FTX CEO leads Trustless Media’s seed round to help build community-owned web3 shows

·4-min read

A new web3-focused production hub, Trustless Media, has launched out of stealth mode as it aims to build an NFT community-owned media company.

The company raised $3.25 million in a seed round and plans to launch “NFTV shows,” which will allow the content of the shows to be owned by community members who have the NFT.

The round was led by FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and included investments from Avalanche’s Ava Labs and Red DAO founding member Megan Kaspar, among others.

“NFTV is a portmanteau of NFT and TV. It was something that kept coming up when we described what Coinage would be,” Zack Guzman, co-founder of Trustless Media, said to TechCrunch. “The whole concept is trying to figure out a way to break down a wall between content creators and the audience of the show they’re creating.”

The startup’s goal isn’t to “make a lot of money through selling NFTs,” Guzman said, but instead, it hopes to attract really good partners and a community to build out the web3 shows.

The production company will roll out its first NFTV show, Coinage, in the fall, and plans to focus on exploring crypto’s biggest stories with a skeptical lens. Guzman – who was previously a journalist at Yahoo Finance and CNBC – will lead the flagship show.

“It all boils down to trust, particularly in crypto. I think what we’re trying to do with Coinage, a reason why a show like this is needed, has been proven out by the collapse we’ve seen,” Guzman said.

“High-quality educational and news resources developed by web3 natives that have a fundamental understanding of the technology, where it’s heading, and the value it can bring will be important for the continued growth of the space,” Bankman-Fried said in a statement. “There are big questions that we have to answer as an industry.”

“It’s like, could people have been warned about weaknesses in some of the projects earlier? Probably, if there was more honest dialogue,” Guzman said. “Could people have talked about some of the pitfalls of centralized crypto lenders? Probably, if crypto influencers weren’t getting paid to promote them. And could traditional media have done a better job of exposing them, too? Probably, if they had a newsroom more focused on crypto.”

Trustless Media’s initial "Network NFT" launch will be centered around a game theory and trust experiment to build its governing community. Guzman picked the first four people invited to mint one of the 1,000 NFTs available: Bankman-Fried; Kaspar; Ava Labs president John Wu; and Terri Burns, a partner at GV (formerly known as Google Ventures). Those four people can then invite others and create essentially a ripple effect of invited "Network NFT" community members.

“We raised [capital] from some of the smartest people in crypto and we are going to be leaning in on them,” Guzman said. “They obviously supported the vision and we think they’ll know who to present the invites to and invite trusted individuals to help build this out.”

Historically speaking, some of the most successful mainstream TV shows, for entertainment and news, are ones with large followings and a sense of community. “Any show in the world is only as strong as the audience it attracts,” Guzman said. “Why do people like ‘Friends’ or ‘Seinfeld’? The writing is good, but it also has a rabid fan base.”

Trustless Media plans to grow its community beyond the initial 1,000 NFT community members by expanding the network. At the end of Coinage’s first season, it will launch its "Caucus NFT," which has 9,000 NFTs, to the public so a community can build its second season together. There is also a "Subscriber NFT," which has no maximum supply and is free to mint (aside from the transaction fee).

“With a lot of NFT drops, I feel like they’re focused on minting out so the price goes up or, more recently, there’s been a few drops where a creator chooses who can mint or who the first NFTs go to,” Guzman said. “There’s not a lot of transparency there and not a lot of leaning into decentralization. So with the trust experiment, we’re trying to build how a community trusts each other.”

There’s a lot that NFTs can do for media that hasn’t been explored yet, Guzman said. “The proof of concept here is how do you create a community-run show in any niche.”

In the future, Trustless Media plans to expand its web3 shows beyond just the crypto niche and into other popular digital media sectors like food or travel.

“You can have people weigh in and create something like a web3 ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,’” Guzman said. “Where it’s not just Guy Fieri choosing where he goes, but the community picks certain restaurants they enjoy for the show to visit.”

But in a nod to the production hub’s name, Guzman said Trustless Media’s main goal is to build trust among its community in a distrusting world. “We’re trying to create a community of trust from scratch and a community that is going to be trusted not just by others in the space, but those outside of it, too.”

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