Micah Ray Interviews Asad Malik and Jake Saly of Jadu Jetpacks

30th December 2021

Micah Ray: Hi, good morning. I’m with Asad Malik and Jake Saly of Jadu Jetpacks. We are here in New York City at Freeman alley, not far away from Times Square, where NFT.NYC is happening from November 1st to 4th, 2021. It’s an awesome conference, all about NFTs; movers, shakers, innovators, thought leaders and speaking of thought leaders, the gentlemen here, Jadu Jetpacks is very well known in the gaming industry, and the, also the metaverse, it is a product that took, pretty much took the industry by storm. I was looking on OpenSea this morning, and the floor price looks amazing for something you’d buy for 0.11ETH. It lets you fly around the metaverse with your jetpack, which is cool – I’m sure the whales just love something like this. And if I’m not mistaken, it was initially created for the Meebits, but since we have both Asad Malik and Jake Saly here, we’re going to discuss not only the product that everyone knows about, but they have something new they’ll be introducing, and maybe we’ll get a little inside scoop on that because it’s happening tonight at Dreamburst.

 

Asad Malik: Hello. 

 

MR: First, yeah, I want to say thanks for taking the time. And Jake here as well. I know you’re busy people, you have a lot going on, you have a big event tonight. So, first, would you like to preface with an introduction to your company, the roles you have, and where you see this going for yourselves?

 

AM: For sure, I’m the CEO of Jadu. We think of ourselves as an Augmented Reality company. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last five years. We have been very purist about AR. We have not even touched AR. We’ve treated AR as a medium on its own. And, one of the significant hurdles over the last five years has been finding business models that work for these new mediums that don’t exist yet, right? So, for AR, you can’t do in-app purchasing or any of these kinds of Web2 models that have existed. So my definition of a Web3 company is a company that did not have a business model and – that was a Web2 business model. So essentially, we’re building a kind of an augmented reality-oriented gaming world in which metaverse items can be brought into the physical world. You can experience them, interact with them,  and you know that’s generally the direction we’re heading; over the next year, we’re going to be kind of building out our world further with all kinds of assets, and, in-game items and various avatars that exist in the metaverse would become playable characters in AR. So that’s kind of a list of where we’re taking things.

 

MR: That’s fascinating. 

 

AM: I’d love for Jake.  

 

Jake Saly: Yeah. I’m Jake Saly. I’m the CEO of Jadu managing day-to-day operations, and I want just to echo what Asad was saying of really – for us, we’re coming at it from an augmented reality perspective first. And so, for our first item, the Jadu Jetpack, the big question we had was how do you add utility to an NFT. So, for us, that was augmented reality – being able to let people fly through the metaverse, do something more than simply have it on their phone, have it as their Twitter profile picture, but give people more. 

 

MR: That’s fascinating. So, tell me about this understanding of the culture right now, having your finger on the pulse and identifying what your first product was going to be. It seems like a no-brainer, but at the same time, no one had done it previously. Tell me about the journey to create something like this and your background to have the technical expertise to execute this product. 

 

AM: Sure. We were in New York in 2018, when our first significant project premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. We have a long history in doing augmented reality headset-based experiences that we would often take to Tribeca and Sundance and places like that. With that model, we could innovate and push forward the AR format. AR wasn’t a thing an average person would kind of know about. That has changed, but people’s perception of AR comes from Snapchat and Instagram filters. Minimal manifestations of what AR is supposed to accomplish. So, for us, our history has been like pushing the envelope on AR and the possibilities of AR. So, Jetpacks is kind of interesting because the product wasn’t the jetpacks; the product was the app, right? We’re building an AR platform called Jadu in which people can bring in their assets and use them in entirely new and novel manners. And Jetpacks became an excuse to do that. So, the way we were thinking was, okay, we will have avatars in our world that already exist. These are not our avatars. We don’t want to make avatars. We don’t want to sell our avatars so people can use that. We want to build an open, interoperable kind of space where people can bring their assets in. So what is a horizontal kind of product that we can offer that people can use with various avatars that puts a lot of different avatars on an equal playing field so they can interact with each other, right? 

