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Education technology has a huge demand in this digitalization era for effective online learning as well as a better choice for selecting the perfect educational institutions to pursue professional careers. Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and IoT have created ample opportunities for students to explore new streams and courses to chase their dreams. Here is an exclusive interview with Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO, Leverage Edu, who elaborates the functions of the company through its own transparent and technological platform that helps students complete the whole process of getting admissions to their favorable universities seamlessly.1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers/Please brief us about the products/services/solutions you provide to your customers and how do they get value out of it.
Leverage Edu is one of a kind ‘study abroad’ platform where it helps students explore their choices and guide them to take up courses that interest them. The team helps students choose the right course in the right university. These courses include conventional choices like medicine, engineering, MBA, and data sciences as well as a variety of unconventional course choices like sports management, culinary arts, or winemaking. Today, brick-and-mortar players work with a “push mindset”, taking upfront cash from the student or a portion of what the student has saved for their university fee. That is neither ideal nor good for the student. This process had to be revamped with transparency, technology, and the right ethics— a true student-first approach! Manual email-based processes for university selection, application, and tracking invite human errors in the process and the student cannot risk this happening in what is a career-defining phase of life for him/her. As the leading tech-driven university admissions platform, this company offers seamless solutions for students in their entire study abroad process starting from multiple workshops to identify the right course and country, tracking their applications, engaging in personalized sessions, helping find the right-fit university, enabling maximum scholarships, as well as making available value-added services like education loan, accommodation, forex, and so on. The student gets an opportunity to match to universities that are the right fit for them and then directly speak to them on a virtual university fair platform known as unconnected, which is also helping universities find talent that is right for them and can excel in their programs. All this brings together a unique process that is unbiased, reliable, and efficient, making sure that every student can punch above their weight!2. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company?
I drew inspiration from my own story. My parents moved from a Tier-2 city in Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi. This vital change upgraded the family’s life and consequently my life with access to better opportunities. At 18, I worked with AIESEC, to help hundreds of students move across geographies for volunteering and internship options. The foundation for the concept of “talent mobility” was thus laid right out from the start. At ISB, in 2014, where I was the Director of the Student Body, I also got a chance to operate as an institution to drive student recruitment across India and abroad— finally culminated into “Leverage” as a mini-project, later becoming a company in 2023. That’s how Leverage Edu started, and the mission has remained the same— to uplift students by helping them with access to quality higher education and education destinations where their talent will be rewarded and will open doors for them leading to best-suited employment. This thus causes a gradual upliftment of not just the student’s life but their family’s as well.3. Brief us about the proactive Founder/CEO of the company and his/her contributions towards the company and the industry.
Founded in 2023, Leverage Edu’s mission is to help each individual realize their potential, independent of their backgrounds or birthplace. They enable this by helping you navigate the pathway that will unlock talents, and enhance skills. Traditionally the ideal pathway has been through admission to a dream international college. And thus Leverage Edu has chosen to help its customers get into the international college of their choice, thereby kick-starting them on the path to realize their potential. As a consumer tech company that is helping students in over 100 towns and cities today, LeverageEdu strongly believes in “democratizing access to opportunities” that gives students from Gurdaspur, Ernakulum, Pune, Vijaywada, Bareilly, Surat, and Kainthal— a deep-pedagogy mentorship that can help level up their and their family’s lives for the better, forever. Being a Forbes 30 under 30 Asia and India Awardee, I lead a team of more than 200 spirited individuals spread across the nation. I am a Draper University Alum and was selected as a part of the Prime Minister’s Champions of Change in 2024. I have worked across multiple spokes of the business/tech ecosystem in the last decade with strong views on the democratization of education, careers, and mentorship, and am one-pointed in the mission of being able to transform the lives of millions of families by doing that.4. Tell us how your company is leveraging technologies like in the IoT/AI/big data analytics/robotics/self-driving vehicles/cloud computing
Students sign up on the Leverage Edu platform and use the AI Course Finder to have systems answer to which university or program is suited to their background and interest. Thereafter, students fill in their details on ‘OneView Portal’ that allows access to coaches and mentors who would guide them. This includes academic and professional details with essential application-related documents at a later stage. On the basis of the shared data, the team helps students find their right course by matching their skill set.5. Kindly mention some of the major challenges the company has faced till now. What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors?
