Coins by Cryptorank
People and interviewsEditorial office

“In crypto, you have to be builder or investor — I choose to be a builder”: big interview with IreneDAO and SO-COL founder

Viktoriia Pushkina


Dec 15, 2022 at 12:20

Irene Zhao was a crypto influencer until she decided to make her own product — actually, also for crypto influencers, but not only. Now Irene works on two projects: IreneDAO and SO-COL. Both are aimed at changing a creators’ economy through Web3.

Her main insights about building a product in crypto, the current state of the industry, and its future, were shared by Irene in her interview for buidlbee

Irene Zhao, founder of IreneDAO and SO-COL
Irene Zhao, founder of IreneDAO and SO-COL

About entering Web3, crypto influencing, and starting her own project: “I’d rather build a platform for influencers than be an influencer”

I entered into the crypto space earlier last year as a CMO of a DeFi project. But I’ve always been on the lookout for something more powerful to leverage on Web3 technology.

As I became more involved in the Web3 space, I have come to realize that many of the pain points for Web2 social media platforms can be addressed by Web3 technology. We’ve therefore come up with SO-COL, where we want to leverage Web3 technology to allow creators and fans to own a part of the creators’ journey through NFTs and also to form NFT-gated communities.

The brand new newsletter with insights, market analysis and daily opportunities.

Let’s grow together!

My expectation of the blockchain industry was to be personally challenged, and to have an opportunity for personal growth in the areas of entrepreneurship, investing, and team management. So far, my expectations have been met, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding and humbling journey so far. Being in this space, I’ve met so many hard-working, disciplined, creative, and bright thinkers. It really feels like we’re working at the frontier of a new platform, and I’m glad to be part of it.

I stopped being a KOL or influencer when I started my own business. Firstly, I simply do not have the time to juggle the two jobs. Secondly, it is more about a change in mindset and values. You basically have to sacrifice everything else for one thing that we focus on — as an influencer, you have the time and mental capacity to try on new clothes and the latest makeup and spend 1-hour taking photos. Still, now I simply don’t have time for all of that.

I’d rather that we build a platform where other influencers can thrive and do what they do best.

About IreneDAO and SO-COL: “They aim to disrupt the creators’ economy space by building a platform for the Web3 SocialFi space”

In January this year, we created 1,107 IreneDAO NFTs, and we gave them out for free. It was a free mint; hence we did not make much from it. The only money we made was from the 5% royalty on secondary sales, but it went to charitable causes and IreneDAO’s treasury.

IreneDAO is currently sitting at nearly 3,000 ETH in total traded volume. It served more as a social experiment and proof of concept for SO-COL.

What is IreneDAO?

Each IreneDAO NFT is a membership pass. Everybody who holds an IreneDAO pass automatically becomes a member of IreneDAO. As a member, you get to vote on initiatives and propose partnerships.

Furthermore, the members took it upon themselves to initiate the work on partnerships. The amazing thing was I just had to tell them the partnerships I wanted, and it will be done. I want to support women’s and children’s charities — and the members will start to do all the work as a community.

What is SO-COL, and how is it interconnected with IreneDAO?

IreneDAO proved that Web3 can empower creators by giving them an alternative income stream, and we are at the forefront. That made us more bullish on what we are building at SO-COL.

How can the IreneDAO community actively help out with SO-COL?

IreneDao consists of loyal believers in what we are making at SO-COL. Therefore, we plan to provide them with the tools to build communities alongside us on SO-COL.

How do we plan to do this?

We can open application forms for interested community leaders to sign up; we can then sieve out thought leaders with unique interest groups and provide them with the tools to launch their interest groups on SO-COL. This will empower them with a platform to build their community and, hopefully, one day, launch an NFT on top of their community.

Furthermore, we can select a few active members from IreneDAO to help with moderating and collab roles in SO-COL.


SO-COL aims to disrupt the creators’ economy by building a platform for the Web3 SocialFi space. In SO-COL, creators and communities can launch their versions of their NFT, like IreneDAO, at a click of a button. My vision for SO-COL is to bridge the joy and value of being part of Web3 communities with the masses.

A significant hurdle with Web3/crypto is the UX. Still, SO-COL makes the application flow of buying an NFT and joining a crypto community incredibly seamless, integrating all these into a single platform.

In addition, minting NFTs as a community creator can be extremely troublesome and expensive due to hiring a developer who understands the space. SO-COL lets anyone launch their NFTs with just a few clicks, like any Web 2 application. We believe that by reducing the friction and UX steps for creating and participating in Web3 communities, we will be able to grow the current market size for crypto users.

About competitors on the market: “We don’t have any”

We haven’t seen any real competitors in the market because we are building an all-in-one Web3 social app. The whole idea is that we want to develop a toolbox for creators and brands to leverage Web3 technology without any prior knowledge about blockchain or NFTs.

Currently, launching NFTs and then managing the NFT community is very technical. So, we want to put all these things into a single platform and make it accessible to participate and contribute, which allows us to empower more creators and have better versions of IreneDAO.

  1. We have a simple, user-friendly UI/UX without Web3 jargon.
  2. We allow users to create a non-custodial wallet using their Web2 socials such as email, Facebook, and more.
  3. We plan to integrate direct sale payment with a credit card.
  4. Lastly, any creator can launch and mint an NFT themselves – with no prior knowledge of coding – on our platform.

Apart from the social platform, which is meant for everyone interested in setting up a community gated by NFTs, we also help premium brands and celebrities build their white-label sites for launching their NFTs. In this process, we also explore the different verticals for utility NFTs.

Early next year, we are also looking at integrating StarkNet into our existing products, where we will build our own Layer 2 to improve the efficiency of minting further and reduce costs.

About Web3 impact on creators’ economy: “Web3 allows creators to reclaim ownership over their community”

To talk about Web3 impact on creators’ economy, firstly, we need to understand the main drawbacks of Web2 social media platforms:

  1. Unfair allocation of profit. Content creators on social media are not rewarded for the value they create. By controlling the distribution algorithm and attention flow, the platform can profit from the content users make through advertisements.
  2. Siloed data and identity. Once content creators build their social connections in one app, it’s costly for them to switch to another app. Thus, innovations in the space are naturally suppressed, and users face fragmentation of their identity and experience across different apps.

Using blockchain technology, Web3 can potentially solve the problems above:

  1. Assets ownership. Web3 allows creators to reclaim ownership over their content by enabling them to mint all digital content on a decentralized blockchain as NFTs.
    Web3 also allows creators to reclaim ownership over their community. By having the fans hold their NFTs and having this information available for inspection at any time, the creator can directly extract and return value to their fans. This means the fans are no longer just “users” of a platform. They become owners of the community headed by the creator.
    By sharing part of the ownership of the community with the fans, the creator and fans have one aligned goal: to grow the community.
  2. Open data and identity. Data and credentials accumulated on-chain are naturally interoperable with every application built on the blockchain.
    The drawback is that sometimes a token or an NFT might not create sustainable value due to its volatility and speculation nature. It might draw an audience ready to speculate on anything instead of attracting real supporters.
    For creators, they might think that the value they create should reside in the brand, not entirely in a token or in the hands of traders. It might also discourage them from making anything creative and substantive.

About problems of the Web3 industry and its future: “It’s still unclear whether tokenization incentivizes actual engagement or simply speculating behaviors”

For Web3 social, the migration to a new application with new mechanisms is a considerable commitment for an existing community. The community needs more incentives for better UI/UX experience, community tooling, and monetization.

Also, user education is the key for Web2 users to understand the concept of community ownership.

Given that Web2 content creators and fans are used to getting exploited by centralized social media platforms, they might take time to familiarize themselves with the brand-new concept of ownership.

Tokenization is a unique aspect that differentiates Web3 from Web2. But it’s still unclear whether tokenization incentivizes actual engagement or simply speculating behaviors. Many users would stop using the products when no more monetary incentives exist. I think the tokens should embrace interoperability for the end-to-end user experience and be tied to long-term utilities or benefits. After all, designing a functional economy is more difficult than just issuing the tokens.

Still, I believe the skill sets related to entrepreneurship, as in project or company building, as well as investing, meaning managing risk, allocating a portfolio, and picking early-stage deals, are two very challenging yet rewarding pursuits that we get better at with more experience and wisdom over time.

I see crypto and blockchain as [an] excellent path to sharpen my abilities over time. As it’s been theorized by Peter Thiel that new platforms or tech companies take 15 years to reach peak valuation, I also feel that crypto and blockchain as a platform have many more good years ahead of them to build and seek home-run investments.

As for myself, I believe it’s essential to focus on either building or investing, and I plan to focus more on building ideas and expanding my peer network around other builders over time.

All information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult with our Disclaimer.

Home » People and interviews » “In crypto, you have to be builder or investor — I choose to be a builder”: big interview with IreneDAO and SO-COL founder

Your complaint has been sent to a moderator