Meet the Women of the Blockchain: Ke Xu Founder and CEO of ONO
“I think by the nature of using blockchain technology to build a decentralized social network like ONO, we’re rethinking how a social network platform is designed and governed, putting more control into the hands of our community. This means we’re not manipulating our user’s data for our own financial gain, nor are we in control of the future of our platform which is dictated collectively by our community.”
I had the pleasure to interview Ke Xu founder and CEO of ONO.
Thank you for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I’m the founder and CEO of ONO, the leading global decentralized social network. I’m a serial entrepreneur at heart, but blockchain technology has been central to my career. My first experience with blockchain, or cryptocurency for that matter, was when I was a student in college, where I was mining Bitcoin. I actually had mined up to 20,000 BTC, which then and even today isn’t a small sum, but I’d sold it offer early. Of course hind sight is 20/20. After graduating from the University College of London, I’d founded a social network called ERA, which was home to 10 million users, and later sold to Cheetath Mobile. In 2017, I launched a blockchain-based development firm and our first product, CryptoDogs — the Chinese version of CryptoKitties — was an immediate hit, with thousands of Ethereum sold the first day of the game’s launch. But I recognized that with recent concerns around privacy and data ownership, there was an opportunity that was converging o build a new type of social network, which I founded in 2018 called ONO.
We received $16 million in venture capital funding from traditional and blockchain investors including Cheetah Mobile’s CEO, Fu Sheng, INBlockchain, Zhuolu Capital, China Growth Capital, Grand Shares, and Korea Investment Partners.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Currently we’re working on ONO, which is a global decentralized social network. What’s unique is that with Facebook’s scandals raising questions around data ownership, we’ve designed a completely new type of social network that’s run democratically, and also offers content creators the power to both retain ownership over their content and get rewarded. What this means is that ONO is governed by trusted power users we call Super Partners (and there are 51 of them) who ultimately dictate the future of the product as it relates to new features or how the community collectively deals with bad actors.
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?
We’re particularly grateful to both our investors who’ve believed in the vision for what we’re looking to achieve, as ONO is ultimately the culmination of our blockchain and social networking experience; our Super Partners who are the core to ONO’s governance, growth and user adoption as they’re the earliest users that set the tone for the larger community; finally, I’m thankful for the ONO team who’ve managed to help me build out the vision for ONO and gather its community.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain & crypto? Why?
1. First the decentralized nature of blockchain is a given, but the application of decentralization enables us to entirely disrupt existing corporations. Case in point, the opportunity to build a new type of social network like ONO, which could pave the way to enable users of social networks like Facebook to retain ownership or even get compensated for sharing their data, which can and will incentivize users to switch platforms.
2. And on that note, what’s exciting is the ability to retain ownership over one’s content or data. It’s the opportunity to empower original content creators or owners of their content to be recognized or credited as the original creators of said content, which is a concept that we utilize in ONO.
3. At the same time, this brings to light a new type of governance structure, meaning that the decisions for the better of the community isn’t relying on a single entity (say the CEO), but rather elected members of the community as a whole.
4. And to speak to the benefits of cryptocurrency, which oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with blockchain technology, we’re able to reward good actors that contribute positively to our ecosystem. How we’re achieving this is that ONO is surfacing and rewarding the best content creators with ONOT tokens, which can be used to vote, be traded, purchase in-app goods and more.
5. For a long time, in the early stages, skepticism around blockchain, fueled by negatives stories tied to cryptocurrency dealings, plagued adoption of the technology, but as excitement grows, we’re also beginning to see practical applications of the technology whether it’s gaming, social networking or even asset management tools.
What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain & crypto? Why?
1. Because blockchain is still early, and although we’re excited about the potential for blockchain technology to change the foundation and applications of how we share and store data, most players in the blockchain space have been primarily focused on the monetary returns, as opposed to building core technology and a business. This has caused the spread of illicit companies monetizing solely on white papers.
2. As a result, in the case of raising funding for ONO, we’ve focused on accepting investment from both traditional and blockchain VCs, although the allure of an ICO is something everyone thinks about. Ultimately though, blockchain is a technology that can be (and in our case is) the foundation for our technology to facilitate meaningful interactions between people.
3. However, with financially-motivated players in the blockchain industry, it’s not without its drama. With the competitive nature of blockchain companies, it’s invited a host of controversies.
4. We’re looking forward to a time when more individuals can realize and put into practice the strengths that blockchain technology has to offer, by developing truly consumer-facing products like ONO, which can provide real and tangible value to a user’s life.
5. Finally, while many in our circle of peers are fully invested in blockchain or crypto, we need to better educate those outside of our circle about the benefits that blockchain technology has in radically improving our lives.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I think by the nature of using blockchain technology to build a decentralized social network like ONO, we’re rethinking how a social network platform is designed and governed, putting more control into the hands of our community. This means we’re not manipulating our user’s data for our own financial gain, nor are we in control of the future of our platform which is dictated collectively by our community.
What 3 things would you advise someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
1. Start early. No one is every 100% ready to start their own company. I graduated at 19 years old, and currently, as a 23-year-old entrepreneur, I’ve had my struggles but ultimately successes that have gotten me this far.
2. Surround yourself with experts. No one person can do it alone. A great team is critical in setting the foundation for your vision and product.
3. Don’t be discouraged. Despite the skeptics that will inevitably come your way, listen but don’t be discouraged and learn what you can and take pieces of it to help fortify your business.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC, funding, sports and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?
If it were possible I’d love to meet with Nicolas Tesla or Einstein and to learn how they’ve managed to overcome odds in the face of going against convention, which is what we face on a daily basis by going against the grain to build a fully decentralized social network like ONO.