, which is like, above what whitelist, in our community, we said like, you get the free, like, you get the free rebel, and you get the free patch that is going to be exclusive to the liberal and these people will be able to kind of like test it before other people, right? It’s kind of like this thing of like, rewarding people who actually have roles in the way you build the product. And you know, actually like using the features, and also having additional signaling compared to the rest. That’s like a lot of things, but we’re actually, a lot of a lot of great stuff. You know, you can imagine anything that is beyond the patch, right? Because like the patch is pretty limiting. Like, you don’t want to look like an army general, you know, with like, 50 different, you know?
I don’t know, maybe that’s your vibe, I don’t know.
Nass: Yeah, maybe you know, like, I’ll try but I’m not sure that I’m gonna fall for it. But like, overall, you know, you may want to use more of this as we said, you know, the PSP format is limiting, it is like a constraint. So, you may want to use, you know, additional parts of the rebel. And like additional things, like we started looking into interactive NFTs because, like we believe, you know, and open sea is starting to support that pretty well. The ability to kind of like click and do actions, you know, like with your keyboard, keys, etc. To interact with NFT get more information out of it, you know, say like, you can click on a patch, display more information, you know, and kind of like, not just get the PFP but actually get links to additional information that can be displayed and would not really be like as native on Twitter, but to in additional interactions, you can actually get further data and metadata on anyone right?
Building a Multi-dimensional NFT Project
You know, PFPs or are inherently visual. It’s a visual experience that stimulates your vision, right? One of those senses and I’m trying to think, like when you think about expression beyond just being able to see something, right? Whether it be listening to something or feeling something, I wonder where NFTs come into play with that, like an auditory expression type of experience. And I know I’m just, I’m thinking, kind of like more brainstorming with you over here. Because being able to basically visualize and symbolize you own something, right, is inherently why I believe NFTs went berserk. And being able to kind of have digital property on the internet, being able to symbolize that you spent X amount of money on this thing and show that off, and provably show it off has those like social effects that we kind of go through in the physical world, but I’m trying to think about any file could be an NFT, you can tokenize any type of file, and what does expression look like on a visual level, not on a visual, on an auditory level, for example and because I know a lot of your tracks, a lot of your promo has really interesting music behind it as well. It’s like a very dual type of experience. And I’m curious, like, how do you guys think about more of the auditory side, around NFTs at the project? If that’s even something you’re thinking about?
Nass: Yeah, we’ve been talking about that. So first, I think that there is kind of like, the visual identity, we really, like, solve this, I think, in kind of being at the intersection of kind of like, more high-end fashion streetwear. And I would say kind of like the cyber punk, you know, vibe. And so right being at the crossing, the audio side is very hard to do. So, like right now I feel like we’re kind of like trending towards almost kind of like trapanese. So, like, almost like Japanese trap type of a feeling. But I think it’s like, we would first need to like to get that. But this is something that we definitely want to have in our interactive experiences. One thing that like I was thinking, like, as you were speaking is, you know, say you have like, you know, the pods, you know, for like artifact, right? Like first and foremost, like I’m a huge fan of artifact, love what they do very, like tech centric, really trying to like, push the narrative and like we’re seeing that with also like customization features and so on. Like, what if you had like your clone, and then like, you can click it and within the NFT itself were like through the interactive interfaces have that have the pod be part of the NFT, right, and like, basically have like, the clone link to that, right. And like you basically enter like the pod by clicking something’s right. And so, and even having sound that comes with it, and so on. And so, this would be part of like, kind of like an end-to-end experience. And like, that’s kind of like how I think about it. There are obviously each like, you know, security issues for marketplaces to handle state storing state, you know, and like allowing your NFT to access other websites to do like various actions. So, like they need to sandbox things for security purposes. But like, I’m very curious to see like, how far can we go from like, interactive experience that is visual audio, that is very cohesive, and like really brings you something as a holder, but also allows you to signal more things to people around you. Because a lot of the PFP space is about this, right? It’s about like, kind of like showing who you are and along bringing people into your world kind of like displaying your roles and achievements. So, like, how do we make that kind of like, cohesive thing? And we’re working on that. But this is very hard to do, honestly.
How To Show Off That You Own an Audio NFT?
Yeah, like so audio is like tokenizing music, for example, is really, really big right now. And if your song, if it’s a one-on-one NFT and it gets played on the radio, there’s no real way for me to kind of provably kind of like show that I own that song that’s playing on the radio right now. Right? And I’m thinking like, what is that layer look like being able to kind of prove that you own an audio type of file on chain, you know what I mean?
Nass: So, yeah, so there are kind of like different ways that like the music NFTs are working right now. And like this is extremely interesting. Like, I love music NFTs and like one of our advisors and my very good friends is Justin Blau. And so, you know, obviously like him being a worldwide known DJ but also being the founder of royal I got to learn a lot about you know, music NFTs through him and so they’re kind of like different ways to think about it. There are people who kind of want to store the music on chain or like to YPFS and just like linked to it. And others like royal actually do not point at the file but they actually point that a legal document that represent you or ownership of the song with, with a hash of the file. And so, this is actually like two different, very different ways to do it. And it has, like, very critical ramification around, like, what it actually represents. But this is very important to kind of like nothing. I think that’s like the one with the documents, that legal documents will work grateful for that.
And it’s so interesting how you approach that question from a technical level, right? Because what I was imagining, because NFTs are inherently visual, right? And the way you kind of visualize ownership right now is through a hexagon or if it sits in your wallet, and what does that look like for like an audio based NFT that you can’t really put in your in your PFP and have the hexagon? You know what I mean, it’s interesting how you answered that from a technical point of view. That’s just how you’re wired. I love it. I love it. But I’m thinking because I collect a lot of music and NFTs. And there’s no real way for me to show it off, maybe by sharing playlists, right? And being able to kind of symbolize ownership. But even that, like that’s more of a visual experience to scrolling through a playlist, but I’m thinking, if it’s on the radio, if I hear it on a TV show, right or something, how can I show that off? You know, to the rest of the world? Yeah. oh, in that audio file.
It’s just one big rabbit hole. Yeah.
Nass: It’s like a visual web browser. Actually, if you think about it, it’s almost like you know, you just like click on, instead of clicking on the link, you actually click on Like something that is visual element and just like start getting more context and can do that, even recursively again, and again. And so, these are things that like we’re actually heavily considering.
So, talking more about, like the visual experience, I want to talk about the art, okay, because the internet is actually going absurd over the renders that you guys are creating. And when you zoom in, you just see, like, pixel for pixel, like the detail is immaculate, right? I don’t know, who is the artist on the team? Like, how did you guys even find this person that the design is incredible.
Nass: Yeah. So, you know, in the NFT space, there is like this question that you just asked, like, who’s the artist, but like, obviously, when we’re talking about this level of quality, it’s not a single person. It’s actually an entire team. I think it’s a little bit over 10 people that have been working on this for seven months, actually straight.
Nass: And yeah, like this is, you know, like, we wanted everything to be pixel perfect, look amazing. Not too dark, not too joyful, having like the right level that like, keeps it like mysterious, and has like, you know, coherence in the artistic direction.
So, on that, so on that point. So, what did the mood board look like when kind of designing this project? Like what were the different elements that led to the inspiration of the first character?
Nass: Yeah, that’s a Great question. So, like the mood board was we wanted to, like really find a different sources of inspiration, what kind of like, what kind of categories and we should publish, like our mood board. And at some point.
Yeah, I really feel like you should, that’d be really cool. It would just create even more excitement to kind of tap into the mind of who, the minds, the 10 people who kind of put this thing together. But yeah, go ahead.
Nass: Yeah, it was a real think coming from everything. So, like, you know, from the fashion side, there were like many inspirations, you know, obviously like Kenny West is a big one Missile Margiela is also like extremely strong when it comes to mask, they’ve been like pushing the narrative forward, like, by like, way beyond any other kind of couture institutions. So, like, we really studied that quite a lot. There was like, a lot on the protest side. So, something that is very interesting is that protests around the globe, kind of like start with, you know, just protecting your identity and protecting themselves like physically, right. But then one step further is actually like, what kind of message can you represent on to like, your mask, right? So, you have, you start having like, people who writes messages onto, put symbols, etc. And then, like, you get into fashion. And so, fashion has been, like, you basically have like, protests that 10 almost do like fashion display, right? Because it grabs attention, it is going to make things viral. And like people, you know, human beings are about symbols, right? Like, we’re like very visual creatures that like really relate to symbols and like to put ourselves behind these. And so just going over, you know, like virus protests in the world and how, like, people started building messages, visual messages for them, and visual language.
And some of them might be light, some of them might be you know, just like, written down. Some of them might be just, you know, abstract art, we’re seeing a lot of that were also went into, you know, hip hop, so like, a drill, like the drill world, especially the UK drill is very, very advanced when it comes to using masks, as identities, animes are huge thing. I’m a big fan. And like, if you look at like, wow, if you look at like Naruto when you look at like, some of the other like etc. Like, the mask is just everything, like when you see like some of them with like, with the mask you. Because it’s not so much about like, the like, it’s the person that like sends a message and like, this is exactly what we wanted to do from like an artistic standpoint, it’s basically like sending a message that is much bigger than like, what you look like, physically. It’s actually like, what are you about, right? And can you kind of, like summarize it, in something that is going to be displayed as kind of like a as a front end to you right? And this is like the that was really the ideal behind it actually, like, I found the ideal of the masks. I was watching music video for my favorite rap artists called kennish like a French rapper, for any French, they’re gonna know him.
Nass: Kennish for sure. And yeah, you can have a free minute if you want and so he kind of like started with like a blank balaclava. Right, and like, as you started adding, like more consciousness and in his lyrics, and just like more protests, and like just more messages and deeper messages, he actually started adding some of the messages in like symbols, for example, like talking about, you know, body war in Africa, he started putting like a bloody hand, you know, symbol. This is like very visceral because you have this, it is a canvas, it is about what you’re saying, you’re actually prioritizing this message over, like what you physically look like. And we felt like it was the best representation, like it was just the best artistic concept that would match this idea of like, you know, a digital canvas that would allow you to show more about yourself. And so, this is really what we wanted to allow people to do is just like as you develop your identity, as you join communities, as you create experiences, you attend events, etc. You should be able to like to make your NFT evolve with you. And so that’s kind of like how we plan to do.
You know, you’re incredibly technical yet you’re also incredibly creative. And when you meet technical people, the stigma is that they’re introverted. You know, like they, they stick to their code, like they stick to their screen, but you seem to exemplify many, many characteristics and extend way beyond that, right? Obviously, not everybody fits into that shell. But that’s like the stigma, right? And hearing you speak about all these, like artistic, creative kind of like approaches, is really interesting to see how it kind of comes into play with the actual image itself. Because everything that you just described, really, I see the PSP, right, like, this entire vision that you just portrayed artistically. I can envision that right. And I think you guys really, like you guys really connected the fuses really, really well. And kind of like, forming that design. I also want to talk to. Yeah, go ahead, go ahead.
Nass: I was about to say, so something that like we didn’t touch on and like, it’s also pretty relevant to this is that I’ve been a graffiti artist for 20 years actually, doing graffiti every single year.
That I didn’t find online.
Nass: Yeah, but like I’ve been doing graffiti for 20 years. So obviously, a lot less about, you know, like, we have characters and like, I think that like hip hop was also like a big inspiration. But it I think that’s like, dictated like a lot of kind of, like the streetwear kind of like type of fashion that like we tried to display in a way that is like very slick. But yeah, like, for me, I think that like art is you know, it is a big part of my life. Outside of that, obviously, a lot less time to like, with graffiti, but like I can show you like oh my like, oh my tags, like everywhere, it’s 24/7 You know, just like I’m gonna be like, constantly, you know, tagging and just like, making some graffiti on the side.
How did you get into graffiti art?
Wait, wait, we’re already like 48 minutes into this episode. And this is the first time I hear that you’re a graffiti artist. I could not find that anywhere online. How did you get into graffiti art?
Nass: You know, I tend to fall in love with things. And just like stick to them. I think I was 11 years old. And it was someone, I was very nerdy. I was a geek, you know, always working 24/7 And just like trying to get the best grades. But there you have these, like two guys in my older sister’s class. And they actually like wrote her name in graffiti style. And I saw that at home, and I was just like, what is this? And then I was like, what does it mean? And then I just like to fell in love. And I spent like, the next week, just like, you know, like when you put like a cog on to like, like a you know, like a opaque layer and he started like this recopying over and over. And I was just like, the full week, like 100 times. And like started, you know, like wanting to learn more. And then like when to paint my first wall. And then I just loved and did some, you know, legal murals, some illegal murals, and then you know, I just I just love the culture. it’s something that is that is very deep in me. This is mine, by the way, I did like a16z in the X web three.
Let me go full screen. Oh shit, that’s sick. That’s really sick.
Nass: Links on exclusive merch for a16z.
Building Hype: How To Build a Die Hard NFT Community
You’ll have to send me some pictures of your stuff. I’m gonna include it in the show notes. I think the world needs to see more of that. Before we wrap up, I want to ask you about a few more things. Okay. I’m a big part of crypto is obviously community. It’s incredibly redundant and washed-out statement. But every kind of project has its own unique community, has its own, ethos has its own kind of like values. And when you were constructing Rebels, I think the hardest part that a lot of creators kind of have when they enter this space is finding those first few people that align with what they’re doing. Right in your case, you guys have 1000s of people in your discord, crazy following an engagement online. But how did you plant that first seed? What was like the starting process of getting those first few people to fall in love with what you’re doing to then eventually scale it to where it’s at today? And we’re what we’re a few days from crunch time have kind of seen this go live?
Nass: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I think that like there are actually two things about this. It’s kind of like how do you first get the people to come to you? And then how do they, how do you make them connect with your vision, with your kind of like mission statement, with your DNA and how do you build a DNA with them, right? Because it’s not, like if I tell you repeatedly, like we’re about this, we’re about this, we’re about this, it’s not going to change anything if you don’t like inherently and deeply connect to it. And so, the first part was actually, I would say, a lot of luck, a lot of about the art and about a lot about like the setup around the initial announcement that we made. So, I was actually on a on a Twitter space with Nikhil, the co-founder of alchemy, I was also on, there was also co-founder of dapper labs and a few other people. And so, at the end, we actually did a pull up, that was basically like, that would represent like a whitelist entry, or project that we just announced. Right, and they were like, there were like many people in the audience, it was like very high profile, we were talking about like, web three and security and the future of infrastructure in the space, etc. And so, people came in first for the art, which was like, very singular, very unique at the time, and still is today, but like, people really connect it to the art. And then the transition to making it about community happened over time by us being very present in the discord. And actually, you know, I’m a big fan about, I’m a big fan about, like, building culture in general, like I’ve read every single book possible about like, you know, building company culture. And my favorite one is actually written by Ben Horowitz. And this is actually one of the reasons that me to join Andreessen Horowitz, where you basically have like, building a community is almost like building a team, building a company in the sense that, like, you have to kind of like lead efforts in some of culture, but you have to bring people with you and make them understand how everything that you’re proposing is going to be beneficial for them for others around them. And, you know, kind of like, make everyone move together in the right direction.
And so, I spend most of my time talking about community culture, community DNA, community building, trying to help people build kind of, like build efforts, because like, we want to build an ecosystem, you know, and to think about community, I’m thinking Ethereum, I think it’s like, Ethereum is amazing, you know, no one relies on Vitalik anymore to kind of like dictate where should things go? And like, they don’t rely on him for like, a lot of the efforts they do. You know, having him like high regards. But like, Ethereum did really well, it kind of like scaling the foundation, efforts to multiple kind of like, you know, groups of people everywhere around the globe. And so, we tried to do that. But that happens by walking the talk, right? Like, I’m on Discord, three to four hours a day, all week long, we can probably more than that. I’m constantly there. I’m constantly talking with everyone, constantly in the VCs, and helping people kind of like onboard, in kind of like reward the positive behaviors. And one other thing that like we do that is very singular, and people really connect to is fostering subcommittees. My opinion is that subcommittees are the most important thing about communities, like, this is the thing that is going to dictate that like, you feel like you are part of a hole, but at the same time, you are unique. I myself, for example, if I take like an example from just like a geographic standpoint, right, like where I come from, I come from France. And I’m not thinking like, oh, like, I’m just, I’m not a scare. Sorry, I’m not a scarce resource, because I’m like, one of out of, you know, 17 million, right? Like, this is not how I think about it, how I think is like, okay, I’m French, but I’m from Paris, I’m from, you know, the 18th District and like, within the 18th district, I’m from like, this very specific neighborhood. And this kind of like these layers, nested layers actually dictate how I actually feel like and part of like something big, and also at the same time part of like, a very small community that like makes me unique, right. And so this is the type of thing that we try to foster in the community, where we really into helping people build sub communities, we help people create like already, we already have like three people who created their own NFT collections within the community and we help them bootstrap these efforts to kind of like have already these kind of like smaller groups formed themselves and feel like they’re not thinking about like, oh, I’m just a rebel, but I’m part of like Yoko, Yoko rebel and part of like, toys Rebels. And people are already talking about like forming their own Daos, etc. Like, I love this. I think that like one of the reasons why board ape was so successful is because you know, you have like, the golden ape that formed around the house, you have like sub communities that formed themselves and just like, really thrive over time. Same thing for Zuki. And so, I’m really excited to see that happen for Rebels, but it comes with like really doing that on a constant and daily basis, which is something that like, not a lot of people have, obviously, like, the time and the energy to do and the passion but like this is this is critical.
So, do you orchestrate manually a sub community and hope that like, it spirals out into something organic? Or how do you like prop the sub community to form?
Nass: I think it’s like, people do have a lot of creativity and like, people have the, yeah, people have the creativity, people will create things. And you know, in the community, and we see that constantly. And the goal is not for you to just lay like, oh club like whitelist This is not what you should do, what you should be doing is like, your thing is amazing. A lot of people would like really enjoy, you know, displaying that, do you feel like, you know, building something bigger? Do you feel like bringing other people that like you’re close to because they also built the friendships, right? It’s like, do you and your friends want to, like do something and kind of like help them, you know, organize the events like basically help on the operational side around it and like communication, so that like they provide the main efforts, but you’re here to kind of like support them from like an operational and like marketing communication perspective, it’s kind of like scale out their efforts more broadly within the discord outside the discord. And so now you basically have like these, this amazing part of like the Japanese community that is actually creating, you know, kind of like a Japanese roulette with like, really sought-after NF’s that are like from a derivative collection. And they organize that on a very frequent basis. They have like these like, votes on like, which one should we really snacks, etc. And so, they have the creativity, they put up amazing content, like I would not be creating myself because like, you know, we just, like we have very different creative experiences and appetites and tastes.
But scaling that out is very important. Like me, making myself available for them, if they need anything is the most critical things. Oh, and by the way, our solution. So, one of the things that you need to make people feel like they’re part of the community even before mint, which is very important. And so, now like, you know, you have a lot of things are free to mint. And like that’s like a lot more widespread. But for us, we actually did it when no one was doing it. And so, we really wanted to make, like these people feel like they’re already part of the community, they don’t need to like think about order financializing, you know, this project, they should just like focus on building the best stuff. And so, this is what we basically did with the free mint, very early to basically allow them to feel like okay, they’re already part of the community, they can like go to the next level, right? Like they’re already in this rebel’s ecosystem, then they can build like one level deeper, as I was discussing.
It’s a funnel, basically, it works. It works as a funnel, something that I’ve been talking about really for a long time on the podcast, because this is all about craters, what through creator economy, and trying to build an audience in the in the web three creator economy is trying to find in an align incentives. And the best way to do that, in my opinion, is through a free mint. Or at least using that as a way to gauge and kind of like funnel in a top-level type of category, then you kind of work with people to kind of create unique experiences that funnels them down throughout the pipeline. And we saw this with the mint one with G money and him building like this CRM of giving up po ops to his most earliest supporters. We see this with po ups in general and people attending events in person be able to kind of mark their milestone in terms of being a part of something very early on. I also do this on the podcast with mint, I’ve given out over 1000 NFTs to my listeners for free. And the last season they were actually, they were nontransferable because I saw people kind of switching and trading these po ups which the intention is because I want to do something bigger, the intention is to kind of mark it as, you came in at this season. You supported me in this season, and now I can prove that, right? So free NFTs are a great way to do that. Creating sub communities through these projects is actually it’s the first time I’ve heard something like that, which might just end up being the title of this episode. We’ll see. But this has been great. I’ve learned a lot from you. I’ve learned a lot from your story. And before I let you go, where can we find more about the project? What are the minting details? When does it go live? Give me that entire rundown.
Nass: That sounds great. So, you can, first everything is going to happen on the Twitter page twitter.com/Rebels by night, the website is Rebels.art So don’t fall for any scam, nothing is going to happen on like fake premium sites, you know, you have to go through the official channels. The Mint is actually happening this Sunday, June 12, the public mint, which is going to last three hours in the format of a Dutch auction, that is going to start at 0.8 and will rest at 0.1, then the whitelist is going to be right after that for probably 48 hours, give or take. And it’s going to be at 0.08 Eth. And then we’re going to have some blog that is dedicated for like all the free mints, we have 10% of the collection that is free to mint for you know, lead and pseudo roles that we were talking about it, talking about before. So that is going to be the mint. The reveal is going to be shortly after, we don’t want to wait, you know to have people wait too long. We’re building an amazing, amazing reveal experience. A lot of people focus on the mint, we want to focus on the reveal. We think that like the reveal is going to be something else. And so very excited to see everyone you know, join us in the rebellion that’s really something that we’re very excited about.
Incredible. Well, we’re gonna have to do this again, once the project is live, once everything has been revealed, and we kind of see the community grow from there on out but thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the time and we’ll see you soon.
Nass: That sounds good. Thank you so much, Adam. That was awesome. had an amazing time. Thanks again for having me.
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Patrick, welcome to mint. Thank you for being on my friend what’s going on?
Patrick Rivera: Not much, thanks for having me.
Of course, I’m stoked to have you, thank you for being a part of season five. Mirror just announced writing NFTs. So, we have a lot to talk about in this episode. But I think the best place to start as I do with everybody, who are you? What does the world need to know about you? But more specifically, how did you get your start into web three?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah, so I graduated college a few years ago, went out to San Francisco, was working at Instacart, to grocery delivery company as an engineering. And that was a lot of fun. First experience working in a startup high growth, just constantly things were breaking, was a lot of fun. And then a little over a year in, I realized I wanted to try and challenge myself with something else and ended up getting in touch with a defi wallet called Dharma, and didn’t really know what defi was, didn’t really know too much about crypto other than seeing a few people in college like in the back of class, like trading on Coinbase. And having a lot of fun doing that. And so, I just thought it was yeah, like this speculative asset. And then once I actually went through the interview process, talking people realize that they’re very strong technical people. It came from great background, great companies, they’re really interesting and, and also that there’s this whole other side of crypto industry that wasn’t just around speculation, it was also around building and rebuilding the financial stack, whether it was lending, whether it was through exchanging assets, or whether it was through, like, more complex, like financial primitives, or global peer to peer payments, all sorts of stuff. And so, I thought that was super interesting. And that was really the first time I’ve worked in crypto web three, and it was there for a bit and then realized that although the defi stuff was technically very interesting, and a lot of it we’re still using today with NFTs and creators are you using as well, I realized that I was a bit more interested in like the social aspect of building a consumer social products, you put in creator tools, and that’s what ended up leading me to mirror a little over a year ago.
So that’s actually very similar to me as well, by the way, so I was working, I guess more on the financial side, I was working at a VC for like two and a half years. And I’m a drummer, you’ll see like a little bit, you’ll see that the drum sets mirrored, but you’ll see like the snare behind me and whatnot. And I’ve always been like creative and kind of going more into the traditional venture capital world. It was great. It was fun. I learned a lot. The bosses were amazing, and I just felt like I was kind of detaching from my creative side. So just like you I wanted to kind of like, you know, take control, like pivot a little bit, focus more on the creative stuff and quit and lo and behold, Mint was born almost a year ago. So wild, I’m actually looking at the date right now. That’s actually wild. But okay, so are you a creator yourself? Like what sort of creative thing creative things that have you done like growing up?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah. So, growing up, not too much. Actually, not I think about it. For me, I was mostly playing sports. That was a big thing I wanted to play in the Major Leagues, baseball, spent a lot of time traveling, tournaments all across Florida, where I grew up. And then wasn’t until after college a couple years after graduating where I started writing. And there’s one specific blogger that really influenced me named Tim Urban. And he writes this really cool blog called wait, but why. And the way he describes it is he focuses on very specific subjects. He’s written about AI, and about Elon Musk, he has written about religion and politics. And what he likes to do is he uses like, very funny, like stick figure drawings, like tell stories. And he’s just like, the way he writes is just hilarious. And so that really inspired me. And I was like, okay, why don’t I apply that to things I’m learning in my daily life, whether it’s through engineering, whether it’s in crypto, and so I really enjoyed writing. And I had a newsletter, I would write every couple of weeks. And that ended up leading me to mirror and before I got mirror, the newsletter was just like few close friends, family, people I’d worked with. But then once I was at mirrored, I started focusing on writing a lot about creators, web three crypto, and just like, natural things that I’d wished that I had known three months before, just things that I didn’t know until I spent a lot of time thinking about, a lot of time experiencing it with like actual customers or people using certain products and building things. And so, once I started writing about those topics, I was able to get more people interested in it and get more feedback on it. And that felt good, like knowing that something I was writing was helping someone with their business or as a creator, helping them build a community. And so, I started writing a bit more was active on Twitter. And so those are the two main channels that I have.
Got it. So. for those unfamiliar with mirror, which I find hard because it’s one of the most widely used like consumer applications in web three. How would you describe it to someone who’s not in crypto and is not crypto native?
Patrick Rivera: Yep, yep. So, it’s changed a bit over the past year. And for most of the past year, we were this general tool, this toolkit of different web three native tools, anything from, there was publishing, there was a crowd fund tool, there was NFT editions, there were revenue split, there’s governance, we had this entire toolkit where if you wanted to start a Dao, or if you wanted to publish a blog post to your community, if you wanted to sell NFTs, you’re able to connect your wallet on mirror, create a post, and then also embed, like different economic tools that were web three native, really under the hood, they were like smart contracts on Ethereum. And we did that for a bid, they had a ton of great partners and creators that were working with people like Song camp, Ethereum film, mag reality seed club, and a bunch of others. And we learned a ton from that experience. And we also realized that at the core of what we were doing, was this like publishing experience of really writing this blog post and telling your story. And what we really wanted to do over the past couple months was the double down on writers in that core publishing Foundation. Because we found ourselves, we were doing a lot of different tools. But there wasn’t necessarily like a very specific used case, or a specific customer that we were targeting was a bit more general purpose. And that allowed us to really experiment to learn, to get used to shipping things quickly at a high quality. But then now we wanted to focus all that energy on a very specific use case. And so recently, we double down on one of the writings used cases and building this new version of writing NFTs, which are, which we can talk a bit more about later. But yeah, that’s really the main thing that we’re focused on right now. So, anyone can connect their wallet, they can write a blog post, and then they can sell it as an NFT.
The Ideal Creator on Mirror
Yeah, so writing is universal, obviously, whether you’re a musician or an actor or a dancer, you still likely Right? Right. So, a lot of the crowd funds that I’ve kind of funded. So, I’m a part of Mad realities, I’m a part of M Club. I’m a part of overstatement, a bunch of other kind of like organizations that started and were funded and seated on mirror. And when you think about it, a lot of these organizations they otherwise are a lot of the creators in the organizations, their actual craft is not blocking, like their craft is not writing yet. The tool, the primitive is used as a way to kind of like form a community to fundraise and to kind of do all these really cool things that you guys have kind of empowered creators to do. So, with that being said, who is the ideal creator for mirror? Excuse me?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah, that’s a very good question. And, frankly, right now, we’re still trying to decide that and we’re trying not to be too opinionated about it. And really just build this tool that, really, at the highest level is anybody that’s writing about web three, or they’re using web three tools to build a community. And so, we’ve seen anything from musicians, like Daniel Allen, we’ve seen Daos, or these web three native communities that they launched this token they hang out in discord. We’ve seen people that are researchers, like great technical researchers writing about computer science, heavy topics, we’ve seen investors and said, from our perspective, it’s not necessarily focused on say, like an individual writer versus a musician, or someone with the newsletter, and it’s more around the topic of web three writing. And then also, we’re thinking a lot about, there’s so many great projects in web three, whether they’re NFT communities, whether they’re projects, building consumer products, or protocols. And we also want to be the place where they’re able to communicate with their community, build a relationship with them, and do that in a wet two native way.
Essential Tools To Build A Community
Yeah. When you when you think about web three communities, okay? A lot of them start on mirror. When you want to form a community in crypto, what are some of the more like essential things that you need to actually build a community? Like, what does it entail? And it might seem, it may seem like pretty, like okay Adam, why are you asking me this? But the reason, there’s a reason, because a lot of them end up actually starting on mirror, which is quite interesting.
Patrick Rivera: Definitely. That’s a really good question. Yeah, I feel like it’s in practice is not as obvious as a question would seem, and it said, there’s definitely a few key principles, I would say that depending on the type of community, the type of Dao that you’re starting, I really think that the one main thing is that you want like a core team that’s like heavily invested in the project. There’s a lot of talk about decentralization and community ownership. And sometimes it works. Just kind of like having this group chat that’s just there for the vibes and you kind of just like emergency come up with a mission or specific purpose. But I think on average, the ones that are successful, they have a very specific core team that feels ownership over the project. And maybe there’s official titles, maybe there’s not, maybe there’s working groups and leaders of the specific working groups. But regardless of the formal structure around it, it really just needs to be like a few core group members that are really invested in the culture, they’re invested in the mission, they’re very focused on it. And they’re willing to put in the work and do things that other people are willing to do. So that’s one thing that might seem obvious. But a lot of communities, they kind of forget about such one. And then to the tactical side, if you want to be a critical web three native community, there’s things like, you probably want a token, in order to gate a discord or telegram group chat, you probably want some sort of multi sig, we can hold high value assets in your treasury. And so, say that, as a community, you raised a bunch of Eth, from the NFT sales. And so, you want to hold that in a multi-SIG, which is basically just like a shared wallet, which is harder to for one person to actually be able to remove all the funds from and so there’s things like that everyone like on the web three.
So, how do you think about the difference between when you start a community think about the difference between needing to start with a social token, a fungible token as the primitive for binding a group of people together under a common theme, or using a membership pass, a non-fungible token? Has that means to bind a community together under a common theme? How do you think about the difference? Like do you have a mental model around that?
Patrick Rivera: For sure, for sure, I think that most communities, it’s probably better to use an NFT. And the reason is there they’re just simpler, it’s just a simpler mental model. Whereas with fungible tokens, there’s just a lot more you can do well, not necessary, a lot more you can do with them. But as it just introduces more complexity, where now at the fungible token, there’s like this liquid price for people listed on uniswap. And so, then you can have whales come in and buy up a large supply of them. Within now you need to set like a minimum number that people hold. And then you have to think about inflation. And so, there’s just like, Now, whenever you have a fungible token, it can end up looking like an actual currency. And you have to think about like the macroeconomics of it. And it just ends up being a lot more complexity than most projects need. And it’s easier to simplify and say, hey, we just have 500 NFTs not many more are going to be sold. First drop is going to be point 03 Eth, point 05 feet, whatever. And then once they’re all sold, you can only buy them on a secondary market. And then each NFT maps to one vote in our Dao. And that is a much simpler mental model as opposed to a fungible token where now, I’d say okay, there’s supply demand, you have a minimum threshold and stuff, which ends up being a bit more complex. Then also, the other reason we use an NFT is it comes with a visual representation, which is kind of a cool Totem or a cool way to express yourself, express yourself as part of the community.
Yeah, one thing that I would like to be seen kind of featured on mirror are soulbound and NFTs. And being able to experiment with that primitive. The reason I say that is because on the podcast, I build community on the podcast by giving out free NFTs. And initially, I started off giving popups but then I kind of switched to basically minting on my own site but doing it in a way where the NFTs are non-transferable. And they actually remain an individual’s wallet because the intention of the NFT, the purpose why people collect is simply because to signify and symbolize that they were first to listen to the podcast before others who enter and future seasons. And with that, I plan to do cool initiatives and cool activities that I hope to share more in the future. But I’m kinda like, you know, throwing in the breadcrumbs a little bit, taking it a step at a time. And with mirror being like that core platform where a lot of communities are born, right, members find one another, purposes are shared, people align under a common theme. I don’t know, I feel like a soulbound NFT could actually be a really cool kind of like implementation. And of course, like, you’re on the product side, you see these trends? You guys ideas on what to kind of integrate next? What do you think about soulbound NFTs? Is it just a meme? Do you think it has potential long term? I see it getting backlash. Why would I want anything ever soulbound to me? What are your thoughts around that?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah, because like so bad. MCs are like, the hot topic nowadays on crypto Twitter. And yet they TLDR they are awesome. I think that people like to get lost in the implementation details. And the reality is that, yeah, there’s still a lot to figure out in implementation and so, I’d rather not focus on because there’s tons of ways that can implement it. But the core idea to me, soulbound NFTs is, yeah, it’s gonna represent many different things. It can be something like your reputation, it can be something like, hey, I completed this task, or hey, this person thinks highly of me can really represent like, all sorts of types of relationships. And I think it’s gonna be a very important primitive, and I feel like it’s best to think through them in terms of examples, and I think like one core thing that we haven’t really seen yet on the internet is something around the peer-to-peer reputation. And probably the closest examples we have are like LinkedIn recommendations, where it’s like, hey, I work with Adam on this project, or this company and I thought it was great. And I’m gonna write up a paragraph or two about him and said, that’s interesting, but it only, you can only see that on LinkedIn site. And then eventually, maybe people don’t go to the LinkedIn site, because they don’t like hanging out there. And they just find it valuable. And so, it’s kind of trapped within that ecosystem.
Or they just don’t like getting DM the bunch by random people saying, let’s connect, let’s connect, let’s connect. It could also be, you know.
Patrick Rivera: getting notifications that Tesla just posted, or just got mentioned that there’s something.
Right, like, who gives a shit.
Patrick Rivera: But to that let just say, that’s like the closest that we have. And there’s other like reputation systems around like likes and followers and stuff like that. But they don’t really have much information attached to them. They’re like very fungible, like to view like likes and followers as fungible, it’s like you can, you have an unlimited number of them. And every time I follow somebody on Twitter, it’s like the same. It’s not like I can say, like, Adam is one of my favorite creators and at the intersection of web three, and creators or web three and communities, or I can attach this is data that says, as someone like blockchain Brett, web three, Brett is one of my favorite people in music NFT space, I can’t say things like that when I follow someone, but I think with soulbound NFTs that they provide this richer representation of social graphs and relationships between people and peer to peer reputation. So, I think there’s tons of stuff. There’s stuff like badges, their stuff, like, hey, you worked at this company, or you worked on this project, or, and so I think it just adds many more dimensions to our relationships online. And then kind of one closing thing about that is, yeah, a lot of people talk about social graphs, and how social networks are just like this graph of relationships, like you follow a few 100 people on Twitter or Instagram, there’s a few 100 People that follow you, and that creates this graph. And but now, it’s like that what connects those graphs is just like a simple follow are simple like, but now these NF T’s, they basically allow you to attach like all sorts of different types of data and metadata and much more information, which I think will be really interesting. And then now, you actually own that data, you can import it to different apps, people can build experiences around it. So yeah, I think it’s really interesting.
Okay, so two concepts right now. One, going back to a conversation I had with G money that I published today, it’s Tuesday, June 7, where he kind of he growth, hacked and bootstrapped more web three native CRM, and CRMs are what do they stand for Consumer Relations?
Patrick Rivera: Customer Relationship management.
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Customer Relationship Management. Yeah, essentially a way to manage all your contacts online. And he basically built his own web three CRM by using poups and kind of rewarding his earliest contributors in his earliest connections in his career, as a way to symbolize that we have met like we can solidify this connection. And you’ve been a part of my journey. And now with admit one, he released this, like, exclusive 1000 person, NFT, gated community, alpha group, whatever you want to call it, with the floor last time I checked it, like at least 10 Eth. Right. That was a free mint. So, one way to kind of build community and reward your earliest participants, which was super interesting. Another interesting point on top of that is, I think it was Michael Blau, he was on I think the episode prior to G money, and kind of talked about one of the most exciting things for him is being able to create custom experiences based off someone connecting their wallet. And that custom experience is kind of like in the air right now. Because I will at least the most like standout example, is basically being able to say, when you connect your wallet to let’s say, a web three Twitter, it will be able to tell Twitter, whether you like something in light mode or dark mode, and it can customize the entire kind of like experience on that platform for you. Are you thinking about it the same way? Is that what you were kind of referring to?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah, yeah, there’s definitely the thing that I like about these different primitives that web three whether it’s an NFT, whether it’s a fungible token, whether it’s a soulbound token, it’s like, I really like this analogy. I heard from Chris Dixon on some podcasts, where it’s like NF T’s are like websites, where it’s like, it’s how you say, like, someone asked me 20 years ago, 30 years ago, like what do you think about websites? It’s like, I don’t own there’s like, there’s so much you could do with it. And I talked about specific examples. And so, I definitely think that’s a one specific example where you can customize the experience based off of it. You can, I think, the one that I’ve been thinking more about, though, is around, yeah, peer to peer reputation, and really thinking through like, how can we use that and what is it the web three native version of a like or a follow or retweet, what other information would you attach to that? And how could that be used across different consumer apps? And so, in many ways, that does feed into customizing the experience. Maybe it’s like, hey, if I have given soulbound NFTs, to these 10 creators, that maybe it knows that it can infer that I like this type of content, and it customizes the feed, and stuff like that. But yeah, again, basically, just having this new way of representing your relationship with other people and things on the internet, I think is super interesting.
Patrick with mirror being one of the more prominent platforms in like the web three, creator economy? How would, if you’re open to sharing, like, what is the thesis at mirror for the crater economy? Like, what does that look like for you guys, on a one-year plan, on a three-year plan, on a five-year plan? Like what’s the vision here?
Patrick Rivera: Yes, so from the very beginning, like our core ethos was really centered around like web three principles, and things like ownership over your data, things like having a, a global identity system that you control through something like Ethereum, like public, private keys, ENS name, and also the content that you publish. It’s not only walled by, by the mirror, to the mirror servers, it’s stored in a way that anybody can access, it’s at least from like a technical level, like those are the foundational principles and how those are implemented is definitely still open to what we learned from how people are using the products. But ideally, that’s like the core foundation. And then over the next few months, years, really what we want to do is provide a new business model for writers, focus through writing and NFTs and over time, building new types of features that are web three natives that allow people to not only like use the mere product in order to build their audience, to create content, to share the content, to monetize it through NFTs, but also building an ecosystem of other projects that are integrating with the underlying protocol for minting the NFTs, for building the community, for communicating with the community, and the news entire ecosystem of projects that are building on top of that, and integrating with that, and so that creators aren’t just reliant on the mirror products on Mirror dot XYZ, but also able to use other clients and other interfaces within the ecosystem and access the same underlying content data community.
Why Collect a Writing NFT
Got it. So, with that kind of comes your recent update at mirror of writing and NFTs. And when I came across that I felt like deep down that was the next step. But to see it publicly, was really exciting. And this whole concept of tokenizing media, I feel like there’s a new wave we’re about to enter, and something that the podcast will be exploring sometime soon as well. And one thing I want to ask you like, why would somebody collect a writing NFT? What is it utility based? Is it for the sake of collecting art just because you want to collect art? Like what is the mental model around that?
Patrick Rivera: Definitely. That’s really good question. And so that the, at this point, there’s many reasons and quite a few reasons for people to collect. One that we’ve seen is just pure patronage. Somebody likes the article that was written, and they want to support the writer, or they want to at least show a token of their appreciation. That’s one reason. Another reason is because people want to use this as like an identity mechanism where it’s like, hey, I’ve been collecting these 10 Ss, these 10 Ss are part of identity that things that I refer to often or have really shaped my thinking on a particular topic. And so, I just want to build tools to allow people to kind of curate their profile pages, display them in a way that kind of shows that says that that really means something to them. And using collecting this kind of this that is always on chain, it’s always it’s public, people can always view it, you can build other apps that can display this type of information. So, I think those are the two main reasons. One is patronage and then also as a form of identity, and kind of signifying and signaling in some of the things that are very interesting to you. And similar to, like, over the past few months’ music NFTs, have been very popular. And that says a word that is very similar to that word. It’s a form of patronage. It’s a form of speculation, for people that are selling on secondary markets, but then it’s also for people that are interested in building an identity around the artists that they’re supporting, and the artists and the music that they love. And so, it’s similar with writing as well.
Why Mint a Writing NFT?
You know, as a, as someone who wants to get better at writing, there’s a reason why podcast and there’s a reason why I’m also behind the microphones because I feel like I suck at answering people’s questions and I suck at writing. That’s why I’m a podcaster but as a writer, because I know people from mirror, listen to the podcast. When should somebody consider minting editions of their post? Like should you meant every single blog post? Are there specific situations where you should mint and you could say that okay, I’m to zoom out like think about it as if you’re releasing a song or you are creating a piece of art, you could apply the same mental model, but I don’t know, I don’t want to assume things.
Patrick Rivera: Yeah, yeah. So definitely, yeah, like valid approaches and different thinking on it. That for us is one way that we’re thinking about it is, yeah, if you’re publishing through mirror admitting everything as an NFT makes sense, because it kind of creates this record of this content that was published at a certain piece of time. And it allows other people to be able to, to collect it, to signal their affinity towards it. And it’s kind of like on Twitter, like Twitter doesn’t let you opt out of having people favorite your tweets. And it’s kind of like part of the game and like, we like to think about it is in certain aspects of mirror, we think about it as a game in the sense that there’s rules. There’s like a goal, there’s like this common pattern and kind of this balance of things that we allow you to customize like the price and supply. But then also like the standard things that aren’t necessarily customizable, like whether it should be minted as an NFT or not. And so, we’re kind of, we’re still thinking through it internally. But it one way to look at it is maybe everything should be writing NFT, allow people to collect it. And that’s part of the merit game, it’s part of the standard format that you’re not able to opt out of. And, of course, the cool thing about building things as protocols is that if we end up building it some way, another team can end up building an alternative client to it, and it still feeds into the same underlying protocol.
NFTs as Social Graphs
Yeah, I know one thing you’re also big about is like this whole web three social movement, which I’ve seen you tweet about online, mirrors inherently, to an extent a social platform, or at least the foundation of something much bigger. And what are your thoughts around like these crypto primitives being the I guess, the foundation for the next social graph, like NFT, sitting in your wallet act as a way to engage in form identity with one another who kind of aligned with those assets? I guess my point is, a lot of season five is about web three social or seeing projects like cyber connect, lens protocol, all these applications like coin vise kind of appearing, and empowering creators and with creators comes social network. creators are here because of the social platforms, right? Like platforms were created to empower creators. And in a world, that’s inherently decentralized, or at least what we hope that we’re building towards. I’m curious what this next social graph will kind of look and feel like, my question to you is, why are NFTs the best primitive to form the social graphs?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah, yeah. I feel like now one of the main things is a few things around them, they one of the core things is around portability. And what that means practically is an example a lot of people will talk about is, whenever you build an audience on a social platform today, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, you have subscribers, followers, etc. There’s a few issues with building on his closed systems. One is whenever you post content, it doesn’t go directly to all of your followers, it actually goes through this intermediary, which is Twitter, product, Instagram, YouTube, etc. And they basically decide what type of content gets prioritized or deprioritize. And so that’s kind of one thing that like, that is definitely not necessarily sustainable for many creators, or something that a lot of creators want to opt into. So that’s one and then two is over time, say that you want to build a direct relationship, whether it’s through email, whether it’s through building your own site that you can communicate to them, or something that you are paywall in content or token gating it like Patrion, then it’s not easy to export, it’s not really even possible to export your followers or your social graph. And so, they the portability, and having a direct relationship with your audience is really the core thing. And I think one thing missing right now in web three is being able to message and address a someone with a public key. And, like right now, people kind of find hacks around it, where you basically tie an email address to an Ethereum address or some other blockchain address, and then they send it to the email address. But that there’s definitely some issues with that in terms of like privacy Doxing yourself, but I think eventually, once there is a way to be able to message any public address, and of course, you’re gonna need like spam filters and content moderation, stuff like that. I think that’d be a really interesting way for people to build an audience on one platform. And then if they’d like to say the take rate of the platform is too high, in terms of the fees that they’re charging, or if they’re deprioritizing their content, then you’re able to go and build your own solution or integrate with some other solution.
Insights Discovered While Building Mirror
What were some, I guess, unexpected insights that you picked up while building product at mirror, things that you learned about web three native creators that you otherwise wouldn’t have assumed?
Patrick: Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say that. Yeah, one of the main things would be around how creators are based in hindsight, but the creators really want to focus on creating new creative ad on, the more that you can kind of automate and build tooling around, the more like running the business aspects, because I think that’s the real chief of crater economy is that it’s turning individuals into these institutions, is turning creators into businesses. And it’s like, the next version of small and medium sized businesses are going to be creators that have small teams, they’re like 5, 10 people, your distribution through the internet, you’re selling products through Shopify, ecommerce, drop shipping, etc. And yeah, like building tools around that’s like the main thing. And it really deepened my conviction around that like working with creators seeing the deep level of engagement that many of their audiences in their communities have and how obsessed they are, that’s one of them is around, like building tooling that allows creators to build businesses and other ones around kind of the viability of building an audience, or building a business with a relatively small audience, I can give a talk about like 1000 true fans, if you have 1000 true fans to pay you $100 a year, you can make 100k, six figures. And then now with NFTs you really need like, only like 100 true fans, because with a lot of these products with the access that they provide the exclusivity and the scarcity that they provide, you can build a pretty meaningful business with say 100 collectors, 50 collectors just because you are collectors. And so those are two of the main ones of creators are turning into businesses. And there’s a ton of tooling to build for them. And then also around not needing a massive audience and really building a sustainable business with just a few like core collectors or community members.
You know, what’s crazy is that you and the other folks that mirror are absolutely behind, championing a lot of the creative and financial freedom for people who otherwise wouldn’t have had that because of the tools that you guys have built, from the publishing platform, to the fundraising mechanics, to splits to automating token creation, all these things that otherwise would have made it incredibly difficult for someone to monetize their craft, online. And proof the amount of communities that were born because of mirror, the amount of lives that were changed. I mean, when Daniel Allen, for example, raised 180k, in a matter of like 24 hours, with 24, 48 hours with 200, Twitter followers, right? Just the virality of being able to kind of come across someone’s vision, and then being able to contribute to it instantly, is powerful, like, really, really powerful. And I don’t even need to say that, like proof is in the pudding kind of thing. And I guess my question to you, Patrick is like you have that responsibility, right? Like you guys at mirror have the responsibility to create these tools to empower these everyday creatives. What does that responsibility really mean in the grand scheme of things? Like it’s one thing to create products, it’s another thing to really see people’s lives change because of them. Right? And I feel like that should be so rewarding.
Patrick Rivera: Definitely, definitely. Yeah, did it really mean that you have to take things seriously. And one of the things that I love about engineering and building products is that there’s nowhere to hide. And you can, it’s like going to the gym, I like to do CrossFit. It’s like no matter how it is like doesn’t matter how you look, doesn’t matter what shape you are, what gender, whatever else about you. There’s no hiding once you like go to the workout, you got to do it. And it’s the same thing with like, building products is like, there’s nowhere to hide is like, either this thing works or doesn’t work. And whenever there’s like real money on the line, when there’s like real like, lives at stake not, I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily live the second, certainly like financial lives at stake and allowing people to raise this money or engage with their community and stuff like that, and build the communities that they’ve been spending so much time on and say, yeah, there’s nowhere to hide, if it doesn’t work, like people are gonna find out and it’s going to damage your reputation. And so, the thing I like about is like, yeah, kind of that adrenaline rush where every line of code, every pixel in the UI, everything you do, every way you communicate within the app, all the copy of it makes a difference. And they go in that extra mile and an understanding that had the stuff that you build, you create, you design, it’s going to be used by someone who can be very important. And the way that you make decisions is really going to it’s going to impact someone and it’s really a big responsibility but at least personally it’s exciting and allows me to kind of get some adrenaline and make you want to stay up a bit longer, wake up a bit earlier kind of sacrifice doing other things. And it’s definitely worthwhile for sure.
What Virality Looks Like in Web3?
One of the biggest features that have made creators incredibly successful on web two platforms is like their algorithms like their virality algorithms specifically Tik Tok right and how they’re able to make anybody and influencers or at least they were able to now it’s a little bit harder because it’s more saturated, but I’m curious from a product point of view from your mindset. What is virality look like in web three? Right like how can creators go viral? It’s one thing to go viral on Twitter. But I guess it’s another thing to kind of like leverage these primitives like NFTs and social tokens to kind of boost in create virality. I’m curious, like, what does that look like from your point of view?
Patrick Rivera: That’s, yeah, this is super interesting question. And, yeah, if we see, I think it’s really interesting that comparing how web three products get distribution or web three creators get distribution versus web two products and a lot of web two products, you’re using AdWords on Google, or you’re buying Facebook ads, or Instagram ads, in order to acquire customers, or maybe you’re going to conferences, or whatever. But really, in web three, it’s truly through Twitter through telegram, it’s through discord. And a lot of it’s really around, having, again, going back to the point around, it doesn’t necessarily matter, the quantity, or the size of your community, but more so the quality. And one thing about Daniel that Daniel Allen that I really respect is that he took, I think it was like 6, 7, 8 months of just learning and researching and being part of the community and supporting other artists and really like engaging with these different communities. And also, Matthew Chaim from song camp is another great example of someone who really took the time to understand the community, build deeper relationships, and really support others for ever asking for anything. And so by the time that they ended up building something and trying to gain traction with it, they’ve already built so much goodwill within the ecosystem. And, and I think that of course, there’s like viral growth hacks and stuff like that you can do. But I think that over the long term, decides that people will be weeded out and people won’t necessarily want to work with them or collaborate with them or support them on future projects. And so, I think that approach of and having a really solid foundation, embedding yourself in the communities, getting involved, being engaged, and genuinely supporting others and working on something you enjoy doing, like people can tell, like how genuine you are, and yeah, really taking it slow. And using these internet native distribution platforms, whether it’s Twitter, whether it’s discord, whether it’s Telegram, like really giving back to the communities. That’s really the best approach for the long term.
Yeah, and I think that’s also like, I think it’s like a little bit of a mic drop right there. And a good place to kind of wrap up, Patrick, before I let you go, where’s a good place to find you? How can we stay connected on all the things that you’re working on?
Patrick Rivera: Yeah. And so, my mirror blog is on pure dot mirror dot XYZ, and then I’m on Twitter, Patrick X Rivera, and then you can check out any updates on mirror at mirror dot XYZ.
Amazing, and I’ll link that stuff in the show notes. My Patrick, thank you so much. I hope to have you again soon.
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Hey, G money. Welcome to mint, thank you for being on, what’s going on?
G Money: Adam, how are you? How’s everything?
Feeling good man living the dream, more importantly, how are you doing? What a crazy a last few days? What’s going on in your head?
G Money: You know, it’s been a whirlwind, right? Like, it’s been a range of emotions. And, you know, overall net positive, it’s, it’s been very humbling, right? Like, I’m super grateful for it, definitely was way better than I even imagined it would go, I really had no real expectations. I wanted to, you know, it was very un-hype. It was like a stealth drop. And that was one of the things I wanted to make sure I did. Because I wanted to optimize for distribution. And I wanted to optimize for no gas wars. And I think we did a really good job with both. So, I’m, I’m really happy with how can you use for me?
