Crypto

Episode 25: Investing in the MetaVerse with NFTs with Jim McNelis

Ben Lakoff, CFA
February 4, 2021
52
 MIN
Listen to this episode on your favorite platform!

Jim McNelis is the creator of Avastars and a “Hardcord NFT Degen.”

Have you seen Ready, Player One? Heard of the MetaVerse? YOu won’t want to miss this conversation with Jim.

In this conversation we discuss the “Collectibles as Investments” mindset, why NFTs might be so interesting, the MetaVerse and what it might look like and finally AvaStars and what’s going on with Jim’s company.

Jim is a collector at heart and LOVES all things Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Enjoy!

Listen on your Platform of choice:

Check out https://anchor.fm/investinalts for all the listening options (Spotify, Apple, etc.)

Show Notes

0:00:00   Welcome and context

0:02:00   How did you got in NFTs?

0:06:16   Did you started acquiring legos with the intent of reselling them?

0:10:00   How did you choose LEGO sets?

0:15:50   What attracted you about Crypto Kitties?

0:19:31   Where is the Metaverse?

0:25:34   What things need to happen for wide Metaverse adoption?

0:29:29   Where can people find out more about the metaverse?

0:32:03   What current NFT trends get you most excited?

0:39:21   The scrolling aspect of the Avastars discover tab

0:42:19   Working with the current GAS fees?

0:45:41   How many Avastars have been minted?

0:48:56   What is next on the roadmap for Avastars?

0:53:05   Where can people find out more about you?

Show Links

Ready Player One

Metaverse

Avastars

Avastars on Twitter

Crypto Kitties

Decentraland

NBA top shot

Episode Transcript

Ben: [00:00:00] Welcome to the alt asset allocation podcast, exploring alternative investment opportunities available to the everyday investor. Here’s your host Ben Lakoff.

Hello and welcome to the all to asset allocation podcast. Today’s interview is with Jim McNellis. Who’s the creator of avastars and a hardcore NFT DGN, have you seen ready player one? Have you heard of the metaverse? Wild? I know, but there are definitely some opportunities for savvy investors. If they’re willing to spend some time in this world and know what they’re looking for in this conversation, we discussed the collectibles as investments, mindset, why NFTs might be so interesting, the metaverse and what it might look like.

And finally avatars and what’s going on with Jim’s company.

There’s a lot going on, but before you listen, please don’t forget to like, or subscribe to the podcast or even better leave a review. This really helps more people find the podcast and keeps this thing going. And it really helps. Jim is a collector at heart and loves all things, non fungible, tokens or NFTs we could have.

Chatted for hours on this fascinating topic. We tried to keep it around how investors can get involved, but there’s so much happening right now. And it’s really, really exciting either way. Enjoy this conversation with Jim McNellis of avastars,

Jim, super excited to have you on the podcast today, you are a hardcore nFT dGN. And you’re also the creator of app stars, but you are a hardcore nft degen. I’m super excited to have you.

Jim: [00:01:41] You got that right? Ben. I’m happy to be on here today, man. I am a hardcore nft degen and I also happened to create some NFT projects.

Ben: [00:01:50] I like it. nFTs are super hot right now, as you know, I’m sure your Twitter following has been exploding and definitely get into all of that.

But I wanted to start off. How did you get involved into NFTs and what’d you do before going full hardcore Degen?

Jim: [00:02:07] So, yeah actually what I was doing was I was in between jobs. I had, I had sold my business. I was previously setting up email for. Companies. And I sold that business and was kind of hanging out, trying to look for the next opportunity.

And I ended up actually collecting a bunch of Legos to resell. And a couple of years went by in doing that. And I finally was able to start selling some sets for profits because they had retired and appreciated the value. And it’s a really interesting collectible. Because it’s a fun thing.

If you’d like to build Legos and you can basically buy a set and pay for it by, you know, hanging on to a second set for a couple years. But when I came time to sell all this stuff you know, I was going to have to, I was having gone to eBay and had to take care of the, creating the listing and sending it up and then taking care of the logistics of shipping the item afterwards.

And then. You know, getting reviews and things like that. And it was a lot of effort. In addition to having already just put the money to work in buying the Lego set and waiting for the appreciation to happen. And so I started to look at some. Alternatives. I realized along the same vein, I could potentially make money mining cryptocurrency.

So I was looking for an alternative income there. And as I started to mine, cryptocurrency is when CryptoKitties was launched. And I don’t know how familiar your audience is with CryptoKitties is, but it’s it’s the top NFT, non fungible token that’s ever been created. The data’s the biggest brand to date over right around 2 million Katie’s exist right now.

At the peak in December of 2017, when I was doing the mining, what I’m talking about, there were cats selling up upwards of like a hundred thousand dollars kind of regularly for a couple of weeks there a hundred ether. So at the time, and Heath was around a thousand. Dollars per Eve. So it was really wild and crazy, and it opened my eyes to the opportunity of digital collectibles as an alternative to, you know, having to go and sell physical items that I’ve collected.

And so I bought my first cat on December 5th, I think. I named it Katniss because my cat had just run away. She came back a couple weeks later, thankfully, but she had been missing for like a day. And so I was replacing her with a digital cat and that was really the start of it all. I mind for, you know, another year or so.

But, and I was DV diving deep into alternate or into altcoins at the time. And doing really well like everybody else was, and that kind of my interest in that waned after a couple of months, I’m more of like a collector and enjoy the collectible aspect of, of the. Baseball cards and coins and things like that from my past.

So it was really drawn back to CryptoKitties yet again, and I really liked the idea that you could have two CryptoKitties and you could. Breed them together and would create another kitty. You have to pay a fee to do that, but if you breed the right traits together and you get the right random outcome, it could be a net positive result for you.

