In the past two years, the world has witnessed an eruption of projects that integrate blockchain technology in myriad ways across virtually every industry. Many of these projects were seeded through initial coin offerings (ICOs). To hold an ICO, it was important that projects created a token to integrate into their development.
Now that the dust of the Crypto bull-run has settled, it has become quite obvious that most developments, even those that succeeded in delivering the promised product, failed to generate a meaningful token economy. In fact, the only projects that were able to properly integrate tokens into their product are either blockchains or cryptocurrency exchanges. Applications such as marketplaces, games, or software, to name a few, have not been able to create a proper use for their tokens.
Today, I’m going to interview Daniel Crothers, who is the co-founder of ECOMI, a project that may be the first non-exchange application of blockchain technology that is going to integrate a token utility that aligns with the actual product.
ECOMI’s Collect application could be the first product which has a token demand directly proportional to product sales. Such a factor has only been witnessed in exchanges; however, ECOMI is not a cryptocurrency exchange. Instead, it’s an ecosystem for premium digital collectibles which will be issued as NFTs to either be held by fans, bought or sold by investors, or played (in AR games) by anyone with a smartphone.
Hopefully, this interview will give plentiful insight to future blockchain entrepreneurs on how they too can create a product which aligns token demand with product sales. Let’s get started.
Question: Hi Dan. Could you, in very simple terms, give the readers some insight into what ECOMI really is and what do you envision, as a co-founder, as ECOMI’s future?
In a nutshell, ECOMI Collect is an app that allows users to buy, sell and trade premium licensed digital collectibles, directly from the palm of their hand.
Through the Collect app, users can browse a multitude of digital collectible characters and items of their favorite brands. They can view and then purchase a digital collectible, becoming the ‘official’ provable owner thanks to the blockchain. The Collect app offers many other features for the avid collector such as collectible customisation, viewing and interacting with collectibles in augmented reality, and gamification to name a few.
We are on the crest of an emerging digital collectible industry, and it is ECOMI’s vision to be the Netflix or Amazon of digital collectibles.
Question: A key asset to your project is Alfred Kahn, the man behind the Pokémon Brand. How were you able to get Kahn on the team and what advice can you give to other blockchain entrepreneurs who are struggling to onboard key figures of the industry they’re targeting?
David’s [ECOMI CEO] entrepreneurial story goes back 20+ years, and during this time he has forged many long-lasting relationships that have become key connections for ECOMI.
Back in 1998–99, when Alfred first launched Pokémon to the world, David was his very first customer, taking a punt on these new trading cards, for his first games and collectibles store, in NZ (which has now grown into a chain of stores and global distribution). In the years that followed, and as Pokémon became a worldwide phenomenon, Alfred and David became good friends and have remained in contact ever since. Early in 2017, David was attending a licensing expo in Hong Kong and by chance bumped into Alfred, who was also attending. After some reminiscing, David explained to Alfred what he was working on at ECOMI. Alfred, being a veteran of the collectible industry, immediately understood the potential of what ECOMI was doing and he promptly requested to join the team. Alfred now holds a position as Head of Licensing and has since put Ecomi in front of some of the largest IP companies in the world.
I’d say it’s important for entrepreneurs to look back into the depths of their past career and search for meaningful partnerships they had in the past. Maybe even meaningful interactions. Among these, they may surprisingly find the most valuable members of their venture. Also, attending physical exhibitions and expos can be extremely helpful as plenty of industry veterans are present at such events. These can be grounds for incredible partnership stories. Both of these factors played a role in Alfred’s entry into ECOMI.
Question: Blockchain-enabled anything is quite competitive. There’re a number of NFT applications out there and some of them have captivated a good portion of the Crypto space. What makes ECOMI different from the current market participants and what would be your advice to entrepreneurs who’re also targeting a competitive space?
There are a few key elements that I believe will make ECOMI Collect a serious competitor in this space:
- The first is providing great content that people want e.g. premium licensed content that people already know and love.
- Second is creating an experience that people want to return to over and over. David is a lifelong collector and he fundamentally understands what makes collectors ‘tick’ and what entices them to buy and collect, and this has been intricately woven into the Collect app and content.
- The Collect app is a well-rounded experience with a number of great features. It is essentially Instagram, Amazon, E-Bay, Magic Leap (AR), and Blockchain all rolled into one app with a focus on creating an all-in-one digital collectible experience.
- Collect is designed for the masses. All the hard stuff/technology is managed in the background so no technical skills are needed, other than downloading and installing an app
- Lastly, Ecomi Collect is all about offering high-quality products. You won’t be buying ‘stickers’ or simple 2D images. Instead, Collect offers high-quality 3D models which can be integrated into AR games; this is essentially the digital counterpart of what a collector might buy in a physical store, such a 1/6th scale Superman statue.
As for advice to entrepreneurs looking to move into the same field as Ecomi, I have to say ‘Sorry, Collect will soon be dominating this industry worldwide!’. Haha. But in all seriousness, to sell something and get great adoption, it is often not about the technology but more so about creating something that people actually want and enjoy. The experience economy is growing and new ventures must think of ways to capitalize on it. If the product is technical by nature, like Collect, then a low barrier to entry / easy onboarding is critical.
Question: Developments like Crypto Kitties have already proven the potential of blockchain collectibles. However, things like wallets, transactions, and digital asset storage elude the masses. What’s your game plan for getting for people to use your product?
Digital collectibles, like Crypto Kitties have a ‘Fun-factor’ and as such it is easier to onboard users. On a high level, one of the methods ECOMI will employ to gain users is to offer great content that people can buy, trade, sell, collect, and interact with.
By using this top-down content approach, the technology is not the focus. Instead, we are offering users the content they already know, like and purchase, and we utilize (blockchain) technology to offer quality, premium, licensed digital collectibles. I believe this is very different from the more technical approach and know-how that is required for other products in crypto such as wallets, transactions, and digital asset storage. Ultimately, whilst Collect is backed by blockchain and a token, we are marketing an easy-to-use fun app that allows people to collect from the palm of their hand (literally).
Entrepreneurs in this space must work with the great underlying technology while maintaining the great convenience mainstream applications already offer to users. The technology must facilitate the product, not be the product.
Question: Can you give us some insight on the functionalities of the OMI token and how it differs from other utility tokens out there?
Integrating tokens into games is a low-hanging fruit that just hasn’t been caught yet.
First, comparing with existing non-tokenized games, there are many existing in-app currencies but none come with the benefits of a token. Existing non-crypto ecosystems are restricted, so even if you buy a “sword” for 100 units and sell it for a 1000 units, that currency remains in the app or the game.
However, with a Crypto ecosystem, this allows users to realise profits by tokens and cashing in on secondary exchange markets.
With games that do have tokens, the problem is the limitations most people have with accessing and handling tokens. Blockchain niche is still very small. We want to make sure the token is integrated without people having to worry about token balances and wallets. Thus, when in-app purchases are made with fiat, the Go20 token is purchased on the back end which is then exchanged for the Go721 NFT, creating true utility while the original OMI tokens are sent to a “ZERO” wallet address and will not be used again.
Entrepreneurs in this space need to realize that the cryptocurrency ecosystem has not reached the mass market yet and most people lack an understanding of wallets and tokens. At least for the time being, token purchasing and usage as “fuel” must be on the back end.
Question: On a closing note, what do you believe is the best aspect of the ECOMI ecosystem?
Collectibles have been a part of human history ever since the first shiny pebble was desired by our ancestors, as we humans have an innate desire to own items which are rare and coveted by others. Over time, collectibles have grown to a $200bn industry and moved into many, many, different mediums, and the next natural medium is digital. With the advent of blockchain, this can now happen. For me personally, the best aspect of the ECOMI ecosystem is being part of creating and shaping this emerging digital collectible industry and I am very excited to see where it leads.
Dan, thank you for taking the time to give such insightful answers. Your project has had a great journey over the past two years and I’m sure it’s about to have an amazing launch. I hope that your strategy of integrating tokens in the back-end of an application offers a meaningful solution to other blockchain entrepreneurs. Maybe I can get in touch with you again to get some post-launch insight for entrepreneurs who are about to launch their own dApp.
While much of the Crypto space is spotlighted on young hustle, it’s clear that the experience and network acquired with years of work can play a crucial role in building a product.
Like ECOMI, new blockchain developments can greatly benefit by having an experienced industry veteran. After that, as Dan said, it’s important to make sure that blockchain technology isn’t your product, but simply the resource that enables a key value additive of your user-friendly product.