It seems like token sales are such an obsession these days. Everyone is so concentrated on the pre-stages of the token sale itself, what happens after the token sale event? This is what we want to cover on our show. What are the upcoming challenges that these companies and projects face? And what insights about the token sale itself can we learn from?
Today I have the privilege of talking with Andy Tian from GIFTO, the universal decentralized gifting protocol. I hope you all enjoy the show.
Hi, Andy Tian from GIFTO we're super excited to have you on our show. In case anyone missed what GIFTO actually is, could you give us just a brief explanation about it?
Gifto is the world's first virtual gifting Protocol. We're actually taking the virtual gifts that are popular within our own flagship protocol, UpLive that provided UpLive media with a revenue of over a million USD last year. We think that when the virtual gifts are on the blockchain, all the content creators in the world will benefit from it, and it won’t just be limited to our own closed platform. So you can see that we're decentralizing the virtual gifting model previously enclosed within live-streaming.
So, you decentralized the gifting part from the application part. That means YouTube and other social media broadcasters can actually enjoy the gifting transfer from their followers and other broadcasters.
Absolutely, so because we have a web-based gifting interface any fan on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook can just paste the link with a customized virtual gift for their favorite broadcaster, so of course, blockchain enables all of that.
That's super cool and you really can't talk about GIFTO without even mentioning the one million USD worth “Forever Rose” Crypto Art. It caused a lot of media attention; could you just share with us what that is all about?
It's a good story actually. Kevin Abosch is a world-renowned artist, and famous for selling his photograph of a potato for over a million dollars. He’s also done portraits of many of the most famous people in entertainment. We are friends. As a mobile entertainment company, we always do special things on Valentine's Day. So, for this Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be cool to create the world's first crypto artwork. Kevin took a beautiful picture of a rose and then we put the rose on the blockchain as one single token. You can go on Etherscan and look at it. It’s called ROSE and supply is one.
That one token was sold to ten individual collectors. Each one had only 0.1 of the piece. It's probably the world's only token with a supply of one and a decimal point of one. And so far, that's artwork by itself, Right? The art is actually the token itself, and we use it to really showcase the power of blockchain to common people. Because we in the crypto world know that the blockchain is very powerful.
But people are also like “huh? What is blockchain? ” Well, blockchain holds value. It can enable smart contracts, and anything on top but the fundamental aspect of blockchain is that it holds value. It enables close to five hundred billion dollars’ worth of value, maybe a little less. So we wanted to take a single token and hold one million USD worth of value, and that's multiplied on the outside world amazingly. And that's when people will realize, “Oh, blockchain is real,” because to be honest there is a lot of negative stress about blockchain, “it may be a scam…” and we are saying it can hold enormous value, and by donating the proceeds to nonprofits, naturally youth wealth has been generated in crypto, so it's also a cost action to our crypto world.
Not to discuss our pricing or about making money too much but instead using all this power of digital crypto wealth to give back to society. I think as any responsible company in the industry, we should do a little more of that. This story caught the attention of CNN, and I think we're actually the first crypto project to be reported on CNN. Also yesterday, it was reported on Baux Art, which is the leading serious art publication in France. You know the French take their art very seriously? This is considered the start of a new art Movement.
I think that's an amazing achievement because you guys at GIFTO are really paving the way exactly as you said about kind of getting into the psyche or the conscious of people not only by saying you know crypto is bad or it's volatile but rather saying crypto is all about holding value. Holding value in a decentralized, secure and mutable way and right now with GIFTO you were able to take another precious kind of industry, the art industry and connect between the two.
There is value in art, there is value in the crypto itself and you know it's all about the GIFTO values of gifting and to make that as a donation and ten people are holding this artwork. Today ten people can’t hold a Picasso artwork, unless it’s in the museum. I think that it's all about breaking the conscience of people and I really value what you are doing and really paving the way for the other companies to be ambassadors of crypto and not just for their own benefit. For the benefit of the whole community, so that is amazing and beautiful.
You've recently launched your alpha version, so can you share with us just the initial feedback from your users?
Because obviously you already have users, you have over million users, and I'm guessing that the alpha was exposed to only a group of these users. How is this being adopted now that the gifts are actually on the Blockchain, and they're backed by crypto?
