On this week’s episode I chat with Alex Taub. Alex is the Co-Founder & CEO of Upstream, a digital platform that is redefining professional networking.
Over the years I’ve watched many community platforms fail. I don’t know the exact stats, but the success rate is low. I think one of the reasons why a community platform is so hard to build is that it requires so many features to deliver sufficient value.
Upstream seems to have broken through by rapidly iterating on features and keeping the overall product lean. They delivered a complete product fairly quickly and the platform appears to be scaling.
In addition to running Upstream, Alex manages one of the communities on the platform: NFT Community.
We get into a general overview of what NFTs are, plus chat about some of his favorite projects which include NBA Topshot and a digital horse racing game called Zed Run.
If you’re interested in understanding the NFT market and how to profit from it, have a listen.
MPD: Welcome Alex. What's going on? How are you doing good. Thanks for being here.
Alex Taub: [00:02:09] Of course, anything, anything for you!
MPD: [00:02:13] I appreciate that. All right. I'm going to do your intro for you. A little background with the hope of putting some out there. I'm probably going to miss some stuff. So if I do tell me, so Alex tab is the co-founder and CEO of upstream.
Uh, now for those who are listening to this, who don't oh, upstream is a new mobile first community. That is absolutely exploding. Uh, I am a super active user of the app. I think I run more than a dozen communities on upstream. At this point. I also invest in the company's friends and family round, and it's been an absolute pleasure to watch Alex scale.
I've known for quite a long time. Alex has been a long time, super connected. And the New York startup texting. And now in Miami, he's not only started numerous companies, but he worked at a myriad of very prominent BD roles early in his career. He recently moved to Miami and has been helping to pioneer the ecosystem down there.
Uh, and he's also a very outspoken, proponent and active, uh, trader. In the NFT space, he was an early adopter of both MBA, top and Zen run. And I'm sure we're going to dive into that a little bit, Alex, anything I missed you wanna throw
Alex Taub: [00:03:24] in? Um, yeah, that was, that was it. I mean, I did, I did two years at aviary, two years at the Wala before I started social rank.
Um, but before that, when we initially met, I was working with the, these two Israeli guys. I don't know if you remember this, these two Israeli guys were trying to monetize online videos. Um, ended up not working out, but the next company that those guys started in the being a billion dollar company, um, what was the, so they started a cybersecurity company.
They're one of the preeminent Israel, cybersecurity companies. Um, and, uh, it's pretty, it's, it's controversial company a little bit actually. Uh, but also they've done some good stuff. They actually caught like El Chapo and things like that. It's called NSO. So they were there. Um, they started that.
MPD: [00:04:14] I had Jeff Bussgang, uh, who's the, one of the managing partners over at flybridge and a professor at HBS on the show a week ago, two weeks ago, something like that.
And I think it was just released. And we talked about how you never know who's going to be who in the startup community. You kind of gotta be cool to everybody, which is good practice anyway, but. He turned a corner three years later, you find out someone's absolutely, you know, elevated in what they've done and done something.
Cool. So it's kind of an interesting dynamic in that way. All right. Let's, let's get started. Um, you mind telling us a little bit about upstream? This is your underhand pitch to get us going.
Alex Taub: [00:04:52] Yeah, no. So we started upstream, um, You know, the actual origin of when outrun really started is, is definitely something for debate.
Uh, we started thinking a lot about it beginning of 2019 and, um, put a, put something in test flight, uh, in like June the summer of 2019. Um, and the idea was LinkedIn has this monopoly they've been around for the past 18 years. And, um, they basically own professional social, um, but they've dropped the ball on a few things.
So, uh, specifically, um, you know, groups, uh, we basically identified three things that we thought we had. There was like an opportunity around professional groups, the API. And like strength of relationship, who do you know and how well you know them. Uh, but we started with groups and LinkedIn groups is basically an abysmal product.
Nobody really uses it. Anyone who's building a new professional community is doing it on slack or WhatsApp or telegram or discord. And I love all those products. They're just not really meant for professional community. Um, so we started with like, okay, can we build a better professional sort of groups product and, and start with that.
So we started with the ability to give and get help. That was like the, the insight we had was like, okay, we can build this place where you can give and get help. And these communities can be sort of formed. And we release that, um, sort of end of 2019. And when beginning of 2020 started when COVID hit, we, we sort of evolve to add, uh, virtual events and that really sort of took off.
MPD: [00:06:23] Yeah. I think LinkedIn had more group functionality back in the day and actually gutted it. Yeah. It seems like it's clearly not core to the platform for how they probably had what drives revenue impressions and all that. No, but they seem to have sliced it down over time.
Alex Taub: [00:06:41] It's usually a good thing. It's usually a good thing to slice down product.
I think for them, they're like, okay, we're a data company. We're selling data to recruiters. And if we have an API, we're going to be basically giving away that data for free. So like they killed a lot of things because of that. But, um, listen, they are the best, like digital resume. Like I use LinkedIn every day, all the time.
I don't, I'm not trying to kill them. Um, I just think that there's more players in the professional network, professional social space that can play. And, uh, we want to be one of them,
MPD: [00:07:18] the groups that we operate on upstream, we actually have clone groups. The original groups are on LinkedIn, but the engagement it's, it's a mess.
There's no way to really have a conversation or any, any semblance of a real interaction, which is frustrate.
Alex Taub: [00:07:32] And by the way, just mark to go to that. So the way that we sort of think about it is right now, most things on option are very live in synchronous. So like these event, like we need to be here, people need to show up, you do office hours.
