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Straight shot: How sports stars are sidestepping middlemen in Web 3.0

A pro basketball player and an ex-banker are aiming for a slam-dunk with a ‘creator first’ content platform. Calaxy co-founder Solo Ceesay explains how.

The concept of cutting out the middleman has long been synonymous with efficiency, streamlining and savings. As new as the decentralized architecture of Web 3.0 may be, it’s propelling this well-established idea into the everyday realm of content creation and distribution, and sports stars are at the vanguard.

Calaxy, co-founded by former U.S. National Basketball Association player Spencer Dinwiddie and former banker Solo Ceesay in 2020, is a platform that defines itself as an “open social marketplace by creators, for creators” powered by “social tokens,” through which creators can monetize their engagement with fans. 

Ceesay described Calaxy’s mission to Forkast in a video interview, saying: “Things like subscription content, social media engagements like video calls and video messages… all of those engagements can happen within our application. The access points to those things are through social tokens, which is a creator’s cryptocurrency, native to them.”

On Calaxy, every creator can issue his or her own social tokens for use by fans to unlock engagements or buy non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Ceesay says the goal of Calaxy is to allow content creators to monetize themselves more efficiently than they’re able to do when mediated through centralized channels.

“The No.1 thing is access and control. When you think about the world as it’s currently structured, centralized entities have an outsized control over the earning potential of these creators, as well as the way in which they connect with their fans” he said. “And we want to do away with all of that, including ourselves … No matter what happens to anybody … nobody can take those tokens away from a creator or a fan.”

Beyond engagement with fans, Calaxy aims to allow creators to take monetization a step further through tokenization. When he was working at Citigroup, Ceesay joined Dinwiddie’s venture to monetize his contract with the NBA on the Ethereum blockchain, realizing the move could maximize players’ bang for the buck and give fans a chance to invest in their success. 

“If you’re a rapper and you’re sitting on a ton of music libraries … why are you taking a hard-money loan when there are far more efficient ways for you to capitalize yourself?” he said. “The traditional venture model allows certain people and specific centralized entities … to have outsized control (of) the funding growth of these ideas, but sometimes the communities that they’ve created — they’re the ones that have the most interest in the success of a creator.”

Watch Ceesay’s full interview with Forkast Editor-in-Chief Angie Lau to learn more about the process of disintermediation that’s shaking up the content economy, how Web 3.0 is set to change social media, and how blockchains can better secure people’s personal information amid growing wariness of big, data-driven platforms.

Highlights

  • Tokenizing a career: “What we did (with Dinwiddie) is we took his NBA contract and turned it into an investment vehicle for institutional investors to invest in. And so they took the ability to purchase tokens and he put it on the blockchain and created a bond offering, which was sort of a cash advance, or a way to unlock trapped liquidity — an asset that would otherwise be deferred over a subsequent amount of years, so that language makes sense to Wall Street … And now you’re looking at the creator economy, or you want to take these concepts that are maybe old but repurpose them in novel and thoughtful ways.”
  • Tokenizing the creator economy: “To start, we’re going to focus on the lower-hanging fruit in terms of the communication between us and mass audiences by focusing on things like NFTs and social engagements … That’s the blueprint in our mind as to how we get to having Spencer Dinwiddie or Ezekiel Elliott listed on an exchange and publicly tradable with a publicly verifiable market cap … The space is calling for it, for sure. But when it comes to where we’re at right now, really focusing on those social media engagements and familiar concepts, because at the end of the day, if you want to introduce Web 3.0 to people who have never seen it before, you’ve got to speak in a language they can understand.”
  • Value outside bubbles: “Calaxy could exist in the future, and obviously we plan to be around for a long period of time, but if we weren’t around, those tokens could be ported over to another application that was built on the protocol and still have value. And that economy that you’re creating lives outside of us. Whereas everything else in the Web 2.0 universe kind of lives within that Instagram bubble or lives within that Twitter bubble. This is really kind of just a tool to use. And sure, it could be a bubble in its own right, but you can exit or enter this bubble whenever you want.”
  • The future of social media: “You create a world where you’re incentivizing people to participate. You’re creating safe spaces for them to grow. You’re creating and fostering communities that are incentivized in order to create bigger and bigger movements. Because we’ve realized … at the end of day, the community is bigger in the whole. Think about GameStop and the Robinhood traders … Learning how big communities can be. So I think the power of social media that’s going to be in the future is being able to create those tools for the creators and community managers and things like that to be able to have those more efficient conversations and allow people to feel like they’re gaining even more from being a partner.”
  • Trustless, trustworthy networks: “You don’t really have to trust a trustworthy network … We live in a society where we need to be able to point to Facebook, point to Bank of America or all of these people and be like, ‘I trust them to use this sort of technology’ or be a part of this ecosystem … Whereas blockchain is built on a completely different concept and ethos. It doesn’t really matter who’s on the other side of this. I just know that it’s immutable to any sort of tampering or any sort of foul play, for the most part. Obviously, there are some cases, but in general, it’s a far much more robust structure to ensure that type of stuff stays safe.”

