Dirk Lueth of Upland Game Transcript

Dirk Lueth of Upland Game Transcript

Dirk Lueth, CoFounder of Upland.meNote: This transcript was automatically generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and therefore typos may be present.

Rob McNealy
Today I’m talking to Dirk Luth. He is with upland, which is this really interesting new blockchain property development game? virtual property development. And I just wanted to talk a little bit about what they’re doing. So welcome to the show. How are you today, Dirk?

Dirk Lueth
Yeah. Hi, Rob. Thanks for having me here today.

Dirk Lueth
I’m really excited to you know, speaking on your podcast.

Rob McNealy
Well, I appreciate you having me It says your Are you calling me today from Germany or from San Francisco?

Dirk Lueth
No, actually from San Francisco Bay area to be precise from from Mountain View, which is a little bit on the peninsula.

Rob McNealy
Wonderful. What part of but you are originally from Germany. What part of Germany are you from originally?

Dirk Lueth
I am. You know, I always lived in two cities in Germany was was Frankfurt in Hamburg. Lots of people know Frankfurt because everybody passes through the airport there but otherwise, it’s a beautiful city as well.

Rob McNealy
Well, that’s very cool. What brings you to the United what brought you to the United States?

Dirk Lueth
Well, you know, the thing is, I’m what you call them. Entrepreneurs started two companies in Germany. And back in 2008 2009. I said, Well, what’s the next thing I can do start another company. But in Europe, things are different, obviously, than in Silicon Valley. I’ve been in Silicon Valley before. And I think the real big ideas have developed in Silicon Valley and and not in not in Europe so much, at least at that time. And that drove me, you know, saying, you know, what, I’m going to take, you know, my pack my bags, take my family, you know, complete your own risk and move to Silicon Valley back in 2009.

Rob McNealy
You know, this is my own observations, because I spent, you know, a little bit of time in Europe myself, that Europeans don’t tend to be as entrepreneurially focused as I think Americans are. In fact, you know, sometimes I spend in different countries in Europe, actually entrepreneurs were kind of in many places, look down upon what’s been your experience with that culturally speaking?

Dirk Lueth
Yeah, actually, that is one of the reasons Actually I came here for, especially to, to the US and to, especially to Silicon Valley because that’s exactly right with that notion. I mean, we know taking Germany and Europe as a whole. Of course it has it has a history and in especially in Germany, we have a lot of people in what is called so called the middle stand, which is, you know, mid size, small medium enterprises, which is somehow the backbone of the German economy. But the reason I came to the US for me was because they’re more related to, let’s say, very much engineering, but the big things, there was a lack of, let’s say, vision, for for lots of people to really do something or to go vision is one part of it. But the other part is also the whole idea of taking more risk and that’s what is lacking currently to my mind is got better, but, but that’s what what is missing in obtaining risk as an entrepreneur, you don’t have that much and it’s all the whole society in Europe is a little bit more lean leans towards security, job security and so on. So you see that so for example to so one one example was, there was a survey in, you know, where they ask students, what do you want to become when you when you graduate from from school, and over 50% of the people said, actually, you know, we want to become some kind of a civil servant, you know, work in an administration because it’s job security and less, you know, becoming an entrepreneur.

Rob McNealy
Yeah, it’s interesting. I always thought that German culture has always been really, you know, interesting. I mean, I come from, I come from a German Polish background primarily, and so my father spoke German polish and English as a child. He was trilingual, because of my grandparents and great grandparents were some of them were off the, you know, they were immigrants from Europe. And it’s interesting. What I see that It’s just there’s like really big risk aversion with a lot of Europeans there. They’re just really, really, they’re very concrete. They they like things very spelled out. They like a lot of details. But you’re right. I think that, you know, the visionary piece. I think it is not. I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s, I don’t know, if it’s culturally pushed down, or if it’s just something about that is just they they focus on the concrete. You know, I always joke around if you want to look at some kind of product manual, right? Look at the German instructions in German and versus the English version, right? It’s about like, a 10th of the thickness. And I worked for when I was younger, I worked for several, you know, big corporations that had, you know, you know, places and outlets in Germany. And so, and it’s funny because we’d always I work with a lot of German engineers and Swiss engineers, and you would always have this discussion about Americans don’t read the manual, so don’t bother, build them on for them. Germans it was this joke that if you had a product that Germans would argue about a calm on page 34 that it shouldn’t have been in that one thing and they’d be going and looking over you know all these little detail I don’t know. It’s just kind of interesting but I always like to see background of what

Dirk Lueth
I can completely agree to that point. So if you look at the German culture right we had a famous German philosopher His name is Schopenhauer and he always said there was three steps to truth or three stages to true he said the first stage is and obviously you find it also somewhere maybe more towards the eastern in the US but it’s much more heavy you know, in Europe so the first step was always when you have an idea it’s really cool right everybody laughs at you haha, we never did something you know, like those Really? You know, that’s a stupid idea. And you know, I remember very well when you don’t 2005 six when I was really excited, I think most the time you know, it was a little bit earlier later. I think when Twitter came around right or 2007

Dirk Lueth
I said, Oh, what a great new way of

Dirk Lueth
you know transporting media or ideas to other people because of what I’m going to tweet about your idea of you know that I’m you know, what I’m, you know that I’m going to the restroom now or what is it? What is the story right? People were really laughing at it. And then when you become became more more popular, right people will starting to opposing it right? Well, you know, you never done these kinds of things over here in general rates. The second step Actually, no, no, no, we don’t do this, that that’s not good. And then the third eventually when something’s really successful, and that’s what Joe says, you know, now it’s become self evident yet always said, I always knew you know, you should have listened to me two years ago when I told you this is going to be a hit. These are the three steps they don’t mean a really cool you know, then opposing and then self evidence. That’s what what’s very much in the, in the theme that culture which is there and when I compared especially to the US what I found when I came over here, I think Americans are much more short term oriented much more, I’d say. China’s maybe not the right word. But, you know, they’d like to take toys and play around with it. And, you know, if they don’t like it, they they dispose it. Right. And Europeans are much more for the long term, I really think about Should I really use this to you know, sticking to this photographer and, and and continue working with it and then after a while, you know, then they say, okay, you know, maybe you do try to try to do and risk and maybe start playing with it. But that’s, that’s all summer we’re just different. I mean, you look at the entrepreneurs, in a lot of entrepreneurs successful entrepreneurs in in Europe and also in Germany. What I like so much in Silicon Valley on the us is that people are always giving back so they had maybe a successful exit and then they do it angel investments and help lots of entrepreneurs know to come off the ground what you obviously need when you start a new company. I saw a lot of my friend entrepreneurs in Germany, they some of them invested Two startups and I have a current my current startup was a good friend of mine investment at startup. But lots of people then went again to the security that I either invest into real estate, right kinda kinda interesting. That’s that’s where somehow the the mentality sits also, even with the entrepreneurs.

Rob McNealy
I think it’s, it’s always good to see the the cultural differences across the board, just because you can compare contrast and, and I think, when it comes to organizational building, when you’re building a team, there are certain attributes of different cultures you want on a team. I think, for instance, I always think back to my days when I was in Business School, right, is that you definitely want I like having Germans and that kind of German work ethic that detail oriented, I want that guy in charge of operations, because he’s detail oriented, I want him to be the project manager. You know, for instance, you know, in some of these are stereotypes of course, but you know, we always liked a You know what? Italians and French they tend to be a little more liberal with time and deadlines and things of that nature. They’re a little more indefinite, right? That’s just culturally how they are. If you spend time in those places, they’re they’re different, very different than Germany. And you might want to put those guys in charge of communications or sales, for instance. But the vision thing, but the yank in charge of that, you know, kinda like,

Dirk Lueth
no, absolutely. So we always say, you know, Germans, I mean, don’t don’t get me wrong. I think Germans is great in engineering. And, you know, that’s what their foundation is based in Poland. Right. But when it comes to sales and marketing, I think Americans are just better However, it’s changing, right? And blockchain is also very interesting new development, what I currently see probably touch a little bit later in this podcast, but I think it’s it’s really where I will say, hey, if you have a great engineering team, you No, leave it in Germany because they do really very, you know, very good quality work. But if it comes to sales and marketing try to adopt the American way of doing things. And I’m trying to identify user personas, target groups and so on. That’s what Americans, just two packs alongside.

Rob McNealy 
You know, what I found with blockchain and crypto over the last couple years that I’ve been kind of in this space, is that you are dealing with a very international market out of the gate, every I mean, it’s global, it’s just global in there and there’s not a lot of barriers that you’re having to deal with. So it’s like now you’re interfacing with all these different cultures. And given the the amount of the the Asian influence is tremendous, and blockchain right now, they’re, they’re a huge part of the part of the space and it’s interesting, you know, having to kind of interface with all those different pieces. 24 seven, you know, it’s been interesting, least, you know, also being inside a project and kind of having to deal with all the different personalities and communication styles and multilingual groups that’s like, wow, it’s been interesting. You know, because you know, kryptos International, its global from day one. So it’s been pretty interesting. So, tell me about what you’re doing. What, tell me about upland?

Dirk Lueth
Yeah. So upland is, is we said it also when you introduce myself, it’s basically it’s a virtual property game. So the idea is that you buy and sell and can trade virtual properties, which are real estate properties which are based on real world addresses. So when you live on 234, post street in the future, you will be able to buy that property. The way it works in the app is basically you use when you sign up and we will currently in close better but you know, soon will go open better also. But the idea is you will get a map application you zoom in, you can buy a property and once you bought it, you able to sell it at a later stage the way you were Actually and that’s something we do a little bit different than lots of others first of all you need now to buy epics which is our in game cryptocurrency. And you can buy those apics with either with credit card or be accepting also PayPal. So right now we not yet accepting crypto. And the reason why we doing this because we always said from day one we want to build a mass market applications and as we know, crypto or blockchain is a market of roughly what I heard roughly 50 million people worldwide but but gamers, two to 3 billion on the globe. So the idea is we really want to get everyone on board. And they don’t have they should not deal with complicated wallets or private key handling. This is still a huge barriers of entry. So we put a lot of thoughts into this whole onboarding process, how to make it simple and then how to purchase something. So that’s, that’s what our the mission of the company is that we really want to make this Game accessible for for for mass audiences.

Rob McNealy 13:04
So as the long term goal that the in game currency will be able to be traded in the real world on exchanges.

Dirk Lueth
Yes, that is the goal however, we still we want to have to comply with regulatory environment, especially in the US. So, maybe I’ll explain a little bit one more step how it’s going to work how So, you exchange apics, which is all up x, which is our in game currency, you buy that with with feared currency and then you purchase a property. So that’s then you own this property. Once you own this property, you will start earning additional apics will yield on on the on this on this property, which makes it interesting because then you can take those apics potentially and buy other properties for that. And we gamifying the whole approach. So the next step is then that you can start and complete a collection that means for example, collected Three bus in San Francisco once you collected three bars in San Francisco or three, three properties on mission streets are different different levels and different scarcity also on those collections, and you start earning actually accelerated apics on them, that means you get a one time boost, and then also on top, you will get recurrent, higher higher earning on those properties. What makes it now interesting is that you can go and sell those properties because they are all non fungible tokens. We’re talking blockchain here, you can own them. And you can go and sell them those properties on the marketplace again, so when you maybe have some properties you don’t need for collection and sell them you can sell them either for for apics you can trade them against another property and soon you will be able to sell them for free at so we will going to be the first one of the first allowing fear out also again, so that’s hopefully coming in the first quarter of next year.

Rob McNealy
So Other kind of gamification elements Do you plan to build into this kind of game?

Dirk Lueth
Yeah, so after the collections we are going to have

Dirk Lueth
so the the ideas everything is location based you will also get some kind of what we call a block explorer which is some kind of an avatar which roams the city right and this helps you to discover other property so when it comes to city you will be able to each time he touches the property you will be able to buy that property was the only way to buy properties going forward will only be through the Marketplace or through where you avatar or the block explorer has touched some of those those properties. Going forward. We will since it’s very much location based driven, we will add our location based features that means you can take your mobile phone and when you actually in the city, you will be able to find maybe something on the streets which could be a piece of a property which could be also which could also be apics, which we’re going to gamify in terms of of treasure hunts, so Let’s, that’s something we are planning on doing also in the first quarter of next year to introduce.

Rob McNealy
So I would love to talk about the long, long long term roadmap because I got all sorts of ideas of how that can be used for different things, as well as an entrepreneur, because I’m always trying to think of a different angle. But it’s interesting. I think, right off the bat, there’s going to be a lot of domain squatters trying to squat on certain types of, you know, properties like national parks, for instance, or monuments and things like that. Is that something that you anticipate? Or is that something that you think is something that will be a bad thing? Or what would be your take on that? Do you think that’s what people are going to be doing?

Dirk Lueth
So yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s what you’ve seen, what’s another other type of games that people are looking for those landmarks, and currently, you’re not able to buy yet landmarks in a blend. We did that on purpose because we foresee a different way to purchase those and it’s not probably not that only one person can buy it. We see rather see a group of people buying it together. So there’s some of these kind of features will be coming up soon. And and then of course, the ones who are first they will they can get it and they can do other things with it. But that is just the pure. It’s a parcel of the plot of the landmark but you asked you know what, what the vision is and where it’s all going. Because you can eventually see right now we gave me five, let’s say the distribution of all the land around the world. We’re starting on some Cisco then we’ll go branch out to other cities in the US. And eventually we go global also soon, not soon, but in the next year. So but once people own just the land, and when you think about Muslims, we are blockchains non fungible tokens, that means everything circles around to ownership. So our marketing messages also join the ownership revolution, which is something really new. Just imagine when you live somewhere in the city, like in London or somewhere in Asia, sometimes it’s not affordable for you to buy any property again. So what we need Industrial Revolution means for us is that your first time you know people can go and buy a property. And when you can look at the vision eventually once once we started with, you know, we have a good distribution, we will allow that people will start building on those properties, a rectangle kind of structures, right? They can represent something, what is there in the real world map, maybe there’s something else so you will, and then you can add company, the other layers use other technologies, just, you know, a tremendous reality, virtual reality, all these things we have in mind, which are a little bit more for the longer term roadmap, but eventually right now we’re distributing the land and eventually sometime next year will also start allowing people to build on top of land.

Rob McNealy
So the question I would have is, how is the price determined for a property right now? So it sounds like you guys as game developers, you guys own all the property right now? What would it cost for instance, and real fee to buy my house?

Dirk Lueth
So I don’t know exactly. Why you live? And you live in Salt Lake City, right? Yeah, because we correct Yeah. So. So right now we have San Francisco obviously, it’s what we want to do is always that somehow connected to real life, as we probably heard San Francisco is not the cheapest area to live in these days. So you can imagine that’s a little bit more expensive areas. Yeah, so I don’t know how big your parcel is, or your little plot of your house, but I assume you’re probably a house would probably cause something between five and $10. Right. That’s my assumption. And unless you live on a huge, huge acre and, and the because it depends always on the number of what we call square. So just to be quickly a little bit technically. So we divided the world into three meters by three meters, which is one square, and we call those up squares. So in order to represent a property better, and when you take, let’s say, your property, my death will consist of 100 up squares right? order to to show your your property on the on the map. So and each app square has an a certain price to it. So to your earlier question How did we come up with the pricing so we actually looked in San Francisco you know different neighborhoods and have different pricing you can look those prices app and other other platforms like Zillow you know the real life license really on Trulia and so on. Now, you so you can do that. So we what we basically said okay, we take you know, the cheapest property or the cheapest neighborhood in San Francisco, we took that and we said they you know, property should cost around two to $5. And then we extrapolated the cost for other properties. However, we had to do john some adjustments, but you have to have a mind this is only the way we are selling the properties right now. In the long run, or the midterm prices will be determined by the market and the market can be like the real life market. However, as we have those collections, that could be a reason People, you know, really keen to get certain properties in certain areas to complete the collection. So the market prices can but don’t have to deviate from from real market prices.

Rob McNealy
So, my undergrad major was geographic information systems and cartography. So I really like mapping, even though it’s been a while since I did anything with it. So what kind of underlying tech were you getting your maps from and all your Geo Data? Just kind of a nerdy question?

Dirk Lueth
Yeah, so it’s good question. So we’re currently working with Roboto. It’s called mapbox. So they basically themselves are based on Open Street maps. And but the biggest challenge is they do not have the property borders, right. They might have addresses but they don’t know exactly what the property borders are. And there we are working with another provider who has the passes all around the US to provide a called land grab. So that’s where we getting all of those, those those parcels. However, on the global scale, that’s going to be a little bit more tricky. First of all, one of the The reason is cost. So if you buy property borders, in some countries, in some cities, it’s very expensive. So but other cities, I think like Singapore, or Berlin, and Germany, they actually provide the data for free. So it’s always depends a little bit to where you are. But there’s also there’s going to be areas in the world. And as you can imagine, we’re going to offer the blend in the whole world. Some, some areas might not even have any property borders. So we currently running a project with the university where we take satellite images and start using machine learning and neural networks to understand how those property borders might in which which areas those property borders might be. And then we I would like to expert extrapolated, it’s going to be 100% accuracy. Probably not. But like in real life. It’s going to be but good good enough that people see okay, this is my property. That’s the property I want.

