Building Asia’s first digital-native storyteller

Marketing has always been essential to businesses. Today, we’re ushering into Web 3.0 – while brands are looking for marketing solutions to increase their involvement within this nascent space, Gusto Collective combines storytelling with immersive technology to create mind-blowing experiences for brands to engage with customers in the metaverse. We have spoken to Aaron Lau, the Founder and CEO of Gusto Collective, about their businesses and their upcoming plans. Now, read on to learn more!

Gusto Collective is Asia’s first BrandTech Group  bringing best-in-class storytelling and technology together to drive value and growth for brands.

Aaron Lau — Founder and CEO of Gusto Collective

Could you tell our readers about Gusto Collective?

Gusto Collective is Asia’s first BrandTech Group – bringing best-in-class storytelling and technology together to drive value and growth for brands. We create and deliver immersive content and engaging customer experiences phygitally, but increasingly in the spheres of AR/VR/XR, the metaverse and NFTs.  The Collective consists of four specialisms in Web3 marketing services, a metahuman platform, an AR experience platform and luxury marketing services.  Gusto Collective was founded in 2020 and it now has around 200 Gustodians, as we call our team members, across the four specialisms in three locations in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London.

What drives/ inspires you to start this business?

I saw the convergence of the physical and digital worlds; and likewise, client-services and owned-product areas.  At the same time, having worked with many global brands for many years in New York and London, I thought there was an opportunity to bring global best-practices and innovative thinking into the Asia-Pacific region, which has already emerged as the world’s dominant economic region but lacked a truly digitally-native pan-Asian BrandTech company. I didn’t want Gusto Collective to be “big for the sake of size” but instead to focus on excellence and quality, creating value for our three main stakeholder groups: the brands who entrust their business with us; our investors who believe in our vision, and of course, our Gustodians who work hard to deliver excellence in our creations.

The Collective consists of four specialisms in Web3 marketing services, a metahuman platform, an AR experience platform and luxury marketing services.


Metahuman artist MonoC — an IP of Gusto Collective’s metahuman specialism. (Instagram @mo.noc)

Gusto Collective consists of four specialisms in Web 3.0 marketing services, an augmented reality experience platform, metahuman platform, and luxury marketing services. Which of these specialisms excite you the most?

We purpose-build our four specialisms to meet the challenges that company executives face in an ever-changing, ever-evolving phygital world, particularly with the emergence of the metaverse and the ecosystem inspired by Web3.  Our go-to-market strategy can easily be summarized as ‘specialisms collaborating around client challenges’.  An example of how this proposition comes alive is the creation of the world’s first real-time generative data NFT art piece that we created for the auction house of Phillips. The work was created by our metahuman artist, MonoC, which is an IP of our metahuman specialism, and powered by an algorithm, which our Web3 specialism created for the project.  This awesome collaboration resulted in the piece fetching the second highest hammer price in the auction. So, to answer your question about my favorite specialism it would be the synergistic value of all of these specialism coming together, just as a Greek philosopher said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

What excites you about Web3 and the future of your industry?

Web3 is an evolution of the internet.  Web1, which dominated up to approximately 2005, was basically read-only and we could say that Yahoo or Google were representative companies.  Web2, which had a golden age from about 2005-2021, was read-and write, and driven by large internet companies which aggregate and monetize user data.  Facebook and Twitter (or their equivalent overseas peers) are characteristic companies leading in Web2.  Web3 is an emerging concept but refers to virtual worlds in which users read-write-own through NFTs, virtual real estate, and personalized avatars (including clothing and accessories).

Much of the Web3 development to-date has been focused on cryptocurrency trading, NFT sales and also infrastructure.  There has been less focus on the opportunity for brand entry thus far, and we think this represents a major opportunity for storytelling, product development and client impact.

At BlackPine, we are devoted to building a community and creating values for our portfolio companies, beyond just investing. Do you have any past experience or examples of how we have helped along the way?

The world of Web3 and the metaverse is still early in its evolution, and there is no singular, all-encompassing definition to which people can turn.  Themes of what the metaverse is and could be, however, are emerging.  A key point is that there is no one virtual world but many worlds, which are taking shape to enable people to deepen and extend social interactions digitally.  Blackpine’s approach to building a community, beyond just investing, is exactly the right approach and most importantly what is needed to unlock the value of this significant opportunity.  We are now at an inflection point.  It’s a little like the ecosystem that was inspired by the arrival of iPhone with mobile infrastructure, hardware, software, apps, content and wearables, etc coming together to bring mobility to telephony!

What are your future plans?

We want to expand in a few key areas.  First, we want to continue to invest in and build out our products and IPs.  Second, we want to expand the company’s geographic range to other major markets within Asia, building upon our very-strong base in Hong Kong and Mainland China. Last but not least, we must increase our talent density by bringing a diverse group of skilled professionals, from 3D artists to UX designers, data scientists to creative directors.  For instance, we recently brought on Jeff Zielinski as our CFO, and have some exciting new operational and marketing hires to announce soon.

Web 3.0 and metaverse are not empty buzzwords – Gusto Collective has shown the world how they unlock the potential of Web 3.0 and combine the emerging technologies with wonderful storytelling to create value for brands. At BlackPine, we are strong believers in the new frontier is a connected world. We are proud to support Aaron and the Gustodians to continue helping many more brands tap into Web 3.0, the metaverse and beyond!
Learn more about Gusto Collective: