See the 14-slide pitch deck a former Citi banker used to raise $26 million for his Web3 startup

Solo Ceesay, a cofounder of Calaxy.
  • Solo Ceesay, an ex-Citi investment banker, and NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie met via Ceesay’s brother.
  • The pair launched a Web3 platform where celebrities can create their own cryptocurrencies for fans.
  • The idea came after Ceesay helped the basketball player securitize his NBA contract using ethereum.

Solo Ceesay, a 27-year-old ex-Citi investment banker, has paired up with the NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie to launch a new Web3 company.

Their app, called Calaxy, has raised $26 million in a strategic funding round led by Animoca Brands and HBAR Foundation this June.

Calaxy is a next-generation social marketplace for diverse creators to monetize their communities. 

Ceesay told Insider the app works “like Patreon and OnlyFans.” But rather than using dollars, Calaxy allows creators to “launch their own cryptocurrencies that fans can purchase and use in exchange for their content. Creators can set their own pricing and decide what they want to offer to their fans,” he continued. 

Ceesay and Dinwiddie first saw a business opportunity in Web3 after Ceesay used his investment-banking expertise to help Dinwiddie securitize a $34.4 million NBA contract using ethereum. 

Ceesay believes Web3 technology can create greater equity for creators or celebrities in their industries. On Calaxy, creators set all the rules and price out what their content is worth in “tokens” that their fans can buy.

The platform allows creators to monetize audio content, video content, images, and messaging all in one place. 

While having an NBA star as the face of the business helped get their feet in investors’ doors, the fundraising process was never easy, Ceesay said. The pair pitched to over 100 funds in eight months. 

It wasn’t a problem getting buy-ins from the Web3 community, as according to Ceesay, “everybody wants to see the boat going, so everyone pushes the boat.” However, it was much harder to sell the traditional venture-capital funds on the Web3-value proposition. 

Luckily, Ceesay’s investment-banking background and his proud identity as a trailblazing Black entrepreneur helped him connect with the right people. 

Ceesay walked Insider through the pitch deck that secured Calaxy $26 million in funding:

Courtesy of Calaxy

The deck cover shows Calaxy’s logo, its meaning, and the types of creators the company is targeting. 

“The visuals are key,” Ceesay said. When you’re introducing people to “new technologies and new ways of doing things,” it is important for everything to look “easy and beautiful,” he said.

Courtesy of Calaxy

The slide illustrates how difficult it is for a creator to monetize their content.

The graphics show all the different twists and turns that look intentionally confusing and complex, which leads to the solution in the next slide. 

Courtesy of Calaxy

Now, all the paths to monetization are straightforward and simple, showing different ways creators can engage with their fans via the platform, and how creators can price those avenues. 

“Calaxy is meant to be a one-stop shop for creators to monetize their content. And as you can see, their fans move from all different places in the previous slide to one side here,” Ceesay said.

Courtesy of Calaxy

This slide emphasizes how simple it is for creators to create their tokens and track their use on the app.

Having a three-step diagram makes it more easily digestible “as people tend to think in two and three,” Ceesay said.

Courtesy of Calaxy

This slide shows all the features and types of content creators can offer their fans via the app. 

“We don’t want people to just buy social tokens because they might change value over time. That’s not our narrative. We thought, in order to touch our diverse audiences, social tokens have to get you something as a fan,” Ceesay told Insider.

Instagram only allows creators to post photos and videos with no direct monetization tools. Calaxy users can buy token cards — the physical representation of a creator’s specific token — to exchange for various types of interactive content from their favorite creators. 

The app supports content like video calls, direct messages, video messages, and shoutouts.

Courtesy of Calaxy

While Calaxy’s tokens are built on Hedera’s blockchain, Hashgraph, Ceesay said that the value of the tokens wouldn’t change over time like a cryptocurrency, at least for now. 

Ceesay didn’t want to scare off people who are not familiar with Web3 and aimed to reach a diverse user base. “There are a lot of people who don’t understand cryptocurrencies. So, to start with, we introduce stablecoins or stable tokens,” he said. 

He also didn’t want people to buy tokens only to trade them for profit.

Courtesy of Calaxy

This slide shows another component of the token system, now called “Calaxy,” the native protocol token.

Calaxy is an application built on a network on top of Hedera Hashgraph. The native-protocol token serves as the gas fee and governance mechanism for this network, which is similar to how ethereum has $ETH. It’s potentially used as a fee for the Calaxy app.

Courtesy of Calaxy

The go-to-market slide focuses on Ceesay and Dinwiddie’s big advantages: their close relationships with celebrities and influencers, who are also their target clients.

“The fact that I had access to these people through a text message as a founder was super important. Some people might think I’m too young at 27, but I wanted to turn it into a strength before anybody could ever use it as a weakness towards me. It’s because I’m young and I’m friends with these people that I’m the best person to build this business,” Ceesay said.

It’s a lesson Ceesay learned from his dealmaking experience at Citi. “Try to take things and create counterarguments before the problems arise, so no one can bring you down,” Ceesay said.

Courtesy of Calaxy

The real quote and screenshot from Ezekiel Elliott help demonstrate the demand from creators to make their own coins. It further positions Ceesay’s wide network with creators as a massive strength.

Courtesy of Calaxy

This slide shows Calaxy’s roadmap at the time the company created the pitch deck.

Courtesy of Calaxy

This slide shows how Calaxy makes money. They charge a 15% fee on any creator’s issued token. For example, if a creator issues 100 tokens for a video call, the USD equivalent of 15 tokens goes to Calaxy.

Their fee is slightly higher than Pateron’s fee at 12% and lower than OnlyFans’, which takes a 20% cut.

Courtesy of Calaxy

Calaxy, as a social-token platform, sits between Web2 and Web3. This slide helps investors conceptualize where Calaxy falls in the current digital industries and who its main competitors are.

Beside audio, video, endorsements, and tokenization, they’re the first platform to offer monetization of “decisions” which is similar to asking followers to vote on what creators should do on Instagram stories except that voting currently cannot be monetized on Instagram.

“For example, if Spencer wanted to monetize their decision on what shoes he should wear tonight for his game, he could set up a decision or poll and add a few choices that his fans can vote on using his token that they bought,” Ceesay said. “It’s the gamification that makes the audiences feel more engaged.”

Courtesy of Calaxy

This slide highlights the leadership team at Calaxy. To date, Dinwiddie has stepped into the chairman position to focus on his NBA career while Ceesay has become the CEO.

“I don’t really talk to influencers or pitch them anymore, but I do have a lot of friends that are famous influencers or athletes, and so, I occasionally take a call here and there for something impactful. Nowadays, I focus on running and building the business and bigger-picture things,” Ceesay said.

Courtesy of Calaxy

The last slide is Calaxy’s advisors. The company wanted to show that it has a strong team behind them who are experts and leaders in the Web3 space. 

“It was super validating to have them want to be associated with our business,” Ceesay said.

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