Michael Blu - Uplift.Art Founder
As a precious metals broker, Michael knew the power of a fear trade. In a world where fiat has been squeezed with quantitative easing since the 2008 financial crash, hard assets have acquired an extra allure. His successful brokerage dealt in the message that the only true thing of value was physical, which is why his total dive into blockchain and cryptocurrency could not be more of a votre face.
And yet it also makes total sense.
“I’m a hard metal guy – from the if you can’t touch it, you can’t own it school of life. And I was very successful because I was predicting the demise of the American dollar and its continued fall in value. I said ‘diversify your portfolio’ and people did.”
Michael’s career reflects that diversity and ability to pivot. At various times he has served in the marines, worked in construction as a labourer, was a ditch digger, limo driver, actor, model, musician and penultimately gold broker. Actually, correction, he is still a musician.
“My love for song writing and producing music has remained with me over the years.”
This skill set came to fore when he released the world’s first full music video as an NFT. At the time of writing, this claim appears to be true and Michael has not been able to find other examples. There are definitely shorter music NFTs but not complete music videos. The date? August 7, 2020. You heard it here.
When Bitcoin came into his world around 2012 and strutted around like a bad bit actor, initially Michael was not impressed.
“I was very anti-Bitcoin, but it just kept on popping up. It’s like when you buy a green Volkswagen then all you see on the road are other green Volkswagens.”
Eventually he read the Satoshi white paper and he was blown away. He was selling his brokerage at the same time and he put some of the proceeds into Bitcoin; ironically fuelling his new obsession with traditional precious metals - the antithesis of cryptocurrencies.
If the Bitcoin experiment hooked him, then the programmable language of Ethereum landed the fish. At that time, 2017, it was full on ICO craze. Michael invested in more than 100 ICOs at the time, some of which failed, but he still ended up ahead as befits a successful broker. More importantly, he learnt a lot.
Five years on he doesn’t use either bitcoin or ethereum, in fact he sweats buckets if he has to transact in either coin.
“It’s the wait times – does my head in.”
Instead, Michael is a big advocate of EOS and WAX. He likes wallets that have names, free transactions and easy payments. So, he was first won over by the technology, then the ethos.
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Around that time, real life intervened and changed the course of his career. He and his wife adopted a daughter from Haiti. He was shocked to discover that the island looked the same as it did ten years ago after the hurricane, nothing had been rebuilt. While he was aware of the difficulties facing developing countries, the actual conditions horrified him.
“To see the country in pieces was terrible; the dirt, the rubble, garbage, people living on the streets. I can only explain it as walking past a burning building. I could not do nothing.”
The nothing that Michael could not do is to fund raise for schools and he now works with local NGO Haitian Roots to build schools for the community, with the community, and by the community.
“Education is statistically proven to eradicate poverty.”
Going down this road also exposed Michael to the failings in the charity sector where committed people are expected to work on shoestring budgets. Michael is looking to flip that outdated concept on its head, attract capable talented people, reward them property and deliver goods and services needed by disadvantaged communities. And he knows cryptocurrencies and the people in the community are the answer.
Uplift Nation was born, now Uplift Art, where 50% of all proceeds go to its charitable partners. To make it work, Michael has coined a win, win, win philosophy, or actually a win, win, win, win model, codenamed Win Squared for the purposes of this interview.
In a nutshell, he says the first win has to be the philanthropic cause. The second is the ecosystem of the organisation behind the activity where the employees are the best they can be, paid what they need and are winning on the happiness quotient as a result. The third win is the community who support the organisation, creating an inspired and empowered people.
The final win is redefining winning itself. Michael poses some pretty deep questions on personal wealth.
“How can you be happy in your mansion if there are beggars at the gate? If your neighbour is in trouble, can you sleep nights? Instead of massive profits for one person or one organisation why can’t we share it? This is not as difficult as it sounds, it just requires that we think about things differently, think about making things better.”
Michael sees NFTs as a means of sharing wealth, as a means to transfer value to those in need. Uplift.Art launched Uplift World to build on that idea. Uplift World is a metaverse based on the building game Minecraft.
Players in Uplift World buy land in the form of NFTs using the WAX blockchain. They can invite in friends to help them build and beautify the land. Every time Michael logs on he is delighted to see new buildings, art, shops, plants, flowers, statues. He calls the initial version Ready Player One and it is just beginning.
“We have a robust roadmap and people are really getting involved. It’s building, it’s collaboration and it is literally creating a better world – online and in the real world.”
And that is the genius of the hard metal man. Instinctively he understands that current value systems are failing society, and the emergence of cryptocurrencies is an antidote to that, but even more important is the translation of value back to people again. Having a new system of sharing wealth equitably is no good if it stays online, it has to come back to earth and build homes, schools, theatres, hospitals, restaurants, transport and roads. Uplift Art and World are not about escaping online but forming new communities that will build for the living, breathing humans on this wonderful place we call home.