Like if nobody takes your office hours, there's not much you can really do. Um, There's other pieces like, uh, like the asks are really more like asynchronous, like you can ask and then come back. Like three days later, someone can see it and post, they don't have to be their lives. We're going to add more asynchronous experiences on upstream.
And then we're also going to add more like utility. So something we're working on actively right now around utility is like, what does it look like? That like, The professional, the way we sort of see it, there's two sides to options. There's like, there's the groups and the, and the sort of like the community side.
And then there's the, um, like the professional life cycle and like where we're playing right now in the professional life cycle and trying to get like a visual of what, the way my brain gets a little bit, but like the professional, like life cycle, there's all these different things that a professional does.
Yeah. And like, if you think about like where we are right now, we're like, um, like meeting new people and socializing is very popular and upstream. Like a lot of people come and use upstream and they meet me. Um, that's but that's very dependent on other people being there. There's other pieces to the professional life cycle that aren't as dependent to people being there.
So for example, like following up or reaching out or reconnecting all these different things that professionals do daily, that don't necessarily depend on other people being there at that moment, at that time for it to be useful. So that's where we're thinking about right now around utilities. What other tools do professionals use daily that we could theoretically, um,
MPD: [00:09:17] Are you ever going to merge into full business profiles a little bit more?
Like what LinkedIn's kind of core
Alex Taub: [00:09:23] is not, not like not as, not soon. Um, our focus is going to be more on like the groups and community stuff. And then some of the, some of the utility stuff, like the, the white whale problem of like, who do you know and how well, you know, them is something that's been very much top of mind for, for the last, uh,
MPD: [00:09:46] I've seen a lot of companies over the years, try to solve that.
I want to say a company a year for a decade, trying to figure that out, how to harvest the data from LinkedIn and make sense of it. That feature hasn't landed yet. There's companies out there now even trying to do it, but I haven't seen it widely used. So, but why you, right? You're a BD guy. You built some product stuff.
You're good at analytics. You've been in the startup community for a long time. Why didn't have all the things you could do. Why did you decide to tackle. The white space in the professional social networking.
Alex Taub: [00:10:17] So very question. Um, so it requires a little bit of context. Um, we had a company called social rank, uh, from 2014, Michael Schoenfeld and myself.
Uh, my co-founder, we started together, we left a wall of the payments started and we started this, uh, it was actually like a creator tool before creator tools, like was the, was the popular word. Um, and, uh, We were depending on like Instagram and Twitter, and really like dependent on the data. And we got burned many times, uh, but we built a business and we ended up selling in 2019.
But while we were, once we realized that there was. You know, once we realized that there was, there was no, um, we couldn't build a bigger company bunny because we were so dependent on the data from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, we basically put it on autopilot. We had customers like the NBA, the NFL, Netflix, Samsung board, like blue chip customers.
Um, but we put it on autopilot. And what we did is we just decided to think about ideas that we would want to like actually work on. Um, and we have two rules. The first rule was. Don't build on top of a third party API, uh, like, uh, Twitter and Instagram again, uh, if you're going to build on an API, pay for it.
Um, and like, you know, cause like this, this video player right now and upstream it's it's AWS time, but we can use a gore or we could use, uh, it's a commodity, you know? So don't use, you know, really worried about
MPD: [00:11:43] getting cutting up, cut
Alex Taub: [00:11:43] off. Exactly. Or we have a backup if we do. So, um, so don't build on top of a third party API in the same way again.
And then the other was left short. If tomorrow you got walked down the street and got hit by a bus, like, you know, would you be happy with the stuff you're working on? Yeah. Analytics was like fun and cool. Like social media analytics was cool, but it just wasn't, it wasn't our purpose. It wasn't our calling.
And we were like, okay, let's find something that we'd be really proud about that we'd want to work on forever if we can control it. Um, and then we went through, like, we cycled through a lot of different ideas and we, and if we like something, we'd try to build like a prototype of it. And I've had this idea for a while and I was sort of trying to really flesh it out before I brought it to my co-founder and the team.
Um, And then what ended up happening was, you know, it's sort of like you said, like why us, like, we're sort of the perfect team to actually, uh, go after this because I'm the, I'm the right customer and user of this. I am like, like, we have a competitive advantage because I know exactly what I would want.
And then it's typically like nine out of 10 times. That's usually what we should like for the product. Um, cause I am like the user. And then on the other side of that, Michael is like tech is technology chops to be able to build anything, um, like having the combination of the right business person and the right tech person is a really hard combination to find, to do this.
Right. And I think that like, we're, we're the right team to do that. And we've built like a killer team move. We're nine people. Now we'd be like a killer team. Um, that is just that we're just like the right team to build this. Like, this is just, we're gonna work on this forever.
MPD: [00:13:24] But you're, you're pretty lucky because most people, I bump into people all the time who will reach out through the communities on upstream or other places.
And they'll say, Hey, how do I find a technical co-founder? They've got business DNA. They're out there on the household. They're meeting people. They're doing, but to have a technical co-founder in your pocket, who's a, probably a friend and someone you trust, I assume, right. That, um, can build in a lot of different types of stuff.
That's not easy. What, what's the, how did you come across Michael and any advice for him? Folks? You've got to find technical
Alex Taub: [00:13:56] partners. So it's actually been 10 years since we met, um, just recently. So we met on the original office hours named Westheimer project. Um, I remember that a throwback. Yeah. So I love that the story was.
