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Reel8: Dave Liu
Disrupt a global industry, make an impact.
Each Sunday night, we ask a thought leader to share a perspective in and around AAPI culture. This week, we’re delighted to have Dave Liu share about his upcoming project, Reel8.
Dave Liu is a 30-year veteran of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. He is an advisor, author, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist.
He was Managing Director and Co-Head of the Digital Media and Internet investment banking group at Jefferies where he worked on over $15 billion of transactions for hundreds of companies including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Yelp.
After retiring from Wall Street, he became an entrepreneur and started four companies in technology, merchant banking, asset management, and media. He is CEO advisor and investor to multiple companies, several of which have reached multi-billion dollar valuations including Internet Brands WebMD, MobilityWare, FIGS, and Vobile. He is involved in the entertainment industry with investments in Stampede and TEG+, and consumer with Philz Coffee and Francesca’s. He was previously CEO advisor to ProSiebenSat.1 Media, one of the largest media companies in Europe.
Dave is also a perspiring artist and writer who loves to draw and write funny. He has multiple certifications in creative and satirical writing as well as screenwriting. He publishes a career advice column called Breaking Bamboo, and a cartoon series called The ABC Life. He wrote a humorous career book called The Way of the Wall Street Warrior: Conquer the Corporate Game Using Tips, Tricks, and Smartcuts which was published by Wiley and was cited by Bloomberg as one of the Best Books of 2021. It achieved bestseller status with Porchlight Book Company and Amazon where it was a Top 10 Best Seller in business finance. It was ranked by Amazon as the Top #1 Hot New Release in two categories: business finance and economics. He wrote the book to help underrepresented communities achieve their career goals and pledged 100% of his net proceeds to charity.
Dave completed the Management & Technology Program at the University of Pennsylvania where he received a BS in Engineering and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School. He also attended Harvard Business School where he received his MBA. He currently serves on the Executive Board of the Management & Technology Program at the University of Pennsylvania and on the Trust Advisory Committee of Tau Beta Pi, the oldest national engineering honor society. He is also Chairman of the Philanthropic Advisory Council of Smile Train, the largest cleft-focused organization. Finally, he is Vice Chairman of AsAmNews, one of the top news sites for Asian America.
Dave can be reached at his website, www.Liucrative.com.
Q: Tell us a little about Reel8. What is it and what inspired you to start it?
I co-founded Reel8 with Fred Hsu because I realized that I could use technology to help Asian filmmakers who are underrepresented in Hollywood. I’ve been involved in the technology industry for over 20 years and witnessed the power of blockchain technology in creating communities and monetizing the work of artists.Concurrently, despite the success of Shang-Chi and Crazy Rich Asians, I continued to see Asian filmmakers struggle to get their ideas financed and distributed using traditional entertainment channels.
I realized that Web3 and NFTs could help solve this problem by bringing capital and audience directly to Asian filmmakers and their work. We could build a community where fans could financially support filmmakers and enable them to create more works of art.
From this idea came Reel8, an NFT marketplace for exclusive film moments. We allow fans to collect exclusive behind the scenes and directors cut film moments. We will also launch with other unique experiences that allow fans to get even closer to the films and filmmakers they love.
Q: What other comparables are out there similar to Reel8? What do you hope to accomplish with Reel8?
There really aren’t any. There are a few companies attempting to create communities to develop films but no one is doing exactly what we are doing. Our goal is to help filmmakers monetize their existing intellectual property and form communities of fans around these films.
Reel8’s mission is to disrupt the traditional system by enabling fans to connect directly with creators. They do this by collecting favorite movie moments, accessing unique experiences, and supporting their favorite, oftentimes underrepresented, filmmaker artists. Our mission is to help underrepresented filmmakers with financing and distribution of their art through NFTs and fulfill the promise of Web3 and the creator economy.
My long-term hope is to build the largest community of fans of Asian filmmakers who love and support the creation of these films. Perhaps one day Reel8 can be a way for Asian filmmakers to finance and distribute their films without the need for studios or middlemen.
Q: There's a growing space amongst Asian American creators and fans. How does Reel8 work with or integrate into the Asian American community?
Our goal is to identify and work with Asian filmmakers who have existing IP and wish to monetize their work in addition to the traditional theatrical, DVD, and OTT windows. We want to work with Asian filmmakers who have created an amazing work of art with an existing or growing fan base.
We can launch NFT campaigns for films the same day they are released or we can take films that have already been released and re-energize their fan base. Some of our inaugural campaigns are for films that are still available for viewing today as well as films that were released almost a decade ago.
For fans, Reel8 will allow them to get closer to the films they love by giving them unique access to experiences related to the film. A purchaser of our NFTs will not only get unique artwork but also access to never before seen footage, interaction with the film creators, potential to win merchandise and other unique souvenirs, as well as become part of a community that truly loves Asian film and their creators. In addition, we have some new metaverse experiences which we can’t wait to unveil - all for the super fan.
Finally, Reel8 is contributing 50% of its company profits towards the creation of a Community Fund which will be used to support films by Asian filmmakers that the Reel8 community wishes to become reality. We will use these proceeds to assist film projects that are still in the developmental stage and form the basis of a community that helps filmmakers reduce their dependence on studios and traditional channels.
Q: In 2022, it's safe to say that Asian American filmmakers are seeing more and more opportunities, especially if compared to 10 or 20 years ago. Do you think there's enough progress being made in regards to Asian American creators and fans?
I think we are making strides but not as quickly or as broad based as I would like.
We are definitely seeing more films with Asian faces in the lead roles but these films are largely based on Asian stories where the lead must be Asian for effective storytelling.
In addition, when raising capital for their films, many Asian American filmmakers still face headwinds when casting Asians in lead roles. Even in 2022, many traditional studio executives voice their preference to finance films with Caucasian leads. This tells me we still have a lot of work to do.
On a philosophical level, I believe that achieving more Asian representation on film is imperative because we are still viewed as foreigners in our home country. We are still subject to hate crimes and rarely included in discussions regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce. One way to ameliorate this problem is to have broader representation of Asian faces in the media so that we are viewed as truly American.
In cinema, I believe this can only be achieved when Asian faces are chosen for lead roles that were historically reserved for non-Asian faces. We still have a long way to go but our goal should be such that Asian faces are so pervasive in American culture that we are not viewed as the “other.”
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What's your background and how is it relevant to Reel8 (if it is)?
Reel8 is the culmination of many of my life experiences and my desire to help the Asian American community. As you can see from my bio, I had a good career starting with breaking the bamboo ceiling and rising to the executive ranks at one of the top U.S. investment banks. After retiring from Wall Street, I became a serial entrepreneur and started companies in tech, asset management, media, and merchant banking, the last of which led to my investment and board roles in multiple billion dollar companies.
I’ve been blessed with two Chinese American boys and I want them to grow up in a world where they are proud to be Asian American and not feel like outsiders in their own country. As such, there are three key prongs to my activities:
First, I believe that our community’s power in America will emanate from our economic power. There has been a lot of focus on entrepreneurship but not all of us can be CEO founders like Jerry Yang of Yahoo or Eric Yuan of Zoom. In fact, the vast majority of us work in corporations where we are the minority and rising the corporate ladder is really our only means of building economic power. As such, we need to learn how to break the bamboo ceiling. This is why I wrote my book (The Way of the Wall Street Warrior: Conquer the Corporate Game Using Tips, Tricks, and Smartcuts) to help underrepresented communities rise to the executive suite. I’ve had a blast sharing career tactics with Asian Americans at top schools, such as University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, and professional organizations such as NAAAP and LEAP. My book was published only a few months ago but the messages of thanks from young Asian Americans who used some of my tactics to get that job, pay raise, or promotion, really warms my heart and shows me that my work in this area is bearing fruit.
Second, I believe in the power of news to influence policy in America. As such, I joined AsAmNews.com, one of the leading Asian American news sites, as Vice Chairman and lead donor. We are a non-profit organization with volunteer Asian American journalists who write news that matters to our community. We report issues that are typically ignored by mainstream news organizations. I have very big aspirations for the site and believe this is my way to help drive discussion and spotlight on major issues affecting Asian Americans.
Third, I believe that we need more Asian faces and voices in entertainment so that perhaps one day we are no longer viewed as the “other.” I have historically focused on supporting TV, film and live entertainment production companies such as Stampede and TEG+, both production companies with majority or sole founders of Asian descent. Reel8 is the next evolution of my efforts in this area. By helping Asian filmmakers raise funding and build an audience from their work, I believe we will see more content with Asian faces and voices in mainstream American media.
Q: Last question. Can you explain the NFT? And why are NFTs the way to go for Reel8?
The technical definition of an NFT, or non-fungible token, is a unique unit of data employing technology that allows digital content—from videos to songs to images—to become logged and authenticated on cryptocurrency blockchains, primarily Ethereum.
For most people, NFTs signify nothing more than a picture. However, this is truly just the tip of the iceberg. Just like YouTube was built on cat videos and evolved into a major source of content and distribution, I believe that we are at the nascent stages of NFTs fulfilling the promise of creating communities around creators. At their essence, they are algorithms whose function is only limited by the creator’s imagination.
At Reel8, we will take the traditional NFT a step further. We will not only have pictures but also access to unique content and community through the various experiences I cited earlier. In addition, we will create decentralized organizations that will empower fans and bring them closer than ever to the art. All of this is only possible with NFTs.
We are excited to share what we are doing and will be unveiling our first film NFT campaigns soon. If you want to keep up to date on our progress, you can register at www.Reel8.com.
You can connect with Dave at his website: www.Liucrative.com.
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— JD, founder, Crushing The Myth