Transcript – Simplifying the Multilayered World of Web3 with Sebastian Rusk
“SR: Web3 is going to revolutionize the world in the way we do things. So, are you going to be a part of it or not?”
[00:00:09] MM: Veritone presents Adventures in AI, the worldwide podcast that dives into the many ways artificial intelligence is shaping our future for the better. I'm your host, Magen Mintchev and this is yet another third part of the metaverse series here on Adventures in AI.
Today I'm speaking with a podcaster himself, Sebastian Rusk. Sebastian is a seasoned podcaster. I mean, this guy's been doing it for nearly 12 years. He hosts multiple podcasts, including The Daily Startup, where he recently featured our own Chief Marketing Officer, Scott Leatherman. And he also hosts another podcast called Web3 SUCKS! (If You Don't Understand It). I love that title. Besides being a serial podcaster, Sebastian helps humans start podcasts and is also the founder of Podcast Launch Lab. So, for fellow podcasters out there looking to start a podcast or even learn more information, Sebastian's your guy. As I just mentioned, he is into NFTs, and that is the main reason why he's here with us today. So, let's get to know Sebastian a little bit more, his background and his experience in the NFT and Web3 community.
[00:01:14] SR: I started my journey as a digital marketer/storyteller back in 2010. I met a guy by the name of Gary Vaynerchuk. And Gary really altered the path that I was on and helped me better understand the power of building my personal brand, while simultaneously building my business brand, which was a digital agency that helps people – it was all things social media. I just gotten started. I would wash your car on the weekend, if you needed me to, as long as you had a budget.
I did that and started to establish myself as the go-to within the social media space back in 2010, 2011. Wrote my first book, Social Media Sucks!: (if you don't know what you're doing), and I told that whole story and gave my point of view and my experience and what I've learned from Gary so far. And then fast forward to 2016, I just was not happy with the work that I was doing. So, I decided that there's got to be more here. How do I pivot and not have to leave the space? Meaning, I don't want to leave the social media world. I just don't want a social media agency. I don't want to do social media work. There's got to be more within that category. One day, a friend called me and said, “Hey, Sebastian, can you help me start a podcast?” And that was it. Things have never been the same since that conversation. I launched the Podcast Launch Lab in 2016, went all in, full time with it, didn't do any other work, made a decision that if it’s not podcasting, we're not doing it. So, that was 2018 and literally have not looked back since.
[00:02:27] MM: So, Sebastian went from social media to podcasting. But where exactly does Web3 fit in here?
[00:02:36] SR: In the middle of 2021, this whole Web3 thing started to pop off, if you will. It would be part of the conversation within the digital landscape. One of those individuals was Gary Vaynerchuk. So, one of the first successful projects that I became aware of was Veefriends. I have serious FOMO to this day, because I did not buy a Veefriend for 1,700 bucks on launch day, which I totally could, but I couldn't figure out how to actually buy the NFT. I didn't understand the digital wallet. I set it all up and then how do I get crypto and wire. By the time you get done with all that, now you want 1,700 bucks into a digital wallet. I'm buying something with something called Eth and Ethereum and Bitcoin, and I don't really know what's going on. So, I literally closed the browser out and I’m still in deep regret to this day of doing that, just because I didn't know, but a confused mind will always say no, that’s with anything. I stayed committed to better understanding what was going to happen in this world of Web3. I'm like, “How do I start to dig in? How do I start to dig in?”
So, I started to ask questions. I started to reach out to friends that were getting involved. And then I started to buy NFTs. I'm like, “Let me just dive in here,” because you can't win the race unless you get in the race. I'm not looking to buy an NFT and flip it and get rich and retire. That'd be cute and everything. But I think you're a complete anomaly, if that happens. If you happen to be within the space of being able to buy a Bored Ape for 400 or 500 bucks when they had first launched, you are part of a very, very small category. But I did want to become a practitioner, not just why are people spending ludicrous amounts of money on a JPEG? But what else does this mean? And as Gary continued to preach the conversation about Web3, that Web3 is going to be all about community. He's been preaching community with social media for the past 15 years. But now, even more heightened, and that everything is moving to the blockchain, and how we do life, how we do business, the way that we vet an insurance policy, buy a house, buy a car, track things, it's becoming more and more transparent, because of what the blockchain has to provide with removing the middleman or the middle person, if you will, from the equation and just making life just that much easier.
