Founder Stories: Travis Wu — Highstreet
We’ve got some brilliant projects within our portfolio and want to tell you more about the founders and teams behind them. On a regular basis, you will have the opportunity to learn more about specific projects through our interviews and post any questions you may have further down in the comments section.
1) Hi Travis, how is it going? Would you like to kickstart the session by telling us a bit about you?
Well, its surely been a whirlwind of a couple months for everybody. Like most crypto people, my background has little to do with the space. I studied Bio-Medical Computing, and focused primarily on computer science and computer vision. I’ve been invested in the space since 2015 with most of the information coming from Draper University in San Mateo where I’ve met most of my early crypto friends. Back then the industry wasn’t mature enough for any real applications, infrastructures still had to be set and layer ones were really at its infancy. So I pursued a VR startup instead. It wasn’t until defi summer did I really reengage with crypto, realizing how valuable my Eth from 2015 had become, I spent a great deal of time looking at windows of opportunity beyond finance that can really connect with the general populace. I started Highstreet in early 2021, seeing the pandemic had shaped the way we look at digital assets and digital living. Influenced by my experience with Virtual Reality, my thoughts were that the future for commerce will move from websites to intractable in-game attractions. So began my journey into Web3 Commerce and Metaverse.
2) When and why did you enter the crypto space?
Highstreet basically explores the intersection between commerce and the digital world of gaming. We are building an MMORPG as a backdrop like Ready Player One and sword art online, but we tie in real products from real brands directly into the game. While the game creates purpose and a sense of progress for the world’s inhabitants, there needs another reason for them to stay while not in combat. I believe commerce is the intermediate answer to solving retention. People like buying things, yet digital assets alone aren’t enough to entice the majority of the world. So what we do is introduce “phygital” products. Items that could be purchased as in-game assets that also could be redeemed into physical products in the real world. We essentially extend the presence and products of existing brands into the metaverse by providing additional utilities to the products they already sell. By building on top of the shopify platform, connecting Highstreet’s web3 front end to a robust web2 backend, we get access to 2 Million directly addressable merchants to kickstart our commerce centered metaverse. The goal is to build a world that satisfies every type of gamer, if your a hardcore RPG enthusiasts you might want to be at the front lines clearing dungeons and unlocking new regions for the rest of the world to settle. If you’re a casual gamer you might just hang in safe zones within cities and focus on our social and shopping features.
3) What is Highstreet and what is the ultimate goal of the project?
Haha this is one loaded question, I think last year was basically a race to liquidity. We needed to make sure when we do our exchange listing, there is enough liquidity and enough momentum to bring in a big enough crowd to test our market place and build momentum for our metaverse activation. I’d say we were quite successful there, Binance as the first Centralized Exchange followed by Coinbase gave us access to both the Global and US markets. This year all our focus was on product, we’ve launched a successful Initial Home Offering campaign a couple months ago with secondary volume exceeding 10M in 6 days of opening sale. We were happy with how much progress our Home system made as well with features like Youtube integration, NFT integration, and Pets continuously adding interesting and refreshing elements to our existing community. Finally most recently we’ve partnered with 8-bit to turn departments stores around the world into portals to the metaverse. This campaign aims to expand our community into the non crypto world by guiding traditional shoppers into Highstreet through Phygital products.
4) Could you explain the concept of “phygital” products? Can you give us an example?
Phygital Products have two components to them, Physical and Digital. There are many ways a Highstreet resident would interact with phygital products. They could be accessed by buying specific garments from our partnered brands in department stores around the world, where their physical purchases allow them to claim a free digital counterpart in our metaverse. They could purchase products from our virtual stores in-game where tons of items have both physical and digital components. A player can buy the digital component of a 30-dollar shirt for just 3 dollars and wear it in the metaverse where special utilities like additional armor or health is often given. A player can then at any time deposit the remaining 27 dollars to redeem the physical shirt as well completing the Phygital cycle. We also have our limited edition marketplace that sells phygital items on a bonding curve, here the amount of hype a brand has directly correlates to the product price. Buying and selling in real-time moves the price up and down a quadratic curve, and players can choose to buy, sell, or redeem at any given time.
5) Congratulations on the latest partnership with Mostly Heard Rarely Seen 8-bit. What makes this partnership so unique?
The partnership with 8-bit is unique because it’s the first time we are launching phygital products from physical to digital. This means the native community of 8-bit who aren’t very crypto native at all gets to experience the metaverse and NFTs that they’ve heard so much about with very little risk. The whole process was designed as a pilot to guide users from the traditional world into the web3 Metaverse space. The buyer starts with just a google login like any web2 platform, then create an avatar, claims their free digital apparel, and enters Highstreet. This entire process does not require the buyer to even have a wallet. Of course, the initial digital apparel they receive isn’t going to be an NFT until they mint it, in which throughout the entire optional process we guide them into setting up Metamask, buying ETH, and finally minting their first NFT.
6) What is the use of $HIGH, the Highstreet World’s native token?
HIGH tokens are currently used for every transaction within Highstreet. It’s how you buy a home, claim your drops, and of course, engage in day-to-day Highstreet activities. We will be launching a new token soon called STREET, although STREET would not be an ERC20 token and we’ll reveal how it’ll play within the ecosystem at a later date.
7) What has been your biggest lesson building a crypto startup so far? Any specific advice you want to share?
I think understanding the difference between building a startup and building a crypto project is probably the greatest lesson learned here. In a startup everything is about focus, do one thing really well and generally, you’ll figure it out. Building Highstreet, however, you are kind of expected to do it all. What we realized is that unfortunately being in web3 means that you don’t really have a lot of time to be a startup. Startups generally have 6–7 years before any expected liquidity, this gives them enough time to grow into their market and test their products. In web3 typically you rely on pure marketing and community engagement to find the fastest road to an exit. Once there, the fickle community will continue to pressure you on token price just like publicly traded companies on the stock market. This means partnerships, announcements, new features, and new product lines tend to be the only thing the team can do. This often leads to terrible products or worse a total implosion of the project. However, on the brighter side with the right leadership and experience in the team, the battlefield has been equalized. No longer are you bootstrapping or going from one fundraising round to the next every 6- 18 months, no longer are you cash strapped and at the mercy of big companies around you. With good token management and exit strategies you basically have the same amount of cash as many much older and bigger companies out there. So really, it forces you to grow up much faster, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
8) Anything else you would like to share with us?
We are launching our Highstreet Campus soon in September, and it’ll be the first time players without a Home can access our world. So we’re looking forward to seeing more and more people jump in and join us on our journey.
Thanks a lot for your time Travis and good luck with your project!
If you have any questions for Travis, please use the comment section below.
The Morningstar Ventures Team
About Morningstar Ventures
Morningstar Ventures is an investment firm backing ambitious ideas by early-stage founders. Based in Dubai, Morningstar Ventures focuses primarily on the blockchain and digital assets space and is led by CEO Danilo S. Carlucci. The firm is active in token and equity investments and has a particularly strong focus on the MultiversX ecosystem.