April 4, 2023

Episode 223: Harold Hughes, Founder & CEO of Bandwagon

Harold Hughes is the founder & CEO of Bandwagon, a South Carolina-based live experience technology company. Under his leadership, Bandwagon has raised more than $3M in venture capital and successfully acquired IdealSeat, Inc. in 2020. Their customers include Fortune 50 brands, entertainers, as well as professional and collegiate athletes. As a first-generation American, Harold prioritized education, receiving two Bachelors degrees (Economics and Political Science) from Clemson University and later received his MBA from Clemson while he led business development at a Fortune 1000 company based in Greenville, South Carolina. As a web3 builder and community leader, Harold published "A Kids Book About Blockchain" to help educate people "from 6 to 60" about the revolutionary technology that Bandwagon specializes in.

To that end, Harold is also an active angel investor, primarily investing in women, people of color, and Black founder-led companies. Most notably, he has invested in Partake Foods, the Jay-Z-backed CPG company making allergy-friendly snacks, and companies like Goodr, Chipper, Athletic Greens, Republic, Stix, and the National Cycling League.

Julian: Hi everyone. Thank youso much for joining Behind. Company Lines podcast. Today we have Harold Hughes,founder and CEO of Bandwagon, a South Carolina based live experience technologycompany. Harold, I'm so excited to chat with you. As I mentioned before, thisshow, not only to learn about your background and your experience, but you knowwhat you're working on within the blockchain space and this whole liveexperience.

Just kind of ecosystem seems to havechanged, pre covid even during and after. It seems like, a lot of people arefiguring out not only new ways to have and offer experiences, but how to offerthe, the current experiences at a, at a more, just like whether it's anintensified experience or intimate and, and kind of using technology to enablethat.

So excited to go into so many differenttopics here, but before we do that, what were you doing before you started thecompany?.  

Harold: Before I startedBandwagon I was actually in corporate America. After college I went to ClemsonUniversity where I studied economics and political science. I went intocorporate America where I started inside sales in like 2007.

I made a whopping $32,000 a year. Andthen I moved up from inside sales to product management and ultimately intobusiness development. And so I spent just over a decade there before decidingto make the entrepre.  

Julian: I love that. It's sofascinating. It's, it's a lot of founders kind of come from a sales backgroundand, and really kind of this like eco, not ecosystem, but it's almost likethese tools and skills to build those relationships, with customers, withclients seems to translate super well, especially to the startup space.

And I'm, I'm curious in that transitionwhen you were thinking about becoming a founder, Not only what inspired you tostart the company, but what did that previous experience prepare you for interms of, the entrepreneurial journey and being a founder and, and starting tobuilding a product, gain traction, build a story, all that stuff that we thinkabout.

Harold: Yeah, so I mean, forme, the biggest thing was this is a really, really a people business. So nomatter what you think about, everyone talks about our product market fit.Everyone talks about investor relations and being able to raise. All of thosethings come down to people, whether it's understanding your customer, beingable to convince people to work for you at below market prices early on, aswell as being able to gain the trust and support of investors.

And so, being a person that was managedand I've had good managers and I had not so good managers, I understood. Thetype of manager I wanted to be. And then also seeing how organizations ran. Iactually worked for a publicly traded company and so it was interesting becauseyou'd see some of the things that was happening inside the organization, butWall Street wasn't necessarily giving us credit for that stuff.

And so it was always really interestingto see how important information. And sharing it and being transparent was as aleader. So coming into running my own company, I wanted to be a certain type ofa leader. I knew I wanted to have a certain type of organization. I wanted tobe extra communicative with my investors and with my team.

Yeah. And so those are the types of thingsthat I really brought in to starting the company. Aside from that, it's just alove for how technology can help enhance and enrich our lives and, and bringpeople together.  

Julian: Yeah. It's sofascinating you talk about the information sharing piece because I feel likethat's what a lot of, not only like you feel the attachment to the work, butyou feel that acknowledgement, it kind of builds and reinforces its culturepiece.

And how are you able to do that forother founders out there who, maybe are focusing on the other things you said alot, but you know, maybe need to lean in more to their culture, the message,the information sharing. How have you been able to do that structurally in yourcompany to be able. Continue to foster a strong, cohesive culture and, and adirection honestly, in, in the, in the right direction.

Harold: So when the pandemicstarted in March of 2020 one of the things I made sure to tell my team so Igave everyone a week off. I gave everyone 250 bucks and said, Hey, go getsomething to make being at home more comfortable. We literally had just signeda multi-year lease in February of 2020. So we had tricked our office and hadthese like great chairs and great desks and lighting and meeting rooms.

And then in March, just a month later,we knew we weren't gonna be in there, and we didn't know how long we weren'tgonna be in there. So we said, okay, well let's figure out a. To make peoplefeel more comfortable. So we gave everybody a little money and a little time.And from there I said, look, the, I can't provide you comfort.