You could make money doing this. And there were people making money doing it. So I kind of just. So, you know, it was determined that okay, if other people have figured this out, then I can figure it out too. And the, and that was really in February of 2018 when I really just dove full-time into NFTs.

And I haven’t really looked back since that was when I became a DJ in that, that month. And it wasn’t probably hardcore until a few months later. But but yeah, that’s nice brief beginning there.

Ben: [00:05:32] I have a ton of questions, obviously. I just did a quick. Google and the collectibles market is about $370 billion globally. this is, this is a gigantic alternative investment. People are buying these collectibles, holding them, expecting to sell them at a higher price. But I’m curious, like going back to these Lego’s, did you buy them with the intent of. Hey, I’m doing air quotes, but investing in them as collectibles or because you just wanted to like build a Ferris wheel or something?

Jim: [00:06:03] No, I mean, if I just, I mean, I built one of just about everything I bought, but I did it as an investment for sure. What I realized was I had always loved Legos as a kid. I had a bunch of time on my hand and I started building some sets and then as I started to, I kind of tend to go. Really deep into anything that I get into.

And so I started doing research on rare Legos sets that I could potentially buy and build. And in doing that, I uncovered a community of people who would go and speculate on Lego sets. And then there was this whole system to follow where, you know, you don’t buy the sets that were just come out that have just come out, you buy the ones that are getting ready to retire.

So when you can catch wind of a retirement or that something’s going to need to retire, or you can get like wind of where really rare sets are sold for. That day, at that time, at that moment, if you could find these communities, then you could potentially benefit. And I, so I started learning how to like, go find deals on Lego sets.

I mean, I remember I went to New York city and I wasn’t even planning on buying Legos, but of course, I mean, I was way into it at the time. So I was going to go visit the Lego store in Manhattan. And I was going to go to the FAO Schwartz. Check it out. Well, lo and behold, I go to these places into the toys R us, and they have like all these incredible sets for like half off.

So like, I just was able to bring my dollar cost average down on, on multiple sets. They’re just,  in New York. So I had to figure out how to ship these things. Then from New York, I lived in California at the time, ended up shipping them to my sister’s family in Virginia. And but what, like such a, like, I could have sold those sets anywhere else for regular retail price and doubled up on everything I spent in New York.

It was actually just an insane money-making opportunity. But yeah, there’s a lot of there’s actually like, like I said, there’s communities and stuff around this and I’m still sitting on most. My leg is I actually had somebody else do the eBay stuff for me two years ago. And I actually put that money into NFTs.

And they sold, I don’t know, probably. 15% of what I had collected. And I don’t know, it was probably worth about eight or $10,000. So yeah, I think, I think I dropped about 30 grand on it. I didn’t do everything super, perfectly there as far as a business and investment. I mean, I didn’t like I didn’t do any write off of expenses or anything like that.

I’m not making as much as it’s not sure profit on, on one end of it, but it’s like it’s really was enjoyable and fun and there actually is money to be made. I mean, these things go up like pretty consistently, like two, three, 400% value. The best set I have. I think I bought for about 15 of them for $35, including shipping.

And they are, it’s a Mars Rover set curiosity Rover. And it is now goes for over $350. And I still got like 10 of those left. So

Ben: [00:08:43] that’s insane.

Jim: [00:08:45] Look into it more, man. It’s actually really interesting, like little subculture.

Ben: [00:08:49] Yeah. I wanna, I wanna kind of go down this, this path a little bit, because I think it helps,

Better understand the collectible investor mindset and then how that transitions into these digital collectibles, which you know, can be NFTs. with these tangible ones, obviously, if you buy a hundred thousand dollars worth of Legos, like you’re going to need a storage facility to put them in because they’re gigantic.

So obviously the whole digital aspect, you can store it on a USB key pretty darn easily, but I want to back up a bit and just think about like your mindset on how do you choose Legos as the. Collectable that you want to invest in?

what characteristics are you using to determine value and resale value? And then it sounds like liquidity and this all comes from a reseller or a secondary market like eBay.

I would imagine, are you checking liquidity before you look into these J yeah, just walk me through like, Walk me through what the why?

Jim: [00:09:50] You know, I know and understood Lego’s to start.

And it’s something that is just really interesting to me. I’ve had, you know, 40 years of growing up around Lego’s to just understand it as I’m sure many of us have. I mean I was always the guy who asked for Legos for Christmas and stuff growing up. So that was the first thing is just understanding the market that or understanding the product that the market is, is related to.

And then I think then I made mistakes early on. I purchased sets that had just come out as investments and that’s when I was on these forums and stuff. And I realized that like, I should be accumulating these other sets instead of the sets that I just purchased because I was going to have to let those sets.

I had just purchased sit for at least two years. Before they retired and then another two years before they gain in value. So the next step was understanding the appreciation cycle for a lot of these for these sets in general. And I was looking at the premium sets mostly I wasn’t trying to look at the smaller sets, which in some ways could do a lot better.

And there was this little, little train. It was like five bucks for like a Christmas train or as like this little. Green train in a yellow box. And it was like literally $5 and people were just stocking up on those. Like that was the big future play. And I don’t want to distract myself by looking it up on eBay right now.

But if you look up like a little tiny Lego train should be green, the Emerald express, I think anyways, it’s probably like 25 or $30 now. Like not a bad play, like really easy, like tiny, easy to ship. You can even do it in a blister pack and maybe get away with it. But anyways, like understanding. These different facets of it.

Like you could go the extremely low end and try to go for something small and iconic. I was aiming more towards the high end. So like the superstar destroyer from star Wars, the the death star from star Wars, the big Batman Batmobile and things like that. I was going for the higher end stuff.

Which didn’t work out as well. In some cases like five or six years down the road those bigger sets have appreciated and value, but maybe only two X, whereas like these mid range and smaller range sets like appreciated much, much more. So I did make some mistakes there. But I, at the time had my eye on there was this one set, it was like the.

Quarter green corner shop or something, I’m getting there name wrong, but it was a creator expert set, which is a class set. And it was in a town where you can build like these modular buildings and put them together. That thing was selling for like, you know, a couple of grand. And that was like, What really drew me in was like, knowing that, like, there were some sets that I had seen a couple of years earlier on the shelves that I couldn’t get any more that are now worth more money.

And if I had just bought them that it could have been worth more. So, yeah. And then just, like I said, though, understanding the nuance in that. It’s not an, it’s not a hard market, really, man. I mean, there’s demand. For these sets after they retire, because people want to build out like more of the similar things they’ve already built or the, it fits in somewhere to their building strategy.

And the people who collect these things are adults that have money. They have disposable income to spend on them. The market’s pretty, you do need to do your research on the markets and everything, and they’re not like. You know, there is liquidity though. The Legos is a pretty popular segment and we’ll sell the downside is, is that eBay and Amazon, they take their pound of flesh.

No, there’s definitely charged fees. And the fees for selling collectibles and Legos are more than some other categories too. So there’s a lot of like that sort of stuff that I didn’t really count on, but I’ve waited so long. I waited I’ve. I mean, the stuff I bought was mostly in 2013, so we’re talking about seven or eight year investment now where I could sell anything that I have left for profit, but I mean, It probably was worth it to, in some areas to put my money somewhere else instead, still a fun thing to invest in.

Ben: [00:13:32] Yeah. I mean, with these platforms like eBay, you’re paying for that convenience and that distribution because selling these things via craigslist or garage sale, you certainly wouldn’t get the same value.

Jim: [00:13:45] There’s a magnitude easier. It’s worth it to sell on there when it. When it comes down to it, cause you’re going to get the best price, but the absolute, so the premium is built, you know, your costs and the premium for the marketplace are kind of built into the pricing as well.

Ben: [00:13:58] Yeah. And I, I did just do a little search the leg Lego creator. Emerald night train goes for 500 bucks, say,

Jim: [00:14:07] okay, no, that’s the big, that’s the bigger one. Yeah, it’s a little one. It’s a little tiny, but I was going to say that’s a hundred X, but then that would’ve been ridiculous.

Ben: [00:14:16] I think it important aspect to share here is that not all returns are kind of equal in this case.

So like, I, I mean, five X on a $10 investment versus three X on a $10,000 investment, I’d take the three X. On the larger all day long, right. Especially with the admin of selling these things, shipping them, all of this stuff.

Jim: [00:14:39] So yep. Only having to sell once versus a hundred times two, and only having to do that shipping once versus a hundred times.

Ben: [00:14:45] Okay. So I think that that, that helps. transitioning into these digital collectibles, your, your initial toe in the water was CryptoKitties. What attracted you to crypto kitties initially?

Jim: [00:14:58] Yeah, I think another aspect I should point out is that I am a avid gamer and I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on virtual virtual clothing for my characters inside of different games.

Like Dota two is a big one that I play. And I’ve just probably, like I said, I dropped thousands of dollars in there, so I was already conditioned to spend money on digital items. Now I think a lot of people are inherently like, you know, these days you have your mobile apps and mobile games and things like that, your different experiences where you buy gems or buy, you know, Cosmetic items for your character in Fortnite or whatever it might be.

But that’s the other part that kind of is a key in all of this, I think is the collectibles aspect for me. And like trying to make money investing in something like, like LIGO, but then also like, Frustration that the current collectibles that I have spent thousands of dollars on. They’re not easy to extract value back out of because there is second markets for like my Dota two items, but it kind of is locked in the steam system unless you get creative.

So having a desire though, To have that sort of selling experience that I had there and that I had in world of Warcraft on the auction house when I was playing that for years and was able to go and farm items and then craft items and then go sell them on the marketplace and then make money from that.

And if you really wanted to, you could sell that to a gold farmer and, you know, make actual money, not a lot, but you could make money doing that. That, that was always a cool thing to me as a gamer is the ability to actually. Like do something in a game that was valuable, like actually valuable and you could actually get cash from it.

And so that’s what nFTs unlocked here that has been kind of sitting there waiting to be unlocked for all this time is that there is now a universal way to represent. Value in a digital asset through this protocol of non fungible tokens and that, you know, you could potentially, it doesn’t exist really today in this way, but that the potential is that like I could have my Dota two items, be non fungible tokens and potentially go sell them outside of the steam marketplace for.

For cryptocurrency or any other game for that matter, or potentially like, you know, does that, does that item have value outside of the game? Like maybe not. So there’s all these like weird, fuzzy questions that come up around that as well. But the idea of being able to take the thing that you bought that you do own, but like right now in Dota, I only own that on their system.

Whereas when I buy a crypto kitty I own that on their website and it reflects that, but also absent of their website. I own that, that token, we don’t have to ask permission from CryptoKitties to do that. It’s just the way that these protocols work. So this decentralized marketplaces and the way that these tokens ownership is verifiable on the blockchain, but that blockchain is decentralized.

It’s not like just in a central game server somewhere is extremely appealing to me. When I think about like all the money I’ve spent on, on video game items. So

Ben: [00:17:57] yeah. Buying all of this clothing and games, and like you said, there’s, there’s like centralized secondary market sometimes, but they’re not very transparent and difficult.

Jim: [00:18:07] Yeah. And you can get scammed, you know?

Ben: [00:18:09] Yeah. But the, the, the real difference is that these in Ghanem items, aren’t transferable across modes, multiple games. And I think this is the big Allura of NFTs is, like you said, I mean, you have ownership of this thing that you’ve purchased. It’s transferrable. It’s, uncensorable all the things that come with blockchain, but, but how would this work bigger picture? I mean, there would have to be a number of these world’s kind of collaborating like a metaverse like what’s, what’s like the 20 year down the road. What does this look like? How do NFTs play into gaming in your mind?

Jim: [00:18:45] Yeah, I mean, you just, you just said the magic word there, which is metaverse

Ben: [00:18:49] there’s that, aren’t that clear on what a metaphor, like, just walk me through what that is.

Jim: [00:18:53] Sure. I’ve got homework and then I’ll also explain. So have you seen ready player one, the movie or read the book or both? It’s

Ben: [00:19:00] where we’re going in terrifying, but yes.

Jim: [00:19:02] Okay. So you’ve seen it, you’ve seen the movie then. Cause I think the movie is a amazing visual example of the metaverse and of non fungible tokens at the same time.

So if you have, if you’re listening and you haven’t seen a ready player, one the thought experiment or the mind exercise, the exercise that you should do in your you’re interested in learning more about this and what the metaphor says. And I’ll explain it just a second, but you would just basically go.

Watch the movie ready player one, which was by Steven Spielberg. It’s an excellent film. It’s fun. And it’s about virtual reality worlds. And you’re basically following along with the character named parse of all who is in this virtual reality world called the Oasis. And in the Oasis, you can be any character you want to be.

You can users are able to create their own user generated content and sell it. And one of the best friends of this main character is a is a builder who builds these items and sells them for a lot of money in the metaverse or in, in the Oasis, which is. I’m trying to lead to the analogy of the matter verse.

Anyways, it’s this virtual world. It’s many virtual worlds that are stitched together. And if you watch them movie, if you imagined every item that they’re wearing, every look that their hair has, every weapon, every vehicle, everything that they’re in, right acting with in this virtual world. If you imagine that that is a non fungible token of some sort, and that these credits that they’re collecting as they’re fighting and battling and winning that those are cryptocurrency.

It’s really easy to imagine, you know, Where non fungible tokens fit into a future where we are spending a large amount of time in virtual reality. So then to take a little smaller step back where the, what the metaverse is, when I talk about the metaverse it’s it’s, to me, it means what’s the next version of the internet for starters, because we have had this internet in place now for, you know, 40 years, 30 years more or less for most of us.

And it’s gotten better and faster, but we’re still looking at like pretty much flat width Leadpages. You know, there’s some browser based gaming and stuff like that. But now that virtual reality is kind of starting to come into its own and we’re starting to see more and more 3d worlds that you can interact with both with a headset on, with a virtual reality headset on, or even just in a browser, in a 3d environment or in a game.

You, you That’s what the next version of the Internet’s going to start to look like more and more as, as we become more native and these digital worlds that we’re building there’s now in blockchain itself, a couple of different virtual worlds that are popping up. One of them is decentral land which has been pretty popular.

That one was okay. The speculating on the NFTs the land NFTs. And that has been just crazy. I think you mentioned that you had Maddie from DCL blogger on here a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. Yeah. We talked about it so that, so he’s probably already laid that one out as deep. You need to, there’s a couple others like crypto voxels there’s sandbox game, which is coming on pretty strong and Somnio space.

These are all different. Virtual reality, mixed reality platforms that people can build and create user-generated content in, and they’re not connected directly, but all of them are integrating our NFTs into them and in different ways and in different paces cause we’re in the very beginnings of this metaverse world where you can.

Carry your non fungible token is in this case, the easiest use case right now is you can display any art that you own. That’s a non fungible token in these buildings that you build. So I can put a picture of my crypto kitties up on the walls in any of these places and they’ll show I can also sell the crypto kitty on any market that supports this and know I’ll be able to sell them without, you know, having to go directly through CryptoKitties to do that.

But what the metaverse is. Kind of more direct platforms and the blockchain and virtual reality. It’s everything working with everything it’s complete interoperability or very close to complete inter-operability. Instead of like today, what we have is we have something like Fortnite where you get in there and you can play around in there, huge immense sandbox and this awesome, incredible experience.

But you’re stuck in fortnight. You can’t take them your character and personality and go into a pub pub G public battlegrounds, which is another like battle Royale. You can’t do that. You’re going to have to sign into a different account and you’re going to have a different look and you’re gonna have different character and everything else.

In the, in the future, in the metaverse, you know, You’ll be able to take your Fortnite character and be your Fortnite character, you know, all of these different experiences. And like, they may, like, it might look slightly different or it might like, you know, have different like impact on the gameplay or something like that.

But like, the idea is, is that, you know, you can take your digital assets and take them across all these different experiences and all these different. Or realities. So sorry for getting a little lost there, but the metaphor, it’s just that the future of technology, it’s what we’re building right now with everything that we’re building, it’s all going to converge non fungible, tokens, blockchain, virtual reality, the internet.

And we’re just all going to be able to hang out online.

Ben: [00:23:49] Yeah, it’s not, it’s going to hopefully still be important to go out to real sunshine everyone’s from flat. Okay. these guys are building the infrastructure, decentral land, crypto voxels,

all of these, but the way I kind of look at this, this is probably kind of like the internet, like Google and Facebook and all of these other centralized parties don’t want this.

Decentralize utopian dream of decentralized internet to happen. And it seems to me that it’s the same with the metaverse. So you’ll get massive pushback from these centralized games like Fortnite or whatever other ones are gaining traction. in your opinion, what

capitalists do you need to see to really. Dumped some gasoline on this fire and, and push forward this more de-centralized expansive metaverse,

Jim: [00:24:41] you know, I think some brave technology companies need to take the leap. I think that there is more opportunity to be unlocked with these open systems and open standards and there is within the walled gardens.

I don’t have any specific evidence to point to for that, but I believe strongly that in the long run, you know, if every, I believe that the trend will be towards and look, I’m not, I’m a realist to look I use windows operating system. I use Mac iOS. I’m not, I know how to use Linux, but it’s a pain, right?

So like, I mean open-source software and things like that. Usually there’s like better commercial versions out there. But I actually think some commercial entities are starting to poke around and realize that this next level of value, like if you look at right now, NBA, top shot is a great example.

MBA top shot is a new project that actually just the day that we’re recording this, they just opened up their doors today. It’s an open beta. Now it’s been in closed beta until today. It is digital basketball cards and. The basketball card, the cardboard basketball card market is on fire right now.

I mean, I’m talking cars are selling for a million dollars. If you want to talk about alternative income, like, you know, sports cards are huge, right? So now you’ve got the NBA who is partnered up with dapper labs who created crypto kitties. Dapper labs was created as a brand new blockchain that’s for collecting digital assets.

We don’t have to go too deeply into that, but it’s pretty cool. They are launching a NBA top shot on on the blockchain. And you have these digital basketball cards. I just sold one today for 4.4 easy Ethereum. So about $1,600. And I got it out of a pack that I opened for like, you know, I think it cost $230.

So I actually, we really think that something like that has the opportunity to reach the mainstream. Like I said, it’s literally just launching, I think there’s like a couple thousand people who have caught wind of this so far. And that, that sort of. We need a few more of those to happen before people really start to understand what’s going on here.

We just had garbage pail kids that launched on the wax blockchain like two or three months ago. And that was pretty big deal because It showed that it doesn’t matter what blockchain these collectibles are on, which was surprising to some of us hardcore Diegans because we’re pretty, like, we’re pretty snobby about Ethereum and being on Ethereum and stuff like that and hear like garbage pail kids launches.

And I bought a bunch and a bunch of my friends did too. It was on this different blockchain. That’s not as popular. And that, that. Garbage pail kid brand is lifted up this wax blockchain. And now there’s actually like a bunch of legit launches going on on wax now. So it’s, it’s really interesting to see these like older brands that are collectibles start to reenter the space here.

We’ve got, I think my little pony and care bears and stuff like that. Like, there’s just some really interesting stuff going on right now.

Ben: [00:27:42] Wow. Well, speaking to the investor audience, they get on board with the metaverse coming eventually. I mean, what’s the best place to find out more about this, learn more about it.

And then ultimately,  how can they participate by investing into it?

Jim: [00:27:59] A good question. And there are communities that are private for non fungible tokens there’s communities that are on discord. That discords like a chat application that like similar to telegram. It’s more gaming community focused.

I think they’re just trying to get more community focused in general now. But there’s some very, there’s a lot of great communities on there. There’s one that we run called token smart, and you could find that one by going to discord.gg forward slash and Ft, so that one’s pretty easy and contextual.

That one is a, we have a weekly, or at least once a week, we have a virtual world meetup. It’s usually encrypted voxel sometimes decentral and sometimes we do it in Mozilla hubs. But we’re trying to provide that early metaverse experience. It’s actually coming up today for us at one o’clock my time eight it’s at noon Pacific every week on Thursdays.

There’s also one for Asia. And I believe there’s somebody who’s getting ready to start one for the UK and Europe as well. So that’s the discord tokens of our community is a good place to start. Just to ask people in general about NFTs you could also The open sea marketplace.

I think it’s open seat.io is a good place to go look and see where this market action is taking place. There’s also another one this last couple of weeks is doing, been doing really well called referable. Rebel has been paying subsidizing its users for buying and selling NFTs on their marketplace.

They have a governance token that they released and called. Rarey R a R a R I and Depending on their they’re giving out 75,000 rarely every week. And they do it proportionate to the amount of volume that buyers and sellers have on their marketplace. So there’s some form of subsidy in place right now for buying and selling tokens on that marketplace a few weeks ago.

Some of my friends actually made out one-to-one where everything they spent on the marketplace, they got back. The following week, it hasn’t been nearly as lucrative since then. But they just basically stacked a bunch of free NFTs for their market volume, you know, return for their market volume.

Pretty, pretty incredible. Yeah.

Ben: [00:30:05] Yeah. Nice. Okay. Definitely. I’ll also, I’ll I’ll link all of those things in the show notes, for sure. looking at all of these different things, that’s happening in the NFT space right now, I mean, what is happening right now that gets you most excited.

Jim: [00:30:24] Well, I’m still really excited about the project that we developed that I haven’t talked too much about.

I’m excited about people learning about that project because what we did is I’m, you know, I established that I’m a collector. And when I got into collecting non fungible tokens and started to take a closer look at them, The CryptoKitties in particular, I realized that what I was collecting at the end of the day was a token on the Ethereum blockchain that had some sort of genetic string of, of numbers and letters in that, outside of that, Whatever I owned was still being stored centrally on CryptoKitties website.

So the picture of the cat, for example and in realizing that, and having spent at that time, thousands of dollars already, I’ve spent much more sense, but. Thousands of dollars at the time and realizing that the thing I had just bought wasn’t actually the picture, even though it is, it really isn’t right, because that’s not what’s on the blockchain.

So in my mind, whatever I bought will be contained on the blockchain. And I was a little disappointed that like, you know, these are, they were talking about Katie’s on the blockchain, but like the kitties, like. The, to me, that’s the art and they weren’t on the chain. And so I just, I spent a long time. I spent a little, a bit over a year and my own money hired a developer, hired some artists and we developed a project called avatars.

And avatars does store the art on the blockchain and in, on. On M and there’s also something called metadata and metadata is basically the information about the token. It tells you what it is. And again, with CryptoKitties, the metadata is just that genetic hash. It doesn’t tell you that that cat is a, it does tell you some things, I’m sorry.

I’m probably being too hard on crypto kitties. They do say some things. They think they tell you like what generation the KT is and in a couple, and it’s breeding cool-down and things like that. But it doesn’t tell you Straight out that this cat what’s cat looks like and everything else you’d have to decompile that information.

So with avatars, we actually stored the art itself on the blockchain. We figured out a pretty cool way to do that. It’s very efficient. And then we also did the same thing with the metadata, so that a user. 20 years from now, 50 years from now, as long as the theory of still alive, we don’t have to be around my company.

Doesn’t have to be around, but they could go and interact with the smart contract that, that exists on, on Ethereum. And it will be there as long as the theory is. And if they own one of these tokens, they can, they don’t even have to own it to do the, to the look, but they can go and put in any ID number of any avatar and it will kick out the SVG.

Code for that art and it will kick out the metadata and tell them that it’s a legendary avatar with, with a space helmet hair. And that that hair is purple. There’ll be able to see that information right on the blockchain and for me as a collector. Cool. Yeah. Yeah. So like it’s all there, right? Like our website is a conduit.

It’s a facet, but when we go away, You can still find all of that stuff directly on the blockchain and there’s no, there’s one other project. There’s a couple smaller projects. I’m sorry. There’s auto glyphs by larva labs that has the, they have like, basically AC character’s ACI characters stored. On on the chain.

And then there’s a couple of small projects that someone that works with me, mate Alex, he did chain faces. And we, we launched in fin F T, which is a token minting platform that stores information on chain. But as far as collectibles avatars is the only collectible that has all of the information stored on chain.

And no one else has even come close to doing what we did with avatars yet. So I’m incredibly excited about people discovering. Those, and there’s a limited breeding mechanic involved there too. People can take a few avatars and kick out a new avatar. When you do that, the parts that you’ve used actually get used up, you can only use them once with kitties.

You can breed them, you know, as, as often as once a week. But with avatars, once you use one of their traits that trait can’t ever be used again. So there’s a limited supply that will ever be able to be made. And The way we priced these the way we, we did this as we go to avatars.io, and there’s a page called discover and you go through and you start scrolling.

And what people don’t realize is they’re actually just generating avatars randomly in their browser. Nope. No one else is looking at the same ones as the ones you see, there are unique to you. And if you see one you like, then you can decide to teleport it or to mint it, and that will then make it into an NFT.

There’s different prices for different avatars based on the rarity of their traits. They go from common to uncommon, to rare, to Epic, to legendary the traits themselves, have that ranking system. And then also the rankings of the Of the average stars overall follow a similar nomenclature. So common ones that have like mostly common traits and things like that, the lower score traits those are only going to cost like 0.07.

The most expensive ones are legendaries and those costs about 15 times more at like one point. One to eat. So what that does then is it creates an interesting game mechanic where the, the population of the rarity of these things is actually determined by the price because people get discouraged from.

For paying more for something, if they can get it for the same thing for less, and with like time and patience, you can actually find some really incredible critic trait combinations and the common traits. So so as a result, there’s a ton of common avatars in existence right now. And there’s not as many, nearly as many legendary ones and it’s actually following a nice curve, like the number of uncommons, rares, and ethics.

So it’s interesting. Game mechanics. They’re trying to find like good value avatars and at the cheaper end, but then you have collectors who just want like the really nice stuff. So they go and look for the really expensive ones and try to find like the best ones in that expensive class.

Ben: [00:36:30] Man. Yeah, that is, that is so cool.

So I, I love the breeding aspect and just for listeners, I mean, imagine you having two very rare baseball cards and then somehow you could breed them in spawn another even super rare baseball card. This is kind of what these, these things can do. I think it’s just fascinating.

This the scrolling aspect. So you have a disco discover tab. So when I’m scrolling through, I’m seeing a different mix of avatars than other people that are scrolling.

And the fact that you’re just generating an algo based pricing based on scarcity or whatever that’s generating these potential nFTS to mint is is really cool. I haven’t seen anybody else doing something like that. Does that, does that mean?

Jim: [00:37:17] So the scrolling itself was a game called clovers, right. That came out and it might still be around, but it was basically score scrolling through all fellow boards and I’m not really into all fellow.

So it was kind of a cool concept though, to scroll through, like, and see that. So we were developing it at the time and we were doing the scrolling to just. Do our own internal testing. And I realized like, we need, need to have this scrolling mechanic for people to do on, on the site. And so we made, we made the change like that day in development.

When I had that epiphany that we were just going to have people scroll and that was the random element. And then I had to, like at first people were just going to pay a fixed price and then it was going to spit out a random one. Right. And it was like, they pay a smart contract, could spit it out. This scrolling like introduced a whole new mechanic and we had to come up with a new economy based on how do we present people with rare things regularly?

Cause you can, you’ll probably come across a legendary, like one and like every 130 or 150 use avatar as you scroll through, we’ll be a legendary rank. So you’ll regularly come across rare things. How do you do that? But also like, you know, Don’t destroy the scarcity models built into like this ranking system.

And it ended up being, you know, we, we went through some trial and error and thoughts on like what the different caps and things like that would be. But at the end of the day, I figured out that, you know, if we just price this on a scale that like the price will be a deterrent for people and that it’s, it’s like aesthetics versus price.

Question that you’re going through in your mind as you’re scrolling through that. And if you find one that, for example, that looks really cool. The second thing you look at then is what rarity is it? And if it’s not common, then you have to like, go through this decision matrix is like, is it worth it for me to pay.

Two times or four times or eight times or 15 times more for this one than it would be for me to try to scroll. Like, what do I like about this? Should I go and try to find that in a cheaper one? And anyways, it’s really interesting how that part’s playing out. And more, more excited as like the time goes on and it’s working out as I, as I theorized because if somebody just went out and bought like 300 Legendary ranks all of a sudden out of nowhere, like that would just kill like the scarcity of the legendaries, but they’re not incentivized to do that.

Right. Because it would kill it. It’s like such a cool little, like. Feedback loop or something that I’ve created here, I think.

Ben: [00:39:40] Yeah. Yeah, no, I, I love it. I I’d be curious with high gas prices though. I mean, this has got to hurt the NFT market for these lower priced in FTS. Right. Is there anything you’re doing to work without, man?

Jim: [00:39:55] I wish I could say so. We feel the pain actually more than most, because believe it or not. People don’t realize this is that we are actually paying the gas to mint these. So what happens? Yeah. So let’s say you bought five, right? You would have to other five common ones. That would be 0.3, five East. So you would have to deposit 0.3, five East and you have to pay the gas in order to get that East to us.

But after that we go in, in our midst jurors actually go and call and meet these avatars. So we have to pay the gas at that time with gas at and we pay for fast gas too. We don’t just do standard gas because we want a pretty decent user experience possible. So we ended up paying if gas is at about a hundred, then we ended up paying.

There were around half of we pay about 0.03, five to 0.05. In gas. So most of the transaction at that point is going towards gas. We’re not making a ton of money on those commons when gas is like at a hundred or higher, if it’s at like 200, then we’re losing money basically when they’re mincing commons.

So we have kind of kept quiet on the promotion of it. When a while things have been. Gas has been so high, you know, things were going really well for us when we launched back in April and may and then gas just spiked in like the June timeframe. And we kind of zipped up the shilling and just kept quiet and just decided to go with the flow with whatever other people were.

We’re doing it at the time. And now was gas started to dip back down below a hundred. I started to draw more attention and awareness to them. But Yeah. So from a user perspective, there’s no penalty for gas being high. I mean, you have to pay the or gas to pay us. And, you know, I’d ask people, you know, don’t lose us money.

You know, if you know, like if gas is above a hundred, please wait until it comes down. And you can save your avatars in a wishlist for a later time to mint when gas is cheaper. Nice. But there is some value gained in the gas that we have to there’s like, we’re, we’re burning gas, create these things.

Right. And there’s, you know, there’s more to it than just, you know, we’re not just taking that fee and keeping all of it, right? Like there’s a lot of expenses and things that we’re covering when people do that. And we are in any project. I think that we will end up being, I think, look, I, I think we’re going to do pretty well.

If you look at the market, if you look at what’s out there. Avatars is going to be a shining light five years, looking back, you know, crypto kitties is great. Actually, Infinity’s doing amazing right now. You’ve got crypto punks, which is about as OJ as you can get. And there’s a bunch of other great projects.

There’s crypto art, and that we haven’t even really talked about, but for collectibles, like avatars are gonna be OJ as fun. And if I can just use that language, like they’re going to be pretty legit in the long run. And they’re still like out there to be found there’s there. There is a second market for him in a slightly healthier second market than I anticipated.

Considering you can go to go to our website and still, still in make them. But you know, it’s a ground floor opportunity for people still because you can have a stars for 0.07 East and You know, you don’t have to, you’re paying us directly instead of going and buying them for more off the second market.

Ben: [00:42:55] What kind of stats? Can you give me about off star? Like how many app stars have been minted or users, unique addresses, whatever you’re tracking.

Jim: [00:43:03] Sure, absolutely. So as a couple hours ago we had. 8,650 avatars had been minted and that’s out of a 25,200 total. There’s going to be 5,000 per series.

We’re in series two right now. And there’s. Five series. So and we have 494, we had 495 holders right now. Our goal for series two by the end of series two was to have 500 holders. So we’re going to blow past that in the next day or two was still about 1500 left a minute and series two. And we’ve done about, let me look real quick, cause it’s actually like a cool, good number and I want to get it right.

We are in the art category on open sea. So you can go look at this as well. We are We’ve done about 165 Ethan volume on their second market in the last, in the last seven days. The interest, the numbers to me are our total volume on the project to date 1,878 eith our average price is a 1.09 eighth, which is a lot higher than it costs to purchase one for 0.07.

And I don’t want anybody to think that they can just go buy one for 0.07 and the sell it for an Heath. This is the average price. We have some extremely high value assets as well, and avatars that are extremely sought after already. We have some founders that are the ID number is zero through 99. And then we have exclusives that were the ID numbers 100 through one 99.

And those have been selling in the range of anywhere from five to 20 minutes a piece over the last couple of weeks. So that helps the price average go up quite a bit. Oh, yeah, but if you look at like something like crypto punks which has been on fire recently, I’ve made a ton of money on crypto punks over the last couple of weeks.

And it just went degender into more entities as a result, but they’ve got about twice as many users they’ve been around for about three years now. They’ve got twice as many users. The average price of the crypto punk is 1.27. So it’s about point one eight. Yes, higher than avatars avatars is tracking straight extremely well.

Again, crypto punks three years in has about 7,117 Ethan volume. Whereas we had about six, 1700. So, you know, we’re one fourth you know, a little bit. More than one fourth of their volume yet. And we’re five or six months in where they’re three years. And I’m incredibly bullish on my own product. I have to also like disclose that I have also purchased so far about 750 of those eight.

Thousand 652 avatars and myself I’ve spending my own money. Oh my God. I love these dogs. Yeah, no, you know, I come from a Google background. So in your own dog, food is very Google thing to do. It’s something that is ingrained into me is that you need to use your own product in order to understand it. And I made something I wanted straight up and I can’t resist going and scrolling through and buying Navistar’s.

So all the money that I’ve been making off of all these crypto punks and auto glyphs and everything else, I’ve just been going and scrolling. More avatars is gas has been cheap.

Ben: [00:46:07] I love it. Well, let’s talk, talking about roadmap for avatar. So you’ve been, you’ve been on the scene for like five months.

What, what excites you most? What’s coming up?

Jim: [00:46:16] So you know, we talk about you talk about defy a little bit here on here as well, I think. And You know, we’re we actually have our own utility token that we’re getting ready to launch Travis stars. It will come retroactively. It’ll be backdrops to people who already own avatars, and then it will come with any avatars that are minted going forward until we cap.

So there’ll be a total of 25,200 art tokens, avatar, replicant token, and this token will be needed and it will be the only thing needed other than avatars and paying the gas. To create a replicant. So originally we were going to maybe charge people like a 0.1 fee to create replicants, which is the breed.

The, these are the avatars that you can actually breed. But instead we decided we’re going to exit to the community, the avatars in the replicants experience into our, our most loyal. Holder’s hands. So the, they will determine the value of these tokens and how much a replicant token is worth. I mean, to us, it’s worth exactly one replicant and we don’t the other important aspect here is that.

When they create the replicant, we also burn the token. So we get nothing out of it. Like we literally get nothing out of replicants. We’re just going to provide the mechanism, the smart contracts to be able to create it. But the, the users are the ones who get to decide, you know, w what the value is there for themselves.

So that’s something I’m really excited about. That’s gonna be. Probably in November that we launched that I think we’re trying to wrap up some stuff for this month, but we have some other development things that are in the way of maybe pushing that out this month. And so we’ll have to see where we end up, but I’m extremely excited about that.

And then just to kind of bring it back to the original conversation about the metaverse, you know, in the long run. Alice. This is just the beginning for avatars. We needed to create the brand somewhere and begin at somewhere. So we begun it. We started it with an excellent durable on chain and Ft, collectible, but make no mistake in the name is, should be very telling.

We made, we’re making avatars, we’re making avatars of the metaverse and we intend for not these, not this. Not this set of out of stars. These avatars are 2d portraits. But the next version of avatars that we create avatars that we create are going to be 3d avatars for the metaverse. And you’ll be able to hopefully take these avatars across multiple different virtual worlds.

They’re going to be a standardized file type as a dot VRM is a very standard. Avatar file type. And we have some amazing artists lined up for the development of these avatars and traits and clothing and everything else. And we have some great developers lined up to help us with the 3d part of it all.

We’re still a ways off for me to beginning the development of that. We want to get through this first version of avatars and that’s basically gonna fund the next version. Oh, the avatars after that we bootstrapped ourselves. It’s worked out pretty well as long as things continue down this track.

We’ll, we’ll make a good little chunk of money that we are investing right back into hiring developers and people into the company. So yeah, the next version of avatars is going to be 3d avatars for the metaverse basically. And that’s our, that’s the journey we’re on is this avatar slash identity host

Ben: [00:49:42] Aweome Jim, we can talk about these for hours. I mean, just utterly fascinating all of this stuff, but I think that’s probably a good spot to leave it about all the exciting things you’re working with avatars and how that links back up into the. The metaverse and digital collectibles, all the things.

just last thought, where I’m working, my listeners find out more about you about avatars, about what you’re working on,

Jim: [00:50:05] where do you want to sure. Send it to my Twitter. Let’s get some more followers. Jimmy Eve it’s J one, M M Y E T H. And that’s probably the best place to find me online, the easiest place.

The other thing is, is if you’re if you do join that discord the one I linked earlier was discord dot GPG, forest lunch, NFT. You’ll find me there. You can also find us on the avatars server, a discord server, which is discord.gg forward slash avatars. Avatars is just avatars with an S in there. Those are the, I guess those are the easiest places to find me.

And I’m pretty, I’m, I’m pretty open book. So if you have some questions and reach out, I’d be happy to answer for any of your listeners.

Ben: [00:50:47] Awesome. Well, I’ll link all of those Jim really appreciate you taking the time.

Jim: [00:50:50] And I had a great time being on here. Thanks for providing me a platform to show my wares.

Ben: [00:50:55] Yeah, absolutely. Nft degen like you, you know,

Jim: [00:50:59] I know it’s also really exciting. I want people to learn about what NFTs are, because I’m sure there’s other games and collectors out there that just want an easier way. And this is an easier way to potentially make money off of collecting things.

Ben: [00:51:11] Absolutely. Well, thanks, Jim. Really appreciate it.

Jim: [00:51:14] Thank you

Ben: [00:51:15] There you have it. Thank you for listening. Really appreciate your support.

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Happy investing.


Ben Lakoff is an entrepreneur and finance professional. He has developed strong global finance experience through 10 years of international assignments in the US, Brazil, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Czech Republic and through the award of his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification.