Highlights from Bitrue AMA | From Zero to Hero: FriendTech's SocialFi Story
8th November, 2023 — In another Bitrue AMA, we decoded the SocialFi scene by diving into the backstory of Friend.Tech and what that means for the future of Social Finance. At Bitrue, we are genuinely stoked about the SocialFi scene. We were among the first to jump on board with listing SocialFi tokens like THETA, GAL, DESO, RLY, SYLO, MASK, and yes, there’s more to come. We're committed to helping the SocialFi ecosystem flourish. We do believe that one way or another, SocialFi is going to shake up the way we do things online. Since it's this cool blend of social media and blockchain tech, it will definitely open up exciting new possibilities for connecting, sharing, and working together. It's a game-changer, no doubt!
Friend.Tech was launched in August 2023. It has some enthusiastic supporters hailing it as the first real success story in the social crypto space. In the first two weeks after its launch, the platform reportedly gained more than 100,000 users and made about $25 million. This was followed by reports of its early demise, which was in turn followed by a sudden surge in popularity. It has emerged as a beacon of innovation and user-centricity, captivating the hearts of millions worldwide. But what exactly is the secret sauce behind FriendTech's meteoric rise? That’s what we aim to discuss today. Let’s delve into the captivating world of Friend.Tech, exploring its unique features, groundbreaking initiatives, and the driving forces behind its immense popularity.
In this AMA, we were joined by four very special guests to share their thoughts on the occasion and the topics surrounding it. In no particular order, we have 0xLeon, the Co-founder of CrossSpace), dapanji.eth, the Founder of Dino, GarlamWON, Momentum 6 Lab’s Intern, and James, a Partner of Terminal Labs.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the main Q&A’s of the session:
Q1. What specific innovations have Friend.Tech introduced to the SocialFi space, and how have they impacted the SocialFi landscape?
I think for Friend.Tech, I think the new innovation is the new form of assets. It's like the new assetization. So before we had like ten years ago, we only had Bitcoin, and then we have Ethereum in which you have smart contracts. You can launch tokens, you can launch new assets directly on the chain. You don't have to fork Bitcoin to get Litecoin. And then we have NFTs in which you can have non-fungible tokens. And I think Friend.Tech is a new form in which you can launch assets for individuals with only a Twitter account. I think that's definitely the biggest innovation there.
And after that, I think what they have introduced, now they have the bonding curve. I think that's something other platforms didn't have before. So in that way, they can put more forms into different traders and people in the Web3.0.0 community. I think that's the two biggest innovations. And I think when they started the app, they were trying to focus more on the social side, really trying to onboard the next billion people into Web3.0.0. I think right now they're just focusing more only on Web3.0.0 people. So I think right now they have more financial components, and money components in the app, and I think they are gradually pivoting to only serving the Web3.0 people and a social app for only the Web3.0 people. That's my take on Friend.Tech.
I think Friend.Tech came out at a very interesting time when the market was very quiet, and a lot of the degenerates that we have in the space have been kind of aching and itching for a little bit of action. I think Friend.Tech with the bonding curve kind of came through that era and really gave a platform for those people that basically want to see that action and have that dopamine. I think that's why Friend.Tech was so successful right from that era. And I think that's why you see a lot of the fatigue and a lot of the activities going down now, because obviously the market has been picking up and people see more upside in participating in some of these perks and the centralized exchanges, rather than just going to Friend.Tech. I think the timing made all the difference. And usually, in crypto, timing is 80, 90% of the game. So I think they really did that well.
I agree mostly, but I'd like to explain a little bit about my journey on how my perceptions of Friend.Tech shifted. So at first, I was pretty negative because as an investor, I've looked at a lot of deals like that. So it's like Web3.0 Twitter, Web3.0 communities. I do notice that the 109 N squared bonding curve innovation, and to be honest, I don't think that's really that innovative or it's going to change the game. I don't think it's kind of a uniswap level game changer, because I think at the end of the day, you're just trying to incentivize liquidity, but at the cost of time. I mean, if you jack up the liquidity with such tricks, it's very hard for it to last very long.
