Inside the NFT Industry

Inside the NFT Industry

In this episode of Startup Hustle, join Matt DeCoursey and Ben Topkins, CoFounder of Block Tackle, for Part 7 of this NFT series as they discuss what it’s really like working inside the NFT Industry. Learn all about virtual skateboards (using NFTs) and how it’s shaping the new gaming landscape.

Covered In This Episode

Here is another episode of the NFT series, but this time Matt DeCoursey is joined for an informative discussion with Ben Topkins to hear his feedback on working inside the NFT industry, specifically blockchain gaming and their his product SkateX.io

Tips for Business Growth from Startup Hustle

Highlights

  • Block Tackle and SkateX.io back story (2:45)
  • Why skateboarding as the first game in development (6:24)
  • SkateX’s first 1080 3D animated skateboards sold out in minutes (7:07)
  • What are AAA developers? (9:20)
  • Solana as the delivery vessel for the NFTs (10:05)
  • Web3, changing video games forever (18:45)
  • The game and the metaverse (25:10)

Key Quotes

No one’s startup, in the beginning, has any structure. You hope for as much of it as you can find but you’re kind of like feeling around in the dark on some days until you get in and start doing it.

I think that one of the things that I’m finding with the NFT and Blockchain Community is a level of patience and understanding

It makes things a lot easier having people that know what they’re doing upfront.

There is so much to learn when it comes to NFTs. Listen to this episode today!

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Rough Transcript

The following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode.

00:00.00

Matt DeCoursey

And we’re back back for another episode of Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey here to have another conversation. I’m hoping your business grow all right. Have you’ve been tuning in to our NFT series? We’re back for another episode and we’re going to get an inside look at the NFT industry straight from a founder—and a company that is launching some really cool stuff now. You know, as mentioned, we’ve had this series going on. I think a lot of people. It started with wtf is an NFT? I think we may have answered that for many people out there that wondered. Got into NFTT art, talked about the music industry, that’s always near and dear to my heart. We even have a special announcement where NFL Hall of famer Eddie George announced his NFT Collection. We’ve talked about play to earn and all kinds of games and. Assets and we have we have even more to come. But today we’re going to get an inside look at the NFTT industry and before I mention who our guests and the company they’re from is today. I want to let you know that today’s episode startup Hustle is brought to you by Canva where you go to collaborate and create amazing graphic design for free. Whether it’s a presentation to share an idea a video to launch your business or a social post to start a conversation with canva you can design anything discover the magic of visual communication and how canva helps you create a lasting impact today go to http://canva.com to learn more and I should. Ah. An interesting fact is I actually sent Canva a proposal to sponsor our and NFT series and I used Canva to create the proposal. I think that might be why they bought it with us today. I’ve got Ben Topkins. Ben is the CEO and founder of Block Tackle. That’s a blockchain gaming and computer games company. Go to skatex.io to see what they’re working on. There’s a link for that in the show notes. Straight out of San Francisco, California, Ben, welcome to Startup Hustle.

01:58.31

Ben Topkins

Happy to be here, I’ve really enjoyed the series. You guys have been working on so far. I think you and your co-host have given a great tour of the space with equal parts excitement and appropriate skepticism. So glad to be joining.

02:10.24

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah, the whole mantra of Startup Hustle is to tell the real story about entrepreneurship. So some of it is guarded optimism, and maybe just a little dash of not knowing what the hell some of this is all about. But, we’re getting it figured out, and you know what? I’d like to figure out a little bit more about your backstory. What you guys are doing at Block Tackle and what the SkateX.io game is going to be all about. I did mention before we hit record, I am a terrible skateboarder. So I’m hoping that I’m a much better one in the game.

02:45.44

Ben Topkins

Yeah, absolutely me too. So we’re a team of AAA game developers coming from EA, Kabam, Lucasfilm, Supercell among others. And we’re really aiming to make the next generation of Web 3 games that are attractive and accessible to the masses. You folks, I know had an episode that talked a lot about, sort of play to earn space in the games that are out there so far and those are really cool. But I think, you know, our aim is to build the next generation of fun first games by people who know what they’re doing, building great games.

03:16.73

Matt DeCoursey

So what? when we say like a Web 3 game, how is that different from my Playstation 5?

03:25.40

Ben Topkins

Yeah, so we came from early free to play mobile gaming where we worked on some of the early empire building games like: Kingdoms of Camelot, Kingdoms of Middle Earth. And with those games what we saw is that players would spend 5 to 7 hours per day for years at a time in a game and then when they got to the end of that cycle and they wanted to move on to another game. Or you know, maybe sell some of their assets and build a new account. Only option was really to go on eBay against the terms of service. And so that’s where we think that Web3 offers a really interesting value proposition to players to sort of share in the pie of the value that’s created from a game and by the gaming community.

04:09.12

Matt DeCoursey

So when you mention the terms of service, a lot of those games, and I’m admittedly not a gamer, so you meant like selling my profile on a game where I could have been like Deco Startup Hustle and I’ve built this massive empire and all these things and whatever and then you actually just sell. Sell the username and password to get in there and pick up where I left off. So that’s against the terms of service that you’re mentioning, right?

04:34.78

Ben Topkins

Yeah, exactly. You know a lot of these publishers, they had a smart idea which is if you don’t let people transfer their accounts and they have to start a new one and they got to start from scratch and buy all the assets themselves and so they wrote up their terms of service that way and that’s what part of what I think Web3 is upending and.

04:53.15

Ben Topkins

A trend that hopefully, we’ll see continue in the future to empower players.

04:55.33

Matt DeCoursey

So when we talk about your game, it’s powered by Solana, which is a pretty well-known cryptocurrency. So, with the NFTs that you’re launching, are those actual virtual skateboards?

05:10.82

Ben Topkins

They are actual virtual skateboards so you’ll be able to take the NFTs that you buy which are these boards in our Founders edition collection which we launched back in April and sold out on Magic Eden and then another collection coming up on fractal on May 12 which is.

05:30.30

Ben Topkins

Ah, the coast-to-coast addition which includes longboards as well. And then you’ll be able to actually connect your wallet to the unity experience and ride around on those skateboards.

05:37.76

Matt DeCoursey

So that’s pretty cool and my notes here say so you mentioned the coast-to-coast series. So that’s 3000 total boards and so, do you mint those like the way you would other stuff? Or they just end there for sale?

05:52.10

Ben Topkins

Yeah, so we are doing a mint and then they’ll be on a secondary market. After that they’re all 1 of 1 so we procedurally generated boards, which was part of why you know we were really excited about doing a skateboarding game. Is just that skateboards in and of themselves are a work of art and so there seemed like a great opportunity to do a procedural generation project that have different foregrounds and backgrounds and deck and truck colors and wheels and wheel Graphics etc. Yeah, and those will be minting.

06:20.64

Matt DeCoursey

So what? what made you start with a skateboarding game.

06:24.36

Ben Topkins

You know, growing up I’m from the generation that we grew up with Tony Hawk pro skater and that was pro skater 3 was one of my favorite games growing up. And then a lot of other extreme sports games too probably because I’m terrible at those things in real life and so it gave me the opportunity to be good at them in the virtual world. 

06:43.74

Ben Topkins

And this, I think when we started to look at the Web3 space, we started back looking into it back with CryptoKitties from Dapper Labs, which I know you folks have touched on in prior episodes. We just saw this opportunity for there to be a change in the gaming landscape, like we were talking about, and extreme sports seem like a really cool and differentiated offering for us to bring into the Web3 gaming space.

07:07.23

Matt DeCoursey

So you talk about your first offering sold out and you said that was on Magic Eden, so how did you go about? Even like, how do you even hype this stuff, you know, when it’s brand new and no one’s heard about it? How do you get it out there and how do you create awareness for all of it because?

07:27.40

Matt DeCoursey

I mean I’m seeing notes here that said “sold out in minutes,” so you know that’s one of the things as I’ve looked inside the NFT industry. You know you have so many of these people that already have, I mean maybe you already had a following. Maybe you already had an audience you look at Snoop dog selling $44000000 worth of NFTs the day. The super bowl, I mean obviously if you’ve already got have the power of hype in your bag of tricks, then that’s going to make it a lot easier. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. But I mean, how? How do you even get to the point where you get an instant sellout like that?

