The Edge of NFT team, just had an amazing opportunity to spend an incredible week at the Korea Blockchain Week where the arts in blockchain and Web3 scene had electrifying energy. On this episode, we connected with three pioneers to get their perspective on mass adoption, how they’re helping brands enter Asian markets like Korea, and how brands are utilizing Web3 technology here. Get the latest brilliant and borderline crazy ideas from Amanda Cassatt of Serotonin, Stacey King of Adidas, and the legendary Frank DeGods. Plus, get treated to a stunning display of what’s possible in digital art with Aaron Baker, an artist at The Gateway. Stay tuned for all these and more!
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Revealing Success With Digital Artists At KBW: Adidas, Serotonin, NFT-Now And Frank DeGods Share Their Secrets
The Edge of NFT team just had an amazing opportunity to spend an incredible week here in Korea, where the arts and blockchain Web3 scene had electrifying energy. In this episode, we connected with three pioneers. We get the perspective on mass adoption, how brands enter the market cycle like Korea, and how brands utilize the Web3 technology. Stay tuned for more.
We are in Seoul, Korea, during Korea Blockchain Week on the second day of Impact with an individual who's been important to the Web3 industry for quite some time, Amanda Cassatt, who I got a chance to catch up with here in Korea as opposed to the United States. It's great to see you.
Thanks so much for having me.
What brings you to Asia?
We've been seeing a lot of growth in APAC. It's gone from maybe 2% of our business to almost 20% of our business almost overnight. We are going to be opening an APAC office in 2024. We're working directly with the Korea Blockchain Week team. We've been helping market that event to reach more people in the West, and we think the meme of Korea, especially Web3 is growing and it always feels good to be part of something growing.
For those of you who don't know Amanda, she is the Web3 and marketing decentralized technology trail leader, AKA the CEO of Serotonin. This is an agency and product studio which enabled her cofounding Mojito, which was part of Outer Edge LA. It was great to have them involved. That's a top NFT commerce suite embraced by industry leaders like Sotheby's and CA, to name a few.
She authored Web3 Marketing, which is the world's first book on decentralized tech marketing. She was the ConsenSys CMO from 2016 to 2019, instrumental in Ethereum's growth. Before that, she cofounded Slant, which is another media startup following an apprenticeship with Ariana Huffington at the Huffington Post. I got to see her at VeeCon. She's another amazing trailblazer.
Just a little bit more context, Serotonin is a professional services agency and product studio founded in 2020. The focus is on the Web3 landscape. Let's get into it. Folks can do a little bit more research on Serotonin and check it out. To start off, you’ve worked with so many different brands and have an interesting experience crossing Web2 and Web3. What are some of the lessons learned and takeaways for you from the last few years?
We coined the term the Web 2.5, and that's been the main lesson of the last few years. There are all kinds of companies that are somewhere between being centralized normal companies and fully decentralized projects that don't have an entity or are governed by a DAO, etc.
More in the middle than on the sides.
We are meeting a lot of traditional companies where they are and helping them realize the benefits of wading out into the decentralized world. It’s like how a lot of companies first started exploring the public open internet. On the commerce side, we're working with a lot of the leading Web3 native startups, ones whose goal is to be as decentralized as possible and we're helping them pick up users.
That gives us a unique vantage point to help them partner with each other and create the relationships between the two. We can work with a traditional brand and help guide them into Web3 in a way that will be received positively and strengthen the overall space. We can also help forge narratives and partnerships connecting the Web3 world with the mainstream names that people know and love.
Experience helps. Erick Calderon said this in the show. Our box was completely an experiment. From his perspective, it still is. What are some specific takeaways from the experiments you've run over the last few years where you're like, “I didn't realize that would happen?”
First of all, I love Erick, and I have a squiggle on the front cover of my book that I licensed to be able to use that way. We love the Art Blocks community and everything that they've done in partnership with us for the book.
It was an honor to have him as one of our keynotes at Outer Edge.
In terms of lessons learned, the thing I always say about marketing is there's no way around it. You can't suddenly hack your way to being a big, well-known global brand, but you have to do all the things. All of the projects that fake their user numbers or buy a bunch of followers, those followers aren't engaged and no one's convinced and no one cares at the end of the day. The market falls away and it's gone.
What's important is building something from fundamentals that people have a need for that makes sense, that has some audience, or that's able to probe and find early market fit. It is growing a community the organic way, starting in concentric circles with the people closest to it who care about it the most, but then evangelizing it to the next concentric circle. You're not going to wake up and be an overnight smash hit. You're going to move outward in these rings doing it the authentic way.
That's what we work on with all of our projects, figuring out how to get users, grow, and build communities that care about the project. We often compare a community in Web3 to a spaceship. You are a space alien and you land and you put down your ladder. Some humans, wherever you land, walk onto your spaceship.
You fly away. You populate your planet and live with those humans forever. You’ve got to be selective about who those people are. If your first community members are what we call moon boys, where people saying one moon and one token that doesn't care about your project, that's going to put off the users later that you want. There's no way to hack around building something people want and building an authentic community.
Have there been any specific nuggets where some things have worked better than you expected or things didn't land how you had hoped without getting to specific campaigns, but generally a-ha moments that you've had along this journey and Web3? When you're dealing with aliens meeting other aliens and going on new planets, they don't always understand each other in the way you might've expected, even if you do your very best to distill the message.
I can give you an example. One of our partners is this great company called Galxe, which is one of our first partners that's local in Asia. They run these cool Quest-style campaigns.
They've been on the show, and we've done some Galxe campaigns. It's incredible what they're doing.
What they're doing accelerates project user growth fast. They've brought millions of users to projects, things that are also clients and partners of ours like Polygon, and things like Optimism authentically. Those are actual Web3 users who care about the project and have done projects or quests that prove that. They get rewards and then they get to join the community.
It's not like you can't use any extrinsic form of rewards or incentives. You need to make sure that you're using investments, not bribes. Without naming any names of any particular projects, if everybody that's building with your technology is being paid to do that, the question is what are they going to do when the money dries up? Do they stay or do they go? If they stay, then it's an investment. If they go, then it was a bribe.
That's a good rule of thumb, and there are some L-1s I’ve talked to where they're taking a hard line that they're not doing bounties or their chain. It’s if they want to win on the technology and the value prop to the developers and the builders to use their chain. I appreciate that because there's been a lot of bounties in our space over the last few years.
People shouldn't shy away from using paid growth tactics. We have an amazing paid growth team at Serotonin. We're basically reinventing what paid growth and all of the analytics and tracking around that means in a Web 2.5 context.
Just being thoughtful about it and not throwing these marketing dollars around.
Making sure it's investments that stick.
What do you think some of the sub-sectors of Web3 are that are most promising? Folks talk about gaming a lot and big brands, but are there any niches that you're excited about besides those macro trends?
I’ll talk your ear off about them. There are memberships, rewards, and loyalty. We're super excited about that. The blockchain is the best CRM known to humankind. You get direct buying behavior. You don't have to store anyone's private data. You can retarget people on the same platform. We have lots of big companies that are about to be launching that. It's on-chain summer and people have been talking about L-2s and L-3s, but also, it's been stablecoin summer.
We've worked closely with PayPal. They launched their stablecoin, PYUSD. The killer use case of Ethereum so far is stablecoins. The fact that you can send money to anybody in the world, that's an ERC 20 token that lives on a blockchain that's unprecedented. The future of payments and stablecoins is at stake. That's incredible and we're going to see that use piece pop up.
Peak stablecoins aren't always the sexiest thing, but I was talking to someone about this. They're critical infrastructure and there's quite a lot of technical sophistication and complexity behind the scenes there.
More trends. ZK is interesting. We've had a lot of businesses hesitate to get into crypto because they don't want to put all of their business logic on the public blockchain. There's all kinds of business logic about my business that I don't want to put on the public blockchain, but being able to do ZK and there's some L-2s integrating it. There are also ZK L-1s like Aleo that are interesting. That's super cool.
I'm interested in the app chain thesis, this idea that there's going to be value accruing at the application level, not just at the protocol level. We're seeing the interchain ecosystem that originally evolved around Cosmos and now has so much different stuff in it. That's going to grow and that concept is going to grow as applications get more users. There's real world assets on chain, which is going to be a great non-correlated part of this asset class.
What are some of the real-world asset use cases that you're most excited about? Do you think real estate has a chance here? Titles, luxury items? What are your thoughts?
In terms of physical goods, the base case is that NFTs replace receipts and even maybe starting with luxury because receipts or certificates of authenticity already matter. We're going to be able to trace all of our buying behavior and track all of our receipts and all of our objects on chain with things like NFTs. Things like real estate. Being able to sell a house on the blockchain, like what Roofstock already did. We're going to see that use case emerge as people figure out the UX.
Big fan of what they've done and how they've led the way there. People had talking about doing what they did for like 5 or 10 years. I remember in 2017, people were talking about that, but no one got it done. They got it done. Kudos to them.
People have been talking about social tokens for years. People have been talking about Web3 social. In this next cycle, we're going to finally see it materialize. I don't think the thing that's going to end up sticking is going to be the bit clouds or the friends tech, but there's something there and someone's going to crack that and figure it out. Lens from Ave has a fighting chance because they're building at the protocol level without a thesis on what the actual social app looks like. We'll see what people build on top of that.
Are there any hot takes you have on ways to succeed with Web3 that are not commonly held or discussed beliefs? There are a lot of panels on community and conversations about the importance of community, but do you have any opinions on the industry that are a little bit more against the grain? I interviewed Frank DeGods and he certainly has a lot of those, but I'm curious where you disagree with industry thought leadership principles and you're like, “I see it a little differently.”
There's a lot of pressure in the industry to juice up your user numbers whether that's Twitter or Discord server. The fact that we don't do fake tactics and we'll drop a client if they're doing fake tactics puts us in conflict with a lot of the secret pressures that exist. We come out and say there’s a lot of that in this space and that we’re against it. That’s notable.
The other thing that's unique about Sero is we're not guns for hire. We only work on projects that we care about, which is unique in the industry and unique for a services company. In terms of mainstream wisdom, here's something a little controversial. I'm not a maxi. I sometimes get called an ETH Maxi because of my role on Ethereum, but I'm not. We work with other L-1s that are great.
You're not anti and all that?
We work with other L-1s that are differentiated in niche. I'm a big Bitcoin fan. A lot of the Ethereum came out of Bitcoin. A lot of Ethereum people love Bitcoin.
I'm like you. I’ve always been a moderate.
Sometimes in the space, there's this attitude like, “Don't be so tribal and don't say something negative about an L-1,” because you have to say positive things about everybody, but it matters which L-1 people choose because root ownership of assets is part of the core value proposition of Web3. If users don't have root ownership of their supposedly blockchain-based assets, then it's not a real Web3 wallet or a real Web3 onboarding.
There are voices on Twitter that say, “Don't point out the negatives or the drawbacks of any of these L-1 platforms.” It's important that people point out logically and calmly what's going on with all these different platforms. Whether they go on and off, whether people own their assets, whether they can transfer those assets, whether they might lose those assets because that blockchain goes away, that conversation is important. I don't think there's a need for all the emotion and tribalism that goes into it, but the converse of being discriminating in a good way is also important. Discernment.
There's not enough civil authentic comparing and contrasting of L-1s and L-2s and the pros and cons of them in marketplaces. Everyone comes in strong and hot and people want to have the ability to make these analytical decisions with the pros and cons and there's no place to go to find that information. It requires a lot of research. That can be overwhelming to enterprises that want to get involved in this space. They bring in these big teams, they hire a bunch of consultants, and it takes a long time. If we were a little bit more forthcoming with the pros and cons of these different tools, people could make better decisions.
The other thing is it's important to point out the elements of the stack and Web3 that are centralized. There are a lot of centralized elements of the Web3 stack in general and projects are trying to decentralize. There are these centralized points of failure that are common to a lot of these DeFi projects. One thing I'm excited about in this space is for there to be decentralized or more decentralized competitors to some of the more centralized elements in the stack like an AWS or an edge network or for those projects to be able to get assurances that they're not going to be a centralized point of failure that shuts them down.
I thought it was interesting. I was at Berkeley for an AI blockchain decentralization conversation or symposium and Google was there talking about all the things they're doing with their cloud to ensure user privacy and everything. They're also part of the conversation.
They’re right. Those big players, there's market pressure from this part of the market to be more private, to provide more trustworthy assurances about not shutting something down. That pressure is a positive on the big players.
Let's pivot for a moment before we wrap up and talk about AI. I mentioned to you before, we have a new show, Edge of AI. It sounds like you're going down that rabbit hole a little bit or maybe a lot. What's your perspective on this intersection of AI and blockchain? How are you encouraging your clients to think about AI?
This is so freaking cool. Another place where I disagree with a lot of people is people have gotten obsessed with AI, but it's not an either/or AI or crypto and blockchain. They go well together. In the future, what payments and transactions are going to look like is on-chain transactions undertaken mostly by AIs on behalf of people.
The actual UX of the blockchain is a fine UX for an AI, even if it's a tricky UX expert person. And AIs are the ultimate digital natives. They're going to use digital native currencies to transact and then to be able to show humans their work and wrap up what they did in a nice little UX bow for the human to look at. That's one use case. Another is we're going to change our mentality about content where a piece of content unless someone's verified that they're saying it's true. We're going to assume it's not theirs. It didn't come from them or that it's been fabricated by AI.
Right now, we assume when we see something that it's real until proven guilty. That's going to flip and it's going to be on chain verification by people or by a creator or by a publication that this piece of content is authentic according to them and that it came from them. We're going to see that. These proof of humanity projects are interesting. We're going to get so overwhelmed with content on the internet that we're going to need to flag somehow that we're human.
What I'm not so sure about is the UBI use case. I'm still waiting to fully understand that. I'm waiting to fully understand how distributing additional currency to people doesn't raise the price of the goods they're trying to buy, such that their purchasing power would end up the same as it would've been otherwise. I'm still trying to learn about what the economics of that would be. I'm hopeful that AIs are going to help bring down the price of goods in a way that converges with changes in human ability to create economic value. I have an eye on that. I'm curious about it, but I'm hopeful about it.
I appreciate the hot takes on that topic. I will say we've had a couple of shows already on deep fakes and there are so many nuances to it that need to get broken down. Audio deepfakes are totally different than video deepfakes and photography deepfakes. All of these things are different and they're complicated and we're still figuring it out. I appreciate your perspective on that.
On the proliferation of content side, I heard about a project where someone's creating celebrities all over the world using AI based on the individual preferences of those communities and how they engage. If they're effective, it's cool, but if they're effective, we're going to have this massive proliferation of celebrities that's in the world that we don't even know how they got there. All of a sudden, people are looking at these profiles and they're like, “This person's cool.”
We're not even sure how we got here. One last AI crypto use case that I'm excited about is AI code audits and AI co-pilot for building smart contracts. If we get something like FTX, that's a failure of centralized finance, not DeFi. There are so few good arguments for why we should have centralized finance instead of DeFi. One of them is all of the bugs and hacks in all of these DeFi platforms code.
Otherwise, other than those bugs and hacks, those DeFi protocols are able to protect user funds way better than CFi and make sure that users always have access to their funds because they're non-custodial. If we are able to use AI to go a step further than we are with our security audit firms right now and verify the quality of the code base and also work with the developers while they're building the code base to ensure that there aren't problems, then we're going to lose the final argument for CFi over DeFi. That helps DeFi become dominant.
I would say that FTX is also a failure in ethics and leadership, but to your point, in an industry like FinTech where compliance and due diligence have such direct consequences on a broad population, how can AI help consumers in a way that can defend against human limitation ethical issues? It's an interesting conversation.
If it's all transparent and on-chain. Users keep custody of their own funds and AI can verify what's going on under the hood.
We would've thought differently about FTX 6 or 12 months before all that went down if we had that type of information.
There's a guy on the team at Serotonin who called the FTX collapse months before it happened because he was looking on-chain at the various treasuries that had been associated with FTX. It was pretty amazing and no one believed him when he first tweeted this, but it's out there.
