We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!
This week, our 6 Questions go to Mitch Liu, co-founder and CEO of Theta Labs — a decentralized video streaming platform powered by users and built on a new blockchain.
Theta Labs is the organization behind the Theta Network — a fast, green blockchain designed from the bottom up for media and entertainment. In 2019, Mitch launched Theta.tv, a decentralized livestreaming platform that makes use of tokenized bandwidth-sharing to make video content delivery faster and cheaper than mainstream alternatives. Most recently, Mitch and his team launched ThetaDrop, an NFT marketplace powered by the Theta Network.
Mitch has been an investor and entrepreneur in the tech space since 2007. He received a BS in computer science engineering from MIT, conducted research at MIT Media Lab’s “Interactive Cinema” group and received an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
1 — What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced in our industry so far?
I think convincing stakeholders in legacy industries that blockchain and Web3 technologies have a place in their industry’s future. Understandably, this wasn’t as hard with the tech folks — new technologies and new ideas are kind of their bread and butter. But you’d be surprised at how even people in those spaces can be wedded to an older way of doing things. It’s hard to totally reimagine your industry. I don’t blame anyone for that.
In media and entertainment, it has been a little more difficult. The transition from television, radio and Web1 to social media and Web2 seemed pretty intuitive. We’re traveling from a one-directional kind of media to a shared, more collaborative model. Web3 and distributed ledger technology are the same but turbocharged, and a little harder to wrap your head around. But we’ve started to see a shift in the attitudes of media companies. Once people realize how, for example, sharing computer power and bandwidth to reduce cost and energy consumption in video streaming works, the concept clicks for them pretty quickly. One day, Web3 will seem just as intuitive as the TV. I really believe that.
2 — What does decentralization mean to you, and why is it important?
To me, decentralization means taking back control and sharing power with the people and the broader community. Over the last couple of decades, we have sleepwalked into an internet — a society even — that has placed far too much power in the hands of too few people and organizations. Tech giants like Facebook (or Meta) are starting to realize that, and they’re now trying to innovate and change their narrative to convince users that they are still valued.
3 — When you tell people you’re in the blockchain industry, how do they react?
I’m quite lucky. Most of my contemporaries are familiar with what I do and react really well to our work in the blockchain space. I also have an easier answer I can use if I want because, in so many respects, Theta is in the business of media and entertainment, and it’s easier to understand. Blockchain is just the technology that allows us to add new value to the media industry, not necessarily replacing the entire industry.
4 — Which two superpowers would you most want to have, and how would you combine them for good… or evil?
I would have to pick one for practical reasons and one for fun. As much as I like to sleep, it can be such an inconvenience when you have so many plans. I’d love to be able to spend more time on Theta. We have so many exciting projects in the works, and instead of spending my nights with my head on the pillow, it would be great to turn that into productive time — I’d have no distractions!
My second superpower would have to be the ability to fly. Sure, it has a practical transportation element (is that cheating?), but it would also be the greatest adrenaline rush.
5 — If you didn’t need sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I’d like to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Life is too short, and it’s only after a hard week at your desk that you realize how little time there is for the good things in life. To relax and unwind with the people you love is one of life’s blessings, and I’d love to spend more quality time doing it.
6 — What should we be teaching our kids?
Things are almost never as hard as they first appear to be.
Unless you’re blessed with unnatural confidence, taking on a new challenge is always difficult. But I have lost track of all the times in my life when a task seemed impossible yet I ended up either doing better than expected or learning from the experience. And this has nothing to do with my natural ability at any given thing. From what I can see, this is universal. Try your best, and it will be infinitely easier the next time.
A wish for the young, ambitious blockchain community:
I would like to wish them the best of luck in this space… and tell them to keep on innovating! It is them who will lead us to global adoption. We’ll get there… it’s just about when.