No Art, No Coins: NFT-based Unstoppable Domains Wants You to Own Your Identity

To give digital data ownership to the masses, the global company empowers its employees through education and equity.

Written by Anderson Chen
Published on Nov. 09, 2022
No Art, No Coins: NFT-based Unstoppable Domains Wants You to Own Your Identity
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For many foreign workers, a US work visa is a coveted grail. 

Jordi Mele Casas, Unstoppable Domains’ business development representative for crypto relationships, was no exception. More than a year ago, Mele Casas was on a student visa with a nine-month work permit — a tenuous foundation for his career goals in the country. 

Everywhere Mele Casas turned, there were obstacles. 

“I went through some processes where you couldn’t even submit an application,” he recalled. “You needed a sponsor.” With the H1-B visa for skilled workers capped yearly and the numbers below market demand, the competition for a spot in the tech capital of the world seemed like a stressful job in itself. 

But then Mele Casas stumbled upon Unstoppable Domains, a Web3 company dedicated to Web3-based domain ownership for consumers. Mele Casas was supported from the first interview on — even with the dreaded annual visa lottery. 

“If you’re not selected, you need to leave the country,” Mele Casas said. “But that wouldn’t have been a problem, either.” 

The team offered him a variety of flexible options, from remote work in his home country of Spain to staying in the same US time zone. One option even included going to Asia to work with their partners there. “If you’re a good candidate, they will give you all the tools and everything you need,” Mele Casas added.

Providing employees with resources to succeed isn’t a novel concept, but it’s one that Unstoppable Domans prioritizes as a matter of principle. The company’s mission statement proposes universal digital identity ownership, so team members also feel like they own their role and can champion this vision. 

“What sets us apart is that we’re building something that we hope will impact every person on the planet,” said Director of People Jillian Becerra. While NFT-based projects exist in this space already, most focus on cryptocurrency or digital art. Looking ahead, Unstoppable Domains wants to be the base layer that transcends all other decentralized apps. 

 

What is Web3?

Though its definition is nebulous, Web3 generally refers to the shift away from concentrating personal data and content in large tech companies to a more decentralized blockchain platform. An NFT is one such application of Web3, where digital ownership and authenticity is verified by an identifier recorded on the blockchain. For Unstoppable Domains, the one-of-a-kind digital identity it offers is in the form of a personal domain tied to the blockchain. 

 

From learning and development programs around crypto education to equity stakes, Unstoppable Domains has carved out a space for its employees to gain a foothold in the emerging Web3 industry. By extension, a better grasp of the complex subjects allows them to help customers obtain an equitable piece of the digital pie.

UK-based Jez Starr, the company’s learning and development specialist, is the mastermind behind various learning paths, where he curates updated sessions in the rapidly changing crypto landscape. Having been at Unstoppable Domains since it was a 10-person startup, Starr bought into the vision from the start. And now he wants to expedite its realization by empowering his colleagues to go down the rabbit hole. 

While apostles of crypto often evangelize the unlimited applications of the blockchain, Starr sees a more altruistic endeavor in educating his peers. 

“I’m seeing a lot of people with ego in crypto who want to make money without doing any work,” he professed. 

With any new pocket of technological emergence, there exist scams and snake oil salesmen. Starr sees the value in helping fellow team members navigate the pitfalls of the industry so they can better carry the torch for customers. 

“We offer our team a safe space to ask whatever they need about the world of crypto,” he said. “Openness and honesty make the world a better place.”

Becerra was one such beneficiary of the learning program. “I was coming from a space that had nothing to do with Web3 or blockchain,” she said. “But we want to make sure that everyone is able to speak the same language and make good business decisions based on a true understanding of the product.” 

For a company operating in a tumultuous space, constant learning is a necessary foundation. Recent market downturns have erased billions in value across the crypto board, and the damage incurred by unsavory agents generating negative headlines doesn’t help the company’s path forward. But Mele Casas remains optimistic about the steadfast nature of their North Star, and the resilient crew aligned towards getting there.

“We’re not here for the speculation,” he said firmly. “It’s about creating a use case. Not something you can flash, but a digital identity built on the domain.”

It’s not hard to imagine his leap of faith. The company took a chance on Mele Casas during unstable times, guiding him through a process of growth and opportunity. For a better picture of an NFT-backed future, Built In sat down with Mele Casas, Starr and Becerra to see how Unstoppable Domains’s investment in its team members has translated to an unyielding belief in the value of true digital ownership.

 

company photo with trees and city skyline in the background
Unstoppable Domains

 

 

How has Unstoppable Domains’s investment in the learning and development program contributed to its overall mission and your own personal growth?

Starr: I’ve been building out the crypto education program, where our team can join and let us know about their experience in crypto, and then we can direct them to certain pathways or resources to help them learn further. There aren’t many good crypto education platforms out there, so we’re building it all from scratch; it’s in-house focused. We talk about our domains and our product, and how it relates to the crypto world. 

It’s also to inspire and create a sense of curiosity, because this space is so young. We’re making it so that people want to get more involved and go further down the rabbit hole. 

Becerra: Although I didn’t come in with an understanding of the crypto space, I was passionate about the ethos and wanted to be a part of it. What I loved about our mission was the idea of being part of a meritocracy, where people were measured based on their contributions, not their age, race, gender, sexual orientation or country of residence.

Unstoppable is a place where you can continuously learn, which is rare. Even though we have a lot of subject matter experts on the team, and people with amazing backgrounds, everyone is coming in as a beginner and learning how to contribute in a different type of space . 

 

Democratizing Crypto Knowledge

Though web3 is a nascent space — defined by niche technical details of the blockchain — Unstoppable Domains doesn’t use knowledge as a standard for hiring. In fact, only about a third of the company has advanced knowledge of the field. The remaining members of the team represent a healthy mix of newcomers and those with a mid-level grasp of this space. This is where the L&D program comes in, to ensure mission alignment remains the company’s priority. 

 

How does the company’s global workforce reflect its long term vision and commitment to team culture? 

Mele Casas: For my department, we partner with any crypto company in the space — all over the world. We have department heads for Asia, Europe and Africa, people in all different time zones. So at the end of the day, a business development person hired in a given country can then stay there and work with local partners. 

As a business development representative, I also get to travel a lot. This year, I’ve been to four conferences so far. It’s great because I meet a lot of people — partners and team members — in person, which helps us establish meaningful relationships. There are also a lot of learning opportunities at these conferences. 

Becerra: Recruiting from a variety of countries is challenging at times. For some people who are used to in-person work, it can be tough to get a foothold. What’s important is that everyone be willing to meet each other in the middle. For some, this means waking up a little bit earlier to make sure they overlap with their team, and for others, this means being mindful of different learning styles and communication preferences. But from a hiring perspective, what really matters is that the person is aligned with our mission, has an ownership mindset, and is willing to go down the rabbit hole.

Ultimately, we are trying to build something that's for everyone on the planet, and cultivating a team that draws from different backgrounds, life experiences, and demographics is instrumental to this.

 

group photo in a grove with red leaf trees
Unstoppable Domains

 

From the perspective of digital identity and ownership, what problem are you trying to solve and how does the company foster personal stake in its work and values?  

Becerra: With the downturn in the market, it’s becoming a bit less speculative and people are moving towards a focus on utility. Since creating utility for our customers and our partners is our primary focus, this helps decouple us from the more speculative market that some of our competitors are in.

Over the last couple of months, we have completely shifted our equity compensation philosophy. With our new round of funding, it was important to give the team more ownership and stake in what we were building. So regardless of what country someone lives in, or what position they have, everyone within that level was given the same amount of equity. They can then increase their equity stake as they progress within the company.

We’ve also transitioned to equity, not just cash increases, for merit cycles and performance reviews. It was important for us to give the team more stake in the company, because what we're building is long term. It’s a five -to ten-year project to get every person on the planet their digital identity, so we found that giving people more equity stake in the company has been a really powerful tool to get people bought in. 

Mele Casas: It’s great that all employees have ownership of the company because that’s aligned with the vision of people owning their data and digital identity. There’s always been speculation around domains, so it’s hard to get away from that. But we’re trying to focus on building something that could have value for users. For example, my first and last name in crypto will probably only have value for me, because it’s my identity. 

What we’re trying to achieve is that instead of a hundred passwords, people can have their identity in their web3 domain connected to different apps, and then they can choose which data to share.

 

Ultimately, we are trying to build something that's for everyone on the planet.

 

Starr: Ownership is the problem we’re trying to solve. It’s a digital identity that allows you to control anything you do, from qualifications and medical records to driver license and achievements. It’s more than just a website or payment gateway. With all your data being linked to your domain, it also brings out a sense of responsibility. You have to be aware of what you’re doing online and how you display your data, because it all comes back to you. 

This is why I knew I wanted to be at Unstoppable Domains before I even started working here. I spent all my free time learning everything I could to try to infiltrate my way in. If you want to build something for the future of humanity, then this is the place

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Unstoppable Domains.

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