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Community is the Future of Brand-Building
The future of the internet seems to be on everyone’s mind. The promise of web3 is a digital economy free of gatekeepers: instead of…
The future of the internet seems to be on everyone’s mind. The promise of web3 is a digital economy free of gatekeepers: instead of creating, consuming, and transacting on large social platforms, we’ll engage on open protocols where communities will own and operate networks. Communities and creators (instead of big tech companies) will have all the power, and the possibility to earn upside becomes present in every consumer decision. In web3, consumers also regain control over something that was notably lost in web2 — their anonymity and privacy.
There is still much to be proven out in web3, but one thing for sure is that talented founders and developers are flocking to build on this new frontier. Human is proud to welcome GLOW Labs to our portfolio, the first white-label loyalty rewards program on the blockchain, helping brands and creators navigate community rewards and loyalty programs in this new ecosystem.
We met founders Annie Reardon and Renee Russo when they joined Human’s entrepreneur-in-residence program, Humans in the Wild, with their next generation beauty-booking platform. As technical co-founders who were getting deeper and deeper into web3 personally, Annie and Renee made the pivot to start building where they saw the greatest opportunity.
We sat down with Annie and Renee to talk about how web3 is revolutionizing community, how that will change the way brands interact with consumers, and some of the best web3 projects out there right now.
How did you get involved in web3?
Renee Russo: I got involved in web3 back in 2016 when it was just known as crypto. I bought my first cryptocurrency, Ripple, and told my whole family to buy crypto. They still hold it over my head to this day because it went straight down, of course.
About a year ago, when crypto rebranded itself to web3, I got really involved in NFTs. This was the Top Shot days where you were able to buy NFTs with U.S. dollars. From there, I went to a bunch of NFT events and became really addicted to Zed Run, which is a play-to-earn NFT game.
I was experiencing these living, breathing NFTs that I could play and earn real money from. Being the builder that I am, I had to get my hands dirty — I started collecting and trading NFTs and ended up launching my own NFT collection about eight months ago. From there, the rest is history.
Annie Reardon: Renee and I were building Glow 1.0, the beauty booking app that we took through Humans in the Wild. During that time, we saw that the most sophisticated, smartest people that we knew were going into the web3 space. With both of us being software engineers, we started feeling like we were building in web 1.0.
We desperately wanted to be building on the frontier of technology and to be defining what the new extension of the internet was going to be. We started attending a lot of networking events in the NFT space, reading, and grasping any content that we could get. Then, we decided to take the plunge in November of 2021.
How is web3 revolutionizing community? What opportunity do you see with loyalty on the blockchain?
Renee: The definition of community is different in web3 because ownership is replacing fandom. In the metaverse, not only is a community member a fan of the brand, but they are also an owner. That ownership gets power and control.
When I buy an NFT, it’s because I’m aligned with the cause or passionate about the product. I want to change my profile picture on Twitter, repost all their content, buy and use everything.
That brand is now my digital identity, and I’m a walking brand ambassador.
Let’s say, for example, you went to a movie and it was horrible. You leave complaining about actors, the ending, and you’re upset with the producers of that film. That feeling of disappointment is because you are a fan. If you owned a tiny piece of that movie and the movie is disappointing, you’d leave knowing that you can personally influence the next one. You’re still a fan, but you’re also an owner.
In web3, a community member is your most powerful marketing tool, your most important stakeholder, and your most accurate metric of how the brand is performing.
How is that going to change the way brands interact with their customers?
Renee: The way brands and customers interact will have be based on tokenization — specifically, social tokens. Social tokens are digital assets backed by a reputation of a brand, individual, or community. They’re going to be huge because they allow new forms of monetization for content. Right now, creators, influencers, and brands use social media platforms to monetize, but the platform takes a huge chunk of the revenue share and essentially owns all of their content.
With social tokens, content creators and brands can eliminate this barrier and bring forward a new principle of ownership in a digital economy. Web3 is all about connecting creators or brands and consumers directly, ultimately giving creators and brands more control over their revenue.
What is your north star at GLOW Labs?
Renee: Our north star is definitely community. We believe that ownership should be in the community’s hands, and that communities should be rewarded for their loyalty. Community members are the most valuable asset and marketing tool in this space.
What are the defining characteristics of web3 culture? How is that impacting the type of company you are building?
Annie: Web3 is about decentralized communities, and we believe that’s the future. Our team is fully decentralized and working from all over the world, and we’re seeing really high-quality work from contractors who specialize in certain areas.
We’re staying close to that in the way we build our products, too: web3 products decentralize decision making and allow community members to help a company decide how they build products. We are going to play off aspects of that in our user testing and customer feedback.
Renee: Another important characteristic: most people keep their anonymity in web3. When you log into platforms in web2, you have to log in with your email, or with Facebook or Twitter, which is tied to your name, gender, age, and even sometimes your race. When you log in with web3, your digital ID is tied to your wallet. That wallet is a unique token hash on the blockchain so there’s no personal or demographic data attached.
What would you say to crypto non-believers?
Renee: Stay open-minded, technology will always evolve. Think about when the internet first came out and people could not wrap their heads around looking at a phone to read. There is a lot of noise right now in the crypto space and it’s important to find the signal, but just know that we’re all building for a better and more inclusive and innovative future.
Where are we in 5 years and where does GLOW Labs fit into that future?
Annie: We are each going to have a digital self and a physical self, and we will interact and participate with the world online instead of merely observing it, like we do in web2. We observe on social platforms and while browsing the internet. Web3 will be an immersive experience where you have your own avatar and your purchases are all on the blockchain, whether it be the deed to your house or your access to a concert.
Renee: In five years, GLOW Labs will be the go-to loyalty rewards program in the web3 space. Just like the Bored Ape Yacht Club and the World of Women are top tier communities for NFTs, we want to position ourselves as the main infrastructure tooling for web3 businesses to prosper in this new world.
What are your favorite web3 projects?
Renee: RTFTK were true innovators in the space, pioneering the concept of buying an NFT and then getting a physical copy of it. They just got acquired by Nike a couple of months ago.
Of course, I have to talk about DinoMonks, which is a mental health utility of the metaverse. I think they have a great mission and community.
Lastly, I love Cool Monkes. They are a new play-to-earn game where people can actually make money from owning and playing an NFT. It’s giving new job opportunities to people online: you can hire someone to play the game for you, and then they have this new source of income.
Annie: I think play-to-earn is really big. I like MoonPay. I just think they’re a little bit more mature.
My BFF is making the space super accessible for women, which is awesome, and I think the women behind it are just super sharp.
What advice do you have for people trying to learn about web3?
Renee: I have a three-step process. First is education, second is dedication, and third is creation. For step one: read online, watch YouTube videos, make a Twitter and follow people, take a course, and learn about what people are talking about in the space.
For the dedication piece, you’ve got to get your hands dirty: buy some NFTs, trade some NFTs, lose some money, and understand the hardship that goes into it. Sign up for a new platform, participate, play a game.
Once you’ve really dedicated yourself to this space, the next stage is creation. Create a simple NFT. It’s actually very easy. You can draw anything you want, take a picture of it, upload it to OpenSea, and put any type of value on it. Then, you have this NFT that lives on the blockchain and belongs to you, and you’re contributing to history and the evolution of the internet.
Annie: Seeing web3 as an extension of the internet is an un-intimidating way to approach it. I also think it’s important to find your communities and the outlets that you can learn from. Boys Club has an incredible way of making learning web3 a whole collective experience that you can do with your friends. The encouragement and motivation that comes from joining communities is great.
What is your experience being technical female founders in the web3 space?
Renee: I think there are 0.0000025% women founders in the Web3 space. We’re seeing a lot more women investors, but not many people building. As a female-led company, it’s important to be intentional with the people that you bring on your team and your cap table, and Annie and I made this an important point when we went out to raise capital. Three of the five investors on our cap table are from women-founded VCs and are women partners.
Annie: There’s a lot of PR around women-led NFT’s projects, but Renee and I are like, “Okay, we’re founders in this space, we’re building insane software.” I think that’s one distinction to make. That said, it’s been explosive for the women-led NFT projects, and I think it’s indicative of the way the space is turning.
Renee: It comes with representation. For so long, I was buying NFTs of monkeys and people with spiky hair and male traits, and then finally, you had some representation in the artwork so you can actually think, “This could be my digital identity.” Evolving from that, and then you have more representation with the founding team members, investors, and so on.
Interested in learning more about GLOW Labs? Check out their website here.