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FVCKRENDER and the Journey from Instagram to Christie’s

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Background

Mint Season 3 episode 14 welcomes the futuristic tech-digital artist FVCKRENDER, who is a self-taught creative working out of Vancouver. With a defining affinity for sharp architectural geometry, beaming future landscapes, and brilliant crystalline arrangements, his renders pay a dark homage to what may eventually reflect our very existence. His clients include Supreme, Softest Hard, Columbia Records, Lil Nas X, Epic Records, Harpers Bazaar China, TOKiMONSTA, New Retrowave Records, High Snobiety, Puma, Spotify, Instagram, Wieden + Kennedy, Rosalía, Northlane, Damian Lazarus, Le Cirque du Soleil, Lebron James, Primitive Skateboard, OVO, 88 Rising, Dior, Hypebeast and many more.

In this episode we discuss:

  • 2:50 – Who is FVCKRENDER?
  • 6:02 – What does your work represent?
  • 9:21 – FVCKRENDERVERSE
  • 20:22 – A Shift from the Digital Art to Physical Art
  • 27:23 – FVCKRENDER at Christie’s
  • 34:08 – Advice on entering the NFT Space
  • 38:29 – Coping Strategies
  • 45:07 – FVCKRENDER’s Biggest Failures
  • 47:56 – Does Crypto and Web 3 favor new artists?
  • 51:54 – FVCKRENDER influencers
  • 52:50 – Biggest Misunderstanding about You
  • 54:10 – FVCKRENDER’s Long Term Vision
  • 55:15 – Outro

…and so much more.

His Latest and First-Ever Physical Piece Revealed at Christie’s

He debuted his most exciting project yet on Mint, showcasing a physical chain he created, inspired by some of his iconic digital work.

The piece will be auctioned a Christie’s during Art Basel Miami.

I bet it will go for at least $1,000,000, a genuine steal to be honest.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Let’s just dive right in. Who are you? What were you like before crypto? And what are you working on now?

So before crypto, I was doing commercial work visuals for shows and like advertisements stuff like this. I was pretty much working as many hours as I could to burn out. Basically. That was pretty much what where I was. Now I don’t know. I’m just like doing stuff that I like, which is insane. And I’m doing like, I’m just experimenting with like the crypto and NFC space and see how I can build this environment and community around my art basically. And so, yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m doing right now. I’m trying to just experiment enough fun and trade like the coolest I can do because I don’t have any more barriers or like any guideline on what I should do. It’s literally just me doing shit. So yeah, it’s been, how

How long have you been an artist for?

Seven years now.

And what were some of like the initial pieces you started creating before you kind of dove deeper into the themes kind of like what you’re building right now?

All my career, I was always like trying to experiment with some stuff and like, I never like follow any trend that much, like there’s some trends that are inevitable, but I always tried to do something different than other people. I started to do commercial work, so like my art side, like people were hiring me for what I was doing. So it was pretty cool, but it was still coming with like creative director who has like their crazy vision. But yeah, so I was basically becoming the executor of commercial work and I didn’t like it. I said it on another podcast. I’m so bad at commercial work. Like I’m so bad at commercial work.

Is it because it’s just too limiting to your creative side, you’re following too much structure?

Yeah. I’m not an executant, I consider myself as a true artist where I need to do what I like to do to feel good about my art. Honestly, when I was doing commercial work, I was just burning out. Like every, like every year I was having like a major burnout. So it didn’t make sense. I wasn’t meant to do like art for other people basically. Which is basically like, [inaudible] like in the [inaudible] because like, now it’s just freedom. You can literally build something that you truly believe in and people will support that. And it’s the best feeling. Honestly. It’s crazy.

How would you describe your work to people who are unfamiliar with your craft?

I don’t like to put labels on my stuff because I like to experiment too much, but like, I would say like some digital surrealism maybe.

Whoever’s listening right now, you should go to like nifty gateway, go on opensee, look up his Instagram page. You also have your own NFT portfolio and Instagram page. Right? That’s super cool. I highly recommend you check it out. You know, we met, I feel like almost a year ago also through like clubhouse, crypto, Twitter, all of these things. We’ve been creating content through Twitter spaces and whatnot, and I’ve seen your work kind of evolve. And one thing that always sticks out to me about you and kind of like the pieces that you put out is the 3d nature of it, the ambiance behind it, the crystals, right? You have these things that symbolize like who you are as FVCKRENDER, the roses, the chains, all these things kind of like encompass you. Why do you feel like you’re leaning more towards like the crystal side? Like the rose side, the chain side. I’m trying to understand more about your work and your creative process.

And like, that’s actually funny because, if you know me in real life, I hate crystals. I don’t hate crystals, I hate the crystal people where like they put their crystal on their forehead and they’re like, oh, I feel so much better right now. I’m not like this. Some people were like reaching out to me and they were like, oh, do you put like crystals on your forehead and do shit like this? I said no. What I’m interested in the crystal is our planet is forming these crystals. And it’s all about like time, like only time create crystals and extreme forces all together. And like, this is what I like to do with my art is like, take my time and like put every energy I have and create like these artwork basically. There’s so many different phases that you don’t necessarily see when you look at it up front. It just looks so cool and so beautiful. This is the main reason why I like to use crystals. Chains to me is like community and like people chaining together to build something,I’ve always used chain in my art. Growing together is better than growing alone. Like flowers, that’s so simple, but like we’re all blooming and stuff like this. I don’t like to put words in people’s mouth, but that’s, to me, what it represented kind of.

One thing that I’ve noticed that’s super, super unique about your work is, at one point you just said, right now, you don’t like to control the way, kind of like people see and explain it and kind of feel your work. But on the other hand, you’re creating this FVCKRENDER verse, right? This entire metaverse around your art, around the ambient music around the crystals, and all these planets. Right. A part of that is trying to control the experience that people encounter with your art. Can you talk a little bit about FVCKRENDER verse? What is going on over there? I remember like six months ago, seven months ago, I downloaded that initial file. We were on Twitter spaces. I was going through it. I was amazed. How has it developed since then? But I guess first, like what is it?

FVCKRENDER verse has changed a lot in the past few months. At first it was like mostly like a art experience, virtual experience for people to see my art in a different way. Now we’re turning it more into a game more like a virtual experience art game. I’m currently working with some of the best to make a social economics and a token economics to help me with the FVCKRENDER verse. This is the first time I say it, I think so publicly, but FVCKRENDER verse changing its name for ellipsy. I wanted to change the name because I want other artists to get involved and I don’t want artists to feel shadowed by the FVCKRENDER verse. I want people to come in and feel like it’s their place as much as it’s my place. So I really want to make this virtual experience really inclusive and let people in and let everybody have fun and don’t feel like, oh, I’m releasing on FVCKRENDER verse platform.

So does that mean you’re building the tools and like foundation people to develop their own metaverse around their artwork?

No, not really. We’re really creating like this environment where people will be able to join in. It’s not going to be super open at first. It’s a project that without the NFTs space, it would take like four years to build, but because it’s a NFT and everything goes so fast, we need to build it in a matter of few months. It’s more like an experience. I wanted to dissociate my art and utility and like this thing that I want to build, like this universe I wanted to build, like, I feel like a lot of people are associating my one-on-ones to this FVCKRENDER verse called Ellipsy. So I wanted to like, create like a separation for people that wants to buy my one-on-one. They don’t feel targeted because I released like 4,000 crystals. Because to me it’s important. Like, my art is really, really important for me. And I felt like in the past few months some collectors were a little bit concerned because I was releasing all these crazy stuff with FVCKRENDER verse. I’m trying to find a way, like, without diluting my work and still creating something that I want to create, which is this meta verse where people can just hang out together and have this art experience altogether and without like sacrificing my one-on-ones and like my personal art, you know? We’re building this. It’s going to be like kind of a free to play, but also play to earn type game where people will be able to, I can’t really talk too much, but our goal is for crystal olders to farm their crystals and like have these social events where you’ll be able to, I really can’t talk too much about this. I’m going to get the slap on the hand a little bit, because we’re building something really, really sick. I heard like some of the best to help for the experience for the economics and for the development sides of it. So in the next few weeks, it’s gonna be pretty wild.

Amazing. We’ll have to do a live show, like on Twitter space.

So one thing I want to say it’s like no more downloadable files, it’s all streamable. So you’ll be able to stream it on your phone or on your laptop, Mac or PC. Like we don’t care. It’s really like, we to make this the most user friendly puzzle, because now downloading files, doesn’t make any more sense in this new era of like [inaudible] and shit like this.

That makes a lot of sense. You know, dude, you really front ran the whole metaverse trend. You were very early on that before Facebook came out, everybody now wants to become, or a lot of people want to become like a metaverse company. You saw that way before a lot of other people did. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you were so early to it?

I don’t know. I’ll blame crypto voxel. I started to see these things coming up and this is why we changed the FVCKRENDER verse name, because everybody’s wants to have a verse. I don’t like to do what other people are doing. I remember like when I started the FVCKRENDER verse so many artists reach out to me and they were like, oh, I’m doing this artist name verse. I was like, oh, okay. I need to do something about this. I’m super pro people do their own things and everything like this, but like, I like to be different. I think the thing that really switched in my brain is like, it was COVID and I haven’t seen my brother in like years, and I was just chilling with my brother in crypto voxels, showing him like my art in crypto voxels. And I was like, this is crazy. I’m spending quality time with my brother that I haven’t seen physically in years. So it was like, so maybe I can create something for my art, because I don’t want people to only see my art on the webpage. Like, I want people to go see like the virtual sculpture of my art in like fucked up surrealistic environment. I was really like intrigued of how can we perceive an NFT’s because I think what’s interesting right now is like, if you have a physical piece only a few people will see it. Like this piece from Libby only people that will come to my place, that they were going to see it. If you have your NFT page, everybody sees it. So I was like, how can I make more people see the kind of physical, so virtual, physical, if that makes sense, but in a virtual world where a lot of people could see the actual, like, sculpture of it basically.

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. How do you feel about like the current state of what people are trying to make of the metaverse for example, Metta and their take on trying, I guess what people think is them trying to own every aspect of it, right. Control and make it look like 3d and caricature type of, you know, access through these VR headsets. Do you agree with that thesis that they kind of presented a few weeks back? Do you imagine another kind of thesis prevailing? What do you think

It’s going to be interesting. I hate to say that I think Metta is going to crush it. Because they have so much more resources than everybody else. And when I say crush it, it doesn’t mean that necessarily, I’m stoked for it. I just think they’re going to do like a good job creating the meta verse. I think it’s going to be really controlled and like not inclusive at all. And I think it goes in the opposite way that we’re trying to go with like the old decentralized point of view. I have no opinion. I’m like praying for it to not crash because of meta basically. But I think there’s so many genuine creators out there that we’re going to be able to compete with meta, I’m pretty sure more than we can with Facebook right now and the web too. It’s going to be easier for us to compete with big brands and stuff like this in web three, because we’re web trees, ownership, it’s giving ownership to your family and your community. So Facebook was never giving ownership to anybody basically. So we’ll see. I don’t know. We’ll see, maybe they’ll change it and it’s going to be really cool.

You know, what comes to mind as you tell me this I’m like imagining like this scenario, okay. Bear with me. Facebook is like the king of the world and you and I, and all these other people are like having like the civil war fare. Right. I’m trying to go after like the big guys and that there’s power in many versus a large entity. Right. And us collectively, we’re building this entire vision of what we deem to be better and more fair for the people. Right. Whatever that means and not competing against like the bigger guys. Right. Yeah. It kind of feels like David and Goliath and David is comprised of many kind of thing. Right. Do you see it the same way?

Yeah, kind of, and to be fair, like I speak for myself, but like, I’m not trying to compete with meta when I’m building FVCKRENDER verse, because I know my vision and I know where I want to go with that and people will love it anyway. So I think there’s room for a lot of platforms and a lot of like meta verse. I think there shouldn’t be just one meta verse. It doesn’t make any sense, but for sure meta is going to try to have control on all the meta verse for sure.

Okay. One thing you brought up is this intertwine between the digital and the physical. One thing we were talking about behind the scenes is this new physical drop you have coming up at, Christie’s what you showed me a picture of and it’s sick. I want to say, are you able to show a picture of it now and like walk us through it? Okay. So this is going to happen at art Basel next week. I’ll be there. So if you’re listening to this before art Basel hit me up on Twitter at levy chain, I want to meet you. FVCKRENDER, will you be there?

I won’t be physically there. Unfortunately I have to go to LA, but I’d wish, honestly, like I love art basel. I’ve been there pretty much every year before COVID for the last few years, but this event is so sick.

Yeah, amazing. Okay. Show me what you showed me behind the scene and walk me through that narrative. You’re planning a really dope piece for Christie’s it’s your first physical piece. Take it away.

My work is mostly like sculptures, like in virtual space and like super surrealist space. It’s been a couple of years I wanted to do a physical, but before it was so broke, I couldn’t even do anything. So with NFTs now I can afford to pay people to help me do a very nice physical. So I wanted to create like this physical, but I’m a digital artist. So doing a physical, I wanted to do something that is like my work in the physical realm that we’re living in. I have so much respect for peoples culture and stuff like this, but personally, I didn’t want to have like any screens or anything that is like, technological about it. I wanted to put my surrealistic sculptures in real life. So I worked probably like three months, and it’s a super simple sculpture, but I worked three months to understand, like, what could be interesting to see in physical life. I came with this piece that I honestly, we painted it yesterday and honestly, I was literally crying at the studio because I can’t believe this is real. And it looks really, really, rally crazy. I’ll show you two pictures. I’ll show you this one here and I’ll show you one where it, the goal was to make the chain-link floating seems like they were floating. So you got this piece here.Yeah. Yeah. It’s about like five feet tall, a little bit more. It’s super reflective and it looks honestly, it looks really, really, really cool. It’s actually not too heavy too. This one is the perfect picture, because the goal was to make it look like all the chain-link was connected but floating. So you see like the gaps between them. In 3d, sometimes I do this, I don’t stretch the chain-link together because it’s in 3d. So I can have so much room for things that wouldn’t happen in real life. So I was like, how can I create something that wouldn’t be physically possible in the physical space?

How did you create that? Are the chains, not touching each other at all?

They are touching, but the touching point are so specific that at certain degrees, it looks like they’re not touching at all.

Geez. One more time. One more time.

For sure. One more time. I’ll show you a video of it getting painted yesterday

As we’re watching it. Okay. Talk to me through, like, what material are you using to paint what’s the base made out of what are the chains made out of?

So we did a couple of tests, but we need to carry it to Miami.

Carrying it from Vancouver?

I’m selling an NFT. I’m not selling the physical. So the collector that’s going to buy the NFT is going to get this sculpture as a gift, because to me, I’m not a physical artist, so the physical doesn’t have the same value as the NFT. I want to prove that without the NFT, this sculpture has no value, basically, because it’s not what I do. My value is sitting in NFTs. So bike by building it, I wanted to make something that is pretty light and something that the collector can carry and move, move around. And it’s not like 600 pounds, you know? It’s about like 50 pounds actually. So it’s pretty, pretty light. It’s made out of a polyurethane and it’s a clear coded with a Chrome finish. It’s really straightforward how it’s made. We made the cast with laser printing so we did like these 3d models of chains. We drip the polyurethane inside, and we merged them together and we put a separation between, so we can like stick them together. And I think I have a picture of when they assembled it, they are to cut the chain so the chain link was done. So they had to cut the chain link. I wasn’t there when they cut it, but I suppose the people were like freaking out, because it was kind of scary because like, there’s a lot of work that has been put in into this physical piece. But it’s mainly polyurethane like a Chrome finish paint.

You seem so proud talking about it.

I’m so proud. I was crying in the studio yesterday because I was like, I can’t believe this is real. Like, this is so sick

And what a cool kind of way that experiment in the physical space and take what you’re so good at designing and putting out digitally and trying to manifest that in real life and kind of see that where you can touch it, you know, you can play with it, you can kind of walk around it. What a cool piece, how long have you been working on that?

So designing the piece took about three months, and it’s not because it’s complicated. It’s just because I was never satisfied of the angle and stuff like this. No, not three months. That’s a lie, maybe like a month or two. I have no sense of time anymore. Maybe a month or two, but I was never really satisfied, like on how the chain was looking and everything. The physical production took 10 people and they were literally working 24 hours a day. They were changing shifts and that was for like a good solid month. Yeah. It’s pretty crazy. Yeah.

Geez. How heavy is that thing?

50 pounds.

How do you plan to ship it? It looks really fragile.

It’s not actually too fragile. It’s actually really well designed and well welded. So we’re hiring this company in Vancouver where they have like these big shipping boxes with foam, so it’s going to be pretty safe.

So this is going to be presented at Christie’s during art Basel, Miami. Open bid? What is it like, how does it work? What’s going on?

So I wanted to put a I reserve price on it, but to me, it didn’t feel right. I like to put open auction, so I can let more people bid on it. As long as it covers my cost of production, I’ll be stoked, but we’ll see how it goes. Like, I don’t like to predict any prices, but it’s for sure a very big piece for me, so I really hope it’s going to go well, and I don’t really care if it goes well, I just hope people will love it as much as I love this piece.

Well said. They’re buying the NFT that then rewards them with this physical piece, correct?

The NFTs is what people are buying.

And Christie’s has that online auction set up where you can basically bid and buy? Is it minted on Christie’s or is it using like a nifty gateway type of approach?

No, I think they’re using their own smart contract. And so there is no atrophy, I think there’s a small percentage, like super I would take, but it’s not like the traditional, like Christie’s with like the crazy armor fee where a lot of crypto collectors doesn’t like, which I totally understand, because it doesn’t make any more sense nowadays with all the platform that we were having and everything that’s getting built. I truly respect Christie’s for going forward and like changing their mentality of how they are approaching the NFT space. I think they’re actually listening to people, which is amazing.

All right. So I have a price prediction. Okay. I think at least $1 million, at least.

That would be my goal. Like that would be insane.

Dude, if a collector understands how, like how detail orientated, how deep into the process you are and have been for years prior to NFTs and kind of seeing your journey as a digital artist on Instagram, doing corporate designs, working with big artists and transitioning to owning your craft now, front running the entire metaverse trend, and kind of like betting on you as an innovator, as an individual, who’s pushing the needle forward. This physical piece, this physical piece is like one that ties it all together. It genuinely ties it all together.

Thank you so much man, for all that. I appreciate these words so much, like it’s wild man. That means a lot and we’ll see, I don’t want to put any price in my head so whatever happens, I’ll be stoked. I think it’s every artist’s dream to sell at least one piece over a million dollars or $4 million. It’s such like a privileged thing to be able to say.

I think what I respect about you the most beyond being like such a good artist is you’re an amazing community builder. You really know how to rally people around what you love and people really know how to find a common theme that they love alongside your passions. And you’ve done an incredible job, rallying people across Twitter, across Twitter spaces, across clubhouse, on discord building that downloadable file for the metaverse like I’ve seen it, I’ve watched it, you know, I’ve participated in the conversations and it’s just amazing to see kind of how far you’ve come you at your new place now to, you know, like just like everything kind of like falling in place.

Thank you so much, man. That’s so nice of you to say like, and then I’m truly like, genuine about like how I’m trying to build stuff as much as like I’m known to be the guy that experiments a lot of stuff, but I’m always cautious in my experiments to make sure that my collectors and my community get rewarded and get what they’re buying. I’m trying to make it the safest possible. So crystals are not pumping, but they’re like growing and they will keep growing because I’m not going to sleep. And I’m just gonna like, build this thing until I die.

My whole thing is it’s I prefer an organic growth versus a synthetic

Dude. I hate bumps and dumps and it’s really staining the community right now because a lot of people are jumping in project and like, they don’t 10 X or 100 X the next day. And they were like, oh, this project is shit. And this is such a toxic mentality. Like, I get it. You want to make as much money as you can in the short amount of time, but understand that like some markets are so controlled and like crypto influencers and stuff like this, like I’m not pumping your bags with crypto influencers because I want this investment to be reliable in the next few years, you know, like, I don’t know. I have a very strong opinion about like these collectible project and I like I’m investing in some.

Yeah, yeah. But none of this is financial investment advice, purely commentary. Right? So none of this is investment related. Okay. But I love how deep you’re getting with it. And like how you’re kind of thinking about the growth of the community, the growth of the pieces itself. You’re the definition of a new classic creators. That’s emerging creators that want to own their audience and own their communities and the things that kind of bring them aligned together. And I think you ferocious Victor there’s a ton of them like Blondish comes to mind Mad Dog Jones, people, obviously all these like individuals, these micro individuals that started on Instagram on web two, right now you guys are building viral audiences on web three. You’re now funneling those audiences to kind of build communities around them. You guys are defining a new class of creators. If someone wants to kind of follow in that footsteps, right. Issue their assets, whether it be art related, whether it be music related, whether it be a cookbook, whatever it may be that they love and adore, and it excites them, how can they get started?

The main thing, and the most important thing is make friends. Everybody is so friendly in the meta verse and like on Twitter, like I would mend some stuff and I would collect some stuff and interact with the community that you’re buying. Because if you buy an NFT that you like, that means that everybody does buying the same project, they have the same interests as you. So just build something with friends that you make online. Like this is the most important thing is be part of the community and try to build something that first, that is not a copy base. It’s something that you’re building for yourself because you think this is, this is not there yet. So like build something that is true to you and is going to either solve a problem or make people laugh or make people have fun, basically.

What do you optimize for? What are the metrics that you optimize for as a creator when you’re building out your pieces, right. To kind of build a community and find like-minded people, how do you, how do you think about it? What’s that strategy you use if any?

I don’t really use any strategy. I’m really just trying to build something that people will like. I think my biggest skill is, I really, really listen to my community. Like when I see one person being pissed on my discord, I make sure that everybody’s super stoked with everything I’m building. And I know I can satisfy everybody. And it’s a very slippery slope, because people can abuse sometime, but I can see who’s genuinely like wondering, or asking questions, stuff like this. I think putting your ego aside and understanding that sometime you make mistake and making sure that you build something from these mistakes, I think that’s how you build your shit.

Yeah. Just create to create right. Create to create. Put it out there, tell people about it, get the feedback, try to find those audiences that kind of align with what you’re creating. I think it’s solid and it’s so simple, you know, in theory, but in practice it gets harder.

It’s really hard, especially for the new creators coming in. It must be really intimidating and especially like, I, as much as I like having big sales, seeing artists, having big sales, when you start, it must be so mentally challenging. And because you’re like, oh, my art is good. Why I’m not selling for a hundred each? And it’s happening to me. Like every auction I’m like, even if I sell for a decent amount, I’m like, oh, this guy sold for X amount. Why I’m not selling for this amount. And it gets too like a repetitive like terrain where it’s kind of annuity. So I’m trying to really, to disconnect with this. And so by saying this, I totally understand like the newcomers coming in the space and be like, oh, like, I’d like to make sales. But at the end of the day, what you need to understand is like, the money is just a bonus. If you really do something from your art and for your art, you’ll eventually make money. You should never be worried about the money at first.

Yeah. I can only imagine how intimidating it is for new NFT art creators, specifically art coming in, seeing a lot of the success that early adopters had, who were popular on Instagram. And now they’re trying to make their way into web three. How do you deal with that? Like that element of mental health? What are like some day-to-day practices that you apply to kind of like rid yourself of that negativity? What are some things that you think other people can do? Cause it’s a big thing because I see the numbers sometimes, you know, even as a podcaster you know, you look at other people and while you’re very proud about the content that you push out and you stay consistent and you’re on your craft, you know, it’s, it’s natural to see what’s happening around you. It’s very natural.

Yeah. I drink a lot of tequila. No, I’m kidding. No, no, no. I think it’s important to disconnect and like, it’s so important to connect with physical life and have social life. And I feel like a lot of people, like we see like people promoting like, oh, I never sleep. And I feel good. I hate this mentality. It’s so toxic. I think it’s important to really disconnect and make sure that like you get your sleep and you do exercise. I personally don’t think I do exercise enough and I should do more, but I still try to take some time to go out and go on the water and just chill for an hour. It’s so important to disconnect from your screen. You cannot have great ideas if you’re exhausted. They just have rushed ideas. It’s not healthy. So I think the main thing is like, listen to your body and you’re going to miss maybe a generational wealth project by going on the water, but you’ll be able to stay longer in that space because you won’t burn out in two months. There’s going to be a thousands of potential project that will pump your pockets. I won’t care. Your mental health is way more important than the money you’re going to make this afternoon. I think so. This is my point of view.

Yeah. I agree with you. I agree with you. Sometimes you see these tweets where it’s like, guys, I stepped away from the computer for like three days and Luke came out and what the hell just happened? I missed like what feels like three months?

I wish I missed Luke though. I bought like a divine rope for 38, 8, and now the floor is like five. So I wish I was outside this day. So you never know, maybe you’re gonna win the best project or you’re going to lose the most like money. So go outside anyway.

I hear you. I like that point of view. What about for creators that don’t have the capital to buy or spend $500 on an NFT to get into a community then to make friends, like, for example, a lot of what people preach is buy 10 K worth of FWB get into that community, engrain yourself, meet the other creators and artists and music managers and et cetera, et cetera, of web three, you know, get yourself in the door and then start working on your own projects. Once you build some type of community, a lot of people don’t have that. There’s a long tail of individuals that don’t have that money. Don’t have the financial means to do that. How do they get started? What have you found to be the best way?

So I can relate because I come from a totally different environment than the artists that’s coming right now, because I truly think that for me and like Mad Dog and Victor, it was pretty easy because there wasn’t as many competitor. So we had like more room to experiment and like fail. I still think we’re amazing artists, but I think we had a little bit more room to fail back in the days, than the new artists as right now. So I can’t really relate, but how I can see this right now is like build a community on Twitter, interact with people on Twitter. And like, if you’re a creator who’s selling NFTs and like try to, I don’t know, like it’s hard, man. I think just genuinely put out work that you like and put it out as long as you can. And eventually even if you don’t sell tomorrow, like I have a piece on super that hasn’t sold for four months now and it’s going to sell eventually, I don’t care. Like if you go to an artist studio, all the artwork that you see in their studio, they’re not sold. So I don’t know. I think build a community on Twitter to start, try to make some money by buying cheap and NFTs maybe. This is not FENDER financial advice I don’t know.

Yeah, yeah. You know, the way I think about it just cause we’re already on this topic. If you’re a creator that’s listening, you’re getting into crypto or at least you want to get into crypto. You want to learn about social tokens, NFTs, Dows, join some of these dowels. A lot of these dowels they’re free to enter. And there’s a lot of like-minded people that you can start building friends and relationships with. And the best thing that I found to solidify those online interactions is attending conferences. And these conferences are like our pillar because crypto is so online. These in-person events are the things that solidify relationships, long term, all the crazy parties, all the get togethers, all the coffees, all these things. We all share the COVID together. I remember I went to EPCC in Paris and I got COVID over there and I got it really bad, but it was well worth it. And it’s crazy that I’m saying that because a lot of the people that I otherwise interacted with online either had on the podcast, either worked with directly contributed to the Dow’s, whatever it may be. I got to meet them in person and like, we’ve become.

I just want to say one thing still to everybody’s listening. Be really careful with COVID it’s real. Just make sure you guys are safe and wear a mask if you can, because you don’t want to get COVID. Some people are immunosuppressive, I don’t know it’s in English, but so we need to be still careful, but I understand what you mean. When I was in NFD NYC, I didn’t get COVID and I got tested pretty much every day on it for like 14 days, I was like really paranoid about COVID. We didn’t end up getting it, but meeting people in real life that has the same value as you that are building the same thing as you, it’s an amazing experience.

Yeah. I’ll add to that COVID thing, because there’s a lot of like parties and stuff like that, and it does get crazy and people do leave sick, so really understand like your risk tolerance, like understand your surroundings, who you’re staying with at home and all that. It’s super risky. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into before attending a conference. But if you’re in a position that you’re able to financially, definitely do it. I think that’s kind of like one of the best ways to get into the door as a new creator. I want to pivot into more of like a deeper questions, because you talked about you being early adopter there being there being room for more failure, right. As an early NFT creator, what would you say was your biggest failure to date and what did you learn from it?

I think my biggest failure was to do too much. I was like so hot about everything, and that was like, I was taking all of the opportunity because I was really interested in like, how I can create something interesting. How can I work with these guys that could be interesting and stuff like this. Doing visuals for a music artists or like drops with music artists. If I could go back I would maybe not do as much as I did. It’s not a regret because I learned so much about it, from it, but I think the main thing is like, say, no, you don’t need to do everything and be careful about the amount of art you put out there, because it’s really important. You don’t want to put too much pieces out there. I personally think I did the mistake to have too many pieces out there. I don’t think it affects me really much nowadays because I’m always trying to find a way to create more scarcity around my art, like when I burned, like the balance and [inaudible], like the crystals, like I literally shrink down the quantity in half. I think, do stuff that you feel it’s worth it and don’t do it just because like a famous person wants to do something with you, because more likely that famous person don’t care about you and they just want your name to pump their shit.

Do you think crypto and web three favors more of the new artist or the existing artists?

What do you mean exactly?

So new artists in terms of like independent artists, let’s talk about Daniel Allen, for example. Okay. If you’re familiar with Daniel Allen, he’s a musician, a producer. He had a really successful bureau campaign where he raised like 180 K in less than 48 hours for an EP that he was working on. Right. And I’d consider them a relatively new artists that I highly respect for his craft and his taste and his songs. But compared to someone like Trey Songz or Tory lanes, orJason Derulo that like are buying punks, or that are issuing NFT albums, I’m comparing like mainstream to up and coming. Right. Do you think crypto favors more of the up-and-coming than the mainstream?

Yeah, but you know why it’s because these up-and-coming artists, they interact with their community. They build something around their community. They don’t just come in, take the cash and get out. I don’t want to bash anybody, but Blau is super active in the community and he’s selling super well. And you see ASAP Rocky coming in ASAP Rocky is way bigger than Blau in the music industry. But ASAP Rocky drop a mess. So the reason why is like people buying NFTs, they know that Blau is here to stay and they know that ASAP Rocky might not stay or might just don’t really give a fuck about NFTs or might just be like his management team that’s taking care of the NFT side. ASAP Rocky doesn’t even know he had a nifty gateway drop. We cannot know for certain what’s happening with like these big artists unless they truly interact with the community. I think up and coming artist and like independent artists has maybe advantage over big celebrities, for sure.

That’s a solid take. I think that it could change really fast if these more mainstream people took more consideration of what community building is at its core and engage with fans beyond streams or beyond likes or, and really like, like not being afraid to come down to the level of an everyday person and being one with everyone, you know?

Exactly. Yeah. At the end of the day, like these guys were the same as us few years ago, like we’re all drinking the same water. We’re all casting the same shadow. Something that I don’t understand though, is they are way more busy than up and coming artists, which makes total sense that they don’t have time to chat with everybody on discord and stuff like this. But I truly think that spending one hour a week going on discord and chatting, could have such a beneficial impact for big artists.

Well think about this. I don’t think it’s that they don’t have time, they don’t prioritize it. Right. Because there is immense value, if you prioritize the time to build a community, right. Some people like to say 1000 true fans or 1000 true owners or whatever it may be. Right. Like if you prioritize that time, you build a community, you engrain yourself and get level-headed with everybody that loves and adores your craft. There’s value in that.

A hundred percent yeah. Saying it that way. That makes sense.

Who are the three people that kind of influenced you the most throughout your early artist’s career and then now you’re NFT career? And is there overlap between those people?

I’m going to sound so boring, but I don’t usually try to get inspired by people because I when I started, I was really inspired by what I was seeing, like on Instagram and other artists and this makes my work going in the direction that it’s not truly me. So I’m going to be more inspired by like the environment and seeing in real life and like reflection sometime like the window will do with like a curve of a lamp and stuff like this. I’m more inspired by this. I would say though, like Mobius has always been one of my biggest inspiration for sure. I think you can see it in my work a lot. I don’t like to be inspired by other people because it’s derailing me from my own vision, if you know what I mean?

Okay. So I have another question. What’s something that people seem to misunderstand about you?

So I think because of the FVCKRENDER people think I’m like rough and like always angry. I think that the name there really show something that is like aggressive a little bit. Like it’s the total opposite of me. I’m the smoothest person. I do flowers and trees/ I think like this might be like a misconception. I’m just like chill and I really love my artist name. I think it’s really catchy and people love it. I was in a conference four years ago and I met someone who is like, I’m 5 ft 7″ a little bit more, I’m not really a big guy. And I met this guy and I was like, Hey, I’m, FVCKRENDER, I love your art. He was like your FVCKRENDER? I was like, yeah, for some reason, I thought you were six feet, five and six refrigerator large. And I was like, why? I don’t know your name. I was like, okay. That’s so weird.

Yeah. Interesting. What do you want FVCKRENDER to be five years from now? What’s the vision?

I just want to do cool shit, man. I want to build a [inaudible]. I want to create my own shows. I want to do cool shit, man. As much as like I would like to sell a piece for a million dollar, like my, my ultimate goal is just, I want to be able to keep doing what I’m doing right now and keep experimenting and have fun. And the amount of love I’m receiving right now from like discord and Twitter. If I can keep having this and people like supporting my art, I’m I’m winning. Literally.

I love it. Final question. Okay. Before I let you go, where can we find you? This has been a lot of fun FVCKRENDER. Thank you so much for being on. Where can we find your work? Where can we find what you’re doing? This Christie’s auction, like throw some links, shout yourself out.

So you can see my work, I think on Instagram, which is FVCKRENDER I think this is where you can see all my art. If you want to see like all my NFTs, I have some on super air nifty gateway. Christie’s. Sotheby’s, that’s so sick to be able to say that like open see I’m currently minting all my shit with Manifold. Manifold is the best team out there. And there’s literally no one that can take Manifolds place. And I know like some other people are trying to build stuff that are literally copy paste of manifold, but it’s, Manifold only, I just wanted to shout them out. I think it’s important. Twitter is where I do my posting and I ask stupid questions and I complain about stuff. So yeah, it depends on what you’re looking for.

Amazing, amazing. And the Christie’s thing that’s coming up at art Basel, where can we learn more about that?

Yeah. So it’s, I think it’s going to be on the front page of open sea, which is really sick. Like I’m so stoked for this. There’s so many amazing artists part of this. There’s Victor Askira, there’s Beige, which is my fiance. I’m so stoked. That’s her first Christie’s she’s an amazing artist. There’s Blake Katrin. There’s praise station. There’s Mad Dog Jones. There’s so many amazing artists. I’m sorry I can’t mention them all because my brain is too small. I think the auction started December 5th or around December 5th I’ll be like spamming everybody. I’ll be really annoying about this one because it’s one of my favorite piece and like the physical pieces are actually completely insane.

Thank you so much. We will do this again when it Ellipsy’s out right and everything’s coming out and coming into place, we’ll do a live Twitter session, but in the meantime, guys, go check out everything that he’s working on and thank you. We’ll see you soon.

Thank you so much, man. For real.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Music Meets Web3: Maroon 5 DAO, NFT Concert Ticketing & On-chain Fandom

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 13 welcomes the founder and CEO of YellowHeart, Josh Katz, who’s building NFT live event ticketing and collectibles platform for artists, teams, and their authentic fans.

In this episode we discuss:

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 4:11- The “AHA” Moment
  • 7:50 – The Birth of Yellow Heart
  • 8:43 – The Maroon 5 DAO
  • 15:11- Thinking About Governance
  • 19:57 – Bringing Web 2.0 -> Web 3.0
  • 23:13 – Creating NFTs with Utility
  • 26:55 – Connecting with Normies
  • 31:55 – Minting NFTs Live & at Scale
  • 35:10 – What’s Next for Yellow Heart?
  • 41:20 – Friction in Web 3.0 Adoption
  • 49:40 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Mr. Josh Katz, welcome to Mint. How are you feeling, man? 

Doing great, Adam, how are you? 

I’m good, dude. Thank you so much for being on. I’m super, super excited to have you on. You and yellow heart. You guys are doing some of the more cooler mainstream things that I’ve seen, kind of trailing online from the maroon five DAO, the Kings of Leon in the past, and all these other cool things that you’re doing. Let’s just jump right in. Who are you? More specifically, what were you like before crypto and where are you now? 

Cool. So, yeah, you know, Josh Katz, New York native born and raised outside of the city on Long island. Grew up there and have lived in Manhattan ever since I graduated college. Music fanatic, sports fan, liked to go out, have fun, eat at great restaurants, and just enjoy life and have always just followed my passions for work. My work hasn’t been something where it has been divided between the things that I’m passionate about, it’s always been the same. So you know, prior to yellow heart, I built out a company called EL Media, which was really the disruptor of a company called Muzak, which provides elevator music or background music to businesses. So we pioneered putting cool playlists into Nobu and TAO and all of these cool hotspots. And, you know, that was a labor of love around building playlists and music, and just my deep love of music as a whole and yellow heart has really just been a love of live music and going to live events and trying to fix that experience. So both just passion projects and things that have been near and dear to my heart. 

So very much on the music side of things. Do you play an instrument? 

I do, I play the guitar. I collect guitars. I’ve got about 10 of them over here. 

I wonder if you could like switch your camera. I’d be curious to see. How long have you been playing for?

 My whole life. So my father was a guitar collector not by profession, but by hobby and early in the early Greenwich village days, you know, Washington square park, Bob Gill, he was selling instruments and got super into that. I grew up around just like tons of cool guitars in my home as a kid. So it’s something that stuck with me. 

Got it. Biggest music influence on your style and your playing? 

I mean, definitely as a kid Eric Clapton by far, and you know, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Hendrix, you know, but Clapton was definitely out upfront. 

Okay. How do you feel about more of the gen Z guitarists like Omar Fetty kind of coming into the picture?

Incredible. I’m just happy people are pushing the envelope still. That’s what it’s all about. You know, just coming up with new sounds and new cool things and just, you know, the craft that’s what it’s all about. 

I play the drums. I’ve been playing since I was five years old or something like that, and for me it’s always been music and crypto. Like I got into crypto 2017, but prior to that, it was like being in jazz bands, being in the record studio, like I was an amateur at it. I loved it. It was a hobby, but I never thought about taking it mainstream, you know, making a profession out of it. How do you think about that? 

So, you know, I played the guitar and in high school it became really clear to me that I was better at the music business, like I had no skill, other than getting off my couch, so that was fine. With that said, I just literally went into the music business and it was such a passion for me where other friends of mine would like literally out of college, take banking jobs and make money. I made myself like, literally, I think I made 24 K a year, and yet I was working with Tribe Called Quest and all these things that were more important to me than the money, you know, it was there. For me, it’s all about day-to-day life and experiences and really people and continuing to just, you know, have great interactions and relationships and every day just being a great day. So that was more important to me than money always. And what’s really been interesting is with NFTs and crypto, I always saw as, the minute I learned about it, the intersection of like, wow, finally, I could intersect art and money. This is huge. 

The “AHA” Moment 

Yeah. I hear you. You know, for me, the aha moment was different. So what initially attracted me was seeing Bitcoin at 20K, what kept me was seeing what companies like Mediachain were doing. Like Jesse Walden and the startup that he created. Because I was a musician that was like the most relatable thing. There’s like this new financial technology, but also musicians are benefiting from it? This is super cool. I then kind of fell down that rabbit hole. 

Hell yeah. You know, I came at it from just a different spot because, I had built this, you know, subscription background music business, which I had sold. And I, after I sold it, it happened to be 2016, and I was like deep in crypto and Ethereum. It was almost like the perfect time for me because I, for the first time in my life, had a little bit of money and crypto had just started to happen. I just went deep in it, and I realized for me, you know, you could do so many different things, but I still want it to follow the passions that I love, which revolve around really music and the live experience. I thought that distributed ledger was just the perfect opportunity to fix a very broken industry that I witnessed firsthand. And the truth is, is that I went to the labels and to the copyright holders first, and I asked them about putting royalties on the blockchain and making them transparent and giving artists access to see their streams in real time and, you know, using the technology. They were not hearing that. I mean, transparency around royalties was not even something they wanted to discuss. So by default, the next thing to me seemed like ticketing because that had the big middleman population, rent seeking and, bad technology, you know, the whole gamut of issues that I think we all know how blockchain relates to.

Makes a lot of sense. I want to kind of talk about more of your entry-level into crypto and reason being is because everybody has a unique story as to like the first Bitcoin or the first cryptocurrency that they bought and how that kind of transitioned into them, teaching other people about it. You’re in a position where you’re creating more mainstream communities bringing in more of these existing audiences in mass follower groups into what we call web 3.0, right? So what was the first cryptocurrency you bought, was it Bitcoin? 

Yeah, I mean, Bitcoin, you know, early on, which frankly, some of it I don’t even know where it is, but I wish I did. In the end, it was just experimenting with everything. But then it was when Ethereum came out that it suddenly made a lot of sense. I mean, Bitcoin, as a store of value is a cool novelty, but, everyone knew that it would go, but like who knew when and who knew if that was the one and like that tech made sense. The store of value in the whole white paper obviously was brilliant, but like it was unproven and then it took adoption. The adoption happened by having progressive thinkers and people like our community that really want to push the boundaries and see things just get better for everyone. So it’s a timing thing. So for me, once I saw Ethereum and I saw the community that was building particularly around New York with Consensys and other things that were happening, it made tons of sense to me that this was super real and the time was now. You know, I was at a point in my life where I had some success, but I wanted to make sure what I did next wasn’t like me chasing something for seven or eight years and it was in-sight. And when I came in touch with Ethereum and started seeing that ecosystem forming particularly around New York in 2017, I was like, okay, this is happening now. It’s go time. And I went all in and that was it. And I started Yellow Heart and I would never look back and we’re keeping it real and keeping it going. 

The Birth of YellowHeart

So let’s talk about keeping it going. Okay. So this is the birth of yellow heart. What is yellow heart? Give us a brief explanation. What are you aiming to solve? 

So we’re trying to just create a direct relationship between fans and artists. That’s it. 

And it’s through a service play, a software play, what does that look like? 

So essentially it’s through using our platform to create your community and then be able to just interact with them directly through the platform. That’s it. And if you’re an indie artist and an artist that needs assistance, having tools to build that community through community tokens, through the ability to sell NFTs or the ability to make music and the ability to sell tickets. So you come on and you basically, as a musician, will hopefully just be the tools you need in the future that becomes an autonomous network that you can just use and frankly, even own. 

The Maroon5 DAO

Makes sense. So walk me through some examples of let’s talk about like an artist. Let’s talk about a more mainstream artist. I’m going to use maroon five because you guys are working together and building out their modern day fan club, whatever you want to call it. They come to yellow heart. What are the first things that they do on the platform?

Okay, well, in the maroon five case, they came to us looking to enter the space. Jesse from the band is into NFTs and crypto and blockchain and super smart and gets it. We started thinking about stuff and initially they came about in a manner where it was frankly, almost like another piece of merch where it’s like, okay, we’re putting out a new record and we’re making all this other stuff. We should have an NFT, so let’s do a cool NFT. And the NFT is just kind of a short sell of the album, and will our community get it? We don’t know, but we’re young and cool. And let’s try because, you know, sure. Like they were into it, but like knowing very well that their fans might totally miss this. I said to them, which I still think I was like, okay, if this does not sell well, in 20 years, the lore of the maroon five initial authorized band NFT that came out will become like that Ty Cobb, if you’ve seen one of those. So it was pretty funny conversation, but they just kind of went all in and said, fuck it. And as we went down the rabbit hole, like all the other stuff started materializing where they were like, okay, you could do fan tokens. As we had done them for ZHU, and some other artists where we were minting live at shows, you know, off a QR code. So they were like, great. We’d love to collect fan base info and give people a community NFT for joining the Maroon five community and then get further benefits. So we enacted that program on tour where we then, but very organically. All along, you know, one of the things that yellow heart is super passionate about and all of the members of Maroon five are passionate about is giving back. And the fact that we’ve all been blessed to like, you know, have the things that we take for granted like a clean pair of socks and clean water and just like a house. And like we’ve all been through so much in the last two years that I think giving back is super important. Plus environmental issues are clearly super important and climate change. We need to all think about this stuff and take it seriously. So that alignment led us to opening up what we’re calling the maroon five Dao. And the Dao is for the fans to all be on the same footing. Not in a way where everyone can buy a token at a $50 price point and buy in, and the band basically takes that pool of money and it’s going to float initiatives through charities that we’re partnered with for various climate change and environmental issues and the community, everyone having an equal vote we’ll vote on how those initiatives’ dollars are spent, which proposals they go to. Yellow heart and Maroon five zero admin fee, autonomous network, and a hundred percent of the money put into the DAO will go out to each of those charities. So there’ll be various rounds of it where fans can come in and join on that DAO and hopefully it will grow. And we’re looking now for corporate partners, we’ve spoken to some other charitable organizations that we’re going to be partnering on as we launch it later next year. But it’s really all about just giving to environmental and climate change initiatives. 

Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. So the money that basically gets collected from merch, tickets, et cetera, part of that goes to funding the quote, unquote treasury? 

All of it. 

So let’s say they do a world tour right now. They make, let’s say millions of dollars, whatever the number is. All that gets into the treasury?

No, it’s not the money they make on the tour. 

And I’m only asking from this point of view, because these are going to be models that other people use.

I’ll tell you Adam. So what we’re basically trying to do is give every fan the opportunity to contribute as a community. It’s really a donation to give to climate change and then having the vote as a community. Plus, now that you’re in the community, the band clearly wants to give you additional perks because now you’re joining their charitable network as a community. Because their feeling is that, “Hey, there’s a lot more power in numbers going after climate change and environmental and knowing about these charities and there is just as us individually”. So they wanted to interact with the fans and the DAO seemed like a great way to keep everything fair, transparent, equal, where, you know, you could only have one vote in the, in the DAO and hopefully the goal would be, with someone like maroon five, where right now a big DAO might have 30 members who all put in large sums of money and large sums of ETH or whatever they might’ve put in there. This is more about having huge numbers of people that all contribute small amounts of money, maybe corporate matching, and then the DAO basically getting emptied and refilled around utility that the band gives to the DAO, and that’s the band’s contribution. At that level in maroon five, their utility clearly has tremendous value. 

Makes sense. I like the corporate matching idea. That’s pretty cool. That can go a long way. 

You know, let me put it out there that we are looking for people to be involved in this DAO right now. If anyone out there is interested, just like ping me or anyone at yellow heart, because we’re looking for people that are into maroon five to be out just like being part of spreading the goodness of this, because it’s going to come out next year. When we launch it, it’s actually in three phases. I should explain that. We had a seed stage over the, now what’s called the sprout stage. It’s like another, I think, week or so. And then it’s going to become a living DAO next year. And the living DAO actually is tied to the UFC carbon index and the actual item itself is going to flower based on the carbon index. So it’s a very cool NFT that will be coming out to each recipient, but there is the ability to get three different NFTs for each phase of the DAO. Right now it’s in phase two, so it’s a very cool NFT to own all the maroon five, you know sprout the seed is over, and then the living DAO will be coming early next year and that will then be continuous. And I’m sure it will morph and grow. We’ll see what happens, what the band does as that NFT grows, you know what I mean? 

Thinking about Governance

Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. What a cool way and a unique way to bring more novel web 3.0 crypto native design to more of the mainstream and tying a charitable concept to it. Bringing corporations, bringing more normie audiences involved to kind of experience what a modern day kind of fan club looks and feels like from a point of view. One thing I want to talk to you about is, how do you think about governance? Is this something that you’re like starting a snapshot proposal on, or you’re issuing votes on tally? And also, the funds that kind of get collected through the NFT sales and all these other revenue sources, do they sit in a Gnosis safe multisig? Or are there more, I guess, mainstream versions or products that you’re using or that you’re building up?

Well, as far as governance goes, you know, it’s basically in the contract and it’s sitting there. I defer to some of our tech team on more of your technical questions, but at the end of the day, we want full visibility to every single member of the DAO. Of course, you know, you want to see every dime and where it’s going and where it is. That’s what this is all about, these DAOs. It’s giving ultimate transparency to everyone involved. So when the DAO launches, you know, there’s going to be a whole property around it that will give full insight into everything. Into voting and to every single element of the DAO and the charitable donations and everything about it. I think we’re all experiencing this in the world of NFTs where there’s a lot of firsts. So as we put up a charitable DAO of this size, a lot of the decision-making has to be well thought through on how this works and we wanted to keep it very democratic where everyone has an equal say and everyone’s vote counts. So people can come in and say, you know what? This is an important cause I want to make a donation to it. And I know my money’s going there. Plus I know me putting money into this in voting is going to cause other people’s money to go there, which is cool. So we’re going to see how it goes and you know, I think at the end of the day, once again, New tech, new times, and one of the things I will tell you about yellow heart, and this has nothing to do with the maroon five DAO, but like, we look at a lot of the stuff that we’re doing as we have to do it.. And we have to put these types of programs forward. We have to mitigate risk. We have to just for lack of a better term, say F it, because we need to push the NFT industry forward. If we don’t get it right, at least the learning will be there for the entire community. So the next person could do it better than we did. That’s what we want to happen here. So we’re like, okay, let’s go forward with this project, that project, anything , you know, technology, we want to add to a various project, including the maroon five DAO, let’s see how single toking voting goes. Maybe it won’t work. We’ll find out, but at the end of the day, we’re not afraid to kind of move forward and make changes and make them quick, but see through being the first to do something. Being a pioneer saying, okay, we’re willing to get shot coming through the door. Fuck it, we’ll just do it. And if we get shot, we’ll just try again, or come through with a Bulletproof vest. 

I tell you this much, I have a bunch of things and so many more questions to add, but just using that type of mentality, opens so much more opportunity, and let’s say you keep throwing shit at the fan, whatever sticks, that’s just going to keep defining the next wave of technology that’s going to come into the picture and you guys be more receptive to adopting it. But there comes a downside with that, because if you do have that type of brand, you do have that level of audience, because there’s that whole element of NFTs are not super friendly on the environment so how are you going to be doing that? You’re fighting like an environmental cause. All these like misconceptions around crypto that are kind of adding to either positive or negative narrative, which could ultimately deter a brand’s brand. How do you think about that? Like what kind of goes on in your mind? And that also comes to the point of view of you trying to sell this stuff to other artists and other bands and get them more involved, right? How do you think about that?

So, myself, you, a lot of people in this community have spent a tremendous amount of time just educating people. Educating brands, educating traditional artists in all types of different fields of artisticness, musicians. All mediums and education has been kind of the job of all of us that have been in the space. So that’s how we think about it. We just try to educate great artists. Here are your possibilities. The issue with NFTs is that the possibilities are endless. So it’s like a rabbit hole, but at the same time, if you put some stop gates up and you explain the tech to really talented people, they come back with great ways to use it I’m finding. So that’s kind of been the way we’ve been approaching it. 

Bringing Web 2.0 into Web 3.0

That makes sense. Another thing I want to ask you is like a lot of these tools and platforms because we’re crypto native, Josh, you and I, we’ll go through the mountains. We’ll scrape our elbows and we’ll go through like that shitty user experience that comes with not only building a community, but contributing and monetizing, for example. The mainstream audience, they don’t give a shit. Like won’t go through that hurdle, and when you try to build communities from all these mainstream groups, one of the things you obviously think about is like all their audience lives on web 2.0. They live on Instagram, they live on Twitter, Tik, TOK, maybe Snapchat, maybe like email newsletters, et cetera, and that entire funnel of bringing them in from one platform to another currently is really broken, right? Like from creating that wallet to entering the discord, to making a contribution on chain. All those things are hard to kind of communicate. How have you guys kind of been solving those problems or even more so just thinking about tackling them? 

It’s such a weird time right now. I’ll tell you something interesting, Adam. So NFT NYC really opened up I think a lot of people’s eyes, including myself, as to how robust and real this community is. The outlook has always been making non crypto native, non crypto native blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and we lately have been wondering about that because we think there’s going to be a happy medium. What we have actually found through our practice of putting out NFTs and doing large mints is that people are much more adaptive to technology than we give them credit for. We are on our phones, six, seven hours a day on our, you know, laptops and people know how to use tech. So I think the adoption rate here around, you know, custodial and all these other things is going to happen super quick. I think next year, at this time, we’re going to look back and be like that was fast. Okay, it’s on. I think web 2.0 is history, I really do. So I think that there’ll be web 2.0 companies that adapt to web 3.0 maybe kind of like Facebook’s trying to, and we’ll see if that works. Then, I just think web three is going to just blast off faster than anything we’ve ever seen before. I think it’s going to literally just leave everything in the dust. It’s almost going to be similar to web 1.0 where I, just because of my age, remember people were like, oh yeah, what do we need a website for? And like three years later they were out of business. In this case, it could be one year. I think it’s happening that fast. 

So you think these creators, these bands, these artists who don’t become more crypto native will actually fall behind in terms of their audience, in terms of their engagement, et cetera? 

I think that it’s just now par for the course going forward. Period. I think that we’re going to shop in the metaverse. I think we’re going to, you know, be expecting NFTs as a warranty for everything we buy. I think we’re going to have our doctor prescriptions on NFTs. I just think like everything we do is going to adapt to web 3.0 in like a second, it’s like happening now. You know, it’s on, and I just think that like bridging web 2.0, to be like, excuse my French, like who fucking cares? Like fuck web 2.0. Like, let’s just keep going here on the web 3.0, and I think it’s so much better. So like, let’s go. 

Creating NFTs with Utility

Yeah. You know, talking about building a mainstream community with large audiences, either it’s like maroon five or the Kings of Leon, like you did whatever it may be in the future, a lot of questions come to mind. They bought this asset or this token or this ticket or this membership, whatever it may be, what do you do next? Like how do you build utility and how do you do it in a way where it’s designed for your audience and not just in a way where it’s like, let’s just throw cool shit at them kind of thing? For example, one of the coolest utilities is going to NTF NYC having a mutant ape, or a board ape, and like they rented out like a five story yacht, for the board apes of the yacht club, right? How do you think about it? Like, would Maroon 5 five do like a private concert for all their holders? What comes to mind? 

Exactly the things that you could think of, we’re thinking of, and it’s on. Like it’s so on right now and more and more artists are getting it, and I must tell you, like three months ago I was getting push back. I’d be like, yeah, let’s do a token anyway. That’s why I’m so convinced on how quickly this is moving, because I even see it at the celebrity artists level, you know, or they’re just like six months ago, like, “yeah cool thing”. You know, and now like three months ago, like, “yea an NFT”, and now they’re like all in. Like, not just like kind of in, but like all in. So I think it’s on, you know, and I think that doing cool utility driven stuff for celebs and for anyone in the space, it’s just par for the course right now. And it’s just like going to be everyone trying to help the next person, and I don’t think there’s going to be any industry norms anymore, and I just think that it’s going to be a creator’s paradise right now coming up. I’m pretty excited for this time. 

Yeah, it’s definitely exciting. It’s the whole premise of why Mint started in the beginning to kind of capture that corner of where crypto meets creators, crypto meets artists more like the creative, sexy side of this technology. And we’re seeing a lot of it, I think. Like cheers to you for bringing more of that stuff to the mainstream, or at least attempting to and fucking around throwing shit at the fan to see what kind of sticks. 

Yeah, no, listen, we’ve had some amazing successes. We’ve had some drops that haven’t been as well attended for whatever reasons, with the fan bases, but we’re continuing to just do it with more and more fans, you know, we just did a small, early community token for Brandi Carlile, where she did a show at Carnegie hall, and we did a token for anyone that attended the show. There were 2000 attendees and we’ve had 800 redemptions so far, and it’s a pretty high number. We believe literally that a hundred percent of those redemptions are first time NFT holders. We re-engage them a few days later, unbeknownst to them, and we raffled 150 signed heavy tour posters from that show, and that community now is gasping for what’s next. That’s just a recent example over the last week, and we’ve had a lot of those successes that were just ongoing with the fan base. And that’s just something that, you know, continues to happen as we build these really cool fan sanctums, where they can come in and be part of a community that’s just going to keep giving to them, because they own this asset. Like if you look at what Bored Ape has done at the 10,000 scale, which is so sick, where people are using the profile picture as their status the way they used to buy Jordans or a Birkin or whatever it might be now. It’s this 200 K profile picture or whatever they’re going for today, could be more and, you know, that’s awesome. It just all ties into the whole ecosystem. 

Connecting with “Normies”

How have you found the best way to communicate an NFT to a normie? What is the lingo and the verbiage that you use? How do you think about that? How have you approached that in the past? What are some of the biggest learning lessons you’ve experienced from doing it one way and then trying a different way? Walk me through that. 

You know, the most basic thing I explain to people is that basically everything you do in your digital life is a file, and for the first time ever you could actually prove that you own that file. That seems like the most basic approach for people to understand what an NFT is. How do you do it? I’m curious. 

So my whole approach is I like using a visual analogy. So let’s say this right here is like a file, and this is a token. I basically say like the file sits on the token, and for once in your life, you can kind of trace where that goes, and if I give this to you, you’ll be able to tell who owns this right? And the underlying value prop is like the ownership level of being able to see who has what, and doing so in a way where anybody can access it and anybody can buy anything and that any form of digital file will essentially be a token or an NFT for that. So I kind of get into education through the visualization of it. Cause like, if you think about it, we’ve been dealing with files and, and playing with files and downloading files since the Dawn of the internet and I’d assume, okay. I only know it from what I can remember, like two thousands, for example, and this visualization of like, here’s a token, here’s a file, we peg it to one another and now we move that across and this could be a ticket, right? So you’ll never get scammed again by like, that dude standing outside the Staples Center or the crypto.com arena that’s trying to sell you shit, you can now verify that because you’ll see who actually has that token. And then you can use it for merchandise. You use it for this, and you can use it for that, access and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they typically like to start to get it. Then, I send them some ETH. I show them how to basically buy an NFT on Open Sea, and then they experienced the gratification of being able to prove that they own something. Even if it’s some bullshit, JPEG, it doesn’t matter. Then I take them like, okay, now you bought this NFT, download this really confusing chat called discord, enjoy all the communities and see the hype and the amount of excitement that comes around that, and look what you just bought into. Look at what you belong to now, right? Experience that. Go attend an in-person event and see what that gratification is like that other like-minded people also joined a community by going through that same process or not together. Now everything that you do, you can start a business, and you have a database of customers to tap into because everybody’s like minded like that. Like if you have a Bored Ape, people in the Bored Ape yacht club, do business and develop shit with each other, and that level of trust, that level of gratification, that level of, I guess, security that comes with interacting with people also aped into something like minded, you can’t compare. You can’t compare that to anything else. So going through that process of sending Ethereum, buying an NFT, joining a community, attending an in-person event, flying to a conference, going through all that, you kind of brainwash them.

Oh yeah. There’s a good reason though. It’s an incredible community. I mean, I’ve never in all the industries I’ve been through seen a community like this. It’s so sick. It’s awesome. Awesome people. 

There still comes out like a level of misconception of understanding what an NFT is because the press likes to say XYZ about it, you know, and that’s going to die. I think as long as something’s working has the amount of attention you’re going to have your haters, regardless of whatever it is. It doesn’t even have to be technology. It could be fashion, it could be culinary, it could be music. It doesn’t matter. So if anything, it brings more attention to more education, more conversations, and that kind of expands the entire industry as a whole. That’s how I like to think about it. 

Yeah, I agree. Really well said. You know, and it’s funny, the whole thing you explained about the apes and about that community interacting with each other is exactly what we’re doing amongst those artists communities. Because when you look at Kings of Leon fans, when you look at XXX fans, when you look at Jerry Garcia, maroon five, any of these, they all want to know each other. They’re all going to events. They’re all part of what old school would call fan clubs, and it’s building each of those. So like, you know, the 7,500 Kings of Leon token holders over July 4th weekend, we offered them all pit tickets, like right in front of the stage, at face value at the time they were on StubHub for like five times face value. But only for the 7,500 token holders community. So like these are the ongoing things, the apes, you know, obviously the best example out there right now, but we’re doing it kind of with all of these different artists. Where it will overlap at some point, we’ll see. It’s an interesting thing, sharing different fan bases and the interoperability of them, but I think the world is going to just become so much more open through this tech. 

Minting NFTs Live & at Scale

So ABA, I’m a big fan of the seventies band, right? Hit, after hit, after hit, like there’s no other other music that I can find myself dancing to with happiness. They released a new album now. They are probably going to go on tour soon and haven’t announced anything public, and probably they’re going to do a reunion that they haven’t done in 30 plus years, something like that. It’s going to be nearly impossible to get any form of tickets. If you do, they’re going to be thousands of dollars. I wish I had the opportunity to buy some type of access pass into their community that they would then provide utility like at face value. With that comes tremendous value, you know? And they’re probably like if they were to do something there could be other forms of utility. Get togethers, pre-show, it goes on and on. 

That’s our model. You get it, yeah. So like, if you’re in one of our communities, of course you’re getting tickets, the best seat, every other part, of course. We want everyone to be a VIP, because you are.

You know, one thing I want to see these bands do, whether bands have social tokens or NFTs, in-person events are so powerful. There’s so much opportunity for experimentation of doing airdrops, of doing other types of artists to fan collaboration, fan to fan collaboration, all through tokenized assets. One thing that I’ve yet to see come to reality, and I saw Justin Blau do this on a very small scale at a venue in Miami, is you throw a concert for your token holders, and the general audience. And you have all these huge led screens all over the stadium, right? You throw up QR codes or some type of link that airdrops tokens that symbolizes not only where they are right, like a POAP or, you know what I mean? I’m thinking out loud here.

So Adam, are you ready for this? You’re gonna love this. Are you ready? So we actually did that back in May at red rocks and we’ve been doing it. So , that exact program, we launched at red rocks the first week of may with ZHU. ZHU reopened red rocks after COVID for six nights, and at those six nights, we had community tokens or QR codes that were part of the dream versus ZHU production, and joined the ZHU NFT community. I could send you a video, it’s sick actually, and people snapped in and they downloaded their NFT, and then anyone who attended all six nights at red rocks, we airdropped them a seventh, like a few days later. Now we’ve actually had merch sales and other things for the ZHU community of those token holders. We started with ZHU, and then we also took that same program on tour this past summer with maroon five. So we did the QR code at the maroon five tour this summer where same thing, on the tour, you’re able to join the NFT community, anyone that grabbed the maroon five community token at the live tour this summer got a commemorative NFT. We’re continuing to do that quite often. You’re there. You’re right with us. 

I want to see that. Like, I want to go to the crypto.com arena and, or like the Madison square garden and see that shit at scale.

It’s on, I’m telling you we’ve done it at scale. We did it at red rocks. We’ve done it. Like it’s on, we have a bunch coming up. We have one in the stadium coming up in Europe, so it’s on.

What’s Next for YellowHeart?

I love it. Another thing I wanna bring up is what else is in the pipeline for yellow heart? Like what else are you guys experimenting with? What do you kind of see as the next big thing for artists in fan engagement? Walk me through that. 

So clearly the experimentation never ends, but for the time being, it’s actually at this moment kind of did end. Where we’re headed right now is full web 3.0 ticketing where we launched our mobile app, which, you know, in our world, we call a wallet, but in the traditional world, they’re still calling them apps. For dream verse, really, we kind of pushed out like, you know, the early version of it, and it is now a fully web 3.0 on polygon ticketing application. So the next two quarters we’re going to really be going through a whole bunch of ticketing use cases for web 3.0 and for NFT and the utility. Essentially our wallet and our mobile app are the same thing and they are interoperable and we’re continuing to add utility to them now. Right now, we have rotating barcodes, metadata. We have the ability to gate content. So if you wanted to put music such as a free download of the concert, you just attended both audio and video content are gated. We’re gonna have Apple TV integration coming. So we’re really focusing on the mobile ticketing experience, and by experience, I don’t just mean buying a ticket and redeeming a ticket and walking into a show. Really the community building and being part of the community where, when you go to see Coldplay, like weeks out you buy tickets, giving you the opportunity to buy tickets and good seats because we know who you are and know that you’re a fan, or we don’t know who you are, but you’re you’re coming in and there’s a chance for you to get good seats because we mitigate scalping. Then basically you’re part of that Coldplay community. So now what’s going to happen next? Do you need transportation? Are you going with friends? Do you want to invite friends? Do you want to be incentivized to get other friends to buy tickets? The day of the show, once again, transportation, would you like a drink or like someplace to eat? The whole experience, just enhancing. Do you want an upgrade, we have unsold seats in the section in front of you? Things like that. Getting to the venue and having a merch booth that was open before the show so you can order through your ticket because you’re part of the community. At the show, your QR code reader at yellow heart comes up and there are screens with hundreds of merch items that are official, and you just scan them and they’re sent to your house and, just really increasing the experience post-show. Would you like to order food? How are you getting home? Do you have the token from the show tonight? Maybe you could share three of them with friends and just enhance how that overall experience works. Now comes what we call long-tail engagement, where you went to see Coldplay, and maybe there are other opportunities that you can either accept or decline that are sent to your yellow heart wallet. But since you’re holding the yellow heart wallet, we will potentially try to airdrop you other things because you’re part of Coldplay. You’ll tell us whether you want them or not, but maybe you’ll get an NFT or, you know, all types of other things. We’re doing generative ticketing right now, which is pretty freaking cool. So we can do shows where every single ticket is unique. And like a lot of really cool applications really into the ticketing space is where our main focus is at this moment.

Because there’s so much level of access, and like it’s an onion that you just keep peeling at. Different utilities and experiences that you can add the second you get them at that top funnel. And you can just layer that as it kind of comes down to the tip.

 We were in a really interesting spot as a company because we were born as a blockchain NFT ticketing company in 2017, and like, we were ready to go, but at the time we had like a hybrid custodial model, and that was pre COVID. Because you know, a lot of people have a belief that you can’t ticket at a large scale, unless you’re custodial. And a lot of that is up for debate. I know how our community feels about that, so that doesn’t have to be discussed here, but at the end of the day, that’s kind of where that was. But coming out of COVID, that game was off. That had to be changed. So we did, but you know, it’s really pushing web 3.0 and being part of that ecosystem. We want to be picketing in the metaverse. We want to be part of our community and our ecosystem. And that’s really kind of what everything we’re doing is about yet, it is ticket and live event driven where the experience, because we do still have to go out of our houses, just becomes better and more what we’re used to in the other parts of our life that are web 3.0.

But you also capture, like, there’s the one element of doing it, in-person kind of, depending on that experience, but also that translate to such a digital virtual type of experience that extends to the metaverse and these communities and all of these, like, nah, it makes a lot of sense. So from a point of view of infrastructure, and I don’t want to get too technical, but just understanding if you’re issuing NFTs as tickets, it’s on chain transactions. This is obviously not happening on Ethereum. Where is this happening? The reason why it’s not happening, for those who don’t understand, is because the gas fees on Ethereum are too high. It doesn’t make sense to pay a $50 ticket with a $300 fee. How are you thinking about this? Only on Polygon, on Matic? 

No. So, right now, we’re on Polygon. Polygon obviously has its capacities, chain line and things like that, but we have literally since we started yellow heart have believed in an interoperable blockchain world where there’d be no one outright winner where different blockchains would be used for different things in different businesses. We see yellow heart, next year, our roadmap takes us to be interoperable with quite a few other blockchains and there’ll be different events. There might have to be multiple tokens that are minted and burned at first, but I have a feeling our community will advance that tech really quick, where we’ll be able to issue cross platform. You know, we love flow. We love Polkadot. We love Polygon too, but like they all I think are going to have various uses and the industry is moving really quickly. Let’s see how all of these chains start to scale as they get more and more production on them. It’s going to be interesting, but we’re big supporters of all the blockchains out there, and we want to inter-operate with everybody who at all touches our ecosystem and we want to support other blockchains.

Friction in Web 3.0 Adoption

What does the tool stack look like for these modern day fan clubs, these DAOs, these communities? Off the get-go, what are the top tools, these top integrations that you’re using to kind of build these things out as a foundation? 

You know a lot of this is done internally. At some point you should grab Thomas Emmanuella, chief product officer, 10 times deeper and smarter than I am.

So what you’re saying is that it’s like building the products internally?

Well, no, now we are highly encouraged to go out, and you know, it’s so funny. So when we started yellow heart pre COVID. The outside community was awesome, but it wasn’t like it is now, so many people have come into it this year. But now, we feel like we have to go out and really embrace other parts of the community to use those tools, so we’re out there looking for them. So we’re actively looking for partnerships all over the place on everything we’re doing now, but Thomas Emmanuel really oversees that you know, some are public, some aren’t, but like we’re looking to inter-operate with everyone in our ecosystem as much as possible. There are certain things just from a business decision standpoint that you’re like, okay, they’re awesome, but we just have to build that ourselves as we need it. You know, it’s part of how our business works. 

How do these artists and their fans feel about discord and telegram?

It depends on the age group. I mean, obviously we love it. So we’ve introduced a ton of new people to discord. It’s crazy how many new people we onboarded. When we did the XXX and passion and drop we were told that it was their biggest hour in history of people onboarding to discord. Yeah, they sent us an email that there was like the largest onboarding in history that they’ve had the largest day or something. And you know, so people like it, I think some people find it confusing, but once you figure out how to use it, they really love it because it’s not. For us, it’s been something where in the traditional world, as much as we wanted to build a community, and in the NFT world, the community is there. In the traditional world, in some cases, depending on how old the fan base is, it’s become almost like a customer service where people aren’t coming with great ideas and like, let’s meet each other. They’re coming with like, oh, this is wrong and that’s wrong. And that’s that two to 5% who have an issue or just like, don’t know how to use their wallet or whatever their problem might’ve been in this space. It’s obviously a little higher with people who like, you know, are confused and transferring on Polygon and just don’t know how to use crypto. That’s what a lot of it is around Discord with some of the older artists. With the younger artists, it’s super engaging and people want to get in there and meet each other. And discord is just obviously the greatest thing. 

Interesting. We were talking earlier about the funnel of being able to onboard an end-user from social media either doing through a swipe up function or a link in bio type of call to action, and then transitioning them into discord and kind of thinking about them if they don’t already have an account, creating an account with an email, with a password and then connecting their wallet, if they don’t, they assume they have one, right? And then typing up exclamation points, joining and triggering out an action that then verifies their wallet and gives them access into the community. From the people that I have either had on or from the creators I try to work with, they say that the entire thing is broken. Like it’s hard to communicate that, right? Like to get them from Instagram, Tik-Tok, Twitch, YouTube, whatever it may be, whatever that pillar platform is, and then funnel them into a sub platform, they find that communication channel, that strategy and just all those steps being super difficult. But you’re saying you found a way to kind of work around it?

No I’m telling you, I haven’t. I’m telling you it’s been really hard. Like, you know, it depends on the fan base. What I’m telling you is that the younger fan base understands tech. They’re up in there, they get it like, oh, this, that they figure it out. A little bit of an older fan base has been a bit of a challenge, and I’ve seen in discord almost become like a customer service channel. And the one cool thing about it though, is that one fan can answer other fan’s questions. So we’ll see someone will answer something and someone else will have asked the same thing a week ago and repost the answer, and like, then they interact, but they’re not interacting saying, “oh, did you also hear about this?” the way we interact in these other channels. And like the older demo, Jerry Garcia, Kings of Leon fans, they’re just around like, not in there for that. If you go into X and Maroon five, they are. 

That’s so funny. You know, in season one, episode one, my very first episode of Mint, I had Allie McPherson. She has like a half a million subscribers across Twitch and YouTube. She’s a gaming creator and she has the $ALLIE coin, which is one of the top performing coins on route. And I think at the time it was like $43. So, the takeaway is when you give the community some type of X, whether it’s a token, a membership, whatever you want to call it, and you have them buy it and then join a community of other people that bought it, you start to see something really interesting that happens. She spent a lot of time onboarding normies and kind of breaking down that customer service pipeline. But then she educated so many people in the community that then they felt more like inapt to be in the community because they got so much personal attention from her, but then they take it upon themselves to educate others in the community, which is what you’re telling me occurred with your community.

We’re building new NFT users every drop, it’s crazy. Like just because we’re working with these large established mainstream artists who have fan followings who want to come on, every NFT drop we do, we’re getting brand new NFT buyers. First time buyers, users. Every job we’ve made, we’ve had those people making instructional videos. This is how you download a wallet. This is what Meta mask is. You know, this is a yellow heart wallet, if you want to pay with a credit card. Then just walking through the steps and literally showing, here’s how you put in your Google Chrome or and like, no seriously, because believe it or not like literally downloading an app on Chrome for most people is challenging, very challenging. But at the end of the day, that’s the thing. So, you know, you have ease of use and people who are building these applications. That’s why everyone’s like, oh, non crypto native, non crypto native. And it’s a fine line to walk where I now am starting to believe that we should just go crypto native. Like, we don’t want to confuse people, but at the end of the day, like nicknames systems are great, and like everyone just keeps making them better as we continue designing cooler products together and copy each other who cares and like, let’s make great stuff, you know? But I do think that the general public is super interested and there’s money involved and art involved and it’s cool. So I think that people are going to catch up quickly, and we’re not going to have to be non crypto native for that long. 

You know, the second you say that the person that comes to mind is that teaser that the CEO of discord put out on Twitter of that meta mask integration directly natively into discord, the amount of backlash they got from their major subscribers, because they have a SaaS model. They don’t have a crypto native and Web 3.0 model. So all the backlash that they got from their web 2.0 users and being how crypto is a scam, and this is weird and that’s weird and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They were like, ah, we’re not doing it, or we’re gonna put it on hold. We have no plans to do anything with it for now. And it’s just like, okay, you realize that the web 2.0 audience is a completely different audience than web 3.0. It’s a different user base, different needs, different preferences, and you have to build accordingly and you have to structure that funnel accordingly. And with doing that is like understanding, how do you bring more people from social media or web 2.0, a lot of these normal people into web 3.0? It’s a whole different product suite. It’s a whole different class of software integrations, et cetera. So the takeaway is that there’s so much opportunity. That’s what I’m getting here, right? 

I mean, I have deep-seated issues because I see it with everything I look at. Like, oh, why are picture frames not on the chain? Why do they even exist, actually? That’s a bad example, but you know what I mean? Why haven’t I gotten an NFT for my grocery delivery? Why am I still getting this long-ass CVS receipt? Why is it not airdropped to my wallet? Josh, 

Outro

I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Before I let you go, where can we find you, yellow heart, all the cool stuff you’re working on? 

Absolutely. I’m @JoshkatzYh on Twitter, I’m at @YellowHeartNFT on Instagram. You know, just so the community knows, we’re just looking for great partnerships and people to be involved with us and, you know, to be doing cool stuff with, with this community. We really want to be deep-seated in helping everyone out there in any way we can. So please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Amazing. Thank you so much for being on. I hope to have you again, soon when this is more advanced, more mainstream, and we’ll chat soon, man. Thank you. 

Thank you, Adam.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Understanding DAOs: Tools, Governance, Pain Points and more

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 12 welcomes the founding members of Agora DAO, Reka and RAZ. Their vision is to supercharge Web3 adoption by creating gasless, multichain, and platform-agnostic solutions, without sacrificing decentralization or privacy.

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 2:13 – The Origins of Agora
  • 5:47 – Digging Into DAOs
  • 8:04 – DAO Tooling 
  • 11:25 – Biggest Pain Points in DAOs
  • 15:09 – The DAO Stack
  • 18:23 – Increasing DAO Adoption
  • 22:55 – What’s Next for Agora?
  • 24:37 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Introductions

Réka and Raz, welcome to Mint. Thank you so much for being on. How are we feeling? 

Réka: Really good. How are you? 

I’m good. Raz is like smiling in the corner. All right, guys, let’s just jump right into it. The first question I always ask is tell me a little bit about yourself. But, more specifically, what were you guys doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Réka: I’m Réka and I’m originally a veterinarian. Now I build DAO tooling, a really funny story. I’m not going to go in full detail, but like, along the line, I had my own sustainable agriculture startups. I have a little bit of startup experience in web 2.0. I ventured into digital marketing and social media for a little bit. So that’s kind of how I got into this, like being the people’s side of co-foundership here at Agora. I got into crypto on a random volunteering trip when I was in Sweden for a bit, and the host I was staying with knew all about crypto back then in 2016, I was like, whoa, this is cool. So I got familiar with Ethereum then, and then I was following along with the development of things and how the whole market and everything changed and got heavier into it last December, and we started working together this January. Then we co-funded Agora Space and here we are.

Raz: Yeah, and then that was after Réka and got into Forbes for an interview because we knew each other from high school, but then she created this environmentally sustainable startup. 

Cool, and Raz, what were you doing before crypto? 

Raz: Yeah, so I got into programming when I was just six years old because my father was co-founder of the first Hungarian internet provider company, or one of the firsts actually in the early nineties, and because of this I basically grew up on the internet and played a lot of massive multiplayer games. That’s how I learned first about trading and then how to operate like a bigger group of people over the internet. And my interest in virtual economics was very messy, and so I discovered Bitcoin in 2011, and then got into this space with all my savings in 2014. I started a small software firm, which then quickly grew out into a 20 plus people operation, but I also run the family office where we invest in early stage companies in this space. 

The Origins of Agora

Oh, wow. So actively building, actively investing. Réka, you were a vet before, like what is going on here? What a cool team, what a cool dynamic. And I also know you guys have a bigger team behind you as well that you guys are kind of co-building at Agora, what’s the story, I guess, with forming that? Because I remember when you guys launched, you already had a product, right? You had already had a team, you already had these things. As you went to market, typically, it’s just two co-founders, three co-founders kind of like pushing their vision into life, but you guys had a foundation. How did that come about? 

Raz: Yeah. We have a very heavy tech background in the team as well, and most of us are developers. It was really a lot of experiments and for a while the main purpose of the software firm was to build experiments and the exciting new tools for ourselves and for our portfolio companies and to support our investments. When yield farming became a thing, we built our first cross chain yield farming analytic tool, and when the DEX became a thing, we built our own solution, like a member system trading contractor. So we built a lot of different things, even did some ecosystem development for some chains. But to get more deal flow, I participated in different venture DAOs and investor syndicates. I started going through concerns about the tools they use because these communities had a lot of high net worth individuals in small groups discussing all sorts of sensitive information. 

Honestly you never know what happens in the background. It’s private, okay continue. 

Raz: Especially the tool called Collab Land, and I basically just as usual, wanted to create something like Collab Land, but actually make it open source for our own use so we can adopt it and recommend it for our communities. That was last December. We discussed it with a couple of DAOs, they were very, very interested. So we built it in January, but then we quickly realized that token gated access and later NFT gated access and just access control in general will have a huge impact for not just token gated access for discord and telegram, but in many different places, and it’s going to make going to create a lot of different new markets for monetization for artists and all sorts of different things. So we started doing more experiments regarding and around this topic. We also wanted to bring a lot of different mechanisms around DAOs into social media where people actually are because I’m a huge DAO fan. DAO is what initially attracted me to Ethereum and how people coordinate together. I invested in a lot of different DAO frameworks and I am still actively exploring them and trying them out and always trying to be on the edge of these DAO technologies and DAO tools. But what I was really missing is massive user bases when I saw that only these nerds used the DAO frameworks for the last couple of years and we really want to onboard more people to DAOs even without letting them know that they are even part of the DAO. 

Which is a whole nother conversation that I actually want to have with you. But before we get into that, investing through a family office. What’s the fund called? 

Raz: The firm itself is just called cryptocurrency.

And it’s a blockchain and crypto only fund? 

Raz: Yeah. 

And you said, how long have you been investing through that vehicle? 

Raz: Through this vehicle, only like two years. So it’s fairly new, but I’ve invested in many different things since 2014. 

Digging into DAOs

Another question I want to ask you guys is it takes a certain individual to join a DAO and to kind of fall in love with DAOs. Réka, you were a vet. You were working with animals, and Raz I mean, you’ve been programming for what feels like ages, but still. What is it about the DAO that kind of aligns with you guys organically? Like, what is it about that framework, that coordination framework that gets you guys going so much so that now you’re building for it, right? It’s always interesting to kind of hear about how people are wired. So I’m curious to hear from your point of view.

Réka: I think what really, really struck me when I first heard about what a DAO is, is the automatic aspect of it. So I really love how it gives the freedom for the communities to not be like that kind of bound to an organizational structure, but they can vote and discuss things. I am a big fan of starting organizations, I did a little bit of that in university. How I experienced it was so closed up. Like you had this basic structure to follow and I hate it, and I’ve never been at a corporate job, but, you know, I have friends who have been and a lot of other people, and I could never, and I really like how DAOS allow you to basically form companies within almost like friend groups kind of, and have this aligned vision and just work for it from different parts of the world at the time that suits you best. And you have this full freedom of operating in a way that suits that group the best. That kind of struck me first, and then of course I realized all the other potential that it holds. First, like this whole freedom that it allows people to have is what was crazy new to me, and I was like, okay, we have to get on this. I then dug myself deeper in that rabbit hole.

Yeah, it makes sense. 

Raz: Honestly, I hate paperwork, so that’s probably the most important point, but other than that, I always seek out for more freedom and DAOs make it possible to automate in a much deeper sense. Every aspect of a corporation or a foundation or any organization over the internet. So that really attracts me in the line of my vision about the future of the internet. 

DAO Tooling 

Let’s pivot to Agora. What are you guys building exactly at Agora? On the site, it talks a lot about tooling, but that’s also a very broad word. What does tooling kind of mean for you guys and what are some of those initial products that you guys have laid out? 

Réka: So at Agora, we’re basically like the studio of building all of these tools. And what we try to do is build this set of composable tools that are very collaborative and give back the ownership and sovereignty to the founders and the groups themselves. So that kind of is aligned with what got us into DAOs first. Like having this complete sense of sovereignty and freedom for the groups and the founders to do what they do best and do it in a way that suits them. And so we are doing very simple tools that are lacking in the space. If you go on Twitter or anywhere, you see all the problems that DAOs have, like the organizational side, and the governance, and rewarding mechanisms, communications, and time zones even. So there’s a lot of things that need to be solved. And so we started with gated access. That’s kind of like our first cornerstone. That’s like our first step. And then we have a few other tools planned for onboarding, education, and also transforming back to communities to help them through the gate and start utilizing web 3.0 opportunities. So that’s where we’re going.

Raz: To summarize what we are doing, we are building an accessibility layer to Ethereum DAOs and everything around DAOs without sacrificing decentralization or privacy. That’s very important. So we built very user-friendly tools with that user centered design, but still our focus is on keeping the core philosophy behind Ethereum. 

Makes sense. So what would you say is the current state of DAO tooling? Like where are we right now? Cause we’re seeing thousands of new communities pop up, living on discord, living on telegram, WhatsApp, iMessage, whatever platform, right? And then opening up multisig and then opening up snapshots or tallies or any governance from discourse, or whatever it may be. And like everybody’s at like their foundational layer and they need more tools of automation and tools to kind of get them going, so where are we in the world of DAO tooling right now? 

Raz: I think since snapshots, we have experienced a huge boom on the off-chain parts. So there are a lot of new tools now for DAOs, but for off-chain computation basically. What we aim to achieve is to make a bridge between the blockchain and the social media accounts or any platforms or games, the circular information flow. So not just off-chain tools based on activity on blockchain, but also on chain settlement based on activity in social media, in games or anywhere else, physically. So we wanted to create these tools which are really off chain, but eventually work the same as on chain tools, and launching frameworks. 

Réka: I think on a scale of one to 10, I think we’re at a three. Like, it works, it’s okay. We can make it work, but we talk with a lot of founders and community like heads and this space, and also like us forming a DAO ourselves now, it’s a lot of struggle still, and we have a lot to improve on. 

Biggest Pain Points in DAOs

What are the biggest pain points right now? And it could either be from the end user’s point of view of joining an organization or from an organization’s point of view of setting up that organization, right? 

Réka: I think from both points of view. Like starting at a DAO, let’s say you join a DAO that’s already like 300 people, and you’re at the brim. How do you get closer in towards the inner circle and find ways to contribute? Cause you really like the vision. They made a good point of getting their vision on Twitter, and you love it and you’re aligned with it. But like how do you find ways to actually put value there and contribute to them and start working together? I think, for me as well, like I joined a bunch of DAOs and like Discords on a fairly regular basis. If you really, really want it, you can find ways and find the right people to message to get a job or have something to do for them. It’s very hard for users, I think. From a manager’s point of view or the core community’s point of view, they see a lot of people coming filtering in and how do they make sure that, you know, the right people get the right access to things and they can safely have them come closer. So it’s the same issue from two sides. I think that’s something from a social perspective and with tooling as well that we should work on a little better. 

Raz: I think the biggest struggle comes from, as we are trying to innovate on two fronts simultaneously, one of them is the technological front. Obviously we have a distributed ledger and it makes everything different, but on the other hand, people still try to innovate with the social part. They try to be better philosophically and that’s very, very difficult to do. So I would advise them and we always try to innovate just on one side and copy the other from existing mechanisms.

Réka, I like your analogy of saying that we’re at 3 from 1 to 10, right? 10 being like the whole world is tokenized and 3 is like, we only have like a few thousand communities adopting this model. What does five look like from your point of view? 

Réka: I think, when it takes founders way less time to spin up a community and kick it off, and for users to browse and find the communities that are best aligned with their personality, their mission, or their skillset as well. Cause I think users can participate in a lot of DAOs at the same time. So now you can participate full time or like part-time in one or two meaningfully and then have like five others that you visit on a weekly basis and have another then that you don’t actually do anything, you’re just part of the discord. And I think we could do a lot more and do a lot of work. But I think to be a five for that process, to be way more open and accessible and easy to understand, step by step is something that we have to work on. And it’s also like a language barrier as well, because everything is in English. I understand that the younger generations are, you know, fluent without even putting too much effort in it or they’re pretty good at English, but yeah, I don’t know, like making it more accessible. It’s a first world thing.

Is there a bot that translates discord messages to any language?

Réka: I don’t know, maybe. 

All right guys, new opportunity here. Hit Réka, Raz, or myself up. If you’re building this, we want to hear more. So that’s a five. What does an eight look like? Raz, what do you think an eight looks like in terms of adoption? 

Raz: Probably hundreds of millions of people, at least. For that,Discord is probably not enough. So we have our own platforms at that point. 

Réka: I think Discord is probably not enough for a five. 

The DAO Stack

Interesting. Next question. When you’re starting a DAO, you guys obviously have a lot of purview into the tools and development that kind of take place to form a DAO from the ground up. What does the tool stack look like right now? What does every new decentralized community need to kind of get started? What does that look like? List it out for me.

Réka: You could use a few of them, but I think I see a lot of communities using certain tools. You need some sort of voting mechanism for governance and they usually use a snapshot. 

Raz: For treasury it’s better to use on chain mechanisms instead, but yeah, that’s difficult for now. 

So multisig, some governance. What about automation, and reputation, for example? What does that look like? 

Réka: I think we’re just exploring that. I think that’s not in the basic toolkit. I think communities that are a little bit more mature and have a little bit of experience in running the DAO, they’re exploring the reputation system. I think it’s still very new. I see a few projects that are utilizing that like colony, or you could do it to some extent and coordinate for example. And I think that’s something that we should definitely work towards to have this reputation system, because that gives accountability to people long-term to actually perform, not just come in, say they will do something and they don’t provide. So that’s definitely necessary. So yeah, I see an emerging number of DAOs starting to use that, which is very promising. 

Raz: Source Cred is promising as well. 

One thing that also, I think is super unique about you guys is obviously you’re building products in this space essentially, right? Like consumer products for crypto, and you mentioned earlier that we need to find ways to lower the barrier for meaningful contribution, lower the barrier to entry. What does that look like from the point of view of design thinking for building products? How do you guys think about that? 

Raz: So first we don’t want to force the users to leave their desired place, likeDiscord or Telegram. So we want to bring everything inside the chat room. I think one thing we meant before to mention in a DAO stack is that you will definitely need a communication channel as well. It shouldn’t be token gated in every case, but it’s good too if it’s token gated. Yeah, so you need a communication channel and I think it’s still heavily underutilized what you can do with it. It shouldn’t be just the channel, especially in discord, for example, right? There are emoji reactions that you can use eventually to do votings and all sorts of different stuff. The most important thing is to leave everyone where they are already and don’t force them to go to a website or something like this. 

Réka: Can I just add to that? Let’s use less of a hardware wallet situation, because for example, what I don’t like about using snapshots all the time, I don’t really cause I’m lazy, and the point is I have to go to a different website. I have to use my hardware wallet, and that’s like at least two points where I get lost and lose interest. And I think one point is bringing everything to where people are and people are active and have the conversations, which most of it is of course off chain, and it should be that way. And also to kind of find ways to use less hardware wallet action, to minimize that to the maximum. 

Increasing DAO Adoption

Got it. So minimizing the use of hardware, as important as that is, it really risks user experience is what you’re saying, right? I also think part of that is you’re required to hold these assets in a hot wallet, to an extent, to kind of have a seamless flow of an experience, and that within itself is highly risky. Just having so many tokens and so much money in a hot wallet so I agree with you. You know, I think we’re so early with where we’re at. I think it’s very fair. I’d even say, I think we’re at a 2, like maybe like a 1.5, to be honest. But I think the point is like, we’re very early on, on the spectrum. What do you think is missing to kind of get us to that next level to get to the five? Like what steps? What progress, what tools, what interactions, you know, what I mean are missing to kind of reach that next level of adoption? 

Raz: I think what’s missing really is, is not some specific tool itself, but more like the way these already existing tools could cooperate and share data between each other. And that’s obviously not possible if these tools are not open source or cannot be self hosted. So I think the missing part right now is to have an integration layer between all of these different tools or have a suite of tools that cooperate and share data already. 

Réka: We’re trying to do both.

How do you kind of tackle both at the same time? 

Réka: Well, we try to create tools that are interoperable between each other and also make them open source and have APIs for them so that we can have the maximum amount of integrations with other tools and projects and platforms in this space and on the internet basically. I think that may be a good approach, obviously I’m biased, but I think that’s a good approach of maximizing collaboration between DAOs, between communities and tools at the same time. Because that can kind of quicken this whole thing of, we have less tools or we have too few, or this problem is not solved. As Robert said, if they can communicate on the backend and make the user flow way more seamless and maybe find a way to connect it back to the channels and they are using the same tools, but it’s somehow connected back in a way.

Raz: This could also create lazy scenarios. When I use it, I don’t necessarily have to do something immediately, but I can do that later, and I think that’s very important for the next step. 

I think something just like trying to dig through your words, is that better funnel of bringing a user in from one destination to another. And one thing that we were talking about behind the scenes, I think it was even yesterday was, a lot of these let’s say creators that want to build their own creator DAOs, that want to explore modern day fan clubs, all their audience lives on social media. And they only really have 2 calls to action. They have that swipe up on Instagram or a link in bio, right? Or if they post a link in a tweet, still everything is like taking them from one platform and leaving that platform to go to another platform. And that entire funnel from just like entering a community to kind of like making your initial contributions, that entire funnel is really broken. It’s very multi-step. You know, and if you look at web 2.0 solutions, you think of their funnel. Let’s say you’re doing a drop shipping campaign. You’re selling, I don’t know, Christmas lights for the holiday, you open up a Shopify page, you’re on Facebook ads. Every single interaction, if your page doesn’t load fast enough, you will lose user drop off like 50%. I don’t know what the metric is, but it’s really high, right? If one button doesn’t work people leave, right? And I think a lot of products are failing to kind of take into consideration what you said, like optimizing for that user journey. Because it’s one thing, making it super easy for a community to start a community, it’s another thing making it even easier for their audience to join that community. Is that kind of what you’re referring to? 

Raz: We always talk about the onboarding of the next few millions in the next year, and that’s kind of something that creators talk about or founders talk about, and that is a crucial step in that. Because people don’t want to leave their usual platforms to try a new one. It’s weird. It looks different. I have to use my wallet. You have to try to do that, and you can’t just do it when you’re in the bathroom. You have five minutes to do it. People won’t do it if they have to sit down, read everything, think everything through. It takes a lot of time. So we have to make it as smooth as possible for creators and everybody to basically funnel their user base back into some web 3.0 thing so they can start utilizing all the goodies that are available in web 3.0. 

What’s Next for Agora?

You know, the first thing that comes to mind when you mentioned that is one, the point of basically building products for two different audiences. Right now, you, I, us, we don’t care eating shit to kind of enjoy the pleasure of being early adopters. Like we’ll go through those additional steps because we have a lot of curiosity, we understand what’s like the opportunity here, right? A lot of other people, and this also comes in tact when discord teases us with their Metamask integration and then kind of being like, Hey guys, we’re actually not doing it because all of our web 2.0 users that kind of run discord in our core audiences and users for a subscription model, they gave us shit for it and we don’t want to risk losing them because we have a SaaS model, you know? But then there’s this small web 3.0 audience that’s kind of like using discord as a way to just kind of bootstrap cause it’s the only thing available. And I think part of what you’re saying, from what I’m understanding, is like it’s also building for that right audience. That web 2.0 audience has different needs, preferences, and wants compared to that web 3.0 audience, you know? And I think part of making a better funnel is kind of capturing both sides of that market without even realizing that they’re joining a DAO to begin with. They’re just joining a community, right? Guys, I know we’re running out of time. Really quick before I let you guys go, I guess I have one final question for you. What’s next for Agora? What can we expect? Cause I know right now you have guild.xyz. What’s coming up next? 

Réka: So we have two MVPs ready. We’re not going to put them out in the open yet. Guild comes out of alpha state now in December, which is fun. The next tools are focusing on onboarding, so that users don’t really realize that they’re doing it, but they get rewarded for every step and it’s much smoother, and for fundraising.

Outro

Cool, amazing. Best of luck! Before I let you go, where can we find both of you and Agora in general? 

Réka: Twitter. Like we’re doing the full web 3.0 thing, so you can find us on Twitter at @L1sp3r, @reka_eth, @AgoraSpaceDAO, at guild.xyz. 

Amazing guys. Thank you so much for joining me. We’ll for sure have to do this again at some point once we’re at stage five, hopefully, but this was fun. Thank you so much. 

Raz: Thank you so much.

Réka: Thank you so much, Adam. That was a blast.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Ownership Reimagined: Music Labels Will Become Creative Hedge Funds

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 11 welcomes Our Zora’s Community Lead and Singer, Songwriter and Producer, LATASHÁ. She’s an NFT thought leader and a FORCE in crypto, having sold tens of thousands worth of music NFTs.

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 2:52 – Opening up for Kanye West
  • 7:56 – Valuing Independence
  • 9:59 – Defining NFTs as an Artist
  • 13:16 – Diving into the Depths of Web 3.0
  • 17:29 – Being an Early Adopter on Zora
  • 19:09 – Working with Zora
  • 22:36 – NFT NYC – The Performance
  • 25:22 – Defining Values
  • 28:51 – Finding Inspiration
  • 32:49 – Artist Management in a Web 3.0 World
  • 38:02 – Governance in Artist Management
  • 40:03 – Valuing Artistry
  • 48:51 – What’s Next?
  • 50:41 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Latasha, welcome to Mint. How are you doing? 

Good. How are you, Adam?

I’m good. Thank you so much for being on. I’m so excited to have you on. You are legit a force on crypto Twitter, a force in person, but before we even get into why, give me a quick brief about yourself. Who are you? What were you doing before crypto and where are you now? 

I’m Latasha. I am a singer songwriter, rapper, producer, artist, and Zora’s artist community lead. Before this, I don’t know what I was really doing, but I know that music was my heart work. I went to Wesleyan university where I studied African-American studies, psychology, and hip hop. I thought I was going to go into Broadway, ended up just rapping my face off in ciphers, and before I knew it, I was opening for like Kanye west, q-tip, big Sean and all these crazy people. And God just was like, I guess you’re going to be a rapper now, so I started moving in the direction of the mainstream rap forces and tried to get into the industry and do the label thing, but it never felt true and in sync with my true being and spirit. So, I quit and then I restarted in 2015, completely independently. I’m a Brooklyn girl, so, you know, I’m all about owning my masters because that’s what Jay Z taught us. And I was like, all right, I’m going to figure this independence out, and it was really tough. Didn’t have all the means to do it. Didn’t really have any support, family, or things like that to do this music thing solo. So, you know, went through all the trials, been homeless, been down and out and all of the things. And then in 2016, a woman bestowed me with a large sum of money to fully quit my nine to five life and do this solo dolo. So I was doing it and it was still tough, but decided to move to California, to just have some expansion in space. Then the pandemic hit, and I was like, oh Lord, no performing, no shows. What am I going to do? And my partner, Jahmel Reynolds, who goes by art by @artbyjah on Twitter, told me about NFTs and he was selling his 2d 3d art on NFTs. And I was like, oh snap, what is this? I was really skeptical about it. I didn’t believe it. I thought it was fake. I was like, where’s the scam? And did all my studies and research and found out there was like a real space growing out of this and a space that could really be healing for artists, especially musicians like myself. So, I got my first NFT minted on Zora in February, and that was the beginning of this new hero’s journey. 

Opening up for Kanye West

What a journey! What a way to start, opening up for some of the greats, experiencing that side of the music industry. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Like how did you get to opening for Kanye and all these big figures? 

To be honest, I always say it was like God magic. I mean, I always believe that my music and my art has like a spiritual tie and a lot of times things just happen to me. So I was a huge and still am a huge fan of Kanye west and created this project called the presentation, which was off of all old school, Kanye west beats. And like, I mean, old school, like things that people never knew, Kanye rapped on. And so that went viral on YouTube for a little bit, and people were like, yo, she’s fire like who’s this girl? And there weren’t really a lot of women artists like rappers at the time. Nikki Minaj was like the thing at the time. And so I remember just getting an email one day, like, “Hey, do you want to, you know, perform at the Brooklyn hip hop festival”? And I was like, hell yeah, and then Kanye was sharing the stage with me. And so was Kendrick and so she was Q-tip and all these crazy people. Then it just kept happening like that. I would just keep getting these crazy emails. Like, do you want to open for big Sean? Do you wanna open for Ghostface Killah? And I was like, yeah, because like, how am I going to say no? So that was like the beginning of my journey, and then I started realizing that you could get paid off of performing and do all these things. So I was like where the cash app?

I’d love to also talk about, cause you brought up being homeless for a minute because I find that hard to believe. Look how successful you are right now, and look how much of an industry leader you are with selling music as NFTs, and really pioneering that space, but also coming from a background of opening for some of the greatest of our time. Talk a little bit more about that.

Yeah, but I feel like a lot of times people think that just because you’re opening for these artists or you’re getting these opportunities that you’re getting fed, that’s not always the case. A lot of times artists are actually struggling big time that are on tour and that are doing these things. I was fully independent. I only had a few managers at the time and most of my managers were learning the industry as we went, you know? And so we were all kind of in the fire. And during that time was also the switch. We were going from, you know, CDs to Spotify and all of that stuff. That was like at the beginnings of Spotify ‘s growth so nobody knew what was what and how to make a buck. So, I went through the trials and industries, you know, I’ve had labels try to transform me and make me into like an artist that I didn’t want to be very hypersexual and things like that. I just knew that that wasn’t it and as many times as I’ve tried to fit myself into a box, it just never was the box for me. And you know, I went on tours and paid for my own tours and then would come back with no money. And so I’ve lost my home one time because of that. And it was like a whole summer just like couch surfing and figuring things out. But I was blessed for those moments because those moments, I really believe, allowed me to align to the moments that I’m in right now. 

Damn, that’s deep. That really sets the tone for who you are and your character. Kind of like your drive and ambition, and this goes back like, now look at you, right? Like owning your shit. And before we even get into the NFT concert, that was at NFT NYC, because you said some really dope stuff on stage. Explain your genre to me. Explain like, for those who aren’t familiar with who you are and the music that you opened for Kendrick and for Kanye, how did you get to that point of finding your voice? 

Wow. That’s such a heavy question. I mean, I think my voice is constantly evolving, but I know the essence and the thing that is consistent with my voice is just being honest and from the heart and connected to the spirit. I think that’s always what my voice will always be. It’s a passionate like real Brooklyn, New York girl voice that will always be there no matter what genre I’m in. Cause I like to twist and turn genres too. Hip hop of course is the core of everything. Cause I believe hip hop is the core of just black sound where we are right now, but I like to turn into a jazz singer sometimes. I like to turn into a pop star sometimes. I like to turn into a reggae dance hall queen sometimes, and just like to do all the things. But at the core, it’s about that story. It’s about that passion. It’s about wanting empowerment and transformation for myself and my peoples. And that’s what I think I vibrate in everything that I do. And I hope I continue to do that. 

Valuing Independence

One thing that you really vibrate is like the essence of independent artistry, right? You’re really big on that. Cause you’ve had labels try to form you, and to try to dictate your image and who you are own you, et cetera. How did you get to like that mental state to be like, I don’t need these people? All I need is myself and the people who love me and support me to kind of bring me to where I want to be. How’d you make that switch? Because I feel like a lot of artists, they get sucked in by that initial check that kind of gets them in the door. How did you bypass that? 

You know, I just always really didn’t understand how a label could tell you and dictate how much you’re worth by just like streaming numbers, by, you know, what YouTube number is. I just was like, that is not worth to me in the same way a performance equates to worth. Like I will do a show and people would be like, this changed my life. That means so much more to me than like a number on YouTube, et cetera, et cetera. But, I think when it really solidified for me was in 2015, 2016, when that woman came into my life and she heard one of my songs called black magic, and she was like, “girl, why are you not famous yet? Why are you not doing these things yet”? And I was just like, you know, I don’t know, just like doing it and seeing how it goes. And she bestowed me $10,000 off just the bat off, just like believing in my art and believing in what I was doing. I always tell people this story and I’m like, maybe that was my first NFT experience. But she just bestowed it to me, and that made me realize like, oh, people will support you if they really believe in it. You don’t really need a label to do it, and I already knew my brand. I already knew my market. I already knew who I wanted to reach out to. And it’s just like, now I just need to expand and, you know, make some more money to keep doing it. But that’s where it really affirmed for me. 

Defining NFTs as an Artist

Because you’re already talking about this NFT thing. Really quick, for those who don’t know, what is an NFT? I hate asking the definition, cause my podcast is about NFTs, but I feel like there’s going to be artists listening to this trying to understand more of your story. So what do you think about NFTs? Because everybody has a different definition. How do you define it for your context as an independent artist? 

Yeah, I call NFTs now fun time. No, I’m just kidding. NFTs are non fungible tokens, but in my mind, I like to think of it as a box where you could put anything inside of it. You could put music, you could put art, you could put a car, you could put literally anything into it. It’s a token that you could pretty much use to play. I also kind of consider it like an autographed form of whatever art. So my definition often is like this music video is autographed by me. This NFT is an autographed form of my music video or an autographed form of my music. Usually that’s when artists are like, oh, I get that, that makes a lot of sense. Because other ways kind of get complicated. 

Yeah, that’s super simple. One thing you tweeted out recently is like NFTs have caused you to fall in love with music again. You tweeted that I think a few days ago. I don’t remember. So sometime recently. Why is that? What is it about their nature or their form? What is about blockchain, crypto, whatever it may be to you that has made you fall in love with music again because that’s really deep? 

There are so many reasons why, but I think it’s seeing my value meet itself in real time. That is really something that I needed to fulfill within myself. I think a lot of people deal with money wounds as artists. Like we have wounds of like, not feeling supported or not feeling cared for. We have a lot of safety wounds within ourselves. When I got into NFTs, I felt like that started to really heal and quickly because I was like, I’ve been putting so much effort into this music. I’ve been putting so much effort into my music videos, how come, you know, nobody’s giving me what I deserve out of it. And when I got into NFTs, it was like, oh wow. I’m seeing my effort in real time, and I’m seeing the investment in real time. So many of the people that I got to partner with in my journey, like my partner Jahmel, my two best friends, Angel and T, they were riding with me before even NFTs. And I wouldn’t have a buck to pay for them to do a music video, and they just rode with me, and now I’m in NFTs and I’m like, yo, when this NFT sells, I could pay you guys now. And that’s like the beauty of this thing, right? Like it’s organic. It’s like an organic form of love for just support and abundance and all of these things. I just love it. And I mostly have been putting up like content that I already had existing on YouTube or, you know, Spotify, and now they’re on NFTs and they’re selling like crazy. I’ve sold over 50 NFTs at this point, and it just goes to show you, like, you think YouTube and you think, you know, Spotify is where, you know, you decide and define what an artist’s success is, but it’s not always the case. Like this is beyond that now.

Diving into the Depths of Web 3.0

Wow. So you’ve repurposed your initial content into the form of non fungible tokens, right? That reduces 50% of the stress of getting into the space because it’s one thing to have the content to use. It’s another thing to understand how to apply it in the setting. When you were getting started as an independent artist in this space, diving head first into web 3.0, what was it like getting started? Can you walk me through those initial days of like, What am I doing? What is crypto? Share with me that thought process? 

Sure. I mean, the first month that I decided I was going to do this, I remember going through my old content and going through my hard drives and being like, okay, what’s a record that I don’t have out. That was one. I was like, I don’t want to release anything that’s on Spotify because I don’t know the nature of this beast yet. So it was one what wasn’t out, and what is something that people haven’t really seen? So I have, I mean, hard drives and hard drives of content from shows, performances, tours, all that kind of stuff. So I just selected some content that I had that I used to use for a show, and then I put it with a song that I would perform on that show, and then I just made this music video out of it. That was my first music video on Zora, and my first NFT on Zuora. I think that made me one of the first people to put a music video on blockchain as well, and so that was like a crazy moment. Like I honestly was just like, let’s put things together and just see what happens, and that thing sold in three minutes. Then as I kept diving into NFTs, I was like, let me try different things. So I don’t only have music up. I have poetry up. I have performance art up. I have just beats that are like no raps on it, my production is up. I would keep saying like, there’s really an important factor about being multidimensional within an NFT. I think this space calls for that, it calls to see all sides of artists, to see like the weird shit that I do, and like the cool drawings and little things that I’m creating on the side that nobody really gets to see. I think that’s what NFTs are calling for. It’s for that cryptic side of us. So that’s kind of how my first couple of months were, and then I started just pushing videos. I was like, all right, let’s do this music video thing.

You made it seem like you didn’t even think twice. You’re just like, I don’t give. Like, I’m going all in. I don’t care if I mess up, this is where it’s at. Everybody’s learning at the same time. There are no rules. 

Yeah. I mean, the space is so brand new, right? Especially at that time, that was like at the beginning. I was like, nobody’s really here. What do I have to lose? I mean, I’ll probably pay some money on gas and that’s probably the hardest part. But, over time, I just realized that it was a space for me to be myself, and just pour out all of the parts of me. I have this one NFT that’s called third eye and it’s like, just me just rhyming, and just this art piece that I have that I created. I just made it in like an hour, and I was like, let me see what it does as an NFT. And it was just like, that’s how freeing it felt like, just do stuff, you know, and see what happens.

Wow. I feel for all the creators, all the artists that are listening and you keep asking, like, how do I get started, what’s my first step? Just use that as your advice. Just get started. Take a piece of paper, open up your memos, record something, take a picture, attach it and upload it, right? Just like breaking the ice. 

I think also, I always tell homies, especially in my Zoratopia classes, for your first NFT, put something out that really speaks to who you fully are. That was like one thing that I feel like my first NFT embodied. It was like this performance art music video song, but those are all the parts of me. I’m a performer, I’m a musician, I like visuals. It all has to encompass all those parts of you. Because then it makes it easier as you go along and give the different pieces.

Being an Early Adopter on Zora

Speaking of Zora, how did you get to Zora? How’d you get to work full-time over there? I remember when that announcement came out, you joined Zora, you’re heading community, a lot of the culture side. How, like, what’s the story behind that? I know you were using the platform earlier, but take it away.

I am an OG Zora user. That’s what they called me. I was one of the first people to use the platform, and I fell in love with the platform to be really honest. I really believe in the ethos and the ideas of autonomy that they spoke on. And the white paper was like a seller. Like I was like, all right, all this thing that the white paper is saying is me pretty much. And so I would just like to always push my homies on Zora whether I was working there or not. Before I even worked there, I was like, you got to use Zora, like that’s the platform. And then I was hyped because there was no commission, like 15% commission, like other platforms that were not there. There was zero commission from Zora. I was hyped because I could put music videos on there and no other platform allowed large size files on it. And then three, I loved the aesthetic. I love this ethereal cryptic aesthetic that Zora was going for. And I was like, ah, this speaks to like all of my identity. So I fell in love and I just kept pushing it, and then in June, the CEO and CFO asked me if I wanted to join. And I was like, hell yeah. And I’m happy they did because they need artists in these spaces. We deserve to be at the tables, making these decisions for these platforms and protocols, you know and I’m really grateful that they did that because it changed the minds of a lot of other platforms and protocols that were released after.

Working with Zora

What does Latasha look like at Zora? 

Oh my gosh. My day is insane. So I start my day around 9:00 AM. I’m checking my slack. I have like six to eight messages on slack from the team. Then I go to my fun Twitter, and I have at least 40 DMS from artists. 10 of them are new artists that are just starting this NFT thing and have no idea. I ship them off to Zoratopia, which is our biweekly hangout where you get to learn about NFTs. I onboard artists, I get them their wallets. I teach them the whole walk of this thing every other week on Wednesday. Then the other DMS will be like group chats talking about projects and ideas that they have coming up and how Zora could support them in real life events that I’m building. So we’re building stuff at art basel and different, you know, exhibits and things of that nature. And then I’m on Twitter tweeting all day. That’s my life. I live on Twitter. That’s my second home. I’m tweeting all day, getting people to just listen and talk. I also host Zora FM, which is like our Twitter spaces. So I interview artists and creatives and developers dropping on Zora. And then I’m building a platform with Zora on the other side of this thing. So my life is chaotic and beautiful, but every day is a new day and we’re building just a lot of different things all the time. I’m also the bug person. So everybody comes to me for the bugs, and then I go and scream about all the bugs.

You know what that reminds me of? You live a very dual life from your artistry, your creative side, but also working professionally in the space and building up your repertoire with a lot of legit people, right beyond the music. And it reminds me of artists who are trying to make it working in restaurants in hospitality, doing their day-to-day just to like pay rent and then doing artistry on the side. So you found a way to kind of mix your love for two, by being an early adopter. How can other artists do that?

I think it’s back to that idea of just stepping in the water and just like, you know, talking to people, connecting with folks. I mean, when I was talking to Jacob from Zora, I was talking his ear off about my ideas for Zora and same to D. Like just saying what you think things need in the space and what you need in the space. I think that’s the best way for folks to really get involved and get jobs and get connected. When I started working for Zora, I was like, okay, like, I’m Jay Z now. Like Jay Z got the business side of him, and he also be rapping. So that’s like how I kind of saw it. And the beauty also with working with Zora is like, I still get to be an artist. Like they want me to push my artistry and do the things that I’m doing. And I’m so grateful and blessed for that.

How do they kind of support you on the creative side beyond kind of managing the platform and the community? What does that look like?

I mean, I get to build in real life events that I get to perform at that too. So that’s a great, you know, win-win and I get to bring on my homies too, you know?

It is such a win-win, yeah.

I get to share experiences like that. I also got to do the NFT fan photo shoot, and get all the artists together, and hang out. But also that fulfills my creative needs too. Like I love taking photos and, you know, telling these stories, and pushing the history. 

NFT NYC – The Performance

Speaking of events. Let’s talk about NFT NYC, more specifically, this NFT music collector named Brett Shear, AKA Blockchain Brett on Twitter. Go check him out. Shout out to Brett. A big collector for music NFTs and is very vocal about his love. He works at Palm tree crew, manages the blockchain fund for Kygo and the team over there, and he put together like this inaugural NFT concert where he basically invited all of the artists that he collects on stage to perform in front of a live audience. Super cool. I told him that was the start of something new, that it’s going to be a reoccurring thing, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger, bigger. I had the honor to watch you perform. I said this in the beginning, you’re a force. You’re a legit force. Your energy on stage, your passion. You can see that you stand for something, right? It goes back to one of my first questions, like finding your voice. How do you find that identity though? How does that come through technology? How does that come through music? Because, you know, you said earlier when you get into crypto, be yourself, but a lot of people have a hard time still finding their identity and who they are. You had that on stage. You were like jumping around, you were going crazy. I can’t explain it. You just have to see. Everybody that’s listening needs to watch you one day in person. How do you find that identity, and how does that translate into how you perform and your passion for technology? 

I don’t know if I found the identity. I think my identity found me. You know what I mean? I think I’ve just always just been who I am, and just let that grow and bubble and boil as big as possible until the pot bursts. You know what I mean? And that day was such a beautiful and epic day. I felt like that week was insane. We had crazy issues at other events, and I was really grateful Brett put me on to that event because that event felt like love. And I felt like I could be my fullest self. I always feel like I could be my fullest self in places that are full of love. So yeah, I mean, as for identity, like I always say, I feel like identity is an evolving transformative thing that is always happening, always being, but at the core it’s about what I value, right? It’s like the things that I value is empowerment. The things that I value are transforming and shifting the paradigm. Those are the things that always are a part of me. And so I think that just exudes through everything that I do and exudes multiple times on stage, because I love the stage. The stage is my heart work, and that’s where I get to really show out.

Defining Values

You can really see that you really, really see that. And I remember we had like 5, 6, 7 performers, and when you got on stage, it was just like what’s going on? From your suit to your hair, to the music that you’re playing to you’re dancing around, to jumping into the crowd, and coming back to the crowd and like having this monologue of who you were and what you stand for and being, I think you said, quote for quote, the first black woman rapper on the blockchain, right? And making that part of your identity of being like an innovator quote unquote, right. It’s something that a lot of artists look forward to and I say that not because I’m assuming that, rather I talk to artists and they’re asking the questions, how can I use NFTs to own my audience, to own my craft, to build communities around myself, in what I believe in to align people, right? When people ask you that, how do you answer that? Like, what are those first steps to kind of getting there?

I think during the pandemic, I did so much healing work and so much like self-work and I used that time to plot out my values, plot out what I want to see. I did a lot of manifesting work. If you guys know me, I own like a million notebooks and in my notebooks, I just write down all the things I want to see, all the things I want to be, all the values that I hold onto and how I want to change the world. I know that’s cliche, but I really want to see things change. And so it’s the steps that I always give to peeps is like, write it down, write down everything that you want to create. All the things that you truly value and then see how your values connect to the things that you want to manifest in the world. If something isn’t fully tied, dig into that thing, understand why that thing is the thing you want. Like I need money, right? We talk about money all the time because we’re in crypto and we’re in ETH and everybody’s excited about making all this bread. Why do we want money? Like, what’s the importance of having money? Like how does that really tie into our deeper values? And for me, it was like the opportunity to give, the opportunity to share, the opportunity to, you know, feel safe and secure and not have the government be chasing me for some dough. Like these are like real things that I really wanted to clear up within myself. So I would write it down and I think writing down is like the best way to see things come to life. So that’s like my number one tool to like manifesting and understanding what your values are and what you want to bring. 

So rather than kind of just like going ham, cause there’s one portion of like going ham and like doing it, and there’s another portion of like taking the steps and taking them to create like a mental model around it, and it kinda like follow through with that, right?

Yeah. I mean, going ham is very important. I feel like you need to go ham so you can see the chaos and be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, right? I feel like the beginnings of my career were very much so go ham, go crazy, see what you like, what you don’t, and then take a step back. Then realize the parts that you want, the parts that you don’t want and kind of walk in that journey. 

Finding Inspiration

Who are some of the other NFT artists that kind of inspire you or you kind of look up to, or get motivation from do any come to mind?

Yeah, I have a ton. I adore, of course, Art by Jah, he is my partner. Like of course my big inspiration. Amir is a huge thought leader in the space and really inspires me. I love Momo pixels who is like this dope video gamer, producer, just everything. Faith, who is also not only an incredible thought leader, but community leader in the space, and I really always give faith mad props because I think she was the beginnings of me seeing the possibility of being a community lead as a black woman and what that equates to. Shout out to ATM who’s like this crazy illustrator, just off the chain creating a really dope PFP project coming up. Shout out to my fan T and angel. T is about to bring a really cool series that I haven’t seen done in NFTs yet, like a film series and angel also is going to bring film and photography. There’s so many. Verite, I got to always give Verite my love because Verite was one of the first women that I watched do the music NFT space and do it differently. Like she was the first time I saw somebody give a part of their masters to someone and experiment and try. She also was so loving to me and just supportive of my walk in this space. Black Dave, also Connie digital. So many. 

You brought up Verite. She comes to mind as well. I remember coming across her work, not necessarily from her music per se, but discovering her music through crypto. I remember specifically during the clubhouse era, and I can’t believe I’m saying era is, it feels like 10 years ago. But like literally seven, eight months ago when Clubhouse was still popping and all these NFT communities were congregating there, she did a session with Justin Blau. It was her, I think Cooper Turley was there, and a couple others preparing for her drop, that masters dropped that you’re talking about. And that was also like the time where I was like, ok, we keep talking about this concept on podcasts. Like I had Justin and Cooper talking about the future of NFTs, like a year and some months ago, and then a few months later, like Justin came out with his big drop. Verite, came out with her drop, and we see more and more artists. Now though, we’re at a stage where catalog.works is bringing so much value. I think they’ve distributed over a million dollars so far directly to fans from collectors to artists which is insane. Just the number of streams that would have been required on Spotify to reach that is number one. Number two, we’re at a pivotal point in NFTs and music, right? We’re seeing a lot of people explore this route. We’re seeing a lot of people make a lot of money from this and kind of realizing what freedom and ownership is which is huge right? People are actually starting to understand that being independent might actually be really good. Being independent and building a team and treating it like a startup and building my team around you. One focuses on publishing PR. I focus on creating, et cetera, et cetera, and building from the core and out. People are starting to realize that, right? 

Yeah. And that’s always been a lot of our dreams. To build our own teams and have the capacity to do it. I mean, I already had that. Like I had a visual team that was sitting there. I had management, I had different things, I just couldn’t pay him because I was like, I don’t have any funds coming in. But now with NFTs, this . Opportunity allows me to fully develop my own team that speaks to my true self, right? Like now I don’t have to deal with a label telling me how I need to be. Like, I could tell everybody this is who I am, and this is how I create my work, and how can we work together to expand that, right?

Artist Management in a Web 3.0 World

What does the future of artist and label relationship look like in the world of web 3.0? 

Everybody always asks me this question about like, eh.

And if you don’t know, that’s okay. Let’s even like walk it through because it’s a future thing, right? Like I see it as a thing where artists stay independent, record labels buy their works to reap the upside and financial value, rather than like holding them by the neck. It could be either through the form of an NFT or through their social token that they might launch. How do you see it? Do you see a similar vision?

Yeah, totally. I do see a similar vision. I also see labels just taking up the marketing route possibly and just becoming more of the marketing rather than actually owning anything. I feel like if they are really about it, like they say they are, they would actually think about the things that artists actually need. Like, we don’t need anybody owning our work. We need companies to come in, support the marketing, support the connectivity. That’s what we really, really need. So if anything, I would love to see labels do more of that work, but your idea is incredible. Like if they decide like, okay, we’ll buy this work, and then we’ll help you with your publishing, we’ll help you with your marketing, we’ll help you with all those things for a short period of time. Let’s talk about that perpetuity issue that we’re dealing with in labels. We need to clear that and make it a short period of time then, yeah, I would be open to that idea definitely. But anything that’s going to take from the artists way too much, I’m against. I think that’s where overall we’re just moving out of that whole idea and paradigm. So I’m ready to shift that completely. 

One thing that I see music labels kind of evolving into, and this might be far-fetched and it might be a hot take, but I think they’re going to be evolving into hedge funds. And the reason why they may maybe evolving into hedge funds is because more and more creators are tokenizing themselves and, or their assets, and putting themselves, their character, their identity, their level of ownership, on chain which makes it publicly accessible by anyone with ETH, whatever the currency is with an internet connection. And if record labels kind of want to keep up with their element of investing in artists, and kind of like seeing their money flip as the creator kind of doubles in fame, and wealth, and streams, and record sales, whatever the metric is, they might be optimizing for around things like which social token projects can we get in early. Is the artist tying in their creations and like the value being captured through their creations, to their tokens and their community holders. Whether it be through a token or an NFT, I kind of see that come into fruition. I don’t know why. I see these record labels acting as big banks essentially. 

I mean, they already do. 

And in essence, that’s what they do now. But how, I guess, like, I’m thinking out loud, how does it evolve with tokenized assets?

I mean, it’s back to that idea that you started touching upon, just them owning these tokens and then figuring out a consistent revenue stream for themselves and the artists as well right? Like, that’s just what it’s going to be. But I don’t know, in my world, I don’t want this ownership thing anymore from them, you know what I mean? It’s been years of this. Like we literally had to deconstruct everything that they’ve done from the twenties till now. Like we’re still on the same walks from the twenties. That’s so crazy. Like where he’s still using the same kind of contracts that were built in the early 1920s. Like we have to just demolish it all and rebuild. 

So from your point of view then, collecting in web 3.0 versus signing an artist in web 2.0, how does that differ? Like when blockchain Brett buys an NFT piece, like an NFT song, for those who don’t understand, he owns that work essentially, right? Let’s say at some point there’s a decentralized Spotify and he lists that song, he’ll earn the royalties and whatever splits occur with the artist as well. But in web 2.0, the record label has a contract and owns the artist. So is it the element of owning the individual versus the work?

Yea , and that’s a huge difference. Like what I’m able to do on blockchain is not what I’m able to do on web 2.0, right? Them owning me as an artist means that every time I sell a t-shirt, they get a percentage of that. Every time I sell any part of myself, they get a percentage of that. So if I decided to do a commercial for let’s say Maybelline, they could get a percentage of that. That’s the problem. Instead, what’s happening here essentially, is okay, you get to own this music onto the blockchain and then you get to resell it and I get a royalty from every time you resell it, amazing. I like that idea more so than you telling me you own everything that I do, right? That’s the scary part of web 2.0. And that’s why artists go homeless and end up on couches and do the things because they ended up with no money after, you know what I mean? So that’s the bigger issue.

Governance in Artist Management

How do you think about governance? Right now it’s collecting. Right now it’s like buying assets and building communities around who owns what of your work. Do you ever imagine a point where you’ll start introducing governance around you as a creator, as an artist? Let’s say, I’m going to bring in blockchain Brett, because I just love his taste. We’re blockchain Brett and a few others collect your work. They love what you do. They’ve supported you for years now, but now they kind of want to vote on the name of your next album, for example, or they want to kind of determine who your next collab is, or have the optionality to have a voice in who your next collab is with. Do you ever imagine introducing that level of on chain governance? Can you walk me through that? 

Absolutely. I’m definitely thinking about a Tash coin, Tash Dow, where folks could literally decide the next moves to an extent. I do not want, you know, too many of the next moves to be controlled by the people, but things that I need support in and are like open to opinions for, I would much rather it be from my fans than or somebody collecting than somebody who is not even a part of the work, you know what I mean? So yeah, I’m definitely open to that idea and I see it being like my own meta city, like an FWB kind of aspect. I love FWB and I think how they’ve built it is so smart. So like the more tokens you get, the more say you get into what the next project is going to be, or the next move is going to be, or the next tour is going to be. If you live in Tash LA, Tash coin LA, right? If you guys got more tokens than Chicago, I might push to LA first before I go to Chicago, and just like to see how it goes. But that’s like really cool things that we could end up doing in the future, and I’m really excited for that. I’m excited for it to just be the people, like that’s where I’m at. Like the people are making the decisions, not so much these higher scary ideas. 

Valuing Artistry

No, I hear you. I hear you. One thing, I also want to pick your brain on, because it seems like you’ve got a knack for it. You talk about this concept of valuing yourself. How do you do it in a way where, when you as an artist consider your work to be a masterpiece, you’re very vulnerable about the art that you’re publishing on chain, how do you do it in a way where you don’t undervalue yourself and you don’t overvalue yourself? And I guess as an add on question, if you want the community to value you, how do you even do that? So I guess the takeaway is like, how do you price a song from your own point of view? 

I guess for me, how I’ve always priced is like what my brain says. So if my brain’s like, this is one ETH, I’m going to go for it for the most part. But that’s not the best answer probably for somebody who’s just starting out. For people that are just starting out, I usually tell them to think about how much money they put into the work. So if you’ve made a song and you’ve put like this amount of money into recording it, into producers, into et cetera, think about how much money you put into the work, and then how much do you want to see come back to you? That’s like a good gauge of it. So some artists are like, yo, I’ve had all my equipment, so I’ve just been doing this, you know, off the fly, you know, this song, I would have sold it to, you know, a company for $800, a thousand dollars. I’m like, cool, that’s a great start. Now multiply that by three or multiply that by five, and that’s like usually what I tell artists to try to do. But for me personally, I just go where my brain and my gut is telling me. And I’m like, all right, if it’s 1 ETH, we’re going to test this one ETH and it usually works for me. I’ve sold everything because of that. 

There you go. You know, and I guess it also depends on who you are as an artist, and how much traction do you have. Have you made money in the past from the songs that you’ve created and how does that kind of equate to you doing this more experimental path on your journey as an artist, because that can be even deemed more valuable right? And also, I guess when I was talking to Justin Blau about it like a year and some months ago, he was talking about from the point of view of like, I have records out, I have millions of streams, I’ve made X amount of money from my work already. If I sell an NFT below this price, I’m like robbing myself. Because if a reseller were to actually try to flip it, that collector, and that audience has like a history of streams for them to kind of refer to and to see them out of money that I made from that. Like you have to strategically price it. But, I don’t think there’s like an official answer and official playbook to kind of do it. Everybody’s just throwing shit at the fan. 

Yeah, I think it’s literally that. I think everybody’s just trying different things. NFTs are still very new too, right? So we can’t always expect the same amounts from a very traditional space to this new baby that’s growing. We don’t know how much values is in an NFT. I mean, we know that it’s a lot, but we don’t know how much is meeting us yet. So I think it’s all about just experimentation. I talk to V about that all the time. We’re just experimenting and trying new things and seeing what hits and what doesn’t. But I definitely have had records that were on, you know, sink that got on TV and Grown-ish and all these places. And then I put them on NFTs and I’ve definitely seen them equate in value which is so interesting to witness. Like I have glow up. Ironically, who I am is a great example, because when we shot the music video, we were like, this is a $20,000 music video, and then we made $20,000 as an NFT. So that just tells you something’s up. Something’s definitely happening. 

You had another bid that went to like $4 million on Party Bid. Did I see that correctly? 

Yeah, I have a secondary market that’s on sale right now for $4 million, 5 million now, because ETH went up. So we have a party bid for it. Cause I want everybody to come in. We can get this 4 million dollars popping. Yeah, that’s insane. Like this was a music video that we shot in the garage off of the whim. It was just like, let’s do some, you know, green-screen shit. And let me rap real quick and let me talk my shit. The song is amazing and powerful. It’s a beautiful record. I love that verse, it’s one of my favorite records that I got to collaborate with two artists on. Shout out to Witch Prophet and SUN SUN. So, to see it now be worth $4 million feels so fulfilling for the moment that I was in when I wrote that song. Because when I wrote that song, I was pissed with the world. This was before NFTs. I was like, all right, I’m done with all this music stuff. I don’t know, but I’m going t o put my heart into this. And so to feel like my heart is worth that to folks means a lot. It’s also a historical piece. It was one of the first music videos and the first to like, hit that number as well. So, I’m really excited to see it hit 5 million.

I have like a couple more questions I want to ask you before we wrap this up. Do you think web 3.0 favors the new artist or the existing artist?

I think web 3.0 favors the artist that cares about community. I don’t think it’s about new or old. I think it’s about the artist that connects with the community. Cause I’ve seen both sides. I’ve connected with Mick Jenkins and Aluna and all these dope artists who are usually web 2.0 artists, but because they care about the community, the community cares about them. And so they’re connecting that way, but the new artists that are coming in are feeling that same vibration too, so it’s about connecting with the community. 

I only asked that because, let’s look at someone like Daniel Allen. Which was, I want to say, an overnight success in crypto, but it wasn’t. It was like four to five months of grinding and making friends and ingraining himself into the world of web 3.0. And then that kind of came to fruition, but people don’t see that. People just see a 48 hour sale of like $180K. And then we see someone like Tory Lanez doing an NFT album. We’re selling a million copies in less than a minute for a dollar an NFT. Which one? Like new versus existing, right? 

That’s Tory Lanez was a different game, right? Like that’s like a whole different smart contract, all that stuff was very different. Not very in our space, like Tory Lanez wasn’t on Catalog. You know what I mean? Like Tory Lanez was on something completely different. If anything, that’s like what Nipsey did back in the day when Nipsey sold each record for a hundred dollars and wanted to see who’s going to cop it, you know what I mean? So what Tory Lanez did was like actually tap into the technology which is cool. I have a lot of issues with Tory Lanez obviously, but he tapped him with the technology, but he didn’t tap in with the community. So I can’t see him doing as well if he didn’t have a developer to create his smart contract and do all the developments without tapping into the community, you know? But Daniel tapped into the community, tapped into the people, wanting to know what was going on. You know, him, Alik, all of these artists are really engaging with people. And that’s what makes it really different and have more weight and value. I don’t know if Tory Lanez could do that every month, but I know Daniel probably can. 

That’s such a good line. People who engage and build for the community. I don’t want to sound like a soap box right now, because everybody loves using the word community. We gotta find a new word for community. I don’t know. Another question I wanna ask you is like a more personal question. Biggest influence so far in music for yourself? 

In music? I mean, I said music in itself. Like it’s not one. I have a conglomerate of mothers. So, it’s Queen Latifa, Missy Elliott, Lauren Hill, little Kim. That’s my conglomerate of mothers for lyricism. And then for the art and visual, et cetera, it’s I’m Tyler the Creator, Childish Gambino. Those are my guys. But kind of all ranges and Andre 3000. I love Andre 3000.

Kendrick Lamar? 

Obviously Kendrick is always on the list, but I feel like Kendrick, like I don’t know- I feel like we have some kind of north star vibe, you know? I’m watching him and I’m like, I see what you’re doing. I’m going to shoot that. But that’s my, that’s my guy. I love Kendrick. I think he’s incredible and excited for his new projects for real, for real. 

What’s Next?

What can we expect from you in the future? You hinted at a city, you hinted at like a new drop. Like what are we going to see? When are we going to see it? Give us some alpha here, come on.

It’s not going to be a city, it’s going to be an island. That’s what we’re calling it. So Tash island is coming soon, and just get your coins ready for that. We got some really dope music videos coming out for December. It’s going to be like heavy music video drops, all hip hop, going real hard on the hip hop tip in December. January, we’re going hard on this new project I got coming out called joy ride. That’s going to be a bit web 2.0 meets web 3.0. I’m going to really tap in on how to bring my community from web 2.0 to web 3.0 and see how the joy ride goes. And then I have a platform that I’m building for all artists to do music videos and bring their music videos onto NFTs through Zora. It’s going to be like a streaming platform for music videos. So that’s the alpha and do not steal that alpha.

Like a decentralized YouTube?

I can’t say anything else, but we have some cool things in the works with Zora, and then just all the projects that I’m working on and probably touring next year. Let’s cross our fingers. NFT tour next year. So it’s going to be really epic. 

That’s pretty cool. Do you imagine selling tickets as NFTs? 

Hell yeah, we’re going to have NFT tickets. That’s what this is all about, right? We’re tokenizing these tickets now. That’s the whole vibe. I want to make sure that, you know, you’re getting that whole experience, and I think that’s going to really be the bridge. You know, like when the tokens become the tickets, people are really going to start understanding what NFTs can do on a larger capacity.

Outro

Last question, before I let you go. Where can we find you? This has been a lot of fun. Where are you online? 

I am Latasha. You can find me on Twitter at @CallMeLatasha, I live on Twitter, like I said. I’m also an Instagram at @CallMeLatasha, and then my website is callmelatasha.com, and you will be able to see my NFTs on my website now thanks to Zora’s embed feature now too. So that’s where you can find me. 

Is your website like a WordPress site? 

It’s a Squarespace site, and now you could put your NFTs directly on it from Zora. So that’s really cool. 

That is pretty cool. I have to check that out. Latasha, this was a lot of fun. Thank you so much. When your platforms come out, when your drops come out, we’ll be supporting, we’ll be promoting, and I hope to have you again soon. 

Talk to you guys soon, peace!

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Psychedelics meet NFTs, the Creator Economy, and the Future of Web3 Media

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 10 welcomes the founders of the media company nftnow. I sat with Matt Medved, Alejandro Navia, and Sam Hysell to discuss:

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 8:17 – The Vision behind nftnow
  • 11:09 – Forming the Trio
  • 14:52 – Finding Inspiration in Starting nftnow
  • 17:16 – Thinking about Community
  • 25:01 – Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 in Media
  • 31:34 – The Future of nftnow
  • 36:15 – What Comes After Art?
  • 43:44 – Psychedelics as a Path to Empathy 
  • 48:06 – What Will Eat Web 3.0?
  • 54:11 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Introductions

Matt, Sam Alejandro, welcome to Mint. How are we feeling?

Matt: We’re doing great. Glad to be here. 

You got it. This is the first time I have three people on the show simultaneously. We’re breaking goals here. I love it. Okay. Let’s just dive right in. I’m super excited to get into NFT Now. Brand new sexy looking site, authoritative media outlet. I’m personally a big fan and a lot of crypto Twitter is Instagram is et cetera. So super stoked to have you guys on let’s dive right in. Let’s start with you guys’ backgrounds. We’ll go with Matt, Sam, and then hit Alejandro and let’s get started with that, and we’ll go from there. So Matt, who are you bro? What were you doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Matt: It’s a great question. So I started dabbling in crypto back in 2013, but I only just really recently got into the space full time. I come from a background with 15 years of music and media experience. So in 2015 I founded billboard dance. Which is billboard’s dance, electronic music, vertical and funny enough, the peak years of that coincided with the rise in the crypto markets in 2016, 2017. And so I was friends with all the DJ guys, like Blau RAC, who were trading crypto, who were getting into the blockchain space. So it was a really organic way for me to sorta find my way into it. Started doing the coverage at billboard for music and blockchain. Did some panels with RAC at south by Southwest spoke at Consensys Ethereal. You know, we all knew that this technology had the power to empower artists, we were just a little too early. So after that I ran Spin Magazine as editor in chief and then was running content at Modern Luxury, when Blau pulled me down the NFT rabbit hole last year and for me, it was the technology I’d believed in for a long time finally disrupting the field I’m actually passionate about; music, art, and culture in a way that empowers artists. So I was hooked and we started the NFT now accounts in January. Alejandro and Sam joined as co-founders and it has been a wild ride since. 

Yeah, I think Matt, you have such an interesting insight into the space coming from such a deep media background and being active with all these DJs. Now we’re also seeing the intersection of music and NFTs take on a tremendous wave online. So super interesting. Sam, tell me a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before crypto and where are you at now? 

Sam: Yeah, for sure. So definitely starting around like 2011, 2012, 2013. I was very heavy into the kind of New York city’s tech startup ecosystem and I’d have to say too, that this kind of whole web three movement has so many different, similar feelings of optimism and just kind of a communal support. Then, after spending a couple of years really focusing on helping startups leverage and kind of experiment and understand the needs of the early adopters by way of lean startup methodology design thinking methodology, started actually working with Gary V to help him stand up Vayner talent. So Vayner Talent was a division that was kind of replicating what Gary had done with his own personal brand for other talents. So I was able to work with some incredible people, help launch podcasts and YouTube series that are now some top 10 business shows across those respective platforms, but it was very, very passionate about the kind of the music space and the cultures that I was really passionate about. So I actually left to co-found an agency called Knox media. Knox Media is kind of a digital marketing agency that helps talent and brands grow and convert fan bases online. But even then too, was just very passionate at helping creators thrive and helping people lead more fulfilling successful lives. When I had a podcast interview myself on a music business podcast, I was talking about NFTs and how musicians could really tap into the power of NFTs. And I was like, wow, this is a complete game changer. The music industry specifically, you always talk about this notion of there being no middle-class right. You’re either a top 1% artist creating all the revenue in the music industry, or you’re kind of a starving artist. And NFTs as a mechanism and technology are effectively creating this whole new way to foster community engagement, to help creators across all creative domains thrive and prosper and opens up this middle-class. So it was very exciting to kind of come together and build what we’re building now with NFT Now, which is a very exciting company. 

Super super exciting. And last but not least, Alejandro. Who are you, man? What were you doing before crypto? And how did you get here today? 

Alejandro: Oh man. I’m definitely a career enigma. I definitely dedicated a lot of my twenties into exploration and discovery. So I did a lot of things in terms of politics, policy you know, hospitality, and then I’d landed on what I love to call storytelling and emerging tech. That intersection of storytelling and emerging tech has really been a passion of mine and an underlining method. And in 2014, I joined elite daily as employee 25, doing innovation culture, and that year just kind of visual media boom, and we were able to create some amazing products on giving the generation Y a voice on that platform. We were competing at some point with Buzzfeed and Vice at the time we, I remember our peak month, we had 99 million uniques in a single month which happened three months in a row, which is pretty epic running a team of 45 and then that sold to the daily mail historically. I think that was kind of like the last major media digital media sale in the space before all the algorithms and everything changed afterwards. I was incredibly fascinated because I was like, if we did it for 50 million, what does a billion look like? What does a billion dollar acquisition look like? And so I wanted to look at it from the perspective of the buyer and not the seller. So I joined the team at Verizon doing content strategy and acquisitions, and that’s really when I got mandated to look at emerging tech and storytelling. Again, that theme was going to be very closely related to my personal narrative, and that’s where I got to see blockchain artificial intelligence, smart cities, compression algorithms, delivery methods, 5g. I started seeing how all of these major technologies were going to start affecting content delivery and content stories. And so we saw VR AR and all these concepts, but at the time we ended up purchasing Yahoo, which, you know, everybody can read those headlines now. And I was able to see what the integration of Huffington Post, AOL, and Yahoo looked like at a multi-billion dollar integration process. And so that was really fascinating seeing all the pipes and all the building and like the foundational concepts, because a lot of people just see kind of like the headline. And I just kind of wanted to see a little bit of nitty gritty. Shortly after that I left, and then with my passion for emerging tech and storytelling, I co-founded this agency called Odesia, where we really started helping emerging tech companies specifically in the blockchain space. So we worked very closely, for example, with Consensys , helping them launch Ethereal, open mall,Ethereal conference, you know, the Ethereum enterprise forum and all these different brands. That was in 2015, 2016, and so that’s where I first got introduced to Ethereum and I just got hooked specifically, and that’s just really been the case for me. As well as co-founding an ocean conservation nonprofit organization called oceanic global, where we used emerging tech and storytelling to drive ocean conservation efforts. Shortly after that, I did a stint in my spiritual world. I really wanted to figure out who I was, cause I burnt out. We had a little bit of disagreement with co-founders, and I just kind of wanted to find out who I was and what I was building. Like what’s going to be my role in the world as this human being as a soul, as a creator, actually? So I took 18 months off. I went to Asia, I did a lot of exploration, a lot of deep internal work. And I came back afterwards and I worked at a stealth AI startup that created another burnout in my life. But that burnout really led me to a breakthrough. And that’s when I recognized that my true purpose in life is to help founders and creators create freedom and fulfillment in their lives. I became an executive coach during the pandemic, and it was the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. Working with these boys, Sam and Matt, when they came to me, Alex, with the idea for NFT Now, it was just natural. It was like, sure, no problem. It was just serendipity, divine timing, like the roles, the strengths, the weaknesses, the balance of everything, it was just kind of like, you know, I have a phrase that you let go and you let God, you know? 

NFT Now – The Vision 

So each of you are media powerhouses in your own respect, bringing super diverse backgrounds into what is now becoming the next form of media,AKA NFTs. We have the birth of NFT Now. Matt, what is NFT Now? What’s the vision? What’s the goal? Why even start this outlet focusing strictly on NFTs? 

Matt: Absolutely. Well NFT Now is leading a web three media publication for NFT coverage and curation. And it fills a gap that we saw in the market. When we entered the NFT space early, you know, we saw a lot of platforms with megaphones promoting their own drops, and a lot of talking head influencers, shilling, their own bags. What the space didn’t have was an independent and credible media brand that people could turn to for curation, for news, for analysis, for features, for industry insights, for storytelling, first and foremost for storytelling. And so you know, Alejandro and Sam and I have been friends for a long time and we were both are all aligned around the mission of empowering the creators of culture and helping drive mainstream adoption of NFTs because we believe that NFTs are going to fundamentally redefine how creators engage and interact and create value with their communities across all creative disciplines. So when we founded this, the last thing that we wanted NFT Now to be was just a traditional media company covering NFTs. You know, given my experience at a billboard at spin, these legacy media publications, I can tell you that the web 2.0 media model is broken. It is a clickbait race to the bottom that serves advertisers and intermediaries and sponsors versus a publication’s own community, and we wanted to do something differently. So rather than going down that old web 2.0 model. We wanted to build a community-centric model, essentially pioneer a web 3.0 media model that focuses on creating value and building community and sharing in that value being created. So, you know, we can get more into the details obviously on what that looks like, but you know, I think first and foremost for us too is the idea that NFT Now needs to play a pivotal role in catering to both the purist and the tourists in the space. There are people like us who are in this every day and we’re glued to Twitter. We’re in the spaces we’re in the podcasts, even for us, the space moves so quickly. You know, I always say weeks are months and months are years. So we want to be able to provide actionable insights and that kind of value to that demographic, but at the same time, there’s a vast number of people, an overwhelming number of people, who don’t know anything about NFTs, or if they do a very small amount. So central to our approach, especially in storytelling, is welcoming new people to the space, providing resources and handholding and guides. Because we all know how difficult these learning curves can be. 

Forming the Trio

One thing I want to talk about really quickly before we dive deeper into NFT Now, what is the love story between you three? Like how did you meet? What’s the story behind that? Sam or someone, tell me that story. What’s the context? 

Alejandro: Well, I’d be happy to jump in here cause I think I’m the cornerstone. So Sam and I met through mutual friends. I think like the first two years of our friendship, we actually just hung out at the bath house. Every Tuesday we’d go hang out and just talk about life. We both love personal development and we love thinking about how we improve ourselves, how to optimize ourselves. We spoke about biohacking and all these different concepts. You know, we just kick it and talk to one another and talk about our businesses and careers and things of that nature. It was just a great sounding board, and finally he was like, “yo, I’m launching this, this podcast called the music business podcast”. And me as a connector, as a lover of supporting my friends, I was like, “yo, I know just the guy who you gotta be introduced to, his name is Matt. He’s the founder of billboard dance. He knows all things, music, like, he’s just amazing. It’s going to be super awesome”. So connected the two of them, and that’s really where the Genesis of the trio happened. Matt and I actually got introduced through our dear friend James. When I was co-leading oceanic global we wanted to bring an element of music into this event that we did in Ibiza for 5,000 people with headliners such as Solomon, blondish, it was a production, it was a movie. And I was like, “yo, what better way to get the word out than through the community itself that we want to impact”. You know, that EDM community has always been at the forefront of technology, at the forefront of social impact, at the forefront of just creating this great Genesis of change. When you look at it historically , I was like, “yo, Matt, we’d love to have you involved in some way, shape or form”. And so he came in as a speaker, as a supporter as also as an interviewer and he supported us throughout the whole process. We just started diving into our friendship in a very organic way. I think both friendships were never forced or anything along those lines. Over the years we just kind of became confidants for each other. We all kinda talked individually about our businesses and our trials and tribulations and our career paths. And so that foundation of trust was already there, because we spoke about a lot of depth , but also a lot of breadth when it came to things. Then finally, when this whole thing happened, it was because my wife and I, Lindsay, we moved out to Jackson hole and Sam was like, “yo, can I tag along”? And we’re like, “Yeah, sure. Come through”. And Sam, my wife and I, we lived in Jacksonville together for the duration of the pandemic in the middle of a beautiful 20 acre property, and Matt then came to Jacksonville to visit us during new year’s Eve. And the whole thing happened where in one moment I was like, “yo, Matt what’s NFTs”? Then I came back from Costa Rica from a trip and Sam’s there on NBA top shot and he’s like, “yo, bro, you gotta get on this pack is about to drop”. And I was like, wait, yeah, I just had a phone call with Matt. Like, because a month ago Matt came here with saliva and eyes pouring out , like “YO NFTs, bro”. And I was just like, when two of your closest friends are just wide-eyed like Sam had his wallet out and he’s like, I’m sitting closer to the router so I can actually catch the drop. Like with this passion, I was like, “yo, there’s something here”. When the two people that I have so much respect and admiration for are acting like this, I got to take a look into this and that’s where the whole Genesis of our relationship and NFT Now started. 

Sam, anything to add to that? I feel like everybody has their own point of view as to how they meet.

Sam: Russian and Turkish baths are great for personal health and human optimization. So strong endorsement goes to sauna sessions and ice baths. 

Finding Inspiration

I love it. All right. Let’s dive into storytelling. One key part that I want to cover is March, 2021. Specifically that whole clubhouse era that kind of drove a lot of the storytelling and the narratives and the community around NFTs. I know you guys were extremely active in clubhouse. Matt, I think that’s how I met you virtually, Alejandro and Sam, I think we crossed paths here and there on different clubhouse sessions. What are some of the biggest takeaways you guys kind of learned going through that time, that kind of influenced the start of NFT Now? Because your focus is on storytelling, and I see the content that you push and the interviews that you host. They are high quality, they’re superb, and it references, or at least has a resemblance of those inner community sessions that kind of spurred as a dropper occurs, and somebody talks about a post drop success, et cetera. Talk to me about that. 

