Proof of Flex: digital bragging rights in Web3 according to Kevin Wang, CEO of Stakes
Kevin Wang is a rare crypto long-timer, having started his career working closely with Barry Silbert as the VP of Product at SecondMarket from 2007-2013. We then worked together at Paxos where Kevin was the VP of Product. He later founded a Crypto Mining company called Orion and then launched his current endeavor Stakes in 2019.
Stakes is a social wagering platform for NFTs that aims to make sports betting more social and accessible. I wanted to understand how NFTs are being integrated into sports and gambling.
Here’s the interview:
With Stakes, you’re combining a lot of concepts such as sports, gaming, NFTs and community. How do these concepts work together?
Sports has a way of bringing people and communities together. My parents were immigrants. They came to North America with nothing and both had success as entrepreneurs. My dad, like many Asian parents, were very strict and stoic, except when it came to sports, it was like a switch flipped. I would see a totally different side of him. I would see a full range of his emotions. And so through sports, I got to see the full spectrum of his humanity and that's how we bonded. That’s what sports is, right? It brings people together, creates community.
I think a lot of those trends you mentioned (sports, gaming, NFTs) have elements that are already intrinsically connected. Sports is communal almost by definition, with teams, fans and friends debating who’s best. Sports and gaming are connected through fantasy sports, office pools, March madness brackets, etc. The new variable in all of this is NFTs.
NFTs is a new technology, but it fits perfectly with a lot of those concepts. Because we’re focused on social wagering around sports - a lot of it is about bragging rights, proving your knowledge, flexing and trash talking with your friends. We think NFTs are actually the perfect technology to cement your bragging rights forever.
read Kevin’s LinkedIn post: When Passion Calls (Sports is a Love Language)
What’s the physical analogy to digital bragging rights?
I don't know if there's necessarily a good physical analogy. One analogy would be people playing a fantasy league and buying a trophy or championship belt that they award to the winner at the end of the season. But a lot of that happens now just in group chats and on social media.
I have a buddy that got engaged a couple weeks ago and he sent a picture of the wedding ring and the fiancée in our group chat. Right after he proposed, the first response by one of our friends was “Yeah, I called it.” Same thing happens with friends saying things like “I knew Tom Brady was going to win the Super Bowl” or “I knew Biden was going to win the election.” So an NFT is almost a new category of a digital asset that you own, that memorializes this prediction that you made.
We call it “Proof of Flex" - instead of sending a screenshot of your group chat from 3 months ago, you get to own a digital trophy that is visually symbolic of your correct bet.
But why does that need to be a NFT? Why can’t that just be a digital badge on your Stakes profile, why does it need portability?
I think one of the fundamental breakthrough innovations of blockchain of NFTs is their portability and interoperability. The fact that you can own these digital assets outside of a wall garden is an important way you can represent your knowledge/expertise on other platforms.
You can use these “proofs of flex” to show someone you’re the biggest LeBron James fan or you’ve predicted the outcome of Yankees games correctly. Its a more objective way to prove your fandom and knowledge through your collection of NFTs
So for example, if the Lakers want to do some special activation in Decentraland or Sandbox and they want to invite the top Lakers fans around the world, there's a way to qualify yourself through the NFTs you have in your wallet that prove your interest in the Lakers and knowledge/prediction of Laker games.
Or lets say there’s a DAO that wants to buy a NBA team and their mission is to raise money from NBA fans of the team. This is another way to prove fandom to an external party.
With the success of NBA’s Top Shot, how are leagues and teams viewing the NFT space?
There's so much activity now. It's clear that leagues are paying attention and to their credit the NBA is a very progressive league. They're always experimenting and very open to embracing new technologies. I think we're getting to a point where crypto and Web3 can't be ignored. And so that's why it's being reflected in what a lot of the leagues are doing with NFTs. So far a lot of them are taking things that are analogous to the physical world or in the Web2 world. NBA, Top Shot is an evolution of sports trading cards into the digital sphere.
And then there's like fan tokens like Socios where you don't own a piece of the team, but you're part of a fan club and can vote on certain decisions like what uniforms they're gonna wear and what songs they're gonna play in the stadium.
I think that it makes sense that a lot of the leagues have been pretty progressive and have started with those things. It’ll be really interesting over the next couple years, there's gonna be crazier and crazier Web3 native projects. These will be ideas that don’t have a historical precedent or are not analogous to anything we know now.
About Stakes (playwithstakes.com)
Location: New York, Remote
Employees: < 10
Open Roles: Head of Engineering