I think you just gave out so much context into future questions I’m about to ask you. But before we even go into that, okay. I’m always curious how people kind of introduce themselves, but specifically you because a lot of people already know who you are. How do you introduce yourself to someone who has no familiarity with web three?
G Money: So, someone that has no familiarity with me? I think it really depends on the person, sometimes I’ll tell him, I’m just a collector of JPEGs. Sometimes a disrupter. You know, just I think I’m an all-around NFT advocate, right? Because I just see the power of the technology. And I understand how useful it’s going to be in the future and how we’re, you know, literally, and we probably haven’t, if this was a baseball game, we probably haven’t even started the game yet or it might just be like the first pitch.
Why are you so convinced of that?
G Money: I just think that like everything in the real world is an NFT. Right? So, my thesis is that if everything in the real world is an NFT, and we’re living more and more of our lives in a digital world, then those assets will be coming on chain as NFTs right? There’s no other way to convey digital ownership, right? Like if you go out and you buy that T shirt right now, you can do whatever you want with it, right? You can throw it away, you can give it to somebody, you can sell it, whatever it is that you want, why don’t you think that will translate over into a digital world right, into the metaverse, nobody necessarily wants to live in, you know, when you take a look at all these, you know, futuristic movies and shows that dystopian world is where there’s like some central authority that controls what you can and can’t do. Right? So, it’s like, why? Just because I have that, let’s say, authority over myself. In the real world, why don’t I think I should have it in the digital world, right? So that to me, just tells me that technology is super important, which is why I’m so convicted in how important it is.
I think people like you and me and many others in web three have obviously we’ve drank the Kool Aid or in the rabbit hole. But for those who kind of don’t know, how you got your start into the space? What was like your Genesis story? How did you get your jump into web 3d? What did that look like?
G Money: Yeah, so I got into crypto in 2017. I had always been involved in the stock market since I was 14 years old, I started following the stock market when I was 12. And so, I was I was trading my own money, you know, equities, long short US equities. And in 2017 I had heard about Bitcoin in previous years, but I never really looked into it and then somebody told me that they were making a bunch of money trading Bitcoin. So, I started looking into it, I found the Ethereum, and I found ICOs, and I was like, Oh man, like this is, you know, this is going to disrupt VC investing. And, you know, I went down that rabbit hole. And then in q1 of 2018, I was like, this tech is incredible. It’s going to change the world, but I thought it was too far away, because I remember the.com bubble, and you know, the promises of the.com Bubble took like 10 years to make, you know, the internet that we know, today didn’t necessarily come about until 2010, which was like 10 years after, so I was like, alright, we’re, you know, 7 to 10 years away, maybe five to seven years away. I’ll come back, right, and then, you know, COVID happens, the Fed bails everybody out. I wire a bunch of money over to Coinbase, buy my first crypto in like two years, and I start going back down the rabbit hole. And I’m like, oh, man, like they actually built stuff real fast. Right? Like it only took two years like I you know, I started using Ave and I was like, wow, this is incredible. This is going to change the world. And you know, I was like trying to catch up on everything I missed, right?
So, I was listening to a podcast, going on Twitter, going on telegram, catching up with just trying to absorb as much information and that was, that was defi summer, right. So that was like kind of my experience and going back down. And then I found NFTs in late August, early September. And the reason why they started making sense to me right away was because I started playing fortnight on the first day of quarantine. You know, and it sounds crazy, but like, you know, I start playing. I hadn’t played a video game in like 10 years, I start playing with two of my buddies, one of them has a nephew. In Texas, we start playing and the first thing this kid asked me, What skins did you buy? And I’m like skins, like, you know, don’t give me any special powers. I’m not buying any skins. You know, fast forward two or three weeks, I’m buying a bunch of skins. And I realized I’m like, wow, like, that kid is 12 years old today. 10 years from now he’s gonna be 22. He’s gonna have his own discretionary income. And he’s gonna be totally okay with owning a purely digital asset. And I’m like, you know, at the time, there’s no publicly traded like Metaverse, plays or anything like Roblox isn’t even public at that point. And I’m like, I just need to keep an eye out for it and when I found NF T’s I was like, oh man, like this is your skin on Twitter. This is your skin on Discord Telegram, right? Like, to me, it’s like this is a no brainer, right? Like this is you know, the same way that you’ll wear, you know, a luxury watch or drive a nice car in the real world. This is kind of your way to show off a little bit in a digital world and that really became my thesis and I started going down the rabbit hole. It culminated in me buying my crypto punk, which is my avatar, and writing a Twitter thread on it, which went viral on crypto Twitter at the time. And, you know, I’ve just been an advocate for the space ever since.
A lot of people that I meet and that I typically host on mint, they have a gaming background, whether it’s like really like early or deep. For me personally, too. I remember playing Club Penguin RuneScape and all these other random ass games growing up. And a lot of my understanding in web three, when it comes to incentives, for example, come from the base of playing games from all these virtual worlds that I spent a lot of time in as a kid. And for you, specifically, your understanding of NFTs came from that as well, specifically fortnight, but what do you think about like, what do you think it is about gaming culture that has led a lot of us to kind of understand what’s happening crypto and has become so attached to this medium.
G Money: So, I mean, I think it’s interesting you say that, because like I understood it from a gaming perspective, because I was, you know, playing with digital assets. But I don’t consider myself a gamer, right. Like i played War Craft three, and StarCraft where like, my, like, MMO RPG is like, I kind of stopped like after that. And I would be playing a lot of sports games growing up, what I think helped me understand the space and I think where I had a real edge early on, was I understood the value of these assets, not from the utilitarian perspective of like, oh, you know, this will be worth this much because it’s a value in the game. I understood it from like a social aspect, right? Where I felt like, especially at the time, and still, right, there’s so many smart people in crypto, but maybe not enough of them understand, like, you know, there are guys that I’ve met, and I’m sure you have too, that are built with billions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, that will walk around in like, you know, khaki shorts or, you know, whatever, like you would never guess, right, very unassuming. And so, I think that like that is more of an anomaly than maybe mainstream culture where people will wear name branded things, right and I think I understood that aspect of the social psychology of how humans interact with each other in the real world. And my thesis was that that wouldn’t change just because we were by behind screens, right? Like, I would still want a way for me to signal to you that I was a person that you wanted to talk to, right? You know, how do we do that in the real world, we wear nice clothes we wear, we drive nice cars, we wear nice watches. And that’s why even sometimes you hear that theme of “fake it till you make it right”. It’s like, you know, you want to, in order to win that big account, like, you know, you need to kind of act the part, you need to dress the part. And that’s, you know, you can make your decision of whether you think that’s good or bad overall for humanity. But I think that that’s just naturally how animals interact with each other. I think you see it a lot in the animal kingdom, especially in mating culture, and anything where there’s a social hierarchy where, you know, animals will put themselves on that hierarchy and every, every group has a different way of doing it. And humans, you know, one of the ways is, you know, status signaling, right. And so, I understood it from that point of view, and I think that that’s kind of what gave me my edge at the time because I don’t think anybody was thinking, I think now obviously, you know, people are spending millions of dollars on a picture and we all get that, but at the time that I made the purchase and wrote that that thread. I don’t think that people it was common thought.
Tips for Building a Personal Brand
Right? You know, your brand is so distinct online, a lot of the projects that you’ve worked on from adidas to portraying all these different NFTs during in Times Square, a lot of the things that you’ve kind of like taking lead on and that people know you for, It’s quite impressive, you know, and how you’ve built yourself online is also really interesting. It’s one thing to have a tweet thread that goes viral. It’s another thing to be consistent and to actually build a brand online. I’ve seen crypto Twitter threads go viral all the time. But you’ve somehow managed to kind of like burst through the noise and consistently build a profile for yourself, how have you managed to do that? Like, what is your secret to brand building? Because you also stay kind of like pseudo anonymous and in conferences, you’re like speaking behind a box, which I want to talk about more like, how do you actually build that brand? And sure, you could argue like, early on, not a lot of people were talking about this, I had a unique voice, but still to kind of be in the position that you’re in is quite unique in the industry. How have you managed to do that?
G Money: I think one is, especially when I started the brand, like the G money brands, right? It’s really being authentic to who I am, right? Like I always operated from the place of, I want people when they meet me in person to say, Oh, G money. He’s exactly the person who I thought he would be right. And one is being authentic to that person and two is just speaking my truth, I guess is, you know, sharing my points of view, the way that I see it, and, you know, not just necessarily waiting for somebody else to kind of lead the way but being like, okay, well, this is what I think makes sense to me. And so, I’m going to try it right, like, I’m going to try it and, you know, hopefully it makes sense to other people in the same way and maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, right, like, I don’t think anybody is going to be perfect, no matter what they do and no matter what industry they’re in, but I think is like, I’ve been able to, I think establish myself as somebody that seeing a little bit ahead of the curve at least, and kind of helping bring people about not selling my brand short for you know, a quick buck or whatever. Right? And like trying to operate from a space of integrity and do what not only I think is best for myself, but also for the industry. Right?
Yeah. You know, in with that I kind of briefly mentioned it you sit in a like small yet spacious cubicle when you get invited to speak at conferences, which I find so cool. It’s actually one of the coolest things that I’ve seen, and really on par with how you kind of represent yourself online to offline. What is that like? Because I know a lot of people have like stage fright when they when they speak in front of the audience. But you have this cube in front of you and all people years reports. Can you talk more about that?
G Money: Yeah. So, you know, that was? We did that at the MD con. Right. That was last weekend, two weekends ago? And it was it’s interesting. It’s fun, right? It’s like, it’s a little bit of playfulness. You know, I think, again, like, especially early on, like a year ago, I remember when the BB sale happened and almost nobody knew like what an NFT was, especially in the finance world. I had the opportunity to talk to some mainstream press, but they were like, oh, well, you have to, you know, show your face and tell us your name. And I was like, well, nobody really cares what that person thinks about NFTs, people care what G money the crypto punk eight thinks about NFTs and what he has to say. And so, you know, to me, it really started making sense of like, well, like, let’s take that one step further. Right, like, what I look like, and what my name is, doesn’t matter, right? Like if we’re living in, you know, the 2020s and, you know, we’re talking about equality and, and, you know, no, no isms of any kind. Like, you know, I guess pseudo identity is probably like, you know, a pseudo identity or even total anonymity is like that to the max, right? It’s like, you people know, what I am like to interact with, without having to know who I am, what my name is, where I live, all those things. And I have this reputation that if I ruin it, then people won’t trust me within the space as G money, right?
And so, I think like, that’s really what the narrative I’ve been trying to push because you’re, the way we display ourselves and the names that we choose are very, very, very personal, right? Like, the names that were given at birth are generally family names and the way we look at generally we like, the way we look in real life we can we generally can’t control right, a lot of its genetics, but like if I want to display myself as a unicorn, and I call myself unicorn lover 54. You would assume that I really like unicorns, and that’s probably some important part of my personality and that’s way more personal than like being known by my birth name and like using my picture of what I looked like. So that to me was kind of really the genesis behind it of really leaning into the G money brand. Because I think it’s like, I think it’s cool and important, especially as we’re living in this world the way it currently is.
Pseudonymous Identity in Crypto
Yeah. Okay. So, with that NFTs and web there have become a world of escapism and expression like we’ve never seen before, and it takes a certain personality and a certain character to kind of gravitate towards this pseudo identity type of personality. I’m curious why you like, why did you personally gravitate towards that? So, you just gave an entire argument as to why it’s beneficial and why people do it, but why you, have you always wanted to be seen as like a monkey. Like, based on based off your argument, you know, what I mean? Like what is it about you and your upbringing that has kind of like gravitated you towards this type of identity?
G Money: You know, so when I first bought the punk, right, it was like, I originally bought a crypto punk zombie, right at the time, I paid $20,000 for it. And then I was looking for an eight, right? Because that’s the next year higher, and I thought I was priced out of the aliens. Like, I thought the aliens would trade it like 500,000 plus maybe a million dollars. I’m like, I don’t have that kind of money to spend on a jpg. You know, I think I can stretch for an ape. When I wanted to buy the rarest one, the rarest asset that I could, that I thought would be a signal, right? Because especially at that time, as you know, as the NFT market was really in its infancy still right, I’m talking about like, fourth quarter of 2020. The people in the space that knew the most about NFTs generally had crypto punks as their avatar, right. So, they either had zombies and apes, I don’t think anybody had really come out and interacted as an alien up until that point, but it was mostly apes and zombies. And so, I was like, okay, like, that’s like a signal, right? Like, if I am a crypto punk, a elite to crypto punk. You know, and if you take a look at crypto right now, right? It’s like, you know, Bitcoin was born in 2009. But if somebody tells you that they got into bitcoin in 2012, or 2014, you’re like, oh, you’re OG like that, you know, it’s like at this point, like, the difference between each of those cycles, 2009, 2012, 2014 is miniscule, right? We all consider them OG in the space. So, my thought was like, if you own a crypto punk, that’s kind of like your way of signaling that you’re an OG member of the space and it wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to lean into like identity, it was more to kind of be like, Yeah, this is my, you know, my metal, my trophy of showing that I’m crypto native. I understand it. And like, you know, I’m an active member of the community. And that’s really kind of where it stemmed from, and it started growing on its own right, and because I don’t really change my PFP very often, if at all, you know, this ape with a beanie is, you know, kind of what I’m known for.
Yeah. And with that, dude, you built such an incredible networking community online. And I think that kind of brings us to why, part of the reason why I’m here today with Admin One, which honestly, congratulations, it’s become the hottest thing on crypto Twitter. People are following left and right, so hard. Can you walk me through? Why create that? Like, what were some of the initial problems that you were trying to solve?
G Money: Yeah, so it really come down to, I wanted to create a community and incentivized tokenized community to build and to kind of include in all the projects that I work on going forward and the collaborations and I thought there was no better way to do this than by doing it the way I did, right. I wanted to get as much distribution as possible. Like I didn’t necessarily want to have a small number of holders that you know, were hoarding memberships. I wanted to get it out to as many people as I could. And I also wanted to make it as fair as I possibly could, knowing that whatever it is that I did, would probably have a lot of FOMOS involved with it regardless so to me, you know, we spent months trying to figure out the right way to distribute it the right way to get it into people’s hands. And ultimately, we settled on a on a free mint. For the people that were have been my most loyal followers to this day, right?
The Free Mint: Bootstrapping a Web3 CRM
And the way you’ve kind of like curated your most loyal followers is actually really unique and I think it goes kind of unnoticed and the reason I say that is because you want to you’ve been like incredibly strategic with the people that you’ve surrounded yourself with. For the people that you’ve kind of recognized who have supported you, and you’ve done it through NFTs, which I think is a really unique concept. And this idea of building an on-chain CRM to let it reward your most active participants is something that I think is not being done enough on an individual level. When you think about like networking and building a brand and web two, you typically have platforms like HubSpot, or Salesforce or these like personalized CRMs, to kind of keep track of your context, of your network. And when you think about like, how can I do that in web three, align incentives, and reward people when the time is right. I think you’ve kind of perfected that. And I want to give some recognition, because when I read through the manifesto, you kind of notice the first bullet point into talking about distribution is the first 11 people that have collected all three Bitcoin, Miami, NFTs, right? And you kind of Airdrop them. I guess, the first initial Admin One Genesis passes, which, first of all really, really, really cool way of kind of distributing and curating and kind of selecting and rewarding some of your most active contributors. But why do you think NFTs are kind of like that primitive to do that? Right? Because you took it because some people use it as a form of identity, right, and a form of expression like you do with your punk, you use it as a form of like networking, of like building some type of CRM and tracking your most loyal followers. Right, I’d love for you to talk more about that.
G Money: Yeah. So, you know, I think one of the beautiful things about NFTs I think as it goes forward, right, it’s like, here we are in, you know, the year 2022. We now have, you know, all the fang stocks that and privacy issues with regards to our data, and how it gets used and how we’re targeted and how, you know, if you’re, if you don’t know what the product is, you are the product. Right? And that’s kind of the world we live in right now and I think the beautiful thing about NFTs and having access to people’s wallets, because they’re public, right? You know, I can have some sort of idea. And again, we’re still really early. So, this data will only get better as time goes on, right? Of what is this wallet owner? What you know, what are they like? What are they dislike, right? What, you know, what pull ups have they collected, because that tells you what events they’ve been to right? What NFTs do, they have in that wall that tells you the type of artwork that they liked, the type of communities that want to be part of. And again, we’re really, really early on, and I think you know, 5, 10 years from now, this data will be super, super valuable to the people and the companies that can analyze that data, and then be like, oh, you know, we can target this wallet owner with stuff without having to know their age, their sex, their occupation, you know, all these things that are super invasive, where they live, what, you know, what they do, where they’re going to be in five hours, right? Things that, you know, are web 2.0 privacy things, we can get rid of that but still get, you know, a lot of that important data, right?