But then I had a discussion with a good friend. And I think he really managed to persuade me. He said the value he sees in Friend.Tech is actually an exchange. So it's kind of like a SocialFi-themed exchange. So in his view, it's not a SocialFi platform or it's actually an exchange in disguise. And I think the good thing about this is actually having unlimited liquidity, because there are so many people, so many influencers, so many people with spheres of influence on Twitter, and everyone can publish assets as well as engage in the trading of assets. So looking at it from an exchange perspective, it's a pretty good fee business. Because even if someone failed or didn't get enough traction, there are always so many other influencers or so many other people that you can better speculate on.
And I think, yeah, he really drives some of the points. I think he really manages to persuade me because I look back at things like ideal markets, or rallies for that matter. So you have people to publish your own tokens. So why did that fail? Because you have to generate all the content by yourself again, and you don't have any support for the platform. But Friend.Tech is not even that. It's basically leveraging on top of the tier, basically a vampire attack, this thing that everyone in Web3.0 loves the most. And plus the bonding curve thing. So I think that utilizing Twitter to have unlimited liquidity, as well as good timing, as well as a bonding curve, or like a price discovery mechanism, that is sort of like a micro innovation, and all in all contribute to the success or I mean till this point in time, it depends on how you define success. But yeah, a breakthrough in SocialFi or themed liquidity exchange or transaction trading platform exchange. So that's my view on Friend.Tech.
I think the previous three guest speakers mentioned most of the important things regarding the innovation of Friend.Tech. It's a game changer to the whole SocialFi system as well as the creation of new assets based on person, and the bounding curve perfectly solved the liquidity issues for these new assets. And of course, the timing is critical, as mentioned by Garlam, the market was pretty bearish at that time, so there were not many opportunities to chase like now. So that's why Friend.Tech has become so trendy in the past several months.
Well on top of what has been said, I just want to add some small points, but still, it's very important. A lot of people and users criticize that Friend.Tech is not really good at UI/UX user experience and the evolution of their features is quite slow. A lot of criticism like this. However, I think they are doing pretty well on some new innovations. For example, the PWA function, the new features that make an app just function like an iOS or Android application. So it looks like a native application instead of an H5 application, even though you don't need to download it from the AppStore and install it on your mobile. I think it's pretty important for SocialFi projects because if you want to run a social app, I think the best trust is a mobile app. However, if you build it on the iOS or Android system, especially on iOS, you need to be charged a 30% commission on all of the transactions you make in the ecosystem. Also, the policies of iOS are not very friendly to Web3.0 projects, especially since we have a lot of trading elements on crypto. That's why I think this PWA technology, as far as I know, is the first time this kind of technology has been applied in social apps or in DApps historically, I think that's a game changer and we learned from this and we also use this new technology. Actually, it's not hard because it's not a new one. And there are some new updates on the iOS system so that makes the experience much better than before. So I think this small point, even though it's not the center of this new innovation, is still essential for a developer or for user experience. That's some actual point I would like to add to this question.
Q2. Beyond the Friend.Tech hype, what are some of the most promising and impactful initiatives being undertaken by emerging SocialFi platforms to elevate the SocialFi ecosystem?
I think it's not a really good question for me because we tend to look for opportunities in liquidity, and I think we have been involved in a couple of Friend.Tech clones and alternatives. The only thing is that I think for us at the moment, I think the size of liquidity and the TVL that's been built upon there, it is not really worth our time to really go deep into it. So, yeah, basically we've been exploring more on the Friend.Tech side for now, but I know there have been innovations in terms of various different UX or simple innovations such as you can see everyone's message instead of only the ones that you reply to, which kind of gives you a different room experience and all of that. But at the end of the day, we're very clear on why Friend.Tech did well, and we have a very high conviction thesis on why we want to stay in Friend.Tech. So I think, yeah, maybe someone else can take this question.
I think I have seen three platforms that are working towards that goal. I think they are doing quite well. The first one is, I talked to Leon in Hong Kong about CrossSpace, and how CrossSpace distinguishes itself from Friend.Tech is that it has a better custom segmentation. So it's focusing more on the Asian customers, and it allows you to tokenize your shares so people can buy. For example, they don't need to spend two or three E's on a key. They can spend a fraction of that money to buy a fraction of the key. And I think that's something CrossSpace is doing.