 

MR: That’s awesome. 

 

AM: Meebits are tiny, and voids are tall, and if they’re all flying, they’re all comparable. So, jetpacks were our first asset at building this kind of horizontal product. People often talk about the metaverse being this interoperable space. But, still, we wanted to show how different characters can interact and engage with each other with a similar kind of that they have in common. And yeah, since then, Jetpacks exceeded our expectations, as you were just saying. My experience of it was when I went to the minting website, the countdown timer ended. So, I tried to mint one to see if the contract was working, and I went to the Discord to announce that the minting is now public, and when I went back, my transaction had failed because we had sold out before my task transaction. So, yeah. 

 

MR: And that was 1100, if I’m not mistaken. 

 

AM: Yeah, we had 1111 total Jetpacks, and they sold out in 20 seconds. Since then, they have formed a strong community of people who believe in our developing platform. The dynamic is that these people are now tied to Jadu and our success, and are kind of teammates, almost.

 

MR: Yeah. So tell me in terms of scaling because I see a healthy secondary market for them. People are creating stock in whatever. Are you thinking of having maybe a 10,000 collection now, understanding the demand, and how have NFTs specifically affected your business model in all this? Has it changed how you decided to operate, or did you enter the market knowing NFTs would be the vehicle? 

 

AM: No, it’s changed our whole company, right? As I said, we’ve been making AR for a long time, but we’ve been looking for a model that works. We’ve been looking for a model that makes sense for this new era that isn’t extractive in the same way that many models in the past have been, that capitalize on attention and want you to go back and again. We’re trying to build something that doesn’t require you to be on at all times, and, like, the retention levels don’t have to be crazy. So you see, it’s a very different kind of dynamic that we’ve unlocked. As for the 10,000 items, 10,000 is a pretty arbitrary number that has emerged out of, like, crypto punks being 10,000, and obviously, that’s become, like, the model. You know we’re very flexible with our numbers, obviously; as we build this world-scale platform and want a lot of users, we’re going to have hundreds of thousands of assets within our world that will all serve different functions and allow you to participate in the game in different ways. 

 

MR: Okay, so will scarcity play in here? , because I’m sure you’ve had these conversations, correct? Especially if something sells out in eleven seconds, do you feel the market’s being satisfied with enough of the product in existence?

 

AM: No. And it’s a very young market, and not enough people are even in it, so you know, there’s no reason why we won’t have millions of assets over time in a world that, like obviously hundreds of millions of people, will hopefully participate in and play with. So that’s the future we are building towards. We’re currently operating in a minimal kind of space, right, where there’s a small community, it’s pretty like, everything is costly. Over time you’re going to have assets that are 50 dollars, that appreciated 400 dollars, and you have kids collecting money to get them, and you know, it’s going to be a different world than where it is right now. We’re already building with that intention by focusing on the app and the game and the utility of the whole ecosystem and world.

 

MR: So this business model isn’t like Apple, for instance, we’re going to make as many phones as people want, and you can lose your phone to times, and there are many or more phones. 

 

JS: We won’t be doing a hardware-focused business model. I want to just go back briefly for one second to touch on. For us, I think starting with a smaller supply of items, there aren’t items quite like this, right? Which are giving this game function, and what we’re doing, having a smaller supply is nice because it lets us teach our holders and our community about augmented reality, right? We just did an incredible, really fun, user-generated content video contest where we had people use the app, use the jetpack, to make fun videos, and what’s coming out of that is people starting to discover how does augmented reality works, right? How can I have my debit character flying around using this jetpack? People are making music videos, people are making short-form films, and all of this is kind of unleashing a bit of creative chaos that we like, that is important as we sort of march to – forward into this, again, the ideal Web 3 augmented reality platform, people have to not only have the item, but they to understand what to do with the item. And so, starting with the smaller supply lets us reach more people, and what we’re already starting to see is that our community members are teaching new community members. If someone gets a jetpack and has just entered yesterday, community members are like, look, here are all the crazy things you can do with that. And that, I think, is an important phase to this because this is, as Asad had mentioned, going beyond simply a ten, fifteen-second Snapchat filter. This is something that is a whole augmented reality game world built up. 

 

MR: Awesome. So, at its core, being an augmented reality company, I also know that you create holograms for TikTok stars. So, tell me how that came about and, especially where do you see all of this going in terms of how we personify ourselves virtually and our identities because one of the – the concerns that I’ve had for a minute now is that in a lot of the metaverses, our existence is entirely mechanical, it’s pretty boxy, there are a lot of us that want to express ourselves in unique ways and, it doesn’t seem that the technology has yet caught up with the way that we might wish to identity, in the metaverse. And perhaps mass adoption is more about people being able to identify as they would like to, maybe there will be some aspect that draws more people into the space, so could you talk about that for a little bit? 

 

AM: Sure, so the holograms of kind of TikTok influencers and things of that nature, right, the way that we transitioned as a company over time was, we were building a lot of these festival oriented experiences that only a minimal number of people were able to access because, they were in festivals, physical locations. So, when we transitioned to mobile AR because we felt that we had to do that to reach more people, the big question was what kind of AR can we offer on mobile that Snapchat and Instagram cannot provide, right? So, with that in mind, we started doing something called volumetric video, which is essentially 106 cameras that capture talent from every angle and reproduce them as a three-dimensional, realistic avatar. And so we did that for a year and a half and found some success with it. We worked with Vic Mensa, to Pussy Riot, to Lil Nas X, and you know, was – had a lot of, viral videos. Where you know, top 30 apps on the app store, and you know we were finding good traction with that model, but you know at the end of the day it is a minimal model, it is still tied to very, kind of, the cultural continuation of the world as it exists, and we felt a need to kind of move on from that. So, over the last four months, we have very much reoriented ourselves to be a Web 3 AR company, where our focus is on the new paradigms that exist out of this unique ecosystem, and that’s what we’re excited about. That’s what we’re native to now. So, we’re going to get rid of all the holograms now, and we’re going to, very much, dive deep into our generative avatars and, a world scale kind of game, essentially. 

 

JS: So, just to circle back briefly to this identity question in the digital space, be it the metaverse or something else. It’s complicated, right, because right now, from these different avatar projects, there are all these beautiful, artistic interpretations of what your profile picture might look like, these other 3d avatars that could be representative, that is providing a kaleidoscopic approach to this. You can be human. You can be a monkey. You can be something else entirely. And, on the other side of things, there’s this kind of photo-real recreation which is some of our background coming from the hologram space. And I think what we’ve seen from companies like Facebook is this idea that there will be these deep trenches between your work self and your play self. And how you choose to portray yourself. Maybe you’re going to be buttoned up in one of these. Still, then you’re going to look pretty wacky in another – in your, where you’re hanging out with your friends, and I think collectively we believe that there’s probably a closer collision of these things where you don’t have to decide. Suppose you want to look like a dinosaur in your work life. And, people are spending so much time in these digital spaces anyway, in these digital identities that I think, especially in light of the pandemic, there’s an absolute comfort that everyone’s starting to have off that the ven diagram of work life and play life is slowly becoming a circle as the tools kind of support that. So, it’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s a firm answer, but we think that if you want to flip through different identities, that will be okay. Still, it’s not going to be as archaic as work and play, and family are all kind of in these different buckets that never overlap. 

 

MR: Right. 

 

AM: So, ake was my first producer. When was I, Facebook’s college, trying to create these AR experiences for film festivals? Jake was one of the first people. He worked at Riot, which is Verizon’s 5G innovation lab. So, he took a bet on us and financed our first two projects, and we formed a perfect working relationship at that time. And when I could afford to hire him, we brought him over and got him over from Verizon, so he’s been with us for the last eight months, but we’ve known each other for years now and have worked together for years, so, he’s producing a whole company now, not a one-off project. 

 

MR: Awesome. So, you’ve known each other for years, which does bring up, I’m inquisitive sometimes when I talk to tech innovators, how early they were sort of in the blockchain game. So, can you talk to me a bit of your knowledge and experience of crypto? Have you invested? How active have you been in that space before NFTs, and even in parallel with your work in AR? 

 

AM: Sure, so, really what our history is in is AR, and our relationship with crypto was, I personally, like, dabbled in Bitcoin long ago to no result. Kind of, like, bought a coffee from a Bitcoin back in the day kind of scenario. Then 2017, I put in 1000 dollars, lost most of it. And then, this November, I was personally investing, and I invested in GRT, which is the protocol, which, I put in a bunch of money, at Christmas, it went down. Still, I put in enough money that I didn’t want to take it out, so it forced me to learn a lot about GRT. I learned a lot about it, and I became obsessed with how the protocol works. I thought it was very impressive how it was working, so I decided to keep my money in, and then it shot up and, like, made me a bunch of money off that. So that was kind of my first, like, positive experience with crypto. Then, we were doing our AR stuff, and essentially what happened was that Mac Boucher, who’s one of our teammates, really is the project that did six million dollars. So, you know, we started paying more and more attention to it. And I was directing a music video for Pussy Riot, and we were going just to release it on Youtube, and we decided to release it both as an NFT and on Youtube. On Youtube, it made 50 dollars, and as an NFT, it made half a million dollars, so that, once again, kind of reinstated that new models were emerging here that was worth exploring. So, you know, our, we transitioned from being like oh we’re making NFTs sell to some rich people, to, like, having a lot of our net worths, and just tied in NFTs, and at this point, I think we’re very well immersed in the ecosystem. 

 

JS: And add to that, Asad’s worked exclusively in augmented reality, my history coming from Riot and a couple of companies prior was an extensive range of different, new media. From a headset, augmented reality, mobile, virtual reality, projection mapping, pretty much anything you can do with exciting technology, I was, we were, had produced at this point, before coming over to Jadu, about 40 XR projects. So I’d seen many different things and had tried a lot of other business models. I think as we got deeper into this and decided to dive full-tilt into this, when we released Jetpacks, that business model made more in 20 seconds than I had made in three years in 40 XR projects.  

 

MR: Wow. 

 

JS: And that, I think, for me, sums up why this is special, and why this is an important and exciting way, that augmented reality can take centre stage in a way that is beyond, simply these lenses, right?

 

MR: Yeah, so the business model, delivery method, and technology are all just these serendipitous things happening, where you just see it, the perfect time and space and ways and means to achieve your objectives and ambitions. 

 

JS: Yeah. And I think it’s worth doubling down on how good mobile augmented reality has become. Like, this would not work two years ago if all these other conditions were right. Mobile AR is incredible at this point. And it’s, we’re able to deliver on a promise beyond a filter. 

 

MR: Okay, so can you elaborate on mobile AR as a term and what precisely you mean by that?

 

AM, what Jake means by mobile AR is just augmented reality that happens on your phone, right? Because one of the big promises of AR was that it gets rid of phones, right? Like you don’t want to consume your information from a flat rectangle on your hand, you want to see it in your space, you want to embody it, you want to engage in it in more natural ways as you engage in your space. And obviously, mobile AR is a minimal manifestation of that. However, it is still the transition point to actual AR with headsets and whatnot, but I think Jake’s right, mobile AR is quite good right now if you know what to do with it, and not enough people know what to do with it because people got tied up with Snapchat, Instagram filter creation. There’s a whole ecosystem of people who make for Snapchat and Instagram filters. Still, they come from a limited perspective because the tool is minimal at hand, so it moulds your creativity to be around those limitations. Whereas we were coming from headset based AR where we were just trying to do every crazy thing possible, that now we have a great gaming background, and being able to build very compelling AR and game engines, where now with, if you use our app you can kind of have avatars that crash into walls. You know, controlling them, and they can wear different assets. You see, we think of our AR as object-oriented AR, and what that entails is that everything’s not compartmentalized into separate filters, but every object is an application. A jetpack is an app that your Mebit uses to fly. And that app can be combined with a hoverboard, a separate app that lets it go sideways and, so you can kind of layer things on top, and reuse new, sort of, compatibilities and connections between connections all of these different assets. 

 

MR: So it kind of goes back to the million products thing. Which makes a lot of sense now. So how big is the company? And I imagine you intend to scale, but how is it working currently in terms of your workflow, how quickly you’re able to introduce a product on the market, etcetera?

 

AM: So, currently, we have around fourteen people full time, and then we have another ten people on top of that that are kind of contractors, so it’s a substantial operation. And we’ve not announced this yet, but we are closing in on around financing, after which we will be hiring very rapidly to grow the company very quickly. 

 

MR: Nice, nice. Okay. So what does the future hold? We know there’s a big event tonight. Do you care to talk about what will be unveiled tonight, and where do you expect to go, moving – like, where do you see yourselves in five years, for instance?

 

AM: For sure. 

 

JS: Handing that off to me… Yeah, so for the Dreamverse event tonight, this will be the first time people will see the hoverboards in action. We’ve done a slow drip of a couple of different things, but this will be the first time you see avatars riding the hoverboards. It’s going to be an experience where you’re able to step into the mirror verse, which is what we call the augmented reality manifestation of the metaverse. So you’re going to be able to step into this mirror verse space, have an avatar fly by you with the hoverboard, and again this lets people, kind of, have a fun takeaway coming out of these experiences that we’re excited about, we’ve been kind of working diligently on these for the last couple of – 

 

MR: – So lastly, I want to talk about that since we just touched on something, the NFT NYC conference has a lot of peripheral events. There’s a lot of things happening around the conference, which is excellent because of the culture, there’s a lot of,  you know, communal events, etcetera. I am noticing an ongoing exclusivity thing happening where if you don’t have a certain NFT or do not have a specific token, you’re simply not getting access to the space. I find that somewhat problematic because many whales and influential people are gifted NFTs. They’re not even buying them there. Their hands are held, and they walk into projects, so it kind of creates a culture that’s a bit nepotistic if you think about it. So I’m curious, in terms of the social aspects of the metaverse, of you know IRL, of, crypto culture in general. How do you see this going? You guys are world travelled. You’ve probably seen other cultures where maybe this is more prevalent. I want to hear what you guys think of this because you’re far more profound than I am. 

 

JS: Yeah, I’ll go first. So, there are many parallels between this space and the growth of the XR space over the last five years. And I think one of those things is what’s happening right now: there are these, kind of like, cultural moments where people gather in physical places. That was most of these film festivals for the XR space, right? So it would be Sundance, South By, Tribeca. You could do these every month all year long if you wanted to. And, there was, everyone could go and buy tickets, but there was an exclusivity component to it, which is, everyone would have tickets, these were, there’s limited space in these venues to see these events. Still, if someone important, Robert Deniro, walks up, everyone gets cleared, and he’s going to walk straight on through he’s the Whale of the space, right? So I think there’s a delicate balance to be had, right, which is as someone who is creating these different tokens these different NFTs, you want the people who are holding them to feel rewarded for participating and believing you and the company, I think the questions areas of this scale how do we make sure that accessibility scales with it and it doesn’t remain too constrained? Which, I think there’s a version of that right now, everything is – you know, the price points are pretty high for a lot of these things. I have a brother who’s in college right now. I would love for him to be in this space. It is financially almost impossible for him to participate in a meaningful way in this. And I’ve kind of walked around and thought, it would be great if he could come into this party. He’s not going to have whatever the NFT is necessary to do that. So, it’s an ongoing question, but I think that teams like Metapurse and many others are taking this very seriously. People want to solve this in a way that is meaningful. If you look back at the history of virtual reality, Facebook’s Oculus Connect conference was pretty homogeneous back in 2016. Over time, it became more diversified. So, I do think there’s an opportunity, and these types of events are the ones that, kind of, can provide the inflection point for people to, there’s something tangible, I can see you, I want you not to be stuck outside, I want you to come inside with me into this event. 

 

MR: Awesome. 

 

AM: Yeah, I agree. I think this is a real problem. The problem is that you know, rich people get richer in most systems ever. Right? Like that’s kind of how the world is structured but I think the opportunity here is that you know, the thing, for example, with crypto in general, right? A system like this can only function if there are enough avenues for new people to succeed. Only then does it grow? It can’t grow otherwise, right? If the people that entered early are compounding value forever, it slows down. There is just no other way, right? Because new people are not incentivized to participate. So, we’re seeing this with bitcoin, right? Bitcoin’s existed for so long, but how many people are making life-changing money over bitcoin that they invested in it, like, over the last couple of months? Whereas there are various other projects where people do that, the space progresses further because of those projects. And with NFTs, I think this is going to be even more critical because NFTs are, NFTs are essential, like, Dogecoin or Shiba, or something, right? They’re crucial, like, a manifestation of imagination. They’re perceived value. They’re not tangibly tied to anything real. They’re just many people coming together saying, look, this thing has this value. And, that is way more malleable of a system than some coin. And, when you have a malleable system, you actually can more easily manipulate how a market prioritizes what. So, for example, when we did our minting, the way we did it is that there’s a waitlist, so if you wanted a jetpack you get on a waitlist, and there were some steps to do that, you had to participate in our Discord, and you know like, there were various ways to get on the waitlist. And, once again, with hoverboards, we’re also going to have a waitlisting mechanism. What it accomplishes is it makes sure that people who end up minting, which means people who end up getting the best price possible on it, are active participants in our community, and over time people that are going to be active players of our game. And they’re not going to be the whales. The whales don’t have time to play games, right? So, it prioritizes people who want to support and give back to our ecosystem, and then they get a reasonable price, and they can then sell to other people who might be wealthy already. But these people get to capture that value, right? The wealth gets distributed to people who enter through these means that we’re setting up for them. So, as we go into next year, our full intention is that we’re building, kind of, a world scale game, where – like a Pokemon Go-style scenario where you’re going to have assets distributed all over the physical planet, and people are going to have to go to physical locations to find them and mint them, so only people that travel two hours from their town to go and see this asset, will get to, like, kind of utilize and extract value out of it, when a wealthy person buys it off the secondary market from them, right? And, if you – I’m from Pakistan, if you end up having assets in Pakistan, you don’t have that many crypto-rich people there. Those people will be able to find more rare assets because they are the most complex assets to get to on the map. Hence they then get to participate in this wealth distribution where other people then buy things off them. Yeah. 

 

MR: That’s awesome. I’m sure you’ll ensure a real democratic distribution of the rarities, etcetera, which does redistribute wealth in that coding. That’s awesome.

AM: It’s, the way to do it is, you have to do, you have to find the perfect balance between rewarding existing holders, right? Because that’s what creates value. A new player needs to see, oh, existing holders made value. Hence I can create value in the future, and then you need to create value for them. So, value kind of moves, it compounds for some people, but it doesn’t compound forever. Because if it compounds forever, you have a system that’s only slowing down, not a system that’s getting faster. 

 

MR: Yeah. Thank Asad Malik and Jake Saly of Jadu Jetpacks, for joining us today. It’s been a great discussion about NFTs, Crypto culture, their company and where they’re headed in the future. And, tonight, if you can make it to Dreamverse, there’s going to be a rare experience. We’re going to see a. I believe an unveiling of the actual new hoverboards, which is going to be awesome. I can’t wait to see it, and you’ll be able to find them soon enough on the blockchain. So, thank you. 

 

AM: Thank you. 

 

JS: Thank you. Cheers. 

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