So, to me, I knew it, like from early on, I think somebody recorded a tweet where I did say, in that initial three-day event, that there will be a reward for this down the road, right? Like there will be a reason to collect all three and there were 11 people that collected all three and like, and I’m forever grateful for him, right, because like, I never once asked them to open up their wallet to, you know, to pay for something, it literally was just take five minutes out of your day, I chose strategic points, maybe like two blocks away from the actual convention in Miami that year and it was like if you were willing to take five minutes out of your day. And this is back when you know, I don’t even know how many followers I had at that point. But I was just like, alright, like this is an experiment, right? Because I very much felt that I still do feel we have the biggest brands that will come into the space in the future. But they’re going to need people that are crypto native, figuring out the roadmap, right? So how to get there, how to engage with your community, Kim Kardashian comes into the space tomorrow, she can’t fail, right? Like she you know, she’s gonna have the feeling that she can’t fail, like, obviously everybody can, but she’s gonna have to be like, well, we have to execute this. Who’s done it right? And I want it to be like providing some sort of roadmap of like, well, you can do this. And then you can sit on it for a year and then you could sit there and give it out to people, right? When they least expect it and that that really was something that I think is currently under-utilized and hoping that going forward, people see what I did, you know, going to conferences, giving people pull ups, never telling people what was going to happen with those pull ups. But knowing fully well in my head. Exactly what my ultimate game plan was with it, right?
Yeah. So, if you took that five minutes out of your day to listen to G Money, to collect those things, you’d have something valued well over 10 Eth in your wallet right now, because of that support. So, it’s really, really incredible to see you know, if you really like you pay close attention G money to the way you are kind of like constructed the drop and how you designed it and the level of curation. It’s very reminiscent of that, of pucks, which is obviously your entire identity, right? Specifically, the whole no roadmap, and also the zero mint at launch, right? punks were inherently free to collect, right? And if I remember correctly, they had no specific roadmap. It was just like a collectible. You know, the first one the OG, the crème, de la creme as you’d like to call it. Can you talk more about that, am I seeing the connections correctly or was there a different kind of reasons as to why you designed it this way?
G Money: Well, I decided to go free because one was definitely a way to pay homage to crypto punks, I think they are the most significant NFT project that exists, right, I think a lot of what, we’re seeing in the space to 10,000 PFPs. It stems from crypto talks, right like that. They are the OG PFP project, we are here today, a large part because of the work done by lava labs. And you know, also like, you know, I know, I probably could have sold the NFT, from one two Eth. And I definitely would have had a ton of demand for it. But what I really wanted to do was kind of provide support to the people that supported me, you know, to show them that they’re my day ones, that we’re going to be in this together, and to also kind of like build a great community that’s incentivized to also add value to it themselves. Right? Like, I think one of the coolest things that I’ve been experienced over the last few days was how much more active, the discord is than I thought it would be and how people are sharing ideas. You know, what, one of my favorite stories from that Bitcoin Miami event was, two people met up at one of those days, that ended up that meeting of those two people, because they went to go collect my NFT, it was the formation of a hedge fund that they started together, or a VC fund that they started together, and they ended up starting Dao together. And, you know, to me that that’s like, you know, those were, that meeting, there was maybe five people hanging out that day, right? Five people like part of you know, following G money that when became friends and did some really cool stuff together. What happens from a community of 1000 people, right, that like agree with like the G money ethos, and the things that I want to, you know, push for, which is disruption and adoption, right? And if we have 1000, like-minded people, what does that mean? Right? How does that create more of a fire for the space to help meet those goals? So, to me, it’s just, you know, that’s really like a lot of it, right? It’s like, I have my plans of what I have planned, and I know, I’m working on things in the pipeline. But, you know, for me, the upside surprise has been, you know, people in the discord like, you know, I think somebody started a thread on like an introduction thread today. And, you know, just reading some of these introductions like, wow, we have like some really smart, high-quality people in the community, outside of just the curated list, right outside of the people that I wanted to make sure it came into the community. You know, and it makes me really excited with like, what’s possible?
How many people have collected your pull ups today? Do you have a number on that?
G Money: So yeah, so the number can range anywhere from like, five, you know, there was 1300, about 1300 that were included on this list. I had to take out the pull ups from when I was doing my podcast live, for fear of some of them got barded, and which ones were the barded ones. So, in order to get fair distribution, and not have the project barded, I think there’s probably in total, I think about somewhere between five and 7000 pull ups out there. But because of barding issues, I had to relay that number to people that almost had like proof of human right, in the sense that I had to most likely met them in person, or they had to have been at an event where you almost, you had to kind of show up as a human.
Preserving Quality with Curated Communities
Yeah. So, with that, you curated this 1000-person group, this 1000-member group, yet there’s so many people who kind of like love, respect, you have been a part of your journey. At certain touch points. How do you think about like the concept of inclusion, right, in a place where let’s say a lot of contributors maybe didn’t make the mint or they tried to claim their spot, but it was sold out too quickly? Like, because the FOMO on crypto Twitter is like incredibly high. Like it’s real. Like I’ve seen it, people are freaking out. How do you think about like building out and growing the community in a sustainable way without diluting the current quality of what of what was kind of curated at the gecko?
G Money: It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about, especially from the start, and it’s something that I think about constantly is like how do you grow the community without that dilution? I don’t think I necessarily have an answer. I think one of the fortunate things is, I think that there are other communities out there that are already bigger than mine, that are also facing the same problem that are further along process and progress and we’ve seen a lot of examples of that already of how communities have grown. And I have the opportunity to kind of sit back and watch and learn, I don’t need to build everything out and I don’t need to have that answer from day one. It’s definitely something I think about, right? Because, you know, even you take a look at like a 10,000, PFP project, right? Like, okay, that could be big enough now for, you know, May 2022 for a community, right, but like, what is May 2030, to look like, or a 10,000 PFP project is going to be small, right? That will be miniscule on the grand scale community. So, I don’t have the answers. I know I don’t, but I’ve been having these conversations, and this has been something I’ve been actively thinking about, like, how does the community grow long term? I have a couple ideas of how I plan on doing it, but nothing’s set in store.
Why The Bear Market Energy Reveals Your True Colors
Yeah. Another interesting kind of touch point that I realized with Admin One is that you could have launched the high of a bull market, right? And really capitalize on the opportunity, but you strategically decided to launch it during the bear market. Why is that? Number one and two, what is it about bear markets that you think brings out like the most of people? Because I only asked that because I was a part of the 2018 bear market, and also crypto winter? And the best projects kind of came out of that we kind of use love and adore today? Right? So, what are your thoughts around that?
G Money: Yeah, so one of the reasons I didn’t want to do it in a bull market for sure it was, I didn’t want it to get hyped up, right. Like I wanted the no hype. Like I specifically launched it, it was pretty much a stealth launch. It was one tweet the first, you know, the first retweets and replies, people were like, is this you know, did you get hacked? And, you know, it was me going out to people that were on that curated list early, and you know, saying, hey, like, can you please, you know, here’s your, here’s your link to mint. And I really wanted the non-hype, I wanted the anti-hype, you know, which is, when you think about it, like when you look at NFT projects, usually they tried to build up the hype, right, they go on, let’s call it the political press tour beforehand, right, so that people have their eyes on it, I wanted to distribute it out to the community, I wanted people to really kind of come in, and if they want to hold it or sell it, or whatever, you know, you have to kind of believe a little bit about me, right? Like, you have to understand a little bit about who I am, what I stand for, what I want to do, and where you know, what I’ve done and where I want to go. And so that was kind of the reason I wanted to wait for a bear market, because I wanted to have the anti-hype. And I guess with regards to building, right, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that in a bear market, people aren’t as focused on price, right? People aren’t, you know, it’s not like every single time you open up your portfolio, you know, you go up five 10% in net worth, right?
So, you don’t, I feel like a lot of times, this is coming from somebody that, you know, traded equity markets for 15 plus years, you know, when you’re making money, you’re very like unproductive, right? Because you’re sitting there and you’re thinking about oh man, like I just made so much money, and you can’t sit there and be your most productive. But when you’re sitting there and you’re like, oh man, like I have to figure out how I’m gonna make money, I have to figure out how, you know, those bills get paid long term, I have to get to work and I have to grind and I have to, you know, do the right thing. Right? You know, it’s funny, like I very much live in the idea of just do the next right thing and you know, the universe will take care of everything else. Right? When I try to plan for certain results, I usually never get the results that I want. But when I focus on making sure that you know, and it’s the same thing with practice, right, like if you play a sport, you know, you focus on the mechanics, right? You know, you focus on the swing, so that, you know, eventually you hit the home run. But if you sit, if you go up to the plate, trying to hit a home run every time you’re at bat and your focus is hitting that home run, you’re probably not going to do it right like you want to go through emotions.
Yeah, and with that kind of explains the no roadmap perspective, that you are kind of like kind of set as the foundation for Admin One, you know beyond Admin One, where else is your energy focused in the bear market?
G Money: You know, Admin One is the gateway for a lot of the things that I’m working on. I didn’t, I I’ve had a lot of really good conversations over the last few months with a lot of good and awesome potential partners. And you know, the things I’m just really excited about what I think is coming down the road and I don’t want to give too much away, but I just, I’m excited. Right? And yeah, I guess we can just leave it at that.
Gmoney’s Love for Fashion
Okay. I’ll be keeping my eye out. Also, if people have been following, I guess like your story and your timeline through on Instagram, Twitter, they know that you’re really big in fashion, or at least with fashion, on fashion, the concept of kind of whether it be metalware or physical fashion, how did your love for fashion kind of develop? Because you tell me, you’ve been an equities trader for 15 plus years, and now you’re trading JPEGs. And while there is a level of like social signaling that comes with fashion to an extent, I’m curious, where did that kind of like excitement that love for the fashion industry stem from?
G Money: Yeah, I mean, it’s, interesting, because I’ve been thinking about that a lot as well. And, I mean, when I was younger, I remember in high school, like, I would always, like kind of like, draw, like logos and stuff of like, just like stuff that I was, like, interesting, like, oh, that would be pretty cool to like, make a t shirt or whatever. And, you know, I think my finance brain, like really took over for a lot of my life. I have always, I think I kind of have always had a good idea of understanding the general consumer. You know, when I remember, I was going into my senior year of college, I was interning in New York City that summer. And I remember I was on the subway, and I was looking around the subway and this back in 2003. And I noticed that there’s a bunch of white people with white headphones in their ears. And this is back when the mp3 market was massively fragmented. Everybody had an mp3 player, but Apple was the only one that had the white headphones. And I remember looking and I’m like, oh, wow, like, you know, there’s something here and I bought apple, I bought Apple calls, Apple was trading $10 at the time, I bought the $20 calls for 62 cents a share each, which I then sold at $49, a share each within 18 months or so. And that was up until last year, like the best trade of my career. And I had a couple other trades like that, you know, there was, I’m not sure if you remember, there was this brand called True Religion brand jeans. A few years later, that was really, really popular, but it was a publicly traded stock. And I remember buying it at around $4 or $5. It eventually ended up getting by either VF Corp or Phillips, Phillips in Houston, for around $25, $27, but I remember, you know, just writing that way, and it just, I got long it because the most fashionable people I knew in New York City, were wearing it right. That was like the thesis, right? It was as simple as that. And so, I think I’ve always been a very observant person when it comes to trends. You know, I think fashion is a very individual type of experience, right? Like everybody has their fashion, even if they aren’t, quote unquote, fashionable, right, like people just you have your look and I think it’s a very personal thing. And I think it translates over well, to this culture of JPEGs, right, where, you know, each JPEG like is similar, but they’re all personal in their own way. So, I think I see a lot of cross sections and opportunities there.
Where Do You See the World of Web Three and Fashion Colliding?
So, with that being said, like, where do you see the world of web three and fashion colliding? And I know, you have thoughts on this, like, you’re so excited about this. So, I had to bring it up? Where do you see those two worlds colliding?
G Money: I think there’s, you know, plenty of places that it collides, you know, I think, obviously, in the digital realm, you know, I think artifact has been doing a great job, I think, you know, Nike and Adidas coming into the space, to me was like, super important in that it signals to everybody that you have to take a look at this NFT market, the metaverse, right. And I also think, you know, you take a look at games like fortnight, right? And it’s a freemium model, it’s free to play, right, you can, and a lot of their revenue generation comes from, you know, selling digital fashion, you know, people, kids will play that game and I’m astounded by, you know, the, the wardrobe changes that happen, right? You know, kids changed what they look like, they change their skin, every game. So that means that imagine, you know, you’re at a restaurant and every 15 to 20 minutes, you go into the bathroom, change your clothes and come back out. Like that’s how quickly you know, ins are being changed and you know, still within the same session, so it’s not even like you have one specific look for, you know, one specific from one entire sitting. So, you know, I think that it is a very interesting space. I think that it’s going to be a massive space and I’m really excited to see what everybody is doing with it.
So, beyond Adidas, beyond the analogy to fortnight. How do you think like the biggest fashion brands are preparing for this, like web two revolution? Like, what does that look like? Do you have any insight on that?
G Money: I think that they’re all very interested. But I think also think that a lot of them are they, you know, they have to move slowly, right? Because they have to sit down, and they have, you know, they have these brands that they have to protect, you know, they can’t just jump right in the way a crypto native can jump right in. So, I think it’s super interesting. I, I think that we’re gonna see a lot of cool stuff in the future. But I also think it’s not gonna happen overnight.
So, I also want to talk to you about like, big current events, because you’re so big on the forefront of adoption and education. This whole, I guess, news of GameStop creating a wallet for Crypto NFTs, is do people think it’s like, as big as it seems, because I only asked that, because when Coinbase NFT came out, there was a lot of, I guess, hype around that, like, all that’s going to change the market, retail is going to be buying everybody’s bags, etc. Is it as big as it seems basically, like, do you think that news is gonna dent the world of crypto?
G Money: I mean, I don’t know, I’m probably not the right person to ask, personally I agree with you, right, like, you know, Coinbase NFT launched, and we’re still, you know, they’re still in beta or alpha, you know, they’re fully ship product and I think it’ll take time, right. But when I take a look at the landscape, you know, 10 years from now, I think it’s going to be very, very different than where it is today, right? In the same way, you can use the.com Bubble as your same analogy, right? And in 2017, I think Lycos was the number one search engine in the world, right? Five, six years later, it didn’t exist. So, you know, I think just because we have certain incumbents in the space right now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how things are going to play out. It’s going to be really interesting to watch and I’m really excited for it. But I’m in no way declaring any winners or losers just yet.
Yeah. And just to kind of iterate, I think my whole comment on Coinbase NFT is actually really net positive for the space, the more innovation, the more collaboration, the better. I’m super excited to see what they kind of come out with, I only wanted to ask you because like the Ditas drop was such a vibrant signal in the ecosystem and that made so much noise. And like you said, like bringing those types of companies into the space really woke up, or at least I feel like woke up a lot of the minds and the attention of everybody else kind of like watching externally. When they hear NFTs they laugh at it, or they hear like digital fashion, they laugh at it right. But seeing one of these prominent players come in? I don’t know, I was kind of like thinking about the comparison between the two, if you know what I mean.
G Money: Yeah, I mean, I think Adidas and Nike coming into the space at pretty much the same time. I think they both officially came into this space within like 48 hours of each other, was probably the best signal that crypto could have, I think in the last like decade, right? Because it’s like to me, I up until that point, I think Facebook rebranding to Meta was like, Oh, well, they’re a tech company. Right? They have to focus on the next thing. But I think when you hear two of the most culturally relevant brands on the planet, coming into the space, I think every other consumer facing brand needs to be like, whoa, like, what is our NFT and Metaverse strategy? Because Nike and Adidas are both there, we need to think of something at least. And I think we started to see that that scramble, right? Like I think a couple other companies have released other projects, some of them may be better or worse than others. But I also think we’re probably in that quiet period that low where I think a lot of businesses are learning about NFTs and really digging down and taking their time to make sure that they make the right decision. But I think ultimately, like we’re going to, I think this cycle, you know, we’re probably going to be reaching that point where in the investment world it starts becoming career risk to not buy bitcoin, whereas last cycle, it was career risk to buy bitcoin, I think at some point in the near future becomes career risk to not have an NFT strategy as opposed to having one.
Yeah. One thing I want to I also want to talk to you about is your whole, like, your perspective on Angel investing, you’re actually really, really active and you’re an active angel investor. How many startups have you invested into date if you don’t mind sharing?
G Money: I don’t know the exact number. I think at this point, it might be over 100 But it’s around there.
How Will Web3 Revolutionize Fashion?
Yeah, that’s wild. Like how do you kind of determine which projects you’re going to cut a check for? Like, what does that look like?
G Money: It really comes down to you know, do I believe in the vision and like, do I think I can help right? It’s like those are probably two of my biggest, like, do I think they can execute? Right? Because the vision is one thing, but do I think they can execute on it? And how much help do I think I can add, and whether I even have the time to do it, right, because obviously, I’m doing my own things. You know, I have 100 companies in the portfolio. So, like, I’m always helping and connecting and, you know, seeing what I can do, and help them get to the next point that they need to get to in their business and that really is kind of the bulk of what comes down to it. You know, I’d say over the last few months, I probably slowed down a lot, just one because of the market. But then two is, it’s very funny. About a year ago, I was talking to a founder, and he told me, he goes, you know, you’re gonna stop angel investing at some point, I bet. And I was like, are you crazy? I’m like, part of the reason I started G money was so I can get into better deal flow, right? Like, you know, I wanted to be seen as that forward thinker, so that people wanted to bring me on the cap table, because they’re like, okay, like, he might have been wrong and crypto punks, but at least I know how he, at least I know, he’s forward thinking. And that’s a person I want as a partner. And so now, I’m at that point right now, where a lot of it becomes opportunity costs of, you know, do I build out what I want to build and the vision that I see? Or do I help people on their vision? I’m not going to say no to every, you know, two deals that come across my table that I think are great that I think can help and integrate especially, but I’ve definitely slowed down on that side of the business.
