MetaJam: You Are What You BUIDL
No matter the era, people’s need to match with like-minded brains, check the credibility of newly-made friends, and accumulate social status are never outdated – just in different ways and for different purposes. Web3 has moved into a new era. When the Web3 community is exploding, traditional word of mouth cannot fulfill people’s needs to connect. Web3 people need LinkedIn, CrunchBase, Product Hunt, Glassdoor, in a Web3-native way. BUIDLers are trying to blockchainize the process of constructing social networks and reputation, so people are able to discover cool Web3 products and dapps, construct disruptive Web3 projects, and build their reputation through projects. This is what MetaJam is trying to do.
As the community support partner of the ETH Shanghai Web 3.0 Developer Summit and Hackathon, MetaJam is passionate about being a “matchmaker” in this nascent but exciting field, to ignite insightful discussions of hot topics, facilitate collaborations, and thereby define the future of Web3.
When the ETH Shanghai Hackathon was on fire, Pandaily interviewed two of the four Co-Founders of MetaJam – Jean and Bob – looking back at their ‘Aha!’ moment for entering the rabbit hole of Web3, and their cautious but ambitious expectations for the future.
Pandaily: Tell us more about yourself and how you entered Web3.
Jean: I was working in the traditional media industry for many years. In the early 2000s, I once entered the Dotcom wave briefly but did not insist. Some of my old friends stayed even after the bubble burst, and they have been rewarded by their insistence. After returning to the media realm, I have kept close contact with the tech-related – especially “Geek” – community. When the concept of blockchain was introduced to me, I felt I was back in the early 2000s, when a new thing that can make a huge change popped up.
Bob: My background is more tech and development related. I graduated from UC Berkeley and was working in the Bay Area for years. I founded an open community for creators in the tech field called Decode to bridge technology and entrepreneurship. Decode was founded in 2016, when Web3 was not a thing. I joined Himalaya as one its first members in the US office as Head of Product. I connected with the MetaJam team this year, felt a click between us, and decided to join.
Pandaily: Jean, you mentioned you used to be a media professional. How did you make it step-by-step to your current position and how does your media background shape who you are today?
Jean: I studied Chinese in college. I have an interest in wealth, but not that crazy. Back in 2017, I met Robert Mao, “Lao Mao,” who was one of the first people who introduced SNS in China. He was also the one who ignited my passion for blockchain, as I mentioned. We founded ArcBlock together. It was a hotly discussed project in the wave of ICO. The bear market arrived soon after but we stayed here and ArcBlock should be the first one to introduce the concept of DID (Decentralized Identity). Thus, I have considered a lot about social connections in Web3. When the bull market was finally back last year, I decided to be more active in this direction.
My media background was beneficial. I started M7E in May 2020 with two other co-founders who are not here today. M7E is named after metaverse, with the same name structure as A16Z. It was a WeChat official account in the beginning. It might sound natural for me, as a previous media professional, to do content, but I knew I didn’t want to run a pure content platform from the start. I used to research Disney a lot before, and its success largely relied on the founder’s strong sense of “new media.” When most people were creating on newspapers and magazines, [Walt Disney] made use of the erstwhile new medium: the movie. NFTs and metaverse are my “movie.” Especially when NFTs were dumped, I was very excited. Based on my understanding, NFTs can bring users full ownership and they are much more than just JPG images. NFTs have countless and borderless user cases that are waiting to be exploited. The slogan of M7E is “The Metaverse cannot be built without NFT.”
However, a media background also has its cons. Many media people are good at information curation, but lack the ability to dig into something, and sometimes they are too critical theoretically without hands-on experiences. However, Web3 is something that you have to be fully immersed in.
Pandaily: MetaJam also stemmed from M7E.
Jean: Yes. M7E has accumulated many followers, including some big names in the field. Suji Yan from Mask was one of them and he introduced me to other connections. With those connections, I organized the Shanghai Metaverse Week last October. It was bomb, and M7E then co-hosted the Old Friends Reunion with IOSG in Shenzhen. I then decided I had to take a further step beyond content and events – to launch a real product.
Pandaily: Besides you two, what do the other two co-founders do? Most teams have fewer co-founders.
Jean: One is our CTO, who used to work in Alibaba. Another one was working in a Fortune 500 in BD and has much experience in crypto communities. I take more responsibility for branding and marketing. Bob is doing a lot in product and growth. We have different backgrounds and skillsets and all of us have decision power.
Pandaily: Decentralized from the team structure. You mentioned social identity multiple times. Was this also the original intention of founding MetaJam?
Jean: Yes. When I introduced MetaJam to Suji in March, he said, ‘it is a product hunt thing?’ I said, ‘you are right.’ MetaJam aims to discover and build cool Web3 products. Some other people said, ‘it is a LinkedIn thing?’ I said, ‘you are right, as well.’
MetaJam is the first application supported by POB Protocol, which is a verifiable reputation protocol for Web3 BUIDL. We hope to construct a network for BUIDLers to find people, funding, products, etc. We also want to help those new to Web3 grow.
We have three layers to building this Web3 powerhouse. One is for talent. One is for funding, especially under the condition that many VCs are planning to go all-in with Web3 recently. They also need to be educated and led. One is for product. The development of Web3 needs a wide range of products to support it. The key differentiation between a Web2 product and a Web3 product is whether users have full ownership of their data. Centralized data ownership is a compromise due to the limitations of infra and efficiency. When I was working in the TV station, cameramen were the most powerful in the team because the value of a professional camera was also equal to that of an apartment in Shanghai. But when the internet and phone cameras were trending, almost everyone can shoot something.
Pandaily: You mentioned that people who used to work in traditional VCs are switching their eyes to Web3 now. It reminds me that since Web3 is a very new idea and people are continuously entering it, different people might be at different stages of understanding regarding Web3. How can MetaJam help people at different stages to position and brand themselves better?
Jean: The first thing is similar to what other projects are doing. We can import on-chain data bound to people’s wallet address. What’s more, we encourage people to learn and participate in the projects on MetaJam. Those behaviors will be recorded through POB protocol and their progress will be tracked well in what we called verified quests. Records via POB protocol are not isolated, and they are forming a workflow and quest set instead, to provide a comprehensive view.
POB can be used on a broader scale. For example, people can track user behavior for their whitelists distribution. Currently, project managers need to set up rules manually and a lot of scammers exist. Projects can use POB protocol to track users’ long-term behavior and leave whitelists to those with real values.
Bob: Web3 is very attractive since people can have different identities. Web3 is ideally permissionless, which leads to the possibility of composable innovation. Blockchain creates permissionlessness via code, but people’s interaction still requires permission. Therefore, in our product design, we need to summarize and categorize roles that need permissions in between. The current answer is those roles are talent, capital, and partnerships. You need permission to get funded from others, to recruit talent successfully, and to agree on a contract for partnerships. In the Web3 era, people can have different roles across those three, and we need to consider how we can help them switch roles and interact with other roles without permission on MetaJam.
We hope to use POB protocol and MetaJam to chain those currently dotted nodes to build a network through our key feature “quest” as introduced by Jean before. The product was just launched a short while ago, and the quest feature has not been released, but we have helped a few people reach collaborations offline, where we confirmed the needs of MetaJam are promising.
Pandaily: In summary, POB is a protocol and MetaJam is an application built on POB. It has major potential in the future that we might not see now. At the moment, since the feature quest has not been released yet, the “matchmaking” work is still done manually.
Bob: The President of YC once said, “Do things that scale.” Manually introducing people to each other is definitely not something that can be scaled up. However, we can target the real pain points through the process more accurately and hopefully provide a product that fulfill people’s needs better. In POB 1.0, we have built a two-side verification system, in which I can request my employer to verify my work, for instance. In v2.0, we are building a more dynamic workflow system, in which users can personalize what to verify, who to verify, how much to pay for verification, etc. We will provide different templates for different situations. This update is based on our discussions with users and all of the manual work we have done.
Pandaily: This is a pro of building an application by yourself. You can improve your protocol while updating your application.
Jean: Exactly. We started with application, but then found it necessary to have a solid protocol to support. Vitalik Buterin proposed soulbound tokens (SBTs) earlier this year. I did not read his article immediately, but when I read it, I found a lot of similarities in our thoughts, and MetaJam should be among the first ones to try and experiment with the idea. Different from other tokens, soulbound-alike tokens, or reputation-related tokens, are not transferrable. Otherwise, how can I tell your reputation records are real or not. However, tokens are expected to have liquid to be assigned values, so people’s good reputations can be rewarded financially. In our POB v2.0, we are hoping to have a soulbound token to track your reputation, as well as another token to reward your contributions. It is pretty fun.
Pandaily: I have two follow up questions. People are changing. Someone might have made mistakes before but hope to get another chance. How can we make sure someone is not overpunished by their previous negative records? Another question is – reputation cannot be quantified all the time, so how can you tokenize something that cannot be quantified?
Jean: Good questions. We are planning to take positive incentives in most cases. Another thing is we allow users to decide whether to make a quest public or private, or a quest record can expire after a certain period of time. As to your second question, we are also thinking of a balanced approach. Our current thought is to focus on protocol design, and we will leave some flexibility to let things develop naturally. As you said, something might not be able to be ruled quantitatively, so we cannot set everything too fixed.
Bob: It is a tribunal rather than a score system. Many tribunal cases do have a clear-cut approach as to who is right, and the result might depend on the jury’s preference. In our protocol design, we have to consider the question seriously – who can decide one’s reputation. The question of reputation being quantified reminds me of the social credit in Black Mirror. That is not quite what we want to do. We will take a more balanced approach to qualitatively reflect on someone’s figure, instead of saying this is an 80-point person and that is a 90-point person.
Pandaily: I agree. A further question relates to the fact that people are emotionally complicated. Smart contracts are fixed and emotionless. Real life might be much more complicated than what a smart contract can cover.
Jean: Yes. People are complicated, and one way to solve the issue is to decentralize voice sources. I once read Principles by Ray Dalio, in which he discussed how to evaluate as objectively as possible. POB protocol is not giving a fixed standard for people to follow, but providing templates for different conditions and encouraging people to create new templates when the current ones cannot fulfill your needs. You can also earn rewards from your templates, since they are your contributions.
Pandaily: Everything becomes composable.
Pandaily: Based on your observations, what qualities can help someone get a better reputation in the Web3 era?
Jean: Everyone is a BUIDLer in Web3. You need to take ownership and be active. You are no longer bound to one project. In the future, a person will be composable and have different identities. You need to show your progress steps.
Pandaily: As people might have different identities, they also have different sides. Different identities bring different requirements for people, and some might want to demonstrate different selves in different places. How can people demonstrate their different sides here?
Jean: It is their own choice. The simplest way is to switch across wallets, but definitely, we hope to have a higher compatibility in the protocol.
Pandaily: It is a philosophical question then: who am I?
Jean: People always say you are what you read, you are what you eat, or whatever. In MetaJam, you are what you build. In Web2, people have Facebook, Twitter to share their thoughts. We know more about someone through their social media and see their growth through post timelines. It’s similar in POB. We are not recording isolated or static action; Instead, we are tracking the whole process of your growth, dynamically. Of course, as I said, you have the power to decide what to record and what to reveal.
Pandaily: We have talked a lot from the talent perspective. How about those teams? What is the biggest challenge for Web3 teams when scouting talent?
Bob: Of course, people need to learn new skillsets when they transit from Web2 to Web3. Also, since Web3 rewards people based on their contributions, those who take on more responsibilities and contribute more are getting paid more. This is different from Web2. In Web2, payrolls are even. You might do much more than your colleague, but since you two are at the same level, you earn almost the same. This is different from Web3. Your contributions are transparent here, and you need to adapt to the new mode.
As Jean said, in Web2, companies usually do not allow employees to take multiple jobs simultaneously since they cannot track people’s contributions clearly, so they take a simpler approach – you are mandated to work for me exclusively. However, in Web3, people can switch across projects freely since they are paid by their contributions. We are hoping to financially reward those who are actually building, and effectively help those who want to build in getting the necessary resources. This is strategically important for the whole ecosystem in both bull and bear markets.
Jean: Also, Web3 is still too nascent. It is still a game of people who are willing to try new things and take risks. People with strong curiosity and courage usually enjoy Web3 more. However, many people might feel it is interesting, but when you ask them to set up a wallet, they lay back.
Pandaily: Indeed, Web3 sets up a higher requirement for people who want to succeed – what is your advice for people who want to join the game?
Bob: This is a problem we are planning to solve. We want to launch a feature designed for those who just open a wallet and want to start their BUIDL journey. Basically, we want to decompose high-quality, first-hand information into a more readable version and share them with our community. Relying on our global connections, we want to have direct insights from BUIDLers or investors and let people have access to the information. “First-hand” is very important. If you want to know more about Ethereum, the best way is to go to visit the official website of Vitalik’s blog instead of reading a hundred pieces with other people’s summaries.
Jean: We are also thinking about how to systematize the learning path. If you complete a path, we might give you a certification, which is in addition to your Web3 reputation, like a soulbound token.
Pandaily: We are now entering another round of bear market sentiment. What should we do in this bear cycle?
Jean: BUIDL. You will feel steadily calm when you are BUIDLing something valuable. MetaJam is here to help people BUIDL and naturally support them to go through the bear time.
Bob: In 2020, Andreessen Horowitz wrote the article It’s Time to Build. This is also what I want to say. In the bull market, everybody invests in other people, but now, you should invest in yourself.