Frenchman Alex Masmej, 23 years old, recently raised $20,000 on Ethereum by tokenizing himself. Now he wants his investors to vote on his life choices.
His "control my life" experiment challenges token holders to tell him whether to take a run or eat only veggies. That may sound a little self-indulgent, but there is a bigger agenda here. It may even be a startup, according to Masmej. He's not sure.
Based in Paris during the coronavirus pandemic, Masmej is excited about his plan to move to San Francisco next year to work on several projects, including NFT-DeFi startup Rocket. Our conversation – about self-tokenization and more – has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What motivates you to sell yourself?
I want to change the world by building a growing, profitable company that has a significant impact. I can provide a great service to the world if I can provide people with the ability to make money. I think the best way to do that is to build a tech startup.
The reason why I chose crypto is that it has a very low barrier to entry, unlike AI or 3D printing startups. I tokenized myself and asked people to vote for my habits to get some attention as I wanted to do something in a light, funny, and innovative way to raise funds. It’s a great way to know your audience, engage them and trigger the discussion. I know this can’t become a $1 billion company, but it was a fun experience, and my token went up.
How do you build an image for selling personal tokens?
The investors of $ALEX token are founders in the crypto industry who already have companies and want to help me out. I have thousands of followers on Twitter, and they like my energy and say I am young and funny. There are almost 30 people who want to invest and think about how I might grow up. My market cap is around $150,000 now. Yes, trust is not in cryptocurrency, but in the personalized token, people have to believe me.
But there is no legal framework here, no guidelines from the Securities and Exchange Commission?
Yes, but I have always made it clear that it’s not a security, it's risky and I might not succeed. I don’t think personalized tokens should be related to the SEC as [they are] more like crowdfunding. The amount is small of (sic) $20,000, so I don’t think there is a requirement [to involve] the SEC.
However, if I make a company around [the token], I would be curious to know about the litigation. Maybe in the future I could think of a platform where there is some enforceability of the token mechanics.
Some people say, 'Oh, this involves a lot of trust, and this is like a scam.' But I would say that my reputation is at stake. Some say I control too much, and some say I can’t control at all. It’s not good either way, so I think I need to find a middle ground.
Most people in crypto want more privacy, but you're opening your personal life to the world. Are you going to ask, “Should I marry my girlfriend?” the way Mike Merrill did?
I am single right now, and even in the future I don’t think I would ever ask investors whether should I marry my girlfriend or not. However, they can introduce me to the girls. Haha.
I am in touch with Mike and he is an interesting character, and even when he asked about his girlfriend, everybody said yes. Let’s assume that if I ask personal questions like this and people disagree, still, I would marry my girlfriend as that’s my decision.
Do we see social media influencers selling themselves in the coming years?
I think personalized tokens will be vast in the coming years, and it will be common for video streams, music artists and social media influencers to raise funds. Mike Merrill was the first one who publicly traded personalized tokens in 2008, and two years later, in 2010, another token was personalized. There was a token Whale, a collateral of collectibles.
These tokens are either for networking or for income sharing agreement (sic). I am going to build a platform that would give exposure to the fundraiser. The investors would think that since this entrepreneur is on this platform, I can trust him. Coinbase does the same as it selects the tokens, and the investors trust it. I believe there should be safety and rules involved and a way to reimburse the investors.
How did COVID-19 influence your innovative fundraising method?
COVID-19 is the reason I am raising money like this. I like to explore things and want to do something innovative. On June 15, I decided to personalize tokens again and ask people to vote for my lifestyle, which included questions like, should I jog, should I eat only vegetables, etc. I am saving money so that I can invest it for my new project in San Francisco.
Since you will be moving to the U.S., what are your thoughts on the presidential election and on the current protests?
I think the recent ban on some work visas is counterproductive for the U.S. as new talents arriving made the country successful and contributes to creating net new jobs, including for locals. I hope the next president will welcome talented immigrants again to contribute to the economy. It does not affect my business, as resourceful entrepreneurs always find a way, but it will undoubtedly harm the country on a global scale if these restrictions were to stay long term.
I am proud to see the protests after George Floyd's death becoming mainstream, which shows progress has been made. I did not participate in any protest in Paris. I donated cryptocurrencies to organizations, including Black Lives Matter. I weighed in on my social media as much as I could to make people realize the enduring racism that has been holding the world back for way too long on all fronts.
People say that you dream of being a Silicon Valley demi-god. Will you be using Oracle, or are you the oracle?
I always say that I want to build the most significant company ever, but I won't say I want to become a demi-god. Yes, I will set the price, not Oracle or any third party will check it. People will have to trust me as I will be sharing about my investment and expenses. It will be between my investors and me.
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