Project Galaxy announced on September 6 that it will be changing its name and logo to Galxe. According to Anne Ouellet, the firm’s CMO, “this rebrand… wasn’t merely a marketing move, but rather a natural progression and evolution. We are no longer a ‘project’ but rather a fully-fledged ecosystem within Web3.”
Right before Galxe’s rebranding announcement, Pandaily interviewed its co-founder, Harry Zhang. Before Galxe, Zhang co-founded Lino, a blockchain designed to allow network ownership and value to be distributed amongst contributors, and DLive, a blockchain-based livestreaming platform originally powered by Lino. During the interview, Zhang went through his own Web3 journey and introduced his ambitious vision for the future.
Pandaily: How did you enter the Web3 field?
Zhang: My first crypto-related startup was Lino. I co-founded Lino in 2018, and the team hoped to help content creators get paid fairly with the power of blockchain. Although we did not continue working on Lino from around the end of 2019, the core team still stayed in the space and continued exploring the new possibilities.
Pandaily: How do you comment on Lino? What is the biggest lesson you learned from this experience?
Zhang: Of course, when we went through what was happening on Lino, we could tell we’d made mistakes and could have done better. Lino was acquired eventually. It was not the best result we thought of. However, it was still a priceless experience. We have learned a lot from it as our first blockchain-related project. I would say Lino was too early to the market at that moment. If we built Lino now, things might be much easier since the overall crypto market is more mature and the related infrastructure is more ready.
Pandaily: Lino and Dlive were eventually acquired by Justin Sun’s team.
Zhang: Yes. Nothing super special here. A normal acquisition process. We are happy to see DLive is still running in a healthy way.
Pandaily: You said Lino may have been too early to the market. This prior experience might be something you have benefited from in your current journey.
Zhang: Yes. I won’t say Lino and DLive were a failure, but it is true that the whole go-to-market strategy, including the growth roadmap, was not that clear, and that we did not prepare enough to deal with the complication dependencies throughout the whole launch process. People were pretty risk-averse to crypto back in 2019. How should we have reacted to it? We did not consider this well.
Pandaily: As you mentioned, people were pretty risk-averse to crypto years ago. Then why did you pick it up? How did it attract you?
Zhang: I like it because it is very decentralized on the value creation side. TikTok, YouTube, Alibaba, or whatever are all very closed ecosystems and it is hard for other developers to add new value or features to existing products. Crypto is different. It is permissionless and composable. People can ‘Lego’ different parts and build something cool together.
Before crypto, you had to brainwash people to join your team. “Let’s make this or that.” But now, thanks to globalization and the internet, people have online communication channels to talk remotely. Plus, with the power of the permissionless and composable blockchain, fun ideas and products will be boomed at a faster pace that could not have been imagined before. Certainly, the whole potential has not come out fully, but I believe it will.
Pandaily: Let’s move back to your earlier life before Lino. I noticed you used to be Co-President of ACE (Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs) at Berkeley. The atmosphere of entrepreneurship at Berkeley seems to be very strong. Did you decide to jump into entrepreneurship in college?
Zhang: I don’t think the entrepreneurship atmosphere is much stronger than in other places. It might be because we have more people. I might be biased, since I was in ACE and many of my friends around me were interested in doing something as well. Another co-founder of Galxe, Charles Wayn, was my successor as Co-Chair of ACE. Four of the five co-founders of Lino were members of ACE, too. It was a precious experience back in college and I am very lucky to have such a group of friends back in my college life.
Pandaily: Sounds like many of the team members were from the ACE network.
Zhang: Right. Many of our core members were from the ACE network. Those people have a strong passion for entrepreneurship and are willing to make their hands dirty during the process. We share the same mission. This is very important. I believe that finding the right people is harder than building a product. You need to change your direction to get the flow of the market, but the right team can be with you forever.
Pandaily: Let’s talk more about what you are currently doing, Galxe (previously, Project Galaxy). My first impression of Project Galaxy was that it would give me an OAT when I attended an event. I thought it was a tool for the project growth. How did you define Project Galaxy? What was the original mission?
Zhang: Although we have only started for more than one year, we have made some changes. At first, we saw the birth of NFTs as interesting and noticed many projects were bottlenecked regarding user growth. Thus, we were thinking about how we could empower project teams and communities on growth and operation with NFT. As the project going on, we have accumulated a lot of interesting data. User contributions, reputations, credentials, and all of those on-chain and off-chain data can be applied in many use cases. For example, credit scoring, customized voting system, Sybil attack prevention, and more.
What you mentioned – the Campaign feature – was one of the modules of the whole system. Our long-term focus is to connect all of the different modules together and build a credential network. As I mentioned, this is to create a permissionless system to allow people to contribute data and build based on that data.
Pandaily: DID is a hot topic in the Web3 space now. What you are doing can be counted as DID as well, to help people build on-chain identity. How do you see this concept?
Zhang: My understanding of the concept contains two parts: how do you define who you are? How do you know what this person looks like? Currently, you can get it based on the Twitter handle, Discord username, real name, or wallet address, right? How we can connect all of those identities together to define who this person is? This is the first remaining question. The second step is to let people know what this person looks like. Products or services can only serve you well when they know you well. The recommendation system needs to know your tastes to push the right notifications, for example. This is what Galxe is working on – to profile Web3 users better.
Current Web2 giants are working a lot on user profiles, but there are two problems: user profiles are not shared across platforms and users do not have any ownership of their data. Google sells my data to get money. Even if I do not get all of its revenue, at least I should share some.
Pandaily: But one person can have multiple Twitter accounts, right?
Zhang: Yes, this is a specific question. In the future, we can use some privacy-protection tools, with ZK or MPC algorithms, for example, to aggregate your personal data into one place without disclosing your in-real-life identity.
There are two perspectives. One is, no matter how many accounts you have, do you need to disclose your personal information? Another one is, you are the one that generates that data, and we only want to make it transferable without being owned by one single third-party entity. You should be able to decide how people can see it. Do you want people to link two accounts to one person, for instance? I think there will be some techniques that can save individual privacy.
Pandaily: Lino once faced business struggles, as you mentioned. Do you pay extra attention to building a sustainable business model for Galxe?
Zhang: Yes. As I mentioned, it is a big lesson we have learned – how to monetize, how to keep the whole ecosystem more sustainable and scalable. You have to think about it. I believe the whole industry will get much larger than its current size, and we are still young. The market size of behavioral data might be over trillions. Thus, I am not very worried about our long-term scalability. Instead, I focus more on what we can do currently, and how we can build the network. We are going to launch a new feature to free people from the endless verification processes. They can do user verification once they’re on Galxe, then use it across different platforms for compliance purposes or proving they are real users for sybil-attack prevention purposes. Galxe Passport will also preserve user’s anonymity and security – all user data will be encrypted with user’s own password, not even Galxe can access these information without user’s permission. This feature might stay free at first, since we hope to include more people to try it out and build a stronger network.
Pandaily: As you said, the market is big. Many players are rushing into the game. Why Galxe?
Zhang: The first is network effects. Those campaigns on Project Galaxy have brought us over 4 million users. It is a big progress in the crypto and Web3 area. When more people use our products, more projects want to campaign with us and more data are generated, creating a healthy cycle. Certainly, user experience and strong tools also make us stand out.
Pandaily: 4 million is truly a milestone. Many Web3 insiders are also talking about the next step of crypto mass adoption. What is your idea?
Zhang: I believe more people will join. We are also considering whether we should add anything that is more Web2-friendly. At present, we are still focusing on data infrastructure and improving the Galxe protocol. As I underscored multiple times, I do care a lot about creating a permissionless protocol for people to build on. It is ok you are creating something new instead of adding a feature on Galxe. The development of a protocol is demanding. The overall design, the data storage issue, the privacy issue… A lot of questions left to be solved. After launching the protocol, we are welcoming everybody to join us, including by connecting some more Web2 services.
Pandaily: I noticed the team launched “GAL Chain,” a BNB Application Sidechain. Is this also a part of the protocol plan?
Zhang: Yes. It is a part of the whole protocol. The protocol will be more than GAL chain, but GAL chain will play a big role. I do not have many details to reveal, since we are still developing and iterating it internally. Hope to make more progress this year.
Pandaily: You also launched your own token.
Zhang: Yes. This is a key to the whole ecosystem. The token has not been empowered with many utilities, but in our protocol, the token will play a key role and has a lot of utilities. The whole protocol won’t work without it.
Pandaily: Why launch your own chain? Launching a native token is normal, but not a chain.
Zhang: A module that we are working on needs a chain that we can self-scale up. Our user base is booming and we need to plan upfront. We might make some modifications of the current infrastructure to fit the needs of the protocol better.
Pandaily: In other interviews, the team also mentioned that Galxe is going to be more decentralized. Can you tell us more about this?
Zhang: The decentralization here might not be quite equal to the decentralization people thought. Of course, we have some decentralization attempts regarding governance. We have a live DAO where people can vote, propose, and spend treasuries. We are welcoming the whole community to participate and contribute more. But for us, in the short-term, decentralization is more about people’s capability of decentralized contribution. For example, they can use our permissionless protocol to build and contribute to the whole ecosystem. As I said in response to your previous questions, we are working towards this goal.
Regarding the governance side, we still want to take a more efficient approach. We have a lot of contributors besides the core team in the community already. People can still propose or vote, but we might not put everything on-chain at this step.
Pandaily: It sounds like the bear market is not impacting the team much.
Zhang: We are still very busy. We love what we are doing. A lot of things on the roadmap are still to be implemented. We are continuously shipping new features. You are right. We are still working at our own pace.
Pandaily: I can tell the team is working on a lot of different things. What is the mainstream task here?
Zhang: The main idea is still to aggregate credential networks. I hope that in five or ten years, all of the products could ask us to get data to develop their recommendation systems, onboard their users, et cetera. Currently, every time you log into a new app, you need to answer one more time what you like, and what you want to follow. It is unnecessary and a waste of time. A lot of financial-related data are also blocked across platforms, which causes inefficiency on the production side. It would be super helpful if all financial or consumer-facing products had that aggregated data.
Pandaily: The last question I want to ask is, we have seen many Chinese entrepreneurs joining the Web3 world, but many of them seem to have this or that challenge. What is your overall feeling about Chinese teams in the Web3 realm?
Zhang: There are some policy-related impacts for sure. Another barrier I see here is language. The main market for Web3 is overseas, and the team needs to have a globalized view. We are lucky since many of the team members have study-abroad experience. Web3 is not only a globalized era but also a distributed collaboration era. This will be a barrier to many teams.