Mint Season 6 episode 8 welcomes Tyson Battistella, CTO and Co-Founder of Zora.co the NFT marketplace protocol. Throughout the hour, we discuss how he got his start in web3, the early days at Coinbase, lessons learned along the years while building their marketplace protocol, hyperstructures, his thesis on the web3 creator economy, web3’s data problems, and so much more.
- 03:17 – Intro
- 07:55 – Getting Started in Web3
- 10:33 – Dropping Out of College
- 11:36 – Interning at Coinbase
- 14:53 – Quitting Coinbase to Start Zora
- 18:08 – What Did We Mess Up In Web2 That We Are Fixing In Web3?
- 21:11 – Learning Lessons Along the Way From the Initial Vision to Now
- 24:27 – What Are Some Marketplaces or Platforms That You Would Want to See Created?
- 28:13 – What Would You Pay for the Collectible Telescope Artifact or a Moment in Time?
- 29:03 – How Should Creators Be Using This New Open Edition Format?
- 31:43 – Favorite Moments from Nouns
- 33:30 – Building for Creators and Top Entrepreneurs
- 36:03 – Zora Hackathons
- 38:33 – Other Problems to Solve in Web3
- 40:01 – What is a Hyperstructure?
- 43:42 – What Do You Think About the Nouns Model as a Potential Mechanism for Open Hyperstructured Development?
- 46:23 – How Do You Capture the Value Created Through a Hyperstructure?
- 47:49 – Solving the Web3’s Metadata Problem
- 50:12 – What Does it Mean to Be a Data-Informed Creator?
- 52:11 – How Does Zora Use On-chain Data?
- 55:36 – Challenges With Building Zora
- 58:21 – How Can a Team Manage Magnificent Meme Game With Top Tier Tools, Software Development?
- 58:56 – Zora’s Mood Board
- 01:00:08 – Outro
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Tyson welcome to the podcast. What’s going on man? Good to have you on.
Tyson Battistella: Thanks for having me, happy to be here.
Yeah, I’m stoked to have you part of the new season. This is the third person I think I’ve had on from Zora. I had Latasha on a couple seasons back and then Erick Repple. Last season and now you, you know it’s funny. Our audiences overlap, which is super interesting. So, I noticed that when we record episodes, or whenever I have someone from Zora, it actually does exceptionally better than other episodes for whatever reason.
Tyson Battistella: So, the stats that you sent over, and I tried to figure out what the exact like overlap is of listeners to disorder users, it’s pretty crazy. I didn’t know it was that big.
Yeah. So, I give out a lot of like free NFTs to my listeners, every single season. And a lot of them really also enjoy collecting on Zora which is which is really cool. So now I was trying to figure out like, how can I use like more of these like these data points to sort of like find better guests and find better sponsor? So, we’re experimenting with you on now, you know, so we see how that goes. All right. So beyond exchanging a few words in your office in New York, I know very little about you. And I’m going into this episode, like pretty blind, which I’m actually I’m happy about, that’s a good thing. Okay. You also keep a very like low profile online. So, there’s not much for me to research or find. I came across your LinkedIn profile and it’s the funniest profile. I think I’ve come across ever.
Tyson Battistella: I’ve been doing these little covert online ops of just like completely obscuring myself as much as I possibly can.
It’s great. Okay, so before we like get into like the deep, deep questions, I think a good place to start is trying things a little bit different for this episode. Okay. I want to start with asking you about eight questions that I want you to answer quickly. Okay. And this is just going to help me better understand who you are. Okay. So, question number one, what kind of music do you listen to when you work?
Tyson Battistella: Oh, man, a little bit of everything. At this point. We have McHale from Zara who sent me like insane playlists almost weekly. So, I’ve just been getting my music directly curated by him. It’s been great.
Is there a song that comes to mind?
Tyson Battistella: I’m wanting to effect twin kick right now. Okay, he’s almost amenable at this point. But it’s been the deep working music for me lately.
All right. All right. Favorite food?
Tyson Battistella: Favorite food? I am on a taco cake right now. Which sucks moving from California to New York.
Okay. All right. Do you read books?
Tyson Battistella: I read a lot of books. Yeah, yeah.
Tyson Battistella: I think for fiction, anything by, I’m gonna say his name so badly. But Haruki Murakami, Yeah, I think that’s it. And then all sorts of nonfiction, anything like history. I’m reading one about the history of the New York subway right now. It’s pretty good actually.
Interesting. Okay. What really makes you angry?
Tyson Battistella: I feel like I don’t get angry. I was just talking about this yesterday. I like usually will just like completely withdraw and not get angry and then almost ghost people instead. Which is probably worse, but here I am.
Okay, I also noticed that you’re wearing, what is it? A US open hat? So, I guess you’re into sports?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I actually stole this hat. So, A bit of an imposter right now, but it’s happening this week, so I’d be going.
Okay, do you have a favorite sports team?
Tyson Battistella: I actually don’t, I think I did growing up, but it’s just been so hard to keep up, it almost feels like, yeah, it hurts me now to have to watch sports. I’m trying to catch up to everything.
Okay, okay. Are you usually early or late?
Tyson Battistella: Very late. Like this is early for me and we’re recording at two in the afternoon.
Alright, I know you’re from British Columbia originally, but is there a place you’d rather be from?
Tyson Battistella: No, honestly, I would like to move back there at some point, it is good place.
Okay. Okay. Actually, there’s two more. Okay. What would you rate 10 out of 10.
Tyson Battistella: Ooh. That’s so hard. Well, this just came up, because I’ve literally just been eating it but like the good. Like, handheld fruit. That’s just perfect.
A handheld fruit. Okay.
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, can be something you have to cut up for something you have to like to pick out, it’s just like it has to be fitting perfectly in the palm of your hand.
And last but not least your favorite meme or favorite memes.
Tyson Battistella: Honestly, the word meme is the perfect meme.
Okay, like, Alright.
Tyson Battistella: So, the way that you can meme a fight that word meme, that’s great.
All right. Okay, great. So, I think that’s a good start. That actually gives me a good idea, or at least a better idea of who you are, things I would never really find online. So, let’s kind of transition into the deeper questions. Okay, so, we said you’re from British Columbia. I’m curious, though, but growing up there. How did that sort of affect like who you are today as a CTO at Zora?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s really strange for me, because growing up, I grew up in the middle of British Columbia, like basically nowhere. And I’ve been like continuously moving to bigger and bigger cities. I think just like the change of having to like, deal with almost like the loneliness when you’re like, deep in thoughts on random, like, directions or places to be going. It’s like, kind of nice, and I actually like miss going back home, to be like quiet places to just like, separate myself from the kind of chaos that happens, especially living in New York because a very loud and energetic city. So being able to, like separate myself into quieter places is always nice.
Would you say moving so much sort of made you more introverted or extroverted over the years?
Tyson Battistella: I think I started super introverted, like coming from a really small town to go into much bigger places was kind of a shock for me. But I think it’s starting to change now. Feeling a little bit more extroverted. Now, when I go back to small towns, I feel like I’m extra, extra extroverted.
Okay, okay. So, you live in New York, right? That’s where you at, are you in Brooklyn?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, Brooklyn.
Getting Started in Web3
Okay. I know, New York has a really big crypto scene. What is your start into web three? What did that look like?
Tyson Battistella: So, it actually started, when I was in college, just talking to a friend who is, she was about 2016 I think, a friend was kind of talking to me about this, like, hypothetical scenario of a world computer is like kind of everyone shares the same resources. And you can see what everyone is up to, and what they’re all doing, and how that like might affect like, the culture or character of how people do things online. And obviously, what he was talking about at the time was Ethereum. And it was just really compelling to me this idea that if everyone’s sharing the same system, or the same resources together, there’s all these new incentive mechanisms that can be created, where no one’s acting in like a, you know, zero sum game, it’s very positive sum, because what you do directly affects other people around you. So basically, from that conversation, I dropped everything, quit my job, dropped out of college for a little bit, moved down to San Francisco, started working at Coinbase, because that was kind of the only web three company I knew of or had heard of, at the time. And yeah, from there, just never looked back.
Did you have any skepticism sort of when you heard about like this world computer?
Tyson Battistella: Honestly, no, I was. It was seemed very dreamy, and like very, yeah, probably too good to be true. But at the same time, I was working at like a healthcare startup and kind of getting a little bit, you know, disenfranchised with how tech was working, as is. And that seemed like a new kind of utopian model of what it could maybe look like. And to not at least try to go work on. That seems like a bit of a waste. So definitely wanted to jump anyways.
So, you joined Coinbase in 2018, right?
Tyson Battistella: That’s right. Yeah.
And you started off as an intern from what I understand at Coinbase.
Tyson Battistella: Yeah. Yeah. So, I started off as an intern. It was really strange because I had been working full time as a software engineer at a different startup in Canada. But because I hadn’t had a degree or hadn’t finished my college yet, I applied as a full-time engineer, went through that whole process. And then, as we were like kind of talking about the job offer, they realized that I didn’t actually have my degree to join full time, so I decided to do the contract or the intern route. And then from that internship kind of contracted for the next few months while I kind of blitz finished my degree, so I can come back down full time again.
Dropping Out of College
Why did you feel the need to drop out of college?
Tyson Battistella: I have done this a couple of times, honestly.
Oh, really? Okay.
Tyson Battistella: I had originally gone to college to study architecture. And that was kind of the thing that I wanted to do. Through that architecture, kind of coursework, I did a computer science course and just kind of fell in love with the like, the lack of limits of kind of like non meet space infrastructure. So, if you can just build without any physical limitations that got way more interesting to me. So, then I dropped out of college, again, switched into computer science, getting back into that. I started working through computer science courses, getting a job just as a software engineer at a local tech startup in British Columbia. And then once again, dropping it almost felt like a muscle memory at that point, school was almost like a means to an end versus the experience itself. For me, so it was pretty straightforward for me to drop out from the fact that something so compelling, was right there that I could just do without school, or at least so I thought without school.
Interning at Coinbase
When you joined Coinbase commerce, what was that like as an intern? And did you spend your off times building other projects? Are you just like I want to kick ass and so that they can hire me full time? Like, what was your thought process during that time?
Tyson Battistella: It was incredible. It was the first like true Silicon Valley startup that I had worked at, I think Coinbase was about 200 people at the time, which was still the biggest company I’d ever been at. But this still very small, very incredible culture team of people who were super driven with the idea of what crypto could do for civilization. So, when I started the commerce, I was living in this really, really tiny apartment in San Francisco that almost made me never want to go home. So, I just ended up basically working like dawn till dusk. Every day in that office, mainly on Coinbase things but the intern class that we had for everyone that was working there was equally as driven. So, we ended up with this kind of incredible serendipity of a group of people who all wanted to build cool things together. And that number is still very, very strong today, I think.
Do, you remember the first thing you sort of got tasked to do at Coinbase commerce as an intern?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, my manager, Maxim, who’s incredible. And like, still, I consider him a really good mentor today. He basically made me read three books before I was allowed to touch the code at Coinbase.
Tyson Battistella: Which was a great, great experience. So basically, I had to like leading up to the first few weeks of my internship, I had to like, crush these three books. I don’t think he was actually making me read all three of them, but he highly suggests that I finished them and kind of that sparked the whole experience at Coinbase for me.
What were the three books. Do you remember?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, it was antifragile by Taleb. It was the sovereign individual. And I want to say the third was Krypton Nomicon. I’m not sure, I’d have to check that third one.
Are those the three books? Or were those the three books that they made everybody read at Coinbase. Like it was like a cult sort of like, like a biblical type of reading, where it’s like, you have to align on these principles. And we’re all on the same page. And then we can build.
Tyson Battistella: I think, maybe unintentionally, that did end up happening, especially with Krypton Nomicon I remember like, you could walk through the office and see multiple copies on people’s desks all over the place. It was like this little signal that you had. But yeah, there’s definitely a bit of a shared reading list happening at Coinbase, I think.
Okay, so you completed the internship, join full time. You were there for about three years, right? Post internship, what did you focus on? What did you do there?
Tyson Battistella: So Coinbase commerce at the time was like a really, really small group of people, I think there was maybe six or seven of us. And we were kind of like, treated like the venture bet team of just like, let’s just see if this works. And if the product works, we can kind of expand on it. But at the time, it was like very much a struggle. I know that this has been kind of memes upon it so many times now. But the startup within the startup analogy, really applied to that Coinbase commerce team that was just like, we had a small, dedicated set of resources. And we were just trying everything we could to see what would work and what didn’t work. But the team that we had was incredible. It was like an amazing experience to be working with them.
Quitting Coinbase to Star Zora
Yeah, there’s a reason why I’m like diving so deep into like your early, early days. Reason is because I love it what you guys are doing a thorough, I’ve been using the platform, of course, right? I’ve been minting my stuff on there, minting other people’s stuff on there. And I think it’s really well built and like really well executed. And just understanding like the boot camp, boot camp that you went through at Coinbase, to where you kind of got today is me sort of just trying to understand, like, what went into that process that then later got the three of you to sort of quit and start Zora, right, and like building that diverse skill set, you know what I mean? Walk me more through that story of like, when you got to a point where like, alright, we’ve been here for a minute now, there’s a lot of opportunity out there. Let’s go do this thing. Like, is that how it went about? Like, am I thinking about this in a cinematic way or was it less sexy?