As of February, we had over 35 million users. Actually, we had 20 million users back in October when we first started writing our white paper. But things change, UpLive is still a very young platform it was only launched in June 2016. 2018 is our growth year, so I think that by the end of the year we will be looking at about 100 million users in UpLive. We hope to use that user base to really make blockchain applications real.
One of our thesis with the Forever Rose at GIFTO is that blockchain should always benefit the common users who have no idea what blockchain or crypto are. I think we are still in the industry where most projects are still “talking about” the “future benefit” but we like to deliver. And the only way to deliver is by iteration, by releasing things very simply. The alpha version was made available to our community of GIFTO and our Telegram followers, as well as to our broadcasters who are using virtual gifts.
You have probably seen our YouTube demo. You just click on the link and you'll be able to pick out the gifts that you want, depending on your likes and your tastes, and you can customize the ones you want to merchandize about price. Then ‘boom’ a link is created just for you. You can post it anywhere you want and get your users to buy those virtual gifts for you. The plot is really simple, but there's a lot of underlying technology to actually make it work well in the consumer space. The feedback from the alpha was that everybody said “Oh I can see how this works” and they don't need to understand about blockchain. They say, “oh okay this is a new way for me to actually make a connection to my fans and also to monetize it.” So we have actually fulfilled that. Now we're on track to make our beta release by the end of March. One of the big things that I'm happy to share with you is that we'll also, as part of the GIFTO infrastructure, start testing out our wallet in about mid-March. Within UpLive we will have a crypto wallet. I think it will take around two months of testing. It will probably be ready for public testing in the middle March. This crypto wallet will be dropped, starting in May/March, to our UpLive user base. Conservatively, I think by the end of April we will have added five million users using our crypto wallet within UpLive, and at least ten million users, or more, by May.
So we need to control that release, and I think this will be one of the largest new wallets. It then enables our UpLive users to immediately be able to purchase our Gifto tokens within the wallet making the whole process much easier. Then you can spend those GIFTO tokens in UpLive and also on our web-based extension. This is part of a coordinated way of actually releasing Gifto to common users. I think that's really why I'm the most excited about our extension. Unfortunately, most tokens haven’t really been used, although they have been traded. We want to change that in late March and throughout April and May.
So again you guys are paving the way with mass adoption of your users using a wallet which is actually holding crypto in the form of the GIFTO token. However, what you're doing is you're masking the technology for all these consumers and customers. They don't care anything about blockchain and crypto but the fact is you’re going to have millions of holders of GIFTO tokens inside your wallets trading crypto and receiving value and with a very streamlined experience so they don't have any glitches from going from the UpLive app into just opening it up to all of the other social channels.
I think lots of other companies who are looking towards a token sale can learn from because it seems that, since your token sale ended in December, you guys have been totally on tempo with your release and scaling up towards the massive release that you're saying is mid-March or end of April.
What would you advise other founders or entrepreneurs that are just about to embark on a token sale or end their token sale? What are the key things that they need to look into when they are post ICO because it seems that everyone is so geared up towards the campaign itself that post ICO they're not going to sit under a coconut tree and drink Bacardi Breezer? Can you share with us the post token sale experience and what you are primarily focused on?
I think that the best way to talk about post token sale is the preparation for pre-token sale. The token sale is just one small milestone in a real blockchain project. And many of the impacts are already determined and defined. In fact, we are the fastest public event ever in Asia - in under a minute. I believe so far that was still the case for worldwide. I think worldwide we are the fastest for the last six months and I think that, given the climate, it’ll be hard to change. It was a unique time. I think that the key is that the one minute of token sale represents ten years of preparation experience. We spent a long time thinking through why blockchain is compelling for what we do, and I can explain the value of it to anyone who doesn't understand blockchain. On one of our YouTube videos you can see one where I'm talking to several beautiful girls. They are actually our broadcasters in Taiwan. I’m describing my product to them, and I didn't have time to prepare them. They were actually listening to my pitch for the first time. Yes you know I’m the boss so they have to say nice things about me, but you can see that their reaction is genuine when they heard that. I said, “You know you can reach all these people on UpLive, wouldn't it be great if you could receive the gifts outside UpLive, when you're not live streaming on any other platform, on your Facebook profile with a hundred thousand users fan base but it's nothing like that. Would you want that? And they said, “That’s a good idea.” That is really something that would reach anyone. It’s a better idea than if you try to describe something that doesn’t solve an existing pain point in the market and you're just trying to decentralize something because you think you can. For example, things like insurance, if you like AirBNB and travel. Yes, but exactly what would you be resolving? A lot of people like AirBNB and I'm a big AirBNB user, and I’m pretty okay with the current concept. What is it in the current AirBNB that you are trying to really solve? Pinpoint that, and that's what is going to carry throughout the whole token sale. You are going to have to implement that and deliver. Hopefully, the reason why our token sale went like this was because we started implementing and delivering before. I had a real working demo, not just a mockup, where I could send gifts. When I was doing my private sales to institutions, any user base, any users and any interviews I showed it to everybody. Hopeful I was right, and everybody got it right away. Post token-sale, I simply continued I didn't change anything because I'm post token sale. I'm simply continuing with my implementation which started way, way before the token sale. So it’s best if you start that before the token sale.