I guess in your world, you guys have some exciting stuff happening, too. Something in the October timeframe that you wanted to share with books.
We're launching something cool from Serotonin. We've launched two products before. There's Mojito, which is the leading suite for brands that want to do eCommerce and Web3. We launched Franklin, which is cash and crypto hybrid payroll. It’s helping companies pay their teams in a tax-compliant way in crypto or cash if they want.
We built our third product, which we're going to be opening up to the world if people want it. We have some beta testers in there right now kicking the tires. It's a platform that gives you access to the data and the information that we work off of at Sero in a way that lets people get access to our ecosystem, serve themselves, and learn about it. They get plugged into the ecosystem no matter where they are in the world or what stage their project is at, whether or not they know us or can afford one-on-one marketing services.
It's also going to be a community of builders and people who are project leads and bringing those people together with investors, with media, with other founders, big and small, who are building serious projects. It's part platform and it's part network and community for builders.
Everyone can join?
It's always going to be curated. In the beginning, it’s going to be a hundred beta users and we’re going to be gradually, through a referral program, adding more people once they are verifiably project leads, builders, and investors. We want to bring together the people who are serious about building Web3 into this community. We're going to be using Web3. We're going to be able to accrue reputation over time and we're going to grow this thing thoughtfully.
It sounds exciting. Folks should check that out. Where can folks go to learn more about you and Serotonin?
I am on Twitter, now X, @Amanda.eth, or my name, Amanda Cassatt. Serotonin is Serotonin.co. If you want to sign up to be a beta user or get early access to the platform, check out Serotonin.co/platform.
Thanks for hanging out. It was lovely talking to you. A lot of interesting insights from our conversation and ways to think about this world of Web3 and Web2 differently. I appreciate your time.
Thanks for having me.
We are here at the amazing opening party at NFT Gateway and this has been so amazing. I'm here with this artist. This background is incredible. This is your creation. Tell us about yourself. Tell us about what you've created.
Right here, we have an interactive generative art piece. Not only is the bass pass generative, but I’ve run it through this program, TouchDesigner. Now, I’ve overlaid all these different effects on it with this MPC mini pad and it's a lot of fun. We can add different videos on top of it. We can add the noise patterns. The whole thing with NFT now in this pass is the signal in the noise. That's what we want to represent as a company. That's what we're doing in Web3. This is why we created the Gateway to bring new people in and be that defining voice that brings the artist together and what it does for the community to uplift artists.
Everybody that's been walking through comes in here and sits for a second because this is mesmerizing. I remember when I first sat down and I saw you starting to mess with it in all the different ways that this can interact, it captivates people. I see why they got you here doing this. This is cool.
I wanted to have something truly interactive and generative. A lot of the generative projects in the pace are static. That's cool. I respect that. Once I was able to learn this TouchDesigner program, it unlocked. I liked the concept of adding different layers that are going to come to fruition over time.
It comes together. As you start to mess with this, you have all the different neuro things going on. I sat here for ten minutes. I could watch this all day.
Honestly, I'm inspired by so many of the artists here in the original now pass like the bass pass, Krista Kim's piece over there, The Gradients. JN Silva is the one who inspired me to add audio to it. Now, we're competing with the DJ, so I turned the audio off, but this whole thing is audio-reactive. We made a set for it and it bounces with the music and all of that stuff. The bass now pass has this ambient generative audio. You find the signal. When you're playing with this on the website, you can move the pass around with your mouse. There are different quests. It's a lot of fun.
It looks like a lot of fun. For everyone who wants to learn more about all the basic art and everything that you're doing, how can they do that?
Go to NFTNow.com. Come to the Gateway in Korea. If you're not in Korea, stay tuned for what we're going to do in Miami.
We're also about to check out our NFT number 571.
Do you want a freestyle on it?
Why not? I appreciate it. Let's do it.
The way that you do it, these sliders control each row of pads. This left is like the bass. Here, now you got the video. There's a little secret. You can change the video if you go to Bank Two. Once you have a video, you can now add another layer of effects to it. For example, this feedback growth thing. That one will grow and that one will spin it into a fractal and so on and so forth. This one is like a distortion displacement. This one is like a wire frame. Now you can combine the different rows together to make like your own thing.
You can make this thing dance. Let's try a little something. Try to line it up with the bass.
There's no wrong way.
This is dope. Thanks again. This is awesome.
We are hanging out in the presidential suite, which is owned by Samsung, fun fact. We’re here with the legendary Frank DeGods. Frank, how are you doing?
Super excited. The presidential suite is sick.
Not a bad place to do an interview. For those of you who don't know Frank, he's a visionary artist and entrepreneur who gave birth to two groundbreaking projects on Solana DeGods and y00ts, which have now evolved into multichain endeavors. Former Y Combinator fellow. I didn't know that. That's pretty cool.
He has done a lot for the Web3 space and we'll talk a little bit about that in the course of this interview. I guess to kick things off, what, at this point, does the world need to know about DeLabs and how the project has evolved from its original conception, which we're catching up on the way up here with Brian who met you before DeGods happened? I'm curious about the evolution process.
When we first started with DeGods, it was the classic shitty apartment and we were like trying to figure something out. There was this childlike innocence when we launched the project trying to make something cool. Now, we've spent a lot of time over the years trying to figure out what people want out of NFTs.