As I look back and say, “Well, what did Web3 do for us?” Web3 allowed us to have life become, communication become a little easier and remove a little bit more friction, because we didn't have to do animalistic things like take out an envelope, write on it, put a stamp on it and walk to the post office and drop it in the mailbox. We had this thing called email or we had instant messaging, or we had texting, or we had whatever the platform was available. I think at the same time, Web 2.0 really prepared us for ushering us into the next frontier, which is Web3. Because the skeptics of Web 2.0 learned their lesson, when they dug their heels in and said, “I don't need this for my business or my life, I've never needed it.” And then quickly realized that's where all the eyeballs were, they found themselves holding the bag. I think people are thinking a lot differently now with Web3, and more willing to say, “I don't know what this whole Web3, NFT, metaverse thing is all about, I just know this is where we're headed, and this is where we need to be thinking from a brand point of view and then also just the general life point of view.”
I'm extremely excited about what's to come with Web3. The majority of it is uncertainty. It's very volatile, especially in the NFT market. And we're in the midst of, at the time we're recording this episode, we are in the depths of a crypto crash market, crash correction, whatever you want to call it. So, it's interesting to see the different dynamics and how it all works out and regulations of whatnot.
[00:06:02] MM: It's funny, you brought up MySpace. I was just having a conversation about that yesterday with someone else and being an early adopter. So, I was right on there with you. Facebook, when it launched, I think in 2004, I was part of that exclusive college community that only – it was open to just college kids. Very nostalgic there.
[00:06:20] SR: It really is. Whatever happened to Tom?
[00:06:22] MM: Right. Tom Anderson. Where are you? If you're out there, hit us up.
A little walk down memory lane there for you. Next, I asked Sebastian to, in his own words, give a description of NFTs, what they are, and why we should care about them.
[00:06:38] SR: It's my understanding that it's a digital asset, and NFT is just one type of digital asset that one can own. That digital asset is one of one, lives on the blockchain, and is defined by a smart contract that says, “This person owns this specific NFT or this specific asset on the blockchain.” When I really started to understand this, Magen, was when someone gave me a couple of different examples. Like, okay, let's say I come over to your house for a dinner party. And I see this painting on the wall, and you're an artist, and I'm like, “Holy cow. That's super cool. I want that for my new loft.” You're like, “Cool, I just got done with the last month. Everything's for sale that I create.” I'm like, “Awesome. How much is it?” You go, “It's 1,500 bucks.” I go, “Awesome. I'll Venmo you 1,500 bucks.” I'll take it off the wall. At the end of the dinner party, go home. I'll hang it on my wall and the transactions done offline, from artists to new owner.
And then a couple of weeks later, I have a dinner party in my house and I have some friends come over and they're like, “Holy cow. I love that piece. That's amazing.” I'm like, “My friend Magen made it and I bought it from her at her dinner party randomly a couple of weeks ago.” And they said, “Great. How much did you pay for it?” I said, “It was 1,500 bucks.” Like, “Well, I love it and I'll give you 2,500 bucks for it.” And I'm like, “Absolutely, Magen's cool and everything but cash rules the spot, you all.” So, I paid 1,500, he's giving me 2,500. I'm pocketing 1,000 bucks. But the problem is Magen never sees a dollar from that second sale. You only get paid that first time around. NFTs have changed all of that. Because if Magen's piece of art is now on the blockchain and selling as an NFT, if Sebastian buys it, and then resells it to Bob, and Cindy and Sally, indefinitely, every time that NFT sells, based on how the smart contract is set up, you get a rip on every sale infinitely based on how the contract is structured. And that really started to make a lot of sense to me.
What's happening here is NFTs are allowing the artists to become the focal point. Because if you look at the art world, it’s reigned by galleries and brokers. The artists very rarely are the ones capitalizing on all of the success of what they've created and I think NFTs are changing that drastically. Again, there's so many layers to all of this. I think when we back up and say, “Well, why don't we get started in this NFT space?” I’ll use an example of art. Do you actually like the art? Step one. Step two, do you like the artist? And then what kind of community is around that artist? And then based on you investing in that artist or that JPEG or that sports card, or whatever it is, the artist, the team, the project, everyone behind it, do you believe in what's taking place? And then what are the available utilities, because you own that specific NFT? But there's a lot of businesses and brands out there hosting their events. There's a lot of businesses and brands where people would love to own that NFT, the ticket NFT to future events, future access, future special sit down fireside chats, dinners, one on one Zoom conversations with the powers to be, that people they look up to.
So, I think that this is going to take access and put it on a completely different level as far as how brands and consumers interact with each other and it's already starting to take place. I mean, we look at Bored Apes and their collaboration with Adidas and what's going to happen within the metaverse, and being able to see it from there.
[00:09:57] MM: Since Sebastian brought up use cases for specific brands, I did want to understand a little bit more from his point of view what he thought they were doing right, or maybe there was something he thinks that they could possibly improve on.
[00:10:11] SR: There's one example where you look at one of the most successful NFT projects to date, Bored Apes, and the brand behind it, launching their metaverse land feature, and it's still having hiccups. And that's a big learning lesson there that we're all still new to all of this and going and figuring this all out. The collaboration with Adidas and Bored Apes was absolutely brilliant. But again, another – I literally waited all day long for that to happen. It started, it stopped. It waited here, it's there. And then they finally opened it back up and the gas fees were like 700 bucks and transactions. Again, we're not going through, but you were still paying gas fees and you're not getting the NFT.
So, I know some people that did get it. So, it was definitely a successful collaboration and launch with Bored Apes and Adidas. I think that Adidas has always been forward looking when it comes to technology, and I think that they're going to have a very, very active presence, or already do in Web3 and also, in the metaverse. I firmly believe that you're going to be able to go attend a party at Snoop Dogg's house in the metaverse, rocking a pair of shell toed metaverse Adidas, that are the next new pair that are coming out, that are very hard to be able to get. If you're a holder, you're now in the raffle to actually buy the physical pair when they do come out. I think those have been two of the most recognized ways of being active in the metaverse. Snoop is all in with the metaverse too, he sees the value.
[00:11:34] MM: Yeah, Snoopverse.
[00:11:36] SR: Yeah, exactly. With him buying Death Row Records, and really restructuring and redefining how the music business is done, is just going to revolutionize that whole world too. Because imagine your favorite artist’s album dropping, you can buy the album via an NFT, and that includes a private performance in the metaverse for just holders.
[00:11:57] MM: So, we all know you win some, you lose some, and you gotta fail to succeed, which is what a lot of companies and people are doing with NFT's in Web3. It's just a big learning curve. On the flip side, though, I wanted to know what Sebastian thinks is the real future promise for companies like Adidas and Bored Apes.
[00:12:14] SR: I think the future promise for these companies is that they're going to have a strong advantage to their competition if they can adapt a Web3 strategy that really hones in on providing, number one, building their community, even more, but maybe even a community within their existing community, that's also going to benefit by having specific access and benefits based on the Web3 strategy they put together. I don't know what that looks like yet. I still think we're too early to the game to say what can Tropicana do for their NFT? Is it free orange juice forever? I think it's just too early to tell but I do know that there are solutions being created and brands are very eager to get in the game. But I think that the ones that are going to adopt the earliest and figure this out, are going to win first.
[00:13:08] MM: What about any other underlying technology that the companies could use? Do you think there is any?
[00:13:14] SR: The blockchain is going to continue to reveal new opportunities for brands and businesses to figure out what can be built on top of that platform, to be able to make life and business in the solution or product that they provide just that much easier. So, it's kind of a time will tell thing for me, because number one, I don't know what's going to happen, and I hate to predict the future but if I had to guess, I would say, it's figuring out what your thing is with Web3, and your brand, and how you guys can double down and go all in with it.
[00:13:50] MM: I did want to switch gears here and also dive into how creators and consumers should do their due diligence to avoid scams and any rug pulls.
[00:14:03] SR: I mean, don't get involved with a brand or community or a leader of a specific community that's not clearly doxxed. That's a new term, dox, like you've been able to go and search and do your due diligence on these people, project, et cetera, and understand exactly what they're doing, what they're behind, what they're all about. Do they go by their actual name? Can you actually talk and see them? Can you communicate with them? This whole idea that Web3 is this whole new version of the dark web is the furthest from reality and where it's at. These are still people and businesses and brands trying to create solutions on here. But at the same time, just as with anything, even in every superhero movie, we got good versus bad. You've always got, with as much good as Web3 is providing, unfortunately, there's people out there that are out to target and cause harm. The only way to prevent yourself from falling victim to all that is not investing or getting involved with projects that you don't understand who's actually behind those projects, and why they're doing what they're doing. What is the community doing? How have they shown up for you? What has been your experience? Why you believe in what they're doing? And really going in and doing, for lack of a better phrase, a full-blown background check before getting involved with what you're doing.
And then when we look at the – I just want to get started, especially, if I’m going to start buying some crypto, how do I do all that? Well, first things first is to educate yourself. Get on YouTube, and start saying, “How do I set up a digital wallet on MetaMask? How do I buy some Bitcoin?” And starting with the one on one stuff and going through and buying some crypto and then setting up a digital wallet, and understanding the power and importance behind your seed phrase of your digital wallet. For those of you that don't know what that is, when you have a digital wallet, you have a seed phrase. It’s like, I don't know, 12 or 18 random words, and that seed phrase is the only way that you can ever access your digital wallet in the event you lose your password.
So, there's no password recovery. You're not going to call MetaMask. You’re not going to call – you have this seed phrase and it's very important. I learned the hard way. I was in a Discord and I was verifying my account, and it popped up. It said, “What’s your seed phrase?” I gladly typed in. Thank God there was only 80 bucks in my wallet. But it could have been a lot worse. Never ever, ever give your seed phrase away. So, the bank safety deposit box probably one of your best bets on there, because it's always – when it comes to buying NFTs, who's behind it? Are these people doxxed? Have you been able to get in there and figure out what they are, what they're all about, what their background is, what the community is saying all about them? What does their Discord say? No one will ever DM you anything special. No one will ever DM you any, “You've won this,” or “We want to give you that.” That's never going to happen via direct message. I turned my direct messages off on Discord, but on Instagram or anywhere else. So, using just, dare, I say common sense. But it's not that common these days, with Web3 being so new.
[00:16:50] MM: Since NFTs minting can create a significant impact on a company's carbon footprint, I asked Sebastian if he was concerned or if he heard any issues from creators or owners of them being concerned when it comes to minting large libraries at scale.
[00:17:08] SR: Well, I think that until this whole Ethereum thing gets resolved as far as gas fees are concerned, and I'm told that Ethereum 2.0 is going to help with all of that. I don't understand enough of Bitcoin mining and all of that. But I do know that it does consume resources, energy, and fossil fuels and all kinds of crazy things that make my mind melt just thinking about it. I don't think that brands know enough about Web3 yet to be sitting here and going, “Well, wait a second. Is this bad for the environment?” I think that they may be aware of that there, and I think that technology always has a solution built on top of another solution, built on top of another solution that solves the problem. And I think that's going to continue to happen with gas fees and making sure that sustainable solutions are being created as part of this whole Web3 landscape.
[00:17:53] MM: When I asked Sebastian to talk about NFTs and when he thinks it's going to hit mass consumer scale, with confidence he said, “Two years.”
[00:18:04] SR: Oh, because it's already starting to happen. People are already starting to get in the mix and get curious and set up, buy crypto and buying NFT, and getting the mix and some get lucky, and some just were curious. So, I think that we spent the last year going, “What is this? I don't know what this is? I'm either interested or I'm not.” So, we find those two categories. And then you have, “I'm interested in this, but I'm really not interested or I'm not really that interested, but I kind of am.” I think it's like a mixed bag of being able to figure out what's going to be next here. But being able to just remain curious is so important, and remain open to what's possible, and knowing that Web3 is going to revolutionize the world and the way we do things. So, are you going to be a part of it or not?
[00:18:44] MM: Mic drop, really. That's true. All right, well, what do you think is going to be the next big trend for NFTs? Because right now, we're seeing these massive devaluations on early assets like the first tweet by Jack Dorsey or even the Bored Apes like you mentioned before. So, what's the next big trend? What's the next big boom? Do you think it's going to have longer legs?
[00:19:07] SR: I think it is. I think the next big boom is going – I think photographers, in my just prediction, I think photography is going to be able to go to the forefront. Photographers have always done really well being able to create their vision on what they want to be able to do, sell their work, and build a business and brand out of it. But as far as what that looks like with Web3, I think it's going to be similar to what's taking place with this whole JPEG wave of NFTs that have started to take place. I also think the hospitality world is going to really wrap their arms around this.
If you look at what Gary has done with this sushi restaurant that's not even open yet. The restaurant is not even open yet and they sold like 17 million in NFTs where if you own the NFT, you're allowed to eat at this restaurant. You have to pay for your own sushi. But if you have the NFT, you can eat at this restaurant because you're a members-only, if you will. As an NFT holder, you can also lease that NFT to friends and family, people that want to go to the restaurant, if you're not actually utilizing it. So, I think the hospitality world, specifically restaurants and experiences are really going to be first in line here next, to be able to say, “Hey, we're launching our NFT. Do you want in in this specific place?” And everybody wants in. Everybody wants to eat at a cool place in town. Everybody wants access, especially if they're in a big city like New York or Miami or LA, any trending places, that it's tough to get a reservation or a table in. But if you're an NFT holder, it's going to be a whole different ballgame.
[00:20:24] MM: I also asked Sebastian what he thinks the recent downturn in the market has on NFTs and how long he thinks it's going to last.
[00:20:31] SR: Some financial guy reached out to me yesterday, a buddy of mine, really versed in the financial market, and also crypto. I mean, as much as you possibly can. He said he doesn't think the blood bath’s even anywhere close to being over with, and it'll probably end top off, with Bitcoin dropping to about 13,000. He put in parentheses, if not a little bit more.
So, when we look at this whole idea, then it was language beyond my understanding, but it was as soon as tether crashes, everything else is going to follow suit, including Bitcoin going down to 13,000, which when I first learned about it, it was 5,000 a coin, and that was back in 2016. So, a couple things can happen here. Buy low, sell high. Investing 101. So, is now a good time to buy? I think now's a good time to chill out and see where this thing is going, and see when it's going to start to taper off. And when it stays at that number and there's no signs based on what you've seen of it continuing to take a nosedive. Because last thing you want to do is buy whatever it is right now, 30,000 right now, and then it ends up dropping another 10,000 or 15,000, and you could have just waited and bought it at that point.
So, buying the dip, very hard to tell. Very hard to tell to buy a dip with the stock market too. Usually, when I was talking to another investor, buddy of mine in my networking group, and he's just a financial guy, no crypto involved at all, because typically, when the stock market goes down, things like gold and crypto and these other assets go up, and vice versa. And now, everything's going down at the same time. So, there's a huge, huge overdue correction taking place right now, and the people that were into the game and rich overnight, the cream is rising to the top here on being able to separate people that have just shown up overnight and gotten involved in this, and people that are truly committed to what's happening and willing to buckle themselves in and ride the wave here. And that's exactly what I've done. I'm not fully vested in crypto or NFTs. I have diversified a little bit to be able to build a portfolio there so that when this thing comes back, and it will, I've still got some play in the game.
I had thoughts of let's just liquidate everything right now and run for the freaking hills. Absolutely. But I don't want to sit here with this shoulda, coulda, woulda when Bitcoin goes to 100 grand. Plus, you look at what the government is trying to – do the President with his Executive Order, and people are still trying to define what that even really means. But what happens when the government steps in and said, “Hey, we want to have our name in the hat or not have our name in the hat, our name is going to be in play here when it comes to cryptocurrency and coin, et cetera.” So, merging these traditional financial systems together with this deregulated system is going to be very, very interesting. But I'm just sitting here with my popcorn waiting to see how it's all going to pan out.
[00:23:09] MM: So, while Sebastian is getting the popcorn ready, I'm asking him, what's your advice for someone trying to learn and grow in the NFT space then?
[00:23:17] SR: I would say, educate yourself. There's a couple of books out there that you can pick up right now, just giving the basics of NFTs. There's a plethora of podcasts out there. There's a lot of NFT podcasts popping up all over the place. My friends have a new podcast that new, they launched in August, and they just hit a million downloads. It's called NFTs For Newbies, and they've done a really good job because their approach is, “Hey, we're a bunch of newbies hosting the show. The show done by newbies for newbies.” And that's exactly what they’ve done. They actually just rebranded to Web3 and NFTs For Newbies. But they're doing a great job with what their – hello, a million downloads since August is –
[00:23:50] MM: Yeah, that's amazing.
[00:23:51] SR: Absolutely unbelievable. So that's a great way to start. There's this one podcast called Web3 SUCKS! (if you don’t understand it). This guy, Sebastian Rusk hosts.
[00:23:58] MM: Yeah, I think I've heard of him.
[00:24:01] SR: YouTube, books, podcasts, ask questions, vet people, do your research, know who you're getting involved with.
[00:24:08] MM: We covered a lot in this episode talking about NFTs in the Web3 community, particularly about staying safe in that world, making sure that the rug is not being pulled over your eyes, making sure that you're avoiding scams. Biggest thing is to always do your due diligence.
This has been another episode of Adventures in AI, the worldwide podcast that dives into artificial intelligence and how it is shaping our future and technologies for the better. This is your host, Magen Mintchev, and we'll talk with you next time.
Podcast Host of Web3 SUCKS! (if you don't understand it)