I think number two is don't under use YouTube videos like we're doing right now. I think video is a very, very powerful medium to communicate your project, your company, and you as a founder. I think we have done that. We have made 43 videos on our YouTube channel. And thanks to Yonatan we had a great interview as well, and that's where we need to follow up. These interviews are super valuable for us, in addition to our own videos, because anyone can send a really boring press release with text. For example, our top video, on our YouTube channel, was an interview by PPT Media, which has received 121,000 views. It's our project views for a video for a project. I think we are pretty big, and if you search on YouTube right now, there are over 7,000 hits For GIFTO and that grows. To search for GIFTO on YouTube for all new videos created in the last 24 hours, you'll find a couple. Every single day people around the world are recording videos about GIFTO because of the focus we had on video content before.
It's a very positive cycle that continues and especially continues after the token sale. All the effort that we made in terms of communicating about the project before the token sale, we're still doing it after the token sale, if not more. Because then we're complete. And I think that's really very important.
I think another thing that we should keep thinking about is how do you address the issue of globalization, Global communities, right?
How do we manage communities effectively? I think that right now many projects are relying too much on air drops to build the top and they are all saying, “hey you know, I've got 50,000 people in my Telegram group.” To me, an airdrop really didn't matter. Two days before our token sale ICODrops.com rated us on Twitter and said that our channel was the fastest growing program in the world for ICOs. That was organically, not through air-drops and that's really important. And we only did our first small airdrop last week, that’s two months after we got listed on exchanges. That's really late, and we only did it for a couple hours, and about twenty thousand new users came in within those few hours. Probably again the fastest growth through airdrop and we probably used the least amount of tokens and we can easily stop and we are now integrating and talking to them.
In the chart channels are Newbeep and everything, we had the good fortune of recruiting more than 30 volunteers around the world to activate. They are spending something like 10 to 20 hours a week helping us with our channel and then discussing everything with us. I think that is extremely important. Do not air drop at the beginning of the project. Only airdrop after you have gained a reputation otherwise, you are just letting striving people into your Telegram who don't care about your project. It's a negative impact. The wrong numbers don't really mean anything. I think there's a lot more, but it would take me a few days to speak about it, so maybe I will stop.
I think that what you’re talking about is all about direct? From your broadcasters you're giving a direct tool to their followers, and GIFTO is doing the same with their community?
You're very direct with your community because you're speaking to them and you're releasing YouTube videos of you as a person. You are a person behind this project, there's none of these fluffy animations and voiceovers, and this is you. You're explaining about the product, you’re its ambassador. Obviously, the community values that a lot because they want to see you as a person. They want to see an actual person who's dedicated and enthusiastic about something and to follow that. So this direct kind of channel that you guys have is all intertwined with the value chain of GIFTO, and I think lots of other projects can learn a lot from it because it stems from the actual community building?
GIFTO will succeed if you actually have a community. And you do have a community of broadcasters and followers, and it really shows with the results and also with the actual substance that you're talking about. So again, as you're saying, your community is a strong core community. Then maybe as an acquisition tactic for a few hours, you're doing this airdrop in order to let other people know about the GIFTO project, but it still lies in the strong community that you guys already have?
Yes and then we only do that, again, we don't have limited airdrop. Actually, first, you need to build a high reputation. It's just like when you go on TV, when you say the word Pepsi you know what it is, don’t you?
You say “okay I get it, I have seen Pepsi before,” but if the brand was PPS, you’d say “what is this?”
You ignore it, so the brand has to be built up before you can air drop it. An air drop is fine, but you’ve got to build the brand first. Most projects don't do that and its a shame.
And you're talking a lot about this “virality” factor, where people are talking about GIFTO and being engaged and volunteers wanting to volunteer on your various channels and to contribute to something that they really believe in. So would you mind just sharing with us whether there was a tipping point in regards to your campaign that really showed you that you are gaining momentum and the virality factor is really kicking in?
I think virality is more like word of mouth branding. I think the part of it is probably one beta as users can absolutely do that first airdrop. We had the least, again a very small amount of tokens and gained 20,000 users in around eight hours, that's a lot. Also, you can also judge the virality by having content. I’ve just searched Gifto on YouTube and there are 8,610 results. Part of the idea is having third-party content about us. If you search for Gifto in the news, you see a lot of news results about Gifto as well, that's also part of our case.
I don't want to talk about the price too much because that's something I don't really look at. I think ultimately that the pricing and their fluctuations, even though we are pretty good, should not be a goal for our project. Until you have actually released your product with real users, which means in April and May, what happens on exchanges - even though it's very good, is not an indication of how we’re doing.
The only thing that maybe interesting was that we tested our first event. It was our first Lucky Draw on Binance, on Valentine’s Day. Our trading volume went up to 130 million USD per day. So that is the highest single, pure organic, test of one event.
You guys reached the top ten of the cryptos on that day which was very impressive.
It was the “only” app open to do that, and we're the only new token to do that.
Actually here's the potential of our community. A little bit of stimulation and boom they go. So, as a test, I think that was highly successful and will inform us on how we want to manage our community.
Once our real product, once our real tokens are being used, there will be a lot more leverage especially to motivate people to use our tokens more. Once the tokens are out and in more people’s hands, we have a lot more measure for that. But the test went beyond our expectations.
Of course, the token price needs to reflect something that is happening in the actual ecosystem or the actual community that is holding the tokens. Obviously, as more people are exposed to GIFTO, as more broadcasters use it as their tool for monetizing and for attracting audiences the price will reflect that. It's very reassuring and refreshing to hear about an entrepreneur, like you, who is more focused on building something that is long-term and for the community and blockchain just makes sense. You’re not focused only on external things that should be intertwined with each other, but that is the core essence of what you're doing, and the price obviously will show that value. I'm sure that people really appreciate that kind of very focused and business-oriented approach.
I'm speaking with all sorts of companies that want to go on a token sale, and I'm saying, “okay, how much do you want to raise?” And their answer is, “as much as we can” and that's the wrong answer! You raised an equivalent of maybe 30 million dollars, and you hard capped that. I'm sure that maybe could have raised more? How would you advise other entrepreneurs looking to do their token sale on capping, or deciding what the figure should be that they want to reach on their token sale?
I'm lucky to have very good partners. Pantera and Boshen, from Block Assets, are two of our biggest investors. These two guys are pretty much the pillars that see everything. Plus we are in partnership with Binance, who has an exchange. So there are three very strong leaders who are much more experienced than me. And you see that. Have a reasonable hard cap and keep to it. Don't ever change it. For me, I thought it was because my company did about 130 million USD revenue last year. This means I know how to spend money. I think most projects don't really know how to spend money. I'd say,” Does a team of ten people really need $10 Million?” They can't do it. I know they can't do anything with that. I've a company of four hundred people and I have around a hundred thousand broadcasters, and I have access to another hundred thousand influencers, so I know how to deploy money. That means I know exactly how the $30 million should be used. And I think that my company's venture valuation, before the token sale, was already over $400 million. So, I thought that coding a total token value of $100 million was reasonable for my company.
To start with, I recently sold one-quarter of my company and then $30 million is a lot less than the venture money that I raised before, which is also reasonable because we want to use that.
I don’t see the goal of any project to sell as much as possible. I think that you should know what your project needs. And you only have the one sale. So, I would start with even more if the project requires a lot of marketing and promotion. But if a project is mainly a technology project, you don't need that much. I think most projects sell way too much. This is because they don't really have any concept of how to spend the money. I would advise, especially, in the current climate that it’s way too much if they raise $25 million. The best projects that I've seen in the last month or two have always had lower hard caps. Lower than mine were, and they have had successful offerings from the community point of view, as well as, as their current token performance.
I definitely echo that. As you're saying keeping in the low two digits, having a clear budget, and with a clear plan. Obviously, what we can see with GIFTO with the post token sale is that you know where you want to get to, you have your short and long-term milestones, and there's obviously a budget that supports that. Ultimately, It's about the actual value proposition and bringing your audience these exciting features.
I'm curious about the overall experience as I haven't seen lots of token sales launched on the Binance Launchpad platform.
The Binance Launchpad is a platform where they select high-quality projects, and then they offer a portion of public sale token to their users. Obviously, it’s a benefit to the project because you are getting exposed to Binance users. Another benefit for Binance users who want to buy tokens is that they are Binance approved Binance also offers advice on whether the sale is hard capped too much. What should be done when the Ether price fluctuates and so on. So the overall experience was awesome I would definitely, highly recommend it, if you can get into it because it’s very hard.
So, the exclusive few who are selected will really benefit from it. Thank you, I wasn't familiar with this before. Were you guys the first ones, or are you the second ones, to have launched on Binance?
We were the inaugural launch. I have known the founders for a while, so actually, last year when we started in October, Binance had just started. So they would help us because we're probably also the largest consumer business company to do a token sale. We also have something to offer Binance. That’s why we announced that we're going to use our UpLive platform for Binance. They are only user based and outside, so it's essentially mutually beneficial. We are in a unique position to give help.
We know you are introducing innovative business models for your broadcasters to receive and to monetize as opposed to the current business models offered via Facebook or YouTube.
In a previous interview, you mentioned how using smart tokens or smart contracts is a very efficient and immediate way to calculate and pay your broadcasters. You were talking about the fact that accounting and everything leads to you paying 30 days after the actual broadcast.
Could you share the benefits these innovative models enjoy, including blockchain decentralization and an immediate value of tokens from the followers to the broadcasters without requiring an intermediary?
So I'm a platform, and I'm kind of decentralizing myself, which is the right way of doing it. I think that anybody who actually wants to run a truly successful decentralization should build a successful, centralized operation business. There are a lot more flaws than just technology. Deal with education, why do they do this? A lot of things can and will go wrong. It's basically built by process engineering. I used to work at the Boston Consulting Group as a consultant, and I was involved in engineering the city's public goods company, and it is always very, very difficult to do so. Once you do it, it is a benefit. I would say that decentralization is not only applying the blockchain to it but also engineering the business process around it, which takes way more time. For example, we're currently in the process of implementing smart contracts internally. That will help us to more quickly give more revenue share to our broadcasters as we're still on a very common consumer revenue sharing model where we do our settlement on a monthly basis. In the month of February, the amount the broadcasters earn will be calculated, without interruption for them, and the calculation will finish sometime after the 15th March. It will take five to ten days to reconcile, to make sure if there are any unclear issues, and then we pay in the last week of March. That's normal. We do plus 30 days. That means they get a gift, March/ February first. They get ready to be paid at the end of March. That's a long time. That is normal, but not a blockchain or smart contact model. With the webpage gifting system when they get a virtual gift, they get their revenue instantly, transparently, and without delay. Now I have to warn everybody that, we are starting with our webpage smart contract first and we are now looking at solutions to migrate our existing business to also run on smart contracts, and that is a huge amount of work.
I think that supporting webpage gifting will be very easy. However, our existing revenue share going to smart contracts just for transparency need for payment will impact all 200 people running my operation around the world. Different languages, different contracts, different proxies. The technology will probably take two or three months to build out, and the full implementation will take the rest of this year. I warn everyone, in all the projects, that a lot is involved if you are decentralizing your existing business, especially changing the way that people work together.
Actually, I think it’s a shift in the mindset of the executives, of the current employees in the company, of the vendors, of understanding these implications of implementing a technology that suddenly things are transparent and really change the course of the operation and the logistics involved. There is also a mindset kind of shift, isn't there?
