The world of blockchain and cryptocurrency continues its evolution at a breakneck pace. Even social media will become part of the metaverse, as creators begin a push for an NFT social network. Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney and Josh Kriger have a chat with the founder and CEO of Momento NFT, Julian Rodriguez as he gives us a look at his latest project. Julian, a crypto OG, wanted to change how content creators get rewarded for their work. Out of this came Momento NFT, and hope for positive change. If you’re hungry for more knowledge of crypto and blockchain, then you came to the right place.
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Julian Rodriguez Of Momento, The Direct-To-Fan NFT Social Network, On Changing The Rewards Ecosystem For Creators
I’m Julian Rodriguez of Momento NFT, the platform that helps you own the moments that matter. I’m on the Edge of NFT, the show that takes you to the leading edge of what matters in NFTs. Stay tuned.
NFT curious readers, check out this episode and find out how Momento is shifting the landscape of creators connecting with their fans and generating value from their creations. How our guest was such a bookworm that as a kid, he was convinced he could sell his childhood book collection door-to-door and what’s on the mind of a true crypto OG who was one of the first ASIC miners in our galaxy. All this and more on this episode. Enjoy.
This sponsored spotlight episode features Julian Rodriguez, Founder and CEO of Momento, an NFT social network for the creator economy. It allows you to own your favorite viral moments or create your own NFTs with zero fees. Julian is a serial entrepreneur, our favorite kind, product manager and innovation-focused strategist. He loves leading teams that build easy-to-use products that solve large problems. Julian was the Founder and CEO of a disruptive venture capital-backed tech startup in the B2B foodservice space.
In 2013, he joined the Bitcoin Magazine and worked directly with its Cofounder, Vitalik Buterin. He was a very early team member and advisor to several successful crypto and blockchain projects, including Ethereum. In 2013, he became one of the first Bitcoin ASIC miners on Earth or any planet, for that matter, that we know of. He has been a lifetime member of the Bitcoin Foundation since 2013. He sits on two not-for-profit boards that focus on the urban tech pipeline in the South Bronx. Julian, welcome.
Thanks for having me.
That’s an impressive background. That’s something else. You’ve been in the NFT space for a long time.
I love how we’re bringing it all back to the Bronx too.
I’ve been fortunate. New York City has been great to me 100%.
The digital content that we are consuming now has to be owned, cataloged and priced. It's a natural fit for smart contracts, blockchain tech and NFTs to be the medium through which you do that. Click To Tweet
One of the things we did was our 100th Episode. It was just us and we were reflecting on some of the cool things that we have experienced here. We didn’t get too deep into the fun moments that have happened. There are a lot of them, like mic drop moments from guests and other fun things that we have unearthed on the show.
From day one, we have always felt like these are special things that followers and fans of us or anybody else would want to have and be able to experience and show off. They should be NFTs. There should be an easy way to do that. It feels like what Momento is becoming and will be. It’s something that has been a content creator’s dream for a long time but hasn’t been brought to fruition. I’m curious. Where did this idea come from? How did you bring it to life?
Going back to the bio, I’ve been fortunate to be in and around crypto for a very long time. Part of my role in the magazine was to review and understand all the projects that were happening globally. Seeing Vitalik take on everything was huge. I’ve been seeing projects come up and fizzle out, how regulation affects us and people adopt projects. It was clear that in 2020, we had this focus of people online spending more time digitally. The way that they wanted to interact with digital projects was going to be fundamentally different. This was the catalyst that we were waiting for in crypto.
We wanted things to go this route but what crypto turned into was a bunch of speculation. People wanted to get rich quickly from buying and selling the actual coins. We see over 8,000 coins. They’re pumping out rug pull projects left and right. That sidetracked a lot of the 2013 to 2014 early building and pissed off the regulators. In New York particularly, we got the BitLicense super early on. That scared a ton of people. It scared me. It moved Vitalik down to Florida. That’s where he unveiled the Ethereum Whitepaper to the public at the Miami conference.
