Podcast Transcript

FLUF World Founder Aaron McDonald on the Vision for a Crypto-first Metaverse


Mint Season 6 episode 6 welcomes Aaron McDonald, crypto OG and founder and contributor to Altered State Machine, FLUF World, Futureverse, Sylo, Centrality and D64 Ventures.

Time Stamps

  • 01:37 – Intro
  • 05:14 – Crypto in 2015-2016
  • 14:09 – How Do We Build a More Positive Metaverse
  • 22:16 – Creating Stickiness in the Metaverse
  • 30:06 – What Does Ownership Really Mean In Web3?
  • 30:39 – Strategies for Using On-chain Data
  • 39:51 – Taking Web3 Mainstream
  • 43:28 – Current State of UX in Web3
  • 47:30 – Understanding Adoption Funnels
  • 53:09 – Yay or Nay on CC0?
  • 56:08 – Critics POV on CC0, Why Are So Many Not In Favor of the Model?
  • 59:37 – What is the Size and Technical Capability of the Teams Working on the Futureverse?
  • 01:01:01 – Outro

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Mr. Aaron McDonald. Welcome to the podcast. How are you doing my friend?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I’m good man. stoked to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Dude I’m Stoked to have you

Aaron McDonald: Drum set.

Yes. What do you what do you know about drums? 

Aaron McDonald: I’m a drummer.

Okay. Well, how long you been playing for?

Aaron McDonald: I think I started when I was maybe teen, somewhere around that age in the Highland Pipe Band.

Oh my god. Wait, what’s the highland Pipe Band? Give me a little on chain on that.

Aaron McDonald: Scotland where they have the bagpipes, it’s playing the kiddos in the in the snares. 


Aaron McDonald: Yeah, so that’s where I started.

Damn, down to your roots. Where do you go from there?

Aaron McDonald: I’m just like, into like. I never got like into it professionally or anything like that. It’s just like, if I like the sound of something I try and play it.

Alright, what are your favorite bands actually that you’re listening to right now?

Aaron McDonald: Oh, right now like I guess my favorites. Like old school. I kind of not into like anything particularly modern, except for probably the EDM side of things. But like, old school hip hop, I’m into a like, like Nirvana and I like Metallica, I like Bush, I like those older, like, older school, you know, my age when I was growing up and having fun and raging.


Okay, all right. Well, I think I got started on Nirvana as well. I got started playing damn, Zeppelin like all the classical rock, art, all those people. So, I feel like I know a thing or two. But that’s not why we’re here today, even though it’s a good segue into why we’re here today. Very, very relevant, actually, to what you’re sort of doing in crypto and web three. But I think before we get into that, Aaron, who are you? Give us a quick intro? More specifically, I’m curious to know about your history, and then how you sort of transitioned into web three?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, man. So I am, I’ve been in tech for 20 something years now. I started literally at the ground level, like digging trenches, and laying cables under buildings and stuff like that. And kind of made my way up in the engineering side of telecommunications from that eventually, as a Senior Network Engineer on the voice over IP and mobile and radio network side of things. And then from there went into like product development, product management, marketing, and business, the kind of more business exec roles and then out into corporate venture. So, it kind of made my way through like the enterprise IT, telecommunications side of things. And in each one of those roles, kind of just learning a little bit more about like how a business runs, I guess, and then eventually stepped out into startup world. I got into web three pretty soon after that. And I’d been following Bitcoin for a while. It was kind of interesting. But what really got me was when Ethereum came along with smart contracts, and you could build these interesting applications that were built on community owned infrastructure, and that was like a really appealing idea to me. I didn’t get like full time into it until 2016. And I started a venture studio then and called centrality and what kind of made kind of pushed me to go full time in web three was meeting with a friend of mine, Dr. Luka Mola, who owns a law firm up in Zurich called Inime. He and I were talking down here in New Zealand. And he knew a lot about smart contracts and the Ethereum ecosystem and stuff like that, and I was kind of surprised like that time it was a little bit obscure, it wasn’t, certainly wasn’t mainstream. And I asked him like, How the fuck do you know so much about secure technology as a lawyer up in Switzerland? And he was like, you know, well, we help like the Ethereum foundation come up with the legal structure and so he like knew everyone at the time that was kind of, you know, it was.

Who is who.

Aaron McDonald:  Yeah, who’s who? And so, I spent quite a bit of time up meeting people and, you know, going through, like what was going on in the scene. And that got me really encouraged to kind of go full time into it. So, I did.

Wait. So, we have very similar actual intro stories. I guess the comment under, the underpinning theme is to crypto Valley. When I was studying in college, I told my advisor that I want to do my last semester abroad in Switzerland because of all the activity that was happening in tube. Yeah. And so, I tried finding an internship or some type of work out there. 

Aaron McDonald:  Oh wow. 

Crypto in 2015-2016

Yeah. So, I lived there for like, five and a half months and I couldn’t get work because I couldn’t get a visa as a US expert, which sucks. But I ended up moving to Austria, I was living in Vienna, I was working with like, a couple of block county startups. So, I’m curious, because I got started, like my segway was around 2017. Okay. But every year in crypto is like a decade. I’m curious, what was crypto like around 2016, 2015? Because around that time Ethereum sort of came out? I feel like when that launch all this new energy maybe could have like spurred and sort of maybe influenced your way as well.

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, it definitely. Like when Ethereum came out there was like, I think a lot broader activity, because you brought in a new class of developer, you know, that kind of on the application side, because Bitcoin applications at the time were pretty nit. I mean, probably still pretty nit. But the developer ecosystem that was building out around Ethereum, and I think even back then, like some of the, it was starting to kind of get a little bit more into mainstream tech, like kind of understanding and language like consensus, and Joe Lubin, we’re doing quite a bit of work to, like form the enterprise Alliance and stuff like that. So it’s becoming like more of a killer back then. But I think probably, like any hype cycle around that time, you know, if there wasn’t a lot of deep knowledge, as it started to kind of build out into more communities and like it was blockchain is gonna solve every problem that world and like but on the blockchain, you know, I was that kind of like, energy. And that built up, I guess, into 2007 teams like mania. And so yeah, so it was super high energy. And, and there was this, like, all this kind of rose-colored optimism about how fast things were going to happen, and how big the change is going to be immediately, and all this kind of stuff. But that’s good, you need that energy in any market developments, you know, if you don’t have that, then you can’t get past. You can’t get past like, significant hurdles, that exists to change anything, I saw the same thing, like through my tech career, when a no, like, the mobile internet came along, like, there was all this, you know, exuberance about what the mobile web was going to be, but the actual applications at the time were really shit. And, you know, the capital that went into all of that, a lot of it was went nowhere. But some of it went somewhere. And now we have what we have. And in cloud computing was the same thing. When nets first came out, it was like all the skepticism about, you know, I was just, it was just your data center in someone else’s building, and kind of all this kind of, you know, stuff that people were saying about, you know, why it wouldn’t work, and the infrastructure was pretty crappy. And it probably cost as much as it cost to run stuff on premise. And, you know, if you’d really did the math, and the story wasn’t quite the end. And then, you know, it progressed, and you know, winners came out of that cycle. And we have what we have today, AI was the same like when AI machine came along. Like these are just hype cycles that keep. And we were in that zone theme, and probably still are, to a certain extent, and in the web three space.

So, you’ve been through a lot of hype cycles, whether it be in crypto, outside of crypto, how would you sort of compare your experience in other industries and seeing how cycles evolve to where we are today in web three.

Aaron McDonald: Really interesting and different because in all of those cycles, you had the same things happening. But the money or the capital associated with those activities was very tightly held amongst, you know, VCs and these kinds of layers that exist between consumers and technology, right? The massive difference in this cycle, which I think is why the technology has gotten somewhat of a bad rep in the mainstream is that you’ve connected capital directly to the activity that happens in the infrastructure and capital flows, you know, where the tension and so, you’ve got this combination of a normal hype cycle that has been supercharged by this social attention capital lifecycle. And so, we see money moving at the speed of information, which we never got before. And that has positive you know, consequences sometimes. You know, for example, if a good idea that may never have got funded by NBC because it was like, way too, out there or didn’t right after monetization, or something like that, like some of the great infrastructure and protocols that have been built in web three may never have been funded by a VC. And so, this kind of flow of capital that’s happened in web three, got those things done, and they’re great, like, you know, steppingstones on the journey that we’re trying to create for web three infrastructure. On the other hand, you get rugs because people like, oh, shiny rock, right. And so, you’ve got like, the good and the bad, and the cycle. And I don’t even think it’s now unique to crypto and web three, like crypto and web three take all the heat for it. But FinTech has essentially done the same thing for, you know, traditional capital markets as well, we saw this with the Robin Hood effect. And so, it’s just a reality now that, you know, consumers are closer to the monetization of technology than they ever have been. And that creates these kinds of wild, volatile environments. It’s just, I think it’s just how things work now going forward.

So, when you initially got into crypto, did you like, did you get the vision immediately, like went all in bought a bunch? Like, what was your initial sort of like reaction, actions you took sort of coming in?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I mean, I got the vision, I think, I don’t know, I can’t remember, it might have been $7 at the time, so I bought it. And so yeah, I mean, I definitely like I’m a true believer, like in the sense that beyond the financialization of it, the thing that’s really appealing to me is society is on this like precipice. I think where technology has such a big influence over how society operates, and increasingly over how society thinks that if the applications and infrastructure that we use and increasingly reliant upon, isn’t in the hands of communities, isn’t democratize, then society becomes a pretty scary place going forward. And we’re at a fork in the road, where we have the chance to make the choice, because we aren’t being influenced to the extent or we our society hasn’t been influenced to the extent and our laws have been influenced to the extent, that we don’t have the opportunity to make the choice. And that will happen, you know, if we keep going on the path that we had been, we would never have got the choice. And we wouldn’t even maybe have considered it. Because the, you know, the mind control machines that exist within social media would have stayed at status in a different direction. And so having that as the kind of center for why you’re in this space, I think, is a really important thing. And it helps you go through the ups and downs, and the highs and lows and all that kind of stuff that happens in this volatility, that happens in the space because the true north is like can we make a difference for society? And that’s a really important thing.

How Do We Build a More Positive Metaverse

So, let’s talk about that, making a true difference for society, keeping in mind that these mind games that social media currently has, right, and I feel like it’s only going to get even more digital. One thing I know you’re very vocal about you love is the metaverse and the interoperability of the metaverse, right? Are we falling deeper? are we falling deeper into, you know, those mind games that you sort of brought up? How do we build a Metaverse that’s like more, kind of like pushing through net positive, you know, emotions, net positive reactions, connections, etc.

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I mean, just on that last point, if you want to kind of listen to someone, talk about what I just talked about. There’s a YouTube by Maria Risa, which explains this in a more eloquent way than I did, and kind of paints a picture of, you know, the effects of survival of democracy itself. And so, I recommended watching that YouTube. It’s a Nobel Prize lecture and it goes on.

I will clip it in the show notes. Interesting. 

Aaron McDonald: Yeah. So, the metaverse, I think it’s probably helpful to explain what I think the metaverse is because this is another hype cycle. And obviously, you know, we’re in this kind of information explosion around the term of the metaverse now. And so, my view is the metaverse is made up of a few things. Firstly, the metaverse exists. It’s not something that’s coming. It’s something that’s already here. And the metaverse is the consolidation of user experience silos into a more immersive user experience. That’s kind of the first tenant of it. And what I mean by that, so in our kind of digital lifestyle, and even not just digital, just kind of our social and economic footprint, we have these silos traditionally, like gaming, or communications, or commerce, or media, or finance, and they existed in these very separate bubbles, you kind of went to do this thing here. And then you went to do that thing there. And you went to do that thing there. And over time, as the internet’s been evolving, we’ve been consolidating those bubbles. And so, we had media, which was this thing, TV shows, and broadcasting and all that kind of stuff. And we had communications, telecommunications, where I worked in, and they were very distinct worlds, you know, and they existed entirely independently of each other, you know, even separate infrastructure at one point, they didn’t, you know, the broadcast networks had their own networks, which they ran content over. And so, we saw probably the first major step of the metaverse when social media came about and collapsed, communications and media into one thing. And so that became like a step on the journey of the metaverse. 

The next kind of step, that’s an obvious one is that commerce was a separate, you know, user experience. Now we have social commerce, you can, you know, go through a process of being in that social media environment and purchasing without leaving that experience. And so, we’re gonna, we’re seeing this kind of further consolidate finance, you know, we have, like in the mainstream world, an example of this would be Buy now pay later. So, the social commerce experience now has a finance experience bedded in it, which is a one clicks thing. In web three, we’ve seen, like the hyper financialization and gamification of everything, you know, that’s kind of with the bubble that web three exists in is kind of like a foretelling of the future of how mainstream is going to kind of move through. And so, the metaverse is like about consolidating all of those things. And that’s why gaming I think, comes up so much in Metaverse conversations. Many people say I’m building a Metaverse or no, you’re just building a game. And, but Gaming will be the UX for the things that we interact with in our daily life. And so, it is relevant in the context that this more immersive internet exists. And that’s a gaming type experience, but it’s actually just the consolidation of all of those things. So firstly, the metaverse is like the future of our economy. Everything we do exists inside of it, and it’s much more consolidated user experience than exists today. 

The next thing that makes the metaverse the metaverse is the metaverse is, the collection of interoperable applications, data and content. And so again, going back to that I’m building a metaverse. No, you’re building an app. The thing that makes it part of Metaverse is if it’s open and the content is transportable, and the user metadata is transportable, and all of the context is transport. That’s what makes it the metaverse. That’s when all of these things can interact with each other. And the third thing, probably the most important thing is that the metaverse exists at the data layer, and not the application layer, and it only exists if the content is built on user owned infrastructure. Because otherwise, it’s just a game. We’ve had those for 20 years, we’ve had like, the ability to, you know, buy and change skins and do all that kind of like all the things that happen at that content layer we’ve been able to do before. The thing that makes the metaverse different is that users can move their data identity context, currency between applications, the only way they can do that is if it’s on community run infrastructure. Because if it sits on someone else’s server, you never actually own it.

So, you know what’s interesting, actually?

Aaron McDonald: In addition, say they could say, look, hey, you can take your fortnight avatar over to here if you want to. Okay, cool, awesome. Until they change their mind. And if the infrastructure isn’t community owned, they can always change their mind and therefore you can’t just take it wherever you want. 

I gotta, I got to comment on that, though really quick, because it feels like on that tangent, first of all, blockchains are the metaverse then. So, like this whole concept of data and interoperability like it’s going to be built on an open network and open ledger network. And what Facebook sort of tried to do by commercializing the metaverse as a way to sort of like create this marketing scheme to buy Oculus Rift right to kind of enter their Metaverse kinda like they just sort of like prove that they can’t do that by maybe integrating with flow and polygon and all these additional like networks because now they’re just a part of the bigger Metaverse sort of thing. You know what I mean? Am I thinking about this the right kind of way?

Aaron McDonald: Parallel into Facebook’s Metaverse because there is only that Metaverse, you can go into Facebook, but with an Oculus, which is what they’re built. But the metaverse is the collection of interoperable content and data that exist on user and community owned infrastructure. Anything else is just your game. And you can flap a Metaverse on it, but it isn’t the metaverse.

Creating Stickiness in the Metaverse

So, on that same train of thought, a lot of these big web two companies built their resiliency through the data that they hold, right and the network effects that they were able to create, in crypto if we’re going to build for an interoperable network or an interoperable future, right. And you can take your users and your data with you anywhere you go. Right. How do you actually build stickiness? How do you build a moat? UX right now is only so much of a privilege, right? But that’s gonna get better over time. If you’re building some type of financial application, then capital could be your moat, right? Liquidity could be moat. But beyond that, if you’re creating like rich experiences, right? Where does the moat? Where does the stickiness come in?

Aaron McDonald: This is the most important thing about web three and it’s the thing that answers your original question before I tell us on a tangent. Like if we assume that the metaverse is just the evolution of our society and economy, and that eventually everything we value exists inside of that, well, not everything, but like a good portion of what we value and how we interact with what we value exists inside of that. That’s really important that consumers are in charge, that end users are in charge and that the technology is democratized because otherwise someone else controls what’s important in our world. And that’s not a thing that society needs or wants. And so, the answer to your question is tied up in that which is, it forces people who are building things, to think first about community and share value with the community. Because if you don’t do that, as an application developer, then your users can take currency, data, assets, social graphs, writing somewhere else. And so, your mode is caring about your community. And whoever cares about their community and builds with that in mind, will create the biggest moat, because network effects don’t exist in the same way that they used to. You know, you take Uber as an example, right? 

So, I’ve seen multiple times when Uber was in a kind of bad PR cycle that people like fuckery but delete Uber. It’s kind of sweet. But then what, right, you know, like, next minute, you’re on the side of the roads, I shit, I’ve got to get an Uber for like, I shifted to something else, but they didn’t have enough drivers. And so, I was waiting for an hour. And so, I went back to Uber. And the problem there is you can say fuck the app, but you’re also saying fuck the network effect. And the difference in web three is that your network effect as portable as social graph is portable, and so when we build, like the open Metaverse operating system within the Futureverse, things like the silo protocol enable users to take that social network with them. And applications can move their social graphs with them. And so, people really can, you know, at any moment when you’re not thinking and putting the community at the heart of your decisions can move. And that’s what you want. Because that’s what creates democracy, you know, and technology, is the ability for people to say no.

I think another interesting thing that you posted online is on that same tangent, is this meme you versus the guy she tells you not to worry about. And on the left that shows Mark Zuckerberg is Metaverse and on the right, it shows basically web three, right, like all the avatars and web three, I think this is like a perfect depiction of what we just sort of discussed that sums it up into one image. Is there anything else to add on this topic?

Aaron McDonald: I mean, I just think, almost biggest belief that you could spend $10 billion or more building what meta has built and imagining that that’s where people want to spend their time on the internet. And that’s who they are, and that you and your creator of the fake versus Instagram. And you still think people want to be themselves online. Like the whole idea of that is just like farcical to me. If you actually took five minutes to look at what was happening in internet culture, you would know that that’s not what people want. And, you know, there probably will be plenty of people in whatever made us call them the metaverse horizons or whatever it is. But they’ll probably be your grandma. And you’ll have to go there, you’ll be punished by society, you know, have to go there and visit her because she doesn’t want to go into be a goblin and in fluff word, but most people won’t want to be there. I mean, like that was like, what? The early 2000s? 

That was basically it Yeah. Yeah, that’s funny. That’s really funny. Wait, okay. So, another thing that you also talked about was the data layer. A lot of what season six is about is kind of understanding on chain data, also from the perspective of how creators can sort of use on chain data to build communities. But I think a more interesting conversation, just on the tangent that we’re on is like the infrastructure layer for metadata, right, and what that looks like at scale. I think we’re just at the beginning stages of what an interoperable fanbase looks and feels like in web three, we’re seeing the emergence of new social platforms really playing on this new primitive, but nothing is at scale yet, nothing has really hooked, a lot of platforms like lens protocol, for example, like, I think they’re killing it, for example, right, I’m able to take my following, my subscribers everywhere I go. Whereas in like web two, you saw a lot of creator’s sorts of transition from Instagram to then Tik Tok in 2018. And they lost a lot of their edge, there’s stickiness. And then there was a new class of craters that emerge, maybe that’s good, maybe a refresh is healthy, you know, from time to time.

Aaron McDonald: At the application layer, so we can have that, we can have the reef fish at the application layer, and people can bring new functionality to the social graph. But you can move your social graph between those applications, you know, and actually, I think one of the reasons that was appealing to me in the early days of web three was like building a startup was becoming harder and harder, because even if you had, especially in the consumer space, if you had a really good idea, and you had capital, let’s say, and you had a really good team that executed really well, you could do all of those things. And then one of the big social networks could just add it as a feature and businesses did. They used to acquire those things.

That’s what’s happening with Be real right now, the new social app, they just added that feature, right.

Aaron McDonald: Exactly.


Aaron McDonald: And so, this innovation, especially in that consumer and social app space was being killed because these big guys could test your whole business on more users than you’d acquired and figure out whether it was gonna be successful or not. And if it was, it’s a new button, right? And bang your businesses did. Whereas if the social graph is portable, then those innovators who come up with these new things have a better chance because the network effect can move at the speed of that feature becoming relevant and give them a chance at winning. It’s good for competition. Competition is good for consumers.

What Does Ownership Really Mean In Web3?

So, on that thought then okay, can you talk more about what ownership really means in web three then? So, there’s the element of being able to co-own a network via the tokens that you hold, right now on chain say, right, in terms of like how that network progresses, but I thought it was just like, some networks. Of course, some networks others are just.

Aaron McDonald: No. So, Bitcoin and Eth at the moment, although Eth close to switching and in ripples network, no. Any network.

Strategies for Using On-chain Data

I guess by network, I meant like, Yeah, okay. I guess I meant more on like the applications that are built on the network, right. So, through the governance tokens, for example. But that’s even, that’s a better example, right? Like, you can’t really do that right now. And have a say over the network itself, right, that everything’s built upon, which is a whole nother conversation. But in web three, when you think about ownership, okay, I still think it’s a very fuzzy term. And for my audience, the creator audience, right? The people, the musicians, the artists, the PFP creators, etc. Understanding what ownership means. And while you’re building a web three, right, I think that’s like that’s the secret unlock in my opinion, yeah, having access to a level of data to understand who your users are, that you otherwise maybe wouldn’t been able to have in web two is like the gold over here, as a project founder yourself, how do you think about on chain data in the context of owning your audience? And what does that really mean to you as an entrepreneur in the space?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I don’t even think, so that’s a very web two way of looking at things. And audiences is probably the right word to use in that context. So, in web two, you had audiences. And you had and they called them communities, but they weren’t, they were audiences. And you had ownership of your audience through these, you know, through gated, through the gated, the gated that exists on gated infrastructure, you track them, and that was your goal. And in web6 three, to be successful as an entrepreneur, you actually have to think about what community means. And communities are different audiences. And in really interesting and exciting ways, communities are participants in the thing that you build. And they influence the way that you build them. And they have control of certain elements of what you’re building, namely, the data that they’re contributing to the system. And so, ownership in web three is about me being able to move my identity, move my currency, move my content assets, move my social graphs, with me between applications. And at that point, you never own a consumer, you only have the privilege of them being in your community. And so, the notion of owning a user in web three shouldn’t exist, because the paradigm flip is that users are in control. And we went on an interesting journey to kind of, I went on an interesting journey to figure this out, we were trying to get businesses to work together to share common infrastructure for things that applications often build repetitively, over and over again. 

So, if you’re investing in a portfolio of companies, let’s say, you put a million dollars out, you know, to those companies and early stage, they’re going to spend 30% of that money building the same things, a login system, you know, a customer management system, all those kinds of things that every application needs. And so, we’re trying to get people to like, share those things. Because if you did that, then your cost of capital, the capital would be more efficient. And perhaps they could like work together to, you know, onboard customers and overcome some of these chicken and egg market problems that exists when you’re starting a new business. And then we got into this kind of contention of like, who owns the customer? Like if I onboard this customer, and it’s on this common infrastructure like what, you know, why should I give it over to the next guy? And then, like, collect, it’s like, no one owns the customer, the customer owns themself. And if you have to go into it with that mindset, then you open up all these efficiencies that can exist at the application layer. And so go going into web three, the idea of ownership of audiences, I think, is a bad way to approach it. build communities, don’t build audiences and users own themselves, keep those things in mind and then you’re on a good path. 

So that path.

Aaron McDonald: It’s not just on chain as well, I want to, like I think we try and solve too many problems on chain, there are other really good ways to build infrastructure that are not on chain, the ends that can be user owned. So, a big part of the future this data interoperability and acid interoperability is built using the dead standards, we’ve extended the standards to work as a kind of SKU system or an API for content as well, not just human identities. And so that data doesn’t have to live on chain. And it probably shouldn’t, because you want it to be able to scale massively like internet scale data across, you know, billions of assets. And users probably shouldn’t live on chain, but you can still build it in a way that the users own the infrastructure without going on chain.

Interesting. I’m curious how that sort of applies into you building, fluffed world in that entire community. What a great project. And so many, like sub communities sort of branched out from that, whether it be in the music NFT space, and the art space, movies, sports, the list goes on and on and on. And what a cool way to sort of just like create this movement and allow so many people to find alignment within it, and then create their own sort of what they imagined it to be right? Out of their own sheer creativity and their own sheer will, talk about that for a minute. Because it’s not easy to do, right? People go on Fiverr and try to create these PFP projects. But you’ve built a family, like an online family, right people sort of, also what’s interesting curating their own definition of what this could be and making it a reality. Talk to me about that.

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I mean, first of all, I don’t want to say I’ve built it, we planted a seed, and the community built it. And that’s really important. Like, if you look, if you go and spend time in the future versus ecosystem, fluffed world altered state machine, party beers, the seekers, Adam Car Club, you’ll notice that what drives those communities is the members themselves. And we’re in this really magical position where we can plant a seed, they take it, and they start to be creative with it. And we can look at what they’re, you know, doing creatively, and then reflect that back to them in the next version that comes out. So, you’ve got this kind of co creation that happens with us, as we evolve the journey, you know, memes or fractions or community built, content will pop up that inspires the next evolution of that experience for those members in the community. And they’re out building it, they’re recruiting new people, they’re bringing them in, they’re welcoming them, making them feel at home, they’re introducing them to the content, they’re building wikis on how it all works. And so, you know, we’re lucky, we’re fortunate enough to plant some seeds and shaped the early stages of that environment to allow people to feel safe to come in and be creative, and to bring others into that environment. 

But from there, that’s something that community does, and we keep re-energizing it with their inspiration. And if you can keep that going, then then that’s going to change the world. Because like, people see that layer of what we’ve been building, because it’s the thing that is easy to get your head around in grass, but we’ve been building the infrastructure that sits below that iceberg for five years now. In order to get those outcomes, we talked about changing society. That’s really hard work, you can’t go on and you know, be part of a high phase, and get on Fiverr and make PFPs and make a billion dollars and hope to change the world next year, to build all that stuff takes a lot of time. And there’s been you know, dozens of people working behind the scenes before we introduce content to the equation, to make sure that when we go to that next stage, everything underneath their works smoothly, and we can reach more people and we can bring them on, and it’ll be a good experience for them. The content layer is the funnels to bring people into infrastructure. And so, gamifying with three infrastructures through content is really what the metaverse is about.

Taking Web3 Mainstream

So, when we caught up behind the scenes, you basically talked about like you have this thesis as a builder and an investor and it sort of falls under the category have one, how can we make it easy to access web three tech, and two, what are the funnels that bring in consumers into web three? And you brought up this interesting point of like, we got to move from infrastructure to content. And I want to dig into that for a minute. Because you’re right. I think a lot of the focus, if I’m understanding your thesis correctly, it’s like a lot of the infrastructure plays like people focus too much on the web three this, NFT That, right? And less about, like the benefits of what it can actually unlock. Right? Are you feeling the same way? And can you talk more about that?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I think, like, our job is to make the technology feel like magic. You know, like, people know, 99% of the world doesn’t actually know how email works. And that’s cool, because that’s the way it should be. And in web three, we kind of shove it in your face. You know, I was talking with a game studio today. That was they had gone through a backlash they built, you know, building this game out, and we’re starting to market it and they, you know, the gamer, the anti NFT gamer fraction, on their latest, you know, social justice cause came in and start to torpedo this project, really great team of people, building with really great motivations, actually building cool stuff. But because NFTs and crypto was in you know, in the face of those consumers, it became about that, not about the cool things they were doing. And we get like super zealous about infrastructure in a way that I think it’s unhealthy for mass adoption, it was useful in the early cycles, because that you needed that zealotry to get past an inflection point where this became and went from an idea to a thing, to a reality. We’re at that point now. And now we need to start making it invisible to consumers. 

And so, you know, when you onboard into Netflix, or whatever, no one knows what cloud infrastructure sits behind the scenes here. And you know, whose data scenes they’re using, and, you know, all the protocols that go into making payments work and user, you know, user logins and profiles where, no one cares, and they shouldn’t have to, and our job as technologists, is to make the technology invisible to them. And that’s been the focus of our work over the last five years, is how can you make the technology feel like magic and give consumers an experience that they couldn’t have before, make them, surprise them in that process. And then slowly, you know, like a Trojan horse, educate them about things like personal property ownership, okay, now you can do these things that you weren’t able to do before. And that means that you can try these new experiences, or you can have more control over you know, your information online and those kinds of things. But just don’t like shove it in their face, like give them something cool to play with. And then expose the infrastructure over time, as opposed to going in and saying, hey, web three, NFTs blockchains, smart contracts. Well, fuck off.

Current State of UX in Web3

Yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s a solid way to put it, I think on that too, is the second point is how can we make it easy to access web three tech, and that sort of falls under the category of how to solve the UX problems. And this is sort of the next conversation I want to have with you is, understanding the current state of like UX in web three. And what are the biggest mistakes that you see people making today? And some of the best practices you’ve seen sort of happen in real time?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I think like the personification of this, I think was when Game stop launched their NFT marketplace, and set out this, buying an NFT and eight easy steps. And I couldn’t tell if it was ironic or not, because we’ve had one account for like, 20 years with Amazon, so the idea that that’s what it takes to onboard a consumer is just eight easy steps. Cool. Let me book a day out in my diary to go do that. So, I think that’s the biggest thing is we need to make those initial onboarding funnels simple. And feel like you know, signing up to, you know, signing up to Amazon or whatever. And there’s two ways that that is being done currently. One is through centralized exchanges. So, they have a kind of a, you know, web tuition experience. And the other way is to build some cool protocols that you can do it natively within web three. The first way is a valid way to onboard people into the space. But I think it’s not flowing through to the real outcome that we want with web three, which is users are directly interacting with infrastructure themselves. And so, if you look at the number of people who own cryptocurrency, this is the number that have interacted with defi. And we say like, you know, crypto users who own cryptocurrency or early adopter mindset people let’s say, they’re risk takers, probably more than the general population, less than 5% of those people have interacted with the defi application. 


Aaron McDonald: So, an early adopter set of a risk-taking set, we’ve managed to convince less than 5% of the users to actually migrate to interacting directly with web three infrastructure. And so, content has the opportunity, if we do it right to change that. I think if you look within our ecosystem, the way that silo is gamifying the underlying infrastructure of that communications protocol, is a really good example of how it should be done. And since launching the seekers and gamifying, the first stages of running a node in the network, we’ve seen 400%, more individuals running nodes in the network. And so, turning participation in web three into a game, I think, is a really good way for us to get more people involved with participation in the infrastructure and directly interacting with the applications on these networks. And that’s super important. Because if we don’t get everyone, we’re a large portion of society interacting directly. And we’re just going to create new middle mens. And those problems we have today, which has been a hand of a new set of people. So maybe the same set of people.

Understanding Adoption Funnels

Yeah, one thing you keep bringing up the keyword of funnels, right? Can you sort of elaborate more on what you mean by funnel as like a  podcaster? I have marketing tendencies, I think of like a marketing funnel to convert someone, right? That’s the first thing it comes from, are you defining that as a similar way? Or because you’re linking user experience with a better funnel, which very much in my definition, sort of links as well? Can you elaborate on that as well?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, so a funnel. If we look at kind of the sets of funnels that may be exist within an ecosystem like ours, you’ve got the content itself as a funnel, people can interact with that, and just interact with the content, and then be pulled into interacting with applications and infrastructure. A funnel is the community. So, you know, people in the community can interact with other people, and they can pull them into, you know, into the infrastructure through those interactions. And then, increasingly for us, looking at audiences, so this is existing audiences that exist within the web two context for products or content that exist within the web two contents. How can we use those existing IP that have that audience and convert them into community members? By taking something, they already know and love and are interacting with and giving them a new experience with that. So, that’s when in my mind when I’m talking about funnels, it’s talking about using things that are less confronting, or more familiar to users as a way to get them into the community and then into being part of the infrastructure in application.

