Non-Fungible Tokens: Justyn Eddins Of MR Augmented and PILLAR On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Team — Your team is going to be the folks you grow this project with. You need to ask yourself, “what type of project is this and who do I want to build this project with?” I’d recommend onboarding individuals with industry expertise. If you can’t find a full-time team, then have expert advisors.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Justyn Eddins.

Justyn Eddins is an NFT expert and Augmented Reality CEO. He is the CEO of MRAugmented and of PILLAR, both leading companies in the Augmented Reality space. PILLAR is the #1 AR app that brings digital assets (like NFTs, art, and digital goods) to daily life in the palm of your hand — and soon glasses and lenses. MR Augmented is funded by Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go. In addition to being the CEO of two successful companies, Justyn is also the founder of “The Black Web3 Group” and “Young Black Entrepreneurs.” Justyn’s previous experience includes leadership roles in technical recruiting at Google, Rockstar Games, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I’ve always been interested in how things work. I was that neighborhood kid that would fix everyone’s computers, VCRs or DVD players. I was also that kid that got in trouble for taking things apart. I needed to know how things worked! I took a very non-traditional route to my career in tech. I went from child actor, to college athlete, to self-taught tech founder. Deep down inside I’m still that neighborhood falling in love with the way things work and creating something new.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Eckhart Tolle’s, “A New Earth” has completely changed my self awareness and image. The book explains how our stream of consciousness is essentially a live-stream version of observing ourselves. Once we separate ourselves from our ego, we can live, be, and create in live-stream mode which can give us a tremendous sense of peace. To sum it up, it helped me submit my ego and focus on being present. This is incredibly important for any founder — you must be willing to “fail fast” (as the famous Google mantra goes) and be open to feedback and change without taking it personally.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

When I first learned about NFTs and Augmented Reality, I was hooked and wanted to research everything I could about the spaces. When NFTs finally started to become mainstream, I began realizing there was tremendous overlap between the two applications. I began developing my second company “PILLAR” to add value to NFTs through AR. Typically, a person will buy an NFT because they think it is cool, want to be a part of a community, or think they can monetize. After buying it, the NFT sits in their phone, computer, or wallet. They might post it to social media or screenshot it… but then what? PILLAR brings NFTs (and other digital assets) to life by placing them to a specific geolocation. You can use your phone, or even glasses / lenses to view the NFT in “real life,” share it with friends, and so much more! When Niantic (creators of Pokemon Go) funded it, I knew this was more than a passion project and my career in this space launched from there.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

This past April 2022, MR Augmented hosted an NFT AR Exhibition in Los Angeles. Our goal was to simply test some new technology we were working on in a fun way. Little did we know it would be so successful that it would spearhead an entire company, PILLAR. To be honest, I just got tired of the skepticism around the technology I love so much, so our event was set up like a networking happy hour including photobooths, open bars, DJs, and of course the “star” of the event, NFTs displayed in Augmented Reality. People loved it. Everyone had their phones out, not to lose presence, but to be even more present at the event which was something I’ve never seen before. This is how PILLAR began.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Balance is something I have come to learn is a necessity for long-term success. I didn’t quite realize this in my early days and wow, did I pay the price! I actually managed to work myself into pneumonia. At the time, I was working 40 hours per week at Google, and 40 hours per week at my first start-up “Zave.” I eventually couldn’t even think straight and was forced to go to the hospital. To use the doctor’s exact words, I needed “extreme rest.” Though it was so serious at the time, it seems silly and obvious now that a healthy “you” is key to a healthy company.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am eternally grateful to all my mentors, advisors, and team members. The only person who ever could come to mind beyond their impact is my son. Like any entrepreneurial roller coaster, there have been highs and lows. Knowing he is proud of me and what I am building has allowed me to still enjoy those “lows” and use them as fuel to my fire. I remember when my son was having a bad day. We had just finished up putting some fun AR characters into our app. I showed him the app and it blew him away. Seeing his face light up and all his problems melt away inspires me to give other people that same experience.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My second company PILLAR is still in the pre-seed stage, so I am actively working on it everyday. The idea of bringing new technology to the world is more than enough excitement for me, but in creating PILLAR I realized there was an even greater purpose. We’re enabling talented artists to easily create and share their artwork as interactive NFTs and collectibles. We are enabling brands both big and small to turn their offerings into digital experiences. And even cooler, we are enabling people to get out in the real world and interact with all of that and each other through AR.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

The idea of an NFT can be quite confusing. Even the term “Non Fungible Token?” Like what is that?! I like to start with the purpose of NFTs, which is centered around ownership and value. An NFT is different from a photograph or video because when you buy it, you are the only person in the world who owns that specific asset (even if there are multiple copies, you are the only one who owns that unique “version” for lack of a better word).

