Spencer Dinwiddie: Why NBA Players Are Warming to Crypto
Nobody in the NBA knows crypto better than the Brooklyn Nets' point guard. Now he wants to sell you on Calaxy.
NBA junkies know Spencer Dinwiddie as the promising point guard who averaged 20 points and 7 dimes for the Brooklyn Nets last season, before tearing his ACL and missing most of 2021. Crypto junkies know him as something else entirely: a longtime blockchain innovator who, back in 2019, suggested tokenizing his National Basketball Association contract. (He eventually held his token sale in 2020, even if it didn’t go exactly as planned.)
Dinwiddie later acknowledged that putting his NBA contract on the blockchain wasn’t entirely necessary, but that it served a longer-term and perhaps more ambitious purpose. “It was to future-proof,” he said in October. “It was about what was coming.”
And now we have a clearer idea of what’s coming: Calaxy, a mash-up of “Creator’s Galaxy.” Dinwiddie is the founder and CEO. (When healthy, Dinwiddie somehow has time to run the Nets’ fast breaks and also run a company. I can barely manage running the dishwasher.) Dinwiddie describes Calaxy, which is still in beta, as a “social media super app from the future, designed by Creators for Creators.”
Calaxy is essentially a cocktail of fan tokens, OnlyFans, Patreon, social media and a supercharged Cameo. Here’s how it works. For fans, you can buy tokens of entertainers and influencers (such as Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott) and then use those tokens for direct access and perks, without the usual middlemen.
For creators and entertainers, you can raise funds through those very tokens, and then use the tokens to monetize your direct engagements with fans. As for the blockchain? As Dinwiddie explained in his announcement, “When you scale to an ecosystem that revolves around every individual’s intellectual property and likeness and you want verifiable scarcity as well as lightweight trading and movement, blockchain is necessary.”
Dinwiddie has been in the space since 2017, he’s an investor in multiple projects (including Dapper Labs, which developed NBA Top Shot) and you almost get the sense that crypto is not just a side hustle but his true calling. He once described himself as “just a tech guy with a jumper.” Over a Zoom in April, Dinwiddie sat down with CoinDesk to dish on what we can expect from Calaxy, why NBA players are warming to crypto and why creators will flock to the new Calaxy ecosystem. (Hint: It partially involves nudity, or a lack thereof.)
What are some of the actual, real-world things that people can do with Calaxy?
Spencer Dinwiddie: So, at the onset you'll be able to get very simple things. Like, I'll pay you a dollar to follow me on Twitter. Or, I want a direct message conversation with you. Or, I want a FaceTime call, or 30 minutes of your time.
We have a pretty prominent chef on the platform, and you can pay to get 30 minutes or an hour of his time, and he can walk you through his own private cooking class. These things can become customized. So in a 30-minute block of time I could walk somebody through a basketball workout.
Slick. Where does the blockchain angle come in?
As it scales, we’ll use social tokens as the transactional currency.
Can you walk me through how that works?
Yeah, so not to dive too much into that, because that’s phase 2 functionality. And right now, every token is pegged to a dollar to make this very seamless. You can pay for somebody to follow you on Twitter, or pay for somebody to send you a birthday message. And everything is pegged to $1. So if it’s $5 to do a FaceTime call with me, then it’s 5 Spencer Tokens. You know what I mean?
I think you’re selling yourself a little short, Spencer. I’d pay more than $5 for a FaceTime with you.
[Laughs.] Thank you, thank you. No, I haven’t officially set my prices yet. So you have this comprehensive list of features, and you have these social tokens that are pegged to the dollar because people are used to transacting in the dollar.
Sure, makes sense.
And in phase 2, you get to more live token modeling, with market caps on tokens – and people will be buying more, or buying less, as [the prices fluctuate.]
Got it. I imagine it’s tough to start something like this from scratch; how do you get other influencers on board? Is it tricky to explain the crypto concept?
First we started with friends and family, who have just kind of believed in us. We probably got 15 to 20 people off that. And this industry is very small, so they all talk to each other. What we’re pitching and talking about is the building of a community. And a lot of these creators can’t get on OnlyFans because of the reputation risks.
You mean X-rated content?
Right. But what if you had that same feature, which is basically a video drop box, or content drop box – all through Calaxy – and we call it your Fan Club, and you can’t post explicit content. So instead of it being explicit content from Person A, it’s Spencer Dinwiddie's Fan Club or Ezekiel Elliott's Fan Club or Matt James's Fan Club. And it’s all on the up and up. So that’s what we pitch [to the entertainers] – that it’s built by us, for us. And we charge half the fees that other platforms do. And we guard reputation risk as there’s no explicit content.
You’re at the intersection of the NBA world and the blockchain world. In the past year or so have you seen a change in the overall awareness of crypto from other players?
Yeah, a ton. Everybody’s got their attention and sights set on it right now. With the amount of investment capital that’s flying around right now, everybody wants in. They’re not even necessarily sure exactly to what degree or how they want in, but they just know they want in because they see what’s going on.
What do you think has catalyzed the players’ interests? Is it more the bitcoin price surge? NFTs? Top Shot?
Bitcoin probably made everybody pick their heads up and say, whoa. But [non-fungible tokens] are really what has everybody rushing in, because anybody with a name or a certain fan following is rushing into the NFT market.
And I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens, because I do think NFTs are for real. But for people who kind of just throw out random NFTs as a cash grab … you’ve got to remember that these things also need an ecosystem to play in, you know?
I think so. What do you mean exactly?
You can’t go throw out a one-off NFT, and if somebody’s fan following isn’t big enough the purchaser is going to be stuck with that. I don’t think people always realize that. So it’s going to be very interesting to see where the market goes.
Any plans to incorporate NFTs into Calaxy?
I mean, obviously, NFTs are very immediately on our roadmap, because we know the demographic of people who are on our platform. We plan on having those in the next month or so. But remember, we’re creating an entire ecosystem where NFTs are on display in our platform, or they’re able to be acquired on our platform. There’s a certain utility around it. There’s a marketplace, there’s an ecosystem. So we’re trying to solve for that problem as well.
How would that work? Can you give an example?
With the Fan Club, when you have these interactions [with fans] you might want to turn some of that stuff into an NFT, like make an NFT from a specific art class, for example. If there is a broader ecosystem attached to this type of thing, we can start to say, “Oh, this NFT is valuable because he did it in this time [or specific context],” versus kind of it being like, “Oh, Spencer wore this shirt on a Tuesday NFT.” You know what I mean?
Yeah, it’s a question of scarcity, right? If they say that this NFT is unique and scarce but then tomorrow they mint another one almost identical, then it kind of loses its value?
What else are you excited about in the crypto world, just in general?
I mean, I always shout out my partners. Our three main partners right now are Hedera Hashgraph, Flow and Chainlink. I’m really excited about those. Obviously, Hedera Hashgraph is the layer that we built the whole system on. I’m really bullish on them.
And other than that, the main thing I’m most excited about is when we do our own token selling, and when Calaxy Cash comes live and we start to decentralize our governance. I think it’s going to be huge because I don’t know of any other social media platform that’s built on blockchain. And it’ll be done in the most transparent fashion possible. It has all of these functionalities in terms of helping fan interaction and engagement, building an ecosystem. And it has that future focus and sits at that proper intersection.
I would say, you know, not in a bragging way, but to my knowledge I'm the only one [who] really sits in the middle of both industries, with an intimate knowledge of both. I know a lot of guys are getting into [blockchain], but they haven't spent four or five years actually researching and learning what blockchain is, and learning what a smart contract is. So I just think we’re positioned really well, and we have a chance to do something very special.
Last question for you. Do you see the NBA doing any other blockchain or crypto-related things?
It has to. They developed a council with a couple of the owners on it and stuff like that. I ain't gonna lie, I was kind of disappointed that I wasn’t chosen.
Yeah, why aren’t you on that council?! You could be the freaking chairperson.
I would have loved to. You know what I'm saying? That would have been a dream come true, to be able to sit on a council with some of the most prestigious people in the world. But, you know, it is what it is. And they’re definitely going to do more blockchain stuff. They have to. They have to. They don't have a choice, really.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
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