Entrepreneur Spotlight: Max Brody, Ink
In today’s blog post, we will be learning about Max Brody and his new company, Ink that is focused on NFTs. If you’re not familiar with NFTs (non-fungible tokens), they are a type of cryptocurrency that can represent tangible assets like real estate or artwork. This makes them an attractive investment option, and Max Brody is one of the pioneers in this area. We’ll be taking a closer look at his background, his companies, and the future of digital property.
Q: Thanks for talking to us about NFTs. Tell us about your background & what led you to work in this field?
I studied philosophy in college and considered being a philosophy professor, but then ultimately wanted to found companies because I saw that was a way of essentially having a philosophy, but putting it out into the world and in a structured way. That’s still how I see companies to this day. You have a worldview, philosophy, or some sort of statement you want to make about the world, and you can test it to see if you’re right and see if the world reacts in the way that you think the world works.
So my first company was called Penny, which was later renamed Cent, and it was one of the first crypto social networks. It was like a monetized social network, so you could join the network and earn an income from it. Instead of getting a like, you could give things one cent. If you got a million cents on the network, you earned $10,000. At first, when we started around 2015-2016, we weren’t able to do the microtransactions until we started working with Ethereum. There’s a sort of conceptual rabbit hole around Etherium and around blockchains in general; that sort of got me immensely fascinated then, and our company grew. We brought on a co-founder, and our company continued to grow right up until last year when I started to make a change towards founding a new company.
Cent made a lot of news earlier last year with the idea of turning the text of a tweet into an NFT. It became a popular topic on the network among many original NFT enthusiasts who were congregating on the social network. That’s where a lot of them would talk to each other. Then it blew up when Jack Dorsey, the Twitter founder, found out about it and tweeted it out, and people started to bid on his very first ever tweet. People began bidding on it, and eventually, someone bought it for approximately three million dollars.
Q: For someone new to or just learning about blockchain, what are NFTs?
In the physical world, we have property, we have things you can own, and essentially now, in the digital world, we have property so that you can own digital objects. People often ask questions like, why would I need to buy it if I can look at it? One of the common metaphors used to explain is, you can go to the Louvre Museum in Paris to look at the Mona Lisa, but that doesn’t mean you own it or even if you took a picture of it. It’s similar to the content on the internet where you can technically screenshot this or that or the other thing, but you’re not the owner of it.
Blockchains make it so that there’s an unassailable source of truth to a ledger, this record of who owns what. It’s built so that no one human or organization controls that ledger. So you don’t have to trust anyone. It’s sort of communally controlled by every computer in the world, so there’s no way to lie. When someone owns property according to a blockchain, you can be confident that they own it, that there’s no fraud involved, and that you know when they sell it, it will get updated in the database.
I think you can see that we are at a real hinge point for world history in many ways. Digital property is going to be something that becomes so fundamental to human life going forward.
Q: Many tech companies seem to be moving towards this idea of digital property. You and your companies are working ahead of the curve, but it looks like we can all see the turn is coming. Does that sound accurate to you?
Yeah, I think it’s interesting how technology develops, everyone kind of has this inkling of what it’s going to be like, and we’re all sort of chasing it. What we’ll be doing at my new company helps this all be more understandable.
In the physical world, if I take any object like sunglasses, then they are just a regular pair of sunglasses. But if Paul McCartney walks in and signs my sunglasses, then immediately these are now way more valuable. The sunglasses could now be in a museum, and everyone understands that you make it one of a kind when you sign something. We would say you made it non-fungible in the crypto world, which is how we get to NFTs or non-fungible tokens.
We’re basically taking that autograph idea and applying it to digital content. So an Instagram post, a Spotify song, a TikTok, or a YouTube video can have an artist sign that item, and now it turns that piece of content into an NFT that’s digitally scarce so they can sell it. We think that helps to bridge the idea between the physical and digital because it’s a paradigm people are used to in the physical world.
Q: Why are NFTs important, and why should the reader of this article care about them?
They should care because anything that fundamentally formats a society is worth knowing about. It is going to be a basic building block if not the core building block of the future world. If you think about it, all of physical capitalism has entirely revolved around the idea of property. If I can buy something, then it’s mine. And now, that will be initiated in the digital world.
It’s almost like the digital world only just started to exist in a way because now we have a structure where we can progressively build more complex societal structures on top of the idea of private digital property.
Q: Have you had difficulties finding investors or collaborators for your new company because they do not understand NFTs or their potential?
Honestly, no. I’ve been very fortunate to get pretty much dream investors, and I think the better the investor, the more that they understand all of this. What makes a good investor basically, is they’re ahead of the curve, and they’ve spent the time to understand what’s coming next.
On a team level, I haven’t found it very hard to build a team. I think, especially with younger people, they get this very intuitively because their life has been intrinsically digital already. So just wanting to build things out to make their digital life make more sense is appealing.
Q: Tell us more about your new startup and what the mission of Ink will be?
Ultimately, the mission for me and all of the companies I’ve started is to make it so people can earn money in a really intuitive way, purely from creating, without even having to have a job. I know that sounds weird, but as the world becomes more automated with artificial intelligence, code, and machines starting to do more of the work that people are performing today then the work remaining will be creative content generation. So we need to build systems that let people immediately turn their creative parts of themselves into money.
Ink’s paradigm is to take whatever you make, no matter what it is, any content type anywhere on the internet, and just sign it. Sign it and sell it. It’s just a straightforward way of understanding how to make money from it, and much less complex than trying to get a bunch of subscribers, a bunch of donors, getting people to tip you, having to sell tickets, or whatever it might be that you’re doing now.
You can still do all those methods but now at the same time, also just sign and sell your stuff. Then fans get something they can hold and display in their portfolios to show the content that resonated with them. They’re going to define themselves across the internet by the content that they really love, and in the process, the artist has an entirely new source of income. It’s a new source of income that doesn’t compete with existing systems. I think it’s most interesting when we create something that couldn’t exist before because technology now enables it.
Q: What has Bagchi Law’s support, expertise, and guidance meant to you and your company?
I’ve known Neil Bagchi for years, and I’m a big fan. The team has been great to work with. For example, they helped us navigate our first funding round. We had to do a couple of different financial structures to get all the investments in because we’re dealing with different big-name investors and sometimes they prefer a certain structure. In general, they are just really great at following up with me and keeping me on track. I’ve got a zillion things coming to me all the time, and they’re good about reminding me which priorities need my attention. I trust them on a personal level, which is excellent.
I also have a little side project I’m working on, and they’ve helped me navigate having more than one entity and how to deal with that legally. At another firm, I could imagine I’d potentially be an annoying client because I need a lot of stuff, but I feel like they’re always ready to roll with whatever I need at the moment. So I appreciate the Bagchi Law team.
Q: If someone wants to learn more about investing in or creating NFT content, where would you point them?
There’s this one good blog article that was out a while ago called the NFT Bible, that sort of gives an excellent history of the whole NFT phenomenon. Also, honestly, YouTube is fantastic. I like how you can search for whatever you don’t understand on YouTube and then get endless people explaining it with visuals and details.
It is also a goal of Ink to help in this process because we believe an important piece of the puzzle is to simply make things understandable. You can talk to any 90 year old about autographs, and then it’s a more straightforward lead-in to explain to them the idea of a digital form of that and how the scarcity is similar. Products that leverage some kind of physical metaphor will help lead industries and members of the general public to understand this newer technology.
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