There are a few different types of NFTs. Here are two examples. The first example is artwork. An artist can now monetize beyond physical “canvas” type versions of their art by selling digital NFTs. The artist’s community of fans and patrons benefit from this as they are able to prove they are the sole owner. Some NFTs also come with additional perks, which leads us to the second example, which I like to call a “Utility NFT.” An example of a Utility NFT can be the famed “Bored APE.” If you’ve heard of Bored APE, you’ve probably wondered how a cartoon monkey sells for close to $1M. Good question. Seriously. This all has to do with the community and the perks associated with that NFT. If you own an APE you immediately get brought into a community that has rare events (think private concerts with a-list artists), their own crypto token, and global visibility. Since you own that NFT you’re able to monetize it as well.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Continuous Growth — Seeing NFTs become more mainstream excites me. More diversity can only improve the offerings, community, and industry overall.
  2. Utility NFTs — NFTs are becoming utilities with real life perks. For example, I am the recent owner of a “Bill Murray” NFT from The Chive. With my purchase, I got community access including an exclusive and highly active Discord group. I also received a rare physical coin in the mail, and was invited to upcoming IRL events. I even had the chance to meet Bill Murray in real life. Instead of cashing in on what could have been the coolest lunch of my life, I decided to “flip” my NFT that I purchased for 2ETH for 16ETH just 8 days later. I love that the blockchain is here to prove it.
  3. Technical Innovation — I am definitely biased, but what could be more exciting than what we’re building at PILLAR? The ability to quite literally bring NFTs to “real life” through Augmented Reality is something that has never been done like this before. We enable you to view, engage, interact with and share NFTs in a unique way for the very first time. Nothing is cooler than that to me.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

  1. Scams — Unfortunately there have been so many scams that it is hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not. I urge those getting into the space, to do research on the projects you invest in. Anyone with a little technical knowledge can list an NFT for sale for any price they choose. I wouldn’t spend your money just off hype, who is behind the project? What are they proposing? Where is their RoadMap?
  2. Lack of Understanding — My friends want to get into the space but the current applications are not user friendly at best, and terribly confusing at worst. There can quite literally be 20+ steps to purchase an NFT and when you think about the typical 1-step “Amazon-type ”checkout we have become accustomed to, this can be more than a deterrent. The reality is people are interested, but it’s very confusing!
  3. Risk Factor — Because of scams and because of lacking of understanding. The risk factor is very high. Imagine going to vegas and betting $10,000 on a poker game when you have never played and have no idea of the rules or how it works. This happens in the NFT space everyday.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

You may have heard someone joke, “what’s the difference between NFTs and a screenshot?” That’s a huge myth. Yes, you can screenshot something but you do not own the assets. NFTs are synonymous with digital ownership.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

Let’s circle back to the poker example we discussed before. The risk is high if you do not know the rules of the game, how to play, or have never played before. Imagine going to Vegas and betting $10,000 or more when you have no idea what’s going on. I’ve seen so many people come into the space and invest without that core knowledge. I use the word invest because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you buy an NFT. You’re investing in that project, community, and its potential. Just like betting in Vegas, or making an investment in a company, most of the time you lose money. It’s the big wins that make it pay off, but those are certainly not common or guaranteed. The more knowledge you have, the more likely you’ll win. But like anything else with high-risk high-reward, the odds are not in your favor. That’s why it’s so important to buy NFTs for more than monetary value. Buy them because you love them, you support the artist, or because you want to be a part of the community. Just like in Vegas you might want the perks of a high roller, even though you lose most of the time you bet. For any new user coming into the space, do some research and learn. YouTube is a great place to start. Like anything in life that’s new, there is a learning curve.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

One aspect of NFTs I think can have a huge impact is giving people the ability to own their personal data. NFT technology can give us the ability to validate, identify and own any information about ourselves including our medical records, contact information, and more. This could completely revolutionize how we perceive information, authenticate ourselves, and prevent identity theft.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?”

Community — The community is the single most important factor. Any person that’s going to buy your NFT is investing in more than the asset, they’re investing in the artist/creator and in the community. If the community doesn’t believe in the value of the project then it will be reflected in the lack of success. I’ve been a part of a ton of awesome NFT projects with great art / assets, but the community lost trust with the leadership. This happens all the time. If the community is not growing or active then the project will eventually end as well.

Utility — Great NFT projects come with great utilities. Delivering on your promises with regards to perks does not need to be immediate (Rome wasn’t built in a day), but having a transparent roadmap that you actually deliver on is essential. For example if you say “drop 1” comes with exclusive live-stream concerts, then have the musicians lined up in advance. Do not promise the world to your community with no true goals or intentions. This will ensure you have a successful NFT career that stands out from the rest.

Roadmap — A roadmap is a clear outline of what your project will accomplish. Like any investment, your “investors” aka your community will want details to inform their purchasing decision. If you want your project to succeed, develop a roadmap with reachable goals. Don’t over promise and be sure you can hit the goals. This will keep your community engaged and excited about the growth of the project.

Team — Your team is going to be the folks you grow this project with. You need to ask yourself, “what type of project is this and who do I want to build this project with?” I’d recommend onboarding individuals with industry expertise. If you can’t find a full-time team, then have expert advisors.

Communication — I’ve seen so many failed projects with all the elements to win, but no communication with the community. That factor alone is the death of them. Think about how terrible of an experience it is for a new NFT buyer to join a project with no updates or point of contact. I would highly recommend having someone dedicated to community management and having weekly or daily “talks” on Discord and Twitter.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

PILLAR is enabling consumers, communities, creators, and companies to create digital experiences with AR. While this is truly a movement within itself, there are so many new ways to give back to deserving organizations in doing so. I am very excited to see new ways to incorporate philanthropy, social justice, and positive community initiatives into the app. That’s all I can say — for now!

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to have lunch with Andrew Lookingbill from Google Maps, whom I met while working as a Technical Recruiter there. Andrew was literally the first person I told about my passion for AR. As a leader at Google, Andrew’s enthusiasm and support validated me and gave me the courage I needed to press on with my career. I haven’t spoken to him since I left Google, so this is a fun way to ask — Hey Andrew, want to get some lunch?

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!

Non-Fungible Tokens: Justyn Eddins Of MR Augmented and PILLAR On The 5 Things You Need To Know To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts