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How Quixotish is Helping the St. Jude Charity To Raise Money with Blockchain Technology

From NFT.NYC 2024 in New York City, BlockchainJournal.com editor-in-chief David Berlind interviews Sam Whitaker, the founder of Quixotish, a newly launched startup focused on the usage of blockchain to drive the success of charities and non-profits. Given how Blockchain Journal is focused on implementations of blockchain meant to drive new or improved business outcomes for big brands and enterprises, Quixotish's first customer – St. Jude Children's Research Hospital – caught David's eye as one of the most well-known non-profits on the planet. During the interview, Whitaker explains how Quixotish's novel blockchain-based approach to driving charitable donations works.

The general idea, as Whitaker describes it, is for a charity like St. Jude to curate donations of valuable blockchain-based assets (e.g., NFTs) and then for the charity to conduct an auction where those assets are sold on the secondary market with the proceeds flowing to St. Judes as fiat currency. On the surface, it sounds pretty simple. But it's also important for donors to know that when they're dealing with a relatively anonymized address on a blockchain, that address actually belongs to the intended charity. In other words, it can be a bit more complicated than it sounds.

To ensure accountability, Whitaker highlights the steps he took with St. Jude, including the video recording of wallet setup sessions involving St. Jude representatives and the subsequent publication of these videos on Quixotish's platforms. The interview touches upon the significance of St. Jude's reputation and operational scale, framing it as the "Google" or "Apple" of the charity world, given the charity's multi-million dollar daily cash flow. Whitaker underscores the hospital's commitment to providing free care to children and openly sharing its research.

Towards the end, Whitaker discusses the practical aspects of the auction, including its timing and accessibility to both crypto and fiat currency users by virtue of St. Jude's reliance on a combined NFT marketplace and custodial wallet solution from Magic Eden. By supporting crypto users across a long list of public blockchains as well as non-crypto users who prefer to deal in fiat currencies like the US dollar, he underscores the initiative's inclusivity, welcoming participation from individuals regardless of their familiarity with blockchain technology.

(The full-text transcript appears below.)




By David Berlind

Published:April 24, 2024

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14 min read

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Full-text transcript of David Berlind's Interview with Sam Whitaker, Founder of Quixotish

David Berlind: Today is April 4th, 2024. I'm David Berlind and this is the Blockchain Journal podcast coming to you from NFT.NYC 2024. It's a blockchain event taking place on the West Side of Manhattan at the Jacob Javits Center. A lot of people here in the background, a lot of buzz going on, a lot of conversation about NFTs. And standing with me is Sam Whitaker. He's the founder of Quixotish. Sam, thanks for joining me on the Blockchain Journal podcast.

Sam Whitaker: Thank you so much for having me.

Berlind: So, before we get into the enterprise you're working with because they're very interesting. Most people will recognize the brand. What is Quixotish?

Whitaker: Quixotish is a brand, a community that I literally launched yesterday. I wanted to do a proof of concept to prove how charitable endeavors can aid in building a community, in building a project, getting off the ground, and doing some good in addition to doing well.

Berlind: OK. So, charities are accepting crypto. We hear about that all the time. That's a great way for people to contribute money to their favorite cause, whatever it may be - doing good, doing well, that sort of thing. So, you are working with a really well-known charity. Which charity is that?

Whitaker: It's a little tiny hospital, I think two or three doctors. It's called. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Berlind: Not so tiny.

Whitaker: No. St. Jude was really ahead of the curve in terms of cryptocurrency. They were accepting donations way before a lot of other charities. They set up a lot of the standard procedures that other charities are using now to accept crypto donations. They're doing everything they possibly can to adhere to their mission, which is just taking care of kids. Kids shouldn't get sick.

Berlind: So, if you have kids or [if] you believe in the innocence of children, this is a good cause. St. Jude's [is] one of the most popular and well-known charities out there. They're very present where I'm based, which is up in the Boston area. You hear a lot about them up there. So, what is the work that you're doing with St.Jude's right now?

Whitaker: I am trying to put together a massive across-chain charity auction for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. So, the idea is to accept donations of artwork, of NFTs, of literally anything digital that we can auction off to raise funds for the hospital.

Berlind: What's different about what you're doing for them now that they weren't doing previously? Because you said that they were sort of a leader, maybe even our first mover in accepting crypto as a form of donation.

Whitaker: This is a little bit different because it's NFT-specific as opposed to crypto as the wider community. So, this is something that I'm doing for St. Jude. I've done some work with them, I've supported them for years, I believe in the mission, and nobody, to my knowledge, has really put something together on this scale where it's across every chain. So, many times, across Web3, we get very tribal. I'm a Ripple person. I'm a Solana person. I'm whatever, when, in reality, we're already such a small community of Web3 as opposed to the rest of the world. It's an opportunity for us to come together and stick with the things that we agree on - one of them being that kids shouldn't get sick - and maybe, in addition, change some minds in the larger world about what Web3 is. It's not just scams. It's not just SBF (Sam Bankman-Fried / FTX). It's not just the mess that you hear about all the time. It's a community of really good and really committed people, and by raising a lot of money for such a well-known charity and for such a cause that we can all get behind, it's an opportunity to hopefully change some minds and bring more people into the Web3 world, which is what we should all be here for.

Berlind: What specifically did you do to enable this new idea that they're working on? this kind of maybe sort of a - I'll say this is sort of an iteration. They already started working with blockchain and crypto, but now they're iterating through the work that you're doing. What did you have to do and what makes it different?

Whitaker: So, two days ago, I went to [the] St. Jude's offices here in New York, and I donated a Ledger cold storage wallet to St. Jude. We recorded setting it up at the office. Nicole DiSturco, one of the super-committed St. Jude employees, set up the wallet. She wrote down the seed phrase while I was on the other side of the room. They have the wallet. They have the seed phrase. Another member of the St.Jude team, Mark Sepulveda, who's kind of their crypto guru, yesterday he and I met at a Starbucks, and he set up the wallet on the Quixotish Twitter account. Ex-Twitter, ex. I'm always going to mess that up. We have pinned all the addresses that he set up on video, again, and everything that they have control of. So, it's we're all so - rightfully so - hesitant in the crypto world. We've all been rugged. It's a rite of passage of being in this community. So, I wanted to be 100% above board, make sure that everything is controlled by the charity, and just focus on doing good.

Berlind: When people are sending money, crypto, that is, to some other wallet, generally speaking, they want to know who they're doing business with. There are a lot of wallets out there. This is how a lot of people have been rugged or scammed is [that] they end up sending money to the wrong wallet or something like that, and that's because somehow, they got socially engineered to send money somewhere that they should not have been sending their money to in the first place. So, you've set up these different... You set up a wallet and there's an address to which the NFTs can be sent or crypto can be sent. But how do the people who want to contribute crypto to St. Jude's know that the wallet or the address that they're sending these assets to is actually St. Jude?

Whitaker: So, I'll say two things. Number one, St. Jude already accepts cryptocurrency, so if you want to send some Bitcoin or ETH or SOUL or whatever else, go to St.Jude's website. You can donate directly there. This is specifically... These wallets are specifically for NFTs that people want to be up for auction to raise money for the charity. So, that's the first thing. The second thing is, again, the way we set it up. Everything's on video with members of the St. Jude community. We were actually at the St. Jude office. They've set everything up. They have control of everything. And proving that is about as good as you get in the crypto world in terms of making sure everybody knows you're above board. Those videos are out there; they're on our YouTube channel, [and] anybody can watch them anytime. And...

Berlind: They're on the Quixotish YouTube channel. Are they on the St. Jude's YouTube channel?

Whitaker: They are not on the St. Jude YouTube channel. This is something that I'm doing for St. Jude. Understandably, St. Jude is one of, if not the most trusted brands in the entire world. They're very protective of that brand as they should be. It's their most important asset and it's what allows them to do all of the good that do. This is me doing something for St. Jude. And yes, I have people that I know from the organization who are helping out in terms of making sure that we're above board. But, it's important to note that St. Jude should be protective of their brand as, they are. And working with them, we're kind of in new territory.

Berlind: They're treading lightly here, so they're letting you sort of take the lead and maybe a future iteration in the same way they've published their addresses for direct crypto donations; maybe they will put something on their own website that promotes this kind of activity. But, for now, it's going to be sort of more of a partnership where you take the lead. Because this is a really important thing - a lot of people, you hear a lot about the anonymity of blockchain, but that's part of the problem is that then, in a in some sort of C2B context or B2B context, organizations don't know exactly what they're dealing with. And there is currently outside of the work that was recently done with The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) and the domain name service (DNS), which is interesting work. There's really no way to officially or digitally connect an identity to a particular address, an account, a wallet, whatever you want to call it on a chain because even if you publish the actual address on your website, [the] website could get hacked and that has happened already. So it sounds like what we're saying is, is that people really want to authenticate and say, "OK, that wallet is definitely legit where we're going to send these NFTs," that you're you want to receive, they have to watch the video to do this authentic authentication. That is a little kind of sketchy, right?

Whitaker: I wouldn't say sketchy, but I would say that it's a little bit of a lift for people. Somebody's not necessarily going to watch a 20-minute video to prove it. And much in the way that St. Jude broke down some barriers and created some standard operating procedures for charities to accept cryptocurrency donations, that's kind of what we're doing here is figuring it out along the way. How do we authenticate ourselves? How do we prove that we are who we are and that we're doing the right thing? It's a process, and hopefully, by doing this, it will make it easier on projects in the future to do this and to have charity be a part of their core community.

Berlind: I'll say this - the video workflow that you're describing - you're not the first to do this. I remember last year I was speaking withWilliam Quigley , one of the founders of Wax, and they had done an NFT with William Shatner, and I asked the question, "Well, how do I know when I go on-chain that this is actually one of the William Shatner NFTs and that you have the right to do this?" and he said, "Well, we made a video. [If] you watch the video, you can't mistake William Shatner in the video." And, of course, a year later, with artificial intelligence and deep fakes, that's another kind of big challenge. How just so people have an idea when we talk about enterprises... This is a big... Blockchain Journal targets enterprises. If there was one metric or way of sizing up the enterprise-grade nature of St. Jude's, what would you say that is?

Whitaker: I mean, in the charity world, as far as I'm concerned, they're the Google. They're the Apple. They're the...

Berlind: What's a number to you?

Whitaker: A number. So, St. Jude's operating budget is about $2.2 $2.3 million per day.

Berlind: Per day?

Whitaker: Per day. And what that covers is, quite simply, everything. Families don't pay a dollar when they go to St. Jude. Insurance companies are not billed when they go to St. Jude. Families do not pay for hotel rooms when their children are at St.Jude. St. Jude believes, as they should, that if your kid's sick, all you should be focusing on is getting them better and making sure that they're in the right place. And the donations that they receive allow them to do that. The brand that they have allows them to do that, and they're very unique in that way. St. Jude shares all of their research with the entire world. They don't own patents. They don't keep anything close hold. All they care about is saving children and allowing other people to help other researchers and treatment centers to save children.

Berlind: So, this is all about not donating crypto, but donating NFT. So, the idea is, if somebody out there owns a valuable NFT, something that could do well in an auction, then you can take that NFT and contribute it. You can transfer it from your wallet to one of these addresses. You mentioned that you've set it up, so it works and just about any chain. So, what are all the different chains that it supports?

Whitaker: We'll take Ordinals, we'll take ETH, we'll take Solana, we'll take, I won't be able to do a comprehensive list, but Cardano, Hedera, Wax. They're all listed on our Twitter account at Quixotish. But most of what we would need is there, and if there isn't something, that if there's something, someone that wants to donate for something we don't have, St. Jude has the wallet. They'll record another video and put another address up there.

Berlind: So, you're going to put NFTs... People are going to send their NFTs to St. Jude. Once they're there, though, you are referring to something that's going to take place, like an auction of some sort. When is that?

Whitaker: It's going to be in May. I can't say for certain right now. We're thinking about possibly doing it at Consensus. That would be a cool opportunity to have. You know, we're starting at NFT.NYC [and] we finish at Consensus, two of the largest collections of Web3 people in one place at one time. Plus it'll be a great opportunity to guilt some people into bidding on some NFTs because we'll be right there looking at them. But it will definitely be in May, and we'll stick with: as the auctions complete, all of the funds that are raised go to St. Jude's wallet, and they'll follow their normal operating procedures, which is cashing everything out to fiat within 30 days, so they're not holding a volatile asset and using that directly for the children.

Berlind: Just to be clear, Consensus is another blockchain event taking place at the end of May in Austin, Texas. When you do the auction, will people be able to engage with fiat currency or they have to do it with crypto?

Whitaker: Absolutely. So that's one of the great things about right now and about being able to make this more of a kind of outside just the Web3 community - platforms like Magic Eden. Magic Eden accepts Stripe for credit card payments. You can sign up with a credit card and an e-mail address. Granted, It's a very custodial wallet, which is something that's a bad term for those of us in the Web3 world. However, it's a great opportunity to onboard people who have never owned an NFT, who have never owned cryptocurrency, but they support St. Jude. This is their first one. This is part of how we grow the Web3 community - is by bringing people in for just a small thing, and then we introduce them to a little bit more. Maybe, here's a MetaMask wallet; here's how you would set that up - and bring more people into this incredible community that we've built together.

Berlind: Really cool. Well, one last question. Do you have children?

Whitaker: I do not.

Berlind: So, what got you so interested in this cause if you don't have children? A lot of people don't get started in something like this unless they've had some very, very personal and first-hand experience.

Whitaker: I actually got that question a lot. What's my origin story for all of this? I don't have children. I wasn't sick as a child. I didn't have a family member who was sick as a child. But I can tell you a quick story. It's about a little girl named Amani. She was born in November of 2019, and by the time she was 5 weeks old, she had already had brain surgery and the doctors told her parents they were only able to get 60% of the tumor and she was terminal. The quote from her father was, "I prayed. I cried. I bought my daughter's burial plot." They got her file to an oncologist at St. Jude. He called them up and he said I've treated this before, and some people have survived. Get on a plane to Memphis. They went to Memphis and this past November, Armani just turned four years old.

Berlind: Wow, great story. I can tell it's very personal for you. You're getting me all choked up, too.

Whitaker: Every time, man.

Berlind: Well, listen, it's amazing that you're doing this. It's amazing that you stepped up, given that you've taken on something like that, the genesis of which was not terribly personal for you, but you just felt strongly about it, and that's great. It's great to see the work you're doing with St. Jude's, and I look forward to seeing what happens at Consensus. I'll be there. So maybe we can catch up and get an update on how the donations went and then how the auction's going. But the place to look for this is on Quixotish.com?

Whitaker: Quixotish.com and all of our socials are there. I'm a pretty easy guy to find. You can ping me anytime. We're accepting any donations or just anybody who wants to get involved. This isn't a one-man operation if we're going to make it as big as we want it to be. So, even if you're not an artist and you just want to get involved and help out, reach out. I'd love to have you.

Berlind: Sam Whitaker, the founder of Quixotish.com, Thanks for joining me on Blockchain Journal podcast.

Thanks for joining us at this video and we'll see you at the next one.

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