And the second thing I think is very nice is the Stars League. Stars League is backed by the founder of Chiliz, and Chiliz is the biggest fan token platform on Web3.0, and they have a huge resource in getting athletes and musicians into the platform. And what they are building is like, okay, you can have real-world utility of your tokens. If you have, like, three keys or five keys, you can have dinner with that person. I think that's the second platform I think is good.
And the third one is Tomo. I'm actually not sure about this one. I've been investing in Tomo since the first day, and they are backed by the founder of Anchor. And Anchor has a good amount of resources in VCs and also in different areas of the market, but I'm not sure how they're going to compete with other platforms. I actually just went to an event hosted by them.
Also, I think one thing people when using those SocialFi platforms are looking at is, if the chain has any airdrops, for example, Tomo is on Linea, and if Linea has the airdrops, there are going to be a lot more users coming to Tomo. Because they need to have more interaction with the chain to get the airdrop. And if Tomo can also help them make the money, it has the multiplier effect. I think that's something I would be looking into. And there's something a lot of smart traders are looking into. Yeah, I think that's the three products that have the potential. Friend.Tech is very quiet right now, too. I think that's the three that have the potential.
I was looking at quite a number of projects from last year until the middle of this year. But to be honest, I didn't find anything too interesting. And to be honest, I think I might have a little bit of a contrarian approach to understanding and I want to see how Garlam, Dapanji, or Leon takes it. However, I feel that SocialFi is very hard because the problem is how to attract users. Because if you want to do something social, you have to have that network effect. Even, for example, Facebook's endeavor, Threads didn't really work that well. So it's really very hard to do something viral and make it constantly viral and profitable.
And I think from a retail perspective, users come either for consumption or enjoyment expectations. That's why you play games, that's why you use Facebook and Instagram. Another one's like financial expectations that's why you use Friend.Tech. But I think you can't just have everyone having an investor mindset expectation because that's just going to be like everyone finding exit liquidity at the expense of someone else. So it's going to be really hard for it to be really sustainable. I think Friend.Tech is a success if you invest very early or are early participants in it, but if you're looking at it from a VC perspective, you're looking at time. I don't think it's enough for me to pull the trigger.
I think if you think about social and if you agree with me that the premise is a significant part of users for you to have that network effect, then the next question is how do you bring that many users on? And I think the bad is definitely games. Because games like the most easily understood context with MMORPGs, with things like CSGO, I've been advising Matr1x Fire. I think that's one thing.
And another one is probably like, I'm not sure you consider that SocialFi, for example, I see value in the sense of incentivized lifestyle gamification apps. But the bad thing about Seven is that it's a C2C pool and everyone comes with an investor mindset and that's why it crumbles so quickly. But if you have something like a B2C pool or like a G2C pool, so for example, you have companies that have like ESG budget and you use that budget to fund a pool. And then you have users come in for a consumption expectation at first and a little bit of that investment expectation, and then you have trading different expectations. People have different time horizons, people have different preferences. That might work. That's why, to be honest, my focus is on those things. There's definitely the social element. So again, it boils down to how you define SocialFi. But if you just think of SocialFi in terms of a forum, in terms of a place for people to exchange ideas, I think we have to solve the bottlenecks and premises I mentioned just now before we can see true adoption or really smart people willing to take a huge bet and build in.
First of all, it's a great question and I totally agree with James. I think before Friend.Tech, actually, there was no real SocialFi. Most of the project is Web3.0 social, like Web2 social plus the token issuance, and token launch expectation. So they don't have real “Fi” elements. And there used to be a lot of big problems, for example, both the platform and users could not make money from that, so there is no “Fi”. Also, the content quality and the social connections on the previous platform are not very good. And Friend.Tech with the bonding curve and the speculation elements, it really adds a lot of “Fi” elements, allowing the users and the platform can make a huge amount of money.
Also, I think the connections on that are very real, and the quality of the content produced on the platform is much better than before. So it's a game changer, even though I think the “Fi” element is maybe too much, focusing on the speculation instead of the consumption will make the sustainability of this platform a question mark, but it still is a game changer and tells people how to really bring in some “Fi” element into a SocialFi platform. So I believe in the future there will be a lot of innovation on top of this bounding curve. Just like for example, CrossSpace, we have a dual bounding curve. One curve is constant, another curve is on the creator key, which will balance. There will be a more healthy balance between the consumption elements and the speculation elements.
