We interviewed Ray from Catalyze (previously known as 'Weact'). He leads a team that has spent over 20 years advising technology vendors on how to build software that helps support high-performing teams. He believes that the team now gets to apply those learnings to their software and designs. That experience, coupled with what you can build on Web3, is a winning combination in Ray's book.
1. What attracted you initially to blockchain?
The idea of community ownership and governance, coupled with the security features, were major attractions. Blockchain feels very much about putting the user first and tech second. I know from the outside it may look like a technology in search of a problem, but that is a shortsighted view. Decentralization and user empowerment are at the core of blockchain and web3; that is why we embraced it.
The amazing things you can build with it are just being uncovered, and as performance and scalability increase, there will be no limit to what you can do and build on blockchain. Web3 will tackle societal issues that Web 2.0 has not been able to crack within the next three years. Web 2.0 will begin to diminish, and web three will come into its own when that happens.
2. Of all the platforms you could have chosen, why did you decide to build on the Internet Computer?
Simply put, it is one of the fastest and most scalable chains out there, and it doesn’t force a wallet onto the user. Wallets are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but they should be optional to the user experience. If you want Web 2 level mass adoption of blockchain applications, you must know when a wallet makes sense and when it gets in the way. On the Internet Computer, wallets are not needed to try an application or at all in some cases.
In addition to the scale and speed benefits, the development environment feels natural coming from Web 2. Even Motoko makes the learning curve of developing blockchain applications feel like a natural progression.
The Internet Computer provides one of the most frictionless transitions for both users and developers. That will become more evident as the Internet Computer ecosystem expands and more people experience the benefits of blockchain without those traditional challenges.
While there are many amazing blockchains, I think the Internet Computer stands out because it has its feet in the future, but its head is with the customer. What I mean by that is DFINITY understood the challenges with transitioning from Web 2 to Web 3 for everyone involved, and they have done a commendable job building a path between the two models.
3. How long has your company been established, and what is your business model based on?
Our company was established in 2019. Initially, our business model was focused on developing collaboration software with the idea of going the SaaS (software-as-a-service) model route.
Our background is in collaboration science and team dynamics, and we felt that building better platforms for user engagement and doing work coupled with a classic SaaS pricing model would make the most sense.
As we moved into the blockchain space, that idea has pivoted. Now we are excited about DAOs and community ownership. We provide services to our customers that come with ownership and governance rights in time.
Token-based economies and DAO foundations have replaced the notion that all roads lead to a SaaS model.
It is much more exciting to build a platform economy than to sell something for 6 dollars per user per month.
4. What makes your company marketable, and what will ensure its long-term success?
Like I alluded to above, we have a background in collaboration science and high-performance building teams. That, coupled with our design and product development skills, uniquely positions us to build platforms that people have not seen before and or in ways more intuitive than those they have become accustomed to.
Twenty years of research experience and the skills that come with that have given us an eye for holes in the marketplace and areas where applications can radically improve on the status quo.
5. What challenges have you faced while building your company?
Two things come to mind. First, finding the right people for the job. While we have been blessed with a great team, it didn’t happen overnight. Whether it's developers, marketing, or design skills, we have had to work with many people to get the right mix.
We also are self-funded, so keeping all the great people you meet along the way is not practical. It is the nature of bootstrapped companies to leverage freelancers for almost every aspect of their work.
The other challenge is funding. Both knowing when to seek it out and how to navigate the process effectively. You read about teams that raise 2-3mm pre-product and wonder how it is possible. While there is a method to follow, a lot of it is based on timing. Talking to the right investors, for you, and at the right time.
Funding also ties into product-market fit and making sure you have a solid story. Our initial focus on social cause support took some time to sink in with investors. There are a lot of misconceptions about social cause groups and their lack of funding. That is not entirely accurate. They have funding, but they are careful about how they invest it and with whom. We did a whole study on brand activism to get our messaging on point.
That said, we have expanded our focus to include Web 3 communities, creators, and other related interest groups. We did this because the needs of these communities overlap. Social impact groups and Web 3 project communities have very similar goals and challenges. They want to engage a broader audience, educate them, and have their members take some action. They both also typically seek to raise funds with donors or investors. The list goes on.
That said, many impact-focused investors have been very supportive of our expanded focus and see the parallels between social causes and web 3 groups. Lastly, SocialFi is about to blow up and we want Catalyze to be a key player in this next wave of social.
6. What overall vision do you have? Do you have a roadmap? If so, what does it involve?
Our vision has been evolving, in fact, quite a bit since we became involved with DFINITY and the Internet Computer. As you know, our application is called WeAct and is very focused on social cause support. As we worked on porting the back end of WeAct to the Internet Computer and analyzed feedback from early WeAct app beta users, it became clear that we had more opportunities to help a more comprehensive array of groups.
In addition, as we looked towards the future of WeAct on the blockchain, we knew to realize our goals, we needed to set the platform on a path to a token economy and possibly a DAO structure.
Starting late this month, we will be changing the name of WeAct to Catalyze. That change will likely take a back seat to our seed round fundraise.In Q1, we will release the Internet Computer version of Catalyze with support for Internet ID login in addition to Google and Apple ID, all without the need for a Yubi key. The IOS/Android clients and a brand new browser client will be released.
The UI for mobile has been reimagined from what is shipping today on Web 2, and the browser UI is a new experience that people will love.
After that, we will be adding a wallet to the platform in anticipation of our Catalyze token release later in the year. Speaking of wallets and tokens, Catalyze will have its own service token to incentivize users to participate in their communities and the platform. We will also support NFTs in-app for everything from experience and participation management to in-app fundraising and event ticketing.
Service tokens can be accumulated and turned into the Catalyze governance token, which will drive the platform's economy. Donors will use NFTs to support groups with capital and time. Yes, people can donate time in addition to assets in our NFTs.
We will also be releasing an AMA management tool for groups that regularly do AMAs to make the process more efficient. In addition, for the user, the My AMA function will allow them to store all their favorite AMAs in one place.
7. What advantages do you believe you have over other competitors?
We spent 20 years advising technology vendors on how to build software that helps support high-performing teams. We now get to apply those learnings to our software and designs. That experience, coupled with what you can build on Web3, is a winning combination in my book. We are also pretty good at spotting trends before the competition and building solutions for not just what people are doing now but what they will be doing next year and beyond.
8. Tell us about the team
We have a wide array of skills on the team. The extended team comprises technology researchers, software engineers (skilled in Motoko, React, Rust, Flutter), designers, sustainability experts, big six strategy consultants, marketing, and activists. We also have a pretty solid network of advisors and peers in the DFINITY ecosystem. I think that is the advantage we all have: the relationships, support, and guidance the entire ecosystem is sharing.
When you have diverse skills and good advisors, you can do more, avoid mistakes, and deliver great products. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you put the work in suddenly, things will be clicking. But for us, it is the diversity of experiences and ideas that set us apart.
9. What advice do you have for anyone working in the same space as you?
Never assume you have it figured out. Build fast and iterate. Don’t make it perfect. We have at times gotten sucked into analysis paralysis, and it’s no fun.
Expect to pivot a lot and listen to and observe your end customer before you start coding.
In the end, expect to build something potentially very different from where you started or even end up in a market you were not initially targeting.
Lastly, great UI/UXs matter. Tech is great, chains are cool, but a lousy UI will scuttle the lot.
10. What other projects building on the Internet Computer are you most excited about?
We are excited about so many projects. Canistore, ModClub, and Capsule are a few that we cannot wait to see. Watching all the unique NFT projects come together and seeing what they do with the metaverse will be insane. Toniq is another we are close to and excited about their journey.
11. Do you have any plans to collaborate with other projects building on the Internet Computer?
Yes, we have a few to announce. We will be working with IC_Astronauts to do a Catalyze themed NFT drop. They are already working on the NFTs, and we should have something to tease out later this month or in January. We are also discussing an NFT project with IC_Puppies.
We will be working with Toniq to connect Catalyze to Entrepot for inter-app NFT minting and posting to their marketplace. On the flip side, we are discussing how they can automatically spawn Catalyze community groups from inside Entrepot for teams launching NFT collections.
We have been in discussions with ModClub to integrate with their services to provide Catalyze communities with professional moderation options.
I feel like a collaboration with Portal is likely since I am a big fan of Jesse and his team. I think we can do some incredible things around streaming and chat.
Just to put it out there, we want to replace Discord for this community and others. Web 3 projects and communities need a Web 3 community platform, but we are biased.
12. Do you have any token sales planned for the future? If so, when? Can you give details?
Yes. We are actually in the early stages of our seed round raise. We hope to close this round by the end of January. If we hit our development milestones as planned, we should be doing a public token sale in Q3/Q4 of 2022. Our raise model is similar to what Canistore has done in many ways. There are some differences, but we think they did a great job with theirs. Full disclosure: Mo at Canistore is one of our key advisors.
We will post a link to our lite paper and investor interest forms on our website before month-end.
We will be doing a series of NFT auctions for charity in the near term. The first bundle will be a series of Rhino prints hand-drawn by a South Africa artist named Tori Stowe. She is amazingly talented and a conservationist. If that sale goes well, we will do several more animal and fish collections to raise money for the associated groups or causes Tori helps us identify. The NFTs will drop on Entrepot in Q1.
13. Tell us about your partners, if there are any?
We partnered with a project and a firm most recently. The project is called Oceans and Us. It is a project to build and launch autonomous drone multi-hull boats into the world's oceans to collect plastic and fishing nets. While at sea, they will sort the materials and then return to port, where the items will be unloaded, cleaned, and then sold to recycling firms. They want to use Catalyze to build a community of private-sector scientists and universities who can process the data and learnings from the program.
We are also partnering with a company based in Dubai called 27 Media House to bid on an NFT sale program with a Bollywood studio. Again, Catalyze would potentially build up a community of NFT buyers and move fans.
We are lastly in talks with Doingud.com, an NFT creators site (not on the Internet Computer, though) where artists can develop their own IP and auction it off for charity. Again Catalyze may be brought in to replace Discord for the community development aspect of the Doingud model.
We may also do a climate event in 2022 called the Climate Impact Lab. It would be a hybrid event combining IRL and online elements within Catalyze. More on that in Q1.
14. What are your short and long-term achievements and targets?
Short term is to get the Internet Computer version of Catalyze out the door and successfully transition our brand name. The other key short-term goal is to close our seed round to accelerate development and hire more developers and a community manager for our social presence.
Long term is to evolve Catayze into a DAO and create a foundation based in Switzerland similar to what Distrikt and others have done.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Ray :)