Get the inside account of how SingularDTV launched its own decentralized token exchange to empower artists, musicians, filmmakers and creatives.
From conception, SingularDTV has always been a big vision, driven by decentralization, tokenized economies, the freedom for creators around the world to fund, make, and distribute their work without intermediaries clogging up the relationship between creator and supporter. All of these goals require thousands of hours of input from business, tech, development, legal, and creative perspectives before any sort of tangible product or platform even begins to form, and that’s before the real work even begins.
As one of the earlier successful token launches in the Ethereum ecosystem — SNGLS went live in October of 2016 — long before the ICO gold rush, SingularDTV would have been considered a pioneer even if it were to launch one decentralized app alone. But as the concept for the many-moduled entertainment ecosystem began to realize, it became clear that SingularDTV would have to launch many decentralized apps, over a roadmap of five years, to create a truly self-sustainable economic model.
Building one decentralized app is intrepid enough of a feat, but building an interconnected suite of platforms with brand new technology and ever-evolving parts shows a whole different level of ambition. That’s what faced Kim Jackson, Zach LeBeau, Arie Levy-Cohen, and their team at SingularDTV at the onset of 2017 when it came time to actually bring the vision of a decentralized entertainment ecosystem to life.
To Jackson, LeBeau, Levy-Cohen, et al, the path was clear. The big bang of the SingularDTV ecosystem would be the simultaneous launch of Tokit — the token creation and management platform — as the tokenization foundry, and SingularX — the decentralized, peer-to-peer exchange upon which to trade tokens — as the engine of the economy.
‘The dream is to provide financial freedom and independence to all creators worldwide,” says Arie Levy-Cohen, SingularDTV Chief Financial Officer. “It’s not enough that creators are simply able to tokenize their work. it was essential that there is always a destination for intellectual rights token management and trading. We felt the need to assure all artists and creators in our ecosystem to have a destination that was secure, safe, and assured for them to have an opportunity to continue on their journey of securing their franchise value, movie, song, or script rights.”
So…How to bring this big vision to reality? It’s a common lament amongst entrepreneurs in the blockchain industry that talented developers of Solidity — the coding language of Ethereum — are impossible to find. For a dual launch of Tokit and SingularX, the personpower required to imagine, construct, and release Tokit and SingularX was more than any one development team in this brave new world of blockchain tech could handle.
Jackson, Levy-Cohen and LeBeau used their standing as early leaders in the Ethereum space by bringing in the best teams around the world. Digital MoB, considered the Romanian wing of ConsenSys, took on the task of building Tokit, while Centrality, an impressive start-up based in New Zealand, set about SingularX. As 2017 reared into the summer and cryptocurrency and blockchain grew into the middle stages of a worldwide phenomenon, the team, spreading from New York to Zug, to Bucharest, and Auckland, worked to put together Tokit and SingularX respectively.
“We’ve been working on SingularX with the EtherDelta team from the very beginning. It’s based on the smart contract of the EtherDelta decentralized exchange, which is quite robust and secure,” says Aaron McDonald, CEO of Centrality. McDonald led the development on SingularX and said they “wanted to build on top of that well-proven, open-sourced contract, and take it to the next stage in terms of infrastructure, front-end, usability, and features. We worked on enhancing the infrastructure, user experience, and security features of the application on top of that. We’ve progressively rewritten much of the backend as well.”
The audiences for EtherDelta — a stalwart crypto-scene mainstay — and SingularX, with its focus towards newcomers to the space, artists and creatives, required a much different approach. “In building SingularX, the focus was on appealing to a broad community, that ranges from experienced crypto traders, to novices, artists and fans,” says McDonald. “So there needed to be quite a bit of flexibility with the UI, and different themes based on the type of user.”
