AB de Villiers is a household name in the world of cricket, renowned for his swashbuckling batting style and records in the shorter formats of the game. Perhaps less well known is his involvement in the Web3 and cryptocurrency space as he moves on from an illustrious sports career.
The 39-year-old South African sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Cointelegraph as he shifts his attention to the world of Web3. From his love affair with nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to an ambassadorship with a Web3 investment platform, De Villiers has familiarized himself with the ins and outs of the wider cryptocurrency ecosystem.
As the South African explained in the first episode of Crypto and Sport, his personal experience navigating the crypto ecosystem has tossed up some testing deliveries to bat away. It has also led him to become an ambassador for a new Ethereum-based Web3 investment platform looking to open up retail investor access to opportunities in promising new start-ups.
Hands off my Mutant Ape!
De Villiers admits that he kept the crypto space at an arms’ length for a number of years despite the best efforts of Web3 savvy friends and family to compel him to explore the industry as early as 2017.
While his brothers pressed him to invest in Ripple’s native XRP in those early days, De Villiers remained skeptical of the crypto ecosystem and kept his distance, until he started exploring trading more seriously after downloading Trading View:
“I started to follow some of my favorite stuff. Obviously, the markets as well, gold, commodities, the Nasdaq and S&P 500. I just found a bit of interest, started reading a little bit about the markets around the world and then obviously also crypto, Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP were my first interests.”
A couple of years later, NFTs took off with collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club scoring hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. De Villiers brushed up on the intricacies of the space with the help of a friend working in the industry.
Getting to grips with MetaMask and its various wallet and network connections, token swaps and blockchain bridges, De Villiers quickly became enamored with collecting NFTs. Describing his experience as being littered with highs and lows, the former Proteas captain was particularly proud of being a Mutant Ape owner, which also happened to be his first NFT trade.
“I think I started off with an amazing bang. I bought an M2 mutant ape. Amazing as a first investment. I went straight for the big one. Obviously, it’s not overboard, but still, an M2 is a biggie.”
His dose of NFT dabbling went on for some time, with De Villiers estimating that his NFT trophy cabinet held over 300 digital collectibles before an unfortunate incident left him scrambling. Enticed by a malicious NFT masquerading as a new Pudgy Penguin drop, De Villiers inadvertently gave a hacker access to his wallet by signing a malicious contract more than a year ago:
“I tapped on it, it looked very legit. There was a $1 gas fee. The minute I hit that gas fee, it stalled. I hit it about five times, which ultimately meant that I gave this guy access to my whole wallet.”
De Villiers ended up losing a portion of his collection before sending the remainder of his NFTs to another wallet for safekeeping. He admitted that the experience had made him recognize some of the challenges of navigating Web3 for newcomers:
“I made a couple of mistakes, and it cost me dearly, but that is something I really want to talk about. For anyone who wants to invest in NFTs, blockchain or Web3, it’s all new, and it’s complicated, or it can be unless you simplify it as much as possible.”
Leveling the investment playing field
The experience also led him to get involved with Common Wealth as an ambassador. The Ethereum-powered Web3 investment platform aims to give retail investors early access to startups that are traditionally stonewalled for conventional venture capital investors. It “levels the playing field” for retail investors to invest in high-potential early-stage Web3 projects, as De Villiers tells Cointelegraph.
The platform allows the average investor access to early stage projects and companies at seed and private sale rounds. Users are able to invest in a variety of funds with crypto to access tokenized shares issued as genesis NFTs .
Community investors decide which projects to back through different funds, with voting power proportionate to their investment in a respective fund. Fund NFTs can be sold, traded or fractionalized on the platform or other marketplaces, which affords access to capital that is typically locked up for long time frames in conventional seed investment rounds.
For De Villiers, giving the everyday investor access to an easy to use platform with a low financial barrier to entry to traditionally exclusive early fundraising rounds resonated with his views on financial inclusivity.
He draws parallels to the socio economic landscape in South Africa, with its multitude of cultures and a regrettably large disparity of wealth, and the potential for projects like Common Wealth to tackle inequality:
“I love the fact that the common person, that’s why it’s called Common Wealth, can get an opportunity alongside the most wealthy person out there, the guy who has been involved with this space for ten years, who knows all the tricks, the ins and outs, this just gives you a level playing field.”
With some 9.5 million followers on Twitter and more than double that on Instagram, De Villiers added that his alignment with the project was assured by the pedigree of individuals behind Common Wealth. Prominent team members include alumni from Google, Activision Blizzard, Intel, Cardano and Facebook that have built the Ethereum-powered mobile-optimized platform.
De Villiers continues to adjust to life after an illustrious cricket career that saw him named ICC One Day International player of the year three times. Broadcast work is in the cards for the 39-year-old, while he admits that he’d like to continue exploring the Web3 industry in various capacities, whether it is apportioning investments into Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), NFTs and other promising Web3 projects.
That comes with the usual caveat of caution when investing in the cryptocurrency space, given a long history of market volatility and other criticisms of the nascent sector.