Published: June 28th, 2020
US crypto startup Roll (tryroll.com) is offering social media influencers the chance to create their own cryptocurrencies, which they can give to (or sell to) their loyal online fans. Called 'social money', social media celebrities can sell tokens and encourage greater loyalty among their followers. Token holders can use their social money to buy goods or services.
Roll CEO Bradley Miles said in a statement that minting their own crypto offers social influencers a better and more meaningful way to reward followers for community engagement – their comments, likes, shares and re-tweets/posts.
Launched last summer, Roll is currently in private beta with seed investment from the likes of NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Roll has signed up enough celebs to issue 160 social tokens, each one representing an influencer or artist.
The company is betting that human tokens can create a marketplace for loyalty that cash rewards and discounts can’t match. Social tokens have emotional content that fiat currencies simply don’t. If Rita Ora decided to thank her fans with a gift, giving them £20 in cash would be an odd and impersonal gesture. Giving them a gift in ‘$RITAOS’ could potentially be seen as a brand builder.
Roll describes its technology as ‘blockchain infrastructure for social money’. The company creates tokens on behalf of its users using the ERC-20 standard and then makes the new social money its created easy to use and store.
Once a token has been issued, holders can do whatever they like with their social cash – Sell it on exchanges or engage in P2P trading.
The token-issuing celeb can maintain some control over their personalized crypto offer, deciding, for example, who to distribute it to and how much to release – meaning they can influence the price.
As a cryptocurrency, however, social money will ultimately be valued by the market and assessments of the celebrity’s or artist’s social equity.
The idea seems to be gaining traction and taking crypto into strange new territory. Uniswap, for example, recognizes several of the 160 tokens issued to date and has begun to see trading volumes rise.
Earlier this year investors spent USD 23,000 buying up the $KERMAN token, issued on behalf of 20-something Aussie crypto-entrepreneur Kerman Kohli. In return for their purchase, Kohli offered the investors an opportunity to vote on some of his upcoming life decisions.
Some visual artists are using Roll to tokenize their creative works and then list them in social money denominations. Others are swapping social money for trading cards.
Analysts at crypto research firm Messari said in a research note that the market would decide how valuable the services offered by token creators become.
‘It’s a unique way to undertake value discovery. This is the first example of a technology allowing an individual’s time to be converted into a tradeable asset. It could fundamentally reshape what it means to be an independent artist or freelance worker, and even reduce the role of organizations generally in coordinating economic activity.’
Tokenised crypto celeb Kerman Kohli has said he wants $KERMAN holders to become ‘a movement’ that rallies around the Kohli cause. He relies on them to play an active role in his creative process and says he’s developing a Telegram app for holders that will let them cast votes on how he should run his next startup.
As is sometimes the case with crypto and blockchain, regulators could eventually rain on Roll’s parade. The boom in ICOs between 2017 and 2018 raised billions until enforcement officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) started levying fines and launching lawsuits for rule violations that drove many crypto companies out of business.
Crypto specialists at legal firm Anderson Kill have said that social tokens might expose issuers to the risks around ‘speculative investments’ under US law, which could mean lawsuits, fines or other civil penalties.
If, for example, a social money token is issued and sold in the US by a celeb who wants to fund their career efforts against a promise of future profits to investors, legally that could be asking for trouble.
The secret may be to keep the sale of any token small and within the confines of the celebrity’s define social media follower or fanbase.
Kohli’s approach to issuing $KERMAN could also help fend off regulators. He made it clear to investors that the token was not a security, and that there was no guarantee that its value would appreciate over time.
As interesting as Roll's approach to personal tokenization is, it's not an entirely new idea.
A man named Mike Merrill has been running a ‘human IPO’ since 2008, where he offers investors shares in himself. A Merrill share is currently valued at USD 5, and he claims a market cap of ca. $70,000. Kohli cites him as an inspiration for $KERMAN.
Merrill has put a number of his big life decisions in the hands of 1,000-plus shareholders.
He consulted them on whether or not he should propose to his girlfriend (they approved), on which Presidential candidate to endorse in the 2020 Democratic primary (they said Sanders), and before having a vasectomy (they rejected the idea).
Merrill has said he believes social tokens could streamline and simplify the human IPO system he pioneered. He may even outsource his personal project to an exchange and says he's consulting his shareholders on the idea.
Roll says it's continuing to sign-up new social media influencers each day. Founder Miles says it will come out of beta and launch publicly in Q3 2020.