I learned so much about you in this conversation, it’s really interesting to hear one of like the OGs perspective that kind of gave you and continues to give you your edge in the space. So, I want to thank you for being on and being a part of season five, before I let you go G money. Where can we learn more about Admin One? Where can we find you and everything that you’re working on?
G Money: Yeah, so you can, the easiest way is on Twitter, G money NFT. Also, the Admin One Twitter pages is admit 0001. That’s three zeros and a one. And you know, G.money is the website that you can go to. And you can also check out the marketplace there. Right. So, you can make sure you get the actual real collections on there and don’t need to worry about scam accounts for all like G money related stuff.
Admit 1: Why Build An Independent Marketplace?
Yeah. Which actually, I forgot to bring up because you built an entire marketplace, on your site itself, which was something unique that I haven’t come across many other projects. Really quick, actually, before I let you go, what was the intention behind kind of creating a centralizing the marketplace on your site, in addition to everything that’s happening on OpenSea, and looks rare, etc?
G Money: Yeah, so you know, that was done with the help of the team at reservoir, which is like an open marketplace protocol. And, you know, they were really awesome guys to work with. And they worked very quickly, and I really, highly recommend working with them. But yeah, to me, you know, when you take a look at, you know, curation and marketplaces and the buying experience right now, you know, people don’t generally buy all their things at like a superstore or supersite, people will go to highly curated experiences for the looks that they want, right? Like when you go to a department store, you generally go because it saves you time, right. And that’s in the real world, right, there’s a certain look that you will get from a certain department store or boutique, where you could definitely go to each of those designers, personal stores, and go there and do all that work yourself. But the reason why you go to a curated place is because it saves you time and it’s much more convenient, right? And when you take a look at the web two shopping experience, that happens as well, right? Like, you know, we don’t all buy all of our things on Amazon or on eBay, we go there for certain products, but not for all products. And so, I think over time, the space evolves to highly curated marketplaces where, you know, if I want to focus just on PFP projects, there will probably be a site where that happens. If I want to focus just on digital fashion, there’s a site where that happens. I think there’ll be a lot of these, you know, gaming around gaming, I think there’ll be a lot of these verticalized silos, where people will go just like there is right now in web two right, like, you don’t buy everything from one site, and I don’t think web three is going to be any different.
Yeah. Before I let you go, my friend, I also want to shout out your podcast because it’s actually produced exceptionally well. So, everybody that’s listening I’ll include in the show notes. And I also realized you just did a rebrand from the G money or the cutting-edge show to now Admin One show. So, I’m excited to see what you kind of push out on the content side. G money, thank you so much. We’ll have to do it again soon.
G Money: Awesome. Thanks so much, Adam. I appreciate it.
Mint Season 5 episode 11 welcomes Michael Blau, the magician, mentalist, web3 software creator and engineering partner at a16z. He breaks down his alter ego x0r, unveils smart contract illusions that normies fall trapped to in web3, and the art of magic.
In this episode, we discuss:
00:13 – Intro
12:36 – Working with David Blaine
17:11 – How To Build a Software Simulation
25:00 – Time Management: Creator, Investor and Software Developer
26:46 – The Origin Story of x0r
36:09 – How Creators Can Use Blockchain Data To Their Benefit
Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!
Michael Blau X0r. Welcome to mint. Thank you for being on what’s going on.
Michael Blau: Thanks for having me, Adam. I’m very excited to join this podcast. So, this is gonna be great.
I’m thrilled to have you and for reasons being that will kind of like uncover into the conversation but first things first. I had so much fun preparing for the interview, because I’ve never had a magician or mentalist on, let alone I’ve never really had a conversation with a with a magician or Mentalist, I hope you don’t like playing like games on me, or like, locked me off somehow. But without further ado, I think the best place to start is always with an intro. Okay, Michael, who are you? What does the world need to know about you, but more specifically, take it from the point of view of how you got your start into crypto?
Michael Blau: Sure. So, I’ll do like the give a quick of everything. I was born in New York, I moved to Las Vegas when I was five, I grew up here. Throughout most of my younger years, I’m still young. But most of my younger years, I was a magician, which I know we’ll probably talk about more later, I studied finance and computer science at Washington University in St. Louis. And then I decided to go work at Blackrock for my first stint at a job. And then eventually ended up at A16z. And that has to do with how I got into crypto. And I primarily got into crypto through my brother. So, my brother has been into crypto for many, many, many years. I’ve always, you know, heard about it, you know, throughout around the house. And you know, he did a couple of projects back in 2017 and whatnot. So, I’ve always been, you know, hearing about it. But I think I really started at the beginning of last year, maybe the beginning of two years ago and end of 2020, 2021. Although you don’t, no that’s a lie. In the beginning of COVID when it was defi summer, I started to learn solidity a little bit. Because my brother was like, hey, we should build a yield farming bot. And I didn’t know that. I was like, okay, you know, I started a little bit to be honest, I wouldn’t even call myself an expert or anything. I really got into it at the beginning of last year, kind of the beginning of NFTs and stuff like that through my brother. And you know, I started to create my own NFTs and got into that realm. So that’s how I got into crypto. And that’s like the quick version of.
Quick, quick, so okay, but you’re also like a software developer as well, hence why you kind of like picked up solidity. So how, how long have you been developing software? Have you been programming?
Michael Blau: Yeah, not long actually. I started to learn in my sophomore year of college, I took a computer science class 101. The reason I took that class we’ll get into later when we talk about magic. But yeah, so I just maybe like, three, four years ago or something like that.
Okay. So, Michael, one thing that’s super cool about you is kind of like your career progression. So, you’ve been a magician and mentalist for what? Like nine years, ten years? Or something like that.
Michael Blau: Since maybe, since I was like 12 and I’m 23 now. So.
How did how did you get into the world of magic at 12 years old?
Michael Blau: Yeah, so actually, I was in the world of magic when I was one years old. And the reason is because my dad used to be a magician, way back when he was in his 20s. He’s not a magician now. But he used to be a magician and he would do like children’s shows. And he had like a box of old magic tricks and when we moved from New York to Las Vegas, I found that box in the move at a young age, and I was always drawn to it, right. So, whenever I’d come home from school, I’d go in the garage and go open the box. And I would just look at the interesting props and decks of cards and colorful items and all this stuff. And it’s always been a part of my life. You know, my dad would perform magic at my birthday parties, I would always go in the Las Vegas Strip. But I think when I was around, like in middle school, probably like, like 12 years old, I was kind of bitten by the bug. And I was like, I really want to learn how to do this stuff and I fell down that rabbit hole pretty, pretty hard. Very quickly and got into that. So that’s how I kind of was introduced to magic.
Do you remember the first trick you learnt?
Michael Blau: I think so. Well, I think, there’s like the real first trick. And then there’s like the first trick I would perform to other people.
Like the behind the ear kind of thing.
Michael Blau: Wasn’t actually, actually kind of a mortgage wreck. There’s a very, very, very famous illusion that a kid’s magician would perform, where they invite a kid on stage, and they put like this thing around their neck. And they basically put a sword through the neck. The illusion is called sword through neck. And it’s obviously at a kid’s birthday party. It’s great because all the kids are going crazy, right? They’re like, how is this happening? You’re putting this sword through my friend’s neck. How’s this even work? But yeah, so that was actually the first like illusion. It’s super simple and probably you could Google that online. But that was actually the first trick I learned. And then the first trick that I learned, when I would like to perform it to another person, it was a coin trick. However, it was not the coin behind the ear trick called scotch and soda is the name, look it up on that.
I know that trick. I don’t know. I’ve heard of it. But I don’t really remember it. But, you know, when like, when my brother had his bar mitzvah, we did it in Israel and we had like, one of the most famous magicians in Israel at the time, came to perform at his bar mitzvah. And I was like his test dummy. And he did the trick where he put me like in this box, and there were three sections to the box. And he basically moved every single section apparently, and then put a sword through it. And then I have to like to put my hand through like the bottom hole with like a red handkerchief and be like, I’m still alive. And then he like put all together and I come out, like one piece. And I remember, it was epic. I remember that’s like my earliest experience of magic, but also like you are mentalist as well. And I’m trying to understand the difference, right, between being a magician and mentalist? For those who don’t know, how do you kind of decipher between the two?
Michael Blau: Yeah, so I’m about to dive into like, as if I’m talking to magicians, like my major magics here. You know, from like, textbook definition. A magician is someone who does any magical illusion, the impossible, right? It’s kind of all encompassing, whereas mentalism is like a almost like a subset of that specifically related to mind reading, or, you know, mental gymnastics of some kind. You know, that might be you know, guessing a deck, you know, what card you picked or reading your mind of what word you’re thinking of, from a book, and stuff like that. So that’s like the difference. It’s mind reading, versus like, maybe more unexplainable, and possibilities is what magic is. Whereas mind reading is like, you create this illusion that, you know the solution, the solution is reading my mind. Of course, that’s not the case. But you know, that being said, the magic that I tend to do. And the way that I kind of think about it is, I try not to separate them in in my head, like when I perform, I perform what I would categorize as mental magic. So, it’s magic with like, a mental mind reading coincidence, like flavor to it. And the reason for that is actually kind of interesting. And I know Sorry, I’m diving like super deep.
No, go all the way into it all the way.
Michael Blau: But it’s because a lot of the times when you see a magician, and just like you just mentioned, you know, with the big box is that magic is colorful, and it’s visual. And it’s eye catching and what I have learned, or the way that I kind of started to perform myself was that the magic that I do should not be visual, I don’t want it to be visual at all, because the visual aspect of magic is distracting. It’s misdirection, right? It makes it seem like it’s almost too impossible, right? Whereas when you have a little bit of a mental flavor to magic that you’re performing, all of a sudden, the illusion is more like internal to you as a spectator, right? It’s not like something visual that you see that you can just write off a sleight of hand, right? Like, in my mind, if you told me that I’m good sleight of hand, I failed you. Right? Because that means that you know, I did something you just don’t know what I did. Whereas when you do something that’s mental magic, it feels a little bit more like, kind of in your head, like how the heck could you possibly know this? Or how could this coincidence have possibly happened? It’s a little bit more like, you know, interesting to me. So, I tend to stay away from like visual magic tricks that you might see on a stage with colors, and you know, things like that, and more related to like, you know, mental magic. Hopefully that makes sense. It’s kind of hard to.
No that makes a lot of sense. Because I think of Mind freak what’s his name? Chris?
Michael Blau: Chris Angel.
Chris Angel like, well, dude, me and my cousin’s, we grew up like hardcore, watching Chris Angel, like hardcore and I remember we used to watch, I used to even record the episodes and rewatch them. I was obsessed with them. And that’s more of like a traditional magician that does all the theatrics and everything. But what you’re referring to is more of these, like mind games kind of thing. And if you go on your website, which I’ll link in the show notes, you kind of see some of the, excuse me, some of the tricks that you kind of play. For example, I saw one where you kind of like you flush a deck of cards and a card appears in between someone’s hand, for example, right? So yeah, I find it incredibly fascinating specifically, also, how you kind of transitioned into now working well, not now previously working at BlackRock, right, and I’m trying to think about like, okay, being a magician and a mentalist, which is such a creative thing, like incredibly creative to then go into work at BlackRock, you know, and I’m trying to figure out like, how the hell did you make that switch? Who told you to stop being a magician and focus on I guess what you love and your creative passion? And then I guess more in the asset management space, and I could be getting wrong, but how do you make that switch?
Michael Blau: If there’s actually a good connection there? So, we just talked about mental magic, right? And a huge component of performing mental magic is psychology. Okay? So, it’s when I go to an audience member, there are things that I do, not necessarily misdirection, but like things that I’ll say or do to psychologically trick somebody, right? Or influence somebody to do something, right. It seemed like a free choice when it’s not a free choice. So, you know, things like that. And, you know, when I was performing magic, all I did all day was basically like, introduce myself to groups of people at like gigs when I perform. And I would, I want to say, influence them, but I would use these psychological tricks. And it was very human behavior driven, right, to get them to behave certain ways. And it fascinated me, like, it’s amazing, like, how the human mind can be tricked, or you know, presented an illusion. It’s amazing, right? So how does that have anything to do with finance? Well, the other side of magic, so there’s the psychology, but then there’s the method and how it works. And the way that these tricks work, oftentimes, and ask any magician, they’ll tell you this, the way it works is almost cooler than the trick itself. So, like, I know that sometimes shocking, but like the method is so intricate. And sometimes they’re technical, sometimes they’re more clever and psychological. And when I went to school, and I started to take some initial finance classes, I started to see how my love for both technically interesting things, but also psychological components fit actually directly into what finance is, right? Like finance is a market where you have behaviors and people behave based off of psychology. But you also have the other side of it, where whether you’re like in a quant or an asset management role, where you’re using technical skills, to make decisions or to influence other people’s decisions. And it seems like a stretch, but like these two passions of mine that I loved about magic kind of directly mapped over to finance, but also computer science, right? And coding, algorithms and things like that. So, my love for these two things did sort of map over. I guess, though, you know, I’ll be honest with you, when you go to university, like they kind of, you know, shove in your brain, like, the only thing you can do is like, go work in finance, or not, they don’t actively encourage being an artist. In the purest form. I guess. So.
Working with David Blaine
And at one point, you were also I saw on your experience, you worked with David Blaine to be one of the greatest magicians alive in our time. What was that like?
Michael Blau: That was awesome that that was that was in high school. It was my senior year of high school. I remember I got called. So, one of my mentors in magic is a man named Aussie wind. In my view he’s the best magician in the world. And he at the time, is kind of like, he’s like the mastermind behind David Blaine. That’s like what.
Michael Blau: Don’t get me wrong. David’s amazing. Yeah, yeah. Aussie is like one of one of David Blaine’s like primary magic consultants. So, when David Blaine was about to do this live touring show, they sort of like needed some helpers. And, you know, designing some of the illusions before the show actually went live. And I got a phone call during class. From my mentor Aussie, I pick up the phone. It wasn’t Aussie. It was an, I heard is this, Michael? And it was, of course, David. And I lost my mind, right? Because as a young magician, it’s like, David Blaine doesn’t just call you. Like, that just doesn’t happen. So, I lost my mind. And he said, you know, we’d love to, you know, have you and, you know, come help out with kind of building parts of the show. And I, of course, jumped at it. And I basically kind of took like, two months off of high school to go live in New York for two months and kind of work on the team. And it was probably one of the coolest experiences of my life. I mean, just born on.
Did he like, I’m trying to wrap my head around that, that’s like one of the top performers of our time. Let alone all the viral videos on YouTube that have him just like dead staring people in the face like, so many memories with this guy just pops to mind and the fact that you got to work with him for two months, setting up his entire experience. I mean, I feel like that’s, that’s priceless. Like, that’s absolutely priceless.
Michael Blau: Yeah, no words. It was a great experience overall, you know, I learned.
What are the few takeaways that you got from working with him, and like working alongside him and being able to watch him do his day to day?
Michael Blau: Oh, man, a lot. I think, you know, I think the biggest thing that I learned is, well, there are two components. So, one is how do you structure a show, right like David Blaine has primarily he did shows either, you know, close up, or he would do shows on television, right? He has all of his television specials, but this was a live show. This is a live touring show. So, you know, just how do you structure a performance that not only has magic, but also live stunts, like in the show, he would do like really death-defying things that were not illusions. They were real. So how do you like balance that, was just crazy. It was just crazy to witness. How you know, of course, there’s like the nitty gritty like, how do you structure illusions? You know, how do you make a trick, good moments and pauses, you know, to maximize the impact of something, I think we’re like the key takeaways.
When you got to BlackRock, and you spent what I think what it was a year that I remember reading correctly, or so.
Michael Blau: I was an intern for like three months or so during COVID times, but then I got the job offer to be full time. But I was only full time for four weeks.
Is the work life balance as brutal as it’s rumored to be?
Michael Blau: Actually, no, they actually do a pretty good job of like, well, to be fair, like, I guess I can’t really speak to it because I was an intern. And we all know that intern experience is different from full time. When I was full time, it was like my first two weeks were all training. I didn’t really get into it. So, I guess I can’t really tell you that. So, at the internship, it was it was fine.
So, yeah. So now A16z, Andreessen Horowitz, the top venture capital firm, if not one of the top in the world? What is your role over there? Like, what is your day to day look like?
Michael Blau: Yeah, so I’m an engineering partner on the team. And basically, I spent half of my time doing, you know, investing, as you’d expect to do an adventure and the other half of my time doing research, and, you know, working on building out interesting protocols, or tools or simulations, to, you know, hopefully contribute to helping our portfolio companies, but also just, you know, contributing open source to the, to the web through ecosystem.
How To Build a Software Simulation
Got it? What goes into building a simulation? What does that consist of?
Michael Blau: A lot of code.
Okay, okay. I mean, I guess like, in general, independently of like, A16z, in general, as a software developer, right, when you’re submitting smart contracts, I guess, on test net, right, when you’re building simulations on test net, and on main net, right? Yes. So, I’m not a developer. So, I’m asking this from like a really like dumbed down point of view. Because I remember even seeing one of your articles in the past, I think it was titled, it was talking about sleep printing, right? And I’m just trying to connect the dots here. So, would you run like a test simulation to kind of provably verify that sleep mint is actually like an actual hack kind of thing? And you can tell I’m not even using the right words here. Right. I don’t understand that world. So, like, I’m just trying to understand what does a simulation kind of entail? Is it you’re testing something or what goes into it?
Michael Blau: Yeah. So, essentially, in this situation for sleep minting, I knew about this cert. I guess you could say like series of events that might occur on the Ethereum blockchain, which would create this idea of sleep minting and sleep minting is essentially, you know, messing with the provenance of an NFT on chain to make it seem like a famous person or famous artists actually own this NFT. And then now is selling it right. And therefore, because they owned it, it’s like, oh, wow, you know, it must be, you know, more valuable. So how do you actually like fudge the provenance on chain to make it seem like that was the case, when in reality, this artist or this famous influencer, had never touched the NFT in the first place. And this is actually pretty relevant. Like you see this often happened, where, you know, NFT attacks where people will sleep mint like 1000s of NFTs to the biggest influencers in the space. And what most people will do is they’ll watch these big influencers wallets to see what they’re trading. And then they’ll say, oh, they bought this and, you know, NFTX or whatever. And now they’ll go and mint NFTX and NFTX is really a scan and a rug, right? So, it’s like a way to like, create this appearance to attract attention. And the way to identify it is by looking for a few specific characteristics on chain. And what I would do in order to like how I built this system was, I would go on like a test network like Rigby and I would essentially build, I would write a smart contract that had this capability, write a smart contract that had the ability for somebody to sleep meant an NFT and then claim it back. By the way, the kind of the quick description is sleep minting is when I send you an NFT Adam. So, I will send an NFT to your wallet. But the smart contract is written in such a way where I can reclaim it back out of your wallet without your permission. Right. So now if you were to look on chain providence, what it looks like is that you minted it, and then sent it to me. Right. So now if everyone’s watching Adam’s wallet, and everyone wants to buy what I was buying, it will appear as if you minted this NFT, when in reality, you had nothing to do with it. And you may have not even noticed it was in your wallet in the first place. So anyways, I would build a smart contract that can do this, that can essentially mint an NFT and then reclaim it back on a test network. And I wrote a small bot using Florida. So, Florida is a decentralized threat detection system in the space. And I used their, they have like an SDK and API that you can kind of build these bots. So, I would basically run I guess, you could say, tests and simulations on a test network to basically detect sleep minting as it occurred. And once I kind of got the bots to work, and it was working on the test network, we deployed it on the main network. And now the bot is live and running, and basically detecting sleep mint as they occur on main net. Actually, we just added this week to other EVM related chains. So, I think we did polygon and optimism as well.
Got it. Is there any way to simulate like human behavior and traffic online, for example, like what you’re explaining right now is very, like technical related simulations, right? Where if you run, if you run enough, you could find bugs and inconsistencies and errors right before you publish it on main net. But as a creator, I don’t have like a test net, right? I don’t develop. I’m continuously trying to create more content. I’m trying to create more funnels. I’m trying to capture more emails, trying to get more followers, like, I’m trying to think outside the box. And maybe I’m thinking about it incorrectly, let me know. But is there any way to create like some form of simulation for non-technical related things? My thinking about this, right? You know what I mean?
Michael Blau: Yeah, so like, these are like, I guess, if I’m interpreting what you’re saying correctly, it’s like an agent-based simulation, where you have these kind of agents or people who have been doing things that are not necessarily like, as simple as detecting a very niche mathematical property on chain, it’s more of like, should I bid this NFT or not? Or should I click the button? Or should I subscribe or not? Or do I follow you and if I follow you, how many images do I like, right? So, these are all very behavioral, you know, actions that you would have like some sort of simulation where you create these agents, which make decisions that map to this right, so do I mint your NFT? Do I follow you? Do I subscribe, all this stuff? And usually, you know, again, everyone does it differently. But you are kind of will assume that an agent like follows maybe some like probability distribution of how like, do I mint or not? What’s the probability of me doing those two things, right? And then now you kind of like, want to release these agents into the wild, and see how they behave, collect the data, and then gain insights from it. Unfortunately, though, is quite, you know, technical, like you, you know, you do usually need to know how to code with that said, you know, there are a lot of people I think, that are that are building pretty cool, like your eyes that anybody can kind of come into and use to build at least, like relatively simple simulations for exactly the kind of things that you’re describing, you know, or follows and whatnot.
Yeah, I guess like taking it even one step further. And just brainstorming here, if there was any way to simulate like human behavior, like if I could test publish a podcast episode, and see what a group of people would like, if they would enjoy it, like, just AI people, right, like AI based people, if they would enjoy it prior to me releasing, and then be able to generate feedback to improve the podcast episode prior to kind of submitting it out into the public, you know, what I’m now thinking to probably ahead of the game, but I don’t know.
Michael Blau: You could probably do something like, you’d have to like base, like model assumptions based on real world data first, like, we took all your podcasts and we put them through like a model, mapping, like, how many users are engaged on YouTube, or Spotify at certain times of the podcasts. And basically, map like the sound waves of the podcasts that how many people are listening at that time, and basically generate some assumed behavior on listeners. And as they come and drop off in a podcast, by the way, I am not making this up. magicians do this. And I know we’re tying back to magic; they’ll literally record their shows. Not visually, but like just like the audio, and then we’ll go back, and they’ll look at like audience reaction. And like the amplitude of audience reactions and how much an audience reacted to a certain trick, and basically be able to try and mathematically determine what tricks were better than others. That’s like, better than just me feeling it’s better, you know? So, like, when I tell you this whole sound wave thing and actually listen to looking at viewers, or reactions at certain sound wavelengths. I’m not kidding. It’s a real thing.
I wonder if that there’s like a consumer tool to be able to do that. I gotta look into it.
Michael Blau: That’d be pretty cool.
Time Management: Creator, Investor and Software Developer
That would be pretty cool. All right, we’ll do some research afterwards. Okay. Michael, what also love about you is that you’re a creator, right? And you actually started off your journey, I guess, in life, quote unquote, as a creative and then slowly transitioned more into like the professional institutional realm through BlackRock, A16z, and whatnot. But you’ve still kept true to your roots as a creator with like your somewhat pseudo anonymous identity online called XOR. Right. And I remember, was it about a year ago, when you did your first drop? It was I think it was on nifty gateway. I’m not mistaken. I remember that. Particularly because I remember seeing your brother promoted and coming across this, like, this numerical ish, pixelated type of art that I’d never really seen before. It really caught my attention. How do you find the time between creating and like being a DJ and a software developer and creating for the sake of creating to then kind of like pursuing more of your professional endeavors as they do at A16z and prior at BlackRock, etc?
Michael Blau: Yeah, I think, you know, very fortunate to say that I guess you could say, my work life and my Djing life are kind of overlapped, because it’s all crypto, right? And I love crypto. And I love to think about it all day. And, you know, so I basically think about crypto 24/7. It’s just like, what components of crypto do I think about? And so, balancing, I usually say, you know, an investor by day, you know, X0r or by night, that’s like, kind of what usually happens, I usually work on my personal projects at night where I, you know, do business as usual stuff during the day, but it’s all related. It’s really just crypto 24/7.
The Origin Story of X0r
Got it. So, when you’re creating a piece for XOR, or even before we even get into the actual development, how did you come up with the branding around X0r? Like, what is X0r really mean? I get the X0, like, I get that, right? That’s like an Ethereum address. But why just leave it with 0R, like, where does that?
Michael Blau: Great question. So XOR is a bitwise operation in computer science. But that means is, it’s a mathematical operation when you’re, you know, working with just like ones and zeros at the very low level of a computer. And the reason why, and there are a lot of these bitwise operations, right, so XO is one or just OR itself is one, and is another, their logical operations, right. And what’s so interesting about XOR, though, that’s different from all the other ones is that XOR I mean, listen, they’re all used like this, but specific XOR plays a critical role in cryptography, okay, a critical role. And it stems all the way back from like, the most basic like cryptographic ciphers that exist, I think that the first one is called the one-time pad. It’s like a very basic cycle, you will learn in like introduction to cryptography. And literally, the encryption mechanism of encrypting like a piece of data is applying the XOR operation to it. Okay, that’s like, so when I think about crypto, and I’m like, if I’m gonna be a crypto artist, what is a word or a name that I can use that is very native to the space XOR like it? I don’t know, I had like a few options. But like XOR it just stuck for me. So that’s where XOR comes from.
So, can you talk to me more about the style of art, like the theme of art in which you use these numbers to kind of display images and faces and why you ended up going with that direction? And even beyond that, the creative process of actually generating a single piece? Like what does that entail?
Michael Blau: For sure. So yeah, so at the high level, so basically, the art that I usually create is ASCII art. ASCII is, you know, an American Standard for mapping basically, also ones and zeros to letters. And it’s creating images based off of characters. So, A to Z, one zero, period, question mark, exclamation point. So, using all of these characters on a keyboard to create images, and it’s very relevant in the like, hacker community, right. So oftentimes, when you if you’ve ever seen, like in the movies, like people are typing on this, like terminal command line, and it looks like super complicated, and then it would like to print out stuff. You know, oftentimes, when you’re dealing with new software, as a software developer, you know, when you run the software for the first time, the software will like print their logo in ASCII, you know, in this ASCII art, right? So, it’s like, it’s like this kind of, like, low level thing and you know, in the hacker community, I guess. So that was like the style. And I had that honestly, my friend sent me this really crazy thing where you can like, pipe into this server, and it would then proceed to show you the entire Star Wars movie in ASCII. It’s like all the, all the characters were completely composed of one’s zeros and letters. Yeah. it around the screen, right? So, I saw this I’m like, wow, like, this is so cool. So, you know, for me that was like the style. And then the other side of it was, instead of just like, you know, creating images with like ones and zeros, what if those ones and zeros and letters actually meant something right? Like they had a real meaning. They weren’t just like random. Like if you go online to like an ASCII generator, and like drag and drop an image, it would like to spit out, you know, ASCII art or an ASCII version it.
But I didn’t like that I wanted to do it where it meant something. And the first piece I ever created to kind of experiment with this idea was called Merkle. And it’s basically a technical or visual representation of a Merkle tree. And a Merkle tree is a kind of a primitive, a cryptographic primitive used a lot like heavily in the Ethereum ecosystem and blockchains in general. And basically, if you were to go look at this image, you see this image of a tree, but within the roots of the tree numbers are moving. But those numbers are actually transaction hashes from a very specific block on the Ethereum blockchain. So, it’s real blockchain. And the reason why there are transaction hashes is because the way a Merkle tree works is, you know, it’s kind of outside the scope of the conversation but basically, when you have like a lot of transactions, and each transaction has a transaction hash, for people who are in this ecosystem, you are probably very familiar with that. Basically, it’s a way of taking all of those individual, sorry, taking all those individual transaction hashes, and combine them into one, you know, root hash, which is known as like, which contributes to a block hash. So, if you ever go to like a block on ether scan, and you see that, part of that calculation of that comes from the individual transactions, it’s kind of like a tree, right? You have all these individuals; I get sucked up to this route. Hash.
So, I wanted to visually create that, but I wanted to use real data. And that was Merkle tree. So that was the first example of how I you know, change these characters to mean something. And then after that, it kind of shifted more toward code. So now I would do you know, visual representations of some Ethereum tech, and but use the actual code, like the actual solidity code of that technology within the art. And the best example of that is I have one called 721, it just has the letters NFT. But the letters NFT are composed of the actual ERC seven to one standard implementation, so the actual solidity code is running through the art itself. So that’s why every time I would get inspired to create like a new piece, it was really a result of me just learning something new in the ecosystem. So, I’d learn some new technology. And then I would just take that technology and create a visual representation of it through ASCII code. And the reason why I did that was because I wanted, I think, you know, at least at the beginning of the time, when NFTs were starting, like, I felt like a lot of people really didn’t quite understand how NFTs worked under the hood, or different components of it, like it was kind of like this high-level concept like image on the block, what does that even mean? And this was like, by me creating these images, and releasing them to the world. And people would read the short descriptions of each piece of art, it was basically a way for me to sort of like educate or like, share some knowledge and a succinct and simple to understand way of how a critical technology actually works under the hood. And it’s important to me, because like, we use this stuff every day, like Believe it or not, XOR is used every time you sign a transaction sort of right, like, it’s just like, these are things that you use every day, but you’re just not necessarily familiar with how they work or that they’re even there. And that’s the point of me creating in this space is kind of peeling back that you know, the layers and kind of diving in.
You know, it’s interesting coming from your magician background, you’ve always performed for an audience, right. And now in web three, you kind of have like your virtual audience are collectors. Right. And one thing that I kind of talk a lot about on the podcast is understanding the difference between like a web two fan and like a traditional fan versus more of like a web three, native fan. How do you think about that? Because you you’ve managed to rack in 1000s of collectors around this art, which I find fascinating and even more, so you’ve performed for a ton of people as well. Right? How do you how do you kind of think about the two?
Michael Blau: Yeah, you know, I think like, the honest answer is you kind of have both, it’s kind of the same, like you have your superfans. And then you have your haters, right in magic, right? Like your super fans are gonna come see every show, and they love everything you do. And the haters are the one that they don’t really care about you they just wonder how the trick works, or they’re gonna let you know how they think the trick works and embarrass you in front of other people and reveal the secret if they know it and stuff like that. Right. So, like that’s like that world. You know, and like the same thing maps over to crypto. I think the difference though, is that and it’s very real. All the things that people talk about is when I would create magic online or on Instagram, or even in live shows I had like zero connection to those people after the fact, like, Sure, they could like DM me on Instagram or something. But like other than that I had no connection that they saw my show. Whereas in crypto when you give someone a token, all of a sudden, the creator does have ownership over their community and their fans. And now you get to do these really interesting things like you know, create discord, that’s token gated, where you can like talk with your friends and learn from them and, and kind of create this like little ecosystem and community, which is really cool. That just doesn’t exist, it just didn’t exist in the magic world. I think what’s different also about crypto communities and fans in general, is that they can meet each other, right? So, like in magic, if I have a magic fan, like in New York, or a magic fan in San Francisco, who they both love the tricks that I’m performing, they don’t know each other are they and they’ll probably never meet unless they’re each other in a future show. Whereas like in crypto, if I have two collectors of mine, they can meet very easily. And then they can, I don’t know, who knows, maybe whether that’s created derivative project or just like, you know, starting their own thing, and just like meeting through their common love of my artwork, that’s just a super powerful thing that just didn’t exist before. So that’s how I see the differences.
How Creators Can Use Blockchain Data To Their Benefit
Yeah, you know, one thing that also is interesting, you also in the A16z report, very statistics on the creator economy in web three, were quite fascinating the numbers that were presented. And you’re seeing a lot of like music artists sort of like break wind into the space issuing music NFTs, building a band of collectors, and kind of finding creative liberation and otherwise an industry that wouldn’t allow them to kind of see that financial success, for example, Spotify data, and like the streaming data, or just royalties, paper stream models don’t really represent in, I guess, benefit every other artist out there, right, there’s some like your brother who have done exceptionally well. And there’s, there’s a handful that have done well. But there’s even a bigger tale of artists and creators that don’t really benefit from these traditional systems. And you talked about like ownership, right? Owning your audience base, building it, being able to build a community, part of ownership comes with the data that you’re able to own, quote, unquote, right, or at least the data that lives transparently, online. And with your software background, and you seem very like data focused and very data centric. What sort of data points would be beneficial for a creator if they were to build a band of collectors online? Like how could they use blockchain data as a way to optimize a community and otherwise a world where they wouldn’t necessarily have access to more specific centralized data such as that Spotify presents or Apple Music present or Facebook presents, etc? How do you think about that?
Michael Blau: Yeah, I think the idea here is that when you have collectors on a blockchain, and you can know, for example, like if you release an NFT, you can go to that NFT smart contract and query all of the individual addresses that own one of your tokens, right. And just having that alone, you cannot do in other places, now sure, you know, there are web two platforms that maybe let you download an email list. But you know, like, email disappears one day, I don’t know, like, when you know, someone’s address, you can take that anywhere, you could take that to your own website, you can take that to another website, you know, and it becomes a token gating game, right? And that’s where, you know, when I think about how to creators leverage web three, and I think about this myself, like, how do I distill it down to like, the simplest, possible primitive. And it as of right now, it kind of has to do with like token gating, like assuming that you’re not technical at all, and you just want to use NFTs to you know, build your community? Well, once you have these NFTs on the blockchain, you know, you have to now validate that somebody owns that token, right? And after that, it’s whatever you want, right?
So, in my case, right, what do I do? Well, when someone owns one of my tokens, and they like come into my Discord, or my website, and they connect their wallet and see that they do indeed, actually own one of my tokens, right now, I give them access to all of this educational content that I’m creating, to kind of help them become more technical in the crypto industry, right, that’s like sort of like what I do. But in reality, you could do something where you know, it’s token gate and someone will come in connect their wallet, that you’ll see that on your token. And, you know, maybe they get to listen to an unreleased song, or get to, you know, really listen to a blog, or whatever that might be. And it’s just using this idea that you can token gate something and, but you can move that token gating from platform to platform. So for example, you can have it on Discord, or you could have on your website or have it in the link tree in your Twitter bio right now, which is crazy, right? So, you can take it you can take your fans across anywhere whereas like imagine for example, like I’ll use like, like if web three a discord, let’s use discord. Like let’s say the blockchain was built into discord, and therefore I you know, needed access to my community in discord, that’d be amazing. But now if I want to go build a website that you know gives them some other access to whatever it is that I want to do. Well, I can’t bring my fans. Yeah, It’s stuck in discord right? I can’t, there’s nothing I can do.
It’s the same problem creators face when they go and build a new audience on a new platform. For example, a lot of the Instagram artists or creators that did exceptionally well on Instagram built massive followings then slowly transitioned to Tik Tok and didn’t maybe necessarily see the same success. And there was now they have like the Tick Tock creators, right, versus which a lot of the ethos around like this web three social environment is like, you can take your followers anywhere, the platform is the play, and you own your audience. So, if a new platform pops up, and you create an account, and a lot of those existing users who own your collectibles, join that platform, essentially, you’d be able to kind of like, rejuvenate that following as you otherwise would have had on the other platform kind of thing. You know, another interesting concept that just diving more into the data that I find quite interesting. So, for me, specifically, every single season or nearly every single season, started on season two, I issue free NFTs to my listeners. And basically, if you listen, you have the optionality to claim a participation NFT. Right? And I’ve issued I think over like 8000, a little bit over 8000, free NFTs.
Michael Blau: Wow
And now I’m trying to think, okay, what do I do from there, right? So, back to your email analogy, because I’m also building like a newsletter list, right? For those who don’t understand the concept, imagine, like, okay, you have their email address. But imagine if you were able to see their entire inbox, and you’re able to get like an entire analysis and deep dive as to what they like, where they went, what they’ve like, communicated, etc. That’s like what the address represents, right? Just to kind of give more context. And I’m thinking from my point of view, Michael, I’m trying to think about like, okay, how many of my collectors also hold a board eight? How many of them have at least 0.1 Eth in their wallet? What other pull ups are they collected, which I can kind of maybe tell if their average conference goers, and all these interesting data points, and I can start building like a profile around these wallets themselves, right, in a very, I guess, like ethical, non-aggressive manner. Right. Are you thinking about it the same way? Have you done that with XOR? Walk me through that a little bit more? Because you have more? I feel like you have more experienced with this as a technical person than I do.
Michael Blau: Yeah, for sure. So, I’ll kind of explain what I’ve done with XOR. And my little experiment, and then how I feel about this concept in general, because I think it’s the coolest thing ever. So, in my like XOR community. It’s all about education. And I really, I stay by that mission, right? We do these, like weekly, or every two weeks we do these quests. These are on chain quests are like they’re on a test network, where people can go and experiment with smart contracts, kind of really getting in the weeds. They’re not like, it’s not like education, like, oh, here’s how to use uniswap. It’s like education, like, let’s actually go read an NFT. smart contract and determine if it’s sleep minting on ether scan, because like, we’re all looking at ether scan every day, at least I assume. Right? So, like, how do you make sense of all this crazy data that you’re getting thrown out? Right? So technical education is what I focus on. And as people complete these quests and do this stuff on chain, what’s really cool is people are doing this stuff on a test network. So, it’s totally free to participate.
Which is cool. I haven’t heard about, I mean, obviously, test net exists, but creating an entire experience on a test net, I’ve never heard like, you always think about people creating these experiences where you’re burning gas, and it cost the user something but it’s actually so smart to do a test net. Yeah, anyways, continue.
Michael Blau: by the way, the reason is, is really simple. It’s because, you know, when something is EVM compatible, like rank B, which is the rank B net that that I use, is more or less like the same exact code base and cryptography as Ethereum. So, you’re like address and private key on a theorem is the exact same as it is on the rank B test network. So basically, if I were to see who is participating on a test network for free, I can then retroactively go back and airdrop them something on the main network based on their address that they use on test network, now they what’s really cool about this is now I get to, I actually get to do risky things. I get to experiment with new contract ideas, smart contracts and have, you know, my collectors who are part of the community do interesting things. And if it’s, if there’s a bug, it’s not a big deal, because it’s on a test network, you’re not losing money. It’s all like three, right? However, if you’re successful in these quests, and you complete them, now what I do is I go Airdrop them a token on Polygon. Okay. However, this token is non-transferable. It’s a non-transferable token. So, it’s kinda like a pull up, although pull ups preference, but like it’s a non-transferable thought.
That’s what I do for the podcast, NFT’s too, by the way, but continue. Yeah, yeah.
Michael Blau: That’s awesome. Yeah. So, why is it so important? Well, because when you complete a quest, what that shows me or that you’d show somebody else is that you learn something, you spent hours trying to do something, and then you were successful in doing it, right? This is something that you should not be able to give to another human right? Like, you can’t give what you’ve learned, right? It’s not like I can get a degree in computer science, or, you know, biology and then just I sell you my degree in like magic, right? Like, that’s not a thing, right. So. So these are not transferable, because people who earn them, they’re not, knowledge is not transferable, in that sense, right? Or what you’ve learned is non-transferable. So that’s how I sort of experiment it. And now what’s really cool, is what I then do is now when you come to my Discord, when you connect your wallet, I can see who’s completed what quests, right, and then group them together. So, like, if you completed this first quest, you guys can be in a group chat and hang out. Or if you completed this quest, you can be in a group chat hang out, right, or, you know, like, I’ve used it for things like you know, a buddy of mine, also works in A16z, you know, he has a project coming out called rebels, and was gracious enough to give our community some whitelist bots. And, you know, what I did was, when I gave out these wireless bots, I was able to give them to people who completed the quests, because those were demonstrate, they demonstrated being active in the community, for the sake of learning, and they love the mission, right? And those are the people who should be rewarded. Right. So, you know, from that side of things, that’s how I’ve been using it. Now, how this other side, whether you’re talking about is creating a decentralized profile, with non-transferable tokens or even, you know, transferable tokens. To me. That’s where I believe this space is going to be in the next year or so. Because the reality is, right now, when you think about NFTs, like there’s a lot of speculative nature going on, right? Like we can’t pretend like it’s not all speculative, right? And if we’re thinking about a world where web three is really the next internet, right, like, web two is not speculative. Like we don’t go on Gmail, and say, thanks for sending my email. But like, what’s the utility Gmail? Like what do you give me? Right? Like, we use it, because it’s a great tool.
I do that, I don’t know about you.
Mind blown. So that’s so interesting.
Michael Blau: It’s really cool.
So, I haven’t thought about it like that. The fact that I would be able to connect my wallet, and then I have like predetermined settings as kind of preference by my taste, that’s kind of like coded into my wallet through an NFT right. And every time I go to the social platforms or any website for that matter, I can get a tailored experience to me personally as a user, It’s fascinating and powerful as hell, like, incredibly powerful. And I guess the point that I was thinking about it from is there’s so much data on chain that’s so, so accessible and a lot of collector creators are they’re building, they’re able to build at least profiles around their collectors, and be able to see and get, I guess, more, get deeper insights into how like what future drops should look and feel like, right, for example, something that they otherwise would have been able to do, I’d argue is, for example, let’s say, for everybody that’s collected one of my NFTs, if I want to do some type of like pay type of I don’t know, drop in the future, I can kind of see my closest supporters will obviously get the whitelist spot, no doubt about it, right. But even more than that, I would want to create a custom minting experience for my existing audience. So, I would want to know, what is the average like wallet hold terms of net worth, right? I don’t want to be charging one Eth. For something if I if I know my audience can’t afford one Eth for example, let alone if I know a lot of them have FWB maybe I should be doing curated experiences with FWB because our audience has overlap, and so on, and so on and so forth. Even more than that, which I don’t think we’ve kind of like scratched the surface is okay. There’s a lot of information out there. And there’s an argument that says even if you have all that information, you don’t know what to do with it. So having like some type of AI generated insights and be able to tell you, here’s what you can do, because X, Y, and Z kind of like fit this, this type of sentiment or whatever the statement, so shows you how early we are, I guess, into all of these things. You know, one thing I want to pivot to and kind of go back to this topic of magic and being a musician is where do you see the world of magic and web three kind of overlapping? And it’s such a general question, but I’m thinking about it from the point of view, Michael, it’s like, I feel like there’s a world where you can mix your love for magic and software development, and more of like an illusion-based experience. And I could be speaking out of my ass here. But I feel like there’s something to experiment between these two mediums that hasn’t been done before.
Michael Blau: Great, great topic. So actually, this is I don’t know if remember, I said in the beginning, why took computer science in the first place and everything that I learned of how to code was how do I build technological magic tricks? How do I leverage technology to create magic illusions, and, you know, that, you know, is across a variety of applications and spectrums? I actually released one application on the App Store, it’s free, you can go download it. It’s called the AR psychic. And it’s basically like an iPhone app that is augmented reality, and you show it to a spectator. And like, you know, it has these spirals that spin and then a little thought bubble that comes out of their head. And it tells them what number they’re thinking of right? And you can download the app and go perform it right. So, like, well, that’s what I mean by like technological illusions. Now, how does it relate to blockchain specifically, I think, in two ways. So one is, there’s this there’s this, there’s this quote and magic, and I am going to butcher it right now. It is actually not a quote from magic. It’s a quote by I think it’s Arthur C. Clarke. And it’s like any sufficiently advanced technology is no different from magic. It’s something like that I’m butchering the, quote, famous quote, but it’s something this idea that what is considered, you know, impressive 100 years ago is no longer considered impressive today, right? And the reason for that is technology changes, right? So, what if I were to do it, there are some tricks that I could do to you 10 years ago, but even today, you’d be like, oh, I know exactly how that works. Right?
So why is this interesting? Well, there’s like a whole side of magic now, where like, I’ll do tricks with your iPhone, like, I will take your phone, and you’ll go on Instagram, Facebook, phone, cell phone call, passcode, email, whatever. And I will do magic illusions, using your iPhone as a component of the trick, right? Not necessarily where like the actual, like code is involved, but just using this prop in an illusion. And the reason why that’s interesting is because people you know, our age and our generation, we understand how an iPhone works, right? So, if I can show you something amazing with an iPhone, it’s all almost more impressive to you than if I just did a card trick, right, because an iPhone is so engrained in our lives. So how can I create an illusion that uses the blockchain? Right now, I don’t think we’re at a stage where like the average audience they perform to is going to understand, like what a smart contract is, so maybe it’s not there yet. But one day, you might see you know, magicians using NFTs and a magic trick, or to the blockchain and a magic trick for whatever reason, like I don’t know, you know, I could predict what you’re thinking of, and instead of me just like opening up an envelope in my pocket that has your thinking have written on it. I could say go look in your wallet, and you go to your wallet address on the blockchain and there’s an NFT. And that NFT shows what you’re thinking of right, which is kind of interesting, right?
That’s so cool. Wait a minute.
Michael Blau: I did it already.
You Did it already. Yeah. Traditional magic is either one to one, one to a few, or one to many. And most of the time everybody experiences the same thing. Either you’re like your, what’s the word, you’re either watching the sidelines, right? Or you are kind of like experiencing it one to one. But now we’re talking about data profiles, right? And using these NFTs to kind of build an individual preference sheet of every single wallet, you could technically create custom allusions per wallet, right, like per user. So, everybody experiences your craft in their own unique way, shape and form, which is like we have yet to see that on television, for example, hit the main stage. Are you going to be the person who does it?
Michael Blau: Yes, that could be me. Yes, please. I have I have done one magic illusion before. Okay. It doesn’t it it’s called Hardeen. It’s like an NFT that reads your mind. It’s like a simple form of this. I have another one I’m working on that is going to come out soon, I think. But yes, I am working on it. I think about this a lot. And I want to be the person to do it. Because I like you said I want to combine both worlds. For it’s an interesting problem. And it’s really exciting. But yeah, I want to be the person.
There’s nothing like that out there. I can tell you right now, I think you and I both know, there’s nothing like that. There is no experience that really. Yeah, I’m like trying to think like, I’m trying to experience the same Aha, wow factor that comes from seeing and experiencing your magic trick. And then getting that in a more personalized level. In Web three. It doesn’t exist yet.
Michael Blau: One day.
The Future of x0r
One day. Let’s see what happens. Wow. Okay, so, what’s up next for XOR? Like, what’s going on in the community? What do you have planned for all the holders? Like what can we expect next?
Michael Blau: Yeah, for sure. So, actually just did something about a week ago, which is kind of like, been my dream to do in crypto since I started NFTs. And I, of course, built a community up into to a point where I was able to do it. And it was you know; I have this fascination with NFTs that are composable and fully on chain. Okay, now, what do I mean by that? So, like you can, another smart contract on Ethereum can determine very easily if you own a board ape or not. They know that very easily. What they can’t do is they can’t tell you, if your board ape has gone far right. Now, why does this matter? Well, the more granular data that you can get from an on chain, you know, asset in this case, an NFT, the more interesting things that you can do with it, right? So, I just want to create a composable NFT, which is what I did in my recent project called metvani. So even though the metvani images are stored on our leaf, the traits of each image are indeed on chain, and they’re fully composable. And people can query them. And smart contracts can plug into them. Like, well, you do this? Well, this new idea that I had was, I want people to come to a smart contract. And basically, when the smart contract sees their wallet, and it sees what tokens they own of this Mevani NFT. It’s going to take the traits of that NFT in my case, the Legion trait, okay, that’s one of the traits and I’m going to mint you another NFT based off of that trait, okay. And this NFT is in this case, it’s a Twitter banner, that’s like a visual logo for a legion. But this banner is fully on chain. It’s like an unchained ASCII generator. So, it looks just like all my other pieces, but there’s an interesting component of it, which is that there are six legions across metvani. And that means that, and I did it so that’s actually like completely equal distribution. So, you know, there’s the same percentage are in each Legion. So, what that means is when people come in mint this, they’re gonna be like, you know, what, like, 1500 people or so that meant, you know, a searcher Legion, right is what it’s called. And they’re gonna wonder people that own that NFT. But what I did is I made these NFTs community owned. And what that means is that if you own this, this banner, and you have the ability to change components of it, so you can change like the color of the ASCII text, like the color of the image, or you can change like the actual like, remember, we set out ASCII as numbers and letters, you can change the numbers and letters with inside the image. However, if you change it, it changes for everybody else who owns the NFT. So, it’s sort of like this community own thing where it doesn’t, you can change as many times as you want, but it’s very likely that if you go change it to blue, I can then go immediately change it to red, and your changes would be overwritten. And everybody’s wallet, everybody’s NFT would change.
So, this is the product that I recently did. And it’s you know, it’s kind of my experiment with composable NFTs, updatable NFTs and unchained NFTs. But what’s interesting about it’s sort of like now the beginning of this next phase of my like artistic journey, where I want to start experimenting more with these unchained NFT aspects and how do you make NFTs updatable and change dynamically without relying on a centralized server? Because most of the time, when NFTs do change dynamically, it’s because they’re relying on some centralized server. But if you’re, you know, there are a few fun tricks you can do to kind of get around that and make it, you know, decentralized, but also dynamic. So that’s one area that I’m kind of experimenting with right now. And the other thing that I’m experimenting with is also these magic illusions. I’m not gonna say much about that, because I want, you know, under wraps for now. And the third thing is, you know, continuing to build out, you know, this, this metvani extra community, where I continue to do these educational quests on chain and stuff like that. And I think the next version of that that’s kind of coming up in the next month or so is basically what you can do is because I know if you own an NFT on Main net, but I want to token gate something on test net, what I can do is I can basically just Airdrop you, your equivalent NFT on test net, and make it non-transferable. So now your ownership on a test network is locked in to one main net. And you can use your NFT on test network to do things. But it’s more like a representation of your ownership of being a part of this community rather than like actually owning the main asset on the test network. And now what I’m going to do with this is, essentially, we’re gonna do the scavenger hunt is like the first iteration. And basically, it’s like an on chain, token gated, scavenger hunt. So, you got to own these NFTs to be able to participate, or at least participate in some components. And it’s a, it’s kind of like this, all this knowledge that people have been learning throughout these quests of like, how to read ether scan, how to interact with contracts at a low level, you know, maybe how to even coat a little bit of solidity, all this stuff, they’re gonna use to create like a 15 to 20 Stage scavenger hunt, to you know, test out their knowledge on chain and of course, you know, get a non-transferable NFT for doing that and whatnot. So, basically, a way to test out your knowledge and other stuff.
That’s really cool.
Michael Blau: That I’m experimenting with, but you know, every day, I come up with new ideas, it’s, you know, a never-ending rabbit hole.
I love it, I, you’re the first person that’s come on and actually shared, like the experimentation that that one is doing, but focusing on test net, I didn’t, I really haven’t thought about that as like an option to kind of keeping the love on Eth without needing to like to be adding new add new networks or anything like that. But also, kind of being cognizant of your collectors and not having them spend and waste a ton of money for no reason. Not for no reason. But like, for the sake of just having fun if you could go through a request and experience on test net and then get the equivalent on Main net, you know, as the reward is the outcome, it’s actually really, really smart. This has been great. Michael, you’re so knowledgeable on the space and everything that’s happening before I let you go where can we find you? Where can we find XOR and kind of show it away?
Michael Blau: Sure. Yeah, so probably the best is on Twitter, I have two accounts. I have my personal account, which is Blau your mind, @Blau your mind on Twitter. And then I have my extra account which is @XOR arts but it’s with a 0, so X0arts and you know when you go there you can find like in my bio links to my website and my Discord and my collections and all that kind of stuff.
And I’ll put stuff in the show notes, what was the last thing?
Michael Blau I was gonna say like if you’re, for anyone out there listening who wants like a community and to learn more about like the technical aspects of crypto. My show is you know, come join the discord and you know, we’d love to have you.
Sick. This has been great Michael till next time. Thank you so much.
Michael Blau: Awesome. Thanks Adam, this was awesome.