Welcome to the Block & Mortar newsletter! Every week, I bring you the top stories and my analysis on where business meets web3: blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and metaverse. Brought to you by Q McCallum.

Reading online? Subscribe to get this in your inbox whenever it's published.

#74 - Media roundup September 2023

description: A podcast studio.  A microphone on a boom is in focus.  A set of headphones in the foreground, and the table in chairs in the background are out of focus.  Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash.

(Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash)

It’s the end of the month, so I’m sharing some interesting listens from the past few weeks.

When web3 is just gorgeous

Chain Reaction: How can big beauty and fashion brands get into web3? (w/ L’Oreal web3 team)

(Listening time: 30mn)

Cosmetics behemoth L’Oreal established the GORJS (“gorgeous”) DAO as a way of partnering with 3D makeup artists. L’Oreal provides the digital infrastructure, the artists bring their know-how, and the community votes on how to use the DAO’s treasury to support the artists’ work. It’s refreshing to see a company actually walk the walk with a new technology when so many others are just talking the talk.

Manon Cardiel and Patrick Kaminski, who lead parts of L’Oreal’s web3 efforts, explore the GORJS DAO and more in this interview. It’s a short listen but covers a lot of ground, including the pair’s thoughts on what it means to build a DAO inside a large, established organization. And near the end, Kaminski explains how brands can embrace web3:

[They need to] approach it in a way that is authentic to them and to their DNA. That’s what makes it easier. That’s when it all clicks. That’s where the successful projects are born.

A Roblox primer for brands

FYI - For Your Innovation: Roblox: The Virtual Playground Where Gaming, Fashion, and Real-World Brands Collide with Daniel Sturman

(Listening time: 45mn)

The sticklers will try to tell you that Roblox isn’t a true web3 metaverse property because there’s no underlying blockchain. It’s more of a “web 2.5” thing.

That difference of 0.5 doesn’t seem to matter to anyone else. Brands are setting up shop in Roblox and people are coming there. That’s what really matters in their book.

If your company has been thinking about whether to establish a presence in Roblox, this interview with CTO Daniel Sturman should prove useful. You won’t hear much on the technical how, but you’ll get plenty of the business why.

Of special interest to the corporate set, Sturman shares how Roblox thinks about safety. Not only does the platform continue to evolve their content moderation, it also supports age-gated experiences. Want to throw that 21-and-over event that showcases booze (in pixel form)? You’ll have no worries of some underaged visitor wandering through. End-user safety translates to brand safety, which factors into reduced legal and reputational risk.

For those who are still asking why their business would want to hang a shingle in Roblox, Sturman offers a clear statement on what it means to interact with your audience this way:

[In Roblox,] the sort of immersion you can have with a product or product line is unlike anything else. It’s so much better than a webpage. You’re sitting there, trying out a skateboard. You’re seeing how you look in a particular set of clothing. […]

_[For clothing brands] it’s an incredible way to connect in both directions. It’s not an ad that’s being forced upon you; it’s a thing you’re electing to go do and engage with, because you’re passionate about the products. _

Letting fans come to you, instead of pushing your message onto them? That sounds very web3 to me.

A stable, circular path

Unchained / The Chopping Block: Why Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire Is So Optimistic About Stablecoins’ Future - Ep. 541

(Listening time: 1hr)

Circle is a rare company. They’re a crypto behemoth that has managed to stay out of negative press coverage (unlike FTX). They run a dollar-pegged stablecoin but no one questions their reserves (unlike Tether). And despite operating in the open, they have managed to avoid regulatory ire (unlike Coinbase).

CEO Jeremy Allaire explains how Circle’s position as a market-neutral infrastructure provider helps it forge partnerships – even with companies that may appear on the surface to be its rivals. He also describes how Circle parks the reserve cash that backs their USDC stablecoin, and how people can confirm those reserves in real time. This transparency is probably why Circle has avoided the questions that people keep lobbing at Tether.

Allaire rounds out the interview by shifting his focus to the wider crypto space: how a mix of regulator enforcement actions and bank failures have affected the US crypto environment; why upcoming changes in US law may lead to an increase in the number of stablecoin providers; what stablecoin and CBDCs (do not) have in common; and his feelings on the antiquated “tech stack” of the US dollar.

The stablecoin that almost was

Bankless: 184 - Why Facebook’s Stablecoin Failed, with David Marcus

(Listening time: 1hr15)

David Marcus is a PayPal veteran who moved to Facebook’s Messenger team and built the Diem (aka Libra) stablecoin. Well, he tried to build it. Three weeks after his team released the whitepaper, he found himself hauled in front of Congress to testify.

Privacy-savvy people would argue that the demise of Libra was a Good Thing™ because that closed one of Facebook’s routes to the financial system. While you gingerly sip that Schadenfreude, though, you’ll also want to learn from the experience: the government and existing banks may have taken the permissionless nature of cryptocurrency, operating at Facebook’s scale, as a challenge to their position in the financial system. Food for thought for anyone else who plans to build enterprise-sized crypto.

Marcus now heads up Lightspark, which builds tech for the Lightning “layer 2” protocol that rides atop Bitcoin. He wraps up this interview by explaining why he’s not exactly a Bitcoin maximalist, why the combination of “social” and “payments” makes so much sense, and how China leapfrogged over credit cards to go straight from cash to crypto.

The wrap-up

This was an issue of Block & Mortar.

Who’s behind Block & Mortar? I'm Q McCallum. I've spent the past two decades in the emerging-tech space. And I'm very interested in web3 use cases.

Credit where it's due. Big thanks to Shane Glynn for reviewing early drafts. Any mistakes that remain are mine.

Reading this online? Or as a forward? Why not sign up? Get Block & Mortar news in your inbox, whenever it's published.

Privacy statement: I don’t share/rent/sell your personal info. Seriously.