Ajay Jojo: “NFTs are the means, not the goal in this interaction between the industry and its fans.”

In this Q&A, Ajay Jojo, the co-founder and CEO of fan engagement platform, Fanzee, shares his thoughts on why he’s bullish on the NFT-based sports fandom market.

With a growing number of sports organisations and leagues getting into the NFT space, it’s safe to say that the sports memorabilia and fan engagement market shows no signs of slowing down.

While these sports organisations are cashing in on the NFT hype, non-fungible tokens can also bring fans closer to their favourite teams in different ways such as NFT ticketing to sports matches, digital footage of iconic moments, digital trading cards featuring fan favourites, games and other unique, exclusive experiences.

Earlier this week, new fan engagement platform, Fanzee, raised $2 million co-led by TONcoin Fund and First Stage Labs to expand its gamified sports fan ecosystem built on the TON blockchain. Through mediums such as quizzes, games, and puzzles, Fanzee gamifies loyalty programs while creating new revenue streams for sports organisations. It also guides clubs through the digitization process, helping them add new products and services that add value and strengthen fan participation.

Following the fundraise, we speak to Fanzee’s co-founder & CEO, Ajay Jojo, as he shares his insights on the fan engagement market and how fans can have a direct relationship with their favourite sports club.

Please tell us about yourself and the story behind Fanzee.
First off, thank you for having me here. I am Ajay Jojo and I am the co-founder and CEO at Fanzee. Fanzee is a fan engagement platform built for the sports and entertainment industries that leverages blockchain technology to deliver immersive fan experiences. Any entity in that space could use our digital fan engagement solution to successfully digitise their assets, integrate them into their ecosystem and interact directly with their fans all the while retaining complete control over their digital assets and channels.

What piqued your interest in the NFT space and where did you first hear about it?
I am a massive football fan and have been seriously involved in the space for a long time. But having grown up in India, I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with my favourite team or players in a meaningful manner. While things have improved over the years, fans, especially those who are not lucky enough to go for the matches have very limited means of being part of that community due to geographical and financial constraints. 

When NFTs and digital assets first made their way into the sporting world, it was something that spoke to me personally. At first, like most people, I was apprehensive but having understood the inherent value of the technology it was clear that it could fundamentally revolutionise the sports industry and add real tangible value across the chain. It is an extremely exciting space and I am privileged that I had the opportunity to find the team we have at Fanzee to build our idea to transform fan engagement.

Why did you decide to launch a sports engagement NFT platform?
Obvious isn’t it because we absolutely love sports? But on a serious note, we wanted to create something that could be impactful in the truest sense. We have experience in the industry and know first-hand about how it works, its potential and its intricacies. Despite having one of the largest captive audiences of any industry worldwide, there has been precious little innovation on the fan engagement front. Blockchain tech provides us with the missing piece to create truly accessible and rewarding fan engagement experiences and to use it was the perfect culmination of opportunity, technology and intention to build Fanzee and position it for sports and entertainment.

Why is Fanzee buiilt on TON’s ecosystem? What makes it a better choice for Fanzee than other blockchains?
Community is central to the TON blockchain’s evolution and that is something we relate to. TON has grown into a powerful blockchain ecosystem that can truly usher in mass adoption in big part through its community. Its potential integration with Telegram will be immensely transformational in that regard. We are honoured to be the first retail project chosen to be launched on the TON blockchain and it is a testament to the work we are doing here at Fanzee.

There is quite a number of sports fan engagement NFT platforms out there. What s Fanzee’s unique value proposition?
Quite a few ways actually. We truly believe in holding the relationship between the club and the fan sacred. This belief is embedded in everything that we develop here at Fanzee. Our solutions exist within the existing digital ecosystem of the club. This fosters a direct relationship between the club and its fans where the fans are not migrated to a third-party platform for a different entity to interact with them. 

Fan engagement has to be between the club and its fans period. We are in effect a 360 digitisation solution to the clubs including a CRM system which could help the club gain valuable insights into fan activity and mould their offerings according to their needs.

When will Fanzee be launched and what’s in the pipeline for the launch?
We are ready to launch and are in the process of onboarding our first few clients which is due to be completed in the coming weeks. We will be coming out with exciting updates on our channels soon!

Which sports will Fanzee be focusing on at launch?
Our focus at our early stage is football and E-sports. We will onboard other sports and entertainment segments in due course.

How will Fanzee expand its reach in the NFT space? Will there be partnerships with athletes or sports organisations? If so, which ones?
We take the word partnership quite literally. NFTs are at a very nascent stage and there is so much to be figured out, especially around delivering utility through them. This is where we come in. We are looking to partner with any entity that is looking to digitise its assets with the intention of providing utility. 

The way Fanzee is designed is that digital assets become a part of the fan journeys designed for the fans by the sports organisation or athlete. Digital assets are used to turn the fan journeys into rewarding and immersive experiences interwoven with different gamification mechanics. These mechanics are easy to use and have long been a staple amongst sports fans such as quizzes, puzzles etc to name a few.

We have some exciting names in the pipeline who want to create real value for their fans and we will be announcing them soon on our channels.

Where do you see the sports memorabilia and fan engagement market going in the next year or so?
I am very bullish on this and that is not just because I am in the business of fan engagement. Fandom is essentially recession-proof. We are at a very early stage in the adoption of digital assets, and as long as there is a concerted effort to create value for the market we are serving, then the only way forward is upwards. There will be a lot of challenges as is the case with the adoption of any nascent technology, but some of the best minds with the right intentions are involved in this space so I am very optimistic.

What do you think about the current state of the sports NFT market? What kind of role will Fanzee play in it?
Fanzee’s role is clear-cut. Help the sports and entertainment industries connect with their fans. NFTs are the means, not the goal in this interaction between the industry and its fans, There is a massive education exercise that would be required for mainstream adoption of NFTs in traditional industries such as sports and while there are a lot of negative sentiments and rightly so, I am hopeful of it dissipating once more and more projects engage with the space. We have already come a long way in a short period of time and the increased focus on utility bodes well for the development of the market.

What kind of rewards can users get from playing games on Fanzee and what else can users look forward to from the platform this year?
We have various digital assets designed and created exclusively by each partner as well as various real-world experiences that can be won based on their interactions on the platform. All of these are incorporated into the fan journeys that users undertake on Fanzee.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role at Fanzee and how do you overcome these challenges?
We are a strong team of 20 committed to the vision we have here at Fanzee. This in and of itself is a big source of strength and I am grateful to each one of them for helping us grow in such a short span of time. Challenges are always plentiful in an early-stage startup but to be fair, if you don’t have them then maybe you are doing something wrong.

There were a lot of questions posed because of the bear market and other externalities but having always committed to being a Fan and Product first company, the price action does not bother us. With the right mindset, challenges can very easily be turned into opportunities and it has turned out to be the case for us and the industry at large which has now got the opportunity to fail fast and mature to deliver on its initial promise of being a transformational technology.

Where do you think we could see NFTs in the near future? (infrastructure / tech / usage / utility / adoption)
I wholeheartedly believe that NFTs can bring about the mass adoption of blockchain technology. There have been several missteps and but we have come a long way in a very short period. One of the most powerful things that this technology has birthed is a thriving community of thinkers and creators who have adopted a self-correcting path very early on. With the talent that is involved the possibilities are quite literally endless. It is a very exciting time and I am stoked to be part of this journey with Fanzee.

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