The thing that people should know about DeLabs is our thesis is different than a lot of other projects where most projects are trying to disrupt other industries. They're trying to figure out how to get into gaming or anime or whatever it is. For us, we think that people are going to continue to want digital collectibles, digital goods. Our goal with DeLabs is to make the best ones.
What does that look like? It's a mix of rewarding the holders. It's a mix of creating a strong brand that people feel proud to represent and making sure there's a 24/7 entertaining content cycle of stuff always happening. That is what we're laser-focused on more than anything. We want to make the best digital goods and continue to find creative ways to do that.
You said 24/7. The only way that's possible is to be a global brand because what you're saying is you should go to sleep somewhere in the world but some great stuff is happening with your brand somewhere else.
There are big examples of this. I'm a big fan of the NBA. What is super interesting is if there are two people that meet and they follow basketball, you know there's an infinite number of topics that you can talk about. Whether it's the latest trade rumors, how the game went yesterday who's going to win the championship who's better, LeBron, Jordan, or whatever it is, there are infinite topics that you can get from that. When people meet up there's a lot of shared knowledge that they can start to become friends and get closer with.
Our goal with DeGods and y00ts is how you can wake up every day and there's something interesting happening. Some weeks, some months, we're better at this than others. It all comes back to this pretty nuclear core belief that we have, which is how do we go viral? How do we get people to talk about us? We do things that are worth talking about. We'll go and buy a basketball team. We'll go give out a Tesla and we're going to keep doing crazy shit like this because that is what sparks discussion and makes people question what is an NFT? What is possible here? That's what gets me excited and how we can make that 24/7 content pipeline.
It's what everyone in your community loves about it and it gets people excited and on that same excitement, season three dropped. It's now in the wild. You have some cool things going on. What was the inspiration behind season three? You even said to yourself there are some lessons that you probably learned along the way. What are some things after it's launched you've learned in retrospect?
Season three in concept was something that we got excited about in 2022. That's when we first started talking about it. At that time, FTX happened, and we migrated. The whole market shifted a lot since. In that, the ideas fluctuated a lot. It's changed and we got to this point where we were burnt out from staring at new versions of DeGods all day from figuring out how we want to iterate and launch points and how we can create something cool with that. At the end of the day, I am proud of what we've launched here. We launched a non-dilutive art collection which is going to pay off in the long-term of not diluting the collection until we think that it's a smart thing to do.
On top of that, we obviously built a sustainable business model that allows us to reward our holders in creative ways. We're out here delivering insane value to the brands that are coming in. We got the numbers in. It's cracking NFT. We got 32 million unique impressions through all of the user-generated content when you add it all up together on their brand from our first week of working. That's because it's a different model.
NFTs have people that are a lot smaller of a group but way more diehard. When you have people who are super active and have an aligned goal, then you're able to do incredible things. In that way, I'm proud of the launch of season three. Where we could have done a lot better was the rollout and the packaging and making that message that I'm saying very clearly with my voice right now.
The assets and the actual execution of the stuff that we put out could use a lot of work. The two key lessons that we learned were that let's not ever hype something up for six months. No matter what we do, it's always going to be something that people don't feel lives up to. Let's try to keep the iteration cycle a lot shorter and that's what we've been doing. We've launched maybe 1 thing every 2 days for the whole month of August, essentially. That is the cadence and the pace at which we want to go going forward versus a long waiting period and then something comes out.
I appreciate the authenticity of what you said. We built up Web3 in a world of hype and unfortunately, that's not sustainable. We all have paid the consequences for that. There are some real incredible long-term opportunities with this type of more sustainable, scalable strategy that you're building if other people follow in your footsteps. No pressure.
Can I push back? Hype as a term gets a lot of flack and is considered a negative thing. I point to companies, whether it's in the fashion world with Supreme to Gucci or even tech companies like Apple. You can make hype sustainable. What it requires is being able to make things that are very exciting and change the way that people use their current technology or make something that whether it's big names with fashion or it's a new type of design style that gets people excited and becomes a new hot thing. While hype on individual things is not something that's going to last forever, building the system to constantly create hype and make it something that's a powerful lever for a business is something that the best companies in the world do all the time and it's the direction that we want to go in, for sure.
I guess it's about avoiding being the Supreme of the world where there's a massive crash at the end.
Supreme is doing pretty good. Yes, I agree that you want to stop the massive crash at the end, but most things in crypto that crash are things that are honestly out of the team's control. A lot of NFTs, they ran up for fucking no reason in 2021 and 2022. You saw these things go to these high values. When that happens, you have a significant crash or you have people start to lose faith because the reason that it went up or the reason that people got excited about it wasn't the core direction from the team. For us, we're trying to put things out so frequently and always pushing the boundaries with every launch we hold ourselves to a high bar and that is something that we don't want to lose.
Just because things didn't go perfectly in season three doesn't mean we want to lose the thing that got us here, which is the no fucks. We give no fucks. I want to get even crazier with y00ts. We still have a lot left in the chamber and a lot of things that we want to do with our project that are going to be controversial are going to be weird. If anything, after season three, I feel we went too safe, honestly.
It's rough for people to hear sometimes because it doesn't fit their mental model. The idea that technology itself is the thing that's going to drive “mass adoption.” It’s a little silly. It's like saying that cardboard is why trading cards are valuable. It's the things that we do in the content and the way that we roll things out that matter a lot.
That's not going to stop. If anything, we're doubling down and we want to do it in shorter time periods. To me, the real error of season three is that it took so long. If we launch this, everything we did in 2, 3 months from when we first announced it, it will go fucking crazy, but it's 6 or 7 months. At a certain point, you tend to run out of gas. That's what happened here.
You guys have already made an impact on the way up here. We ran into someone in the elevator from Coinbase who is part of the tribe, but what you're talking about has the potential to make even a bigger impact in the emerging tech industry and the perceived value of Web3 brands globally. If you could fast forward a few years, what impact would you like to know that you made in the broader emerging tech landscape?
We want to make the no-brainer NFTs. I have no interest in trying to tell someone that doesn't want NFT why they should want NFT, which is a weird thing that our industry has gotten into is this idea moms in Idaho that don't give a fuck about NFTs, somehow we need to onboard those people. It goes against the basic principles of growth and sales.
People are curious about NFTs. There are a lot of people that are collectors in other industries. There are a lot of people that are in this industry in crypto that don't touch NFTs. I'm way more focused on those people, and our goal is how we can make a no-brainer. If you're going to spend money on an NFT, it's a no-brainer to buy a DeLab. It's a no-brainer to buy a D, it's a no-brainer to buy a y00t.
The way we're going to get there is very simple. It keeps making fresh artwork, keep making the community an incredible utility where you can go to new countries and have friends there. You can get closer and network. You mentioned someone from Coinbase, a lot of big hitters in the community that might not tweet that much but how can we unlock that value for the rest of the community?
Finally, continuing to drive home having the best marketing in the game. People will criticize us for focusing on those things, but those are the things that people care about. People feel proud when they see other people talking about the NFT that they hold. That's a pretty sick experience when you see everyone on the timeline, debating or discussing your project. We want to deliver that more often and more frequently, if anything.
To that point of not trying to go after the moms in Idaho, you're meeting people where they are and meeting the people who want to be excited and part of these unique experiences. Part of meeting people where they are is coming to places here in Asia. Now that you're here in Asia and at Korea Blockchain Week, what brings you over here and why are you excited to be a part of coming over into this side of the world?
It's funny. I went a year anonymous and most people assume that was a white surfer bro or something that from all the Twitter spaces. I'm Asian, and what's interesting is I don't see the borders. There are different cultures for sure, but I have no interest in building anything that's pandering. If we make something that's cool, it'll be universally cool because the internet is so globalized that people have tastes from different cultures.
Coming out to Asia, all I get reminded of is that NFT-ers are the same wherever you go. People are interested in this digital ownership, digital collectible landscape and everyone's looking for the answers, as are we. That is probably my take. I don't look at the Asian market in any different way than I look at the American market, truthfully. I'm sure there are optimizations that we can make that are like, “If you say this word or you do this thing.” If we make things that are cool, if we do things that are worth talking about and the artwork slaps, we're going to be in a good spot, no matter what.
I know you're going to go on stage soon. Before we wrap, I wanted to at least get your perspective on AI. I mentioned to you that we have a new show, Edge of AI, and you're pretty excited about AI and its potential. How do you see AI and Web3 intersecting? How are you playing around with it and thinking about it in terms of what you guys are working on?
I think macro. As AI becomes more popular, I can see a world where having some type of authenticity linking back to a public blockchain is valuable. That connection the people are making, I have to see the steps before I can say like, “That's for sure going to happen.” It makes sense at a high level. For us, we use AI internally a lot. What it's good at is two core things. We get an immense amount of feedback on everything that we do. We've been using AI to help us summarize and find commonalities between all the different suggestions that people make, stack rank them, and prioritize them, which has been helpful.
Part of the reason why we've been able to ship so quickly is we're putting out an update that is relatively significant every few days after going a few months without chipping anything. That's been a big core factor of it. I also think complex problem-solving GPT-4 is incredible, taking a lot of different variables and a lot of different things that are involved with whatever you're doing and make more sense.
That's a great use case. Is there a tool for AI that can scan your Discord and pick up the common trends right now? There's one for WhatsApp but that seems a dope idea. Have a tool that can comb through your Discord and pick up common themes and ideas.
It's an interesting thing because there are a lot of people who are trying to connect different APIs to read what's going on in large, very noisy environments. When you try to do something that, what you'll tend to see is without any tuning you'll get, “Lit. Fuck this. This shit sucks,” or whatever as the most frequent thing. You lose out on a lot of the signal.
I have my ways of running threads and smaller discussions within our Discord that help me basically pace that in the ChatGPT and then go from there. There's a tendency right now with AI to over-intellectualize or overcomplicate the process, but everything ends up being a GPT wrapper so you might as well go straight to GPT anyway. You're going to end up curating that data. Most people look at AI for automation when I look at it for optimization and that is a lot more viable now than purely automating all the insights. You still need to massage whatever context or data that you're putting into it to get a good output. Noisy data in, it's going to lead to noisy data out.
It's all about the quality of the data. I appreciate your perspective. Normally, on the full show, we do these Inside The Actor’s Studio style Edge Quick Hitters tend to get to know you better. I'm going to do a couple because it will be fun and then we'll let you head out. The first question is, what's the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
Skittles from the gas station.
If you could buy anything in the world, we're talking digital, physical, anything in the world, what would you buy right now?
A sick house.
I’ll be there for the housewarming. Last Edge Quick Hitter. If you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would it be?
The ability to admit when you're wrong. I don't mind being wrong at any given point and I'd rather be right in the long-term than stick to my guns on something that I internally don't think is right anymore.