I'm pretty sure there will be more innovation on top of that, and very likely all of this innovation or this new SocialFi project, they are not a direct competitor against Friend.Tech. If you are just doing a pure fork, it's a direct competitor. If you have some new innovation, targeting different clientele, different target customers, and providing different services, it could be a pretty different SocialFi platform, even though you can take advantage of the bounding curve mechanism. But there should be something new and you will be a totally different project from Friend.Tech. It's not a direct competition because as far as I know, Friend.Tech only really captures less than 5% or even 3% of the KOL in Web3.0 communities and the platforms, because I think people with high purchasing power and speculation mindset, they are the key users on Friend.Tech, but a lot of content creators, they are not pretty comfortable with Friend.Tech and they don't use it. But it doesn't mean they will not be attracted by other innovative SocialFi. So I think it's just the beginning of the journey, and I truly believe next year there could probably be a “SocialFi Summer”, just like the “DeFi Summer” two years ago, three years ago. That's my view on this question.
Q3. How do SocialFi platforms plan to address the issue of bots and malicious actors on the platform?
That's a super good question. I think a way to address that is to have it incorporated with social graphs. For example, an easy way to do this is they can have a score of each account on Friend.Tech so that scores can showcase this person's activity and his followers. So basically, one way to check if this person is an auto content is to check his followers and check his key holders. If most of the person’s key holders are famous holders in the space, for example, one way to check is by using the Twitter score API. If they have a high Twitter score, a high crypto Twitter score, it's likely that they are docs. So it's likely that it's a real person. I think that's the best way to filter out if this account is false (is a bot) or not.
But I think that's a problem with Friend.Tech. I'm not sure because there are so many farmers on Friend.Tech now, there are matrix accounts. I think there's like four or five accounts. Each of them is worth like one ETH, which is very expensive, and they farm together and they talk on their platform, but it's all like useless information. It's all just for farming. I think that's something like Friend.Tech definitely needs to work towards this. And besides that, I think they can check how often you're using the app and how often new people buy in. I think that's some of the key components I think Friend.Tech can implement. But right now, Friend.Tech is pretty quiet. I'm not sure what the team is building, actually, I think they're progressing very slowly.
I think someone said it. Because we live in a very speculative and attention-driven kind of like liquidity market, a lot of the times when there are airdrops, when there are transactions, we all know that a lot of it is bots, but also it gives us that little bit of hope that maybe it's not. I think that's like the playbook that we're going through, and that's how we're bridging this whole, I guess like the early market maturity of crypto, where we want to believe that there's a lot of people, we want to believe that there's a lot of things going on, but at the end of the day, if you look at a lot of DEX transactions and users who's kind of using that, and you quickly find out that there is a couple of thousand traders, maybe even like some of the bigger ones, GMX, they have only maybe 1500 traders per day that’s trading.
So, I think that gives us the illusion and everyone else that things are a lot bigger and that allows us to be more hopeful and participate in the market. To some extent, I think it's good. It's more of a feature, not a bug. In terms of Friend.Tech, I think they're doing it really well. So they quickly find out all these bots and they don't give them points and more points kind of get distributed to the actual users that are staying in the space. So I think that's kind of like the best little both worlds where you let them participate. And sure, there are always going to be bots in the Internet economy that we created, but as long as they are not harming the people who are also participating, and there's a way for platforms to balance that out. Just like I think there's a week where a lot of people left and Friend.Tech, basically converted their point system to really reward the users. And I think that brought a lot of people back after that week. So those kinds of strategies, I think, balancing both worlds between bots and real users and keep the platforms running.
I agree with Garlam on this point. I think as long as there's this financial expectation, there's always going to be people who are trying to do this systematically. For example, that's the case in those massive MMORPGs in Web2.0, and any Web3.0 games, I think you can't get rid of them entirely, and depends on your motive, depending on where you stand. It might be a vice or it might be something that can coexist.
But I think if the fundamental approach is just to shift it more towards consumption, because then if there's not a huge financial expectation, then, yeah, you won't see that many bots, right? Because there are costs associated with it. They calculate ROIs. I've heard of how the farms choose what kind of Web3.0 games to play because they have some kind of opportunity cost as well. This is the fundamental approach. In the meantime, yeah, of course, it's about having a believability score or index if you want to incentivize such real humans to participate. It will be even better if you can make that dynamic. So if you don't just give yourself a score and then, so people that have a high score, just rational laurels, because they have a high score, they can do whatever you want, you want to make it dynamic, so you really incentivize true participation.
