Alejandro Navia: Building the Future of Tokenized Media

The co-founder and president of nft now, a speaker at this year’s Consensus, discusses why Web3 has a mental health problem and the future of tokenized media.

AccessTimeIconApr 25, 2023 at 7:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 25, 2023 at 7:55 p.m. UTC

Harvard dropout. Startup founder. Web3 adviser. Non-fungible token (NFT) enthusiast. Alejandro Navia seems a lot like your typical modern-day entrepreneur, but one who has a strong spiritual life and is willing to challenge the Web3 industry to consider life beyond the gadgets and screens.

Presently, Navia is one of the creatives behind the leading Web3 news platform, nft now, where he covers trailblazing artists and technologists. For him, Web3 offers two simple selling points: digital ownership and sovereignty.

Prior to nft now, Navia gained professional experience with leading media, AI and aerospace firms, including Verizon. He has also helped many founders and creators scale their businesses, raising over $92 million in funding.

Navia’s ardent interest in spirituality, plant medicine and mental health advocacy shapes most of his work. In fact, he has been actively vocal about the mental health crises in the creator economy, reaffirming the importance of mental health care in the next generation of creators.

“Web3 is definitely going through its own challenges in mental health. It's an industry that is on 24/7 and is derived from access to information … The promise of life-changing money [in Web3] is really something that can create addiction or create gambling-type behaviors,” said Navia in a CoinDesk interview.

As nft now continues to produce informative content highlighting the best talents of the Web3 universe, CoinDesk caught up with Navia to understand the future of tokenized media and why mental health in Web3 needs more attention.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apart from running a firm full time, you also have interest in psilocybin education, plant medicine and ocean conservation. How do you manage all of this?

It's very simple. To the outsider it looks like there's a lot going on, but when you actually start looking into it it really just comes down to a single purpose that I have in my life – to be of service. I'm very much aligned in terms of mental health and really bringing it to nft now. It’s about empowering the creators of [Web3] culture and bringing the technology from niche to mainstream. And we’re exploring the ways to do that in an effective way that tells the stories of others and empowering those who are the visionaries of the [NFT] space.

And when you think about my day, it's very simple. It’s about having a well-crafted vision, knowing what the purpose is, and then having the discipline to say “no.” Once you have your why and then you have your what, everything just becomes crystal clear. It's truly about making sure that you have the right systems in place, making sure that you're surrounded by the right people, the right team. I can't stress enough how much help I get from my team, my wife and my friends.

Do you think there are challenges that are exclusive to the Web3 and NFT industry that makes running a startup in it hard?

That’s an interesting question. Being an entrepreneur in startups is incredibly challenging. And being a founder in media and Web3 is also challenging. So when you combine all three, it's almost a recipe for suicide. So it’s incredibly challenging but also rewarding.

And the challenge that I'm facing is [in understanding] what the future of tokenized media is going to look like. Particularly because at nft now, we are not cutting-edge. We are the one’s cutting the edge. We're tackling a big issue that has been really plaguing the industry for about 15 years now.

Also, Web2 is broken. We know that very clearly. Even in journalism, it's all about the headlines, the clicks, the CPMs (cost-per-thousand views). And that sometimes comes at the cost of the community. People are now diluted down to a single number, which is traffic, and our identities are not taken into account for the things that we like. And so as a consumer there is this element of being blanketed by those concepts. People are no longer loyal to the publishing or the publishing houses. They're loyal to the headlines.

So the invitation here for us to tokenize media is [in understanding] how to flip that model and actually serve opportunities versus serving ads. How do we make sure that we are sharing the value that we're creating with our community? How do we incentivize the community and the reward systems that we can create?

And so this is why we launched the Now Pass to be able to begin this first step towards division of tokenized media. And Now Pass is the key that will help you unlock the Now Network. And the Now Network is this membership portal that allows you to engage with tokenized media and earn points that will allow you to exchange those experience points for rewards, access, merch, NFTs, events and dinners, etc. And so you really start incentivizing the community to take an overall active role in what you do versus a passive role.

Interesting. What is the biggest misconception about Web3 that you come across?

The biggest misconception is that we have been conditioned to have instant gratification when most people don't realize that it took us about 40 years to get to Apple Pay on your phones. And so the greatest misconception is that we have been conditioning society to think that everything should be working right away really fast.

Even in Web3, outsiders think that everything should be working efficiently right away, as fast as possible. But great things take time and technological paradigm shifts really take time. Remember, the internet was born in 1991 and it wasn't until the mid 2000s that we started seeing digital media become a thing. All the social media platforms we use today are probably around 15 to 20 years old. If they were humans they wouldn’t be able to get in a club. Think about it in that conception. Technological paradigms and shifts require time.

How can we address the mental health well-being of Web3 creators?

Web3 is definitely going through its own challenges in mental health, more so than ever. It's an industry that is on 24/7. It's an industry that is based on access to information. And the promise of life-changing money is something that can create addiction or gambling-type behaviors.

So it's really about being more open and destigmatizing the conversation. And making sure that it becomes a natural order of saying, “I'm not doing OK today,” or “I’m going through a challenging time.” And we're starting to see this in younger generations being more open to it. But there’s still a fine balance between being open to it and doing it for social media.

Apart from your love for NFTs, what else do you have in common with the other founders of nft now, Matt Medved and Sam Hysell?

Oh, we have a passion for storytelling. When we founded nft now we asked ourselves the question – what is not going to change in the next 10 years? That's a question from Jeff Bezos and I borrowed that question for us. And what we came down to is storytelling. Storytelling is not going to change in the next 10 years. It seems like the mediums will change, though.

We also have a lot of commitment to serving people, sharing and empowering creators. We want to bring technology forward and challenge the status quo, and do it in a fun, effective and camaraderie way. Honestly, we just do it with love. That's what we have in common, the love of the game.

If you had to sell Web3 in 30 seconds, what would your pitch look like?

The idea of Web3 is digital ownership and sovereignty.

Fair enough. What are you most excited about in the NFT space right now?

I'm excited that the NFT space is continuing to thrive in the bear market. I'm also very excited about the Now Network. I'm also excited about the future of tokenized media. And I'm excited for the nft now team to bring that future into reality very, very soon.

This makes me excited for you, too. See you at Consensus!

Edited by Jeanhee Kim.


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Prachi Vashisht

Prachi Vashisht is a Consensus Magazine Intern.