Rob McNealy
Yeah. I guess that’s, that’s gonna be a lot of work because, you know, everybody’s using different, you know, different geocoding systems and everything else. So, and a lot of places, especially in the third world, like in Africa where they don’t even have property, it’s tribal. And, and, you know, and I know there’s some projects working on that. So that’s what I’m thinking about, you know, just from a technological standpoint, that’s a pretty huge project trying to pull all that together like that. So do you envision long term any kind of like Second Life, you know, kind of interactivity where people can, you know, buy a property and then they can go and host events in that property? Is that something you guys are looking at? I mean, this is what comes to my mind with this game off the top my head.

Dirk Lueth
Absolutely right. As I said, right now we’re distributing the land but going forward, people will be able to build on top of the land. And then people always asking us, because we are blockchain and you know, we’re we’re strong believers, this whole idea of decentralization, no intermediaries, and so on. I mean, we really envision a world Where you know people interact between themselves where we don’t really play a role right so So to answer your question yet it will be some kind of Second Life we don’t know yet how exactly on details that is going to look like. But from from philosophy is really we want two people to do a decentralized transaction so let’s say you know, you know you want to sell digital arts now maybe you want to want to build a you know, virtual gallery or something and you know, somewhere in San Francisco or let’s Salt Lake City awesome. And then you maybe add digital art pieces into onto that property, and you’re and you’re selling those digital ads to other players, right? So we don’t want to be in the middle of that and we just want to be enabled that that somehow works and that that’s that’s what our task is but we will don’t want to be in the middle and say, you know, we we define, you know, how much fees you know, they have to pay and whatever. So this could be really work. The whole idea and the whole vision is of our plans. has to be really a parallel economy somehow at an open economy, which works on its own going forward.

Rob McNealy
So how are you guys funded? Is this a bootstrap project? Or do you get VC funding?

Dirk Lueth
So we’re currently building on the Eos blockchain and we are funded by USBC. So as you probably heard us at a quite a large Ico finished it last year, and then they gave back if if the numbers correct I think billion dollars or something to the whole VC community. And they distributed between different VCs around the world. And one is actually based in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s called Finn lab. And they funded us, you know, the original seed funding but also we also added a couple of angels into that, as I mentioned at one fret good friend of mine, he’s a successful entrepreneur in gaming, he invested to it. We have a we have somebody from the real estate space who really liked the project. So we’re kind of mixing some other Makes the other angels into into our investor.

Rob McNealy
So you said you guys were in closed beta right now when what is your rollout timeline look like between open beta and going fully live?

Dirk Lueth
Yeah. So as I said earlier that we want to target the mass market audience right now we only let a very small amount of people in but we have huge demand actually have people knocking on the door want to drain but of course, we are close better. And it’s called on purpose better was obviously we need to find out what people like what they don’t like. We have of course here and there. We have some backs. We have to get out. But we were planning on going open better somewhere around Christmas. It depends a little bit because what we will be launching right now everything is based on a mobile phone browser. But we are intending on launching iOS and Android apps. As soon as we have approval from the app stores, of course, then we can launch those apps. But we also going to introduce as a as a freemium model because right now when you start playing You know, the only way you can play is when you purchase something. But we also wanted to use this kind of freemium. Because there’s a special way and always called play to own business model. And that’s how we try to coin this notion in the blockchain world. And you will have access to roaming the roaming block explorer of your roaming little game piece, which helps you to discover more property so that’s all coming in the open better will be sometime around Christmas, maybe for Christmas, but maybe also early next year depends on actually third parties when as I said, when we get the approval.

Rob McNealy
Dirk, I’m excited to play it myself now. So where can people find out more?

Dirk Lueth
So go to www.upland.me. So that’s so it’s not.com it’s a upland.me. And there’s the there’s the where you can sign up for the waitlist and we letting everybody almost everyone in at the moment so maybe have to wait one two, maybe three days. But since we are very close to open better, we want to collect more feedback that moment.

Rob McNealy
Very good dirt. Thank you so much for coming on today.

Dirk Lueth
Yeah, I was a pleasure. Thank you very much.

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