Office hours just started allowing virtual office hours on Skype just to date it a little bit. Um, and, uh, we ended up, um, I ended up offering office hours and he took them and he was working on a little project. He was living in LA and, um, we hit it off and we just started talking, chatting. I was, I was working at aviary at the time and I was like, thinking through this idea around like, uh, a social debate web.
Cause, you know, me being, being a Jew who likes to debate, um, and I debate about everything. I just thought they were like, oh, this can live somewhere by itself. It's not a good idea. It was a decent idea to start a relationship, but it wasn't a good idea that like actually would make sense and work, even though it sounds like it's a good idea.
It's just one of those ideas that isn't actually a good idea. It isn't like a scalable, easy to do, because if you're going to have a debate, you're just going to do it on Facebook and Twitter and whatever happens. You're not going to take it somewhere else. But anyways, so he started working with me on it and then we started just building projects together.
So we got a little bit lucky, um, that we just hit it off. But at the same time, when I tell other people come to me and they say, how do I mean the technical founder? You sort of need to just go where these people live. You know, if you want and meet a developer, you need to go to hackathons. You need to go to, you know, meetups.
You need to go and spend time where these developers are. Um, that's really the only way to do it. Another real great trick is like, go work at a company for like a year or two, and like spend time with the engineering team there and like find someone who you really vibe with. Like, that's another really great way to go about it.
Like I worked, I joined aviary for two years and then Dwolla for two years. And a lot of that time spent there was, I met some amazing engineers and amazing designers people. I want to work with people I've I wanted to bring over when I started my own company. So that's a really great way to go about it is figuring out where these people live, where they play and go spend time there,
MPD: [00:16:11] meet them.
You did something else. You maintain the relationship while you were still on your own personal journey. You weren't ready to start again. Not everyone does that, are there tricks that you can into tips you can give to business folks about how to kind of forge and sustain those relationships with, with development folks?
Because one of the problems is, you know, they need engagement. They want to be excited about your projects. And I know a lot of developers who always worried the business guys going to take advantage of them. So how did you navigate kind of those dynamics? Any advice.
Alex Taub: [00:16:41] Yeah, I'm trying to think back into like actually how it went down or how it worked.
I think, I mean, I think to some degree it was, we were talking all the time. We were building, we were doing hackathons together and building side projects together. And we were just getting along. Um, but I totally understand how, like it could, it could be hard. I mean, it's, you need to be very deliberate about the stuff you need to, you need to, it needs to be a priority for you.
Like, I always wanted to start my own company, but I just wasn't ready. I didn't have a great idea and have the right team. And I went to these companies to learn from people who were doing it or, or I'd done it. And I think. The best tip is to just like, be very deliberate about the actions you take.
Listen, you can always make mistakes early on in career and then, and then, you know, get by it. But like, I was just really deliberate about like meeting engineers. I was really deliberate about working at business development for people who knew what they were doing and like spending meaningful time there.
And I think, yeah, that was, that was that's the best advice I can give is just be very deliberate about what you're doing and how you're going.
MPD: [00:17:44] Okay. So let me, let me take this different direction for a second. So thank you for the advice on getting a co-founder. One of the challenges I think looking at what you're doing, that's gotta be really hard.
Is community apps are tough. Uh, I failed in this space. A lot of people have failed in this space. I see another community app every month or two someone coming out trying to make it work. And I don't know if I totally have it figured out why so hard that very few succeed. Uh, I feel like it has a bigger depth.
Than most, most sectors that we're, we've gotten the tech community. My hypothesis is that it requires too many features to properly serve as a community. You might have to have like a newsletter and a chat function and a video it's a myriad of independent companies smushed together. What have you figured out?
That's working because Upstream's getting traction products. Great. What is your mindset for building it? And how is that allowing you to navigate kind of this valley of death?
Alex Taub: [00:18:41] It's funny. I don't think we have it all figured out, obviously. I mean, we're, we're still in the beginning of it and we're still figuring out what we don't even know what we don't know yet.
But that being said, I do have some thesis is around, like what makes an active and engaged community, a virtual community in person community I've always felt like it was a combination of two. It was like a, it was an equation actually. And active, engaged community equals like a, um, uh, like people, some people call it like a pot, like a pot sticker, like, uh, like, uh, like a sh uh, like I'm trying to, I don't want to curse, but like, what's the shit twirler or whatever, whatever it's called, like those use the word.
The word I'm thinking of is basically like someone who's in charge of making the engine. Right. It's like the person who's scheduling the event, the person who is following up on stuff, the, the, the it's, the admin, it's the community adamant of it. They're the two things that make an active, engaged community is one, a human element of a person who's in charge of the community plus technology.
And I feel like technology for the past decade or decade and a half has been just like an email list. Like a newsletter and maybe like a as emperor, like that was the technology. And I think like we're now jumping a little bit ahead and there's, there's so much technology that can be built to keep a community active and engaged, even if the person in charge, like, I think that that equation of an active, engaged community of human plus technology, you can actually take over a lot of stuff with technology.
That that will allow for slack with not the company slack, but like slack from the human that they can counterbalance themselves a lot more. Um, so I, a lot of this stuff that we're starting, we're going to be working on from now until the end of the year, there is like, what more technology can we build to make it easy for you to run your community?
So for example, Something that I've wanted for a while and we've pushed it off because we've had other things that have been prioritized over it, but it will come before the end of the year, I think is, uh, the ability to, um, you know, uh, sort of like an if this, then that, but as an ad. So like you want to go and set up and say, Hey, um, if someone doesn't come to an event in like, you know, month.