He never came back to New York and ended up moving to Europe and then from Europe over to Asia. It was like a nuclear winter for New York. I looked towards Silicon Valley and wanted to understand how people build value from a traditional startup sense or point of view. I had no idea what that was like and everything crypto at the time. Being a miner was Layer 1 protocol-oriented. It’s hardcore. There’s this magic box that plugs into other boxes and mints coins this way. What does it look like to build and ship a product, bring value to people and have this grow at scale? That’s what I learned.
It became apparent that we were spending more time on the internet. What that means is eventually, the digital content that we are consuming has to be owned, cataloged and priced. It’s a natural fit for smart contracts, blockchain tech and NFTs to be the medium through which you do that. There hasn’t been any other way that services everyone equally or equitably in that fashion. We tried it with large social media companies. All they did was manipulate our attention. They’re short of hurting us digitally so that they can run ads. That’s where they make all their money.
Ideally, I don’t think that human interaction works like that. If I’m inspired by an athlete or celebrity, I don’t want to hear about detergent or toothpaste. I might not even want to hear tangential services like how to become a celebrity or something like that. I want more access to the people who inspire me. That component is what’s missing on the internet. Long story short, for me, it was a combination of failings or seeing things go wrong and trying to reverse engineer that, add it all together and bring a toolkit that solves the crypto problem. The tech is validated. We’re trying to solve a use case. Can the tech be used for what people want to use it for? We’re here.
How specifically is Momento reshaping the way people interact with these viral moments on the internet? Break it down for us.
NFT Social Network: We’re not attempting to replace existing social media. There’s a place for it. What we’re trying to do is if you’re building up your social media presence, you’re out there and you say, “I want to become a creator.”
This was the first thing. We made it simple and fun. This is as easy as what people do on social media, which is uploading content from their phone like short-form videos and images, sharing that with their community and giving your fans the option to own that moment. They can partake in the upside as well. With NFTs, there are unlimited royalties. That comes into play where the owner continues to receive royalties from their content in perpetuity but so does each owner in the chain as well. We’re balancing that through our smart contracts.
Also, we incentivize people to do what they normally do on social media, like liking, sharing, commenting and all that. We have an inside economy around our token that incentivizes people to do that. The best example that’s out there or something like that is how Brave Browser works. I remember when I saw them a couple of years ago. I was introduced to them. I said, “This is genius.” You have a web browser that gives you everything you want from a web browser but incentivizes you to use it to be on the internet. We brought that into social media.
The more we play around in, co-create, and witness this revolution in Web 3.0, so much of it is about incentivization, understanding, exploring, and developing that. I appreciate that. We talked a little bit about the origins of this. We have this status quo in social media and online presence. There’s a hierarchy of ownership. Can you talk about how you view the status quo? It seems like you want to change it. How do you intend to change it?
It’s one-sided and total attention manipulation. Essentially, if you’re a creator, you are donating your content for free. You essentially hope that you get viral or figure out some nuanced way to exploit the algorithm that ultimately continues moving the goalposts on you whenever they want. You might get a fraction of a percentage of the lion’s share of revenue being generated by the social media company AKA Facebook Corp. That, to me, doesn’t seem like an advantageous situation for creators and much less the creator’s fan base.
Can I play devil’s advocate? I don’t know if I’m going to agree with what I’m going to ask, but I want to see how you address it. What about the argument, “That’s how you pay for Facebook.” You like Facebook and being on there. You’re having fun. You don’t want to put your credit card down for $50 a month. You pay by going ahead and giving your content. They get to do what they want with it. What’s wrong with that? How come that’s not fair?
That’s great for Facebook. What I’m saying is it’s not great for the creators and their audience. Facebook has a legitimate business. What we’re going to see is a shift away from that model. For example, we’re not attempting to replace existing social media. There’s a place for it. What we’re trying to do is if you’re building up your social media presence, you’re out there and you say, “I want to become a creator,” you should validate your audience on these model-based platforms. They’re going to show you if there is some quality there. You’re going to build your following and use the varying supply of all of them.
Once you want to build closer connections to your audience, there’s no place to do that because the connection is between the brand and the social media company. If you want to go a layer deeper, you’re moving beyond Web 2.0. The only way you can get deep into it is through Web 3.0. We offer you the ability to tokenize your content, reach out directly to your audience and even add utility. There’s this entire layer of utility that we’re not talking about in NFTs. We’re only seeing a small group of offerings like Bored Apes. The community has now grown into private events and parties in total experiential form. It’s awesome. I went to one in November 2021 and I was blown away.
I had been to a lot of parties in my life, but this was different. I left that seeing Bored Apes in a different light psychologically and being interested in owning more. I was nowhere in that before that part. What we’re doing is on a micro-level for the creators and giving that utility to the NFT as well. I don’t want to take a super huge celebrity because it’s overly obvious but let’s say, Kanye. Kanye makes the NFT. The NFT itself will sell for a lot of money, but it will be even more enticing if Kanye says, “I’m going to be in LA once every three months at this distinct location. You get to talk to me for an hour if you own this NFT.”
The value there and resell value to that are ridiculous. There’s no other way where people coordinate that in a turnkey frictionless way. If Kanye wanted to do that, he would have to put this all together by himself or put it up on OpenSea or Rarible. It’s a big one-off event. You can imagine the price point is going to hit six figures easily. It might shut out a lot of his audience where this is more accessible to a larger group of people. It doesn’t even have to be in person. It could be livestreams and even merch. We’re going to see the next evolution of utility around NFTs. We’re trying to bring that to the direct audience on a one-on-one creator relationship.
Can you imagine if all of Justin Bieber’s followers that discovered him super early on had his super early bird NFTs that he did from day one? What comes to mind for me is all these people who have small communities discovered. We talk about the ability for fans to put their stamp on something and say, “I was there early in their first release or before they even did anything officially.” We can talk about general ways to do it with NFTs, but there hasn’t been an easy button for that. That’s what we’re talking about. It’s this easy button, which is amazing.
There are so many content creators. Some people are up and coming and existing and people with big followings. There’s a lot of content that’s going to be created on the backbone of NFTs. NFTs in and of themselves we can consider as an asset class. Content from content creators is a little bit different. It’s an asset class in itself. It’s its own thing. What do you think about that? Does that play into how you think about Momento and what you’re enabling here?
Right on our website, one of our biggest taglines is, “Content is an asset class.” We believe that digital content is going to be priced, traded, borrowed against and leveraged on. This is the new global derivative. We’re trying to empower that by creating the perfect sandbox for people to mess around with. The creators price their content and the users have full governance. We’re going to have a foundation around the token. They have full governance around the actual protocol. We sit back, facilitating these transactions. We will never run ads. We want to empower people to continue to be inspired by the people and moments that matter to them.
That feels like a big opportunity for value creation. We always talk about increasing the size of the pie to create value and capture some of that value that you created for your organization. This feels like one of those big opportunities to increase the size of the pie based on what you’re building.
I’m pretty excited about how you’re looking at social media in a Web 3.0 context. They’re reflecting on what doesn’t work. Some of the celebrities who have gotten into the space include Katy Perry, Doja Cat, Paris Hilton, and many more. What does this tell you about the way creators have been using NFTs and what the future holds?
I talk to creators daily. Even coming into this project, there was what I thought was a black eye on the space. It was the creator coin concept. Early on, especially in 2020, a lot of people were trying to make their coin and pump that. There were even some early projects that tried to be the ecosystem for people’s coins. I won’t name any names. They flamed out quickly. It was bad for everyone. In 2013, we covered what is the first creative coin project, which ironically was a Kanye coin. Kanye didn’t like it too much. They took his name, so he sued them. This was during the South Park Fishsticks episode. They rebranded and turned it into Fishstick coin to piss him off. He sued them again.
It was clear that this wasn’t going to go anywhere. I was amazed that in 2020, people tried to pick that back up. Even in 2022, some creators still believe that that’s the direction where the market is still going or stuck in. I’m very upfront. I don’t believe in creator coins. It’s shit. It’s a bad concept. It adds another layer of friction between the creator and the fan base. Creators are creators. They’re not asset managers. I never understood why people would go in that direction. We want creators to focus on the content and the fans to focus on that relationship. A creator coin never seemed like a good idea.
NFT Social Network: This is the time. It’s NFTs combined with everything that’s happening in DeFi. People finally get it. Crypto is here to stay.
In NFT, there are so many great use cases. It’s the best use case for crypto. Blockchain technology and NFTs are such a great use case for it. The use cases for NFTs on top of it are unlimited. Creator coins were an attempt to use blockchain to do something and create that value. They are ready to be tapped, but it is NFTs and the evolution of them that are going to make the difference. It’s such a great fit. It’s hard to deny.
Sitting here in New York on Madison Avenue, all the big media agencies know what’s coming. I’m hearing that they’re thinking of NFTs the way people were thinking of SEO back in 2005 or 2004. The way SEO changed digital marketing is how they know NFTs will change media, entertainment, and advertising. We’re seeing no resistance there. I’ve been waiting in the weeds for a decade and decided to pull the trigger because this is the time. It’s NFTs combined with everything that’s happening in DeFi. People finally get it. Crypto is here to stay.
Good on you for pulling the trigger at this time. That can be one of the frustrations of being involved in things that are ahead of their time. It’s knowing when to get up on the surfboard and ride that wave or wait for the next one. I do think we’re all seeing that it’s a good time to be in this space for the people that have been in it for a long time. It’s a time to seize the opportunity. That leads to a wonderful topic. You’ve successfully raised $6 million in funding from investors. We got folks like Animoca Brands, FTX and Mark Pincus. These are great folks to have on board. Congratulations on that. What other partnerships can we expect going forward?
We are partnered with some of the biggest or most visible and recognizable blockchains. There’s Solana, Flow and Klaytn. I’m not sure if a lot of people know about Klaytn, but it’s huge, especially in Asia. There’s Stacks, which is a transfer protocol on Bitcoin. I’m excited about them. There’s Ripple. Ripple has been top-of-mind for a long time. They ran into a couple of issues, but to me, that signifies how big they are. The SEC is targeting you because you’re a big deal. Ripple is coming out with a bunch of interesting and sophisticated tools that they have never had before. We’re one of their earliest partners on that.
You’re not playing this small at all. I appreciate that big thinking.
You’re doing so much. You’ve been in and around this space for so long. We’re curious. Where do you look for inspiration? Who do you look to within the NFT space? What gets you going?
I mentioned Flow, but Dapper Labs has been huge. Roham, Mickey, Anuke and all those guys over there have been huge in helping us network in the ecosystem and also understand some early use cases. Top Shot was fabulously famous and successful in what they did and even before that. CryptoKitties in 2016 proved the mold. I’ll be honest. In 2016, I did not get CryptoKitties at all. I thought, “What the hell is going on? Is this what we’re doing?” Roham has been way ahead of his time. Robby from Animoca was in and around, helping see that idea as well. To be able to work with these guys is huge. For inspiration, I’m looking square at Roham all the time.
They did such a good job too. It was such a jump forward. What they delivered in the fall of 2020 was so far beyond where everybody else was at in the realm of NFTs. People are still trying to catch up on that front. There’s UI/UX, the thoughtfulness that went into building their blockchain and having that foresight. If you’re a customer, you don’t even need to know that it’s on the blockchain at all. You don’t even have to know that to experience this amazing entire program that they set up over there. Here’s a shout-out to Animoca Brands, Robby, Yat Siu and those guys. They’re an amazing crew and also investors in us. I love those guys.
You’re doing some amazing things with Momento. I can’t wait to see where it’s going. We want to take a step back and get some personal answers to a set of questions that we call Edge Quick Hitters. There are ten questions. We’re looking for short single-word or few-word responses but sometimes we go a little bit deeper. It’s all about getting to know you a little bit better. Question number one, what is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
It was at a garage sale. They were the Berenstain Bears books. I don’t know why, but I just had to buy them. I paid $0.50 for each. I got $1.50, so I bought three.
Isn’t there a big Mandela Effect thing with how it’s spelled or something like that?
That’s what they say. I was never confused. I can’t remember which version I remember, but I remember the wrong one.
Question number two, what is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
It’s the same books. Someone sold it to me and then a couple of months later, I was like, “I should sell more books.” I had a Star Trek plastic briefcase. I put all those books in there. I wrote, “$0.10 and $0.15,” and taped it onto every book. I was going to go door-to-door because I thought, “Since I like books, they like books, I’ll bring them the books.” I never did it. My mom thought that it wouldn’t work.
Question number three, what is the most recent thing you purchased?
I’m going to say that the coolest thing I purchased. I got back into Pokémon cards. I’m going all vintage. I’m getting the first five vintage sets up to Gym Heroes.
NFT Social Network: A lot of people think it’s okay to complain and give up.
Question number four, what is the most recent thing you sold?
Besides NFTs on Momento, I sold some old monitors from my last startup.
Question number five, what is your most prized possession?
I own things that are tradable liquid assets. I’m honestly not too attached to that. My most prized possession is my Casper mattress. I love that thing. It’s amazing.
Josh and Eathan, do you have Casper or one of the other similar mattresses?
It’s called DreamCloud. I looked at the research and I love my mattress too. It’s a very important thing to love your mattress.
We’re in a new zone of humanity. We’re finally sleeping correctly.
Let’s give a shout-out to DreamCloud because they also have dope mattresses.
I got a Purple Mattress, so we will put that one too.
DreamCloud has a one-year sleep guarantee. After nine months, if you don’t like it, you get a free refund.
Moving on, question number six, if you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service and experience, that’s currently for sale, what would that be?
Maybe a spaceship if they’re selling those.
I like this because most people say they want a trip into space. Go ahead and get your spaceship. You can cruise around whenever you want and get some pilot lessons.
That’s thinking outside the box right there for sure. Everyone was like, “I want a trip to space.” You’re like, “I want a spaceship.” Question number seven, shifting gears a little bit. If you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would that be?
It would be relentless perseverance. It’s the whole don’t give up thing. A lot of people think it’s okay to complain and give up. I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like the younger generation is falling more into that. I fell in love with hard things. It seemed to pay it out. It was a long payout. It’s the perspective that hard things are good.
That’s evidenced by your continued pursuit of work within the world of blockchain and crypto. You’ve seen so many boom and bust cycles since you got involved with it first. It’s easy to quit when the times are tough. Question number eight, if you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would it be?
NFT Social Network: We can’t all three of us be writing on the same piece of paper. We were talking about how this seems to be much more efficient.
Everything doesn’t have to be exact. It’s better to trust in the fact that you can get things out there and then see what goes wrong. Everything doesn’t have to be fully calculated. It’s good for you. It’s like, “Who are you doing that for?” It’s worse if you don’t get it out there. I would have built the last company better if I had known that. That leads you to start the whole micromanaging thing and putting the wrong type of incentives and pressures on people who ultimately could help you. I suspect that’s what it is. It’s that fake perfection. It gets in the way.
Question number nine, what did you do before joining us on the show?
I was on a strategy call with my team for about two hours. We were talking about being fully global remote. How much more different is it turning on a camera for two hours and me working at my desk, the CMO at his desk and the CTO at his desk versus being in the same office? What is the difference if we can do that? We use Google Docs and work collaboratively in the same document. In person, I can’t even do that. We can’t all three of us be writing on the same piece of paper. We were talking about how this seems to be much more efficient.
