In early November, I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
The event is one of the biggest technology conferences in Europe and featured a number of high profile names and fascinating projects and lectures.
One particularly brilliant conversation I had was with one of the most interesting figures in the blockchain space: Roham Gharegozlou.
The full conversation recording is available below. We discuss his work with Dapper Labs, the popularity of decentralised applications (dApps) and blockchain games like CryptoKitties, and what the future holds for his company.
As our talk was recorded during Web Summit, some unexpected stuff happened. Like rain, for instance. Still, the conversation was too interesting to call it a day, so we just powered through. Enjoy!
The development of CryptoKitties
Roham is the founder of Dapper Labs, the company responsible for the development of CryptoKitties, a hugely popular blockchain game that became a major hit in late 2017.
More recently, the blockchain development agency has also released a fully licensed collectible product called NBA TopShot as well as a new blockchain protocol called Flow.
My initial question was about adoption. How can games and dApps like these bring new people into the space?
“Our goal is to enable adoption and scalability,” Roham said.
“It’s important to build an awesome experience from the get-go and teach users why decentralisation matters.”
In his view, censorship resistance and the ability to actually own a digital asset still remains one of the top use cases for cryptocurrencies and blockchain in general.
When I pushed Roham a bit further, he claimed that Flow – the new blockchain protocol Dapper Labs is building – is actually trying to fix some of the adoption problems the space is currently facing:
“We’re doing our best to reduce friction by masking from the user. For example, in Flow, fees will be insignificant and latency reduced compared to current networks.”
Roham later added: “The magic of crypto is that you own something and that it’s yours no matter what. Sell it, take it wherever you want, destroy it. You can do whatever you want.”
Going further down the rabbit hole
Witness history. Own the plays.@NBA_TopShot lets basketball fans collect, trade, and play with the greatest players, moments, and cultural icons of the sport
— Roham 🧀 (@rohamg) July 31, 2019
In our discussion, the topic of ownership interested me the most, as it is clearly the best use case for blockchain from Roham’s perspective.
CryptoKitties is not only a collectible platform, but an educational platform. Users experience how digital collectibles can have value depending on certain network effects and asset uniqueness (or non-fungibility).
Now, with NBA TopShot, we could see the same network effects as CryptoKitties – an incredibly successful experiment that clogged up the entire Ethereum Network.
Collectible digital assets could potentially have a huge impact on gaming, betting, and eSports.
When I pressed Roham on the incentive for businesses to join the space and the impact it could have on their revenue, the conversation took an interesting and unexpected turn.
I personally believe the drawback for companies is a potential loss of revenue by creating a secondary market outside of the platform, but Roham’s ideas did change my mind.
He said: “Not exactly. Companies want to sell something and interact with their customers on the digital space. But right now, they have to do it using someone else’s digital space.
“For example, the NBA, if they want to interact with their fan base on Facebook, they must use Facebook. If it’s on Instagram, they have to use Instagram. With blockchain and non-fungible tokens, the brand can sell directly to the customer and they decide what to do with the asset. Use it in other apps or keep it, it doesn’t matter. The brand has a direct link to the customer.”
The future of collectibles technology
Towards the end of the conversation, I asked Roham how collectibles could be used more by companies in general.
Could they incentivise employees with token-awards? What would be the impact of selling tokens to employees in regards to behaviour within companies?
My point was rather simple: can collectibles change organisations from a contractual standpoint?
Roham, as expected, did not disappoint.
“That’s rather an interesting concept. I will generalise from collectibles to digital assets, like Bitcoin. Anybody can buy and hold these assets. CryptoKitties applies the same concept to collectibles. But you can apply the logic to any digital asset – it’s a bundle of data users own. A tradeable token in a blockchain.”
When I touched on the idea of people then selling those awards, Roham said:
“People pay money for individual work. But recently, philanthropists have been purchasing awards from winners to finance their work. For example, let’s say a football player wins an award and his biggest fan wants to buy the trophy, to sponsor his career.”
In essence, we both agreed that collectibles could make personal funding much easier, since you would be selling pockets of your time.
Could non-fungible technology or alternative blockchain use cases foster real adoption? I believe so.
To conclude, if price appreciation is a key feature for network adoption, collectibles are, essentially, the entry point in terms of any store of value. Assets can only be valuable because they are either limited, secure, and/or unique.
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