On the chúng tôi platform, the entire journey of the student is productized starting from the shortlisting of the program and university using the AI Course Finder. Our company is today in the middle of extending this feature to include their path matched down to employment options because it believes “that” is the outcome is needed to win against. The platform that helps students undergo multiple workshops, track their applications, engage in user sessions, access value-added services like education loans, accommodation, and a lot of other things, is seamlessly integrated on the OneView Portal. The student gets an opportunity to match to universities that could be the right fit for them and then directly speak to them on the virtual university fair platform known as uniconnect. This platform is also helping universities find talent who can excel in their programs. All this brings together a unique process that is unbiased, reliable, and efficient, ensuring every student excels and lives out the dream of being able to study what they are right for, to get into a profession that will truly give them success and joy.6. What are the most important technology trends that you see emerging across the globe?
I feel that the tops technology trends are artificial intelligence and machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, augmented humans, big data, augmented analytics, intelligent spaces, blockchain, cloud voice interfaces, chatbots, and much more.7. How do you see the company and the industry in the future ahead? What are your growth plans for the next 12 months?
You're reading Exclusive Interview With Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder And Ceo, Leverage Edu
Responsible AI is essential to gain more customer engagement through AI solutions
Artificial intelligence or AI solutions are dominating every possible industry to provide a seamless customer experience with the utmost protection. This, in turn, will help companies to gain customer engagement and drive revenue in the long run. Thus, the global AI market is expected to hit US$169,411.8 million in 2025 at a CAGR of 55.6% through digital transformation. Here is an exclusive interview with Christophe Bourguignat, CEO and Founder of1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers.
Zelros is transforming insurance distribution with its award-winning AI solution by enabling a unique customer experience through hyper-personalized insurance recommendations across channels. This provides sales and marketing leaders with a proactive approach to transforming the insurance business into a trusted life partner. Results include increased loyalty while providing the protection the customers need as their risk category changes over their lifetime. The world’s largest insurance companies such as BPCE Group, Crédit Agricole, Groupama, MAIF, Matmut, Baloise Group, AssurOne, and Simpego trust Zelros to help them stay competitive, generate higher revenue, and maintain compliance with ethical AI programs. Today, Zelros operates in France, the United States, Canada, Germany, and Italy. Zelros has raised US$16M so far from European and Silicon Valley VCs and has been recognized as a leader in the AI-based Advanced Insurance Distribution category by Frost & Sullivan, ACORD.2. How is Machine Learning (ML) shaping the IT/big data/robotics industry today? How is it changing the role of CIOs and leaders?
AI/ML is helping shift leaders/CIOs to explore new revenue streams, reinvent the customer experience in a cost-efficient way, and to stay relevant. CIOs are in a strategic position to help drive the business forward in this Industry 4.0 era.3. Brief us about the proactive Founder/CEO of the company and his/her contributions to the company and the industry.
Christophe Bourguignat is the CEO and Founder of Zelros with sufficient contribution to the industry such a more responsible and fair use of technology with Responsible AI as well as transforming the customer experience with hyper-personalized recommendations across channels. He also has contributed to Zelros as a company by constantly paying attention to company diversity and equity index (currently in France, higher than the market average index) and inspiring a culture of humbleness, trust, innovation, and fun.4. What does your technology and business roadmap look like for the rest of the year?
On April 5th, 2023, Zelros will launch the next product release packed with new innovations. This enables Zelros to expand the value chain to insurance marketing teams with hyper-personalized audience segmentation. Moreover, the easy-to-use platform just got easier with a low-code admin console to accelerate time to value. Finally, insurance executives can gain smarter reporting on how their customers engage with them, using the AI-driven insights into their existing reporting solutions (Tableau, PowerBI, and many more). Overall, Zelros will continue to achieve its mission by enabling insurance players to offer a proactive and personalized experience to their customers, on any channel. Personalized insurance should be accessible to everyone and Zelros will enable insurers to do this and ensure that each individual’s life and needs are taken care of. The team is looking at this on a global scale. That is why it is bringing solutions to new markets. A journey that is full of new opportunities while pushing the Insurtech market forward.5. What is the reason that organizations are using IoT/analytics/big data/AI/ML/big data analytics?
The reason Zelros uses AI is to enable agent effectiveness and bring personalized recommendations across channels. AI is also used at Zelros for Responsible AI and Ethical AI, ensuring that recommendations are fair, explainable, and bias-free.6. How is your company helping customers deliver relevant business outcomes through the adoption of the company’s technology innovations?
Zelros helps insurers stay relevant by embracing a modern approach to recommending insurance products across their digital channels and agent channels. One can think of Netflix and Amazon recommendations, but better, Zelros provides the intelligent context and explainability and takes out any potential biases that may have sneaked into the algorithm. Thus, one can have recommendations that are hyper-personalized and bias-free.7. Where are we going from here?
Talking to dead people only seems to be a possibility in the fantasy world. What if this surreal experience is brought to reality? The way we feel about losing loved ones is definitely going to change. For Justin Harrison, it means a lot to connect with the loved ones even after their death, in their every element, rather than having their digital representation as pictures and videos. This very idea made him develop a unique product Versona, a virtual personality, using a patented artificial intelligence technology. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Justin Harrison, Founder, and CEO of YOV Inc, a posthumous communication platform.
The initial motivation behind setting up this company was my face-to-face innuendo with death at the age of 36. I realized for the first time just how finite life is. I almost died in a motorcycle accident, and a few weeks later my mom has diagnosed with stage four cancer. After her terminal diagnosis, I became entirely focused on how to preserve the connection with my mother, and the idea of a digital solution originated. At first, I wanted to film her sharing her life story, but that medium wasn’t able to truly capture the dynamic of our relationship. At the crux of the problem was the question: When a person and their personality are so much more than a collection of stories, how can digital replication of someone be authentic if it doesn’t have multi-dimensional personality traits? That boiled down to the realization that the relationship I have with my mother is completely unique — to her and to me. And that was the key to creating YOV.
The path that other companies take with AI and preserving life digitally is fairly universal —aggregate as much data as possible from multiple sources, and then use the best translation or output of that data to create a virtual version of someone. I found that I didn’t really care about the relational dynamics between my mom and other people, so it didn’t matter (to me) how she responded to others — it was really about how we interacted within the scope of our individual relationship. That was the first major evolution point for this company, after realizing that human beings are vastly different depending on who they are interacting with. In my opinion, the difference between YOV and other technologies is that the mission of other companies seems to be building this holistic universal person, but that’s just not how humans are. The versions of ourselves that we see today are truly an accumulation of hundreds and thousands of relationships over the course of our lives, and each one of those shapes us slightly differently, how we show up depends on which of those relationships we’re tapping into. Understanding the dynamic nature of a human being’s personality, was the biggest part of the journey and the key component that makes YOV so unique.
We offer one unique product, the Versona (or virtual personality). Everything associated with YOV is either low or no cost, the primary one available at a $9.99/month subscription to build a virtual personality. I don’t know what better value in the world there is than to be able to continue communications and relationships with the people who have passed on but still matter the most to you, and YOV strives to preserve the sanctity of those relationships by keeping any costs as non-existent as possible. A person can have dozens of Versonas, as it’s built individually off of one relationship with a person or a specific group. The Versona is built out of communications from messages, voice notes, videos, apps, and photos, and users can opt-in for a premium purchase called Accelerator to speed up the process. By employing Accelerator, users can export data from apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. to rapidly enhance the process of YOV’s AI understanding of how to replicate the specific personality of communication.
YOV is cloud-based (like most people in tech at this point), especially when it comes to all things data related, so that’s the entirety of our business sector right there! The biggest component of our company is data, getting the right data for the right adaptive algorithm. With this data, we’re creating virtual personalities, which is better known as virtualization. Multiple different technologies converge in our primary platform, which is the Versona, to produce one steady stream of AI that’s proprietary to our company.