08:02.25

Ben Topkins

So for us, one of the important things was you know differentiating our offering and one of the ways we did that is we came out and said hey look we’re experienced game developers. We’ve shipped dozens of games collectively and then two we’re here for the long haul, and so it was really important for us that we had that runway where we could come out and say, “Hey we’re going to be here for a couple years, building in the Web3 space for sure even if we don’t get revenue.” And so we went out and raised a $5,000,000 seed funding round led by co- or co-led by Play Ventures and Cadenza Ventures along with Animoca, Coinbase, Solana and a few others. And for us, it was important just to be able to say like, “hey we’re out here.” We’re Doxed is that concept you’ve talked about where you say you know here’s our Linkedin here’s our Twitter, we’re out publicly building in the space and we’re going to be here for a bit.

08:50.26

Matt DeCoursey

Is that dox part is that an important part of like getting people to believe in what you’re doing so.

08:57.85

Ben Topkins

You know there’s certainly have been some projects where they’ve been really successful and they haven’t been Doxed, which is incredible. But for us, it was an important part of just showing like, hey we really believe in this. It’s not something where we’re just going to run away and then you’ll have to try and come find us. You know, you’ll know who we are and we’re building it and we’re you know the promises that we’re making we aim to keep.

09:20.39

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah, I want to back up because you mentioned before, you said your team is comprised of AAA game developers. What is, I mean when you say AAA, does that, is that a classification of game builder? Or what does that mean?

09:34.18

Ben Topkins

Yeah, for us it means you know folks who’ve built 3D games before at a high-quality bar with some of the top publishers in the space. And the reason that we think that’s important, you know there are a lot of folks who come into the space and say they’re gonna build a game but maybe haven’t launched something before to us game building is. You know, it’s an art. But it’s also a skill and a muscle that you build, like any other profession, and our core team is experienced in shipping lots of games. So we’re very confident that we can get a quality game out there which is one of our sort of differentiated offerings in the space.

10:05.16

Matt DeCoursey

And now the next question is, you’ve used Solana, what made you choose that as the delivery vessel for the NFTs?

10:16.20

Ben Topkins

So Solana has a couple things going for it. You know in the early days of crypto gaming, people could build on Ethereum, and the gas prices were reasonable enough like CryptoKitties where it didn’t seem so ridiculous to buy a few CryptoKitties. Do a breeding transaction and pay the gas on that. But last year, when we’re starting to look at the space, the gas prices, as you brought up on the podcast, too, have just been pretty nuts, right? It’s incredibly expensive to do anything on Ethereum, Solana has really brought down those gas prices to super reasonable levels. And then the other aspect that we really like is Solana is carbon. Neutral.

10:56.41

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah, and that’s been a big, you know, for just the blockchain industry in general. Not even out of teas is, you know, the amount of power you’re burning the carbon footprint that it leaves and then the other, it was just the other day that or recently that the board ape community launched the other world. Their real estate NFTs and it basically broke Ethereum. I mean, they were referring to gas price wars where whoever was willing to pay the most insane fee could—yeah I mean, that was was still beyond me. That’s been an interesting story to follow, you know. So just the whole ape thing and how that’s evolving and doing different stuff and that seems to be one of the things that’s getting a lot of attention. Okay, so now you’re talking about building a game. But at the same time, you’ve only got 3,000 NFTTs or boards to get into the game, you may have done another launch before that. Maybe my count’s off, but is this going to be that small batch of a game? Or there’s only going to be like several thousand players in it?

12:08.80

Ben Topkins

So the way we’re viewing this is that these folks who are in early in these collections are sort of like our Kickstarter Backers. You know the folks who are in early as we’re creating an experience and we want to be sure that they have a really special experience in the game. So we’ve been having a lot of you know, different holder Ben Topkinsefits that those folks will get. Ah, for coming in before the game is launched um but over time of course we want to make sure that this experience is accessible to a broad audience and so thinking through you know, right? Now we’re aiming at folks who are already interested in the blockchain and crypto space but over time as we want to reach a broader audience. We’re going to have to reach people who have never. Bought an NFTT before or who have never experimented in the blockchain space except you know, maybe, a bitcoin buy or something like that. And so we’re gonna have to plan for fiat onboarding for people to buy with normal USD currency or other currency aboard in the game.

13:01.76

Matt DeCoursey

So the way it’s set up now is if you have a board, that’s your key to unlock the game. You can get in there and play. Does it require other purchases or anything else?

13:13.81

Ben Topkins

Now that the board will be your key to get in.

13:16.95

Matt DeCoursey

Okay, so I think that’s pretty cool. It’s interesting to see, you know we’re talking about being inside the NFT industry and you’re seeing all these different uses, as I mentioned in the beginning of the show, we had recently you know NFL Hall of famer, Eddie George used Startup Hustle. Well, we worked with him to do an announcement on his NFT collection which unlocks content. You know in this video, like in one of it, I watched the videos with him and Jerome Betis and they’re telling the stories you haven’t heard. Which I think is pretty cool and as I mentioned as you may have listened in some of the other episodes, you know I’m fascinated with all the different ways that the NFT industry is empowering creators and, you know for those of you that may not be aware I have a history in the music industry. So. I’m seeing a lot of my friends that are touring musicians starting to dabble and do different things. And I really think that the key to a lot of this stuff, to creating value, and that hype that’s needed to sell. It is unlocking an experience or content that you normally wouldn’t get. Not just like hey here’s a video of the concert that’s kind of boring. I mean I’m talking about like a lot of these acts artists and creators have, I mean you’re talking about the 90% of the content that you don’t see on Youtube. It’s kind of like the more intimate moments or sometimes the ones that are a little bit. I don’t know risk in some regards that’s like the Eddie George stuff, I mean they’re literally like hey we’re telling the stories that you don’t hear on all the other stuff. So when it comes to launching something like this, like what’s the biggest hurdle that you have to climb over?

15:00.14

Ben Topkins

I think for us, you know we had a team who knows how to build games and were comfortable working with 3D assets, so for us, the biggest hurdle was how do we break into this community and show that you know we’re authentically interested in the community. We want to take part in it and that we’re a project that people should pay attention to. And we were lucky in that my co-founder Rob was an entrepreneur in residence at Solana Labs and so he got to meet a lot of these great projects that we have since had collaborations and Twitter spaces with and that helped us to sort of reach into the community and then in addition to that we’ve been building some partnerships with. Pro skaters like Stevie Williams just signed on who’s one of the co-founders of dgk and it’s gonna be advising on the game and on our sort of metaverse fashion going forward, but those sort of partnerships within the sallata community and outside of it have really helped us to to make a name in the community.

15:53.30

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah I think with these early with early projects I mean obviously the things that you talk about the team being comprised of the aaa game developers and you’re looking at like EA, Kabam Lucasfilm, Roblox Supercell. I mean these are major players and one of the things we say a lot on Startup Hustle is whether it’s with NFTs or just your startup is having people that have seen winning makes a big difference because you bring, I don’t know, just like a level of understanding and structure to and look, no one’s startup, in the beginning, has any structure. You hope for as much of it as you can find but you’re kind of like feeling around in the dark on some days until you get in and start doing it. You don’t really know what to expect? But by the way, as a quick reminder, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by Canva. With Canva, you can design your ideas with ease. Get inspired with over half a million free templates and a rich content library that helps you and your team achieve your goals sign up and start designing for free at http://canva.com you know once again for those of you listening. Canva turned me into a graphic designer I never had the patience or desire to learn the complexity of things like photoshop I just wanted to I wanted a result now. And Canva really helped me step up so many of the designs that you may have seen on Facebook or different stuff is honestly me exploring what Canva has to do so yeah, it’s always I love the new tools that entrepreneurs have. Okay, so let’s talk about your plans for the next like say 3 to six months when it comes to this SkateX roadmap and the projects like how do you get like what? What do you have in mind for timing and collaborations and stuff like that?

17:46.56

Ben Topkins

Yeah, so as mentioned we’ve got the coast-to-coast launch coming up on fractal on May 12, and that includes some guest art from Hydro74 who’s just an artist in the skate space that we really enjoy and admire. And then beyond that, we’re gonna have additional board drops but also a playable demo. And early summer where you’ll be able to connect your wallet drop into an MMO space connect your you know by connecting your wallet you unlock the skateboards that you purchased as NFTs and you can ride around on those and then we’ll be iteratively building out the game with more and more feature sets from there throughout the summer

18:20.94

Matt DeCoursey

We have a role that you can’t use acronyms without defining them. What is MMO?

18:27.25

Ben Topkins

An MMO is massively multiplayer online game. So what that means is just you pop in there in your server. The server there’ll be other people who are live at the same time who you can interact with so you’ll see other people skating around.

18:44.80

Ben Topkins

You can have social interactions with them in the space.

18:45.41

Matt DeCoursey

So I believe that you’ve been known to say that Web3 has the potential to change video games forever. Why?

18:53.12

Ben Topkins

The big thing for us is that players will have ownership in the value that’s created by the game and then also by the player community traditionally that’s been really just the realm of publishers and I do have folks who tell me like, hey look Web2 publishers. Traditional publishers of today, they could build a database structure using existing databases to allow people to own items and then sell them at the end of ah you know their period playing the game. And it’s like, that’s fine but have they done that no and I think they’re.

19:23.88

Matt DeCoursey

No, you know.

19:29.34

Ben Topkins

They’re unlikely to do that until the community and players demand it and I think that Web3 through giving players that experience especially as better and better games come out, that are fun to play is potentially the catalyst that’s going to push people towards that and that’s our guiding hypothesis there.

19:43.79

Matt DeCoursey

So when you look at the traditional world of video games, are there people that are locked away in a conference room right now trying to figure out how to change their approach from Web2 to Web3? And like, you know they’re looking at all this stuff that’s going on over in the NFT. In this space and they’re saying shit we better. We better, get our act together or we’re going to get left behind.

20:08.19

Ben Topkins

I think there definitely are they have some unique challenges in that they’ve got an existing player base that may or may not be enthusiastic about NFTs and I think we’ve seen from some of their releases that a significant portion of them are skeptical about the Web3 space which is understandable. But that’s sort of a handicap if you’ve got that big community that’s not into NFTs and you try and move them over against their will. So I think we’ve got us and the other folks who are building in the Web3 space. Building games right now have an advantage in that we’re starting with an audience who’s already excited about the space and we could build up from there and then expand as it becomes more mainstream.

20:49.14

Matt DeCoursey

We’re talking about. We’re given an inside look at the NFT industry and obviously, you’re a great representative for the space related to video games. But let’s shift just a little bit and look at some of the other things we’re talking about because. Obviously what you’re building has a very utilitarian feel to it like, hey you know you collect the board, play the game. So that feels really straightforward like that makes a lot of sense to me now. Some of the things that don’t seem to make a lot of sense to people. First off, you have NFTT art which you know we jokingly referred to as you know buying who would have ever thought you could get rich buying and selling jpegs like on my list of the top 500000 ways that I was going to be an entrepreneur and get paid. Nowhere on that list was buying and selling jpegs right? So so some of that it makes sense when it comes from a popular artist but you see all these NFT art things coming out and I got to be honest, I look at them I’m like how can all of these have value like what do they do. Like what’s your take on some of the NFT art stuff I’m not asking you to like leave scorched earth behind you for other people in the industry but I have a feeling you have a couple comments about that.

22:04.92

Ben Topkins

Yeah, absolutely I mean I think partly what you’re seeing is a really gung-ho community that’s excited about the space. But for us, you know if there’s no utility I think it’s hard to see how a lot of these projects are going to continue to retain value and keep a high floor price, and we are seeing that, right? To the credit of a lot of the people who are putting out projects, now they’re thinking through like okay, what’s the user value proposition after they see this thing for the first time and have it in their wallet. What are they going to do with it and we’re seeing more sort of experimentation around. What that might look like whether it’s a dao or people can have a community and interact with each other on their own terms or some sort of way that you can use it in a metaverse and so that’s also something we’re looking at too is like okay how can we offer utility to some of these projects that are really cool art projects. But. You know people want to be able to interact with it in a new way.

22:55.31

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah, and I agree with you on the utility piece now utility can come in a ton of different ways I mean some of these things are you know the NFT for you have content music art. Sometimes property and one of the tangible things I’m seeing a lot of well—so we’ll quote influencers and I know Gary Vee has been a big one in this space but you know, for example, you can purchase an entity and he’ll be a guest on your podcast now that’s an interesting thing because that’s not really like a digital asset. But it’s it’s almost, it’s a certificate to get something that is in a digital asset. I mean that’s still utility in many regards and then it seems like a lot of this is some of this is almost in some ways. You talk about like what’s next. So a lot of these things seem to be metaverse centric. You know like, and I think that’s a thing that not everyone understands, what that is you know. So you talk about like metaverse property and we mentioned the other world thing, the board. Ape one that. That got a lot of attention because I think they sold about $500.000,000 in a day. Um, so when you look at that kind of stuff. How many is there an unlimited number of metaverses and property that can or could be created in all of them?