FDR said if he could be right 55% of the time, he was doing good. This was great. Thank you so much for your time. Have a great trip in Asia. We'll see you back on the West side in LA.
Thank you so much. It's been great. I appreciate it.
I had an opportunity to meet with Stacey King, the Head of Comms and Activations at Three Stripe Studio, aka Adidas. I got a chance to hear a little bit about what you're doing, but I'm excited to dive in more with you. Thanks for spending some time to hang out.
Thanks for having me.
I always like to ask folks, especially those who come from Web2 branding adventure with an iconic brand like this. What got you originally excited about Web3 enough to advocate for it to be part of the Adidas landscape?
Personally, I was a dGen before Adidas was a dGen, if that makes sense. I was working for Adidas. I’ve been working with the brand for years and I got into NFTs a few ago. I got into it for the art. The first piece I ever bought was A World Of Women and I got into NFTs purely for the art. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to set up a wallet, but I’ve been scammed. I learned all the mistakes that you typically learn when you're getting into NFTs.
As I started to get more into the technology and how that technology could revolutionize the world and convenience, it made sense for me to dive deeper. Eventually, Adidas got into NFTs about 4 or 5 months after I had dived into that journey. They started the Three Stripe Studio, which is our Adidas Web3 studio and it was a natural fit. I'm already an Adidas lover and part of the brand and I'm a dGen and love the Web3 space. Bringing those two worlds together, it was the perfect role for me and I was able to use my marketing skillset and dive into Web3.
Take me back to some of those early days, in the war room, evaluating different possibilities, thinking about how it is going to be received by your core fans, and maybe opening up new doors. How did that lead to some of the early projects that you guys did in this space, and then we can go into what you're doing now.
The early projects that we did when we first launched, it was called Into the Metaverse or ITM. We launched that in December of 2021 and that was a metaverse task force. It was a band of dGens, Web3 natives who got together within the business and decided that they wanted to bring this use case to the business rather than the business trying to convince staff that this is the future.
It was started from the inside. It started from the staff. That was the start of it. It was crazy. It was convincing the brand that this is the right way to go. There's a lot of selling and trying to convince people who know nothing about the space that this is right for a semi--three-year-old company. It's a massive feat. The metaverse task force was formed and they launched into the metaverse and 30,000 tokens that we sold.
It was massive. It sold out in only a few minutes. Taking that to what we do now, the Three Stripe Studio was formed in January 2023 and that's where I started my journey with the Adidas team within Web3 those war rooms, we would sit in rooms for days talking about what we should do within Web3? How do we build that to Adidas’ DNA and make sure that it's true to who we are as a brand? Also, a team of dGens and that we're passionate about it and that it makes sense and is credible to the space and our community. We had to balance the corporate world and make sure it's right for the business, while also being proper dGens and making sure it's authentic to Web3.
What did you learn in terms of the type of enthusiast for your digital strategy and Web3 relative to your normal customer segments? How much crossover was there? What were some of the new customers that came into the world of Adidas?
We went core Web3, to begin with. We didn't go after the Adidas loyalist. We want to bridge that gap now and be Web 2.5, which is why we've integrated things token-proof into our app so you can do token-gated drops and things like that. That's the path ahead. Looking back, we went core Web3 and so we partnered with Bored Ape, Pixel Vault, and GMoney to do our initial launch so that we were going after Web3 credibility.
It wasn't about Adidas loyalists and our existing community. It was about building a community within the Web3 world so that we were showing up authentic to Adidas and credibly within the space. We didn't want to show up as another brand being a rug. It was a hot topic in 2021. Everyone was talking about Web3 and NFTs, so we didn't want to be another brand showing up, doing an NFT drop, and then dipping. That wasn't the plan. The plan was to have a long-term strategy and to show up credibly so people knew we were serious about Web3.
Let's talk a little bit about how your diehards responded to this because I'm sure some of them caught wind of it and maybe some of them got excited and jumped on board. What reaction did you have from your native brand of aficionados?
Surprisingly, we got a positive response. There are a lot of people who feel that Web3 and NFTs are a scam, but at the core of it, people were responsive. As I said, we went after that Web3 credible native audience. It was well received. The partnerships with the big brands, it was the first of that kind. No big brand had partnered with these big Web3 companies before.
You see it now and it happens all the time. Doodles and Crocs and all of these other projects with brands, but it hadn’t been done at the time. For those who were in Web3, incredibly well received. For those outside of Web3, it sparked some questions of, “If a big brand like Adidas is getting involved, then maybe there's something here. Maybe we should look into it.”
We had a lot of people who had never bought an NFT before by one of our initials into the metaverse NFTs. Funny story. Betty, who is the Cofounder of Deadfellaz, told me the story, so I hope it's okay sharing it. She was in a taxi on her way here in Korea and was talking to the taxi driver about NFTs and he said, “I only have ever bought one NFT. I don’t even know how to find it anymore.” When she found it for him, it was an Adidas NFT and that was the only one he had ever bought. We know that it had branched out beyond our usual Web3 audience, and it got people starting to think maybe Web3 was something they should be looking into.
We're here at the Gateway with some beautiful art that you all curated. Tell us a little bit more about why Asia, why the Gateway, and the projects that you put together.
We launched a program called Residency, and it's the brand's first-ever digital artist and residence program. The program is designed to elevate emerging and leading artists and give them a platform to showcase their work, to work with a big brand like Adidas, and to break down the walls of being able to work with a brand like us and any other big brand.
We wanted to come to Asia. We've done NFT NYC, NFT Paris, and events all over the world, but APAC was not a place we had visited yet. Not a place we'd shown up. We know we have a community here and we know we have members of our community council that we started earlier in Asia. It was on the roadmap this year to do something in Asia. We just weren't sure what it was. When we decided to launch Residency, Korea was the obvious choice. We love working with NFT Now, and they were curating this whole gallery and for the Gateway and it was a perfect match.
Tell us a little bit about the artists and the pieces that you have displayed. And we'll have some B-rolls, so we'll add them to the interview so our audience can check them out on YouTube.
We have two different artists that we've launched with. One is MonkeeMoto and the other is Dear Nostalgia. MonkeeMoto is a community member. He's part of the old Adidas community. He creates art in his spare time in homage to the brand, posts it on social, and posts it in our Discord and our community. We love it. We wanted to elevate him and give him the opportunity to work with us in a more official capacity. That's why we worked with MonkeeMoto.
His art is anime and Japan-inspired. It's beautiful and he does these cool animations. The artwork itself is designed with inspiration taken from the brand and our NFT project, but we have two pieces with him. One is an open edition that's open until Sunday evening and that's open to anyone to purchase. The other one is a limited edition. There are only 100 pieces of those and it's only available here in Korea at the Gateway. You can only get them at the gallery that we've got here and it comes with a free hoodie.
It's cool to do these limited runs and give them that opportunity to do these hype pieces and bring in that hype element that we do with sneakers and other apparel drops while also doing this openly accessible open edition that anyone can purchase at a low price point. It's easy to buy. You can get it with crypto, credit card, or Apple Pay. We're, again, not appealing to the Web3 natives, but trying to bring in that audience that wants to buy art but maybe doesn't know anything about NFTs or crypto.
I applaud the authenticity of your journey. Where do we go next? Is there anything you can talk about in terms of a glimpse into the future?
For Alts by Adidas, we will launch our avatar project. That's the big thing that's looming and coming that has been in the works for years since we dived into this space. We wanted to launch an avatar project and give people the chance to use Adidas as their identity and express themselves in whatever way that shows up. That's why it's called Alts. It's the alternate you. You can rep your three stripes in the real world like I am now.
Being able to do that in a virtual world is where we see Alts going. It's about showing up, whether that's in three stripes, whether that's whatever that is, whatever that means to you, Alts by Adidas is to do that for you. With Residency, we are getting started. We are launching with two artists. They're emerging artists. They don't have massive platforms yet, and that's what we want to bring to them. We want to focus on them and get them that platform that they deserve. Also, we want to look to bring in new artists. We want to look to create physical products, to create virtual products, and to do all those cool things with these artists.
You connect those two together.
They have such a talent and we want to bring all those worlds together and give them access to the resources that we as a brand have. Dear Nostalgia is the second artist and she creates this cool, nostalgic, very in the year of Barbie movie-inspired type work. It's beautiful. She also creates such a motive art that when we put those two together with MonkeeMoto and Dear Nostalgia, creating physical and virtual products will be so exciting. I can't wait for the next.
Your passion's bubbling over. It sounds like you have your dream job.
If folks want to dive in a little deeper, where should they go?
Our home of everything Web3 is Collect.Adidas.com. Collect.Adidas.com/residency gets you all the information you need to know about the Residency program. Collect is our home of everything Web3. That's the place to start. If you want any information. You can also join our @AltsByAdidas on Twitter and our Discord, which I'm sure you can find.
Normally, when we do long interviews, we have this fun little thing called Edge Quick Hitters, and you seem the type of person to be up for this. I'd like to do a couple with you if that's okay.
Short answers, just trying to get to know you a little bit better. What's the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
It might've been the Spice Girls CD. If not that, a ticket to the Venga Boys concert.
What's the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
A snowboard. Secondhand. I used to snowboard back in Australia. I don't think people know that there's a lot of snow in Australia, but there is. I used to snowboard and I sold it.
Do you know tricks?
No. Terrible. I'm bad. That's why I sold it.
If you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service, or experience that’s for sale, what would it be?
I guess an assistant. I feel like Web3. I saw a meme that was Web3. The three in Web3 stands for three full-time jobs.
You need three assistants.
I need three assistants. Everyone can relate. An assistant, that would be great.
I could use a few more, but I do appreciate my assistant. Shannon, thank you for doing all the things you do. Shout out. Two more questions. If you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would it be?
This comes naturally being Australian, but we are very laid back and pretty chill. I would pass that laid back on if I could. Taking a second to calm down and being not so overworked or over-stimulated by things is probably the thing I would pass on.
Everything can be done at some point. It's all good. If you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would it be?
I’m crazy. I'm so manic all the time. As much as we are chill as Australians, I'm always working on something and I'm always chasing the next thing. I'm hungry for whatever is next. That's probably why I'm in Web3 because I love chasing something new. I'd love to pause, be content, and be happy in what I'm doing instead of constantly chasing the new thing. That's the part of my personality I'd probably pass off, at least temporarily.
That's quite a contrast. I love the fact that you can be chill about things, but also, you're on fire.
I'm always hungry.
Thanks for playing along with us and it's great getting to know you. I appreciate your time.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
We've reached the outer limit. Thanks for exploring with us. We've got space for more adventures on this starship, so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers who will make this journey all so much better. Go to iTunes now, rate us, and say something cool. Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole.