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Reimagining An Industry: ReelStar Co-Founders Nick Bahl And Navdeep Sharma The co-founders of ReelStar are using the philosophy and technology of Web3 to rethink how the media and entertainment sector operates.

By Tamara Pupic

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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When building their Web3-integrated social media platform ReelStar, co-founders Navdeep Sharma and Nick Bahl had one goal in mind- to create a blockchain-based platform for the media and entertainment industry that would empower creators operating in this particular sector. And that's what the two entrepreneurs believe they have since created, with ReelStar being a decentralized platform that integrates multiple social media, Web3, and payment functionalities to help users to distribute and monetize their content.

"The platform uses smart contracts to ensure that content creators are paid fairly and on time, and that revenue is distributed transparently," Bahl explains. "Users can also earn rewards for watching and sharing content, which incentivizes engagement, and helps content go viral." Here, Sharma adds that the ReelStar solution will serve not "just the stars for their revenue-producing capacity," but also everyone within this ecosystem. "Web3 philosophy and technology will drive a new artist and fan-centric revenue model that is democratized, and offers greater engagement and artistic development potential, as well as reduced costs for all participants," Sharma declares.

Described by its creators as the world's first "everything" app, ReelStar offers its users a number of functionalities, which include live streaming, video sharing, peer-to-peer chat, audio/video calling, and more. One of its key features is ReelPay, a mobile-first, global payment solution with seamless integration of fiat and cryptocurrencies, which has been designed to put creators more in control of their work. ReelPay was launched in Dubai in the last quarter of 2022, but Bahl recalls that the development process wasn't an easy ride. In fact, it took them two years to get to the point where they are confident that their product has all the desired functionalities.

That said, there were a couple of important lessons learnt during this development process for ReelStar, and Bahl points toward the importance of flexibility as being one of the key ones. "While having a plan is important, unforeseen challenges and changes can occur during the development process," Bahl notes. "Therefore, it's essential to be able to pivot and adapt to these changes. Communication is another key learning during the process. It is important to establish clear and open communication channels to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and that any issues or concerns are addressed promptly. To put across the vision and goals effectively to the development team to ensure that the final product meets their expectations has been a key aspect." For his part, Sharma draws attention to the need for garnering as many viewpoints as possible from one's end consumers. "By gathering feedback from users through the beta version of ReelStar, we have gained valuable insights into the user experience," Sharma notes. "This feedback has resulted in making changes to the app."

Related: How To Thrive In The Age Of The Metaverse: Engaging With The Five Layers Of The New Virtual Economy

Described by its creators as the world's first "everything" app, ReelStar offers its users a number of functionalities, such as live streaming, video sharing, peer-to-peer chat, audio/video calling, and more. Source: ReelStar

As serial entrepreneurs, both Sharma and Bahl have had hands-on experience of developing several internet-based ventures, and as such, they are especially attuned to the importance of being an early adopter when it comes to the evolution of technology. Their experiences have made them hyper aware about how the Internet has changed how people consume media, but also that the industry at large is still plagued by issues like piracy, a broken revenue-sharing model, and lack of transparency. "The media and entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that has traditionally been dominated by a few big players," Sharma says. "We both felt that the Web3 space had achieved sufficient technical maturity to support not only its applica- tion to the ReelStar venture, but that it was ripe for the kind of innovation that we envisioned bringing to the space."

The ReelStar solution has, so far, been funded by seed capital from the co-founders, together with limited funding rounds and private and preliminary token offerings- the company raised over US$5 million from the initial token offering of its utility token, ReelToken (REELT), which is based on a multi-blockchain platform, with its architecture making use of networks by Polygon and Binance Smart Chain.

Looking back on how the venture has raised funds so far, Bahl says, "If we had the opportunity to do things again, we probably would have condensed the offerings into fewer funding rounds. The use case of the utility token, and the opportunity within the Web3 space, is what piques the interest of investors and potential users of the application. Everyone is keen to see how we can change the way we do things, and stand apart from the plethora of other offerings in the market. We aim to do it differently and better than other app providers, and distinguish ourselves as a market leader."

Given how sectors centered on the blockchain have been experiencing tremendous growth and development over the past few years, the ReelStar co-founders believe that the industry has now gained mainstream attention from investors, institutions, and governments. "Many new use cases have emerged, ranging from decentralized finance to non-fungible tokens, and the industry has attracted significant investment and attention from both retail and institutional investors," Sharma says. "However, the $2 trillion industry is also facing challenges, such as regulatory uncertainty, scalability issues, and environmental concerns."

In the UAE, he says, there has also been a growing interest in this sector, with the government launching various initiatives that helped the UAE become a hub for crypto and blockchain startups. "However, the regulatory framework for the industry in the UAE is still evolving, and there is a need for clarity and guidance from the authorities," Sharma adds. Bahl shares the opinion that the blockchain sector will continue to grow and mature with new use cases emerging; however, he expects this to be coupled with the increased regulatory scrutiny and oversight.

"Governments and regulators will seek to balance innovation with investor protection and market stability," he says. "The environmental impact of cryptocurrencies will also be a key focus, and we may see more sustainable approaches to mining and energy consumption also emerge. Overall, I believe that the crypto/Web3 sector has the potential to revolutionize many industries, and that it will continue to be an exciting and dynamic space to watch, and since the UAE leads the world in average mobile download data usage, that is a key indicator that there is already significant adoption and potential within and for the UAE."

Related: The World Of Web3: A Beginner's Guide To A Space That's Set To Change The World As The Internet Once Did

Navdeep Sharma and Nick Bahl, co-founders of Web3-integrated social media platform ReelStar. Source: ReelStar

According to Sharma, crypto and Web3 entrepreneurs like himself choose the UAE as a base for their businesses because of its proactive and innovation-focused government, supportive regulatory environment, and strategic location. That said, he advises his peers entering this market to be mindful of local regulations as well as cultural differences. "One of the main considerations for crypto and Web3 entrepreneurs expanding their businesses in the UAE is to ensure compliance with local regulations and laws," he says. "While the UAE is a welcoming destination for businesses, it also has strict regulations that must be adhered to. Entrepreneurs need to understand the local regulations, and seek guidance from legal experts to ensure compliance. Another consideration is the cultural differences and business practices. The UAE has a unique culture and way of doing business, and entrepreneurs need to understand and respect these differences to build successful relationships with local partners and customers."

Since one of the key goals for ReelStar in 2023 is to expand its presence especially in the MENA, the co-founders say that they are going to be training their focus on building strategic partnerships with key players in the media and entertainment industry in the region. "We plan to further develop our platform and ecosystem, with a focus on increasing user adoption and engagement, as well as to expand our range of services and offerings to cater to the diverse needs of our users and clients," Sharma adds. "Furthermore, we will continue to focus on delivering a seamless and user-friendly experience for our customers, with an emphasis on security and privacy. We also plan to contribute to the growth and development of the Web3 ecosystem by collaborating with other projects and sharing our knowledge and expertise."

Our conversation now turns to a talent gap in the blockchain sector, and Sharma and Bahl use it as another opportunity to make a call for more education about -and in- the industry. "There is a need for skilled professionals who can design, develop, and implement decentralized applications and systems," Bahl explains. "My advice for Web3 founders looking to address this talent gap would be to invest in education and training programs to develop the skills of current employees, and attract new talent. This could include partnering with universities and online learning platforms to offer courses and certification programs in blockchain and decentralized technology. Founders can also consider establishing mentorship programs or internships to provide practical experience to aspiring professionals."

Sharma adds that another route to achieving the same goal could be leveraging decentralized hiring platforms, and collaborating with other Web3 companies to share talent resources, and pool their expertise. "It's important to create a culture that fosters innovation and continuous learning to attract and retain the best talent in the industry," he concludes. "Overall, the talent gap in the Web3 sector is an opportunity for innovative and forward-thinking founders to invest in human capital and develop a competitive advantage. By nurturing a skilled and diverse workforce, Web3 companies can unlock the full potential of decentralized technology and drive the growth of the industry."

'TREP TALK: ReelStar co-founders Navdeep Sharma and Nick Bahl share their tips for entrepreneurs in the Web3 space

STAY LASER-FOCUSED ON YOUR MISSION
"With so many exciting developments happening in the crypto/Web3 space, it can be easy to get distracted by new opportunities and ideas. However, it's crucial to stay focused on your company's mission and long-term goals. This will help you avoid shiny object syndrome, and ensure that you're building a sustainable business that delivers real value to your users."

BUILD A STRONG COMMUNITY "Crypto/Web3 is all about community, and building a strong community around your project can be a key driver of success. Focus on creating a product that people love, and then work to foster a sense of belonging and ownership among your users. This will help you build a loyal following, and create a virtuous cycle of growth."

EMBRACE EXPERIMENTATION "The crypto/Web3 space is still in its early days, and there's a lot of experimentation happening. Don't be afraid to try new things, and take risks. Be willing to iterate quickly, and adapt to changing market conditions. The ability to experiment and pivot is a key advantage of being a startup, and that can help you stay ahead of the competition."

Related: Entrepreneur Middle East Publishes A Special Report Looking Into The Crypto Universe

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

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