We did it! Jeff, Josh and Eathan, along with the huge crew of Rockstar team members they assembled, just pulled off a stellar inaugural NFT LA event featuring the crème de la crème of Web 3, and leveraging the vibrant entertainment scene of Los Angeles. This episode is one of a series featuring content from the NFT LA event, March 28-31, 2022. Today’s session is one of a handful featuring impromptu convention hall interviews that our good friend Shira Lazar put together. We’ve organized them into tracks, similar to the content tracks we organized for NFT LA talks and panels. Today’s track: Investment, Impact, Tech & Platforms. Enjoy!
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NFT LA Collection – Investment, Impact, Tech & Platforms: Shira Lazar Hosts Tony Chan (Pledge Finance), John Mullin (SOMA.finance), Chris Boundikas (Quoth, Inc), Shelly Palmer (CES), Daniel Eilemberg (Lil’ Heroes), Brady Gentile (Hedera), Ivan Ravlich (Hypernet Labs) & Brenda Hua (OP3N, LLC)
NFT curious readers, it’s Eathan here. We did it along with my incredible cohosts, Jeff and Josh, as well as a huge crew of rock star team members we assembled. We have pulled off a stellar inaugural NFTLA event featuring the Crème de La Crème of Web3 and leveraging the vibrant entertainment scene of Los Angeles.
This episode is one of a series featuring content from the NFTLA event, which happened from March 28th to the 31st, 2022. This session is one of a handful featuring impromptu convention hall interviews that our good friend Shira Lazar put together. We have organized them into tracks, similar to the content tracks we organized for NFTLA talks and panels. This track is on investment and impact plus tech and platforms. Enjoy.
Thank you. It’s my honor to be here.
You are one of the sponsors here, so we appreciate it. Tell us more about what the company is and what you do.
We are a marketplace for financial NFTs. We take Bitcoin loans and convert them into financial NFTs. We let people trade on our marketplace. Also, later on, we will be taking all these NFTs and we can use them as collateral. People can borrow money against it. You don’t have to sell it.
If you have an NFT, you can get money against that or get loans against your NFT.
That’s the vision.
Does the NFT need to be liquid? It needs to have value, right?
The main reason is I’m a real estate broker. For years, I did a lot of real estate loans. We see Bitcoin, NFT, and Ethereum as a new class of digital assets. People should use this the same way as they do with real estate, where you can get a loan out of it. That’s the vision and the idea.
Do you need to deal with traditional finance to do that and you are the middleman?
We deal with traditional finance in terms of the lender. It’s the money from the traditional financial world. We have a lot of high-net-worth individuals, family offices, banks, and financial institutions. They want to loan out the money through the Pledge platform to people who have Bitcoin or financial NFTs as collateral.
That is so cool and needed because it brings more value to the space.
It’s very meaningful. I’m doing this because I’m a real estate broker for years. I see people who have a borrow demand. Some of my clients have bought Bitcoin at $200 to $300. I bought in at $4,000 in 2017. I would not be selling this Bitcoin myself like real estate. I started buying real estate in the ’90s. I won’t be selling those but at the same time, I need to borrow money against it once in a while to do diversification on the borrow side. On the lending side, it’s meaningful because there are a lot of people like my mom and dad. They put money in the bank and get less than 1%. The banks are scamming them. It’s a lot more meaningful to loan it out from our platform. They get 3% to 4%, which is a lot better than 1%.
How do you handle the volatility?
Volatility is very important. For example, anybody who wants to borrow $1 of Bitcoin needs to put $2 worth of collateral. When the Bitcoin drops down to, let’s say, 120%, we start liquidation, so we have a buffer to protect the lenders.
Where do you see the space going in the next few years?
It will be exciting. We are part of the DeFi space. In two years, we grew from $1 to the last I checked $100 billion now in the DeFi space. In the next five years, I see this will be at least another 10X. All the banks have an issue with getting high-quality loans. It’s not efficient. The business model for banks is inefficient because, 1) They have to pay high salaries to their employees and, 2) They have to pay all this expensive rent for the branch offices. What we do is we write the software smart contract. It’s scalable.
For those who are also interested in the NFT side, which is an entryway to the DeFi side, what advice do you have?
My advice to these people is if you bought an NFT early on, you hold onto it and get ready to put it on the Pledge platform as collateral and you can get loans out of it. You don’t have to sell it. You can get money out of it and buy more NFTs.
Do I just connect my wallet?
You just connect with your MetaMask wallet or any wallet. We have a smart contract interact with it. Everything is done automatically.
Is there anything coming up in the future for Pledge that you want to talk about?
Go check it out, Pledger.finance. Tony, thank you so much.
John Mullin from SOMA.finance. Thanks for being here.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
What brings you to NFTLA?
I’m one of the people who came the furthest. I’m normally based in Hong Kong but because of the COVID situation, I have relocated to New York for the time being. We are here to share about SOMA.finance and hopefully meet a bunch of new creators and potential partners that we can work with.
Tell us more about SOMA.finance.
SOMA.finance is essentially a US regulatory compliant DeFi platform. What that means is we are creating DeFi products but with a KYC, AML, and securities compliance behind it. We have essentially abstracted away a lot of the compliance elements to try and make it as Web3 and tech-enabled as possible. We have licensing underneath that supports us to be able to issue different types of securities to tokenize equities, ETFs, commodities, and all different types of assets, as well as compliantly, issue and distribute NFTs and other different types of tokenized assets directly to US retail consumers.
That’s very much needed and the balance between maintaining the authenticity of this space also.
You have the Wild Wild West. You have the NFT projects like the Pudgy Penguins and all these other kinds of things, which are cool. I’m all for that as well. I also have another project called MANTRA DAO, which is the other side of the coin. You do need regulation to a certain degree to give comfort to institutional investors and make sure that you are protecting the average investor to a degree as well.
Why have you been able to do this and yet so many other people are not?
To be honest, a big part of it is the team and the partners that we have. It’s quite an interesting makeup. You have me and some other younger guys who represent the crypto side of it. We have our other partners who run the broker-dealer business who have 25 years of investment in banking and securities experience and have come from a different world than what I’m used to. We are able to work together quite well and we have known each other for a very long time. It’s quite a unique partnership. That is able to bring the compliance and the regulation side of things and meet with the tech.
Is there insurance here, meaning is it backed?
We are a Federally regulated institution. When we get a banking license and things of this nature, we will be DIC-insured. For the time being, the way that we are tokenizing assets, particularly the real-world ones like equities and stuff, we are legitimately backing them 1 for 1 held in a custodial account with a traditional custodian like Merrill, Morgan Stanley or something like that. We will be auditing these regularly, so there’s complete transparency about exactly what we are doing.
To any hacks that happen, what would happen?
The good thing is because of the compliance elements that we have built into the system, there’s positive control over a lot of these different types of assets. We have to permit people to be able to use and interact with them as well as the ability to at least on some assets to burn, pause, mint, and freeze. Let’s say there is an infinite mint. If someone takes control of the keys and starts minting, we would have the ability to override that.
We have thought out the system from the compliance angle on how to make sure we are safeguarding users’ assets and funds even in the case of, let’s say, my MetaMask gets fished or my seed phrase gets compromised. If you have verifiable evidence and proof of that, we can legitimately reissue you new securities and burn the old ones that were hacked. That’s a pretty cool thing.
What do you have coming up? What are you excited about?
We are pretty excited. We are going to be working with some cool partners here. One little alpha tip is we are going to be working with Baron Davis. He’s going to be one of our venture partners. We have had some pretty cool engagements with him before NFTLA at his party in his compound.
I was at his dinner. He’s at a lot of different things. He’s so busy.
He’s got his hand in a lot of stuff. Baron is a basketball player turned into a businessman. He’s going to be more known as a businessman than a basketball player in the future, which is going to be quite cool. We are looking to be the financial services and investment bank infrastructure provider to all the projects that he’s working on to make sure that he can do these things compliantly and that his team and his people can sleep well at night knowing they are not going to get in trouble by the SEC, FINRA, or something like this.
It’s so important that it’s part of where we are headed. What are your predictions for the future? Where will we be a year from now at NFTLA?
To be honest, sticking to a little bit of the regulation angle, I do foresee regulations to continue to come down the pipeline in the US particularly not just for crypto tokens but also for NFTs, whether that’s going to be coming directly at NFTs or rather the exchanges that they are transferring and trading on is a different question. With the Executive Order issued by the new administration or President Biden’s administration to show that there’s going to be intergovernmental communication and cooperation to regulate and control digital assets in general in the crypto space, that means it’s coming.
Do you think that is going to help or hurt the industry?
There could be some short-term pain because there are burdens with compliance. There’s a lot of stuff that would be easier if we didn’t do it the “right way.” That also adds other elements that are good for the industry. You don’t have the scams, rug pulls, and things like that. We can protect clients’ assets if they get fished. We live and see it all the time. It happens daily. There are benefits that come with that. Longer-term, it will be beneficial but I also think that too heavy-handed of a regulation is not necessarily the best way for people.
There almost needs to be a reimagining of it. How could we take the best of each space and bring it together?
I’m American myself. It’s interesting to see how power has shifted within the Web3 space from the US and then to China. We thought it was going to be in some other place. Now it’s moving back to the US as the epicenter of things again. That also comes with a responsibility to not be too heavy-handed. It will be interesting to see how things progress.
What advice do you have for those coming into this space?
Sign up for the SOMA.finance waitlist. That’s a little bit of a shell. My advice is to go out and meet people, come to these different events, network, get into the space, get your hands dirty, be careful, use a cold wallet, and always never share your seed phrase. That’s a lot of advice.
Chris Boundikas from Quoth. Welcome. How’s NFTLA for you?
It has been great. The attendees, the booths, and everything have been awesome. There are a lot of people rolling through. There’s great energy. There are a lot of different crowds, young and old, and all-around new people. There are people that don’t know what NFTs are and getting to know NFTs. There are DEVs here that know way more than I do. It’s an interesting crowd.
That’s what LA is for. It’s tech and entertainment. Everything intertwines. What is Quoth?
What we are doing is we are indexing every NFT in existence. We are creating the Google semantic search of NFTs. Some of the pillars that we are offering are an authenticator API. For example, if a new artist wants to upload their newly created art, they can drag and drop it into our search bar. For a nominal fee, $0.50 to $1, they can authenticate that their NFT is 100% original. We will give them an originality score. That’s just one pillar. We also do real-time rarity. Within an hour, we scrape new mints. We will give a real-time rarity and because we have artificial intelligence, we can continue the rarity on a 24/7 cycle. There’s no lag with our technology.
It’s a bit more of a sophisticated version of some other tools or sites. Is it launched already?
We are days away from our closed beta launch with some of the largest NFT collections. One of them is here, Sup Ducks. It’s a great partner of ours. What we are doing is we are training our neural nets with our machine learning with the communities of those NFT collections. That’s going to help us spin up this index a lot quicker than anyone else can. Once we have that index, we go live with our full bells and whistles public beta.
If I did google an NFT, your site would pop up as a way to make sure I’m buying the right thing. Are you expecting people to ditch Google or to go directly to you ideally?
The plan is that we are building fences around the NFT space. I won’t cut around that fact. We are building the Google of NFTs, keeping it close with the NFT community first, and then opening it up to real-world NFTs as well. We are making it very simple. It’s a search bar. You can search semantically, “Black cat with a hat NFT.” Press enter and all the black cat NFTs will all show up in order of relevance.
They are all legitimate. You know where you should be going. How do you deal with the scams out there?
For the legitimacy or fake rugs, we are indexing every NFT in existence. We will give the originality score. We scan the contract for you and do all that research for you. If you see a pink checkmark on there, that’s the one you should buy. It will port you to where you should buy it.
Where do you see the future of all of this? What will we be talking about a year from now?
I thought you were going to pull the whole five-year.
Do you want a five-year?
It doesn’t matter. NFTs are the future. We are already speaking with one of the largest 3D manufacturing firms in the US. They have 150,000 printers scattered all over the country. They have turned their blueprints into NFTs but they said, “There’s no infrastructure in place to verify these. There’s no trademark and copyright.” They need that instant verification. They turned to us and said, “How can we help? How can we partner?” That’s another real-world NFT adoption use case. That’s already here. In 1, 2, or 5 years from now, I am a proponent of everything that is going on in NFT.
It means they are still on marketplaces. You are not a marketplace but they could make sure it’s verified through you. The rarity tools show that. Your ability to show that and know if you have one that is rare is important in real-time. Would they click through to go to other marketplaces through your site?
We are also offering an APR-SDK service. It can implement on any wallet and NFT marketplace.
You are that one-stop-shop solution. Is there anything else you have coming up that you want to share? Are there any partnerships or you can’t mention anything now?
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We are cultivating the crypto community and the NFT collections. A lot of NFT collections are reaching out to us and people who are ready to mint. Those collections that are ready to mint are saying, “I don’t want to pay those sites 1 ETH, 2 ETH or sometimes 5 ETH to register and load up on their site.” A big thing that we are hearing is that NFT collections hate uploading or updating their metadata if it changes. In some of the NFT collections, the data changes. Every time it changes, they have to give it to those sites and pay again. With us, it’s real-time and free.
It’s part search. It seems like it’s also a part marketplace.
We are not going for the marketplace feel. It’s more search authentication and NFT launchpad. Down the road in the roadmap, we have a multi-chain bridge as well. New mints can go across the chain immediately.
What advice do you have for people entering the space?
Do some research. Don’t get pulled into the hype. There’s a lot of junk out there. We see it all the time. Our AI is curating so much data. It’s insane. What I mean by insane is last we checked, there were 1,000 NFT collections launching a day. The amount of distraction out there is going to be intense. If you are new to the space, you can get called into that and spend a bunch of money on something that most likely won’t be around in 6 weeks, 6 months or a year. Heed to the distractions, do a lot more research, and be careful.
How will your tools help with all the noise?
We made our search pretty easy. If you don’t even know what Bitcoin is, you can still come to our site and do a simple semantic search, which is fairly difficult to do even to look up NFTs. As far as the whole scamming, getting rugged, and buying a fraud, that’s exactly what we are here to stop. If you come to our protocol, we help that because we do all that verification process for you. If you are an NFT degen, you might not need that part of our site because you can check the contract, contact in Discord the founders, and all that stuff. If you are newer and you don’t want to do any of that stuff, that’s the one-stop-shop that we can offer for newbies as well.
For those starting a project, how can they get in touch or get involved with the platform?
It’s easy. We have a partners tab. Fill out the five inputs. Our Biz Dev will reach out and put you on the waitlist. We already have a ton of NFT collections on the waitlist. Once we start ratcheting up, the AI takes over. It’s a very fast process and automated.
Even though you are everywhere else, you will want to be on this platform.
You can still go to NFT marketplaces and swing around but we are a research tool. We are aggregating all this data. It’s a lot easier to do the research on our site and then make the purchase on OpenSea or any other marketplace that you want to. It’s going to port you there anyway because we are not hosting the sales.
Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
It’s Shira Lazar from NFTLA with Shelly Palmer. Thanks for being here. It’s exciting to have this NFT event here.
I’m excited to be here. It’s Los Angeles, which is the home of entertainment and all kinds of other fun stuff.
You are a New Yorker. What excites you about this space?
It’s the fact that, in all honesty, users and creators can share in the value they create. That is the power and promise of Web3, and while this is called NFTLA, the underlying technology is empowering a completely new way to think about pretty much everything you do in the media business. This is the home of the media business. Media and entertainment live here. The transition should happen here first.
You have a ton of big clients you consult. What are you telling these companies in terms of how to get into this space and why NFTs?
Everything is test and learn for sure. The first thing you do is start a project. The goal here is to learn how when consumers get control of their data, you, as an advertiser and provider of services, are going to exchange value. We always talk about value exchange like, “Make this experience valuable. Make that valuable.” Here, we are giving you a token or a coin that has value. What are you doing? You are giving me a little bit of your attention, hard drive, and bandwidth.
What am I getting back as a consumer? I’m going to get a value that I can turn into dollars or something tangible. As a seller of either a good or a service, what am I getting? I’m getting a new way to have a relationship and a completely new way to get first-party data. We are cutting out all kinds of intermediaries. The consumers are cutting out intermediaries but so are the businesses. This is new. It’s hard to understand where it’s going to end.
It’s moving so quickly. What are you working on that you are excited about?
We have a lot of projects. We are doing a ton of sports and fan development. You think about you and I going to a hockey game and we bring a couple of people. I bought the tickets on my credit card so that they know me but they don’t know you and the other two friends. If they do an airdrop of an NFT and everybody gets one, everyone has got a relationship now. What is that NFT going to do for me? Does it get me into fantasy sports? Does it get me into gambling or other kinds of gaming?
Does it get me into a loyalty program? Does it help me with my video game version of the physical game? Can I translate the game currency into a token that might sit on a blockchain that other people could explore and also use? There are so many interesting projects and ways that publishers, teams, and creators can all come together. The best part about this, for me, is not the big companies we are working with. It’s the small companies and even the individuals.
I started my career as composer-producer writing for television. It doesn’t help me in my consulting business. Charlie Sheen was here. I did all the music for Spin City, in which he was in and Michael J Fox starred originally. I get ASCAP royalties from the work that I have done. That’s in a very old-fashioned way. They have a survey and then you have cue sheets. We have AI that can listen to and fingerprint music. We can monitor all of the outlets by AI with computers.
Why can’t we have a blockchain? Why can’t I be in a situation where there are smart contracts that guarantee my royalty payments where if someone decides to take something that I have created, be it art, music or video, that I can’t share in that secondary or tertiary market? These are amazing times for young creators. I wish this technology existed when I was starting. It might have changed the royalty schema in my life. It’s not that I’m sad about ASCAP. We love ASCAP but I would love it even more if it was automated.
They might end up getting the space with the right people and the right tech. Where do you see everything evolving in the next year?
The way to think about this is it’s 1998 and we are all on the World Wide Web. It’s the end of CompuServe, AOL, and Prodigy and the beginning of Netscape. No one quite knows what’s going to be the use of a web browser and what it means to be in Web3. It’s not well-defined. The thing I like about it is the one promise it makes. We are going to let creators and users share in the value they create. Say that over and over again until you deeply understand it. It’s the most exciting thing about the space.
Everybody has got a different interpretation of that, which is great. The more diverse those opinions are, the better it’s going to be, and the more creative and wacky people are. Imagine inventing finance again, “Let’s invent money. Let’s invent value exchange.” There are no rules. Forget your credit cards, taking loans, and all that stuff, just invent it. This technology will do for finance what the personal computer did for information years ago. I can’t wait to see where it goes. I don’t know where it’s going. I wish I could tell you, “It’s going that way. Maybe it’s going over there.” I don’t know but it’s going to be awesome.
Keep moving with it.
Daniel from Lil’ Heroes. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
How is your NFTLA experience going?
It has been amazing. It’s a well-attended conference. The panels that I have been able to attend have been very impressive.
You were telling me one of your favorites.
The head of Animoca Studios, I thought, was a phenomenal panel.
I’ve got to ask you about Lil’ Heroes. That’s why you are here. What’s it about?
Lil’ Heroes is an entertainment franchise. We started with the launch of the NFTs. We launched them on January 16th, 2022 in partnership with the contemporary artist called Edgar Plans. The launch was incredible. The collection was number one on OpenSea when we launched it. It’s the first Hispanic or Spanish-speaking artist to reach number one on OpenSea. Edgar and ourselves are incredibly proud. It’s the first step in the building of what we believe will be a very meaningful entertainment franchise.
I have so many questions. One, congratulations. That’s huge. How were you able to continue after that big launch? What has happened since?
It has been a lot. We have been adding a number of honorary members to the team. It’s people that we admire or celebrities. We have people like J Balvin, will.i.am, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa that have joined the community. What we do for them is that Edgar creates a one-of-one unique honorary NFT for them, which they then use as their avatar. It’s a one-of-one piece of art that is created for them.
What’s the mission of the entertainment brand? How did the NFT fit into that?
The project started because we saw Edgar’s art. They are these almost childlike figures dressed as superheroes, which we thought was an incredibly relatable basis from which to build an entertainment franchise. We started working with Edgar in developing that. We realized that the world is changing fast and that there’s a new relationship to be had between fans and an entertainment franchise. We decided to start this process by launching the NFTs and building a large community and the fandom before we even went out to build the show and what’s going to come from that entertainment franchise.
It’s going to be a show and a brand.
Think of it as the Simpsons but something where the fans own a piece of that entertainment franchise.
It’s more diverse than the Simpsons. That’s for sure. What do you think was the key to the success from the get-go in that? That’s great advice for others who are looking to launch.
Edgar is a recognized artist in the art world. For a lot of people, it’s hard and unaffordable to buy one of his pieces but the NFTs offered an opportunity for people to own a piece of Edgar’s work at a very different price point than one of his paintings. His paintings sell for $300,000, $400,000 or $500,000. It’s a much more friendly entry point for people that want to collect his art. Coming in with an established artist was meaningful. I also think that having a clear roadmap backed by Exile Content Studio, which is an established studio with experience creating entertainment brands, was also meaningful. We had a roadmap and the experience to back that roadmap. That was exciting to people.
Where do you see this going moving forward? What does the future hold?
The future is building that entertainment franchise. We are working hard on the show and bringing a showrunner. We signed a major celebrity that we will be announcing very soon who’s joining the show to voice one of the characters as well as an executive producer. We are in it for the long-term. We believe that this has a bright future and this is just the beginning. We are working on building that.
Where do you see this space even a year from now when we are back at NFTLA?
It’s so hard to predict. One of the things that have been surprising but very evident building this project is the speed at which the space is moving and evolving is dizzying. It’s hard to think where we will be in a year but as we think about the future, it’s clear that NFTs are much more than art. There are a lot of utilities to be unlocked through it. We are going to be in a different space in 2023 when we are back here talking again and understanding the space. We will have moved beyond the idea that this is art and we are going to see a lot more utility in this space.
Daniel from Lil’ Heroes, thank you so much. Go check out the project.
Brady Gentile from Hedera. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
How has your NFTLA experience been?
It has been awesome. We’ve got the Hedera booth going over in the expo hall. I’m doing a presentation on environmentally friendly minting of NFTs. That’s pretty cool.
Let’s get into that. What is Hedera’s mission? What do you all do?
Hedera is a Layer 1 public distributed ledger. We are fully open source. We launched a smart contract capability using the Besu EVM. We are opening the doors to developers to start building DeFi-focused applications and integrate themselves into the ecosystem. We are super excited about that.
That’s amazing you are focused on DeFi at an NFT conference.
I also think that NFTs play into DeFi in many cases. We are starting to see things like the collateralization of NFTs to take out loans and other DeFi-type applications that NFTs are involved in. It’s pretty interesting.
I love that convergence of the tech and creative worlds together. We could do more together when we work together.
It is a nice hodgepodge of people that show up to these events. You get a lot of creators, lawyers, tech enthusiasts, deep crypto people, and developers. It’s pretty cool.
Let’s talk about being more environmentally conscious in this space. Is that important for you? How are you doing that and contributing to that?
It’s super important. Hedera has a governing council or body of organizations that make decisions for the network. One of the decisions that were made was that the Hedera network is going to be a carbon-neutral network. Already Hedera by itself as a network is incredibly energy-efficient. It has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any public distributed ledger out there.
Thank you. I appreciate that. All thanks to our hashgraph consensus. It’s a different kind of consensus mechanism than blockchain. On top of us being already very energy-efficient, they also decided that quarterly, they would buy carbon credits to offset any additional operational environmental impacts, which is awesome to see. I’m super proud to work for an organization that is so happy to be able to do that.
It’s so important. It’s on top of everyone’s minds and yet, why do you think more projects and organizations aren’t doing more?
They should do more. It’s starting to come ahead in the space when it comes to things like proof-of-work blockchain. We see Ethereum switching over to proof-of-stake. We see laws and regulations. In Europe, for example, they talked about the idea of not supporting any network that is doing mining with proof-of-work. It didn’t get passed. The pressure is going to be on for people to start to adopt more environmentally friendly practices for this space in general.
Projects like yours lead the way or lead by example for that. Where do you see you all in 2023 or so?
The most exciting thing for me is the announcement and release of smart contracts on Hedera. They are optimized for our network. We have this incredible ecosystem that’s starting to grow out around decentralized finance and NFT-based applications. There is tons of organic growth. We have a lot of capabilities for people to be able to come over and either build decentralized exchanges or other DeFi-type applications from other networks and port them over or build them from the ground up.
Are there any announcements or partnerships you want to talk about?
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We do have a hackathon that’s coming up. We have a whole slew of challenges around NFTs and DeFi. If you go to Hedera22.Devpost.com, you can sign up for that hackathon. It’s over $522,000 in prizes. There are a ton of different sponsors and challenges. It’s running until May 16th, 2022.
In a year or even five years, where do you see the space? What are your hopes?
I have been in this space for years. Even in the startup world, that’s a long time. It hasn’t progressed even as fast as I thought it would be years ago. There are tons of iterations that are happening. We will see those iterations continue to happen and evolve. They will start to be more refined experiences in Web3 that lead to mass adoption. It’s still pretty niche.
What advice do you have for others who are trying to do what you are doing?
Do a lot of research and get involved in communities. I know the whole, do your research thing, is so overplayed but it’s jumping on Twitter, for example, following a thread of a project or something that you find interesting and asking questions. People are very helpful across most communities and willing to talk about what they are working on. Find something that you are passionate about within the space.
Thank you so much for talking to us.
I appreciate it. It’s great talking with you too.
Ivan Ravlich from Hypernet Labs. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
How is NFTLA for you?
It has been amazing. The mix of the crowd here shows that crypto is starting to become more mainstream. NFTs have been that killer app to start driving people in.
That’s including for the creatives and entertainment. What are you all up to?
My company is all about bridging traditional Web2 companies, whether they are developers or marketers into Web3. What we announced here at NFTLA is our product called Hypernet.Mint. It’s all about how do you make enterprise-grade NFTs at scale and how do these NFTs build in more functionality into them that it’s not just artwork but it could be something as mundane as to claim some new merchandise or tickets with the NFTs to something more industrial like securing IoT or access controls for buildings.
It’s an easy one-stop-shop solution for those who want to launch an NFT.
We have all the tools. You have all the content. You are the creative or the company that wants to use this. You don’t need to train up your engineers to be Web3 and figure out all the ins and outs of cobbling together a solution because, in crypto, it’s so fragmented and new that the barrier to entry is very high. You have to cobble together a solution from 50 different vendors to put together something new.
You have launched this here. What is coming up? What are you excited about?
We are starting to do some very curated drops with more traditional companies such as animation studios to the nonprofits that are fighting world hunger. How do you use NFTs as a fundraising mechanism but also give more perks and engagement to your end-users? Hypernet.Mint is all about, “How do I give a minting engine and a distribution mechanism to these traditional companies?”
Where do you see all of this going in 2023? What are your hopes and trend predictions?
We are going to see a lot more of what we are calling functional NFTs. It’s not just a piece of art but maybe holding that NFT gives you something, whether it’s a membership to a community or to be able to unlock tickets and identify yourself on the blockchain. There are very non-sexy applications that are going to be more industrial that are going to be the bigger bulk of it over the next 3 to 5 years. We are going to see the step from artwork to things that are more functional and engaging for the end-user.
What advice would you give companies that are trying to get into this space? I’m sure you talked to a lot of them, either they are onboard and they get it or they don’t but they are intrigued.
It’s interesting because some companies will see it as like, “Here’s the next shiny object. Let’s wet our toes and get in.” Other ones see it as being this whole notion of how you truly own your digital self and how you indirectly engage with your end-users where you can offload a lot of corporate risk to things like the blockchain to enter in and engage with users in the new and emerging internet. There is this dichotomy of people trying to see where this is going to go versus the ones that see this is going to be the future, “This is what the next financial rails are going to be built on. Let’s get in now.”
There are different companies doing what you are doing. This is the time that a lot of these companies are launching. Knowing that, how are you looking to set yourselves apart?
We have been building in this space since 2017. We are dinosaurs for the crypto era almost. A lot of the things that we had to solve for ourselves during the past few years, we are now bringing to market for others to use. We are bringing a lot of that knowledge and learning to the solutions that a lot of people are entering the market with now. We built real products that are ready to be leveraged by all these companies. That’s building on the learnings from the past and coming at the market with a full solution that’s not going to have to be piecemealed across the board.
Does that include smart contract developers and everything?
Yeah. We have smart contract factories. Those are also smart contracts but the end-user of the company just slapped the button that says, “Create my NFT registry.” We have all the tools for distribution, whether it’s airdrops or email campaigns to the end-users that hold the NFTs. It’s all about how we get that end-to-end solution where they don’t even need to touch smart contracts at all.
Still, on the social engagement front, that’s on them.
We are the nerds from Stanford. We are the technology partner.
Where can people find out more?
You can go to HypernetLabs.io and go check us out and all of our products.
Congrats again. Thanks for being here.
Thanks for having me.
Brenda Hua from OP3N. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
How is NFTLA for you?
It’s crazy and tiring but also incredibly rewarding. I’m meeting a lot of amazing people and getting to chat with everyone about what they are building. It has been amazing.
You all are building something pretty amazing. There are already so many announcements that I want to get to. Tell people what OP3N is.
To sum it up in the best way I can because we are doing the most. OP3N is an incubator end platform. An incubator is exactly what you might think it is. We work with artists and creators to take them from ideation all the way to smart contract deployment. On the platform side, we are an app and a web-based experience. You can visit us on a browser or download us from the App Store.
We mint NFTs on the platform. From there, all the utilities are managed through our platform as well. We have a video player, an audio player, a merch store, ticketing services as well as an in-app chat. The chat can then do text-based audio calls, video calls, and polling. We offer that all in one place for our creators to be able to access as tools but then also users to access as experiences.
It’s a lot of stuff compared to other companies that are doing similar things. You all are very consumer-facing. You are working with big brands and celebrities, which does differentiate what you are doing.
We are very blessed to be able to work with a wide range of creators. Some of our founders and our founding team come from a long lineage in entertainment and have always been around the space of being able to work with creators, which has been a blessing for all of our careers. That naturally transcribed into us discovering Web3 and seeing all of our experience in entertainment and the way things are done.
Once we discovered that there was a different way to do it, it was a no-brainer to get into this space. We were able to bring our lineage into what we are building now. It’s getting to work with bigger creators like Grimes but also getting to work with smaller creators like Lil Cherry who is an upcoming rapper from South Korea. Being able to touch that range has been incredible.
Speaking of Grimes, you did a big announcement with AVAX and at the Avalanche Summit, which I was at. Shout-out to Barcelona. Tell us more about that.
We announced a $100 million fund called the Culture Catalyst fund in partnership with Avalanche. This is a $100 million commitment to building projects on the Avalanche blockchain for creators ranging from filmmakers, writers, visual artists, musicians, and more. It’s 100% dedicated to helping fund the projects and supports the creators that we believe in. It’s a big job for sure. It’s the fact that Avalanche believes in us and we believe in the blockchain as well. We are so excited to be able to build together, hopefully, create magic, show everybody what Web3 can do, and also show creators that they can do it themselves
It’s also diversifying what blockchain you are on because we all know the others. There’s Ethereum and Solana. Those are the two that people talk about but there are others coming in and saying, “Pay attention to us. We want to play in this game as well.”
That speaks to the nature of the decentralized economy. That is Web3. The fact that all of these different chains can also be different and very similar but they all have their specialties. On our platform, we are chain agnostic despite having a partnership with Avalanche. Depending on what our creators’ needs are, we can work with any chain. We have an Ethereum project coming out soon. We are building on Polygon as well.
I forgot about Polygon but I should know that because I’m an advisor for a project on Polygon. My mind blanked on that one.
Sometimes it’s the one you know the best that is the hardest to remember. For sure, we are proud to be chain agnostic because we are always creator-first. Depending on whatever the creator wants to do, our platform can manage. Seeing the wide range that is out there, we are fortunate to have the technology to support that because we want to grow with the community and what’s available in the market and be a community-built company. It’s taking the needs of our creators and them telling us, “This is what I want to do.” We are more than happy to do it.
Are you also assisting on the community front? That’s such a big part of it. It’s the infrastructure and the tech. The community is so huge.
The strength of what we do in Web3 is all the people around us. That has always been the case even in my personal career. I’m only here because of those who have championed me. The community is an essential founding principle for our company. Even as we help each individual project build a community, we have this discoverability within the platform as a whole for community members of each different project to find each other, go across projects, and celebrate.
We even see partnerships collaborating with each other like Karafuru and Phanta Bear. They are two separate NFT projects but they have come together to drop on OP3N as a collaborative piece. Those two huge NFT communities are then meeting each other, which we are excited to host. It’s being able to do more activations and partnerships like that. We, at OP3N, like to say that we are trying to build a community of communities.
You are trying to be open. I find that interesting because there’s a lot out there. The talent you are working with and brands already have an audience that helps. How do you think that different projects can start working with each other? I do think there’s going to be one consolidation but also more of that partnership stuff happening.
We realized people are quite nuanced, especially in 2022 with a wealth of information out there. With all of our hobbies, tastes, and us as people, we love so many different things. That translates across the communities and the different people that we can touch with different communities and projects. As we see more projects aligning on the specific niches that they are finding themselves in, we are noticing many repeat users and repeat customers for different things that we may or may not have seen were connected at some point.
It’s being able to be open to the idea that one specific consumer might fit more than one mold, being open to creating partnerships in that way, and being creative at the end of the day. A furniture store might have more in common with a fashion brand than they think. It’s being able to build in that world and see what are those things that we can find that bring people together in more ways than one. Those are the partnerships that we are excited about at OP3N.
Is there anything you want to talk about that is coming up? You have the Grimes project. That’s cool. Is there anything to share?
We have a project called Neighborheadz, which is minting on April 12th, 2022. This project is created with a local rapper. He’s the hero of K-Town named Dumbfounded. This project is all about supporting local businesses, restaurants, and artists. A lot of the treasury would go to supporting the local businesses that are anointed or nominated by the community itself. We want to do pop-ups in different locations and food festivals.
We also want to put together a little bit of the treasury to support the art community in different neighborhoods as well as to give everyone the chance to be their hometown hero. Neighborheadz is the project that is minting soon. We also have a collaboration with Avex in Japan, which is a music label. We are doing a project called Pika Zoo. It is super cute. It’s a music video 8-bit. It’s a scavenger hunt. It’s going to be exciting. There’s more information coming soon.
Those are the two projects that we are excited about and coming very quickly. Finally, we have one called Bridge the Gap as well, which is all about creating a safe space for children of Asian immigrants to find each other and discover the creative industry. That will be a month of programming during the Asian Heritage Month in May 2022 where creators can have a whole panel session where they can talk to up-and-coming young artists who are looking to get their first start. That’s going to be an amazing piece as well.
That’s some interesting stuff. I love how you are blending impact into all of this as well. That’s so important. Where do you see the space in 1 to 5 years? What’s your trend prediction?
It’s not financial advice. Idealistically, what I want to build towards is hopefully, we see more adoption. My goal is that the space gets easier to get into as well. Something that OP3N cares about is accessibility. How do we make sure that as technology evolves, we are not leaving any of the communities behind who may or may not have access to the information at the speed that we do? That, for me, is going to be important to see as companies build. We are always making sure that the entry or the barrier to entry is never as high as where it was years ago. That’s what I’m hoping from this space. I’m excited to see what everyone here, even at NFTLA, is building and where we go with it.
Everyone is building. What advice do you have for those entering the space? You are on the building side and also working with artists.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is a lot of information out there. It can be overwhelming but you will find there are quite a lot of people who are willing to explain what is happening as well. You can always ask me. You can come and find us at OP3N. Education is always going to be the most important thing. Always learn. The space is moving very rapidly. It’s ensuring that you are always eager to see what’s next and want to understand where the industry is going. Ask questions to anyone. DM people even if they don’t respond to you.
Don’t let that stop you from continuing. Check it out.
We hope you enjoyed that episode. Make sure to visit EdgeOfNFT.com/discord to continue the conversation and also visit EdgeOfNFT.com/ar to plant a 3D augmented reality tree right from your mobile device inspired by our forthcoming Living Tree NFT collection which will offer you the hottest alpha and participatory benefits within our ecosystem. The Living Tree NFT collection will also plant over 100,000 real trees.
We have reached the outer limit at the show. Thanks for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on this starship, so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to Spotify or iTunes, rate us, and say something awesome. Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole. Be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- Shira Lazar
- Pudgy Penguins
- MANTRA DAO
- Sup Ducks
- Shelly Palmer
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- Edgar Plans
- Exile Content Studio
- Besu EVM
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- Dumbfounded – Twitter
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About John Patrick Mullin
John Patrick Mullin is a performance-driven, high integrity, self-disciplined, goal-oriented leader with outstanding interpersonal skills and a proven track record of success at increasing levels of responsibility and authority.
He is an impact player and proven leader within both large corporations, startups and growth-stage companies. He has proven experience in traditional finance, FinTech, blockchain, venture capital, and investment banking as well as employee development, education, and training.
He is also a professional public speaker, writer, and educator with previous experiences working with large multinational companies and prestigious academic institutions.
About Tony Chan
Introducing Tony Y. Chan, founder of Pledge Finance, earned his Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree from UC Berkeley. He then went on to earn his Masters in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1996. He was picking EECS because it’s one of the hardest majors at UC Berkeley and he wanted a challenge.
Soon after graduation, Tony pursued a career in Software Engineering through Microsoft. He picked Microsoft because he wants to write software for the mass market, and achieved that by writing part of the Windows 95. In 2003 he founded his first company in Facio Software Inc., where he grew the company from $0 to $1.8 million in just 18 months. Tony continued to work as a VP of Sales, VP of Marketing and Consult for China at several other companies.
It was not until 2013 where Tony found his niche in the world of real estate. He started as a licensed realtor who specialized in investment properties throughout the Palo Alto area. He does about $20mill in sales each year. In 2017, Tony had an interaction with a real estate client who wanted to buy a house with bitcoin. This sparked the idea for Tony to found Pledge. He realized high-networth individuals view bitcoin as a new asset class and they have borrowing needs. At the same time, his investor clients wanted to look for stable fixed-income investment opportunities. Unlike its competitors, Pledge is a financial lending platform that caters to customers seeking longer-term and fixed rate financing. Pledge intends to primarily serve crypto-asset holders who are looking to diversify their profile with non-crypto assets and miners who need cash to pay for electricity.
About Chris Boundikas
A proven leader in the financial services and crypto DeFi with extensive experience in futures trading, blockchain and business consulting, a recognized authority on all things tech related with 17,000+ connections.
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About Shelly Palmer
I’m a business advisor and technology consultant based in New York City. I create value for my clients by keeping them up to date on the latest technological trends and helping to make that knowledge actionable.
My company is called The Palmer Group. We work on digital transformation, marketing, strategy, hybrid workforce solutions, and blockchain (decentralized finance, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and Smart Contracts) with Fortune 500 companies like Ford, PepsiCo, Walt Disney, Facebook, Delta Airlines, Charter, Travelers, GSK, Marriott, Viacom, Discovery, SunTrust Banks, and PVH, to name a few.
Aside from my business advisory work, I am the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. I write a daily blog and host a weekly show called, “#Web3Wednesday.” I cover tech and business for Fox 5 New York, and I’m a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC.
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Ivan has been involved in many cutting-edge technology startups: from biofuels to plasma rockets. His time as a Ph.D. Candidate in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford bridges his scientific expertise with business acumen in developing a multidisciplinary approach to technological hurdles.
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Work experience spans across music marketing, production, agency, sponsorship, and management. Just trying to get as tangled up in culture as possible.
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