Transcript

Angie Lau: How is Web 3.0 shaping the creator economy? Does social media need blockchain? And how will it carry over to the metaverse? It’s the intersection of sports, culture and media. Brooklyn Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and Solo Ceesay founded Calaxy to speak for and support a new generation of influencers and creators.

Welcome to Word on the Block — the series that takes a deeper dive into blockchain and the emerging technologies that shape our world at the intersection of business, politics and economy. It’s what we cover right here on Forkast. I’m Editor-in-Chief Angie Lau. Welcome, Solo Ceesay, COO and co-founder of Calaxy, joining us today to talk about how the economy of content and talent is changing by the second. Solo, it’s so great to have you here exclusively with us.

Solo Ceesay: Appreciate you for having me. I’m really excited about this one.

Lau: All right. Ok, first, what is Calaxy?

Ceesay: That’s a great question. So what is Calaxy? Calaxy, formally, is known as the open social marketplace. But what does that mean? What we aim to be is the one-stop shop for creators to monetize and connect with their communities. So, through the use of Web 3.0 and those tools, we’re introducing community-building tools and more efficient ways to create direct-to-consumer relationships between creators and their fans. And so we’ve introduced the concept of social tokens. That’s something a little bit less discussed when it comes to the creator economy and when it comes to the tokenization of likeness.

We’re very, very keen and aware of what’s going on in the NFT market. And so we also have introduced those concepts, but through those ‘community building tools,’ as we like to call them, fans are able to engage in services and engagements that are familiar to what they do currently in the Web 2.0 world. So you understand that things like subscription content, social media engagements like video calls and video messages… all of those engagements can happen within our application. But the access points to those things are through social tokens, which is a creator’s cryptocurrency, native to them.

So somebody like Spencer would have a Spencer Dinwiddie coin. Or somebody like Teyana Taylor would have a Teyana Taylor token. And her fans purchase these tokens and can unlock these engagements on the other side, as well as purchase their NFTs. And so it’s really that very necessary layer, an ecosystem that doesn’t exist within the Web 3.0 Universe so that people that live outside of it can be familiar and start using the technology.

Lau: And that’s the key right there. So, for our audience, that was an intense 30-second ‘elevator pitch’ of Calaxy, and a lot to unpack here. But this is what we have the luxury of doing on Word on the Block. You talk about ecosystems, you talk about all of the disruption and disintermediation, and really redefining the environment in which content creators and artists and sports stars live.

But let’s unpack that, and first say, ‘How did we get here with you, Solo, co-founding this platform with Spencer Dinwiddie?’ Both of you really pioneered the introduction, the integration of blockchain and crypto in the NBA. So, I kind of want to dive into that first a little bit. You come from the sports world a little bit. You were on Wall Street. You were doing your thing and then you hooked up with Spencer Dinwiddie and then started a historical moment in sports.

Ceesay: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great point to start, and that’s kind of the origin story of what we’re building here at Calaxy. And so, just start. Spencer is actually one of my brother’s closest friends, so they’re both like my older brothers, in a way, but sometimes they like to act like my younger brothers. But Spencer is a very keen and very sharp guy, and he’s always been a disruptor in everything he’s done.

Previously I worked at Citigroup as an investment banker in the securitized products division. We wanted to take that technology and that concept and apply it to monetization for creators that sit on a bunch of intellectual property, or, in Spencer’s case, contractual value. And so what we did is we took his NBA contract and turned it into an investment vehicle for institutional investors to invest in. And so they took the ability to purchase tokens and he put it on the blockchain and created a bond offering, which was sort of a cash advance, or a way to unlock trapped liquidity — an asset that would otherwise be deferred over a subsequent amount of years, so that language makes sense to Wall Street. That’s super-easy. That’s been around for 30, 40 years — Bowie bonds and all this stuff, right? And now you’re looking at the creator economy, or you want to take these concepts that are maybe old but repurpose them in novel and thoughtful ways.

And so that’s what we started with. And Spencer was the first player to tokenize himself, and Calaxy was meant to be something where you could unlock that trapped liquidity. But we certainly realized, after that, the creator economy, social media… things like Cameo and Patreon — these creator platforms with them, allowing creators to monetize like gigs or things they’re doing — that makes even more sense. And so we wanted to create a token that was basically the access point for those things, so we could kind of bring that type of stuff and popularize the idea of tokenization as it pertains to creators. Ultimately, we want to be the standard for monetization across the board. And so when you’re monetizing something like a video call, we want to be the same place where you can go to monetize your music royalties or your YouTube libraries or your NBA contract, for example. And so that’s kind of how we started this very long journey, and we’re super-excited about where the space is going. And I feel like a month is a year! 

Lau: Tell me about it. I constantly say we live in dog years. What happened in like the short course of an hour takes everybody else, like, probably a year. It’s what happens in this industry. We live and exist in dog years. This is super-true.

But look, you’re changing the game — literally and figuratively changing the game, and not just for sports. What I’m hearing — which is super-exciting and really what I think is the promise of blockchain in itself, is allowing people for the very first time to engage directly in a global economy, wherever people are in the world, directly, without a third party, without a middleman. But it sounds like you’re taking some sports concepts, agent concepts, Wall Street concepts.

You’re literally providing a platform. It feels like — and correct me if I’m wrong — allowing people to invest in the future potential earning power of the creator, the sports star, the musician, the artist, in the same way that Wall Street thinks about shares of companies. You’re not actually buying or investing in the current state of the business. You’re projecting what that future income and potential growth of that company is going to be. That’s Wall Street thinking. For the individual person or the individual content creator, is that the concept?

Ceesay: Yeah, absolutely. And so when you think about, kind of, the world and tokenization, it’s a very long journey to get there. It’s going to be a very long journey until the point where people are actively trading (the token) LBJ for LeBron James, for example. It’s going to be a long time and a process. Getting people comfortable, obviously having the governing bodies that need to opine, having the view about our journey going there… So when you think about the Securities and Exchange Commission and different regulatory bodies, and how we’re thinking about these sorts of financial tools from a consumer protection standpoint, there’s a lot in that conversation that needs to happen. And so when we thought about Spencer’s contract securitization, that’s 100% what it was.

It was allowing creators to unlock different parts of their ability to monetize themselves more efficiently. If you’re a rapper and you’re sitting on a ton of music libraries — or a music artist or something like that, and you want to go buy a luxury item — why are you taking a hard-money loan when there are far more efficient ways for you to capitalize yourself? And then on the other side of it, too, when you get the fans involved in the community, you can just see how powerful the group is, more than the single entity. 

And so the traditional venture model allows people and specific centralized entities — it’s a very centralized industry — to have outsized control (of) the funding growth of these ideas. But sometimes the creators, I guess, the communities that they’ve created, they’re the ones that have the most interest in the success of a creator. And so being able to tap into that is going to be allowing you to raise more efficient capital. And it’s also giving that to the communities that support these creators. You’re allowing them to get involved in this process, from that perspective. 

In totality, right now, we’re in this area of infancy stages, where we want to circle back and be that standard for people to start securitizing their contracts and music royalties and things like that. To start, we’re going to focus on the lower-hanging fruit in terms of the communication between us and mass audiences by focusing on things like NFTs and social engagements and buying tokens and using them for services and goods.

That’s the blueprint in our mind as to how we get to having Spencer Dinwiddie or Ezekiel Elliott listed on an exchange and publicly tradable with a publicly verifiable market cap. You have to walk that line to get in there. And so we’ll get there eventually. The space is calling for it, for sure. But when it comes to where we’re at right now, really focusing on those social media engagements and familiar concepts, because at the end of the day, if you want to introduce Web 3.0 to people who have never seen it before, you’ve got to speak in a language they can understand.

Lau: Absolutely. I mean, I wish I was a fly on the wall in that conversation with the NBA. When you were trying to negotiate this, what was the reaction? They were probably sitting there wide-eyed.

Ceesay: So Spencer did get sued for doing that. But in terms of defending his viewpoint and stuff like that, it really had to do with the idea of incentives and making sure that those were OK, and making sure it didn’t compromise the quality of the sport. But that was obviously not the case. And through different structures — whether it was equity offerings or bond offerings — it really was depending on how he could structure this sort of thing to get passed by them. But at the end of the day, the NBA is — you’ve seen them push the envelope — they’re biggest supporters of, obviously, (digital collectible range) Top Shots, (former pro basketball player Julius Shareef Abdur-) Rahim and (NBS Top Shot maker) Dapper Labs. They’re good friends of ours, as well, and so we love working with some of the greatest partners in the world and the NBA being one of them, eventually, hopefully down the line in a more formal capacity. It’s definitely understanding and looking for new ways to introduce technologies to make things more efficient.

And so just like that, it was a growing pains sort of education process, but he was able to do it, which was a milestone and, honestly, the touchpoint, or the jumping-off point, for everything that we’re doing now. And so it was definitely a journey, but getting people to kind of understand that you’re going to do what with what — that was definitely something that was super-exciting. If you’d asked them during the time, you wouldn’t have been that happy about it, but looking back now, he wouldn’t change anything he’s done.

Lau: Well, look, you created a case study, you created an opportunity where there was demand and interest, and there were a lot of points that people could get aligned to if there was education. You went through some of those growing pains. You went through some of those painful conversations, and out pops Calaxy, a platform that actually is a child — for lack of a better term — of all of the things you learned from that process. What do you hope to really provide for the next generation — or even the current generation of content creators and artists and athletes and people that people are interested?

Ceesay: I think for us, the No.1 thing is access and control. When you think about the world as it’s currently structured, centralized entities have an outsized control over the earning potential of these creators, as well as the way in which they connect with their fans. And we want to do away with all of that, including ourselves, like, Calaxy as an ecosystem. Really, we have this broader protocol. That’s a state that we hope to be the standard for creating NFTs and social tokens. 

Calaxy is a sleeve that’s built on top of it. That’s an application layer that doesn’t really exist in Web 3.0. That makes it easy for people to use this technology. Think about it as a means to using the protocol — most Web 3.0 technology protocols, specific or direct. So it makes it very tough for somebody who’s never understood any of that stuff, or doesn’t have the technical background to use it, and so Calaxy is kind of that one sleeve, or one-size-fits-all solution, to start.

But ultimately, we want to introduce these concepts like NFTs and tokens, because no matter what happens to anybody, whether it’s us, a competitor or any sort of thing, nobody can take those tokens away from a creator or a fan. That value has been created — the means of being able to use them. Calaxy could exist in the future, and obviously we plan to be around for a long period of time, but if we weren’t around, those tokens could be ported over to another application that was built on the protocol and still have value. And that economy that you’re creating lives outside of us. Whereas everything else in the Web 2.0 universe kind of lives within that Instagram bubble or lives within that Twitter bubble. This is really kind of just a tool to use.

And sure, it could be a bubble in its own right, but you can exit or enter this bubble whenever you want, and that’s how it should be. You should have that power and control. And, you know, if you influence hundreds of millions of people, or tens of millions of people, or even thousands of people, making money should be that easy. Connecting your fans should be that easy. And the reason why people are kind of like, ‘What’s the catch? What am I really doing here?’… it’s because we’ve grown up in this society that’s been structured in this way, so it’s so foreign to think about anything else. But the best technologies sometimes are the ones that are disruptors and change the way that we think.

When you think about it, the last thing on this is Uber. Before there actually was a time that you would wait around the city — say you’re not in New York, so there are not taxis all the time — and you would wait, hoping one would drive by to get you where you’re going. It’s such a foreign concept, but now you’ll call a stranger to come pick you up and you’ll get to where you go. And we didn’t think about it, but at the end of the day, if Uber went away, we would all freak out, because technology is sometimes the best tool, and there’s things that feel weird to start but create a different level of convenience at the end.

Lau: Well, you said it. Social influencers that have become social disruptors in this new technology coming up — I want to learn more about that. We’ve got Instagram, Twitter… what’s next? The social media revolution — who exactly is leading the charge? How does technology support that? 

I want to talk more about that because it really is this new age of ours in the 21st century. Who knew that audience aggregators have now outpaced what standard networks or newspapers or media organizations traditionally did? In fact, our audience aggregators have become social platforms. And now with technology, it lies in the person themselves. This is an extraordinary time for everyone.

Ceesay: It’s a crazy time, when you think about how we’ve gotten here. In the rise of social media, and the rise of the different tools that we’ve had, and distribution tools like Twitter — what it was and what it is now are completely different. And so, when we think about kind of where we’re going forward, I just like to marvel at how fast we’ve moved. Every single month, it seems to me, it’s parabolic. Like we’re moving faster and faster each and every day … It’s crazy how fast technology kind of leaks its way into it.

You even see legacy platforms starting to find ways to integrate Web 3.0 technologies into their frameworks. So they realize that Web 2.0 won’t exist. Web 2.5 might exist, maybe. It remains to be seen. But when you think about the Meta (Facebook) rebrand, or when you think about Twitter integrating NFT support and things like that, you’re really starting to see how fast the technology starts to collide. We’re in a very, very interesting flux of change that’s happening right now.

Lau: I mean, even if you think about legacy — once upon a time, Facebook didn’t even exist. Like, we’re still part of that generation who remember that Facebook didn’t exist before, and now they’re considered legacy. They’re considered giants. But there have also been really big disappointments and anger in this space. In 2018, news broke out that U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica took the data of 50 million Facebook users that’s my information, that’s your information — without our explicit permission and used it to attempt to influence an election. These things are happening in the background. These experiments in this new age are happening without our permission. What opportunity does that give blockchain and tokenization and NFTs a new way of engaging?

Ceesay: Yeah. That’s a great question to lay up. I love it. Because for us, when you think blockchain…

Lau: It’s going to lay up. You’re a slam-dunk.

Ceesay: It’s good because we like that. People need to hear these things. The first thing I think about is transparency. And the idea that you don’t really have to trust a trustworthy network. And the problem is, when we live in the developed world, all of these people in these countries, in the developed world, they live off the endorsement model. And so, my parents are actually from West Africa, and so I’ve talked to them about this all the time. And a lot of times they’re thinking about (how) big organizations can be very different than the U.S. Like, we live in a society where we need to be able to point to Facebook, point to Bank of America or all of these people and be like, ‘I trust them to use this sort of technology or be a part of this ecosystem.’ Whereas blockchain is built on a completely different concept and ethos. It doesn’t really matter who’s on the other side of this. I just know that it’s immutable to any sort of tampering or any sort of foul play, for the most part. Obviously, there are some cases, but in general, it’s a far much more robust structure to ensure that type of stuff stays safe.

And so when you think about Facebook and these big entities, they’re impenetrable when it comes to even security issues, or, in the case of being able to take your data, like, they seem trustworthy, and so they’re not. And at the end of the day, you’re far more levered to those sort of instances when you are centralized by definition, versus when things are dispersed among the community. And so, you bring up a great point. I think those things are going to be what makes it super-important and creates that opportunity for decentralized solutions to these problems. And once you start seeing it, and once it starts impacting our everyday lives, once you start getting tired of waiting in the cold for that taxi to drive by, something’s going to pop up, and something’s going to fix that problem and introduce that next level of convenience so that we can continue to develop and grow as a society.

Lau: There are also cultural moments and cultural challenges, to be sure. Twitter — suddenly, people are losing their accounts for various reasons, and it seems very centralized. And so what’s the pushback? We saw that in (NFT marketplace) OpenSea. We’re starting to see that in centralized platforms. How do you view that at Calaxy? If you were a platform… is it the job of the platform or is it the job of the marketplace to support it? What’s your view?

Ceesay: That’s such a great question, and, to be quite honest, the idea of moving towards a completely decentralized society, as we continue to kind of have this conversation, really is a process. We’re not just going to wake up one day and be fully decentralized. You’ve got to start somewhere. And so even for us internally, you’d think about us as a more centralized solution in the decentralized space, but ultimately, we’re going to try to find those paths, and find that equilibrium, so that we can make the communities happy, because, ultimately, that’s what we’re doing this for … It’s to find a way to please the people and kind of really align ourselves with the ethos of what blockchain is. In the case of Twitter and these platforms, decentralization is all we knew. And, like I said in the example we had before, that’s how we operated as a society until something new came out. And they’re doing their part in understanding and learning more about the space, and you’re seeing it, so this, by all means, is not meant to be that they’re in the past. I think we’re all going to be walking this journey together as we start to learn more about it. And I think decentralized technology is something that we’re going to continue to use and that it’ll make its way into our society. And I think one thing that’s really funny (is that) I had a conversation with a friend the other day… I looked at him and I was like, ‘You do realize there will be a day where you won’t be able to call me a crypto guy’ — I’m just a guy. That’s like calling you an internet girl — obviously, it doesn’t exist nowadays because we all live on the internet. And so there’ll be a day where we’re all speaking and walking and talking — at least in my opinion — the same decentralized language.

Lau: That decentralized language is starting to spread. Who are the social media influencers, the athletes… who are we going to see on Calaxy?

Ceesay: We have a number of super-exciting creators. And so, Ezekiel Elliott, star running back for the Dallas Cowboys, and his teammate Amari Cooper … He’s one of our favorites. He’s a character, to say the least. But we have a lot of pro football players. We have NBA players, obviously Spencer and Dwight Howard, and a couple of them as well. Sony Music star Iman Shumpert, as well. And then reality TV stars, as well. So actually, (former U.S. football player) Matt James was one of the first creators that we brought onto the platform in a number of people from that reality TV family. And so to start, we were really super-excited to have such a good startup, the gates, and a strong roster to begin with. And that really came about from us being who we are, and being for creators by creators. At the end of the day, that conversation is a lot more authentic and resonates more with the talent coming from Spencer and myself. And I think that’s kind of how we really started this journey — as a collective journey into the decentralized world and technologies to be able to find a way to ameliorate or make things better for everybody in the communities. So that’s just a quick teaser there.

Lau: Well, Solo, I think I called you guys pioneers — but pioneers are also explorers. So what is this Web 3.0 world of ours? What’s on the horizon? What’s the next stage of growth, and how can regular folks participate in this new economy? 

Solo Ceesay — it just sounds like a name made for Hollywood — you’ve been spending some time in L.A. That’s where you are. It’s probably why you’re, like, super-well lit and perfectly framed… like probably Hollywood people right behind the camera here.

Ceesay: I’ve got some good people around me telling me how to do stuff. This is new to me, but, you know…

Lau: You’ve got a good team. You’ve got a new show coming up. I’ve heard about it. I’ve already heard about it. Like, super-interesting technology in this Covid world of ours, how you’re really kind of taking us to far-flung places right in the comfort of our living rooms. So, do tell us about this show coming up on CoinDesk TV and Spotify.

Ceesay: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’re super-excited to announce “New Money with Spencer and Solo.” It’s a video podcast TV talk show on Spotify … So they’re going to be having a lot more video content, and, so, we’re one of the first programs to be on there, so we’re super-excited about that … putting together a program where we sit down with a lot of different industry leaders … celebrities, athletes, influencers in their spaces, and talk about the ways in which they’re connecting with their fans, the ways they’re monetizing themselves, how the current legacy world is centralized and the downfalls of that, and whether they’ve looked at blockchain and what it means to that. And through very colloquial dialog and very easy, conversational thoughts and touch points, we want to introduce these concepts to mainstream audiences, from people that kind of sit there and live in their world. Ultimately, there isn’t much like this on the market, and so we’re super-excited to say that it went out Jan. 12 for the first episode available on CoinDesk TV and Spotify, and I’ve got to say that it was a fun production to put forward, and we have some great guests coming on the show this season.

Lau: All right, confession time. How many times did you use ‘layer-1 disintermediation and immutability?’ How many times do you use all those three words? Come on!

Ceesay: Actually, Spencer might have said ‘layer-1 or -2’ once or twice.

Lau: Ok, all right. Ok, that’s good. You’re talking real language.

Ceesay: Yeah, it’s meant to be very digestible. That’s the word, digestible.

Lau: Well, look, you guys are redefining almost the economic relationship, really, between a sports franchise and the entire universe. A multibillion-dollar business that’s global with the core creators of value for that sport, which is the athlete. And now you’re translating it for other people in other industries. Where do you see media, social media engagement with the audience, engagement with fans going?

Ceesay: I think that’s a good question. I think through things like the show, we talk about it. We want to talk about kind of where things are going, and we want to make sure that we have a very safe space to have these conversations or, I guess, a space where we could start having them. You’re on crypto Twitter, and it’s super-bespoke and it’s super-intimidating to somebody that wants to learn about the space, and so I think the way we do this as a group is (have) more people get to enter the conversation. How do you get more people to enter the conversation? We’ve got to speak the languages that they’re comfortable speaking.

And so when I think about the future of social media and community building and stuff like that through a decentralized framework, I think you create a world where you’re incentivizing people to participate. You’re creating safe spaces for them to grow. You’re creating and fostering communities that are incentivized in order to create bigger and bigger movements. Because we’ve realized in a lot of different ways — there’s tons of analogies that you’ve seen — but in the world, at the end of day, the community is bigger in the whole. Think about GameStop and the Robinhood traders … Learning how big communities can be. So I think the power of social media that’s going to be in the future is being able to create those tools for the creators and community managers and things like that to be able to have those more efficient conversations and allow people to feel like they’re gaining even more from being a partner.

Lau: It’s so empowering because it’s almost reversing the process. I’m curious if Spencer still has his sports agent.

Ceesay: Oh, he definitely does. He has a few of them. But Spencer, definitely, he sees the value. And I think it’s more about how we can all fit into this decentralized world, not necessarily cutting out every single aspect of the legacy world and framework. Spencer is a very smart guy, but he also recognizes the value that comes with some of those things.

And so I think it’s really about finding that fair trade-off. When you’re thinking about blockchains, and how we’re going to build Calaxy, like, we’re built on a blockchain alternative called Hedera Hashgraph, and Hedera Hashgraph has been a great supporter of us, and it’s a different solution to the problem. It has a high-throughput and asynchronous Byzantine fault tolerance. It’s owned and operated by a number of Fortune 500 companies. In terms of that, and so when you think about that as a blockchain solution, that’s something that might speak well with a government official that’s trying to look at whether or not blockchain makes sense, and stuff like that.

And so when you think about that type of world, it’s really about getting in where you fit in, and finding the right mix of everything. Is it completely decentralized? Is it somewhat centralized? Is it entirely centralized? Where on the spectrum do we live? Because all of this is a spectrum … and what aspects of it make sense and what should be operating differently?

Lau: How conscious was that decision to pick a private blockchain — which is Hedera — versus a public, decentralized blockchain like a Bitcoin or an Ethereum?

Ceesay: Yeah. I think for us, the reason why we picked them is just because they’re great partners for us. And being able to align ourselves with companies like Google, IBM, LG, Deutsche Telekom… with a great value before us, and we want to be one of those companies ‘on the council.’ That would be a great dream come true for us, and so we needed that. And then, also just on its merits individually, we needed something that was high-throughput. And because we’ve seen things like what happened with CryptoKitties on the Ethereum network, and things like that, we realized that something like commerce, or something like Calaxy that has potential to have high transactions, needs to be able to be built on something that can hold that from the network. And additionally, we want to be able to be partners with everyone. And so like I said… Flux and Dapper Labs… we’re partners with them. And so, hopefully being able to kind of integrate with various chains and technologies over time is the goal, because we do believe that interoperability is super key, too. 

Lau: And finally, the metaverse. What’s the role of the metaverse for Calaxy, for creators for Web 3.0, in your view?

Ceesay: That’s a great question. The metaverse — that’s one that I feel like everyone’s talking about right now, with hundreds of takes on it. I think for me personally, it’s an easier way for us to start accessing and using Web 3.0 technologies. And honestly, the metaverse isn’t something that’s new — or at least the concept of moving towards something like it isn’t. Like, you think about the world we live in and the emphasis that we put on online presences, social media, gaming online… we’ve been heading towards the metaverse through the last two decades, and so I think that’s something that’s super-important to keep in mind.

And then also, I think in general, it’s about collaboration and community. I think that’s really what it is. At the end of the day, integration and access points and ease … Given Covid, we’ve already been operating in some sort of metaverse. For the history of men, the basis between the value we put on tangible things and intangible things has been compressing since forever, and so, like, you’re thinking about NFTs coming, you’re thinking about Covid and the pandemic, and we’re operating in this virtual world a lot more. They’re all signals and things that definitely put some power behind the sails of the metaverse movement … it’s definitely something we’re looking to explore, and we want to make sure that we’re that open social marketplace where all different types of activities and collaboration can be fostered.

Lau: Well, thanks for hanging out with us in our Forkast metaverse right here with our audience and with our collective industry. So, as you say, COO and co-founder of Calaxy, with your guy Spencer Dinwiddie, and just taking names and going places, we appreciate it.

Ceesay: Appreciate you for having me.

Lau: Absolutely. And thank you everyone for joining us on this metaverse that we call Word on the Block. I’m Angie Lau, Editor-in-Chief of Forkast. Until the next time. 

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