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Building Web3-Enabled Commerce Engines with Novel CEO Roger Beaman

Adrian Alfieri

Adrian Alfieri

Roger Beaman is the co-founder and CEO of Novel, the Shopify-friendly platform that enables brands and creators to experience all that Web3 has to offer without writing a single line of code.

We sat down with Roger for a primer on blockchain functionality, the core e-commerce use cases for NFTs, and the ideal entry points for established brands looking to make their first move into Web3. Roger dives deep on:

  • Dual NFT use cases: engagement and evangelism
  • Leveraging creative partners to ramp demand
  • The nexus of web3 and subscriptions

“They say you make your own luck; we started Novel with the long-term bet that NFTs were where blockchain would find product-market fit with mainstream consumers. This vision materialized in only a few short months, and we were perfectly positioned to be part of it. Our initial talks had brands asking if Web3 would ever be relevant for their customers. The belief we share with them today is that it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ and for many brands, the answer is now.” 


Breaking Down the Buzz: Data, Miners, Gas, and Novel

What’s a blockchain anyway?

As Roger puts it, a blockchain is a database (think complex Excel spreadsheet) that doesn’t belong to any individual or group. As a result, no one user can override or alter that source of record, affirming its trustworthiness. 

The independence and reliability of blockchains lent itself to the early use case as a simple database for financial accounts, and thus cryptocurrencies were born. It was Ethereum, the leading open-source blockchain and crypto giant, that led the move to store more than bank accounts in blockchains.

Gas Price Woes

At present, tending to Ethereum requires a full-time maintenance team, commonly referred to as miners. These miners can be viewed as decentralized Amazon Web Services (AWS) for blockchains, as Roger describes them. Whenever anyone purchases an NFT, these miners must facilitate updating the blockchain with this information.

This computation, known as “gas” is incredibly expensive, and as implemented today makes the Ethereum blockchain unscalable. 

A single NFT drop generates immense demand — there are thousands of simultaneous purchase attempts when the drop begins. This can drive the gas price up to thousands of dollars. In e-commerce terms, gas can be thought of as shipping costs. This would be like paying $3,000 in shipping for something that might only cost $200.

That Buzz Though

One might suspect that this and other seemingly absurd barriers to entry would render the market for NFTs infeasible. The opposite seems true: “NFT” was the word of the year for 2021 and at present, the top three NFT collections alone have a combined market cap of over $7.76bn.

And, the Novel team believes that once the barriers on the supply and demand side are eliminated, the market for NFTs could increase by orders of magnitude.


A Novel Approach

Novel was born out of the realization that without these barriers, Web3’s trajectory into the mainstream will be dramatically accelerated. The Novel team thought through each barrier on the customer side, leading to the following design decisions:

  1. Build on the robust e-commerce ecosystem provided by Shopify
  2. Use Polygon to eliminate gas fees but maintain use of an open blockchain and OpenSea compatibility for the secondary market (unlike Flow).
  3. Leverage technology to make creating a crypto wallet as simple as logging into any website using Google.

“Crypto fans understand the nuances of purchasing NFTs, but they reasonably dumbfound newcomers. Our job at Novel is to deliver a frictionless experience to the everyday consumer while maintaining consistency with the decentralized ethos valued by those who brought crypto to where it is today.”


Bringing NFTs to Shopify: Meeting Customers Where They Are

Shopify is known for powering DTC household names and venture-backed companies, but its mission has always been to provide best-in-class tools for all segments of the market. 

It is simply the best platform for anyone selling anything. 

An exciting implication for Novel is that Shopify is the merchandising platform of choice for the largest TikTok and Instagram influencers, who are a meaningful portion of Novel’s target market.

Novel’s customers to date reflect this and are split 50-50 between brands and influencers. 

Another cohort that has been inbounding are companies such as FabFitFun who are not on Shopify today but considering Shopify as part of their plans and may have this move catalyzed by Novel. 

Roger saw other web3 platforms attempting to build commerce engines, but his prior experience founding a company in the Shopify ecosystem convinced him to build on Shopify rather than against Shopify.

“Shopify has an incredibly collaborative and diverse ecosystem of brands and agencies. Their crypto team reached out to us proactively and have been great partners in establishing a shared vision for bringing Web3 to their platform. We believe the winning move is to build on Shopify, not against Shopify.” 


Dual Use Cases: Engagement & Evangelism 

According to Roger, Novel’s customers are looking to offer unique, tailored experiences for passionate members of their existing communities and get them excited about evangelizing the brand. 

The financial mechanisms of the NFT marketplace create a seamless partnership between a brand and its customers. 

For the owners of a brand’s NFT, it is a financial asset that they want to appreciate in value. They are directly rewarded for contributing to the brand’s image and the communal experience around owning the brand’s NFT.

For the brand, every time an NFT is bought on the secondary market, a portion of that transaction flows back to the brand. This means brands are incentivized to continually improve community experiences and generate loyalty among their most engaged audience members through exclusive perks, such as invite-only AMAs, drops, and other events.

This dynamic spurs a mutually beneficial flow between brand and user base. By owning an NFT as a financial asset, the customer stakes a financial interest in the health of its company.


Leveraging Creative Partners to Ramp Demand

Brands and creators who want to launch collections can leverage the Novel platform for the creation, sale, and feature set of their NFTs. 

While Novel presents customers with the best tooling available to execute their vision, they also bring agencies such as Hawke Media and Sharma Brands to serve as creative partners in tailoring their Web3 experience.

“We knew there was demand at the intersection of Web3 and DTC, but frankly we’ve been blown away. Within 24 hours of launch, we received 120+ sign-ups, including three Fortune 500 brands.” 


Web3 Meets Subscriptions

Roger previously founded a company in the Shopify subscription billing space and was excited about collaborations with companies such as Skio.

“Subscriptions are the established long-term financial relationship that customers have with brands. NFTs add a new, community-driven dimension to that relationship. The intersection between these two holds a lot of latent potential."

Adrian Alfieri

Adrian Alfieri

Y Combinator
Liquid IV
Bev
Bev
Muddy Bites
MatchaBar
Remedy Organics
Facetheory
Krave Beauty
Stryx
One Blade
Doe Lashes
Barukas
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Gooey.
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Simulate
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Zox
Huron
XCJ
BelliWelli
Culture Pop
Bubs Naturals
Summer Water
Strong Coffee
Ritual Zero Proof
Wellnesse
Heights
Taika
Immi
Fly By Jing
Y Combinator
Liquid IV
Bev
Bev
Muddy Bites
MatchaBar
Remedy Organics
Facetheory
Krave Beauty
Stryx
One Blade
Doe Lashes
Barukas
Red Bay Coffee
Gooey.
Siete Foods
Sunsoil
Ugmonk.
Munkpack
Simulate
Everyday Dose
Backbone
ZBiotics
Semaine Health
Somos
Magic Mind
Uprising
Zox
Huron
XCJ
BelliWelli
Culture Pop
Bubs Naturals
Summer Water
Strong Coffee
Ritual Zero Proof
Wellnesse
Heights
Taika
Immi
Fly By Jing
Ready to sell subscriptions without ripping your hair out?
Ready to sell subscriptions without ripping your hair out?

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