I largely agree. For a Web3.0 project, especially a popular Web3.0 project, bots are inevitable in your platform. And the question is how many of the users are bots, but not real people. So previously, I think a lot of Web3.0 so-called SocialFi platforms, 90% of the users are bots. Because as I said, if there is no Fi, no speculation, just people farming for the airdrop, they don't need to produce reasonable or good-quality content. They just use a bot to produce some random stuff and then they can get airdrops. But Friend.Tech, because as we have said previously, there are more real users compared with the other platforms. So it's already much better. Still, there is a big problem. For example, as Garlam mentioned, if the bot is not harmful to other people and users, it's good.
However, because of some bugs in Friend.Tech smart contract, a user or room owner can only buy one key at a time initially. So for example, when I open my account on Friend.Tech, immediately, there are 40 keys bought by the bots. So my real followers, if they want to buy my key, the initial price will be 0.1 ETH, which is pretty high. So this is harmful to real users like me. As a KOL, I don't have the incentive to run the room anymore because I think, “Oh, if I run it, I invite my friends and followers to buy my key, and they will be taken advantage of by the bots”, which will harm my reputation. So in this perspective, I think these bots are pretty harmful.
So in CrossSpace, we have several mechanisms to prevent these kinds of bots. For example, we have some antibot mechanism that can capture the bot's actions and freeze them for a while so that they cannot buy whatever they want and do whatever they want without any prevention. And also because we not only have the key as the assets but also each accountant can be an asset. So in this way, the risk for the bot to lose money is much higher than Friend.Tech. So if you issue an accountant and the bots rush and buy a lot of tickets from the accountant, you can simply sell it and move on to the next accountant. In this way, I think the bots have much less incentive to front the other keyholders of the room owners. That's my view on this question.
Q4. DeFi and NFTs have seen significant growth in recent years, and GameFi is emerging as an exciting new frontier. How do you envision the convergence of DeFi, NFTs, and GameFi within the SocialFi ecosystem, and what opportunities and challenges does this convergence present for both creators and users?
Maybe I have some thoughts on this question. So, I have a lot of Founders friends, who are running GameFi or DeFi projects and they all noticed the popularity of Friend.Tech, the bounding curve, the new innovation and I already see some of them trying to combine this bounding curve in their GameFi or even DeFi protocol. I see a DeFi project that is doing something like AMM Swap, which is similar to Uniswap. However, on each of their pools for the AMM, they have something like a key. You can buy the key at a cheap price and the more holders of the key, the price goes higher and the key holder could share the fees generated in this pool. So it means that people can speculate and make money from this pool based on the bounding curve mechanism, such as Friend.Tech. So we can see more and more of this kind of innovation applied in DeFi and GameFi.
Another angle is that previously in Web2.0, we have Facebook, and then there are a lot of small games built around the ecosystem of Facebook. I think we're going to see similar things happen in SocialFi projects. If the platform gets much bigger with a lot of TVL and users, I'm pretty sure there will be some third-party games or GameFi, no matter if it's an on-chain game or off-chain game built around this ecosystem. So that's a potential combination of GameFi and SocialFi in the foreseeable future. That's my view on this question.
I think that's a good take. I think for me some inspiration I had today, it's like Istanbul for DevConnect. I went to fully on-chain game events and I think a lot of fully on-chain games are trying to have more DeFi components in their games, because it's fully on-chain, so you can have more customization of the games. And I think it's going to be interesting to see if there's a social game in which they can incorporate more DeFi components in there. I think Friend.Tech is still very centralized, takes all the money in their contract and they can also change the point system. I think it's going to be interesting to think about a decentralized way to do it.
I think it's going to be hard to directly mingle those two fields together. But I think people at Friend.Tech is already kind of doing it like ‘3,3’ was from the Olympic style. I wasn't in the crypto space back then, but I think that was the DeFi project. Because I was on Friend.Tech the first day and on the first day, most people are DeFi people. Most people are traders and they came directly from DeFi because they were flipping, like they were trying to find different LP pools on DeFi. I think that's the two connections I see.
