Rad (formerly Littlstar) recently announced the launch of its non-fungible token (NFT) platform, Rad NFTv, for streaming video, creators, and entertainment-based NFTs. The platform allows creators in sports, music, film, television, and beyond to launch NFT projects, fund shows, and provide access to video content on devices like PlayStation and Google TV.
Launch partners include Calboy, the platinum rapper who has collaborated with Lil Wayne, Elliot Sloan, a 5-time X Games Gold medalist, DKNY, CoinDesk TV, DeadHeads, Cinedigm, and the Space Channel. Additionally the company is building an IP collection of the most significant NFT native projects like FLUF World, Jenkins the Valet, Knights of Degen, and Claylings, developing content, merch, promotions, and characters as NFT-first. Rad also recently signed a deal with Huawei to be pre-installed inside Huawei’s Video and TV portal on 200M devices in 65 countries and will relaunch on Oculus Quest in Q1 2022, in addition to its current PlayStation, Google TV, and iOS apps.
Rad recently closed new financing from Intersect VC who are investors in Dapper Labs and Triller, Former New England Patriot Super Bowl Champion and Pro Bowler, Richard Seymour’s 93 Ventures, Alvin Kwan the former head of Corporate Development at Fox and Board Member at Fubo TV, Rusty Matveev who is CSO at Calaxy and formerly a partner at MSG Ventures, Revere VC, and others, and is currently discussing Series B financing. Rad has existing investors like Sony via SIF, Warner Music Group, Vayner RSE (Gary Vaynerchuk), Carmelo Anthony’s fund Melo7, and Disney via the Disney Accelerator.
“The momentum in the NFT space is palpable, and we have a deep conviction that every piece of digital content in the world will eventually be an NFT,” said Tony Mugavero, CEO of Rad. “This, paired with our experience in VR and AR, translates into Rad building the first streaming metaverse. We’re the only streaming platform in the world built for the NFT community, leveraging NFTs for subscriptions, access to video, and live events on mainstream devices. We are taking Hollywood and the creator economy into web 3.0.”
Rad has roots in virtual reality (VR) and 360-degree video known formerly as Littlstar, with apps on PlayStation VR and an Oculus Quest relaunch. In 2018, the company built and launched an entire web 3 content marketplace and native token using Ethereum to power Rad, called ARA. The content types supported include video, live streams, 360-degree video, and volumetric video, and the supported devices include mobile, smart TVs, and Sony PlayStation.
I sat down with co-founder and CEO Tony Mugavero last week to talk about Rad and the many emerging use cases for NFTs.
Charlie Fink (CF): Tony, you’re pivoting your VR distribution company Littlestar toward NFTs and you’ve changed the name to Rad. The world has changed, and so has your business model.
Tony Mugavero (TM): That’s right. VR was taking its time, blockchain and web 3 were emerging as a clear paradigm shift, and we had to look at where the market opportunities were. In terms of the marketplace, Littlstar looked at the opportunity in a traditional way. We would license content from studios or creators with paper contracts that were 30 pages or more long, and have to deal with all kinds of revenue shares and terms built into them. We did this in different countries using different currencies, and ingested and optimized content for consumers for purchase. There is an enormous amount of friction in that system.
When we started to play around with blockchain in 2017-2018, we saw the power of smart contracts and immediately thought they would solve a significant number of problems. We could make smart contracts mirror what was happening in the paper contracts to a large degree, and it would mean that everything was more open and accounting was immediate and global.
In combination with smart contracts, we started looking at ways that we could use peer-to-peer content delivery to offset our streaming bills because we’re moving around gigantic pieces of VR content. This is how the ARA platform powering Rad was born. Smart contracts plus content delivery, identity, and rewards.
In terms of content, we started supporting traditional video, not just VR, and we took the great relationships we had with our hardware partners and transitioned those into launching on flagship devices. We went from VR content on PlayStation VR and Google Daydream to streaming video to the main PlayStation 5 as a launch partner, Android TVs, and iPhones.
We took all of this together and knew we needed to lean into this 1000%. We were making the content marketplace more efficient, providing a direct connection from creators to fans, supporting a broader range of content types and devices, and leveraging all of the automatic accounting that comes along with it. Web 3 is the future. The contracts are more open, the code is open sourced, and the community has a voice in what comes next.
In late Fall, we launched the first auctions. Those included full length Blu Ray collectible films like The Amazing Mr. X and Life at Stake, AR holograms of X Games gold medalist Elliot Sloan doing tricks, and DKNY’s brand relaunching as an NFT. They worked with NFT creators and art collective Obvious, who made a video using artificial intelligence and images of New York combined with the new brand. Immediately after launch, we ended up hearing from all of our content partners in VR, and a bunch of new ones trying to figure out the future of content. The same dynamics were at play with creators needing to figure out a new medium but not knowing how, and this was great to feel again.
There is one big difference between the hype of blockchain versus VR though. With VR, you have different behaviors and habits that need to change, you have to put on a headset, you have to create all new content, and people get sick if they’re wearing a headset for too long. But with blockchain and NFTs, it’s really less about the underlying content type and less about the device, and more about the commerce model and the means of distribution. That means Rad can scale our business much faster. It doesn’t matter about the content type, and it doesn’t really matter about the hardware. We can mint a video as an NFT and put it on a TV, or we can mint a piece of VR content and deliver it to an XR device.
The bigger opportunity from a content distribution perspective was for us to transition into an NFT-first business instead of a VR first business.
CF: So you went to your existing customers, and they must have jumped at the opportunity to start an NFT business with a focus on entertainment, working with you as a technology provider?
TM: That’s right, and we also received outreach from quite a few new partners. Many of these content companies have been with us for a long time, and so they feel comfortable reaching out. Once you get a deal done, they start to trust you, you’ve gone through security audits, and you have the right insurance in place, then you start to get content and innovate together. It can take years to build these relationships, and that’s manifesting now with NFTs.
CF: So you have this other new line of business in helping them to Web 3.0?
TM: Exactly. And to them, they know they need to do it but there are so many unknowns, and they just want to create great content, not build entire new distribution platforms every time a new technology comes out. For our existing partners from the VR space, it’s a much bigger opportunity than VR was, but there are very similar dynamics to how it’s playing out with studios and creators needing help. Everybody said, we know we need to understand and use web 3 and we need a trusted partner. The same holds true on the hardware side as it does on the content side. Everybody knows they need to be able to support crypto and NFTs, and so they’re all kind of scrambling to try to figure out.