Uh, or like, meaning we've had events and they don't come in four months or six months or, or like a number of events. They don't come in for the last five events. Then Y happens, they get reprimanded. Uh, if like they're basically like setting up rules that, that, um, the technology can sort of use and then basically, um, make your life a lot easier.
So, you know, There's just a lot, like even just saying like, Hey, if you don't, I don't have X, Y, and Z are not going to be accepted into my community. And like, not having, not, not you having to like, miss that's the person, but like, have it part of like the flow, have it part of the technology. So I think that there's a lot of that that could be really cool.
Um, and that really useful. So I don't think we have it all answered and, you know, listen, it's not live yet, but by the time this comes out, it probably will be we're working on a product right now that we'll probably release at the end of this month or beginning of next. Um, and it actually is not tied to the community side of things.
It's actually more tied to the professional life cycle type side of things. Um, w when is this actually going to come out? I'm just want to know. I mean, if people were sitting here. Four
MPD: [00:22:13] weeks. Okay. You can
Alex Taub: [00:22:14] hold it. It's fine. If everyone here is okay, just keeping secrets. We're working on a product right now called upstream reconnect.
It's really simple. You come in and you log in with your Gmail actually, and it pulls in all of your, um, your, your emails, just the metadata of the, from the, to the duration, the frequency of sending. And it's going to tell you who you're losing touch with professionally and help you reconnect. And it ties back to this like utility aspect that we want to include where it's like, we want upstream to be this like third place for professionals.
And like, so the first place is home. The second place is work. The third place is usually like a club or like a church or synagogue or a mosque or wherever you, you know, wherever you have. And this idea of like this third place for professionals, where you go to interact with your peers, meet new ones, reconnect with old ones and spend meaningful time together.
So if we want you to coming back to Augustine every day, you want to build a whole slew of like utility features that you actually get value from. So like if you use this reconnect feature that we have coming out, um, and it really ties into like the theme for the rest of the year. The world's opening up and all this, all this great stuff, but you know, if we, if we do that, right, like you should get your list of people that you've lost touch with and be like, oh my God, like, I haven't spoken to mark in six months.
Like, and it should lead you to create stronger bonds with people. And like, I, the thesis around that is. You know the concept of like the, the, like the Dunbar one 50, right? Like the 150 people, you can have professional relationships or personal. I actually don't know if the personal or professional, but explain it,
MPD: [00:23:56] explain it for people listening.
Alex Taub: [00:23:57] Yeah. So actually, maybe don't know completely, but Dunbar one 50 is basically the 150 relationships you can manage at a certain point until. Um, and I just feel like to some degree, uh, w even with, even before COVID, but especially with COVID, like, we've blown way past the Dunbar one-fifty of like, I don't know where half of my, I don't even know where you are a mark, like you could be down in Miami, but you could also be back in New Jersey.
Like, I don't even know where you are in your house. Exactly my doctor. Um, but like, I don't know where my friends are anymore and like it's, and I feel like I'm S I stay connected to people because they see them on social, but like, there's some people I have spite have an email list and I haven't caught up with in a long time.
And I just feel like there's, there's a lot of this like human brain that has broken and like, you need a computer brain to take it to the next level. And, yeah. Sorry. I know I went on a little tangent. No, no, go ahead. But the last, the last piece of this is like the way I sort of see it as we prioritize this feature, this utility feature, because if the world didn't exist, like it, meaning, sorry, that doesn't make any sense.
If, if the, um, If, if you didn't take into account, what's going on in the world and it was just like our product roadmap and how we're thinking about things and how we're building things, this would not be the next feature. The next feature would be more admin tools like helping them do all those things.
Like the Zapier style type of stuff. If it was just us and like sitting there and figuring out what our users wanted, it would probably just be admin tools would be cool, new or like, uh, vent features and things like that. I've recently, and this sort of goes into one of the questions we were talking about, or that you emailed me around was like product and team.
Like what makes a successful company it's team it's, you know, it's market and it's timing. Those are of attraction timing. And yeah, I used to think it was all about product and team. I was like, oh, if you have a great team with a great product, do any, and then I've recently changed my mind around that.
And I actually believe it's actually more timing and more. Which I think investors like, just know like it's like they instinctively know, and that's why they, they invest in really, they look for really big markets, but like you could have a really great team with a really great product, something like path, right.
Really great team, really great product, the market and timing just weren't right for path. And like you have a great team, great product. You'll run into a wall because market and timing will always win. But if you have a mediocre team with a mediocre product in a massive market with great timing, like you will have a meaningful yeah.
And the reason I mentioned this is because if you take into account what's happening in the world, the world's opening up. The big themes for the rest of the year are going to be travel. IRL, reconnecting with friends, dinners, concerts, sports games, all that stuff. And like virtual events is going to go from like a weekly thing to like a monthly thing.
It's still gonna exist. It's still going to be important. It's just going to be for the next six months. I think there's going to be this snap back. So. This product was on our roadmap, but we were going to start working on it in the summer. At the end of the year, we just decided to just reprioritize things.
So I just wanted to give a little bit of context around that,
MPD: [00:27:10] but that was an entire company, but you're just talking, came out as you've reduced to a feature of your company. And it comes back to what I was saying before, about what communities, when the challenges with them mean these apps is you have to build so many, you have to smush so many companies together and that has to work.
You guys seem to be doing it? Well, one of the things I think is working really well in the app is you're reducing these companies down to discreet, simple features. And so it seems to be more sustainable, but that there was a, there was at least one company before that check, check to your kind of follow up, he heatmap, and he was contactless, something like that.
Yeah. And figured out who you were falling off with, and it would prompt you to reach out that was a SAS. You're building it as feature number 48 and upstream.
Alex Taub: [00:27:59] So that it's gritty. You mentioned that cause like I sort of mentioned it earlier. There's three things that LinkedIn has dropped the ball on. One is like groups.
Three was like strength of relationship, which is reconnect. Product is our first foray into that. Cause you need this, you need to know who you know and how well, you know them to some degree to know who you're losing touch with, but that's for another conversation. The middle one was. And that's, I think that actually ties it all together in my discombobulated brain.
Is that like to do this right? To do we need to build a platform, a professional platform and yeah, we'll be the first developer on it. We may be the only developer on it for awhile, but like eventually we'll have an API that you can build on top of an upstream community, the upstream ecosystem, and you could build your own applications.
Um, and that, to answer, like, to, to talk about what you're saying is like, But like, why not? Why can't we have all these cool companies that do these little things in this ecosystem, building things on top of us, that's going to take some time. You don't build a ecosystem overnight, but like again, Michael and I have done API APIs for the past decade.
So we know that stuff, we know that we've used other people's ecosystems we've built, use other people's EPI's. So building our own API, like we know how to do it.
MPD: [00:29:16] So I want to come back to something, we kind of covered three things. And the last bit I want to kind of respond to it. The idea that you're building features too, help people be more effective at managing is very powerful because communities kind of ebb and flow as people change leadership, specially almost all of them are volunteer, run.
That's very challenging. So the idea of streamlining it, super powering people with technology is a great concept. Um, let me just shift gears for one second here. Uh, as a CEO and a founder here. What's the most challenging thing you've faced with upstream so far, what's been your biggest hurdle and how'd you handle it and what can people learn
Alex Taub: [00:29:52] from it?
Um, yeah, challenges, I mean, every day in a startup is a challenge. It's the, it's the, all the switching you have to do every, every, every meetings, uh, uh, like, uh, context switching or like situations switching, you know, you go to one conversation about. Hiring then your next conversation is about, you know, getting guest speakers for your next event.
And then the next conversation is about fundraising and it's just, it's a lot of switching. Um, how does it affect you? Um, I'm okay with it. Cause I have like crazy ADT, so it's like, it's not, it's actually, it works, but that being said, um, it, it's hard for employees sometimes, you know? Um, you know, if you're not used to doing everything all the time, um, I don't know if you watched the Bo Burnham, uh, uh, inside Netflix special.
Phenomenal. If you haven't watched it, it's, mind-blowingly phenomenal, but there's a song called. Yeah, definitely, definitely worth watching anyone who's listening. If you haven't, if you've seen it, give me a little thumbs up if you liked it, but, um, it's, uh, there's a song there called everything all of the time.
It's, that'd be internet and stuff. That startups is like a little bit of everything all the time. Um, And that doesn't work for everybody like that is overwhelming for a lot of people. So, yeah, it's just, I think that's, that's been, I, it never used to bother me, but when it starts to bother employees, then you're like, oh, okay.
Yeah, I am switching all the time, all these things.
MPD: [00:31:23] Um, is there something you figured out to help the staff who struggles with it navigate it? Is there a style change you've made or some structure you've put into the agenda? What, what do you do.
Alex Taub: [00:31:36] Yeah, there's no great answer, but I mean, what I've at least shared with the people that struggle with it is like, listen, not everything's as important.
So like, yeah. You're context switching, but like, don't worry too much about being perfect at everything. Cause you're just not going to be more like let's figure out what the important things are. Figure out the priorities and, and make sure you don't mess those up. But the other stuff is like, you know, do your best and that's it.
Look, don't, don't don't stress too much about that stuff because it's it's you're you're you'll make yourself. Um, you know, you can't be amazing at everything. Um, so just be amazing at the things that you need to be amazing at and everything else do your best, but don't, don't, uh, don't overextend yourself.
You know what I mean?
MPD: [00:32:18] I personally struggle with it, to be honest with you. I, I, I feel like I operate well in the constant transition, but what happens to me at the end of the day, 7, 8, 9 PM. My brains melt. Yeah, I just, I have a routine now of every day I got to watch a half hour of TV just to kind of wind down a little bit, but there's, um, it's invigorating in the moment, but I think it is, um, it uses up the
Alex Taub: [00:32:42] batteries, you know, it's interesting.
So I just caught up with a friend who has, I want to say seven employees, a hot startup. It just raised like five, 10 million bucks. Um, it's not public yet, but a hot startup. And he just started realizing people were getting really burnt out on the team. Like everyone was working all the time and there was like a sudden departure from the team.
And there was just like, he was realizing like, there's, this is just a, whatever he made everyone take. I think, uh, I have to look at how many days, but I think it was like 10 days off. Um, And everyone had to be often delete slack from your phone. And it couldn't work if anyone was coming on, because then other people will feel like they're not getting their stuff done.
Now they're in something that you don't need to be library. They're building, it's very much an R and D play. Now they don't have a lot of uses. Right. But it's like, it could be very big. Um, and I thought that was fascinating because he said it really worked. Like everyone came back with fresh ideas, fresh legs, and like super jammed to get going.
Um, but they got the rest of it. They really did. Um, we, we couldn't do that, but I was like, oh man, I wish I could, you know, but
MPD: [00:33:54] vacations are a big deal. I mean, that's one of the things I do when that law, the CEOs I work with, it's funny. It seems like an unimportant part of a role for someone like me, but it's not is forcing people to take vacations or you've got everyone overachievers or too much responsibility too much on the line.
And you can tell when they're getting burned out, they start getting edgy and snippy, right? Yeah. And it's district. So it's a big thing Brad Feld used to write. This is, I don't know, I mean, decades ago, but Brad Feld, I remember had blew my mind a little bit. He had suggested that the right balance for certifications was every seventh week.
Now a lot of companies can't support that can't afford that, whatever, there's an American culture around vacation, but there is a, you know, we're not slow burning marathon, always. And startups were often sprinting and having that moment to take a break and a breather, I think it's important. Okay. I want to take it a different direction.
Um, we've talked, uh, we obviously know upstream is about communities and you run one of the communities on upstream, the NFT community with your buddy drew Austin of red beard ventures. Yeah. Okay. Uh, you're all, obviously all over the NFT game. Can you give a quick overview on NFTs for the newbies list?
Alex Taub: [00:35:09] so entities. Okay. So we're, we're talking about, uh, so I got into them, so they actually to give some context, I was at Dwolla the payments startup based in Iowa and from 2012, 2014, Douala was one of the first ways to get money in and out of Bitcoin. So when I joined Douala was I think Bitcoin is $4.
Because Bitcoin was a thing, like we were talking about Michael and my co-founder was mining it. We used to have an Ethereum rig in the office back then. This is an essential shrink. So we were like, we're very, uh, tech, oh, crypto knowledgeable team. Um, and we just, I went to Walla, so I got, I had like history.
He was like, you sign your dwell account, you move it to mountain docks, um, now, or like silk road or whatever, like basically fund right. Anyway. So we ended up, um, my buddy drew was here in December. He was in, he was in, uh, Miami and we caught up and he was showing me these. And I knew about crypto kitties.
I knew about all that stuff cause you USB led it, but he was showing me, um, MBA Topshop and like just. And like Emmy tops are took off like mid January, beginning of February, end of January. And he was showing me he's like, I just spent like 1500 bucks buying this, like Zion, Williamson, uh, like, you know, legendary hollow moment.
I'm like, what are you doing to like, this is, this is the responsible of your father. You know, you gotta, you gotta keep this money, put your kid through. And, um, he's like, no, this is going to blow up. He's like go buy a pack, buy a pack and experience it. And I was like, okay, sure. I waited a week, which was in a very expensive week that I waited in a way basically went from series two to series series one to series two in that week.
Um, and, uh, anyway, I bought it. I was like, oh, this is sort of cool. I, I collected Pokemon cards. I actually, my mom is looking for all my Pokemon cards in stores. Because I have like generation one, like Charles art, EV I have mall there in some form somewhere in sort of those worth, what are those worth? Six figures easily.
Like even now, even in non-Greek conditions, six figures, if you have a, like the original, um, if you have it in like pristine condition, it's worth like seven 50, like, wow. Yeah, it's expensive. Um, but I used to play a tournament. So anyway, I got it. I was like, oh, this is cool. So I ended up buying a bunch of it.
And then a few weeks later it sort of took off and then drew and I were chatting and we're like, we should do this NMT community. But so your question was what are entities? NFTs are basically the primer. Yeah. So it's like, it's sort of like these digital collectibles. So there's a lot of ways to think about it.
A lot of people are creating NFT, non fungible tokens, and they're basically saying like, okay, I'm taking this, this, uh, this, you know, like the, the, the best way to think about it is you have like basketball cards or like baseball. A babe Ruth or Mickey mantle, rookie card is worth millions of dollars. Um, the, like this company called dapper labs came out and said, okay, we're going to take the MBA.
But instead of taking like, uh, the static moment, like a static card, And then like buying a digital version of that is if we're going to take a moment, so it could be a block, it could be assist, it could be points. It could be a dunk, whatever it is. It's a little video clip. It's a little video clip. We're going to take this moment and we're going to basically, we're going to mint them on the blockchain so that they, everyone knows how many are made.
Everyone knows how many are, um, who it is, uh, and the value and who owns what, and essentially. What we're going to do is we're going to sell them in packs. So you buy a pack and you get a handful of moments and those moments, um, there's a whole marketplace to buy and sell them. And this just blew up so that that's NBA top shot.
But, but the concept of the NFT is basically anything that is tokenized, um, that, that you can basically, that's non fungible and. There's a bunch of these words
MPD: [00:39:27] confuse everybody. I think it makes it that the names almost make it the concept harder than it is. Yeah. Right. My understanding of it is the blockchain says that this moment or any digital asset, it could be a picture.
It could be anything. Is the unique one that someone purchased. Yes. And they're solving that problem of copy paste because that doesn't work well, if you're trying to say this is something unique and scarce.
Alex Taub: [00:39:54] Yes. Uh, yes. So, I mean, obviously there's a lot of different types of, of NFTs. Now I'll preface this thing is like, I think 90% of NFPS are worthless.
Um, and what I mean by that is Andrew says 99% of if these are worthless, I think, I think it's 90. Um, there's four reasons why I think he's worth something. Well, the first is IP. So if you have, um, IP like the MBA, I think that's worth saying. And that is to me, you know, when you look at sort of the, um, uh, the NBA, the NLB, whatever, like that will design Williamson, rookie a top shot will be worth something.
