“If we take the funding, the investors become our focus,” James Young on why Collab.Land turned down millions in VC funding

“If we take the funding, the investors become our focus,” James Young on why Collab.Land turned down millions in VC funding

Token gating has grown to become a common tool used by NFT projects to grant exclusive access to perks like content, clubs, events, merch, crypto airdrops, and more. There is hardly any NFT project or decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) today that does not make use of token gating.

Founded in 2018 by James Young and Anjali Young, Collab Land is one of the early pioneers of the token gating system. What began as a no-code tooling to attract developers to crypto is now being used to power hundreds of NFT communities, including NBA Topshots, Axie Infinity, and World of Women.

In this interview, DAO Times spoke to the couple about Collab Land, how they have managed to build a free tool that's being used my several DAO communities, and why they rejected millions in VC funding.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you dabbled into Web3 James Young?

  1. (2017) Co-wrote TCR whitepaper https://blockchain-x.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/The_adChain_Registry_ENG.pdf
  2. (2018) Lead engineering team that deployed payment channel (L2) in production https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3TCTnmd-tQ
  3. (2019) Co-wrote Moloch DAO whitepaper https://github.com/MolochVentures/Whitepaper/blob/master/Whitepaper.pdf
  4. (2019) A founding member of MolochDAO (https://decrypt.co/5206/fixing-ethereum) and MetaCartel (https://medium.com/metacartel/meet-james-young-captain-dao-2be5c5726b89)
  5. (2020) Launched Collab.Land (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYrGhyQLErE)

In 2018, James started a no-code tooling with zero VC funding and virtually no interest from the community. James, can you tell us what it was like in your early dark days?

  1. I was solving my own problems and gaps in the space that limited my own experience. The no-code platform allowed for fast iteration which led to Collab.Land
  2. There was an existential issue (similar to the current bear market) where the possibility of crypto never becoming mainstream was the real threat

Collab.Land started as a DAO tool during Covid 19. Anjali, at what point did you realize you were building something a lot bigger? What would you say was the eureka moment for you?

  1. In Spring 2021, Anjali was the first to notice a few NFT projects were using Collab.Land, most notably BAYC, and guided us to shape the product to support NFTs and the new-to-crypto members who were joining the space through NFTs. This was a turning point for us as we grew from an unknown hackathon project the year before to a household name (in NFTs).

    Anjali was DMing every new NFT project on Twitter to try Collab.Land and after a few weeks, everyone she contacted already was using us. In October 2021, we reached the significant number of one million wallets connected.

How do you feel being one of the pioneers of “token-gating” within the crypto space? Where did the inspiration come from James?

We created token-gating which didn’t exist prior to our project. We were solving problems for ourselves initially and that is where the need for “token-gating” came from. Now, we are solving problems for a wider community that goes beyond just us.

Collab.Land has integrated with blue chip projects like NBA Topshots, Axie Infinity, and World of Women. Anjali, can you tell us how you were able to get all these projects to use your platform and essentially move to Discord? Can you share some of your marketing tips?

  1. The secret is building on top of an A+ product. Discord has been doing community work for years. All we did is expand its use to tokenized projects. We left the hard part to them and are grateful for their commitment to their work. So, it’s really all about building relationships and solving problems for the people you care about. In our case, that’s the crypto community.
  2. We don’t have any marketing tips.

Over six million wallets have been registered through the platform and Collab.Land current managers more than 90 million community members in Discord and Telegram. What would you say has been the single most important factor responsible for your huge success? What’s your biggest deal to date?

  1. We show up EVERYDAY with a team who believes in the work that we are doing to facilitate coordination and collaboration, which is the most important and thrilling work in the space. These are special people. So, the single most important factor? Find a team of mission-aligned individuals and go!
  2. Biggest deal to date: not just one deal, it is the series of relationships that build on each other. It is about network effects!

In the summer of 2021, you turned down millions in VC funding – why James?

  1. Incentives start with funding - if we take the funding, the investors become our focus.
  2. We are so early in web3 that we initially didn’t think about new opportunities to empower the communities we helped develop. It was EXTREMELY scary to turn down funding but it was a good test because it put a price tag on our values.

Your service is essentially free. Anjali, how has the team been able to achieve this?

  1. Visionary Seed Investors who believed in our mission.
  2. Community Members who supported our service by buying our Patron NFT.
  3. Blockchain Foundations who supported the request from their communities for Collab.Land integration.

Collab.Land has witnessed a number of changes in the last few years. Do you have a concrete picture of where you want to see the company in the next five years James or are you open to whatever the wind of change blows your way?

  1. Collab.Land has become the gateway to web3 (social). We will evolve into a distribution platform.
  2. Our goal for the next five years is the same as it has always been: the connective tissue between web2 and web3.

James, what advice do you have for new founders in the Web3 space?

  1. Solve the pain points and problems that you see or experience.
  2. Show up and put in the work EVERYDAY.

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