24:21.26

Ben Topkins

I think you’re definitely going to see some consolidation at some point right? There are a limited number of humans and limited number of hours of the day in which they could spend in metaverses. But you know, I think a lot of people are so excited by that ready player one vision where.

24:38.37

Ben Topkins

Ah, there is a future in which there’s sort of interoperability between a lot of these different metaverses. And there’s a way to sort of jump between spaces that the current enthusiasm is going to have to sort of meet a reality of product Market fit at some point. But for now, there’s so much iteration and learning happening. I think it is a really exciting space, like when we talk to founders in the space we learn so much. You know every week about what people are seeing that’s working and what’s not working and what players are gravitating towards and people are launching and iterating so quickly I think a lot of cool stuff’s going to come out of that.

25:10.87

Matt DeCoursey

Once again and with me today is Ben Topkins, the cofounder of Block Tackle. You can learn more about Block Tackle at blocktackle.io. And you can learn more about their upcoming SkateX project by going to skatex.io. I think this is really cool stuff. So here’s kind of a semiub kind of question. So when I’m in SkateX, am I in a metaverse, or am I just in a game?

25:35.83

Ben Topkins

I think we’re starting with a game and with the intention to build a better verse and the way that I would define that is whether you have interoperability of some kind that there’s some way that something that’s decentralized in a way that we’re not building all of the experience. That’s when I think it becomes more of a metaverse. Um, and when we start to also allow our SkateX skateboards to go into other projects which we’re talking with projects about, so we’re really hoping to be part of that sort of interoperable future and that’s what we’re building towards.

26:08.84

Matt DeCoursey

So when you talk about the difference between a game and a metaverse like in a game I’ve got one hundred and twenty seconds to accomplish an objective or earn points or collect. Whatever you know, get down the road. Whatever it is that you’re doing. You’re saying the difference in that and a metaphor and a metaphor of verse, you can just literally just kind of go in and just kind of be there.

26:30.34

Ben Topkins

Yeah, you know I think that that is ah a common feature of Betterverses. We’re seeing right now like we’ve done some work in the Roblox space I think they did a really good job building sort of what I’d call a closed wall or walled garden metaverse where you have an avatar that’s shared across a bunch of different games and experiences. So you have sort of your own digital identity that you bring into different experiences and as you said each one of those games has its own sort of point system and ah and objectives that you’re supposed to complete. But it’s a metaverse in the sense that there’s interoperability of your avatar and personal identity. And that’s what we’re starting to see with some of these projects that you’ve got your—you know, you might have your bored Ape which you can then bring into another experience or your CryptoKitty or any NFT and have some sort of utility in that new game.

27:18.45

Matt DeCoursey

So by the way a daily task of mine is turning down my children’s request to purchase Rope wrote, is it Roblox? Yes, yes so dad I’m really poor right now, Honey What do you mean.

27:27.74

Ben Topkins

It is Roblox.

27:37.17

Matt DeCoursey

I have no Roblox. We’ll get to work and earn some. So yeah I refuse to buy them is that down I don’t think it’s bad anyway.

27:44.54

Ben Topkins

I think it’s fair and it’s very interesting though with this generation, of your kids’ generation. They’re growing up with this metaverse experience, jump in between different games with their avatars. We built a nerf shooter in partnership with Hasbro on that platform. Me and Rob, my co-founder at our previous company, and just learned a lot about the different experiences and social interactions that kids are having in these metaverses which obviously is a different demographic but I think is really informative of what they’re going to expect as they get older.

28:13.96

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah, I was resistant to some of it at first. My son is actually going to Roblox camp this summer. He’s in a thing called code ninjas where he and my daughter both go and they’re learning how to code. They’re learning scratch and that’s something that we did not make quitting as optional. So as they kind of—yeah I figured that that’s probably going to be a good input for him. Okay, so we’d be a little—we would be leaving out an important part of most Startup Hustle episodes if we didn’t give a little bit of advice to people that want to get into the NFT industry. So obviously you’ve been around. You’re a very seasoned member of the community. Not everyone is so if you have aspirations about the NFT industry and joining it or doing anything, like what’s some of the best advice or either things to do or things to avoid.

29:15.81

Ben Topkins

Yeah, it’s an amazing space that we’re in where a very seasoned person in the NFT space has been around since late last year, but we have been exploring the space since 2017 and building games for a long time.

29:22.61

Matt DeCoursey

For a year. Yeah.

