Jonathan Teplitsky has never forgotten the people he met in Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania while serving as a US Army officer on various humanitarian missions. So many smart, ambitious, diligent people with very few avenues into the contemporary, online economy. Teplitsky, an avid gamer with a B.S. in Finance and Management from New York University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, went on after the Army to have jobs at Amazon.com, Uber and Accenture, as well as founding several retail startups focusing on technology and travel, before he put it all together with PipeFlare, a new NFT project looking to build on the success of P2E gaming platforms like Axie Infinity.
The goal of PipeFlare is to allow independent game developers to monetize their work. PipeFlare allows users to play multiple casual style P2E games and purchase NFTs which improve gameplay. Developers on the platform monetize their work by taking a share of NFT sales. Not least, game developers from anywhere in the world can get noticed in the gaming industry, with whatever new opportunities that might bring.
We asked Teplitsky about the “why” for PipeFlare, how it can help independent game developers, and what the future looks like for NFTs.
GD: You were an Army officer on humanitarian missions to Africa. How have those experiences shaped you as a businessperson and the mission of PipeFlare?
Jonathan Teplitsky: When developing my ideas for PipeFlare, I’ve thought a lot about the people I met during my deployments in Africa as a United States Army officer. While traveling on humanitarian missions in Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania, I had the privilege of interacting with a great deal of locals. I was struck by how motivated they were to overcome challenges and succeed, despite unfortunate circumstances. It seemed like everywhere I turned, I met bright, talented people who had no way to monetize their work or execute their business ideas. They simply didn’t have the time, resources, funding, internet connectivity and access needed to make their dreams a reality. Many were solely focused on their survival, so these aspirations really did seem like pipe dreams.
Knowing that so much untapped talent and potential were sitting dormant, not just in Africa but in so many places around the globe, did not sit well with me. I was inspired to do something about it. When I first launched Pipeline Marketing (and PipeFlare), my main mission was to provide a true monetization opportunity for the people such as those I met along my journeys. Giving any game developer an easy way to monetize their work through our platform – for free – is a win for everyone. Users are introduced to games that they otherwise would have overlooked while developers can easily integrate our SDK and start to earn a passive income.
Our mission is also guiding us into new areas of the gaming space. While we didn’t start out with the intention to sell NFTs, after about just six months, we realized the unique opportunity to let independent game developers earn extra income was right there in front of us.
GD: How can independent game developers monetize their work through PipeFlare?
Jonathan Teplitsky: PipeFlare enjoys tremendous traffic from captivated, loyal users who enjoy the platform and keep coming back for the superior user experience. As a result, we are proud to have over 750,000 members, with over 60,000 daily players. Essentially, independent game developers will be able to integrate PipeFlare’s open software development kit (SDK) into their games, rapidly turning them into ‘play to earn’ (P2E) games offering real crypto rewards. With our NFT suite, our SDK will be able to enable developers to seamlessly mint NFTs for their games to be made available via our NFT marketplace. The revenues earned from NFTs will be able to be split between game developers. Previously, developers relied on pesky in-game ads for revenue, which greatly hampered the experience for users. Our NFT model flips today’s gaming paradigm on its head, creating a new win-win experience for both developers and users.
GD: What is a “dynamic” NFT? What are the potential uses for it not otherwise available now?
Jonathan Teplitsky: “Dynamic” NFTs (dNFTs) can automatically change and adapt over time based on how a user engages with a brand. Essentially, dNFTs acquire novel attributes and gain more value based on certain actions that a user takes.
For example, a sports team may issue an NFT that becomes more unique and increasingly valuable based on how many games a user attends. A sports event may also issue an NFT of one of the participating athletes that improves in real time, based on the player’s in-game performance. A band might issue a dNFT that improves based on how many times someone visits their concert.
With so many possible use cases that evolve over time, dNFTs are proving to be the “next generation” of NFTs. Namely, dNFTs will diversify the space beyond static digital collectibles and allow brands to embed social, financial and customer loyalty credit data.
GD: Globally speaking, a few people are immersed in NFTs but a lot of people have not even heard the term NFT, and think of them as mysteriously valuable digital cartoons if they have. What needs to happen to make NFTs more than a digital collectible?
Jonathan Teplitsky: In order to go mainstream, NFTs will need to undergo a revolution in utility and access. For now, NFTs are widely used as a speculative investment vehicle for people who have ample disposable income, i.e. the rich and ultra rich, and are willing to risk it on some potentially large gains. But if people are to engage with NFTs for reasons other than mere speculation, the space will need to offer more measurable utility. We are beginning to see this movement in gaming, with NFTs offering gamers tangible control of their characters and in-game assets.
Apart from utility, access also needs to be expanded and leveled so a wider breadth of users can get in on the action. Think about what Robinhood did for investing. It revolutionized the capital market investment space by creating a simple user interface, allowing anyone to quickly and seamlessly purchase stocks. This offered a huge improvement over the bulky and complicated systems of other stock trading programs. Robinhood’s campaign to ‘democratize finance for all’ is winning because users feel comfortable with its platform and model.
Right now, NFTs are seen as complicated to purchase because the majority of platforms require the use of cryptocurrency. And for the average consumer, acquiring cryptocurrency is complex and not something they can do on a whim. It can take up to seven days to clear, between security checks and transferring funds from a bank. Alternatively, we are now starting to see some NFT platforms accept credit cards as a form of payment. This is creating a more expedient, ready-now model that more users feel comfortable with.
After implementing credit card purchasing options, the next step is transforming a web-first NFT marketplace, like OpenSea, into a sleek, mobile-friendly app like Robinhood. This winning combination of both access and utility will drive NFT adoption through the roof.
GD: We’ve seen a lot of already wealthy people become even more redundantly wealthy by cashing in on NFTs. Are NFTs just for the one percent? Is there any hope of democratizing NFTs, and for that matter cryptocurrency, such that it also benefits people working in the tangible economy?
Jonathan Teplitsky: The democratization of NFTs is what currently excites me most about the industry. NFTs can be a major force of good for the tangible economy and everyday people, not just a vehicle to further line the pockets of the redundantly wealthy. In fact, I see so much potential for it to create more equity and reward people for their work and talents. We are already starting to see organizations shift their business models to offer more benefits for creators, such as the Associated Press allowing their photographers to sell NFTs of their work. Imagine owning the NFT for iconic, Pulitzer prize-winning works that have marked history.
We will likely see more influencer-focused NFT sites pop up this year as well as large companies integrating NFTs into their platforms, such as OnlyFans. As companies like YouTube explore allowing creators to issue NFTs on their platforms, there is a looming challenge they must confront. For ad-driven businesses, giving power to creators could pose a threat to their business models. Creators who choose to monetize via NFT will likely stop ads on their channels, effectively compromising their current revenue stream model. However, if these platforms don’t find a way to adapt and monetize NFTs, they could be disrupted and even dismantled in the influencer and content spaces.