AN INSIDER BREAKS DOWN THE HUGE CRYPTO GAME
By Lauren deLisa Coleman
(AllHipHop Features) As we all know, the crypto game is becoming bigger and bigger. Artists from TI to Snoop to Ghostface more and more artists are working with tech players to drive this new, digital currency. Here’s what you need to know about it right now via Frank E. Banks, tech insider and CEO and founder of ZEN a new start up that integrates video and cryptocurrency for the youth market
AllHipHop: So why is crypto so hot right now and what are the top 3 things to know/understand?
Frank E. Banks: The main reason crypto is hot is because it’s a brand new type of money, pure and simple. People are mysteriously making fantastic fortunes seemingly out of thin air, and it’s not all the same usual Silicon Valley geeks and their financiers. It’s a bigger, crazier, global version of the dotcom speculative boom but with a bunch of Asians and Russians in it.
My top three things anyone interested in this area should know are:
Crypto is all about establishing an alternate form of money and assets, so bitcoin, not dollars and ICOs not the New York Stock Exchange.
It will eventually affect your life even if you don’t want it to. So learn about it.
It could be one of the greatest ways to drive new wealth for underrepresented communities, if we pay attention and get smart.
AllHipHop: Why is crypto such a draw for hip hop likeRipple collaborating with Snoop and other partnerships?
FB: Because Black people are obsessed with the money and power that has historically been out of our reach, and has been the subtext for so much hip hop music. For a people who have lacked agency crypto seems like a crazy opportunity, and it actually is. For the companies reaching out to them, they know the power of hip hop so they want to partner with major names to help get as big a buzz as possible about their particular company’s coins.
AllHipHop: What are some of the drawbacks about crypto, in general?
FB: I think the main drawbacks are: the technology is complex; and that coupled with general financial illiteracy in the black community means it can be intimidating for the people it could help the most. And there’s a ton of noise and shady characters people have to navigate through, not to mention the volatility of many cryptocurrencies themselves.
Also, I personally think it has a bunch of people believing they’re gonna get rich day trading cryptocurrencies, and that has a 0% chance of happening.
So the problem is both that lots of people know too little and at the same time some people who think they know - but are actually clueless about how all this is going to play out.
AllHipHop: What drew you to the area and how did you obtain the resources to create your startup?
FB: Our friends and family kicked in a bit, but we’ve mainly raised money through our pre-ICO which allows us to get investments from almost anyone at a minimum of $100 a pop. It’s kind of like a Kickstarter for our business. We’ve raised over $200K and counting so far just through ).
I was drawn into this particular space for a number of reasons including I saw a market opportunity to create a new type of social media business that treats the content creators as stakeholders. I also think it’s probably the first time in the history of the tech biz where black folks have an actual advantage. Pop culture drives social media and we drive pop culture. These things never intersected this way before.
AllHipHop: What was it like working at Zynga (creators of such games as”Farmville”) particularly as a person of color?
FB: I worked at Zynga during its heyday, when it was growing insanely fast and making huge Facebook social games like Mafia Wars and FarmVille. It was both one of the most successful things I’ve done in my life and also one of the most frustrating. Building software to support millions of users worldwide was exciting, and it was thrilling to be part of the earliest days of the social media explosion. But less than 1% of the staff were African American and it became clear to me that to really achieve my own goals - and create opportunity in my community - I would need to strike out on my own.
AllHipHop: How did you get the idea for ZEN and what part do you see video related to music playing?
FB: I’ve been working in this space for years now. I had a video editing app called Zeme that was mainly used by Vine kids and, at one point, was pretty popular. It got over 250K downloads and made some money. I used to pay hundreds of Vine kids to promote Zeme and that’s where the original idea for ZEN came from. It originally stood for the Zeme Entertainment Network. The idea just evolved from there.
Music is the original augmented reality for film/video- it will always be a critical part of the experience that’s why I have applied it to my new startup.
AllHipHop: How else will we see crypto and music collide?
FB: There will be lots of ways, but one, in particular, is content-rights management. In other words, tracking who owns the music and gets paid when it gets streamed or used in another work like a video. There are quite a few people tackling that in some very interesting ways. Watch.