Exclusive Insights & Web3 Advice with Tausif Ahmed (ex-Kraken)
In this engaging interview, Tausif shares his fascinating journey from big tech consulting to the forefront of web3 innovation.
In this interview between Dibbs and Tausif Ahmed, formerly in the Business Development department at Kraken, shares his background and how he got into web3. He has 10+ years of experience in big tech consulting, specifically in strategic partnerships and business development. Tausif got interested in crypto and web3 in 2016-2017, starting with Bitcoin and Ethereum. His journey led him from working at Amazon Music to working at Kraken, where he explored music NFTs and their potential for artists and fans.
They discuss the role of NFT marketplaces in the overall NFT ecosystem and how they drive accessibility, discovery, and liquidity for NFTs. Tausif highlights the importance of marketplaces as a first touchpoint for new users and the need for differentiated experiences to cater to different customer segments.
Tausif also talks about Kraken's decision to launch its own NFT marketplace, emphasizing the importance of identifying a niche and building a product feature set that targets specific customer segments. They launched the marketplace during the bear market, which allowed them to take their time and get it right.
When discussing advice for novices in the NFT space, Tausif emphasizes the importance of understanding the identity of the NFT collection and aligning it with the right marketplace audience. He suggests considering marketplace features, functionality sets, fees, and royalty revenues to make the best decision.
Regarding standing out in a competitive marketplace, Tausif advises creators to be authentic, original, and clear about the purpose of their NFT collection. He highlights the significance of telling a compelling story around the NFT and engaging with the community to build excitement and support organically.
Whether you're a seasoned crypto enthusiast or a curious newcomer, this interview offers a captivating glimpse into the NFT revolution and its immense potential. Keep reading for insights into Tausif Ahmed's background, the role of NFT marketplaces, Kraken's venture into the NFT marketplace space, and valuable advice for creators in the competitive NFT market.
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Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm excited to be talking to you. I love your background. I've always been impressed by what Kraken has built, and we'd love to get your expertise in area platforms and tools, of course, but anything that you want to share some opinions about. Before we do, I would love to learn a little bit more about you. What is your background and, more importantly, how did you fall into web3?
Absolutely, thanks for having me, Ben. I really appreciate being here. It's been a bit of a circuitous path into web3, as I'm sure most people kind of go through the same thing. But my background is fundamentally in big tech consulting, primarily strategic partnerships, business development, a decade plus of experience in that.
Personally, I started getting into crypto and web3 back in 2016, 2017, found out about Bitcoin, read The Whitepaper and thought about Ethereum, and that kind of blew my mind. Obviously started investing in it personally on my own and kind of kept tabs on it over the years for sure.
In my last web2 role, I was at Amazon, and during my time there, I specifically was working on Amazon Music and working at the steam that was very focused on trying to identify incremental revenue streams for musicians and artists beyond just streaming revenue.
This could look like anything from physical music to concert merchandise and live music tickets and things like that. Obviously, with that mission in mind, I came across the idea of music NFTs and how they could kind of create a deeper connection between artists and their fans and bring that power back to artists.
I started going down the rabbit hole there, and then, shortly after that, I ended up in Business Development at Kraken for NFTs, helping drive the launch of our NFT marketplace and a number of other initiatives. That's the path that kind of brought me fully professionally into web3 today is chasing these specific use cases where I can kind of find areas where web3 really revolutionized the industry. That was pretty ripe for disruption.
Wow. Amazing background: Amazon, Kraken, music, NFTs. Let's dive a little bit more into the NFT space. We touched a little bit on the NFT marketplaces, but I'm curious, given your experience both in the music industry and with NFT space overall, what is the role of the NFT marketplaces in the overall NFT ecosystem? In particular, how are NFT marketplaces helping grow the popularity of NFTs overall?
Marketplaces in some ways can be kind of like the lifeblood of NFTs, right? Like, they essentially provide that first touch point and on ramp for a variety of consumers to jump into NFTs. First and foremost, they provide that accessibility, right? Obviously the web3 world is huge. And there's a variety of different NFTs you can kind of look at and think about and purchase and research. Marketplaces are kind of like that first touch point that actually enable you to access them, which is first and foremost, really key for anyone entering the space.
Beyond accessibility, I think there's a lot to be said about the role marketplaces play in terms of discovery and curation and ensuring that. The most high profile NFT is rise up to the top and offer that distribution to a variety of smaller projects that might actually be looking to get to a broader audience as well.
At the end of the day, marketplaces are two-sided marketplaces, right? And anyone looking to buy and sell NFTs are going to need liquidity and really deep order books to actually be able to drive price discovery and be able to get. An accurate valuation for their NFTs and gain that and capture that value from, from all that. Those are some really key aspects that ensure marketplaces enable, as they drive the broader adoption of NFTs in general. In addition to a variety of marketing levers and things that they can use, with launchpad tools and things like that.
Let's get back to Kraken for a second because Kraken made a very big announcement a few months ago. They launched their own NFT marketplace and I believe you were involved in that project in some ways. Can you tell us a bit more about what happened there? What was the driver behind this? And what have you learned from this?
Kraken for its entire history has been a centralized exchange, primarily focused on the trading of fungible tokens. Of course, with the last bull run in 2021 with NFTs arriving into the mainstream conversation and web3. For the next evolution of the company, we felt it was really important to be that trusted exchange for this new type of asset class as well. Honestly, it's been a huge bet for the company, probably the biggest since the launch of the original exchange. You only get to launch once, so we took our time to get it right, which is why we launched more recently.
One of the key things building this whole thing and putting it together was identifying what kind of niche we can really succeed in. There are a ton of NFT marketplaces out there right now. So differentiation is more important than ever. So you have to pick your niche and really excel at it. So I think first and foremost, we had to define what target customer we were really going for. Obviously there's a lot of people who spend a lot of time in web3 and you have your NFT degens who are on OpenSea and Blur and some of these other more pro trader marketplaces.
We wanted to offer an experience that would actually enable the next tranche of NFT users, like the novices and the newbies who want to dip their toes in the water and get into the space. So, really building an experience that was very newbie friendly.
What does that look like? How did that drive product decisions? With specific feature sets, focused around that, with a highly curated marketplace, where all of the collections that kind of get listed in our marketplace go through a very rigorous process to ensure they have the right incentives in place, that their smart contracts are audited and completely secure, and we're not adding any ruffles or anything like that, that drive a lot of negative news for NFTs in general. Making it really easy to go on and off ramp with fiat currency, being able to purchase NFTs with your credit card directly, rarity rankings, marketplace curation and things like that.
Really focusing on building a product feature set that was right for the customer segment that we're going after. In terms of the timing of the launch, too, I think launching in the middle of the bear market kind of took a little bit of the pressure off, ironically, because there was no need to really rush the launch of the marketplace once like the market cool down so we could really take our time to really get it right.
Web3 has done a very good job attracting degens and people who have a very strong interest in crypto and decentralized applications, but I'm curious for the novices, what advice do you have for them to select the right NFT? What type of questions should they be asking themselves or directly to the NFT before they can make the decision?
I think it actually connects back to my answer to the previous question. First and foremost, you have to deeply understand what the identity of what you're launching for your NFT collection truly is.
In terms of making the decision of which marketplace to choose to launch on, you have to position yourself to connect with the largest and most accessible audience for it. So you have to really study what marketplaces are out there, what their customer segments are, what niches they really excel at, and fit that NFT collection to be.
First and foremost, the marketplace audience is really key because it's going to drive. That decision on what is the best form of distribution and reach for your message, like a community project, distribution of that is likely going to look really different than something that's focused on a high fashion, luxury brand, or community loyalty points, or a sports NFT or something like that.
It's really key to understanding what kind of audience flocks to what marketplace and having that conversation. A next deeper layer effect is to actually understand what the marketplace features and functionality sets are. A number of different marketplaces will have an NFT launchpad with a variety of different tool sets that creators and marketers can use to launch their NFT in terms of community building allow listing, actual marketing drivers and social media tools, curated landing pages, things like that.
There's different pros and cons and different levels of sophistication across different marketplaces. That's something that marketers should really kind of seek to understand before making that decision too. Lastly, I would also say marketplace fees and royalty revenues are a key topic these days.
Depending on the size of your NFT collection or what your original mint price is, the percentage fee marketplaces charge could make a difference depending on your audience, right? If you're launching a NFT collection, that's several ETH to mint, your customers are probably a little less price sensitive, but, if you're a fledgling brand, that's launching a brand new collection without a lot of brand equity, you probably might have some audience who wouldn't want to spend as much on fees. For a lot of NFT collections, royalty revenues are a pretty key revenue stream. In terms of various marketplaces vying to gain market share, they've been using the lever of honoring royalty revenues, whether it's seeking to fully honor it, or whether dropping it to 0 or 0. 5% or something like that. If royalty revenue is going to be a key revenue stream for the growth of the project, I think that's something to examine, as well, in terms of whether the marketplace honors that or not.
That was a very thorough set of insights and expertise and passion into the world of NFTs, the world of Kraken, the world of NFT marketplaces as well. You have this extensive background in music and NFTs and Kraken and so many things you've accomplished, but the competition between the NFT marketplace is getting stronger and stronger.
You have Kraken here, you have OpenSea, you have SuperRare, you now have Blur. And it's becoming really, really hard for those marketplaces to stand out. It's important for creators to find the right platform for them to thrive. What web3 advice do you have for them to succeed in a fierce environment, and making sure that the right platform is going to be there for them in the long term, so that they can achieve their goals?
First and foremost, it's most important for these creators, I would say, to be clear about what you want your NFT collection to be about. There's a variety of different applications and use cases you can have in a lot of different directions. You can go to a space that's ripe for innovation and experimentation. So whether it's art, community, specific utility, gaming, et cetera, there's a lot of ways to do it, but being authentic to your identity and being original is a key to differentiating yourself.
It's become exceedingly easy in this day and age, especially within the last 18 months or so to create an NFT collection in minutes. So, don't be afraid to experiment and figure out what makes it unique.
If your NFT is an art piece, think about what you're trying to say with it and why people should care. Think about the story behind it and like, think about someone like Jack Butcher did with the checks collection and the gamification he had to that within the art around it. If it's about community, what is your community going to rally around and bond over? If it's around utility, what can you do to provide something that's above and beyond some of the things that people have already tried to do with utility and more standardized formats. Once you have your identity, you need to make sure you tell a compelling story around it, whether that's about yourself as an artist, the brand IP behind it, or about the collection itself.
Lastly, what makes or breaks a lot of these collections truly is the community. You need to engage with that community and figure out the best way to get people excited about what you're putting out there.
There's a variety of levers you can kind of pull to get people excited about it, right? Whether that's spending time on crypto Twitter, creating a Discord community, or going to events or conferences, or supporting other creators with their collections and showing that you're showing up to the space and actually there to be part of the broader NFT community and the web3 revolution. That key piece of getting these early adopters and influencers in there who get what your collection is going to be about first will go a long way towards spreading your message really organically and in an authentic fashion.