The emergence of blockchain technology and the metaverse industry has given rise to various startups and ideas. I have learned about many extraordinary startup ideas as I continue to explore the space. Recently, I had an opportunity to have a conversation with a similar startup founder with a great idea, Markus Levin.
Levin co-founded a geospatial data company called XYO. XYO is the world’s first trustless, geospatial oracle backed by cryptography on the blockchain. Within the grand metaverse scope, XYO works by connecting physical land, people and items within our reality to the digital world. XYO also has a native cryptocurrency. I was looking forward to learning more about XYO, its products and how the company is positioned to flourish in Web3 when I got an opportunity to interview Levin.
I started my interview by asking Markus Levin about his background and what led him to XYO.
“I’m from Germany originally. I studied there and then moved around the globe, both completing my studies and working in a few countries like Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia . I was always looking for the next best thing. Eventually, I entered the tech industry by doing marketing tech. I became CEO of a tech company and then I found myself as a co-founder and CEO of a media publishing company.”
“After taking up other pursuits, the then former CEO of the tech company approached me to join XY Labs. In 2012, XY Labs was an IoT location company. Then at the end of 2017, that business wasn’t doing too good. Eventually we built the XYO Network and everything took off, and that’s why we’re here today.”
It’s interesting to learn about Levin’s history and what led him to become the Co-founder of XYO. Next, I asked Markus Levin to explain the business model of XYO and the organization’s purpose.
“XYO is one of the only trustless oracles connecting real world data with a blockchain, metaverse or other digital realities.”
“We realized that geolocation is easily hacked. You can pretend that you are in Toronto now when you’re actually in San Diego. This creates a problem for self-driving cars in cities or if you want to try to pick something from the real world and display it in the metaverse. There’s going to be lots of fraud if value is attached to the location of things and people. So we tried to give more certainty around location data – that was the original premise of XYO. We did this with IoT devices and mobile phones that validate each other’s proximity to each other – sort of like a cryptographic handshake. As the device travels along, it detects more and more devices, which builds out our data world. If you’re concerned about the temperature of your destination, want to know where a demonstration or news event is taking place, etc., it’s all about the location!”
“For example, we built this data layer which allows us to validate the opening hours of a restaurant. Users can capture this data and contribute to its validation by just taking a picture. We need to be able to capture lots of data from the real world in order to have it accurately reflect in the digital world – likewhere your house is, where your car is, how the street looks, how your neighborhood looks, the objects and people inside a given space, how those items fit in the space, what sentiment they have, etc. Basically, we are scaling up to collect more and more of this type of data. And today, we have started out in IoT, and it was difficult to make an IoT partnership work.There are large companies, very premier companies in the space, which were interested in doing proof of concepts with a small company. However, it takes two, three years to get the proof of concept started with large corporations. So we thought it was better to look to the crypto community to build out this network since we are so amazing and dedicated”
Markus explained the importance of geospatial data very well. Furthermore, he explained the importance of blockchain technology and how it has benefited the XYO community.
“We launched a mobile app called COIN. It’s an Augmented Reality Rewards App, which lets you earn rewards as you explore the world. Today, it has more than 5 million downloads, a 4.6 star rating in the Play Store, and people use it more than three hours a day. This enables them to go out and collect data.”
The COIN app is an exciting business. It allows users to be able to collect tokens by exploring the spaces around them. I asked Markus to explain more about how users can earn using COIN.
“We did a 500-user case study which showed that users made $14 million, over a certain time frame up until September of last year. Then the token price went up after that actually. There’s one guy who made $1.6 million himself and another who paid off his mortgage. Someone went on a 20-year delayed honeymoon and another bought a new car. I met someone at Consensus, he thanked me because he made $300,000. It was just amazing!”
“When we started XYO we aimed to find XYO’s contributors among the native crypto community. We realized that this would be a very narrow, addressable market, because crypto was an even smaller niche in 2018 then it is today. We managed to change and are now able to attract a lot of contributors to XYO from inside as well as outside the crypto community. We see that a lot of the crypto projects have this problem because the blockchain community is quite small, and so their addressable market is small.
Levin goes on to explain how COIN app has been able to penetrate the non-crypto market.
“Today, about 80% of the users on the COIN app are non-crypto people and 95% of them redeemed for XYO. Now we have an in-app currency called COIN, which is pegged to the dollar because it’s easier for people to understand. They are able to redeem these for crypto currencies and for products like guitars, and in the US and the UK, for sweepstakes as well.”
Learning about XYO and the COIN app and how the organization has grown so much over the last year is interesting. Levin talked about the blockchain technology behind the company. A COIN case study Levin sent me after the conversation is interesting to look at, as I realized how many ways people are making money through crypto.
I asked Levin about another critical component of the COIN app, Augmented Reality technology. Many people tend to associate the metaverse to only Virtual Reality. I was hoping Levin will be able to explain why AR is equally (if not more) important.
“AR is going to be the entryway to that metaverse. It would be awkward to have your virtual reality headset on the whole day. That would be a dystopian world, but if you want to foray a little further, VR is the pathway.”
Lastly, I concluded my conversation with Levin by asking about the future for XYO.
“We’re scaling, quite a bit! In the first half of 2022, our company grew by 51% in revenue relative to the first half of last year. Plus, we tokenized the stock of our company, which is now available on tZERO ATS. We have more than 23,000 shareholders and provide them liquidity, making us the largest ever company to tokenize their stock and list on an ATS. ”
Levin went on to talk about other improvements being made by XYO
“You can access XYO through smart contracts, but also through APIs. And so we make it extremely easy to engage with the tech and network. The marriage of Web2 and Web3 is important. You need to pull people from Web2 to Web3 to be able to progress, and we have proved that we can do that and can continue doing it even better!”
Markus Levin provided some great insights on XYO and the COIN app. It was also interesting to get his point of view about the emerging blockchain and AR technologies. Metaverse Insider would like to thank Markus for his time and insights.