I think that we’re pioneering a completely new category when it comes to AI. Phrases such as “the industry” are very vague, and YOV is only one facet of larger industry in terms of types of technology. When it comes to labeling categories within the tech space, like communication, artificial intelligence, SaaS, the point where all those things converge essentially equates to a brand-new industry. And I think that that’s the direction we’re going when it comes to creating a category for posthumous communications and digital legacies: we won’t be the only players there, but other companies will buy into what is a brand-new market. With all of that said, I wouldn’t go calling us a unique industry just yet; but with all of the converging that’s currently taking place, a new industry is certain to emerge.
One of the greatest things about our company is that we have a lot of brilliant minds. Our lead data scientist and engineer have over two decades of experience in genetic sequencing using AI. We employ engineers that have extensive backgrounds in cloud-based systems and how data is quantified, uploaded, categorized, and organized. We’re literally inventing how to map out emotional dynamics. There is existing technology using AI and machine learning to map out emotions, but when you add in the complexities of dynamics and relationships like YOV is doing, we take it to another level.
Digital process automation is bringing together people, applications, and information to build agile and digitized organizations. It enables the entire organization to digitize all their processes by creating a platform for engaging digital experiences for customers. Besides, enhanced innovations in domains like artificial intelligence and machine learning are some of the primary factors that have driven digital transformation in the industrial sector. Bonitasoft aims to prepare businesses for sustainable business process automation for enhanced growth and development. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Miguel Valdes Faura, the CEO and Co-Founder of Bonitasoft.
Some of the key highlights are mentioned as follows.Give a brief overview of the company background, its specialization, and its services.
Bonitasoft fully supports digital operations and modernization of information systems with Bonita, an open-source and extensible platform for automation and optimization of business processes. The Bonita platform accelerates development and production with a clear separation between visual programming and coding capabilities. Bonita integrates with existing information systems, orchestrates heterogeneous systems, and provides deep visibility across all enterprise processes. As reported in Crunchbase, Bonitasoft has garnered a total of US$27M Series C funding.Describe the disruptive innovation achieved by the company.
The Bonita digital process automation platform is fully open-sourced and specifically aimed to give multidisciplinary technical teams the widest possible set of tools to create process-based applications and automation projects. Extension points throughout the platform allow developers to connect to nearly any external IS, from legacy systems to modern API-exposing apps and platforms. This means that the technical team can fully integrate business applications with their company’s unique enterprise IS stack.
Bonita’s extensibility also allows developers to externalize some parts of the development using tools they prefer, which gives each developer freedom in how to implement Bonita-based applications. And at the same time, there is a portion of the Bonita platform (Bonita Studio) that offers low-code features (native ones, and also ones that can be developed and made available) so non-technical members of the project team can contribute to the essential business elements of the application or project: business data management, user interfaces/customer journey, reporting, and so on.
Bonita’s most recent release (2024.1) also includes the most “integrable” Docker image on the market for an orchestrated platform deployment.Explain how your innovation disrupts the existing market.
Over the years we recognized that business developers don’t want to write code, and technical developers don’t really like to use visual development environments. That doesn’t mean that developers are not going to use, for example, a graphical editor to draw processes, but when code is involved – for example, the development of a connector to a legacy system that will be called from step 3 of a process – they want to use their own tools and frameworks rather than a provided developer view, a wizard or a pseudo-IDE in the graphical editor. This makes sense, people like what they like and are efficient with their preferred tools.
In a world where “low-code” is headed more and more towards “no-code,” we think that developers are not being given enough consideration by many vendors. The majority of low-code platforms in the iBPMS market are focused on visual programming for citizen developers. This means that developers have limited freedom to code. For example, sometimes they may want to do some coding inside some graphical wizards in the platform; they may want to use SDKs but find that there are SDKs available only for a limited number of extension points, nothing beyond custom coding for connectors.
At Bonitasoft we aim to bring freedom to developers with a platform that includes more than 20 extension points for developers and the ability to externalize coding, test, and validation of those extensions before they are used in the platform. Should we call that low-code for developers? Maybe.Brief us about yourself and your contributions.