I can't even necessarily provide asolution right now. But what I can do, and what I'll always do is provide youinformation and from that you can do whatever you need to with thatinformation. And so for us it's always been really important to make sure thatwe equip our employees, our team members, our investors with information sothat they can make decisions for the best of their household, for the best oftheir portfolios.

And normally when you do that, they'regoing to make decisions that are best for the company.  

Julian: Yeah. It's, it'sinteresting, and I, I've not asked, I haven't asked a lot of founders thisquestion. But how are you able to communicate all with those different channelsand know what is gonna be of high value information?

Because we think about a lot of themessaging nowadays, even when talking to our investors and, and others, ormentors or even those potential clients in our ecosystem, the huge thing islike value and adding value and, and, Well, well, what is that? Is it, is it acertain type of metrics that you're hitting?

Is it growth? Predictions and then kindof results and findings and things like that. If I'm a founder, wanting to keeppeople engaged and involved with what's going on in my business, what should Ithink about in terms of communicating in terms of the value of the businessoverall, what's been successful for you, and also what have you learned fromwhat hasn't been successful?

Harold: Yeah, so internally sowe're a distributed organization while we do have our headquarters inGreenville, South Carolina, and that's where our engineering team is based. I'ma remote ceo. I live in Austin. Our head of product and design lives in la ourCFO lives in Maryland. And so being able to make sure that we have consistentcommunication between the various departments.

BIS ops and, and the technical team isreally important. And so the number one thing we do is we start every week witha weekly standup where everyone understands what's being built with theproduct. So the engineering team is able to communicate what the intentions ofdeliverables are for that week.

We do one week sprints, and then on theBIS ops side, we break down what the objectives are. Sometimes that's followingup with customers. Sometimes that's supporting a customer launch. Sometimesthat's investor relations. And then at the end of each week we have a weeklyshow and tell where you need to show what you have done.

If it is a customer activation, you areshowing a website. And metrics. If you're building something, you're showing anew feature that's in testing or staging or maybe even production. And so we doreally lean into those that that really helps internally. For investors andother folks externally, we try to be really consistent.

My investor update comes out every evenmonth of the year. So, February, April, all the way to December. So we do itevery, 60 ish days, and that's because we're B2B to C and so things move a littleslower. It'd be one thing if we. B2C and we sign, six customers a day and theneight tomorrow.

Yeah. Then you want to be faster withyour communication cycle. So because we're b2, b2c, we tend to do it aboutevery 60 days, and that allows our investors to know on a predictable cadencewhen we're gonna communicate with them what type of information we cover. Soall of our updates always have company update, product update, business update.

So that may be signing customer. Andthen we also have fundraising and financial updates. So how much money do wehave in the bank and do we need to fundraise or what's our burn rate? And soall of that stuff is in every single update, including an ask. And then just ageneral snapshot of what the company is because.

As companies pivot, it is reallyimportant to make sure that all of your investors can speak very intelligentlyabout your company as they're talking to their peers about what you do. And sothose are the types of things that I've learned so far. I have learned somethings that don't necessarily work that well is email.

So our company doesn't use me emailinternally. So literally if you're communicating inside our four walls you haveto use Slack like you are not to email each other because emails get lost andit's hard to. So we do slack as far as like the public channels. Yeah.Something we learned early on.

Julian: Yeah. It's amazing.It's impressive to, to hear the maturity that you're operating at and, and fora few different ways, not only with the structure of, of the communication, butalso in terms of the updates and, and the transparency. I think a lot offounders struggle with. Being extremely transparent, whether it's, attachingtheir ego to it or, or maybe even just like holding those outcomes a little bittoo emotionally impactful.

But when you're, you're able to operatein transparency, you're, you're not only allowing, for, for more interjection,I think of, of other insights or other, other advice or, you think about thementor. But you're also kind of opening the, the gate to a lot moreopportunities. So it's, it's impressive to see what you're operating at.

Thanks. But shifting back to, thecompany and, and Batwa, what, what inspired you to, you're working in corporateAmerica, you're doing business development, you're building all theserelationships, and what made you shift to live experiences? What you got youexcited about this and, and tell us how the product wears what we should expectfrom a user standpoint, and also what's impressive about the technology thatyou're building it within.

Harold: Yeah. So when we gotstarted I leaned on a lot of the experiences that I had as a fan. I remembergoing to Clemson in one of my first days there, I was raised in South Carolina,and so I know how segregated the country is Sunday mornings from race toreligion to socioeconomic status. Yeah. And so one of the things we think aboutis the fact that.

When it comes to technology, you can useit to either divide people or you can use it to bring people together. Andwe've been fortunate to be able to build a company that uses technology tobring people together. And so when I look back at some of my experiences thatwere happening at college football games, I realized that despite Sunday morningshaving, us being separate on a Saturday afternoon in the south, we were allhugging and high fiving.

And that was really cool. And so I wantto figure out how to do more of that. And so when we started buildingBandwagon, our North. Was always about how do we create community usingtechnology? Yeah. And so leaning into these affinity groups, like a fan club, afan of Clemson, a fan of Ariana Grande, a fan of Beyonce.

Yeah. That is gonna bring peopletogether. Yeah. And so we've been building these products. And so when the, thepandemic started, we were like, we've got all this expertise in blockchain whatare we gonna do? And so we leaned into how do you create community virtuallyand digitally. Yeah. And so we started learning about NF.

And so we started seeing these massiveprojects where it's like, oh, you can buy, one of 10,000 apes for Board eightYacht Club. And I was like, okay, that's interesting. And then we got to NBAtop shot and it was like, you can buy one of 35,000 editions of a layup. Wow.And I was like, man, that doesn't seem all that like interesting to have one of35,000 copies of a layup.

Yeah. And I was like, what if we couldchange it to where we could have the perspective of 35,000 people? Capturingthat layup. We're all operating with these supercomputers, these DSLRs in our,in our pockets, and we're already capturing the content. What if we ask fansfor that content? And so in 2021, we commercialized our product called poet.

It stands for Proof of experiencedtokens. And we trademarked the phrase proof of experience, where the conceptwas really straightforward. We've all heard of Getty Images. Yeah. What if asan artist or an entertainer, you could encourage and incentivize your fans tosubmit pictures of you literally transferring the IP of you to you to dowhatever it is you want with it.

And so you're basically creating thislittle army of photographers from your family. Yeah. And so that was the firstiteration. It was like, okay, user-generated. And decentralizing a Getty Imagestype product. But then we said, well, proof of experience isn't just pictures.Yeah. What are the other things that fans are doing on a, on a regular basis?

Well, is it streaming? Yeah. So now westart looking at how do we use streaming companies and their APIs to rewardfans for streaming habits. At the end of the year, we all get this you are inthe top 1% of, bad bunny listening, but that's it. Like it doesn't really doanything after that.

And so we started thinking. Why is that?And really it became it really became clear. We thought about it and said,well, these are siloed. Yeah, you've got some fans on Ticketmaster. We've gotsome vans on Spotify. We've got some vans on social media. And as the artist orthe brand or the entertainer, there was no one place that you could justgalvanize your fan club.

And so we said we're gonna build it. Andso Bandwagon started building our, our newest product and we'll be releasinglater this year called Fan Club, where we are basically allowing every artist,entertainer, brand athlete to be able to create virtual fan. So yes, thebiggest of artists are going to have tons of fans, but before they were thatbig, they were an up and coming artist.

Yeah. And so we want to see a lot ofthose folks who were saying, Hey, I was a day one fan from when this personbecame really big. The story I like to tell is my brother listens to a lot ofmusic. My brother Steven. But I'm more of like a top 40 guy. Like if it's onthe radio, I'll hear it.

If like, if it's presented to me, I'llhear, but I'm not gonna dig through the crates to find it. But he will. And sowhen Nipsey Hussle died, he had been telling us like, yo, this guy Nip is gonnabe the one. Yeah. And so when Nipsey Hu died, so many fans discovered hismusic. Well, the thing about that was the Nipsey Hustle fans that had beenthere were like, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Where are y'all coming from? Y'allweren't here when? And fans are like, well, territorial. Yeah. And so when youlook at it, it's like, well, how do fans prove that they were day one fans?Yeah, like everyone says they went to Woodstock, but no one can prove it,right? And so the idea here is like, how do you create a vehicle or a tool, orin this case is a reward system for fans to be able to raise their hand andidentify themselves as a day one fan and be able to follow themselves, see thatjourney for themselves.

We wanna capture all of that digitally.And thanks to the blockchain, thanks to NFTs we're not worrying about whatcrypto costs, we're not worrying about gas fees and wallets. We're making itreally. For the, for the band to be engaged and connect with their favoriteartist, entertainer, and brand.

Julian: Amazing. So thinkingabout this proof of concept model I or proof of experience model, pardon of me.This seems such a, like a fascinating concept, especially if you think aboutthe possibilities to continue fostering this fan club. And, and what kind of,just out of curiosity, what kind of ways are fans and their artists or individualsthat they're.

How are they connecting? What are someinteresting ways that you've seen maybe if it's new activities that they'redoing, new offerings, and how are they continuing to connect with theiraudience and also, I'll start with that question. I have some follow upquestions for you.  

Harold: Yeah. So normally whenyou go to a sporting event, for example, they have these like posters that theyprinted thousands of.

And so everyone leaves with the exactsame poster. And at the same time, when you get to the stadium or the arenathere's the jumbotron. Everyone's trying to be seen on the jumbotron, whetherit's dancing or something like that. So we do understand there's two things.One, The team, the athlete, the brand wants to give you something that you'llkeep, but also there's this desire to be seen and the desire to be connected.

To your favorite team by that Jumbotronexperience. And so one of our customers will Shipley, he's a college athlete.He set up with us to where he wanted to capture what the fans' journey was.Also, what the world looked like from the fans' perspective on game day. And sothat meant asking fans to submit user generated content on his website, wolfshipley.com.

And you'd go there, you'd submit thepictures, and then from there he used our technology, his. Put together thesedigital mosaics, which in that you could imagine us creating like a canvas. Ofall of the fans pictures from that game. And so it does two things. One, itproves you were there. You had to have been participating in some way.

Now of course, you could submit it likevirtually, but the goal was you were engaged, whether you were there or not,you were connected. So it brings you to that proof that you were watching thegame. The second piece was unlike getting that one of 10,000 version of poster,you are now part of this art.

You are now part of this digitalexperience. Yeah. If you did not submit your picture to it, it would look likea different picture. And so for. It actually made it a unique collectible thatfans wanted to have because they saw themselves in it in the same way they sawthemselves in the jumbotron. So we had a higher rate of collectivity orcollectibles there, collectible activity with those types of deliverables withWill.

We did the same thing with Pepsi andLifewater. We did it with Brad Stover, who's an MLS player. And so that was areally new and unique use case of taking something. The fans were already doingpictures and videos at games, asking them to submit them to their favorite. Inthis case it was Will. And then from there, will could do whatever he wanted.

He would shout some of the folks out onsocial media and say, this is my favorite picture. It's, Anne from Kentucky.And be able to say, so you get that shout out, but also you get that digitalcollectible that he was able to create thanks to the help of fans. So that'sone of the new things we're seeing more of is dynamic engagement opportunitiesfrom these brands, these entertainers, really connecting in a reallybidirectional relat.

With their fans.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I mean,it's like, it's like the fans like ideal experience, even for myself and peopleI'm a fan of, it's the recognition, right? The, I appreciate the things you'redoing and I recognize them as a fan and, and you recognize me and, and the, theimpact that, I think the, not only the group of fans, but if you think aboutvoting for instance, right?

It's the, it's the culmination of allthose, votes that essentially validate a certain idea or topic or individualin. Thinking about just the technology behind it, how are you able to take thatas, or, I don't know, asset or, or however you would say it but that, thatinformation, whether it's a a, a video or a photo and how do you track that orhow do you verify that or, or create that proof of experience?

Are you timestamping it, do you createan nft? Describe the mechanics behind how you're able to actually attributeand, and even put that on chain.  

Harold: Yeah, for sure. So, wemade our product poet stands for Proof of experience token. In November of 2021is when we first released it. The website's poe.xyz and it is the easiest andfastest way for anyone to create an nft.

So in the same way that you would uploada picture somewhere, you can upload a title, you're gonna have a description,and you upload the picture as long as it's less than 10 megabytes. And then youclick create. And what that's doing is it's storing the title, the picture, andthe description all on ipfs which is the blockchain distributed database.

And in doing so, you're actually able tonow have a copy of that wherever you go, because it lives on that blockchain.Today we are using the Polygon blockchain. We're super excited about that.Polygon is supporting brands as big as Starbucks and Disney. And so theirbusiness development team led by, Ryan and all the folks that they're doingover there.

All the folks that that are working hardover there. It's been fantastic. And so being able to help folks do that hasbeen really, really great. And then from submitting that as an nft, you usingour traditional terms and conditions and, and license use, say, Hey, bysubmitting this nft you actually are transferring the IP to this brand.

Yeah. Or to this athlete or artist. Andso it's incredibly.  

Julian: Yeah, and thinkingabout just like, the, the ownership of like collectibles in, in this whole kindof dynamic typically. I mean, I remember I had uncles who were big Elvis fansand they, there was big launches and these additions that they would haveseasonally for collectibles and all this, but it was, if you think about themechanics of it, it's, it's owned by a.

Not necessarily it's associated with theartist, but their business incentives are different. How does this change thedynamic of aligning an artist or an individual's incentives in terms of their,their likeness and, and the music, their propensity to, to keep their fanscohesive? How does that change the dynamic when it's not siloed by a companythat say, running their likeness or, or gaining, gaining, business outcomesfrom the likeness or selling things on that.

How does that change dynamic for artiststo, to not only own the rights and material, but also expand their fanship andtheir fandom?  

Harold: Yeah. So when youthink about it it's one of these things, it's actually really interesting whenyou think about how media and social media specifically works, especially theones with ad-based business models.

Yeah. So if you take Christiano, Leonardo,for example, the biggest Instagram star on the planet he has hundreds ofmillions of fans who have literally opted in to seeing his. And so that meansthat they specifically say that they want to see his content whenever he postsit. So you would think that naturally Instagram would say, oh, great.

Let's send you this at the top of yourfeed. But they don't, and it makes sense because if they let Christiana Ronaldodo that and show their his content to every follower he has, that would breaktheir ad model. Cuz they charge businesses a lot of money to get in front ofhim. So for us, we want to figure out like, well, how do you.

Make sure that you're actually gettingthe cons that you're asking for. So that's step one. The other part is, is thatdue to the siloed nature of how these fan clubs and fan bases exist, you've gotsome on Ticketmaster, some on Twitter, some on Instagram. And so when you thinkabout it, and then some of the names are different.

So one of 'em could be like the realChristiano on Twitter and on Instagram we be Christiano and all these. And sowhen you think about how that creates a lot of friction for the fan, and sowhat we want to. Let's think through how you provide a tool that helps thembetter manage their engagement. And so I do think that that's going to lead tomore brands wanting to be aligned more closely to that, to that artist or thatentertainer, because then they're going to have a more round picture of whotheir fans are.

They're going to have a better understandingof who's showing up to events and who's streaming and who's taking pictures andwho's buying merch. And so when you have that type of a around snapshot ofwho's your. Then you'll be able to go directly to brands and say, Hey, look,this is the type of behavior you wanna reward or wanna be aligned with.

These are the types of activities we cando together. So I think that it unlocks a lot of value for those fans as wellas the entertainers that we sign going forward.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I was justthinking about how to changes the, the ability for a fan to actually influencewhat their artist or the individual.

That they're attached to or excitedabout and viewer of, and, and a fan of overall, how that changes their abilityto influence them. Have you seen that yet, or is that still kind of like, tocome with, with the growing fanship, have, have fans really driven an artistto, change their mind or go into different perspective?

Have you seen that yet? Or is that kindof just like, I don't, is that me dreaming or fantasizing about a potentialopportunity?  

Harold: No, I don't, I don'tthink that's far off either. I mean, we haven't seen it yet, but one of thethings we think of take philanthropy for example. One of the, one of myfavorite brands on the planet is a com is a company called Partake Foods.

They have a really, really big andstrong philanthropic vision. And so you could imagine them using our technologyto say, Hey, we wanna. Consumers and customers who buy from our website directly.If you buy from our website, we're gonna give you one point for every dollaryou spend. And at the end of each year, we are going to give you all of thosepoints and you get to allocate them to the nonprofit in your community that youwant to see us support.

So we will give you a list of nonprofitsthat we care about that are mission aligned. You are clearly buying from us, soyou support our product and our vision. And as a person who's spending money,you should help. Where some of those proceeds go. So if they dedicate 2% oftheir profits to non to non-profits in philanthropy, and I as a consumer get tosay, whoa, I spent a thousand dollars on this brand.

That means I have a thousand points tohelp drive some of that revenue into my community to support organizations thatare a mission aligned. Then all of that is just gravy. Like, that's perfect.Yeah. Yeah. And so I do think that we have the opportunity to do some some moreof that. And you're gonna probably see that as early as.

Julian: Yeah, it's soimpressive to think about that level of, of impact and, and and that level ofconnection, but also everybody's kind of still after the pandemic. I thinkpeople really realize what they were, what they were consuming, whether atalmost every degree of their life. And also having that attachment to it andattaching to a branded emission that has a certain value.

It's almost like, it, it, it almost addsa characteristic to yourself and, and what you align yourself to. And peopleare really, I think, considering that a lot more. So it's exciting to see thatkind of, that continued evolution. But let's go back to, Bandwagon. Tell us alittle bit more about the traction.

How many companies are you, have youbeen working with? How many brands have you helped support? And also what's notonly excited about the, the recent traction, but also the next coming year.What are you particularly excited about? For 2023 and in 2024 in the, in theyears.  

Harold: Yeah, so I mean, whenyou look at the pandemic and how it impacted live event space and theexperience space, it was really, really rough.

2020 was crazy. We ended up raising a apre-seed round in, in March of 2021 with the vision of creating fan club andbeing able to connect fans, consumers with their, with their favorite artistsand entertainers. And so when we commercialize poet our product in November,2020, I mean, we really started off, unpaid users or lower price users.

So like our first customer was ChicagoState. Shout out to them for signing on. They wanted to figure out a way toincentivize students to stay throughout the game. And so they created an NFTthat was easy to collect and they'd randomly put the QR code up throughout thegame. And if you collected the QR code, then you'd be entered to win all kindsof cool stuff.

So that was like free. We did that andsaid, we don't care. Just do it so we can try it. That was November, 2020. Andthen we launched with Kelvin Beum. He's an NFL player. And so he did anactivation with us in December of 2021. Coming into 2022, we really wanted toup the Annie and sign on some more folks, and so we were able to grow ourrevenues over 200%.

We signed brands like a Kids Co. Wesigned and worked with Lifewater and Pepsi. We worked with athletes like like Isaid, Kelvin, as well as Brad Stover from the Austin FC and Will Shipley. Andso we're going on and on and on that. And so now as we get into 2023, our wholefocus is saying, how do we take these products that we built and the, theinfrastructure that we've provided and go beyond the pictures side of it.

Yeah. And so being able to reward fansfor their streaming habits and reward fans for their shopping habits or theirattendance at conference based on ticketing, that's where we see a huge nextstep for us. And so that's where we're leaning into from an API and technologystand. Going into 2023.

So it's been really, really exciting sofar as we got to talk to, streaming companies and artists, performing artists,folks I was to on the radio. Getting able to have those conversations, duringSouth by Southwest was actually really, really cool. So I think that we're,we're right where we need to be right now to take advantage of thisopportunity.

Julian: Incredible. And, andthinking about whether it's external or internal, what are some of the biggestchallenges that Bandwagon faces  

Harold: One of the biggestchallenges that we face is being able to differentiate and separate ourselvesfrom crypto. I, I gave a talk last night to a group of fellows for a nonprofit,and they asked me and said, Hey, could you cover crypto 1 0 1?

And my first thought was like, yeah, ofcourse. And as I was getting there, I was like, oh, do you mean cryptography 10 1? Because that's what I know. Yeah. But they meant cryptocurrency one. Oh.Bitcoin Ethereum and such. And that's not really my lane. As I try and tellpeople, you've got the blockchain and then that provides the opportunities ofthe things we're seeing with Web three and the various applications.

But on top of that, you've got theMetaverse, you've got DeFi and Cryptocurrency. Yeah, you've got NFTs. And so wetend to plan on the NFTs primarily on the idea of like being able to captureyour experience, preserve your experience, share your experience to earn morecurated opportunities.

And so that's where we go. And so one ofthe biggest challenges is being, being able to differentiate ourselves fromcrypto. Yeah. So that's the biggest challenge. And then from there, it's reallyjust trying to help educate people on what the opportunities are in front ofthem. Normally folks come in and say, oh, we're going to disrupt X industry orY industry.

Yeah. And that's not something that weever want to. We wanna make sure that people are able to say, Hey, I want tobuild with my community. What's the best way to do that? And we think that withus, we'll be able to help them do that without any issues. And so those, thosetwo are probably the biggest challenges I'd say to the space is helping peopleunderstand the opportunities in front of them as well as separating ourselvesfrom traditional cryptocurrencies.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Ifeverything goes well, what's the long term vision for Bandwagon?  

Harold: So long term webelieve that we'll be able to create the digital universe for all fans to beable to interact with their favorite artists, not only thinking about contentthat other users are capturing and uploading so bad.

Budding performed on top of a gasstation, Puerto Rico. I wasn't there, but, but because someone was, I could seethat perspective. I could see their pictures and be able to get that firstperson perspective, so That's awesome. But then what are the next things like,well, can we reward behavior and drive behavior, like you talked about, be ableto influence that and connect.

If you're a bad F Bunny fan, are youalso a fan of. This artist and will that lead to opportunities where there arecrossovers and covers and collaborations and remixes Like that would be greatbecause we'll have the data very clearly say this person is interested in thisfan this artist as well as that artist.

And then going further than that, Ithink the biggest thing is just making sure we're creating community aroundthese groups. I think that when you're listening to a song on the radio andyou're driving the car by. You love the song, but you don't know the otherpeople who do and how different your lives may be.

And I think that those are theopportunities for us to use, to start conversations, to bring people together.Yeah. And so at the end of the day, I believe the fan club will be anopportunity for us to bring people together, not only virtually, but in, inreal life as a artist and entertainers and brands can lean on our technologyto.

Ephemeral community, as we like to callit, a community of people that'll pop up and you'll never be able to get allthose people together again. But for that moment in time, you had somethingreally special. And that's something we're excited about leading and creating.  

Julian: That's incredible. AndI would love this next section.

I, I, I call it my founder faq. So I'mgonna hit you with some rapid fire questions and all to get first question,just to open it up what's particularly hard about your job?.  

Harold: The hardest thingabout my job is managing people because when it comes to the my managementstyle, I tend to just let go. Once I delegate it, it's yours, and that meansyou let go of control.

And so that means you may not get theoutput that you want or you may not get the output when you want it. And sobeing able to trust others and really do it is, is a tough thing for a personthat's got a big vision and you want to control everything. So, that'ssomething I work on, just being a better leader.

Julian: Yeah. A lot offounders talk about time spent and where they're allocating it andprioritizing. So I'd like to ask this question. What's something that you spendtoo much time on that you would like to spend less on, and what's somethingthat you spend, little time on, but you would like to allocate more to?

Harold: Uh, I spend too muchtime in my crm. I brought on a chief of staff. She's been amazing and ishelping me do less of that, and she's doing more of it and she's also doingmore of my emails, which is great. And then something I should be doing more ofis getting in front of customers. I love sales.

I love being the person who tees up theconversations. I love being a strategist and helping them solve problems. Andso that's something I'm trying to create more time.  

Julian: Yeah. And thinkingabout, what you're working on and, and kind of thinking about business modelwas kind of the business and pricing model always the same.

How do you, not only do you pay for thevalue of Bandwagon and, and what you're working on, but what are some of thecreative ways that you've kind of evolved the pricing and, and business modelfrom when you've started to where you are now or if you haven't changed, what,what made it so, sustainable?

Harold: From the, so I thinkin the beginning it's really important to. Try and figure out what's a pricethat people are willing to pay. So when we started with Chicago State, it waslike, we just want to see if this works. We need to test it. So we don't needmoney. We need to know if the product works.

And then after we tested it and saw thatit works, we're like, okay, cool. Will the next person pay us like $5,000? Andthen we were like, okay, let's do $10,000. We did 10,000 for, for a while. Andthen we said, this is actually creating a lot of value. We started thinkingabout the departmental budgets that folks were operating in and we're like, ifwe're talking to bigger brands, we needed to charge.

And so then we're like, we're gonnaraise the 25,000. Let's like see if this works and kind of put it out there.And so, that was really, really important for. In the beginning of Web three,like there is, in the beginning of any adoption curve, there's always gonna bea group of people who know more and therefore can charge for their expertiseand their, there's more services based.

That's what we've been able to lean on,is we're educating our customers. We're not only providing them the service andusing our tools and platform but they're also leaning on our expertise andgetting a service. And so we've been able to make high margin revenuespecifically due to that experience and expertise, and we're gonna continue todo that.

We see how the market is changing andstill a lot of people don't know what's going on, but we feel like we knowwhere, where the puck is going, so we're gonna keep skating towards it.  

Julian: Yeah. And, andthinking about the technology piece, and, one thing I'm, I'm curious about ishow much are you impacted by, say, bad actors in terms of, code or, or on chainthat, that isn't validated, that that's fraudulent or things like that.

Are you impacted heavily by that or isit, do you rely on, polygon and, and the companies that you're using to mintNFTs and, and create those smart, smart contracts to be. Hyper focused on thesecurity of, the things that you're minting and things like that. How much are,does it impact you and, and who do you rely on in terms of partners to be ableto secure and, and validate that what you're putting on change, proof ofexperience is actually authentic?

Harold: So we build all of oursmart contracts that's really important for us. We validate that the contentthat's being submitted is being submitted by the user that is uploading it.That's why we're building a mobile app to make sure we're getting device IDgeolocation times. So we're not getting a bunch of people cropping, otherpeople's content, uploading it.

And then if I say that this is Shakira,that content needs to go in Shakira's album. If it is Shakira, if it's notShakira and it's actually Lady Gaga, then we need to make sure we're doing thechecks and balances to make sure the content goes to the rightful. Rightsholder in that case. And so we do all that.

Of course, like anything, you're gonnarely on some databases. So whether that's AWS that you know, is normally up,but on the, random chance it goes down. A lot of the products that we use areimpacted and we've probably seen that on Twitter. But we rely on Polygon causewe meant there.

And so being able to know that we have aredundancy set up, there isn't like an urgency to where it's like, if this wasminted at this exact time, there's a problem. We have the opportunity be ablesay, okay, we're gonna batch in. It's better for the environment. That waythere's no real rush. We'll still give you credit from when you click submitcuz that we're recording that content.

So we try to make sure we control asmuch of the process as possible while being collaborative with the folks who doa really great job at what they do. And that happens to be folks like Polygon.  

Julian: Yeah. And thinkingabout, this huge, obviously chat, TBT is out and, and people are talking aboutAI and, and thinking about just the, the scale at which, Bandwagon could reachin terms of, people submitting an immense amount of proof of experiences.

Do you think about ai, do you thinkabout those types of mechanics to start, mentioning these contracts at scale,validating those in information at scale and, and thinking about training amodel that can help almost. With, without having to have a lot of manual input.Do you think about that a lot?

Is that incorporated in the long termroadmap of the product, or do you, have you thought about other ways to, tocha, to, to, to take on a scaling  

Harold: challenge? Yeah, Imean, early on, I think that one thing I, I'll give a lot of entrepreneurs isthat I think most of 'em think about scale too early. Right now we have theamount of customers we have and we need to deliver for.

And so we don't get too distracted byscale right now. At the same time, we are mindful of the types of things we'llneed to ask ourselves and then also answer. So some of our investors andadvisors include the former Chief technology officer and Chief product officerof Roblox or a person who led.

Machine learning at YouTube who helpedorganize information, right? And so being able to leverage their expertise andtheir experience will help us answer those questions when it comes to thatpoint. But when it comes to like Chat G P T and Mid Journey and some of theseAI-based tools, we do think that our customers would want to use them.

And, and I think about it from like anInstagram example. Huge fan of Instagram's creation story and the idea thatpeople would share their pictures more if they thought they looked good. And soInstagram said, oh, we'll make filters to make people think their pictures lookgood. And so that's the same kind of thing we deal with for our product.

We're asking fans to take pictures. OfWill Shipley and to submit them. But if they feel like their picture's too faraway or it's too grainy or it's too blurry, they may not want to upload it. Andso I can absolutely see ourselves using a tool like a visual ai tool to helpedit some of those pictures to where you feel more comfortable sharing them andyou're more excited about sharing or you're enhancing them in different ways.

And so we've already been testing someof that internally. It's transparently. But right now we're really focusing onwhat we're doing. But we definitely see those tools creeping into our space andwe're gonna be prepared for '

Julian: em.  

Yeah, it's incredible to think about thevisual ai. I hadn't even thought about the impact of just like the qualityaspect and you're so right, the, the improving someone's, creation or idea sothat, they don't have to go through the, the, the challenges of just, thepicture lighting, exposure, all these different technical pieces and helpingthem get to a certain.

I mean it o it obviously just, it, itsupports that behavior even more, reinforces it even more. Yeah. I always liketo ask this question because I love how founders extract knowledge out ofanything that they ingest. Whether it was early in your career or not, whatbooks or people have influenced and impacted you the most?

Harold: So The Tipping pointprobably is probably my, The book that's impacted me most just because itreally speaks to the collaborative nature of what makes something a thing, likewhat makes something really tip and it takes a lot of different people. So thetipping point for sure zero to one is really, really cool because you thinkabout everyone's innovating and very few people are inventing.

And so if you can truly invent andcreate something new that's where you can stand out. One of my favorite quotesthe true sign of greatness is when all things before you are obsolete and allthings after you bury your mark. And so we see more often than not in socialmedia and other tech there's a little bit of like copying and pasting of otherfeatures and functionality.

And that's good. That's, that'srewarding the person who invented it. So we, we see a lot of that. So those areprobably two of the books that really inspired my, acumen and, and thedecisions I've made to.  

Julian: Amazing. And, andHarold, I know we're coming through the close of the episode, so I wanna makesure we covered everything before we give your chance to, to give you our, yourplugs and, and let us know where we can support you.

But is there anything, is there anyquestion or anything I didn't ask you that you wish I did or that you would'veliked to answer? Anything come to mind?  

Harold: No, I think the, theconversation was great. I mean, the one thing I always try to make sure toshare is that, Everyone goes into this idea of like, we're gonna disrupthealthcare, we're gonna disrupt the music industry.

And normally that doesn't happen becausethere are companies. That make billions of dollars a year, and they'reexecutives that make millions of dollars a year that are directly incentivizedto make sure that you do not disrupt them. Mm-hmm. They have stakeholders andshareholders that make sure it doesn't happen.

And so I encourage more founders to comefrom a space of collaboration instead of competition. And I think in that casewe'll see more value being able to be created. So I definitely encourage that.And then lastly, I always like to make sure that folks, as they're learningthings even myself as a lifelong.

I want to learn things as fast aspossible and then help you learn them even faster. So if something takes me twomonths, I want you to take two weeks. And that's because from a mindsetstandpoint, I like to view knowledge more like a library and less like a vault.And so we need to share more and we need to have that in circulation more andless guarded because I think that overall from a society standpoint, we'll allbe better with information.

And so we wanna make sure we domore.  

Julian: I sent incrediblemessage, Harold, and, and obviously I'm a huge supporter of that message.That's what the podcast's about is the sharing of information. Yeah. I'm sohappy to have you on the show, not only learning about your background, yourexperience, but how honestly you're viewing this whole fandom, this wholeexperience in a really unique way by offering of both collaborative experiencebetween fans and artists, but also ways to incentivize them, ways to validateyour experiences, and honestly ways to connect on that experience.

Are extremely true, right? And thiswhole, this whole proof piece is, is so cool to, to think about and think aboutthat experience being validated as, as you say, you can talk about it, but ifit's not necessarily in stone somewhere, it, it's, it's, it's less valid, lessvalid in that, in that, in that sense.

But Harold, I'm so excited to share thiswith the audience and I'm so happy to have you on the show. I hope you enjoyedyourself and thank you again for being on Behind Company Lines today.  

Harold: For sure, man, thishas been awesome. I hope that y'all will check. The A Kids book AboutBlockchain that is now out, came out last week where I want to help educatefolks from six to 60 understand what blockchain is.

So a kid's book about blockchain. Butyeah, let's try and continue to share and collaborate with one another.  

Julian: Yeah, I forgot to askyou, give us your plugs. Where are your LinkedIns? Where can we support you asa founder where we can support Bandwagon? Last little bit. I'm so sorry, butyeah, give us your plugs.

Harold: Yeah, no, no worries.Please do not follow me or add me on LinkedIn. I likely will not ever see it.I'm scarred from corporate America, but if you do wanna check me out onTwitter, feel free. Aside from talking about startups, I talk about angelinvesting, which I do a good bit. As well as community building.

I love to cook, barbecue and other food.So you'll see some of that. I'm a big New York Knicks fan, so you'll see metalking about that as well as college football. And then check out our product.If you've never made an NFT before and don't have any crypto, no crypto, noworries. Go to poe.xyz.

Take a picture of your coffee thismorning, or your cat or your dog, or make a memory with a significant othergroup of friends and make your first n f t and you'll see how easy it is andwhat the future of content creation and ownership looks like. Thanks to whatwe're building at Bandwagon.

Julian: Amazing. Harold, thankyou again for being on this show. Such a pleasure.  

Harold: Thanks, man. Y'all havea good one.

Other interesting podcasts