Alex DiNunzio Of Jambb: “Challenge the business plan”

I have seen hundreds of blockchain / NFT projects and pitches, and I frequently find myself asking the most fundamental questions about the business. Why does the product have value? Who will pay for the product? What are the unique and competitive advantages of the founding team and their relationships? Where is innovation happening? As […]

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I have seen hundreds of blockchain / NFT projects and pitches, and I frequently find myself asking the most fundamental questions about the business. Why does the product have value? Who will pay for the product? What are the unique and competitive advantages of the founding team and their relationships? Where is innovation happening? As a future employee, investor, or NFT buyer, do your homework and understand more about the product and company you are buying.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alex DiNunzio, CEO of Jambb.

Alex DiNunzio is the CEO and co-founder of Jambb. You’ll find him challenging every norm in the NFT world, pushing user experience boundaries or, more likely, chasing around his four kids!


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and despite living in Patriots country now, I am still a proud Bills fan.

I have been a collector my entire life. As a kid, I focused on two things, sports cards and Pez dispensers. I think there are 25,000 cards and about 300 Pez at my dad’s house still. The thing about collecting is the thrill of the hunt and the idea of getting closer to the people or things you idolize (like me and Michael Jordan as a kid). That feeling of unwrapping the pack of cards and not knowing what the contents may hold, is it finally a Jordan? Or the trip to the flea market digging through boxes of junk to try and find that hidden gem. Despite all of the time and energy put into those collections, they are relegated to a closet, virtually impossible to sell, and not being enjoyed. What a shame! Today, I have the same feeling with the early NFTs that I purchased that are sitting in my Rarible account / MetaMask wallet. Only difference is that it’s a virtual “closet” versus a physical one. I don’t know what to do with them.

Jambb gives me a way to satisfy those collectible urges that I know many of us to have, but instead of collecting something destined for a closet, I can provide something to our users that they can share with the world while also connecting them to the people and communities they love.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Let me take this in a slightly different direction from an experience I had. I was 10 years old and was visiting Disney World for the first time. We were waiting in line for Star Tours, immersed in an Ewok village like those from Return of the Jedi and underneath a giant AT-AT walker and I couldn’t believe my luck. My sister and I (and really my entire family) were/are huge Star Wars fans and here we were in line to experience the movie in real life. Who can forget that feeling? The feeling of being a part of the thing that you loved so much? It’s why places like Disney, Universal Studios, LegoLand, and Super Nintendo World are so popular with people of all ages. I think that I have always been looking for ways to duplicate those feelings and the ability to participate with the media in this way and thinking about owning a part of one of these epic worlds excites me to no end. Why not?

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

The pandemic shaped me in profound ways. We had incorporated Jambb in February 2020, just before the world began responding to COVID-19. We lost our initial fundraising leads, had to reimagine our business and strategy, and adapt. But, that wasn’t the profound part as we all have a similar narrative to the last 1.5 years. By happenstance, our product’s users were live entertainers, a set of people that lost on average nearly 90% of their income. We found ourselves motivated to not only build Jambb, but to try and restore some predictability into the lives of our customers. A lot of our choices today come back to our desire to make an impact on individuals.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

By far the last six months top the list. It was Jan of this year, our first product that we spent 1.5 years imagining and building wasn’t working as we expected it to. Our paths to revenue were being closed, the APIs we needed were being shut off, our cash was reaching dollars, we were all cooped up inside hoping for a vaccine in the middle of a cold and dark winter, and I had a difficult choice… quit or pivot.

We pivoted. It required a full reboot including us to furlough our team, apply for a PPP loan, go back to no salaries (did I mention that my wife was pregnant with our fourth due in June, our head of marketing was due in May, and my co-founder Brandon’s wife was due in June one week after mine), rebuild a product, save our customers and partners and bring the right ones forward with us, fundraise from a new set of angels while resetting expectations with the current set, and this time building a product with clearer value and business prospects out of the gate.

And here we are now, all three babies have been born, we are wrapping up a very successful and soon-to-be-announced Early Backer round, the world’s first-ever comedy special has been filmed, and will soon be minted into NFTs to be sold publicly , talking to the top comedians, entertainers, athletes, and musicians in the world, juggling international legal structuring, product development, and the list goes on… all of this with 6 core team members & 3 with new babies only weeks old! And yes, we are now hiring (phewww) with four more positions coming soon.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

What in the world does the name Jambb mean? If you’re asking that, you’re not alone! Turns out, it is an acronym for Jay, Alex, Mike, Brandon, and Brian, the crew that originally came together to create this company after leaving Assetblock. We needed a name for incorporation so I wrote everyone’s first initial on the back of a receipt. I scrambled them around AJMBB, BBMAJ, etc. and read them to my family. I said Jambb (pronounced “jam”) out loud and loved it. The domain was also available, and bingo, the Jambb name was born.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am surrounded by incredible people. The team we have at Jambb is the most talented group I have ever managed, and I trust them all implicitly, something critical early on. In particular, one of my mentors, Derek Yoo, has been imperative in my development. I first had the chance to work for Derek in 2013 when I graduated from HBS and came to Fuze to start a product team from scratch. He was the co-founder/CTO, and every process, document, and prioritization decision was something we discussed. Derek trusted me to hire a team, spend his dollars and resources, and represent Fuze globally. He taught me the value of pragmatism, thoughtful questioning, direct feedback, and he was never afraid to call me out one way or another. When Derek founded Purestake and was writing the original whitepaper for Moonbeam, he sent it to me for a review. I was both enamored by the complexity of the solution he was envisioning and impressed with the business value he was going to create with his product. I knew that if there was a chance to work more deeply with him and help him to advance his product and idea, I would take it. Fast forward, and here we are at Jambb working closely with Derek & Moonbeam to bring a new paradigm to Hollywood and entertainment ownership and communities.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely. We just wrapped production on Non Fungible Jokin’ a first-of-its-kind live comedy event that is changing how content is being produced, sold, viewed, and interacted with. How many people who bought NFTs at the top of the market do you think will be really, really angry (if they aren’t already) in the coming months? I think there will be a lot. And I think it’s because they purchased speculative items with little utility.

With Non Fungible Jokin’ and upcoming projects, we are offering royalty and distribution rights on a world-class Netflix-ready production that is currently being parsed out into other affordable and appropriately-priced offerings that build community, investment, and longevity.

What that means on Jambb is that a buyer can own world-class content, real IP rights to it, future royalties, and have the ability to share & rent the content with the world. At the same time, the comedians and crew that put on Non-Fungible Jokin’ will all benefit directly from the sale and new economic opportunities within Jambb.

Non Fungible Jokin’ was filmed at the famed Dynasty Typewriter in Los Angeles. The show featured Moses Storm (Arrested Development, I’m Dying Up Here) as the host for a two-night, one-of-a-kind showcase featuring some of today’s greatest standup talent. Night one kicked off with an intimate conversation between the beloved Maria Bamford and the incredible Beth Stelling (Girl Daddy). Followed by a comedy showcase by Adam Ray (Hacks), Ian Edwards (Black Dynamite, Tangerine), and Brooks Wheelan (Saturday Night Live). Night two continued with another incredible showcase hosted by Moses Storm, Beth Stelling, Chauntè Wayans (Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready) and Zainab Johnson (Upload). We capped off the night with Pete Holmes joining Moses Storm for a spontaneous set of comedy improv. Resulting in an even more unique NFT experience.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

Did you see the SNL skit with Pete Davidson talking about NFTs? If not, start there. We toyed with doing a video just like this, but they did it better, so enjoy!

Back? Here is my less exciting answer: NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) are basically unique digital assets. They can represent art, music, gaming assets, videos, and more. NFTs use a technology called the blockchain which provides proof of ownership, that they are verifiably unique, and transferable (sending between people).

People are buying NFTs for many reasons, but the one that sticks out to me the most is the ability to own something that directly connects a buyer with a creator and provides access to assets that would never be available elsewhere. In Jambb’s case, to buy a piece of entertainment pre or post-production while connecting with the entertainers themselves, a community of avid fans, and potentially to benefit from the upside of royalties produced from the content itself. This is in stark contrast to the average NFT of a cat .gif that riddled the market a few months ago.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

NFTs began simply, like Gronk’s card NFTs from earlier this year, but they aren’t staying that way. I am excited by a few big concepts:

Using NFTs to own pieces of the things that I care most about, and to participate financially when there are royalties or value gains on the underlying assets. At Jambb we are tying media to NFTs in a way that gives real ownership and rights to buyers pushing IP rights and next-generation investment opportunities

NFTs that have utility in multiple digital environments. I can’t wait until you can purchase an asset in a game like Fortnite, bring it to a second game like Minecraft, use it on an avatar in a social media application, and then turn around and sell it to someone else when you are done with it

NFTs that gain utility over time. Take my example above and imagine that each time it moves between ecosystems the NFT gains new properties, remembers where it has been, picks up perks, and becomes more valuable as it grows in popularity within social communities. All of a sudden the things you invest time in can bring you value and returns in the future. This is exactly the type of technology that we are building into the NFTs at Jambb. We can’t predict the future, but we can adapt to it and we want our NFT buyers to benefit from new platforms and opportunities along the way

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

As with any industry, nothing is perfect. Here are a few things that I worry about:

Too many valueless NFTs are being created that flood the market and distract people from the innovation and potential of these assets. For the most part, an NFT needs to have a utility in order to have maximum value (the rarest art pieces or early crypto projects like CryptoPunks are the exceptions, not the rules). The NFT can be used in a game, unlock content, grant access to a community, provide real-life perks, etc. But, without this value and without a strong provenance (where something comes from), what are you buying? New projects need to push assets with utility and clear rights definitions included in the NFT.

Tied to the example above, but going deeper. It worries me when people spend tons of money on speculative purchases focused on rarity and not on linked assets or IP rights (i.e. buy X and you get access to video Y or song Z or live performance Q). I believe that this will change as businesses enter the space and tie major assets and IP rights to the NFTs that they are selling. We are certainly focusing on this at Jambb by providing distribution and royalty rights to as much content as possible, such as what you see with our Non Fungible Jokin’ event, and this is all just getting started.

Using NFTs means interacting with the blockchain and blockchain tech has a number of user experience challenges. It’s getting better, but it’s still hard for the uninitiated. Jambb is working to create familiar interfaces and experiences while removing complexities so that if you know how to make a purchase on Amazon, you can own an NFT.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

Myth 1: NFTs are useless.

Quite the contrary. When created properly, NFTs by definition show the true owner of a digital item, its scarcity, the provenance of the asset, they can unlock content, gate communities, hold value, be used in games, and on and on. If you own the Non Fungible Jokin’ comedy showcase or the interview we’ve done between Maria Bamford and Beth Stelling, you have an NFT that gives you the rights to a piece of Netflix-quality content, produced by an Emmy award-winning crew. Now that’s value.

Myth 2: You have to be deep into crypto to own an NFT.

While on-ramps to crypto have been particularly challenging in the past, apps like Coinbase have brought crypto investing to the masses. Purchasing an NFT can be as simple as playing a game and spending money with your linked credit card (the game provides a wallet for you) or using an application like Jambb where we handle all of the blockchain complexities behind the scenes and allow users to pay with cash or crypto.

Myth 3: NFTs are all speculative.

Yet again, let’s look at an example where an NFT unlocks a piece of content like a never-before-seen comedy special or movie. As the owner of the NFT, you have access to media that no one else has. Regardless of what you call it (digital collectible, asset, NFT, etc.) if you strip away the name, you have a valuable asset behind it.

Myth 4: NFTs are bad for the environment.

This is both true and false. Let me get a bit more technical here, so if this doesn’t resonate with you, sorry. The problem is that proof-of-work blockchains take immense energy to power them (e.g. Bitcoin and Ethereum). The vast majority of the NFTs created thus far have been on the Ethereum network and, therefore, guilty on the energy front. However, platforms like Jambb are using newer and vastly more efficient blockchains. We estimate that we can be ~99% more efficient using our techstack, including Moonbeam + Polkadot vs Ethereum. I think you’ll see most NFTs shifting to more environmentally friendly solutions as this is a problem that we all have to face together and we have technical solutions for.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry? What can be done to avoid that?

Selling a one-off NFT for a crazy price and cashing out. We’ve seen a lot of this in the recent NFT hype cycle. Kudos to those who made a bunch of money selling an NFT, but what’s next for them? What’s next for the NFT buyer and the fans that didn’t get to buy the NFT? We encourage people to think bigger and longer-term. This is especially important to consider for up-and-coming talent. NFTs should be about creating community, connecting creators and fans, delivering value in the form of experiences or content. Limited edition collectible NFTs are fine, but we believe that these will be increasingly niche, as NFT technology is applied more and more broadly.

Within Jambb, we are thinking deeply about this challenge. Our product will help bring value to the entire entertainment production and consumption flywheel, looking like this:

New content ideas can be pitched on Jambb to a global audience

Some people will want to fund and contribute ideas to the project

These same people trade currency for ownership/influence

The content is produced

Jambb helps sell the content as an NFT, or rents the content to Jambb’s global audience

Audience members can purchase NFT merchandise related to the show that grants access to exclusive communities, opportunities to interact with the entertainers, and more

The communities stimulate additional revenue for the creators

More ideas can be funded

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

NFTs are of course an application of blockchain technology. These technologies are re-inventing the way that we do things from the ground up. Blockchain technology is sometimes referred to as Web 3.0 where Web 1.0 was the early days of the internet and Web 2.0 was defined by mobile, social, and cloud technologies. Web 3.0 has the opportunity to reimagine the internet further. Without getting overly technical, Web 3.0 will allow anyone with an internet connection to interact in open communities where they create the rules without the need for third-party moderators or permission from a governing body.

Of course, the first applications of this technology have been applied to finance, starting with Bitcoin and now a huge and thriving decentralized financial market (DeFi). However, this is just the start, and almost every industry will be impacted. Jambb is applying these technologies to entertainment to fundamentally change how content is financed, produced, distributed, and consumed. Without giving too much away, what we are doing today is just our beachhead.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

NFTs are tools.

Just like social media or anything else, they can help you if you use them well, but they are not some magical panacea. I have been building products for a long time, and one thing always remains true, deliver REAL value to your customers and your product will succeed. In the case of NFTs, how are they providing sustainable and future value to the buyers, sellers, and original creators?

Challenge the business plan.

I have seen hundreds of blockchain / NFT projects and pitches, and I frequently find myself asking the most fundamental questions about the business. Why does the product have value? Who will pay for the product? What are the unique and competitive advantages of the founding team and their relationships? Where is innovation happening? As a future employee, investor, or NFT buyer, do your homework and understand more about the product and company you are buying.

Watch out for gas fees and other hidden fees locked into smart contracts.

In order to transact on a blockchain, you need to pay gas fees in the blockchain’s native token. When converted to U.S. dollars, these fees can be expensive. Furthermore, it’s very easy to build a smart contract to capture and distribute value. When you create (mint) your own NFTs, determine to whom you will pay fees and how much they will be. If you sell an asset on a secondary market, what are the fees there? Can you benefit from royalties in the future?

Focus on building community.

Use NFTs as a way to strengthen ties and deepen engagement. We are using NFTs to gate access to creator communities where creators can see their fans, understand who is contributing the most value to them, and provide access and exclusives to them in return. Furthermore, fans (buyers of NFTs) have the chance to signal their fandom to their peers who share similar interests.

Ethereum isn’t the only blockchain.

Ethereum is the most well-known and commonly used blockchain, but there are others that may offer significant advantages like faster transaction times and lower gas fees (we are building on Polkadot and getting there through Moonbeam). Think about future blockchain extensibility. What does the community and ecosystem look like for the blockchain? How active is the development community? Can I benefit from the technology being developed by other projects within the same blockchain ecosystem?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me, the answer has to center around the environment. We share a single planet and we are doing a fantastic job destroying it. Everyday choices, especially Jambb picking Polkadot over Ethereum, put the environment at the top of the consideration list. My kids and I frequently pick up trash around the neighborhood. They understand that garbage flowing into the drain will end up in the Charles River and then in the ocean. We talk about hybrid and electric cars and the environmental impact of alternative energy. My oldest hasn’t even turned 7 and she is poised to make choices to extend the life of our planet without even thinking about it. Think hyper-local, to your own house, neighborhood, community, school, church, etc. Can you make one better choice than yesterday and get one other person to do the same? In the blockchain / NFT world, what are you doing to offset your impact on the environment?

That’s how movements are started.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I am inspired constantly by the people battling around the world for equality and the most basic of human rights. Oftentimes, these leaders are educators, teaching in order to influence change. I can think of many such individuals: Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, Megan Rapinoe, but one such individual, Ibram X. Kendi, stands out to me. I first read “How to be an Anti-Racist” and found myself deep in reflection. I came to better understand the privileges that I was given due to luck and circumstance (being born white in the United States, with two loving parents, and stable income). A vast majority of the world can’t say the same thing. Dr. Kendi’s ideas span from basic to bold, but I think about the choices in my life, how to educate my kids, whom to work with, what to buy, etc. in a different way since learning from Dr. Kendi the first time.

In my own life, Di Ciruolo is continuing in the footsteps of people like Dr. Kendi with her book Ally Up. Di’s influence helps me and Jambb make intentionally inclusive decisions.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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