In case you missed it, here’s a summary of Ephere Football’s Twitter Spaces from 9/22. During this session, Hector Ituarte (co-founder and BD lead at @ephere_football) asked great questions of Rod Fuentes (co-founder at @AlphaBack_xyz) in an AMA format. TLDR, you’ll learn: (1) about AlphaBack (a paid to surf extension for NFT projects), (2) the co-founders’ history that led to build an NFT extension, and (3) what’s next for the AlphaBack team.
Hector: please introduce yourself and tell us about AlphaBack, the paid to surf extension.
Rod: I’m a former electrical engineer that went to law school. I practiced IP law for almost 3 years in NYC before transitioning into startups in 2011. I started working in marketing technology and went through the whole rollercoaster of emotions that come from entrepreneurship. My cofounder and I were blessed to startup, grow, and eventually exit a software company that was focused in the advertising technology space. After the acquisition, we knew we wanted to do another company – this time in the blockchain industry. Eventually, AlphaBack was born from our personal frustrations of going to market in the crypto / NFT space.
Long story short, AlphaBack is a browser extension that pays users to surf the web while looking at NFTs. We can do that because we sell ad space in a user’s ‘new tab’, and our keep 70% of those promotional payments. It’s a classic “surf to earn” or “browse to earn” model from the late 1990s, but we’re bringing it back with big improvements. Namely, we’re using crypto payment rails to broker a direct relationship between advertisers and users.
Hector: speaking of co-founders, I understand that you call your co-founder a “startup spouse.” Is that true?
Rod: [chuckles] yes, though I’ve had to stop doing that after an investor got very confused. That investor believed that my co-founder (Sandeep) was literally my spouse. Then I had to spend minutes untangling that misunderstanding. What I meant by that comment is that we’ve been through hell and back together, and we know each other as well – if not better than – most married couples.
Hector: I’ve built great startup founding-relationships from personal relationships. My co-founder and I bonded while working for Alex Torrenegra, a prominent Colombian-American entrepreneur.
Hector: tell us what you were doing before AlphaBack, and why you wanted to return to entrepreneurship after getting acquired.
Rod: Sandeep and I co-founded ListenLoop, a B2B advertising technology company that would place highly targeted ads on specific job titles at named companies. But that phrasing is too crisp relative to what the years looked like. We started out as feedback collection software and slowly pivoted our way into B2B retargeting, and eventually morphed into a category that later became known as “account based marketing.”
The key lesson was knowing when to pivot. Frankly, it’s very hard because it’s not as clinical as books make it seem. You rarely have sufficient or good enough data to make a clean decision. It requires intuition and guts to execute the pivot. Ultimately, it’s about being comfortable with the consequences, whether you’re right or wrong about the pivot. But this story ends well. In late 2016 / early 2017, we finally found our product-market fit – after 3 years of iterating and grinding through failed product experiments. Only then did it feel like a rocket ship, growing from $0 to $1M revenue in less than 12 months.
Hector: speaking of pivots, the product you started with at Tachyon was quite different than AlphaBack. What’s that story?
Rod: we started Tachyon with NFT Deals, an on-chain variation of penny auction sites.
For 12 weeks, we tried everything to promote that site and quickly learned how painful it is to market crypto products! We:
- waddled through the paid influencer swamp, where you pay $5,000 for RTs that quickly get lost in the noise;
- hired an OG influencer to broker connections into the “old boys club”;
- shilled endlessly on Discord; and
- tried traditional advertising – which doesn’t work because Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc., won’t take your money because crypto / NFT projects violate their Ad Policies.
We realized there are countless dApps and NFT collections eager to promote their projects… and their options are limited and terrible. So we embraced the idea of building a browser extension that would act as an ad network for crypto products. Our first prototype was a submission to the Encode x Polygon hackathon, where we won second place. We debuted the product at NFT NYC (printing giveaway brochures with NFT Deals on the front-side and AlphaBack on the back-side), where we got some early traction and excited user feedback.
That’s really what gave us the confidence to pivot 5 days before Tachyon’s Demo Day! Now we’re focused 100% on building a paid to surf extension for users who love NFTs. It’s a great way to discover and explore new art while earning USDC rewards.
Hector: what are the main points about AlphaBack? How do people get paid to surf with your extension?
Rod: AlphaBack replaces your ‘new tab’ experience, showing you an NFT gallery instead of a search bar. So users just continue browsing the web while getting paid – passively earning USDC. NFT creators want to share their projects with the world, so they compete for upvotes to earn the #1 spot in your new tab. Others pay to promote their NFTs in the new tab. Users are eligible to get a share of ad payments by simply being an active user of the browser extension. Then, promoter payments are split proportionally among users via smart contract.
Hector: how do I get started? How do I upvote a project?
Rod: start by installing the AlphaBack extension, which pays you to surf the web. When you open a new tab, you will see one or more NFTs with an upvote button. Click on that button, which will prompt a wallet transaction. Review that transaction and pay the gas fee in MATIC (currently about 0.001 MATIC, which is less than half of a penny at present exchange rates). If you don’t have enough MATIC to upvote, just reach out to us on Twitter and we’ll hook you up!
Hector: so what’s next for AlphaBack?
Rod: we’re focused on hosting more upvote competitions among crypto projects and NFT collections. I believe it’s a great way to get the word out and cross-promote with each others’ communities.
Separately, it’s no secret that BD (business development) is an incredibly important but painful part of early-stage growth. Even in the last 2-3 weeks, I’ve messaged some 200+ projects to get 20 who are eagerly participating in our first upvote competition. Part of me wants to host an open database that we can all share so that others don’t have to repeat the work of finding other projects who are willing to collaborate. At minimum, I want to host more Spaces with other projects so that we can all learn and grow together.