Phlote’s AJ Washington


Tell us who you are and a bit about your background.

I grew up in a small working-class town in South Jersey.  My mom was a single mother who worked at a glass factory for 40 years as an accounts receivable clerk.  She was the only black person that worked in the company’s executive offices.

I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate from college and realized we couldn’t afford the Ivy League, so decided to apply to West Point and Annapolis. Both offered Ivy level college education in exchange for 5 years of military service. I ultimately decided to attend The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.   

I majored in Systems Engineering, graduated in the top 10% of my class, then served as a Nuclear Officer on carriers. Following the Navy, I wanted to enter the world of finance and was accepted to the MBA program at UPenn’s Wharton School. 

Following graduation, I spent 11 years on Wall Street working for PIMCO and two other investment firms (Providence Strategic Growth and EIG Global Energy Partners) where I specialized in capital raising for alternative investments like hedge funds and private equity.  

In 2019, I walked away from my career in finance to travel with my wife and start conceptualizing Phlote. 

What is Phlote? 

Phlote is a 500+ community that’s dedicated to curating great art into Web3. We want to identify and onboard the next generation of talented artists to blockchain..

Where did the idea come from?  What service are you providing that doesn’t yet exist for artists?

When I moved to DC, I met a rapper named K.P. Cannons, who is one of my favorite artists. For two years, I worked to help build his career, thinking that my business experience might be of use.  As I worked with K.P. and took a deeper look at the music industry, it was clear that getting signed would be a mistake for him. We realized that his goal should be to build his career as an independent artist. 

This realization led me to search for a solution that would allow KP and other artists to sell music. This led me to blockchain and crypto as the tool we’d been looking for. Things like NFTs allow artists to package content, sell it, and transform passive fans to active members of an artists community.

That’s our genesis story.   

Where did the name come from?

PHLOTE is short for PHILOTES, the Greek goddess of friendship. We’re building a collaborative platform and connected with the notion of friendship, cooperation, and community that Philotes represents. We also love the idea of elevating talented  artists, so there are a few different layers to the name. 

What is your grand vision for the platform?

We feel like we can see pretty far, but the honest answer is, we’re so early that we can’t predict how this technology will evolve.  For now, our focus is on creating value for curators by building tools for them to better serve emerging artists and collectors.

What service are you providing to collectors? 

There are two problems collectors face today. 

  1. How do I keep up with all that’s happening in Web3, without missing out?
  2. How do I know which projects to trust? Avoiding fraud is becoming a bigger issue. 

Our community has been built to point collectors to the best assets available across Web3. We recently relaunched as a search engine for emerging artists. We reward curators for tagging the best NFT projects (music, visual art) they can find. The information we receive from our curation process has been reliable enough for us to invest on for the past 6 months. We’ve now refined our process and will make those insights publicly available.  

What was it about your upbringing or your history that prepared you for this journey in entrepreneurship? 

My mother was an entrepreneur and was always starting businesses.  She sold Mary Kay, Pre-paid legal, Tupperware, and probably a few other things that I can’t remember. She was flipping real estate back in the early 90’s before it was a thing. When I was 7 years old, my mom started Charlie’s Janitorial Service and hired my sister and I as her first employees. She grew and later sold the business, which I was fortunate to see first hand – the highs and lows. The work ethic definitely rubbed off.   

Who is the ideal artist for Phlote? Is this an emerging artist? A mid career artist? Or does it matter?

Independent emerging artists who are forward thinking. Tbh, we’re looking for genuinely good people. We’ve realized our #1 job is to curate great people.

Why music NFTs?  Does the platform also accommodate visual artists and/ or collaborations?

Yes, visual artists, game designers, game developers, animators, visual storytellers are all welcome.  Creating immersive visual music is a primary focus of ours, so we welcome visual artists and any other artists who’re interested in collaborating. 

What was the initial draw for you into the NFT space?

I was sent this presentation in early 2020, immediately saw the potential to use crypto as a monetization tool for artists and was hooked. Then I started buying NBA TopShop haha.

Where is the platform now and what’s next in terms of the feature roadmap?

We just launched as a search engine for emerging artists. Right now, we’re testing with a small team of our token hodlers. We expect to broaden the curation community around the site in Q2. We’ll then layer in pirate radio and some other surprises. We launched a monthly Live Show in NYC so there’s a lot of IRL stuff coming up.

Talk about the team behind Phlote.

My co-founder Rodolfo and I have known each other since 2006, when we attended Wharton together. Hallway joined as our first full-time hire and Head of Content on Jan 1. We also hired development talent this year as well.  We now have ux design, smart contract development, tokenomics, and programming partners that we’ve identified from within Team Phlote.

Tell us about the token and the goal to drive positive outcomes to the community.

More to come on the token soon.

How does Phlote compare to other platforms like Catalog?

 Phlote is a curation partner on Catalog.  Our platform is more focused on elevating quality art/artists. We see ourselves as a media channel more than a marketplace. 

What is it about blockchain technology that lends itself to democratizing the music industry?

Blockchain technology is underpinned by a philosophy of decentralization, transparency, and The transparency afforded by blockchain will transform the music industry. Period.

How do we ensure that we aren’t replicating the mistakes of the past, particularly given the sketchy past of disenfranchisement that has existed in the music industry?

The reset button needs to be pressed so the music industry can be completely reimagined.  The entire industry is severely outdated from a technological and ethical perspective, and built on a shaky foundation that I don’t believe will last.

What else do you want people to know about Phlote?

Anyone wishing to learn more can follow us on Twitter @teamphlote or email me directly

We appreciate the opportunity to share our work on this important platform and can’t thank you enough for giving us the time!

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