Cause that's like the new world, you know what I mean? It's like, uh, but I don't think like every single MBA top, top moment's gonna be worth something. It's going to be like basketball cards where like, you're, you're like, if you have some player who's, who's like a D Lister. Uh, I mean it, listen, if you're in the NBA, you're you're good.
You know, if you're sitting in the bench on, on a non playoff team and you're not good, um, your moments not going to be worth much. Uh, but if you have a little on James, obviously it's gonna be worth something. So I I'd focus for like that type of stuff on like the quality, the, the best players and things like that.
But there's IP, the IP is going to be worth something, sports movies, Disney, you know, Disney is going to get into this, uh, you know, Marvel is going to get into this like that stuff. So then, then there's utility. And when I think about utility, I think about like, can I earn money from this thing? So Zed falls into this category is that is digital horse racing and Zack horses never die.
Uh, but digital horse racing, you can buy a horse would have a big drop tomorrow at 8:00 PM Eastern time, if you want to get your first horse, but you can, you can, uh, Buy a horse and sell the horse. If you want, you can race the horse against other horses and earn money, or you can breed your horse and either have earn a stud fee, or you can earn this owl like the, uh, the offspring, if you're the female.
That to me is interesting because I have a bunch of horses, but I've bred and I've made a few thousand dollars just breeding horses. I've raised with my horses and I've made a few thousand dollars racing. The horses. That to me is really interesting because if you can make money off this thing, then there's inherent.
It can be more valuable. It's like an investment in that
MPD: [00:42:18] scenario, you're buying a digital asset and in the economy they've created, you can make money with it.
Alex Taub: [00:42:25] Yeah. So think about other things like, uh, like virtual life. Like imagine a world where the Oasis is a real thing from like ready player one and there's land and you have land and people pay rent and people want to spend time in your land.
And they, they, you know, you can make money off that. Like I'm, I think I'm trying to look into figure out, like, what is the virtual land? That's going to be the one. Um, and I think owning a little bit of land on each one and they probably make sense because whichever one wins is going to be an outsized wind.
So it's like a, uh, a little bit of venture play there. And then sort of the other two that I think are interesting is one is, is access. So Gary V did this, um, also, uh, this thing called board a yacht club has done this really well. And it's like, if you own this NFT, if you own the board, the board ape, you have access now to the board, eight community, there's 10,000 board apes and you're one of them.
There's Gary V Ted. If you own these V friends, you can now go to one of his conference. I think that there's something really interesting about like clubs and the ability to gain access to locations and things and places. That if you own, um, uh, an NFT that you can now get access to sports games, sometimes it'll give you an NFT for it's it's a digital
MPD: [00:43:42] ticket.
It's just, we're, it's, it's using blockchain as a database system for a digital ticket.
Alex Taub: [00:43:47] And then the last one is art. The last one's art. So like, you know, digital art, I mean, in real life, AR is where something so digital. Yeah. Uh, you can make an argument, you know, there's value. Well, one of ones, someone who either becomes famous or, or is a, is a big artist, like, you know, the creator of brick and mortar did some, some, some virtual, uh, uh, NFTs that I think is interesting.
If you like Rick and Morty, then maybe you want to own this one of one thing. Um, but I think there'll be like the Picasso and the van Gogh, uh, virtual NFTs. Does, you know, maybe that doesn't exist yet, but like be, you know, maybe, maybe it's people, maybe people's Picasso, you know, I don't know I'm making this up, but I think that there's, there's value in there.
Everything else, if there's no value and it's just like, oh, this is a clip of whatever. Like, like going back to the utility, for example, like little Dickey, who's a rapper. Just made it. So like the song that he's releasing, that anyone who owns the NFT is actually co-owners of the royalty. So like there's a lot of really interesting stuff you could play that someone just hit me up about like owning stock footage of like Woodstock.
And apparently it goes for like $7,500 for every six seconds. So they want to turn it into NFT and maybe sell it off and let people, you know, own, own the rights a little bit to it as well. So there's some cool stuff. Um, some person owns like eight minutes. Uh, and he, he just hit me up literally like today.
Um, so I dunno, there's just, there's cool. Stuff like that, that I think, uh, could be really interesting. Uh, but it's still very early with entities,
MPD: [00:45:23] right? You were quoted in the New York times in reference to NFTs saying this is going to either be the smartest or stupidest thing I've ever done. I'll either buy a house or the money I'll make from it, or I'll never show my face again this year.
Alex Taub: [00:45:40] Listen, I wanted to cash out today. I could probably do the house already. So it's, uh,
MPD: [00:45:45] how much is the, uh, how much is the horse stable or
Alex Taub: [00:45:48] the horse stable? Um, it's sort of a lot it's worth. Yeah, it's worth, you know, like it's worth enough. Um, now
MPD: [00:45:57] I own, let's talk about this for a second. What's the value is the value based on market transactions or are the platform companies saying, Hey, we want to drive.
Appreciation and excitement. So we're going to say it's worth X dollars now
Alex Taub: [00:46:12] there's the retail value of it. And then there's also what secondary markets are selling it for. So for example, Z one is going for, it's a type of horse, as you want is the most valuable horse that you could buy. It goes from Z one, it's called Nakamoto Z one Nakamoto, um, is retail.
For, I think $38,000, you can buy it during a drop there. Secondary, just an unraced on bread. Z one is going secondary for, um, each there's only going to ever be a thousand . And I think once they all sell out, which they're only like 200 left, I think that other thousand once they all sell out. It's going to be very hard for, to buy one for less than a hundred grand.
It might've been even a bad
MPD: [00:47:06] one, sell them is the secondary market. So liquid, where if you put it up, you know, this, this is when you look at your value, you're like, okay, that's real value. I, it,
Alex Taub: [00:47:15] if I wanted to sell my Z one, uh, I've I've I have 41, but uh, if I wanted to sell one of my XE ones, I could probably do it.
MPD: [00:47:29] That's awesome. Okay. And how does
Alex Taub: [00:47:32] the market a little bit easy, but like, I could probably even sell for a premium.
MPD: [00:47:37] When I, when I hear about the NFT craze, when it first came out, it seemed like a lot of people who had missed out on Bitcoin getting in early were like, holy shit, this is the next Bitcoin.
I got to jump in first movers. You know, the game here is being in a room. Uh, and there was fear of missing out and everyone kind of focused. Um, you, one of the things that's different about this versus Bitcoin is Bitcoin has a finite supply. Now there's some argue in crypto. There's no finance supply because everyone's launching a new coin every other day.
It's new currency being created. Do you look at this and think that the supply is appropriately managed where the values will hold or do you think?
Alex Taub: [00:48:21] I think it was a project abroad project. So project project. Okay. So drew is, is on the record many times saying that, like, he thinks that there's going to be a way, like we haven't the NBA tops out, got really overvalued, really.
Um, because there's just like a flooded the market. And then there was just a lot of moments and it kept missing more moments. So it's like they made some issues, but I think longterm they'll be fine. I think everyone who came in for series two, which is about the end when series three starts and they opened it up to China and to other countries, people can be like, oh, you have a series two moment.
That's amazing. Like, it's always going to be like, you know, oh, you know, the things that are like discontinued get more hot, but taking that aside for a second. There's going to be a winter for NFTs, just like there was for, uh, ICO's you know, the IKOS, the initial coin offerings. 2017, winter, 2018, 2019, basically 2020.
MPD: [00:49:22] think they're coming back, do you think
Alex Taub: [00:49:24] they have come back? All these companies are, are basically coins. Uh, everything from Flo to Solano to doge, they're all coins. I mean, um, they're just like basically all the companies that were just not real, they all died. And then all the real ones, uh, would just put their heads down and start.
And then defy came out. So there's going to be a winter for NFTs a real winter. Now you'll be able to, it may, it may be if like Ethereum goes down a lot, but I think it's the, room's going to be at like 10 K by the end of the year. Um, but I think like there's going to be a winter for a lot of entities is just going to be worthless.
And then it's going to come back with the metaverse and that's like everyone who knows anything, or at least the people that I find to be. Say that the metaverse is the big thing. So it's like the, the worlds is like where the biggest opportunities. Yes. For the Ft. Explain that,
MPD: [00:50:23] explain metaverse for people who aren't.
Alex Taub: [00:50:25] versus like, is like, you know, everything from Bitmoji to genies, to even Zed, Zed, they say it's like, it's a powerless universe where horse racing is the number one job for everybody. And everyone owns horses and they race them like worldwide. Um, if anyone here has, you know, or anyone listening eventually to this thing is interested in like the comic books and, and, and, you know, world-building, I mean, this is, this is the, what people believe is going to be the big opportunity.
Like the dream is you build a world you're making like passive income because you own land and people are paying you to use your, your racetrack or use your building or whatever it is. And you're earning this passive income. And you can do whatever you want in the real world, because you're making enough money to pay your rent in the metaverse.
MPD: [00:51:17] Is that, where is that eventually people are buying land and owning race tracks, or
Alex Taub: [00:51:21] do you think it's eventually you're gonna sell some racetracks that you could buy them? Um, I think the company has probably poised the best for like the metaverse is, is actually epic. You know, to some degree epic games, uh, you know, no, it's a, it's a place you go and you battle and you, you battle Roy and all that stuff, but they have the, like, if you go and you listen to the apple versus epic games, court room thing, the Tim Sweeney, the founder of epic games was talking a lot about the metaverse.
Like he had explained a lot of this stuff. It's actually a great read. And I think like epic is really, really poised. I think snap is trying to figure out some stuff around that with Bitmoji and, and the live maps and stuff like that. There's uh, there's some, I mean, listen, a metaverse is a waste. If you ever read ready player one, or you ever saw the movie.
Yeah. That's that's the metaphors. Um, and like, You, you buy like a pair of shoes in the metaverse like, and you open up your, your, your coat and you've got all these different, you've got guns, you've got whatever, you've got, whatever you want. Um, and like, you know, you own digital versions of them. And I th I thought like, uh, roadblocks is also a really big metaverse player.
I think I saw an roadblocks, like someone sold a handbag, like a Gucci handbag or offending handbag, or a Prada handbag for more than what it actually costs. And it's just like, I don't know, to me, that's really fascinating stuff,
MPD: [00:52:48] Alex, this was awesome. Thanks for making
Alex Taub: [00:52:50] time. Thanks for having me. This was fun.
MPD: [00:52:57] Awesome. So I have yet to dive too deep into the world of NFTs, but maybe my next investment will be a digital horse. Stable, super big. Thanks to Alex for explaining all of the NFT stuff and sharing the story behind upstream. I'm pretty excited to watch them roll out more features and continue to find you in the platform.
I think it's gonna have a big impact. If you like, what you heard, please look us up with a like, or a five star review and feel free to share with a friend. You can find me on Twitter at MPD, and to hear more of my conversations with innovators, subscribe on YouTube, Facebook for any major podcast platform, just search for innovation with Mark Peter Davis.