If you view Web3.0 as an asset network, compared to a data network, I think one telling or characteristic is that probably in the future you see users both as consumers as well as investors. Because that's basically what SocialFi or GameFi is. So of course you will see that intersection. I think there are a lot of ways to do it. But how do you do it in a way that makes sense? That doesn't end up just like a Ponzi is something worth considering. And I think it will be along the lines of, because consumers, you know the market, and you know what you want, and you know what the markets want, and that's why you'll be wise in making investment decisions.
So I think one good application of that will be in crowdfunding. For example, I've talked to teams that want to do something like a Web3.0 food delivery service. And then you can get some users by giving some points, and then you can exchange for two tokens at the end. Right. But then how do you get merchants on board? Because people are not interested in that. And then I realized that maybe one way to persuade them to get on board is, for example, have people to crowdfund to pay for the migration costs, for example, paying for the payment terminal and then subsidizing registration fees and other fees necessary. And then at first, I was thinking of rap share, but then I realized that this would open up the securities debate. But one thing you can do is just give people discount vouchers. Because they actually want the consumption, they want the merchants on board, because they want to have the food delivery services to deliver food from such restaurants. In this case, the merchants are talking about. So I think that makes sense.
But if you really want to have that, you must have consumption and financial expectations. You must find something that, especially if you're targeting 2C businesses, you must really find something that. People come in for the consumption expectation, or at least not everyone for financial expectations. So for example, food delivery services. That's why I think that the thesis of investors is talking about real-world assets, because there's actual consumption, and there's actual value in such assets. I mean, you can think of food delivery service as a kind of real-world service as well, and the network itself is an asset. So that is of course grounded, justified consumption.
And then if you do something purely online, such as MMORPGs, then I think the kind of thesis I have right now is for people to come in for the money but stay for the fun. That's because it's entirely virtual, and then it's very hard for people, for example, non-gamers, to just be a gamer just because it's fun. Because they're not into gaming or because they don't have the capacity. So for example, if you think about early FC players, I think a lot of them are not seasoned gamers, they're not people who play a lot of games, they're actually targeting non-players.
So if it's like a virtual service, then it's very hard for you to provide concrete value, because you're not consuming real, physical, tangible value. Then I think the way you do it is, you let people come in for the financial incentive, but then you make people stay because it's fun, because it's addictive. So that's why MMORPG, it's tried and tested formulas or things like formulas, right? Things like the parking space game. Those things are interesting. In fact, I've talked to friends about that idea. For example, incorporating the idea of the parking space into Friend.Tech. That might be interesting and I think it's going to work because it worked in Web2. And I think a good mechanism and good mechanics are going to work regardless of web2 or Web3.0. That’s the angle I look at it.
I think my point is, first, you must have games because games are sticky because it's fun. Of course, it makes it better if there are a lot of people. But social is fun because you have the people and you must have a network effect. And the network effect is not given to you de facto from day one. If you focus more on games, then you talk about social platforms, even talking about virtual services.
Q5. In the fast-paced world of SocialFi, what strategies or best practices do you recommend for content creators and users to navigate and thrive in this dynamic environment?
Well, I think the simplest way is to try as many SocialFi platforms as possible. It's just like the DeFi Summer back in 2020. Actually, DeFi, like AMM and Uniswap, started back in 2019 or even 2018, it's not brand new stuff in 2020. However, during the bear market, a lot of people don't really care about it. People think, oh, DeFi is a scam, it doesn't create value, it will never succeed. However, those degens or airdrop hunters or whatever they are, they try to use AMM, they try to try the DeFi app, they don't spend a lot of money or gas fee, but as an early adopter or early supporter, they really got a huge amount of airdrop during the bull market during the DeFi summer. So I think apparently we're going to have another bull market in the coming two years, and probably SocialFi, together with the new assets based on people or content could be another, as I said, a SocialFi summer like DeFi Summer. So spend some time, spend some capital, and try these SocialFi apps, it may make you a fortune in the next bull market.
To be honest, I think that's pretty hard for them to do so. Because there are so many traps, like phishing attacks, and offline signature attacks, I guess it's very hard. If you're like an established creator, to be honest, I don't think it's the best time for you to come in. Unless you know how the game works, you have a very strong financial mentality. you're interested in game theory. But I think most content creators are content creators because they're not interested in such stuff. I don't think the timing is right yet.