FOUNDER STORIES: James Au — Chillchat

Hello Community,

Please meet James Au, Founder of Chillchat, one of our portfolio companies, which has recently Landed $8.35M seed rounds to Launch A “Create-to-Earn” metaverse.

The chillchat team is developing a 2D pixel-art metaverse equipped with a pixel editor that enables users to create games and various NFT assets (including worlds, characters, and other items). The project embraces the Create-to-Earn concept to provide a fun and user-friendly ecosystem that attracts casual gamers while encouraging interpersonal connections and collaboration.


Hey Danilo, I’m great! Just focused on building haha. I’m from Minnesota USA, but I’m currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.

I guess my story that lead me to Chillchat is my childhood spent in MMOs. I started playing Ultima Online when I was 9 years old, one of the true OG’s of the MMO genre. Ever since playing that game as a child, I thought MMO’s were the future and we’d all be playing them soon. The industry got rekt with World of Warcraft which killed most space innovations. The dawn of UGC platforms and Web3 puts us in a unique timeline to realize the potential that could have been in massively online virtual worlds.

The story that led me to Bangkok is one of quantitative easing. I was in residential real estate back in US, but stopped investing in 2017 when I felt the market was getting too hot. I thought things would cool off, but underestimated how hard the Fed would keep pushing. Once I got to Bangkok, I fell in love and didn’t want to go back to Minnesota winters and I’ve been here since!

I actually first got into Bitcoin in 2014 arbing P2P markets in US and BTCChina. Due to some family I had in China and Hong Kong, I was able to arb the market pretty effectively for a couple months before China banhammered BTCChina in like… 1 week. There used to be around a 20–30% spread between the markets. Unfortunately BTCChina got banned the market got crushed and I pulled out completely. It in the 300–400 ranges back then. I wasn’t a true believer in digital currencies then, so I didn’t feel comfortable keeping capital there.

In 2018, while in Bangkok, I was brought in to consult on marketing and raising for a gaming ICO token where some of my friends worked. We never finished the raise before the market crashed and their project died. That’s also when I first came up with the Chillchat as a side project.

We didn’t actually start Chillchat until late 2020 as a mobile app. In early 2021, I started to become a bigger believer in crypto because of issues arising out of fiat and insane monetary policy. I really think the world needs democratized finance where governments can’t control the way we communicate value among one another in society. I follow a guy named Gary Vee and aped into Veefriends. I didn’t really understand NFTs at the time, but I believe in Gary Vee. Once I owned NFTs, it all clicked and made sense. It was exactly the same experience I had as a kid growing up playing MMO.

As soon as I understood the value, I immediately pivoted Chillchat into a Web3 UGC metaverse. From there, our interest took off and we grew organically on Twitter and Discord. We raised capital and are working towards building something with real user value outside of bag pumping.

The idea came to me from all of the MMO’s I used to play. The content is almost always sold by the corporation controlling the platform. Often this results in generic characters that can swap out clothing and accessories. We want to really hand the entire creative process over to the players and let them create anything they can imagine with very simple tools. In a way we’re similar to VRChat but with 2d pixel art, and where everything that you see in the metaverse is made IN the metaverse (not imported) and is an NFT for true digital ownership which allows players to buy, sell, and trade.

By far the MVPs here are my co-founders:

Jessica — Head of Product. All the beautiful designs you see come from her mind. She’s also my partner in crime for prototyping and trying to deliver end-user value.

Cabin — Head of Operations. Cabin just an operator. He makes everything run smooth. This would be impossible without.

Patchara — Head of Marketing. Pat is our voice on Twitter and Discord. She’s the ASMR voice the Solana community always hears in Spaces. She spreads the word on Chillchat and helped us grow to where we are today.

Lastly is our amazing investors. We’ve got some extremely helpful investors that have really helped us navigate both the Web3 space and the consumer tech/gaming space. Special shoutouts to SOLBigBrain, Solana Ventures, PKO Investments, Griffin Gaming Partners, FTX,, and of course Morningstar with all the awesome KOLs!

Of course! To us, Create-to-Earn means a more sustainable producer/consumer relationship. Not an artificially incentivized system that pays users to take certain actions that can result in ponzi mechanics.

In Chillchat, this means that all content within the platform, such as characters, pets, emotes, tilesets, worlds, and more, are created by other players. Other players are able to buy that content for different ways to interact with it. You can think of it like Roblox, but a decentralized token $CHILL instead of Robux which is owned and completely controlled by Roblox, and where they pay out less than 30% to the creators.

Of course, underlying all of this must exist a core value proposition that attracts users to the platform. This is what we’re building and experimenting with now to ensure we have a great core user loop such that people would want to express themselves in Chillchat to begin with.

I think this is something that most metaverses don’t pay attention to. A lot of projects think investors and NFT sales = product market fit. This is definitely not the case and most metaverse projects don’t solve a real problem.

Our goal is to create a place where people can hang out, chat, express themselves and experiment with identity, play, and build meaningful relationships and communities.

Legal fees are expensive. Budget for this.

NFT buyers ≠ Users

We’ll be launching an early access pre-alpha soon! We’ll be testing out some early functionality that relates to the core user experience. The community will be able to test this out and create their characters to represent them in Chillchat!

In the meantime if they’d like to participate, they can follow us on Twitter @chillchatme and join our Discord

We’re really excited to build value in Web3 outside of native crypto users. The core of our user research and product testing is outside of the Web3 native community. We think that to deliver real value to users, you need to solve a problem that extends outside of an asset going up in price. This is at the core of what we’re trying to do.

We think too many projects are focused on building something that can go up in price. We think the opposite is the only sustainable way. Build something of value that attracts a passionate audience and the price will take care of itself.

Thanks a lot for your time James and good luck with your project!

If you have any questions for James please use the comment below!

The Morningstar Ventures Team

About Morningstar Ventures

Morningstar Ventures is an investment firm backing ambitious ideas by early-stage founders. Based in Dubai, Morningstar Ventures focuses primarily on the blockchain and digital assets space and is led by CEO Danilo S. Carlucci. The firm is active in token and equity investments and has a particularly strong focus on the MultiversX ecosystem.

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