Lisa Sun’s journey from real estate mogul to Mogul Productions
How the Vancouver-based founder swapped facades and foundations for frontier tech.
The northbound drive across the Lions Gate Bridge is straight out of a movie. Coal Harbour’s glass condos give way to centuries-old hemlock and cedar trees that escort you towards a brilliant example of Art Deco engineering. On the bridge itself, you receive a 360-degree view of Vancouver’s greatest hits: the North Shore mountains, English Bay, the Stanley Park Seawall and Canada Place to name a few. If you peer out your window northwest, you’ll see West Vancouver, one of Canada’s richest neighbourhoods.
This neighbourhood was where Lisa Sun, the now founder and president of frontier tech for film company Mogul Productions, cut her teeth as a young real estate agent. Sun got into real estate on the urging of a university classmate. Despite starting in the profession while still taking classes, Sun became a superstar agent in the early 2010s. Even then—in her youth regarding both age and vocation—Sun was plotting her exit strategy.
As far as exit strategies go, Mogul is A-list. Sun launched Mogul in February and by July the company had sold over $10 million in film NFTs. Today, Mogul is launching its NFT Marketplace, alongside top-tier Hollywood artists and performers to release one-of-a-kind digital collectibles that feature cast members from The Office, Full House and American Horror Story. Some NFTs will even feature digital signatures of the celebs.
But, before she could build a company like Mogul, there was that rather unique university job and the urge to ask, “What’s next?”
“I became one of the top real estate agents in West Vancouver. I was 20 at that time. The big thing for me is I realized real estate will forever be in the service industry, right? Like, as glamorous as it is showing multi-million dollar houses, people don't always treat you nice. But I just always looked at it as the super service industry. I started making connections with people: my buyers, my clients and all that stuff. I started to dabble into a little bit of what do they see? What's my next step? How do I get into another industry? Then, I started investing into film at the script level,” Sun said.
Sun’s reflective and intuitive nature—she seems predisposed to leverage her surroundings—aligned perfectly with the mid-2010’s rise in blockchain technology. “You'll go out and eat with your friends and the table next to you will for sure be talking about Bitcoin,” she reflected. With her ear to the ground, Sun heard the momentum building. In 2015, she started investing in ICOs, or Initial Coin Offerings. ICO’s are the crypto cousin of IPOs, a way for startup cryptocurrencies to gain funding and scale.
With these investments in tow, Sun built an investment portfolio and noticed a trend in the film industry.
“I started to see that there's a real lack of transparency and lack of centralization when it comes to film financing. There are these great projects, they pitch you on these scripts and you give them money. First of all, to invest in a Hollywood film, without $250,000, they're not really looking at you. It is all behind closed doors. It's not really inclusive. What have they been doing? Who have they been casting? Am I even going to get my money back? Where's my money? No idea, right?” Sun said.
From questioning those facets of the industry, a lightbulb went off for her. “This is actually a perfect example of how we can bring blockchain technology into this mix and really kind of bring transparency to the financing and make it decentralized,” Sun said. What resulted is Mogul Productions, a company that combines film, blockchain and frontier tech. The company has coined its platform as decentralized film financing—DeFiFi, for short. By leveraging blockchain technology, NFTs and a digital token known as STARS, Mogul incentivizes participation and rewards engagement.
“We're really giving the audience the chance to give their voice on what they want to see on the big screen. They can vote with STARS tokens and really give their opinion. For example, you can redeem the STARS that you've collected to name one of the characters after you in the movie. So it's really about gamifying the experience of movie production. Right now, if you own STARS token and you vote on [which movie Mogul will produce], 50% of what Mogul makes from that movie is going into a governance smart contract, which the fans can decide what they want to do with. You’re getting rewarded for giving your opinion,” Sun said.
Another moment that stoked Sun’s entrepreneurial flame has a distinct Vancouver tie-in.
“Ryan Reynolds had been pitching Deadpool—this was actually verified by our film team and Hollywood producers for about 11 years. Nobody wanted to film it, the way Ryan Reynolds saw it, because it was the first R-rated superhero movie. It was extremely R-rated. No one saw the vision. Everyone shelved that project until a concept trailer was leaked onto YouTube. Millions of fans were like, ‘We want to see this film.’ That's what actually pushed a studio to create Deadpool, which became one of the most successful R-rated franchises in movie history. That’s the power of the fans.”
Spurred on by the clout that moviegoers possess and the unique positioning of her hometown being Hollywood North, Sun launched Mogul Productions. Today’s NFT launch marks another triumph in her journey that started showing West Vancouver mansions. Perhaps Sun is the subject of Mogul’s next feature film. It seems fitting of her rise.
Subscribe to our Sunday Briefing to learn more about the people who make up Vancouver’s tech community: