Alexandria Batchelor

The thrilling part about entrepreneurship is following your dreams while pursuing your passions. That’s definitely the case for illustrator and creative director Alexandria Batchelor. As the head of her own company, Foxee Design, Alexandria uses her skills in graphic design, branding and illustration to not only provide killer work for her clients, but to also redefine standards in the industry within art and design that represents minorities (primarily Black women). Now that’s change worth supporting!

We kicked off our conversation talking about plans for the summer, and Alexandria talked about how she named her company, some of her notable clientele and collaborators, and the best kinds of clients for her to work with on projects. She also spoke about an upcoming book she worked on with noted authors Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, and shared some secrets and advice on creativity and self-motivation.

If you’re looking to get a dose of inspiration, then this episode is the one for you. Enjoy!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Hi, everyone. My name is Alexandria Batchelor, AKA Foxee Design. I am currently the CEO and creative director of Foxee Design. Completely self employed right now, and I am a designer, but I specialize in branding illustration and comic production specifically. That’s me in a nutshell.

Maurice Cherry:
How is the year going for you so far?

Alexandria Batchelor:
It’s going really well actually. Lots of good projects are coming in. I’ve actually started subcontracting. That’s where I’ve started leveling up where I have acknowledged that I can’t do it all by myself. One of my mentors taught me that he kind of taught or ingrained this mentality of looking out for your community and your network and taking on all the talented people that you know and spreading the wealth, because I am tired. This year I am focusing on self care and that’s why I bring it in like, oh, you have some time? All right, I’ve got two projects for you here, and I’ve got this much money and I’ve got this for you and this for you. That’s kind of how I started managing my business this year. It’s already working quite well, so good start so far.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s a great start so far. I’m telling you, and for people that are out there listening that might be running one person shops, the minute that you get into subcontracting, you will feel like you have unlocked the cheat code. Wait a minute. I can do this self employment thing. Once you build that network or that collective, you’re like, oh, I got this.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I know. That’s not sustainable. Not if you want to be happy and be a real person, because I like reality. Let’s stay rooted in it.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, and also with subcontracting, it can also help you to even just expand your services. If there’s something that a client may want that you know someone in your network has the capacity to handle, it just kind of makes you appear more well rounded, so good for you. That’s good.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Right. Thank you. I can’t wait to continue to build. I just actually recruited one of my old design confidants from college as well as one of my old interns who are both my friends still to be my right and my left hand for my company, so that was a big move where I’m like, I told one of them, I’m like, you’re my successor. The other one is just stepping up to the plate, so it’s just really nice to have people I really trust my business with and I could only be thrilled to imagine how they would run my company one day when I have to go expand to new horizons. Still come back to Foxee because that’s where my heart is.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s amazing. I guess with that, do you have any plans for the summer?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes. I’m going on vacation. I don’t vacation often, so yes. Actually summer, well starting off with my birthday, my birthday’s next month. May babies, Tauruses. Any Tauruses in the house? I’m going to Alabama because you were talking about the south, but my family’s from Alabama and I’m visiting my grandma for my birthday. We’re going to hang out in Atlanta for a bit, so that’s going to be really fun. Then in June, I’m spending the month in California because I’m also going to be speaking at VidCon, which is exciting, but most of it I’m going to be relaxing, but yes. I’ll have my first major speaking engagement in person. I don’t think I’ve nervous yet, but as we get closer, I’m going to be a ball of nerves.

Maurice Cherry:
You’ll be fine. VidCon is one of those conferences that everyone’s going to have a camera, of course. It’s a video conference, VidCon, but you’ll be fine. I think there’s enough energy at that kind of event where everyone wants to see you do well.

Alexandria Batchelor:
That’s true. It’ll be good vibes. As long as there are good vibes, I’ll thrive.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. I’m curious, where in Alabama will you be visiting?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Nobody knows where this is, so I’ll be surprised if you know. It’s called Elba. Elba, Alabama in Coffee County.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. I too am from Alabama.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Really?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Oh my goodness. I.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m from Selma in Dallas County. I’ve heard of Elba though.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Oh, really?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Oh my gosh. You’re the first person who’s ever heard of where my family’s from. That’s amazing.

Maurice Cherry:
People will come to me and name random cities in Alabama, like Utah or Boaz or something. I was like, yeah. I’ve heard of that. Really? I’m like, yeah. I grew up in Selma, from Alabama, south central Alabama. Yeah. Nice. Alabama in the summer is hot.

Alexandria Batchelor:
It’s going to be brutal, yeah. Well, May, so that’s not too bad.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s not too bad. Yeah.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yeah. My grandma wants us back later in the summer in August, so I think I might die. I don’t know if I could do that.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. August is Alabama is brutal, but the thing about visiting small towns in Alabama like that is it just strips everything away, like technology, wifi, cable. Selma is not a big city. Even when I go back home to visit my mom, she’s got cable and she has internet, but like it’s not the cable and internet I have at home. In terms of the entire environment, it just kind of strips everything away and forces you to be still for a while.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Nice. Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m looking for to unplug, kind of reconvene with nature. My grandma’s got this cute little vegetable garden that I want to see and just kind of learn about the land, because we own land too. It’s low key our inheritance eventually, so I just want to get back to my roots and what better time to do it than for my birthday? I’m really excited.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Let’s talk about Foxee Design. I know you’ve been freelancing for a long time now, but tell the people more about Foxee Design.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Foxee Design, I wanted to figure out a nice alias that really represented me, and we started branding ourselves in college, but everybody was kind of doing… no shade to people who just use their name. That’s a very legitimate brand because your name actually holds a lot of meaning. I’m big into name etymology, so I love learning the meaning behind everything, but I just wanted something more than just like A and B.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I just realized my hair became a really big signifier and symbol in my life because I used to have chemically straightened hair up until I was like 18. Right when I was in college, I did a big chop and I went natural and that was the first time I had had natural hair in my life. That’s why the hair kind of became a big thing. I have a beauty mark, like the Marilyn Monroe beauty mark and the lips and I’m like, you know what? Maybe this is the visual I want to represent my brand.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Then Foxee, the name, kind of came about because… actually, it’s from Foxy Brown, the Pam Grier movie from the 70s, but I learned about that from Quentin Tarantino’s iteration of it, Jackie Brown and Pam Grier again. I was like, oh, I’m in love with this movie. It was my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie. It just really resonated with me, so I was like, well, this character is so cool because she’s re-contextualizing black female sexuality and she’s kind of making the black woman a very powerful force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. I’m like, I want to do that in the design industry. This was before where are the black designers, which we were just talking about too, where I’m just like, I just want to be myself and be this very strong black woman without any consequence and have it resonate with my work. It doesn’t always need to be about my work, but it’s always rooted in it because it’s a part of me.

Alexandria Batchelor:
That’s why it kind of was a little sexy. At times I would ask my friends like, should I have done something a little more palatable, but I just kind of leaned into it and I really want to embody this persona where… if you see me, I’m very naturalista, like Tom boy, but I can have those moments where I step out. It feels like an alter ego to an extent as well, but I like stepping into this alter ego because I’m this authority in the brand space and the design space and the illustration space and I get to know what I’m talking about and feel really empowered behind the knowledge that I’ve accrued over time. That’s kind of how Foxee came about and the meaning behind my whole business.

Maurice Cherry:
I love that. I love that there’s so much intention behind it.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes. Always have intention behind the work I do.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you specialize in, you mentioned, graphic design, you mentioned illustration or comics and branding. What specifically drew you to branding? I’ve been finding, I’d say probably on the show within the past year or so, a lot more designers getting into branding, but what draws you to it?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I look at branding as storytelling. I realize illustration, comics and branding are all storytelling mediums for me that are my favorite mediums. I also write a little bit and my mom is a writer, so I have that in my blood. There’s something about branding that I feel like can be missed where you just think it’s a logo, but it’s much more than that. You’re telling someone’s story. I think it’s more of the owner. You go back to the owner, you find out even more about the business, and that actually influences a lot of decisions, like what colors. Is this based on your favorite colors? Is this just tied to how that color represents the specialty that we’re trying to brand? What is this interest, this hobby? Did you like skiing? Is that why you wanted to make something related to skiing?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I think brands always go back to the first person who came with that idea, and I love learning about people and understanding the attention behind all of the things that we are drawn to. That’s why I really like branding, because it’s kind of like decoding and getting to know someone. It’s kind of personal, because I know recent years people are trying to separate the personal brand and the business brand. I actually think it can be both. It’s one logo. One brand can, I believe, represent both personal and business. That’s how I do it. I don’t have a separate page. It’s all at one.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I am a person, I am my business, but I can also be just the person that can just be the business. I can be like, okay, I’m taking a mental health day and I go to the spa. I feel like when you try to split, it’s hard to navigate, so I love creating this space where you can feel like your work isn’t necessarily your life, but it is an important part of your life and it can still be a representation of you, your will, your passion. That’s why I love branding.

Maurice Cherry:
I love that. That’s a great way to put it. I see now branding and storytelling and it’s something I’ve definitely seen with a lot of small companies are trying to get into it, or I think they’re trying to get into branding because they’re starting to see it now as more than just a logo. They’ll come to a designer, I need a logo, but the logo should hopefully tell the story of your business or why you’re doing your business or something. It’s not just something generic that you just slap together and say, this is what my business is. It’s this logo.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Right. It’s Papyrus type. No, I’m just kidding. I’m literally always walking around like, I don’t like that, I love that. My dad’s like, stop working. I’m like, I can’t help it, dad. The whole world is design. Oh, man.

Maurice Cherry:
Talk to me about how you approach a new project that comes into Foxee Design.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I’m a big process person, like process junkie over here. I love how you got from point A to point B. I learned that a lot of clients and even designers are only about the final product. When I was getting introduced to this culture of design, I would notice that designers would hoard their designs until they were ready to share it and it would be more finalized and clients would just be like, I don’t get what this concept is. Just give me the final product. This was in college I reached this theory. I was like, I think there’s a gap in understanding, because actually my college major, it’s not graphic design. It’s communication design, so I quite literally can design communication, and I realized there was a gap in communication between the designer and the client.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I made my process very transparent. I start with a sketch. I’ll give a couple rounds of sketches and I’ll share it with the client. I’m like, what do you think? This isn’t obviously what it’s going to look like in the final stage, but these are just some ideas to get from point A to point B. Do you like this? What do you like about that? What do you like about this? We can combine those ideas and see if they work. I can tell you why they might not work. Let’s try this instead. When you bring the client in and involve them, you just get a much more successful design.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I’ve definitely had projects that have fallen through, obviously. No one’s perfect, but when the projects really go to the finish line, I’ve always had very high success rates. People are like, I didn’t even know this is what I wanted. I’m like, exactly, because the client always wants to be like, hey, I trust you. Just do whatever you want. I’m like, no. This is your business. You have to do work too, so I give them homework. I’m like, fill out this brand brief, answer all these questions. Some people are like, I never thought to answer all these questions about my business. I’m like, well, you’ve got to think about some extra stuff before maybe we even start your logo, because I always start with the logo if we’re doing a big brand project, because it’s an easy starting point but there’s way more to that. Especially if you want to be a musician or if you want to be on YouTube.

Alexandria Batchelor:
There’s a lot of other deliverables that go around the logo. I’ll give you colors and type bases to work with, even if that’s what you lead me with, but there’s always more than just a logo. Yes. I make my clients work just as hard as me, and that’s why I think I work really well with people and now they appreciate the process. They’ll always walk away like, I learned something about design today, and I’m like, that’s amazing. I’ve got teaching in my blood.

Maurice Cherry:
I think that’s a good way to approach it. Back when I started my studio, which was… what year is this? 2022. Back when I started in my studio in the olden days of the inter… no, I’m kidding, but back in the late 2000s or so, there was this really big push and maybe it’s still this way now, I don’t know, but there was almost this dichotomy that was set up between designer/entrepreneurs and clients where the designer is always right and the client is always wrong and there was this whole thing about clients from hell. Clients from hell.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I remember that blog.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Not to say that they don’t exist. They do exist. But also I think it’s up to the designer to vet the people that are coming in.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
I think if you’re doing a good job of that and they know that you’re educating them along with doing the work that you don’t run into many clients from hell after a while. They know to kind of stay away, but that education portion is super important. I think clients want to know sort of what they’re paying for, of course. They’re not just paying for hopefully a set of hands. They want someone that can illustrate, especially if it’s for their business and its brand. I would hope that they would want to be involved in it.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Me too. Yeah. Someone, I can’t remember who, but there was four types of clients. You have the smart involved client, you have the smart, lazy client, you have the… sorry to say dumb, but the dumb involved client and the dumb and lazy client. I think the worst one they said was the dumb involved one because they want to be all up in your business but aren’t listening or anything. It’s interesting that there are types of clients out there, but you have to know how to deal with them. If someone is more the uneducated one who wants to be involved, that’s great. You shouldn’t see that as a loss. You should be like, no, this is a learning moment. You want to be involved, but you’re not listening to me and I’m the authority. You paid for this.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Also, sometimes that’s where I take an L. If you don’t want to listen to me, then we’ll go with what you want. It might not be the right decision, but because you don’t want to listen to the specialists that you hired, then we’ll just go and do what you want to do. I think as I got older I started to be less precious with my work because yes, I’m here to guide you. I’m here to be like a salesperson. I’m here to persuade you, but sometimes if they just don’t want to listen, then that’s fine. I paid you to do what you want me to do and that’s that. I think a lot of younger designers get really hellbent on like, well, they’re not doing this. They’re not do it. I’m like yeah, I know that stinks, but put all that energy in your own work then.

Maurice Cherry:
Design, at the end of the day, for what it’s worth, especially as an entrepreneur, it’s a service industry, so you are serving the client in that way. Honestly, just because you did the work doesn’t mean you have to put it on your portfolio. There is a lot of work that I’ve done for horrible clients that will never see the light of day for me.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Right. I get you there, or I’ll put the one that they should have picked in my portfolio. I’m like, this is the nice version that we just left from ground zero, and it’s a dream, but this is the reality it should have been, so I get that.

Maurice Cherry:
You mentioned earlier about subcontracting and having people as you’re left and right hand. What does a typical day look like for you?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Oh my goodness. I’m in a decompression mode right now, so it’s a little different. Sometimes I’ll be gaming all day while also working, so I balance it out, which is kind of hilarious, but other days… I’m a Switch girl, so I’m playing the new Kirby game. Nobody’s paying me to promote this, but it’s really good. It’s beautiful. That’s been nice to feel restorative, especially if I have a stacked day, but I go through my emails. Also, email anxiety is so real. Some days I just put them off, but I try to have admin days where I can focus and respond as I go so they don’t build up, because if I’m away from my email for at least a week, I will have at least 200 emails and that is not fun to go through. Yes. That’s real. Email, admin stuff, I’ll go through any contracts that I have and get them signed and sent over, because I always collect deposits or I have regular income where I’ll have to give bills and stuff. So I’ll send in my invoices then. That’s the business side of things.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Then some days I like to blog in the mornings, especially if I worked too much the past day. I’ll just be writing my memoir, which is a little passion project I have going on, so I’ll spend time either doing that. This morning I spent embroidering, so I’ve been trying to get back to traditional art because I want to spend less time on my computer. Yes. I’ve been wanting to paint more, so in the coming days I’ll get back to painting. I like to play as much as I work with even my art because it’s my passion and my job, but traditional is where I’m steering, so I like being able to balance that throughout the day. Then I’ll work on a project here or there. I’ve usually got several going on.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Some days I’m like, I’m not working on this project or I’ll have to prioritize which one, like they need this one urgently or this deadline or this sub-task deadline is due this day, so that’s how I organize my tasks. Then I try to not work into the evening. Then I unwind with some anime and food. That’s what a day looks like for me.

Maurice Cherry:
I love that you said I like to play as much as I work and that you kind of weave that into your work day. That’s pretty cool. I like that. I think it’s a good way, one, to just get through the day, but then as an entrepreneur, I think it can be so easy to fall into that trap of just work, work, work, work, work, because everything has to depend on you. Incorporating those moments of play like that into the work is a good strategy.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes. This is very new too, because I was work, work, work, work, work, and then I crash, crash, crash, crash, crash. Now I’m like, okay. I have to make sure I am relaxing. I want to bring back yoga and meditation into my routine, because I also was doing that because self-care is just so important. That’s what I’m trying to stress as much as I’m trying to make money. I’m good. I think that’s also important to have financial literacy when you’re in these spaces and to be able to save and not worry about going check to check. That’s where I’m like, you know what? I’ve worked hard enough to be like, I can relax. It’s going to be okay.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s a good place to be.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yeah. It takes time. I think everyone can get there, but even if you are living check to check, still put a few bucks aside to get a facial from Walgreens. One of those things to just do the mini. I love doing like those really home care days. I’ll put my feet in like some Epsom salt or whatever and soak, so you can do it in a very affordable way too. I suggest that as well.

Maurice Cherry:
I like that. I first heard about you about a year or so ago from YouTube. I think I told you this before we started recording. I was randomly watching videos. I was letting the YouTube algorithm guide what I watch next and I ended up on this… I guess the best way to describe it would be maybe an anime discussion channel. Not necessarily review, but more like discussion. This anime discussion channel called Beyond The Bot. Can you talk about how you became a part of that?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Sure. Actually it goes back to my history at Frederator. We actually got laid off during the pandemic too. It happened to a bunch of different companies. I have no disclaimer. There’s no shade. I wouldn’t be the designer I am today without that company. I have much respect for Frederator, but we just couldn’t afford to keep all of us on after the pandemic hit. If it didn’t hit, we probably would still be there, to be honest with you. That crew wanted to keep a channel that we started at Frederator called, Get in the Robot. That had to pause production because we had lost our jobs, so we evolved it.

Maurice Cherry:
I watched Get in the Robot. I didn’t know that was the succession. Look at that.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Right. Here we go. Full circle.

Maurice Cherry:
Full circle.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I knew we’d get there. Yes. We just evolved it to the next stage with Beyond the Bot. We did it completely independent. We were crowd funded. We had a lot of really great opportunities to us. Then they were like, all right. Come on board, because we literally took the whole old team from Frederator and just started this because we just needed extra work and the fans were helping us pay and keep it alive. We got a couple hundred bucks a month working on it and we just kept the joy alive because that channel meant a lot to us, like Get in the Robot, and then Beyond the Bot was a new baby that helped us be able to do even more than we wanted to do without corporate constraints.

Maurice Cherry:
For people that want to check it out, you should really go to YouTube, search for it. If you’re into anime, I wouldn’t even say just modern anime, like My Hero Academia or whatever because you all have talked about stuff with Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z and stuff. If you’re an anime fan of any stripe, definitely check it out.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes. We do deep cuts. I think we did a Neon Evangelion Genesis video. We’ve done a Cardcaptor Sakura video, so even the ones you’ve never heard of, we were talking about that stuff.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. What are the best types of clients for you to work with? I know you’ve worked with, you mentioned Frederator is a place that you’ve worked at before, and we’ll go through the rest of your work history, but you’ve worked for some publications and other publishing studios. What are the best types of clients for Foxee Design though?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I love working with YouTubers. YouTubers are where it’s at because everybody is getting on that. I’m even trying to get on YouTube. I would love to be able to be like, come follow me at Foxee. Content will come this year, I promise, but yes. I love the YouTube space. That’s kind of what Frederator did too. We were kind of cornering the mark. They were kind of the first people really doing what they’re doing on YouTube. A lot of these clients that have reached out to me are like, I’m inspired by Get in the Robot. I’m inspired by this. We’ve kind of set a domino effect of these new big YouTubers who focus on anime or cartoon industries or video games. Well, there were other people like [inaudible 00:30:17].

Alexandria Batchelor:
All those different names, but YouTube is the place to be. There’s kind of a lot of not so great branding on there, so I would like to save YouTubers. That’s also why VidCon is a great space for me to speak at. I can’t wait to connect with a lot of people who might need a new brand. Either a brand refresh, a whole rebrand, or just a brand in general, but I think YouTube is a great spot because there’s a lot of authentic personalities that… the algorithm serves up authenticities. They love when you are just yourself and you have a good niche and you have a good hook. If people have those good ideas and just need a good brand, then they’re a great fit for me because I can help visualize that and help build their brand on YouTube.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Those are my ideal clients, but I’ve worked with musicians. Back when I was living in Buffalo, my first set of clients were local rappers who would charge $50 album covers. I’m like, the come up is real. I’ve worked with musicians, but I don’t charge $50 for album covers anymore. I’m all about indie. I listen to indie music. I love like indie films, so anything independent and not discovered by the world, it just feels more special. You were one of the first few fans to get access. When you see someone blow up, you’re like, I was following them when Spotify didn’t even exist. It just feels like an achievement to be able to be in those spaces. I think it’s high honor, especially if you’re a designer in those spaces to work with those kind of artists who are doing their thing, because it’s solely based on passion. Of course they want to be famous and they want money, but they are 100% driven by passion, and passionate clients. Ideal clients are just anybody with a dream and a lot of passion, and money too.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. There’s a guy I design… not design. Sorry. I had him on the show… was it last year? I’ve been doing this for so long I really have to think, like when did I interview this person? It was last year. This guy, Chris Burnett, he started out doing some designs for Odd Future. He loved the music and lucked into becoming their creative director for a while, did work with Tyler and with Frank and them. I’m like, wow. To be able to come in at that level, whether it’s a musician or even with what you’re talking about with a YouTube channel or something like that, to get in on the ground floor of working with another passionate creative is amazing. That’s the best. It’s the best. It’s so good, because that energy is there. They’re doing their thing. You’re doing your thing. It’s so good. It’s so good.

Alexandria Batchelor:
So good. Glad you agree.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s switch gears here a little bit. I know we’ve talked a lot about your work, but let’s talk more about you. Where did you grow up?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Me, I grew up in the Hudson Valley in New York. A little town. I don’t know if you all know Fishkill. More like the Poughkeepsie area. I’m just throwing out general terms because this is so specific. It’s like the greater New York City area. I know some people are going to be like, what? Then other people are like, what the heck is that? It’s near Beacon. Beacon’s also really nice. I don’t know. Good. It’s the upstate New York area kind of, but not really. It’s very white, which is fine. That experience made me very comfortable being in predominantly white spaces, which actually helped me out in corporate and college, although my college program, our class, there was a lot of diversity there, which was surprising because it was Buffalo, but anyway. Yeah. I grew up in a predominantly white area in the suburbs and I lived there my… that’s not true. I was a baby in Mount Kisco, so I barely re remember that, but remembering the growing up experience, I grew up in that other area that I ranted about that half of the people listening will probably not know.

Maurice Cherry:
When did you know that creating art was something you wanted to do for a living?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Probably when I was five. I was always drawing, especially when we hung out with the family. I was always curled up on the couch just doodling. I still have my doodles. I have a great archive. I’m excited to go through it, like through recent revelations and deeper understanding of my work, but I have stuff from when I was really young still in my possession, but I always knew. Yeah. I’m an archivist, which is a fancy term for hoarder, but it’s still worth it. I think having your old work is really important because it says a lot about the interest that shaped you as an artist. I always knew, and I actually wanted to get into architecture briefly because I do love architecture, but I’m not good at math, or maybe I am but I just didn’t have good teachers. The pressure it is to be an architect, uh-uh (negative). I was like, I’m not going to build a house that could fall down and me get sued. I don’t think so. Then I found graphic design and that was a wrap.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you mentioned studying communication design. You started out at Dutchess Community College and then you attended University of Buffalo. What were those experiences like? Did they really prepare you once you got out there in the world as a working designer?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I would say yes and no. Dutchess, the community college, it was a great school for saving money. I just wanted to save. Maybe I was a little not like ready to run, like jump the nest. That’s my mom’s theory, even though I’m like, no mom. It’s probably not that, but she’s usually right with her suspicions, so maybe. I went for free because I graduated in like the top 3% of my high school, but it felt like the 13th grade and me and one of my friends were really bored and we were just like, we have to get out of here. We got to do really fun programs. I got to learn fencing while I was there and did a dance program. I want to get back into fencing. Fencing was super fun and you look really cool. I love swords, and video games, I am always the person with a sword. That’s my ideal weapon choice.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Just in case you guys were wondering, but I didn’t get to take really graphic design classes there. I took a 2D and 3D design class and a photography class, which is indirectly graphic design, but I had to wait the next year to take a graphic design course, but I was already onto the University at Buffalo. Those courses, they were okay. I thought the teacher I had was kind of pretentious. He was kind of a jerk and told me I couldn’t get into other schools, even though out of high school, I got into like RIT and I’m like, okay, well I’m here just to save money for my family so you’re wrong, but thanks.

Alexandria Batchelor:
That was a crappy experience with that guy where I’m like, maybe you’re just mad you’re teaching and you want to be out in the field. I don’t know. It was not really about me, but it was a crappy experience to still have. University of Buffalo was way better. I actually met two of my mentors that I’m still friends with today, John Jennings and Stacy Robinson. They together work as Black Kirby and they are leading the Afro-futurist… they’re just big names in the Afro-futurist space, especially in the comic book industry. They just kind of took me under their wing immediately when I met them, and that was the best thing I got out of UB especially. Then also all my friends. I still keep in contact with a lot of my classmates. We just kind of all stuck together. I had a friend reach out to me recently like, hey, we’ve always been fans of your work and we always thought your stuff was next level. I’m like, me? Fans from school? Oh my gosh. Thanks guys. That was so sweet.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. I had John on the show a couple years ago. I want to say 2017, 2018. Yeah. John is great. John, you mentioned his name.nd I think any Afro-futurist circle people are going to be like, oh yeah, Kindred. We know John. Yeah.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yep. I’ve worked on most of those projects he’s worked on, so I actually helped color Kindred too.

Maurice Cherry:
Work. Nice.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I just think those things [inaudible 00:39:39]… because I’m a very humble person. I don’t go out reciting my resume, but I’m like yeah, I worked on that too.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yeah. He’s dope. He’s very cool to work with. He was the one I mentioned earlier who taught me, don’t leave your network behind and bring them up with you. He is trying to master the subcontract and that’s who I got that from.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. I like that a lot. I like that. What was your early career like once you graduated? Is that when you started freelancing right alongside working?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes, because my first job out of college was at The Cheesecake Factory. I was a server. I couldn’t get a job for the life of me because I was in Buffalo and the industry there is very small. It’s a very blue collar town. No shade to Buffalo, but design was not flourishing there. I’m not really sure how it is. I don’t think it’s flourishing now. You’d have to work at like a doctor’s office or some kind of establishment to really be a designer there. I wanted to work at an agency or some kind of innovative company, but I just couldn’t get in. I was behind on internships because I didn’t take internships in school because I was kind of a lazy student. I’m going to be honest with you. I slept during class all the time, since high school. I was a sleeper. I don’t know. That was my bad.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Instead, I decided to go into the restaurant industry and I made really great tips. Then that also encouraged me to freelance. If I never served, then I would’ve never really focused on freelance work and Foxee Design may not be what it is today, because I didn’t want a gap in my resume. I was like, well, I’m going to have to really operate as a freelancer so I have this experience for when I’m ready to get into design. I did end up getting in two offers at internships. One at like a car dealership place, which I’m like, I’m not a big car person, so I’m like, it’s not a great fit. Then the other was at a newspaper, which is really cool. It was called the Buffalo News. It’s one of the biggest newspapers in the Western New York area. They had a medley of different clients that they would work with, so I thought that was a better fit than a car dealership. No shade.

Alexandria Batchelor:
It was a great offer that she… it was the first time someone took me out and wined and dined me to be like, are you going to choose our internship? I’m like, for an internship for real? No, but thank you. I mean, not wine. She took me out to coffee and got me a snack or whatever, but either way it was [inaudible 00:42:21] that she really wanted me to work there, but I chose the newspaper instead. I worked in their digital ad department because they were still focusing on penny savers, but my department was the smallest and newest and youngest. We worked on Facebook ads, like back in the day when you were only in the backend, working on Facebook. This was back when it was so new that you could actually discriminate through it because you could choose to serve your ads to specific races. It was very interesting.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, yeah. I remember when Facebook had that. I think it was some sort of housing. I forget what it was, how someone found out. I think it was because they were making ads that would discriminate against people for housing or something like that, but I remember when could do that with the ad manager.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes, and I witnessed that happen. The sales rep didn’t allow it, but the woman was on speaker phone asking and I was just like, oh my goodness. I can’t believe she just asked if she could only serve this housing ad to white people. It was just the most baffling experience. I was like, wow, people really be doing that nowadays. Still to this day. That was a very interesting experience because it was very old school. I had to dress up for work. I had a retirement fund. I was like, what in the world? I had a retirement fund. That’s how old school this place was. That was my early career. It was very interesting. Very interesting.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, what was it like at Frederator? What did you learn from there? I know you said it kind of helped you now in terms of, I guess, process and such, but what was that experience like, because Frederator, and we talked about this a bit before recording, but it feels like it serves a very specific type of demographic that I don’t know if it encompasses black women, black people in general, but probably specifically not black women. What was your experience there like? What did you learn from there?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Well, it’s funny enough. I was one of the first three black people employed there. It was two black guys and me and one of them, he’s still there and just got promoted to president, so now he running the place, which is amazing.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. Look at that.

Alexandria Batchelor:
The first day he started, he said, I’m going to run this place. I said, okay. That was me meeting him. I was like, sure. Then he did. I’m like, of course he did. Of course he did. It’s being run by a black person now, but it was a wild ride because it was definitely predominantly white for decades, which, it makes sense. The higher ups were all white. That’s usually what happens, but that’s why I was really grateful to my boss who gave me a chance because I needed to get out of Buffalo. Through friend or something, I was able to connect and she’s like, I love your work. Then I got the job and I got to New York City lickity-split because I was ready to go. It was just amazing to have an opportunity to be in that space, because it’s so hard for us to get into design spaces for whatever reason. Well, the reason is because it’s systematically designed like that, but that’s a whole other conversation. We’re partially going to talk about it.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yes, it was kind of hard being there, as any predominantly white space, but for whatever reason, there was more and more minorities that kept flooding in. At one point, there was half minorities and half white people and then there were less white people. I’m like, oh, they’re getting scared. They’re getting scared. I’m just kidding. It was so funny though. We would joke about it, but I think I was able to navigate the space where I let people feel comfortable talking about feeling uncomfortable. I would be able to talk to the one half Hispanic, half indigenous guy and the one Asian guy about in high school when they used to give us really racist names.

Alexandria Batchelor:
This was water cooler talk, and I don’t think anybody would ever have been able to have a safe water cooler space talk like that if it was only white people around. I didn’t really have an influence on company culture because I was the only designer there too, so I was so tired and busy, but the moments I had were really nice where I could just bond with people and we could talk straight with each other. I even talked to some of the white people about it because I’ve always had white friends who just let me talk. I’m like, if you just listen, I’m cool with you. You cool. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Just let hear my voice. I’ve had really real talks with some white folk and those are the ones to stick with; the ones who aren’t going to tell you how you are supposed to feel or about your experience. I had a lot of those moments with some people there, which was nice, but design wise, it was YouTube. I got to figure out how to brand YouTube. I made extensive style guides. I’ll make you a 50 page brand guide that you will use and share with the video editors, because we had a huge freelance network too, some of whom I still keep in contact and using my own network now. Yeah. The people I met there were worth it. The skills I gained there working on YouTube was worth it. Yeah.

Alexandria Batchelor:
As a black woman, it wasn’t always great. I didn’t always feel like my voice was heard. I feel like I had a lot of good ideas and they would always be overshadowed, and then every time the white guy said exactly what I said two weeks ago, I’m like, of course. Of course now it’s a brilliant idea. I don’t want to think it’s always intentional, but you always feel a type of way where it’s like, is anybody listening to me, but still a good experience. Still a good experience. Again, it made me strong. I had interns be like, because we went through a lot, I was able to handle a really crazy work situation being only in a small team, and I’m like, I’m glad, because it hardens you when you are responsible for a lot. It was too much. I definitely needed like another designer, but I run my own business now.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. That’s interesting. It hardens you. That’s an interesting way to look at it.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Yeah. It’s not 100% great terminology, but that’s the strong black woman though. Unfortunately, that’s the trope that we do have to play often.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, this kind of leads into my next question, which is kind of about representation. I mentioned to you before and I’ve talked about this on the show too when I have black illustrators or fine artists, do you feel a need to quote unquote represent with the work that you do?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Not necessarily. Obviously I’m going to go for the black female representation or even just a lot of women I’ve always drawn, because I’m always going to go to the self first. It’s an easy subject. It’s like Frida Kahlo. She says, I know myself the best. That’s why my best subject. She’s one of my favorite artists. That’s why I quote her. That was not a direct quote, but anyway, and then also, because I’m bisexual, I also love how women look and it’s so easy to draw women. I always have to be like, oh crap. I haven’t drawn a man in months. I should probably do that. Men are cool too, but dang, I don’t know. [foreign language 00:50:26].

Alexandria Batchelor:
Anyway, I think it’s important specifically to represent the black women in my work because I pull a lot from my feelings, so I make a lot of sense of what I’m feeling and what I’m going through through my illustration work, and because black women have to be hardened by society, I think being vulnerable in that way helps be like hey, I’m still a person and I’m really sad or I’m really frustrated, or I feel like I’m falling apart, which is why I do a lot of disembodied, disconnected body parts. That’s kind of a style I’ve developed. I’ve always been doing that for I think maybe for 10 years.

Alexandria Batchelor:
That’s kind of been the art style where it’s like just the head or the bust or a hand or an arm. It just shows this disconnect and just feeling really outside of your body, because there’s so much going on, you don’t really know the feelings that are kind of taking over you and you feel like you’re just kind of fractured. I’m constantly breaking apart and putting myself back together to make sense of myself, to reassemble myself, like a stained glass mirror or a stained glass window. Sorry. That’s why I think when I try to represent the black woman it means more because we aren’t allowed to feel feelings like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now, you do a lot of work with like Afro-futuristic [inaudible 00:52:02]. You mentioned John Jennings and you mentioned Kindred. You’ve got a new project that’s coming out in September with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Sure. We’re now allowed to talk about it. I was doing hold up because I was the colorist on the project, so I colored that whole bad boy. I had some help with my assistants. They were great, but yes. It’s funny because I’ve been coloring with John since I was in college and I’ve been getting promotions with him. This was the first time I was the lead colorist. Oftentimes I’m an assistant colorist, like on Kindred I was an assistant, but this time I got to be the senior level colorist and I got to see the inks that Marco Finnegan did. He’s incredible. He loves film noir. That’s why the shadows are really heavy. I always forget this name, the really intense contrast. It’s the [inaudible 00:53:01].

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, chiaroscuro. Something like that.

Alexandria Batchelor:
There you go, chiaroscuro. Yes. I never get that right, but one day I will, so thank you for the assist, but it has that really beautiful effect. It made my job easier because I was like, great. I got to do less shadows because he made this so exaggerated, but it was beautiful. His inks were just so strong on their own. Then I got to just take a look at them, understand the scene. I had to plot out the script to see how many days this story went over. It took a place over seven days. It’s about this little girl, she’s eight, which, fun fact, was based on Marco’s daughter, which is really cute. I love when, again, you’re using your reality as your subject and that’s what makes it realer, because the expressions, I’m just like, this feels heartfelt. I’m like, well, if it’s based on your daughter, I get it.

Alexandria Batchelor:
This little girl, she goes through a lot of death and she is kind of on her own after a while because her caretaker dies and then a monster is summoned to take care of her, called the keeper, but there has to be a sacrifice to keep it alive because it needs life to keep it alive. It’s a beautiful, horrific story. It was funny because I was listening to a talk with Tananarive Due and she was talking a lot of black history or black stories. They are horror. They’re horrific, so it’s technically a horror graphic novel. I think the demo is like around… it’s supposed to be young adult, but I think it can skew higher because it reads really well. I highly recommend, not just because I worked on it. It’s good. We nailed it.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes so people can pre-order it, because this will be out before this comes out. Side note, and only because I’m a nerd, you talked about [inaudible 00:55:06], and as soon as you said that, I was like, there’s a song by a British jazz singer named ZR McFarland called chiaroscuro, so if anybody’s listening and they want to check that out, it’s a pretty good song. She’s a good singer, but that’s a pretty good song.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Nice. I’m going to be jamming to that after this podcast.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. How do you get back your creativity when you’re feeling uninspired? Do you have any methods that you go through or anything like that?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I wish my brain could shut off that I could really be uninspired, but I understand it’s not necessarily not being inspired, but the creative blocks, I guess, where it’s like I know I want to do this, but sometimes I don’t know how. Sometimes I guess going back to traditional media, just doodling mindlessly helps, me going back to nature. I was just going on a walk with my mom and she was so annoyed because I literally was stopping and picking the flowers because I mentioned wild flowers in a blog post, so just taking root of my surroundings, even if it’s a fire hydrant and the colors on that because I’m a comic book. I work in comic books, so the background art, you think the things that you just pass by every day, we love. We put that in the background so we’re always studying the environment.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I think that’s been a really good way to, I guess, push through creative blocks where I’m just like, let me just go outside and collect some research and also get in the fresh air and I just want to hike more. I want to get back to nature because I think as we get back to nature and respect it more and I want to raise more plants, I want that to help revitalize me when I’m feeling like down with my creativity.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s funny. As you said that about creativity and even as you mentioned this about horror before. Have you been to Elba before? Is this going to be your first time visiting this summer?

Alexandria Batchelor:
No, I used to go when I was a kid, but it’s been a while. It’s maybe been over five years, so it’s been a while.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. One thing I remember about Elba is that it’s flooded a few times. At least in my lifetime, it’s with the river there, the town is flooded. I don’t know. As you started talking about that I was thinking, what if there’s some interesting southern gothic horror story of this town that’s been repeatedly flooded with people that can breathe underwater or something. I don’t know. My mind is wandering a little bit.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I would love that. No, please, because it’s funny. We have another piece of property and on it there’s this little mini house and they call it the doll house, and it’s near a lake, so I’m like, oh, you might be onto something. Okay. We might have to talk. Okay. We’ve got to talk about this little story over here. That sounds awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you have a dream project or anything that you would love to do that you haven’t done yet?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I am literally working on a dream graphic novel, so yes. It’s pretty much I have very vivid dreams because I’m very stressed out a lot, I guess. Yeah. People would call them stress dreams, but I’ve started getting them again. They’ve been hilarious. One dream someone said that… like I was an X-man and someone was like, your sister’s a normie, and I pimp slapped them because I was like, she’s amazing. Don’t you ever talk about my sister like that. These are the kind of weird dreams I have. I’ve recorded at least 70 plus of these. I’ve started organizing into a story because there has been a lot of through lines between all of these dreams where it’s like, there’s this underlying plot or there’s this love interest, so it’s been very interesting mapping out all these symbols because I also love dream symbolism and dream interpretation.

Alexandria Batchelor:
I’ve used that as a resource for this story because it’s literally writing itself. I literally just have to go to bed and dream and that’s part of the writing and now it’s tightening it up, but then I’m paralleling it with my actual life to be like, what is going on to instigate these dreams? It’s biographical as well as a dream memoir, so I’m pulling from my journal entries at the same point in time and I’m creating this beautiful story that weaves in and out from reality and dream world and creating a narrative. This is going to be a hybrid piece where it’s graphic novel, but there’s going to be written pros and there’s going to be dream dictionary-esque aspects of it. This is a passion project. I’ve already finished the beginning and figured out the beginning and end. I’ve just been working on it diligently and hopefully I am going to get this published maybe next year or the following year, given how much time I’m able to work on it with everything else going on.

Maurice Cherry:
That sounds amazing. I’d love to read that once you have it. Once it’s out there and ready, I’d love to read that.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Absolutely. I will send you a link personally.

Maurice Cherry:
What is the best advice that you’ve ever been given regarding your craft?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I guess reserving my passion for my own projects, but I don’t think that’s actually the best advice because I’m so passionate about everything. I think just focusing more on myself though is important because I’ve always been worried about everyone else. Not that I’m going to drop the execution that I spend on projects, but I just need to be a little selfish nowadays and there’s nothing wrong with that because it’s a balance between selflessness and selfishness, but with my work, I want that dream to come true. I also want to have an exhibit. If I want all these dreams to come true, I’ve got to think about me, so I think that’s probably the best advice. Balance, letting myself get a little bored, re-centering myself and just letting go a little bit. That’s, I think, what I need to continue to grow and not stagnate or burn myself out or give up on this because I feel like I’m onto something.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What kind of work do you want to be doing?

Alexandria Batchelor:
I want to do more environmental design. I want to figure out how to help the environment more. I’m not really sure. I’m still very new about sustainability. I do it in different ways. I don’t have a car, so I don’t add to the carbon footprint. I take the public transportation. I recycle plastic bags and use them as garbage bags. There are little ways I do it, but I want to know how to build that into my business more. I also want to build interactive spaces for people to be able to enjoy separate… hopefully including sustainability. I want to get more into the museum exhibition space and just create a new world that you walk into whenever you go to a show or some kind of piece. I want to get out of the 2D space because I’m ready to graduate to 3D.

Maurice Cherry:
I like that. That’s good. Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you, about your work and everything? Where can they find that online?

Alexandria Batchelor:
Sure. Well, I’m actually not as active as I need to be, but I will be more active on Instagram. That’s where I prefer to post work. I’m also on Twitter. It’s all Foxee Design, F-O-X-E-E Design. Then I’ll be on YouTube this year too, so those are my main platforms, and then you can find other links through there, but that’s all I’ll share for now.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Alexandria Batchelor, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I was familiar with your work, like I said, through YouTube and watching the videos and being like, this is so really well done. Who is behind this? Then of course now being able to talk to you and really get the passion and the fun and the energy and the vitality that you have behind your work. I’m excited to see what comes next, because it sounds like you are working across a lot of different spaces, doing a lot of just really cool stuff. I’m excited to see what your design future is going to hold, so thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Alexandria Batchelor:
Of course. Thank you so much for having me. I had a blast.

Sponsored by Hover

Hover

Building your online brand has never been more important and that begins with your domain name. Show the online community who you are and what you’re passionate about with Hover. With over 400+ domain name extensions to choose from, including all the classics and fun niche extensions, Hover is the only domain provider we use and trust.

Ready to get your own domain name? Go to hover.com/revisionpath and get 10% off your first purchase.

Manuel Godoy

It’s no secret that stories from comic books and graphic novels have dominated the pop culture landscape since the early 2000s. However, the heroes in those stories that you see often don’t represent the true diversity out there in the real world. That’s where Manuel Godoy comes in. As the CEO of Black Sands Entertainment, he is the engine behind one of the most exciting and barrier-braking publishing houses in the nation. And with over 5,000 investors and over 200,000 books sold, it’s easy to see why!

We started our conversation fresh off of Manuel’s recent Shark Tank appearance, and he talked about how his company stands apart from other indie publishers, and how he’s leveraged social media to build a massive base of supporters and investors. Manuel also spoke about his time in the military, how he’s scaled Black Sands Entertainment over the years, and where he wants to take the company in the future. Hollywood, watch out — Manuel has created a movement that has no signs of stopping!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.

Manuel Godoy:
My name is Manuel Godoy, the CEO of Black Sands Entertainment. I am a writer, I am a publisher, and I also run an animation studio, so I have a lot of things going on. But my goal is to make black history before slavery a relevant thing, and we’ve been doing that pretty well over the last five years. So I’m thankful for you having me today.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. How has this year been going for you so far?

Manuel Godoy:
It’s been going pretty good. I mean, we started the year off with a Shark Tank episode so momentum is definitely on our back right now.

Maurice Cherry:
I want to just go ahead and just jump right into Black Sands Entertainment. I spent a lot of time yesterday and actually over the past few days just checking out the app, checking out the titles and everything. For those of who are listening who may not be familiar, can you give an introduction to what Black Sands Entertainment is and what it’s about?

Manuel Godoy:
Yes. Black Sands Entertainment is a comic book publisher who also does different mediums. So we also have digital content on BSE comics. We have animations and stuff like that. But our bread and butter is comic books, and most of our comic books are about black history before slavery. We have plenty of titles about that. We expanded significantly last year from three or four different titles to about 16 now. And we’re just on the move, like constantly moving forward, trying to tell the story about our people that’s not always negative. I felt like there’s too much negative content out there for black Americans to consume and that we need to have something more on a positive side, some kind of legacy that we could live up to. So even if you have very humble beginnings, you can still see a great path forward in your life.

Maurice Cherry:
I love, love, love that whole message of doing that. And I mean, in a way that’s kind of what’s… I mean, I don’t want to say that what we’re doing is the same, but I think in terms of trying to make sure to uncover the history that people may not know about, I totally completely vibe with that idea. What does a typical day look like for you? I mean, it sounds like you’re juggling a lot of stuff.

Manuel Godoy:
Oh, it’s chaotic. There’s no typical day. That’s why I need to hire some staff, right? I’m currently looking for an editor-in-chief. Well, not an editor-in-chief, but a lead editor for our company so they could take that side of the publishing side of my life off my hands. But yeah, we’re definitely looking for ways to break up my days, because my days are purely chaotic. I think I spend maybe 10% of my time actually making content because I’m in charge of so many things. So I would love to get that to 40% if possible. But my typical days are purely chaotic. We have a lot of press, we have a lot of scouting and recruiting and negotiating. Of course, I have to be very relevant on social media, so that’s also a big factor in my life.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, I see you are super active on TikTok. I watched probably most of the videos that you’ve got up. How has social media helped you as you build Black Sands Entertainment?

Manuel Godoy:
Well, it just gives me independence. One thing is it’s a new age nowadays, that’s why I don’t really knock companies like Milestone Media, right? It’s like I’m not a fan of their business model, how they originally started, but I don’t knock them for it because there was limited options in the 90s. It’s not like they had much of a choice, right? But to work with the industry. Social media nowadays allows us to completely circumvent the traditional gatekeepers of this space. And so we can make our own customer bases, we can get our own investors without having to basically go through the…

Manuel Godoy:
Also, big shout out to Barack Obama for allowing Regulation CF to even exist in the first place, because prior to that, you had to be basically rich and white to invest in any small company. You weren’t going to get investments from people unless you had significant connections already. And now with Regulation CF, companies like ours and even other businesses, black-owned, can actually go out to the community and raise capital through unaccredited investors, right? So that’s a huge thing that happened recently. So I think the technology, the ability to go directly to your consumers, gives people with the drive to really scale and grow and make a difference without having to basically change their fundamental beliefs in order to be successful. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And just for folks that are listening, Regulation CF is Regulation Crowdfunding. And one of the rules for that is that you can raise, I think it’s like a maximum of $5 million through crowdfunding over a 12-month period. I know that’s one of the rules of it, right?

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. That’s for unaccredited investors. So after that you go into Regulation A and then you have to do only accredited investors, right? That’s a lot of money for most people. Companies that are raising $5 million rounds, they tend to be ready to go at that point. They’re not struggling anymore. Now they’re in market and they know what they’re doing and they’re trying to scale. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean the advent of crowdfunding overall I think has really helped a lot of independent creators to get their ideas out there in the market. I remember… And I mean, this didn’t start with Kickstarter, but I know Kickstarter was probably one of the more prominent platforms that was really trying to build on this sort of… I guess, build on this idea that creatives can fund their own ideas through their fans and Patreons and stuff like that. But I remember when it came around 2009, 2010, it was hard to get people on board with even the idea of crowdfunding. And now it’s pretty common to use Kickstarter or use similar platforms to be able to raise money like that.

Manuel Godoy:
It’s definitely something that just gives us freedom. So I think that’s what was the downfall of Milestone Media. I think they had great IP. They probably had great numbers: sales, but it wasn’t to the liking of DC and Diamond, so they killed them, right? DC and Diamond said, “Die.” And they had no choice, they had to die because they had signed deals with them, right? And now they’re trying to revive them because of the Black Lives Matter movement, right? So they’re like, “Hey, this is a great time to have a black imprint,” right? But at the end of the day, they let them go away for 30 years. So why should you believe them now and their generosity, I mean and their genuineness for the revival of Milestone?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I just heard recently, Milestone was supposed to have like a black history comic that came out during Black History Month and now they pushed it back until June. And I’m like, “Well, that’s not Black History Month, but whatever.” But yeah, when you’re beholden to like these larger corporate interests, it does stifle innovation in that way.

Manuel Godoy:
Absolutely. Yeah. So we’re lucky that we never have to deal with that. And as a result we’re pretty much not only successful, but now we know our customers. So the big part about it is with social media is you know your customers, right? It’s not like it’s some, “Oh man, I wonder what kind of customer I have?” That’s something you have when you go to someone like Diamond Distribution or go to comic book shops, you still don’t know who the heck your customer really is. But with social, you know exactly who your customer is, so you can refine your acquisition over time. You know how to sell, you know who to sell it to, right? You know how to message. It’s all powerful just because you’re doing the right distribution.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, this feeds into my next question which I feel like you may have just sort of answered, but how are you ensuring that Black Sands really distinguishes itself from other indie publishers out there?

Manuel Godoy:
Well, one thing is I don’t feel like we’re in the indie publishing space anymore to be considered another indie publisher at this point. Last year we did 1.2 million in sales, sold 120,000 books, right? And we’re just bringing online a whole bunch of new titles from our creators. So it’s going to be a huge year for us. Our main niche is history before slavery. We don’t do superheroes much at all.

Maurice Cherry:
Really.

Manuel Godoy:
That’s not our thing at all. I think we have like one superhero title and that’s it. Only because the creator has a sizable audience already, so we gave him a shot. We were like, “Hey, you a got a sizable audience. Let’s see if we can make your comic into a reality. And see if your audience will tap in.” And they really have been tapped in, so that’s a good one.

Manuel Godoy:
But for the most part, we wouldn’t try to do superheroes because that market is closed with Marvel and DC. It’s just closed. There’s no point even trying to compete with them. That’s them. They own that genre. I wanted to go for a genre that was 100% ours to own, and that is history before slavery. So mythology, fantasy, history, drama, all that stuff in an ancient setting or an ancient location or something like that is what we do. It’s not just Egypt, we have stories about Madagascar, the Mali empire, Moorish Spain, the Inca, right? The Malaysians, right? We just got a whole bunch of anticolonial rhetoric. That’s our power. That’s where we make our content, and that’s why everybody buys our stuff because it’s more of the good stuff, right? When they buy our books, they know it’s not going to be different or a different kind of vibe. It’s more of the stuff they want to have. More exposure to indigenous people, to people from diaspora and their actual culture, as opposed to the indoctrination of European powers.

Maurice Cherry:
No, I really like that. Years and years ago… God, I’m trying to remember when that was. Maybe 2015, 2016, we had an African comic creator from Cameroon who was making a… He had, I think it was a line of comic books, as well as a video game that was around African traditions and African mythology and stuff like that. And I remember him giving a similar reason as you just had in terms of like, it’s a lot more relevant to the audience that they’re trying to serve to talk about it in terms of history or to talk about history, than to create some superhero kind of aesthetic, which I think at the time he was saying was really more rooted in the west. Again, this is coming from an African perspective, but yeah.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. Well, that’s the one thing about it. It’s I know for a fact that it’s a good thing for us to have this stuff, right? Without nobody messing up our power. We got to have our power and people really underestimate how much it matters for us to own the narrative and stuff like that. I mean, there’s too much crap they add to our stories just to go and control the narrative. One of the biggest examples I have is the recent movie that’s probably going to be played all across America. In every single school in America there’s probably going to be Harriet coming on. They’re going to be like, “Hey kids, let’s watch Harriet. It’s so great.” Talk about Harriet Tubman, right? They’re not going to use any other content for Harriet Tubman. They’re going to use the movie Harriet as the example, and that one is 100% fictional.

Manuel Godoy:
They had a black man who was the main villain of the story, a bounty hunter armed to the teeth in the South, because I guess they didn’t just Lynch black people who had guns in the South, right? Who’s the mythical villain that’s the main threat to Harriet Tubman. That’s some wild… They get 1,000 pitches a year for Harriet Tubman films, and they’re like, “You know what? The one that we’re going to spend $10 million to produce is this one,” right? And you just got to be like, “Wow, this is probably the only one that had that situation in it.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I remember there being a big criticism of that movie. For folks that are listening, it’s the Harriet movie with, I think Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman. I heard that was a big criticism of it, that the part you just mentioned about having a black antagonist as well.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah, and it’s not even real. He’s not real.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, they manufactured him for the movie.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. It’s like what is that? That’s them sabotaging a very… Like to me, even my fans, right? And a lot of people, there’s a reason why Yasuke flopped on Netflix, right? It’s like, all you had to do is tell the story of Yasuke. You didn’t have to make it about mecha robots and supernatural aliens. You didn’t have to do all that. Just tell the story of Yasuke, it would’ve been great. You know what I’m saying? You know what I’m saying? It’s like they go so far over like we just can’t have history connected to black folks, right? In a positive light. We got to make it different. We got to make it more marketable.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, there were…. That’s funny because I remember when that came out and a lot of people were like, “Oh man, this is so good.” And I remember watching and being like, “Really? It’s not good.”

Manuel Godoy:
That was media hype, right? But once you actually got people who actually watched, they were like, “Why are we doing this?” They were like, “He’s not even the main character.”

Maurice Cherry:
He’s the main character there. There is like you said all these weird supernatural elements to it. And then I also think it was just too short. They tried to put too much into six episodes and it just… I don’t know. I didn’t think it was good at all.

Manuel Godoy:
And the littlest part was the actual historical parts.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Manuel Godoy:
Where there was flashbacks of his time with Nobunaga. It was like, “Oh, that’s amazing.” And then all of a sudden it’s back to, “Okay, trash story.”

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I would imagine probably one benefit of you using these historical stories and mythology and stuff like that is it takes out that comparison element. If you’re doing superheroes, for example, people might look at this and be like, “Oh, well this is just like, blah, blah, blah from Marvel.”

Manuel Godoy:
You can’t do that. And that’s a huge power to us. They can’t compare us, right? So the critics have to actually make a well-informed decision. They can’t just say, “Oh, this is just like this except you…” Or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ll tell you a story. I think I told this story on the show before maybe like, I don’t know, hundreds of episodes ago. But when I was younger, when I was a teenager, I really was into… I mean, I’m still into comic books now, and maybe not in the same fervor, but I was really into comic books and was like, “Yeah, I’m going to make my own comic books.” And I was in rural Alabama just drawing stuff up or whatever. And this is back when Yahoo had these user groups online, like Yahoo groups. And they had one that was dedicated to black comic books. I think it was called Black Comix with an X, like B-L-A-C-K C-O-M-I-X. And I remember going in there and I was showing off my stuff like that. And one of the people who had responded, one of the people who responded was the Dwayne McDuffie, had responded back to it and trashed it.

Maurice Cherry:
But he trashed it, I mean, not in a good way, but certainly trashed it in the way of like, “Oh, this is just like, blah, blah, blah from Marvel.” It was that sort of comparison, which honestly I was literally basing it off of that. I was looking at Marvel comic books and trying to make the Black Cyclops or whatever. You know what I’m saying? He trashed it. I was like, “Oh, shit. I can’t believe I was trying to do that.” And then I didn’t really know who Dwayne McDuffie was then. Of course people know who he is now in terms of his contributions. But yeah, I can see how not going that superhero route is a definite unique selling proposition and advantage for you in the market.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. You definitely don’t want to get caught in that bubble where you end up basically doomed from the start.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Manuel Godoy:
It’s like you can’t get market cap because it’s already taken up. And what we’re trying to do is the exact opposite. We’re trying to basically develop a market from the ground up and then dominate that to the point where if you make anything they’re going to be like, “Oh, like Black Sands or like this title from Black Sands Entertainment.” And it starts being like we’re the gatekeepers, right? So they’ve been avoiding this topic for 50 years, so nobody better complain at all when we dominate this space and then gate keep. “Oh, man, listen…” “Nah, bro. Y’all had 50 years to do this. Y’all ain’t never did it, so we got to gate keep.”

Maurice Cherry:
That’s true. That’s true. Let’s switch gears here a little bit. I know we’ve talked a good bit about Black Sands, and we’ll talk more about it later, but I want to know about your origin story since we’re in the vein of comics here. Tell me about where you grew up.

Manuel Godoy:
I was born and raised in New York, right? Queens specifically. And also some time in Alabama as well. Pretty cool. At the end of the day, New York is a different kind of place, man. You got to really embrace new ideas. Everything changes in freaking two years in New York, nothing stays the same, right? So that was always a huge thing for us was that times change a lot faster in New York than anywhere else. I was also in the military for a while. So I spent about six years in the military army. Just been a pretty crazy ride. Not really knowing what the heck you were trying to do in life, so I went to the military early, like right after high school.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Manuel Godoy:
And it was good for me. I probably would’ve stayed in the military if my knees didn’t blow out. But at the end of the day, destiny calls. Things changed. I did some high, big brain stuff outside the military. I was a freaking, oh yeah, a telecommunication engineer. So it was a really big brain job, very lucrative. And then it got all outsourced to India, right? This was the Great Outsourcing in 2010. Everything started getting outsourced. That field just disappeared off the face of the earth. I moved around to San Diego to get a degree. Finished it up in New York, Queens College as a economics major. And in about 2016, I finally got my first comic done: Kids 2 Kings and that’s when the actual business started happening.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Let’s bring it back to, again, those early days, when you said growing up in New York and you spent some time in Alabama. Were you so rounded by a lot of comics and comic books growing up?

Manuel Godoy:
No, no, no. I was a big anime guy. So me and all my friends and stuff were anime dudes. So we were the old Toonami peeps watching Dragon Ball and Yu Yu Hakusho and all the other stuff. That was my vibe. Also, video game fanatics. We were huge video game fanatics back then. That was our thing though. I wasn’t really a comic guy at all. Still ain’t to this day.

Maurice Cherry:
So back then, were you thinking, did you want to start your own anime series or anything like that back then, because you were around it all the time?

Manuel Godoy:
I wanted to make a video game series, a video game franchise based off Black Sands.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Manuel Godoy:
That was always my goal over time. In fact, I tried to do that first, get a degree in video game design. Didn’t work out for me, but that’s what I wanted at first, right? And that’s what the original idea was made for. And then I realized it was so expensive to make a video game and pivoted toward comics.

Maurice Cherry:
And now when you say you wanted to go into that, was this when you were looking to go to San Diego State?

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah, because I was going to the Arts Institute in San Diego first.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Manuel Godoy:
That was the first place I went and that was for video game programming or something like that. I think it was video game programming or design or something. And it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for me, so I switched up, went into creative writing at San Diego… Yeah, San Diego State. And then eventually ended up in economics. I did the smart thing. I didn’t do all the writing classes up front. I went to all my general studies so I could transfer over. So I didn’t waste too much time when it came to changing my degrees and stuff.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, it sounds like you were at least building that foundation, and then I think even that trial and error part with first studying games or going into game development and realizing this wasn’t what you wanted to do and then going into something else. I mean, college is the time where you can figure those things out, where you can decide what the path is that you want to take. Even if it may not suit the goal then, you’re still building that foundation, at least from what we can see now in hindsight is to where you are now.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah, for sure. Definitely was. But probably the biggest important thing was the economics, right? It’s like I can’t build a freaking chart or graph to save my life nowadays, right? Because I haven’t used it in so long, right? But the fundamentals of economics is what led me to the success I am today, right? Because I always think of things from a supply and demand perspective. I was never trying to do things in oversaturated markets. I knew how to get my proper price points, right? To figure out… Because the thing about it is I mean, the logic doesn’t even make sense of how I do business. I avoid comic bookshops as a comic book publisher, right? I avoid them like the plague. Don’t market to them. Nothing I care about that.

Manuel Godoy:
That right there is a conundrum unless I have some kind of evidence behind it, right? It makes no sense if I’m doing that from an outside perspective, but that’s what I do. I have the most expensive books in the black community. My books are just straight up more expensive than everybody else’s by far, yet I sell 10 times more than the next person up. So I sell more units than everybody else while also having the most expensive books. And these are all decisions that I’ve come to based on the actual field. For me, from the economics perspective of this community is that black people have no problem supporting things that matter to them. So that part of it is people think that black people are all poor, and it’s not true at all. There’s a whole bunch of wealth in our community and they buy very expensive things for their families. When they do it, it’s to make sure that their kids have a great upbringing, right? That they have a legacy built for them and everything else.

Manuel Godoy:
So what we’re providing for them is really high luxury products that they can be proud of, both the parents and the kids, and we could price it out to match that and they have no problem with that. And it kind of reminds me of I don’t know if you’ve had time in New York, but there’s a restaurant in Jamaica, Queens called Margaritas Pizza. Their cheese slice is like $3.50 for a slice of cheese. Everyone around them in the entire area has dollar slices. They’re like, “Hey, these poor black people, they can’t buy anything. This is a poor community.” Whatever, right? The one place that always has a line out the door with all the black people is the one that sells for 3.50 and everybody else won’t listen to the evidence. They won’t see the evidence saying, “Just make a superior product, that people will support you.” They don’t see that. All they simply do is just focus on their preconceived notions of what is the proper thing for the market.

Maurice Cherry:
There’s an interesting word that you used as you were describing that, that I’d like you to maybe talk about a little bit more, just in terms of how you’re viewing your product in the market. You said luxury, which I don’t think when people hear about comics or really anything like of this sort of caliber in this realm, they don’t really think about luxury.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I’m just curious. Talk about that a little bit more.

Manuel Godoy:
I’ll expand on that. I’m sorry. I just saw something from my wife.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh.

Manuel Godoy:
Basically, what I mean by luxury is at the end of the day, we do hard cover. We do hard cover anthologies of our books. They are library-bound. So in other words, you can’t break them apart if you wanted. It’s really tough to damage to them permanently, which is great, right? Especially if you give it to younger kids. They’re so easy to destroy things. The paper quality is very thick, so it’s very hard to crease. Even if you’re turning the pages like a crazy man, you won’t crease the pages. The art style is absolutely phenomenal, and that’s across the board in our entire company. You look at all the titles and you’ll be like, “Wow, these are all super high level professional stuff,” right? Basically we’re like Shōnen Jump. Shōnen Jump is basically the elites of Japanese Manga, right? If you’re in Shōnen Jump, you’re not going to be a bum. You’re not going to have basic stuff. You’re going to have the best content in the entire Japanese market. And that’s basically what we’re doing with our brand. And we price ourselves as such. We’re the best.

Manuel Godoy:
So people, they price what they think they should be at. I see people making comics for $5. $5 to sell a book for $5, because that’s what the comic bookshop does. But I’m like, “Our customers don’t shop at comic shops.” The overwhelming majority black consumers don’t shop at comic bookshops. They start at Target or whatever. $10 book is normal to them. $20 hard cover is normal to them.

Maurice Cherry:
I know you just said earlier, you were like, “I don’t go to comic shops.” You avoid comic shops. And I would imagine part of that reason is because of what you just said, that’s not where your target market is going to be. But then also I would imagine talking to those comic shops, that’s probably what some other publishers would do just in terms of just trying to get their books on the shelves.

Manuel Godoy:
Absolutely. That’s their only way of knowing how to sell, right? That’s the thing, they just don’t know how to sell any other way. So they use the traditional means to sell. And the thing about it is you got to deal with pricing and stuff, right? Why should they buy Black Sands for $10 when they could buy Black Panther for four? And I’m like, “Because Black Panther is not about history, how about that?” But they still… There’s that preconceived notion of what the market is. Why should you worry about a middle man when you could do it yourself? Just cut the middle man out because they’re already out of touch.

Maurice Cherry:
Did your time in the army help influence you when it came to just the idea of building Black Sands Entertainment?

Manuel Godoy:
Mostly the management side. So I’m a big believer in having subject matter experts, people who actually know what they’re doing and can handle operations without my guidance. So over time I’ve gotten employees or officers that really knew how to take things on without my help while I just do minimal amount of information to get the product done. And that has significantly helped us to scale compared to other people.

Manuel Godoy:
We’re very hands off in productions, and the people who are in charge, they know what they’re doing. They have a lot of skin in the game, and as a result, they really know what they’re doing. They learn the principles of management through me. And I might help in the initial recruitment of their team, but once that’s it, all I got to do is cut some checks and comics come out. I don’t want to have to think about what they’re doing. As long as our standards are up-to-date, right? But I’m not trying to figure out their story. If the fans like it, good. That’s all I care about, right? I’m not here like, “Well, I don’t think this story should go this way.” That is not my responsibility. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, I think also like you said with the number of titles that you have and that they focus even on different cultures and stuff, and forgive me for this reference, but you can’t Tyler Perry it where you’re like, your name is over the whole thing and you’re overseeing and micromanaging every part of the production.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah, you can’t do that. You got to let people do what they want. Just as long as they’re in the ballpark, you’re good to go. Because at the end of the day, this field is completely open, so it’s not like you have to be super freaking precise, right? You just make good stories. For instance, I’ll give you some examples. Grenada’s Shadow, that’s our Moorish title that’s coming out very soon in the next month or so. It’s already done. And that one is about an assassin who’s a Moor, who’s basically trying to undermine the Crusaders. When Spain was basically… When basically European powers and the Pope specifically was trying to take back Spain from Moorish occupation, which has gone on for 400 years. So this guy who got killed by… His whole village and stuff got killed by Crusaders is now an assassin taking out really high level leaders of the Crusaders. It’s dope. It’s a dope story, and it’s very different from what you would normally expect when people make these titles, right? No superhero powers, nothing, just straight up Assassins Creed type joint.

Manuel Godoy:
We have Lion’s Game: Masters of Mali, where it’s a martial arts tournament in ancient Mali. We have all these fighters from all across Africa coming together to fight in the capital. And one of the fighters is somebody who was the great grandson of a previous Mansa who was basically assassinated and usurped. So he has a legacy he’s trying to reclaim in secret, so he joins this martial arts tournament. And it’s crazy, it’s like one of those… It’s just like Baki or something like that. It’s really freaking hardcore, hyper masculine, martial arts tournament type stuff. And it’s a different vibe, but it’s still the same thing. We’re showing culture. We’re putting stories that will be dope in modern day settings and just putting it in an ancient culture. So you can always have a good connection to great ancient civilizations prior to slavery. That idea that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Everybody in America says that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whenever we have any type of adversity. “Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Where’s our Rome?

Maurice Cherry:
Of the titles that you have now, is there one that really stands out to you as a favorite?

Manuel Godoy:
Out of the ones that are not made by me, right? I would say Lion’s Game is probably my favorite just because the story is crazy, first of all. You’re going to have a lot of martial artists from all across Africa, with their own cultures, their own martial art style that’s real. And a lot of characters that people may have never known before, but actually were real people in the old times. It’s just culturally fun. I mean, it’s just culturally amazing and while still being a hit for the parent, for the fathers specifically. This is not a title for the kids. They’ll probably watch it. The teens will probably watch it anyway, but the parents, specifically the dads, them 30 to 40 year old dads are going to be like, “This is the best comic I’ve ever read in my life.” It’s going to have that vibe.

Manuel Godoy:
Super hyper masculine, forget your feelings. This is raw. And we haven’t done any titles like that at Black Sands, but this is one that I felt like it would definitely work. And even though it’s written by Kevin Brown, it was originally my idea because what I do is I do competitions in my Patreon community and I have like a topic. I’m like, “This kind of topic would really sell well to my fans.” I automatically know what kind of topic it is. And I’m like, “Who’s going to give the best possible pitch for this story?” And then I judge them and I say, “The one that does the best, who has the best possible pitch, they’re given an opportunity to get published by us, and we do everything,” right? We mentor them. We get them the artists. We pay for their production. We give them royalties on the book sales.

Manuel Godoy:
They’re starting their career on the Black Sands all because they won a competition. But the competition has 100, 200 applicants. So it’s not like they’re just a random guy with an idea. They had to beat out a whole bunch of other people who had the same marching orders. You know what I’m saying?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Manuel Godoy:
So this story was heavily curated before it ever got a chance to start being written and this guy killed it. So I was like, “Yeah, this one right here has super longevity. This one is probably going to get to screen very fast in the future after comic books come out. I think this one’s going to be very quickly picked up as a, either a live action or a show of some sort, because it’s never been done. It’s perfect for the time we’re in now. The Bakis, the Syngins and all these other martial arts tournament type shows are very in right now. So this is going to fit perfectly.

Maurice Cherry:
Talk to me some more about this Patreon community. How did that come about?

Manuel Godoy:
Well, it’s always been something that we’ve always had. A large community. Our community wasn’t that big, maybe two years ago, but once we started raising capital, it ballooned out of control like really big. The way we give back to the community, besides the comic books that we make and stuff like that is we give them opportunities. Opportunities is what we do. So voice acting opportunities, publishing deals through competitions. They do a competition, they get in there. Early access to investment rounds, so when we do our investment rounds. Patreons and the previous investors always get two weeks or more of the exclusivity where they get to buy up as much stock as they want before we open it up to the public. And that can make a huge difference in the world when we have early bird specials.

Manuel Godoy:
Most of our Patreons are actually investors already, so they have stock. They get a 10% discount on their stock. So if you were investing $5,000, you got $500 worth of stock for free. So it makes a huge difference if you’re on the higher side of investors. If you’re investing $100, it ain’t going to matter much if you get early access or not. But when you’re investing thousands, it matters a lot.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Manuel Godoy:
And so that’s been the huge reason why people join us. The future opportunities that we give them is like the call. And usually what happens is when we’re raising capital, we have a downtick, so we lose a lot of Patreons over time when we’re at raising capital. And then when we’re no longer raising capital, and now we’re preparing for the next round, we drastically increase in Patreons. So it’s like a huge ebb and flow. Everybody’s basically flowing into the investment round, the one that wants that’s done. Everybody who didn’t make it into that investment round is like, “Dang, I can’t miss the next one.” So they start flowing back into the Patreon, right? It’s like it’s just the way the ebb and flow of the Patreon community is now.

Manuel Godoy:
So right now we’re about 1,500 members in and we have over 20,000 a month in donations. So it’s pretty big. It’s a pretty big community, much bigger than other people for the same amount of Patreons. If you go on the website, Grafion, you’ll see that in our category, most people’s average pledge is 2.50, something like that. $2.50. Our average pledge is about $14. While we might have much less subscribers than some people on the list, we still collect way more than them, even though they’re higher on the list, just because our community is in. They’re like super in.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Okay, so you built this on Patreon. Okay, I was trying to… As you were sort of mentioning that, I was like, “What platform are you using?” But you’re using Patreon. Okay. All right. Yeah, Patreon has been, I think really for a lot of artists and creators, Patreon has been a pretty good platform for them to be able to at least have those kinds of different tiers and things like that. But if you’re bringing in that much per pledge, that’s great. That’s great. I had Revision Path on Patreon for years and it was not that good. We ended up getting off of there, but –

Manuel Godoy:
The main thing about growth of Patreons is it’s not a monthly thing. I think the whole preconception of Patreon is bad because it messes up the way people should be strategizing growing Patreon communities, right? It’s all about opportunities. So in other words, let’s say you’re a video game… Video game companies do great on Patreon. One, here’s why. They get betas. Betas all the time, right? Beta access. “Hey, this is what we developed this week. Download it.” Boom. But two, “Oh, you want to be a side character. You want to write a line for certain characters who’s a side character in the story. You want to write a paragraph, right? Submit your stuff.”

Manuel Godoy:
People are getting opportunities to be a part of the production all the time, which is why those communities grow so fast, because they’re saying, “Hey, next week we’re going to be getting some designs. We’re going to put some Patreons in the community into the game. If you’re active at this date, you’ll be able to apply.” And then people flood in, right? Because they want their opportunity to shine. Or, “We’re about to have voice acting for our thing. We’re about to do some casting. It’s going to start on January 1st. So if you’re a Patreon on January 1st, you’ll be able to apply,” right? Don’t even do no open casting, just straight up only Patreon casting. Boom, hundreds of people sign up.

Manuel Godoy:
This is the way to get… Converting people to sign up on Patreon is super freaking hard. So you got to give them a very high incentive to do the first month. They’ll stick around. About 60% of all the people who sign up for some kind of special event even if they don’t make it. About 60% will stay long term. So 40% will die off pretty quickly when they don’t get the job or whatever the heck opportunity is happening. But about 60% will stay because they see that there’s always a new opportunity is coming eventually.

Manuel Godoy:
That’s the idea. Pump and… It’s not pump and dump. It’s pump and freaking like pump and hold. There you go. Pump and hold, right? It’s like you try to hold on to as many people as you can after you pump it. And then the next pump, you got to get another push. It’s never monthly. Some months I’ll just lose 50 Patreons and I won’t gain a single Patreon that month. It’ll be a net negative 50. So I’ll gain Patreons, but it’s not at the rate to replenish the people that left. So I’ll have negative 50 on that month. And then some months I’ll have 400 new Patreons.

Maurice Cherry:
So that’s a nice, I mean, for folks that are listening, hell, for me too, that’s a nice lesson on how to man manage doing some sort of like a Patreon type of a community like that, if you’re using Patreon. But no, that’s good information to know. I mean, I think certainly, you mentioned having this background in economics, that’s probably something a lot of independent creators don’t have when it comes to approaching the mechanics of how you build equity and build money for the company in order to do the kind of things you want to do.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. I just don’t think people understand that. I mean, they don’t even take the examples that are clearly in their face. Netflix doesn’t get subscribers by having a whole bunch of shows they can watch. Netflix gets subscribers because Squid Game is the number one talked about series in the country and it just came out. Because Bird Box is the number one story in the country right now and people want to see it and they can only see it through Netflix, so they sign up and that’s the first time they ever sign up and then they might stick around. You understand? But they got to have some big win to get people to sign up because people aren’t just signing up. They aren’t signing up because they have a service, right? They’re signing up because of a specific thing they absolutely have to see. And then they’re like, “Eh, might as well stick around.” You know what I’m saying?

Manuel Godoy:
So, but people don’t look at that and say, “That’s the business model for subscriptions.” It’s what’s going to get people to sign up? World of Warcraft spends $100 million on just expansions because they have to get those people who might have lapsed, those people who are not subscribing to resubscribe or become a new subscriber. They got to have some big, giant ridiculous event. They can’t just be, “Hey, we’re the number one freaking MMO in the world.” That’s not good enough to get new subscribers. It’s good enough to keep them, but it’s not good enough to get them. You know what I’m saying? So you got to have big, over the top things in order to get people to be motivated to subscribe, because subscription is the most difficult purchase in the world. They’re in a contract. So it’s not like, “Hey, I just bought some food, right? People have no problem giving you a $100, right? But if you said, “Hey, just give me $15 a month, they’re like, “Ooh, wait. Whoa.”

Maurice Cherry:
That is the truth. That is the truth. Absolutely.

Manuel Godoy:
They’re like, “Wait a minute, a month? Can’t I just give you a $100?” They’re like, “Yeah, but it’s going to take you seven months, eight months to…” “Yeah, but 15 a month though, I don’t know.”

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about Shark Tank because you did mention at the top of the show, starting off the year with the Shark Tank appearance. Please, I want to know how did it come about? What was it like facing Kevin Hart? Tell me all about it.

Manuel Godoy:
He’s brutal, man. He’s brutal. He’s a lot taller in real life, and I don’t mean height. He’s a very dominant dude. And that fight went on a lot longer than what y’all saw. People were like, “Man, you should have countered for this.” I did. I did. I did. There was other offers on the table. But at the end of the day, Kevin Hart knew he had veto power. He just knew it, right? It’s one thing about you got to know who you are and what you’re worth. So he knew he had veto power, right? And even the other Sharks admitted it too during the debate.

Manuel Godoy:
Like for instance, Kevin O’Leary, he accepted my counter. He said 10% and a 25 cent royalty on books. He was like, “I’ll take that deal for 500,000.” He was like, “I’ll take that deal.” But he understood that the more we talk is like Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart. He’s saying he’s going to make this show. If he’s saying he’s going to give you this, that and the other, that’s not a normal resource that you’ll ever get. That’s like you’re saying this and he said… That’s a lot different from what… That 30% you’re paying, you’re not giving up 25% equity for $500,000. That’s not what you’re doing. You’re not giving up more, 25% more equity than you came in for, right? For the money. The money doesn’t matter at all. In fact, you didn’t even need the money. The reality was you were doing that for Kevin Hart’s specific direct involvement in all of your productions from now until the end of time, and that’s a very strong person. Plus mark Cuban, right?

Manuel Godoy:
Plus mark Cuban and his resources. But specifically Kevin Hart, who’s like a top five paid actor in the world, like independent productions and businesses that he’s just straight up done himself who understands the idea of owning as opposed to, “Hey, let’s give this to Hollywood and have them make a show.” He’s like he doesn’t believe that. He believes in owning. He’s already done all that. It’s time for him to own it himself. So this is huge when it comes to what it means on the deal side. So a lot of people look at it, they just think 25%, you got robbed. And you’re like, “Do you know how much it costs for Kevin Hart to endorse your company?”

Maurice Cherry:
Right?

Manuel Godoy:
“The real dollar implications of that endorsement.” He said, and then Chase’s like, “Hey, check out the new card,” right? When Kevin Hart does the commercial, that’s $3 million minimum. That’s $3 million minimum for, to use a commercial with Kevin Hart doing it. That super bowl commercial probably cost them $10 million minimum. It was like a 30 second commercial, right? It is like that is the reality of just the endorsement side. Not even his actual real like work. His real actual involvement in productions. So the implications is way more than 25% is what I bought.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. How have things changed since the Shark Tank appearance?

Manuel Godoy:
Well, one, we’re getting a lot more publicity. We’re getting our verifications and stuff like that. We’re starting to get that. Sales has jumped. We still haven’t gone public with the deal yet just because we’re still negotiating. But we’re about done. We’re very close to making announcements on our actual go-to-market strategy. But once that happens, that’s when the stuff will really hit the fan. We have a huge amount of major press things happening right now, so that’s going to be coming out for the next two weeks. We’re going to have stuff like that happening. So it’s going to be huge rolling success. The idea is don’t lose your 15 minutes of fame. He is like, “Get on it and keep getting the press. Keep getting the things. Keep staying in front of the camera as much as you can in order to stay relevant. Be the top story.”

Manuel Godoy:
So that’s what we’re doing. We’re lucky that we’re still capable of doing that even though a lot of other Shark Tank companies don’t have this kind of follow up, right? They don’t get on the big major shows or anything like that. So the fact that we are is freaking huge for us. We’re doing that before Kevin Hart says, “Man, Black Sands is like the best thing ever. We’re about to make billions,” right? Once he starts saying that publicly, that’s when it really will start becoming like an unstoppable force. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Because you’ll have that endorsement and then coming from him like that, a lot of other people are just going to check it out from there.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. Not just an endorsement, but big money people will start gravitating towards you. Not everything has to be made by us. Black Sands is clearly going to be made by us. We want to control it and we want to own everything of it, right? But there’s some titles that we just don’t have the manpower for, but we don’t want to stop these creators who are under our brand from having their own shows. So we might have more traditional deals out there for some other IPs in our company, which makes like three, four, five, six different shows all being under direct development at the same time, all because of Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Productions and everything else. So that’s the crazy thing about it, right? Is this is about to be a black Renaissance when it comes to content and ownership because I have investors, regular small investors.

Manuel Godoy:
And this is the thing I always tell people too, if we get to a billion dollar valuation in say five years, which isn’t impossible, it’s not impossible at all. Two seasons of Black Sands would’ve already came out. Licensing and merchandising deals with Walmart and everything else would’ve already probably happened by then. And these are like really big licensing deals.

Manuel Godoy:
So if this is already happening within five years and we get to a billion dollar market cap, right? And go IPO. Somebody who invested $5,000 at my $5 million valuation back in 2020, they’ve maxed out, that was the max that the government said they could do, because they’re unaccredited. So they $5,000, the max you can give. And they gave 5,000 because they just were hardcore believing in Black Sands. They’ll be able to flip that 5,000 for a million dollars, 200 times return because that’s the valuation we’re at now. We’re at a million dollar market… I mean a billion dollar market cap, and they invested at five million, they basically are getting 200X roughly around there if they sell their shares. That’s huge, that’s real generational wealth. And there’s a lot of people who did it. There’s a lot of people who invested at the max in the first round.

Maurice Cherry:
What would you say has been the toughest thing that you’ve had to deal with since starting all of this?

Manuel Godoy:
Fighting my own personal frustrations not blowing up. I mean, online, they see my bravado, right? And my toughness, but I hold a lot back. I hold a lot of my hating back. I’m a huge hater, right? I just don’t let problem go. But I believe if you’re not a hater, you ain’t really… You don’t really care about life. You got to be mad when somebody else gets an achievement that you didn’t get, especially if you’ve done more than them. So I’m a huge freaking hater. Holding that energy back, not to disparaging other colleagues, even though I know that their claim is completely bogus or their achievements should have been my achievements, I should have been on certain list or whatever. That was the thing that I felt was the hardest thing to do over this entire time. Because you can really make yourself as this super negative force in this space if you wear your emotions on your chest. And I try to, even though people see me all the time bashing Hollywood. Hollywood’s not a person, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Right.

Manuel Godoy:
I used to always articulate things to not make it personal, not try to burn any specific bridge. So if you still were hurt by what I was saying, the main thing was you probably were somebody that I didn’t want to be in colleagues… I mean ever work with in the first place because you’re one of those people. So that was the hardest thing, controlling that, because like I said, we’ve probably been the best independent publisher for three years now, yet we were never on a top 10 indie black mangas or indie black comics you need to read, right? We never got any kind of accolades or something like that, regardless of what the numbers said. They just didn’t care. They didn’t like any research. You Google black comic books, you’d find us. So how the hell did you avoid us?

Maurice Cherry:
I’ll tell you because I’ve been doing this now with Revision Path for nine years, and I share that frustration that you’re talking about with you put in all this work and you don’t feel like sometimes everyone sort of recognizes that or gives you the credit that you feel you deserve for it. That’s just, I mean, unfortunately that’s just the media. The media’s always going to glam on to whatever the newest thing is, whether you’ve been in… Especially like if you’ve been doing this for a while and you have longevity, they really only care about the new stuff. They’re like, “What’s the new thing that’s coming out? What is it that is keeping you motivated to continue? I feel like I might know the answer to this question, but I’d love to hear you sort of. Where does this drive come from?

Manuel Godoy:
I just want to see Rome burn. Like that’s it. I just want to see Rome burn to the ground. I’m Hannibal at the gates. I always think of that whenever I think of what my mission is. I’m not here to be successful. I’m not here to tell my great story. People always trying to make it so indifferent. “Oh, I’m just trying to tell a great story. I just want to be a creative person. I love this and I’m so humble.” No, I want to see Rome burn to the ground and that means we have to have absolute veto power and control over our own stories. It’s the only way we’ll ever be able to stop Hollywood from dictating what is acceptable black history, because we don’t need 10 new black slave and civil rights stories a year. I don’t need to see the new ways of lynching people like, “Oh man, I just need to see that. I need to see a new way.”

Manuel Godoy:
“Oh, we’re about do a Emmett Till documentary.” “Yeah, I definitely want to see Emmett Till die again. That would be great.” “Oh, you know what? You know what? This black history we’re deciding we’re going to talk about the Black Wall Street Massacre. Yeah, we’re going to do a whole series on the Black Wall Street Massacre.” I said, “How about do a series on Black Wall Street before the massacre? How about that?” It was like but we don’t control the budget. We don’t control the means. We don’t control any of it. So if we don’t take that control and show that we can actually do numbers with that control, then they will always be able to dictate what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable for black people to consume. And I’m tired of it. I want to see that entire infrastructure burn to the ground. And the only way that’s possible is if we dominate this space and be complete tyrants once we get there.

Maurice Cherry:
Who are some of the people that influence you?

Manuel Godoy:
There’s three, right? And I said this in a previous interview. There’s three that influenced me. You’d be surprised, one of them was Kevin Hart, which was kind of ironic. Tyler Perry and George Lucas. Those three people. What I respect is not success. I don’t care about success, because you can be successful and a complete tool at the same time. Your whole career can be canceled out. Everything could happen overnight because you are still a product of the system. So boldness is the stuff that I respect more than anything. People who’ve risked a lot in order to be successful.

Manuel Godoy:
For George Lucas, it was holding onto his IP rights, making moves to make sure that he never lost them. Over decades of freaking negotiating with Hollywood elites and stuff like that, he was like, “No, I’m not giving up these rights no matter how much y’all pay me.” And that made him the only billionaire who wrote a story. There is no other billionaire who wrote a story in the world. Period. Everybody who’s written a story don’t even have $100 million to their name. The creator of Naruto, Kishimoto, he’s worth $40 million today. If you believe the highest estimates of his net worth. But the man’s IP: Naruto, has brought in $15 billion, so he is not even worth 1% of his brand. Stan Lee died with less than 1% of Marvel’s brand.

Manuel Godoy:
This is the reality of all these people. They simply they’re considered successes by the world’s standards, but at the end of the day, they got robbed. They made everything. They worked nonstop for their entire lives and they didn’t even have 1% of the thing that they created. And only George Lucas was the one that ran the table. He basically kept 50% of everything Star Wars ever made. And that’s power.

Manuel Godoy:
Tyler Perry, everybody hates him in the industry because he’s going to make his stories whether you like it or not. You can say, “Am I a fan of Tyler Perry’s movies?” Eh, sometimes. For the most part it doesn’t really matter what I think. All I know is if Tyler Perry feels like making a movie, he’s going to do it. You can invest. If you don’t, he’s going to make it anyway and release it right on your freaking network whether you like it or not. He’s going to do whatever the heck he feels like. He’s going to cast whoever he feels like. He’s going to buy whatever he feels like, and you can’t stop him. And the reason why you can’t stop him is because he did all this. He was rich before you ever met him. Before Hollywood ever gave him a chance, his shows were already generating millions of dollars locally through the fans.

Manuel Godoy:
Build the infrastructure, and then these people in Hollywood can’t dictate nothing to you. When they were like, “We want to buy Madea.” They were like, “No. You can fund some of it, but you ain’t owning Madea whether you like it… I’m just not giving it to you. I don’t care what you offer me. I already make millions of dollars.” That’s the grind. And Kevin Hart, he said, “Why the hell am I going to get less than 5% of a tour or 3% of a tour or 3% of a tour’s proceeds if I’m the fucking main attraction. If the tickets are being sold because of me, why do I get only 3% of the total amount of money? Everybody else is making money off of me. So how about I pay for everything? I hire everyone. I get the venues. I do the marketing. And then if I sell out, I keep freaking 80% of everything made.”

Manuel Godoy:
He went into massive millions and millions of dollars up front. You can’t do that stuff after the show is already done. You got to book tours half a year in advance. So he had to go real deep into the red before his first show. So that’s power to me to make plays like that and just trust it. Say, I trust myself to make this happen. I believe my fans truly believe in what I’m doing. And I’m going to finally flip this industry. I’m not going to be an actor for the rest of my life. I’m not going to let people dictate my career and if they feel slightly offended by what I did, they can cancel out my entire career. You can’t cancel them now. You can’t cancel Tyler Perry. You damn sure can’t cancel George Lucas. You can’t cancel them no matter how much you care, you can’t do nothing to stop them. And that’s the people that I really respect, people who have done enough, built enough of their own fan base that they cannot be stopped by conventional means. You can’t stop them.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Where do you want Black Sands Entertainment to be? Where do you want to be personally as a business owner? Talk to me about that.

Manuel Godoy:
Well, I just want to be in the top 10 animes in the world, period. So top 10 animes in the world for Black Sands, maybe some video games down under our belt as well. But the idea is if that happens, we’re basically going to dominate the entire space, right? Because we’re independent and that’s never happened before. It’s never happened before. An independent production get into the top 10 in the world and do massive licensing and merchandising. It’s never happened. And when I prove that model, it proves that black consumers are no longer something that can be measured by Hollywood, because they’ve never seen it before. They’ve never seen somebody just do it without any of the metrics they normally would use. And that is where I would like to be. I would like to just be a king maker in this space, I decide what’s hot, what’s not.

Manuel Godoy:
And because of that, they all have to work with us. Not just me, but all the other creators under my umbrella and give us the best possible deals or they don’t work with us, period. Because we’re just automatically the king makers in this space. If you want to do anything in this space, you have to come through us, right? So that’s the idea of what I want the company’s position to be in, right? That’s the idea of where I want Black Sands, the anime to be in, right? And for me, I’d like to relax a little bit in five years. Probably can’t but it’s very intense right now.

Maurice Cherry:
It sounds intense. Yeah.

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. But for me, I’m in my Thanos mode right now, right? I’m trying to get the stones. I’m trying to get the stones and I don’t care who I got to crush to do it, right? I just can’t wait for the day when I finally rest. “He’s done what he was supposed to do. It’s now broken. The system is broken.”

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you and about Black Sands Entertainment and everything online?

Manuel Godoy:
Yeah. So follow us on all platforms: black Sands Entertainment. Manuel Godoy on LinkedIn if you want to work with me. Blacksands.com is my store, right? So you want to buy some books, go ahead and get them from there. BSP Comics is my app. So you can download a whole bunch of freaking black comic books there. You don’t actually have to download it. It’s server side. So it’s about 70 megabytes for the app. So you don’t have to worry about that. It’s 45 different titles from all types of creators. Really cool stuff. And lastly, if you want to be an investor. Investor round is over. We just raised a million dollars for BSP Comics. Our next investment round is for the Black Sands Anime. In order to participate, it’s probably best that you just sign up for Patreon at patreon.com/blacksands, because they’re going to be the first investors. And that investment round should happen in the summer. So there you go.

Maurice Cherry:
Manuel Godoy, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I mean your passion and your drive behind what you’re doing with Black Sands Entertainment is super infectious. I’m hyped up just listening to you talk about this. This just felt like a masterclass in how to build an empire. So I hope for people that are listening, they definitely will check it out and will get behind you. I mean, it sounds like you already have a very strong community behind what you’re doing, and I hope that with what we’re doing here with Revision Path by having you tell your story, we can get this out to even more people. So thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Manuel Godoy:
Thank you. Appreciate it, man.

Joe Blau

It’s our anniversary! For this special episode, I dug way back in the archives and talked to one of our early guests, Joe Blau. He was a software engineer then, but seven years have passed, and now he’s an angel investor and the founder and CEO of his own company — Atomize.

We started chatting about the past seven years, and Joe talked about his time working for Uber and how that experience got him involved in crypto. We also talked about smart contracts, Web3, the metaverse, and a lot more. Stay tuned for the story I give near the end!

Thank you all so much for allowing me to bring these amazing interviews to you since 2013!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.

Joe Blau:
Hi, everybody. Also, thank you for having me back on, Maurice. My name is Joe Blau, and I am the founder of a no-code smart contract platform called Atomize, and I’m also an angel investor based in San Francisco, California.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. How has this year been going for you so far?

Joe Blau:
This year has actually been pretty amazing for us. I know last time we spoke, I was mentioning that I would go to Amazon and back and chat with my girlfriend. She’s now my wife. We have two young boys, and I would say that this year is probably shaping up to be one of the most amazingly in a good way years of my career. So I’m super excited about what’s been going on and what’s been kind of opened up in terms of opportunity for myself, and then also for a couple of friends and the company that we’re founding and we’re building.

Maurice Cherry:
How has it been just kind of working over these past few years with the pandemic and everything?

Joe Blau:
I would say that the pandemic has really introduced a lot of new dynamics into the workplace. I have a lot of friends that have gone from remote work to back in the office and back and forth. There are lots of conversations about what’s the right way. What’s the wrong way? Can we even go back in? Do we need to go back in? I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends are really unhappy with this disconnect between being out of the office and still trying to have this tight-knit relationship with your colleagues.

Joe Blau:
It’s been interesting to see that transpire in certain companies. And then other spaces, I’ve seen actually increased productivity where the teams already have this bond. They kind of already know what they’re doing, and it makes it so that people can really live their lives and have more of a work/life balance. For me personally, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to live in this new world where I can actually have that balance.

Joe Blau:
I can work from my desk in my house, have this balance of being able to be creative and be productive and not have to go into an office. So I’ve actually been trying to take advantage of it. My co-founder and I were trying to become more proponents of that lifestyle, but it has been tough because you do have people that really thrive and live off of this in-person engagement. I would say I’m one of those, too. I love meeting people in-person.

Joe Blau:
I love going to events. I love going to parties. I love meeting people. But I think that there’s this really interesting push and pull in the community right now and in all office spaces between should we be in the office or should we not be in the office and then the trade-offs of doing that hybrid.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Balance, I think, is something that so many folks now, especially so many working folks, are really trying to figure out. Companies are trying to figure it out because they’ve sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into real estate that is largely sitting empty because people are working from home. So some companies are like, “Well, maybe we’ll do hybrid. Maybe we’ll try to figure out some way to still keep our brick-and-mortar location, but then also be able to work remotely.”

Maurice Cherry:
I know just for the show, we have folks that are in the advertising industry. I found it’s been really rough for the them because they’re really used to that in-office collaboration that you just really can’t replicate over Zoom. You can try. I think we’re starting to get better at it and such, but it’s still something we’re all trying to balance.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I’m a big fan of Star Trek. So I liken this to the whole world was basically traveling at warp speed and, all of a sudden, the pandemic hit and just dropped us out of warp. Now, we’re all looking around saying, “What are we doing? Was what we were doing before actually productive or is it counterproductive?” We’re asking a lot of questions that we just were never asking before because we were all just going with the flow because everybody else was doing it.

Joe Blau:
So I think these questions that are coming up are really important questions to ask about the future of work, and every company has their own take on how they’re trying to address it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I think also with this balance of trying to figure it out, I feel like that’s where a lot of these talks about the metaverse, and work metaverse spaces have started to come up. We’ll get into metaverse stuff later. But I think one thing is how technology has sort of risen to fill the gaps in some way. I mean Zoom had always been around, but it really blew up in 2020 because of all of this.

Maurice Cherry:
And then you’ve got other platforms that have just started to come up because of that, because now more people are video conferencing. So there’s browser-based video conferencing solutions. There’s ways that people are trying to still replicate that experience. So technology, interestingly, has started to fill the void, but it’s still a process.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I would say right when the pandemic started, I attended a lot of Zoom weddings. I attended a lot of Zoom everything. Nothing really, up until this point, has really been a substitute for just physically being there with people in meet space, in atom space. So Zoom does kind of fill that gap, and it definitely makes it a lot easier.

Joe Blau:
If you’re fundraising and you don’t have to go walk downtown and go to a bunch of different coffee shops, if you can just have four meetings in a row on Zoom in two hours, that’s a lot easier than having to go spend half of your day walking around talking to investors, but there’s trade-offs to that as well.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean I can tell the story now because I don’t work there anymore. But one of the companies I used to work for, they were trying to raise funds right during the start of the pandemic, like March, April, May, and it was just impossible. They would try to have these Zoom meetings, and people were either Zoomed out already, they just didn’t want to do anymore meetings, or they found it difficult to replicate at that same kind of in-person shaking hands, talking over drinks kind of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s just not the same over Zoom, especially when we were really trying to get a hold on what all of this was and how we were going to possibly come out of it. I mean the company is still around. It’s a shell of its former self, but it has impacted business in a big way.

Joe Blau:
One of the things that we are trying to do as, my co-founder and I, we’ve been thinking about this is we really want to see if there’s a way that we can embrace this new lifestyle because there are clearly people that really believe I should be able to work remote. I should be able to work anywhere. I want to be able to have a flexible lifestyle. So I’m looking at it more from the perspective of how do we embrace this, and what are the tools that are available for us to really take advantage of this new lifestyle and see if we can actually push this forward?

Joe Blau:
Because while there are trade-offs, I love going into the office. After I left Amazon, I pivoted to working at Uber. It was an in-office relationship, and I loved the time that I spent there. It was probably one of the best experiences in my career But right now, I feel like I’m at a point where I can step away and look back and healthily say I would rather be in a position where I can have a little bit more flexibility and have a little bit more of that balance and have a little bit more control over my time.

Maurice Cherry:
Actually, let’s dive into that a bit. When you first came on the show, which was back in 2015, you were working at Amazon as a software engineer and you had a startup that you had created called Canopsis that was working in the Internet of Things space. Now, I know you’re not at Amazon anymore, of course. You just mentioned you’re CEO of your own company now. Are you still building Canopsis? Is it still kind of in the wings?

Joe Blau:
We’re working on that for a little while, but I actually ended up sun-setting the company when I moved out work in Pittsburgh at Uber. So I’ll go through and I’ll kind of do a little bit of a historical what happened between our last interview and now, catching you up to speed since the last episode. I was at Amazon for a little bit over a year and a half working on the mobile point-of-sale application. I had a blast doing it, met a bunch of amazing colleagues and a bunch of amazing friends.

Joe Blau:
I ended up being tapped by a product manager at Uber who was actually the one that led scouting for the Uber ATG team, which is the self-driving car team at Uber. He reached out to me in mid-2015, said, “Hey, we’re building up a new iOS team out here. We need somebody to help us build the user interface for the self-driving cars. You’re going to be the second person on the team, and you’re going to help scale this team up.”

Joe Blau:
So I ended up saying, “Why would I pass this opportunity up?” I’m very big into sensors. I’m very big into sensor fusion. The self-driving car, to me, is the culmination of almost every sensor you can put into something. So in January of 2016, I ended up moving out to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I lived there for about three and a half years, and I was working on Uber self-driving car. So we were able to launch V-1 of the self-driving car and then V-2 of the self-driving car.

Joe Blau:
The software that I built and helped contribute to, we were able to conduct about 50,000 trips with actual passengers in our car in Pittsburgh, also down in Arizona, and a few trips in San Francisco. So it was a really great experience because I got a chance to work with some of the brightest minds in the software industry and in the automotive industry, amazing industrial designers, amazing software engineers, amazing infrastructure engineers, amazing LIDAR designers.

Joe Blau:
The people that invented Google Maps were working there. I mean we had the best of the best talent on the team. So I really enjoyed my time and my stint there. And then about three and a half years in, I started to want to work on a few other projects. I started to see kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. I had a feeling that Uber was eventually going to sell the self-driving car division due to the change in leadership. So I moved back to San Francisco, joined Uber AI, where I worked on a bunch of also really cool stuff.

Joe Blau:
The team was amazing, another group of extremely bright individuals. And then right after the pandemic started actually, we were fortunate enough to be able to capture some equity from being employees of Uber, and we were fortunate enough to be able to invest that into some cryptocurrencies. That basically gave us enough runway to kind of set ourselves free.

Joe Blau:
So I was able to leave Uber in early 2020, soon after the pandemic started, and took a year to kind of explore what I wanted to do, and then eventually linked up with one of my friends that I actually met at Uber ATG, who was an industrial designer. We were able to start building our company.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. That is quite a story. There’s a lot of points in there I want to touch on. I want to go back just briefly to Uber. I mean during that time that you were there with the whole self-driving car thing, there was a lot of stuff that went down just with the company, in general. Just a few of the things were around Travis Kalanick stepping down as CEO. There was a huge data breach. There was talk about employees tracking customers with this God mode.

Maurice Cherry:
Did you ever feel any of the fallout from those events, just working there? Was it a palpable thing that you were working for a company where this sort of stuff was going on?

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I mean I still have friends and I still have family members that are in the real world. They’re watching the news, and they see all of the stuff that’s happening. There were definitely lots of questions that I got about it. I had lots of friends that, when I would go visit them, they would say, “We’re going to take a Lyft. We’re not taking Uber,” even though I worked at Uber. As an Uber employee, you get free credits to ride in the cars. So for the most part, I never even paid for Ubers while I was there because you get $400 of free credits every month, or you used to.

Joe Blau:
So it was really tough, from that perspective. I think that whole season, I remember when that first started. It was in January of 2017. It was the Susan Fowler incident. Then there was the gray ball thing that you were talking about, where they were tracking people, reporters. There was Travis Kalanick yelling at the Uber driver. Then there was the guy in the-

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, I forgot about that. Yeah.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. Then there was the guy in India who was doing something nefarious over there. There was all these. Then there was the Anthony Levandowski taking data from Google. Then there was Travis Kalanick’s parents or his mom died in the boating accident. So there was this really compact six-month window where it was just drama every single month. We had a lot of colleagues leave. A lot of people left.

Joe Blau:
There’s a pretty fluid transfer of engineering between a lot of the Silicon Valley companies, so a lot of people that I knew that I was friends with all left and went to Facebook or Twitter or Amazon or whatever. So it was pretty tough. There was one saving grace for us, which is that because ATG was a bit insulated from the rest of the company, we were effectively our own company. We were our own separate LLC.

Joe Blau:
Because we were insulated from the rest of the company, we didn’t really feel a lot of those effects, I would say, as strongly as people that were in the rest of the world, the rest of the offices did. But it definitely had a negative impact on sentiment at the company and sentiment as a team because, in our mind, we’re building this service that’s supposed to basically make it so that you can always get a ride. The original saying with Uber was. “Push a button, get a ride.”

Joe Blau:
When you looked at the thing that drew me to Uber was actually a bunch of negative experiences that I had with taxis in a bunch of different cities where I would try to flag a taxi and the taxi would drive by. I remember being in LA and actually my co-founder at Canopsis, we were in LA and he’d lived in LA. There were a bunch of taxis on Hollywood Boulevard. We had just come out of a club. We went to go flag a taxi, and they were like, “No, no, no.” And then this other Caucasian couple comes up and they get right in and they go.

Joe Blau:
I’ve had a bunch of experiences like that in the United States. So for me, when I pick an Uber, the Uber always shows up. So for me, I wasn’t just like, “Oh, I like Uber because,” for whatever reason, because it’s cheaper or whatever. I like Uber because it actually allows me to get a cab and get from point A to point B and not need a car. I had a deeper rationale for why I would choose Uber over a cab. Now, Uber over Lyft, that’s a toss-up at that point.

Joe Blau:
But yeah, it was really tough during those years to be an employee of the company because we lost a lot of talent. People were not looking to work at Uber. Our leader had kind of lost a lot of his power to be able to be actionable and, at that point, he was replaced with Dara.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I remember those times when people were really actively boycotting Uber from the user side because all these things were happening. It’s interesting because I don’t know. Do you think Uber’s turned their reputation around because of the pandemic?

Joe Blau:
It’s a tough company right now. I think the reason that their reputation has kind of turned around is just because a lot of the things that they were doing that were interesting and kind of counterculture have just fallen by the wayside. All of their assets that they’ve owned in other countries have been sold off. So Uber in Russia got sold to Yandex. Uber in China got sold to Didi. Uber in the Middle East got sold to Careem. They’ve really offloaded a lot. Uber in Southeast Asia got sold to Grab.

Joe Blau:
So they’ve offloaded a lot of the risk of a lot of these controversial pieces that they were operating, and really it’s just become … Right now, Uber is effectively a food delivery service. It competes with DoorDash. It does have ride-sharing, but that’s not a big part of the business right now because nobody’s really traveling. So it’s a tough business to be in. And then also, you’re in extreme regulatory environment.

Joe Blau:
Either you’re driving people around, which has a lot of regulation around it, or you’re driving food around, and food has a lot more regulation around it. So it’s a very tough business to be in, and the margins are super low. They’re razor thin. It’s just a lot of optimization. When Uber was not really following the regulations, that was kind of what brought it to prominence. Now that Uber’s just behaving, nobody really cares anymore.

Maurice Cherry:
I was thinking about that as I was researching for this interview. I’ve been an Uber customer for over a decade. It’s amazing. The thing that drew me to Uber was similar to what you were talking about with cabs. I would fly out places, and then I couldn’t even get a cab to come home when I came to the airport in Atlanta. The cabs were like, “No, I’m not going to that neighborhood.” They’ll take me to downtown, which is past where I have to go.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I could hop on the train, and most of the time I would do that. But it’s like sometimes you’re just tired and you’re like, “I just want to go home.” Uber could actually take me to my apartment, where a cab wouldn’t do that. So I think it was that initial convenience, like you mentioned, that really brought people in. But yeah. Now I was wondering that just because of the pandemic.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean yeah, Uber delivers food, which their competitors really don’t do, at least in the ride-share space. Lyft hasn’t went out and done that yet. But no, I was wondering if it sort of turned things around because now so many people are using it almost as a utility because of that.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I mean I think it’s just gotten to the point where you’re either taking an Uber or a cab. What it also did was elevate the service of cabs. So cabs have to be more nimble. They need an app. They need to basically increase their service. So that increased competition helped make cabs a little bit better. But for me, I think I’m still in the same boat where it’s easier for me to just call an Uber or call a Lyft.

Joe Blau:
Right now I don’t work there. So I just basically do what everybody else does. I open the app, figure out which one is cheapest. And then I just pick that one, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Joe Blau:
So that’s where I am right now. But they’re in a position where they are trying to do a lot of partnerships and work with a lot of teams. That’s kind of the new direction is, instead of trying to just dominate the whole scene, they just want to partner and work with other people. That’s a great position to be in because you make a lot of friends that way. So it’s a good strategy.

Maurice Cherry:
So let’s talk about your current venture, Atomize. I’m looking at the Atomize website right now. It says, “Atomize let’s you deploy and interact with crypto smart contracts on chain without having to write code.” Now, before-

Joe Blau:
That’s a mouthful.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s a mouthful. Before we get into more about Atomize, tell me how you got into crypto. I mean I think you kind of alluded to it a little bit earlier with flipping that equity from Uber.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. So the journey actually started with me back in 2013. At the time, I was doing a bunch of contract work. There was a tech crunch reporter named John Biggs, and he wrote this article. It’s actually from April 8, 2013, and it’s called How to Mine Bitcoins. So I read the article. I followed all the instructions. I installed this miner basically on my computer, and I let it run all night. My fan went crazy. I ended up mining half of a bitcoin or something in this mining pool called Slush Pool, which is actually still around today.

Joe Blau:
And then after that, I just didn’t think about it because electricity in San Francisco is super expensive. I was just like, “I’m not going to waste my money on this thing,” that I think at the time it was maybe $20 or $18. I’m like, “I’m not mining this thing and I’m paying 40, $50 in electricity to get $20 of coin.” So I just left it alone. And then fast forward, in 2014, I met this individual in my building, and he was super excited about crypto.

Joe Blau:
He was like, “Oh, you got to check out this new thing. It’s called Ethereum. You got to check this out. It’s Ethereum. You’re going to love this thing. It’s like bitcoin, but it’s a decentralized computer. You can run anything on it. You can run any type of program you want. It’s like bitcoin, but with programming on top.” I remember telling him. I was like, “I’m not interested in that. All I’m focused on right now is mobile application development and sensors.” This is probably maybe six months before we first spoke.

Joe Blau:
This guy told me about Ethereum. I just totally blew him off. I was like, “I’m not interested in that. I’m only interested in mobile sensors and machine learning and stuff like that.” He was like, “All right, fine.” I nicknamed this guy, Oracle Zero now. But he introduced me to Ethereum, and I just totally passed it over. And then in mid-2016, I started hearing a little bit of rumblings, and I went and created a Coinbase account.

Joe Blau:
I was like, “Let me go see what this Ethereum thing is doing.” It had gone from the 50 cents that he had invested in at the ICO or the 25 cents that he had invested in at the ICO per Ethereum to $12 or something. I was like, “Man, that seems like a pretty good investment.” 40, 50, and whatnot. It was 50 extra money, something like that. So I was like, “Okay.” Maybe a little bit higher, 60, 70 extra money. So I was like, “Okay, this seems like a pretty interesting concept.”

Joe Blau:
So I ended up borrowing money from two of my really good friends and then taking some of my money and buying a whole tranche of Ethereum in mid-2016. I basically gave them this crazy term sheet. I was like, “I will pay you back 150% of your money in 2017 with this investment.” I told them. I was like, “Where else are you going to get a guaranteed investment of 50% return on investment in six months? Nobody’s going to give you that.”

Joe Blau:
You go to Allied Bank and they’re giving you 0.5% interest on your money. So I basically offered them this crazy deal, and they gave me money. They both wrote me checks. I deposited the money. I put it into the Coinbase. I bought crypto with it. And then I ended up paying them back in early 2017, which was actually, looking back, probably a bit of a financial mistake, but it did help introduce them to crypto because they saw the gains happen as I saw the gains happen.

Joe Blau:
And then 2017 was just that whirlwind. Ethereum went from $12 a coin to $1,500 a coin by the next year. So you have this thousands of percent run-up of this token. That was my first taste of like, “Oh, wow. This crypto investment thing is actually pretty interesting.” I was trading that whole time, but it wasn’t really fruitful because if you were trading in crypto and it was going up, everybody was making money. So everybody looked like a genius.

Joe Blau:
And then in December of 2017, that was when bitcoin hit its top. 28 days later, Ethereum hit its top. And then everything kind of came crashing down. I don’t know if this is just something innate in me, but I was already scared. So I had actually sold everything near January of 2018. So I was fully out. I had no more crypto. But what I was doing was I started paying attention to a lot of the technology that was being built. I was like, “Oh, what’s going on with these smart contracts?”

Joe Blau:
I actually wrote one of my first decentralized applications or it’s called a dApp, which it was a dog-renting website where you would go in and you could rent a dog and then put it back and stuff like that. It would all happen on the blockchain. So I built one of those, and I started playing around with it, started listening to a lot of other podcasts that are in the crypto ecosystem and really just started to pay attention to it casually.

Joe Blau:
Because really, to me, all I saw was people are making these coins. These coins are going up in value, but they don’t really have any intrinsic utility outside of the original utility of bitcoin, which is a way to send something from one person to another without counterparty risk and without being censored. So I kept playing around. We’re talking 2018. I was still working at Uber. I’m still working on self-driving cars. We’re shipping, I’m going to Arizona. I’m going to San Francisco. We’re deploying our cars in production. So I didn’t really have a lot of time to really actively manage it.

Joe Blau:
So what I would do is I would just take part of my paycheck and just start to buy slowly back in. After the price came way down, I was like, “Well, I don’t think this is going away.” So I started to slowly buy back in. And then in 2019, Uber had its IPO. So the deal that I had received from joining Uber was pretty lucrative. Actually, it was a seven-figure return from the IPO. But after taxes, you pay 50% in taxes. So it ended up being a six-figure return, which was still very good.

Joe Blau:
We decided to take that and invest it into crypto. So we just YOLO’ed all in, I would say. That ended up working out very well in terms of timing just because this last bull run kind of exceeded the intensity of the original bull run, if you were looking at the right types of products. So because I had been paying attention, I had been in the community, I’d been watching and listening to a lot of creators and influencers, people that are developers, people that are commentators, podcasters, I kind of knew where to look for this next bull run.

Joe Blau:
So I was able to just kind of get lucky and then also, paying attention, get into this crypto wave. And then what ended up happening is what I realized is that myself and a lot of my friends from this original wave all got to a certain level of wealth where we started to realize we’ve got a lot of time on our hands. That led us to start to think really more about life and about life decisions. I think it really kind of broke my brain in a good way to have me open up my thought process and think about what do I really want to accomplish?

Joe Blau:
What are some big goals, kind of Elon Musk level? He wants to basically have a colony on Mars that can be fully self-sustaining without Earth. That’s probably not going to happen in his lifetime, but that’s one of those big long-term goals. So I started to think about that a lot. But that’s where my crypto journey kind of came from back in 2013. And then it led me to where I am today. And then what ended up happening is my co-founder, I actually met him at Uber. He was an industrial designer on the same team that I was a software engineer on, and so we decided to pair up.

Joe Blau:
We’ve always been friends. We used to hang out in Pittsburgh and grab drinks together or go to each other’s homes. So him and I got together. We floated a bunch of ideas back and forth. We tinkered around with a bunch of stuff. And then we decided that since we’re both doing financially well and we’re in crypto and we’re both excited about this field, we want to make it very accessible for somebody who doesn’t know anything about crypto, somebody who doesn’t know anything about smart contracts, to be able to build one of these things and put it on the blockchain and retain ownership. That’s kind of what we’re focused on right now.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean it sounds like you really learned about this in a really smart way, which is you had been in the game really kind of learning and studying for a long time, since 2013. You didn’t just jump right into it after, I don’t know, buying stocks after Reddit recommendations or something, but you’ve been in there for a while and was able to kind of see the ebb and flow and see how things go and then find the right time to really get in. With that, you’ve started this business to help other folks get in.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I think for us, what we’re really focused on is I think there’s a key thing about crypto, which it’s a lot of things to a lot of people. There’s NFTs. There’s tokens. There’s metaverse. There’s DAOs. There’s all these words that can get floated around. But I think fundamentally what crypto provides is a contrast to the existing system that we’ve kind of been grown up and raised in if you’ve been around the internet from basically after the 2000 dot-com crash until now, which is there will be a website, fill in the name of big website dot com.

Joe Blau:
They will create a database, and they will entice you to get on that database somehow, some way. What happens is you have these network effects, which the more people that are on that website in their database, the more people want to go to that website and get in their database. So you’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, Apple. They all have the same kind of network effects. So what happens is these services get to a certain level of scale where you start to realize that if you’re a consumer, the one individual consumer doesn’t really matter as much because you don’t own the data.

Joe Blau:
I actually saw this in 2011. The first company that I worked for when I went to Silicon Valley, we were a startup and we used to collect Twitter data as well as other social media network data. And then we would filter the data. Then we would sell insights to companies that were our partners. We had Bentley was one of our partners and a bunch of high-level … Apple was one of our partners. So we would sell them information about what’s happening on Twitter.

Joe Blau:
Well, once Twitter realizes, hey, there’s a business here, twitter wants to roll that into their business. So they just cut off the pipeline. Twitter had this service called a Firehose. They just stopped the Firehose. And then they just run the Firehose internally. They build this business internally. They sell ads internally. And then they use that as a revenue generator internally.

Joe Blau:
So there’s this kind of push and pull between this open source ecosystem of people that are developers and that are creative and that are actually contributing to the platform and the internal team that is trying to make money any way, shape, or form to return the fund for the investors. You started to see this more and more often on the developer side from 2010 until it’s still actually going on now, where with Facebook, there was the whole App.net controversy where somebody wanted to build an app store for Facebook using Facebook’s API.

Joe Blau:
Facebook said, “No, we’re building that ourselves, and that violates our terms of service.” So they had to make something else. They made a different social network. There are tons of examples of this where somebody builds a platform. They build these APIs to allow you to integrate. But as soon as they find that somebody else is building something that has value, they cut that integration off, and then they just build it internally. The reason they’re allowed to do that is because of the network effects. They own all the data.

Joe Blau:
The contrast to what crypto does is crypto tries to take that same database, but instead of the database being inside Facebook or Google or Twitter or Amazon, the database is on everybody’s computer. So everybody has access to the data. And then it becomes a game of, or not a game, it becomes a challenge of how do you build the experience that solves the person’s problem? It’s kind of the Y Combinator’s slogan of make something people want. How do you make the thing that people want?

Joe Blau:
If you make this product or service that performs the job better than the competitor’s product or service, where you both have access to the same data, that makes it a more equitable playing field. So the thing that I like about crypto, and this is just all in theory. This could all be invalidated tomorrow for all I know. But right now, there’s an equal playing field where everybody has access to the same view into the data. Really, you as a creator or you as an engineer or you as a developer, you are just kind of like a deejay where you get to curate the songs.

Joe Blau:
You’re like, “Today, we’re playing house music,” or, “Today, our site plays house music, or our site plays hip hop, or our site plays jazz, or our site plays classical.” You get to curate that data and build your community around that curated experience. So we want to help people build products that can be put online. And then we think that as we start helping people get their things online, their software, their products, their smart contracts, it will allow them to then have other services that other people build that we don’t control, make their experience even more customized and even better just for their community or whatever they want to build.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, where does the smart contract come into play? Why is it important to have that?

Joe Blau:
If we go back to the beginning of bitcoin, bitcoin is a way for me to send you some value, basically like a token, the bitcoin, a way for me to send it from myself to you without having somebody else be able to stop the transaction. The challenge is it’s just a value. Think of it like a dollar. I’m just sending you a dollar or sending a dollar back. What people learned early on is that a lot of times value is attached to some sort of condition.

Joe Blau:
I want you to have this money after you rake my yard, or I want to give you this money after the stock price goes to $50, or I want to release this money after these six things are accomplished at this speed or whatever. So the smart contract piece is just adding logic to the value transfer. So this is what’s created this crazy ecosystem in crypto because people are trying to add all types of crazy logic to value.

Joe Blau:
Economics is the study of value of how goods and services are transported and how they generate value. When you look at crypto, crypto kind of gives you a playground to actually test out these theories. So I could write something that says, “Okay, Maurice, I’m going to give you 100 JOE tokens today. And then tomorrow, I’m going to give you another 100. And then the day after that, I’m going to give you another 100. And then the day after that, I’m going to give you another 100.”

Joe Blau:
I’m just going to keep doing that forever. As long as you have access to your wallet, my program will keep giving you 100 JOE tokens. You can deploy that onto a blockchain and see what happens. Will that eventually reach some value? Would you eventually say, “Oh, I have a billion of these, let me give these to somebody else?” Now two people have these tokens, but you’re still the only one getting paid those tokens. Does that eventually form a market or a marketplace?

Joe Blau:
Do people eventually start to say, “Oh, there’s actually value, I can actually use these things as a way to barter back and forth for some other asset or for some other thing that’s in the real world?” So you basically end up with the social consensus, which looks a lot like money, but it’s written in a way that the rules are written in code and they effectively can’t be changed.

Maurice Cherry:
Like you said, it’s all on the blockchain. So it’s decentralized, but it’s a way where … Well, I don’t know. I guess I’m still trying to wrap my head around smart contracts and NFTs and everything like that. I want to get more people on the show this year that can really explain it because I see it now, all of this being really the next generation of where the web is going to go. I’m saying last month because we’re recording in January.

Maurice Cherry:
But back in December, I attended a conference about the metaverse in the metaverse. They had people talking about all the different considerations, like interoperability and scalability and commerce. There were so many considerations and things to think about with this upcoming metaverse, which I think had already started to be a part of people’s minds once Facebook Connect happened back in I think it was October of last year, 2021, when they said, “We’re changing our name to Meta. We’re investing in the metaverse.”

Maurice Cherry:
And then all of a sudden, everyone was like, “What is the metaverse?” I think anybody that probably watched anime in the ’90s had probably already heard of metaverse. I don’t know. I think it was probably on VR Troopers or Sailor Moon or something probably. But they’ve heard of that concept, but not necessarily what it meant in the real world. So it was something that I think was part of people’s general mindset saying, “Well, I don’t want to be part of the metaverse.”

Maurice Cherry:
But after I attended that conference, what stuck out to me was that this is the next step. I could see this being potentially the next digital divide because people are putting a ton of money and resources and time into really building whatever this next massive infrastructure is. There’s so many people that are just like, “I don’t want any part of it.” But it feels like the velocity at which we are approaching this is rapidly increasing. So I want to try to learn more about it to try to see where I can fit in with all this stuff.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I guess for me, I kind of separate metaverse and crypto into two separate buckets. For me, the metaverse is the next evolution of AR/VR. AR/VR is a technology that was invented in I think the late ’80s, and they’ve slowly been incrementally trying to push it and make it a reality. This is very similar to self-driving. One of the reasons why I worked at Uber and I went to Pittsburgh is because Carnegie Mellon, they had a self-driving car in 1989 called ALVINN that was able to kind of do some basic navigation. They were one of the pioneers of helping make self-driving a reality.

Joe Blau:
So I got to learn from some of the best of the best that invented a lot of the processes for self-driving. So you’ve got this technology vertical, self-driving cars. We don’t have the human-level self-driving car yet, but we’re on our way towards that progress, and that’s something that started in the ’80s. VR/AR is the same thing. It started in the ’80s. We’re trying to get to that point where we have compute and screens and comfort and battery power that can make this experience good or good enough that you will feel comfortable immersed in this environment, so that your neck doesn’t hurt, so that you don’t get dizzy, so that it feels as realistic as possible.

Joe Blau:
That’s another vertical that’s kind of being developed in what I would say is the newest incarnation, which is the metaverse. And then you’ve got crypto. Crypto is really about censorship resistance and reducing counterparty risk. Earlier, you were asking about what is a smart contract. If you just think about a regular contract in real life, you go rent a car at Avis. They give you a piece of paper, and you sign your name on it. When you sign your name on it, you’re agreeing to all of the words that are in that paper.

Joe Blau:
If I crash it, I’m going to have my insurance pay for it or whatever. It doesn’t have any of these dents or these dings. That’s what you’re agreeing to. Now, that contract is adjudicated by some legal entity, probably a judge. So if you violate that contract, there’s going to be somebody that’s going to say, “Oh, Maurice, he borrowed this car. It didn’t have any scratches. I don’t know what happened. But all of a sudden, there’s a big scratch on the driver’s side door.” You have to pay whatever the contract stipulates in the contract.

Joe Blau:
So if you just take all that logic that we just said, if car gets scratched, you have to pay X amount of dollars, if this thing doesn’t do this, then you have to do this. You write that in code, just like I would say, “If this happens, then do this.” You would write that in code. And then you can deploy that code into a database that everybody in the world has access to read and see. That’s pretty much what the smart contract is.

Joe Blau:
So the NFT, or a non-fungible token, is a contract that specifies that there is effectively only one of these. Fungibility is this concept in economics that means that if I have something, the one thing that I have is no different than the one thing you have. So the best way to explain it is if I have 10 $1 bills and you have 10 $1 bills and somebody picks up all of them and then they redistribute them and they give you 10 new ones and they give me 10 new ones, you’re not going to say, “I want the one with serial number that ends in 05 because that was mine,” because dollar are fungible, which means I can exchange my dollar for your dollar or your dollar for my dollar and it doesn’t matter. They’re exchangeable equally.

Joe Blau:
Non-fungible means if I have a dollar, my dollar is special and your dollar is not. So that’s when you get into things like trading cards or Beanie Babies or pet rocks, things that have a unique value. If I have a special anime card or special Magic: The Gathering card and you don’t have that Magic: The Gathering card, that’s non-fungible. I can’t just give you mine and you’ll give me any other one back. So these non-fungible tokens are representations of unique items.

Joe Blau:
The way that they’re defined is in what’s called a smart contract. This item only exists and is only owned by this one person, for example.

Maurice Cherry:
Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay, I get it. I understand. Okay. Thank you so much for that explanation.

Joe Blau:
There’s a lot of economic theory. There are a lot of disciplines that all merge in together to form crypto. You really have to be multidisciplinary, which I was not before I started learning about all this stuff. You really have to learn a lot to try to fit your into what is actually going on in crypto.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, where do you see, I guess, Web3 with all of this? I keep hearing Web3 being called the technological evolution of the internet.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. So Web3, it’s funny because, as a software engineer, I’m always thinking like, “Okay, what is the most basic thing?” Web3 is a library that was created that literally all it does is let you interact with this blockchain. So this database that is this ever-growing database that everybody has access to, Web3 is just a library that lets you read and write from that database. Now, what’s happened is that term has been co-opted to be everything involving crypto.

Joe Blau:
So Web3 means smart contracts. It means dApps. It means Solana. It means means everything. It means bitcoin. Everything kind of falls into this Web3 umbrella. The mantra behind Web 3.0 is that we’re going to create a new internet that is not owned by Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, but it’s owned by the people. That is the charge. The way that the people can own the internet is because of what I mentioned earlier. When you create the smart contract and you deploy the smart contract on the blockchain, you own the contract.

Joe Blau:
There’s nobody else that can go in and take custody of the contract. That design is the genius invention that bitcoin created, but it just created it for money basically, for value. When you own your bitcoin, nobody can just come take it from you. You have to basically give it to somebody else. There’s no way for somebody to take your bitcoin. You have to voluntarily give it to somebody. Now, a judge can say, “Hey, you violated this law and you owe us XYZ dollars in bitcoins. If you don’t pay this fine, then you’ll go to jail or whatever.” And then you can hand it over.

Joe Blau:
But there’s no way that they can just go into your account and pull the bitcoin out. You have to hand it over. This Web3 concept just takes that version of you have to give over your bitcoin to you have to give over anything you create in Web3. So I mean you can obviously get tricked out of it. There’s a lot of people that are getting scammed and hacked because a lot of the tooling is not amazing. But effectively, you have to give something away. Nobody can take anything from you.

Joe Blau:
That’s the whole concept behind this Web3 movement. We’re building a version of the internet where Facebook doesn’t get to block your account or Twitter doesn’t get to revoke your developer access or YouTube doesn’t get to take down your video because they thought that this looks very similar to another video even though you did all the work and recreated and remastered and built everything yourself. We’re building a version of the internet where you own your stuff.

Joe Blau:
And then you have to go through the regular legal process. If in the real world, something happens that violates a law, there’s a legal process that you go through. It’s the same thing in crypto. Mt. Gox lost a bunch of people’s money. They did a bunch of shady stuff. They went through a legal process. They got their bitcoin confiscated, and they went through the regular process that anybody who did anything shady would go through.

Joe Blau:
So it kind of just slows down this network effect process of aggregating data, aggregating user information, and then being able to use that to rent, seek, and kind of take over and start to build this vertically-integrated, monopoly-style business.

Maurice Cherry:
So for people that are listening to this now and, hopefully, folks are listening to this and they’ve been able to wrap their head around these concepts. How can folks start getting involved with smart contracts and Web3? Because it sounds like these are, as you’ve described them, they’re kind of different entry points, but still somewhat related.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I mean there are a lot of resources. It’s very difficult for me to point to good resources because lots of people have lots of takes on it. I would liken this to the internet in 1997, ’98, where everything looks like a great idea. Pets.com looks like a great idea. Webvan looks like a great idea. All these things look like great Ideas. Maybe when you fast forward 20 years, while Pets.com failed, Amazon now has a pet store as a sub domain of their website, and it’s effectively what pets.com’s vision was. It’s just 20 years later.

Joe Blau:
So these ideas may be working, but it’s very hard to really find great information. Maybe I should build some sort of resource. I mean there’s a gentleman by the name of Jameson Lopp who really organizes a lot of great information around bitcoin. He has a great website, if you just search for Jameson L-O-P-P. I think it’s lopp.net or something like that. He has a great resource that kind of encapsulates a lot of information about bitcoin.

Joe Blau:
I think bitcoin is a good place to start learning because it’s a very confined space in terms of what bitcoin can actually do. Because once you start getting out of this bitcoin space, everything gets very crazy and very wild very quickly. It’s just the stuff that people are doing, no financial economics book would have ever predicted this, ever. It’s like the wild, wild west of finance right now.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m glad you made that analogy to the early days of the web because that’s really how I see a lot of the activity right now going on with the metaverse. Calling back to this conference that I had went to, there was one session. I’ve told this story on the podcast before, but there was this one session I went in where this guy was showing off digital land in a metaverse that he was a part of. He had on this NFT suit.

Maurice Cherry:
He’s like, “I can walk into this NFT, and look at how it changes.” He’s saying like, “You all should really see this.” We’re like, “Okay, fine, whatever.” It was just like walking around in VR space or whatever. He’s like, “All these plots of digital land are available. If it anybody’s interested, we can go ahead and start the bidding.” Someone bought a plot of land inside of this virtual world. It was a 300 square meter plot for $10,000, just bought it right on the spot.

Maurice Cherry:
In my mind, I’m like, “What are you going to use that for?” I guess you could build something on it, I guess, in this particular metaverse world that you can have people come to. But it had me thinking about The Million Dollar Homepage and how people were buying up little pixels just to be on this one page to stake their claim and say, “Ha, I was a part of the internet at this time when it happened.” It is very much like the wild, wild west, all of this, because it’s not regulated.

Maurice Cherry:
People are doing all kinds of just wild … I mean we’re using these adjectives wild, and crazy, but it’s really kind of mind-boggling just how much is going on with a lot of this stuff. It feels like history is being written every day when it comes to these things. It’s unprecedented. Yeah. Like you said with the analogy about the economics book, no one could have seen any of this stuff really actually, possibly happening, and now it is happening.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I think about the whole NFT space because a lot of people have a bunch of different takes on it. Some people are like, “Why would anybody buy a JPEG online that you could just copy and download?” I’m not very big into art collecting or lots of mechanical stuff. I used to really be into mechanical watches, but right now I just wear an Apple Watch. It tells the time perfectly. Mechanical watches have drift. They’re effectively, to me, just jewelry right now.

Joe Blau:
But there are people that they buy things because of the story. Human beings are creatures of story. I’m sure, as you’ve been going through the podcast and having these conversations, really what people get captivated by are the story. If you just see a CryptoPunk and you’re like, “Oh, this is just an eight-bit image that’s not really that nice,” that’s one story you can tell yourself.

Joe Blau:
But there’s another story, which is this CryptoPunk was one of the first ones that got minted. I got it gifted to me. And then it was sold to this other person who was a prolific artist who then sold it to Gary Vee, and now this is Gary Vee’s CryptoPunk. Now there’s a story. There’s this narrative that flows from what this thing represents. People love to buy stories. When you watch football or you watch anything, it’s all about the story.

Joe Blau:
Formula 1 was boring to a ton of people until Netflix made that Formula 1 show with all the story about what’s actually going on behind the scenes, who’s got problems with whom, who’s getting fired, who’s getting hired. It’s just a story. I think a lot of what NFTs are about right now and what’s really captivating is a lot of these stories. Somebody just stole $20 million worth of NFTs. That’s a classic heist story that people love to read.

Joe Blau:
This kid who was 12 years old is now a multi-millionaire because he created this little NFT collection, and he became a multi-millionaire off of it. That’s the rags to richest story. People love to hear those stories. So a lot of what I see in NFTs is really just a reflection of what happens in the real world. It’s just that it’s being accelerated because we’ve got the internet. We’ve got this technology that really allows us to push this narrative a lot faster.

Joe Blau:
A bunch of bloggers and a bunch of YouTubers can come up and tell the story super quickly instead of having to syndicate it through a newspaper network that takes a day to turn over and whatever. So I think that the story is really what is driving a lot of what’s going on in the crypto space and especially in the NFT space. From that perspective, I get it because I love stories. I love watching movies. I got into the Formula 1 thing just like a lot of my friends did after watching the story behind all the people.

Joe Blau:
Now I know everybody’s name. I know who’s got problems with whom, who started off at what racing firm and went over here and got downgraded to here or got demoted to this team and whatever. So what people are building with these NFTs are really just stories, and people will pay unlimited amounts of money for a great story.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. That’s a great way to put it. Now that I think about it, especially a lot of the talk I’ve seen around NFTs, people just starting to sort of get into them and are making astronomical amounts of money. But then even ones, like people that are buying these NFT art pieces and such, which I watched the video, I think it was the other day, that was like, “Why is most of the NFT art so ugly?” That had me thinking about, well, is this an opportunity for some designers to try to find a way to make their way into the NFT space?

Maurice Cherry:
I know a few Black NFT artists that I’m really trying to get to come on here to really talk about how this is working for them. But yeah, I totally, totally understand what you mean about people buying the story. That makes a ton of sense to me.

Joe Blau:
Yeah. I have a few friends. This is also to this whole story thing. Back in mid-2017, the CryptoPunks people reached out to them and they said, “Hey, we’re going to give you 26 CryptoPunks.” Because of the influx of growth in crypto in 2017 where everything looked like a scam, and there was 100 coins coming out a day, these guys were like, “Nah.” They just ignored it. And then a few months ago, they went back to look through their emails just to see if anything had come from Larva Labs.

Joe Blau:
They saw that they had an opportunity to have 26 CryptoPunks. What’s the floor on CryptoPunks right now, $250,000 or something like that, some crazy number? So they would have been done. But this is also part of the story, right, the opportunity that I missed. All of these little things are all parts of you can watch any movie or any Disney show or whatever. They’re all parts of these stories where people love to just kind of tell these stories. That’s really what I think a lot of what’s going on is about.

Joe Blau:
It’s really about these stories, the legality. Do you really own this or not? The rags to riches, the heist, the clones, the fakes, there’s all these like, “Oh, I took this NFT and I turned everybody that was facing to the right, I made them face to the left,” and then the controversy around that. So there’s all these things that are really just that narrative. I think that’s really what’s selling with a lot of NFTs. We’ve had this since the dawn of time. We’ve been making stories about stuff and selling stories forever.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, yeah. Good point. Really good point. What does success look like for you at this point in your career?

Joe Blau:
I feel like I’m in an interesting and very privileged space right now just because last time we spoke you asked me, “Are you at the top of your game?” I was like, “No, not even close.” I didn’t even hesitate to say, “Not even close.” I think by working at Amazon with the amazing people that I was able to work with, by working at Uber with the amazing people that I was able to work with, by getting access to a lot of really high-quality individuals in Silicon Valley through angel investor networks and through just socializing, I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I would still not say I’m at the top of my game, but I feel like I know what I’m shooting for right now. I know where my stride is.

Joe Blau:
One of the things that happened actually right before the pandemic, so late 2019, really soon after I sold all my Uber stock and bought all this crypto, my brother and I actually went back to West Africa, which is where my mom’s from, in Sierra Leone. We get to West Africa. We land. And then my mom wanted to take us to the village and the house that she grew up in. So we ended up getting a car. It takes forever. It’s not that far if you were in the United States and you were driving on a highway. But in Africa, it’s a five-hour trip that should be an hour.

Joe Blau:
So we finally get to this village. On our way there, we saw a bunch of these signs. It’s hilarious because they have all these cities there called … They have a New York there. They have a New London. Yeah, it’s funny. There’s all these little town names. You would never even think about this. A joke that my brother and I, as we were leaving the town where my mom was born and raised and grew up, my brother and I were like, “We should start our own city called New Atlanta, and start it in Africa and build the city.”

Joe Blau:
If we were going to design a city that we wanted to be successful and build it somewhere in West Africa, what would we build? Where would we build it? It was just a joke at the time. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently in terms of the type of … I know there are lots of other famous people. I think Akon is building a city, and I think Kanye West is building a city. A couple of really famous people are building cities.

Joe Blau:
But one of the things that I’m really excited about is science, engineering, the STEM fields or STEAM fields, science, technology, engineering, art, and math. One of the things that I’ve noticed about crypto is in, some of the communities that I’m in, I’m seeing what happens when you unshackle a person from needing to have money. It really opens up a lot of opportunity and a lot of thought and a lot of creativity to people that have skills, but they can’t necessarily create in the way that they want to create because they’re kind of restricted by being an employee at a company and whatever the OKRs or whatever the goals are, or the profitability of the company, or you have some sort of fixed time that you have to be in and be out of work or whatever the constraints are.

Joe Blau:
So I’ve really been thinking about this idea. I don’t really have anything formalized yet, but just thinking about what would it look like to build a modern city. I guess the goal for me would be … Elon Musk has this program where he wants to have rockets fly from city to city within 30 minutes. What would it be like to have a city where you could host that in West Africa? What does that look like? What does that city look like? What does that design look like? I don’t have anything working towards it. I have no plans. I have no drafts. I have nothing.

Joe Blau:
It’s just an idea in my head, but that’s something that I would love to see come to fruition. I think that through the companies that I’m investing in, the projects that I’m building, I think that I can start to kind of chip away at that goal and that vision. It’s going to take, obviously, a lot more trips back to West Africa. It’s going to take a lot more conversations.

Joe Blau:
But I think that’s something that, for me, if I can get towards the goal, just any way, shape, or form towards the goal of building that city and New Atlanta’s just a name because my brother and I were like, “Atlanta is awesome. The Black population and culture there is amazing. So we’ll just build a new one.” If I could get to anything towards that, I think that’s going to be something that I would be really excited about leaving as part of a legacy on planet Earth.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, aside from all of this tech that we just talked about, we didn’t even really touch on you being an angel investor. How did you wander into that?

Joe Blau:
That’s a funny story. So when I was at Uber, I met … My manager, actually the person who hired me, he told me. I asked him the same question. I was like, “Hey, how do you become an angel investor?” He’s like, “Just start writing checks and start losing a lot of money.” So that’s effectively what I did. I just started finding companies. I think the first key thing about being an angel is you have to come up with some sort of thesis. Why are you investing? Are you investing to make money? Are you investing to have a social impact? Are you investing for whatever your thesis is?

Joe Blau:
And then you need to know what your constraints on your investments are. I’m a developer, so I called my investment firm Deploy Capital because it’s just like deploy code or deploy whatever. I said Deploy Capital. And then the idea is that I want to invest in people that are working at a company. They’ve got some great idea, but they can’t execute on their idea or their vision because management is saying like, “This is not a priority right now.”

Joe Blau:
I’ve seen this time and time and time again in companies where there’s an idea, there’s a team, there’s a group of people that have some idea. They can’t build their idea. They go out, become successful. They build their idea. But then they get reacquired back into some other company who’s like, “Oh, this is actually working.” So I really want to help the people that are dreamers, that have ideas, that want to build something, but they’re constrained from a financial aspect. I want to help them grow, and I want to help them build whatever their vision is.

Joe Blau:
Building a company is not easy. There’s lots of little steps, but there are lots of tools out right now that make it a lot easier to build a company than it’s ever been. So if I can just help in any way, shape, or form, give you some help on tooling, give you some intros to investors, help you find talent, those are the types of things that I want to be able to provide and just be a sounding board. What do you think about this?

Joe Blau:
So I got into it because I had some extra money, and I thought lots of people that I know are writing money into these companies. One of the things I realized is that investing is how a lot of the wealth in America is created. You put your money into some company, and then the people that are at the company are doing all of the work. You’re just sitting there, and the value of your thing is going up because other people think that thing is going to go up.

Joe Blau:
So I kind of got into it because I wanted to make more money. But now I have more of a thesis around it when it comes to the types of investments that I’ll do.

Maurice Cherry:
What do you want to accomplish this year? I mean it sounds like you’ve got your hands on a lot of different things. I mean you’ve got your business. You’re investing. You’re doing all these other things. What do you want to come out of 2022 having done?

Joe Blau:
I would say that, from my company perspective, I would want to come out of this year with a team that is the size of about 25 people. We have an exciting, growing business. I think we’re on trajectory to do that. We obviously want more partners that we’re working with, the best and the brightest in the software engineering space, whether they’re smart contract developers or React Web3 developers. We’re looking for those people. So I would want to have that be successful.

Joe Blau:
From a family perspective, I want to make sure that as my children are getting ready for life … They’re still young and they’re going into kindergarten. I want to make sure that they’re getting the best experience they can. When I went to school, I’m pretty sure most people went to school like this where it’s you just go wherever is closest to your house. You’re just in the room with whomever is there, and the teachers are who the teachers are. You don’t really have any optionality.

Joe Blau:
We’re fortunate enough to be in a position where we have optionality, and I want to make sure that the experiences that they get are better than the experiences that I got as a child. Just overall in life, I want to make sure that I go through 2022 enjoying it because this year has started off so awesome. I’m really having a great time. I’ve met a lot of new people. I’ve met a lot of great friends. I’m in this perpetual learning loop. I just want to meet more people, spend more time with people. I want COVID to be over so I can go back and hang out with people in the real world.

Joe Blau:
I just want to be able to really enjoy life the way I was enjoying it before, but with a little bit more freedom and a little bit more optionality to celebrate and do things that I want to engage in. And then just meet more people, make more friends, build a business with my friends. People that are looking for help, I want to help them build their businesses and build their dreams as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you and your work and everything that you’re doing online?

Joe Blau:
Yeah, for sure. The company that I’m founding is called Atomize, and we are atomize.xyz. If you have any questions for me specifically, you can send me a message at joe@atomize.xyz, and that’ll come to me. Last time I spoke, I had @joeblau everywhere except for Twitter. I have a funny story. I was actually able to get @joeblau on Twitter, no underscore.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice.

Joe Blau:
I traded it with another person named Joseph Blau as well. The trade was that I had to buy him a HomePod and some AirPods, I think AirPods Pro. He sold me the Twitter handle for that. So it’s pretty funny because if you look at the shipping, it’s from Joe Blau in wherever, I think I was in Pittsburgh at the time, to Joe Blau where he lives. So it looks like somebody buying themselves something. And then we just got on a call, and we did the trade.

Joe Blau:
So if you’re looking for me online, at J-O-E-B-L-A-U is pretty much the same address everywhere, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, GitHub, Dribbble, everywhere. And then for my angel investing, that is at deploy.capital. So if you have any great ideas and you have some insight that your leadership is overlooking and you think there’s going to be a great opportunity to build a business, I would love to chat with you about it.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Joe Blau, I cannot thank you enough for coming back on the show. This show is our ninth anniversary episode. It’s really special to me, I told you this a little bit before recording, because when I first had you on the show back in 2015, your interview came out. I think it was in February 2015, and I was ready to throw in the towel on Revision Path. I was getting so much flack from the design community and from just random folks out there.

Maurice Cherry:
I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Your dad wrote me a letter after the interview. I’m going to read the letter to you because I don’t know if he ever shared it with you, but he wrote me this letter. I have it printed out above my desk to look at on those days where I’m like, “I’m tired of Revision Path. I want to give this up.” So I’m going to read the letter to you.

Maurice Cherry:
It says, “Maurice, please accept this email as kudos for your really excellent interview of Joseph Blau. I am not an impartial listener, but rather Joseph’s dad, Robert Blau. You may even remember his having mentioned me a few times for exposing him to computers at a young age and taking him around the world as a child of a career foreign service officer. In any case, I was so very proud of Joseph’s performance, both for the content and for his poise and eloquence.

Maurice Cherry:
“This is also a tribute to you for asking him the kinds of questions that would get him to make the many intelligent comments that he made over the course of the interview. I was especially pleased with the discussion that success is not usually an accident or God given, but rather the product of hard, painstaking work. His time at Virginia Tech brought out those qualities in him, and life has continued to teach him this lesson over and over.

Maurice Cherry:
“As you noticed and pointed out, he is already successful, but has his sights set on even greater levels of success. So thanks for doing a great job as interviewer and maybe, in the process, giving Joseph the kind of exposure that will help build his corporate brand.”

Joe Blau:
That’s amazing. I love my dad because he has a lot of heart. I always notice that when I hang around with him. He has been a pioneer and really a great inspiration to me just in all the things that he’s done, whether it’s work ethic or just integrity, character. I really appreciate him sharing that with you and I also appreciate hearing it because him and I, we’re very close. So I think that it’s an amazing letter. I’m glad that it’s an inspiration that kind of keeps you going.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It came at a time, I mean I was really set to give this up. And then that very next month, I was at South by Southwest and I presented this talk I did called Where are the Black Designers? And then that just completely skyrocketed my career. It skyrocketed this podcast. I don’t know if I would have done that if I hadn’t have gotten that push from your dad writing to say, “You’re doing a great job. Keep it up.”

Maurice Cherry:
So thanks to you. Thanks to your dad. You’re killing it, man. I can’t wait to see what you got coming up in the future. But thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Joe Blau:
Awesome, yeah. I appreciate you having me. Thanks. I would love to come back and follow up maybe later next year or something. We don’t have to wait seven years between shows next time.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world.

We accomplish this through graphic design, presentations and workshops around I-D-E-A: inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

If you’re curious to learn how to combine a passion for I-D-E-A with design, check us out at brevityandwit.com.

Brevity & Wit — creative excellence without the grind.

Sponsored by The State of Black Design Conference

The State of Black Design

Texas State University’s Communication Design Program is excited to announce The State of Black Design Conference, a three day virtual event March 4-6, 2022.

This year’s theme is “family reunion”, and there will be over 50 amazing speakers, including author and educator Jelani Cobb, and world-renowned poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni.

This year debuts the State of Black Design’s Resume Book initiative, so if you’re a Black design student, or you’re a Black designer looking for your next role, then listen up!

You will be able to submit your resume and your portfolio to the Resume Book, along with your institution of study and major if you’re a student, and recruiters and employers will have access to it before the event. If you’re interested and you want to be included in the Resume Book, send your info to blackdesign@txstate.edu with the subject line “Resume Book”. You have until March 3, 2022 to submit.

The State of Black Design Conference is brought to you with the support of the University of Texas at Austin, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Microsoft, General Motors, Design for America, Civilla, IDSA, AIGA, and Revision Path.

Visit The State of Black Design Conference website for tickets. Hope to see you there!

Arthell Isom

This week’s episode will be a real treat for anime fans out there! I had the opportunity to talk with Arthell Isom, co-founder of Japanese animation studio D’ART Shtajio. You’ve probably seen his studio’s work on The Weeknd’s video “Snowchild”, or as part of the hip-hop inspired indie anime Tephlon Funk, but how did he come to be the first Black man to own an animation studio in Japan?

We talked about his current road to success, and Arthell shared how he runs the studio from day to day. He also gave his thoughts on representation in animation, what he loves about Japan, and he discussed why he started a studio there instead of the U.S. Arthell is making history and I love that he is blazing a trail for others to show that it can be done!

Sponsor

Facebook Design is a proud sponsor of Revision Path. The Facebook Design community is designing for human needs at unprecedented scale. Across Facebook’s family of apps and new product platforms, multi-disciplinary teams come together to create, build and shape communication experiences in service of the essential, universal human need for connection. To learn more, please visit facebook.design.

300-olivier-madiba

This special interview with game developer Olivier Madiba was a real treat. Olivier is the founder and CEO of Kiro’o Games, the first video game studio in central Africa (Cameroon, to be exact)! We recorded this interview during their Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their first title — African-fantasy RPG Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan — and I’m happy to report that the game is now fully funded!

Our interview talks about how Olivier first came up with the idea for the game, how he managed to garner support for building a game company in Cameroon, the next steps of growth for the company, and about the challenges of game development in Africa. It’s a short interview, but I’m so glad for the chance to talk with Olivier and share his story and his work. I’m really excited to see what else Olivier and Kiro’o Games has in store!




rp_patreon_banner


And of course, much thanks to Creative Market, a marketplace that sells beautiful, ready-to-use design content from thousands of independent creators around the globe.
Creative Market logo
Revision Path is also sponsored by Hover. Visit hover.com/revisionpath and save 10% off your first purchase! Big thanks to Hover!
Hover logo
Revision Path is brought to you by MailChimp. Huge thanks to them for their support of the show! Visit them today and say thanks!
MailChimp logo