From Fluorescent Lights to Sporting NFTsby@jillian-godsil
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From Fluorescent Lights to Sporting NFTs

by Jillian GodsilJuly 26th, 2023
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It pays to be neurodiverse - Ben Appleby escaped school and followed his instincts - now he is a co founder of an exciting web3 sporting platform launching soon.
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As a freelancer all his life, Ben Appleby knows good people when he meets them. And so it was with his co-founder Richard Kieswick. As soon as they met, Appleby knew this man was smart and he wanted to work with him, so relying on the adage that it pays to employ (or co-found with) people that are smarter than you, he did.

This learning was circuitous enough and came over time. Appleby did not enjoy school and only found one teacher that ‘got’ him; and he got her back by overperforming in that subject, but largely he was a fish out of water as he struggled to conform under fluorescent lights.

“As soon as I could escape, I did.”

Not labelled officially as neurodiverse, Appleby nevertheless ticks all the boxes. He was as resistant to PAYE employment as schooling, and struck out as a freelance website developer and designer initially. To his delight, he thrived in this high-pressure environment.

“I think you need to be thick skinned and resilient to be a freelancer. When doing freelance web work, you are brought in for a very short, specific project. You have to deliver quickly and efficiently or they won’t hire you again.”

Appleby has been very successful in these environments over the past 20 years. He worked with some really smart people and lapped up all the knowledge he could. He preferred to stay freelance and only took permanent jobs as a tactical move – to get a mortgage, gain a new title – otherwise he is off on the open road.

“By being freelance, I can control my career, pick and choose the jobs I want to do, and stay sane.”

While Appleby agrees that knowledge transfer is significant when working as a freelance professional, he is also the mastermind of new processes and he has in turn shared that with clients.

“As I became more experienced, I found I was ditching existing professional processes and inventing new ones. I started writing measurement framework methodologies which certainly got me noticed and companies often tried to hire me inhouse – but I work better in bursts and under pressure.”

Ironically, Appleby often finds these processes are in turn presented back to him by other companies.

“I can’t help inventing – I’ll be sitting at my desk when I start looking at a door handle that’s not very well designed and I can go off on a tangent thinking about how to design it better.”

Once down the rabbit hole of Web3, and he was an early convert back in 2013, he was struck by the awful UI and UX. “It’s not surprising, it’s a nascent sector and it is driven by technology and devs. The people building the first websites for example did it in their bedrooms – they were not product designers. Same for web3, it’s all driven by complex technology.

“When technical people design a product, they only want to know it works, they are not interested in how easy it is to use or how it looks.”

In addition to design, Appleby also conducts user research which includes journey mapping. This is fascinating to him as he researches how people use products or services, mapping their interaction, chunking it into different categories and then serving insights from the research.

Often, Appleby will make the jump to end conclusions that then end up being proven via research, but needs the technical mapping to explain to neural neutral clients. Nine times out of ten he is right.

Part of his involvement in crypto was to make it easier to understand and to stop misinformation and even malicious misinformation. To that end, he set up the Cake platform where he gathered authentic crypto experts who could be called upon to give advice and then be rated by the community. It was here that he met Kieswick and knew he had to work with him.

Both founders are ideas led, both have at least a trillion ideas bubbling up in their heads before breakfast and Appleby knew in a heart beat that he wanted to work with Kieswick.

“I’m the chief product guy and it’s my job to figure out what ideas are commercially viable. To be honest, of all the ideas we’ve looked at, Akshun is the best by a long shot.”

Together they formed a web3 creative agency, The Unseen agency, of which Akshun is their first project. Akshun is based on sporting moments – and Appleby has another confession here. While Kieswick is a former semi pro rugby player, Appleby declares himself to be the black sheep of the family preferring solo adventure sports such as surfing or rock climbing.

“Akshun is the only platform to take the real-life actions of sports players – in our first iteration it’s the Premier Football League – and immortalize them on the blockchain as NFTs. We use the excitement of live sports and those moments when these top athletes score a goal.”

Certain actions can last a lifetime according to Appleby. Goals and wins can be emotionally charged with people still talking about them twenty years later in the pub.

Akshun takes the data from OPTA which logs all live games and sends the data to betting companies. It’s the official source of the footballing data. As all actions are verified, the data is live streamed into smart contracts on Akshun.

“For example, a user might hold a NFT for Mo Salah 34, with 34 being the number of direct touches of the player. If he actually scores on the 34th moment, then that NFT holder is going to be very happy with prize funds being available, trustlessly via the game contract”

Reflecting the team nature of the beautiful game, Akshun also has built in what they call ‘assists’ where actions immediately prior to the goal can be recorded, valued and rewarded as well as the main moment.

D-Day is very soon for this project. Mints open on August 3rd in advance of the opening game of the Premier league on the 12th August. Akshun has been in development for almost two years and the next couple of weeks are awash with celebrity footballer AMAs, partnerships being announced left right and centre and a general excitement build up to launch.

The project is built on Ethereum because that is where the players are based but in time it will spread to other ecosystems and EVM compatible blockchains.

Appleby talks about the upcoming features but he can’t share them as yet as some are just too good. Between him and Kieswick it’s like a bubbling cauldron of ideas. And it’s not limited to just football. Appleby throws out examples of cricket, netball, beach volleyball – the list of sports is endless.

For more information please join the discord or visit the website - see below:

Featured image: Picture Caption: Ben Appleby, co founder and chief product officer with The Unseen Agency