As the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Bonitasoft, I lead the company’s mission: to bring powerful, affordable, open digital business automation to organizations and projects of all sizes. As the world’s fastest-growing digital business platform provider, Bonitasoft has thousands of customers and an open-source community of more than 130,000 members.
Prior to Bonitasoft, I led R&D, pre-sales, and support for the BPM division of Bull Information Systems, a major European systems provider. I’m a thought leader in business process management and passionate about open-source community building.
Along with the other founders, we made a conscious decision to make open-source values – transparency, excellence, meritocracy, and collaboration – part of the company’s DNA, and to ensure that an open-source version of the software would be available for anyone to download and use in production.Which industry verticals are you currently focusing on? And what is your go-to-market strategy for the same?
We don’t focus on a specific vertical. That being said we see a lot of traction in the following markets: banking, insurance, telecom, public sector, and pharma.
Bonitasoft was founded with the aim to democratize BPM technology worldwide. It was an opportunity to continue to develop and promote the Bonita open-source project created in 2001 that was getting more and more traction.
We decided to create a company in which open-source values would be part of our DNA: transparency, excellence, meritocracy, and collaboration and in which an open-source version of the software was available to anyone to download and use in production. That gives the opportunity to anyone, any company, to leverage a BPM solution.
Of course, as a private company, we needed to build a sustainable business model to ensure the development of the company (for employees, community users, customers, and partners). We decided to create a commercial edition of the software in which we bundled, in a subscription, a wide range of professional services (ie. support SLAs, personalized follow-up) and additional product capabilities (ie. clustering, monitoring) for companies looking for the most demanding production use cases and a strong partner to work with to guarantee the success of their deployments.
Over the last 13 years, the Bonita Community edition, the open-source edition of the software, has been at the same time something that makes us proud every day (as it has been downloaded millions of times and is used in production by thousands of organizations around the world) and also the starting point of Bonitasoft sales cycle. Indeed, a lot of customers have started adopting our technology by downloading and evaluating the Bonita open source edition, at their own pace, following Bonita Camp’s free training courses, looking at the documentation, and discussing with other members of the community, and developing their first project.
At Bonitasoft, we really believe that open source, as a business model, is fair and sustainable. We commit to our community and customers to continue to work hard to make both open source and commercial editions better every single day.What role is your company playing in helping organizations implement RPA?
We think about RPA as robots helping humans, the key actors in an automation project. The better the help, the more efficient the human/the task. RPA vendors are recognizing this and talking about “human in the loop.”
Application of AI tools (such as machine learning, process mining, predictive analytics, and so on) help humans find “invisible” inefficiencies, showing the way to make existing tasks, task sequences, or processes better.
But AI robots don’t fix inefficiencies – people do. More intelligent robots simply don’t make more intelligent processes, which those tasks are a part of.
Humans need to step back and look at the whole system to see where robots and AI can be deployed and how they better collaborate with humans to help make whole processes work better and faster.
Humans are the ones who bring innovation. People will deploy RPA and AI, together with BPM to create new products and new services that use automation – so it’s people who drive innovation with automation, and not automation itself that brings innovation.
And further – we can’t forget that humans are often the end-users of automation projects. How they will collaborate with robots, information systems, and other humans matters – to them. BPM technologies make this collaboration possible by enabling humans to be creative and innovate, and at the same time improve the collaboration among humans, robots, and systems.What is your leadership mantra?
Have fun with Bonitasoft!How do you see the company/industry in the future ahead?
I think nearly everyone in business today is aware of the importance of data analytics for business, to provide information useful for making solid business decisions, optimizing business operations, and so on. We’re in an era of widely applied process automation too, with many years of experience in tools such as business process management automation (BPM) platforms and rapidly deepening experience in robotic process automation (RPA).
Business data analytics and business process automation, taken together is what newly emerging process analytics is about: looking into process data to see what we can learn from it and how we can act on that knowledge. There is already a widely used process visualization standard with BPMN2.0 (Business Process Modeling and Notation), with a mature market ready for process analytics based on this standard.
I expect that we are going to see a rapid movement towards ways to visualize process data that will ultimately help business leaders to better understand what is going on with their processes and take appropriate action. We’ll begin to see new technologies emerging in this area, and as innovation often comes from open-source development, that’s where we should be watching.
What happens when you wake up with $70 million in the bank and a tattered reputation? If you’re Martin van Blerk, the former head of Pixelmon — the infamous NFT project that spectacularly failed to live up to its promises, enraged swindled community members, and whose floor price tanked as a result — you get humbled.
Before Pixelmon’s fateful February 7 launch this year, van Blerk had done an undeniably fantastic job of building up a mountain of expectations for the project, accruing more than 200,000 Twitter followers in the span of roughly a month. He did this mainly by promoting the idea that Pixelmon, an open-world MMORPG in the tradition of the much-beloved Pokemon IP, would be the first AAA game in the NFT space.
Disaster soon struck. When the project was minted, community members paid an average of roughly 3 ETH each for the 8,079 NFTs in the collection, and van Blerk had amassed 23,000 ETH in total — worth more than $70 million at the time. Fast forward to the Pixelmon art reveal two weeks later, and community members were met with amateur artwork, glitchy designs, and a character so hilariously absurd that it became known simply as Kevin.
Pixelmon #5866 – KevinPixelmon seeks a new way forward
The backlash on Twitter and in the project Discord was severe, with community members accusing the Pixelmon team of doing a rug pull. There were also accusations that he took funds from the project to go on a blue-chip NFT shopping spree that saw him acquire Bored Apes, Azukis, CloneX, Invisible Friends, and others. Eventually, the Pixelmon founder admitted he was in over his head, but promised to do good by the community and see the AAA game he’d promised through to completion. Few, if any, believed he could pull it off.
Keeping a low profile in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic February mint, van Blerk reached out to potential partners to see if there was a way forward for the project. That’s when he came across Giulio Xiloyannis, Co-Founder of the Web3 VC studio LiquidX and the person who would eventually become the new Pixelmon CEO.
“In February 2023, LiquidX was a concept more than a reality,” Xiloyannis told nft now in an interview. “It was incorporated. We knew we had backers. But the reality is we weren’t even in the process of fundraising for it without finding a target project.” Xiloyannis brought more than a decade of investment banking experience to LiquidX, which gave him a ground-level view of the power of blockchain gaming to change people’s lives.
“I’ve been a big believer in [the potential of ] NFTs and blockchain in games,” Xiloyannis explained. “One of my previous companies was affected indirectly by what happened with some of those games. We saw dozens of our customer service agents in the Philippines, where we had a large customer service center, resign. They said, ‘I’m going to play video games.’ That’s when play-to-earn hit my radar because resignations are rare in that market, especially during the pandemic.”
“We’re not willing to work with someone who would have rug-pulled if he’d had the chance.”
“[Kendrick and I] both joined the call skeptically,” Xiloyannis recalled. “We did the most basic due diligence and said, ‘We’ve heard the news about this project. Are you willing to show us the wallets?’” When van Blerk obliged, sending them the Etherscan links to back it up, Xiloyannis saw that there was indeed over 23,000 ETH available in project funds. “At which point, I decided to get to know Martin a little better,” Xiloyannis recalled. “In a market where everybody thought that Pixelmon had no funds because they’d been rugged, we knew it had funds. So, we knew that there could be an opportunity there.”The risk in new leadership
But deciding to manage the Pixelmon project presented a significant risk for the LiquidX founders. Xiloyannis wanted to ensure the project wasn’t just a significant trade-off in terms of a value bet — it needed to be something the company was willing to believe in and back for years into the future.
“We’ve both been around the block a few times,” Xiolyannis explained of his and Wong’s entrepreneurial backgrounds. “We’re not willing to work with somebody who would have rug-pulled if he’d had the chance. So, with that in mind, we decided to get to know [van Blerk] and the project a lot more. It was a process.”
That process began at the end of February, and by the end of March, Xiloyannis decided Pixelmon was something LiquidX could take on. The gameplay possibilities are immense, he emphasized to his cofounder, and a play-to-own dynamic with creature NFTs could form the basis of a new, creator-driven gaming economy.
Redesigned Pixelmon Generation 1 Art via OpenSea
But Xiloyannis still needed to learn more about the 20-year-old van Blerk. He began to speak with his family, hopping on calls with his father and getting to know the person behind the rug-pull reputation.
“I realized two things,” Xiloyannis said of the Pixelmon founder. “He was a very strong creative mind and hard worker but he was too young to have to shoulder the size of the task, especially given the success of the mint. The story of Martin is a story of somebody who, if he had done a smaller NFT mint, would have probably grown personally into being able to lead a small project into becoming medium-sized and then big over time. And who knows, from there, maybe grown beyond that, if he’d received other funding and coaching.”
The LiquidX founders wanted to be able to believe in van Blerk’s abilities to execute the project’s comeback, but they simply couldn’t. Xiloyannis believed in the solidity of the young man’s ethical compass. Still, as van Blerk had himself admitted previously, he was just too out of his depth to make good on the project’s promises. So, Xiloyannis decided to step in and make it happen himself.
“That was the hardest decision, actually, from LiquidX’s point of view,” Xiloyannis said. “Whether I would go and lead this personally on an operational basis, for a couple of years at least. We looked at the potential of what we could build with, at that point, 50 [million] plus in the bank, as ETH has gone down a bit since February. By that point, we had convinced Martin to convert them to USDC. We were very categoric — no algorithmic coins. In the end, I took the leap.”Rebuilding the Pixelmon community from the ground up
Last week, LiquidX Studio officially announced that it had taken over leadership of the project, having acquired a 60 percent controlling stake in the company. The announcement comes after months of Xiloyannis taking to the project Discord every day to rebuild trust in the project.
“This space believes a lot in big actions, big announcements and stuff like that,” Xiloyannis elaborated on the build-back. “I don’t think you could come back from Pixelmon that way. The project had to go to a completely different level of trust building, [which was] the slow and steady, building a relationship with the community.”
Xiloyannis decided to try something simple but effective. He created a channel on the 35,000-strong Discord server called “Ask The CEO” and devoted three hours of every day to going in and addressing community concerns and questions. “I’m going to come in and answer anything,” Xiolyannis said of the decision and following experience. “And I did that consecutively for four months. Then, I started speaking to them through AMAs and voice chat. Even today, I come in and I answer that chat for 15 minutes every day.”
Engaging a community that has been rug-pulled hasn’t always been a pleasant experience, Xiloyannis noted.
“If we let this sit in the current negativity for two and a half months, there’s no community left at the end of it.”
“To face a Discord community of over 30,000 people that are angry on a daily basis — they don’t know who you are, and they’re rightfully going to raise their concerns with strong tones,” Xiloyannis recalled. “That was humbling.”
However, those outreach efforts could pay dividends. Anyone who spends time in the project’s Discord might notice an atmosphere of community optimism. Questions remain about the project’s marred history in the Discord’s channels but, to LiquidX’s credit, community members routinely respond with enthusiasm. For example, a server search of the term “trust” yields a fascinating record of community conversations that slowly evolve from hostile, to skeptical, to downright hopeful.
Xiloyannis attributes this change to two things: the team’s focus on consistency and transparency, even while van Blerk and LiquidX were finalizing the paperwork for the acquisition. “We said, if we let this sit in the current negativity for two and a half months, there’s no community left at the end of it,” Xiloyannis said of the need for urgent action. “So, well before we had completed any documentation [for the acquisition], I took a leap, and I started addressing the community, saying I’m the new leader of this project.”
With van Blerk’s help, Xiloyannis then implemented a multi-sig wallet setup where his signature would be crucial to any transactions. Xiloyannis credits van Blerk for allowing him to do this quickly and without too much paperwork, an act that further led him to believe this was an individual he could trust.
“I think the consistency of tone is what turned the Discord tide,” Xiloyannis continued. “Beyond that, our thinking is don’t overpromise, just overdeliver. That’s why we’re so transparent with our wallets. Even when I move some money from any wallet to fiat, when I do an off-ramp, I alert the community before doing it.”
Concept art showing Pixelmon’s design process for their holders’ NFT evolutions. via Pixelmon
The complete revamp of the collection’s artwork, courtesy of Pixelmon’s new lead 3D artist Cosmo Midias, has also done wonders for the project. As have live Twitch streams with Xiloyannis and Midias, walking community members through the process of creating these characters. “Something that I’m realizing now is that [the community] loves that they get to see the inner workings of game development,” Xiloyannis explained. “And the more technical we go, the more interested they get.”
Martin van Blerk also had a role in redesigning the collection’s artwork, which the company rolled out in early August. Xiloyannis hired new artists for the task and asked Martin to sit down and conceptualize the new creatures. The concept artists then sketched out his ideas, and the 3D art team built them. “It was important to him,” Xiloyannis said of van Blerk’s involvement in the redesign. “He saw art as his failure, in a way, and his redemption was being part of the new art process.”
LiquidX has also brought on talent from gaming industry heavy-hitters like Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Riot Games. They’ve also tapped Hong Chan Lim, the lead character artist at Blizzard Entertainment who worked on Overwatch 1 and 2, to design their next airdrop.Taking Pixelmon into the future
LiquidX’s next focus is on delivering the long-awaited Pixelmon game to the community, which the firm says will include a play-to-own model that also features a free-to-play option to support mass adoption. “Building a game is a long process, and NFT communities are not very patient,” Xiloyannis said of the timeline with which they’re working. “So, what we realized early on is that we needed to play two things in parallel. We needed to gamify the NFT holder experience while building a game.”
They achieved this by introducing gasless soft-staking to the Pixelmon economy, which rewards users who register their wallet and Pixelmon on a front-end interface that periodically confirms the NFT’s presence in the wallet. Unlike a hard-staking contract, which takes the asset from a holder, users get to keep theirs. So long as they soft-stake, they’ll earn a statistic called “Affinity.”
“I don’t think there’s anything I can say to change their minds. There’s only something I can do.”
Affinity is important because, after 30 days of soft-staking, holders will receive a Trainer NFT. In the Pixelmon lore, this is the creature companion that trains them and journeys with them throughout the in-game environment. If holders then soft-stake their Trainer NFT for 30 days, they’ll receive the right to claim the 3D source files behind the Trainer with each piece of gear that comes with it. Once the Trainer and Pixelmon have been together long enough, that will trigger the next stage in that Pixelmon’s “evolution,” which further incentivizes community members to hold.
“The average MMORPG takes around seven years to build,” Xiloyannis said, underscoring the LiquidX team’s challenge in building the game. “We don’t have seven years, so we decided to split the game into different instances so that each is actually a separate file that can be played on its own. Ultimately, we can bring them back together into one file.”
Taking place in a world called Nova Thera, these game instances will range from the social, where players can roam and speak to one another, to the exploratory, involving open-world wandering, to a combat-based experience (known as Battle Arena) that lets users fight with their Pixelmons.
The LiquidX team hopes to start alpha testing the game in early 2023, with internal testing scheduled to take palace in the second half of December this year.The project’s future holds far more work
What happens in the next year with the Pixelmon project and community could prove to be a litmus test for how the Web3 world decides it wants to approach issues like condemnation, understanding, and forgiveness when it comes to individuals and organizations that do wrong by their communities.
Therein lies the great challenge. In the last few months, LiquidX has done a remarkable job turning the project from a dead-in-the-water rug pull to a dynamic and growing ecosystem with promising community reception. But the struggle isn’t over yet for Pixelmon: Goodwill can always be lost again, which means the firm must continue to give its best before it can rightfully claim its spot amongst recovered projects like Pudgy Penguins and DeGods that have rescued themselves from collapse. The cusp of a comeback is an inspiring yet precarious place to be. Luckily for the community, this is something that Xiloyannis seems to appreciate.
“I don’t think there’s anything I can say to change their minds,” Xiloyannis offered as a response to critics who still hold the project suspect. “There’s only something I can do. I think too much was said in January and February already. It’s not a time for promises. It’s a time for delivering. I can work on this for the next 18 months, taking us to the first alpha of all three [gaming] environments. And at that point, there will be a lot of people that wish they had bought a Pixelmon when they were priced low.”
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