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Galaxy Digital’s Sam Englebardt – Cointelegraph Magazine



Cointelegraph Magazine

Sam Englebardt has produced zombie movies, created Gold Class cinemas in Australia and hobnobbed with crypto pioneers within the early days. Now he’s investing half a billion {dollars} into the creation of the metaverse.

Galaxy Interactive managing accomplice Sam Englebardt first met billionaire and former hedge fund supervisor Mike Novogratz throughout a whirlwind, celebrity-studded journey to Haiti in 2016. Englebardt’s fiance, Megan, had invited him down on the final minute for a shindig placed on by Artists For Peace and Justice.

“It was a fun weekend,” Englebardt explains. “It’s [Crash director] Paul Haggis’ organization. Susan Sarandon was there and Ben Stiller. It was a great celebration of this really terrific school that they built.”

“Mike and I really hit it off. We realized we had a ton of overlapping interest in technology: in Bitcoin and crypto specifically, in VR and AR,” he says. 9 months later, after their friendship had developed, Novogratz instructed Englebardt he wanted to hitch him in New York to assist institutionalize his household workplace.

“He loves Megan, my fiance. I remember we were having breakfast one morning, and he says, ‘You know, Sam, if you don’t come to New York and work for me in my family office that I’m starting, Megan’s gonna dump you!’” he says, laughing.

The unique plan for Galaxy Digital was constructed round extra conventional methods to become profitable with enterprise capital funding, debt and late-stage non-public fairness, nevertheless it was overtaken by occasions across the unbelievable crypto bull run throughout 2016–17.

“The plan went out the window when we realized, wow, we’re in a better position than anybody to really build Galaxy Digital and pursue this mission of institutionalizing crypto and blockchain,” says Englebardt, formally a co-founder. “And the rest is this wild journey we’re on.”


Galaxy Interactive invests in cutting-edge tech round issues similar to digital actuality and augmented actuality (together with Polyarc), synthetic intelligence (Hour One), in addition to blockchain-based video games (Playable Worlds). To this point, they’ve deployed round $200 million into interactive content material studios and social platforms and the infrastructure and tech that powers the house.

Bear in mind’s $4.1-billion preliminary coin providing for EOS again in 2018? A part of that cash went right into a $325-million fund initially aimed toward normal improvement on EOS, however which reworked right into a $256-million fund below the auspices of Galaxy Interactive after Englebardt and accomplice Richard Kim grew extra excited in regards to the house. They’re within the technique of elevating one other $300-million fund, once more centered on interactive content material.

There’s enormous cash concerned within the gaming business, with Newzoo forecasting the sector could have attracted 3 billion avid gamers and could have generated $217.9 billion by 2013, making it thrice the scale of the movie and music industries mixed. Englebardt believes that gaming primed the world for the explosion in nonfungible tokens and the possession of digital digital objects we’ve seen this yr.

“People over the last 20 years have become incredibly comfortable with the idea that digital objects have value,” he says. “That a sword in a game can be worth something in terms of real money, and that people would want to buy, sell and trade it.”

“And, by the way, it was a lot of the same people that built the systems that allowed you to create and trade and monetize digital objects and games, then came out and built a lot of the same technology that’s powering the whole blockchain and crypto explosion.”

Philosophical about it

Born in Ohio in 1977 — “which makes me a dinosaur I think in crypto land” — he studied legislation at Harvard, in addition to philosophy, political science and economics at each the College of Colorado and Oxford. He grew so fascinated with Plato, Descartes and David Chalmers and the philosophy of thoughts that for some time, he deliberate on changing into a professor of philosophy. It could clarify why he’s extra within the digital worlds that video games are inbuilt than the video games themselves.

“I think it all prepares you to accept the possibility that we’re living in a simulation now and certainly to understand why people could and do spend so much time building their alter egos in these digital worlds and even the possibility that the alter egos they build are as much them as the physical bodies that they inhabit.”

“What I love about philosophy is you just study the process of thinking and train yourself to have an open mind and explore ideas and to love the exploration of ideas. Not only is it just really fun and intellectually stimulating but it’s a great way to be a venture investor, too,” he says.

He additionally took a category on the historical past of cinema, which sparked a lifelong “obsessive passion for film and filmmaking” and led him to create a movie financing enterprise. “While I was still in law school, I started a company financing, producing and financing independent film,” he says. “That was the start of my business life.”

The movie years

Over the course of his profession, Englebardt produced or government produced zombie movies for George A. Romero (Diary of the Useless, Survival of the Useless), the Sin Metropolis sequel (A Dame to Kill For) together with the more moderen AMC present The Evening Supervisor

He additionally created the idea of Gold Class Cinemas in Australia — premium cinema experiences with massive recliners and overpriced food and drinks — and partnered with the Lambert Media Group’s Michael Lambert to place collectively the fourth-largest cinema chain in the USA referred to as Rave Cinemas, which they offered in 2013 to Cinemark.

“From 2003 or so to 2013, I was involved in operating or investing in every type of old media business that you could get that was in secular decline,” says Englebardt wryly. The winds of change have been starting to blow.

“It was impossible not to see what was happening with digital media and digital content. As I looked at that, I kind of stumbled into some of the same people that are now some of the real pioneers of crypto, building gaming businesses.”

Though he’d made his first funding in a gaming studio referred to as Seismic in 2010, it wasn’t till 2013, when Occulus was purchased by Fb, that he started to understand the long run belonged to interactive content material. He made his first VR funding that yr into eye-tracking know-how referred to as EyeFluence, which was later offered to Google.

“At the time, gaming was considered un-investable by venture capital; it was deemed another form of content, not really technology,” he says. “I just saw it and thought, ‘Oh, my God, I mean, this is so obvious. This is where people are headed.’”

“The writing was on the wall in terms of the passionate diehard interest from these younger demos, the opportunity for people that have so much more agency in the content that they’re consuming, and to really actively participate and lean into their content experience.”

Bitten by Brock’s crypto bug

As with so many others, it was Blockchain Capital, Tether and founder Brock Pierce who launched Englebardt to the world of crypto.

“Brock was the first person to say the word Bitcoin to me for sure,” he says. “He was really the person who took the time to educate me on why it was important, why it mattered. He has been more than anybody I know, one of the most important evangelists for decentralized technology in the world.”

Residing in Venice on the time, Pierce and Englebardt held common crypto dinner events with WAX co-founder William Quigley, Scott Walker from Casper Labs and Johnny Steindoor, managing accomplice of Distributed International.

“There was a whole gang of LA people who went on to be pioneers in one way or another in their sphere of influence in the crypto world. And we would get together once a week or once every couple of weeks and have a dinner party, talking about what was going on.”

Whereas the world is at present gripped in a full-blown NFT mania, and most hint its lineage to CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties in 2017, Englebardt says that digital possession has been an inevitable improvement for longer than that.

“There were a million reasons to look at CryptoKitties and say, ‘Oh, yeah, this whole thing is crazy and it’s not going to work.’ But if you understood the enormous world of in-game objects which were, even three or four years ago, such an enormous part of the overall business of games, especially if you understood blockchain technology, I think it was impossible not to recognize that this was an opportunity for a whole new industry.”

“We saw millions of people consuming and spending tens of billions of dollars on digital objects,” he says. “People are bringing the game objects, but also just game behavior and gamification, out into all these other areas of their lives.”

“The deeper I went into games, the more that I felt certain that we were going to see this behavior play out in other aspects of our lives and with objects outside of games.”

Snow Crash and the metaverse

With a 10-year horizon for his VC investments, Englebardt is used to dwelling sooner or later in his thoughts, and he sees the metaverse quick approaching. Popularized by Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, the idea refers to a digital world that connects all the opposite digital worlds and that gamers spend most of their time dwelling in. 

Primarily, it’s an immersive model of the web, and Englebardt believes that digital possession through NFTs would be the foundational pillar. That’s as a result of individuals are extra more likely to make investments effort and time to create one thing in the event that they know they’ll personal it endlessly and that it’s not topic to the whims of a digital world’s proprietor, as is the case with one thing like Fortnite or World of Warcraft.

“We’re a species that wants to make stuff and the more incentivized we are to make things and monetize them (the better),” he says. “[Building the metaverse] requires people being incentivized. The content itself can’t be created from a top-down perspective; it’s gonna need to be utilizing the incentive systems and tools that are being built now to encourage people to build and contribute content.”

“Once you empower people to create and enable them to monetize the things that they make, it really changes everything in terms of how they talk about; how they engage with it; how they market a particular place for you.”

Customers create extra worth

He cited Andreessen Horowitz normal accomplice Chris Dixon’s statement {that a} key motive Bitcoin and Ether have accrued a lot worth is that they’ve tens of thousands and thousands of tremendous passionate customers constructing on or round them and spreading the phrase.

“There hasn’t been $1 of marketing spent, and that’s because you’re taking users and you’re turning them into creator owners. And that’s what’s happening in game economies and why it’s so exciting.”



In a piece about NFTs in February, Dixon expanded on the theme, saying NFTs have the ability to free customers from centralized platforms that take their content material and maintain the income, to as a substitute construct “on the original ideals of the internet: users and creators globally connected, unconstrained by intermediaries, sharing ideas and economic upside.”

The primary manifestations of the metaverse will be seen in blockchain-based digital worlds similar to The Sandbox and Decentraland, the place customers can already purchase and personal property and create and commerce content material and digital objects with one another.

However earlier than we get to a Prepared Participant One-style future, a bunch of stuff must occur.

“No one person or no one company is going to build all of the metaverse. I mean, its tools are being built, but it’s going to require so many different pieces coming into place to get to that Snow Crash level place,” he says. “You’re going to need GPU power to actually support all of this; there’s a million things that have to happen. So, we’ve got quite a ways to go.”

“But we’re clearly past the point where people are spending an enormous amount of time in digital worlds, and making their living in them, and creating jobs in them and so on. That’s happening now.”

“The persistence of digital objects across digital and physical worlds, the ability in a decentralized way, in a peer-to-peer way to share the things that we own, to buy and bring a digital object from one environment into a physical environment and hand it off to somebody, all of that stuff is being built now. It’s not that far away.”

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