29:33.60

Ben Topkins

I would say that getting really involved in the communities that you’re excited about, so picking a chain that speaks to you, going and checking out a lot of those NFT communities, the discords, understanding what it is that makes those communities tick, and why people keep coming back to those discords for social interactions. And then what kind of utility people to be responding well to and what you think makes sense for a project that you’re envisioning. And then really try and make connections and in rows in that community. And I think in that way, you’ll be able to get really quick feedback from folks in the space about whether it’s something they’d be excited about and you can iterate from there.

30:08.62

Matt DeCoursey

When it came to like traditional funding, you mentioned $5,000,000 in capital raised. Did you meet a lot of resistance with that or did you find an eager investor community.

30:19.47

Ben Topkins

What we found was that there are a lot of folks who are really excited about the blockchain space and reticent about projects that don’t have the legs of some kind of promise of utility right? So, what we were talking about that doesn’t have to be games. But in our case, it was and so I think that there’s a lot of excitement around blockchain gaming, and the fact that we have a team that’s experienced in gaming was something that you know vcs were looking for, so we were in the right place at the right time with the right team to be able to nail down some solid seed funding from you know folks both in The. The gaming space and in the blockchain space.

30:56.98

Matt DeCoursey

Do you think that being located in San Francisco helped that well? I mean, I say that because it’s not, but I mean it’s not exactly a secret that the valley is I mean obviously.

31:01.23

Ben Topkins

Well, it didn’t hurt it but.

31:15.54

Matt DeCoursey

You know there’s more money flowing into startups technology and other stuff there than any place in the world right now. And well, it has been over the last you know 25 years but you find a lot of people looking for more sophisticated solutions. I’m in Kansas City and I feel like if you went out and tried to find that same $5,000,000, it would be different. It would be a completely different experience because really in the end, people and funds, investors, anyone they don’t usually make investments into things that they don’t understand so.

31:46.50

Ben Topkins

Yeah, it’s interesting. You know a couple of our top investors, the top 2 out of 3 are actually not based in San Francisco. But the fact that we have access to the talent in the bay area even though it’s incredibly expensive, I think did sort of help us to be able to say, hey look we’ve got these you know 4 or 5 guys that are going to be our core team, right off the bat and they’re co-located with us here. And in San Francisco certainly did help, but you know if you could find a team of enthusiastic folks who you’ve got your developer, your designer, and your artist who are located in a place that’s a more affordable, I’d say go for it. That’s pretty promising too.

32:31.30

Matt DeCoursey

That’s the whole business I’m in, Ben, at Full Scale.io we help people build software teams quickly and affordably. So yeah, that could work. You know it’s there’s in that regard the I employ about 250 developers right now and. And for a project like this, they would probably fight each other to the death to see who got on it and that’s one of the things that’s a challenge for a lot of developers is they don’t always get the professional opportunity to do certain things you know. Like when you work for, when you’re a job seeker. I mean you get what’s in and around the market, obviously, globalization has made that a lot easier. So there’s a lot of growth there. Okay, so 1 question why we’re here and this is also and you know related to the industry. Why did discord become the place to unlock and chat about so much of this because you can learn. You can go to the SkateX discord that’s http://discord.ggfor/skatex, but why did that like what what happened there like why is. Why is everything you need and want to do or unlock or your white list code all of that this is something I still haven’t figured out in the series. So I need you to teach me.

33:45.79

Ben Topkins

You know I think discord was at the right time when there were not a lot of great solutions for sort of 1 to many big announcements and having a space in which the community can interact with each other while you as a company can also message out to to the entire community within Discord. Um, but it’s hard for me to imagine the Discord won’t be displaced at some point because it is a little bit tricky to use. It feels like a lot has sort of been stacked on top of it at this point I’m curious what your take on Discord is after using it.

34:17.20

Matt DeCoursey

You know, honestly man I can’t say I’ve really figured it out I mean I have on some levels because it’s just got that like kind of chat component about it. But I mean for me like when I come in and literally dove in and immerse myself in NFTs, like I mean I’ve created at this point I’ve bought them, sold them, traded them, created them, transferred them lost money on them made money on them watched them turn into other things. Like on all this and just try and minted them. And you know like I said I take the show seriously and I wanted to learn more about it. But with the Discord thing, I mean I get what it is and what it does but I just wasn’t ever really sure why it became the thing and maybe because it could have been lack of other alternatives. But what else do people use Discord for?

35:10.96

Ben Topkins

It’s definitely big with gaming communities. So most big games have a Discord community where they message out to their community. What’s going on and big updates and then people can meet each other in there. There must be some other industries that are really present on Discord too I don’t know which ones they are.

35:25.21

Matt DeCoursey

Yeah, you know like I said, I was just it seems to be that I mean this has got to be a boom time for discord because it seems like there’s more people than ever that are you know getting into that so all right? Well, it’s about time for the founders freestyle I say the—yeah, that’s how I’d like to end my shows I say my shows because I’m not the only host at startup hustle make sure you tune in weekly with Andrew Morgans you can learn all about e-commerce and Amazon brand acceleration tune in with Lauren Conaway the founder of InnovateHer. You know, Ben, she’s the person that’s on the show that talks about all the. Things that the rest of us are afraid to address. So thank you for that Lauren she does an amazing job with that and tune in for the new Matt Watson as a host episodes those have already been airing so you know several hundred episodes later we gave math the mic and said hey you’re the host and that gives me a break. Now before we get into the founders freestyle, today’s episode Startup Hustle was brought to you by Canva where you can go to collaborate and create amazing graphic design for free whether it’s a presentation to share an idea a video to launch your business or a social post to start a conversation with canva you can design anything. Discover the magic of visual communication and how Canva helps you create a lasting impact today go to http://canva.com to learn more I’m a big fan of Canva it was really really making. Really makes it easy for an entrepreneur or a business person or anyone in marketing to create stuff quickly and easily. I like quickly and easily. So with the founders’ freestyle, we get to sum up this episode and you also get to maybe bring up anything that you might not have talked about or you want to push. Promote. We’ve had people sing rap recite poetry I mean really, it’s a freestyle. So here you go, Ben. It’s up to you.

37:18.76

Ben Topkins

Yeah, so you know we’re building a fun first game in the blockchain which we think is a fresh concept. And we’re building, and a skate MMO project our next launch is coming up May 12 on fractal. We’d love to see you there. Check us out on Twitter at play SkateaX. And on Discord and we’d love to have you in the community.

37:40.26

Matt DeCoursey

And by the way that will have been yesterday if you listened because I believe this is coming so hopefully you didn’t miss it too much of it. But you can get in there and you know I think when I look at. Like all of this has been a very fascinating thing and thanks for joining me. This was really a nice inside look on like what the creation of a game is like and you know what that could be like and seems like you guys really had you were thoughtful to get the right team together I think that anytime you have the right. Participants it. Well, first off it makes things a lot easier having people that know what they’re doing upfront and you know, bringing some winning attributes and experience to the table when it comes to things like NFTs and Blockchain 1, thing you need to consider as a user is that. You know guys like, Ben are leading the way and pioneering things that haven’t been done which means that sometimes they’ll be good and sometimes they won’t be good right away and I think that one of the things that I’m finding with the NFT and Blockchain Community is a level of patience and understanding with idea that this whole thing is new, that it’s changing everything that it’s the future for a lot of stuff I couldn’t agree more when it comes to like looking for the things and projects that provide some kind of utilities or have something tangible in nature about them. Um. That’s the thing that’s been the easiest for me to understand about the entire and NFT industry some of the other stuff I mean honestly, it does mystify me a little bit like I don’t know if you’re going to find that the value of a doodle is going to be what it you want it to be down the road. You know like some of that and and if you like that kind of stuff I’m willing to provide all of it for a fraction of the cost of what some people are paying for some of those things. But I think you know this is that there is ah a big blue ocean right? You know and you say that with open c being the the marketplace a lot of people are choosing but there really is a very interesting world of NFTs ahead for all of us and I think that it’s going to also solve a lot of problems too even for just like little things you get back into the art. You know? So I actually, Ben. I actually have a pretty significant collection of original paintings which even you know like even a picture of the painting with the guy that painted it.

40:20.53

Matt DeCoursey

I mean that’s about all you get? That’s your certificate of authenticity things like Blockchain solve a lot of this and you know have application across so many different industries so we we shall see where that goes. Then thanks for joining me and I’m looking forward to a startup hustle brand skateboard and skateex. So let me know when that’s ready.

40:39.57

Ben Topkins

Absolutely, we’ll get to work on it.

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