It’s not only mindset; some people will also be out of jobs. My current organization will change. Jobs will be taken away, new job roles will be brought on board, and people's power will be taken away. People are going to yell and scream, “No I don't want this, I want my previous power.” Broadcast users are going to think “Really? This new way is really going to work?” at first there will be a lot of issues. Just like any new technology enterprise implementation, there are a lot of organizational and process issues. Those two things are beyond the technology and take the most amount of time and effort to re-engineer. I think we see that a lot of projects when they talk about technology, they think, oh we will just eliminate the intermediary. I'm like “Mmm, good luck!” And it's my company, and it's my problem, as a boss, I should be able to just do it, but I can’t. I need to make sure my entire company, is fighting together, understand, test, and trial, and I know that all the processes work.
Just to wrap up, I think that it's fair to say that after hearing this interview, you guys are really paving the way. For app tokens, for blockchain, bringing blockchain and crypto to the masses and for bringing a fun experience that has a true pain point and for actually adapting your whole ecosystem, your company, your mindset, your processes and everything.
Is there a secret ingredient, or maybe something that you guys have in your company culture, maybe the values that you hold, that is like the X Factor, or key ingredient that brought you so much success in your token sale and so much success in building your community and then obviously implementing your very ambitious and challenging milestones ahead?
Probably the biggest factor is that we are running an existing successful business. I think that the other thing is this is the first time we've implemented new technology into our business. We are the first ones to deploy H125 on the web and mobile web technology. Because of social apps, back in 2014, we still have the record for the highest traffic for a mobile H125 app in the world. There were about 180 million page views in one day. We will also be the first live video app in the world to enable live translation. You can try it by going to UpLive choosing any language broadcaster and then on the bottom right corner is the menu, where you can turn on “translate.” It will instantaneously translate what a broadcaster is saying and show them in subtitles in your own language. I'm watching Arabic broadcasts stream in Arabic and English subtitles will appear. If you type in comments and feedback text, you will be translated into Arabic. So, it is the first time in the world you can have two-way communication with anyone across any language. I used to work for Google, so my friend who is working there told me that it is the best Google translate implementation he has ever seen. It took months to really work with Google to optimize that experience. So yes, blockchain is simply is another technology that we are used to. Now, I think we have experience in implementing very, very cutting-edge technology in a way that a consumer goes, “Wow I want that.”
Not only are you guys at GIFTO connecting between people for transferring value but also providing another means of very valuable human connection and obviously there's always the language gap and I see GIFTO as a very holistic approach to human communication.
The final question is people look up to you guys, after the token sale you are very successful. Could you share with us what your thoughts are on a grander, greater, vision about the whole crypto world, so how do you see the market in years to come?
Well, first of all, blockchain has value. And the technology holds value, so that is amazing to me. It still amazes me that somewhere in ether you can get a couple hundred billion dollars. That really breaks boundaries.
That will really change the way the world we are experiencing, Value is what drives the world. Companies exist to obtain value, by delivering value. Those two-way straights will now be conducted independently of any centralized operation. Now it changes the way that I think most companies work. So I think crypto is also in the most exciting stage when it just becomes a technology that is limited to the crypto industry, the early adopters, the ones who know how to use private keys, we know what a cold wallet is, we know what a hot wallet is. So the masses will never understand what a private key is. They will never learn what hash is; they will never use Etherscan for transactions. So I think that we are in a stage of transferring from technocentric to a more consumer experience, becoming a true infrastructure with a newer consumer experience. And that's what's really exciting. I don't agree with people who think it will be the next Internet - because it's not. Because it still runs on Internet! Etherscan, as far as I’m concerned still runs on web protocol. I think Blockchain is revolutionary, but it's not an Internet Protocol it's a value protocol. To me, that is much more exciting and also much more focused. It will not change all industries, but industries will change. I think there are ones that have the potential to really be empowered. I think that we empower small individuals to give more value for their efforts. Just like GIFTO would often empower content creators to get more money for what they are doing, I think other decentralization projects will also help the common people, the smaller people to get more value. I think that is revolutionary.
What an exciting way to sum up our interview with Andy Tian from GIFTO. Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and know-how and experience it was very valuable to me, and I hope for our viewers as well, thank you so much and best of luck!
Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed it!