Chris Wang has done it all. In addition to selling a company to Disney for hundreds of millions of dollars, he was one of Web3’s early champions.
Here, he talks to Cointelegraph about the hurdles Web3 needs to overcome in order to reach billions of users, and how he thinks the industry will evolve in the coming years.
In addition, Chris also tells us more about what ThunderCore, his latest project, is doing to bring about a “mobile entertainment revolution.”
1. Hi Chris! I was the fastest person to graduate with a PhD at Carnegie Mellon University. How was that – and why did you become interested in computer science?
I spent 2 years and 10 months transitioning from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate in computer science. When I was young, I was always interested in mathematics. I really like solving problems. I wanted to do something practical.
I played a lot of video games at that time too – Warcraft, civilization, that kind of thing. I wasn’t a guy on Counter-Strike… I wasn’t too fast with a mouse! I was more on the strategy side, especially turn-based games. So in my career, I thought it would be very cool to focus on video games.
I also learned a lot about programming at a young age and participated in a lot of programming competitions. I went to high school in California and graduated in three years. At the time, I participated in a nationwide programming competition and was ranked 14th in the US and then went to Berkeley for an associate degree – also for three years – and then moved on to Carnegie Mellon University for a Ph.D. With all this stuff graduating quickly, it was just a challenge to see if I could do it. It has given me a certain amount of satisfaction that I am able to do this.
2. You are one of the first to adopt Web2 – as a creator and VC. Talk to us about Playdom and its journey.
After my graduation, I went to Google for two years (2006 to 2008) where I worked on local search. Then I decided to start my own social gaming company called Playdom.
We wanted to develop for Facebook after it opened its API. First, I tried some e-commerce ideas where you would recommend a product to a friend and then get a discount, but it turns out that people don’t really like selling to their friends. Then I tried some dating apps, which grew to over 1 million daily active users in one month, but we had almost no retention. That’s when I started going back to my roots through play.
The period in which I built Playdom was from 2008 to 2010. It culminated when I sold it to Disney for over half a billion dollars. I was named by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of the best young tech entrepreneurs too. At the time, we were the second largest gaming company on Facebook. In the end, Playdom brought us to 42 million monthly active users.
Much of Playdom’s user base came from viral growth, with users recommending games to their friends. We will reward players with in-game currency and special achievements for inviting people. We have really focused on collaboration and motivating our users to become our ambassadors in Playdom.
After the acquisition, I remained at Disney for another two years as Vice President of Technology, handling primarily all of their social and mobile games. This gave me a lot of ideas about adopting Web3. I still strongly believe that mobile will be the way we get most new users on to Web3.
3. How did you evaluate the projects to invest in? What played the main role in your decision? How is investing in Web3 different from investing in Web2?
The first thing I ask myself is: “Why now?”
There are a lot of smart people out there, and if the idea was possible five or ten years ago, someone probably would have already done it. So I am looking for any recent transformation that might enable this promising new idea.
The other main thing I’m looking for is alignment with my understanding of what might happen in the future. After I sold Playdom to Disney, I thought more of my day to day activities would go online, which is why I became an early investor in Alibaba as well.
Right now with Web3, I’m really convinced that the future is mobile and that we need to reach users who aren’t necessarily as tech savvy as the average crypto enthusiast. I think we’re headed for several years of exponentially increased adoption, a lot of which will be in the form of Web2 companies integrating Web3 features like NFTs into existing applications. This is what people are starting to refer to as Web2.5.
By the way, I don’t think Web3 will completely replace Web2. Blockchain technology has many great use cases – especially with digital assets – but it’s not the best solution for every problem.
4. After this experience with Web2, how would you rate (realistically) the current state of Web3? Is there any infrastructure ready to start building the new web?
I think Web3 is still in its infancy, just at the beginning of its journey. You just arrived right