Josh and I started Territory Foods, which is up in New York as well, having been in the FoodTech space. We were remote the whole time for about ten years. Doing things that weren’t remote was always weird for us after having done it for so long and appreciated all the ins and outs of it. We’re big fans of remote work. I’m so glad that so many other people have come around to it out of necessity unfortunately because of COVID. It accelerated things. Question ten, the last one, what are you going to do next after the show?
I have a meeting with a creator. He’s a cool guy. That should be a good NFT collection.
Do you have any possible releases that you could tell us about that are exciting coming up?
There’s nothing that I could say on the show, but we will be releasing that at the NFT LA event that you are hosting.
We can tell everyone officially that the event has an extra day. There are too many amazing speakers and too much great content to cover in two and a half days. We’re going to have a three-and-a-half-day event. Rumors are there are a lot of extension events that are being planned around NFT LA and we’re down for that. There are maybe some special VIP parties too. Multiple little birds are telling us.
Keep an eye out for some sweet stuff coming from Momento on that front. Julian, these are great and fun stuff. Thanks for playing Edge Quick Hitters with us. We always appreciate it. Thanks for joining us. It was a great conversation. I don’t know about our readers, but I’m super duper excited about what’s happening with Momento and where things are going. I’m a big fan of everything you’re putting together there. We wanted to make sure that our readers knew where the best place would be to follow you and all of your projects. Where should they go?
You can follow me on Twitter @Product_J. I’m active on LinkedIn. It’s Julian Rodriguez. The guy with the laser eyes is me. Everything Momento NFT is Momento NFT. The Instagram is @MomentoNFTs. Check us out at MomentoNFT.com. Please sign up for Discord and our mailing list. We will be airdropping goodies to everyone there.
On that note, we have a pretty cool giveaway in the works. We’re going to give Momento tokens to the first 500 participants of a contest that we’re putting together who sign up for the beta version of Momento. On top of that, one lucky winner will also receive a one-of-a-kind NFT from Momento. Keep an eye out for that and watch our socials. We will give you all the deets on how to participate. We have reached the outer limit of 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 to make this journey much better. How? Go to iTunes, rate us and say something awesome.
Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole. Remember, we always invite you to co-create and build with us at the show. We’re unlocking a whole new way to connect and collaborate with us through our own NFT drops, Spirit Seeds, leading to Living Tree NFTs, which will light the way to our event, NFT LA, a one of a kind immersive and unforgettable experience at LA live in Los Angeles on March 28th, 2022 to the 31st. Check it out at NFTLA.live and move quickly on Early Bird tickets as they are moving fast. Lastly, be sure to read next time for greater NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- Ethereum Whitepaper
- Brave Browser
- Bored Apes
- Animoca Brands
- Mark Pincus
- Dapper Labs
- Top Shot
- Berenstain Bears
- Purple Mattress
- Territory Foods
- @Product_J – Twitter
- Julian Rodriguez – LinkedIn
- @MomentoNFTs – Instagram
- Discord – Momento NFT
- iTunes – Edge of NFT
- Spirit Seeds
About Julian Rodriguez
Serial entrepreneur, product manager, and innovation-focused strategist. He loves leading teams that build easy to use products that solve large problems. Founder & CEO of a disruptive venture capital backed tech startup in the B2B foodservice space. He founded and led a super PAC to level the digital playing field against disinformation during the Trump era. In 2013, he joined the Bitcoin Magazine and worked directly with its Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin. He was a very early team member and advisor to several successful crypto and blockchain projects including the wildly famous Ethereum project. In 2013 he became one of the first Bitcoin ASIC miners on earth. He has been a lifetime member of the Bitcoin Foundation since 2013. He currently sits on two non for profit boards that focus on the urban tech pipeline in the South Bronx.