As the timeline ticked down to a November 9th launch to coincide with the release of Tokit and the GRMTK Token, the New Zealand team worked around the clock to fine-tune the SingularX platform. But while the launch of Tokit caught imaginations around the world, with multi-million valuations and high-profile Gramatik gigs, documentaries, and marketing promotion, SingularX needed to be launched gently, proceeding with a gradual ramp-up in volume and users rolled out lock step with the growth of the SingularDTV ecosystem.
After years of planning, months of development and programming, SingularX successfully soft-launched in November. There has been in a period of collaboration between developers, users, and the SingularDTV community, fine-tuning the platform under the hood, while optimizing the remarkably modular UX interface that has quickly become a hallmark of the platform. Mention user guides.
“Making SingularX viable, vibrant, liquid exchange, with tremendous participatory interest, and not necessarily volume, is objective number one,” says Arie Levy-Cohen. “First, we have to make sure that every artist has a destination and a home. Objective number two is increasing liquidity.”
SingularX is progressing rapidly towards achieving that first objective, while the SingularDTV is up-and-running, functional, and already changing the lives of creators around the world, like London-based songstress Casey Pearl and emerging Guatemalan filmmaker Javier Borrayo. With only the two modules of the SingularDTV ecosystem released, the synapses are firing and the ecosystem is alive.
“Tokit is the place to create intellectual property tokens, while SingularX is the place to swap and purchase intellectual property tokens,” says G. Thomas Esmay. “There’s no other exchange platform that has a direct, symbiotic relationship with a token creation platform. All of the tokens being traded are owned by the people trading them — which keeps the nature of the exchange value-based on not speculative — while the platform provides an essential tool for artists to create value for their content.”
Singular X takes a different approach to the typical decentralized exchange,” says Ruben Carrion, Product Manager for SingularX. “Although DEXs often struggle with being slow, difficult to use, and lacking in some high-end features, SingularX’s aim is to show the next step in the decentralized exchange evolution, by offering an effective user experience coupled with future innovation.”
“Decentralized exchanges are the inevitable next step towards the future of crypto exchanges, and that’s going to be important for everyday crypto enthusiasts,” Carrion continues. “Despite hindrances due to their youth, DEX’s continue to rise in success and provide a good message to those who want to embrace continue embracing crypto. Decentralization is the destination of technology.”
Therein lies the longview of SingularX. Although the continued explosion of interest in cryptocurrency has the masses flocking to centralized exchanges like Coinbase and Kraken, the path forward is towards decentralized exchanges, and that may be whether we like it or not.
“We’ve come to see regulators put a lot of pressure on centralized exchanges. As such, centralized exchanges are not or soon will not be authorized to list securities,” explains Arie Levy-Cohen. “This process has been a long time suspected, and a migration from centralized exchanges to decentralized exchanges — especially for tokens that don’t fit the paradigm of a centralized exchange like many of those created through Tokit — is likely. In a discovery-driven, peer-to-peer environment, there is nobody running an order book, there is no market maker or giant whales, there is just earnest exchange.”
Now, as SingularDTV and Tokit’s audiences continue to grow rapidly, SingularX is entering a period of open Beta Testing. SingularDTV is encouraging usage of the platform by offering exclusive trading ratios on ETH with ERC-20 tokens, and tokens launched via Tokit, during a limited period in February.
Building a multi-nodal ecosystem from the ground up requires almost 360 vision, developing applications people will need before they even know that they need them. “Both SingularDTV and Centrality are focused on creating an application-based ecosystem,” says Aaron McDonald. ‘The path is not necessarily a straight one, but we’ve focussed on building complementary applications in a framework that will give us the greatest chance of mass-adoption…That’s when the ecosystem really takes off.”
When it comes to the ambition of SingularDTV, and perhaps the blockchain world in general, perhaps Arie Levy-Cohen puts it best: “At SingularDTV, we want to get up and make our own salt, without being disrespectful to the legacy systems. So we’ve just created our own ocean. The future is so beautiful and infinite, that these steps we are taking are all iterative. Ethereum continues to be a beta. And this experiment continues to be a dream built on top of a dream.”