Got it. That makes a lot of sense. So, another thing we talked about behind the scenes is part of the funnel is it kind of splits into various categories, like there’s a mass market media funnel, the movie IP funnel, there’s the sports funnel, the music funnel, etc., all which sort of encompass the entire vision of the fluff ecosystem, right? And I think you guys have built such an incredible team just like doing just very brief research on who you guys are and what you guys have put together, you’ve sort of branched out to all these different channels and an integrated the IP in such an interesting way that it’s kind of hard to miss now. How have you done that? Like how have you guys managed to sort of tackle all those different angles, but also ensure that the community has a voice in it at the same time, without neglecting what people want, but also ensuring that, like, you know, what I mean, it’s such a, it’s a vehicle that’s moving in many different directions yet. I don’t know, I’m baffled. That’s all I can say.

Aaron McDonald: say that, like, every decision we make is the right decision. But every decision we make is with the right motivations, and you know, this is still highly experimental, and I can’t say that we’ve like, absolutely cracked the nut. But we have been thinking about it for a long time, and we’ve been thinking about it quite deeply. And so, what appears to be, you know, a short timeframe for a lot to happen actually isn’t and building up these kinds of networks of connections and people has taken years to achieve. And then those people are great people, and they can start to, you know, bring people and show them what we’re doing. And when we show them what we’re doing, they get excited, because it feels and looks different. And so that creates the opportunity to go and work with some of the world’s biggest brands, and each one of those categories, and start to say, hey, you know what? Despite what you’ve heard or seen about crypto culture, this is actually the future and there is a way that you can do this, that is authentic, and organic, and real. And when you have that conversation and show that to these people, they start to be believers, and then you can bring them on the journey with you. And take stuff they’ve been working on for a long time and give it a new age and give the ability for consumers to interact with that content in a different way. Your content is king is often a phrase that’s used. And it really is, if you’re talking about you know, bringing people into infrastructure always has been content, you think about, you know, those different hype cycles along the way. You know, starting from the internet, like content drove uptake of the Internet, content drove uptake of social media, content drove uptake of computing. Content is driving consumer interaction with artificial intelligence; you’re seeing this with mid journey and daily. And now, you know, thing is on the way, like all of these mediums, for engaging consumers or content driven experiences. And so, we picked the content buckets that we think are important to the future and gone out and got the world’s best partners, and each one of those to work with them to come up with ways to pull those users in.

Yay or Nay on CC0?

It’s actually quite fascinating. I think on that topic, too. I know we only have, we only have so much time left. I wanted to ask you a couple quick rounds and ask you some things from Twitter that people kind of commented on when I tweeted that I’m interviewing you. Okay, so the first thing is, yea or nay on CC zero community Commons license? Are you for it? Are you against it? What are your thoughts?

Aaron McDonald:  I mean, so our view and the view we’ve taken is that for any content that we produce, that’s our first party content. If you own the NFT, you own the content, and you can go and use that and monetize it. The only caveats we put on that is, don’t be a Nazi, don’t be a pedo. And, and as long as you’re not doing those things. And it’s another piece of the magic of web three in the metaverse because ownership. We talked about this right at the beginning, ownership is the thing that defines the metaverse, is being different from what we’ve had in web two. So, without it, then you can’t create the open Metaverse effect that we want. And also, as a creator. There’s a, the thing that drives these collections forward is the community’s activity and they wouldn’t be invested in doing it if they didn’t own it themselves. Angel baby would never have existed if Hume couldn’t own Angel baby. And so, if you don’t, if you don’t take that approach, I don’t think you can be calling yourself part of this movement, you have to give users control of content, so that they can go and create the community around it. In the olden days, in order to be successful in content and IP, you had to be a monopoly. Because it’s difficult to wrangle contracts and collect money and do all the things that are necessary to make it worthwhile investing and building that content in the first place. And so, you then tend to only contract with a small number of parties. And that can constrain your contracts the industry into a small number of people who control it. smart contracts, open the door for you to put content out there for others to take and build on top of it. And that monetization process that happens in the background, keeps feeding your ability to make more content without having to be a monopoly. And so, we can scale down to the, you know, the types of people that can participate in the content economy and make it worthwhile because of ownership, because community wouldn’t be involved in it if they didn’t own it.

Critics POV on CC0, Why Are So Many Not In Favor of the Model?

So, I remember when, what’s the project Moon Bots sort of announced that they’re going to CCO model, there’s a lot of backlashes around that. Can you share the critics point of view and why so many are not in favor of the CCO model?

Aaron McDonald: It’s a good question. What is the critic’s view? What do you think the critics here is?

I saw a couple tweet threads kind of talking about if everybody can use it, then it kind of loses 

Aaron McDonald: It devalues. 

Yeah, it loses its value. But on the contrary, though, I was in Cabo over the weekend, and there’s this model, old, old vintage model that people she has like the unibrow, I forgot her name, but everybody knows her for her unibrow. And people use that and commercialize that. And like, the more recognizable it is, the more it’s placed, right, the more it’s used, the more valuable it sort of becomes, right. But it builds brand equity. I don’t know if you could tie like financial value to it necessarily.

Aaron McDonald: It builds brand recognition. But I think, I mean, it’s hard for me to be a critic on the other side, and that is probably the only reasonable argument I’ve heard, which is does it dilute the brand value or the brand equity, might increase brand recognition but does its dilute value in equity. That’s the conversation the critics have. I just don’t even think it’s a starter. Like if you’re wanting to build an authentic web three way, to not have community ownership of the content, if otherwise just go build like something in the, you know, fortnight or some other like captured walled garden environment, it’s much easier, you’ll have more users able to onboard easily, you know, VCs, bucket of VCs that are invested as higher, like if you don’t actually believe in community ownership of infrastructure and in participation from a community perspective in developing IP, than just go build somewhere else. Yes, people are right, that there is only so much that can be done with that IP before it starts to lose some bit shine. You can’t be Lamborghini, and Toyota. Those, you know, you can’t be both of those things to consumers. And if more and more people are building on your IP, and it was premised on the idea of being Lamborghini, and it tries to transition being Toyota, that may be a bad path for it to go through. And so, it’s a viable criticism. If the goal is to create assets that are worth half a million dollars each. If the goal is to create Lamborghinis, then yes, you might have dilution because of community owners. If the goal is to create, you know, a thriving community of entrepreneurs that are successful in their own right, then it’s the only option.

What is the Size and Technical Capability of the Teams Working on the Futureverse?

Interesting, interesting. Okay. All right. All right. All right, next question. Okay, this one comes from trying to find it. All right, this one comes from Max poker 247. He’s like, ask him about the size and technical capability of the teams working on the Futureverse.

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, I mean, there is at least 200 people working on this and really, really great people, experts across protocol development, infrastructure security, you know, content engineering, content design, game development, game engineering, you name your favorite piece of movie or game IP. And we’ve got leaders from those businesses working for us. And it’s one of our superpowers actually, people kind of look at what has happened over the last 12 months and like, how the hell did you do all of that? Well, it’s because we’ve been around for a while, and we’ve managed to get this shit hot team that you know, is crazy good at what they do. So, the whole future this is powered by this engine of amazing minds and great people who are experts in each of those respective fields.


Okay, amazing. That’s all I have for you, Aaron, this was a really great conversation. Thank you for your time, before I let you go, where can we find you? And all the tags that you have in your Twitter bio, all the projects that you’re working on?

Aaron McDonald: Yeah, so just Aaron MCD in Zed, on Twitter is probably the best place to find me. It’s where I spend most of my time and you can reach out there if you want and follow along with what we’re doing.

Amazing. We’ll have to do this again soon. Thank you so much, till next time.

Podcast Transcript

From Importing Tiles to Creating Art Blocks: This is Erick Calderon


Mint Season 6 episode 6 welcomes Erick Calderon, founder and CEO of artblocks. In this episode we talk about his transition from importing tiles for 19 years to starting art blocks, putting together the platform’s curation board, his favorite nfts, how he utilizes on-chain data, NFTs on tezos, music nfts and more.

Time Stamps

  • 02:27 – Intro
  • 13:17 – Learning How to Code and Starting Art Blocks
  • 17:25 – Reflecting On Your Journey
  • 21:17 – Actions That Made Art Blocks The Brand it is Today
  • 33:57 – Creating the Curation Board
  • 40:46 – How Often Will the Curation Board Be Changed?
  • 44:10 – Understanding Your Creators and Collectors Using On-Chain Data
  • 46:58 – What is Your Favorite Curated Collection?
  • 48:15 – How Do You Feel About NFT Flippers?
  • 51:15 – Thoughts on FXhash and Tezos NFTs
  • 54:27 – How Important is Having NFTs Fully On-Chain?
  • 57:38 – How Do You Feel About Auto-Generated Music?
  • 59:39 – Outro

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Eric, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being on a part of season six. How are you doing, man?

Erick Calderon: I’m good. How are you doing? Thanks for having me.

Yeah, man, thanks. Thanks for making the time. I’m super stoked to have you part of the season. Obviously, you’re a well-known name in the community. And I’ve been looking forward to talking with you. I think we messaged about two months ago or so. I don’t remember. Oh.

Erick Calderon: were we’re competing over similar Nouns?

Yes. I think that’s what it was. I wonder how I forget that.

Erick Calderon: You want to come. I think it was the first crown or one of the first crowns or whatever. And I was like, oh my God, that’s yeah.

It was you against Eric against Andy, from now to Sarah.

Erick Calderon: And I wouldn’t be surprised if, you know, Max Power was in there who, you know.


Erick Calderon: Every now and then I guess I didn’t realize he was bidding. And he texted me and be like, if you really want it, I’ll let you have it. And I’m like, dammit, but I mean, ultimately build some really good sub 1000 collections. And to me, it was really important to have sub 1000 little nouns. And I think it’s also going to be really important to have sub 10,000 addition little nouns, I mean, of course, it’s an open addition that goes on forever. But there is like some kind of like with generative art and kind of with our books, there is like a captured window of kind of what the algorithm is capable of doing. And I think that once you start pushing the boundaries, those you start getting maybe not exact collisions, but you start getting similar things. And to me, I think the top $1,000 little nouns, and in fact, I went in early and spent three Eth, on like, a top 100 on the first 100, just like, because I you know.

Nice, how many how did you have today? Little nouns.

Erick Calderon: I think I’ve 39, you know, I talked about this a lot. But like, part of my history is that I collected a full larval lab set minus an alien. And I like to collect sets. And so, I have this new, and I, you know, I have forever to do it. So, no rush, but I have this new desire to collect one of every head type of little Nouns. And so, I think that’s 236, I think something like that. So, I have a long way to go. But I take my time. And, and you know, the markets will go up and down. And I’ll be sitting there trying to collect all those too.


Well, I’m pretty hooked on mine. So, stay away. I want to talk about, I wonder what are art blocks first of all, but you’ve also been featured across many different podcasts talking about art blocks, and how you guys started. So, I want to do things a little bit differently. Erick, I would kind of like consider you in the category of, I don’t want to say people that aren’t supposed to be here. But the background is super interesting. Okay. And the only reason I bring this up is so let me compare you to a couple other guests that I’ve had, that I’ve interviewed. Okay, so Kane Warwick of synthetics, and Alex Svanevik of Nansen. They used to work at Guitar Center, Stanley built Ave while studying his master thesis. And you were working at a tile shop called La Nova tiles for nearly 19 years. before transitioning into art blocks. I find your background fascinating, can you tell me more about it, and how you sort of made your switch from a president of a tile importer to starting art blocks?

Erick Calderon: Well, let’s see here, I’ve always been a nerd at heart when I started the tile company, you know, it was kind of a, it was a result of my dad having been in a ceramic tile business before. So, I didn’t actually just dive into tile. Like if I you know, in fact, when I was growing up, I was like, I want to design cars. Tile was not actually the most exciting thing to dive into, I then became incredibly passionate about Tile. And I realized, there’s a lot more to it than what you see at Home Depot. And, you know, in the tendency of being very passionate about what I do, and just like, you know, also being empathetic to what people want. I became a thought leader in the tile world. And that’s something that was very special to me. But it’s interesting, because I’ve always wanted to have a voice and have a platform outside of my just my local community. And it’s really beautiful to see how, you know, same amount of passion effort can get you to a level where you can actually speak to a significantly larger audience. And there’s a lot of similarities into, you know, when I started my tile business, the concept of a porcelain tile was like, why would I pay more for porcelain tiles and for natural stone, because natural, everybody wanted marble and granite and I was on this really interesting mission to explain a new technology and ceramic tile and why it was better than the previous technology against all preconceived notions of what the technology had to do. And yeah, it’s not tech, but it was very innovative. And I find myself like 19, 20 years later, kind of in the same boat, again, you know, trying to educate people on innovation and how It will eventually, I think, replace the status quo. You know, to this day, people still purchase ceramic tile. But it’s a lot more common, especially kind of in the higher end world to purchase a porcelain tile, because it’s a more durable product period.

So, what would you say the similarities are between operating a tile importer to now running art blocks? What are the similarities and differences maybe between both?

Erick Calderon: Yeah, because similarities are that I sit down at a desk. 


Erick Calderon:  Everything else is pretty different. First of all, we’re all remote at art blocks. There’s, I think, six people now in Houston, which is where I am. But we also work out of our homes or other offices, we still don’t work all together. In fact, the other day I went to work, as we work and had just such a good time, I actually consume the $29 worth of the We Work, daily pass in kombucha and for sparkling water. I could just live there if they’d let me. But no, we all work remotely. And whereas the towel company, we all worked in the same building or buildings to buildings, if we had once, we separated into a showroom and a warehouse. Supply chain is very different in the tile world.

Blockchain, really.

Erick Calderon:  But it’s interesting because their supply chain is now humans, right? You know, you really need to kind of like turn this into bits and pieces here. It’s like, you know, our supply chain comes from the brilliance of an artist. And even though that brilliance was important in the tile world, because they had designed really good tiles, ultimately, it was the physical good, that kept us in business. And here, it’s not the physical good, although NFTs are kind of this physical ethereal, good. It’s the passion that artists have for art and for generative art, and then also the collectors. That keeps us going. And it’s been a very different, very different experience. You know, there was a, there was a moment last year that you know, art blocks as an organization generated more profit in, I think, 30 minutes than the tile company had generated in 10 years. And while that was not something that we ever planned on or counted on, or thought it was going to be normal, like there was this moment in my mind where I was like, oh, man, like yes, of course, I’m very passionate about tile and what I’ve built here, but like there’s something feeling, irresponsible feeling about not pursuing this and not because of the money, but just the sheer, like orders of magnitude of intensity and difference between the two plus, I’ve always been a nerd for technology, for code and for blockchain stuff. And it just really has come to me getting to pursue my passions. And it’s been really fun.

But I’m still not convinced, like, how did you make the transition like are two completely different things. The only main thing that sort of pops out to me that’s incredibly similar is the logo of art blocks is the squiggle. And when you go to the website, the first sort of design that you see is the chromium, right. And I felt like that was like that was very, very, very fun, obviously, very intentional, right? It wasn’t not intentional. 

Erick Calderon: Yeah, so I designed a tile collection called Chromie. But you know, I designed this tile collection with 22, bright colors. And what’s interesting is there’s plenty of tile collections with bright colors, but they always had like a beige and a brown and a mov. And like, I actually built a collection that was strictly 22, fully saturated colors within the limitations of what tile can do, because there’s actually some limitations on what you can do with ceramics. And then six, or five or six grayscale tones, just white to black and colors in between. And that was something that, you know, I’ve always been passionate about color and about graphic installations. So Chromie was the name of a collection. And it was also the name of this, like NFT that I kept it 2000 of my interior designers in 2018. They had to claim them, 14 of them claiming them. And then in 2021, I Airdrop them, each of the people that actually claimed one and actual Chromia squiggle, mind you they were still only $10. So, it wasn’t like I was gifting someone some massive thing. I was gifting $10 thing and just kind of following through with my original, like commitment. Yeah, it’s very different. And the transition actually, I would say that there’s one main point of transition, which is COVID, you know, in COVID, I found myself with extra time, you know, I have two children, and they consumed my time and so did traffic and the gym, which I have a lot of debt towards the gym to pay back, you know, sitting in a chair for 90 hours a week has done nothing for that. But you know, between the traffic and the gym and not going into the office, and you know, also just things calm down during COVID. There was no showroom. We didn’t come in; it was just shut down. I found myself with extra time and that extra time that I had never had. And in my life, I’ve never been like a very wealthy person, I’ve lived very satisfied within my means. And what I’ve always found to be the most valuable thing in life is time period. Like, there’s just no amount of money that can buy you the amount of time that it takes to really follow a passion or whatever. And I just never had that time. 

And so COVID bought me that time. And during that time, I degend onto top Shot for three months, to a point of like, true degeneracy. And also, I learned how to code and write JavaScript and Node and React code so that I’d be able to launch art block. So, it was a, it was a really beautiful thing. And then like, as COVID started to lift, I spent more time at the showroom, and art blocks was starting to grow. And it growed very quickly, but also kind of organically, like it just, I knew that I was going to be unable to keep up with the tile world, if our art block continued to grow. There was no guarantee that it was gonna continue to grow. I had a couple of investors early on that were like, I’m not investing in art blocks, because you’re not quitting your job. And I’m like, okay, dude, like 19 years, and I have a team of 15 employees, and you’re like, going to make me quit my job, have some vision of what a founder should or should not be doing in this space, like, but yeah, little by little, it just became very clear. And eventually, I still am here, I’m in the tile business. Now I come, there’s a conference room in the back that I have taken over with, just I come in every morning, I closed myself in what is a pretty like, dark cave with one window. That’s pretty high up. But I’m surrounded by beautiful art that people send me, and I work out of here. So, I’m still here. I’m still like a president in the business. I still wave at people in the window when they come by and say hello, and but my engagement with the tile company is, I’d say down to about one hour a week.

Oh, wow. How old are your kids? Are they like, are they managing the business now or did you have completely automated to other employees? Because it’s a family business.

Erick Calderon: Am I that old, looking like crap. Yeah. My kids are four and six. And they would probably love to manage the tiles. But no, no. So, one of the people that I worked with within the tile business, kind of recognized what was happening. And just one day, we were having this meeting, and he gave me this proposal for him to take over as CEO. And he just wrote down this list of what his duties would be. And I was like, Holy shit, like, yes. And it’s hard to see a picture of what the tile business would be. Like, if I had done that. I mean, we have a wonderful team, and they all know what they’re doing. But, you know, they’re like, I was the leader of the team. And you know, not having that kind of leadership would have been, I mean, it would have been fine, businesses are harder than you might think, I mean, it was a consistently healthy business. So, it’s not, you know, COVID hit us really hard. But if a business is pretty stable, and hardy, it can survive some stuff. So, I’m sure that it wouldn’t have like fallen apart if I had just, had to transition sooner. But having the CEO step in really kind of gave it some direction and, you know, kept going.

Learning How to Code and Starting Art Blocks

Can you talk about you learning how to code and then starting art blocks, I think that’s such a fascinating story that I actually didn’t quite find online. I have difficulties like I for the longest time, I’ve been trying to teach myself how to write code, and try to bring my ideas to life, I ended up just working with other people and making friends with other people, right, that kind of like complementary skills, but you kind of took it upon yourself to do the heavy lifting and teach yourself. Can you talk more about that?

Erick Calderon: Yeah, I mean, there’s various stages. Stage one, I don’t remember what age, I was, I think it was 9,10. My, my dad bought me a. So, a long time ago, on Windows systems, there was a coding language that was built in called Q basic, which is just a very old like programming language, it eventually turned into Visual Basic, which is still kind of used today. And he bought me this book for Q basic, or maybe I heard about it at school, I don’t know. And back then there was no copy paste, because there was no like internet. And so, I would copy, like line by line, I would just copy the text in the book into the computer console. And when you do that over hundreds of lines of code, you inevitably make a mistake. So, then you have to go find the mistake by reading the error messages. And that’s actually how I learned the basic, basic, like route, concept of coding later in life. So, I just kind of tinkered with it. I always, I was always the nerd with the graphing calculator because I could play my, choose your own adventure game that I had written, which is pretty straightforward because it was templates. Later in life when I got windows for the first time, there was this software called Visual Basic, which is like cue basic for Windows. And I learned how to use it and I got really excited about it and I learned, I wrote a thing to like pick lottery numbers. And then I was really into papers, even though nobody ever believed me because I didn’t really have any friends. And so, I wrote an app that and I also didn’t have a schedule, because I was in like, middle school and high school, but I wrote an app on my computer that would, you would in the morning, you would list the things that you had to do. And then like, it would beep you throughout the day with a number. And then on the back of the beeper, you printed out your list of things to do and you’re like, oh, I need to pick up groceries. 

This is like 13-year-old Eric, like, really living a fantasy, the need for technology. But I wrote this thing, and it worked. And it worked well. And I was like, oh, man, okay, like, I got really comfortable with code at that point. I didn’t touch it again, until probably I was 30 years old. And that’s when I started tinkering with creative coding, which is coding with the intention of creating a visual output, something that never crossed my mind before and I started tinkering with that, really enjoyed that process, like, really loved the ability to, you know, as you may have heard me, say, and other sources, like, I often find myself in life trying to create something that doesn’t exist, because a lot of the things that I want in this world don’t exist and coding to me, it’s just this like magical portal, because, okay, I can’t necessarily make an iPhone case that doesn’t exist. Although now we have 3d printers, maybe we can do so. But with code, if there’s something you want to exist, it doesn’t exist, you can make it, as long as it can be executed using code, there’s the sky’s the limit to what you can do with that. And that’s always been like really kind of mind blowing to me. Still, I would say total hobby enthusiast level of coding, until COVID hit and that’s when I started, there was a website called code It’s like 39 bucks a month, got you hundreds of tutorials, and I just went through the ones that were pertinent to what I needed, the full stack that I needed to learn, and just dove right in and it took hours. I mean, I went through the basic JavaScript course, which is a two-part course twice in a row. And that’s something that I’d suggest to people that want to learn how to code, you can’t do it once, because your brain just doesn’t register it. But if you do it twice in a row, which is like 80 hours, which just takes, I don’t know, maybe like four to six weeks of consistent every night coding, you come out of that with a pretty good understanding of how to code. And that’s how I got to the point where I could write not just like the Chromie Google code, but the entire art blocks.

Reflecting On Your Journey

Do you ever just like take a minute and just think about that, like that entire journey like that’s no joke, like you say it like it’s some easy thing. But that’s quite a journey. And then from kind of like imagining this thing that you wanted to create, to then learning how to code to then creating it, and then seeing the success that it’s at today, right, while still sitting in the office of the tile shop that has sort of like supported you for nearly 19 years, like do you ever reflect on your journey? And kind of be like, well, here I am, like, how the hell did I get here?

Erick Calderon: Oftentimes, I’m traveling too much and too busy to reflect. And it’s kind of a problem. And this is why mental health is such an important issue in our space, right? Like, sometimes it doesn’t feel real. And, you know, lately, I’ve been kind of taking some calls a bit more consistently, because I spent five weeks where I didn’t have a full work week in my office, I actually spent like almost six months with the exception of maybe two or three weeks scattered in that I didn’t actually spend five full days in the office, right, I traveled so much. And you get back and all you do is like, yes, you’re excited. But you’re also kind of pitying yourself, which is really kind of weird, like, all you want to see is your children when you leave, and then you get to where you’re going. And then you’re partying and having a good time, like having drinks and talking nerd talk with all the nerds that are in the space, which is like the most exciting thing I can think of in that world. And then you get back and all you want to do is just talk with your family. And it’s like this endless cycle within nine hours with phone calls a day. And, you know, two or three podcasts a week, sometimes more, sometimes less.

 So, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to reflect but when you do, it’s just like, and there’s this moment, actually, you know, I think my wife thought that I was having like a heart attack or something like we were in New York during an empty week. And our blocks do this party at Samsung’s headquarters. And we had a surprise DJ, it was totally wild, which is just like one of the, I think one of the best music producers in the world. And we didn’t tell anybody, and I had forgotten that we had made 1000s of squiggle balloons. And there was just this moment where I was like on this like kind of a bleacher setup, watching Toria anois with like, incredible artworks pieces in the highest possible resolution because it was a three story screen with like, surrounded by not just my wife who came this time because I don’t always get to travel with my wife but also with a lot of friends and all my coworkers and collectors and artists and then these little squiggle balloons start coming out of the ceiling. And I literally kind of lost it for a second and I was just like, what? She’s like, are you okay? And I’m just like, I couldn’t like process it. So those are the moments yeah, that you look back and reflect and you’re like, holy shit like what is this and I’m very grateful for, you know, everything that’s happened and I’m very excited for everything that’s coming, I think we have some really fun stuff planned and I feel validated. You know, I am not one that’s always, I’m not one that’s driven by money. And I’m not one that’s driven by financial things, I’ve always been happy in my place and, but I am driven by validation because when like, for every eyeroll it like accumulates, like this kind of need for validation, every time someone rolls their eyes when you’re like when I give somebody a crypto pump for their kids being born, you know, it was like 20 bucks, and I give them in a frame. And I’d be like, don’t lose that, because there’s a piece of paper inside that’s worth 20 bucks or 30 bucks, and you know, that they were like, thank you very much and turn around and like roll their eyes, and we’re like, this guy’s totally nuts, you know, like, those things accumulate over time. And really, there’s no amount of money in the world that like, would necessarily like make that taste better or not. But like when you see people react to the product market fit, to the product, to the concept of the technology to the art. That is what it’s all about. And it’s really rewarding. And I have this like incredible, just a very, incredibly grateful for the people that I get to work with every day and artists, collectors and my team. And it’s just, yeah, it’s crazy.

Actions That Made Art Blocks The Brand it is Today

So, when you do look back, can you take a moment to look back? What are some actions or decisions you would argue are pivotal to making art blocks the brand and destination that it is today?

Erick Calderon: I think there’s a couple really important ones, I think one is not chasing the shiny things. It is so easy in this space to be derailed by chasing the old shiny stuff. And you know, whether it’s utility, or tokens, or defi, or staking NFTs or whatever it might be, all those things are brilliant, like I am actually a huge fan of the technology and every little, tiny thing that comes with it. But I started art blocks as a hobby using tools that came out of the Ethereum tool chest. And those are the things that got art blocks its initial success. And those are the things that I made an early decision to continue to pursue no matter what. And one of those is buying art for the sake of art itself. I assure you that very few people that bought crypto punks, but crypto punks, because they thought they’d be worth a lot of money in the future. And I don’t think that a lot of artists early on, especially with art blocks releasing artwork thinking it would change their lives. Dozens of artists have now quit their jobs because they have been so successful with art blocks. And that brings an insane amount of joy. But bringing, just like being laser focused on like that, you know, we started this art for the sake of art itself. People can take their NFTs, speculate all they want, do whatever they want with them, it’s actually irrelevant to what we’re doing. Oftentimes we’d be accused to not caring about the secondary market, it’s like, of course, we care about our artists careers, like of course, we want artists to be successful. But like we’re here as a platform to help people deploy distribute art in a way that didn’t exist before. And it’s hard work is overwhelming at times. And that is where we needed to concentrate our time. Then, you know, as with any platform, you start seeing stagnation. Like, art block hasn’t done anything new lately, we haven’t made any announcements, where’s the roadmap, and it’s so easy to get carried away wanting to announce some of these like big initiatives that we have. But in my mind, a lot of the detriment to the space is when you make huge announcements and then like it’s deflationary when people receive the actual physical or digital good that you announced, because it’s rarely as exciting as your fantasy creates it to be because your NFTs don’t go up in value or because you don’t get some free thing in the mail or whatever it might be. 

And so, you know, during, I think the second thing that’s just so important for art blocks in this in this trajectory, it’s like, you know, in August, September, October, we were making a bunch of money and people were like, what are you doing all that money? You greedy fools like, you know, quit taken from us, I’m just like, we’re just, we haven’t actually changed anything. We’re just releasing projects every week, and they continue to sell and then when things slow down, we didn’t change things either, that we started curating more, which is very important, something I never wanted to do. I always wanted art blocks to be an open platform. But then you start seeing some just incredible fine works of art that are on our platform and concerned about whether the artist wants that to live next to something that is less effort, less intent, less, you know, deep, not less work, because great art can be very simple, but less deep, and we started to curate more and we started to get a lot more effective without curation, which I think is helped us. But what I want to highlight, I guess here is that we, for about six months didn’t make very, made very few other than like bug improvements and like functional improvements to our back end, which is not very visible to the front end improvements art blocks and said, look, we are looking in now, once we had the explosion, August, September, October, the team grew from 4 people to 24 people in like four months. But that is not a functional way to like to get to know and we’re remote. And I think people on the other side, look at that. And they’re like, oh, it’s because you have all this money. And it’s like, thank goodness, we have this money, so we can hire more people, so we can make the product that you’re consuming better. It’s not like I mean, no, nobody’s actually taking home, like, revenue from our plots. Like we’re all getting salaries, of course, we’re growing the team, we’re all working within salary expectations that would be normal for the space. And in the end, we have been working hard on what I consider to be like a pretty epic next three months for at blocks, which is all of those things that we did internally facing, helped us build a really fantastic team, that has now tasked ourselves with a pretty massive endeavor for the end of this year. Starting with the curation board, which we just announced last week, something that took six months that we got a lot of, you know, frustrations from our economy was.

Really challenging, really challenging to do that.

Erick Calderon: It has if you look at how thorough it was, but then at the same time, I even remember like our community would be like, dude, it’s been three months, you’ve been talking about this forever. And I would come back to the team and be like, okay, we need to give them something because I know you’re working on it. But like in this taste of transparency, it’s hard to communicate that. And then when I saw the curation board announcement, and I saw a thorough bio for like 20 people, one of them was gender diverse groups. In fact, I think almost like heavy on women participants, which is just rare in our space and rare and also like in a lot of sectors of the art world. And then like just the thought that went into it. There’s a charter now if you miss this amount you’re out, you know this charter for like community curation, where we’re going to let people that are from the community come in and take temporary seats. And obviously three months or six months, I don’t even know how we’re going to pick these people, we want to make it fair, it’s hard to be fair to decentralized space. I was like, okay, that was worth the six months, even I got anxious. And I saw it and I was like that was worth the six months. We have contract improvements coming up, we’re going to release the next version of the art blocks contract, which is something that we’ve been working towards for a really long time, new minting strategies, if I have my way will have announced style mentor for art blocks, and maybe 50 of the remaining squiggles will be minted in a now style, auction one per day with it being revealed, and then people bidding on it. And hopefully that will generate an insane amount of money for charity, because I fully believe that like a lot of the values that are being exchanged in this space are superfluous to like what a human need to survive. And so, you know, I would designate a significant portion of those things to go to charity. You know, we have a new website kind of over like re configuration of our website reconfiguration of, you know, thinking about how the collections are going to be preserved and moving forward and how the series work and how curated looks and what we call the things, we have a couple little treats that we have for the community, nothing like Moon birds for proof like that was epic, right like nothing like that like, but something sweet that we want to say thanks to the people that are supporting us and they’ve been part of this community and our Marfa party in November is on November 11. We are all meeting in the middle of nowhere Texas, we have over 400 people RSVP, which will probably end up being 500 RSVP by the end of the thing.

Last year we had 300, we expected 100, that come kind of like pilgrimage to the desert, where a bunch of people just nerd out about generative art and NFTs, I fully expect it to be a more diverse crowd than before because we’ve made efforts to try to be more accessible to like a bigger group of people. You know, there’s some treats in store for people that come to that, you know, and ultimately, what’s going to happen is, I think at the end of 2022 and entering the 2023, it will be very apparent, where 35 to 40 depending on what timeline you have people have been spending their time for the last year. And it’s so easy to be sitting on the other side of discord and being like man, what is it? What is everybody doing? And I’m just so proud that without a doubt, it will be clear what we’ve been spending our time on. It’s not even we like I get to like to hear all these things. This team of incredible people that I work with are just really busting their butts to like to make this thing as like the best platform that it could ever be in the world. And I think we’re doing a good job of it. I’m really proud. We have a new announcement next week for art blocks, enterprise stuff. So, it’s really exciting news. We’re working with some really crazy partners that I can’t discuss. But like some really cool stuff is being created for people that want to reach their audiences with this product market fit or generative distribution technology. Yeah, I don’t know, a lot. 

I can see the fire in your eyes, I feel it, I really, really feel the way moving your hands. It’s so fun to watch. I think what’s also cool, Erick, about your story. And also, this pertains back to your experience in the tile business is, there was a certain level of tastes making required to sort of spin up art blocks. And I can’t help but wonder like the level of tastes making that’s required to sort of operate a niche style business, a tile business, where you import tiles from Italy, in Spain, and the quality that you look for when importing tile, specific tiles and how that sort of translates to the early days of art blocks of finding the first few artists to sort of mint on the site and to encapsulate the vision of what you saw in art blocks, I’m trying to find the connection.

Erik Calderon: I thought we wouldn’t even find artists at the beginning. So, I mean, at the beginning, it was really like if you’re willing to like reply and respond to a tweet, you’re on art block. So, to be fair, initial curation was pretty, pretty low, in terms of like me making selections, and I was just very lucky to get to work with really awesome artists upfront, like it could have been detrimental. But what’s really cool is that, you know, obviously like generating a bunch of money for artists, like piqued interest by a lot of other people. And some people may not have been artists, or they were coders that became creative, which is great or there’re people from scratch, they’re like, inspired to create with code. But that wave of projects that were submitted didn’t come until later. So, the people that like, saw the success of the first few weeks of art blocks, or even the first week of art blocks, were already creative coders, there were already people that knew how to do this and were ready to go pretty quickly after that. And so, there wasn’t a need for curation, because the people that were interested in participating were already in the space. I am cursed with, like, the fact that I actually can sense the difference between like how a turn blinker works on a car that was made in Europe versus a car that was made in the United States, you know, like the quality and like sense and touch and feel is very applicable in the ceramic tile world. But it’s also very applicable in this space, not the actual physical edge, but like the overall immersion of the experience. 

And you know, what, we have a team member that, you know, we talked about, like, what, we don’t really care that much about titles, and it’s like, you know, is there such thing as a chief product officer at art blocks, and it’s like, well, it’s actually more like a chief experience officer, because in this space product is a subcategory of experience. is part of the experience. And part of the experience is also the community, there is no product without the community and there’s no community without the product. And that’s not always the case, in a lot of places. I’m a huge nerd for like 1990s BMW, right, like $2000, $3,000, like BMW E 30s. I don’t wear a hat with a BMW logo on it. And I don’t join, like I have been a member of like some motocross stuff, but I don’t combine within like the BMW community even though I’m a huge member of that. So, I think there’s a world where a product in and of itself lived and succeeded, because it was a damn good product. In this case, that is not, that does not work in web three, that is actually part of the ethos of web three. And so, exploring what that means, what quality, what palpable quality is, not in a physical blinker on a car, but like in something you can’t touch, it just pixels on the screen are really special. And you know, our team is doing a really good job of figuring that out.

Creating the Curation Board

So, it is very special. And it’s very difficult to curate, and I want to go back to the curation board that was recently announced, right? How did that come about? How were participants selected? And on top of that, how do you sort of establish fairness in a decentralized manner?

Erick Calderon: The curation board initially came out, out of pure cowardice on my part, to not be able to say no to somebody. So, what happened is art block started kind of growing recognition. People started submitting stuff that I was like, I don’t know, like I am, I want to be a champion for generative art. I want to be someone that supports artists and supports careers. And all of a sudden, I was having to make a decision whether I wanted to see something on the platform or not. And when I didn’t want to see on the platform, it felt like I don’t know, it just felt wrong, even though it’s meant to be this open platform. But then, you know, in some cases, I got this weird cash grab vibe from projects that were being submitted thinking no, this project doesn’t belong here, like, and now I’m making a judgment call on somebody because maybe they reached out because they saw something sell out. A lot of artists that I had approached before starting art blocks, really started coming around to art blocks when it started, you know, selling out projects, which is great, because it gives artists a lot of credibility and a lot of credibility, like a lot of the exposure that they deserve for making this work for a long time. There’s a lot of people that had not been creating in this space for a long time. And I think they saw an opportunity. And I didn’t have the courage to like say no. 

And so, I, early on, you know, at this point, Jeff, was still working with the contract, which I don’t know what art blocks would be today, if it wasn’t for Jeff. And I just remember being like, yeah, we need to come up with a board of a group of people that can make these decisions as to what we’re going to put on the platform and what we’re not going to put on the platform. And I remember the first project we said no to is actually a project that I really like. And to this day, I still kind of, I think looking back, it would actually be kind of a successful project from a bit more of a meme ish perspective. But it was one of the and the fact that I didn’t have to say no, or I wasn’t the one making the decision made me at least feel better about being, I didn’t want artists to try to butter me up, I wanted to be able to like kind of maintain separation between what was on the platform, and then my passion for generative art. And it’s really hard to like to be a supporter and advocate for an artist and also tell them at the same time. So are you like I’m all in art, but you can’t put your stuff on my platform like it just didn’t feel right. So that’s where the curation board started. And originally, it was just a very small group of people, initially from the art world, which is nice. And some people from the art world, it will just Pfeiffer has been on a curatorial board for a while and then some NFT collectors. 

And you know, one of the things that we made kind of a request or a demand for transparency, is that we asked anyone that wanted to mint curator board to have to be doxxed. And because we are beholden now to these curators in saying, these are the people that are determining the future of what art blocks looks like in terms of generative art, we felt that these people should be willing to kind of be humans, like the people that can be you know, so that we unfortunately lost a couple of curators for that reason, because a lot of people were early participants in the art block ecosystem. And yeah, so another curation board is composed of people from the museum world, from the NFT world from the traditional art world, artists, collectors, masters, and just total rent, we have a couple people that are just kind of random, that we just love their input that they give, because they’re not coming at it. Like one of you know, I wouldn’t call this a random person. But this is a person, there’s one person that is an interior designer, and got one of my favorite interior designers in the world. And everything that he’s ever created in interior design is a space that I want to be in. And so, I’m like, okay, yeah.


Erick Calderon: I want guidance from this person, too, right? Like, I want to know what gets them excited. And this is why you have so many votes and you have a scoring system because one person can be wrong, or right and also kind of be outvoted. And I think there’s a lot of beauty and I could democratize process. In my original dream of the curatorial board, there would be some kind of like L to or some kind of cheap, transparent voting mechanism. And you know, I think that you could take it pretty far with governance one day where you could say, okay, if you vote yes, you have to buy the NFT. If you vote no, you don’t have to buy it. But then if there’s like, you know, gas for like, you kind of have to participate in the gas war. If you vote yes, you gotta put your money where your mouth is. And it’s not fair because it gets expensive now, but I mean, just ideally, there are mechanisms that can be transparent. You don’t have to know who the curator is. You can just have like an anonymous address that’s like voting yes or no, but those people make decisions that are then you know, based on how much they liked their project, if you’re not going to mint it. If you’re not going to mint, it. regardless of price. Obviously, if the price is high, you may want to mint it. But you can’t early on everything was point one Eth, so it was like if you weren’t willing to spend point one Eth on a project then you probably shouldn’t have put it through to curation, right? And the idea is that if you do, people put their money where their mouth is the best projects are the ones that go through, that’s changed. Obviously, we don’t force anybody to buy anything. And we don’t want anyone to feel forced to buy anything. But the people that are part of that curatorial board have been just so instrumental for what art blocks says today. They’re shaping, they’re shaping what we are putting out, as, you know, our focus is to put out some of the best generative art in the world, you know, and drop the word generative, like we want to release some of the best art in the world, right? They’re the ones making those decisions as to what we’re calling curated, which means what is pushing the boundaries of what art and generative art can do. And I think, you know, look back into yours let’s say if NFTs are still around or like you’re still around, which I fully intend for it to be, you’re gonna, you might be able to point to like specific pivotal decisions of curation board, curating projects, not curating others and kind of like causing a certain particular style to be adopted or appreciated or excited. In this space, so yeah, we’ll see where that goes. 

So, year two of the curation board, right. for year two of art block, how long is it curation board have been in place?

Erick Calderon: I think, January, roughly January 2021. So, like, a couple of months after launching, so we’ll start year two in January 2020. I think I can’t, I honestly can’t remember how long it’s been.

How Often Will the Curation Board Be Changed?

So, this next question comes from Dan on Twitter. But he’s basically asks, how often will the curation board be changed?

Erick Calderon: So, the main part of the curation board, which is the ones that are, people that were vetted from their background, so art history, people, people from the traditional art world, contemporary art world, you know, I believe that those people, there is like a, there is a sense of like waning interest that happens with anything that you become a part of. And so, some people don’t get tired of voting, and they will probably remain on the curation more for a really long time. As we saw with the first group, like we had some people that were really active at the beginning, and it kind of waned, and this is why we created, gosh, like a pretty hardcore charter for the curation board, which is a list of things that you have to do agree to not, you know, trade, NFTs that you have voted on, or buy art from artists that you know, like commitments to be part of the board. And I think that the people that are the most committed are going to stick around for a long time, and then others will probably kind of fall off. So, we have a list of, I think another 10 people that we’ve identified that we really would like to be part of the curatorial board. And we’re just kind of waiting to see kind of how the initial set goes, then we have the community seats and the community seats. You know, I love our community, and the first people that sit on the community seats, what I’m about to say, probably would not apply to, maybe for the first 10 or 15 people that sit on the committee to seats, but when in 2021, when I was being yelled at by a bunch of board ape PFPs and art blocks discord about not knowing what I was doing, or being a money grab or ignoring or picking the wrong projects or whatever. I think that if you had picked a significant amount of those people for the curatorial board, that art blocks would have been curating PFPs, literally like just like, cartoons, which there’s nothing wrong with and like one example, I recently got to speak on a panel with LC Seneca, who created the board apes. And after having met her, it gave me a totally different view of the art behind the Braves than what I had originally just kind of dreamed up in my head and what it was. 

So, you know, I do think that there can be art in PRPs. And I obviously started with crypto funds for me, and I thought they were hard not I didn’t even know what a PFPs was right, I just thought it was like a really cool artwork. So ideally, this, you know, this group of community curators is a slightly smaller group, and one that’s rotated only because we have 30,000 holders, we’re never going to get to all of them. But we have hundreds of people in our community that are active participants in the art blocks discord and like our community, and they deserve a say, they deserve a seat. And so, we want to rotate through them, I think we’re gonna have three, maybe four rotating seats, I imagine that there’s a world where in the future, some community curator has either revealed themselves because a lot of them are anonymous to be like the executive director of like, the moment or something crazy like that. And we’re like, oh, okay, well, maybe you can. For now, most people are very much in tune with the art block ecosystem and huge fans of the artists and, you know, artists are huge fans of them. And I think it’d be really neat to see how they vote along the way. Yeah.

Understanding Your Creators and Collectors Using On-Chain Data

So, I have one final long form question for you. And then I want to do a round of like, fire questions based off other things that people have asked on Twitter. Okay, so it’s the last final question that I have for you. This is more from like a business side. And as an entrepreneur yourself as a platform founder, okay, how do you use On-Chain data as a way to understand your creators and collectors to sort of create better experiences for them as users?

Erick Calderon: At the moment, we use doing analytics and a couple of like, pretty awesome dashboards that have been built out for us, but they’ve been built out in the interim of us eventually hiring VI engineers and people that really understand data. So, our COO of art blocks, his name is Zurek Houston, or Hugh is one of the, I mean, I don’t know, I don’t know if he chuckles when I say this, maybe he doesn’t think it. But I kind of talk about him like the Cookie Monster when it comes to data, he was so excited about like data, where we’re, you know, not just because I was his Chief Operating Officer, we have to make sure that we have budgets and whatever, but also, he gets like, thrilled and excited, just viscerally about data. And he’s not the only one, Jeff Davis from the creative team is like, okay, we can use data to determine what the best rate is to release a project or to help artists with their career by giving them the right drop mechanics and stuff. Our head engineer, our CTO, Jake, Rockland, also very much excited about data. And even more, so maybe Director of Engineering, Aaron Pinay, which is also, you know, someone that’s been in the generative art space for a really long time, approached me about being in the data position at art blocks, you know, controlling data and being involved with it. And I think that it’s one of those things that you will see in whatever the future of art blocks is, and you know, whatever that future of art blocks is, whether we are aggregating sales listings on our website, I mean, if you consider the fact that like, probably 90% of the time that people spend in art blocks ecosystem is not on art blocks that I owe, like, it’s probably scrolling through open sea or other marketplaces. And so that kind of data is going to be really important. And we’re actually filling one or two roles within art blocks internally, in order to be able to actually crunch the data, provide the data and really execute on that data. It’s something that I think art blocks has fallen behind on, not out of choice, we have to prioritize, right? So, what’s the priority? The backend is durable, make sure that we hire within our corporate culture we’re excited about, but now it’s time and we are really excited about what that looks like in the future.

What is Your Favorite Curated Collection?

Amazing. Okay, so some fire round questions. Okay. So, make them quick, too, because we only have so much time left. All right. So, what is your favorite curated collection outside of squiggles, Fidanza and ringers?

Erick Calderon: Man, that’s not fair. That’s not fair man. I often say that. One of my favorite artists in art blocks is Alexei Andre, because he has a consistent hand, also known as Mac tweet, tweet, he created a project called 720 minutes. I remember early on; I was begging people, not begging people. And he I think did on his own accord, but kind of saying, okay, look, you’re you can run off the system clock, you can actually like utilize system data. And he did this piece called 720 minutes, which is a clock that ran on system data, but was also this beautiful charity piece is always running on an iPad in my kitchen as like the clock in my house. And it’s just like one of the most beautiful things in the world. But the reason I really like it is because he’s built this consistent theme of using tiny little circles to make really beautiful and do some art. Even outside of curated, he went into the playground, and did some really fun stuff with three consecutive collections that all had the same vibe. And I just, I really respect his vision for what an artist hand looks like in the digital realm, which is really hard to do.

How Do You Feel About NFT Flippers?

Awesome. How do you feel about collectors that turn around and instantly list to flip?

Erick Calderon: You know, at first, I was like, I would show disdain towards him. But I only showed disdain towards it, when those people criticized art blocks for what we were doing. Like, there was a lot of criticism that art blocks was not catering to that. And I got a lot of shit for that, like, you know, I would say things like, we don’t care about the secondaries, not because we don’t care about the secondaries, but because what was happening is literally like people would say, let’s go back to the gas wars. Why? Because there was no price discovery, like, obviously, when an artist makes 10% of a drop and the miners make 90% of the drop, that doesn’t feel good. So, we implement other methods that the flippers found, they were no longer able to immediately 10x on art blocks drop. And it’s unfortunate for the flippers, but we got criticized for that, you know, and so it came like there was a disdain at the beginning because we would get yelled at for doing something that supported the creator. It also supported art blocks, like why the hell is the miner making 90% of a drop like it just doesn’t make no sense to me. And so, the flippers, these original people that would yell at us for doing things like this kind of became a target within my communications of like saying, we’re not doing this for you and to this day, we are not actually here so that you can profit on an art blocks artwork immediately, we’re doing it to create really good art that you want to hang in there. And then whatever you do with it, you can do with it. The instant flip ability went away the day that we lost the Dutch auctions, every now and then an artist does a drop with a fixed price. And that comes back, and the community loves it. I mean, a lot of the people in the community love it. That’s great. There’s instant profit built in, whatever. But that’s not why we’re here. And so let everybody should do whatever they want to do. We love the liquidity, we love. That’s what keeps our costs afloat. And that’s what keeps artists from having to go get another job like, hell yeah, we love it. But that’s not why we’re here. And please respect that. Like, we have built a platform for what we want it to be, not what you want it to be. And as long as we can just kind of respect that, like, you know, I think I don’t actually care what people do with their NFTs as long as they’re respectful to the artist. And as long as they’re respectful to our vision at the platform. That’s all I ask.

Amazing. What’s your personal preference? Excuse me, animated or static?

Erick Calderon: That’s a good one. I like static. I like static that can be animated. Okay, all right, because the squiggle I love when it’s animated, but like, it’s meant to be a static piece. If I wanted it to be animated, it would have been animated when you open it, right? And I like the optionality between the two.

Thoughts on FXhash and Tezos NFTs

Okay. Okay. What do you think about FX hash/the NFTs on tezos?

Erick Calderon: I love FX hash. I love what they’re doing. I love the ethos of their space. I love how they hit the market. You know, a lot of our competitors early on came to the market basically saying this is what art blocks is screwed up. So we’re going to do this because we’re better. And that type of competition has never really like sunk in well with me because it just like go do your own thing. Everybody, like, go do your thing. Everybody can, there’s room for everybody in this space. And I think that the way FX hash hit the market is, it is a very different. It is a very different product than what art blocks, is from a technical perspective, from the art being On-Chain perspective. You know, we are limited by the provenance, and you know, immutability of the Ethereum blockchain, because it’s more expensive to operate. But then we believe that there’s a value proposition for NFTs that are on the Ethereum blockchain. So, the playground aspect, which actually originally art blocks felt more like a playground, like art blocks is no longer a playground. Yeah, it is a home for hopefully, some of the best generative art in the world. And I think one of my favorite things that’s happened in the space is that, you know, we will get submissions for art blocks within an artist’s FX hash portfolio. And that FX hash has not been around long enough to where you see three or four projects they’ve released on FX hash, you actually see the artistic progression that artists has gone through, you see the success, you see where they’ve faltered, you see where they are on this other platform, and you see this moment where they’re like, okay, now I’m ready for art blocks. 

And there’s a lot of people that are never going to come to art blocks because whether it’s for sustainability reasons, which is fine, because hopefully that’ll be changing soon. Plus, we’ve carbon offset significantly more than we’ve ever consumed. I know a lot of people that doesn’t really act as a solution. But I think given our charity, given our carbon offsetting, I think art blocks is a net positive for the world in general, but that’s okay. There’re people that are vehemently opposed to like the carbon footprint of the Ethereum blockchain again, that’s changing soon. But then there’s also people, there’s always going to be the people that want to go against like the or not go against but not participate in like the one of the big players, there’s always going to be a counterculture, there’s always going to be the people that prefer to operate in the grassroots, the indie, the whatever, it’s something that I always was driven by indie music, I was always driven by like weird indie art, like it wasn’t you know, I never really was drawn to the big galleries. So, I think there’s always gonna be people that want to operate outside of kind of like the bigger name platforms, FX hash which has now become one of the biggest platforms in the world. And so, I bet you that there are now people that are interested in working in releasing Oregon platforms that are smaller and more indie than FX hash, but I love what FX hash is doing. I think they are net plus for the ecosystem. I respect so much the work that’s on FX hash and I just wish the most access to all of the artists and all the people that run that over a million NFTs have been minted on FX hash like a million NFTs like my brain wants to explode thinking about that many and so I just you know, my heart goes to the people that manage the discord. That’s hard work, you know, it’s such hard work, so huge props to them.

How Important is Having NFTs Fully On-Chain?

Alright, final question. How important is having NFTs fully On-Chain?

Erick Calderon: I think there’s a lot of layers to that question, to me it’s very important right? To me, you know, I even kind of went into this deep initiative to put all the crypto punks On-Chain early on and you know, I love the nouns concept because they’re On-Chain, I love a lot of these projects that are fully On-Chain, makes it’s really important to me. The reason that it’s important to me is because there’s provenance not just in the ownership history, which is how typical PFS NFTs work. But there’s ownership in the variability of the output. So for something where you have like a, you know, a squiggle, that’s a hyper rainbow, and that has more value generally, because they’re scarcer. There’s something really important to me about being able to see why that is scarcer. So, there is a math computation that happens in the algorithm of the Chromia squiggle that says that, based on probability this is going to happen, I think, one 1.1% of the time, I can’t remember what it was. To me, that’s really important, that provenance of the variability of an output of a generative piece is critical, long term, because the whole point of blockchain, the whole point of immutability is that it’s going to be around for a long time. So, the idea that in 10 years, 100 years, you might still be able to recover. And there was a really nice chart the other day, an infographic that put art blocks in like kind of a recoverable status, art blocks should be recoverable for eternity, art blocks artworks should be able to be displayed at their originally intended resolution. And by that, I mean, the full screen of whatever the screen is in 5 years, 10 years or whatever. Because all of the information required to reconstruct that artwork is gone either On-Chain or in libraries, like P5JS, which are more decentralized in Ethereum, will ever be because there’s millions of computers hosting it.

And I guess the other side of it that I think is really important is that, you know, you can’t store a 25-megabyte image On-Chain, but you can store an algorithm that can create a 250-megabyte image On-Chain. And it’s really just taking what is the limitation of the Ethereum blockchain, capturing that limitation into like the purest form of immutability, and then putting art in that form. And when you, when we talked about like resolution agnostic minutes, it seemed like it was something that we weren’t going to deal with until we had 24k televisions, I used to say this on panels all the time, like one day in the future, we’re gonna have really big screens, and we want to be able to look at something without it having to be up sampled. In New York, we had this three-story screen, and artworks on that screen were being displayed in full resolution. And it came way earlier than we thought, like the need to be able to sample something at that high of a scale came 10 years or 8 years before I thought it was actually going to be necessary for it to happen. And it was this huge validation for the fact that all of that art is On-Chain, all of the code is On-Chain, and the execution for that enabled us to be able to project a ringer and a Fidanza and all these other beautiful words, three stories tall. And that felt really relevant and really important. And so, to me, yes, it’s very important for art to be On-Chain. But it does not mean that good art, that it has to be On-Chain to be good art.

How Do You Feel About Auto-Generated Music?

Okay, I have to ask you one last thing, okay? Because this has sparked a lot of like noise and attention in the music NFT community. How do you feel about Auto-Generated music? And like the same concept as in terms of like art blocks for art, but the same concept for music? Are you bullish or bearish on that?

Erick Calderon: I love it. If you think that programming pixels on a screen is hard, wait till you start programming like musical stuff. We have multiple pieces on art blocks that have been released with generative music inside of them. In fact, our curated drop tomorrow is one that I’m incredibly excited about because you have a bold, you know, because my children are probably working at the tile business. But I’m old enough to like really appreciate video games. And we have this drop happening tomorrow that literally has like a nostalgic video game or 16-bit video game type. But it actually just runs for eternity, because it’s algorithm created. Plus, there’s a visual by one of our favorite artists and art blocks, Rosenthal, that is in tune with that. And so, I think that there’s a really beautiful thing for generative music. But I think for generative music to really get love, is you’re going to have to have a major musician start to sample some of that music and put it out there to surprise their audiences with the delight of knowing, hey, by the way, this piece came from this art blocks piece or if there’s a general music site only, right, we’re working towards releasing new technology that enables generative type minting distribution using prerecorded audio, which would not be On-Chain. But what it would enable is like musicians to really put entire bodies of work and samples and sounds and extra code in a way that would just like really kind of explode and open up what generative music can be. And I think that’s kind of necessary just like we want to do generative photography stuff and generative like all sorts of stuff AI it requires things to be off chain and like I said we want to; we love good art regardless of whether or not we just really love the art that’s On-Chain. So, we’re gonna pursue you know, letting people be creative using this technology.


Amazing. Erick, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for being on podcast, before I let you go, where can we find you. Of course, always welcome, where can we find you? Where can we find art blocks, show it away.

Erick Calderon: You can find art blocks, artblocks_IO, make sure it’s just one underscore or one I lately that have been about stuff on Twitter with two underscores, you know, the typical scammy stuff that we see in our space. Also on Instagram, artblocks_IO and then I am on blockchain, on Twitter. I have been off discord for two and a half months. I do plan a reentry this week, but last week, and it didn’t really happen. So maybe this week, it’ll actually happen. And yeah, I mean, you know, come to your next NFT event, because I find myself at every one of them. So that’s another way to see each other.

I went to the one at consensus. It was fun, at the brewery, so maybe I’ll see you at another one. All right. That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Yes, yeah. Well, we’ll have to do this again soon.

Erick Calderon: Thank you so much for having me.

Podcast Transcript

Crypto Creator Economy Roundtable with Megan Lightcap of Slow Ventures


Mint Season 6 episode 5 welcomes a fun conversation between Slow Ventures’ Creator Principal Megan Lightcap and Mint host Adam Levy on the pseudonymous creator economy, why on-chain data is the most exciting opportunity for creators, 

Time Stamps

  • 00:12 – Intro
  • 04:17 – Recapping NFT NYC
  • 08:39 – How Does Web3 Empower Creators?
  • 15:12 – The Divide Between Web2 Creators and Web3 Creators
  • 24:29 – Thoughts Around Social Tokens
  • 29:26 – How Creators Should Use On-chain Data to Serve Their Communities
  • 36:40 – Pseudonymous Creator Economy
  • 40:33 – Advice for Web2 Creators Entering Web3

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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Adam Levy: So, my name is Adam Levy. I’ve been in crypto since 2017. I got started in college. I did community college for two years and then later transferred to USC Marshall School of Business. Around that time, it was like 2017. I sort of saw Bitcoin at its 20k Peak, was like it’s all time high. And I was like, how the hell can something be trading at like $20,000? I never saw something like that, at least on the public markets. So that’s what caught my attention. But what kept me in was see what you can do with Blockchain tech. So that was really cool.

Were you, sorry to interrupt, but were you like a tech person?

Adam Levy: No. I’m a drummer. I’m a drummer. I’ve been playing the drums since five years old. 

So, what caught your attention?

Adam Levy: My dad is very, like the tech person in the home, like my dad migrated from Israel. And he was like one of the first people to come to LA from like, the social circle. And he was always on the frontier of all tech, like everything tech related. So, I think my love and interest for that came from him. And also, I think, a little bit of the music stuff. So, what kept me in is seeing what you could do with the technology, but what it was doing for musicians, so very much like in parallel. So, at the time, there was a company called Media chain, if I’m not mistaken. I think like Jesse Walton started, a company, got acquired by Spotify was like, oh, you can do more than just like a trade with this stuff. So that’s sort of what like, what kept me in and read the Bitcoin white paper, was fascinating. And this was around like my winter break. So, I had like four weeks just to like, catch myself up when everything was happening. And then I started writing in Facebook groups on campus, if you want to learn about like peer-to-peer payments on a Saturday, like 3pm, I do like a whiteboard session, okay. I know. But like three people showed up, and then did it again the next week, like five people showed up. And then at the time, there was like a club that was starting, what sort of was like five people on weekend then slowly turned to like 350 students on campus, or at least measured by like the newsletter and like type of event attendance that we had, where we did white paper roundtables. We did recruit events for Coinbase. We did hackathons. We also like started like a venture arm where we’d invest in like projects, which was through a separate organization. 

But yeah, so around that time I got my first internship in the space to, I got started like working on a VC fund. One of Tim Draper’s like subsidiary funds, it was a small fund. Now that two partners were long gone, and Joseph Home and Tim Draper, and learned a ton from them, was working with them for about a year, that ended. And then I had the opportunity to study abroad. And I told my advisor, I want to study in Switzerland. And this is maybe early 2019. In Switzerland, as a small city called tube, which is not for Crypto Valley, I want to go study near over there and try to find work over there because Ney York was way ahead of the game and the US, was there for five months trying to find a job, working like illegally with different startups over there. Only to graduate. I moved to Vienna, work with like a blockchain IOT startup, was there for a few months, they had an offer to get acquired, they dropped me like came back to LA and joined the fund that I was interning for full time, I was the only full-time employee between the three partners. And it was great. We had like 22 portfolio companies by the time I quit. And I learned a lot from alone, Joseph and Tim. I really credit them for like a lot of the marketing and like PR stuff that yeah, so three partners that are great. But the podcast thing came about, long story short, and podcast is called mint, kind of goes back to my roots as a drummer, as a creative, seeing the overlap between the creative and like the tech side. So, I wanted to cover were crypto meets creative. So that was super interesting. Yeah. So, I started this podcast as a way to just like selfishly learn about the space, but also documents what we’re doing over here. 

Sure, yeah. Awesome. How long has the podcasts been running?

Adam Levy: So over 120 episodes over a year. But I very lucky to talk to three types of people on a weekly basis. Crypto native creators, collectors/ investors, founders, all sorts of building for the web three native crater economy.

Great. We’ll have to get some slow books. Yeah. So, we first got connected through Carolina and Claire, through my colleagues at slow. Yeah, so I guess you ran into them at an NFT NYC. 

Adam Levy: Correct, yeah. 

Recapping NFT NYC

So, on the topic of NFT NYC, what was your diagnosis of this year’s kind of events, given the market kind of backdrop, to kind of more broadly and then with respect to the Creator lens?

Adam Levy: So, we’re in a bear market right now. Right. And typically, when there’s a bear market, a lot of the noise gets like sort of flushed out, but surprisingly enough, it was still I think the biggest conference they’ve had to date and NFT NYC is like a creator first conference, right? So even when you’re picking up your badges, you were able to identify what type of creator or individual you were in the space, whether your music, art, fashion, like they had all these different lanyards, which I thought was really, really unique. So, yeah, I think overall, like it was a great conference. I think what’s even better, though, are the side events and the type of people that sort of like show to the side events. I didn’t really spend too much time at the conference. But all the NFT related side events were really strong, and they really curated like the right crowd.

But was there discussion of what’s happening in the macro backdrop or was it kind of like, let’s look the other way and pretend it’s happening?

Adam Levy: Yeah. So, what do you mean by that?

Was there discussion of what’s happening more broadly in crypto markets? Or were people kind of like, continuing on as if we’re in 2021?

Adam Levy: I think it was a combination of both. I think we have no, like, everybody realizes that we have no choice but to continue, right? But I think there was also a lot of like speculation as to like, what the future really entails. Because the first wave of NFTs was very like gambler, degenerate, driven, right? But through the cracks, we’re seeing, like really innovative communities’ kind of come together, we’re seeing really interesting creators sort of come about new types of like technology, sort of like get birthed that supports this new class of users. But it’s crazy. It’s cool for me to see because when I got into crypto, it was even before defi started like NFTs were just like starting with crypto kitties. When I was taking like solidity classes at USC. And we like built the apps. But nobody really knew what crypto kitties were like, It was just like a cool, fun thing to do. And I remember when I was at Draper going home, the whole defi summer, like sort of kicked off, right? And for the longest time, it’s either you were basically just like crypto was defi, right? But then culture came into the picture and NFTs and defi like emerged. But now we’re at a stage, which I kind of learned from NFT NYC that now defi NFTs are sort of converging, right, which is super interesting. Because to be an NFT user, you probably also need to be a defi user at the same time, right? For you to get access to different currencies you have to use uniswap, right. And now there’s people sort of like lending and borrowing their NFTs. So, you’re seeing like the two sort of overlap in real time. And I think NFT NYC was like a good hub as a way to kind of see like, what are the next few months look like? I also think, though, with large crowds, comes with the deterioration of quality, people to which we love everybody, everybody’s welcome. But if you’re really trying to get like insane, alpha, you’re going to FWD fest, you know, are you going to MCON, where it’s like the people who are actually like leading the frontier and like actively building whether developers or you go to DEF CON, right? Like those may be the better examples of trying to understand what is the next few months look like or yours look like from a tech point of view?

Yeah, I mean, that feels like a very technical first approach Versus like, if I just put my like, simple consumer hat on, like, it’s still feels, crypto broadly, still feels pretty inaccessible. And my litmus test is, you know, having this conversation with friends of mine outside of finance and outside of crypto, and like, what their sentiment, almost doing, like a sentiment analysis of like them and kind of like their point of view. And I mean, it talking to them now they’re like, Isn’t crypto dead? Like isn’t over? Why are you still talking about this, which is like, it’s just an interesting, like barometer of, you know, where are we in the cycle?

Adam Levy: See, my bet is that every creator is going to be some type of like, crypto native creator. That’s my bet. 

How Does Web3 Empower Creators?

Okay, well, we’ll get into it. Yeah. Well, I packed this. I guess in that vein, I’d love to break down the question of it with the kind of the creator hat on you know, what is crypto enable that web two doesn’t? And if we can think about five and three broader categories, one NFT kind of what their utility is, What’s their purpose? Daos, and then social tokens. So, starting with NFTs, what does the technology enable for creators and how can they use in your perspective NFTs most effectively? And understanding that, like, there’s also different types of NFTs via music, or art, or IP or whatnot.

Adam Levy: I guess I can talk about like, how I’m using them as a creator. 


Adam Levy: And sort of other like use cases that I’ve seen from other NFTs, okay. So, for me as a creator, I’m very much like a web two and web three creator, I can’t be a web three creator without web two right now. Right? So, I need the virality algorithms on web two platforms in order to funnel users to my web three products, right? That’s just the reality of it. So, from my point of view, the way I build an audience in web three, is by issuing NFT’s as sort of like tokens that are like touch points to kind of realize who my listeners were, as every season progressed. So, I’ve been giving out free NFTs to my listeners since season two, as a way to sort of thank them for being a participant in the listener, and for them to have this ego thing where like they found me before, like other people were able to find me.

But just to double click on that, what is the tangible value that they accrue by being a token holder for an NFT?

Adam Levy: Financially?

Financially or otherwise?

Adam Levy: Financially nothing, but the NFTs unlock a level of utility of additional content that other people won’t have access to?

So, could they not just get like a friends and family discount? Like, I’m just I’m trying to push.

Adam Levy: Yeah, please.

What are the tools, that web two tools that could achieve the same result that don’t necessarily have to be went three denominated? Right, like, if you want to give them a special access to content or a one on one with you, it feels like that could be achieved streaming, patriotic cetera.

Adam Levy: Sure, but it technically can, but in the grand scheme of things, like there’s pros and cons to it, if I were to be a Patreon creator, and do that exclusivity and they pay a subscription, or they just subscribe for free, right? I’m bound it to the success and the foundation of Patreon itself, right. And you see this oftentimes, like some creators have hesitation with using these platforms, because then they become so platform dependent. And then it’s hard to kind of do anything else beyond that platform. We saw this happen in real time with the introduction of Tik Tok, too. You saw a lot of Instagram creators sort of not do as well on Tik Tok, because they weren’t able to one, transfer their audience directly from one platform to another. And a whole new class of creators arose through Tik Tok that otherwise, maybe won’t be as powerful and Instagram.

But what you see now, which is really interesting is like, you know, you have these two parts, or three parts, like Tik Tok series, and they’re like, they pause like right at the cliffhanger, and they’re like, go to my Instagram to see how the story ends. And you’re like, dammit.

Adam Levy: Like, there’s so many funnels, web three, which you can’t do with anything else in web two because platform that sort of siloed onto their own islands. And web three, there is this new sort of like wave coming about with this, like, concept of fan interoperability. Okay. So, in web three, creators are the platform, not depending on platforms to be creators. So, what does that mean, in actuality? And web three, what I have an NFT based audience, I can sort of take those followers of me from platform to platform to platform to platform, so that I can never get shadow banned by the blockchain, right? I can take my audience with me. And depending on every primitive that I want to sort of like experience with X, whether it be an email list, whether it be cameo related videos, whether it be whatever, a new Twitter type of thing, I can take those followers from platform to platform to platform. In web two, I can do that. The same problem that a lot of creator’s sorts of like, experienced in web two, where if I didn’t get all the Tik Tok trend, then I’m fucked, you know. And then I’m just limited to that platform. And in also web two you also so dependent on like building in adjusting your growth strategies per platform. And you have to start from scratch many times. So that’s like one utility.

Yeah, but it’s an, sorry, to interrupt. But it’s, it’s not to say that the platforms are valuable, because they are so valuable in terms of discovery, like if everyone has their own independent platform, it’s too fragmented a world in which it’s impossible to find and seek out, you know, your niche or whatever. So, I think the perfect world is like this coexistence between these platforms, but then also like owning your own data. 

Adam Levy: Yes. I think also the way platforms build moats in web three. And maybe moat is not the right word. But web three is very much like the financialization of everything, right. So, being able to create incentives, like financial based incentives for creators to sort of be co-owners along with the platform is something that’s super interesting that I often talk about on the podcast, right? So, you really build like in crypto, you really building a lot through like user experience, because applications still suck, for the most part, and through liquidity, right? How that sort of pertains on a social platform level is to be determined, because we’re still early there. But I think the ones who end up sharing the value with the creators, right will be the ones that sort of prevail long term. Right now, we’re the product of the platform, right. In web three, it’s like, the other way around, like we own the platform, we bring on, it’s like, there needs to be the right incentives for me to start using your tool. And one of the biggest ones is like me being able to take my audience from place to place. So, if you don’t have that, like, I got to start from scratch again. So that’s through NFTs. Also there’s the obvious of issuing a community based collection, minting billions of dollars and building the minimum viable community and then finding common interests and common themes and then trying to productize that somehow or doing experiences and events or conferences, you know, which sort of what wouldn’t be able, like you wouldn’t able to do that prior to this technology because there’s also like the primary and secondary marketplaces of being able to sort of be aligned with the financial incentives that come with collecting something, again, it comes to the financialization of everything, as long as it’s digital, and you can tokenize it, then there’s a market for it, whether it be big or small, which I think is like the like part of the innovation here.

The Divide Between Web2 Creators and Web3 Creators

Yeah, I think it’s broadly like how do you bring liquidity to these like previously, super illiquid things, be it like, member of a community or an illiquid asset class or what have you? It’s interesting, though, I mean, with respect to creators, I think one thing I hear a lot from creators is like, they have an endless to do list, right? Between content, editing, production, business development, sales, all that stuff. They’re running, in many instances, small, like not even small businesses, like real businesses and educating themselves on web three or NFTs or what have you is so low on their priority list. So, knowing that to be true today, do you kind of see this bifurcation of creators between like, pure web two creators and then web three creators?

Adam Levy: Yeah, web three, just like Tik Tok Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, email, sub sec, all these things are their own individual platforms. Same thing applies to web three right now. So, you typically hear the phrase, or maybe I say this in mind, and maybe the only one, but like, there’s crypto native creators. So, they use these web three based primitives as a way to build, monetize and own their audience in ways that they can’t really do so on traditional platforms, because they’re bounded to the monetization channels and funnels on the platform itself. Right. So, but what’s interesting is, because there’s a new class of creators, it’s like what happened with Tik Tok, it’s like when new class of creators are emerging on tick tock, a lot of the attention started to shift over there. Because they were either willing to like able to build audiences in a viral way like never before, or they were able to get brand deals because they built that level of attention, like same thing is happening in web three, you’re seeing crypto native creators sort of emerged. And a lot of the attention is being forced on them, because now they’re finding new ways to monetize and grow community, but also on a smaller scale. So, I think there’s a really good tweet that RAC pushed out a few months ago where, I forgot what the numbers were. So don’t quote me.


Adam Levy: The musician. Yeah, the artists, I think Grammy Award winning musician, producer. So, he basically pushes out a tweet, he’s like, I had music NFT drop, and 136 people generated the same amount of value, monetary value that all 9 million listeners would sort of generate on Spotify, which is crazy to think about in the grand scheme of things now. You may question it and be skeptical. Okay, how scalable is that? Because RAC is like, oh, gee Ethereum, you know, or like OG creator on the Ethereum network. And a lot of collectors understand him. And I’ve seen him around the blocks a little bit on him, like, is that scalable for other creators? I don’t know. But also, if you look at like the revenue model for like, sound dot XYZ, for example, even being able to crowdfund one Eth, like 2k right now, how many listens, it’s required to make 2k.

Yeah, I mean, I think that also speaks to the unfortunate economics of the music industry. That’s a whole separate.

Adam Levy: But it’s also like views on YouTube. So, for views on YouTube, Facebook, right? On Tik Tok. So, like Tik Tok has the creator fund and maybe misinformed, maybe they’ve changed it since then. But from what I remember, like the creator fund is kept versus like YouTube, maybe more available, because it’s based off like the ad revenue, for example. So that’s on the NFT base including the Dao. So, I have a hot take. I think Dao, yeah, I think Daos are very much romanticized right now. I think there’s a spectrum to Daofication. And I think a lot of people maybe want to try to be a Dao but they’re not yet a Dao. The way I see it for Dao to really operate successfully, in the way I understand Dao is like, everybody needs to be very much like a go getter, and very independent themselves to sort of like, co-create amongst each other in a way where they don’t need to be micromanaged, that’s how I sort of envisioned it Dao. Now, obviously, it’s not like that right now. Like you have people form pods within Dao as a way to sort of like, organize and make sure that things are being delivered upon and whatnot. So, there’s a spectrum to being a decentralized organization. I think from a creator point of view, there isn’t really like a decentralized creator, if we look at it from one creator to an audience, but if you look at it from a brand, right? From like a community of creators to a group of collectors, there’s a ton of those, like Bay dot club, again, one of those like profound communities, everybody, almost everybody knows about them. I’ll just use them because people may know them. They, for the longest time, sort of just like had the NFT as like the access pass to the community, you could draw on the whiteboard, you can attend the events, whatever. 

And now they started to Dao phi with a social token, the ape coin, right. And now they have like a Dao committee, where if you’re an ape holder, you can sort of vote on things for the ape Dao, so I like thinking about it, like what does a modern-day fan club look like? And I see NFTs in the form of like membership passes as the entry point for starting a modern defend club. And depending on which rarity traits you purchase or depending on how many you buy determines your contribution, your level of monetary sort of like dominance for the organization. So, I love Lady Gaga, and she was more of a web three native person, I could see myself buying multiple NFTs just to support them and have a voice in the community because I love whatever monster community whatever. But what’s interesting, which we have yet to like, crack the code on. The best community builders today, don’t manage the communities. If you go on Facebook groups, and you search Lady Gaga, you’ll see hundreds of Lady Gaga fan clubs where the Lady Gaga fans, they manage that group, without any monetary incentive, without any sort of align whatsoever, without any tokens without any NFTs, any snapshot and all that stuff. They just do it because of love. So that’s why I’m not sure where this sort of fits into grand scheme of things. Yeah. You get my dilemma?

I do. And as you’re talking, like, I’m really struggling to understand why. Like, if you take the fan club example, like, what about a Dao structure is advantageous.

Adam Levy: Advantageous part is that financial incentives are aligned, right. And you could sort of like, quantify the financial incentives by part through participation, right, where either one token equals one vote. And if I’m a big fan of like, let’s say, I think the best examples like Daniel Allen, he’s a, he’s like one of the tops like music artists in the space. I love collecting his stuff. I’ve been a big fan of his music as well. So, I now feel like I have a much more personal connection to him and his music because I’ve actually spent money collecting his stuff, participating in the overstimulated Dao, being able to vote on things, right. Whereas, if you’re on a Facebook group type of homepage, it’s disconnected. Yeah, it’s like sick. It’s powerful, right? Like, it’s great. But it’s a different type of community. So, with Daniel, like, I know, if Daniel continues to deliver value to the tools that he’s built, to the assets that he built in web three, then I know, as a listener, I’m going to really benefit because he’s just gonna do better because I’m able to front run your success through capital, right. But also, I may have upside because I got it early on Daniel Allen, before the rest of the world got in on Daniel Allen. And if he actually ends up becoming, and I believe he will be right, someone who’s like huge and great, travel the world like super talented DJ, his audience is going to grow and the limited amount of NFTs and tokens that he released very early on in his career, maybe hot items. And by the way, and you’re already seeing that pieces prevail with like his early sound drops, his 25 base additions, I think of like a 5 Eth floor, because there’s just so like, iconic like memorabilia-based collectibles, right?

Do you think this is ever going to break into the mainstream or do you think it stays within these web three native creators?

Adam Levy: I don’t think it’s everyone just like, not everybody collects baseball cards, right? 

Yeah, but baseball card collecting, broadly is pretty mainstream.

Adam Levy: It is mainstream, but I also know a lot of people that don’t really align with that, right?

But what I mean by mainstream is that there’s really no like educational barrier to to be a baseball card collector, whereas I feel like there’s a huge technical gap. If I’m a regular way, music aficionado, right? Like for me to participate in this structure, feels like a really big step versus what I’m used to today. And it may just be that like, the consumer interfaces on some of this stuff, have just like not evolves to that place.

Adam Levy: I look at it from this point of view. Okay, this is great. You interviewed on YouTube, from the early days of the internet, I think it was like one of the late shows, I forgot who was the host, and it was on there. But it could have been like a new segment I don’t remember. And they’re like talking about the internet, where they talk about it. Like, there’s this crazy new thing called Internet, you know, and when they say there’s, this crazy new thing called Internet versus like the internet, you know, it’s like, it makes you think how early we were at that time. But yeah, things got super more approachable, and sift, like, all the inconsistencies within the technology and the user experience sort of improved over time. I may be drinking the Kool Aid too much. I may have too much money invested. But I do think it’s here to stay. And it goes back to my thesis, like every creator is going to be a crypto native creator.

Thoughts Around Social Tokens

Yeah, I guess I straddle this world of like, so like non crypto people, but then I also have a lot of exposure through work and otherwise, that like, it feels like this consistent struggle of trying to reconcile these two worlds. And like, when does it actually converge? And what is the catalyst that drives that convergence? But anyways, conversations. So, the last category in our social tokens, right? So, I mean, we’ve touched on it briefly, how do you think about social tokens for creators and how to leverage them and our reach really, where are we kind of?

Adam Levy: Yeah, good question. So, I always, I do a Sunday newsletter. I’ve been doing it for almost a year, I think this Sunday is going to be issued 50. And when I started doing it, social tokens were really hot. And I’m an issue 50 now, and I can barely find news around social tokens anymore. And I tweeted this a few, I think a couple months ago, I was like, why am I not seeing any activity on social tokens? Like what’s going on? And it’s interesting, because you saw a trend sort of shift from communities that are being built off, like fungible tokens. Now shifting to non-fungible tokens. I think the best example, that I recall is some a group like developer, Dao, where at the time, if you look at all their peers, they were typically launching communities using ERC 20s. But developer Dao sort of issue like membership passes through NFTs to get rid of this, I guess the speculative nature of what ERC 20 may bring to a community versus what a membership has membrane right now, like taking consideration, like NFTs are also speculative, very much so. But the way I try to understand them is like it’s in human nature to receive a ticket to get into something versus buy like stock to get into something. So, I think from like an end user point of view, there’s just more of a level of comfort and a level of understanding from doing that. So that’s number one, two, social tokens for the longest time have been tied to fungible tokens like ERC 20s, but NFTs are becoming social tokens to originally the initial vision for social tokens like human stock markets and creator is sort of the publicly traded and being able to sort of make a bet on a creator through its fungibility. Yeah. Which don’t get me wrong, I still think there’s like a promising future for it. But I think for creators, it’s more threatening, sort of to be publicly traded.

Yeah, I mean, it’s like, imagine having your stock traded like every day, you see where your price has, quote, unquote, settled, like, that’s a really, feels like a really big step from where we are today versus just like patronage and fandom and whatnot.

Adam Levy: But what I do see it, I do see it as a currency for the community. So maybe Lady Gaga won’t have the Gaga token but you’ll have the monster’s token. So, the token can sort of be used, just by naming it differently. It’s sort of like insinuates a different purpose for it. So, you’re not publicly traded Gaga, you’re more of using the currency as a form of a token within the community. So, for example, okay, let’s look at someone like Ali McPherson. Okay. She’s a gaming creator. I think she’s on the rally network. While she ended up using her name as a token symbol. She now does like brand collaborations where she uses the Ali coin as a form of currency, to be able to purchase things, right, and to get sort of like exclusive discounts and perks just by using the currency as a form of like, as a currency. It’s a community. Yeah. Also, if you look at the platform’s building for, like, fungible token creators, like they’re not doing like so well most part, a lot of them also introduced NFTs as a new type of token because they’re seeing a lot more creators. And I look today, I saw there’s over 146,000 collections, NFTs collections on open sea, a16z sort of measures the number of creators and web three based off that number, their 2021 report, they said there was 22,400 creators of web three, measured by the number of collections on open sea. So, if we continue with that same train of thought, there’s over 140,000 web three native creators measured by the number of collections in the space. There are over 140,000 socials like ERC 20 creators. So obviously, there’s something about like the non-fungibleness, for community that makes much more sense, when I think it may go back down to the point application as a speculative nature of being able to like to tokenize, everything, financials everything, but my point of view, it’s like, I get the concept of purchasing one thing to get into something versus like.

Yeah. It’s like, if you’re a stockholder of whatever, you get invited to the annual shareholders conference, but that’s pretty much it. Other than that, like, what’s the, what does that get you access right outside of a future of.

Adam Levy: Yeah, it’s like, it’s like buying 75 FWB to join, FWB, why don’t we just like, buy like a membership pass? To enter the community, you know, and maybe there’s like tears in the membership pass, or you just to buy one thing versus going uniswap and like, swap 75 things. I don’t know. I could be thinking about it wrong. But that’s just like my point of view.

How Creators Should Use On-chain Data to Serve Their Communities

Yeah, I know, you’ve given this a lot more thought than I have. Yeah. So, two more meaty topics. What I know that you’re super passionate about is how creators can use on chain data to better serve their communities, build communities, and just be a little bit more intentional about how they use that data. Do want to share? Okay, so what I’ve you down there?

Adam Levy: Let’s talk about the web two creator like a music creator like regardless okay, there was another tweet just to back this up a little bit more. I forgot by who. But he basically tweeted like, I have over 27 million listeners on Spotify, but I can’t really tap into that, like, I don’t know what the hell they are, you know, and maybe if I’m lucky, Spotify will give me the ability to sort of tap into that 1% feature that they have, maybe it’s a few more percentage, I couldn’t be butchering the percentage, but it’s a much larger proportion to what I’m actually like delivering value to. Whereas in web three, everything is open. Everything is transparent, as long as we’re building on like an open network, and everything is built with like, the same consensus algorithms and the same sort of like primitives. And the same amongst different, like, if we’re all building on the same sort of mission, right, which is, let’s say the Ethereum blockchain. And everything is publicly accessible. So, this goes back to my thing as a creator, like, if I’m posting on Twitter, like sure Twitter provides data analytics or on social metrics. But I don’t really get much more than that. Right? If you look at like Facebook ads, like sure, I can sort of understand what my audience is, and I can target accordingly, you know, and, but I don’t really know their level of a fluency in crypto, because the blockchain is so open and transparent by design. We as creators, like the reason why everybody should be a crypto native creator, because of all the data that you can get on the blockchain, you know, of understanding who your audience is, and creating better content, accordingly, growing your audience accordingly and monetizing more strategically. What do I mean? I give out free NFTs to my listeners, like I said every single season, majority of them are now sold out NFTs, I think it’s like over 10,000 NF Ts today. For the longest time, I knew nothing about my collectors were right. Okay. Which sort of like collectors.

Being listeners.

Adam Levy: My listeners, but those who sort of minted my free NFT, okay, I know who they are off chain. I have Google Analytics and Spotify data and all these other data sources to sort of understand who the hell these people, so I can grow my podcast accordingly. But what’s even more interesting is understanding who they are on chain. Okay, so that I can create better content for them based on the communities that they’re a part of. So, I know to sort of design maybe like beginner level courses based off their wallet age. So, if I know they just entered into crypto, maybe I should be doing more like beginner friendly content versus that they’re three years old in the crypto space. They’ve been through a cycle, I can do more like complex thinking, defi related type conversations. So, we built this tool called Bella. And Bella sort of allows the creator to understand more about their collectors Mulberry. Think of it as like a Google Trends point of view. So, Google Trends, you search a keyword here, really visual data on it, same thing with this data tool that we built. I don’t want to show the data tool, I want to sort of talk about, like, what it’s allowing you to do. So, I now see.

You’re so excited.

Adam Levy: I’m super excited about it, because I think a lot of creators aren’t getting the point as to why you should become a crypto native creator.


Adam Levy: Okay. So, I learned that a lot of my collectors, 27% of them collect on Zora. Okay. Why is that important? Because I’ve really never had someone on the podcast from Zora, I needed to bring someone on the podcast from Zora. It’s a marketplace, okay, whatever. Whatever, 27% of my collectors collect on this one platform. I never had an executive from that platform on the podcast. And I should have honest, but I had no way of knowing that that’s what I should be doing. But I learned that there’s an alignment and interest between my on-chain audience, so I brought someone in from the team, we did an episode, in that episode about 41% more downloads than a typical podcast episode. So, I was using on chain data as a way to understand who my audience is. And I add full transparency on who they were right? Without sort of revealing intrusively who they were, and I was able to optimize accordingly. I also learned that a lot of them are also like defi degenerates on a Ave. And they hold, Ave recently released lens protocol, right, a new social graph on Polygon. There’s an overlap between sort of getting a new sponsor based off that as well. We showed this tool to a music festival organizer, where they sell tickets as NFTs. Now they’re able to understand who their attendees are. Eventbrite doesn’t give them data, you know, party pool maybe gives them maybe a little bit like, they don’t give them an amount of data that they can sort of tap into if they were to use on chain tools as a way to sell tickets and grow community online. So, we learned that a lot of them are already music NFT collectors, right. And we also found out which artists they collect, guess who’s going to be performing at the Music Festival, the artists that they collect? Oh, and on top of that, we also realized that a lot of them are like sand holders from sandbox, the token sand. That’s a sponsor for the festival, right, there’s already an audience alignment over there. So, you’re able to see on chain data as a way to sort of further guide your audience growth strategies, your monetization strategies. Another interesting thing is like.

Stupid question, so Can this ever be because I’m just thinking like GDPR like California protection, all that stuff? Can this ever be regulated? Or like a bit like what, I guess what governing body would step in and regulate this sort of complexion of data for users.

Adam Levy: You got to think about like, to what level they would regulate it because everything is already anonymous, without unless you like go on Twitter, Levy.eth. Right? You can see my address right, then that’s on you. Right. But I would argue there’s more anonymous people in there aren’t people.

And I guess the average, like, address holder is not complex enough such that they’re making, you know, multiple addresses for each different activity that they can like really to obfuscate?

Adam Levy: Yeah, I think anything that the government, like, it’s crazy to say, but the government would actually love something like this. Yeah. Because they only have, like, I’m sure they like complex systems, whatever, I’m not going to doubt what type of tech they have. But this is like proof, like the reason why they want to create CBDCs. Right, so they have government backed currencies, right. So, they can sort of track everything that’s happening on chain, right, like that’s like a real value add sort of, but you can do it in a non-intrusive way without revealing your first name, last name, home address social security, like you don’t have to do that unless you’re an ad and you Doc’s yourself like that, right? So, from a creator’s point of view, when we talk about building an audience, the more information you have on your audience, the better suited you are to create better content for them, to monetize better, to create better experiences for them, and to just be an overall better creator, right. And already in web two of the smartest creators in web two use data. They like Mr. Beast, there’s a great interview with him on Joe Rogan, where he talks about, he’s like, he’s obsessive over YouTube’s analytics, tracking, like thumbnail performance. And if he can’t figure out what thumbnail to create for video, he won’t post the video.

But that’s not user. I mean, it’s user data in so far as you have like click through rates and views. And it’s not.

Adam Levy: But it’s not like user, user data. Performance based data. Right? Yeah, right. 

Pseudonymous Creator Economy

Yeah. No, I mean, I think there’s definitely an opportunity there. Yeah. So in that same vein, in terms of anonymized data and whatnot, there’s this whole trend within crypto in and around pseudo anonymity. I mean, you spend an hour on crypto Twitter and whatnot. And like, no one has their actual face in their profile picture, or name in their handle. So how do you square to intimidate with being a creator when being a creator by definition is personality lead and identity lead?

Adam Levy: Good question. Another hot take maybe, I think like the creator economy will grow as a whole as more pseudonymous creators sort of get normalized. And what do I mean by that? It takes a lot to be a front man or front woman to go in front of a camera, right? And like do a dance and like be very vulnerable like that. Right? I know a lot of creators that do that. But I also know a lot more people that really enjoy do that, but don’t have the balls to go on camera. And like do that whole type of thing. So being a pseudonymous creator actually reveals a new level of comfort for creativity, where you can maybe feel more like yourself without really being yourself and construct the identity that you want to be seen by others. Right. So, I think it’s actually very net positive for the space. And a lot of the Twitter characters online, if you haven’t met them at conferences, you would otherwise think they’re anonymous, or pseudo anonymous, whatever it may be, right? And they post like the most like, crazy shit online, you know, but you know, who they want to person, you know, but that’s part of their character, like, that’s part of the personality.

Yes. And I think the most important part is just that, like, being consistent with that character, whoever it is, it almost doesn’t matter. Who’s behind it. So as long as it’s the same person throughout the character, or whatever, through and through.

Adam Levy: yeah, and there’s this one podcaster that I came across. I think it’s Jacob or whatever. I remember his website being blue, okay. He has really top guests. He’s killing it, he’s in great job, but he has no like, social profile online, you know. And I maybe discovered him after he maybe docks himself, but I haven’t really found anything, but I now know him as like, Jacob. I don’t even know if that’s his name, you know, like his real name. But I know him as like Jacob blue. You know, like, that’s what I remember as and he’s a synonymous like creator. He’s a podcaster. And you’re also seeing AI tools being built sort of to like manipulate people’s voices, so that they can sort of sound up who they want to be. And now you’re seeing like Avatar based tech sort of being created so that they can become the PFPs virtually, G money does this really well. There’s another one. He helped start Vainer NFT, I’m blanking on his name, so forgive me, but he created this company where you can create avatars of your PFP right? And be that character, whoever you want to be. Right? Yeah. 

No, I buy that it actually expands the opportunity set. I think it brings more people, It makes being a creator more accessible to more people. And then I also think with respect to brand building, it’s a really interesting opportunity just because it feels like the because you can be whoever you want, right? You can be like a tree avatar or whatever. It can be anything not just a single individual or person and so as you think about brand extension, you can just get a lot more creative.

Adam Levy: Also, a PFP is like the perfect like sort of template to sort of form yourself into a different character. Right. So, I think a great example of this is goblin town. And they’re sort of known for their like rabid voices that they create. That’s like super funny. They had a Twitter space that went viral in that a lot of the community participated in and they sort of like that’s like a creative act. Yeah. And there’s a tokenization element where it’s financialized. And a lot of like, floor went up like crazy. And everybody that minted it for free made great money from it. So that’s like an example of like creators as a collective right?

Advice for Web2 Creators Entering Web3

Super interesting. Well, what is one piece of advice you would give to creators that either want to learn more about web three, or just get smarter on the space and just are very intimidated by it today?

Adam Levy: if you’re a web to creator, for example, trying to get into web three, and you have some type of an audience, do a twitter poll or Instagram poll on your story, and be like who’s interested in crypto, who is not interested, whoever says they’re interested, DM all them a link to join a telegram group chat, give them a free NFT. And then sort of start building like, some type of community, as long as you’ve given them some kind of like on chain asset, whether it be a pull up, whether it be something that you’ve minted for free, whatever it may be, just get them involved. And I think that’s the best way to sort of migrate your web two community into web three. Yeah, right. There’s another concept in crypto called, like, the minimum viable community, right, we first build out audiences and then we productize them. creators are like the definition of that. You know, so there’s never been a better user for crypto tools, then the creator, they embody naturally, what a web three sort of like environment sort of looks and feels like from a decentralized level. So go on Instagram, put on a poll, who’s into crypto yes or no, everybody that marks Yes, DM them, send them a link to telegram and then send everybody a pull up. Just give them a free NFT, just get them involved and then start from there. Do you like a weekly session and you just like, so when you guys want to do now? You know, like I’m curious about this. What questions do you guys have, you know, and then if you want to do a drop, like create videos on how to start a Meta mask, and how to transfer money from one place to another and get your audience familiar and comfortable. Yeah, I think that’s what I would say.

It’s good advice. That’s the playbook right there. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for doing this.

Adam Levy: Sure. Thank you for having me.

Yeah. You joining.

Podcast Transcript’s Alex Svanevik on where Big Data, DeFi, and NFTs Intersect


Mint Season 6 episode 3 welcomes Alex Svanevik, CEO of, the leading blockchain analytics tool for crypto traders.

Time Stamps

  • 00:12 – Intro
  • 02:58 – Labeling a Wallet
  • 11:55 – Are You Bullish or Bearish on Artists Tokenizing Music?
  • 18:36 – What is the Current State of AI in Web3?
  • 25:36 – Overall Thoughts on the Cross Between NFTs and Defi
  • 30:45 – Predicting Trends in Web3
  • 35:04 – The Acquisition of Ape Board?
  • 42:16 – The Vision For the Nansen Chat Application
  • 48:56 – Other Strategies for Creators to Take Advantage of On Chain Data
  • 54:47 – If You Were to Build Nansen From the Beginning, What’s One Thing You Wish You Knew?
  • 57:14 – Outro

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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Alex, welcome to Mint. Thank you for being on. What’s going on, man?

Alex Svanevik: It’s going great. I’m here in Singapore. It’s a nice sunny morning. Nice to be on the podcast.

Nice to have you on a part of season six, all about on chain data. I think it’s, there’s no one more applicable than you that could be on the season, considering everything that you’re doing at Nansen. So, I think a good place to start Alex is, who the hell are you? What does the world need to know about you? Give a quick intro, we can start there and then work our way forward.

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, so I’m Alex. I’m CEO, and one of the three co-founders have Nansen, which is a blockchain analytics platform. And increasingly, the inflammation Super App of web three. My background is originally in AI. I worked as a data scientist for several years. And then in 2017, I discovered Ethereum, fell down the rabbit hole very quickly, I left my job in Barcelona at the time and moved to Hong Kong to build up a data team at a crypto startup, which was an ICO, it failed miserably like most ICOs in 2018. And after about 10 months, I was laid off along with the rest of the team because they ran out of money. So, myself and one of the guys in my team and Danny spent, maybe nine months trying to figure out what to do next. And in the meantime, I was working with projects like 0x, for example, trying to help them to get a better understanding of the whole tech space and slippage across different markets and taxes. And late 2019, again, myself and our third co-founder, Lars started working on Nansen, I was at the time, I was in Japan actually, moving back from Hong Kong, to Barcelona, and in a couple of different countries in Asia. And so, we had just been to Detecon in Osaka in 2019. And so maybe there was a bit of like inspiration from having been there to kind of create something. And of course, we’ve been working on this open-source project that Danny created, which we can talk about later. But effectively, it’s the best way to get blockchain data out of a Ethereum into a relational database. We’ve been thinking about how to build like a commercial or sustainable business on top of that project. And so, kind of things, the pieces fell into place around that time. And we came up with the idea of Nansen, which has labeled wallets on top of the on-chain data, and then package that into an analytics user interface, which allows people to understand what’s happening on the blockchain in real time. So that’s kind of yeah, who I am and building Nansen.

Labeling a Wallet

Solid intro. Can you talk more about what a labeled wallet is just for the users who aren’t familiar? And how do you go about labeling a wallet and that scale too.

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, so when I joined crypto, there were, you had a lot of these sensationalist tweets, which were like, oh, $200 million of tether moved from address

Right. The Whale Watcher address?

Alex Svanevik: Yes. Yes. Yes. People would always, they would always go viral. And it was also, it’s very intriguing, right to all these entities and what are they doing with this amount of money, right. And so, the reason I mentioned that is it kind of points to a very basic problem with Blockchain data, which is that you don’t know who the adults are. And so that, to me, seemed like kind of an interesting problem to try to solve, like, how can you give people more transparency into who are behind these different wallets? It’s a very different thing to see. This is Binance moving $200 million from one account to another other accounts, than it is to see this as Alameda, you know, putting $200 million into a defi staking pool or something like that, right? Those are two very different things. But if you don’t have labeling, there’s no way to know the difference. See, you see transfer funds from A to B. And so, when we say labeled wallets, what we mean is we need to give kind of a context on top of the transactional data that you see, so that people can understand what is this transaction really, or what are these flows that are going across multiple transactions, right? And so, a few examples, I mean, and then a few but obviously, exchange wallets are a big part of the universe here. And maybe something like 25% to 30% of all Eth is sitting in exchange wallets. Right. So, so that’s a very, that’s a big part of the universe. And we’re talking about 10s of millions of addresses that you have labeled as exchange wallets. But there are other types of wallets too. There are funds like Alameda, three arrows capital, other sci fi platforms like Celsius block phi, Nexo.


Alex Svanevik: And then you have, of course, a lot of smart contract-based entities like uniswap and so on. But you don’t get the, you don’t get those labels for free in the blockchain data, that’s something that you have to impose and sort of put-on top of the blockchain data. So, you can think of what we do as kind of creating a real-world context that you can connect or lie on top of the transactional data. And yeah, it just makes the unchained data 10 to 100 times more useful, because you can actually reason about it and think about like, what’s actually going on here, at the individual level, like the whale watcher, whale alert example, but also at the more macro level. So how much ether is flowing into exchanges or out of exchanges as a result of the merch, for example? You can’t answer that question unless you have labeled wallets. And there’s a bunch of other questions like that, that you really need to have really good labeling to understand. 

And then your second, the second part of the question is like, how do you do it? The short answer is, there is no silver bullet, you have to kind of make use of both man and machine. And so, the largest team, we have at Nansen is called the attribution team. And their job is literally to just tag as many wallets as they can. But most of it is algorithmic, right? Most of it is engineers, creating heuristics algorithms, machine learning, that try to tag others at scale with high precision. But you do also have quite a big, quite a large kind of small, an army of people who are labeling things manually, too, because the machines can do everything, you need to have some human intelligence in the loop as well. And then you have to make sure that these two things can come together. And you can use machine learning or algorithmic approaches to help prioritize which addresses that you want to spend time on. Like, what is an interesting wallet that is worth research analysts time to dig into right. 

Got it? 

Alex Svanevik: So, it’s a combination of man and machine, that’s how it works.

Got it. But you know, the craziest part of all this is that you have a guitar behind you. And I feel like you’re pretty creative. And I’m trying to think to myself, like how did you become so analytical and where does this AI side come from? And you know, what’s even funnier? A lot of like, crypto people have music background, like the first person that comes to mind is Kim Warwick from synthetics. She used to work at Guitar Center. If you look at his LinkedIn.

Alex Svanevik: I also used to work at the Guitar Center.

Really, okay. I feel like I grew up in a Guitar Center. Wait, so what’s your music background?

Alex Svanevik: That’s fine. Yeah. I mean, I knew Kim play in the band. I didn’t know he worked at the first center. That’s very funny. So, I initially started playing guitar when I was six. And I hated it for like six years, but I kept playing. And then when I was 12, 13, I got my first electric guitar. And I discovered Jimi Hendrix. And so that’s when I got really interested in, that’s when I started playing out of my own will, instead of just having a guitar teacher. And then I started playing in a band shortly after, and I discovered like, it’s way more fun playing in a band and playing just by yourself. And I do think that there are some helpful learnings from playing in a band like being a startup, it’s not that different from being in a band.

Absolutely. Especially when it comes to writing songs, too.

Alex Svanevik: Oh, yeah. And then thinking about kind of people have different roles, right. And then you are trying to find, carve out some kind of niche or something that is kind of compelling and interesting. There’s an audience there that you have to engage with, and, you know, in many ways, is quite similar to being a startup in a garage or something. And literally, that’s often in garages as well. So, yeah, that and then I, for high school, I went to performing arts high school. And so, I started like, music, which was my specialization, also dancing like.

Wait, you’re your dancer? 

Alex Svanevik: No, no, no, no, I would not say I’m a dancer, but that was one of the courses that I, I did do ballroom dancing for a couple years. 


Alex Svanevik: And then and then drama or like acting. So, that was my high school. It was not a typical kind of science high school or anything. But to your point about being analytical, I guess music is also quite analytical and to some extent, mathematical, depending on how you look at it, so I guess there’s like, you know, I have an inclination towards kind of figuring systems out and trying to crack the code in different ways. And there’s a lot like music theory when you get into that jazz and things like that which kind of appeals to the intellect in some ways. And because I was studying music, I didn’t have much mathematics. So, I did the mathematics course on my own for high school without a teacher, and just took the exams for it. And then later on I, when I went to university, I started in a cognitive science degree and then went to AI later on. So, it’s kind of a weird path. But I do think that there are some ways that these things come together, maybe one book that comes to mind, which I recommend to everyone is called Godel, Escher, Bach. It’s by a guy called Douglas Hofstadter. And it actually, when you read that book, my background starts to make a lot more sense, because music and art and mathematics and logic and computer science, there are a lot of common elements to them. And that book kind of nicely pulls some of these things together. So, it might look strange on the outside, but to me, it makes perfect sense.

So, from my point of view, the reason why I ended up in crypto, I feel like I’m not pursuing music because I’ve been playing drums since five years old, similar to when you started playing guitars, but now they just collect dust because I also live in a place because it’s just like wall to wall and I can’t set up an acoustic kit. But my dad told me there’s no money in music, you’re going into big tech, or you’re going into finance or you’re going into consulting.

Alex Svanevik: My dad said that as well. 

There it is. 

Alex Svanevik: Which I did, which I did for three years. Yeah.

Are You Bullish or Bearish on Artists Tokenizing Music?

Okay, so on that note, are you a big fan of the whole music NFT trend that’s happening and all the noise around music artists getting into crypto, tokenizing their songs like are you bullish or are you bearish on that?

Alex Svanevik: You know, there are some things that I’m kind of bullish long term and then bearish short term. And so, music NFTs, I’m definitely bullish long term, it seems obvious, it seems really stupid that you’re not able to bet on artists and like support them and have a financial upside on discovering artists early. That seems kind of stupid. Like we have all the technology to do it. It’s just like regulation or like existing industrial forces or music industry forces that are preventing this. So, I think long term, I’m very bullish and the short term, there’s definitely some degree of height. And I haven’t seen any products that have really cracked the code when it comes to music NFTs. I feel somewhat similarly about gaming NFTs, which I’m very bullish on long term. I do feel like gaming and NFTs are maybe closer than music NFTs to kind of succeed in a big way.

But what do you think they’re missing?

Alex Svanevik: Music NFTs or gaming NFTs?

Yeah, the music NFTs because you believing that a platform hasn’t cracked it yet. So there has to be more than just tokenizing music and collecting music. Right? From that point because that’s sort of like the stage that we’re at right now.

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, so I think one thing, which is a broader point about what you can and can’t do from a regulatory perspective and tokens, is just that if I could own a piece of a music piece, or the whole music piece, and then get royalties like revenues from it, that seems like an obvious thing that we should do. And then you could trade the ownership, right? But you can’t do that, because it’s a security. And, you know, that doesn’t really work in today’s world, which sucks. So, then you have to come up with other ways that music NFTs can have value, right? And so, what are these other ways? Like, are they just kind of fan tokens, and they’re scarce? And you know, there’s somehow limited but that’s why I think there’s so much work to be done around like the whole royalties’ area and also secure these laws and regulations, that it doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen anytime soon. When I say soon, I mean like next 12 to 24. But it does seem like hey, it would be a much better world if you could be an artist and like issue some kind of tokenized assets to your fans, and they could like invest in them. And then if this artist takes off, those pieces will be worth way more. And so not only did you help them get started to finance, but also, you’re getting a piece of their success with financial returns. Like that’s kind of what the music NFTs or like record labels have done for decades right? Why shouldn’t that be more democratized in a way? So that’s why I think like, it makes total sense. We have all the technology to do it. But there are so many kinds of market forces and music industry forces that prevent. And also, frankly, like SCC and securities laws and stuff preventing it from happening. But it makes way more sense. And if you start from scratch, you probably design the system that way rather than how it works today.

Right. So that tends to be like the argument. And also, you sort of touched upon a sensitive topic, like there’s this whole debate. And people also criticize me for structuring it like this. It’s either like it’s a patronage-based music NFT or a royalty based, royalty backed music NFT. And it’s interesting to hear you take like the default version of the definition of what you imagine this space looking like from a royalty point of view. I also think it’s interesting how it ties into your background, like looking at the defi space, understanding traditional finance, AI and all the additional processes because someone, a new artist who’s trying to make something of themselves and new music artist, it’s probably not going to have let’s say all the streaming data to sort of back the value of who they are in web two, and may rely on all the forces and all the degenerate kind of like gambling speculative nature of web three, to sort of kickstart their career from a collectible patronage point of view. You know.

Alex Svanevik: yeah, no, that’s an excellent point. And I do think that maybe there’s something in between, which is like subscription type offering, where you’re not getting royalties, but you’re getting exclusive access to certain things. And owning tokens gives you that access. Maybe that’s similar to the patronage model. Although, to me, patronage feels a bit like it’s also mostly a donation of sorts where you don’t get returns, you just want to fund their work. And I have to admit, both from a personal perspective, and also seeing how the world has evolved, and it seems like people are more comfortable being patrons for artists and creators these days than they might have been 20 years ago, it seems much more common now to just give someone $20, $50, $100 a month or whatever it is, because you like what they do. I think that was kind of unheard of 15, 20 years ago. People just didn’t really do that. But now it’s getting quite common. And that’s a really cool trend. Like I can see myself doing that more and more. I’ve done it a couple of times. And I would like to do more in crypto, just give people money that you want to see creating more stuff. Right. So yeah, I mean, I think there’s definitely something there. The other day I was I was trying to figure out like how I could buy some LPS for some really obscure music genre, Japanese city hall, which I’m a big fan of. And I felt like if there was a way, I could just buy a piece or whatever. But probably I want to get the album or something as well. I probably pay a lot of money for that as like a collectible. 


Alex Svanevik: It is an interesting space. But there’s still a lot of experimentation and like hurdles to overcome before it becomes really big.

I think at some point, all the crypto music, people that have given up on their music dreams need to come together and form some type of bear market album of some sort, a crypto album.

Alex Svanevik: I mean, most of the crypto songs you’ve seen are not good, right? Yeah.

What is the Current State of AI in Web3?

Heartache, heartache. Okay, I want to pivot back into to Nansen. One of the things that’s super like unique about Nansen is its AI component. I’m curious to hear your point of view, like what is the current state of AI in web three? How are you seeing that today?

Alex Svanevik: So, first of all, I think if you mentioned AI and blockchain in the same sentence, there’s a very high chance that you’re either a scammer, or just.

Right, exactly.

Alex Svanevik: Talking nonsense, right. So just to be very clear about that upfront. So where is there a productive intersection between the two technologies. I think, first of all, the nice thing about blockchain and web three is that you have really clean data, you have extremely because it’s very tabular, It’s ledger based, that’s different from what you might consider like typical web two data, which is often things like social media texts and very unstructured. And one nice thing about that is that you can apply a lot of machine learning methods to that data and to do interesting things with it. But very little has been done in a period of so far. So, I can talk about some examples of what we do in the AI and blockchain data. So, one example which is quite easy to understand for people Is how do you price an NFT? And this is different from how do you price tokens because tokens are fungible. And they are kind of order book driven, liquidity pool driven, market driven. And if you have one Bitcoin you just look at, you know, what is it trading at? NFTs are different, because by definition, if you’re selling non fungible token, there is no other token currently on the market. That’s been so or that being sold, that you can match it with, you can look at like similar NFTs, right, for example, NFTs in the same collection, you can also look backwards in time and see how much was this NFT price last time it was transacted, et cetera. And so, one thing we do at Nansen, is we have a machine learning model that basically learns the patterns of how individual NFTs are trading. And then it calculates what’s the premium of the different traits and attributes of that NFT within its collection. 

So, think about it like this, you have, say, 10,000 board Ape NFTs, and they have a floor price. But the different, individual pieces have a premium against the floor price, because they might have rare traits, and they might have certain aesthetic qualities. And so, we use machine learning to basically train like across hundreds, I think this point, maybe 1000 plus different NFT collections, and give people estimates on like, how much is this NFT worth right now, if you want to sell it. And so, you know, this, obviously, it’s kind of like, on the one hand, you can say humans might do a better job of this. But it’s not scalable to have a human set and in real time, appraise each individual variety across all across, right. So that’s one example of using AI and machine learning for web three purposes, leveraging the data that you get from the blockchain. Another thing we do on the back end is to basically try to predict or classify different wallets into labels. So, is this an exchange wallet? Is this an individual? Is it a bot? You know that kind of stuff, where you can use machine learning methods to try to infer that. And then another example is to try to predict which tokens are stamps, right? So, this is a very, you can almost think of it it’s like, analogous to email spam, which is one of the first things that people did with in web one or web two, when it comes to classifying emails, right. So how can you tell us early as possible that this token is a scam? Or it’s like, somehow not a token that you’d want to see in your portfolio over you have your own wallet? Right, that’s another problem that we use machine learning to solve. 

And so yeah, I guess you could tell that when we talk about AI to me, I kind of equate it with machine learning. Right? That’s like my background is in machine. And so, at the end of the day, these are very, very similar things. I don’t think of it as like, a physical robot, necessarily doing anything with blockchains. So, and then there are some more like cutting edge, research areas around blockchain and AI, for example, the area of like federated learning, are there ways that you could, for example, distributes data across lots of different entities, and then those entities can make predictions and aggregate it again, in a privacy preserving way. But that’s, it’s very fringe. And it’s not a mainstream kind of area of AI and blockchain yet. So, I think the more tangible thing is using AI and machine learning on web three data and blockchain data to solve like actual problems. That’s kind of the main focus that we have. And so, like labeling wallets, pricing NFTs classifying tokens, like those are some examples.

I think it’s super interesting the types of products that Nansen offers, because you guys are very much building for the trader, the collector, right? Whether it be on an amateur level, or whether it be on a professional level. And I also see a world emerging where now that the crater economy sort of getting bigger and bigger and bigger, a lot more creators are either tokenizing their music, tokenizing their art, etc. There’s also like an entrance from the other point of view. So, what should we actually like, what should be like a price for buying a piece versus actually how should I sell a piece, right? And like helping creators’ kind of understand what should I be listing my pieces at, so that I can further like, double down on my creativity and find that financial freedom that other creators are sort of exploring and discovering in web three. And yeah, I think, go ahead, if you want to say something on that.

Alex Svannevik: No, absolutely. I mean, it’s trickier with, say one of one’s compared to say, like profile picture collections because you don’t, by definition, you don’t have data on the, you’d have to related one on ones or like pieces from the same creator or things like that. So, it is a bit trickier from a data perspective and machine learning perspective to job artists. But I totally agree with you that the more information you have, and the more data that you can base these decisions on like, the more likely is that you will get able to sell it and also sell it at a fair price. Right. So yeah.

Overall Thoughts on the Cross Between NFTs and Defi

Super, super helpful. I think another thing that’s interesting about, I guess, you as an individual, Alex, and also the product that you’re working on, that you’re sort of leading is one, you’re an NFT degenerate, you have the pudgy penguin as your PFP on Twitter, and I know you’re actually quite into the whole defi side of things. And you were interviewed on coin desk quoted saying defi brought the capital and NFTs bring the people, it’s a phrase that you sort of repeat it, I would say you’re sort of like known for this phrase, okay. And recently, for the longest time actually defi and NFTs used to be very, like independent things, a lot of people that came in through NFTs, they didn’t really experience a defi side of things. But now we’re seeing the two sort of sectors converge, right. So, in your terms, like capital is now intersecting with people, okay, how are you understanding this, like recent shift? What are you looking at sort of where NFTs meet defi, whether it be on a project basis, trends that you’re seeing or just overall thoughts?

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, I think you can look at it from two perspectives. One is from the user perspective, and the other one is from the product perspective. So, from the user perspective, it is true that initially, these two user bases were quite segregated. So, you had people who were really into defi, and they were like, NFT is just a scam, or, you know, this is completely silly and whatnot. And on the flip side, you had NFT people who had no interest in like yields or, you know, liquidity, pool provisioning, liquidity provisioning, and so on. And then over time, especially, I would say the defi folks started engaging with NFTs. I am not sure it’s as true the other way around. Like I think many NFT people are still like only interested in NFTs. But they are at least exposed to some of the crypto infrastructure, just almost by force from interacting with NFT. So, you know, you have to have some ether, right? And then like, how do you get that ether? You have to use, you know, maybe uniswap, rightly, and then it almost like force, you’re pulled into some of these more basic crypto and or defi applications and protocols. So that’s from like, the user perspective, initially, I think there were quite segregated, now they’re getting blended a bit more. And then from the product perspective, there’s also a bit of a blend that’s happening where you can get yields on a NFTs, for example, or you can, there are lending markets and lending pools. For NFTs, you can now provide liquidity for different NFTs like NFT X, I think it’s an interesting project that allows you to fractionalize or provide liquidity and fractionalize your NFTs and then by effectively like tokens of that pool. It’s actually been around for a long time, but maybe it will have a bit of a revival now that people are seeing this intersection. And then I do think that one place where they really come together is in gaming. But it’s still early on that front. 

So, games like XC infinity naturally have to also have some defi infrastructure, right? Do you need to have like Katana, which is kind of the units for on Ronin, right to have that in order to provide people with trading opportunities and swapping between tokens and things like that. And you get this very kind of like financialized gaming economies, where you actually need some of the primitives from defi like obviously, you need taxes, you probably need some kind of lending markets. And then naturally, many of these gaming economies also have NFTs that represent items, they represent avatars or different things in these games. So, I feel like gaming, the web three gaming sector is where definitely NFTs and defi come together at least as the games mature. So yeah, I think there are many different ways that the intersection of NFTs and defi come together and it is pretty interesting though, that they were able to cater to such different user segments initially. And it’s a very healthy thing. Right? I don’t think people realize how big NTFs would become. They’ve been around for a long time. And it’s kind of curious that crypto punks and even open sea had been around for years before they really started. Right? It’s really strange. The I think the pessimist take on it is that people got so rich and deep by summer that they had nowhere to put their money and buying these JPEGs. And that cost the spike. I think there’s a bit more to it. I mean, there’s some truth to that. But I think there’s a bit more to it than that. So yeah.

Predicting Trends in Web3

I think we’ve just sort of skimmed the surface of what defi is, and what NFTs are. I’m curious from someone who like looks at the data, who’s building a data product? Like what are some interesting trends or like interesting insights you’ve sort of picked up on either like future forecasts of something that might pop off or trends that have yet to come, but you’re seeing them sort of like develop, if anything in that nature sort of comes about, I guess I’m trying to like to understand, like, what are you seeing as the future of these primitives? And has Nansen sort of helped shape that for you?

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, so again, we talked about a lot about gaming. Right? 


Alex Svanevik: It’s a good example. So, if you go to Nansen NFT Index section, we have, you know, just kind of spell out the URL, it’s like, you can see, and this is free for anyone to use, you don’t have to have an Amazon account. You can go to the NFT indexes tab. And we have kind of decomposed the NFT market into different indexes. And so, I’ll kind of just give a couple of examples. There’s a blue-chip index, which tracks things like board apes, crypto punks, and so on. And then there’s a game index, game 50, which has 50 different gaming collections. And if you look at games, they have been slammed like year today, they are down. Let’s see here. They’re down 76% against Eth. And Eth is also down, so they’ve gotten really slammed. And I think this goes back to what I was saying earlier that I’m kind of short term bearish on NFT games or web three gaming. But I am long term bullish. And I think what’s happening here is basically that it’s so easy to announce an NFT game, and to create the NFTs. But it’s so hard to build the game.

To build the game. Yeah, 100%.

Alex Savnevik: And it takes a long time to build again, and crypto investors are impatient. So, they buy the NFT. They’re like, man, I want this game. And then it takes like one month and like why is the game here yet. And then it’s like, well, it takes a while to build the game. Right? So, and also, it’s hard to build again. So, it’s gonna take a long time, and most of them will suck, right, even if it takes a long time. So, I think that one, I mean, let’s see how this plays out. I think one interesting opportunity actually to dig into the whole gaming sector because there are so many projects now. And very few will succeed. And so, there’s, there are some investors that are going to do, I think really well in this area, maybe it’s almost analogous to like defi in 2019 2020, where everything was like everyone is pessimistic. I think especially end or 2018 and 2019 was maybe kind of a pivotal year for people like Arthur from defiance, right, who did super well, investing in SMX, CMS and Ave, I think he invested in Khyber because he understood that these are actually high-quality projects in a sea of garbage projects. Right. And he did the due diligence, he did the research, I think there’s going to be a similar way in here with games where someone’s just going to spend a ton of time digging into this stuff. And they’re going to discard, you know, 95% of the projects, but they’re going to bet on the right projects, and those will become super successful. So, I think this is, obviously this is a lot of speculation and sort of my own thoughts, right, I can prove that this is going to happen, right. But I do think that there might be an analogy kind of going back to the defi space and those who are willing to do the research now might be a good time, because there’s a lot of pessimism as that index shows around games, which means that you might be able to find some really good investments and you know, maybe a handful of them will succeed. I don’t think a lot will succeed. But I do think there’s going to be some really big projects.

The Acquisition of Ape Board

So okay, so we just sort of like touched upon the product Okay, but another product you guys recently released is Nansen Portfolio, right, which is through the acquisition of Ape Board. Can you talk more about that? Why did you guys acquire Ape Board versus building out your own product? And what is the future of like, Nansen portfolio sort of look like?

Alex Svanevik: Yeah. So, at some point, we realized that we don’t want to only be kind of a vertical specialist that on chain analytics, we saw that there’s an opportunity to step up and become the information Super App of web three, to span more of the information diet that a crypto native investor has. And when we had that realization, the natural instinct is to figure out like, what are the different things that you need, from an information perspective as an industry, and one of the, say, 10 to 12 modules that we listed was a portfolio tracker, like you need to, you need to have a good way to stay on top of your holdings. And it’s getting increasingly difficult to do that with a multi chain world, or multi layered world. And also, you know, 1000s, or hundreds of and 1000s of protocols that people use, like defi protocols. And not to mention NFTs right, which is its own, highly challenging area to do portfolio tracking. And so, we figured that this is an area where we want to play. We think this makes a lot of sense, from a synergy perspective, whether analytics product, it adds a lot of stickiness, so that users keep coming back every day to check their portfolio. But it’s also a nice way for them to kind of grow their portfolio by using analytics products to make better decisions. Right. 

So, there is synergistic products like the Nansen analytics product and the now not so portfolio product. And so that was the first time we decision like we want to play in this area, we think it makes sense. And then you have to think about how do you win? How do you succeed? And how can you do this in an efficient and effective manner? And so you have a few different options here, right? That maybe to boil it down to two simple choices, do you build, or do you buy? And we kind of quickly concluded that, if you build then the other players that are already a portfolio attracting are going to, you know, pull ahead and continue to improve their products. While we’re almost like playing catch up, and it’s also really, really hard to find really good engineers, especially a year ago, it was extremely difficult, like the market looked very different. And people were starved for engineers, and like, recruiting was very, very difficult. Now, it’s a bit different. And so, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to a port because we share a common investor SCB 10x. And so, Ty, who leads SCP 10x, the venture arm of CM commercial bank in Thailand, they have incubated it works. So, it’s kind of weird, they’re actually not just an investment from SCB 10X, they were actually incubated. So, the team used to be as SCB 10X employees, and then they created a board in that environment. And they spun it up as its own project. 

And so we were, you know, I met with Ty a few times, and we discussed this, like, you know, is there a possibility here to do something together? And so, it makes sense for us and then you have to look at it from their perspective, does it make sense for them? And I think the relaxation they had was that they are actually better positioned to succeed at their vision, which is to become a number one, portfolio tracker for web three, as part of the Nansen, because you can power this portfolio tracker with the best on chain data in the world. That’s, you know, in itself a huge advantage. You have better distribution and a more recognized brand, which is advantageous. And then I think, from a builder perspective, if you think about Mike and Jackie, the two co-founders of ape board, they could now offload a lot of the stuff that they don’t like doing, right. So, think about everything that’s like HR related or like accounting, finance operations. There’s a bunch of stuff that as a builder, engineer, or product person, that’s not so fun, and we already have all that stuff set up right. So, I think It was quite compelling for them to join us because they realize, hey, our chances of success at becoming the number one here is much higher if we do it together with them. And also, you know, it’d be nice to be able to just focus on the product, instead of having to do all this other stuff, that takes a lot of time. 

So, I really strongly believe that if you want an acquisition to be successful, it has to be win, win, it just can’t be kind of predatory, like, we’re going to display you out kind of hostile way or that just doesn’t work right, like long term. And so, the, we also structured the deal in a way that was very incentive aligned. And so, at this point, they’re kind of members of the Nansen family, and they operate as their own product squad. And so anyway, that’s a lot of talking about, like the team and organizational stuff. But at the end of the day, from a product perspective, I do think that, although there are portfolio trackers out there, we haven’t, like reached the end, instead of that, there’s still a lot of work to do. And I think this is an area where Nansen can play, and Nansen also win. So, the synergies that you get between portfolio and many of our other products like Kinect, which is our messaging product as well is very interesting, and analytics and all these different things. So, I think for us is it’s a great thing, because it’s also free to use. So let me let me plug the URL here as well. 

Yeah, go for it. 

Alex Svanevik: So, you can go to that strip tracking your web three assets across more than 40 different blockchains and almost 500 different defi protocols. And it’s totally free to use from a business perspective, why is it free to use? Well, we think that if you use that product, there’s a chance that you would want to upgrade to the analytics product at some point. So, you know, if that’s 1%, 2%, 5% of the users, it’s still great for us. You know, we can offer this product for free because we have a larger kind of a business model that makes sense beyond this portfolio alone because we have this information super ambitious.

The Vision For the Nansen Chat Application

So, on that okay, you just introduced the next sort of product that I want to talk about, this new web three net of discord that Nansen is building. I think the term web three native of discord has been one of the hottest keywords in venture funding of all these new entrepreneurs trying to build their version of web three native discord. What is Nansen web three native of discord? Is it focused on a specific audience like the trading crowd? Because I remember also parallel announced something, but it focused more on the gaming crowd, right? Like a chat room for gaming crowd. Is Kinect for the trading crowd? Does it expand beyond that? What’s the vision around this new chat application that you guys built, or you guys are building?

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, so first of all, it’s called Nansen Connect. You can try it out. If you go to connect.nansen.AI, it’s already in limited data. And so, when you start using it, you basically sign in with your meta mask wallet. So, your wallet is effectively your identity. So that’s the first point of departure from the discord version, where you kind of create discord account, here at your wallet is your identity. And this is something that we’ve been wanting to do for years, actually, almost since the beginning of Nansen. And there’s different ways you can think about the impetus for this, like why we created it. I think one user story that kept coming back to us was we had smaller crypto funds and people who were doing quite active OTC deals like on smaller tokens and things like that. And they were telling us that very often, they would look into a specific token, right? Let’s think of something that’s very long term. I don’t know if it’s like Exxon, or muse or any tail token. You look at that. And you say, hey, there’s this wallet, that selling tokens on uniswap. And they still have a bunch left. But I want to buy this, like, why don’t I just buy them out? Right, OTC, but there’s no way to find out like, who is that wallet? How do you reach them? And so, the initial thought was, why don’t we build a way that allows our users to contact another wallet, and then do an OTC trade directly in a chat. 

So that was a user story that came back to us frequently. And we thought that’s pretty interesting. Like if we could do that it would create a very strong network effect. And then the other thing, so that was the first things like, just being able to DM you know, and do peer to peer communication with another wallet. And then we started working on this and a few months in block scan or ether scan launched their own blocks can chat with just it kind of does this like it’s a peer-to-peer messaging, but it was very clear that it doesn’t have network effects. So, most of the messages are sent and then no one sees them, and then they don’t respond. And then you have an unsuccessful or unsatisfactory interaction with it. So, the second thing, it was like, how do you, how can you create network effects. And what we realized was that the whole web three community area, and like NFT collections are already communities that you might be able to piggyback off. And so, think about how Facebook launched, when Facebook, you can’t just put Facebook on the web and expect people to start creating profiles. So, you need to be smart about how you build networks. And what they did was they went to college campuses around the US. And they launched in existing networks like to say harbor, and you try to get as many students onto the platform such that there is a network effect. And people have connections from day one with other people that they already know. And then if you do that a couple of times, then maybe those cliques and sub networks will start connecting with each other. And then you grow, right? What we’re doing is very analogous to that except instead of college campuses, we’re going to NFT collections. And we’re saying if you can get a project penguins channel, that’s different from peer to peer, right? It’s not just one person messaging another, if you have one channel where people can communicate, there’s going to be more stuff happening in that channel, which stimulates activity, and you get the snowball effect over time. And then you can in addition to give them the peer-to-peer communication, but the channels were kind of a key insight that we want to replicate. And then you realize, well, this is very similar to discord. Right, and so then you back to kind of comparing it to discord. And so, at the end of the day, the reason we’re doing it is to basically cater to some of those user needs that have been surfaced. And I think frankly, a lot of people have been quite disillusioned by discord, their inability to handle 


Alex Svanevik: It’s not really web three natives. So, it’s kind of clunky to do token gating and things like that. So, because you have your wallet as your identity with Nansen Connect, you can naturally gate access through tokens. So, we now have NFT channels that you can only join if you have the NFT. So, there’s a natural gating, we are also now rolling out token gating. So, if you have one Wi Fi token, you can join the Wi Fi Channel, if you have one lighter token, you can join the lighter channel, if you have a pleaser Dao token, you can join the pleaser Dao channel. And so that also opens up a lot of interesting new communities. But I think, so I think like there are two abstract concepts there. The first one is that your wallet is your identity, that is a very, I think something that more and more people are leaning into. But it’s very different from the web two mentality. And the second concept is that these online communities are very strong networks, and we want to support them and help nurture them. And if you could create web three native ways that people can communicate with each other, even anonymously, or pseudonymously, through their wallet, that’s a super interesting area for us to explore. And once again, just to be upfront about like the business aspect, it’s similar to portfolio, if we give this product away for free, we get stickiness and network effects. But if 1% to 5% of those end up becoming paying users and Nansen analytics, then it pays for itself, right? So, it’s one of those things where you are kind of trying to create something that’s useful for the whole community, and it’s free. But at the end of the day, hopefully it also drives value for us as a company.

Other Strategies for Creators to Take Advantage of On Chain Data

The last few minutes that we have here, I want to specifically pivot the conversation to building communities in web three, okay. Specifically, from the creator point of view, a lot of listeners on mint, they’re either independent creator, they’re creator base communities, they’re platforms building for creators, collectors themselves. And I think in the Creator crowd on chain data is, I don’t want to say a relatively newer topic. But there’s the element of sort of like seeing the financialization of on chain data, seeing primary sales, secondary sales trends accordingly, how it compares to the industry at large. But there’s also the ability to understand like, we are in a bear market, a lot of these communities will likely die off but how can some of them or the ones, the smartest ones use on chain data as a way to further strategically grow and monetize their on-chain audience, on chain collectors, community, whatever keyword they want to use. You are creator Alex, you’re a musician, right? You have the creative sensitivity to you. I’m curious from your point of view with such an analytical background, but also a creative background. What are some other metrics, strategies, ways you think creator communities can sort of use on chain data as a way to further build and further monetize their audience in web three? What does that look like to you?

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, it’s a tough question. I think the first thing that comes to mind is on chain data is probably good to think. You can think of kind of health metrics. So almost like early warnings, right? What people do on chain is, in many ways, the first source of information on activity and behavior. So, if you just imagine that you have an NFT collection, or you have some token or something like that, being able to know are people still holding on to these tokens, like, are they selling them and so on. That’s something that’s, I think, very important to stay on top of. So, if you use something like token god mode, or NFT god Mode at Nansen, and you can see not just if people are selling them, but you can see who is selling them, and you can see who is buying them. And I think this, from almost like health metrics slash early warning perspective, especially in a bear market, I think that’s maybe one very actionable way to use this, right? That you’re staying on top of this. You could even set up smart alerts, which is another feature we have, and get notifications in real time if someone is selling or transferring NFTs or tokens, right. So that you can know hey, you know, I mean, maybe it can be creepy if you approach it this way.

Hey, I noticed you sell, you sold your assets.

Alex Svanevik: So, it could be a creepy, but people should be aware that’s how the blockchain works, right?

But also, if you lose, but also if you lose a customer and web two like, you’ll hit them up, you’ll be like, yeah, why did why did you leave? Yeah.

Alex Svanevik: And it’s not to like to shame them. It’s to learn from like, what made you leave this community or like, you know, what would you like to see us change, right? So, I think staying on top of that is quiet, not too dissimilar from something like Google Analytics and a website or other things like that. So, kind of health metrics and so on, you know, and that’s looking at it from that kind of pessimistic bear market lens. But the other way to think about it is, you know, if you’re growing, like, who are those people coming into your community, how do you ensure that they are on boarded to your community in a good way? If you see, I don’t know, an influencer, or some dot Eth account or something that’s buying your token, maybe you want to DM them and say, like, hey, you know, really cool that you join that you bought this token like, you know, how can I help you kind of get more engaged with our community, whatever. So, there’s different ways you can be smart about that. And I think there are non-creepy, non-invasive ways to do this and be just transparent and open about it with people and if people don’t understand that’s how the blockchain works, maybe it’s a chance to educate them a bit. That’s probably the most action way I would think about it. I would also say, though, that, you know, you can’t create communities based on analytics alone, right? Analytics is more like a supporting function. And learning from other successful communities is a good idea. Depending on what kind of project you have. 

I do think x infinity is an incredible example of a community that was built during the last bear market. And of course, people have different opinions about the project. I’m a seed investor, so I’m always bullish. I think the team is great. The community is great, genuinely, which is why I invested, I think synthetics is another example of a very strong community that had very interesting takes and approaches to governance that were at the time may be seen as kind of controversial, a lot of their governance process was kind of off chain in discord and vote, and stuff like that, which time was kind of ready to hold almost. But it made the whole governance process much smoother and more engaging to people. So, there’s a ton that people can learn from synthetics and just looking at how they did things. And then there’s a bunch of other communities you can learn from, and also you should learn from failed communities, like what did they do wrong? So, I think analytics can support you. But I do think there’s a lot more to it, obviously. And you have to figure out, you know, where you want to play and how you will win where you will play, and you can learn from both successful and unsuccessful communities around you on how to do that.

If You Were to Build Nansen From the Beginning, What’s One Thing You Wish You Knew?

So, I think the last two questions really fast ones that I have for you is if you were to sort of like build Nansen from the beginning, what’s one thing you wish you knew when you started that You know now? 

Alex Svanevik: Yeah, so that’s an interesting one. I kept saying that when we started building Nansen and no idea that we would support NFTs at all, then I think it turned out pretty well. So I’m not sure we would need to do anything differently. Maybe one thing I would consider doing differently is to kind of lean in more on the sort of native web three identity. So, it’s not necessarily a mistake, like we kind of were, we had email-based accounts from the beginning, which has been, which has worked okay for us. Now, we’ve added web three accounts so that you can literally log in with your meta mask and use that as an account. There’s something interesting there. I don’t know if this is about doing things differently. But one challenge we had, which I think someone should try to solve, and are projects that are trying to solve, it’s just how to do subscription payment in web three and crypto. That’s like a difficult problem. Yeah, I mean, there’s obviously like, a lot of learnings and things, mistakes we’ve made and so on. But yeah, those are probably some of the things that come to mind, maybe leaning more into like a web three native identity from the beginning, and then somehow that solving the magical problem of subscription payments.

Okay, and the last question I have for you is, do you use Apple Music or Spotify? 

Alex Svanevik: Spotify? 

What’s the most recent saved songs on your Spotify favorites?

Alex Svanevik: Oh, yeah, let me check. I make a new playlist every month. Because it’s kind of a good way to take me back to that month.


Alex Svanevik: Oh, yeah, this is what temporary. So, in August, the first song on my list is, let’s celebrate by the Jones girls.


I love it, Alex, this was great, man. Thank you so much for being on. Before I let you go. Where can we find you? Where can we learn more about Nansen?

Alex Svanevik: You can go to, to check out the product. You can also follow Nansen on Twitter, Nansen_AI or you can follow me on Twitter at a Svanevik. 

Nice. Thank you so much. We’ll have to do this again soon. Until next time

Alex Svanevik: Thanks for having me.

Podcast Transcript

Creative Ways Creators Use Crypto and Web3 as a Tool


Mint Season 6 episode 3 welcomes Miguel Peidrafita, the purple hair developer at Worldcoin. We discuss the future of web3 social, fan interoperability, creativity, where he’s spending his energy in the bear market, and more.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.


  • 01:38 – Intro
  • 07:28 – The Purpose of Purple
  • 08:49 – How Miguel Expresses His Creativity in Web3
  • 11:52 – The Web3 Creator Economy
  • 15:09 – Skepticism around Tokenizing Music and Building a Fan Base in Web3
  • 19:23 – Why Were You So Aligned With Worldcoin’s Values and What It Was Trying to Tackle?
  • 23:35 – Biggest Concerns Entering Worldcoin
  • 26:05 – What Are You Focusing On In The Bear Market Other Than Worldcoin?
  • 27:20 – What Are Some New Undiscovered Opportunities in Web3 That Excite You Most?
  • 29:35 – One Thing Only The Devs Are Excited About
  • 31:02 – Name a Creator Who Has Used Web3 Tools Really Well
  • 32:06 – Outro

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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Miguel, welcome to mint. Thanks for being on, man. How are you doing?

Miguel Piedrafita: Thanks for having me. I’m doing great.


I’m excited to have you part of season six. The biggest season yet, in my opinion, I’m also super stoked to have you on. You’re pretty prolific in the space, pretty well-known developer. You’re relatively known for the purple hair that we can see on camera right now. But I don’t want to introduce you. Can you go ahead and give a quick intro of yourself? How you got your start into crypto. And we’ll start there and work our way forward.

Miguel Piedrafita: Yeah, so I’m Miguel, I work at Worldcoin, and I have purple hair. This is like the main piece people know of me. Okay. I just like the level of things. That’s usually what people know me for, just fill in all the little things that I come up with. And recently until last year on around February with the claw NFT boom. A little before that, I guess. And I’ve been in this space ever since.

So actually, what have you spent your time doing when you jumped into web three initially, like what were the first few projects you worked on.

Miguel Piedrafita: So, at the start, it was mostly just like understanding how things work and what I could build with it. So, I was building on top of like mirror, the publishing platform, printing on with our web and smart contracts. And then I got a little more into smart contracts. I joined Showtime, which was an NFT marketplace. And so, I built mostly from there. I guess its marketplace and a bunch of other really cool things. And I started also looking more into smart contract and solidity and how to be good at that optimization, all those things. And so, I ended up leaving short time to focus mostly on those things. And then a few months later, I join Worldcoin as a blockchain engineer, but I guess I ended up doing a little bit of everything there. But yeah, and then in the meantime, I did constitution Dao, which wasn’t really great to call it but still really proud. And I’ve done a couple Dosen projects in different themes.

Got it. So, when you first initially joined crypto, was it through the Ethereum ecosystem?

Miguel Piedrafita: Yeah, there was, there was a group of friends that had UNM clubhouse and had decided to have like, makes NFT together. And leftover NFT actually, another time I was playing around with 3d design, like blender and all those things. So, they brought me in mainly to help with the 3d, I don’t know if they knew I call it then. But there was like a big community of people that have ended up working at hourly rainbow. So, all of these really, really cool companies. And so, it’s served as a way to get into the ecosystem and get to like to ask some really smart people dumb questions for a while.

So, when you initially joined did you get like Eth filled off the bat? Or did you have your hesitations of the ecosystem and overall tech

Miguel Piedrafita: I will say I got pretty Eth filled mostly because of smart contracts, I have known of creator for like a big while, but I never got into it because it was just like coins going up and down speculation and that’s like, I didn’t really enjoy that. And it was the idea of like, actually, this is more of like a global database that you can like, put any kind of data in it, which actually brought me in other themes like the main platform that has those things, those new things lately, but at least started last year, a few was like the biggest one. So that’s what I went.

So, I kind of I’d argue you’re like a little bit different than the typical 20-year-old. There’s a lot of people in crypto that love, like, prompting their age or like showing off their age, which in all due respect, if I was as young as you guys are, like, I do the same thing. How have you made sense of having like, so much experience and so much drive and ambition at such like a young age at 20? Because obviously, this started way before you were 22. Right? So, like, how do you kind of like make sense of that? Like, are your family like are they a bunch of entrepreneurs or like what’s the backstory behind it?

Miguel Piedrafita No, my family are architects actually. It was just like; I was always interested in like computers. And like taxi battles and zoom happened. I tried to get into COVID, a bunch of times failed miserably, because I was like, trying to learn from university level see books at like, nine, that didn’t go great. And then I go into like HTML, and that was more mintable and went up through here. And for free, like years, it was just a hobby, like, similar to how other people play the piano, or did soccer or whatever it was, like hobby. And they ended up calling for like, multiple hours each day for years. And then there was a time where like, I went during COVID. And I wasn’t great. And I ended up dropping out mostly because of COVID. That also because I was calling in class and not really pay attention to what’s the goal there. And so that was around the time that I got into crypto. And then I started to realize like actually this, like, I think I can maybe get a q4 and have to go back to college.

So, were you studying software development in college, and you dropped out?

Miguel Piedrafita: No, I was doing philosophy, that if I was to go to college for something, which IBM really see as a choice, or more of like, a way to meet other people and have like, the whole social experience, COVID, that was the idea originally, right? I thought my idea was just like go for something that I, it’s hard to remember yourself. Like, I really had like the background to say that I if I wanted to learn something from scratch. In CS, I already knew where to start looking west philosophy. It’s like hard to learn by yourself, when you’re like, not super deep into it. So, I was like there. Again, it was mostly for the social part. 

Got it

Miguel Piedrafita: And that ended up happening. So, I dropped out. But that was the idea at least.

The Purpose of Purple

I think also another cool thing about your story is, of course, the purple hair, which everybody kind of like recognizes you for. I think it’s super important to develop personal brands in web three. Because when you’re working in Dallas, or you’re working in communities, you’re working on projects, a lot of I guess like your personal brand reputation comes into the picture and you’ve developed something that’s very noticeable about your personal brand, right. So why of all colors Miguel purple, number one? And how often do you dye your hair?

Miguel Piedrafita: Yeah, I mean, I, I like purple. I was really surprised because I’m obviously the this like, I wanted to do it for a while. So why not? When I go see Nick Leeson last year. And then with like a good selection of staff, it caught on as a meme. The New York Times palace in the whole like purple. And then that became a thing. And so now everyone like knows about it. But initially, it was just like, oh, I just want to like dye my hair, a lot of people have done that it never got these big. So, it’s been really, really nice. And like people recognize me now, it is kind of cool. I usually end up dying it around like three or six months, the color sticks, but the roots grow. So, I just have to like to get that in control. Like a little bit more. If my hair is not such a mess, you cannot really see them. But I guess what capsule is how they are.

How Miguel Expresses His Creativity in Web3

You know, I think there’s, right. I was gonna say I think there’s a creator in all of us. And I think there’s different ways to express your creativity. You express it either like through the projects that you work on and side hustles, or you just feel super excited about your hair, etc. But I’m asking like this next question, because you wrote an interesting piece about a month ago, titled web three is not a space but a tool. Right? And considering you’re super expressive, you’re super creative. You found ways to express your creativity using web three primitives, NFTs tokens, Daos etc. Can you talk more about that article that you wrote? And sort of like its takeaways?

Miguel Piedrafita: Yes, so that came mostly from like, I got into crypto and it was like, well, there’s like so, so much stuff to learn this about VBM, MEV, NFT is all of these different things and seeing all these proofs, all of that and it gets like dive right into it and for almost a year I was just like, doing research is like catching up with US presidential elections is really cool because I can kind of like explain them, know all of those things. But I realized after like doing those things, got like, the thing that I really, really like to do is build, I’m super happy when I can just like get through a break. Now we can like get in shape. And that’s super cool. And that like all of the things that I have learned, weren’t necessarily getting close to that, when it was mostly just like, recognition that like, there’s people for the less kinds of things, maybe everyone can do everything, but like the people enjoy more one thing or another, like I met some of the Panem. Team last week on a retreat. And there’s people that are super passionate about research and about all of the things that they are learning and uncovering like making new products by itself. And that is really cool. But I feel like that’s not my role, or at least that’s not the thing that I enjoy most. And it is mostly a recognition that I kind of kind of learn, got lost in the meme of like all of these tokens and tokenomics and all the things.

 And I still feel like there’s some value in that. But I think we maybe get like overweight those values. And there’s a lot of people especially now, with more like expert with NFTs or expert with crypto, which is not inherently useful by itself, you have to like to add something new. I remember, after I made it, actually a few months after, again, the system set like if you can replace you with stripe, it’s not growing. And I mean, I don’t want to get people with me. But I still stand by that in terms of like, these things enable really cool things, everything new things, lenses. And I mean, it’s an example of like something that is enabled by the blockchain, I think working as well. But there’s some other things that are yes, like, not that useful or something that just like wants to build good things, just like focusing too much on all of these things that are going on every day. It’s not that useful. And I feel like it was just like a piece of warning, because I got down, I went down that rabbit hole for like a year. And it took me a year to realize and get a little bit out of it. So, I just wanted to put that out for anyone else. Who has always been in the wrong seat.

The Web3 Creator Economy

So that tweet thread it went viral, I think November 2021. Just from like the looks of it. And you sort of like depicted your mental model of evaluating and finding like innovative opportunities and web three and you talked about how like the first instinct of most people is just to like, make X but in crypto now or X but with NFTs. And I like this one thing that you said, it’s like instead of thinking how do we build X and web three, think what does X look like in web three? What are we trying to achieve with X? What’s a new way to get there? So, I guess like on that train of thought like I’m curious how you envision the creator economy web three, because you’re a creator yourself, right? You create projects, you’re a developer, you’re relatively creative person. And I think a good example social, like you mentioned with lens protocol, for example. So, I guess like just using that mental model, like what is maybe social look like in web three, what is the creator economy as a whole look like in web three from your point of view?

Miguel Piedrafita: I can give you the developer answer, which is like social looks a lot more comparable. And especially really like a VF lens, where like, if someone follows you on one platform, they will already be following in doing the other one. And so, you’re kind of like, in a way, all of your followers are like compounding are exponential, because the algorithm for your insurance will cover your content everywhere, not just in one platform. For like more, you know, for creators, I honestly don’t know, I feel like this didn’t occur, like really going deep into the room and figuring out and I haven’t really had the chance to do that yet. I feel like it’s not going to look like the, there’s like this music NFTs and I think you’re interviewing could be one of these days. My feeling for that is like it feels to fabricated, it feels like people trying to push a narrative again, in my work, but my feeling of it is just like come up with something like that from scratch. Like someone that who is not poisoned by like the narrative and of the music NFT, this to actually like build something from money and meal. Instead of from I feel like NFTs could work with music, which is where I feel it’s mostly coming from again, it’s like some, we’re looking for instance royal, but like I forgot his name because if he listens to this is going down and like a bunch of other things, which I think is really cool. And those will actually have more strains. But then I see all the things but what I feel like are just like, I have experience with NFT Illustrator, like talk with some artists and like make the thing and I feel like that’s more much more artificial, similar to how there was this doge meme where like the or you know, the Lipizzaner it’s like make it into a meme coin by tokenizing it and he really be in a call. And so, I always use as an example of like something that when you try to manufacture in that, like happened naturally some of the way like those work but these I think it was, I don’t remember the name of the coin. But this one thing did a different model. This was personal. It’s like though it was not serious and this we actually try to engineer that, and it didn’t work, and I feel like in a similar way with music NFTs and a bunch of other creator economy. Using narratives, like I don’t, it might work. I really haven’t done as much research. But my view is yes, like it feels to, like, actually work.

Skepticism around Tokenizing Music and Building a Fan Base in Web3

So, let’s talk about that really quick. Okay, because I really do enjoy collecting music NFTs. I’ve worked with artists that kind of like minted their songs. And I really do believe in the narrative, whatever it ends up becoming, I think these primitives have enabled creators and music artists to kind of like find new ways of monetization and fan engagement, and that the technology enabled that right, so what’s happening right now that you think needs to change so that it doesn’t sort of stay as a meme and actually, like embeds itself as a practical tool, as a practical model for creating music and building a community of fans.

Miguel Piedrafita: I feel like what needs to happen, and I prefix all of this saying that this is mostly just like, philosophical on my part, more than actually useful. I’m not an artist, and not a musician, I really haven’t been like, Micro Focus on this space for role. So is it just like, search from what I see on Twitter, which may not reflect but I feel like the thing is just like, when I see those narratives, when I see these things, like, this album thing was also like a big one for a while. It just like, pushes me away from being an undertaker system. In general, for because it gets like, it feels like they’ve already had them around when they fabricate. And if I go and make something from scratch, which is how I usually like to make things like not looking at what everyone else is doing, and like building my own thing, that’s why I like releasing it. I don’t feel like you can do that in those systems and is not necessarily the like the things are out there might not work, they might I have no idea. There’s a lot of people throwing money at them. So maybe it’s more of an idea of like, I feel like I am probably not the only builder who feels like alienated from the space because of all of like the busy narrative. And again, I feel like this is similar with like several tokens which are really not that complex, and people made them into a huge thing. And they were doing like solving in places where it did make, well it made no sense we can even funding from the earth. And I feel like that just like prevents me from like going and making some really fun things like the NFTs. So, it’s more of like a narrative versus we live in the news like an actual opportunity thing. But I do feel like the more we listen, we can have worked on different solutions to it. We’re in the past right? So, if you like it early on, it’s a little bit.

So, what are some of the more exciting applications that you align with that haven’t necessarily fallen into the meme category.

Miguel Piedrafita: I wasn’t really excited for a while about like decentralized social. There’s like a little bit of a meme in there. But I haven’t seen that many people talking about it. They talk about Lanza talking about like maybe, that was a thing. But they haven’t talked about a certain degree. And I feel like that has a big, big potential in the idea of like, oh, you watch the developer, one to be social network, you literally only have to like to build the web. You don’t have to like worry about all of the complex stuff that goes afterwards. And also, it’s all connected by default. I feel like that’s a really powerful idea, even for like people that have nothing to do with crypto, because you really don’t need to like to know what crypto to build on these things. And then I’m also obviously really excited about civil resistance, which I work at work. And so obviously, I would say those are like the main two things I like really, really excited about see categories.

Why Were You So Aligned With Worldcoin’s Values and What It Was Trying to Tackle?

So, let’s dive into Worldcoin really quick because I think it’s a really unique project when it came out. It made headwinds, why were you so aligned with Worldcoins values and what it was trying to tackle?

Miguel Piedrafita: Yeah, so back when I was working at Showtime, we’ve had a project that we were building that would require real structural resistance. So, I was tasked with like looking at what was available in there, what we would like to be able to integrate with flow to for sign up for this. And it turns out that there’s really nothing like this which is like hard to verify if you’re not like path communities and stuff. And also, not that strict, like someone sufficiently motivated can like reuse their multiple rarity accounts, this bit of humanity, humanities is good. If you don’t care about like attaching your video of yourself to your wallet, which some people might, I personally do not, the issue is there, you have to open one until the review goes through, it’s my review, it’s slow. It’s nothing that you can use, like say, okay, step one, you put your email, step two, you verify your humanity. And step three, you use the thing, like it’s a big white gap. And so actually, the summary that I went from desperation was like, our best solution was to use KYC, which I really don’t like. But it was like the only way of doing it in a way that women get, like, alienate a big part of the value space. And then a few months after that, what we came out, and everyone was just like really, really upset about that. I remember the day that it came out, everyone literally rolling through the whistling times. And I looked into what they were building. And also, this was around Italy, as well.

 So, I also got to like talk to one of the people from the team that was there and actually ended up getting a scan, getting scanned there. And he made a thread about like, why I think this is good. But I think this is like mostly why I think this is private, which was the concern that people have. And obviously people really didn’t like the thread, I made another same thing. So, afternoon, show them when I was looking for something to do, which I felt like was great. I felt like he was probably the most interesting project in this space for me. So, it seems like they’re from the big problems. Number one scalability, but there’s like a lot of really, really smart people working on that already. And there’s optimism RB true, seeing literally everyone is working out even better like and then the civil resistance, which I would say is maybe Pro Number two, or at least to me with to a look at all the things we’ve been wanting for a while, like true quadratic voting, what I found in new government, NASA mechanisms, better aircrafts, all those things. And it really doesn’t seem like there’s not many people working on that. And from the people that are working on that I can convinced that like working is the actual way to do it. So, I decided I’ll go there and help them out. And I think that it really like I already know what I wanted to go more in like the game ecosystem. I was talking with Dan Hoffman, I was talking to Big Ted, I was talking to a bunch of companies doing this thing. And, and the thing that got me into working is they contacted me, and they say like, hey, we know that you said that you want to have a decision on where you want to go for a month, do you want like, work for us that month, and then you can just like go away and never talk to us ever again. Which I thought was like a really good offer, forget, like playing around with it, right? And what actually got me those days, I felt like they are really, they were really willing to listen to whatever I said, just like I don’t know, I feel like the perspective. Like super busy pack misuse. And from the inside. This is like literally whatever idea I brought up, it was actually like carefully analyzed and thought about. And even now I’m the embodiment like the decision process and like talking with him about sort of things. And so, I feel like, it really felt like I had, I mean, I feel like the team already really understands the idea of like privacy and the effects or whatever you know, to use. But I feel like I felt like I had the, I could help them with that. And I could get like help steer into like more privacy preserving more like all of those things and help make the system better. So that I feel like that well.

Biggest Concerns Entering Worldcoin

So, being recognized, being heard and a project that was so big and so impactful. sort of motivated you to keep going. So, I’m curious, like when you joined, you had a bunch of ideas that you brought to the table you felt listened to, you felt like your contributions were valued. What were some of your biggest concerns in entering a worldcoin that then got addressed when you actually joined the organization, right, where they like more of like the consumer facing concerns like, are we actually going to scan people’s eyes? Like Doesn’t that seem a little bit dystopian? Was it more of an infrastructure like play? Like, what were the biggest things that were running through your head?

Miguel Piedrafita: I mean, we’ve been doing, like one and a half years. So, I think, and I knew that I couldn’t stand before. Now the main thing was just like, I felt like we needed to be much better at communicating with a crypto audience. Because I feel like when the big media companies are looking at this, they say okay, it’s security break. What does think crypto think of this and so I feel like that’s great. But also, we do have protocol, which I personally think it’s really cool and we want people to build on top of it. So, in those terms I feel like it was really important for the crypto community to get to know us more and maybe to like to understand what we’re doing which they seem really attached. And so, my focus of this I remember like the for first actual week that were we’re at the office in Germany was let’s can like make a content plan. Let’s make some, let’s write some threads. Let’s write some articles, let’s explain how this work. And that has learned in a way that we want to open source the or the power for the forum next, but that has like a bunch of like lenses things on top of that, so we’re working our way there. But I feel like that was the main thing is like getting that message out there. Because before that we had been in stealth, and so we couldn’t really explain what they were, we were doing. And we announced like, this is where we’re going. But we didn’t really say that that much vocal work or like 15-minute article that I think I feel like no one could read. So, I feel like that was like the main concern. And I feel like it’s, there’s still a lot of work to do. But there’s been a lot of effort in this regard. Like putting content out there, talking to people, sponsoring hackathons, having like people you need global build with it. I think in New York, we were like the second most built probably like open sea was there, first was super fluid, I think, like right before super fluid. On top of like everyone else I feel like that’s like people are starting to understand really what we are doing. I’m really, really happy

What Are You Focusing On In The Bear Market Other Than Worldcoin?

Interesting. So, outside a worldcoin, then like, where are you focusing your energy on the bear market.

Miguel Piedrafita: So, as I said, I’ve been having a lot of fun with lens, I feel like there’s a great combination thereof the developer experience is amazing. And also, there’s not a lot of stuff in ecosystem yet. So, you can have an idea like, really quickly, probably no one else has done that yet. I feel the Hacker News clone is like that, like that was a good basic example of how to make our Linux run. And I built a bunch of utilities like something to embed your lens, Prof lens posts in your website, I think to redirect to multiple foreign ends, I think to post your lens posts to Twitter, and I’m building on with a YouTube kind of double lens, which is basically like a landslide with a YouTube interface that only shows videos. But I think it’s really, really cool. Because you start having those specific links, interface for video and all those things that can then have some more things on top of them. So, I’ve been funding that ecosystem. And then I’ve also been working on like, something’s absurd, that really have nothing to do with crypto for the first time, like a year. So, I’ve been really, really excited about that as well.

What Are Some New Undiscovered Opportunities in Web3 That Excite You Most?

I guess I want to ask you a couple more questions. Before we wrap up. What are some like new yet to be discovered opportunities in web three that excite you most, maybe that extend beyond social?

Miguel Piedrafita: I feel like there are two answers to this, I’ll keep the answer from like. And I want to like do something a bit different something what they do is if you like this, like information asymmetry, and there’s people like doing the whole like thread or thing, but there’s like, I feel like there’s an opportunity for someone doesn’t really make threats. It’s like makes a tweet, and the tweet like a summary of everything or maybe just like illustration or something that like illustrates these things. I really like these slides by value like web two in general and later some web three things and key, there’s only one person there maybe I think, Jack butcher but like something they style maybe a little bit more complex to explain things in cryptography like would be really, really welcome. So, from I want to build my personal brand in crypto that would be like my guess. And then in general of like, niches and stuff, I still feel like socially it’s going to be paid. I feel like there’s still, I’m still like really, really bullish on wallets. My original thesis for like rainbow was like it was going to be kind of for web three, with like all of the different applications implemented by themselves. I’m not as excited about rainbow anymore. But there are some other wallets I’m really excited about like Syrian, which I feel like has stepped up their game recently, or the one that will do then a booklet, which people will get the system. But we’ve gotten some feedback for like actual people like this the word that I get my current grammar, which I feel like it’s a golden standard for bots, and I’m really, really excited about that. But I feel like there’s still like a lot of stuff to be in there. Also, the family team. I haven’t seen the word there. But I talked to them when they were like starting the company. And I’m really, really excited for what they will come up with because first of all, they are amazing designers like fillers. And also, it seems like they have a more focused approach to like the world is more like a collection of your work the entity more than just like a list of tokens. So, I’m really excited to see what they come up with.

One Thing Only The Devs Are Excited About

So, I want to bring some questions from Twitter. This next one may be similar to the one I just asked, but I’ll give it a shot. What is one thing that dev community is excited about that no one else is?

Miguel Piedrafita: One thing that community is excited about. I feel like you’re just like better tools. I haven’t seen there was like brain monkey that came up to connect, you know, disconnected from the family things I would say tweets. And these things just like make development really like a less fun and much, much easier and much more better for users. That was what me, which has been building for a while. And ethers and Yahoo has been around for a long time. And there’s been like a lot of really advancements in like developer experience recently, which I feel like no one else cares for, but developers, but I still feel like it’s really, really exciting to see. And the other one, I would say is, again, like there’s some progress with x again, I have to go back to lens. Like, it’s the best example of what they build it so that even people that haven’t, that’s good to never can see, like build on top of it really easily. And that was one of the things that attracted to me, even if I hadn’t really cared about all of the other stuff, I feel like it’s really, really easy to build on this. And for developers that’s like really, really cool because you can focus on like building more complex things and then just like getting acquainted with those like the major things, but it’s mostly just like developer experience.

Name a Creator Who Has Used Web3 Tools Really Well

And the last question I have for you is name a creator who has used web three tech NFTs tokens etc, really well this one also came from Twitter.

Miguel Piedrafita: Maybe an example of this would be Mike Shinoda. I’ve been following him for a while maybe kind of like Linkin Park and on this other his own and instead of going into NFTs, he also, I don’t think he was doing a few. I don’t know what he’s doing now, what he was doing in this NFTs, which has like more of like a community but he really, I feel like he really got the thing of like, actually, this music NFT going back to it. But he’s not as far as knowing like any music NFT platform, he was just like doing little songs, doing little drawings, minting NFTs, he made an album where like the art, it was funded by NFTs, feel like that’s some sort of way at least compared to the other mainstream creators that I’ve seen getting into NFT is whoever you’d like that’s either getting lunching NFT, and then never do anything about it feel like it’s a really good example of like, like homemade, the creator feels like more of like a less professional thing, less scalable, but still actually understanding


I think this is a great place to end off. Miguel, thank you so much for being on, before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we learn more about what you’re working on?

Miguel Piedrafita: Yes, so there’s Twitter, obviously, it’s M1LPF, then my website So, I don’t think most people realize that there isn’t there. It’s, which is an aggregation of all of these random places where say, hey, I build this or I build that goes, those are all together in the page. 

Amazing. So next time, appreciate you.

Podcast Transcript

Creator Economy on Solana, Data, Web3 Mobile, Crypto Retail Stores, and More


Mint Season 6 episode 2 welcomes Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana. We spent nearly an hour exploring the current landscape of the creator economy on the Solana blockchain and why he believes Solana is well equipped to meet the needs of a crypto-native creator. We also discuss how creators should use on-chain data to build communities, his vision for web3 mobile, crypto retail stores, and so much more.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.


  • 00:00 – Intro
  • 00:22 – Current Landscape of the Creator Economy on Solana
  • 02:11 – Understanding The Creator’s Role in Web3
  • 03:52 – What Can We Learn From Web3 Creators Today?
  • 05:29 – Why Crypto Is the Ultimate Tool for Creators
  • 08:33 – Should Creators Focus More on Virality or Building an Intimate Collector Base?
  • 09:56 – Creator Tools on Solana
  • 14:09 – Why Solana is Better Equipped to Support Crypto-native Creators?
  • 15:03 – How Anatoly’s Experience at Qualcomm Shaped the Early Days of Solana
  • 16:22 – How Creators Should Leverage On-chain Data to Build Community
  • 21:34 – Future of Advertising in Web3
  • 25:00 – Web3 Mobile
  • 30:03 – Why Apple and Google Aren’t Taking Crypto and Web3 Seriously
  • 31:27 – Lessons Learned from Previous Failed Crypto Phones
  • 32:42 – Web3 Mobile App Store
  • 40:41 – Examples of Things That Can Only be Built on Solana That Can’t be Built on Ethereum or Any of The L2 on Ethereum or Flow
  • 42:36 – What Are The Communities That are Very Unique to Solana’s Ecosystem That Don’t Exist Anywhere Else?
  • 44:10 – Building a Sustainable Developer Ecosystem and Retaining People from Grant Programs
  • 45:37 – Where Creators Should be Spending Their Energy in the Bear Market?
  • 47:06 – NFTs Anatoly Collects
  • 48:07 – If You Were to Build Another Blockchain Now, Would You Rebuild Solana?
  • 49:16 – Outro

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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Anatoly welcome to mint. This is our second interview. last interview we did. It was with BLOND:ISH. It was about a year ago or so. We were drinking. Oh, you’re drinking now. What are you drinking actually?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Hot water, has no alcohol, kind of tastes like a Lagunitas.


Anatoly Yakovenko: That’s awesome because it’s not alcoholic

Current Landscape of the Creator Economy on Solana

I mean, I’m excited to have you on part of season six, all about blockchain data, specifically demystifying blockchain data for web three native creators. Okay, so how to bring you on considering all the excitement happening on Solana. So, I think a good place to start Anatoly is, what is the current landscape of the creator economy on Solana today?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah, if you’ve been paying attention, and I’ve looked at like the reports published by Mistoria Nansen, you can see that basically, despite everything else in the world, like going to shit, NFTs are still growing like crazy. And a lot of users are onboarding to them and a lot of creators and there’s days that we see 200,000 NFTs, minted in one day, you know, there’s over 17 million that have been minted on chain right now. So, it’s kind of a like, I think, like, I started thinking about it from a very high level. And I think in a world where there’s like these sets with artificial scarcity, they’re not really scarce in the sense that there’s so many clones, and so many NFTs, that it’s not scarce from a very high level, but let’s actually scarce his creativity. So, it’s very much creativity driven economy, it’s people that figure out that like, connection between community and culture, and like, the art and the brand, and everything else and able to capture it, and those are the ones that are succeeding. And instead of like, you know, the Instagram or Tik Tok algorithm that’s surfacing things, it’s an open free for all market. And that’s kind of pretty cool and exciting, and really new, I think, really new for the web, really new for digital content.

Understanding The Creator’s Role in Web3

You know, before NFTs blew up, it was very much like defi centric, and I think the creator economy, like with the entering of NFTs, all these PFP communities, music NFTs, etc. It brought a lot of culture, a lot of color, I guess to crypto, what would you say is like the creator’s role in web three in general?

Anatoly Yakovenko: This is tough. Because it’s a, I think I kind of look at it as like, there’s just like very different ways that all these things can play out. Some of it is just purely art, especially the one of one stuff, it’s just an artist building digital content, and trying to do cool things. Some of of is brands, like I think, trying to build a brand in a similar way that Hello Kitty is a brand or Lyon, France or whatever. And some of them are stories, which I think is kind of like, like almost like Marvel, like I imagine, like the next version of Marvel is going to come from some of these, like NFT projects, like where else would you be trying to build it, right? You’re not gonna do it anywhere else, right? I think. So., I think the art like the stuff that I think happens and like succeeds is when artist has some intent to like, either go after one of those, you know, with some focus, like either they are building purely art one on one pieces and building themselves up as an artist or have some intent of building a brand or a story around it and kind of taking it from there.

What Can We Learn From Web3 Creators Today?

What are some things you think, like creator-based projects in crypto are doing right that I guess other like web two brands are doing wrong? Like creative brands?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah. Well, I think what’s clear is that like, there’s a lot more opportunity for a very long tail in crypto right now, I don’t know if that’s going to change in like, you know, in the future, but like, right now, there’s a lot of smaller artists are able to enter and have like small successes. But those are meaningful, like life changing amounts for that artist, like, it’s very rare for an artist to make, like 50k, really rare. But we see that we, here we see those stories, like over and over. And that that I think to me is like what web three is doing well. It’s able to connect artists to small communities that can appreciate them without any middlemen, and then that is able to actually capture value. And like for that artist and for that community So, I think web two has done a really bad job of that, like, you look at Spotify or Instagram, or Tik Tok, probably Tik Tok as the most small artist friendly, where you can see unknown names kind of get famous. But like all the big ones, like it’s really, really hard to compete there as with a small following, right? Like, how many listens do you need on Spotify to buy a sandwich?

Why Crypto Is the Ultimate Tool for Creators

Right. Too many, way too many, you know, it’s crazy, that you’re seeing the like, a smaller subset of people creating even more value than those that are kind of generated through streams. For example, I think RAC tweeted this a while ago, where he’s like, I think 130 People generated the same amount of value, that nine point or 9 million people generated through streaming on Spotify, right. And when you talk about building like a creator economy that’s either user own or direct to the fan, you’re starting to see these like direct to fan relationships emerging in web three brain to primitive for that. But I’m curious from your point of view, like, why are crypto networks like the ultimate infrastructure for that? Like, why are they such a great primitive for connecting creators and fans together?

Anatoly Yakovenko: so, the business model is just totally different in web three, like web two is built upon the ad exchange. So, the goal of a platform that’s backed by an Ad Exchange is to maximize eyeballs. And the way that they’ve optimized that as they get the biggest influential brand that can, or you are like, you know, content creator, to generate as many views as they can. And then they steal everyone else’s data, and then serve them ads that they don’t want, right. And that’s the model that has scaled Instagram, Facebook, all these platforms. And for them, the longtail doesn’t really generate as much because the number of eyeballs is just not big enough. So, it’s very hard for them to actually scale up with what they want to do. It’s very much to me, it seems almost like closer to broadcast TV, where you’re trying to get the biggest audience right for your like Saturday night show. But that’s just like you want the biggest stars there all the time, because that’s the most generic kind of widest distribution content you can get. I think Tik Tok has changed that some somewhat a bit because that algorithm is so good, and it’s able to generate content directly to the user. Much, much better than I think that the news feed has. But I think crypto goes one step further is that there is no platform in the middle. There’re many platforms, there’s magic eaten than a dozen other competitors. And that relationship between the artists and the fan doesn’t go through magic even, it’s direct. Right, I have this NFT side and part of that NFC community, every NFT set that I’ve seen that has gotten any traction, all those folks have built their own marketplaces and tools and things like that and continue to function. Despite magic even being so dominant, there is still like no, no way for them to really control anything to be always in the middle. So, I think that I guess that’s the permissionless nature of crypto. And the way that business models work in crypto is you can’t really build a mode, and everything is direct and peer to peer at the end of the day.

Should Creators Focus More on Virality or Building an Intimate Collector Base?

So, do you think creators should be spending more time building towards virality or building towards a smaller collector base, for example?

Anatoly Yakovenko: It’s really up to that creator, I think this is almost like what kind of art do you want to make? Or do you want to do to make something that it’s more consumable, right and party or something more niche? It’s got to come from the soul of that person. And I can’t say one is better than the other because I enjoyed both, right? Like, I’m an enjoyer of both kinds of content. I think both can work. And I don’t think there is you know; I think there’s plenty of success in both. Like it’s really, really hard to predict because I think like crypto punks is very niche, these pixelated photos were really like, very targeted, like, you know, especially in the like in those early days. You couldn’t really like predict, okay, this is going to be almost like the icon for NFT. But they hit the right, that right combination of like appeal to a very niche community that was able to grow and kind of become this really massive brand. So, I don’t know like it’s got to come from the soul.

Creator Tools on Solana

So, things that come from the soul, you need a set of tools to create things that come from the soul, and I want to quickly highlight some of like the creator tool stacks that exist on Solana. So, the most obvious one is of course magic Eden, right as like the premier marketplace. But what are other tools that creators can tap into that otherwise may not be as familiar for example?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah, there’s other marketplaces. So, exchange art, which focuses more one on one, PFPs fractal, which has its own kind of market style and open seas, obviously also in Solana. But the main one for creators is metroplex, where it’s really designed for users to be able to launch their own NFT set and get that like initial mint off the ground. And a lot of folks in those early days would run their own myths, they weren’t using magic Eden or anyone else as the kind of Launchpad my feeling, and this is coming from me just being like, four years and crypto and Cryptos, I think, doesn’t matter if it’s NFTs or tokens or products. It’s so launch oriented. There’s this like, this is how like, I think the industry is driven by these impulse events. Even though POS merge, the very technical thing, there’s a date and anticipation, like everything’s built up to that thing. I feel like if you put in the work and try to do it yourself, you’ll learn a lot and you’ll become a better artist, like a better distributor of your own art, you’ll be a better spokesperson and a better salesperson or whatever, you’ll have that connection directly with the fans. So highly recommend folks like put in the time and try something like metroplex where you run and you know, host your own mint and stuff. And there’s tools to like, make it easier, like Hola plex is built on top of metroplex for like self-hosting.

Sure. So, another thing that’s super interesting about Solana is about last year, actually July 2021, Solana announced the $5 million creator Fund, which was in collaboration with audios and metroplex, two companies we sort of we brought up earlier. It’s been a year, I wanted to do like a quick recap, if you have any pointers on that, like where are we right now, with the deployment of the capital. On the website, I said there was a goal to get 1000 creators on Solana, I feel like we like you guys achieve that well beyond your wildest dreams. But can you give me a little bit insight into the development of the fund?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah, the fund was much more active in those early days. And like, these were just like, small grants to get folks like, photographers and like small community grants, but as soon as the ball started rolling, just the number of applications even people asking for those grants dropped off because people for became self-serve. Because Metroplex became so easy. And you saw magic Eden. And like these other marketplaces succeed to the point that artists like, just put the two together, okay, make heart, community and it goes to market and like, that’s always been like a really awesome sign for any kind of grand framework that we’ve done is when the ground becomes irrelevant, and there’s like, just growth happening on its own. But if you are an artist, and you’re thinking about like, there are, there’s some reason that you imagine you’d want to grant please apply like it’s still open.

Why Solana is Better Equipped to Support Crypto-native Creators?

Okay. All right. Good to know. I think another interesting thing about Solana is obviously the underlying network and infrastructures is arguably better tailored towards scalability currently, right. And I think for a lot of creators, they end up being starving artists. And they, a lot of people actually can’t afford to mint NFTs on Ethereum. And it tends to be a major barrier. It’s also a lot of the criticisms that many creators’ kind of bring to the network. Beyond I guess, like transaction fees on Solana, why do you think Solana is better equipped to empower the next generation of creators?

Anatoly Yakovenko: It’s been like, you know, ridiculously energy efficient like green from day one. So compared to proof of work networks that Solana is like a million times more energy efficient. You can think of one Solana transaction is like three Google searches. But even compared to proof of stake networks, like the EVM based ones, especially because we’ve optimized this thing to the hill for a bunch of Qualcomm nerds. It’s like I think by a factor of 10 to 100, more energy efficient than a lot of the proof for stake network. So, I’m pretty proud of that. I’m an engineer. I was like, I don’t know if I could live with myself working on proof of work. For many reasons, one of those just because how inefficient is, the other one is obviously like, I also live in California, and I see the environmental impact of climate change pretty obvious here. Got it. You know

How Anatoly’s Experience at Qualcomm Shaped the Early Days of Solana

You brought up Qualcomm and I think it’s so interesting. You spent over 12 years at Qualcomm. And I’m curious how your time over there has kind of shaped your early insights into developing Solana.

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah. So cellular networks, those are some of the largest networks in the world, you know, there’s like 5 billion people using LTE devices. And they are under constant attack from state vectors, like, you know, state funded attacks. And the kind of technical grid, and in like, perseverance that it takes to launch these things is insane. And I got to learn from some of the best people in the world, like, just getting really complicated code deployed to scale, and solving really hard problems. So, I’m pretty blessed to have worked there during that time, because that was really the time when we run from these like dinky flip phones, 2003 and folks remember Nokia like phones and like those LG wants to, the last device that was working on like the last project was this like, augmented reality supercomputers like in the palm of my hand, it’s just and that just took 10 years, so it’s pretty crazy how quick technology can move.

How Creators Should Leverage On-chain Data to Build Community

So I actually I want to get into the whole web three mobile side in a second but last thing I want to sort of cover on the creator economy stuff is you brought up the not the analogy, but the kind of like the very blunt statement that Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat, all these platforms, they make creators slaves to the platform, creators are forced to create content, and then Facebook, Instagram, Tik, Tok, WhatsApp, all these platforms end up being these walled gardens of data, right? But in crypto, everything is transparent. Everything is open. The Creator is the platform, right? Creators are can never be shadow banned by a network, for example, right? I’m curious, with data being so open, so transparent. With every single collector comes a new set of data that creators can kind of tap into. How do you think about on chain data from the point of view of a creator? Like how should creators be using on chain data to further build, further monetize for their own their Creator economy? What does that look like?

Anatoly Yakovenko: I think so there’s like, some obvious things that like the art and the wallets that is distributed in, those are your users, and you can track and like verify that and you can start building plugins, where users and discord can actually verify that their own some of your art or part of this NFT collection. And using that data set, right, people have started forming Daos, where the community is coordinating what like the direction of the art or the story, or potentially funds if this art piece is collecting secondary income into the Dao things like that. And that’s a like, that’s a very different thing. That’s never, I think it like reminds me of like 19s, 20s data collectors, or people were just like experimenting between like art and community, like all at the same time that, it was very intermixed, and it’s cool, like we live in, like a beautiful time where you can really just like, think of crazy ideas and go try them. I think what’s missing, still and I don’t know if it’s like really buildable or will it organically grow is like ability for folks that are content creators to be able to kind of move quickly and easily move platforms where that content is distributed but keep their subscriptions and keep that like fan base and kind of move them from one to the next. And like I think most of the pieces are there, you know the wallets that have your art, right and you can effectively like redistributed, ideally in the world where web three is fully adopted, you should be able to go from like Spotify to YouTube, to Tik Tok and bring all those rights together, right and give them content directly through those, through that like network graph that’s on chain. But we’re not quite there yet. I think initially, building that community and like figuring out like, which folks want to participate in Daos and stuff like that is a pretty easy way to get started.

Yeah, I think based off what you’re seeing right now is like for example, before Tik Tok became a thing. The platform was Instagram, like all the celebrities, all the influencers within there and then when Tik Tok became a thing, you started seeing like a shift of a new type of creator, right? And a lot of the Instagram creators that sort of had their following their virality they tried to come to Instagram, they didn’t see as much success as those who initially stuck with Tik Tok, and they built those crazy audiences. But you have that issue of like cross platform fan engagement, where I guess the blockchain is like the primitive, the opportunity to kind of enable the interoperability.

Anatoly Yakovenko: I think, like, I can’t imagine any other place, being able to build that besides blockchain. And I honestly think like, there’s bigger firms like Instagram are open to this, because at their heart, they’re just stuck with the business model that they have in web two, right? Like web three is just not mature enough for them to switch. I think at their heart, they still want to, like, build these awesome platforms for artists to connect, and like, connect with their fans and like, make awesome art. It’s just the only way that they can moneys for ads. For that to change, we need to have, like, I think, I don’t know, there’s like maybe 10 million people globally, that actively signed crypto transactions per month, not just hold crypto, because it’s like holding dotcom stocks in the 90s. But actually, signed transactions. And that’s just too small, right? It’s a large enough number to where you can see folks try and build audiences and stuff and iterate and like be extremely successful. But it’s not enough, I think for like the Facebooks, and like the Googles and Tik Toks of the world to really switch over yet.

Future of Advertising in Web3

What do you what do you think the future of advertising looks like in web three? Considering that statement?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Well, I’m hoping it gets like, I think there’s still a place where people want to like to promote, like decimate information that’s useful about new products, or new ideas or art or whatever. But I hope it’s less based around stealing your data and more about like serving the needs of the of the users. And I don’t like, I think that switch will happen. But it really needs to come from behaviors of consumers changing. And the crypto consumers have totally different behaviors like then, than the web two ones. And there’s more people on board to cryptos more people start getting into like these NFT communities and like having fun there instead of Instagram or Tik Tok, then things will shift.

So, I my hot take, I guess is because the blockchain is so open, you have so many additional data points that you can gather that you otherwise wouldn’t have across these web two platforms. For example, a lot of that revolves around like financial data, right? So as a creator, you’ve never really been able to access and see the net worth of your top fans or your audience, right? You’ve never really been able to see what other music they listen to in crypto. The more collectors you have, the more data points you unlock, the better experiences you can create for your community. You can see what other communities they’re a part of? What other things are collecting? How old is their wallet age? How much money do they have? And create customized experiences based off those data points and make more confident decisions based off that. I think there’s a level of like transparency and like, what’s the word I’m looking for? Like on Facebook, like your entire identity is doxxed. Right? In crypto, you can still access that data, but have that level of privacy alongside with that.

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah, the goal of crypto I think, is to give you optional pseudonymous identities that you can switch on and off at any time. And I think that comes from the fact that all the blockchain data is public. So, developers have to minimize the amount they collect. And they never like force you to reuse the same ID or wallet or anything else, right? There’s no like username password in any web three application. So, it comes from this idea that the user is going to bring you whatever data they want to and then you just deal with that as the application you never tried to like to take more. And that allows the user and like wallets to implement privacy features, you should be able to switch identities and like totally disconnect between when you need to. So, it’s hard. It’s just really hard to build these technologies with great UI UX. I’m hoping stuff that we’re doing for like something like saga at least shows an example of it right on like in the space for, but that’s really, really tough. But I think you’re like right, like I think artists have, I don’t know if the tools are there yet, but like I think if you’re technically savvy, you can start building much better like models of like, what else your fans are listening to and what else, what other NFTs you know, that they have in their wallet and things like that?

Web3 Mobile

Yeah. You know, speaking of saga, let’s dive into web three mobile. Okay. Part of why I wanted you to have on, first of all, congratulations on the introduction of saga. It made incredible waves online. What was, what were your initial like reaction seeing the community’s reaction on a web three mobile phone?

Anatoly Yakovenko: I was really nervous. I think, I expected I guess that we would get, I don’t know, fell flat on our face or that people wouldn’t get it. And I was really pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just Solana people that are overly happy. But I saw people across the entire industry like we were on pathless. Like, in, I think what that tells me is that everyone in crypto feels this frustration that the Apple and Google are not taking web three seriously at all, like the Apple announcement, you know, 12 years of, you know, Bitcoin is 12 years old and zero features for crypto. And the stuff that we’re adding to the phone is really, really, this technology that’s really simple. Like when I was at Qualcomm, like six years ago, the tools to do this already there. So specifically, were storing and recovering the seed phrase inside a secure element on the device. So kinda makes it more like a hardware device. But I don’t want to compare it to something like ledger for cold storage, please use ledger but what that means if your seed phrase is in the secure element of the device is that your wallets no longer have to store your seed phrase. So as a user, you don’t have to trust your wallet with the seed phrase, the wallet just asked the operating system, the wallet can never steal it. And that actually makes the wallet devs happy because they can innovate and build more stuff, we can now allow wallets to be in the tap to pay loop. Like when you go to NFC Card or at a shop, you should be able to bring up Phantom. And we should be able to secure make that environment so secure, that we know that phantom can’t steal your funds, and like be able to process that transaction and should be able to pay for your coffee with whatever token you want.

When you open a web three app, you know like right now there’s a wallet connect button and you see 50 different wallets, then you go to a different web three app, and there’s a wallet connect button, there’s 50 different other wallets, that UX just goes away. Because the apps in the environment can basically get the public key that represented by your seed phrase directly from the OS, it’s almost automatically connected. And then when you need to sign it’s like the delightful Apple Pay experience, right? Just a little thing slides up, you tap the thumbprint and you’re good to go. And it’s secure. And like simple and easy. And our bet here and this is again, big risky bet is that, like this environment and the web three from the app store in the hands of 50,000 people that are actually actively using this device, signing actively in a day-to-day basis, is a better distribution channel than the big app stores are for about three deaths today, because of the restrictions in the app stores. And those restrictions come from this like inability of those firms to embrace true digital ownership. Like when you buy a movie from Amazon and say buy to own you don’t actually own it, you’re just renting it from Amazon, forever. You can’t sell it; you can’t use it in a Dao, right? Like there’s nothing you can do with it. Besides watch it or stream it to yourself.

When you buy an NFT, you actually own it, right? You can use that NFT and Daos. You can use it on other smart contracts, you can resell it. And because of that, like the business model of charging 30% flat or 20% flat on digital purchases doesn’t work. There’s no way magic Eden can tack on $2,000 to a mobile user and a $10,000 NFT. They can’t eat that cost themselves anyways. Right? So, it’s just impossible for web three models to work inside, like the default app stores. So, I think if we can prove that this works, my hope like there’s kind of kind of two-win cases here, right? One to me, like I’ll do a victory lap when somebody buys this phone because there’s an application like a web three app, but they want it so badly. And they’re like screw it. I’m gonna buy this phone, because I want to use this app and it’s awesome. That would be a victory lap. The other one is we succeed. And there’s enough growth to the point that Apple and Google decide, okay, we actually need to implement these features by default in our mobile applications, and then we’ve opened up, we cracked open web three for everyone.

Why Apple and Google Aren’t Taking Crypto and Web3 Seriously

Why don’t you think Apple and Google are actually taking this seriously? Considering all the excitement, all the potential innovation and existing innovation? Like why aren’t they waking up and making some noise themselves.

Anatoly Yakovenko: So, I don’t think it’s out of malice or anything like that. It’s simply because the number of people that actually actively use crypto but sign transactions with applications on a monthly basis is still really small. It’s about 10 million on aggregate. A lot of people hold crypto, but holding it is not really using it. That and that’s kind of the main problem, we have a lot of people that are like the space is based on, a lot of people that are really excited about, like tokens and their price, but not about using. So that needs to change, right, like we actually need users like, and I think it’s obvious to us in the last 12 months that all the main usage is coming from creator driven projects like art, like NFTs, and that doesn’t mean that defi is not important. It’s just in my mind, actually think that NFTs are defi under the hood. There are contracts there, there’s Daos, there’s all the stuff that make up defi are still in NFTs. But NFTs are actually gaining some like consumer adoption. So that’s the place to grow to the number of people with wallets and that’s the way to do it.

Lessons Learned from Previous Failed Crypto Phones

The attempt though to take crypto mobile is not a first like over the years, we’ve seen HTC make really bad, Samsung do the same, but nothing really fell in like product market fit from. What I see at least what mistakes you think they made and what you vision doing differently for saga?

Anatoly Yakovenko: So, I think there’s a lot of a you know, we might fail for perfectly just going out right there. I think what we’re trying to do that’s different is that make SMS a platform that is open source, there’s other devs contributing to it, that can enable other networks. If there’s people that want to add Ethereum to this will definitely take that code, we’ll get it audited, it’d be really silly for the Solana team to try to build an awesome Ethereum integration, but like, the code is open. And I think making it a platform will allow us to get, I’m hoping the next HTC cryptophone is actually using SMS. And that level of standardization having a constant like, like consistent like experience for users and feature set, an application store can get that network effect going. So that’s the hope and about.

Web3 Mobile App Store

So, what does a mobile app store really look like? Like what are the take rates? Is it user own?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Is the same, fees on digital purchases or transfers. That’s the simple thing. I think. In the future, the sustainable models should be based on like a basically a transaction rake, like but sub 1%, like half of a percent, like what you’d expect out of like, a normal credit card or whatever, or like debit card purchase, not 30% on every year, that’s insane. It should be no different than like, there’s no reason why eBay doesn’t have a 30% fee on physical purchases, but an NFT store does. And that’s just comes from I think this broken understanding of true digital ownership. But it’ll change. I’m 100% sure that.

I guess the last question I have about the phone is that you got to accommodate all the selfie loving people and all the photographers, and it’s a lot of that. Okay, so that was my next question. Like, what is the camera quality actually, like, what does that entail?

Yeah, it’s a really high-end camera and the hardware side. So, we can capture as much data and like, I think as take as good as great pictures as pixel. But I think there’s differences in like the Google Base, the Google Camera app and the app in the phone and I’m sure it’s some stuff is going to be better some stuff is going to be worse. But the hardware itself is awesome.

You should mint the first Solana selfie. Like the first Solana selfie, for like an unlimited edition free, just to get the community hyped on it. I think that’d be really cool. Another cool thing that you guys are doing that really makes you guys different from other networks is you now have IRL retail stores. You have the first one it just opened right? Is in New York?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yep.

What’s up with that? What’s the vision behind that?

Anatoly Yakovenko: An opportunistic thing. I think COVID retail space dropped in price, like dramatically and this opportunity came up. And Raj and I are just like, trying to figure out is this a very dumb idea, but like, it was, it also seemed like potentially could be fun and could, like what we’ve seen, like succeed really well is like hacker houses. And like, all these physical events that we do, are like the heartbeat of the community and the network. Yeah. And those we do them like enough to the point that like the virtual hackathons get bigger and bigger, because there’s enough like glue at the physical layer, and that they can’t, everything can’t be virtual people want to connect, they want to smell each other, drink a beer together. Like, all these things are really important, I think, for community building. So, I think these stores are a way to really get a person that’s never use crypto, to get hands on experience with like buying an NFT. Or like, do like signing for their first transaction or setting up their seed phrase. And our hope is that like, maybe they’ll, it’s not gonna get a billion people, right? To use. But you got to start somewhere. And maybe those are the folks that tell their friends and get like the next, you know, the ball rolling for the next generation.

I think it’s such a fun way to create a low barrier to entry, like touch point for people to get engaged with crypto. I think it’s also an elegant store, I think. So, I read some features online. So, it has Solana pay, that’s accepted there. It has an NFT gallery. There’re interactive installations of like visualizations of what’s happening on the Solana blockchain in real time. There’s a private booth for people to set up a phantom wallet. People can also check out the new Solan, so like there’s all these like elements that allow someone to really connect intimately with the ecosystem. I think it’s actually brilliant.

Anatoly Yakovenko: Thank you. It’s also could fail but like, I think the point of the spaces, you got to try stuff like any intrapreneur any artists knows that like you’re gonna do 20 things before you find one that works really well. And it’s the process of doing them is that you learn how to connect with your fan base and your users.

What did the mood board look like for designing a Solana store?

Anatoly Yakovenko: I believe so I just see the results for any designs afterwards.

Okay. You’re like, Alright, the logo lights up. That’s great shipping.

Anatoly Yakovenko: Every time I’m like pleasantly surprised. I’m like, holy shit. This is even, this is better than I expected. I’ve gotten really good to just completely trust Raj on like all the design stuff.

I think we’ve seen a lot of like retail related ATMs like Bitcoin ATMs, crypto ATMs. I’m actually quite bullish on retail stores being like an a really powerful vehicle for mainstream crypto adoption. What does that really look like to you in the grand scheme of things? Like do you imagine a store in every mall? A store in every neighborhood? Like what does like a crypto retail really look like?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Honestly, I think this will go into waves where we will need more physical connections, maybe more stores, maybe more hacker houses, maybe more persistent, like stores or like a good persistent base. But they could transform into like internet cafes or whatever, right? Weird stuff that we don’t expect.

That’d be cool.

Anatoly Yakovenko: Until enough people on board and then it’ll kind of fallen into history. Right? Like, people forget about it. But like this initial bootstrapping phase, I think is gonna be really kind of hard and interesting. And like, we’re doing the stuff right now that doesn’t scale and then trying to see and figure out where we can actually get the next users.

Interesting. So, what else? What other tactics have you guys tried that is on that same like mindset, like, let’s do stuff that doesn’t scale to see what traction is like, and then find ways to scale it. What are other things you’ve done?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Well, I mentioned the hacker houses a bunch. This one is after.

Which I’ve been to, by the way, they’re great. I really enjoyed them.

Anatoly Yakovenko: This was also like really counterintuitive. We did a bunch of hackathons prior to break point. And when we did break point, a bunch of the devs on their own set up a hacker house. And like, they were just having a ton of fun, just like working and building together during the whole conference. And we thought like, what if we just like ran with it? Like people seem to be really into getting together because we’re all just been a lockdown for two years. There’s probably a lot of pent up like, just human connection out there. So, the energy like every city, and that was true and like what was really cool is that like every city is so different. You had very technical like stuff happening like in Prague Eastern Europe or like London. But then super media focus like folks in LA. And like very business-oriented people in New York. And like very like defi trade people focused on Chicago. And each one of those cities is a different personality and pockets. And that was like, to me really, just really interesting to see how that’s just different from city to city. And again, I don’t know, like, I doubt we can scale it to 50,000 or something getting on boarded through hacker houses. But I think right now, it’s really important to onboard the next 1000. And this is where I think that that can actually matter.

Examples of Things That Can Only be Built on Solana that Can’t be Built on Ethereum or Any of The L2 on Ethereum or Flow

I want to transition like, I guess more of like the ending part of our conversation to talk about the future Solana. Okay. I’m curious, like, what are some examples of things that can only be built on Solana that can’t be built on Ethereum, or any of the L2 on Ethereum or flow, for example?

Anatoly Yakovenko: So right now, I mean, like, the biggest examples are serum, where the number of transactions per day that serum is doing is larger than most of the networks combined. And that’s because that’s a second NASDAQ style exchange market makers and bids and asks an order and like cancels and just the level of throughput necessary to maintain it, and the transaction prices to be so cheap, that no other network comes close. And despite us being live for, like, you know, over two and a half years now, still surprised, no one has been able to, like demonstrate it. Again, anywhere else, I think that will probably change in the next two to three, five years, but it’s not going to be in EVM compatible are like a Ethereum and roll up style environment. So, the kind of use cases that enables is outside of this, like kind of very boring finance thing, is that users that are, web three users that are more consumer oriented, like folks that use you know, the web, they want a fast response time, they want cheap transactions, they want the stuff to almost be a feature, right? But like kind of goes away, you’re not really as aware of it as you are of like, when you’re using a Ethereum. And this is what it enables, like people build like, like messaging apps and things like that, like checkout dialectic and literally just have a real time conversation with people by using this like on chain messaging primitives.

What Are The Communities That Are Very Unique to Solana’s Ecosystem That Don’t Exist Anywhere Else?

What about bottoms up? Like what are the communities that are very unique to Solana as ecosystem that don’t really exist anywhere else?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Are validator communities really like, these were folks that like drive into the middle of nowhere to set up data, like boxes in data centers, it’s a very, like, you know, chewing glass for them was like, this is where that whole motto chewing glass came from this from the folks because such a pain in the butt to do. But uh, I think our devs are unique and separate community from a lot of Ethereum devs. A lot of that came from us using rust, and a different runtime. So, there wasn’t, you know, we didn’t have a run of people copying and pasting code from Ethereum. It was actually you have to build everything from scratch. And that meant that this was an opportunity for devs to go and like be creative. They had a chance like in an open canvas, right to let go and build something unique. Versus when you launch an EVM, like Ethereum and compatible environment. All the stuff that’s in Ethereum is copied over instantly. So, you don’t actually get a chance to like, build a whole new community. And that’s pretty unique. And similarly, I think there’s not a ton of overlap between the NFT folks on Solana and Ethereum folks, there are some, but I think because NFT enjoy them anyway. But it has been like pretty unique.

Building a Sustainable Developer Ecosystem and Retaining People from Grant Programs

Got it. I guess a few more questions for you. Okay, I know Solana also established a pretty powerful grants program, programs. Excuse me, I think my broader question is like how do you think about building a sustainable developer ecosystem and like retaining people from the grants that are handed out?

Anatoly Yakovenko: So, what I think is actually retaining folks is when they’re able to get to like, like an MVP, fundable, like company stage. And the grants are there to kind of like, reduce that, like initial energy costs to go start working on something. Maybe there’s like a big technology piece that needs to be unblocked first, or things like that. But we see that like, what’s actually retaining people, is that those ghosts are building stuff may be comes from a grand, some of them are like really small, just 5k go like fixes bug. But that like inspires them to go build a product in a hackathon. And when they do that, they realize that they have something unique. People self-join and form teams and those hackathons. And before the hackathon is over, some of them get funding, like instantly, and like, you know, that’s been like a really surprising but really fast-moving way for folks to like, onboard.

Where Creators Should be Spending Their Energy in the Bear Market?

So, last couple of questions, okay. Number one is, where do you think creators should be spending their energy in the bear market?

Anatoly Yakovenko: I mean, the kind of always, you know, I would say, practice your art, right? And focus in on like, deepening what you love, kind of follow your soul, so to speak. And I think if you do that, and you’re genuine, a community will form around it. And that’s gonna be the thing that like, kind of carries you forward. With that in mind, I think I err on the sight of shipping quickly, like ship fast iterate, that maybe, I don’t know if that’s a good advice for creators, but it’s a really good advice for engineers, and I think maybe creators too.

I feel like creators are so emotionally attached to their creations, that it’s so hard to even release a song, let alone an album, or an EP or a new piece of art.

Anatoly Yakovenko: The few folks that I know that are artists generates so many sketches and like, different like versions of the same song. It’s just like, an unimaginable amount of content. And like, I think, if you’re building in crypto, like there’s something to be said about being kind of open source about it, and like, letting people see how the process and how things are made. And that’s been a really good bootstrapping process for just developers like being really open with them from the from day one, like letting them see the mistakes that you’re making.

NFTs Anatoly Collects

So, on that same question, okay. What are some of the things that you’ve been collecting that you love and adore and follow on? Like, how can we get Anatoly to be a collector? What does that look like?

Anatoly Yakovenko: I do, I hate like, you see me switch my profile picture, stuff that like pops up and I do it. I try. I don’t have time to be a mint like, early in a mint. So, I’m always late to the party. I don’t have like any thesis or anything like that. I just think that there’s some things that pop up that have like, capture that like culture moment. Or like capture that, like, the spell or the community or whatever, they did something really cool. And I’m like, okay, I gotta go get that thing. And I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen to maybe like, two years from now. It’ll be on Christie’s Anatoly NFT collection.

If You Were to Build Another Blockchain Now, Would You Rebuild Solana?

Solid, very solid. Alright, final question for you. Okay. If you were to build another blockchain now, would you rebuild Sol?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Oh, my God, man. Raj and I like sometimes say never again. So much work. Yeah, I think like, if I like so far, the way we like, I look back and like I think about like, did we make your own decisions and what I realized that like, we just got lucky in a lot of the decisions that we made, like we made them blind for the limited information that we had, but like, we got so lucky with working on rust and using that as a smart like language, we got really lucky on making this a parallel environment and just like focusing on the low latency part. And we even got like it was some of the mistakes that we made, like the fact that we didn’t have, we didn’t copy like the mempool fee market. We actually got to see what works and innovate there. So, I guess yeah, I would probably remake Sol but try to do it faster, I guess. I don’t know.


Okay. All right, solid. Anatoly. This was great. Before I let you go where can we find you? Where can we find more about Solana, the web three mobile scene, the new retail store?

Anatoly Yakovenko: Yeah. Go to There’s a bunch of stuff there. Preorder the saga phone. You can follow Solana, Twitter or myself a Yakovenko.

Amazing. Thank you so much. We’ll have to do this again soon.

Anatoly Yakovenko: For sure. Thank you.

Podcast Transcript

The Importance of Token Curated Registries in the Web3 Creator Economy


Mint Season 6 episode 1 welcomes MP, co-founder of JPEG, the NFT curation layer of web3. She’s been working in the blockchain space since June 2017 and has consulted or worked for projects such as Polkadot, Gnosis, Melonport, Ethereum Community Fund, Golem, Akropolis, Concourse Open, Avalanche, and other grassroots and established projects on the Ethereum ecosystem.

In this episode, we talk about NFT-curated registries and how she’s building web3’s cultural landscape through the JPG curation network.

In this episode we discuss:

  • 00:08 – Intro
  • 06:23 – Crypto Innovation In Europe
  • 10:33 – What is JPEG?
  • 13:56 – What are Token Curated Registries
  • 20:54 – How Do You Quantify the Value of a Specialist?
  • 25:42 – Challenges with Building a Token Curated Registry
  • 28:23 – Are there any Bootstrapping Incentives to Ensure Trust and Quality in the Curation Process?
  • 30:21 – Use Cases Leveraging JPEG’s Protocol
  • 35:06 – How Creators Make Money using JPEG
  • 37:05 – How to Solve Web3’s Metadata Problem
  • 41:44 – How Should Creators Think About On-chain Data for Building and Monetizing Community in Web3?
  • 44:49 – Outro

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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MP. Welcome to mint, thank you for being on. What is going on?

Maria Paula: Hi, thank you for having me. How are you?


I’m feeling good. I’m stoked to have you a part of season six on all thing’s creator economy and where blockchain data fits into the picture. So, I think a good place to start, MP is how did you get your start into crypto, let alone web three, we can start there, and we can work our way forward.

Maria Paula: For sure. So, my starting crypto was basically because I needed a job. It was very simple. I was working in luxury before. And I wasn’t really comfortable with the way that I saw business was, yeah, happening in luxury. And I quit that job. And I really needed another job to pay the rent. And one of my friends, he was working at a tech company, I didn’t know which kind of tech and I went to meet my friend and his boss, because I was part of a sort of like a big sister program. So, I took one of the kids that I was watching, to learn about technology. And this guy taught him how blockchains work. And I was like, this is incredible. I’m really interested, I already knew about Crypto, everything. But I thought this guy was explaining it really well. And turns out the guy was the founder of Ethereum, Gavin wood. So of course, he knew his deal. And from there, I was like, actually, I loved everything that, you know, this guy told me, I told my friend, I’m Argentinian. So, I could see a lot resonating with me with regards to transparency, and traceability and you know, all like parallel economy that was able to, you know, help us, you know, overcome inflation.

So, I told my friend, and I told him to let me know, when there was a job opening. And a year ago, there was a job opening, I started as an assistant, didn’t last very long there because I was already senior when I started in 2017. And I started developing my career with polka dot at. First, I worked there until 2000, and early 2018, where I fell in love with Ethereum community, and I started applying for Ethereum jobs. Then shortly, I started working for Gollum, which is one of the oldest Ethereum projects. And from there, they gave me a lot of freedom to start discovering my own path. And my own path had to do with also studying here in Berlin, a nonprofit for a, to organize hackathons. And the hackathons usually, because I’m very interested in arts as well. Had to have a cultural element. So that’s a little bit of what led me to NFTs, and it was a hobby until and I wrote a couple of papers on the topic as well, because I’m a researcher, and it was really a hobby. You know, it was something that I did out of fashion, until come 2020. I was still writing the second paper, struggling to sort of update it. And I realized there was like some shifts happening in the NFT sphere.

So, I told my co writers, they were like, oh, yeah, but you know, I know that let’s see what happens. And then I kept thinking, I was like, I have to take all this knowledge and start a business. Because it would be such a shame. So, I met Trent, or the co-founder of jpg over Twitter DMS. He’s a defi guy. I’ve been in defi as well. We had art in common. And he DM me, we started exchanging like cool artworks. And then he was like, hey, I want to start the gallery, want to join? And I’m like, of course. And that’s also how I met the other founder, Sam, you know, I still had a job. So, I worked two jobs for about a year until I, you know, got confident enough to start working full time in my own business. And that’s where I am right now.

So how has the industry changed you think since when you initially got started around the 2017 era to where are we now, 2022?

Maria Paula: So, the first thing is the obvious thing. When I started everyone knew each other by first name, you know, we were like what? Hundred and, you know, everything was very personal. And you know, if you had any problem with the platform, you would go straight to the founder because you know, usually that was like the kind of, you know, feedback loop that was a, that existed. We were just like a few of us. And, of course, you know, with regards to tooling, it has evolved so much, and in such a rapid pace, that you’re not able to really to track down anymore, the progress. And you’re also not able to track down anymore the, you know, the new products that resemble others that are, you know, like, sort of sub forex and everything. So, it’s really interesting, you know, the thing, the fact of the matter is that in 2017, and in 2018, we are, our dream was to hit mainstream with our apps, the apps that we were building that were decentralized, that were self-sovereign, and all the nice things. And I really couldn’t have expected that a crypto would go mainstream thanks to NFTs propelling that. And that’s a really big, not change, but a surprise, a positive one, because the apps that we were building were clunky, are still clunky, we needed an easier product, we didn’t think it was NFTs. But here we are.

Crypto Innovation In Europe

It’s actually crazy. Because another question I have for you is you are in the Berlin crypto scene. And the European crypto scene differs from any other crypto scene worldwide. When I got started in 2017, I had this like, this itch to scratch to try to figure find work in Europe as well. I didn’t end up going to Berlin, I was hanging around like in Switzerland and studying over there for a little bit. And the Europeans are just built a little different, I would argue, how do you kind of like make sense of all the innovation, all the activities, specifically in crypto at Berlin? And what does that energy like?

Maria Paula: So, I am, I’m born and raised in Argentina. So, I guess I’m also really different than, you know, Americans, Europeans. But, yeah, I’ll try my best. So of course, you know, here we have a strong word like violence. But that doesn’t mean that Europe is not innovating. Europe is also a little bit more bureaucratic with regards to innovation. And because of the European Union, you know, they, so everything goes a little bit slower, I would say. But there has always been something really positive about Europe is that it’s a union, like everyone knows. But this union allows you to, you know, be very flexible when you start you know, a new project and new technology with regards to you know, where to set up your business. Because, you know, regulations differ. There’s like some overarching ones, but they differ country to country. And there’s a lot of like an even you know, if, for example, Switzerland is a completely different story, and you will know it because you were there, we still have a lot of 3d. So, you know, everything is easy for us.

Switzerland is exceptional, because with regards to crypto projects and innovation, they are the place that basically started it all with regards to regulations. It’s a fantastic place, there’s a contour name called sook. And sook, was the home of the very early projects, including Ethereum, which set up there because of the favorable conditions, both regulatory and for tax reasons as well. And sook has a fantastic, has found a fantastic business and it is aware that they are fantastic ground for innovation. So, everything in Sook caters the crypto business in a really good way. So, you know, you have the best lawyers there that are you know, have been with Ethereum from the start. And they are the same lawyers where I can go if I need something or if I need to start my business because you know, the relationships have been built. And we also have the bank you know, several banks and management companies and you know, like everything, it’s basically a place to set up your blockchain in a box project. So that’s really good.

But I do agree that you know, because Europeans tend to have a better, I want to say better, better is such a bad word, a different, we’re like balanced than Americans. And you know, this regulatory stuff that tends to be very bureaucratic, like then it does go slower. That’s something that Europeans won’t like to tell you, but I’m not, you know, I’m Argentinian. So, you know, I’m going to tell it to you, and how do I start it? And how do you feel it? Basically, I more on the side of working very hard. And it’s just in my older years in blockchain that I started taking weekends, for example. So, yeah, I just don’t sleep like the rest of you.

What is JPEG?

That makes a lot of sense. I would argue the same thing when I was working and studying over there. The work life balance was completely different than that, of let’s say, I don’t know America in the States. But enough about Europe really quick. Okay, I want to talk more about you deciding to try to build a business in web three and falling back on the gallery business, right? Token curated registries, which is a lot of the foundation of JPEG. So, I think this is a good starting point to kind of introduce JPEG. And what is JPEG? Like what do we need to know about JPEG? More specifically also, what is your role at jpg?

Maria Paula: So, I am the co-founder of JPEG. I also do the communications, I do operations, I do a bunch of different things. Trent is stronger on product, and some the other co-founder, he’s stronger on what’s artistic advisory because he’s straight out from the art world into crypto. So, you know, we have different roles, but we sort of complement each other. So basically, JPEG is an NFT curation protocol. And what does that mean? That we are building infrastructure, a cultural infrastructure to support the whole NFT ecosystem. So, what we’re building right now is, first of all, we have an interface that the user facing one that allows people to go into JPEG and curate their own exhibitions with NFTs they own. And with NFTs they don’t own generally, they don’t own them. You can also set up your own storefront as well. And you know, do a bunch of different things, because it’s basically a customizable space. I love Squarespace, where you can create many things with NFTs.

But the cool thing is what happens underneath all of that every JPEG exhibition is stored permanently on our web. So, the on-chain exhibition history, and that which is on chain provenance history, becomes a very important data point that we’re hoping is a primitive for the NFT space on the other spectrum of JPEG, but it’s a, you know, it’s similar, and it’s totally complimentary. But it’s a different piece of technology, or the registries. And the registries are basically groups of entities that are crowd sourced by people. And that can be ordered by you know, a particular topic, for example, you know, SKobe NFTs or a, you know, super rare NFTs, and, you know, this kind of ordering that’s going to be crowd sourced, this is not shipped, the exhibitions are shipped already on live for a year. And registries will come very soon, by the way. So, all of these will start to create, you know, new primitives and new, you know, ways of seeing NFTs, of stratifying, the space of discovering the NFTs. And, you know, we hope we will create very interesting data sources as well for people to you know, inform their work.

What are Token Curated Registries

So that’s why I wanted to feature JPEG in season six, because a lot of season six are primarily it’s about blockchain data. Okay. And we talked about blockchain in season five, a little bit across different speakers in different guests that were on. But I wanted to have you on specifically because I think there’s something interesting going on behind token curated registries, and I’m trying to understand what role do they play in the creator economy at large? What’s your perspective on that?

Maria Paula: So maybe a little bit of background on token curated registries for the people that have not heard of them. Yeah, basically, curated registries. We didn’t invent them. They weren’t for NFT’s as well. They were invented in around 2017 probably. And the first used case was for verification of an ERC 20 tokens back then, you know, it was the NFT, the ICO boom, and everyone was minting cheap coins. Everywhere was very messy, people didn’t know what, which ones were fraud, which ones were good, which ones had, you know, stable development, they didn’t know anything at all because research was also very confusing, as it has always been. So, this idea of token curated registries came about and token curated registries for NFT’s for ERC 20, I keep on confusing was a basically lists of tokens that were a, you know, where people would have to stake another token that was native to the TCR. And that staking would ensure the person was a good actor, and that was submitting a truthful information. Of course, you know, in a highly speculative market, where any, we’re the only thing that matters, and now we have found out that it’s not all about the tech, but it’s all about, you know, numbers going up or down, when there’s a market and the token will continue living. So, there was not really a used case for ERC 20s and TCRs. But there is a very solid use case in NFTs. Why? Because NFTs are actually very versatile objects, they’re cultural, they’re financial, they are anything you want them to be, you know, they can be perfectly titles, they can be, you know, essays as well as, you know, mirrorly thinking of a doing? And all of these creates, you know, an endless supply of NFTs, and where do they all go probably to open sea, without correct indexing, without correct metadata. And everything, you know, is impossible.

It’s a mess

Maria Paula: Yeah, it’s a mess. So that’s where we come in, hoping that, you know, we deliver these lists that serve as primitives, and that people can actually use them. How can you be able to use them within the creative economy? That’s a great question that I look forward for people to identify, because I think that the best way to discover your product market, is actually when you know, when people start interacting with your tech. But some of the more practical used cases that come to mind are for example, are you a curator, and you’d like to create an exhibition and find out, you know, a particular NFT, find several NFT’s that might be interesting to your practice, but it’s not possible to find them on open sea, or, you know, you’re looking for NFTs from a particular period of time, from a particular they that, you know, something happened in crypto and you want to see what NFT is accompany that event or, you know, you want to surface the NFT is from a very prolific artist that has been seen throughout several platforms, and it’s impossible to find otherwise. So, there’s many used cases. In you know, people can also use them, you know, who uses a discovery and archives with regards to the traditional art world. curators, of course, as I mentioned, critics, other museums, researchers, basically, anyone that’s a, that wants to do research needs to serve themselves from archives. And so far, we don’t have those, registries actually provide you with that during that.

So, if you look at like web two registry, so companies like Google and Yelp, they do a great job at curating a list of their search results or restaurants. But why is there a need to decentralize this process?

Maria Paula: So, first of all, we are building web three. And we think that Google is, you know, it’s not something done, we want to mimic, everything is closed source. You know, they also, God knows what they actually do to your brain. And you know, it has not gone so well, for humans and web two, right? Data management is also you know, another market. So, I think it makes sense because first of all, registries are crowdsourced, so there’s no algorithm, dictating, the test making and the archiving, you know, it’s other people like you and me, that are interested on pushing the space forward. So that creates a, you know, there’s always a certain bias on everything, but that creates a better one. And then for sure that, you know, having everything traceable on the blockchain or on a decentralized database that’s visible to all is helpful for many reasons. But, you know, I guess he talks about the point that information, at least in my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of people in web three, should be free and openly accessible. So, you know, we believe the same a JPEG, so we’re building a all-transparent infrastructure that will be open source, or to, you know, continue adding positively to the space. And yeah, I guess it’s about knowing what lays underneath and having control. And that already makes it better.

How Do You Quantify the Value of a Specialist?

I agree, I think there’s a beauty behind being able to curate something as a community. And having like aligned incentives and doing that type of action is something that we’re not strangers to in web three. And we’re seeing these used cases kind of being applied across different activities. I think TCRs are no different. And I want to ask you, based on a tweet that Vitalik Buterin, kind of set out or published in November of 2018, he basically tweeted that TCR designs should take more care to accommodate the value of specialists in information gathering. How do you actually design a system while considering those accommodations? And two how do you quantify the value of a specialist for example?

Maria Paula: That’s such a great one. You’ll have to send it to me later on?

I will.

Maria Paula: Because I haven’t thought about that Twittering in many years. It’s excellent. Actually. The first thing is that we don’t hope to close our TCRs to specialists. I think that the TCR is off before for ERC 20s may be needed, you know, experts in crypto economy, and experts in you know, software development to understand you know, what was a good token with regards to the technology that it was supporting or not. We think that we can crowdsource that expertise from people that have a genuine interest on pushing the NFT space forward from people that believe, like us that NFTs are cultural objects and should be treated with the gravitas they deserve. And furthermore, we’re also not building monolithic registries, but we’re allowing people to create their own. So that should help. Another important thing is that obviously, we will have some sort of governance system for people to be able to vote, which registries should be created, which registries should not, which is spam, as well, because you know, spam will happen in you know, with the state of the NFT ecosystem, if they’re dropping shitty NFTs into your wallet all the time, we will also get spammed, everyone will get spammed.

So, we really need to ensure that there’s a proper reputation and governance system, to make sure that the people that are a, you know, curating these lists are not only good actors, but also, they’re just not bots. So yeah, I guess that’s a, that’s the part of, you know, the expertise and the part of rewards. You know, I guess that will come naturally. So far JPEG. Of course, we have a flirted with ideas of, you know, having a token to incentivize people, but so far, we really want to test if these curating thing and this, you know, register creation thing, and the governance is something that people will need a noose before introducing any kind of incentivization because otherwise, you know, we will get to the place where a lot of doubts are right now, which is really unfortunate, where, you know, people join the Dao and expect immediate retribution for like, either minimum tasks and we don’t want to, you know, create that we learn and some of us are part of Dao as well. And we learn from that, and we believe that, you know, there should be another way and Daos are also learning for what it’s worth, you know, they have strengthened their measures with regards to contributions and everything.

So, with that being said, why don’t you think NFT registries will sort of undergo the same downfall as ERC 20 curated lists?

Maria Paula: because NFTs are much more rich in you know, by their own right, you know, they can be so many things, they definitely need to be archived, they definitely need to be ordered as well. And there’s much more, I would say that from 2017 to now, there’s so much more fraud and forgery, as well. You know, NFTs can, you know, a lot of people have fallen into buying, you know, an NFT, that, you know, was just a JPEG with a different NFT, where, so, you know, they need a lot of infrastructure to support them. And we weren’t ready for this explosion that we have right now.

Challenges with Building a Token Curated Registry

What are some of the major problems that face I guess, JPEG when trying to build an NFT base, TCR? Like, what are some of the more most notable obstacles that come to mind?

Maria Paula: The first obstacle that comes to mind is that no one has ever done this before. At least not with NFTs. So that’s pretty hard. You know, and also adapting the early, you know, the early prototypes and ideas of TCRs into, you know, our ecosystem, and making it simple, first and foremost, because it was like, back then I didn’t understand TCRs. And probably now I also don’t and adapting it and making it easier and more playful, and making sure that people are really gonna, you know, understand the whole purpose behind our registries, I think that’s the main challenge. Obviously, designing any kind of governance and reputation system is a very hard challenge. Because first of all, you don’t want to end up with something that resembles web two, if you design a wrong governance system, you can always fix it. So that’s great. But you can’t really fix toxic traits that you’re growing on people. So that’s, you know, creating, making sure that we’re not creating bad habits. It’s a really big discussion point in the team.

And with regards to the technological challenges, the more like nitty gritty challenges, I wouldn’t be able to speak for my colleagues, I’m the one that’s not them. But I think and having been on teams that have built things that they have never built before, before in my previous jobs, I think that it’s always, it’s always the same, you know, like it takes longer than expected. There’s a lot of like, micro pivots going on, where you always have these doubts, whether people will use it or not, whether what you’re building makes sense. You always, you know, like the challenge of having things sufficiently decentralized, or progressively decentralized, is a lot of philosophical questions that have to do with the core tenets of web three, and how to build without sacrificing UX are, you know, all the big questions and challenges.

Are there any Bootstrapping Incentives to Ensure Trust and Quality in the Curation Process?

When it comes to creating incentives, what kind of bootstrapping incentives are in place for jpeg to ensure like trust and quality in the curation process?

Maria Paula: So, none for now, but none because we don’t want to start with the wrong foot. You know, we learn from that from Daos. But however, people are already using JPEG for professional purposes. You know, we have seen art fairs were being set up on JPEG. We have seen professional, incredible galleries as well, you know, incredible NFT six exhibitions that have been in Miami vassal. And so, there’s like a really good user base that understands that, you know, we need culturally infrastructure and we’re very happy to take on JPEG and to choose us for their incredible projects. And we have incredible people in our community that are constantly trying to surface content, whether it’s for you know, writing their essays, or whether there it is for showing their expertise, or joining a conversation without owning the NFTs. We always have people that are really wanting to create things with JPEG. So, we don’t think that that’s going to be hard and to be honest with you, you know, like incentives can be retroactive. Everyone has learned that starting with uniswap, with the uniswap Airdrop in 2020. So, we expect people to be curating to be honest, just because they will expect the retroactive compensation and that will most likely happen. Also, we will have reputation points which are not money. But they mean a lot for people.

Use Cases Leveraging JPEG’s Protocol

Yeah. So, by gamifying, the system without really introducing token rewards just yet. I can also see, based off looking at JPEG site, there actually are really high-quality curator on there. And I really appreciate the format of curating certain JPEGs and certain NFTs, but also creating like thought provoking, like written pieces around them, right? So, if you look at some of like the curators that you highlight in their pages, I think it’s actually really unique, it almost feels, I don’t want to say like blog esque, but it has that museum, elegant vibe to it, for the product itself. And that also, after seeing that it got me thinking like, you can absolutely use the infrastructure that you’re building to build a more web three NFT Pinterest, for example, right? And create like this more of like a gallery feed, right? Just using the metadata that you guys are kind of like are orchestrating and whatnot. I want to talk more about applications, because I think the most exciting thing for me, hosting this podcast is trying to understand, okay, there’s infrastructure, but the real use cases are going to come when people build on top of this infrastructure, right? You mentioned a few use cases in the past, we just brought up like a web three NFT Pinterest, what are some of the more not obvious use cases or applications that you’re excited to see, a founder or group of people experiment with using the JPEG protocol?

Maria Paula: Very excited about anyone that’s able to leverage JPEG for, to inform their practice and to make money and to get better at their job, you know, and just, you know, to have it as a tool, you know, a portfolio would be very exciting when it comes to artists. As a matter of fact, some artists have already been, you know, ordering some of their, like, very early works, using JPEG, and then, you know, they list them through Sora, so they can sell them in JPEG as well. I’m very excited about anything that, you know, allows people to use JPEG as a Canvas, as a portfolio, you know, a blogging platform, why don’t you? Which is something that our community manager, William, has been doing really well. I’m also excited about people that think out of the box, and, you know, they can order their, you know, collections of essays, for example, on JPEG or, you know, there’s property titles being created with NFTs. So that’s also possible. There’re use cases with NF T’s and decentralized science that will need NFTs to you know, maybe record a particular, you know, components of the research. So, you know, anything that serves to support all of that, without needing for them to use, you know, Squarespace or a blogging platform, that’s fantastic. I’m really looking forward to seeing more people do stuff with the data, with the exhibition data. Just to give you an idea, when you’re actually checking out a Sotheby’s or Christie’s NFT auction, you will see that they do a really good job at a, you know, establishing all the provenance. In NFTs they do a little bit of a shittier job with that, because their provenance is not very interesting. But if you have time, go and check the amazing work that they do with traditional art, provenance. It’s incredible. It’s a story. So, we hope that we were able to use this on chain history of provenance that we’re building because from JPEG, and this already happens, we were able to see when it was minted, who owned it, who bought it last, and who curated it as well, you know, and the more times you curate it, the more times you know, the provenance grows. So, all of that is invaluable data that an auction houses that I’ve been there for a very long time have monetized and do very well. So, we’re looking to see other people you know, like, include these kinds of like precious data into their business as well. So really anyone from trading analysts to historians?

How Creators Make Money using JPEG

Got it. So, what actually tends to be like the business model for that type of creator? So, if I’m a curator or if I’m a historian, like, how would I actually monetize something like this? What does that look like, and it may vary per crater, but I’m hoping maybe you can give some examples.

Maria Paula: For sure. So, the first one that comes to mind is the art advisor, I don’t know if you have ever heard of an art advisor, basically, they are people that go to high-net-worth individuals, and they tell them what to buy. And these people already know a lot about the history of a particular piece. There are our advisors in NFTs, good or not, and they’re very, but I think that we’re gonna be able to make their job easier. Another, you know, another one is the NFT archeologists, we discussed this in our little thing before, basically NFT archaeologists are focused on early NFTs, and probe proto NFTs. And their job is essentially to look at the documentation online. Social media forums, or Reddit is a really good one. And a lot of time looking at ether scan, to find out when things are minted, and when things are transferred. But they only focus on the digging aspect, you know, on I found these ground, now I’m selling it to you for a and you know, I’m making a deal, you know, to get a premium, the advisors also get a premium for you know, their advisory services. And so, we hope that we’re a, we’re gonna be able to add more contextual data as well, to both. And, yeah, I think those are really good examples

How to Solve Web3’s Metadata Problem

They’re solid examples, because there’s a little bit of a curator and all of us, I’ll reference like music NFTs, for example, which are really, really hot right now. There’s a lot of collectors that like to find the early artists that then they then recommend it to their friends to kind of buy, right and to co invest with and co collect with. And I think there’s a level of provenance that’s required to kind of analyze to understand what makes a music NFT more valuable than other music NFTs for example, what makes one artist more valuable. So, there’s already a lot of that happening, right. So, from what I understand JPEG is actually building the foundation, the tools to enable a more efficient system, right? To have more confidence in your curation. So that’s really cool. And I really aligned with that, because I feel like I play a certain role in trying to understand the music, NFTs that are out there, and the music artists that are out there, even like the digital artists that are out there, too. So that that makes a lot of sense. But I know a lot of platforms that are let’s say, building in the music, web two music landscape. And I guess also in the NFT ecosystem. In general, there’s an underlying problem, which you also talked about earlier, MP is the metadata problem, right? And trying to kind of like make sense of all the noise on chain. And this is something that I talked about with, I think it was Eric Ripple head of data at Zora. He’s like, maybe there needs to be some type of like, blockchain consortium of some sort, where we create standardization for how people write their smart contracts, or the entire infrastructure that kind of pertains to everything that’s happening behind the hood. What is your kind of point of view on how to solve this metadata problem? What does that really look like to you?

Maria Paula: There’s a really fun meme about standards that, you know, once you create one that everyone wants to create their own, so they actually don’t ever work. I just wanted to mention that meme. I actually do believe in standards. You know, I worked previously with a or a no computer scientists’ team. And I do think they’re helpful. I do think what Zora proposes and also, you know, the Herculean efforts that they have been doing to index NFT are going to be, you know, really like are already extremely necessary. But anything about building standards and creating consortiums will affect the NFTs that we’ll be creating from that point onwards. And of course, we don’t even know that whether those standards are going to happen or not. There has been attempts on Ethereum, it’s very hard. You know, people end up like chasing their own selfish interests. But I believe that instead of a, you know, like, if the standards don’t work, actually building infrastructure like a JPEG or like Zora. And understanding the concept of a, you know, public good, infrastructure as public good is going to be really helpful as well. Because Zora is also working retro actively to try to, you know, better index. And, you know, to try to sort of fix that metadata by indexing in a better way. And we’re working on creating a different strategy, but towards the same goal. And, of course, you know, I would love to have standards, but they take a lot of time, they take a lot of coordination. Humans are not great at coordination. I don’t know if you know. So, and, you know, sometimes when the coordination is incentivized that also doesn’t go quite right. So, I’m more optimistic about teams like Zora, and a JPEG building, you know, public goods that everyone can use, that are decentralized, that are open source, and that are accessible to everyone. And I guess that people will want to contribute, because, you know, like, web three should be, you know, if you’re contributing to web three, if you’re getting money from web three, if the creator economy of web three has actually benefited you, then it might like you might as well give something back by, you know, being an active contributor, not only an extractor, because what it’s not about monetizing, but it’s also about like, building in, you know, collectively.

How Should Creators Think About On-chain Data for Building and Monetizing Community in Web3?

I love, I love that. I think that’s a mic drop moment. And that leaves me off to my final question, okay. We’re at a state right now, where a lot of creators they’ve already minted, their first, either their, at least their first NFT. Of course, many haven’t even touched NFTs yet. But for those who have touched NFTs, who’ve started building an on-chain community, a collector base, maybe they’re approaching their second drop, how should they be thinking about on chain data as a way to further grow their community, potentially monetize your community, and just kind of like outlive this bear market that we’re all in, what do you recommend?

Maria Paula: I think everyone should try to educate themselves about the platforms that their minting on, that’s the main thing, it’s not, you don’t have to think as a creator or about on chain data, because it’s already hard enough for you, as a creator to, you know, do your work. And I think it’s very unkind to put all the responsibility on the creators hands, the platforms should do much better, you know, what happens with, for example, provenance in platforms, like nifty gateway, where it’s very opaque, even if it’s Ethereum, you know, cannot happen, and people can see that already, you know, you as a creator, if you’re minting on nifty gateway, you can already see that, you know, you can’t really easily find your NFTs, you can’t go to Open sea so easily. And you know, like, find your creation, so you should pay attention because how the works are tracked, how the information is readily available on a website, whether it’s ether scan links, open sea links, you know, the way that they work, you know, if the platform is open source or closed source. Everything you know, that’s what you should be looking, if the platform that you are working with has your best interests and the interests of your work first, then, you know than creating a closed garden because the problems happen when people can’t see things. When people come see there, where are their images stored? Where is the music store, where you know, where’s the transaction that certifies that that was bought by a legit collector and not by you know, like, you know, the marketplace and many other things? So, if you choose the platforms that are open source, decentralized and that are accessible and easy to everyone with regards to information, I don’t think you have to think about the you know, we’re on chain data per se. If you think about it, that’s great, but you don’t have to.


Okay. I think that’s a great place to end off. MP, you rock, keep at it. We’re gonna have to do this again sometime soon. But before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find JPEG, show it away.

Maria Paula: So, JPEG is JPG, That’s our website. The Twitter is really hard because we decided to go with underscores and it’s insane that we did it, but I love it. So just go to our website, a And if you want to find me on Twitter, I am quite active there as well. I am @MPthereal MVP. It’s an old one. I don’t run like that. And that’s, that’s about it.

Amazing. Till next time.