A Year In Review
Thank you for all your patience whilst we continue to test, develop and build what we believe and know will be the most revolutionary and exciting online horse racing ecosystem on the blockchain ever. 2019 has seen us come from humble beginnings, to gaining traction and being a brand and product that has sparked the interest and curiosities of well established organisations from all over the globe.
As a company, we understand that there has been the need from our community to know where ZED is heading and what one can expect to see, both in the short and long term. The community has invested a lot of time and money into the ZED ecosystem which makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside! The passion and feedback we have received since launch is not taken lightly and we are hellbent on providing a truly great experience.
With the ongoing support of our community, we have achieved some pretty amazing milestones such as becoming one of the most purchased Non-Fungible Token (NFT) on the Ethereum network (at a single point in time), selling 500 horses in ~24 hours and attracting some of the worlds’ best talent (more on this later)!
The biggest driver for us is the amount of energy and passion that has already been invested by our community and because of that we want to deliver the best.
Our main goal for 2019 was to deliver live racing on main-net which was always an ambitious goal. We missed our intended deadline for live racing because what we wanted to build before we launched ZED had changed dramatically. The reason for the change in what we wanted to originally execute was solely due to wanting to deliver something bigger in scope and bigger in value for the community. From time to time, even the largest and most well funded games studio in the world miss deadlines for various reasons, however for ZED, when we launched and began selling thousands of racehorses, we demanded more of ourselves to build something even more special for the community.
To all our newcomers and people watching ZED on the sideline, we feel that it is pivotal to communicate the origin of ZED, why we decided to build such a platform and where we are going over the next 12 months. However, to know where we are going, you need to know where we came from first.
Before we deep dive into our journey, we want to highlight that every business, especially a start up business like ours, is heavily dependent on two key factors:
Money makes the world go around and for start ups, it is our life line. Developing any sort of technology is expensive, really expensive, let alone building it on a new and largely unfamiliar platform like the blockchain. In the background, the ZED team has solved very complex problems through a research and development which is time and resource consuming. As a result, in the beginning a lot of our time was spent raising capital to drive the business forward to overcome these hurdles.
Initially, we were caught off guard by the amount of racehorses we were selling and it was evident that we were more ‘business focused’ than ‘product focused’ when bugs were ever present. We have learnt a balance between both is paramount.
2. Internal Belief
More importantly, we need buy-in from our team to be able to create and deliver on the ZED vision. Everyone within the ZED team has been absolutely outstanding in demonstrating commitment to the vision we have painted by going above and beyond our expectations. In midst of many projects failing and shutting down, ZED’s doors remaining firmly open with a bright future ahead. We have overcome many financial, technical, legal and business roadblocks and this is a testament to the teams belief in where we are going in the next 12 months.
The Journey So Far
ZED was officially launched on main-net on the 17th of January 2019 and during that time, we have sold over 4,450 racehorses at an average sale price of ~0.2326 ETH translating to approximately $150,000 USD in lifetime sales. Whilst these sales number are impressive for a small start up with a big vision, it is only the beginning.
Traditionally, horse racing is viewed as a gentleman’s sport, yet some of the biggest sporting events in the world such as the Melbourne Cup, the Kentucky Derby or the Grand National attract an entirely different type of demographic — young millennials. These millennials bring with them fashion, fun and a party atmosphere. Subsequently, we recognised that a disconnect existed outside of those major horse racing events and that was when the foundation of ZED was born. We wanted to simplify and make horse racing ‘sexy’ and more importantly fun, in order to attract a wider and more diverse audience.
Just as in the real world of racing, the majority of times, when a casual bet is placed on a horse, it is generally not to make a return, it is for the entertainment value, the excitement, the feeling of being apart of something that won. This was the light bulb moment when we started discussing internally, how we connect that winning feeling to some sort of ownership value. How do we prove and brag to our friends that a horse they backed, actually won a race? And wouldn’t it be even cooler to own a horse that accumulated data, statistics and trophies? We thought it would and became excited that no longer should horse ownership be privy to the rich and famous.
Planting the Seed
We wanted to bring horse racing to the masses in a fun and easy to understand manner. Forget about bloodlines, genotypes and racing algorithms for a second. How can we make people feel, what they feel at the race track when participating in a race? What excites people when watching a race? Why do we laugh when a horse we backed finishes last? Why do we get so excited when a horse you have backed wins a race and you make a measly $15? For the average race-goer, it is not about the money; it is about the atmosphere, the banter, the camaraderie. Having visited many racetracks, horse racing is one of the only sport that brings all genders from all ages together which is truly incredible. With this in mind, we started refining what we wanted to deliver into the following:
ZED is a game of skill, with a bit of luck. Built as a stable management game, owners of ZED thoroughbreds can breed, sell and race digital thoroughbreds where players can cheer on their racehorses when they run LIVE on the blockchain. ZED racehorses are created with smart contracts on the Ethereum network that links performance data and a thoroughbreds attributes using cryptography. ZED is an emotionally charged game designed to make players fall in love with their racehorses.
So the question beckoned, how do we recreate and bring these feelings to the world of fantasy racing?
Chris Laurent, Founder of ZED, worked tirelessly refining the vision of what he believed ZED should be. Chris began prototyping the first version of ZED (or ‘cryptofield’ as it was initially known).
Self funding ZED for the three months and creating the user interface and user experience, Chris made the first hire, Miguel Diaz, a self taught and blockchain loving engineer. As many of you know from our Discord channel, Miguel (and Eswara) is still at heart of ZED. Together, Miguel and Chris began building out the smart contract layer for ZED; creating digital horse ownership, auction systems and the race lottery selection process. After continued development and pixel pushing, cryptofield started to take shape.
During this time, Chris called long time friend, former business partner and now Co Founder Rob Salha, to gauge his thoughts on the project. Although Chris and Rob had not spoken for a few months, both were working with blockchain based projects at the time. Rob instantly fell in love with the idea of cryptofield but expressed that he thought that the project needed more finesse around the user experience. Chris and Rob have worked on many tech startups in the past where they specialised in creating beautiful and free flowing user experiences.
In early November 2018, the pair begun looking for venture capital in order to continue development because as the vision grew, so did the costs. Through their extended network, a pre-seed amount was raised to help guide the team to deploy the product. The funds were solely used to start investing in human capital and building a passionate team.
Two additional key hires were made over the next few weeks, Zhang Ma and Borys Kharchenko to fill in the gaps of frontend designer and frontend implementation developer, both of which are still with us today.
Testing 1, 2
After months of testing, we had finally achieved a first test sale on our test environment and on the Ethereum Ropsten Network.
Although it was extremely cumbersome, there was a large amount of relief seeing our very first smart contract being successfully created and deployed on the blockchain.
The 2019 New Year
Having worked all through Christmas and New Year, Rob and Chris made a pact with themselves that they must launch within the first three weeks of January. Plus, we were one month behind our 31st December deadline that we promised our angel investor, so the pressure was really on…and oh, we did not have that much money left in the bank.
The Grand Opening
We launched ZED on the 17th of January and sold a total of three horses; three horses more than we expected giving that we had only posted ZED in a few niche blockchain communities such as Bitcoin Talk.
We continued our search for both blockchain communities and influencers and to our surprise, we found a lot of individuals who were happy to help and share our project. From the day we launched, it took ZED 32 days to sell the first 100 digital racehorses, 10 days to sell the next 100 and a total 3 days to sell the third 100 horses.
Building Technical Infrastructure
Once ZED had been live for two months, Geoffrey Wellman joined the team bringing with him a wealth of experience as a Tech Lead and CTO from previous public companies and well funded startups. Geoffrey was a long time associate of Chris where they had previously worked together over 7 years ago and as serendipity would have it, the two paths crossed again where the chemistry towards the product was electric.
Soon after joining, Geoffrey’s impact was immediate, quickly aligning our internal development teams to work more cohesively and efficiently. Fun fact, our development teams internally were known as Team Nakamoto and Team Szabo.
Finding like-minded individuals who are willing to commit, persist and sacrifice to a vision is rare and subsequently Geoffrey became a Co Founder of ZED as he plays an integral part in how our technology is built.
Where Are We Now?
Ok. The good stuff. Here is a high level rundown where ZED currently sits and what is planned.
As of the 6th January we have the pleasure of welcoming Chris Ebeling as our Creative and Animation Director and Co Founder. Chris’s experience spans over 10 years in visual FX, animation, virtual and augmented reality and story-telling. Having worked on some of the worlds’ biggest productions such as Happy Feet Two, Legends of the Guardians, The Great Gatsby and The Lego Movie, Chris brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in creating unique AAA experiences and universes.
Chris’s experience spans over 10 years in visual FX, animation, virtual and augmented reality and story-telling. Having worked on some of the worlds’ biggest productions such as Happy Feet Two, Legends of the Guardians, The Great Gatsby and The Lego Movie.
A natural-born leader, Chris is departing his current role as Creative Director at the Award-Winning Animal Logic Academy within the University of Technology, Sydney. Chris’s passion for the gaming and movie-making industry is evidenced by his concurrent position at Unity Technologies where he sits on the International Education Advisory Board. Unity Technologies are leaders in providing high-end development tools for artists and developers all over the globe who are valued at $3b USD.
We have also had a plethora of additional and important team members join ZED over the last 6 weeks including 3D animators, backend and frontend specialists, marketers and content producers, so please stay tuned as we ramp things up!
There is a lot of product we have built and is near complete such as:
Marketplace — Q2 2020
The Marketplace was the very first product branch we began building after we had launched ZED. We decided not to deploy this aspect of ZED just yet as our community were already trading horses with our good friends on Opensea.
The marketplace we have built incorporates an auction or fixed price selling system which we aim to have live by the end of Q2 2020.
Stable Management — Q2 2020
Stable management was a feature our community constantly echoed they wanted to see. We spent quite a bit of time prototyping how this would feel to ensure that users had the ability to quickly organise and access their racehorses and also to onboard new users and stable owners seamlessly.
Our intent is to also have this functionality ready by Q2 2020.
Live Racing Beta — currently in testing environment
Our racing beta has been in testing with some select community members since October 2019. Over the course of the last three months, we have gained valuable insight and learnings. The majority of the teams focus has centred around getting racing on main-net, however we want it to be right and thus a lot of fine tuning is taking place to ensure racing is provably fair.
3D Racing Alpha — currently live internally
We have come a long way in developing not only what racing will look like, but what the ZED Universe will look like. What we were never set out to do was to create another generic horse racing ‘game’.
Betting on Ropsten — Q2 2020
This is a big one as we not only navigate technical hurdles but also business and legal hurdles. Betting will be available on the Ropsten Test Network first to give you a taste of what a dynamic ecosystem will feel like. This is coming sooner than you think 🤯
We hope this gives you a small glimpse into our past, present and future. We would like to thank you all involved for their continued support throughout 2019 and here is to an even bigger 2020 🍻