Building a Digital Fashion Marketplace with Emma Jane MacKinnon Lee from DIGITALAXMay 28, 2021
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HOST: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Unstoppable podcast. I'm your host Diana Chen and I'm joined today by our guest Emma-Jane MacKinnon-Lee. She is the founder and CEO of DIGITALAX, which is the first digital fashion project on Ethereum. I'm super excited to talk to her all about NFTs, digital fashion, the metaverse, all things web three. We've got a lot to cover in today's episode, so I'm just going to bring her on and let her talk a little bit more about what DIGITALAX is, and let's chat about all of these topics. So, hey, Emma-Jane, thank you so much for being here today.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Thank you for having me.
HOST: Of course. So, before we dive into DIGITALAX, your project right now, I'm curious a little bit about your background. I know that you grew up in Australia, I think, and you've been pretty interested in technology and emerging tech since you were a small child, but when was it that you first heard about crypto and blockchain technology, and what was it about it that got you excited and wanting to learn more?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Sure. So, I grew up in a very country town in Australia, it's called Lennox Head. It's right near Byron Bay, which is a big surfing culture town in Australia, and then I moved to Sydney when I was a bit older. But yeah, always loved the technology side, particularly math, physics, science, these subjects, and then it would have been--I'm 22 now, but it would have been when I was about 15 or so, or 16, that I first started hearing about crypto and it was just more Bitcoin and Ethereum, and I didn't really know too much about it.
Then it was a few years on from that that I started becoming much more interested in it, and I actually did a number of internships and work within the space. As soon as I involved myself, wow, this is actually what web three is and this is what it means, I became so passionate and obsessed by it that I actually dropped out of my space engineering school at University of Sydney to go into it fulltime, and that looked like myself cofounding and joining a hedge fund that operated out of Australia and Dubai. Then also working really closely with the Dubai government to implement blockchain technology use cases throughout their whole region.
So yeah, pretty exciting stuff.
HOST: Okay, so that's insane that you've done all of this by age 22. Definitely makes me feel like I haven't done very much with my life at my age. But anyway, you mentioned web three, and I know this is something that you're really passionate about just from your Twitter and your Medium blog and just seeing the content you put out there. So, how would you explain web three to somebody who maybe isn't familiar with what the concept is, in an easy-to-understand way, and in a way that maybe gets them excited about it, maybe like highlight some of the key features of web three that you're personally passionate about?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Sure. Yeah, it's a really good question, because I think it's the golden question as well. How do you describe some of these things to people that have never heard about it before? I think at a high level web three is what the internet promised us but it never delivered on.
So, that's why it's really exciting, because it's able to enable value exchange or value transfer. But instead of the way that web two does it which is very much how do you actually lock value or create these centralized extractive models where if you control the choke points of those value exchange areas then you end up gaining from that, and everyone else really is losing out.
But what web three does, it decentralizes that value exchange and it decentralizes those points of value exchange. So, instead of it being completely extractive, it's actually cycla--, it's actually generative, and the exciting part is that anyone can be one of these value exchange nodes, all they have to do is have a web three device, which is operating on all our hardware systems today. Yeah, I guess that's how I'd describe it.
HOST: Gotcha. So, what do you see as being some of the biggest roadblocks to widespread adoption of web three? If it's so awesome, why are we still stuck in our web two days, and what's preventing us from moving forward in to web three?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah, that's a very loaded question, and it has a lot of layers to it. But I guess there's two sides to that. Of course, you could point it down to technological innovation. Still in terms of onboarding there are kind of a lot of caveats. It's not a seamless experience, like you can't just quickly go, depending on your location geographically as well, you can't just quickly go into crypto, back to Fiat, and so on, and so forth. Then even then, if you can, that experience itself, it isn't the best one, because you're either losing value in between those exchanges, and it's not ubiquitous in where you can actually have that utility of the crypto itself.
But what I would point more towards, and it goes back to my point before, is that web two was very much built around an extractive model, because that's what made sense. If you control the choke points then that's how you got the most value. So, it's this idea of having tight, centralized, walled gardens, and these larger companies, these are larger brand studios, they are what dominate those choke points today, and they lock the value at the top.
So, I guess that's really the biggest reason, whether that be more political or whatever, why there hasn't been that major push and adoption of web three, because if web three is actually done right and it's implemented and executed on the way that it's meant to be, then those companies, they lose their control, they lose their choke points, because now they don't have that anymore, they don't have that leverage. So, that's really what I believe, it's the biggest adoption point. We even see it now with projects coming into the space in web three.
Definitely, we had defi summer last year, and then this NFT winter, spring, in a sense, rush, and even we see throughout those two bigger rushes in the industry, it's not so much that we've had the true decentralized projects coming in, but then we can also see that there's a lot of those web two and web three sheep's' clothing in a sense, but they're still trying to make the space not web three native, or they're trying to still control a lot of that value, and whether that be kind of having VCs, in a sense, locking value in their control, or just coming into a way that is very heavily commercialized and it's not about, okay, how do I actually operate in a decentralized environment.
Yeah, I guess they are the bigger choke points, because for it to really work there has to be loosening of the current control, and yet centralized value locking.
HOST: Gotcha. Okay, let's talk a little bit more about DIGITALAX. Again, you guys are the first digital fashion protocol on the blockchain, which is pretty exciting. How did you come up with this idea, since nobody else existed in the space when you guys were first formed? How did this idea come to your head? Talk a little bit more about what DIGITALAX is more holistically than the one sentence descriptor that I gave in the beginning.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Sure. Yeah, it's a good question, as well. How it came to mind, that's a long story. As I said, I've always loved tech and being in the lefter field of things, and loved operating on the bleeding edge and discovering new things, and loved the idea when I was a kid of how can I be an inventor when I grow up and bring really great stuff forward.
So, I had a lot of involvement in the web three and blockchain crypto space both from the financial side and then also heavy technology side, and it was really last year more so that I started looking into how does web three actually intersect with different industries, and what could that actually look like moving forward if we were what everyone was saying, operating on this decentralized layer. If that was actually to play out, then how would different industries be affected? I became really interested in the gaming side of things and this idea of virtual immersivity and virtual worlds, and what that meant for our future.
Within that I started becoming more and more obsessed with fashion, because my background as well has always sat really in between of that heavy science, math, and physics, and then also very much the art side of thigs. I always loved being creative, and digital fashion, particularly, it really sits within that. There was so much about digital fashion that drew me to it when I was looking at the broader field of fashion tech and how that would play out.
Having my background in blockchain, in a sense, I wanted to really find that crossover, how it would fit, and then I can't really explain how it all came to mind but it just started. All these ideas started popping up, and then it was about how can I break this down and actually execute on that, and what does that look like from the first iteration, and then moving out forward.
How we did that with DIGITALAX, I founded it last year in September, and the first set of things was looking at what would a distributed digital fashion supply chain actually look like, and how could that play out on the Ethereum block chain. So, how we started with that was really looking at all the first stages, very much backing value behind these digital fashion goods, because beforehand it was really designers just posting content to their Instagram or Art Station and really working like a freelance advertising stage.
But I thought that can't really be the case going forward because if you really think about things and people actually being consumers and purchasing digital fashion, there has to be some proper value layer behind it and value actually underwriting it. So, we set up a marketplace on the Ethereum blockchain which was the first digital fashion marketplace, and we partnered with all these digital fashion designers globally based all over the world to launch the first digital fashion auction platform. That was really exciting, and we've had about five auctions so far with over $600k in sales on both Ethereum and Matic network which we recently integrated with as well.
We started with that, but we introduced really interesting concepts like fractional garment ownership, which is all about how can you use NFT standards, so ERC protocol standards, to actually break down a master digital fashion garment into its individual ERC pattern, material, texture components. What that means is that a designer can come on our platform and they can actually issue an individual pattern, material, texture, and that open sources as an ERC 1155 platform through our contracts, and another designer can actually come and take that pattern and use that within their master garment.
But what that means from an on-chain perspective is it's incorporated as an ERC 998 variant standard, which means when the master ERC 721 garment is minted it actually can own a collection of those ERC 1155 patterns, materials, and textures. So, now when that's transferred around it's transferred as a group, and from a monetization perspective, a licensing perspective, you can actually have this whole composability and fractionalization of royalties, contributions throughout the entire supply chain. So, that was pretty exciting, and something that I definitely think is highly scalable when we think about moving forward.
But that's the first stage of DIGITALAX. I can go into the next stages, because that was really focused on more a cosmetic side, and we also introduced defi staking components into the NFTs themselves, but then I guess when you look at, okay, which is really the perspective I was coming from, was how do you actually grow this industry. How do you actually put the entire fashion industry on the blockchain and have that digital, seamless integration for the future when we think about where things are going?
If that's the case, then just creating these cosmetic options, it really doesn't add any value, or coming is as a brand perspective and saying we're going to launch this and they look really pretty, and they're creating immense value in one direction for the designers. That doesn't actually create an ecosystem that is required to create sustainable liquidity and just growth within onboarding new brands, studios, independent designers, consumers, developers, creating that critical mass of growth.
So, when it came to that side, the application utility is incredibly important, because you have to have a way to drive that market demanding concentration into an actual application utility layer, and at the moment gaming, VR, this idea of the metaverse that keeps getting thrown around is very much where the application layer of digital fashion sits, and even the hybrid digital-physical fashion crossovers, as well.
So, to really combat that, what I was looking at, it doesn't make sense for us to just go and knock on these web two gaming companies and say, accept these NFTs, digital fashion, into your platforms. It doesn't even make sense for us to Decentraland or Sandbox and these other closed ecosystems and try and integrate there as well, because really the whole point was coming from this perspective of how do we actually grow an entire player-creator economy and ecosystem that allows any designer, developer, or player, which is really the consumer in terms of a metaversal definition of things, how do we allow them to plug in at any time into this ecosystem, this market, this protocol, this infrastructure layer and actually create value for themselves?
It really comes back to drawing an analogy which I love to describe as the old Uber model, not so much what it is today, but where the great innovation with Uber was all about it allowed people to plug in at any time and access freedom. Unlocking from these usual 9 to 5 schedules, or having to go through this certain track in order to be able to earn value for themselves. Drivers could be at 2 a.m. in the middle of the night and just open this app, flick on a switch, have gotten on their phone and accessed this entire global market; it's the same thing that web three allows you to do.
But really where we're wanting to build on the infrastructure of the digital fashion and metaverse layers, is how can we do that through this whole ecosystem that we're building out. This is where we launched ESPA which is the very first casual e-sports platform and it's completely decentralized, and it allows for designers to make these amazing NFT skins, they're listed on our marketplace, players come and they purchase them, and then they can take them into different content environments, and we're really focused on the modding community, and they plug in with us.
As the players are playing in these games wearing our digital fashion items as their identity and authentication, it actually tracks scores for them and puts them on a meta-leader board, that then they can start earning winning streaks and actually getting paid out for that in crypto, in our native token. So, there's actually a lot more to what we're doing, but that's the broader compass. So, I'll stop there, and we can go from there.
HOST: Yeah, I think that's super cool. I think that for anybody listening who is into gaming or e-sports or things like that, I think this is going to make perfect sense to them. But I think for everybody else who maybe is just starting to get into this space, maybe through NFTs, or just discovering this within the last few months, I think the whole concept of digital fashion is maybe still a little bit above their heads. So, moving beyond just the use case of gaming and e-sports, how do you see digital fashion being used in 10 years? Maybe start with how do you explain what the metaverse is and all the components of that? Really break it down for people and try to conceptualize for them how digital fashion actually will fit into all of our lives in the future.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah, it's a great question, because this is actually really what made me so excited about the industry and wanting to start DIGITALAX, because when I came across digital fashion, just looking at where we're going, if you look at 20 years ago the internet was in its very, very early stages, it hardly existed, and if you told people in 1999 in 15 or 20 years you're going to feel comfortable posting a photo of yourself, possibly at the beach half-naked, and then post this online and people are going to double tap that and put love hearts on it, people would have said, no way, that's absolutely crazy, and now that's Instagram, that's Facebook, that's Twitter; it's all the social media apps today.
So, it's the same thing with the metaverse when we think about what that is or what it is 10 years from now. Well, it's this next stage of the internet. Right now we have it through a UI on our laptop or our phone. Imagine that being completely immersive where the kind of barriers between your physical environment and where you're existing today, and this digital, completely immersive environment don't really exist, and you can transition between these two different realities at the time, or more than two realities, it would be multidimensional.
That really is what the metaverse is, it's about creating this multidimensional, immersive space that is a hybrid digital-physical, a strong weight on the digital, but hybrid digital-physical environment. When you think about that and you think about what industry or what kind of interactions do we have on a day-to-day basis with different objects or utility items.
Fashion is so completely ubiquitous, in fact, it's the fundamental bedrock, and it's been around for thousands of years, and it's underwritten, all of our interactions within society, whether it comes down to status, whether it comes down to self-expression, how we actually show our identities, and human nature doesn't change. So, in 10 years' time, even when we think about this metaverse immersive reality, a lot of people could think it might be this dystopia or robots marching around, kind of like a "Ready, Player One" or "I, Robot" situation, but it's really not the case.
It will be incredibly modern in sense when it comes to the different colors, the different materials, the different textures used, and I don't just mean from a fashion sense, but I mean very holistically. So, within that we want to self-express, we want to show our identities, we want to have our human nature running through that, and that's very much executed and communicated through our fashion. Even today, whether we get up and a lot of us maybe don't put work into how we dress, or we do, it's still underwriting our identities.
A digital identity or a metaversal identity will require fashion for that self-expression layer, and the fashion layer will be a value exchange layer. How people can kind of think about digital fashion is exactly the same how we used it today. In terms of self-expression, in terms of communicating different ideas and really adding into our own identities within the metaverse and these hybrid digital-physical dimensions, but what they can also think about is that instead of it just being more of this cosmetic relationship, although it does have utility, we use it keep ourselves warm or moderate other parts of our bodies, it will be even more functional.
There will be actual utility that can be directly encoded in programmed into the digital fashion which might even affect how we actually get access to something within this immersive realm, or how we can be seen by others. Or maybe that's something even going down a complete rabbit hole of this idea of shape shifting, how we can actually move between different digital identities, from being seen as maybe a human form into something else, it will really be like a second skin, and a highly functional and utility-driven second skin, as well. So, hopefully that maybe brought it down, or maybe it just confused everyone more.
HOST: No, I think that's great, and I think for people to think about it, I think everybody has had to make an avatar at some point, even if you're just playing Nintendo Wii or something, you have to create your own character. You get to choose what kind of hair your character has, what the facial features look like, and you try to make a character that looks as much like yourself as possible, and then you put some clothes on them.
But one thing I've noticed, at least, is whenever I've played any of these games or had to create and avatar, there's very limited options when it comes to the clothing choices. I'm like, I guess I'll pick this. This is not something that I would ever wear, and this looks nothing like me, but this is the closest I can get. So, I definitely think that.
Another thing that I just wanted to say too is I know something I think about, at least, and probably a lot of people do, is there's already a lot of feedback today about how we all spend way too much time in front of the screens, and parents have this issue with their kids spending too much time in front of the screens, and why don't kids just go outside and play soccer like back in the old days or whatever.
I think, too, there's a stereotype with people that are into online gaming and into the metaverse, at least today or in the past, that they're these antisocial people that hide in their basements and play these games with a headset on all day. But one thing that I was thinking about recently is thinking back to the last year during COVID and how much time we spent on Zoom, not only for work, but also with our friends because we couldn't even leave the house to see our friends for a lot of people.
So, for many months were just sitting in front of Zoom, talking with our friends, and maybe trying to play some online games if we could, like try to normalize things as much as possible. But then I imagine if this happened 10 or 20 years down the line when the metaverse was more mainstream and we all have these VR headsets on with these fully developed avatars, and it feels more like you're all sitting in the same place, sitting in the same bar, or sitting at your apartment chatting.
It just feels so much more natural and real than staring at a Zoom screen and looking at everybody, and everyone's talking over each other, and it feels a little awkward. I just wanted to say, with the metaverse I'm very excited to see a lot of these stereotypes being broken about who are the people that hang out in the metaverse and engage in these things, because I think it will become mainstream one day.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Well, it's absolutely inevitable. Maybe a point to that, that's the interesting thing, is that the metaverse, this era of gaming in isolation, that's really not so much there anymore, and the metaverse isn't about gaming in isolation, it's not about going into that stereotypical kind of basement in the dark and just playing on a console. It's really about an immersive social network, and that's kind of what it can be thought of; it's about going to dates or events or concerts.
It's completely immersive experiences where the connections that you actually make within this metaversal realm are so much more important than just achieving a direct mission, like what we have with this idea of gaming now, which is a ready-set piece of material that is crafted ahead of time, and then you go in, you play for a set number of hours, and then you leave it on a shelf. That's really not what the metaverse is all about, it's about having that seamlessness of immersivity between how we use social interactions today within that digital realm, and really what the digital realm allows: it allows for geographic barriers to be broken down absolutely and completely.
Your actual physical location is very much detached now from what your experiencing within your reality, which is something pretty amazing when you think about that. That itself, in terms of democratizing access to experiences and just the way people in the future will have more opportunities to live their lives and flexibility around that, that's pretty amazing. Because right now, if you think about where we're born geographically in the world, that determines 80-90% of how we'll be in the future, or what our lives will look like.
So, the metaverse is also about--this is why I guess web three is so important that a metaverse that is built around a web three environment and layer is super important, because the metaverse should all be about decreasing walls, decreasing gatekeepers, walled gardens, and if we had that in a web two environment where there's these heavy choke points it won't be this open experience that we're all expecting.
HOST: For sure, for sure. So, going back to DIGITALAX, what has your experience been so far with getting both customers, people using your platform, and also designers? Are you looking pretty much exclusively for blockchain art designers, or are you approaching traditional fashion designers and having to convince them that web three is the future, and educate them on all of this? What does that look like?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Very good question. So, I can tell you, there is no blockchain fashion designers out there. When I started this all in September nobody had really heard about the intersection of digital fashion and blockchain, it just really was not talked about, because there was a few small things that had been done in the past, but it was never from the approach of really what we talk of, actually scaling an entire ecosystem, and really putting in the ground work and going back to base principles to build out the infrastructure and the protocol layers, which is super important.
So, it was all web two traditional designers in a sense, and even now, a digital fashion designer is very much on the cusp and the bleeding edge, where the traditional fashion industry where it's still the physical fashion supply chain that dominates. So, even they're on more of the edge, and then when you subset into NFT crypto blockchain fashion, that even gets absolutely smaller. But it's growing absolutely exponentially because now people are realizing that digital fashion is the future, and it cannot actually operate within a web two environment, it just doesn't work. There's no value layer there.
There's no way to actually underwrite the exchange even between the items. So, NFTs is the scalable distribution channel for digital fashion itself, and then also hybrid digital-physical fashion realms, which is very much another unique area. In terms of the way that we work, because we are an ecosystem, it really isn't siloing it to one subsector.
At the moment our main stakeholders, we definitely have a large digital fashion designer network and group, and again, DIGITALAX isn't a brand, per se, where it's like they come onboard, they're operating only under DIGITALAX, really it's about this entire network and this entire open-source network where designers are able to plug in, and then they can create designs and they can use our infrastructure, our aqueducts that we're building to strategically, in a sense, or very specifically route that water or the kind of value in their designs into the right ecosystem that then generates more liquidity not just for them, but also the other stakeholders, which is very much the developer side, and that we're really pushing on and focused on the modding community, and super supportive of that because there are so many more undertones about how they enable open source, how they're really built for breaking down gatekeepers and being more of a gate-maker community.
Then also, a player base, but when I say a player base I really don't mean kind of what you were saying before, the stereotypical player that we all assume now. I mean more of this metaversal player which is all of us. It's all of us that are interacting online now, even within just the internet and web two as consumers. But the difference within our ecosystem or a web three ecosystem even as such is that a player isn't just an end consumer where value is extracted from.
Actually, they're giving value back to the system and they're able to generate value for themselves, and this is really where ESPA and the whole environment that we're building there, it allows these players or really any of us to plug in and kind of engage in these immersive digital experiences, and then actually generate an income or a livelihood from that, as well. So, I guess that's the more encompassing version of the stakeholder ecosystem that we're building out.
HOST: Then what about from the user side right now? Who's mostly using DIGITALAX right now? Is it mostly blockchain gamers, people into e-sports, or are you seeing people from the broader NFT community hopping onboard?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah, really good question. So, I guess we have gained a few subsets to even our "products and services." So, within the DIGITALAX marketplace, and especially at the start, this was really focused on the more cosmetic side. So, there we had a really strong NFT collectable base that are super interested in - - . What is digital fashion and how does this even cross over with defi where we had these staking functionalities as well with these NFTs.
Then when we launched ESPA we weren't focused on blockchain gaming, because again, I believe that's the wrong subset, and saying it's just got to be blockchain gamers, which again, the blockchain gaming community, it's very still in its early stages, and a lot of those games are focused more on flip-card kind of collectables or trading games, it's not really what we think about in terms of gaming and having an immersive digital identity and experience. So, we're focused very much on what we have built up. Very strong roots now within the modding community, and the traditional player base itself, because that's also, all of this, it's about a mass onboarding event, in a sense, into crypto.
It's not just us going out and saying, okay, how can we just help our own project grow, but how can we actually bring these 2.7 billion gamers globally into crypto so they can actually start unlocking more value for themselves, and gaming is one of the strongest channels to do that, just because the - - and heuristics of a gamer in terms of understanding, going on this quest or this mission to understand what crypto is and how that lives within a web three, or gaming lives within a web three environment, it's easier than trying to onboard people into, say, defi, and all these cross-chain events there.
So, it's really that side, but more so than that, it's about everyone. I don't mean that to be too blasé, but the metaverse is all of us, it's everyone that interacts with the internet today, and more so, and that's really what we're doing as well.
It's about building those infrastructure layers, and we have other parts--for example, actually, we just announced yesterday that we're releasing the first metaverse-focused magazine with decentralized NFT subscription unlocks where we're bringing together a lot of top voices and creators in the space in this completely immersive digital magazine that we've engineered and build and created all inhouse, and then we're highlight all these voices where they can also use a new distribution channel through a new publishing model that we're bringing forth through NFT-based decentralized subscriptions.
So, the magazine is free but people can subscribe to these different content within, so that's super exciting as well, and when you think about that, the consumer there is not just within web three, but it's very much targeting those who don't know about the space and onboarding and learning, where they go to actually go get the right insights and the right onramps into this whole crazy environment.
So, that as well, and then also within that we have a very technical part of our ecosystem where we're building out a dash engineering file format, and that's really then targeting a whole 'nother sector, and then we also have another part called PODE which is really about tackling a web three version of Steam, and Itch.io which is this whole gaming distribution platform. So, I won't go into all the details because you could be here forever, but it's all-encompassing, the infrastructure and the ecosystem layer.
HOST: Oh, that's super awesome. Congrats on launching all of those things. I think the magazine in particular, that's something that I could wrap my head around a little better than the others, but I think that will be a really good way of, like you said, onboarding the mainstream into this. I really think digital fashion is going to be a great medium to onboard people. That's something that everybody who works in crypto right now is thinking about, is how do we onboard the masses onto web three.
That's why I love seeing projects like yours that are catering different audiences. You're catering to the digital fashion audience, and I can totally see eventually that young girls or people in general that are really into fashion are going to hear about this and think about, wow, I can create this character on the metaverse that is so stylish and exactly who I want to portray myself to be and start to build clout on the metaverse and do all these cool things that they can do in real life, but just to a broader audience.
Like you said, in real life you can only meet and you can only speak and hang out with so many people within your geographic community, but the metaverse really opens up the doors to--I could have met you when you were in Australia still, [crosstalk] opposite sides of the world.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah.
HOST: So, when you look ahead to maybe the next year, thinking about the broader ecosystem involving metaverse projects, NFT projects, all of this, what aspects of that space do you see moving super fast or developing next? I sort of think of it as right now the big thing is NFT art, and even though we know that NFT is so much more than just art, that's the use case that blew up and that everybody seems to understand now. What do you see as being the next thing, maybe in the next year, and then also how do you see this space looking in like 10 years?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah, okay, great. I definitely think, and this is not just me coming from a biased viewpoint of building this area, but I really do believe that these subsets of digital fashion and the metaverse are kind of the next wave in a sense in the space of interest, adoption, whatever you want to call it, or just projects coming in and absolutely building crazy new things out, which is super exciting, and I'm super excited to see as well what that will actually look like.
That just comes from being in this space, and you can sense where the shifts are going. Also, like you said, I guess NFT art, it was this first use case, and it was a great way of not only promoting creators throughout and unlocking for so many creators globally, wow, I don't actually have to go through this middle-man route anymore that I thought was the only way to create a livelihood with something that I love, and my passion and my talent. Now I can just access this entire market without having to worry about that. So, I think that was an amazing onboarding route as well, and a launch of NFTs into more of the masses.
But as you said, there's so much more to NFTs than just that, and this is why when anyone says, well, it's the NFT bubble, I really disagree. Because if you actually look below that surface layer and you understand even the very basics of the tech, or some of these utility and these application levels, you see that there can never actually be an oversupply. It's like when we think about the internet today. We never think another website going up is an oversupply, we just think that that's actually contributing to a broader content base out there that is going to create value in some way.
So, it's the same thing that we see here, NFTs, and really fleshing out these utility use cases, which the metaverse and how that relates to ownership and access which are huge ones, are really big use cases, and I think will play out. Yeah, just move forward, and that also comes back into digital fashion, how that relates in itself with people being able to, like you said, own these digital fashion items and have a transparent and immutable record behind that, and that's the great thing, because definitely it's a much easier conceptualization when we think visually.
Okay, what is the metaverse? Because asking a what for something is incredibly hard. Even if we say now what is the internet, 95, even more, 99% of people can't go into details about it's this kind of communication layer here, and then it's all of this, but what we can say, we can say who is the internet, and we can visualize what the internet is and how we interact with it. So, I think that's what the metaverse and digital fashion will do to NFTs, it will put a who behind it, and put a who behind NFTs and what that actually means, and how it can create value to people, rather than just a what.
A really quick story to that is, and I always believe - - , if it's not actually specifically creating value to people, and I know this has been said since 2017 with that whole ICO craze and everything, it was like, why is there so much emphasis on people explaining I'm building on blockchain. The user shouldn't even have to know, in a sense, that blockchain is behind it, which I kind of agree and disagree at the same time. I think that the educational part of web three and what that is, breaking down from like a gatekeeper's perspective, is so amazing that it should be reinforced.
But also, at the same time, a user shouldn't have to really know. We don't really need to know what's going on behind our UI on a computer screen to understand what value it's actually bringing us, and it's the same thing here. When I launched DIGITALAX with all these fashion designers I didn't even tell them that it was going to be on Ethereum and that they were going to be auctioned off with crypto. I didn't even really bother saying what NFTs were, I just mentioned that it was a digital certificate online that guaranteed ownership for a buyer, and it was a really kind of unique thing, and kept it very high-level and abstract, because it didn't matter to them.
Then as soon as the first auction rolled out and they got this amazing experience of value generation, just understanding what the heck this community is, they went and did their own research, and now they're completely--all of them are down the rabbit hole with Ethereum and crypto and interacting with the community, because the first point was just getting them to see how is this actually affecting me. As soon as they got some value, everything else made sense and locked into place. So, it's the same thing, I think, that we will need to do for this to actually achieve mass adoption.
HOST: For sure. If you could pick yourself up and put yourself 10 years into the future, what do you see around you? How do you see people interacting with NFTs, with the metaverse? Paint that picture for me.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Sure. So, I just believe it will be completely ubiquitous and seamless. Whether that's how we're talking about a Zoom call, well, maybe that will be something completely digitally immersive where we do have this digital avatar and we're able to even as we're speaking discover a lost empire or something like this. Yeah, definitely this whole seamless breaking down of barriers. Even thinking about a portal in a sense where you can go into different realities, like even a tesseract, if people are aware, you can imagine that interstellar scene in space.
But yeah, these completely different multi-dimensional, multi-realities and realms at the same time where we can exist and we can move fluidly between different identities, different environments, different experiences. How NFTs really fit into that, it will be how all of those content that we're experiencing, both from maybe is it an actual real-world perspective, and then also completely digitally immersive and hybrid AR as well. NFTs will be the value captures, in a sense, for all of that content. It will define what is that value, what is that content actually worth, and then how do we actually use that?
What is the application, how is that actually defined, and how is that translated between maybe this purely immersive and digital world, and then also maybe this physical world or the hybrid in between. So, we won't even really think of it as NFTs, it will just be the mechanism where we're able to identify transparently you own that and you don't own that on a complete global ledger.
HOST: Yeah, for sure. I was picturing us 10 years down the line with our VR headsets on, sitting together in what looks like an in-person recording studio, but I like your example even better of let's just pick an undiscovered magical land and go for a walk there as we podcast together. That sounds even more fun.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah. I can't remember the name now, but there's a really cool podcast, but it's on Netflix, and I've seen only a few episodes, but it's a podcast, but it's done as animation. Say, for example, we'd just be talking, but then our whole thing is animated, it's these people walking through different worlds, and the actual podcast host, he lives in space and he chimes into these different worlds to actually interview different people.
So, it could be something literally exactly like that where Unstoppable Domains podcast, you go into these different planets or worlds to interview interesting people that are living there. I really believe that that could be the case.
HOST: That is so cool. I'll have to check that out. I haven't heard about that, but if it's Netflix I'm definitely checking that out. Super cool.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah, I'll get the name for you.
HOST: Okay, awesome. Thanks. So, last thing about DIGITALAX, I know you just said a bunch of things that you guys just launched, but looking ahead to the rest of this year or in the next year, what are some other big things that you have planned that you're able to share with our listeners?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: By the way, just remember, it's "The Midnight Gospel."
HOST: "The Midnight Gospel." Okay, awesome.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Okay, yeah.
HOST: Thank you.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Okay, so what do we have planned? Well, a lot, but maybe I can kind of just keep it a bit--maybe something I haven't touched on yet. So, something that is really interesting that DIGITALAX focuses on that I think a lot of projects don't out there, particularly in the NFT digital fashion crossover space, is that we focus a lot on engineering, and my background myself is science, mechanical space engineering, so I've always really prized that.
But we have a full inhouse engineering team and they're absolute champions. We've actually done some pretty amazing innovation within the peace just within the past five months. We deployed the first ERC 998 variant standard for this fractional garment supply chain which exists both on Polygon Matic network, and then also Ethereum. We also launched this ESPA which is the first, it's a hybrid on-and-off chain, an e-sports ecosystem.
So, we actually have on-chain components that communicate with our off-chain data as well, and that whole system, and then really exciting, which was only about two weeks ago, we deployed the very first ever multi-token bridge between Polygon Matic network and Ethereum which allows users to actually bridge these ERC 998, 721, and 1155 bundles cross-chain, which was a huge engineering feat, and everything we do is completely open-sourced to the community, and we really maintain that as a core value.
But leading on from that, another big part of our ecosystem, we are building out a new file format. It's called dash, and it's a file format built for the metaverse, because when we talk about seamless digital experiences, what we often forget is that technically that cannot really be done at the moment. You can't just go within one environment like Fortnite and then take that - - identity and just drag it into GTA and expect everything to not explode and blow up. The physics, the game engines, it's just not interruptible, it's not cross-compatible.
So, what we're actually building out is the very first dynamic file format that is able to understand or gain insight from the application layer itself when the file is being developed or transformed, without getting too technical, but opinionated logic on where it's going. So, the content can actually be deployed across multiple 3D and immersive environments, and this is something super exciting. So, it's kind of one of our wild cards that we're not just innovating on all of these business and commercial use cases, but we're really focused on how can we actually build the underlining technology to enable all of this to happen.
We like to keep all of that very much in terms of us pioneering that inhouse because it just fits into everything else. But we are really ensuring that web three open source are very much at the core, so our whole developed ecosystem can be good around this, and then take it to the completely next level, so that's something really exciting, as well.
HOST: That's awesome. I'm not going to lie, most of that went right over my head as a non-technical person, but I'm sure for people listening who are technical, all of that was very exciting stuff. Okay, before we go into our next segment which is called Explain Your Tweet where I pull some tweets from your Twitter account and give you a chance to explain them, quick question from the Twitterverse. Mesa Nystrom wanted to know: how do you view the relationship between open source games/virtual worlds and IP? I know this has been a huge question with the rise of NFTs, is everybody wants to know how IP fits into that. So, what are your thoughts?
HOST: Really good question. I'd say the Epic and Apple debate at the moment, which is highly relevant, that's all about IP and walled gardens and how that fits within Tim Sweeney's version of a metaverse, and all these kind of things. My really strong view is that the metaverse has to be completely open, and when I mean open, I mean open-source, and I mean IP kind of copywrite. It's not in the same way that exists at the moment where it's, as I was mentioning, these centralized providers coming in as these gatekeepers and saying this is what you can and can't do with this content.
This is why modding culture and modding itself is extremely interesting, and why we're really focused on that and pioneering that both with gaming and a fashion front. For those that don't really know what modding is, it's all about how you can break an original item into its different components and then reassemble it into something completely new. So, although maybe you've taken IP or someone else's design, when you're actually breaking that down, those copywrite "walls" are also breaking down with it, because you are creating new novelty which is new value for a whole new different user base, or just consumer base, as well.
When it comes to the metaverse, modding and this idea of being able to take content, remix it, move it into something else to create novelty and value is completely ubiquitous and important for that. Even if you think about everything today, all of our content, it's just mods or something else. Nothing is really completely novel, it's really just building on other things. The only true novel things is like the periodic table, or quarks and gluons if we go down even further below at an atomic level, but I won't go into that.
So, yeah, that's a really important question, but what I would say is what NFTs allows for is instead of today, and I guess this is the reason why as well within web two that incentivizes such an extractive model, and for these centralized - - , because if you don't have these choke points in all of these different exchange points, the original providers or creators, they will lose value, and they will lose time and effort that they put in.
But what NFTs allows is web three decentralized infrastructure. Because when we think about it really scaling out to the future and having that full, unchanged transparency and immutability, which a lot of people talk about with these - - distribution of NFTs, imagine if you can be an original creator. Then it doesn't matter if people take your content or remix it or put it into something - - fractional garment ownership, because you can actually track that on-chain, and there can be a royalty split or a kickback to the original creators across that whole supply chain.
So, that's something incredibly unique and of value where I think that NFTs and web three, it doesn't really place emphasis anymore on IP or copywrite, and for the metaverse to really exist and for all of us to gain the value and the opportunity that we deserve out of it, it cannot be a centralized control or even a web two provider coming in, say even Epic, and building out this metaverse where they think that they can be the underlying infrastructure. It has to operate from the same authenticity that Ethereum operates today where it is truly a decentralized developer ecosystem and anyone can come in and create value in any way they want. So, there are my comments on that.
HOST: Yeah, I think that's really good insight, and I think that's deeper than what most people would say with IPN NFTs, which I think a lot of that still remains unknown as well, and we'll see how that develops. Okay, cool.
So, for this next segment we have Explain Your Tweet. So, in the interest of time I'm just going to pull one tweet real quick, but you do have a lot of good stuff out there, so I would encourage people to go check it out. This is a pretty recent tweet; it's from May 8th. You said, "As important as it is to make money, if the only reason you are here is to make money, then this is not the right place for you. We are here to build out the infrastructure needed to entirely replace existing extractive economic models.
Whether you believe that is possible, we do." I think we sort of talked about that a little bit in our conversation, but do you want to talk a little bit more, especially for the people out there who I think the biggest recent thing is Dogecoin and with the SNL skit, and everybody's talking about that, and it seems like everybody, a lot of people at least, are equating crypto with just making a quick buck.
Finding the coins that are going to give you a quick pump-and-dump turnover like Dogecoin, for instance, and doing that sort of thing, or these NFT artists thinking that they can get rich off of this and not really seeing the big picture of what are we trying to accomplish here. So, you want to talk more about that?
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Yeah, and it's really true. That was really my point. It's not about saying that making money in a sense is a bad thing, because it's definitely not, and I don't think anyone should be a stoic and say, well, we're just going to create value and then just give it away. It shouldn't work like that, because we all need to survive, we need to live, we need to enjoy our lives, and crypto is definitely a way to financial freedom for a lot of people. But really my point there was like what you mentioned. It's more about the bigger picture, which I think is super important when we're building in this space.
Because we are in such an early stage, having the right kind of mindset coming in, and then the right people at the forefront, actually building out particularly the infrastructure side of things and pioneering on that bleeding edge. The motivation can't just be money, because that just doesn't make sense.
Not only does it just reinforce the wrong heuristic and the mindset and mode of building, but more than that, there's so much then that would be missed, because we are in such a stage where, like you said, we cannot even some of conceptualize what will be the next three years, what will be the next five years, what will be the next 10 years.
If the motivation there is just to make money then the route that we take is going to be very narrowminded and it's going to miss out on so much good stuff that we know that web three can actually enable. So, really, that was the point there. DIGITALAX, we recently expanded our team, and whenever I bring on new team members it's not like a random thing where we say, this person comes on here. It's a long process and we put a lot of thought into if we actually bring on these people, do they represent the right voice of DIGITALAX.
But more than that, do they actually get the bigger picture of what we're building, and do they have this more intrinsic calling, and not to sound kind of cheesy, but a more intrinsic calling to be like, even if the money side wasn't there, because it should really be treated--and that's just the type of project we are.
It's not about being a 9 to 5 job where people come in and they kind of get by with it. It's really about being a strong risk taker in the space and taking that leap of faith to move forward and climb mountains that no one's ever climbed before, which is something really important and interesting, as well, because it's easy to say, but to live it and to really do it is a completely different thing. I know because even building in crypto and web three, it's incredibly hard.
It's not like a normal start up where you can just go away and hide behind a - - and then you come back out and you release something. In crypto web three you're considered guilty first until you're actually proven innocent, and you have to be very transparent, at least that's how we hold with our standards and values to maintain that transparency. So, having the right mindset of it's not being a stoic, but it is knowing that there's a much bigger revolution and mission here that we're playing at, and that can change the lives of millions of people globally, billions of people globally, and bringing immense value. That should always be the overriding factor, what I believe anyway.
It shouldn't be narrowed down into these minute English words or definitions or just by natural gains or pumps and dumps, and this is why as well we build on Ethereum as a project, and we maintain a lot of that focus on staying decentralized, and staying true to what web three is, why we haven't accepted and VC money in the past, which we've kept it very crypto native, while we also don't go an integrate with centralized exchanges, or we don't go and build on other layer twos, like even finance smart chain or flow, because that's still, I believe, reinforcing the wrong parts of the mission.
If we're really going out there and we're saying we want to pioneer web three and we want to do decentralization, have it the right way, then you have to live at least a large majority of that. You can't just write it in a tweet or a blog post or promote it. You've really got to make sure that it's done the right way, so that's more of the in-depth of what that was saying.
HOST: Yeah, I 100% agree with all of that, and I would encourage especially newcomers to this space to really take the time to learn about web three and what that actually encompasses, and what that can mean for our future, instead of following the hype train of whatever is trending on Twitter at the moment.
All right, well, thank you so much, Emma-Jane, for being here. Really enjoyed our conversation. Before you go, just tell people where they can find you if they want to connect with you personally, and then also how they can learn more about DIGITALAX or how they can sign up and actually start using the digital fashion NFTs that you guys have.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Sure. So, the website is our main one, which is www.digitalax.xyz, and then on that you'll find all of our social channels, where our Discord group is where we have the most of our community there. So, I'd say definitely join that be we released all of our announcements across everything, our medium, Twitters, Telegram, but Discord really is the bigger platform.
We also have two Discords, we have one for DIGITALAX and also one for ESPA. We have a lot of craziness in games and tournaments running at ESPA, so we just keep that split. Then personally, myself, if you go into the Discord you can see me there as one of the moderators, so you can feel free to just private message me or tag me and message me in the group which is great as well, or on Twitter, too. So, on Twitter I'm emma-jane13. I think that's right. Or maybe I'm 1313.
HOST: I think you're 1313. Emma-jane1313.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: 13, yeah. So, feel free to also interact with me on there.
HOST: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Emma-Jane. I'm definitely going to join the Discord group and check out "The Midnight Gospel" as well; that is already queued up. I really cannot wait to see where DIGITALAX goes, and can't wait to check out your products, as well, and get myself some awesome swag in the metaverse.
EMMA-JANE MACKINNON-LEE: Thank you [crosstalk].
HOST:Thank you for being here, and thank you, listeners, for tuning in, as always, and we'll be back again soon with another episode of the Unstoppable podcast.