Matt: Well, you know, it really was a bit of a perfect storm when you think back on it. You know, we were largely relegated to our homes due to the COVID pandemic. I think people were all looking to connect and when you have this absolutely explosive development, the creation of an entirely new creative asset class that empowers artists happens, and we’re all stuck at home. You know, we all want to get it out, and so clubhouse became a very critical forum and avenue for people in the community to meet and share ideas and collaborate. And you know, I think we’ll look back on that era as a really formative time. Some of the best friends that I have made in the space, and I know Alejandro and Sam similarly, originally stemmed from conversations on clubhouse. And you know, I think that that moment in time showed the power of digital connection and digital ownership as well. The fact that some of our best friends are people we actually haven’t met yet. I remember when I met the first friends I had made on the internet, the first URL to IRL in the NFT space was Parrot and Roger Dickerman when they visited time square for artifacts, and I felt like I already knew them, you know? And what’s funny is they had been hosting a podcast together for months, and that was their first meeting too. So I think it just proves that distance is increasingly irrelevant as we look forward to a metaverse future. And I will always cherish that period because it was so wide-eyed and innocent and positive. So many artists coming together, creatives coming together, builders, collectors, dreamers, coming together to share their excitement and support each other. 

Thinking about Community

Sam, one thing that’s super unique about your background and also like your role atNFT Now, and Matt this also piggybacks a lot about what you’re saying on clubhouse and the value of community. Well, Sam, you’re spearheading the community at NFT Now. What does that look and feel like from your point of view? 

Sam: So I think I mean, collectively we’re all spearheading community. I mean, we think about community in a couple of different ways. And I think at the end of the day, first and foremost, before I like nerd out from marketing speak, like community is authentic, empathetic connection. People feeling like they’re able to get and give value to the other people that they’re engaging with. So the foundation is really that core principle. As we extrapolate when it comes to like scaling community, I mean, there’s also a challenge too in scaling community, right? Oftentimes it’s like communities can often have an indirect proportion as they grow the value of being in the community actually dissipates. So I think it’s something that we keep top of mind. How can we ensure that as we grow and as we grow our aggregate community, it’s only strengthening the value to every single community member involved? As we get further out from that, to some extent, we do see community as a bit of a funnel, right? Like there’s a top of funnel community that’s engaging on Twitter posts or tweets and Instagram posts and in the YouTube comments. And then, further down the funnel is kind of like in our discord, and that’s really kind of the most engaged people in our community. And there it’s really just trying to come up with unique ways to understand what are some of their core needs and how can we create value for them too. I think we won’t necessarily be able to share too much, but as we look further out into the future and think about how the community live in a web 3.0 context? I mean, we’re seeing lots of different, interesting projects in the NFT space and our community is really . Forming and now NFTs are becoming really just access into those communities, right? You look at V friends and all the community utility that provides for people that really just want to either have access to Gary or participate in the Vee Con conference he’s hosting. So I think we think about it as a funnel, from top of funnel being a lot of social and editorial content we’re pumping out, as we move further down towards a place like Discord. And as we kind of project into the future and won’t necessarily be able to share too much now, but what does that very web 3.0 native layer of community look like for us and the people we serve?

I want to highlight one thing that you just said, empathetic connections. A lot of people that come into the space forget that we’re people at the end of the day, right? It’s people interacting with people, it’s people talking to people, people trading with people. And I love how you use that, but how do you actually go by approaching empathetic connection? Like what does that mean to you on an operational level? 

Sam: Yeah, so I think like the principles of customer empathy and really, I think there’s ways in which you’re doing this at scale in which you’re doing this on a one-to-one level. But I think like really having a deep understanding of who our customers are, what are the specific goals they have? What are the behaviors that they’re currently exuding in order to accomplish those goals? And what are some of the pains that are involved in the process? And I think really seeking to have a deep understanding of all those different elements at play and having that really be like plastered at the front of our minds and at the forefront of everything we do. So when we’re creating content, we’re often referencing back to these different customer personas. So that way there really is this kind of reverse engineering, the value we create from the needs and perspectives of our customers and the people that we’re serving. But then I think that is kind of a more like scaled approach. And that’s why also too, it’s like in Twitter and in discord, there’s these places where we can actually have open forum and conversation with people. So people feel as if they’re genuinely being heard. It’s not even just so that they can feel like that, but it’s because we very much are not only creating for our community, but with our community. So when we’re figuring out what are the different types of content we want to create as we’re kind of developing some elements of our different roadmap and plan it very much is this collaborative sense of a very collaborative development of our roadmap. So it’s being able to make sure that we have constant contact, constant communication with the people in our community. So it’s not just this us and them dynamic, but we really are just kind of one big unit serving each other. 

It makes a lot of sense. One thing that I like about how you guys are kind of spearheading is one, the high quality content with the pushing out and the amount of emphasis and detail that goes to doing behind the drop. I think that’s super unique and stands out. So, applause to you. And I guess like when you guys are creating that, how to content, how do you think about how to? It’s like, how do you approach creating a piece of, let’s say an article, a blog, whatever it may be, that taps into the minds and some of the biggest questions that people are facing? Like, what does that thought process look like when you’re creating that content?

Matt: And I think that it comes back to empathy, just like you spoke to. At the end of the day, you know, looking at Sam, looking at Alejandro, our whole team, we have all been novices to the space. We all know that feeling of excitement, but uncertainty and being overwhelmed and realizing that the rabbit holes are endless and knowing that you want to be a part of something, but you don’t fully understand it yet. And having been there, you know, I always say, you know, I went through the crypto learning curve in 2013 when there were far fewer guardrails, but I still had to go through the NFT learning curve last year, and I’m not going to minimize the difficulty of it. There are a lot of people who are going through both learning curves, concurrently. One thing that we really pride ourselves with at NFT Now, is that our team has varying degrees of expertise in NFTs. Some people are very fully down the rabbit hole. Others are just getting their feet wet. And I actually think it’s incredibly valuable to have all of these perspectives on our team because it’s easy when you get, you know, in it day to day, to forget the learning curves that got you there and certain things that you just assume people know, and you realize that you’re speaking another language. That keeps us in check. Then at the same time, being down that rabbit hole, having the connections and all that, it gives us access to all of the information we need. It’s a really great balance. So I would say that that content process comes from a place of empathy and also listening. There are members of our team who have said, “Hey, some of our best story ideas, some of our best guides and resources have come from questions that our own team had as they were learning about the space”.

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Alejandro, I saw you wanting to add something in the background. You want to add more salt to that?

Alejandro: I think Matt just hit the nail on the head, but to piggyback on that, the guides in the content are really the similar content that we need, that I needed, that I wanted to read. This is why we jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t so much that we created this idea because it was there and it was this major gap and the market was asking for it. And so when I went to look into my own journey from an NFT perspective, there weren’t these guides, there wasn’t an NFT 101, there wasn’t like how to reset your Metamask wallet, you know, these types of things. I’m in crypto, right? Like I’ve been in crypto since 2014, but these questions started happening and connecting. So, Matt just hit the nail on the head. It’s really about our team leading the way by asking the right questions. Our editorial staff is incredibly amazing. As Matt mentioned, some of them are getting their feet wet just now. And so their feedback and their perspective is really what’s making it happen. And when we speak about the premium aspect of the product that you mentioned, that’s really the bar that we have internally as a culture, excellence is really one of the values that we drive and we want to make sure that that’s reflected beyond the internal culture, but also the culture that we’re creating for our community and for our partners. When I say partners, I mean anyone that reads us. Really, we don’t see them as an audience, we see them as a partner. We want to make sure that we’re creating value, and these experiences at a premium level are really, really important. So we always have this phrase internally, like there’s always time to do it right. And we want to make sure that we deliver best in class products with everything that we do. 

Web 2.0 v. Web 3.0 in Media

What does it mean to build a media company in web 3.0? What does it mean to you guys? It’s a big question. I’d love to hear from all of you, so we can start from that. We can go to Alejandro and then we can even hit Sam. 

Matt: Sure. Well look, you know, it’s something we say internally. In web 2.0, media companies create a lot of value, but can’t capture it. That’s why we’ve seen so many media companies failing at a time when information has become more important. And so for us we see it as a transition from the old model of building an audience as a means to an end of monetizing by being a middleman for brands, to actually building a community as an end in itself and directly creating value for that community. Whether that’s news, breaking news, resources, guides, thoughts on the upcoming drops, alpha for the the projects that are coming, bringing in AMAs, podcasts, video, all of these pillars to engage our community and provide them with value. Then, through this, through our web 3.0 roadmap, creating a way to share in that value too. For those of our community members who are really, who are really passionate about NFT Now, who want to take their memberships to the next level, they’re going to be able to. It’ll involve NFTs and we’ll be able to share in that value as well. But that’s, I think, the really fundamental difference between the media model in web 2.0 and the media model in web 3.0.

That was an alpha leak really quick. That was the utmost alpha. Like, I’m just going to throw that out there, but okay continue with the media model of web 2.0. 

Matt: Say no more. But NFT Now’s future does include NFTs. But you know, I do think, boiling it down, there is a huge difference between building an audience and building a community. And there’s a huge difference between extracting value and creating value and then sharing in that value. And we’re pioneering what the latter web 3.0 looks like for media.

That’s super powerful. You’re seeing more of the legacy brands use this NFT model by doing their first drops by kind of rallying some of the existing successful NFT creators to create content, right? But I don’t think they’re thinking about it to that extent. You know, one of the most interesting models that comes to mind is stripping away these credit card subscription models, and having people own an cryptographic asset that gets them access into XYZ, whatever it may be. And not to like talk about other publications, but one thing that comes to mind, I had Joyce from global coin research on Mint, where they’re like an investment arm, they do specific type of analysis on coins and what not, and one thing that was super interesting is they’re like, “we’re realizing that people don’t want to pay one dollar for three months to get access into the wall street journal”, for example. People don’t like that. And they don’t like the ability of being able to input their credit card, their email, their address, all that stuff, and then that gets them access to gated content. Rather, why not make it more web 3.0 native, share that value that gets captured, and give people access based on their contributions to that entire community as a whole. Is that how you guys were thinking about it?

Alejandro: From a revenue standpoint I think that that’s really a web 2.0 centric focus, right? Like there’s a transaction, right? There’s a transaction involved in that capacity, where we’re looking at it as more of a transformational play. For us it’s about making sure that our community receives the value themselves that is being created within this space. So when we think about the dollar transaction or this concept barrier to entries, I believe that the barrier to entry is always going to be present, especially in web 3.0. We see this with models such as friends with benefits, who have like a token gated community. You know, there’s even NFTs themselves with specific communities, I’m thinking of like atom bombs, for example, who were like, “Hey, our holders will have different concepts”. So yes, there is an evolution of what that NFT pass or that NFT holder aspect gives you in terms of the crypto as a community concept, but that’s something that’s kind of similar to what I like to call the elevator model. A lot of it needs to come in. What I mean by the elevator model is, you know, you got to meet your audience where they are and bring them to where you want to be. Because if you kind of just disrupt from the very beginning, people will misunderstand. And a lot of our thesis internally is that what people don’t understand, they fear, and what they fear they reject. So, when we come back to the source of it, and it’s helping them understand what it is, and how it functions, and walking them through the process of onboarding those different levels of membership or what the benefits are to holding an NFT or social token, whatever it may be in terms of the next evolution of token gate or paywalls in that capacity, is really about helping them feel like they understand and that they own the power, beyond just a credit card transaction for token gated access or paywall. And it’s beyond the content. For us, it’s also about thinking about what experiences can we give them? What type of things can they carry in IRL? One thing that Matt, I’ve heard him say one time, and we hear this now constantly internally in the company is like, how do we make sure that we drive the URL to the IRL and the IRL back to the URL and how do we continue making that fly wheel very real? I think web 3.0 is definitely leading the way in that capacity, because web 2.0 has had a very difficult time of marrying those two, the URL and the IRL. And so that’s really where I’m thinking about those thoughts when I think about the transaction versus the transformation. So for us, we’re really focused on transforming our community versus creating a transaction for ourselves.

It makes a lot of sense, and I love the community first approach. Sam, what do you kind of think about a web 3.0 community or a web 3.0 media outlet? What does that mean exactly to you? 

Sam: Yeah, I think a lot of the core points were raised, so I’ll just kind of highlight what stands out. But yeah, I think from a business model perspective, it’s not being reliant on advertisers as the core engine for our business and for us to continue to level up what we’re doing and how we serve our audience. It’s really, like Matt mentioned, creating and giving our community a chance to share in the value that we’re all creating together. I think that’s the foundation and that’s really the core element. So I think that gives us an opportunity to innovate on how we serve our audience. It gives us an opportunity to innovate in how our audience gets to contribute to what we’re building and, and really kind of have a stake in that future and what that future looks like.

The Future of NFT Now

I love it. I want to talk about the future of NFT Now. Cause right now you guys are posting, again, killer content, quality videos, dope articles, dope how to’s. I would argue your Instagram account is probably one of the more authoritative Instagram accounts on NFTs, so props to you guys for building that up to where it’s at right now. What can we expect in the future? What can the community expect?

Sam: Lots. We’ve got lots of amazing things in the pipeline. So I think from a long-term perspective, I think we have, over the course of the next three to six months, some exciting things in the pipeline as it pertains to what our web 3.0 roadmap looks like. So, stay tuned for that. I think we’re continuing to just scale up the actual content output. I think at the foundation of our mission, one is really helping foster mainstream adoption around NFTs. I think Matt already mentioned this notion of like purists versus tourists. So as much as we’re really seeking to make sure that we’re serving a lot of the purists in the space that are very kind of deep down the rabbit hole, if you will, we also really want to help make sure we’re creating content for different verticals that are looking and considering how to engage in the space, right? Whether it’s music industry fashion, we’re already seeing lots of different rumblings, but there’s still a lot of people in these industries that really have no idea where to begin or how to become internal champions within their own industries within their own verticals. So I think it’s continuing to scale up production and content and output in the communities so that we’re really able to kind of help fulfill and accomplish our mission. Those are a couple of the core things, but I’ll let Alejandro and Matt dive even deeper. 

Alejandro: I think for us, it’s important to kind of bring up what’s not going to be in our future. And I want to highlight very clearly that programmatic advertising has no room or no space within the web 3.0 media model. Like that whole click and follow you through, being intrusive to your privacy, and like, you know, pixels and cookies and all these different things. So, one thing that I love about our website is that it was our unanimous decision from day one, no programmatic advertising. There’s not going to be banners, there’s not going to be refreshes. There’s not going to be anything along those lines anywhere near our roadmap or future of web 3.0, and so we’re really looking at creating different partnerships and how we are going to deliver great products for both our revenue generating partners that actually drive value and create value to our community members in that capacity. The other area that we’re really looking at is innovating how we can actually create interactive IRL experiences that bring the digital forefront experience right to the user, beyond the URL or behind their screen on their computer. We want people to start interacting with NFTs in a completely different shape. The other thing that we’re looking at in terms of web 3.0 in our future is we’re listening. As we know, we’re in the bleeding edge or the cutting edge. We are at the forefront of these new technologies. So, for us, it’s also very important to listen as to what is occurring in the space, paying attention and observing what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and also making sure that we experiment and optimize ourselves. That’s really going to be a key driver for what we want to do in this space, because the mental model that I really love in this, kind of like to wrap it up, is that the map is not the terrain. And so we may have all these different goals in terms of our roadmap, but it could completely shift within the market. So, we’re really actively paying attention and making sure that this is user and community centric first. 

Matt: Yeah, those are great points. I just want to add, obviously I can’t reveal too many details, but we have very ambitious plans when it comes to events. We have very ambitious plans when it comes to tent poles, we are thinking big. We have so many exciting ideas when it comes to editorial and new franchises for storytelling. In this game, information is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. So I also want to highlight the fact that it is extremely important to us as we look to the future of NFT Now, that the future that we are building is equitable, diverse representative, and does not squander the opportunity that we have with web 3.0 and this new metaverse future that we are all building and excited about building together. What a shame it would be if we just rebuilt the same traditional hierarchies, power structures and inequities that have existed IRL for centuries in this new digital world. NFT Now is committed to ensuring that artists get their due, that diverse voices are heard, and to helping build a new collaborative future that we can all be proud of.

What Comes After Art?

I think that’s super, super well said. I think we’re starting to see, well, at least we saw a lot of those ecosystems that you guys are picking up on. The early days of clubhouse and the types of conversations that were happening. You know, being in these communities, you really realize like what you guys just went over was truly what’s at their core, right? And truly understanding like this is what the people need. Better education, artists need to be highlighted despite their background in spite of their past opportunities, and we need to create a better future for NFTs and how they’re consumed and the education that comes around that. I love it. One thing I want to kind of pivot into next is I know you guys focus a lot on the art side of NFTs. It’s very much a focus. What is exciting to you, I guess like in the future, other topics that you plan to cover or that you guys try to front run? Whether it’d be the music side, whether it be the metaverse side of NFTs, what are you guys thinking about that’s next?

Sam: Sure. So I think art is the initial breakout category, but very much just the tip of the iceberg. I think we saw that largely because this truly created just an actual way for digital artists to be able to sell their work online and create scarcity around some of these digital goods. I think we’ll see tons of different creators across all domains, all sorts of creative industries now have a mechanism to actually earn a meaningful income with their community. I think the notion has always been like 1000 true fans, where you don’t necessarily need tens of millions of fans in order to create a massive business or truly follow your creative pursuit. I think now there’s actual merit to this notion of a thousand true fans because I think now creators are able to have a new model to generate income with their community. I think when we think about what happens at scale, like we’ve spoken with various creatives that have always had to sell their services to brands, and the whole game was trying to build leverage and build community online on platforms that they don’t own so that way they can have more credibility to get better brand rates if they want to effectively sell their services to another brand. Now we’re seeing creators across different creative industries that are able to actually earn directly with their community. I think, like we mentioned with the music industry, like that’s always just been such a tough industry to make it because like that whole no middle-class thing I mentioned the very beginning rings so true. I think NFTs changed that paradigm, and I think when we think about this at scale for creatives across domains, it gets fascinating because this is literally just unlocking a whole new realm of creative expression and kind of creates a whole new economic model for people to earn an income off of their own creative expression, which I think is like very inspiring at scale. But I know Matt and Alejandro will have some other thoughts here as well. 

I’d love to hear your point of view because you have such a deep music background and across crypto Twitter we’re seeing a lot of independent artists hop into products like catalog, like mirror, or give equity of 50% of their album. How are you guys thinking about that at NFT Now? 

Matt: Well, look, you know, Sam and I both have a history in the music industry. Music has obviously been a driving force in my career. And you know, I think that I’ve long been frustrated by the centralized structures in the music industry. Songs are worth more than fractions of a penny for a stream. And I think NFTs helped prove that. People were surprised when a music NFT started selling. I think we should have been surprised that anyone thought that they were worth as little as the traditional structures are incentivized to make us feel, but as we look forward I think you know, kind of bringing up that that’s similar to what Sam said on the idea of that, what those 1000 true fans. Gone are the days where you had to rely on a likes and comments based economy, build an audience so that you could use it as a means to an end, to monetize with brands. All you need is to build a community of fans who are going to show up for you, that idea of those true fans. Because if you have 1000 true fans and you put out a music NFT for a hundred dollars which is not that much in Ether terms, and they show up for you, that’s a hundred thousand dollars in revenue, and that’s more than most musicians that I know have ever seen from the streaming services. I also think, as we look forward to the future of music NFTs, I’m excited to see music get out of the arts lane and build its own lane. You know, actually my father is a brain doctor, but he’s a huge Beatles fan and he actually collects Beatles memorabilia. And one thing I learned about the music memorabilia market is that it’s not super valuable until that artist isn’t around anymore. So, you know, I think that the music industry, looking towards NFTs, should be thinking about access and fandom, like a new age fan club. We’re bringing back the fan club, you know? Owning that NFT gets you exclusive access to exclusive merchandise, backstage at events, all of that. And you begin to nurture this great community and this great interaction. You know, one thing that always stuck with me, you know, as I mentioned, Blau was the one who introduced me to NFTs. It was a two-hour phone call with him. That pretty much changed my life and took me down on this path. But he said, look, I know I have fans in Mexico city. I know Spotify tells me I have this many thousand streams in there, but I can’t reach them. I don’t know who they are. If I’m throwing a show, I can’t let them know because Spotify has all that data. The amazing thing about NFTs is that it’s the beginning of an incredible connection with your fans. You can reach them immediately. You can take a snapshot and reward them the possibilities and potential for musicians to engage and reward their fans in web 3.0 is, I mean, we’ve barely scratched the surface of it. I’m very excited.

Well said. Alejandro, do you want to add anything to that?

Alejandro: Yeah, man, I think like what Matt and Sam touched on, I think it’s like the second iteration of NFTs and the diversification of specific verticals and creator economy. One thing that I’m really excited about is going beyond the creator economy and actually real-world utility and starting to see how the everyday person can actually interact with NFTs. And you know, one thing that I had is this issue with my car title being lost when they transferred it from New York to Wyoming, when I made the move and I was like, Hey, if this was an NFT, this could be super simple. It could be like, Hey, here’s my proof of ownership here it is. Even if I’m just paying down the the car payment, the NFT wouldn’t be released until full payment is done. So there’s no need for middlemen in terms of this. I’m also looking up super, super exciting use cases in real estate. How can you commodify the NFT space in real estate? Can you rent NFTs? Like Gary V just had launched this restaurant with NFTs, which is following a trend. I’ve just been receiving a lot of information and a lot of emails from friends who are like in the hospitality business saying, Hey, this is what we’re thinking about. Incorporating in terms of experiences in the real world for these types of things. Like, for example, there’s this really big winemaker that reached out to me and they’re like, Hey, we want to create wine lockers, but sell them as an NFT and your NFT will actually give you this wine locker with exclusive experiences. So it kind of comes back to what Matt and Sam were saying about creating the direct interaction between a provider and the community. And when you started looking at real-world utility, that’s when the excitement’s really is gonna to start. And I’m just so grateful that it began with art and creators, and I’m really excited to see what like the third generation fourth generation of NFT integration of real world interactions is going to look like.

Psychedelics as a path to Empathy

One thing I wanted to ask you, I know you’re very vocal on like the benefits of psychedelics and all. You have a lot of excitement around that. How do you see the merge between NFTs and psychedelics kind of take into effect? 

Alejandro: This is a really, really passionate topic that’s near and dear to my life. Psychedelics helped save my life full stop. As a high achiever, you know, society conditions us to believe that it’s all about achievement. It’s all about the diploma you have, the income you have, the house you live in, the car you’re driving. We can get lost in that sauce very easily. I think that NFTs are really powerfully breaking that mold of saying, Hey, creators can now reclaim this financial infrastructure of status of societal conditioning and allow us to do what we need to do. And we see that with like this young talent, as young, as 14 years old, you know, creating art that’s being sold in the blockchain and then making $400,000 or, you know, the likes of Fewocious who is only 18 years old and lived through a horrific childhood experience only to come out on top because of his expression and his voice. What I really love about psychedelics, and specifically for me, I just want to make sure that this is known, I am not a doctor. This is not any medical advice in any way, shape or form. Please look into the legalities of where you’re at or where you speak to because this is still schedule one drug, and even though we are seeing a forefront in society, the government has been slow to catch up. We’re still seeing some policy reforms at the local and state level. With that disclaimer, we’re starting to see psilocybin specifically for me, it’s starting to create this conversation around mental health, that it’s okay not to be okay. And it’s okay to share vulnerably it’s okay to share openly. But, there is a solution that goes beyond a chemical kind of I want to say castration of emotions. Because when you use these pharmaceuticals, they actually just numb all emotions. They’re not just like taking you out of your depression, they’re just saying, Hey, we’re just not going to make you feel anything. And so when you start looking at psilocybin specifically, I love two things that it does for me specifically. I can only speak to what my experience is. It gives me two things. It gives me courage and it gives me empathy. When you’re an empathetic person, you can understand people in completely different ways, and that builds community. Coming back to what Sam was saying, empathy is at the core of community. So when you can understand someone and you can understand where they’re coming from, then when you understand something you don’t want to judge it. You don’t want to influence it. You don’t want to change it. You just allow it to be. And the second part of this is like courage. You know, to be a creator, it takes a lot of courage. It’s almost an act of rebellion to put your art out there, to put out your creations, to be out there in the space to say, Hey, this is who I am. This is what I’ve done. And take it or leave it. I’m actually creating something that goes beyond me and bigger than me. And so there’s a lot of parallels when it comes to the psychedelics and the NFT communities around that. I’ll pop this off really quickly, but I’m learning so much about the future of web 3.0. For me, I’m obsessed with DAOs, decentralized organizations. Like I’m obsessed with them because I just love the whole concept of society building and community building in a decentralized way, and when I was diving into the technical aspects of the technical stacks of DAOs, I was like, holy shit, I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this resource allocation. I’ve seen this decentralized model. I’ve seen this kind of activity. It’s fucking mycelium, it’s mustard. So when I’m looking at DAOs now it’s through the lens of mycelium. The greatest DAO that’s been created has already existed for hundreds and even billions of years, and it’s mycelium and mushrooms. So I feel that mushrooms are intelligent species and that we can actually learn a lot from them from the physiology and the biology of them to see how we can actually start bringing into the web 3.0 model of DAOs and the future of NFTs. 

What Eats Web 3.0?

The only reason why I wanted to bring that up, and not to diverge too much on like psychedelic trips and all the pros and cons, whatever it may bring, I know it’s been a hot topic in tech, right? And there’s been a lot of funding around laboratories or companies that are experimenting with this stuff. And it’s always interesting to kind of dive into a new topic that might have some crossover with new technology. And you’re talking about how it’s influential from an organizational point of view, right? In the empathetic point of view, courageous point of view, and even the creator point of view. So it’s interesting how things kind of tie together. I know we’re wrapping up on time, but I want to finish off with one final question that I ask every single guest on the show. And don’t feel the need to answer right away. You can take a minute to think about it. One thing that I love to look into is the history of the internet. We saw how web 1.0 was very much read only, you couldn’t really do much other than kind of like communicate. Web 2.0 came into the picture, ate web 1.0, introduced social graphs, introduced all these different SaaS models, people were the products of the companies. Now we’re introducing this concept of web 3.0 that’s supposedly eating web 2.0, where people are co-owners of the products they use. People capture the value that they create and all the other narratives that tie into that. What do you think will eat web 3.0? Take a moment. And you guys can even take this from a media point of view, too, which could be super interesting.

Matt: Well, I think this. The creation of blockchain technology, NFTs, web 3.0 is a once in a millennium inflection point. We’re entering another age. There was the stone age, there was the bronze age, we’re entering the imagination age, and I believe that our current conception of web 3.0 is early. I think we’re still in web 2.5, to be honest, you know, and like, I think our current conception of web three still relies on mediums, like our iPhones and our screens and our Mac book pros and the like that we’ve been using for a long time. To me, web 4.0, if we could call it that, is that metaverse future, fully immersive environments, virtual worlds where our communities and our connection are taking place across entirely new mediums. I think that what’s interesting is, like anything, you know, the saying any technology there’s a dark side too. I think we’ve explored what this web 4.0 potentially looks like in some very dystopian pieces of science fiction, and I think that there’s a definite need to think about that as we chart that path forward. We’re not that far off from ready player one and a snow crash, but, there’s also incredible opportunity there. The opportunity for people to construct their own worlds for better or for worse and not just construct them, but own them too. That was the biggest shift from web 2.0 to web 3.0 is going from a renter to an owner. As an extension of this idea of an imagination age, I think web 4.0 is about going from an owner to a creator in a way that we may not even fully be able to conceive of yet. 

Sure. And I think that’s the beauty behind this question is like, nobody knows what’s going to eat what 3.0 , but each of you brings such interesting insight from your past experiences working in web 2.0 media and now trying to produce a web 3.0 media company and leveraging web 3.0 technology, right? Alejandro, what’s your hot take, if any? 

Alejandro: Matt brought up a really excellent point about the emergence of these worlds. I really don’t know what’s going to eat web 3.0, but I do know what’s going to always be present regardless of what technology is, and that’s going to be human connection. And I think the human element will outlive and outperform any platform, any device. You know, we can merge the world’s metaverse or not. And I think that what will be, web 3.0 , it’s not so much about eating it, but optimizing it, and evolutionize in it, and iterating on it, is really the value of human connection. So the human element will outlive whatever technology is there, because there’s nothing like human connection. 

And Sam last, but not least. What is your hot take? 

Sam: So I think a couple of things. Without saying what will eat web 3.0, I think I’ll just frame it more in the perspective of like, what will be an emergent outcome of the next 20 years. I think we’ve already seen this general emergence of niche communities starting to formulate online. I remember when I was in high school, I’ve always been into cars and motorsports. I was like a big Volkswagen fan, believe it or not, and there’s like VW vortex, which was like a leading forum for the Volkswagen community and people just pimping out Jettas. What we’re going to see more and more of is like we’re already seeing, like, I think web 3.0 , just a lot of the democratization of media in general has just created new economic models for niche communities to prosper, both as creators, as well as community participants. Even outside of a pure kind of web 3.0 lens, we’ve already seen like a Patreon and how that’s created this new economic model. Whether you’re a podcaster that has an entertainment oriented podcast, or you have some niche topic of expertise that you’re formulating a community around. I think we’re going to see new economic models and a more sustainable model for economic sustenance within niche communities. I think that’s cool, because I think tribes naturally form and people have different interests, and I think now they’ll be able to actually participate in communities that may have been this like fringe hobby, but in a more professional way where they can really start to dedicate their lives towards some of the things that they derive fulfillment and enjoyment from. So I’d say that’s one thing I’m excited to see. I think, like from forums, to Patreon, to this new mechanism of shared community ownership, I’m excited to see all the different niches that break out. 

Outro

I love it. I think that’s a perfect place to end off guys. Before I let you go, Matt, Alejandro, Sam, where can we find you individually? Where can we find NFT Now? Shill it away. 

Matt: NFT Now. nftnow.com. @NFTNow on all of the handles. Encourage you to sign up for our newsletter where we’re, you know, distilling all of the market happenings into actionable insights, you can find that on NFTNow.com. Check out our podcast, check out our videos, YouTube. If there’s a resource you need, we’re here to hear about it and to help provide it.

And Matt, where can we find you specifically?

Matt: @mattmedved on most web 2.0 handles and Medved web 3.0.

Alejandro: So I’m going through a transition period cause I changed my name last year. So on Twitter, you can find me @LuisANavia. On Instagram, you can find me as AlejandroNavia_ , and then on web 3.0 platforms, just Navia. Come check out my wallet, come say what’s up, you know, whatever it is. And then my email is wide open to the whole community. It’s navia@nftnavia.com. I read every email. I don’t respond to every email, but I do see them. So, I just want to make sure that you’re aware of it. And you know, they always say that following up is an act of service. So if you don’t hear from me, follow up. 

Nice. And Sam, where can we find you man? 

Sam: @samhysell, simple. 

Amazing guys. Thank you. We gotta do another one of these when NFT Now is like a year into the space and killing it and creating all this insane content. We’ll have to do a recap soon, but for now, thank you so much, guys.

Sam: Thank you, man. 

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Understanding On-Chain Identity with Crypto’s Power Couple

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 9 welcomes crypto’s power couple, James Young and Anjali Young. They founded Abridged, a no-code technology stack to build and manage decentralized projects. You may know them for the infamous discord bot called Collab Land.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 3:23 – The Dynamic Duo – 26 Years
  • 9:06 – Leading a Crypto Community
  • 19:22 – Being Grounded in Community First 
  • 26:03 – The Importance of Decentralized Identity
  • 32:33 – Macro & Micro Trends in Communities
  • 38:15 – Building in Public
  • 40:10 – Realizing the Freedoms of Decentralized Identity
  • 42:48 – Web 2.0 in the Metaverse
  • 53:07 – Working with Fox Studios and Axie infinity
  • 1:03:49 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

All right, James and Anjali, welcome to the podcast. How are you feeling? Thank you for being on. 

James Young: Yeah. Thanks for having us out.

I’m excited to have you guys on. You are destroying the Discord servers, enabling the innovation behind these DAOs, these communities, whatever buzzword you want to title them. So, super excited to have you on. Thanks for being on. Let’s jump into it. James, tell me, who are you? What should we know about you? What were you like before crypto and where are you now? And same thing for you Anjali, like we can start with James.

James Young: Yeah. First thing. Before crypto, I didn’t have any grey hair. So I have a prior life in video streaming and so in video streaming I had two exits start-ups in gaming. I worked at a company called Zynga, launched a game called Farmville and then got into crypto, did a project called atching, where I co authored the white paper for and created registries. Also helped with the VP of engineering where we created the first layer, two payment channels into production. And then on the side also helped with a DAO framework called Moloch , launched Moloch , and then helped launch Meta cartel as well. And then from that was really interested in DAOs and using crypto to reduce coordination when it comes to organizations, and that really is kind of what gave birth to Collabland, what you see now.

Anjali Young: Let’s see. So I’ve been partners with James for 26 years. We’ve been married 21 years and this is the first time that we are working together in any capacity. Starting around March of this year, he said, The community part of this project, like what we originally thought it was versus what it’s turning into, is just growing. I think initially that, oh, the devs are going to be able to handle all of the business, and then the community aspect of it kept growing and growing and growing to where we are now, which is over a million users. But he’s like, can you please join and help manage those relationships and help manage those communities to the extent that collaboration needs to be involved. Prior to being in this job, I homeschool both of our children. And I’ve been managing online communities, different types of online communities from handbag communities to adoption communities, race relations communities. So I’ve had a lot of interests, attachment parenting. I’ve had a lot of interests that have grown into communities where I’ve been either a mod or started the communities. And so I’ve had that experience outside of crypto. This is similar enough in that their communities, people getting together with similar interests, wanting to accomplish similar goals. So he says, can you join in and help with this aspect of it? And also it’s that I’m here, you know, as far as the communication between us, there isn’t much lag time. All of our team is remote, and it’s wonderful and this is working out and we’re happy. But for this work, which is the community work and for James’s part in it, it’s nice to be in the same room, working together, being able to talk about it. I dunno, blessing and a curse talking about it all the time. It’s definitely infiltrated all aspects of our lives, and I think that’s what makes it fun right now and exciting. 

The Dynamic Duo

You know, you guys are the first project that I’ve come across in the space that actually has this power group between you two. What is that like? I know you talked a little bit about it, but can you elaborate? What are some challenges that come with that? What are the benefits that come with that? Tell me. 

James Young: Well, I think, I think that like talking in, NFTs, you know, this looks rare, right? This is the one. And I do think really what we do from a Collabland perspective is an extension of like this DAO here, right? And it’s this trust and safety and growing community and connection that I think intrinsically kind of starts kind of, I don’t want to get too sappy or anything, with this relationship. And I think it’s all an extension. And for us, it’s really being able to kind of embrace that on a kind of a wide scale. So I think it’s consistent that way. We’ve been online all of our lives even before the internet, when it was called BBS or Bulletin Boards, and I think we’re very much at home in this blended online, offline capacity. 

Anjali Young: It presents some different aspects to the marriage because we work together now. I don’t think the fact that it’s all online affects us really. I think both of us have always had close relationships with people online. And we understand that the relationships that you make online are just as significant as the relationship that you make, you know, IRL. And so like a lot of our closest friends are online. I mean, I haven’t met some of my best friends who have helped guide me through our adoption journey and through my parenting journey. Actually my real life friends have much younger children. Our children are 16 and 13. So you know, we’ve just been parents a lot longer. And so these relationships that I have with people that I’ve met online over the years are just as close to me in terms of intimacy and guidance as any relationships that I have in person. So that part of it is not different. In that we see the value that’s being built here and it feels just as legitimate to us. We’re not like old timers that way. Like I was dialing into BBS when I was in high school, and even meeting random people on the internet that we were having meetups with when I was a teenager. So but as far as our relationship is concerned, I don’t know who could do this. We have 26 years of being together. And so it’s like, we don’t have that kind of “spend time with me right now”. I like it and I’m excited, but I’m also excited to see him doing work that is so meaningful. I see that within him. And I think he sees that within me, which is we’re able to partner and contribute to something together and build something together. And it’s not necessarily about us individually, but this thing that we’re creating together, something new. And just having this opportunity, I think, you know, with your partner, I feel grateful. 

I think you guys are like the definition of goals as we like to say, right? Like goals in the sense where you’ve had a beautiful marriage, you guys have kids and you’re doing this kick ass business that it’s impacting a lot of people online, and I guess my next question is like, do you imagine a bridge and all the tools that you guys are building becoming like a family business, like you see your kids kind of joining the pack as well? And like that young DAO, you know what I mean? 

James Young: You know, I would love to be able to have our kids start trading in NTFs now and be able to teach their friends. Cause I think it’s inevitable. Like it’s our children’s generation that inherently are going to understand and have a life that only understands crypto and that’s really when the generational change will happen. But I want to give them as a father and a parent, my first priority is to make sure that they’re safe and that they’re happy and you know, that they live responsible and fulfilling lives. And if that has to do with crypto, great, if not, like my son is now saying he wants to be a toy maker, I want to give him all the power to do that. He’s not trading NFTs, but would rather do 3d modeling, so he can 3D print a new idea or a toy. I would encourage that. So I would love it, but I’m not going to be that parent, that dad that says you must do X, Y, or Z.

Anjali Young: Yeah, exactly. Like our daughter, she’s into performing arts and so that’s, her passion is singing and performance. And so that would be great, but from a parent point of view, you live their dreams. And so what we want to do is support their dreams and, you know, crypto makes that possible for us because we can work together. We work from home, we’re able to be supportive of them. So yes, it would be great, but…

It’s not mandatory. I love that approach. How was the skill dynamic between you two? So I know behind the scenes you were telling me someone’s more of a community person. What do you tend to focus on? Can you explain to me both of your dynamics?

James Young: Yeah. So I am more kind of a lower level kind of tech about what technology can do, and then helping implement and guide the implementation and the product roadmap and all of that. So it was really kind of my idea to bring crypto to people through this Collabland bot, to meet people where they’re at. And then that’s kind of where I stopped and then kind of all of the human kind of interactions and the actual operational things that require talking to a decent, nice human being I leave up to her. So I take the technical stuff and then I lob it up to her. 

Leading a Crypto Community

What is it like leading a community in crypto?

Anjali Young: Yeah. So my job isn’t, well, actually in this one case, it is, we just launched a new discord with the mass singer, which was our first project with Fox and blockchain creative labs, which is like the crypto arm of Fox. And so in that situation, I’m in there, you know, with a mod team that we’ve brought together through a DAO and we are actually doing community building. So this is actually my first time doing like an NFT community building and more of an admin mod role, before that it was more of like a community of communities in which like I’m in direct relationship with the admins and what the admins need, going into the community and saying, okay, what is it that’s going on here? And how can I help? So it was more of a troubleshooter role as well as triaging what their needs are and trying to get them onto our engineering roadmap and really being an advocate for the communities and saying, this is a need. I’ve seen this in multiple groups, let’s do this. So that was my role a little bit higher up. This is a particular situation where I’m actually building one from scratch and that, you know, it’s actually really cool. I’m really grateful to be in this position because it then gives me that hands-on advice to now give new communities that maybe are just getting off the ground. Before that, when you brought in Collabland, now we’re seeing kind of a change where we have people brand new to crypto coming in and using collabland. That wasn’t true before. You know, if you’re using Collabland it’s because you’ve heard of Collabland from the other NFT communities that you’re in or from a DAO that you’re in or friends with benefits or, you know, something that you’ve already been in, or meme. So it’s like, you’re kind of in it. You’re in crypto already. And so then they didn’t need me for that part of it. They knew their community. They knew what they needed from Collabland, and I could triage and decide how to prioritize that. But now, we’re seeing a change where it’s like, people that don’t know anything about crypto are coming into crypto and they’re saying, oh, community first, and we’re echoing that. Yes, community first, you have to start with community. So that’s been a new experience for me. But otherwise I’d say it’s pretty great. You know, it’s like, whenever I complain about it at all, and I say, oh, people complain all the time. You know, James tells me like, you don’t understand, this is good, cause in the bear market, nobody even calls you. Anytime I even get a little bit sensitive to it, like, oh, you know, everyone wants something from me. No one’s telling me like that, it’s great. No one contacts you to be like everything’s working perfectly. We’re so happy. That doesn’t happen.

Super cool guys. I want to talk about a bridge first of all. And because I know a lot of people may be more familiar with Collabland. Can you kind of give me the grandiose vision behind the bridge and how Collabland is an extension of that? 

James Young: Yeah. Abridged is a company and initially it was dev tooling and Collabland was actually a reference implementation of what you could build with the abridged tools. And what we saw early on was this tremendous product market fit. I don’t know how to explain it other than it was a feeling or a sense because I had that sense before when dealing with, you know, other hits like Farmville being the most obvious. And so what we did was we shifted focus of abridged from a dev tooling developer centric company to a consumer, you know, perspective with Collabland. But yeah, you know, we have big plans for Collabland as a product. And then also from that being able to spin off no code tools, cause that’s what we were doing at abridged, to help enhance communities through Collabland. And so what we plan to do is, we plan to eventually decentralize Collabland and we’re working really hard with DID providers, decentralized ID providers and working on VCs or verifiable credentials. And what that will allow is the user to be able to control what other people see, and what their reputation is. So right now, when you look at Collabland, it’s a bunch it’s tools for individual communities. We want to create this network effect of not only communities of communities, but the people in those communities connecting with each other. And we think that allowing users to own their own identity. Identity is a super set of privacy. And we want to give that back cause we think that is what the internet was meant to be like. So we are starting in the centralized fashion through Collabland from abridged , but we plan to decentralize eventually. So this is my fourth startup and I understand kind of the power of like command and control top down bootstrapping and getting something up as quickly as possible. But I understand over time how the lopsided incentives come into play. I also have this perspective of something that’s completely decentralized from the beginning. Helped launch Moloch, helped with Meta Cartel and involved in a lot of DAOs. And at the very beginning, it’s like herding cats, once in a while you get it right, but more often times it’s hard. So through Collabland , our experiment to decentralize is to start centralized, bootstrap, and create a situation where I can fulfill my fiduciary duty as CEO of abridged and align that with the decentralization that is required for people to have their own sovereignty. So what we’re going to do, and just to give you some context is, we’re going to have a fan batch. So we initially, because of our growth, have gotten a lot of interest from investors, but we’ve decided to defer that for now and go to the community to see if they can help support us. And what we’re going to do is go back to kind of the old school shareware concept, but in the context of community and crypto. This way, from a funding perspective, if our customers are saying they value what Collabland is doing, and they want to help keep the lights on, they can have this fan badge that they can buy as an NFT. The primary sales of that NFT will go to abridged to help the core team at Collabland, but the secondary sales will go to a DAO, the collab DAO . Now you have funding for the core team, but you also have, if we are over time doing our jobs correctly, you’re building up a treasury before the DAO. And so the core team will move forward and move things along in time, the DAO will follow behind and it’ll take time for the DAO to coordinate, but hopefully if the DAO gets momentum at one point, it’ll kind of supersede the centralized community. And at that point we can figure out how to exit to community. So, that’s kind of the overall plan. And then what we can do is create some other tooling or some other projects through abridged you know, maybe, or may not be affiliated with Collabland . 

Anjali Young: And that’s important I think with Collabland is that collaboration is built from these communities. You know, it’s like, yes, we were there. We’re here. We’re providing the support. But if it wasn’t for the communities themselves, we wouldn’t be here right now. And so just saying, oh, we had an offer for a hundred million dollar evaluation and 15 million to us, to the company it’s like why didn’t that feel? Why doesn’t it feel right? And the reason is that the value belongs to all of us. Like this is a collaborative project. Yes. We’re the ones that are building the tools and supporting, and listening and working together, but it’s really a collaborative process in that the admins themselves are the ones that say we need this, or we need that, and we are here to provide, but it’s something that we’ve all built up together. And so if there’s an opportunity right now to try something different in web three, find a new way to do this that’s different from web two or typical startups, then why not do it? You know, why not try it? You know, we’ve been able to stay very lean, you know, grateful that crypto has gone up since we fundraised. We got our seed round. You know, our seed round was really just to say, Hey, try something. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just try it. Literally the seed round came when we had nothing. And it was just, “here. Experiment”. And thankfully with that, just with that seed round, we’ve been able to stay really lean. And so we’re not in a situation where we have to say, we need the money, we’re just thinking ahead into what our community will want and need and how we can keep this free and sustainable for new communities that come in. Like I said, you know, now we have non-project communities come in and everyone should be able to benefit from this. And so, you know, James and I, especially, and the rest of the team you know, we think, why not give this a chance? And it’s a huge risk because asking people to just say, are you a fan? Like, are you a fan then, you know, then do you want to buy this NFT? Cause you’re a fan. And do you want to do what we’ve done? Like that’s a huge trust that falls into the web 3.0 community, you know, into crypto. But if not us then who, and if not now, then when? 

Being Grounded in Community First

Well I’ll tell you this much. I think you’re approaching it the right way. I think we’re seeing, and by the way, there’s so many things to unpack over there from fundraising in web three to identity. And why do you believe that that’s the next step in web three? We have so much to cover, but for starters, I support that, right? Like if you guys come out with an identity badge, like, I just love that stuff. You have me and my support, right? So that’s number one. Number two is like, thinking like that, community first, and realizing that you built a community for this product and that every action from there on out needs to be community first is a very valuable thing to recognize. And many people forget and get sucked into valuations and want the high status of saying I raised this much at that valuation and the cockiness and all the ego boost that comes from that, and I think keeping it, raising with what you need ,starting and just getting it out there, validating that traction and then trying to go for the community that supports, loves and adores you that have treasury rich network effects. I think it’s a smart move.

Anjali Young: We’ll see how it goes. But we feel exactly the way you do. I don’t know if we could have done this at 25, you know, it’s like, there’s a different situation when you’re almost 50 and you know, you built a life and it’s a, it’s a good life. And so all those kinds of ideas of, oh, you know, we’ve raised this much at this valuation and look at this, you know, I’m grateful, but we don’t have those same trappings for better or worse. We don’t have those trappings. 

Wow. And why do you think identity is the next step forward? Why are you so bullish on the identity component? 

James Young: Because like what we’re seeing, when you see DAOs right? Like you go from sweat equity, earn your way up, from friends with benefits as the example essentially you were saying before, you have to kind of start all over again, reputationally, when you go to a new DAO. That doesn’t make sense, right? Like all of this on-chain activity, all this DAO activity needs to be portable, and we need to use this technology to be able to further it along. It’s like dogfooding. My vision is like when my son is going to get a job, he’s going to be going on to discord or whatever, AR VR, whatever platform is in the future, and he’s going to be a part of like 10, 15 different DAOs that are gonna be more fluid. And when he wants to start a new one with his other friends and other people want to join in, they need to be able to understand like, who are these people? Like, this is why crypto right now is so insular. And this is why, you know, you have to stay engaged with crypto Twitter because that’s where all the action is. It shouldn’t be on these platforms, but we need to transition into something that is more on-chain and it is owned by the individual because it all starts with some kind of funding incentives, right? Like the problem with the internet is, you know, the good and the bad is it’s advertising base. We’re trying to figure out a different model so that like, you know, being exploited for your privacy or identity, you’re in control of that, and you have sovereignty over that. I think that is what the real kind of ethos of crypto is. Or like the internet is essentially peer-to-peer. Why do we have like these FAANG companies, like a bunch of centralized companies controlling most of the internet? It’s because we, as human beings, haven’t had the technology to be able to work in a decentralized manner. And now I have this opportunity that I’m not limited to geographically. Like I can connect with a 19 year old kid in some other country, and you know, if we vibe, then we can actually get work done on our own time. I think this is really the future of work. And this is the future of communities. That depends on the kind of this decentralized identity that is owned by the user. It’s critical. It’s a super deep and wide rabbit hole, and so we have to be very careful because for all of the, you know positives, I don’t want to set a situation where like I’m living my own black mirror episode. So we have to be very careful at the same time. So we’re understanding and we’re really learning this technology and how people will embrace it. So this is why we have to be community first as well. 

Anjali Young: Yeah. I was going to say owning your own identity, even on, for example, Facebook, I got off of Facebook in may of 2020. And since then, I’m like, where are my friends? Like, where do I get this, it’s gone, right? Unless people are willing to text me individually, but they’re not, they’re going there. And I say, why don’t you get off Facebook? They’re like, well, all of my stuff is. Like all my pictures are there, whatever everything people have said to me is there. It’s like, we don’t want to be that, we don’t want to say you have to be in a certain place to own your identity. You should be able to take it with you and nobody should own it and be able to sell it. Like, that’s really what this is about. Like, people should not be making money off of your identity. And up until this point, up until crypto, like even on Instagram, they’re selling ads based on what pictures you post or on Facebook or whatever, even Twitter, I guess. But like we were trying to break that model and say, how can we break that model? Like who you are online, which is really where we all are because of COVID it’s even exasperated that like we’re all online. Why do you think profile pictures are so popular now? It’s like, this is who I am. And why would you spend $150,000 on a profile picture when you can buy, I don’t know, new backyard remodel or a fancy car? Because what you are online is who you are. That’s who I am. I don’t care how many people see me driving a fancy car, but millions of people are going to see me with my profile pic. And so it’s like, we’re seeing this shift of online presence is our presence. For better or worse it is who we are. 

James Young: And I think in the same way, as she was saying, like NFTs people are just scratching the surface. You own that asset. What does that ownership mean? And what does that mean to like, have that stake into the community? We are just scratching the surface of asset ownership. What does it look like when you have identity ownership? So I think there’s a lot to experiment and learn, and we’re going to do this in public. The only way to learn about this and to figure this out is to do this in public with the community. 

The Importance of Decentralized Identity

I feel the fire in your souls preaching over here, and it’s so nice to hear. You know, one thing that kind of comes to mind when you’re talking about being able to take your identity from one platform to another, not being restricted to their orders. I think of it as a social protocol, essentially. And some things that come to mind are like, I know AAVE hinted at social protocols, I know Deso just launched, Bit Clout social protocol, all these other social networks that are attempting to do basically decentralized social media. Is that the direction you guys are leaning towards? Are you envisioning another path, but that ties onto this concept of identity?

James Young: That’s a big question. Honestly, I don’t know. I think that we don’t understand this technology. We don’t. We understand how it works, but we have no idea what this really means. Right? Like we can only understand from where we’re sitting and what we know now. This is why you measure a car engine in horsepower, because that’s all people knew before the automobile. Like we’re trying to project what we already understand onto technology, but the meat itself is the message. Like, we have to understand how people are using it. This is why we need to build it public. And we’re not going to be too prescriptive about it just yet. We want to take the time to do this. And as Anjali was saying, this is why we’re going to like, do this trust fall to the community. Because this is not a scripted show where we know what the ending is going to be. This is more of an interactive, Rocky horror picture show where we’re interacting with the audience and just guiding them along.

What if the community approach doesn’t work? 

James Young: Then it doesn’t.

Then what is the next step you think? 

James Young: Then the next step is we have other products. We go through the other experiments with our building tools, right. And we’ll be able to be one step ahead of potentially the competition. Our no-code tools make web three super fast. 

Anjali Young: Yea, you can make DAOs with the no-code tooling, like when the no-code tools first were presented, there weren’t people in crypto. And so we couldn’t bring more people into using the no-code tools because there were no developers. They’re like, why would we come there? Because there’s no users. Well, there’s users now. And so there’s still a market for no code tools, but if the community doesn’t work, I don’t even know how to think about it. I mean, yes, it may not work the way we think it’s gonna work, but really like James says, you know, this is improv. Like we take a step, the community takes a step, and if it doesn’t work, then we try a new step and then they tell us if that works. And so it’s improvisation right now. It’s a collaboration right now. So I don’t know how to describe what happens if it doesn’t work, because we’re not saying it’s going to have to be a certain way. We’re saying, come with us on this journey. You know, we all want the same things. And so if you want what we want, come with us. And so I don’t worry about becoming obsolete or irrelevant. I feel like as long as our motivations are true, which is to support the communities, there’s always going to be communities. You know, we’ve been in communities for 150,000 years. Like humans only know how to be in communities for protection first and for identity second. And so, how is that going to go away? We’re not an evolution of humans just yet. 

James Young: It’s not a stretch. Bitcoin is the original social economic community. Then you had all these other coins. You have Doge, Shiba, you have Ethereum. These are all social networks because they all are incentivized to do the same thing because they hold similar assets. You can just create a closer closed loop as much as you want. You can have, you know, Ethereum , but then have an NFT, within our NFTs, you can actually get into that one NFT community, and have sub communities.

Anjali Young: Which already exists. There’s sub communities within communities. 

What a cool way to look at it. You know, I’m a contributor in different DAOs, and have obviously used Collabland. You can’t use the crypto discord without touching Collabland. You just can’t. Okay. And this concept of being able to transfer your identity from one DAO to another, without going into the introductions and being like, Hey guys, I’m doing X, Y, and Z. Like, forget that. Just like, look at my resume. Look at what I’ve done. Look at my on-chain votes. Look at my contributions on GitHub. Look at this. And it’s actually like, I can just plug and play based on my expertise without killing time kind of thing. Right. So very much, I get that. 

James Young: That’s the next step. Like now we’re able to organize, we’re using platforms like Telegram discord, we’re going to come out with a Reddit bot, we have a Twitch bot. Like these platforms will sit on top. These siloed platforms will sit on top and like these tokenized communities will move fluidly across different platforms. But then how do you like to go from one DAO to another? And this is what we see as the next evolution. Exactly like what you’re saying. 

Anjali Young: Well, and I mean, the blockchain allows for coordination, you know, on a dime. Like you’re able to collect money, you know, an NFT project can come out and raise a few million dollars immediately. We have the ability to coordinate right now and get everybody in a discord together and start talking. So now being able to coordinate even faster, if you have your decentralized identity badge. And so it’s like, I don’t even have to go through the effort of being like, is James a good guy? Is he aligned with what I align with? Let me just check it out, let me see what he’s about. And I see his history, his transactions, his votes, see what he’s about, then I don’t even have to waste that time. And that’s kind of the beauty of crypto, right? Not having to waste time. We don’t have to go to the bank and everyone puts in their money and then the money gets distributed. Like we can send money instantly. 

Anjali Young: Yeah the base technology is basically a side message, right based off of cryptography, money is a killer app, but identity reputation voting are all other killer apps because of this scarce digital asset that now is techno technically viable. And now we’ve just found the, the kind of hook with Collabland, as you were saying, you know, we’re just discord just everywhere in Dysport.

James Young: Right. And we see that product market fit. And so this is what we want, at least this is more than money. 

Anjali Young: It’s more than money. It’s an opportunity to free people. So it’s something that’s more than money. 

Macro & Micro Trends in Communities

Wow. Yeah. Super inspiring guys. I wanna kind of pivot, because you have so much purview as to how these different communities are utilizing the token native feature, what are some of the biggest themes that you’ve come across? Cause I know you guys just did a launch with for example, with bots, right? You guys integrated with Axie affinity, two separate communities, but have a lot in common. What are those types of seen themes that you see developing micro communities as well as macro communities? Can you talk a little bit about that? 

Anjali Young: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because it’s really, you wouldn’t imagine that just because you all own the same financial asset that you’re going to have any kind of relationship with each other. You know, I have dollars. James has dollars. You have dollars. That’s not enough to make us best friends or want to work together instantly, or be buddies or anything like that. But in these tokenized communities, it’s like a transaction first and then they become trust relationships. And that is something that is, I think, very unique to crypto. And it’s just been a huge unlock for us emotionally and mentally to see. That just having the same financial assets aligns you in a way that’s deeper than you would imagine in a nonfinancial relationship. Cause we think of finances as being so cold and that just has not been the case. And so the one main thing I would say is what we’ve seen and that’s a throughput through all the communities is that, you buy into this community, now you’re a part of that community, and you’re welcomed as if you’re a member of that community. And then once you’re there, you can start working together because everyone says, Hey, you have that asset, you know, because of Collabland , you can see the discord, roll ID . Oh, you have that, that asset. I have that asset. Okay. We’re on the same team. And what comes from that is innovation, relationships, collaboration, you know, you see these Twitter raids happening all the time. Like how do you get so many people to get together and like work for the same project. Like that motivation comes from within. It comes from these communities and it’s all based on them owning the same, you know, cold, icy financial asset. In terms of social tokens versus like NFTs, NFTs I would say is even closer. You know, when you buy an NFT into a community, it’s like, that’s you. So people feel more strongly about even holding that token. You know what? We were at M con a few weeks ago, and I was talking to somebody who had social tokens and he’s like, oh, I sell my token sometimes. And then I go back and I buy them again, and then I just hop in and out of discords based on my token holding. And I said that doesn’t happen in NFT communities, or it’s more rare, because once you buy your NFT, it’s like you have a relationship with that particular NFT. Or maybe you bought multiples so you can sell some, but you’re always going to hold on to your identity like NFT. So it actually makes these NFT communities even more stable, if I can even say that. It’s not stable.

James Young: What we see, I would point out two things as well, online communities when they get big enough, they devolve because of trolls and all of that. But,NFT based communities or token based communities, you don’t have that because everyone has skin in the game. Like you have to pay to get in, and so that raises the stakes and the caliber and the quality of conversation. Like it’s day and night, day and night. 

Anjali Young: Well, the attention doesn’t go to the trolls because if there is a troll or there’s someone, you know, like that’s participating in that type of language, the other members will say, Hey, either tell us what your point is to fix this or sell your token. Like help us. Cause we’re all working together to raise the floor or get more members in or whatever it is or what is the point? Like, you’re dismissed in a way that you’re not dismissed on Facebook, for example, or, you know, there’s certain politicians based their whole identity on being a troll. Because we give attention to trolls, but somehow token gated communities have been able to pull us out of that muck. They just have.

James Young: Also, you know, when you have an asset that you can sell immediately, and then honestly, we can talk about the kind of MarketWatch and secondary market. It actually helps push people to psychologically be engaged. So you don’t have as much voter apathy as you do in generalizing DAOs that we’re seeing, but you can talk more about that. 

Anjali Young: Oh, I mean, sure. But for example, you know, James has a board ape, so I like to use it as an example. But when the board ape price goes up, and people that bought at mint, let’s say, why are you staying? What makes you stay? You have to ask yourself that question all the time. Like, do I want to stay here? And so there’s that pressure on you, right? Like your real life, existing people in your life need money. Maybe you need money. It’s like, you have to decide if you’re going to sell. And that type of pressure brings the quality of the community even higher because everybody who’s in there wants to be there, and anyone who buys into that community, as the community grows, there’s no idea of like, oh, I was in, OG. It’s like, you all own the assets. If someone buys at 100 ETH, , you’re going to say, welcome. Thank you for being here. Because that means your asset goes up. And so it’s like that market watch that sells pressure is completely different, but you know, that, that also brings people together to do market watches together. It turns them into mini businesses, but the pressure, specifically the back sell pressure, actually elevates the community itself as well. 

Building in Public

Super deep. You guys have so much purview into all these communities and so much knowledgeable insight. And one thing that I love that you keep referencing is building it public. And I think a lot of people fear that. A lot of people want to hold onto their things to their life, you know, and they don’t want to show it off to the world as publicly as they maybe should. And one thing that I find, well, it’s a common theme in crypto to build publicly. Some people do it better than others. How do you build in public? Like how do you do that? How do you actually, in a way where you don’t get like, caught up on the fact that someone’s going to steal your idea? 

James Young: It happens and you have to be okay with that, but the motivation is like, it’s this oxymoron, right? Because of crypto, a lot of people want to be pseudo anon’s, , but I would argue, they really want to be known. Like at least a portion of the personality and in crypto, what we’re seeing with these communities, is being known. This is why you have identity, attachment to these pFPs, like you want to be seen. And maybe you want to be seen in a certain way or in a very limited way. So you may have a pseudo anon , but like that is the real you. 

Anjali Young: Let’s talk about PFPs. You know, I made a comment the other day, which is I love PFPs because no one with a PFP is using a filter on their face. And to me, I feel like we’re being liberated by bodies, that we were born in, the faces that we were born in, the genders that were born in, and I want to cry, but we’re no longer limited by that, but we’re free. You know, we’re free to show what we want to show. We’re free to be who we want to be.

James Young: And once you know that, it’s very hard to unknow.. That’s the thing about freedom. That’s the thing about sovereignty. That’s what we’re banking on. Once people know it’s hard to un-know that.

Realizing the Sovereignty of Decentralized Identity

What do you think it’s going to take for people to know that? To more deeply understand that and connect to that? 

James Young: It’s all about good vibes. You just gotta make it light ,you gotta make it fun. You hit people over the head with all these hard concepts, they’re like, whoa, like that’s just too much. Like, let’s just have fun. 

Anjali Young: And also like a lot of times people are like, this is a competitor, this is a competitor. Oh, this person’s a competitor. Or they’ll post something on Twitter, and they’re like, oh, we made this and it’s better than Collabland. And I always say, great, congratulations. I like it. I’m like, this is not a competition. What are we trying to do here? We’re trying to bring web three and crypto to the world, like, why would I compete with somebody else that wants to do that? That’s not a part of what we are. So it’s like living what you want to see in the world. Like, we want to see collaboration. We want to see everyone working together to build a greater world, so what does that have to do with competition? So it’s like living your beliefs and hoping that at some point they will come back in and be something, you know, just taking a chance.

James Young: And I think we’re still early on, and this is kind of the core values that we want to help promote in web three is positive sum. It’s a co-op game. It’s not single-player, where if I win, you lose. And this is the ethos, this is part of the values that go behind the technology. That’s what we really are trying to do. Like, we have this one line, we have one life , what are we going to do with it?

I’m kind of blown away right now. I have to take a moment. You know, you talked to a lot of people in crypto and many people they get lost in the month. They get lost in what can it do for my pocket? Cool. The concept of decentralization is fun. It’s sparkly. It’s nice. Well, beneath that, there’s a lot of money. And, you know, as you guys are talking to me about your vision, you guys are talking to me about what the strategy is, at Collabland. Positive sum games. You think for a moment. And I’m trying to find a way to say this. Like it’s pure. It feels here is what I’m trying to say. And you know, you hear this concept of competition in crypto that people forget to zoom out. They forget to look from above and realize that we’re all collectively building towards the same exact thing. All boats rise with the tide. And that everybody’s going to make it, we’re all going to make it, right? As cringy as that meme is, it’s as true as it gets, and I hear you guys speaking and what it makes me want to support your community even more, so I’ll put that over there. The second thing is like, you’re right. Like everybody wins here, everybody wins here. 

Anjali Young: Not just us, but all the people who are not here yet. Like, can we think about them? Like all the people who are not in crypto yet, what can this mean for people? 

James Young: What can this unlock? Just imagine what this can unlock. Like, I think that the biggest thing is, you know, andAnjali has talked about this a lot, like, what if the challenge is climate change? Like collectively, we can solve it if we are all aligned and have the same incentives to do so. We can do anything. 

Anjali Young: You can do anything. The brightest minds, this is an international movement, a global movement. When else in the history of the world have people from every single place at every single economic status come together and participated in something together? Like it’s just too much. When you think about it, you know, I say to James and I’ve said to other people too, it’s like, I’m 47, like how many more years do I have left? And I’ve never worried about that. But now I think, oh crap, I wish I could live to see, you know, what this could be. This is the first time I’ve ever felt that. That feeling of like, it’s not enough. Even if I get another 50 years, it won’t be enough because this is going to be it. Human coordination.

Anjali Young: Well, we need to start and we just have to make this fun. So we have walks that are going to be entertaining. It’s going to be light and then people will come to it on their own. We cannot tell people this, they need to turn on the light themselves. That’s the, once you know you, you can’t unknow. So let’s keep it light. Let’s keep it fun. It’s all about the vibes, and then see where this goes, because none of us know where this is going to go. It has a meaningful impact. We’re all value aligned, but it doesn’t mean we have to be super serious about it. 

Web 2.0 in the Metaverse

I wanna talk about this Facebook thing for a minute. And they announced it today. So today we’re recording, it’s Thursday, October 28th. Facebook announced the brand revamp, Meta with Facebook and their emphasis on the metaverse. Mark, in previous interviews, emphasizes this, this ethos of like it’s a positive sum game, but if you look at past history and past experiences, these social networks dominate and they eat everything in plain sight. How do you think these traditional social networks like Facebook are going to approach, let’s say token gated access for groups or communities? How do you think they’re going to think about that? How do you think they might approach it down the line? I know we’re like making predictions here, and we’re thinking future, but part of this is like a creative experiment to kind of see like, are they aligned with what’s about to happen and what’s been happening or are they trying to re-imagine their own variation of what a metaverse may look and feel like? 

James Young: That it’s fine if they do, and we should encourage it, right? Because now we have the power. If we have self sovereignty and we have community sovereignty, then if collectively we don’t like a platform, we can just walk away. There’ll be other platforms, other things that will meet the needs. So now, we can level the playing field, right? So we’ve seen this already, actually with Collabland. Initially we were only on telegram, and we’ve seen hundreds of communities that were token based be able to move from telegram to discord very easily. So if the platform doesn’t play with you nicely, and it’s not being amenable to you, can you have that collective voice from your community to switch over?

Anjali Young: I think they can make their own blockchain and that you can only use if you’re using their product so that they wouldn’t be interchangeable or Bridgeable to other chains, and then you can’t get off or leave the platform. So I don’t know yet. 

James Young: So that argument is like, kind of like what you see in the media, right? Can the new guard, Netflix become HBO faster than HBO can become Netflix. So for us, Web three, can we coordinate? And this is another reason why we can’t just take the traditional VC funding route right now, is the market ready for this trust fall so that this community can coordinate faster than Facebook can dominate a chain. 

Anjali Young: But you don’t know. I mean, speaking from past experience, do I have confidence about Facebook? I would say no, they’ve always chosen money first. So just from my perspective and what I’ve seen in the news, and just the way they’ve tried to incentivize conflict in order to have more engagement and what that’s done to our society. I mean, I feel like that’s not necessarily with the same ethos as crypto, but would I like to be surprised? I’d like to be surprised. 

James Young: We don’t know, like, can we actually make a dent in the universe? Can our values actually be echoed, right? Like, this is what we’re doing at Collabland. That’s why it starts with us. And it’s going to be this, we’ll see where it goes. But we can only be ourselves, that’s it. We can only be us, and that’s what we want to empower with these communities. For them to be sovereign and for them to be them, to have their own governance. So it’s like, I hope so. And this is kind of a curiosity, and this is like a social experiment. This is why we’re building in public.

Anjali Young: And, you know, with facebook is interesting because what I’ve been reading on Twitter, and of course my Twitter is focused toward crypto NFTs, like who’s on Facebook anyway? It’s all people over 30, which I’m offended by. I’m well over 30, but no. It’s like, it’s a really different demographic, isn’t it? So I don’t even know if it’s necessarily a competition. It might be a gateway. Like, you know, when we talk about centralized, blockchains are blockchains where they don’t play nicely with the rest of the blockchains. That doesn’t really bother me initially, because anyone who’s interested once you get your taste of crypto, maybe in a certain blockchain, I don’t want to name any, then there’s spillover into the wild west with the rest of us. And so maybe people will learn about crypto on Facebook, but then they’re gonna move out of it anyway. Maybe they’ll have to start over because they can’t take it with them. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to give people a taste of what crypto is and that alone, you know, just like the foray into mass media, it’s like that alone has tremendous value. You know, like we put out a PFP verifier on Twitter, some people use it and then Twitter said, oh, we’re doing a PFP verifier. And we’re like, great. Because the more people that validate cryptocurrency, the better. So I don’t know what the plans are at Facebook. But the fact that they’re getting into it, does that not validate all of this?

James Young: And everybody wins. We’ve already won. It’s just taking time for it to become well-known. So we all made it already, and so I think that’s the perspective we have. So let’s have fun along the way. 

Anjali Young: So we don’t know the details, but it’s still good. 

You know, one thing I got to ask you. So as you guys dominate a certain portion of Discord, I have to be frank, has Discord ever offered to acquire you guys yet? Because of all the utility and all the demand and all the interests that you guys have brought?

James Young: I cannot confirm or deny that, but I am in DMS with the head of growth kind, head of trust and safety and head of communities at a discord.

Anjali Young: They want to support, they want to support web three, this kind of came out of nowhere for them. Like they were a gaming discord and Twitch took off and then their pocket. So they had different user bases and because of the success of our bot, they’re like, hold on a second. Now we’re in, I think over 7,500 communities in discord and each of those communities can be thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people. So they can’t ignore what we’re doing with our bot, and so they’re very interested and excited about it and have been supportive about wanting to bring more web three and crypto communities to discord and Collabland is why they’re there. You know, we were all on telegram before, and so the crypto communities were there, and once we needed more robust features for our communities, then we moved to discord and then everyone came to discord. And so Discord is aware that Collabland is the draw for crypto communities, and so they’ve been very supportive and excited about working with us and helping us. Especially when we reach late rate limits, that happens a lot, you know, with bots and our bot is so robust in that we have a lot of activity happening with our bot all the time. And so that does require that we work with discord and they’ve been very supportive so far. And we’re grateful for that because James’ former boss is on the board of directors and his coworker started discord, Jason Sichuan, his previous coworker. James has been working, you know, he’s 49, so he’s been working as an engineer since he was 22. And a lot of those developers that he’s worked with, they’re now in, in web three. So it’s been those relationships.

James Young: I mean, I look forward to today when, as a user, because of my token holdings and communities, I can move fluidly between discord Facebook, some AR VR thing, Reddit, Twitch. And it doesn’t matter what platform I’m on, right? Cause I’m rooted by my tokenized communities. This is why we win. This is why sovereignty matters. This is why we have to take back the internet. I feel like I’m an activist, but that’s what this whole thing is. It’s like investment as activism, right? And that’s kind of what we’re doing here. What we’re trying to promote is us being able to do this together. We’re all gonna make it.

Anjali Young: It’s like, come for the money because you need some reason to be here, but stay for the revolution. 

Working with Fox Studios and Axie Infinity

Come for the money, stay for the revolution. I think that’s going to be the title of this episode. I think this is great. I want to talk about more of the key partnerships that you guys brought. Tell me about that. How did that come to fruition? How’d you guys get in touch with Fox? What was the process of getting Axie Infinity on board? Talk to me about that. 

James Young: It just happened kind of serendipitously. Like we were at the right place kind of at the right time, and that’s the kind of lightning in the bottle of product market fit that we saw. It was just this traction and engagement when it came to like NBA top shot or Axie infinity or sandbox games. I have a go-to like, it was just kind of natural, but I think with Fox, it really was undulating. You know, helping that, she can talk about that.

Anjali Young: I mean, it was a cold call, you know, it was on Twitter. So I manage the Collabland Twitter. I don’t think people know there’s a real person, it’s me. Some people are like, you know, whatever, there’s like rants that’s about it. I’m like, don’t they know I’m a real person. Like he talked to me like literally sobbing on my computer. James always reminds me, this is a good problem. Don’t complain right now.

James Young: Because I remember the beginnings of web two. It was so kind of electric and exciting. Google don’t be evil. Like it was so kind of naive, but so kind of optimistic. And I feel like we have a second chance. Let’s not blow it this time. 

Anjali Young: We have a second chance really at this, like trying to do the internet, right. Like, can this be the internet? Cause look what we did the first time around and look what we turned it into. But now we have a chance at the real internet. Should we do it? Let’s see if we can do it. So let me tell you about Fox real quick. It was just a tweet. Not tweet, but you know, someone DMD me. How was it a DMD? Someone called me out on Twitter, and so I sent a DM and then I was like, what is this? Like, I was pretty suspicious. Like this can’t be real. And then we got on some calls and even then I was pretty suspicious about what this could all be. And I thought, you know what? And I told James, like, I don’t know what they want. Like, do they know what this is? Like, do they know what we’re doing? Because what we’re doing is different. I don’t know what they’re successful at. Are they willing to do this and fail? Like, because if they’re going to do it with us, they’re doing it for real. And there’s no safeguards. There’s no pretending like this is the real deal. So are they willing to do this? The real deal and after multiple conversations and it was like, yeah, they want to do this. Like, they really want to do this community first. And they really want to be integrated with what the values and the ethos of crypto and web three are. And they convinced me and they convinced James and we’re like, okay, let’s do this. And so we’ve been working with them now for probably a few months and every part of our relationship so far, I’ve been really impressed with their innovation. And they’re willing to take a leap into the deep end here because you know, they started with a messenger and it’s the number one TV show in America, like broadcast television, like why would they then want to launch an NFT and take a chance at making sure that the community has an opportunity to decide on which direction that the NFT project and the community is going to go? And why are they listening to me, who just comes from NFT communities, that’s all and say, this is the way I want you to do it? And they’re not going to some multi-million dollar marketing firm and making sure they go with some chain that, you know, whatever, there’s lots of different options, people that are much flashier than us with a very different perspective, promising everything. And the way we look at it is like, you need to listen to the community first, you need to build this with the community. This is building in public. You may fail and fall on your face, and then what. Then this is what it is. Do you want to do this with us? You know, like we’re making it very clear that they need to follow the rules of what we think are the rules that are what crypto we’re about right now. And they want to do it.

James Young: The saying was, if we fail, at least we’re going to fail for the right reasons.

Anjali Young: Yeah. So they’re recognizing that these are the right reasons. And so I was convinced. And so then James said, well, we need to have a DAO then, he’s stuck in the DAO . And so we have a DAO with Fox as well. And then we have other DAOs that are participating to get, you know, we have funding from Fox initially, and then it’s getting paid to the different discord mods being paid out of that DAO, and so, you know, we’re like, we’re kinda like bringing them in.

James Young: Yeah, I was doing a little bit of history because you know, I’m a technologist, I’m not a media person, but when you peel back and you just read a little bit of a history of like the entertainment. Edison started the first studio, because he needed to promote his technology. When you look at the summer blockbuster that was invented by, like jaws was first, but really star wars right? Because star wars still lives on. And when you look back, I was listening the other day to George Lucas and 20th century Fox greenlit Star Wars because these other studios were like, this is a crazy movie. What are you trying to do? And at Fox, the reason why it was green-lit was because Lucas had done American graffiti and they’re like, I don’t know what the space thing is, but because you did a good job, American graffiti goes for it. And I feel like that ethos is like now with Fox. And I was like, wait, this is kind of consistent. I was like, wait, I’m kind of mind blown here. Like we have an opportunity to reinvent like the summer blockbuster from entertainment, but community driven and community owned. Like, we’re at the precipice. We have a window, the clay is still wet. We can make our fingerprints on this. Instead of fighting it, let’s double down into it. 

Anjali Young: And that’s the main thing it’s like initially there’s some skepticism of having outsiders come in, but really, you know, for us, the mass adoption and everyone having access to this is the goal. Like everyone being able to have a crypto wallet, get paid for what they’re doing, get paid for their whatever. However, they contribute online, their fandom, their retweets, their likes, like that’s you, that’s your life. Like we’re paying with our minutes, right? Like we should be paid for that, and Fox is coming along on that with us. And so I’m nothing but grateful right now. 

Crazy. That’s crazy. Do you ever take a minute and just reflect on everything that’s happening? 

James Young: It’s too hard.

I know it’s too hard. 

James Young: You look back, you’re going to hit something. You have to always keep forward and just like, go, go, go, go. Cause all this emergent opportunity. It’s fascinating. It’s like a Petri dish. Things are growing and dying and moving, and like in ways that we can’t even imagine, right? Not only from a consumer aspect, like web two turned the consumer into a producer, web three turns everything upside down.

Anjali Young: Investor, employee, employer, or the director. It’s all kind of the same. 

James Young: And so it’s like not only do you see the impact on the consumer side, but you see the impact on the organizational side. Like we didn’t exist a few years ago. Now we have a DAO with Fox. This is how quickly and how much impact we can have. Bored apes, Crypto punks, crypto punks, didn’t exist nine months ago.

Anjali Young: Crypto punks existed, But it wasn’t what it is now.

James Young: Crypto punks , they were there, but it’s like, it was late, right? Like that may not have been the initial intention, but that’s what emerged. And that gave birth to this whole industry of PFP NFTs. That got like, I think it was Disney yesterday saying that they’re going to be doing NFTs now. Like how quick is this happening? Like, people are converging, the reduced coordination costs, reducing the middlemen and like having everything kind of come together. It’s like, you know, hyper-speed right now. And I don’t know if it’s going to slow down. 

Anjali Young: We just gotta go how we can go, you know, cause even if it does slow down. James is like I say, he’s like a depression era kid where he’s still like, well, it’s around the corner. You never know. You never know. Even if it does come that’s okay, because people aren’t going to go back to not knowing that this exists. 

James Young: I kind of am looking forward in a way to the bear market again, cause then you can filter out all the noise and you get the real builders in. I think the bull market gets a lot of attention, and I think the bear market is a great filter to get all the noise out and you get the true builders. So that’s why, you know, relationships matter in crypto. Knowing people that have stuck it out a couple of bear cycles before really like, kinda gives you that kind of confidence. 

Literally both of you sound like you’re leading like the next state or the next nation state. Like it’s crazy, the energy, the passion, the fire between you two, it’s really inspiring and really, really amazing to see. And I love what you guys are doing. I love what you’re about, what you stand for. You guys deserve all the success that hits you so far and more. And I think it’s a perfect place also to wrap up because I know we’ve been at it for almost an hour and a half in the green room and now almost an hour and 10 minutes on stage. Good shit guys. I’m excited for this community drop. When is it going to go live? Do you have a date?

James Young: We’re going to announce it to make it as fair as possible.

Anjali Young: We don’t really know. And we’re not saying, ’cause we expect it to sell out, we really don’t have any expectations at all, but we want to keep it as fair as possible. So when people learn about it, then they can participate if they want to. And that’s the same thing we said to all of the investors too. They are like, oh, we want to get in on this. We want to buy one of your NFTs. And we’re like, well, we’re not announcing it to anybody. Like, we’re literally just, we’re going to have it. We’re going to say it on Twitter. And then it’ll just be announced, and then however that happens because we don’t want it to be unfair to anybody. You know, an investor will be on the exact same footing as someone who wants to purchase it. So we just, so we can’t say that, but it’s imminent. I’ll say that. 

Outro 

I think that’s a perfect place. Guys, where can we find each of you on Twitter?. Shout yourselves out and then where can we find Collabland? 

Anjali Young: Yeah. So Collabland is at collab_land_ .We purchased Collabland. We got clever, but Twitter is not letting us switch it over for who knows what reason. But I also have a personal account, which is a little complicated to spell, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s @damaderoca. 

James Young: I’m just @jamesyoung on Twitter. 

Adam Levy: Amazing. Killed it. Amazing conversation. Probably one of my favorites so far guys, thank you so much for being on, and I hope to have you on again soon. 

Anjali Young: Yeah, absolutely. 

James Young: Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun. We actually don’t get to talk about this stuff at all, because we’re just working, it’s literally just work, and so being able to just have the moment to like, talk about this stuff, this is that moment that you said. Like do you have time to reflect? No, but you just gave us that. 

That’s my fulfillment for doing all this. Guys, thank you so much we’ll have you on again soon.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

When DeFi Meets The Creator Economy: Santiago R. Santos

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 welcomes Santiago R. Santos, Owner of Punk #9159 🤖.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 2:38 – Growing up in Mexico
  • 6:05 – Life After ParaFi
  • 10:30 – Getting Hooked on Crypto 
  • 17:22 – Defining an Investment Thesis
  • 25:01 – The Future of Social Tokens
  • 30:37 – The Creator Economy 
  • 36:33 – The Intersection of DeFi and NFTs
  • 42:08 – Lifelong Learning
  • 49:44 – What Will Eat Web 3.0?
  • 56:26 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

All right, Santiago. Welcome to mint. How are you feeling, man? Thank you for being on. 

Hey Adam. It’s great. Great to be here. Thanks for having me. 

You got it, man. I think this is round two of our conversations. First time I chatted with you was on the last show of blockchain and booze, and here we are today on Mint. So let’s just jump right into it. Okay. Tell me a bit about yourself, but more specifically, what were you like before crypto? 

Oh, wow. That’s a good question. About myself, I grew up in Mexico I guess. And to me that’s been a hallmark experience of understanding how broken the world is in many ways. I think a lot of people that come to crypto have a better appreciation of why things matter and why we’re building this. And so after that, I spent most of my time in finance, I studied game theory. And for me, when I discovered Bitcoin in 2012, what drew me was the Nakamoto consensus. I emailed all my game theory professors and said, wow, this is like a new chapter in game theory. We’ve got to update all our books. But of course, they dismissed it. But for me, it’s always been this idea of, what I obsessed about is friction. I just can’t stand it. When I go to the doctor, and I get to fill out 20 forms over and over again, or when I need to send a wire or when I need to travel, and I just generally think that that for me has been my framework for understanding investment opportunities. When I see friction, wherever it is, Then I sort of understand, okay, there ought to be a better way to do this or that. And I think like crypto, when anyone that has used a stable coin to send money, doesn’t want to go back to the sending wire transfer. And so for me, it’s sort of an inevitability that we’re moving in this direction. Anyone that is critical of crypto hasn’t used it. I think like, we’re trapped in the state of the world where it was just Bitcoin and you didn’t have a lot of usability in the systems. Whereas today, we are entering a state of the world where crypto applications are providing equal or more functionality across the board than traditional systems. And that’s, I think like any piece of technology that gets adopted it is successful, it needs to provide a 10 X better improvement. Places in crypto are faster, better, sometimes cheaper, but depending on how you define those things, it’s very subjective I understand that. But that’s me. And I know I am shifting toward giving you an answer that is related to crypto. Candidly, it’s been hard for me not to obsess about this stuff, because I think at a very primitive level, it pisses me the fuck off that, people that need it the most are hurt the most in a lot of these systems that have friction. When you think about money, people don’t have access to credit. People can’t charge exorbitant fees and to you an $8 wire transfer fee is not much, but you know, it is a lot for other people. And so you know, I think a lot of consumer surplus, a lot of benefit will come from crypto and it’s going to impact people that need it the most. 

Growing up in Mexico 

No look, I’m Jewish and the $8 fee for a transfer hurts my pocket. And I also like part of the business model of mint is since the get go, I always wanted to make all revenue on chain. So every single season I issue NFTs as sponsorships, and I also try to pay the people who help basically management in crypto, but all these like transaction fees eat up into that. So I still use Venmo sometimes, and I still use other platforms, but I hear you, but let’s, let’s revert back to a key word that you said, okay, friction, a core theme that you said really, really resonated with you growing up. And I guess my, my next question to you is like, what was it like growing up in the Santos household? Like where you, where you just like always trying to fix stuff, or you always you’re like, mom, dad, friction like I gotta fix this it doesn’t make sense? Like what was that like growing up? 

Yeah. It’s funny because I just spent this weekend going back home. Yeah, I think so. I was the youngest two older sisters and I dunno, I do obsess about inefficiencies. I guess you’d have to ask my parents. I was probably a Royal pain in the ass. But I love to travel. I think understanding how different people view the world has really high credit for my parents because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but we did travel. The two buckets where we spent money with travel and education. And my parents were always there for me. And so I think like growing up in that environment allowed me to like, feel comfortable taking outsized risks, because I think ultimately you want to have a cradle where if shit really hits the fan, ultimately you have a support network that you can go back to and say, Hey, you know, you know I lost it all or whatever, but I think ultimately like you have a support network. And I think it’s super important. I’ve always felt really comfortable taking risks. Because for me, it’s like this idea that you can constantly reinvent yourself. Like you have the mental faculties to then say, you’re going to figure it out. And then look, , I’ve been riding crypto. At times I had been terribly wrong. I made a ton of mistakes, but I think the key hallmark and I always credit my parents for this is inspiring me, this idea of just doing stuff that I think matters and not being very complacent. And I think that’s where I just obsessed about when there’s friction. It’s part of this notion that I want to do stuff that one always matters and can have an impact. And two, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone in a public context, but my middle sister is sick and she’s been sick for like eight years. And we didn’t really know what she had. She has a rare form of epilepsy. And going through that process, to me, was very difficult because it’s not like my sister is missing an arm or leg. She’s like there, but she’s not there. And so at the same time for me, it was really difficult because you’re left wondering it could have been me. Probabilistically genetically, like I don’t know, there might be some genetic expression that happened when she was growing up and just triggered this disease of sorts. And so I vividly remember, cause it was just happening when I was at a venture fund investing in like startups and software startups. And I said, does this really matter? Like, okay, do I want to go out and invest and find the next Salesforce? Like, trust me like software as a service has been huge. And it’s been a big transformation, but for me, I was doing crypto by night and I said, well, I’ve seen this entire world, and I think it’s going to have a massive impact on a lot of things. And to me that was like a big catalyst to saying, okay, I just really just want to focus all of my time because I don’t know how much time I have to the things that I think will ultimately matter the most because you know, like it it really centered me and put a lot of perspective into my life around you know, we’re incredibly lucky. And I think, when you see other people that are not, then it really kind of centered in line with my values and principles and how I dedicate my time. 

Life After ParaFi 

What a unique experience to have underneath your belt. Obviously I mean, health is number one, right? But how that kind of translates to how you approach investing and how you approach your professional life and how you value things. And the choices that you make and the teams that you contribute to, all these things kind of trickled down to who you were growing up, the experiences that you had and what you deem as valuable. And that also kind of pivots to my next point of you being at ParaFi for a while, and investing through ParaFi now, you left ParaFi. So I guess, what have you been up to post ParaFi? 

Well, first of all, I had a great run at ParaFi. I mean, I think I’m super proud of what we did there. And you know, a lot of it is we think we built a fantastic team. Anya Nick Mika Ben was my partner and Adrian, like we really just grew the team. And when I joined, we were a team, we were in a we work in San Francisco and we had very little capital, but we have really strong backing from folks like Bain and KKR. And I think ultimately that was a really fun ride. We were, I think, the first vertically focused crypto fund. You know, most crypto funds are just very general, right? So we were not going to just invest broadly in crypto, but we are focused. We think that DeFi is going to be transformational, and we just sort of like focused on that. I credit a lot of our success to that because the founders knew that we were active users in these systems, like early beta testers. And so I think that was a fantastic ride. So what I’m doing now, I see this massive opportunity of a convergence of like three things, really like DAOs as a broader circle, within that you have like a metaverse or something that you have like very interesting stuff happening in NFT land, which is sort of the Trojan horse of crypto. Most people enter, they buy NFTs. Over the last eight years, I’ve tried to explain why crypto to people and it’s been difficult, but NFTs make it very relatable because people love collecting. And I think this is going to be an onboarding mechanism for millions. And then you have gaming attached to that. So what’s happening in Axie has been probably as you’re showing the world and even game studios of how powerful this can be, and then you have DeFi. And so I think there’s going to be a convergence of all these three worlds in the Metaverse, which we’re spending more time in the digital world. And so I’m excited about that. I’m investing as an angel, I’m advising people, helping teams and founders in any way that I can. And then, you know, maybe I’ll launch podcasts, who knows? I think where I want to focus more of my energy, part of my energy is creating just pure educational content without any agenda. I think it is helpful for people because unfortunately people get called up on stage on CNBC and Bloomberg are always talking about price. They are always talking in a very defensive context. I think when you inherently talk about crypto, most of the narrative has always been, we’re going to explode on Wall street as we know it. And we’re gonna like, you know, this very crypto punk attitude. And I think it’s defensive because we all know that, look, we’ve all been in these dinner conversations and Thanksgiving and what have you and people like, oh, this is a scam. This is drug money. This is silk road stuff. And it’s difficult to overcome that. The natural response would be very defensive when someone is constantly asking you questions, but I think generally more and more people are very interested now in crypto because of NFTs or gaming or what have you. And I think there’s an opportunity. All we need to do is just explain this technology for what it is, and go out and encourage people to use it and that’s it. We don’t need to do anything else. I don’t care if doge is a dollar or $5 who like, who fucking cares. Like when you talk about that, it really discredits us because when people see these charlatans and go on TV, naturally, it’s like, oh, this is like the guy that couldn’t get into investment banking that wasn’t successful in wall street ended up going crypto was lucky and now he thinks is a genius. And I think that that doesn’t serve as well because ultimately there’s a lot of really smart people here that don’t have the microphone, but that will be much better stewards of communicating this technology to the broader world. 

So if you had a podcast, what would be your first episode? What do you think? What topic? 

Oh, that’s great. I mean, isn’t that what you’re going through now? I don’t know you have more experience than I do on this, but I would probably bring on Ray Dalio. Someone that’s been critical about this stuff. But he’s sort of gone through the journey of being critical and skeptical. And now, as I understand, I have exposure to it and understand what went into that. And just talking about the hard stuff, like what took him so long. Maybe I’d bring on someone that is extremely critical a bit. I don’t know. I think those are the kinds of discussions that we need to have.

Getting Hooked on Crypto

Why did you hop on the bandwagon of crypto so quickly versus someone let’s say like Ray Dalio , who took his time kind of thing? Like what did you see that you think others missed early on? 

I dunno for me, it was just playing with it. I think I said, this is interesting. It sounds a little crazy. Like I love Harry Potter, I guess. And so, like the magical internet money headline on Reddit forum, like really caught my attention. And then I said, well, I want to try this. Because again, I said remittances to me were an immediate use case for Bitcoin. I said I’m going to, I’m going to go out and try to buy like a bunch of Bitcoin and send it to like 20 people. And if they can convert it, I think it was 10 or 20, and if they can convert it to local currency Pesos then you’re immediately displacing the remittance flows. Like you kill Western unions of the world who are charging you know, 8-10%. And so to me, the hallmark of why I became increasingly interested in this technology is just playing with it, like using it. That’s what led me to DeFi early. That’s what led me to like stuff like Axie like gaming and NFTs. That was probably what was the most interesting to me. The other component is like open source, because I was investing in open source software at this venture fund. This was at a time where it was kind of like how do you monetize stuff that is inherently free. Because open source, like Linux, you just developed this piece of code and can be copied. And it’s very counterintuitive to say, how am I going to monetize something that, you know, is inherently free and open to the world. It sort of comes from like this archaic model, like IP and protection, but, but our thesis there was like a lot of value can be created. Stuff like Mongo or fresco and some of these systems, like red hat, are open source, but they provide value added services or they attract really smart people to develop stuff. And when I saw Ethereum, like to me, that was the aha. It was like, oh, okay. Open source software development is really powerful because it attracts smart people in this collaborative environment, just come and go. Particularly Linux, but you have two problems with that. One is continuity. Like, how do you actually pay these people and incentivize them to continue to develop? . A lot of traditional open-source development is being subsidized by people at Google and Facebook and Netflix that just have spare time, right? Google has this policy, people work on their pet projects for a day. A lot of it is going into open-source development. And the second one is like accruing value to contributors, right? Like mince himself didn’t actually make a lot of money building this system where the developers like Tim Berners Lee didn’t capture as much money as you would have thought, right? You would’ve said, oh, this, this supposed to be the richest guy in the world. Cause he just literally developed the internet, but it’s been like the top aggregators that accrued most value. And so when I saw Ethereum I just said, okay, this generalist smart contract platform can solve a lot of the problems with open source development. And I think what is most exciting is, I didn’t know what DeFi was going to be. The bet there was okay, well, really cool stuff happens in open source development. The pace of innovation and iteration is much, much faster. It’s compounding, and then when you layer on top of that really good token design and economics, then it just like is going to be explosive. And I think that I was lucky that I was in San Francisco at the time. I was investing in open-source software, and I saw it early on, because I’d just been investing by night and crypto and was obsessing about it. I guess the last point I would say is, to this day it is still very encouraging that most of the smartest people of a different era are highly critical of the space without really, truly taking time, I think as far as I understand it, when I talked to them about understanding this technology. And to me, it’s always been like, anytime someone really has a visceral reaction to something, it’s like, well, just probe there, right? Because like nothing is nothing is truly obvious in this world. I think I’ve said it before, but when you think something is obvious, it’s probably not. It’s your perception of it. And you probably do not understand it to the level of granularity because nothing truly is. I mean, at the end of the day, everything is in the state of probabilities. People love to think in binary terms, people love to dismiss stuff because it conflicts with their worldview or it conflicts with their portfolio and their bags or whatever. And I understand that you might not take an interest in something. And I understand that some people might say like buffet say, Hey, look, I, I’m not a technologist, so I’m not gonna invest in the internet. I’m just going to stick to my guns and just buy stuff that I eat and can touch and use every day, my crispy cream and all this stuff. That’s fine. I mean, he’s a great investor, but I think in this state of the world, I think new paradigm shifts are compressing. The state by which the world is changing is radically accelerating largely because of the internet, largely because we’re Uber connected now. And I think the pace of information is this being disseminated and created and then disseminated and an accelerating pace. And so new ideas get adopted and iterated much faster. And so there’s sort of this analogy, like if you were to put someone that was born in the 11th century, in the 16th century, and you just sort of tell him, teleport him to the 16th century, he would have been like, okay, kind of the world has changed a little bit. Like, you know, people kind of do the same stuff, but it largely would have been like, yeah, he would be surprised. But if you do the same, to someone that was born in like the 18th century, and you teleport that today, you’d probably have a heart attack because things are radically different. And I think that timescale of how things are even like your grandmother, or even your parents, it’s really hard for them to understand some of this stuff. It’s like, what do you mean you’re playing this virtual game and what do you mean about punks? Like, my parents were so critical when I was buying punks . I said, all you gotta understand is that like, you know, it’s just an image. And I think like that to me it’s been from first principles, it’s been what has guided my level of interest into probing into certain stuff, when people are really critical about something, because they probably don’t understand it. And there’s probably a lot of substance there. And it’s sort of the analogy of like, if you remember bookstores like Barnes and noble when you walk in there, you naturally like have an affinity towards walking towards aisles that you love, whether it’s comic books or fiction or nonfiction. But you know that there’s people that are spending time in other aisles. . Like there are people that are in that corner of the bookstore that you’ve never ventured out to. And you kind of wonder, like, why are people there? There’s clearly some value that other people are seeing. So wouldn’t it be in your best interest to just occasionally just go up there, ask people questions, like, what do you like here? And then if you don’t like it, it’s okay. You can go back your aisle, but I think there’s a ton of value in just constantly having that intellectual curiosity to venturing into a particular aisle at the bookstore and the library, but you’ve never allowed yourself to go into, because you never know. You might love Stephen King or you might love comic books, or you might love non-fiction, but allowing yourself to be in a position in sort of this frontier. It is sometimes uncomfortable to venture into places where you have no experience. And I think a lot of people will experience that in crypto. They come to this world and there’s all these topics and lingo, and it can be really daunting. But nonetheless, like anyone from the outside in must be realizing at this point. Okay. There’s really smart people here. Okay. There’s a lot of value being created. If you’re an artist looking at NFTs, you’re saying I probably should have an NFT strategy. 

Defining an Investment Thesis

You know, when I walk into Barnes and noble. The first aisle I gravitate to is Starbucks. That’s where my fat ass goes to get like a blueberry muffin. Like you gravitate towards the comic books, I gravitate towards the blueberry muffins. Now all jokes aside. I want to talk more about I guess like you’re investing strategy. The more I consume your content, the more I listen to you on podcasts, the more I read your tweets. You have a very philosophical approach, I think, to the investments that you make. But also you’re very strategic. And beyond being a stellar writer on Twitter and not to toot your horn, but you do a good job conveying thoughts really clearly. What are some principles you live by as an investor? And we talked a little bit about this with your sister, right? But I want to dive a little bit more into it. Like what are some core foundations you hold yourself accountable to, if any, before making a bet? 

Yeah. It’s a great question. First and foremost, it’s stuff that I can see myself using. I love to invest in something I can use. And so that’s one. The second one is, just always finding one or two or three or whatever it is, things that I can help a team with. And if I can’t see that, then I tell them, look, if you’re better off taking money from someone else. So I always want to understand ways that I can help a founder. And a lot of times I just come to them and say, Hey, look, these are the things that I can probably help you with. And these are the things that I can’t help you with. And so there’s alignment. Those are the best relationships. I was talking about this the other day and yesterday tweeted about this. It’s sort of like this idea of diversification and I think for me, it’s served me well just to be more concentrated. And this is not about the quantity of investments. It’s really dramatically focused on things that I think will have, on a relative basis. You always have to think about where my capital is going to be optimized. And so you know, I like not spreading myself too thin. I mean, at ParaFi we were focused on DeFi. Today, I’m increasingly focused on investing a lot in games and NFTs, and still DeFi, but for me it’s been just helpful to know the people that come to me or I go to them understanding the things that I’m investing in, because there’s a lot of leverage that I get for just being very focused on a particular theme and observing trends and how the space is evolving and then leveraging that across. And it’s not sharing insights between protocols. It’s just more so from that vantage point, just being in a position where I can observe what actually is going on. And so that serves me well. So those are sort of the main things that I tell founders. At the core of it is again, you know, it needs to have impact. I think that’s been the case for most crypto investments. I think a lot of times understanding what motivates a founder is super important. Like why are they building? And getting to know them before I make an investment. Because a lot of times, you know, it’s unclear if a founder is going to grind it out through a bear market. And I just want to always see what really motivates them. And I think the founders I’ve had the privilege to back, I think a lot of, most of them, if not all of them have this growing desire to. It’s pretty awesome to be in my position where I get to talk to people that have thought about problems for their entire life and have way more experience in domain expertise. And then it’s you know, just super encouraging to hear them say, Hey, look, I want to truly transform how, you know, banks operate. Or how derivatives work or what have you. And so yeah, those are probably some of the main things.

So you see yourself using it. That’s one principle, the level of impact that it has. The founder’s conviction and their belief and their underlying like motivation and inspiration to solve that problem. Those are like the three main kinds of takeaways that I got, but they know you’ve been investing since early 2012. And being a good investor is kind of revisiting your thesis in altering different variables. From 2012, to like where we are today, one, when was the last time you revisited that thesis and how has that kind of, how has that thesis or hypothesis kind of evolved over time?

Yeah, all the time. Because when you think in probabilities, you inherently need to constantly process new information and update your thinking, right? This goes back to, I never think in binary terms. There is a state of the world if bitcoin is not successful at all, because, you know, who knows how the security budget of Bitcoin is going to work after a certain point where block rewards diminish. So, naturally, I think, you know, you constantly need to think about that. And there is a version of this world where Ethereum is not as successful. There’s also not a zero sum game, I think, in all this space. There’s going to be a lot of value created. So thinking in maximalist terms, I’ve never had it. I’ve had inclinations naturally where I’m investing a lot into the Ethereum ecosystem. Now Solana, and it’s mostly Solana and Ethereum, but you always need to constantly think in probabilities. So, yeah, I made a lot of mistakes. I think the key learning, for instance, in 2017, I was investing in a lot of things like higher up the stack protocols and applications, a lot of which had dependencies, meaning without a, without a highly credible throughput, layer one. Well, a lot of social use cases are not going to work because it’s super expensive. So that’s one example where like, there’s this idea, Hey, let’s just decentralize everything. No, you don’t have to decentralize everything. Cause you need a wonder, like what are you actually gaining? And does it really matter? It works for money, right. The only reason you want to have DeFi is because it minimizes counterparty risk. And that is super valuable to a financial participant, right? Like you know, not relying on a middleman that is going to approve stuff ,that’s going to take time and has counterparty risk because that matters. And so having a highly transparent financial system, that is extremely valuable because the stakes are high. But should you be creating a decentralized Uber? I don’t know. Decentralized Airbnb? I don’t know. Can some of those applications borrow some elements of crypto? Probably. And so I think those were some of the mistakes I made in 2017 was just investing in stuff that went too far ahead of its time . And the reason I kind of then understood that and probably stayed away from a lot of them was because it had a lot of dependencies. You need to have a place where you can store these files correctly. So you need to have something like IPFS and it wasn’t around. You needed to have an L two that could credibly support a lot of transactions, you didn’t have that. Or something like a more throughput blockchain like Solana, which didn’t exist. And so I think like, for me, it’s been investing in stuff that is gaining traction. Like, you know, what drew me to NFTs and revisited that and gaming was just seeing it. It was hard to dismiss the level of attraction something like Axie is getting or yield Guild was getting. And so for me, if I were to just distill it in one is just, you know, in this space, it’s great because you can join the discord channels and understand on chain, how things are working or not working and how much traction they’re getting. All you need to do is probe, and what’s super fascinating is like this data exists and is available to anyone. And so one of the learnings I had was like coming into the space from church, from markets, like I was at JP Morgan and then just investing in venture, which is super competitive asset classes. You sort of think that like, all the opportunities are already arbed out. There’s someone that has better information than you. And so that skepticism for me was kind of difficult to overcome because sometimes I look at something and say, wow, like, how is it that no one has thought about this before? Or why am I not the consensus here? Like, what am I missing? And ultimately I just came to the conclusion that a lot of people don’t do the work. Even though the data is paradoxically, like just open there for anyone to observe. Like how many people actually like using chain analytics? And like, to me, that’s just incredible, right? You’re not relying on the SEC like 10 K 10 QS. Like all this data is perfectly transparent, available to anyone at assess and inspect. All you gotta do is look. And so to me, like a long winded answer, I don’t invest in stuff that I struggled to see any remote traction or has too many dependencies because the opportunity cost is that there is stuff that is getting a ton of traction and just is out of favor or like people haven’t discovered it. And so in the juxtaposition of these two worlds, stuff that, like Cardano, that has never shipped or just shipped for a long time you’re sort of wondering, like, why these things have any value or have any traction. And whereas you have this entire world and ecosystem that is exploding in usage and traction. And so that really just has sharpened my view on where I put my capital. 

The Future of Social Tokens

You’re very much at the type of person that says, just look at the data. Like I don’t invest with emotion rather with logic and rationale. And I know other people make investment decisions based on what their gut tells them. And I think it’s interesting to hear everybody’s point of view. One thing you brought up that’s super interesting, and this kind of takes me back. I’m not going to quote the date. Before the roads, there were the cars, and everybody built the vehicles that drove on dirt before building the highways and the foundation that allowed for a smoother finish. And it feels like we’re first now building the roads, the infrastructure layers like IPFS like Ethereum, all these platforms that are composable and could be built on top of, and now we’re like seeing the rise of the cars and all these different cars being built to use these roads, you know? And I think it’s super applicable to kind of your, your analogy of, we gave people the foundation, right? Let’s see what they do with it. And I’ll bet on the ones that align with my thesis as an investor. I want to take the conversation now to social tokens. And the reason why I want to talk about social tokens, it’s a topic that I bring up with everyone on the podcast. It’s why mint exists. It’s the impetus of where crypto meets the creator, in my opinion, along with enough NFTs along with DAOs , et cetera, et cetera. But I quit my job at DraperGoren Holm, because I had the opportunity to do a social token for a DJ. Okay. And we put it on the back burner because just the tools and platforms weren’t necessarily there to bring it to life, but it got me thinking of social tokens as an alternative investment class. And particularly the first thing that comes to mind is like, FWB. Okay. So I wanna, read a couple of stats from someone the top performing social tokens that I came across and get your opinion on something. So Allie coin which is the coin of Allie McPherson. She was on episode one season, one of Mint. December, 2020, her token hovered around 20 cents. And with its recent peak hitting $53 in September, 2021. Play coin, David play, season one, episode 10, I think of Mint, April 22nd, 2021, started at around $4.50, and now it’s hovering around $40. FWB which I’m looking back to may 20 20 hovered around $6.50 and is now comfortably today October fifth at around $130. Forefront is another good example and the list goes on and on and on. So these social tokens are like an alternative investment class one, how do you feel about them? And second, how do you feel about them kind of playing a more significant role in a hedge funds portfolio in the future? Do you see that happening over time?

Yeah. How’s this social token any different than Facebook equity or Twitter? I mean, it’s just sort of like an aggregation, right? Facebook is doing the aggregation. Everyone’s posting stuff because they’ve created this platform where I’m incentivized to tweet because, you know, I want to get my word out and connect with other people, but at the end of the day, like what drives human activities is this idea of like connecting with other people and blockchains are great coordination mechanisms. And now you’re sort of going direct to your audience. Why wouldn’t you? And I think COVID has been an accelerant to that. People wonder why hasn’t this happened before? So the question that you’re always going to ask yourself, what do I know and why hasn’t this happened before? Or what do I know that others don’t? And I think the key insight for me is like talking to creators and saying, look, they were really hurting from COVID and, I think you needed to have a catalyst like that for them to understand, look, I can’t have real world concerts. I can’t promote my brand in the physical world, but there’s this ability to capture value, with my supporters in a very direct way. And I think that’s super powerful. And I think it’s going to transform how we think about you know, all kinds of industries, but broadly entertainment and media, right? And the same way that YouTube and Spotify came to truly disrupt the entertainment world, and they had to adapt, I think in this case, if you’re a creator, you’re an artist, you know, you have the distribution of the internet. Because again, web 3.0 connects to that, and then you can go direct. Let’s talk about the benefits. You have all the data, right? You can incentivize your early supporters with NFTs that are just digital records of someone saying, Hey, I was here early and I was supporting Calvin Harris or I was, you know, early into Frank Ocean, whatever. And you can mint that NFT around that. You can even give them some of your revenue. Right. You can give them access to certain stuff. And so I think it’s been really interesting, this inversion of how you first create a community and then you build applications and services around that versus to your point around building the road like layer one infrastructure. Like layer one development has been, you have to kind of build something to allow for these state transitions and recording stuff on the blockchain with trust and the ability guarantees that incentivize this whole stack of applications built on top. But that was a very discreet way of developing products in crypto, which is why you kind of have to build it for people to come. Now you have this idea of creating really powerful communities and looking at Bored Ape yacht club. Incredible, right? They’ve first started with a mint and like of just these four dates and then they partnered and created all these different services. Why? Because they have all the attention of users, like 50% or more of people are coming in without any reason, and have never held crypto before, but they’re buying these apes because they’re cute. And now it has access to other stuff. And social tokens are no different. In my mind, it’s this idea of, I own my brand and you created Mint because you want to own your brand. And I think that’s super powerful. Personally, unfortunately I think social networks are going to realize and recognize that, you know, they should’ve probably been more generous to their users, especially early users that have created a ton of value. And I think things are inherently, there’s a lot of friction there and a lot of discontent.

The Creator Economy

What do you kind of see the future of creators and the creative economy in general spiraling towards? And I only bring that up because your last point of social networks will realize that they should have favored their earliest creators much better. I think there’s one platform in particular, that’s doing this like Tik TOK and the most relevant example that comes to mind that they’ve done just to give more context is I remember early on when a lot of early creators were picking up traction, they started sending them care packages, you know, show appreciation. This is like a package that was shipped to them, that they invested money into that they invested time to curate for this individual, you know? So whether it be through a token or whether it be an act of kindness, these types of collaborations, this type of recognition, I think, is forming much better on Tik TOK than Instagram or Twitter, for example. But what do you see this next wave of the creator economy kind of spiraling towards? 

Yeah, I mean, I think we’re just in the very early stages of this explosion of creating social value and capturing this Goodwill that exists. You know, when you think about the popularity of, for instance, sneakers of Nike, like a lot of it is tied to, I don’t know, like Jordans, right? Like Michael Jordan sure, he got endorsements, and he got paid a ton, but still, I mean, I think if you’re not Michael Jordan, if you’re just a really talented developer or a creator then you just go direct and just say, Hey, you know you know, ultimately think about how many people haven’t been discovered, just because they don’t have access to these gatekeepers or the algorithm doesn’t push them up up the stack. It’s really hard, right? It’s really hard to get discovered or it has been. But now you’re sort of seeing in the NFT world where so many people are just being discovered like Fewocious. And, you know, Beeple has been doing a lot for a long time, but like there’s this whole set of artists that are coming and minting NFTs, creating and uploading their art and getting a ton of traction. And so I think like, you know, it starts with just creating art. It’s art with artists maybe issuing their own token. I think what’s going to be super interesting is what else do you do with that? You know, board ape has been, I think one of the more impressive projects that has iterated very quickly on layer on services to their, their core engaged community. But if you’re an artist you know, like, I don’t know, Justin 3LAU has been sort of at the forefront of this and try to experiment and do this since 2017. He’s now come a long way. I think of like perhaps sharing revenue like royalties to the fan base and early adopters. And so I think more and more like NFTs will be the cookies of web three. It will allow you to understand who your core early believers are and fan bases, and then use that mechanism to stitch together the metaverse and the mainstays. If you’re going to have a concert in LA. You know, as opposed to relying on Ticketmaster, then you might just give access to like friends with benefits which has done extremely well and crypto conferences, right. You can go to their events and they did in Miami and Paris. And so I think the use cases are vast, right? It could really be anyone, right. It could be a writer. I don’t want to just say it’s just an artist, like a painter, if you will, it could be a musician, a writer, anything like that.

I think part of people owning their creator economy comes with the element of the level of liquidity, the amount of value that’s captured through, whether it be their NFTs, whether it be through their social token, and something that’s obviously super familiar to you is DeFi lending, DeFi , borrowing , you’re an avid supporter of AAVE and a bunch of other protocols. What do you think about creator economies and these like micro social networks building out their own peer-to-peer lending and borrowing networks? Does that make sense at all? 

Yeah. So what you’re saying is like the ability to borrow and lend money against these social tokens?

Exactly. But do so in a way where communities trust one another. And they trust the people in those communities. And for example, I may be more reluctant to take a loan from someone in FWB that I’ve interacted with, you know, online rather than like, I don’t know, going on AAVE for example. And not to say that I don’t trust AAVE or what they’re building. I think from a more normie point of view, these things are so hard to understand at a higher level that when you live and breathe in these communities, you become so part of them and so ingrained in them that it opens up opportunities for new DeFi products, right? 

Yeah. I mean, basically what you’re describing is the reputation layer, which is now missing in DeFi. Because everything is over collateralized and that ‘s not the optimal solution, right? Like you know, in the traditional world you have under collateralized loans because you have a credit score and their credit can be enforced through violence. Like there’s recourse. And so, you know, you can go to a bank and borrow money without over collateralizing, putting, you know, 120% then borrow, a fresh amount. and so you’re right. I mean, I think social tokens are another component by which you might say, Hey, there’s a lot of richness in your wallet address and things that you’ve, you’ve done or not have done, for instance, have you ever been liquidated? Have you ever sold a token? Have you, you know, whatever. Right. And so I think if you inspect that and you inspect the activity, there’s a lot of value there. Think of it as like a DeFi passport. Other, there are folks that are trying to do this, which there is a lot of data that you can use to construct a credit profile or create a reputation layer, right? Because if you have a wallet address at six years old, for instance, or whatever, there’s a lot of richness there. And if you have a way to look at them all the better, right? Because it really starts creating a rounded profile of who the person or entity is behind that wallet, even though you don’t know their identity. But you know, actions speak louder than words, and so whatever they’ve done on chain can be used to offer them incentives and perhaps better terms, lower interest rate, or better terms on the loan. And so I think we’re going to see, to your point, a lot of social tokens and NFTs, be used as mechanisms to really understand who your counterparty is and this like pseudo anonymous or fully anonymous world, and then offer a bunch of services on that. And so yeah, this is why I think these two worlds or three worlds are going to converge really naturally. 

The Intersection of DeFi and NFTs 

Speaking of NFTs, the conversations around DeFi and NFTs have been pretty loud on Twitter, I’d say, I think you could agree. What are some of the less familiar use cases around the intersection of DeFi and NFTs that kind of excites you? 

I mean, I think most people are really focused on the visualization of the metadata behind the NFT. Like at the end of the day, a punk, all these things that are like being minted have some underlying metadata to them, but you know, like the visual representation of it is very obvious to people. All they see is a nice punk or horrible punk or whatever. But the true value is in the metadata. And when you think about it, it starts with art, but the general logic behind an NFT can be used for any sort of illiquid asset, whether it be a parcel of land in Miami or Hong Kong or accounts receivable invoice from a particular company, all you need to do is again, understand the taxonomy of the data. So I think it starts with art, but it’s proving a use case of saying you take any sort of discreet non fungible thing, and then you create more liquidity to that. So for instance, you know, you just NFT a bunch of parcels of land in Miami. Well, okay. I understand that an apartment in Brickell might be different, but like it’s not one-on-one to an apartment in an adjacent building in Brickell. But you know, you have reasonable data. And the ability to then piece that together and say like, this is no different than like mortgage backed securities. Which in theory, you know, it should work. The problem that in 2008, not to get too technical is, you know, you just were using really bad data around correlation. But what we have learned from NFTs is that, the minute you create sort of like a base floor punk, not every punk is different, but at the same time, it has certain attributes that allow you to construct an index. So for base punk and a base punk should be worth at least X. So there’s a floor around that, because there’s a lot of data behind that. And so mortgage backed securities is an example or an insurance contract is an example. Well, they’re all discreet, but at the same time, they have very overlapping shared properties that allow you to then construct an index or create financial products like mortgage backed securities. And what does that do? That removes friction because it increases the volume and how you can freely trade these things, right? Even if you fractionalize this NFT , like it creates just more volume and velocity and transactions, right? And that creates a better price, discovery, and better price discovery that allows you to, you know, understand how liquid or illiquid an asset is, and then create credit terms around that and create money markets around them. So you start seeing how all of this can work. Anytime you wonder like, Hey, I’m just going to have to ask how easy it is for a company to get liquidity on their accounts receivable. Well, there’s a whole pocket of the market in Wall Street that buys these things at cents on the dollar, but there’s inefficiencies. Whereas, if you could fractionalize pieces of that, then it just creates a more fluid market. And so I think we’re going to see an explosion of using NFTs to bring more liquidity and price discovery to illiquid assets. Just things that don’t get traded as much, because, you know, you can only buy one piece of an apartment. Well, maybe you can just buy a fractional of that. It goes in the same suit for a lot of things, right. I’m just using real estate because it’s perhaps more relatable to a lot of people. 

I want to talk about more of one of the more recent, big headlines that hit NFTs recently with Tik TOK entering the space, and one of your investments being immutable X, supporting that entire wave in which we can confidently say if they do it correctly and the audience on Tik TOK corresponds that it’s going to be one of the catalysts for NFT adoption. And just to give more context for those who are listening, Tik Tok is taking its own play on selling NBA top shot inspired moments on immutable X, which is, correct me if I’m wrong, a layer two of Ethereum, right? And Tik TOK kind of coins it owns the videos that broke the internet. So you were an early investor in immutable. What’s your take on why Tik Tok decided to use immutable over a competitor, like flow , for example? And it’s an indirect competitor. I don’t think it’s a direct competitor, but let’s say someone likes a flow because there was a lot of talk around that on Twitter.

Yeah. I think you have to understand, like what drew me to immutable was it’s a team that understands how painful it is to build on the layer one. So Robby and the team built gods on chain, which was, I think for a long time, one of the highest grossing NFT projects, but it was very expensive. So through that experience, they said, Hey, let’s build a layer two that is specific and very well catered to NFTs and gaming applications. And so you know, I think ultimately each layer 2, starkware, like you know, like arbitrum, optimism, and immutable X have certain trade-offs. And again, immutable X is using starkware technology to build, I think one of the more specific blockchain layer two for NFTs and gaming. And so I think ultimately like if you’re aTik Tok , you can say, Hey, I can deploy on Solana perhaps I can deploy on flow. And I can deploy on immutable X. And I think, you know, to this day, like you just benefit from the security guarantees of Ethereum which is one of the more, if not the more battle-tested networks out there, absent Bitcoin. And then I think it’s in you tapping into the community and user base of Ethereum. And I think that’s ultimately perhaps how others decided to deploy on Ethereum and use Ethereum, and enable USDC transfers. Because Ethereum has been battle-tested, it has more Lindy effect that has more developers behind it, and so, that is sort of my bullish case for Ethereum. If you look at the number of developers and activity, it’s not to say that other ecosystems are not growing, but Ethereum continues to be king in that perspective.

Lifelong Learning

I want to pivot because we only have so much time left, and talk more about personal questions. How you developed as an individual as an investor, as just like a human in crypto. So what is one lesson that’s taken you the longest to learn during your time in the space?

Hmm, that’s a really good question. So what is one lesson that is taking me longer to understand in this space? I think it’s this impatience that I feel, I think others feel too. It’s really hard to be in a position where you think that, you know, it’s probably going to sound like I’m contradicting myself because to me, this technology is increasingly obvious, it’s just a matter of when it’s going to be deployed, when it’s going to be adopted. And it’s sort of hard that once you discover crypto and you start using it, and you understand the potential that it might have, just being a little bit more patient in how these things will take to get true mainstream adoption, because I still think we’re super early. We’re all kind of beta testers. But it is difficult because when you juxtapose that with how a lot of world problems that exist today, And you’re saying, well, goddammit, what is it going to take for more people to realize that, you know, the economy is not growing there’s all these different problems, like during COVID. People are getting checks in the mail or not getting them, or like, it was just delayed for three weeks. And that means a lot of people are dying. Right. Because if you’re not getting a check-in in the mail, there’s just a better way to do this. Take all the wallets and the entire population and stream these payments to them and make it conditional. They can only spend it in X or Y. Like universal basic income is something that I’m super fascinated about. I think it solves a lot of the world’s problems. Like at this intersection with automation, you know, a lot of jobs are gonna be displaced, and you’re going to have to retrain and give employment to a lot of people that are just going to go on to work because the machine will do certain roles better than a human. I think universal basic income is the solution to a lot of things. And I think crypto uniquely enables that. I sometimes need to remind myself to be more patient, and serve that as sort of motivation to try to educate and try to expose the benefits of this technology to more and more people. But it can be difficult at times because you know, the world is not necessarily a great spot and in a number of ways, it’s also an in a beautiful spot because there’s a lot of technology and there’s this, you know, pockets of the world that are seeing incredible innovations, like in healthcare biotech, like and crypto. But, you know, there’s many things in this world that are broken, and how do you live knowing that at least from my perspective that you have the key to a lot of these things, and you kind of see the door, but there’s like three bouncers that are like there and blocking you. And it’s really frustrating. It really is very frustrating. Especially when those announcers don’t care and don’t take any interest in understanding how this technology can be used. A lot of it is politicians, but I think ultimately things will sort themselves out because I think in this century, I’ve said it, there will be the countries and the places that were more crypto friendly will come out far ahead than the countries that resisted it. And look, I don’t want to go as far as saying like the separation of money and state, is that going to happen? Is that going to be a thing? It’s probably not going to go down as easily as we think. Like, you know, you look at the separation of church and state, there’s a lot of revolutions attached to that. You know, the separation of money and state that, you know, a non sovereign store value like Ethereum or Bitcoin or some other asset, a social token. The only function of the state at that point becomes, you know, serving some sort of governance and maybe security, but I think it’s going to be difficult. The optimist in me says, well, we just keep pounding the table, just going to create better content, go meet these people, understand their interests. But yeah, it can be frustrating. I don’t know if you felt that, but it can be very frustrating at times to have key decision makers take no interest in crypto and just speak out of their ass without truly understanding how this technology can impact a lot of their constituents. 

Yeah, no, I hear you. Next question is, if you could tokenize Hogwarts, where would you start and why? What blockchain would use? 

Wow, best question, by the way, as you know, I love Harry Potter. I mean, I love Gryffendor naturally, so I would probably just, you know, tokenize Gryffendor. I love the castle too. I have that Lego Harry Potter like castle. Each house should have a social token. but Gryffendor would probably crush because it’s the best house in my opinion. So I would probably tokenize that maybe even wands , but I think Gryffendor, I would start with Gryffindor and just make it a social token. If you meet certain parameters, then you are part of Gryffendor. And so like have a test, but you know, there’s like these tests online that you can take and it tells you if you’re a Griffendor or not at the sorting hat test, which is by the way better than Myers-Briggs and all this random stuff, like personality traits, astrology, whatever. I just think like, everything you need to know is if you’re a Griffendor, or not. And if you’re Gryffindor you get access to this token. So I would do that. 

I feel like you’re, I feel like your Tinder bio is just something like which team are you on? And that’s how, you know, if you’re a match or not. 

Totally. Compatibility is if you’re a Griffendor first year non-mogol, if you are, which means you’re in crypto, then are you Gryffendor and if you’re Gryffendor then all the better.

 Good answer. If you were a ghost in the metaverse, what location do you think you would haunt? 

Hmm, that’s a great question. I don’t know. There’s all these different worlds that are like coming about, so I don’t want to pick one, but I guess I’m really excited about alluvium they have launched, but they’re creating this beautiful world that reminds me a lot of like the games that I grew up with. So I would lurk in these worlds and see that. The other is likeDecentraland. Maybe it would be interesting, like the main hub. And it’s an easy answer because you’re going to see a lot of activity going through there. So I just think that if the level of activity in Decentraland, like main Square, there will be a point where it will probably get more eyeballs than Times Square in the next 20 years. And so if you’re just lurking there, you’re going to probably see a lot of really interesting stuff happen. And who advertised there. Like we’re probably going to see real brands advertise in these Metaverse , like main squares, because like, you know, you get a lot of eyeballs. So I would just kind of lurk in that place.

You missed the most obvious answer, the Aaveverse, what do you mean? Everyone’s a ghost and the Aaveverse. 

Oh, that’s true. Stani might kill me for not saying that, but that is very true. So I’ll be floating AAVE ghosts in these metaverses. 

Nice, nice, nice. So that’s the location you would haunt but who would you haunt in the metaverse if you could haunt someone as a ghost in the metaverse? You’re like Adam, where are these questions coming from? 

 Like kill them? Wow. 

Just like spooking them. No, man. We’re not trying to kill anybody here. This is not that. 

I’m a friendly person. Yeah, I see. Sorry. Hmm. I don’t know. If there is a Voldemort version in the metaverse, I would just probably like to spook them, whoever that may be. And maybe it’s a crypto personality that is Voldemort. Maybe like Craig Wright or whoever, but I dunno. 

Good question. I don’t know. Yeah, I actually haven’t even thought about that. I was kind of hoping you’d lay the foundation. Give me a second. Who, who would I haunt in the metaverse? I’d probably haunt Mark Zuckerberg, probably.

Assuming he’s there.

What Will Eat Web 3.0?

Assuming he’s there, right? Assuming that his vision for the metaverse kind of becomes a reality if and when. I’d spook him and probably a lot of other people in crypto would spook him too out of love. Out of love. Final question. I’m a big fan of watching the history and the growth of the internet and realizing and seeing the development of its different stages, and I like to break them up into three. And I may be too generalizing it, but web 1.0 was super early on. It was like the birth, the Genesis of the internet. It was read only, there wasn’t much activity and utility that you can kind of develop other than really communicating. Then we had the introduction of web 2.0, which ate web 1.0 built on top of web 1.0 . And you had more social networks. You had the Uber of, you had all these internet companies building really interesting products and services online. And now we’re entering into this world of web 3.0 , which many argue is going to eat web 2.0. And the web 3.0 is all about ownership. Web 3.0 is all about the distribution of money at the speed of light of information online, right? And all these core components that allow people to own pieces of the internet. What do you think will eat web 3.0? 

Hmm. I don’t really know. I mean, I want to say the reasons why web 3.0 might not really truly scale. Like is this scalability? I think for me, I sometimes wonder, Hey, like, do people care about decentralization? I don’t know. Like I do. But if it comes at the expense of X or Y then, you know, I was sort of left wondering when I look at Binance Smart Chain level of adoption, it’s like, okay, well, do users actually care about stuff? So it’s just for me a healthy reminder to say, and I’m deflecting because I actually don’t know what, what comes next after web 3.0? In so many ways, it’s like, what is web 3.0? And what is our definition of web 3.0 today? It might change dramatically. Because you know, you really have to just understand. I think for me, it constantly is questioning what people care about. Because users drive options, and if you don’t have adoption, then no one really cares. You know, sometimes the best technology doesn’t win. When you look at VHS Betamax, it was far superior technology, just, you had better marketing, you had better adoption by the porn industry of VHS standard and that made it you know, the best standard and MP3 is no different. It wasn’t like the best standard, but it just had the best support behind it. And sometimes I wonder how this world will evolve. You know, I think and it ultimately starts with, you know, what people care most about. So my answer would be the definition of what we think of web 3.0 is probably going to be very different in the next year or 2, 5, 10. So for me to tell you what comes next after web 3.0, assumes that I understand web 3.0 is, which I don’t think I understand fully. Because it is moving very quickly and it means so many different things for people. A lot of people just think web 3.0 is just gaming. A lot of other people say it’s just DeFi and, I think that’s what’s most exciting about this world, which is, this metaverse that we call it, is going to encompass so many different things. But what is clear to me, is I think for better or for worse, the operating standard of a lot of things is going to radically change. It’s sort of like, I think we are going through that email moment of crypto. Before email no one really understood why the internet was useful, and then ultimately email made it so pervasive. Everyone is using email. Every single business, every single person uses email because it allows us to connect in a more fluid way. And at the end of the day, we are very social beings and love to connect. And so I think it’s just finding those ways that are allowing us to connect and transfer value, not just monetary value, but just value. Social tokens, DeFi, like just money in more fluid and interesting ways. And ultimately that will probably be expressed in so many different ways, that is both daunting, and I think it will get really weird. The minority report will probably be pale in comparison, but it’s moving really fast, and that’s what’s most exciting. What the metaverse and web 3.0 was a year ago is much different than what it is today. And so, yeah. 

You know, I like to think about this question and I ask this to almost everybody on the show. If you look at what people kind of preach and communicate about web 3.0 and how that compares to web 2.0 where web 2.0 is gated. Web 3.0 is borderless. Web 2.0 is centralized. Web 3.0 is decentralized, right? Web 2.0 is controlled and managed by a select group of people that get to see and quote unquote manipulation or use data to their advantage. Everything is public in web 3.0. And I try to think of those types of characteristics and like, what’s the extreme side of that. Like if everything were to be on chain, if everything were to be decentralized, if everything were to be borderless, right? What’s the downside of that? And what will try to fix that, you know? So I don’t know. I dunno. Just something to think about.

I’ll say, I wrote about this a long time ago. Just growing up in Mexico for me, like this idea of human migration, I don’t understand it. Like why are we confined to man made boundaries? And the downside of that is you see places like Africa that were just chopped up like a sandbox by Europeans and like candidly, a lot of the problems that you see in Africa today is because there’s these man-made boundaries. And ultimately what’s most exciting is the idea, I think we are moving to a place where countries will become less important. I think communities will start in their world and then permeate to the physical world. Like you look at e-sports. I don’t have any affiliation to my national team. Like if there’s a soccer team of crypto, that’d be my team, you know? So, you know what I mean? Like the younger generations are really going to just think about nationalism or whatever that means like attached to open source communities that are very fluid. All we need to solve is being able to easily migrate, and when you have the ability to port over money, that is non sovereign, like Bitcoin, and then you can go anywhere in the world. That’s where I think you will see a shift in how we organize as humans. And the communities that we form like cities. A city like New York is more like London than what it is from Plano Texas. But somehow we think about the United States. It goes to the last point, the early point you were saying, which is that there are shared values and principles that ultimately align us and coordinate us as humans. I think we’re going back to that, where that becomes the primary, like gravitational pull to wherever you may go. And it’s not, you go to a particular country. It’s not that you go to a particular jurisdiction, because you’re going to where you really want to be aligned with people that share the same values and principles. That like reorganization, I think will create a lot of value, and that’s what like, is probably most exciting about web 3.0. 

Outro

Love it, man. I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Before I let you go, shill yourself. Where can we find you? Where can we find punk 91 59? Take it away. 

I’m in the metaverse naturally. I’ll probably go to a few conferences. ETH Lisbon and then a few others. So you can find me there naturally, but easier just on Twitter @santiagoroel and yeah. 

Thank you so much. 

Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s always great to be here and really appreciate the time. 

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Public Parks and DAOs: The Rise of Digital Cities with Alex Zhang

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 7 welcomes Alex Zhang, a Co-Founder of Friends with Benefits, and the aspiring Jane Jacobs of DAOs. This was probably the most important conversation I’ve had on Mint so far. He brings so much insight and is really well versed with all things DAOs, aka decentralized autonomous organizations.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 4:10 – Growing up a Son to Immigrants
  • 7:34 – Becoming the Jane Jacobs of DAOs
  • 20:55 – Understanding Dynamism in a Digital City
  • 24:02 – The Differences Between Real Cities and Digital Cities
  • 29:34 – FWB Season 4
  • 39:47 – Crypto as an Incentive
  • 46:49 – Photography and DAOs – The Similarities
  • 49:09 – What Eats Web 3.0?
  • 51:30 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Alex, welcome to Mint. How are you doing, man? 

Good. Happy to be here. 

Yeah. Excited to have you on. I want you to tell me a little bit about yourself, but more specifically, what were you doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Yeah I was pretty recently crypto pilled, maybe about six to eight months ago. So pretty fresh. I would say I had a pretty introductory experience to crypto, mostly through my peers. You know, buy Bitcoin whatever years ago. And never really was interested in like the DeFi yield farming, like that whole category side of the space. My background has always been more in sort of the intersection of culture and technology. More importantly, the sort of layering and aggregating of people and how people interact with each other through those different sort of mediums and industries. So that took shape, and I threw a lot of parties in college, organized a lot of events and experiences. Was mostly fascinated from the technology side, with social networks and marketplaces, like how do people come together? How do people transact together? How do people build to accomplish shared goals? When I started learning about DAOs through friends who were sharing things late last year, earlier this year, that was like the first kind of big click for me. Like NFTs were rad. I understood what it meant, what it meant for my friends who were creating art or to have the sort of non fungibility and the values of non fungibility to those specific assets. But for me, it was really DAOs and the sort of replacement or the future state of the corporation and how people could work together and work towards something that really got me sort of let’s say crypto pill or whatnot.

I like how you brought up the whole reference to college. I think a lot of people who end up going to university start to explore the early interests and the early passions. You kind of got started with organizations by producing events. First of all, where’d you go to school? 

I went to USC.

Right on. Likewise. And second thing, what kind of events did you put together? Like did you run a club over there? What’s the context behind that? 

Yeah. USC was a really interesting place in that it was quite a large university and it was in LA. So we had really strong access to culture and music and art and nightlife, like outside of the city quite early. So for me, I got really involved with the radio station on campus as well as started a handful of my own organizations within the entrepreneurial space. So it was, you know, one finding the radio side of university and working with a hundred or so DJs, and learning how to DJ myself, and having my own radio show and sort of seeing the value of a group of like-minded people who had an obsession over music and curating great music. And then also identifying and kind of this scratching, this sort of let’s call it an entrepreneurial bug where I was like, man, I really want to start a company or I really want to work with people to start companies. But at that time, USC didn’t really have a connected ecosystem for that. It was kind of everyone wanted to go be consultants or investment bankers or work for a big tech company. And so a group of friends of mine, we started an organization called lava lab and we started an organization called spark SC, and we just started really bringing together hackers from all different spaces from the business school, from the engineering school, from the design school and bringing them under sort of one roof. And we created a coworking space and we created all these different resources as a means for sort of this Switzerland on campus. Because we parked it inside of the communication school. And so there wasn’t this ego of like, oh, this is coming out of the business school or this is coming out of the engineering school is kind of like one fluid hybrid space. And so that was kind of an early sort of infrastructure where I learned the value of multidisciplinary sort of cross-pollination right. Bringing artists and creatives into an entrepreneurial space to launch companies and vice versa. I started to throw parties around that in my backyard. I started to throw parties for our university, booking talent and just became kind of obsessed with community architecture, community building. You know, what happens when two people randomly meet and build something together and it becomes a thing. And then in facilitating environments for those connections to kind of occur again. 

Growing up a Son to Immigrants

All right. So I did research about you beforehand, but I didn’t come across the element of spark SC in lava labs. So for those who don’t know, those are like two of the most important organizations on campus. Alongside Troy labs, I’ll shout out Troy labs, which I helped bring to life as well. And the USC blockchain community over there. It was first called the Trojan blockchain society helped do that as well with other friends, and then that kind of merged with blockchain at USC. But super cool. A lot of how I got started, a lot of my inspiration, a lot of my motivations stemmed from organizations on campus, stemmed from all the shit that happened outside of the classroom, all the fun, all the brainstorming that happened with students around me, regardless of what school they were. Super cool, didn’t know that about you. Moving forward, what was it like growing up in the Zang residence? What do you think helped inspire and spark that initial motivation that led you towards leadership, organizational design, decentralized governance? Anything that you kind of like look back at, and you’re like, oh, interesting, I used to do this and this and that and that’s probably why I’m doing this?

That’s a great question. Yeah. My parents were both immigrants from Beijing. Grew up in a suburb of California and so a suburb of LA in Claremont. And so just the family dynamics and having to often explore curiosities and passions outside of the home was just something super critical to me early on. My parents sort of taught me this level of resilience and, you know, sort of the immigrant story where you kind of figured everything out on your own. You know, there’s always a third door, right? It’s not option A or B. There’s always some kind of ingenuity that comes from just having to immigrate to America and deal with all the sort of challenges that come with that. And so it was just really like, you know, my dad is just the most clever person I know, and always coming up with amazing solutions to things. And so I’ve always been sort of a hacker, you can call it, early on. I did sort of institutional things. I did corporational things I hated. This is the way things should be done, so you should follow it. And even though my parents often kind of impressed that upon me, right. They wanted me to go work at big corporations and all these things. And I was like, nah, I like creating things. I like working with sort of undefined things in spaces. And so that was really where I established kind of an early obsession over the unknown on the undefined, then it was really, you know, as sort of in growing up in an immigrant household and then being a minority growing up in the states, you often have to be like, all right, how do I fit in? Like in high school, how do I find my people? If they don’t look like me, how do I find my sort of community? And then it’s often like leaning into whatever strengths that you have at the time, which for me was like my social sort of dexterity and agility, and then my ability to be the floater in terms of moving between different friend groups. So hanging out with, you know, the kids out at the skatepark, hanging out with the homies on the football team and the soccer team or hanging out with, you know, I was in all AP and IB classes. So it was kind of like, I sort of move fluidly throughout these different spaces. And that taught me about being a multidimensional individual and creating bridges between different types of groups and I found that to be way more interesting than just being defined by one specific category. And so, I don’t know. I think that those two experiences were pretty formative. And then now how I treat and design systems today in terms of thinking about diverse systems, organic systems, how do people come together and create things. Sort of, you know, the more diverse the inputs, the more complex the outputs. These types of framings were all from childhood and growing up.

Becoming the Jane Jacobs of DAOs

I think, like you as well, my parents migrated here from the middle east when they were in their twenties and they had my brother and I here and they both came here not knowing the language. Actually, my mom kinda got what’s the word immigrated from, from the Mexican border, kind of thing. And our family snuck her in, and my dad managed to fly over here from the middle east, had my brother and I, didn’t know the language, no nothing, had a couple thousand dollars in his pocket and just made something. Just figured it out. And there’s something about growing up around that energy, around that mentality that teaches you, grit that teaches you that third door mentality, right? One thing that comes to mind, you’re from LA is like, when we’re on the 4 0 5, like merging to the 101 and there’s always a long line of cars just waiting to make that intersection, and then there’s that side lane where you just like drive through and just like cut right in. That’s the type of thinking that parents taught us. At least that’s what I’m picking up from you. That’s how it kind of translated to me as well. So it’s cool to see you also kind of explore that unknown because growing up for me, my dad always told me he’s like, go to Google, go to JP Morgan, go to these big tech firms, and I’m like, no, I’m going to this thing called internet, funny money called Bitcoin. Like, this is what I want to do. Like it’s new, it’s fresh. It’s different. So yeah. Cool to hear that. Let’s dive into DAOs. One thing that stood out to me about yourself is, in your Twitter bio, you aspire to be the Jane Jacobs of DAOs. For starters, who’s Jane Jacobs? And why do you aspire to be her for DAOs?

Yeah. It’s funny how much that bio resonates with different people. But yeah, I mean, so Jane Jacobs, I first encountered her work, she’s a journalist and author activist, sort of urban studies, sociological legend, and was in this camp of you know, Christopher Alexander, a lot of these different individuals who thought intensively and wrote intensively about city design and how cities affect people and how cities affect economics and sort of the relationship between these different environments. But really what I brought from her work was a really empathetic sort of human led lens. And so the first book I read by her was the classic, the death and life of great American cities. And that was sort of my red pill into an urban theory where I was like, whoa, this is really interesting, someone writing about how sidewalk width is important to how cities function and how people bumped into on streets and what that means for how people use them on streets. And all the way down to fuels the work of thinking about the role of parks in cities as these kinds of like main central locations and areas where people could flow in and out and a place where, you know, like New York city has really great socioeconomic stratification. The beauty of New York is you can be, you know, a very wealthy individual billionaire who lives on the upper east side, or you could also be a struggling artist student, and you guys could walk through the street because of how the city is designed. Versus as someone who grew up in LA, you would uniquely understand LA isn’t designed for that, right? LA lacks that space. You don’t bump into people in LA. Everyone’s in their cars. Everyone’s driving from their house to the restaurant that they’re going to go eat at and go back home. In New York, there’s a lot more serendipity. There’s the shared space. There’s the subway system where everyone has to use that to an extent to move and navigate across the city. That work was fundamental for me in my last role, where I was the creative director at a community organization called summit series, where we threw global festivals, events, and crowdfunded to purchase a ski resort in Utah, where we were building a town from scratch. So it was the study of urban studies and how cities are built that I used when designing 3000 person festivals and conferences or designing and working with the team on the foundations of how a ski resort is developed and built in terms of what’s private space, what’s public space, what’s mixed use, what’s the relationship between commercial and residential, what has economic policy affects on how people interact with these cities? And so, I’m like a city nerd and found her work to be really interesting. And she’s sort of revered as the grandmother, alongside like Chris Alexander, on how great cities are sort of built. And I think what we’re seeing now with DAOs and what we’re seeing a lot now with these internet communities that are sort of forming overnight via fractionalized NFTs, or via tokenization of communities, or even the internet at large, no different than let’s say Reddit, is these look like internet cities. And when you apply a similar design thinking framework, like how wide does the virtual sidewalk analogy look, or what is the role of the public park? What does a public good look like on the digital internet? Things like that start to be really exciting and are interesting reference points on making decisions as an architect or as a leader.

You know, and we’ll get to that. I have a long list of questions. Like what does crime look like at a DAO? What does a sidewalk look like in a digital city? We’ll get to that in a minute, but talking more about Jane Jacobs and how she’s inspired a lot of your thinking, a lot of your leadership, what are some of the key takeaways that she writes about that you find yourself applying on a day-to-day basis to let’s say FWB for example? This could even be tied to the upbringing of season four too.

So high level, Jane Jacobs really champions this notion of community-based approaches to city building. And so really studying how a city isn’t ever designed top down. Like a good city has never a mayor being like, all right, this is all, we’re all gonna fall in line. A good city is a really good governmental layer, creating the right infrastructure, the right boundaries and allowing for the citizens to color inside or outside of the lines and to populate it with their own recurring repetition of patterns and interactions. Christopher Alexander, who writes a lot of stuff with the same sort of philosophy. And so, you know, what does that mean on a city level? What that means is like, no, one’s telling you how to live in a city. There’s no instructions for how to live in New York, but the way the city is designed is done in harmony with how people live here in a way that what you come to love and enjoy about New York is the serendipity people say on the streets, right? Like you run into someone on the street and it’s got energy. Everyone’s like the city is alive like that’s intentionally designed, but it’s populated by the people who exist within that framework. And so I think, it was that grassroots bottoms up community built approach that made so much sense to me when it related to internet design and in order sort of internet community design in a way that internet communities are no different, right? You can’t just spin up a discord and have a community. That needs to be like, if you think about your channel design, like all your different discord channels, those are no different than creating your streets and your pathways in city design for playing SIM city or for playing whatever. It’s like, if you have thousands and thousands of channels before you have people, everyone’s going to be dispersed and spread out, and there’s never going to be like sort of a central location where people gather. So for me, it was really thinking about like, okay, what channels are central park? What channels are our main meeting place where, if you think about it, what are the roles of parks in great cities right now? Parks, at least in the last two years, I mean, actually in the last hundreds of years, right, parks were places for either celebration, protest or places where people could immerse themselves in nature and unplug from sort of an intensive city environment. So it’s like, what does that look like in a digital environment? Well, and have to FWB, we have something called FWBgeneral chat, which is sort of like where everything goes down. It’s kind of like the main town square. And it’s designed to be like, where someone’s like lost, or if someone raising a protest, or if someone’s like celebrating some sort of a win, that’s where you go to sort of like be one with the masses and then it all sort of fractionalizes and breaks out into way more specific channels that are based on interests that are based on value set that are based on a whole bunch of different set of criteria. You can think of it no differently than in New York, you hang out in Bushwick or you hang out in the upper east side, or you hang out in Chelsea. These all have different value sets based on architecture cost of living, there are types of people living there and access to whatever, like local resources. So I think we think of channel infrastructure as just one example. If you think about it from a city’s perspective, like what are the public spaces where you can increase the number of interactions between communities with like-minds and the shared interests to like increase serendipity in relationships, but then translating that into you know a digital environment where you want to increase those different connective points.

I have never heard anybody describe a discord channel, the way you just outlined all those channels and how they pertain to IRL type of locations. And it’s actually such a good way to do that because for those who are going to be listening to this, whether they be creators/contributors in that realm, when they’re trying to start their own web three communities, I feel like that’s the right way to look at it. Where are people going to be spending time the most? How do you define every single channel and what they should be doing in there, and kind of zooming out and using a physical location as like your guide from let’s say a city point of view makes everything, I guess, come together much more smoothly in my head. Like, it just makes so much more sense. I’m looking at the discord over here, the friends with benefits discord, and I always just saw them as like channels, but when you put it exactly, they’re literally neighborhoods.

And when you go to things like the NFT channel, it’s got its own vibe. There’s like the same 10 to 15 people who are the most active people driving a lot of the discourse. There’s about a hundred to 300 people who are watching that discourse. NFT general is our most popular neighborhood, and it has sort of its own unique sort of distinct culture. And so my role wearing the sort of mayor hat is really looking at those types of channels and how do we give them resources to continue to develop and enhance and amplify and repeat those patterns that are happening on that local level. And so if we’re really zooming in on this like city analogy, it’s sort of no different than if you think about like, you know, I got really into like parks for a while. What makes a good park, and why do people visit certain parks? One of the things that I was really fascinated by was the role of the park bench and how park benches play in parks. You’ll notice this the next time you walk into a really good park, like one in Paris or one in New York, or you know, any of the major European parks is all the benches face inward, they all face the street, or they all face the walkways. And it’s designed in a way to create a spectator sort of a voyeurist spectator relationship into a public space so it doesn’t feel weird to be sitting there alone. Because if a park bench was facing sort of a random tree or something, it quickly lacks stimulation, and eventually you get bored and you leave. But a park bench faces the walkway because it’s not weird to sit on a bench and smoke a cigarette or like, you know, eat or drink a coffee because you’re watching passer Byers cross every second, and you can sit there for like an hour and just kind of watch people. And I think of, you know, I designed physical massive events around that exact same structure. Like how do you create a festival experience where people are sitting and watching other people, and using that to increase a stronger sense of purpose or belonging in that space. And now I’ve translated the same analogies to the discord where people love to just watch people chat with each other. There’s something weirdly voyeuristic about watching two people chat. People love when people argue with each other, and there’s a little bit of drama or people love when someone’s in the Discord kind of like chatting or typing, and it’s that same voyeuristic perspective that I think about designing for in this sort of park bench example in Jacob’s talks, Jane Jacobs has a whole chapter on park benches.

I used to live in Switzerland and in Austria, and one thing I noticed while living in Europe for about nine months, I noticed how when you look on Google maps, all the cities or a lot of the major cities are designed as rings, right? And rings in a way where, within those rings that have smaller rings and smaller rings and smaller rings. Why is that? I never looked into that. Why do you think they’ve designed it like that? And you probably don’t know the answer, but what’s the context behind that and does that apply to how digital cities work too? 

So the most likely reason behind why cities are designed in ring formats is a function of labor markets and capital markets, as it relates to proximity of commute time between the center of a city and the outside of the city. So for instance, the reason why the sort of ring in the center is smaller, it’s a function of density and labor, right? Asia is a fantastic example or even New York city where like, you know, the middle is more dense with higher skyscrapers because that’s where a lot of the economic value of a city is being driven. You’re commuting to work. And then the public transportation is designed in a way that allows for you to commute from your home, which is typically in a suburb, right? The older you get, most people typically move outside of these rings because it’s cheaper and you get more space. And so this idea that the center is the center of a ring, because it’s the highest density of vertical building, you know, typical, you know, whatever skyscrapers where you have thousands of employees inside of a small radius or a smaller geographic footprint is a function of how cities respond to sort of economic drivers and labor markets and capital markets, if that makes sense. Because if people are too spread out and you don’t have a center of the city, your public transportation, won’t reflect sort of efficient ways to commute to work in a more, you know, this is all obviously before people were working remotely and on the internet, as most of these cities were built, you know, whatever in the last a hundred to 200 years. So a lot of it is defined by I think like labor markets.

Understanding Dynamism in a Digital City

One thing that Jane Jacobs talks about is cities having like certain levels of logic and dynamism. And dynamism is basically the quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress. That’s how I understand the pulse of a community, the vibrancy of the community. How does that translate to a digital city? 

Yeah, I think about that way too much. I mean, that’s pretty much one of the core themes behind friends with benefits. Really thinking about how you increase dynamism or frequency of interactions between individuals. And so I think about that in a couple of ways. I think about that one, understanding that most communities form sort of one to many, right? There’s a central leader, there’s a central creator who comes in and is like, all right, everyone join my discord and we’re all gonna hang out here and I’m going to drop content for you guys. That’s like level one and quite one dimensional. I think what Jane’s referencing there is this idea of like the difference between many to many and the difference between sort of peer to peer. And so peer to peer is like one to one, many to many is like network effects where like you actually now have Of let’s say 50 people, in one to many example, I stand up on a table and I’m like, everyone, what’s up. Welcome to my crib. This is what we’re going to do. Peer to peer is like one person talking to one person, many to many is like all of those each having the ability to talk to the 49 other people. And so I think of dynamism as the acceleration of that with a shared goal and a shared purpose, which in a city example can often be a lot more soft, but it’s essentially people gravitating towards cultural totem poles, if you will, or cultural sort of pockets. In the digital city building context, it’s essentially about establishing as many, many to many relationships as possible, and like creating the infrastructure where people can actually form strong connections with as many different people and be incentivized and encouraged to build things with those people. So in FWB, we do things like hackathons. We do things like town halls. Every two weeks, we do things like public voice chats, where we talk about things. We have a meeting in like two hours where we, as a community are going to be building and re reviewing a code of conduct for this community. We do vision and value sessions where we like to talk about what the values are of FWB as a city. So all of those are like touch points that I think accelerate dynamism so that people feel empowered to then be like, you know what? Like I’m going to do this. I’m going to help out with this. I’m going to contribute, and that recipe of a group of talented, passionate, high quality contributors who feel empowered to participate is essentially dynamism and no different than a city. And what you saw with let’s take George Floyd last summer and his murder, that sparking a sense of dynamism across all of these major cities, where everyone was like, we’re going to now start to self-organize and use networks to march and to protest and to do this. That is a beautiful example of a resilient community or resilient city, is people being able to execute those types of campaigns and initiatives from a grassroots level. 

The Differences Between Real Cities and Digital Cities

You know, one thing you brought up earlier is this concept of sidewalks and park benches. I want to dive into those characteristics of what pertain to a physical city and its different attributes and how that translates into a digital city. For example, like some components that come to mind. Sidewalks, parks, retail design, concepts of self-organization, opera houses, all these things that kind of allow people to congregate, transportation. All these key things that define and give color to a city are now trying to be forced to squeeze into a discord server. Like what, what’s the equivalent of like transportation on the digital side? What does that look like at FWB for example? Like, what does an opera house look like for entertainment on FWB? What does crime look like from a traditional physical setting, but like in FWB for example? 

So a couple of things, I think it’s really important in this city analogy that we don’t also take it too literally. I don’t think it’s like literally all of us living on the internet, exclusively on the internet, but I think of it more of the internet city as a framing from an urban theory perspective of like little bits and pieces that you want to remix. And so I say that as in, I think everyone would have to agree, we don’t want to all live on the internet. Like we view the internet, we view web three, we view blockchain as tools to actually enhance the physical world. It’s why a big part of our experience and roadmap for friends with benefits is throwing wicked parties and having great experiences and like bringing people together in a physical IRL environment, but like facilitating coordinated digitally. Even though some of those examples, for instance, sure. We could think of it explicitly in a digital context in which there are good parallels, right? Crime totally exists. Right? Online harassment, sexual harassment, people, violating codes of conduct, people being assholes to each other in a Discord. That is crime. If it violates a set of rules created by a community that is governed by that community, that’s the police, right? Some sort of enforcement mechanism with some set of consequences that are established, those exist in really mature online communities, codes of conduct and guidelines, things like that. Opera houses, right? I mean, if you distill what an opera house even is, let’s just say that’s a physical place that represents some sort of cultural attraction. That could be no different than like Jess Sloss every Thursday doing his seed club talk. You know what I mean?

I want to hear Jeff sing. That’s what I want to hear.

So yeah, I think they’re both physical and they’re both digital, but I think it’s more important to think about things like the theory around these types of things. So for instance, in FWB, you know, there’s a lot of conversations around like, man, our token price is way too high for people to join dah, dah, dah. And we just launched a new initiative yesterday called FWB local, which is essentially being able to join our city DAOs and our city channels for five FWB versus right now it’s 75 FWB to join the full membership at the discord. What we often think about when we think about this cost of living is we use this analogy of like, well, right now to live in New York city, you pay a pretty penny and you decide where you want to live. But if you want to live in Manhattan, you’re paying an even prettier penny , depending on if you want to live in, you know, Bed-Stuy right in the suburbs. And so it’s like, but why do you pay higher premiums? And then you pay higher premiums for better access to culture, better access to people, right. To eat at really nice restaurants, to go to really great museums and opera houses, to participate in a certain level of cultural production that if it warrants that. So we think friends with benefits is no different. Like right now, our gating mechanism is quite one dimensional, seventy-five FWB to get full membership, five FDB to get access to our events and our cities, one FWB to read our content or to read our newsletter, stuff like that. But that’s all like we’re in the first, second inning of FWB. I think the long term horizon is if you think about it from an urban planning or urban theory perspective is, how does FWB as a token or as a gating mechanism start to be thrusted into the hands of the community where the community can start to set their own thresholds for FWB sort of approved or sanctioned activities, events, experiences, content, where it starts to take a little bit more of a market based approach. Where if someone wants to throw a 20 person dinner in New York and you need 200 FWB to join, great, they should be able to do that on an individual level. But if someone wants to do something for one FWB, they should also be allowed to do that. And then it’s our role as more of a cultural currency to sort of organize index that and communicate that and approve things that fit our brand and community ethos, but ultimately allow for the community in itself to populate the different thresholds and the different access points where I think the long term success of FWB is a diversification of the token and of the access points, so it actually starts to function like a cultural currency. So it’s like if Adam wants to do a hang in LA for 50 people and he wants to price it at 70 or 200 FWB, but only two people show up, then that’s on you. You priced it too high. You know what I mean? Even a restaurant pricing their menu incorrectly, or opening up a restaurant in the wrong location. And so that’s how we’re starting to design the infrastructure in a way where right now it’s, FWB establishing these different gating sort of thresholds, but eventually creating a dynamic, flexible sort of much more antifragile infrastructure where the community can sort of set these different FWB points and diversify no different than if you were in a city, you could choose if you want to go to an expensive restaurant on the upper west side, or you can choose if you want eat a hot dog at the park for like a dollar it’s up to you. 

FWB Season 4

And I want to jump into season four right now because we’re already talking about that. So the whole theme of season four is basically defined by the strength and independence of our local parts. That’s how you kind of summarized it in discord when you guys announced it. And just to quickly recap, season three, You guys had an incredible performance, the community as a whole from, and this is again, picking up notes from what you guys wrote. And also my experience kind of living in, voting on stuff and contributing is having a Chris Dixon pitch to FWB, and getting that capital infusion or increasing membership growth, what by four X, quadrupled? And the community is just pulsating on a whole nother level. And now season four is like, okay, we have all these people in here. How can we empower people to be on their own? And co-create with one another. That’s what I kind of like picking up. So, talk to me more about how do you guys plan to implement that? What does that look like in practice? Beyond just a theoretical point of view. And I know you gave a couple examples, but could you go a little bit more into that?

Yeah. I’m happy to. So yeah, season four is really this idea of the strength of the whole will be defined by our local parts, right? In the sort of interdependence and Nicola collaboration and how these local parts begin to form their own infrastructure tools and decision-making capacities to really enforce the culture within those neighborhoods. And so on the literal example, that’s the city’s initiatives. FWB in the last two seasons was like me Cooper, Trevor, Derek, you know, all of us as like staff members running around these different cities, throwing parties. Like we threw Paris, we threw New York, we threw Miami and that was like us literally picking the location, doing all the organizing, booking the talent, getting the community there. But if you think about it, that doesn’t scale, right? If I want to throw a sick FWB party in Istanbul , it’s like, it doesn’t make sense for me to fly out there and discover that city and figure out where to throw an event. The decentralized way or distributed way would be like, how do we establish the infrastructure for an actual Istanbul city DAO to form or in this season 4, LA New York and London are sort of top three markets to form, to begin to elect their own forms of leadership, to pool capital together, and to begin throwing experiences for themselves. It’s like, I won’t know what the coolest hot new bar is or the new hot cool restaurant is in LA or SF if I don’t live there. And so the idea is to empower local constituents and citizens and token holders to begin to co-create experiences for themselves in those local cities. And then as a community member, you’re then able to visit LA, New York, London and access any of those events that are being planned on a local level. And so you can envision now, if you look at, even FWB , we launched this yesterday, the channels now have an LA dedicated channel with multi sub channels and New York London. Versus before in season one, it was just one channel that was FWB LA. And so what we hope will start to happen is the LA channels will to develop its own patterns, its own culture, its own community members, its own vibe that starts to become a lot more potent than the 400 LA members who are scattered all throughout the discord, but now all working towards shared goals and shared incentives. So that’s what that looks like on a city level. Now what that looks like on an even more galaxy level is take the NFT channel, for instance, this is a channel I’m really, really excited about. It’s our most active neighborhood by far. You’ve got every night you go to bed, you wake up and there’s thousands of new messages. Like no one can even follow along and the amount of alpha and they’re on NFT projects to buy or the amount of artists who are in there who are looking to make their first, you know, NFT project and they come from, you know, a contemporary art space is like really, really impressive. But there’s no way I can properly design the right tools and infrastructure for that group to succeed. Instead, I should empower local constituents leaders in those channels who eat, sleep, and breathe NFT general chat and give them tools, capital resources, and a framework to be able to build their own FWB inside of the NFT channel. The beauty about Web 3.0 is now, we have new value accrual mechanisms and the ability to do token swaps, the ability to do token investments, where we can align incentives. So it’s not like that community forks, but it’s now we’re all working towards the same goal, which is to provide utility and value to the FWB token, but they can do that in a much more local way. So what does that look like? That looks like empowering the NFT channel to essentially create their own investing mechanisms. Community members pool capital together to invest in NFTs. They can start to work together on a curatorial level, right? And the NFT channel can start to signal really cool artists, who they want to back and invest in to launch NFT projects. They can start to build their own tools, right? You can already see the NFT channel created an alpha channel where it’s just leaks and drops of really cool projects so people can invest in those or support those artists. If they miss the larger channels, like they’re going to start creating their own content, their own media. You can start to almost view this as like a city or a neighborhood within a city that starts to create their own brand and their own ethos. But also financial and social incentivize with the FWB sort of main DAO or the parent DAO. And so, yeah, FWB local is like a season motto where you know, the motto is locally sourced. Is it really about identifying these different sub-communities within FWB, whether they’re geographic like LA, New York or London, or whether they’re interest based like NFT general or you know, passion-based, whatever it might be. And if they meet a certain level of like activity and engagement and dynamism is as Mrs. Jacobs would say, the FWB DAO should support that and invest in that and help them create sort of their own squad where FWB starts to look a lot more like a network of a thousand squads kind of working towards the same direction, as opposed to like one big DAO with one multisig making all the decisions.

Interesting. How long did it take you guys to come to that conclusion? We’re four seasons deep now. Season one, it was just a social experiment. Season two was like, shit, shit’s getting real, like what’s happening over here. Season three was like trying to understand, make some structures, make some parties, all that. Now season four is in the picture. It feels so defined. It feels so focused. Like I align with that. And I’m not such a crazy contributor. But I vote on stuff occasionally. I was in like the investment channels and whatever when you guys were doing the fundraiser, when we were doing the fundraising, if you want to put it like that. But now it feels so defined. And it’s going to set an example for how many other communities operate, communicate, and how they think about their social layers. How did you guys get to that conclusion? The core team, at least in the community. I wasn’t a part of that. I guess I’m more like the outer ring kind of thing. But how did the core community come to that conclusion? 

Yeah. That’s a great question and most of these are organic, right? And emergent is like a phrase we’ll use a lot. It sort of emerges over a period of time through multiple different sorts of inputs and organic sort of structures. I think it really was a beautiful chaotic culmination of like a lot of major pivotal moments for friends with benefits. I think it was the fundraiser where we got approached by pretty incredible partners from within the community and outside the community who started to ask some of these really, really hard questions. What’s the vision of FWB? I think season two and three, it was like, we all had our own little visions, but when you start to like, discuss that in a more institutional capacity you know, the need to sort of refine and crystallize that vision becomes a lot more apparent, right? So it was like a lot of people who had just really good bird’s eye views of the space. So it was like those gradual conversations being had with different partners. It really also was one of these really beautiful community exercises we started to do that started to provide a lot of value. So every other Friday, we started to do these things called like FWB vision values and mission sessions, where essentially, I would open up a town hall, our main stage chat and like a hundred, 150 people would show up on a Friday afternoon, and I would start pulling people up and asking them, like, what does FWB mean to you? And I started taking notes and I would start to ask guiding questions. I would interview people who had really interesting perspectives and we slowly started morphing from FWB as this ultimate cultural membership, which was really season two, season three, Into FWB as a city. And it was a couple of key stakeholders who really drove that vision, right. Jacob Horn from Zuora you know, Chris Dixon, Tina from pace like different people who were like really kind of geeking out about this urban perspective, as well as our core team members who have been immersed in a lot of this thinking Dexter, who really leads a lot of the product side of it, like is deep in this sort of urban planning you know, framing. And so it was like this connective tissue between needing to refine a vision when starting to like entertain large scale capital as well as like community organic bubbling up of people really resonating towards the city framework as something a lot more inspirational than building a digital social club or like a social experiment that I think once it started to hit, then I as one of the core drivers was really like this feels really good. Like I need to start immersing myself deeply in this culture. And what was great was I already had a lot of homework done on this. So it was now just contextualizing it for this sort of digital environment. So I started reading all these books, order without design, like all these sort of really dense theoretical books on things like city design, urban planning, labor markets, internet community building, and then having these conversations over a repetitive course of time. And then just testing things, right. Lobbing something out in a blog post and seeing if people pick up on it, dropping something in the discord. And it just seemed like the community really sort of rallied around it. And it felt like for the first time we had a proper framing of what we’re trying to do here. It’s all organic which is so interesting about it. I always tell people like, you know, this stuff is gardening, not architecture and it’s like art. You have no idea what direction that plant is going to grow. And it’s a weird combination of sunlight, water and soil conditions. It’s not like you can plan it out. You can’t be like, we’re going to arrive here and we’re going to work backwards from there. It was way more like leaning towards what felt good. And that’s why I think for a lot of DAOs it requires intuition and gut and like listening to your people and like going where those people are, and like having conversations with those people and then compounding and developing a thesis over time that you’re kind of like gut checking in public forums.

Crypto as an Incentive

Can these urban city primitives, the digital city ideas, principles be applied to let’s say like traditional, hardcore DeFi type of servers, or are they only applicable to social DAOs? Like could a creator who was an internet personality and has random Facebook group fan clubs of randomly populated channels online, could he, or she, or they, or whoever form these types of communities as well? Is that super applicable to them? Like, what’s the right DAO to do this? Obviously social DAOs, but maybe not all social DAOs.

 I think everything, that’s human. It’s human, it’s on the human level. It has nothing to do with industry. Has everything to do with, like, I think it is human nature to seek belonging and community. I think frankly, why blockchain and why crypto is so strong and cult-like is because of this sense of belonging and an intensity that it creates when you join. It’s like when everyone first discovers crypto, you’re like down this crazy- name another industry where people talk about it as like a rabbit hole.Everyone is like, oh my God, I just got so rabbit Holed, and, you know, organic food pill. But it’s because there’s such a strong community layer to it. Like only less than a year in my Twitter timeline is entirely web three now. I’m like what happened? Like I had Twitter before. I followed like tons of other people. My timeline is entirely, like I’m in this weird little echo chamber where everyone’s talking about super nuanced DAO infrastructure tooling, and it’s getting like hundreds of retweets. And I’m just like, this is crazy. But to me, it shows that like, we’re part of a movement, a movement is composed of smaller movements, and like anyone building a DeFi protocol or a creator, who’s looking to bring their community online, these theories can be applied to anything. Like if I were to boil it down, it’s just like listening to your people, creating the right avenues and opportunities for those people to build relationships with each other, and then creating the framework and the infrastructure where those people can then be incentivized to build together. That’s the holy grail of crypto, because before this, all of those things were happening. There was just never a way to incentivize people. Everyone just did it from a social status perspective or an emotional perspective. People spend time in these different, you know, Reddit channels or Facebook groups. They’re no different. They all have very similar traits. People are building relationships one-on-one with each other, a natural leader emerges, like all these things. Crypto now actually allows these to turn into economies via shared bank accounts and financial incentive. So it’s no different than when wall street bets kind of showed the world a year or whatever ago where it was a group of people on the internet, moving markets, making money together. That’s no different than crypto. And so, it was people working together to align financial and social incentives. And so, I think these theories can be applied to any social organism as a way to essentially create emergent patterns and emergent strategies to accomplish any sort of goal that a group of people define to go accomplish.

What else can we expect from season four? Like what should we look forward to?

I mean, beyond amazing experiences in your city, to more and more really interesting neighborhoods electing their own leadership and forming their own sort of structure and creating their own-

Which, by the way, I started getting DMS from people like I’m running as mayor or something for this chapter, can you vote for me? I was like, shit, like it’s actually getting like, political like that. Like where have we gotten? 

Yeah, that was crazy. It was amazing seeing like full grown adults who are so accomplished in their own individual professional and personal lives, like getting so invested in the process because they cared to campaign and create flyers and market. Like someone gave a concession speech, it was like, incredible to see. And I was like, this shows it’s human nature. We were joking, like it’s all student body government vibes. But yeah, that was pretty entertaining. 

So what else, tell me more. What else can we expect from season four? You said like people forming their own initiatives, collaborating, connecting all that stuff. That’s what you guys are focusing on, but what does that look like? So more parties, right? 

Maybe the alpha that I’ll share is that we’re getting ready to launch our very own sort of FWB owned social network. And so thinking about what a web three community owned direct member directory looks like. You sort of think of the utility of like a Facebook or LinkedIn, but being community owned and indexing and creating an identity layer on top of our community as for a way for token holders and community members to connect with each other, and not only like find potential collaborators based on like skillsets or interests, but to really start to serve as like the central infrastructure, the central on chain, online identity infrastructure for our entire ecosystem, where you can imagine a place to start displaying your POAPs, right? You voted on different initiatives, you can now display your POAP on your member directory on your profile. The ability when you check into the different events through the city DAOs , that all starts to aggregate on your profile. The number of governance proposals you vote on. Starting to create this FWB on chain reputation that is displayed and visualized in a fun FWB way, where we want to recreate myspace top eight. Who are your top eight friends in web three? We want to start to create all of these really sticky sort of social components that our product team has been heads down on for the last couple of months to really think about like, yeah, what is the identity later? What is the member directory? What does a social network that’s community owned look like in a way that can actually be governed by the community and can really be this central connecting point between our entire ecosystem of experiences as well as people? And I’m really excited about that. It’s still some ways out, but we’re hoping that that’s a mid season four type of initiative that we launch.

That’s really exciting. That’s really cool. I like to think about how we’re still in the Friendster phase of web three where we still have myspace and Facebook to go through. Not evenTik Tok has come into the picture. There’s so much development and so much growth to go through. All right. I have a couple more questions for you. I know I want to channel it back to you as a person. I know you’re a photographer. You love photography. For starters, how long have you been a photographer for, and are you still active with it?

Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m a photographer. I would just say I take photos, you know. I mean, I don’t know. I just think there’s so many amazing photographers that like to do photography and that is their primary thing. I just love just capturing people. I love taking photos of people. I love portraits. I love party photography. There’s something about that. I love being in a social environment and having a camera on me or, you know, having a point and shoot and being able to capture the fabric or the texture of something like a really good party or a really good experience. It’s just a way to kind of capture those sorts of memories and share them with friends and sort of apply my own approach to that. But yeah, more of just like a fun little thing, and bringing it around to these different web three parties we’ve been throwing has been really fun as a way to kind of just document everything. 

Photography and DAOs – The Similarities

Cool. Are there any similarities between photography and internet communities? Just off the bat? You can name one. We don’t have to dive too into it. I’m just curious because I look back and everything that we do as kids, as early teenagers, as adults, all the dots connect, you know, and there’s similarities and themes in everything that we do. Whether we like to admit it or not, who we are basically consists of what we’ve done in the past. So from a photography point of view, what is a similarity? Just one, if any, we can even skip it. 

Yeah. And I don’t know. I think the ephemeral nature of it. I think with photography, while the photograph is static, you’re capturing a dynamic experience. You’re capturing reality, right? I think that approach to understanding you can ever own that moment, but you’re just sort of like capturing one frame of it, and not being too attached. There’s sort of this idea of no cherished outcome, like not being attached to a specific outcome with photography, is incredibly resonant and relevant to what’s happening right now in web three and the internet. Like you can’t recreate something. Like FWB is a constantly moving, living, breathing organism, and then there will never be another FWB. There’ll be many, many things like FWB, but FWB is a combination of the people and the time and the place and the energy that then creates what we’re experiencing no different than a photograph can never be recreated twice. The light will never be exactly the same. Definitely not party photography, which is my favorite. I never make people pose. I fucking hate when people pose. I’m never like, oh, you guys stand here. I like being like watching a group of people interact, and then I’ll take that photo as, like, this was a thing that was happening at this moment in time. So I guess the ephemerality of it. 

All right, great answer. I did not expect that great answer. All right. Two more questions. If Jane Jacobs were to start a DAO, what would she kick off and what would be your role in it?

 Jane Jacobs would call other internet and get involved with the Git coin public goods DAO and help think about ways that crypto can do a much better job of supporting public infrastructure and public goods.

And then what would be your role in that? 

I would be a mere janitor or gardener pulling the weeds.

What Eats Web 3.0?

Last question. Before I let you go, I’m a big fan of the development of the internet. I love seeing the stages of the internet from web one to web two and now web three. Web one was very much read only, and then web two came into the picture and ate web one. We developed social networks. We developed all these SAAS models. We developed all these internet companies and communities. People were products of the platform and now web three is coming along where there’s co-ownership, everything is transparent, there’s borderless. People are making a lot of money. And web three is supposedly eating web two. What do you think is going to eat web three?

I think if web three is about ownership and co-ownership, web 4.0 four will be about governance. I think we’re still so early in that. Like how are we governing these massive platforms that are now co-owned, right? Like what’s the technology that’s going to revolutionize and improve the governing infrastructure that ensures that web three doesn’t make the same mistakes as Web 2.0. I think that everyone is hurdling down this web three route right now. Very few people are thinking about the role of governance and how most of these token voting models are not sophisticated enough as they should be, because the stakes aren’t high enough yet, but what happens when the stakes become high? And are we building that in a way to ensure that it is an equitable process and it’s not just one token, one vote, which anyone can see the flaws in a model like that. And so, yeah, I think web four will be the technology around governing and how that affects our physical lives in a metaverse context, not as in we’re uploading our brains in a digital environment, but in a voting now affects your day-to-day life because everything has been co owned and fractionalized, and your vote, and input is necessary to determine the success or an outcome of that specific thing that you own, where everything eventually will be fractionalized. So everything will need governing structures and if we don’t have the right technology for that I think that it’s going to be really, really bad or repetitive of the past.

Outro

Perfect. I think that’s a great place to end off. Before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find your work online in discord, et cetera? Shill yourself for a minute and the projects you’re working on.

Yeah, just, my Twitter @alexxzzhang. I don’t really tweet as much as I should, but yeah, most of my work honestly is FWB so y’all can find me the discord. And then I try to write whenever I get time to share my learnings with other people who are building DAOs, which I think it’s on my mirror. So you just go to my zhang.Mirror.xyz. 

Nice, man. Thank you so much. Well, this was fun. I hope to have you on again.

Yeah. Peace. 

Categories
Podcast Transcript

How To Build An MVC: Minimum Viable Community

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 6 welcomes Joyce Yang, the founder of Global Coin Research, a subscription-based media platform that provides insights and analysis into the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain space, with a focus on Asia. She is also a contributor at TechCrunch covering Cryptocurrency and Blockchain.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 3:56 – Growing up in China & Going Global
  • 9:57 – Launching Global Coin Research
  • 12:05 – Investing as a Community
  • 19:11 – Encouraging Participation
  • 23:22 – Token-Gated Content
  • 37:56 – Building an MVC: Minimum Viable Community
  • 45:11 – What Comes After Web 3.0?
  • 50:14 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Joyce, welcome to Mint. How are you doing? 

Good. Thanks for having me, Adam. 

Let’s get right into it. Give me a brief about yourself, but more specifically, what were you like before crypto?

Yeah, this kind of goes back a long way for me now. I’ve been in crypto for quite some time, about four to five years now at this point, building out Global Coin Research and building out communities in crypto in general. Prior to crypto, I kind of did the pretty typical track of going to college, trying to express my parents with a good school, and then after that, I go into finance learning some of the rudimentary skillsets that folks sometimes get from finance, such as working long hours and not sleeping. And that’s kind of turned out to be translatable and helpful in crypto in some way. I spent some time in finance, spent some time in tech, stumbled my way into crypto, and I have never looked back. 

So do you remember the first crypto you bought? 

I’m pretty sure it was Ethereum. It wasn’t. It wasn’t the Ethereum token sale, but it was like shortly after when I bought my first Ethereum. 

Wow. So super early, super early. Where did you study? Where did you stay?

I went to a small school in Boston.

What did you study there? 

Economics.

Do you feel like it’s super applicable at all to what you’re doing right now to an extent? 

Yeah, for sure. I think it definitely kind of made me think a bit more about tokenomics and how it applies to, for example, our tokens now that we have, and that’s on the market for global coin research. But, I think what was really eye-opening for me in college was kind of the type of people that were there. Our school had a number of international students and a number of folks just coming from all over the place. I grew up in New York really, and it was similar to you, kind of growing up in LA, and didn’t really know anything else. And I think just that opened up my eyes to the number of types of people that are out there, the curiosities of these individuals. That’s what I really sought and, kind of found, I think, in crypto as well. You really find a lot of young people with so much energy and it feels like college if you really find the right type of people and you go to the right type of events. And we try to foster that actually in many ways through global coin research probably not through the frat parties.

I was just, I was like, there are two sides of college. There’s the nerd doing like organizational clubs on campus, and then there’s like the Chads that just do all the frat shit. But yeah. Okay. Continue. 

I think global coin research has some great Chads in there and I’m happy with that, but you got to have a good combination of both, right? And we try to orient ourselves towards research and kind of being more rigorous about our kind of thinking around tokens and learning about token projects. But at the same time, I think you always got to have fun. I had the best fun in college. Definitely was not the best student personally. 

I sucked at school. I did okay in community college, but when I transferred from community to like more of a university in LA, I remember eating so much shit my first year, and I was like, oh, community college. I was getting good grades. I was working a couple of jobs, doing fine. And then I get to this university, I was like, shit, I can’t even keep myself afloat. And then I realized that after going through, my first semester at a mainstream university, I’m like, forget this. I’ve been locked in the study room forever, and I’m so much more of a communications front person. I was like, I need to get involved with clubs. I need to get involved with my interests. Like I know that’s where the value is going to be, not my grades. And I’m glad I did, cause somehow I ended up working in crypto. All right. Let’s talk more about your upbringing, and the only reason I want to pivot to this topic as we’re still in the introduction phase of the podcast is because you’re doing something that’s very media-focused at GCR. It also has an investment arm and a couple of other arms, but how was it like growing up in the Yang residence? Were you a very, I guess, extroverted type of person doing newsletters, and how does that translate? You know what I mean? Like how did you grow up that kind of led you to where you are today? 

Growing up in China & Going Global

Yeah, for sure. So there are so many defining moments in my upbringing that kind of drove me the way I am today, and part of it was actually me growing up in China. I spent my first 10 years growing up in China and then kind of integrated with my family to New York. And I have kind of strong roots back in Asia, and I kind of discovered and rediscovered it again when I was in crypto. When crypto first surfaced with such a global presence initially. And global coin research actually was originally focusing on Asia and kind of building out communities between Asia and the US and kind of the Western hemisphere and connecting those two. So we would go out there and help projects such as Starkware or crypto kitties or Tezos, in identifying the right type of people to connect with on either side of the hemisphere and helping them build out communities locally in Asia. So, you know, countries in Singapore, countries and China, Korea, and Japan, and many of those other countries. So that’s what I felt kind of rediscovering my roots back from Asia when I was kind of first pursuing that for global coin research, and then, over time I realized that you know Crypto’s global, but at the same time, there are so many on tap opportunities in growing and identifying really high-quality content that, you know, global coin research originally was resonating with and was really aligning ourselves with. And shortly after, we kind of expanded our focus from Asia to kind of globally overall. Right. And that’s actually very much rooted in my experience back in finance, where I was actually writing a lot of research papers about crypto, not crypto, there wasn’t token crypto back then, but there’s crypto now. I was writing a lot of research about software to software projects and software companies. So, very technical projects and companies that were going through an IPO and, you know, doing their quarterly earnings. And I was writing a lot of research on those types of projects and companies, and shortly after the finance stint, I also spent some time as a tech crunch journalist, as well as a reporter for the information. So for those experiences, I’ve learned a lot about reporting and actually kind of uncovering stories of projects. And I think combining those things, communities and connecting communities on top of really trying to uncover and share great content were like the two passions of mine. I would say I’m probably better at one, at probably community building than writing given my immigrant background. But at the same time, I do enjoy that kind of providing value and sharing and uncovering the opaqueness of the crypto space to folks. Because, even though we are a very interactive community, there’s still a lot of information disconnect between different communities and different regions. So, like what you said, global coin research is a tokenized DAO for research and investment purposes, and our community is really worldwide and everyone joins in from Europe, from Asia and they come in and learn about different projects and meet different founders of projects. We incubate projects and founding teams when they need help or get feedback for their products, and it’s been really fun. I think that’s really been able to kind of connect what we used to do as global coin research, and now, participating not only as a community, but also financially if the project allows us to.

I think something that’s really cool about your background is you have the traditional journalism side and now you’re trying to build a disruptive model around that with crypto. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned working and writing for tech crunch and all these other publications that you’re applying to GCR? 

Yeah, so I think some of the lessons I particularly learned about these centralized models of publishing, tech crunch, my experience there was, I write a piece and I get paid, and there was an editor that was actually filtering my piece and helping me improve my piece. I thought that those. Features are actually really great to have when it comes to someone having an editor helping and overlooking your products so that your piece actually becomes a really good product when it goes out to the world, but there’s always this centralized entity that tells you exactly what to write or gives you an idea for what you want to write. And then you kind of try to write about that, that appeals to them, for example. And what I realized for global coin research is that we want to be a model that’s similar in product quality, but different in that the writers have control over what they write. Global coin research now is a writing platform or global coinresearch.com specifically is a writing platform where folks can go on there, write a piece about NFTs, crypto tokens, anything you really want, as long as they’re very high quality and research-driven, we’ll prove it. We have an editorial team that will actually look through the pieces to make sure that, you know, all the grammar is going smoothly, and also that, you know, the template and the format look good so that it appeals to every average type of consumer in crypto. 

And that was actually my next question. What is an editorial process look like for a decentralized media company? 

Right now, for a decentralized media company, I think there still needs to be some kind of centralized powers. We don’t have five eyes looking at this content. We have just one editor looking at some content and another editor looking at the other content because we don’t have that kind of structure built out yet. The way we’re thinking about global coin research as a decentralized institution or project itself is, first we want to generate a platform to allow anybody to contribute content in a very high-quality way, and then, by having that content layer, we’ll be able to attract folks who are into this type of research, right? It’s not everyone was into long-form pieces that are about, you know, here’s a deep guide on learning about NFTs. Sometimes people just like to chase the latest NFT and never think about the income. So we want to attract those types of people, and in turn, by having this content layer, we’re able to get them onto our content platform. And then eventually they may discover our discord, which is the next layer of product. This core product itself is the community, right? The community is where we’re actually doing these AMAs with founders kind of incubating with projects directly on a weekly and daily basis in our discord, and we’re interfacing them through zoom calls or discord channels and learning about them on a more deep level and providing our feedback. In some cases, the founding team will let us invest in the upcoming rounds that they have.

Launching Global Coin Research

What was the inspiration behind GCR, and as a follow-up, can you walk me through your process from going from idea to where you are today? 

Yeah, I think for crypto there’s always an innovative process because you’re always trying to figure out what does a community actually want. For us, we never started out as a community with thousands of members from day one. It first started as a newsletter where we were just sharing ideas and sharing information to the public, originally about Asia, crypto, and the communities that were happening out of there. Over time we had garnered, at this point, 31,000 subscribers who are all very global, but are interested or learning about crypto. Before, it was about Asia, but now it’s really about anything that is the latest of the latest kind of importance. We evolved from there. From the newsletter, we have the writing platform, and we also have these events that we’re doing; not only online, but also in person. So for example, in the last three weeks, we’ve done one physical event with Axie infinity. We did another physical event with Yield Guild Games, and then now we’re doing another physical event with Axie infinity next week in LA. So, you know, these are all different ways to kind of really engage with the community, and I really enjoy that part specifically because it’s very ironic. I think someone said this before, and I think it’s really funny because the crypto people love parties and getting together and physical events, which is super ironic.

It’s amazing by the way. Probably my favorite part is okay there’s like two weeks of conferences and two weeks of traveling, you lose your mind and you have the best time meeting all these internet characters, and it just solidifies your entire relationship with all these anons, you know, and all these voices and like fortune cookies. 

I totally agree. I mean, I love hanging out with great thoughtful people and that’s kind of how our community has really formed as well, as just people who really like thinking through things or talking about a project at an in-depth level, and you form a community naturally around that. In-person, it becomes even more interesting because you have multiple voices all happening at the same time. So totally agree with you.

Investing as a Community

So you guys do the events, you have the content arm, you have the investment arm. Can you talk to me more about the investment arm? So I know you basically do like these events and whatnot for these communities and these founders. Is that something that, that community participates in as an investment and then gets like carry through the social token or how does that work? 

So for folks who are not familiar with our investment arm, essentially GCR is a community that invests together. So what that means is, whenever we do an investment call with a founder, you’ll have about 10 to 20 people showing up from our community, actually at the diligence call level. And then after the call, we have team members who are actually sharing notes about their takeaways from the call and their feedback on the founders. From there, any member actually who has access to the investment products needs a certain number of tokens to get to that threshold, but once any member joins our membership at that level, they’re able to participate and put in a check. And the way we’re thinking about it here is that you know crypto really democratizes a lot of things. It allows individuals to participate in multiple networks, but they should also allow individuals, especially accredited individuals, to participate in fundraisers because these are the type of individuals that these projects are looking for to be part of the community in the first place. So how we think about ourselves is actually we’re lending ourselves as effectively a quality audience for them to raise from initially and to bootstrap a community, similarly, to actually how the YGG model works. So for folks who are not familiar with yoyo games, they have an army of game players from the Philippines and elsewhere, and many other countries and they really help bootstrap many of the kind of Axie infinity game-playing activity early days, because there was so much demand from those communities. And the way we’re thinking about it here is that for our community, that’s very research-driven and very thoughtful who asks really great questions, anyone would like to have them in the early community as a member because you would like those types of community members to be participating in your network and giving you feedback and iterating on your product. So long story short, we allow anyone to invest with us as long as you’re accredited, and you of course acknowledge the risks that you have when you’re investing in crypto tokens. And then, we actually just most recently yesterday announced a partnership with syndicate DAO, where we’re bringing all of our deal investing into syndicate DAO. The syndicate protocol specifically, and members can, you know, pool capital together and invest together. We generally take a carry of some sort as kind of the liaison and the platform that kind of bridges the communities, but at the same time we’re actually in the process of figuring out how to return or how to share that carry with our members, the token holders.

You know, one thing that you brought up that’s super controversial in crypto is the element of being an accredited investor, and what you’re legally allowed to invest in and what you’re not legally allowed to invest in based on your net worth, right? How much you have liquid and whatnot. So from what I understand accreditation laws, you basically have to have at least a million dollars liquid in the bank to be qualified as an accredited investor, it can’t be locked up in assets or anything like that. Part of the argument behind crypto and money flowing at the speed of information is being able to invest and connect your wallet and bind to anything creator, open crowdfund, whatever it may be, as quick as possible and as easy as possible. But you’re coming from the point of view of the accreditation is more important, right? I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I think it’s an important topic because you specifically mentioned that. So how do you feel about that? Do you feel like crypto investment, deal flow, and venture investing should be strictly for accredited investors? Or do you think because crypto is so open, transparent, borderless, allows anybody to throw money at anything at any time. How do you feel about that? 

 I think crypto is very natively kind of connected with financially participating in a network, and I think it’s often very appealing and tempting when someone reads on Twitter, you know, I made, you know, a million dollars and I started it from the 10 K or a thousand dollars, and here’s my story, here’s how I did it. Everyone seems like they could do that, but it’s actually not true, right? At one side of the table, there’s someone who’s winning on the other side, there’s someone losing, but no one ever talks about how much money they lose. So what I caution folks on when they’re actually participating in these different kinds of investing activities is, do know the risks, because the space is still very early and there are still a lot of unknowns. For example, this is probably a pretty extreme example, but I’m not sure if you’ve been following the China Evergrande real estate property phenomenon. So, actually, it’s not even about that. It’s about stepping back a little bit. In the most recent few months, China has been putting a lot of bans and limitations on the tech conglomerates. So for example, you could only play an hour or two of games per day on a gaming platform if you’re under 18, and they will monitor that. So, and then in addition to that, they’ve been actually turning all these for-profit tutoring companies that are actually in the billions of dollars in market cap companies, and they’re telling them that they have to be a nonprofit now. So like, imagine in a single day, how much of that market cap gets lost because you basically have to turn your business model upside down to become a nonprofit. So these things happen and, it’s not to say that it will happen to us in the US, where the regulators come in and actually put a strict ban. Because I think Gary, from the SEC, who is the head of the sec, Gensler is very friendly to crypto. But at the same time, there are definitely risks, right? There are some unknown risks and there are known risks, and there are many of those for each category. So going back to what we’re talking about, accredited investors, I think when it comes to us, we definitely want to make sure that investors and the individuals in our network and the community are protected or acknowledging the risks that they’re taking when they’re participating in these deals. And I think there are many other outlets that you could do to participate in NFT drops and you could continue to do that. We talk about them in the community, but we don’t participate in those, not yet at least. I think we definitely want to make sure that everyone understands what they’re getting into though, whenever they’re getting into something. 

So how big is the GCR community today? 

So we have about 1500 discord communities. We have 31,000 other subscribers. We have done events with over 2000 people physically and virtually cumulatively. So take all those numbers whichever way you want to, but I think that the way to think about the community, for us is how often that these members are coming back. How much are they posting on a discord? What’s the retention rate like, and for us, actually, it’s pretty interesting. For the GCR token, you need to hold GCR token to participate in a deal, for example, and if anyone participates in a deal with us, they actually would almost never sell their tokens after that, because there are these kinds of retention factors that we need to consider, which is that they need to follow up with a deal. There needs to be ongoing processes with a deal. So it will take almost two, three years to actually be able to give up your token because the cost of giving up the token versus giving up your investment essentially is very high.

Encouraging Participation

Pretty cool. That’s a unique way to incentivize utility and retention. What other things have you seen work for you guys or for others in terms of basically encouraging people to HODL? Like what else has worked for you? 

I think having a really great community to bind with and having that intimate feel even while you’re growing is very important for us. So, segmenting our members into new members versus old members, and what do the new members want? For example, introduction to GCR and what they could do on GCR. So, segregating all these different types of products and members into their needs so that they feel more intimate. They have a class that they’re entering with, for example, when they’re first kind of joining GCR, and they know some of the new people that joined with them and they all ask similar questions and have that feel. That is very important to me, and we’re going through that, right? So it’s an ongoing growing pain and management and lots of discord acrobatics that you have to do to manage the discord communities. But I think it’s very fun, right? There’s lots of new energy, and that’s always really nice to see. 

Yeah, I think it’s such a cool factor that you guys have the investment arm because you’re right. If I were to invest with a community, I’d be more incentivized to hold that token. Cause I have so much skin in the game now beyond just me purchasing that initial asset. There are layers to it now. So, I really like that. I want to talk to you more about token gated content. I tweeted this a while back, and I remember coming across fortune or the New York Times. I think it was in the New York Times where I wanted to read an article, there was a paywall, I couldn’t read the article, I could only read it if I subscribed with a dollar for like three months. I went up, click the exit on the tab, and never saw that article again, and it’s only a dollar. Like I drop hundreds of thousands of dollars every week on crypto shit, and part of me was thinking and reflecting on that. I was like, why am I not down to pay a dollar, but down to buy a thousand dollars worth of GCR, right? Like why am I more incentivized to do that, and what does that mean for the greater creator economy as a whole? Do you think about that? So what do you feel about that? Like, share with me your thoughts.

It’s pretty interesting because I think, you know, a parallel to that is when you’re trying to pay $6,000 for a friends with benefits membership and then Soho house only costs $2,000. You’re like, oh my God, how is this so expensive? And you have physical venues, you hang out with. 

Meanwhile, all I get is the discord chat in some way, then parties at random conferences.

It’s just random parties. So yeah, I totally agree with you. The community is surprisingly sticky, right? Because you know, someone else is a part of it, and you want to be part of it because they’re part of it because they bring you joy. So I think that’s very much under-appreciated and it’s kind of the secret sauce to building great communities, right? Because you want to encourage that member to bring in their friends. So what we’re doing now actually is a GCR six-month birthday campaign, cause we just issued our token six months ago and we wanted to celebrate. We’ve been encouraging members to gift their friends memberships. So for every time a member comes and joins our calls, either that’s an AMA or with a founder or incubation call to learn more about a project, our members are able to earn free memberships and they could give that to other people. And I think that’s really a way for us to grow. We want to grow very thoughtfully and we’re not trying to grow very quickly. The idea is to have someone join, learn about us and everything that we’re doing, because we do a lot of stuff, but also kind of partake in either doing investing with us or kinda participating in these calls or leading these calls. Eventually, we want members to be driving and actually sourcing these calls, right? Because the idea is that we want to be decentralized on the content layer by having members contribute content. We want to be decentralized on the events layer, where members are creating their own events, and we give them a pool of capital for them to run it. And then, for deal sourcing as well actually. This is something that we’re working on right now, where members are actually able to source deals with the community and we gave them part of the carry. And I think that that’s what we should do. And that’s what I think will be fair and be really encouraging for our members to kind of participate.

Token-Gated Content

There are layers again. There are layers to GCR that there aren’t for example, for the New York times, but it still brings me back to my first question. Like, why am I more down to spend a thousand dollars on GCR, and I’m getting access to gated content that otherwise would have been behind a subscription paywall, versus paying a dollar to $5 for the year sometimes. Like I remember the wall street journal had to pay $1 for the entire year and get access to the wall street journal end to end. And it gets me thinking. The reason, for me personally, is like I know I’ll be growing with GCR, and by no means is this financial advice, right? I made my first purchase into GCR last week. And I’m planning to hold and I want to get myself involved in the community, but again, not financial advice, just observations here. But then I don’t want to spend a dime on the New York Times. Like, I don’t know why I’m more obligated and it feels more right to pay for crypto gated content versus trad fi or normal business content, you know what I mean? And it’s something that I spend time thinking about because imagine if the New York times were to launch the NYT token, you know, and instead of having everybody pay a dollar and they’re trying to suck $1 from someone for three months of access, I wonder what the conversion would be if they do so in a way where they can buy like a hundred dollars worth of their tokens. Now there’s a pool of liquidity and that’s like what, a hundred years or something. Like such a longer subscription rate and turnover than there otherwise would have been with a standard credit card subscription model. And obviously, there are pros and cons. Crypto is not there yet to really abide to the masses to actually implement something like this. I get it, but still, why am I more obligated to buy a much larger and a thousand X more position in a different media company than paying a dollar for the New York times? It’s a rhetorical question. I’m throwing it out there. For anybody that’s listening. And that is feeling the same thing, hit me up, tweet at me hit up GCR. But do you have any other comments to end on that? 

I was just wondering whether or not you denominate it in ETH, and maybe that’s why. What partially, I think also, for example, when you bought GCR, and just a week later, we have tokens up 50%, right?

Actually $630. It wasn’t a complete thousand, but it grew to over a thousand. 

Oh, sweet, nice. That’s awesome to see. And you know, I think part of what we ask for is you holding the token and contributing by holding the token and actually not spending it. I think at some point we wanted to have the content be in different segments, where certain types of content you could read by holding a token, a GCR token. But there’s some other really, really high-quality content that you can only read by spending the value of the token and actually paying the writers directly. So that’s the eventual goal for the global coin research writing platform. But yeah, I think what we value right now is HODLing, and I think by HODLing, members are able to enjoy the recognition of our value over time, and I think that’s something that we want to make sure that they feel awarded to. 

So I use HubSpot as my CRM across like Adam levy.io, and HubSpot is a public company on the stock market. It’s as if I were to buy some shares of HubSpot’s stock, and I’d be forced to hold and I can only access their CRM, not based off like a monthly tiered subscription model, but rather based on how many shares I own. That model is just so much more enticing for me. In terms of all types of content access, I’d rather spend $30 on a creator’s content and hold that, get exclusive content to them in their community and grow with them as they develop themselves, then I don’t know, pay $15 to their subify per month as a subscription rate, you know? Then with that, I remember FWB did that, and then there was like 66 FWB to get and then a month, two months after I joined, three months, it was like 77. And I don’t know if they’re gonna continue increasing it. Anyway, something to think about something to ponder over.

I do want to caveat though that we and FWB, along with like four or five and many other social token DAOs, definitely don’t want to be financially tied to our token. We’re just membership tokens, at least for GCR. We’re a membership token, and so is FWB right? By holding this token, you get access to membership. We may have a treasury that’s very robust filled with NFTs, or you know, for example, our carry that we may return to the treasury, but it’s not financially tied to the token. The token holder does not have a claim to the treasury if that makes sense. 

That makes sense. All right. Let’s kind of pivot a little bit more into what does the future of media in crypto look like? How do you think about that? 

Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I think you should definitely ask The Defiant and Decrypt, because they’re all looking to issue tokens at this point or starting to become a DAO. I’m not sure if this is an alpha leak. 

No, I mean, we see on the Decrypt app that they have their points and rewards, and those are tokens essentially, for consuming the content. I feel like sooner or later the defiant is going to do something like that. I feel like CoinDesk and coin Telegraph are going to explore that with membership tiers, like exclusive content. How do you think about that being literally one of the first people to do it? 

I think it’s the right way to go, honestly. So to be fair, the media space has always been kind of the laggards in technology adoption. You know, if you look at traditional media from print to online, the experience hasn’t really changed much, and you’re just kind of reading the content in different forms. I think when I was running global coin research, initially for the first few years, we actually didn’t think about tokens at all. Cause we’re like, we don’t want to be one of those projects that just issued token for no reason, and so we really wanted to bring utility and actual usage to the token. Now it has governance applications. Now it has membership applications, and that’s when I felt like it actually was making sense for us to have a token. So I think for media companies, you really have to be thinking about, am I going to use the token just to replace a traditional paywall? Because in that sense, it’s like the same thing, right? And the way we’re thinking about crypto content and global coin research is a network, right? Because traditionally, for example, we have these investors and consumers who were readers of tech crunch, for example, and these folks were just reading and they’re paying a subscription for reading the content. But the way we’re thinking about it is, by having these investors now in the crypto space actually holding the token to be able to participate in our network and participate in our deal flow, they are indirectly supporting the price of the token. And this is a token that we also kind of reward our writers with. So there’s a direct value transfer in terms of the investors and the consumers of the content actually directly supporting the token itself, and that goes back to the writers. So that’s how we thought about it because we think that, you know Networks are financially tied to the members and the community. And that is one model that we can now apply for. But you know, I love to see how more DAOs like the Bankless go about things. So for example, Bankless is interesting because they separate their DAO from their content side. I think that’s one way to do it, and there’s our way of doing it, which is connecting those two together. So we’ll see. I think there’ll be a lot of innovations on the side. 

One story I want to bring up is the fortune magazine and the people pleaser drop that they did. They did a one of one, and I think also a few other ones in that collection. That’s like their start to issuing tokenized assets, that they could technically build a community around, right? It might be a niche community, but it’s a start to people and your readers collecting those assets, right? When do you think we’ll start seeing one of the more mainstream brands like Forbes, CNN, Fox Bloomberg, et cetera, et cetera, issuing assets, whether they be a token, whether they be a membership badge or pass as an NFT and then building communities and creating exclusive content around that? How far away are we from that? 

I think we could definitely imagine NFTs being dropped by these publications very soon, but it may be more experimental. With that, in my opinion, because it is really hard to kind of really move a whole thousand-person company towards that direction in a very short period of time, and one year is pretty short for these companies. So I mean, I think there’s always going to be innovation arms that aren’t all looking at crypto now, but the question is how much are they going to be pushing the entire company or disrupting their own existing model that they have currently? That will probably be at least 5 years. I think five years probably would be good enough. But yeah, I think, you know, global coin research may become a more mainstream model and I would love more projects to do what we do because we want to be supportive. The token itself is there to support the writers, and the token is there to kind of maintain and create a high-quality community, and I think this is what many of the writing publications will want. 

One thing that I liked that you guys do, so you guys are based on WordPress, and your entire funnel for creating an account and then wanting to contribute it just makes sense, right? That whole entire onboard process. And I like your open-mindedness and the community’s approach to basically letting anybody contribute that’s in the community. Have you ever encountered points where like, sorry, this isn’t the right fit for GCR, try something else. Or is it because it’s community-led, you just have to say, okay, because they’re in the community because they’re vested we have to let them publish or how do you think about that? 

We’ve looked for quality first and foremost. So for example, for content, if a member is a part of the community, but their content is not great, we still have to say no. Because I think content is what ultimately attracts the eye first, because having communities and experience and having this like initial kind of marketing, if you think about it that way as a marketing interface, is something that’s super important for us. And I think just that will benefit the community member overall because they will attract the right type of people into the community. So, you know, this is something I think we’re seeing friends with benefits coming out with, their editorial arm, for example, right? And they’re starting out to kind of have that because I think every community needs a good voice, but that voice needs to represent the community. So if that voice doesn’t fit us, then it doesn’t work. For us, our bar is just great research, great deep dives, great guides into helping people understand crypto. And we’re still just purely focused on Web 3.0 and NFTs and then crypto. 

I want to talk about more behind the employment side of incentivizing writers to contribute. What does that structure look like? So let’s say I’m a writer. I produce content on Adam levy.io. I want to start contributing to other communities like GCR, FWB, forefront, whatever. So I come in, I create an account, I get myself set up with WordPress, right? I write an article, I draft it, I share it with the editorial team, they review it for grammar, and see if it’s the right tone, the right vibe, the right fit for GCR. And based on what they publish, I already am financially motivated to contribute because I have the tokens. What happens beyond that once I publish and I become a frequent publisher, is there more incentivization? I only ask that because I want this to be like a learning lesson for creators that are trying to build out communities. How should they be thinking about employment? How should they be thinking about pay? What does that look like from GCR? 

Yeah, no, that’s an awesome question. I think, just to kind of finish up that process that you described after someone gets accepted for their content, they immediately earn the tokens in their wallet. So there’s a dashboard that shows how many tokens they earned, and they could withdraw from the global coin research.com website into their actual wallet of the number of tokens they earned. So that’s the process that we have set up now, and I think it’s pretty kind of seamless in terms of experience. And I think for writers, the way we’re thinking about kind of employment, I think the whole point of having global coin research as an open platform, is that you could write in any cadence you want and you’ll get paid for it if you have really good content. If you compare that with existing solutions out there, like medium or substack. For substack, you have to be recurrently writing and you have to build an audience yourself before actually having someone to pay attention to you or discover you, and then maybe potentially you could have a paid subscription. If you’re lucky and consistent. For us, the way we’ve been presenting it to writers, and I think this is kind of a good appeal that’s been working well is that we have this audience of readers who are coming to our website and people who are in our community, and we also have a 31,000 people subscriber newsletter, where there is a number of people from wall street journal, New York times on chain as well as crypto investors and crypto influencers such as pomp. Then the shift from scalar or Brian Armstrong from Coinbase who are actually opening these emails and seeing your content, right? So we give you a direct audience just by having your content on our website, and I think that that’s really hard to build for any kind of up-and-coming individual. On top of that, we want to provide this flexibility. Whenever anyone feels like writing, they could write, they’ll get approved within a few days, and then they get GCR tokens immediately. They could sell those tokens if they want to pay their bills. So over time, when those writers write reoccurring, we love to invite them to become an editor. And I think that’s something that we’d love to do because they understand our voice and they understand our style.

So that was the point I was getting at. So you contribute, you get paid in tokens, you can cash out, pay your bills, buy your milk, make your eggs, literally live life contributing to GCR, right? How do you prevent it from reaching the extreme side of that? So meaning you have a lot of contributors, people love your model, they want to create content, grow GCR. They’re already financially staked and they want to earn a paycheck essentially. Could they do it full-time?

Yeah, I think so. Especially with their content skillset, it’s very much sought out I think in crypto, right? We have an amazing person called Antonio who’s doing our newsletter, and he had experience in marketing and content marketing, and that’s super sought out, I think, in crypto. Especially when you’re trying to break down complex ideas for individuals and people sometimes who may not be familiar with crypto. So for these individuals, we often want to offer them more responsibilities and roles and have them more involved. Not only just become a writer, but also help these projects that we’re actually incubating and directly investing in. Because we actually do have a portfolio success arm now in the community, because the idea is that, when we’re investing with a project, we want to be with them for the rest of their lives. Not only are we supporting you when you’re fundraising financially, but we’re also helping you with content, we’re helping with your strategy. We’re helping you with having an audience in global coin research, but also beyond with our partners, who we kind of interact with or do events with. And we want to continue to surface you to the right people, and the high-quality audience by that means. 

Building an MVC: Minimum Viable Community

I’m so excited to see more creators, more communities approach this model and build incentives, pay people, and literally create their own micro-economy, using their token right? And doing so where people can ditch, or maybe not completely ditch, but work across multiple organizations, whether they be also media or finance that all live on the internet, that all operate on-chain, that all have crypto assets that allow for the foundation to get paid, to contribute and see your stuff come to life in a cryptographic manner. And a lot of people are asking, how can I jump into crypto? How can I jump into DAOs? Where can I contribute? Like, I have these skills, and I think people like you are kind of like designing these systems to make it applicable, to make it happen. If somebody wanted to go and start a DAO right now, wanted to start a decentralized community, what are some tips you would give them?

 This is an awesome, awesome question, and honestly, I want to give a shout out first to our core contributors at global coin research, like Arthur, Antonio Carol, Leanne, Dan, these guys. They’re amazing. Like anyone who gets them in their communities is going to be so lucky, and I feel so lucky just to have met them from building global coin research. And every day actually seems so much fun. And those guys seem like they enjoy it as well, which is what makes it really important for building communities from the beginning. And I think that’s actually a very key point, which is, find friends that you actually drive with that you want to build a community of the type of people that you like, and then you drive and continue to do so until you grow from two people to five people. Then, go from five to 12 or 20. So, I think that’s actually how people build products, where you start with MVP, and you find the initial few customers that are really, really happy with your products. I think community building is also the same way. You find a few people that view really like your product and you just keep giving them the same things that they love, and they’ll just stick with you forever. And this is not just about the employees, this is just about like members in general.

I think I like that. Building a community MVP, aka MVC, versus a product MVP, and what does that look like at the get-go? I like that. I’m going to start using that in the interviews. What does a community MVP look like and how do you build that? It’s one of my questions, inspired by Joyce Yang. I love it. I want to pivot to more fun, personal questions cause we only have so much time left. So I’m in your discord. I’m a member of the discord, I own the tokens that connect to my wallet. I’ve done all that stuff. There’s a ton of different channels. If there was one channel that you’d have to choose from, you’d be required to forever live in which one would it be and why?

Oh, it will be our birthday audio channel. We had such a blast with our birthday. So actually, a funny story, yesterday we had our birthday launch. It was so fun. So we had about 108 people joining for a one-hour event, and the event consists of kind of us recapping what’s happened for GCR in the last six months because this is our birthday. So we want to share and be thankful for the community. And then we also invited Ian, the founder of syndicate protocol. Jenny O, CEO of Coinvise, as well as Peter pan from 1KX, who’s, you know, the awesome community builder who we all want. A funny story is, near the end when Peter pan was talking, I didn’t realize this, but someone told me afterward, because of my phone, my audio was muted for some reason from other members for talking. But there was like a peeing sound coming from the audience. So, there was a series of peeing sounds and then also a series of flushing sounds, and then like that interrupted Peter in a very awkward way. And he’s just like, Hmm, I can’t keep talking. I just stopped right now. 

Was that on his end or was that somebody else?

No, it was someone else’s end. It was someone else, and I think it was just like accidentally unmuting. But now we have been referring to that call as the great kickoff.

So I was going to say, what a great way, first of all, happy birthday. Happy belated birthday. Six months of starting a crypto community feels like six years I feel like, especially when all these other communities are forming and manifesting and launching, and everybody’s doing their own thing. So, cheers to you. The second thing I want to ask you is after six months of starting and growing and building a decentralized community around media, what are some things you wish you knew before starting that you kind of know now?

Yeah, I think the first thing when you said media is something that I wish we kind of focused on less. So meaning, I wish we actually were a community first, media second, and now we are a community first, media second platform. Before, we were media first, and I think media does not stick enough, community sticks. So that’s something I think we learned over time, and it’s like a transition for us. Then, constantly awarding your members for participation is something that I’m starting to learn more of and become more proactive about. Because, for example, we have these AMA calls with founders and we’re learning about other projects, and we have over 30 members who are joining at any given event. Events like twice a day, and there are so many members joining, right? All you needed to do was give them some incentive. And for one, we started dropping these free memberships to these members. You know, we randomly lottery from the participants and we give one person a free membership, and that really got them excited. I think just becoming more incentive-driven while giving them great things will really amplify the effects that you’re looking for. 

That’s a good takeaway. All right. Bouncing back to personal questions. If you were a ghost in the metaverse, who, what, where would you haunt? 

I feel like I didn’t do enough homework to prepare for this question. 

No, it’s more of a creative question.

 If I were a ghost in the metaverse-

Who would you haunt? What would you haunt or where? 

What do you mean by hunting?

Haunt, like boo, like scare. Not hunt, not kill. No. I got to emphasize haunt, like creep up. So you could start where, where would you hunt? So like a discord server could be a haunt, and it can’t be GCR. People say like, Decentraland, people say FWB, I don’t know. It’s up to you to decide who or where would you haunt? 

But when you’re haunting them, does that mean you’re scaring them, or is that just like a fun thing to do?

Just like a frequent boo or like knocking a fork off the counter?

I think it will be probably the Axie infinity team because we co-hosted an event with Axie folks, Jiho, the co-founder of growth, and the community was just crazy and exciting. And, you know, we had some really early members from the Axie infinity team at the event. It was like an event in Korea Town, New York, so very standard event, but the vibe was just so different. It’s even crazier than any crypto card party you went to because there’s so much passion and Jiho is literally like, people call him father and dad in the Axie infinity community because he’s like the God figure that people look up to. But, you know, his emphasis has always been just like, even despite the size of where we’re at, and now they were just announced to have raised the valuation of 3 billion, right by A16z in the last round. And they’re like, we’re still going to be driven by the community. Whatever you want to build, we’re going to listen to you guys and hear what you would have to say, and that is just super astounding. Cause that’s a model you’ve never seen before at that scale. And that’s really cool. 

What Comes After Web 3.0?

So haunt the Axie infinity team. Final question and this is a question that I ask everybody. So I’m a big fan of the development of the internet, particularly speaking about Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and now Web 3.0. Web 1.0 was very much read-only. It was very static. Web2.0 introduced social networks, introduced SAS models, introduced gates, data manipulation. Networks knew more about users than users knew about themselves, and now we’re getting into this phase of Web 3.0, where people are no longer the products of the platform versus co-owners of the platform, right? Ownership online pseudo-anonymous entity, keyword after keyword after keyword. And what’s interesting is Web 2.0 ate Web 1.0, and Web 3.0 is supposedly eating Web 2.0. What will eat Web 3.0?

I don’t know. I feel like you have to ask someone who’s like a third of my age. I’m not even that old, but the question is more like, what do they want? And if you know what they want, then you could be that, you know exactly. 

So let’s talk about it from a community content creation, community investment perspective. What do they want?

I think for content creation, it’s about having the right tools in hand to have an audience. And we’re seeing that with Web 3.0, with really successful subsets that are forming, right? So, what we’re trying to do is, GCR is something that we want to empower the writers continuously on a financial level on top of giving a voice and a platform. But I think that’s going to continue to iterate, emphasize on the writers and continue to bring value to the writers, but in terms of actual what that looks like, I probably wouldn’t know at this point. I think maybe in a year or two, you could actually come back to us and then we’ll probably come up with something new as well. Because we’re trying to constantly reinvent the wheel here. And then for investing, I think it’s always about making sure that it’s never just about the big funds, and we’re seeing that in crypto already. It’s about the communities, it’s about the DAOs. It’s about the individual angel investors, actually more so than many of the funds and you know, what value they bring, which actually often could be less than the angels themselves.

Now that I think about it, that was like from the point of view of what will eat GCR, and that’s not the intention. Rather, what’s the intention of when everything is on-chain when we get to the extreme side of Web 3.0 and data is on-chain, all transactions are on-chain, identities are on-chain. What’s the extreme side of that, right? Cause anything too extreme of anything is bad. That’s my opinion. Others may argue differently, but that’s what I believe. Do you feel the same? Anything extreme at one end of the spectrum that is just like too much that needs to be balanced? 

I mean, I think we’re always in a transition phase. It’s never going to be extreme in reality, but yeah, I agree with you. Like I don’t imagine our world to be everyone all on the blockchain. 

So I feel like we’re like swinging. We’re swinging from centralized to decentralized and right now we’re shifting towards decentralized, everything on-chain, community-owned everything. Everybody has a co-share co voice co everything into everything that they do through crypto-assets. What does that middle look like? 

I mean, that’s it. Yeah. I feel like you have something in mind. 

I honestly don’t. I genuinely don’t. I’m just curious to hear your point of view on the space about this because I think you bring such interesting insight developing the community that you built, the amount of excitement that you have in your discord, the unique individuals that contribute to GCR. You have purview into something that many people don’t. One, because you’re living it one, because you contribute to it outside of GCR, and you’re a voice in this space, right? So I think I’m hitting you with that question because you have so much purview, because you have so much experience on the decentralized route, what do you think could be the other side? And we can end there. This is more meant to be like a robust question where we just bounce ideas back and forth.

I mean, I think that’s a really valid point and I appreciate all those nice things you said about me. But, I actually think one of the problems with crypto now is that, as we have more people joining the space, there are these centralized kinds of cliques that are forming naturally, even with a decentralized model, right? For example, friends with benefits. I think they are just by having a high price point they’re blocking out and preventing many members who otherwise could be great contributors to join. But it’s like, artists are not rich by default. Think about it that way. If you are really vibrant in the community, how do you actually, I mean, they’d give scholarships and sorts, but at the same time, it’s like that price point. It’s like, you’re really creating a new Soho house and there’s nothing different about it. So, I think this is something that we as creators in the decentralized world need to think about, is are you actually just re-creating a new paradigm of the same existing social norms? Because, that’s cool, but you know, it could be cooler. And I’m not saying FWB is not cool. They’re cool. They’re very cool. They’re super cool. 

Outro

I’m a holder of FWB, so they’re cool. I love them. They’ve generated a lot of value for me. Not financial advice, but yes. And by the way, that’s a new take. That’s a take that nobody has said on the podcast before. So, I like that. I love that. Joyce, before I let you go, anything you want to end off with and that can also include you plugging yourself, plugging, GCR, plugging the site, all that, anything you want to end off with? 

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Adam. I mean, I think if this podcast comes out before October 25th, then we have our daily events going on in global coin research in our discord so that you could check out and it’ll be lotteries for a free membership or free GCR tokens. It’s really fun to be actually just hanging out with smart people in there. So I hope people could join us, and honestly just have lots of fun and I think, pursuing that fun while building something nice is like the ultimate dream for any creator in this space. I think you got to keep doing that and just fulfilling yourself.

And last but not least, where can we find you personally online? 

You can follow me and @JoyceinNYC on Twitter.

Cool. Thank you so much, Joyce. It was a pleasure. Shout out to the GCR community. Shout out to all the contributors that you shouted out, and thank you so much. I hope to have you again soon. 

Thank you, Adam.

Categories
Podcast Transcript

Daniel Allan is Eating Web3: The Future of Independent Music Artists

Listen on: Spotify | Apple Music | Google Podcast

Background

Mint Season 3 episode 5 welcomes music producer and artist Daniel Allan.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 2:55 – Getting Started in Web 3.0 
  • 7:16 – The Future of Artist Management
  • 12:37 – Overstimulated
  • 19:55 – Selling out in 12 Hours
  • 24:30 – Getting the Fans Involved
  • 25:51 – Launching on Party Bid 
  • 34:09 – Outro

…and so much more.

Show Notes

Pre-save song 1 ‘Say What You Want’ from his EP ‘Overstimulated’ debuting Friday! https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/danielallandeegan1/say-what-you-want

Check out his Mirror campaign that raised 50 ETH in less than 12 hours: https://danielallan.mirror.xyz/crowdfunds/0x18f623e397EF28F1A5a094840f7F6f5587828b94


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Intro

Mr. Daniel Allan, welcome to Mint. How are you doing, man? 

I’m good, man. Thank you for having me. 

Thank you for being on. Let’s jump right in. You made a lot of noise on Twitter in the last couple of weeks. First off, congratulations on launching your first crypto project overstimulated, which is based off an EP that you’re releasing soon, but before we even go into that, tell me about yourself. Who the hell are you? What should people know about you? We’ll start there. Take it away.

For sure, man. Yeah. So I am Daniel. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky originally. My family is from Kiev Ukraine, former Soviet union. So, shout out to them. But yeah, I had a pretty musical upbringing for the most part. In some senses, I think both of my parents were in music, like my mom’s degree is in musicology, and then my dad was in bands growing up. So I had always seen it my whole life, but I kind of did the route where I took piano lessons as a kid, and was kind of forced into them. Like I had a super Russian piano teacher, and I remember she would take her thumb and put it into my back for good posture, and I never really had a choice of what kind of music I could play. So, I kind of fell out of love with music I think in a lot of ways when I was a kid. And then funnily enough, I ended up playing tennis. That was my way out of doing music. So I took tennis really seriously, and when I was like 15 or 16, I kind of started to get a little bit burnt out on that. So music actually became my outlet in general. So yeah. 

Are your parents musicians?

Yeah. My mom is. In fact, when I took piano lessons, I was really bad at reading music, but my mom could read music like none other. So to get ready for recitals, I would just ask her to play what I was supposed to play and I would just memorize it as she played it. And yeah, my dad grew up in bands and was super cool. I mean, he ended up being like a scientist essentially, but it was more like throughout high school. My mom did pursue it a little bit more seriously. So I grew up like having it around me for sure. 

Got it. And siblings, do you have any siblings?

Yes. I have one older brother whose name is max. 

So are they musical as well? 

No, he is creative though. For a long time he was working on cinematography and stuff. 

Got it. Okay. So you’re a musician at heart, super talented. And how many instruments do you play? 

 Just piano and I’m really good at computer stuff.

Do you find that a lot of musicians nowadays tend to have very dual skills between the tech side and the musicianship?

Yeah. So I think that, just generally, things in the boxes we call it, which are like, just being on the computer has opened a lot of doors for people who maybe don’t have as much of a standard musical background. I think that for someone like me, I know enough piano to write songs, but I definitely don’t consider myself a pianist. However, I think that having this many resources, I use Ableton and things like splice, the accessibility to people becoming artists and them becoming producers is a lot easier. So I think that there are multiple types of producers. I think that there are people who maybe approach things from the technical side a little bit more and kind of just strictly stick in the box, kind of like myself. And there are people who literally will just use their computer as a way to record their instrumentation. But I think that it’s kind of like the best time right now to be a producer. 

Getting Started in Web 3.0 

You know, I wanted to have you on because one, full disclosure I bought into your Overstimulated project on mirror for everybody that’s listening. And the second thing is, everybody has a unique journey into crypto, into web three. What was yours? And as a follow up, what were you like before crypto?

Hm. Okay. So let me start with the first question. So the way that I got into Crypto was through my friend Cooper, Cooper Turley, who’s like, he was a project manager on Overstimulated and he’s like now become one of my closest friends. But, the way that he and I met actually, I was doing a show in March or April. It was low key. It was like still very much at the height of COVID, and I did a show in my friend’s backyard in Sherman Oaks. I did two parts of the show. So the first part was me playing music that was already coming out, but then the second half of the show was me playing seven or eight, just totally unreleased songs. And I invited a bunch of music industry A&Rs, friends, things like that. And after the show they had all come up to me and they were like, “oh man, we’re really stoked on your new music blah, blah, blah. Like let’s, let’s keep the conversation going”. And one of the other people that came up to me was Cooper, and he kind of mentioned, “Hey man, if there’s ever a way that I can help you put out music, then you know, I’m happy to have that conversation with you. So a month passed, and I had advanced in some of the discussions with various labels and whatnot. I just wasn’t a proponent of some of the deals that were on the table to be blunt, and so I revisited the conversation with Cooper and I was like, “Hey man, you know, I’ve kind of shopped these around a little bit. I haven’t really found anything that I’m super stoked on. Why don’t we talk a little bit about, you know, you think this can work”. And from that point on, he was like, my first steps were minting on catalogs. So I did my first series. It was called the drifter series, where I would go to a random location, take a disposable camera and mint NFTs like that. Just with audio and the cover art, and I entered those on catalog. That was definitely my first foray into it. Then after that, I spent three months kind of in discord servers and individually talking to people on Twitter and whatnot. But the second question that you asked, what was I like before web three. So I moved to LA in January of 2020. When I was in school, I was very much doing music with school on the side, rather than the school with music on the side. So every summer, I wasn’t seeking out any internships or anything traditional like that. I would just be here, live on my friend’s couch, and just try to do as many sessions as I could. So when I moved in January of 2020, I definitely had the privilege in a lot of ways to wave the full-time musician flag. But, by the same token, It wasn’t very glamorous. I think that I had done some small deals and whatnot, but primarily I was doing a lot of things that I wasn’t passionate about. Because in my mind I was like, oh man, if I can just weather this storm of being here and doing it, then eventually something will figure itself out. But I think that the nature of it was really, I was just doing a lot of mix work, which mixing is really important to me. I understand the technicalities of it. I just wasn’t necessarily as passionate about it as I am about just creating music in general. So, I think in some ways I was happy that I was in LA and doing it, but I think at the same time, I thought that there was a lot more out there. So kind of the intersection of my music career and then web three was like a perfect fit.

So when you got into Web 3.0 first,, you just mentioned that there was a lot more out there. What does Web 3.0 have that kind of possesses more out there? What did you come across that you’re like, “shit, like, this is where I belong.” This is what I need to be doing. This is where my focus needs to be?

Sure. Well, I think the first thing that stands out is definitely, there’s a very big sense of community. I think that people throw that word out a lot, but one thing that I kind of realized early on was , If I’m to put out music, I really don’t have a direct way of talking to fans. Like I can post something on Instagram and someone can like, and comment on it. I can put out a tweet and someone can, you know, maybe respond or like it or retweet it, but Web 3.0 and discord, I mean, I know Discord is typically a web platform, but so much of Web 3.0 lives on discord. And that was the first way that I could directly talk to people who care about me and care about my music. And that was something that Web 3.0 aside, didn’t really exist, you know? And Web 3.0 was kind of what got me into discord in general. I think another thing was, when I started my mirror crowdfund, I had like 200 Twitter followers or 300 Twitter followers. Like Blau, who was so incredible for what he did, was already somewhat established as an artist, very established. For me, I was just at ground zero for the most part, and for people to really take a risk on me and to believe in me, that was something that I don’t think could have happened in a Web 2.0 world. 

So interesting. Such a unique insight coming from someone who is as rounded as you, and then comparing it to someone like, wow, you killed the game. You set the example for many artists, and I’d even argue one of the core reasons why we saw a lot of the snowball effect in March. And I think it’s so cool. You as a musician, what are the details? You’re not signed to a label, you’re independent, right? 

Not right now. 

The Future of Artist Management

Oh, really? Okay. I feel you’re gonna get a lot of DMs after this now. So you’re independent. You don’t have a manager. It’s just you and your creative team, and pieces of individuals from Web 3.0, from crypto, et cetera. Do you think that’s the future of how artists are going to be organizing?

I mean, to be honest, I’ve had this conversation a few times with friends because we’ve all talked about management and things of that nature, and without getting too much into management, I think that probably. Because, with management, I think that it’s kind of a tall ask unless someone is already in Web 3.0 to kind of pursue that in general. My kind of philosophy with this is pretty entrepreneurial. I just kind of find people that are really good at what they do and I give them the keys and I’m just like, this is your thing, you know? Cooper, for example, with him, I was just like, yo dude, anything that is like super logistics, super tokenomics wise, I’m going to lean on you for, but nothing else. For Lisa, my creative director, girl of the year. I’m just like, dude, like everything creative, the way that we want this to look , that’s you. For me, I want to focus on two things and that’s making music and being as involved in the community as possible. Those are the two things that are coming from me. I have Henry, my community manager, I have Maria who’s in charge of finance and budgeting on things, but generally speaking, I really like how this is working. I think that I just trust everyone who’s involved, you know? And I don’t think that there are any hidden motives, you know? 

So for those who aren’t familiar with your music, can you talk a little bit about your genre? 

Yeah, for sure. I think that the music that I have out is somewhere between that electronic and pop realm. I think that with overstimulated, I am taking a little bit of a turn. I think that I’ve always enjoyed working in a hip hop space, enjoy the more electronic side of things. So I think that moving forward, a lot of my music is definitely going to be electronic without a doubt, but has more Indy and hip hop influence. But yeah, I think that’s the genre. I mean, when I’m asked that at a party, that’s my answer. 

And when people ask you some of your biggest inspirations that led you to pushing out your most recent pieces, what do you fall back on? 

Yeah, for sure. I think actually, recently, I think Kanye west. I have a picture of him right over here, but I think for better or worse, like politics aside, I think that he’s an incredible creator and an incredible musician. And I think that Chicago, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, but my brother moved to Chicago when I was a kid, he’s 15 years older than me. So Chicago was very much my city growing up. I mean, it was the first time I went to a music festival and, you know, it was really the first downtown that I had ever seen, the first skyline I’d ever seen. So I think there are a lot of reasons that I resonated with him and his music. I think that Flume is like the first artists that I’ve ever seen live, and that definitely changed my shit up for sure. But yeah, he was definitely one of the first artists that I saw live and I was like, wow, that’s really cool. So I would say, primarily, those two are in the conversation of people that inspire me the most, but there’s so many others I can think of. 

All right. Let’s jump into the Web 3.0 side more. And specifically, focusing more on you as an independent artist and using cryptocurrency to own your creator economy, as people like to say. And doing so in a way where you’re building your own team, that each individual in that team specializes in their own respect, giving them the autonomy to do what they do best. And you focus on the music, this person, focuses on the crypto, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. When you were building this team out, when you’re preparing for your mirror posts, when you were about to go live and literally getting into the trenches of discord, how was that process like getting started, and what were some of your biggest fears, if any, or concerns that you had getting started? 

I mean, I generally think if you have fears, you are NGMI. I think that generally speaking, you have to just kind of go all in on it and send it. Because for me, like my worst case scenario here was I put out an EP that maybe has like a thousand or a couple thousand dollars into it, and I could make that work. That was my worst case scenario, but my best case scenario is kind of a small part in my changing the narrative and the music discussion. I think, as you mentioned, I was definitely in the trenches and I think that was probably the scariest part. In full disclosure guys, I’m in the scheme of things, a noob. I have fundamental understandings of a lot of things in the Web 3.0 space, but I’ve had to lean on a lot of my friends for advice. But I think the hardest part of all of that early on was like finding the people that weren’t embarrassed to answer my questions. I’ve had this conversation with Cooper before. When I was first starting out in music, all of my friends stuck with me, so we could send each other stuff and we weren’t embarrassed to be bad. And we weren’t embarrassed to send bad music together because we knew that we were all on that level. When I had first started out in this Web 3.0 world, which hasn’t been too long, it was really intimidating to find people that were also noobs like me. So what I did in building out my team was kind of just being as transparent as possible and asking stupid questions. For every 10 questions that I would ask in random discord servers, like maybe one or two people would get back to you, but those people are my friends now and people that I can really rely on. And so, I think that kind of the biggest fear here was just being afraid of sounding like a noob, but I think as I joined, I was fortunate enough to get in FWB early, and obviously like that’s one of the best platforms to kind of openly ask questions, you know? And I think finding those communities early on, as soon as I did that, was kind of the catalyst where I was , okay, I can really get moving on this.

I think the hardest thing to do is to get to that mentality where you feel comfortable feeling like a noob. Feeling like you know nothing, and not being scared to ask random people, random questions. And being okay with being the dumbest person in the room, because that’s part of growth. That’s part of learning something new, it’s part of experimentation. So I think you’re spot on with that. 

Sorry, just one note. I hope that I’m the dumbest person in the room for the rest of my life. Like that’s the best case scenario, because then you can learn from everyone. 

Overstimulated

That’s spot on. Let’s talk about Overstimulated. The reason why I have you here and also we’ll get into the party bid stuff that you’re messing with too, which is super, super exciting. But for starters, overstimulated, the EP. The monumental post, making a hundred K in one hour, 20 ETH in one hour, and filling your crowd fund, in what about 24 hours? Less than 24 hours. 12 hours. Take me from, start to finish. What is overstimulated? What is over stim? How did that come to fruition? 

All right. So I’m going to go back just really quickly to the Cooper story. I had started mentioning on catalog because I wanted autonomy in the NFT space. What minting on catalog did for me, was it kind of showed me the super bare essentials. I set up my Metamask, I got on Uniswap, you know, just very simple stuff. And after about a month of posting on catalog, and people, gauging some sort of interest and it’s like my art and like what I’m working on. When I went back to Cooper, this was about may, and I was like, “okay, man, I am ready to drop.” Like the songs are all ready, let’s send it. And he was like, “absolutely not. You have to spend months in the community.” So for three months, really all I did was talk to people and say hello. And it was stuff behind the scenes. It was like most of my days were on Twitter and discord reaching out to people individually. So in terms of overstimulated, after I had kind, I think, paid my due diligence in that sense, when we were ready to go, I mean, there were a lot of Setbacks. I mean, we had to find artwork people. We had to find canvas people and, you know, we had to make sure that the distribution was set. But in terms of how it came together, I think that Cooper kind of had assigned things to me. He was like, look, I can take care of like the tokenomics and things of that nature so long as you write a story, and for me, I’ve been a passionate music maker for all my life, and I’ve enjoyed writing as well, but even then, I felt a lot of pressure to make sure that I really got the story right. Because for me, like I said, this was the first time outside of, I guess, blogging like a big artist, like a small artist like myself was going to do something like this. I mean, if you want me to talk more about what overstimulated is for people who don’t know I’m happy to do that.

I want you to take me from a to Z. So keep on going where you’re going, because I think that’s also a good point to bring up the whole comparison to Blau again. But continue. 

Yeah. So, I mean, I think that for me, the first thing that we had to kind of go through was the logistics. I think that most major label deals are like an 80 20 split. For me, I was like, okay, look, I’m just going to give up 50% of my artists share, and I just want to gauge the interest to see who’s down. Maybe the people who I’ve spoken to over the past few months are interested. Maybe there are other people in the project management network or whatever the case may be. Maybe there’s some people in FWB. I think that a lot of the way that these things work sometimes is like, here’s a sum of money, whether it’s a label or whatever the case may be, and then we want you to give us an album down the line. Some people have the album ready, some people don’t. For me, it was like I had the music ready to go. I think that the craziest thing of all of this is that people believed in the project without hearing the music. I think that’s pretty crazy to me.

Let’s pause there. They believed in the project, they believed in you without actually hearing the music. They might have searched you up on Spotify and saw over a million streams on this one song, and you’re active, you’re publishing stuff. So you have some type of presence, but people believed in you and the idea of the model that you presented to the crypto world, right? Continue on that. 

And I think that that’s something that I was a little bit scared of at first, because in some of my preliminary meetings, I was like, man, I want people to really mess with the music. And I think Cooper just kind of reassured me on it and he’s like, trust me. If they believe in you, then when the music comes out, it’s only going to be a cherry on top. So, I thought of some artists for example, and one artist that came to mind is Lil Yachty, right? A lot of people just really like him as a person, music aside, cause he just does cool shit. He has a cool personality and he’s just a fun guy to be around. Or even like Omer Fedi, right? A lot of people just know that he’s the super sick energy in a room, and then when his music comes out, it obviously speaks for itself, but it’s just like a cherry on top of him being a cool person, you know? So for me, I kind of wanted to reverse engineer it that way as well, where I was like, look like I’m trying something totally new, here’s the story. I have 200 Twitter followers. And if you guys believe in this, I promise that the music will be worth it, you know? And because to me, this is definitely ,without a doubt, my best body of work. I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of it, and that’s why the risk was so big to me early on, because I was like, man, I don’t want to jeopardize the music doing well. This is like me, my thought process, like six months ago, really. But I was like, man, I don’t want to jeopardize the music doing well on traditional metrics because I’m so immensely proud of it. But I just tried to explain that in the post. I tried to like, bring that emotion over into it and hoped that people bought into it.

And one thing that you brought up that cannot go looked over is that beginning component of spending time in crypto, and being in the trenches of all these different collector communities, discord communities, et cetera. So walk me through those first three months too. I remember when we were talking behind the scenes, you’re like, that was the most critical thing that I feel like spiraled the success of overstep. And by the way, I think that’s something that people look over and they’re like, okay, I’ll draft your post. I have this idea. I’ll put it out there. Let’s get the money, you know? But, it’s not like that.

I think it’s not like that because it’s not glamorous. Like I said, I came to Cooper, and I said the music is ready, and he was like, you’re not even close. That three-month window. I had put out music once a month for 15 months. And someone who I barely knew came up to me, Cooper, and he was like, yo dude, you have to focus on this. Like you have to go all in. So for a three month period, all I was doing was, one figuring out what discord was cause I had no reference point for that, two, figuring out the servers and just doing my research on Twitter. I would say 10 hours of my day, probably like 8 to 10 hours of my day was individual outreach. I think that some people had tried doing the crowdfund or similar things to it, and I think that that’s the missing component, that because it’s not something that’s advertised. It’s not sexy or cool to get laughed at for asking stupid questions for like six or seven hours out of your day. But as soon as I made my first friend there, early on, was Jeremy Stern, who’s one of the guys on the dev team at catalog. And he was down to help me, and then Brett shear who bought some of my first early NFTs. As soon as I met those people, they were just down to help me, and these are people who were very knowledgeable in the space. Like they work on life-changing platforms or with super prominent investors. When they were down to help me, then that just gave me all the confidence thatI needed. Just the first and second friends. So then when I was getting all those nos for three months, it was no biggie to me. Cause I was like, I know there’s another Jeremy and another Brett out there that are just down to help me down the line. And now I’m at a point where like, if I have a super specific question, I know which friends I can rely on, and that’s a pretty great place to be. 

That’s awesome. I looked at the amount of collectors, if I recall, there were 87 exactly. I want to ask you this question, because I think new people coming to the space don’t realize the proportion between how many collectors, you know, versus how many are your friends. So for those who put a dollar where their mouth was and supported you, how many of those did you know and how many of those did you not know? 

So I need to look at the list, but I would say it’s probably between 40 and 50% of the people I had spoken to in one way or another, and I think the rest was organic after it took off. I would say that’s where it’s at. 

And did you get any legal help before?

Yeah, I mean, I had asked a lot of music industry friends, and just had asked a lot of my lawyer friends just like, is this okay? How do things look? But I never hired a lawyer to actually look at everything. It was more just asking me favors and just being like, yo, does this section make sense?

Selling out in 12 Hours

Can you walk me through your emotions at the first hour of seeing 20 ETH? What were you doing? Where were you? Like walk me through that day.

 Funnily enough, I was at my friend Grady’s. Grady is also a musician who’s pretty involved in the space. It was me, him, and bloody white who is also super involved. Grady had just dropped an album yesterday and he was showing it to us. He wanted us to come in and listen to it, and I had heard it a few times cause he had sent it to me. So this was kind of my third time listening through, and I think the weird thing about the fund is we dropped it at a weird hour. Like me and Cooper went back and forth on when to do it. We were going to do it the next day. Actually the morning of when we were doing it on mirror, we were going to drop it at 11:00 AM. The way that it was structured was there were the three categories, silver, gold platinum, and then there was one winner. Then we realized that you have to do a podium and then you have to have a big pool for all the other bidders, but you can’t have one winner. So we needed two additional NFTs made that day. So because we had the NFTs for silver, platinum, gold, and winner, but we had to make two more. So shout out to Metsa, because he made the other two podium NFTs that day. He sent it to me after he got off work because he has a full-time job, and it was like 7:00 or 8:00 PM and we were still making edits to it after months of staring at this stuff. I think it was 9:00 or 10:00 PM, something like that in the evening when we had to put it up. So I was in the other room, and I had clicked submit, published this crowdfund. I was on FaceTime with Cooper, had published this crowdfund, and then I sent the link to my phone just to make sure that it worked. And it was at 1 ETH. Just from sending it to my phone. Cause I had published, hit the tweetstorm, texted it to myself, and checked and it was at 1 ETH. I was like, okay, crazy, whatever. So I go and I sit down and Grady’s gonna show us his album, and I was like, yo, I just published it, now I can chill out, relax. But of course, I have the urge to check because I saw that I texted it to myself and it was at 1 ETH. He plays the first song out. It’s like two minutes long, and I check it. It’s at 3 ETH. I show bloody, Lucas sitting next to me was like, “yo, this is crazy.” And the album just keeps going, and Grady is just kind of vibing out. And he just looked back at me, and my eyes were just huge because it was like 3 ETH , and then it was like 7 ETH, and then it was like 10 ETH. I’m just like sitting here, and Lucas was just like, “yo, this is nuts.” Then I go on Instagram and everyone’s posting about me on Instagram. And then I go on Twitter and everyone’s talking about me on Twitter. And this is all within like the 40 minutes or however long Grady’s album is. By the end of the album, it was maybe 15, 16, Ether or something, and I’m just sitting there. That’s when Grady was like, “oh man, tell me more about what you’re doing.” That night it was just a blur because I felt like everyone in my life called me, you know? I stayed up just talking to people. Everyone’s asking questions. Everyone’s like, “oh, how did you do this?” Yeah, dude, it was a trip. That’s the way that it all happened. I remember the feeling very well. I texted my parents. It was a proud moment. 

So today’s Saturday, October 16th. This is the day we’re recording. Overstim crowdfund finished what, september 28th? What has the progress been like so far? What has went down? Talk to us. As a collector, and as others who are listening. Because in that mirror post and I’ll link it into the show notes, you go very detailed into what are you spending my money on, how long the timeline’s going to be from when you guys are actually going to see the EP, et cetera.

So right now we’re six days out from the first single, which is coming out October 22nd. So the way that it’s set up is there are three singles. Say what you want with Deegan is out October 22nd, feel like that with Idarose is out November 12th, too close with bloody white is out December 3rd, and the project is out January 7th. I think so far, what we’ve done is I have all of the artworks ready for every project. I’m still working on finalizing the visualizers for it, and I just got someone on PR. So we’re finalizing, just the general marketing push and things of that nature. I think that for me, the music part to me is pretty standard. I’ve always understood how the distribution has worked. I’ve been in music, I think, for a few years now. I think that to me, the biggest learning curve and the things that I’m personally focused on the most is making sure that I’m being active and to kind of hold the attention of everyone. So I’m just being as active as I can on Twitter and really, really, really hyper-focused on the discord community. For the first time in my life, I have this responsibility to 87 people. I don’t necessarily like to think of them as shareholders because I think that that’s a little bit too proper for the scenario, but even some people that believed in me and I kind of have this duty to be like, “yo, like I’m working my ass off.” So for me, I’m trying to just live on the discord and I’m trying to make that as cool as I can and make sure that really every single part of the project, people feel like they got their money’s worth for essentially, you know? So yeah, for me, that’s about where it’s at. It’s really exciting. I mean, there is definitely this awkward buffer period of like a month, from the fund ending to the first song coming out. So it’s kind of a relief that I can finally be like, “yo, here’s the package and it’s coming soon.” So we’re making really good strides and I’m really excited about it. I’m doing an Overstim call in like 15 minutes.

Getting the Fans Involved

And before we pivot to this new project that you’re working on as well, while you’re pushing this project, me being a collector, 86 other people in the discord being collectors and contributors, do you imagine including them in the creative process? For example, do a live stream in a discord and be like, “yo, this is track number three what do you guys think? Should this snare be on it, it or that snare? Do you imagine yourself doing stuff like that? 

I mean, I think for overstimulated, I already have the masters for it, but I think that in general it goes beyond overstimulated. And I think that there’s still plenty of creative ways for people to get involved. Like on the artwork, front on the visualizer front, especially. Like there’s a drop that I’m going to do in there that’s like, okay, here are artists, here are people that I want to work with, I want y’all’s thoughts. I think that that’s definitely the development of what I want in my career. I essentially want to have all the people backing me and all the patrons would be as involved in the creative process as possible. Like I want to send 30 demos and be like, which of these are the sickest? Let’s do a poll. Like, do you guys have any thoughts on who this can sound like? Who could be on this song? The big picture thing is to have the patrons involved in the creative process. A hundred percent. 

Launching on Party Bid

I think that’s the way to go. I really think so. Let’s pivot for a minute. Party bid. So catalog, party bid, new songs that you spun out of nowhere, and you just published and tokenized and spent what you told me behind the scenes, like $5k uploading and making sure they’re on chain. What is going on there? You published a tweet storm too a couple of days ago. Walk me through that, and how does that differ from Overstimultated? 

So kind of to preface that, overstimulated is my number one priority. I think that it’s definitely the biggest project that I’m working on. It’s the one that means the most to me. It’s all of my music. I think at the same time, and I got this advice early on, I think that a lot of people think a lot in this space and don’t necessarily do as much, and I’m for better or worse, just an executor at heart. So I just like, if I have an idea, just acting on it, and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I think that generally speaking, like everything I’m doing, hopefully will lead back to Overstim because I’m giving a percentage of all of my sales from NFTs back into Overstim. So, the project that I just dropped was more of like a passion project to drive eyes back into it, but generally it’s called Idlewild cause we did it in Idlewild. We as me, bloody white, and my creative director, Lisa. And so bloody and I guess this is my first time publicly saying this, but we’re starting a band next year called pollen. It’s going to be all after overstimulated comes out. Totally separate thing, but we wanted to do a soft debut to kind of get ingratiated into the Web 3.0 world in general. So, in 36 hours we did five songs together. Lisa did all of the artwork for it. It’s probably, I think, the coolest shit that I’ve put out on catalog in terms of, definitely height, like from an artistic and musical perspective. I think that it was the first music that I’ve been able to put out since the whole crowd fund has happened, which has obviously been very creatively liberating for me. So, yeah, these five songs. We threw them into a project and we wanted to kind of act quick on it because Overstim is coming out next Friday, and that’s what my week is about. But yeah, I’ve never done party bids before. I wanted to experiment with that. So all five of the songs are up on catalog using their new spaces feature, which I wanted to experiment with, and there was a party that was set up for every single. 

For those who don’t know what party it is, give us a quick recap, and why is it so critical to music? 

Yeah, I think that party bid is sick. This is my first time using it, but I think it’s critical because to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong, I think that you can contribute any amount of ETH and then you essentially just own a percentage of that NFT. Typically I think that their biggest one was a zombie punk, which was like 3.5 million USD, but it’s like people can contribute X amount and just own X amount of the NFT. I think that the thing about my crowd fund is I think the lowest contributor was 0.05 ETH, which is what like $170 bucks give or take. To some people, I mean, I think that is a lot of money in general, but what if someone wants to contribute with like 30 or 50 ETH on a smaller scale? That’s why I think part of it is really interesting, and the other thing about it is it definitely creates community because it’s like, oh, like, I feel like I am involved in this regardless of my stake. It’s not necessarily a competition or whatever, or about the money per se. It’s just about creating a group. Some are owners of a crypto punk. So I think that’s what’s really interesting about party bid and why I’m super keen on experimenting with it.

Just to add more context for creators who are listening, part bid is basically a way for you to collectively bid on an asset that you want to own together. So you basically have an asset, there’s a shared link, you access that link, and then if the community reaches a threshold of what they want to purchase, then collectively split that asset. So if it’s an NFT, it’s fragmented and split it to everybody that bid on it. So in the use case of a song, you crowd fund the success of an NFT from even your micro collectors, your macro collectors, or like everyday fans, right? That’s the inspiration, from what I understand, right?

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I just want everyone to feel involved, even if they don’t have the financial leverage of a whale, you know?

And how is that going so far? 

I mean, I need to promote it more for sure. Like I said, it was definitely a quick window of experimentation, but I’ve had people hitting me up about it, which I think is super encouraging. I want to talk about how it’s like relating it’s Overstim a little bit more because I don’t want anyone to be confused. My portion of sales on this is going to go back into the Overstim treasury. This was like more of a passion project for me.

I think that’s important because that was my next question. How do the two tie together? Also behind the scenes, when we met up yesterday, I was like, it all works together. It’s all tied together. And you take the Gary V approach. Gary V tells people to just post shit. Just post content. Nobody cares. Post post, post, post, post. You know, you’re taking that approach.

Yeah, dude, it’s just like people remember the W’s, you know? That’s kind of my approach here. Like have I had NFTs not sell on catalog? Sure. Have I had things to do well? Of course. When I was in college, I did this thing where every single day for my entire career in college, I sent out five emails to music industry people a day, weekends included. So the way that the breakdown was, it was 35 emails a week, five of them would respond, three of them would respond with a no, one would re would respond with a maybe I’ll get back to you, and one would respond with a yes. And over the course of the year, that’s 52 new people and new approaches that are involved, but you can’t find who that one in 52 is if you don’t send the other 35. So for me, like I said man, this is so much of the wild west right now that I am just going all in on experimentation in general. So I think that in a way they all tie into Daniel Allen, like myself as a project, whether it’s Overstim or it’s not. It was also kind of the last thing that I’m going to be doing before Overstim in general, so it’s just something that I wanted to get out there and not wait until later. Because my next few months are really just, you know, 110% focused on Overstim. 

That’s awesome. Before I let you go, I want to ask you a little more technical questions for anybody else that wants to follow your footsteps, and is exploring this independent route of crowdfunding success, successful project album, whatever may be and building a team around it. So for starters, how do you go about pricing a song? What goes into that? How do you determine if something is like $100k a song or like one $1k? How do you feel about it?

Are you talking about a catalog post or for a mirror crowd fund?

For example, like a catalog post. 

 So a catalog post, the thing about digital assets is, the value is only created by the creators. Like before that, a value doesn’t necessarily exist, so it’s kind of up on the onus of the creator to decide. So if you throw something up on catalog, which I would encourage people to do, you just need 0.05, ETH in gas, maybe with how things are right now, 0.07 ETH. You don’t even have to set up an auction. People can just throw offers at you. My first NFTs were selling for like 0.2 ETH and I was so grateful that anyone was even interested in doing that. So I think that for artists who are looking to get into it, you’d have to invest like a couple of hundred bucks to cover your gas fees, but you’d be surprised because catalog is still very early on, even though it’s starting to gain a lot more traction. You could just put it up and see what offers come at you. Because at first I also had no idea what to price mine at. I only decided on pricing for the crowdfund and things of that nature, after I found out that there was interest in general, but any new artists can just post on there once they got onto the platform. 

And how much does it cost to put something like Overstim together?

I mean, are you referring to putting the project out? 

The project has variable costs depending on the artist, depending on the project. I’m talking from the point of view, the project is ready now, let’s bring it on chain, mint it, start a mirror campaign and go through that process.

Dude, I think the main thing was like 0.1 or 0.15 ETH. Like it wasn’t crazy. Like I said, the kind of crux of all of this was my individual reaching out to people and just making sure that there was a really dope story behind it because the price of putting it up wasn’t too crazy. I don’t think it was that heavy of an on-chain lift because it’s not like I was uploading the actual WAV files. All I was uploading was a document.

I love it, man. What an example to future creators, future musicians. What an exciting time to be in the space, throw shit at the fans, see what sticks, and have success come from that as well.

One note I just want to give to every creator is like, you guys are early. You can play outside of the rules and kind of make your own job description and do it your own way. I know that it takes a leap of faith, not to be cliche, until you jump your parachute won’t open, you know what I mean? So you should definitely go all in on it and just see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you can go back to trying your own thing. But I think that it’s such an exciting time. For me, after my crowd fund, the money was cool, but the coolest part was the 250 plus artists that have reached out and were like, “man, I want to try this, like, I feel like there’s a new way now.” That way exists if you really just put time and effort into it, and I don’t think that it takes a super smart person. I just think it takes someone that is down to experiment and down to try things out, because there’s definitely a way that isn’t the traditional label that owns your masters and you just kind of see what happens.

Outro

I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Daniel, you’re the man, bro. Where can we find you? Where can we learn more about you and your upcoming EP? Shill yourself. Shout it out. 

So definitely join my discord. I’m sure we’ll find a way to link that in here, but on Twitter, it’s @imdanielallan. I’m on Instagram as Daniel Allen music. And yeah, I think that hits everything. If you want to look on my mirror posts, it’s DanAllan.mirror.xyz. Carpet. 

Perfect. And we’ll have you again soon, after the EP comes out, and we’ll do recaps every now and then kind of following your career, following your journey in Web 3.0. Bro, I appreciate you being on. Much success, you’re going to kill it obviously, but we’ll get you next time peace.

Awesome. Thank you for having me brother.