Tyson Battistella: I think, almost to an extent, it was strange, because Jacob and Dee and myself, we’d never worked directly with one another at Coinbase, we, you know, work together in a few hackathons or through random experiences, you know, happy hour, things like that. And we’d always be talking and just kind of sharing ideas. But I think all of us kind of simultaneously came to this point at Coinbase, as it grew from, like, you know, 200 to 2000 people, a lot of the like, risk and reward that we had of just like, let’s try this thing, it might not work, it might work, started to disappear with these, like more calculated bets, which I think was probably the right decision for Coinbase as it was growing. But for, you know, a lot of us who were there with this idea of like this moonshot mission, it started to like, take away from that, that draw of building new things and experimenting with ideas. So, I think, around that time, I just, I remember seeing Jacob tweeting out that moon Sun Moon kind of bat symbol on Twitter, and I just had this hunch that Jacob was about to leave Coinbase. So, I just wanted to see what he was getting up to. So, we met up for coffee, you can share this, like the master strategy on notion with me of all of these things that he wanted to do with this company called Zora that he was trying to start. And I guess it was from that point as it’s like, okay, yeah, I’m gonna leave too, it was very casual decision. I think, in retrospect, I probably should have put a bit more thought into it. But yeah, very much just, it seemed like the obvious thing to do when I just went with it.
So, do you remember what was written that notion Doc? And I’m only asking, because I’m curious how that sort of changed to where you guys are at today?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s funny, because I think we’ve come very much full circle on that original notion Doc, the original idea was, what happens if you put the creativity that creators have and allow them to actually collect the value that they create from their creativity? We see a lot of like, you know, extractive models in a lot of these creator ecosystems today, where it’s very much to take the feeds from creators and capitalizing on creators rather than allowing creators to actually capture that value. So, we thought, what happens if we allow creators to capture the value of their creation? And then what happens if we allow these creators to build communities around these creations? And what happens when those communities then become incentivized to help propagate those creations and expand, you know, the global network of public goods and public luxuries that exist out there?
What Did We Mess Up In Web2 That We Are Fixing In Web3?
So, this model of empowering creators to capture the value they create, that’s obviously a direct sort of like goal based off problems that have occurred in the past in the industry, that sort of prevents creators from capturing the value that they create. Can you sort of talk about that, break that down for me, because I think there’s like this, there’s this notion of like, we’re going to own web three, like we’re gonna capture this value, but like, what are we really missing here? Like, what did we mess up on web two, that we’re now making up for it and web three that you kind of see from your point of view?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I think there’s a few different ones. But the way that Zora started to the original solution that’s Zora proposed, we have this problem that we kind of called the easy problem, where a lot of creators like Kanye West, kind of can create these limited set of runs that have huge cultural impact, Yeezy sneakers being one of them, but they say, Okay, let’s release 200 sneakers, all at $200. Once they get sold out, that’s it. The problem with that is Kanye or creators, like Kanye would only ever see that original $200 that they had sold. If those sneakers then were resold on secondary marketplaces at much higher prices, which they have been forever. They don’t get to see any of those cultural impacts and the value of that cultural impact being captured. So, the original idea was, what if creators could actually spin up a marketplace that allows for live prices of these physical goods, and therefore be able to actually capture the increase or decrease of those prices over time? That was kind of the original idea. And I think we’ve been seeing this kind of expansion of that idea of just like, what happens when creators have all the tools they would need to take their work and have all of the value be captured or collected by their community and stay within their community versus have these no extractive fee models where a whole lot the value of these creations is getting drained out to third parties that aren’t actually participating in that creation process.
So, what is it about web three that actually enables that?
Tyson Battistella: I think a lot of it is the innate transparency and the exposure to serendipity you get from that transparency. So, what I mean by that is, when you bring a lot of these economic models and actions by communities and creators on-Chain, you end up with this kind of network of data that everyone can see and act upon. And when you allow people to act upon that kind of permission, this way, you kind of allow this exposure to serendipity to increase where people can see these ideas working, expand on them, and continue to iterate on these like evolutions of how creation can be kind of valued through society and a little bit more of a direct way. So, when you see, you know, all of these ideas being experimented with and actually being able to see what the outcomes of these experiments are, you were able to expand and iterate and continue to evolve these new ideas further and further.
Learning Lessons Along the Way From the Initial Vision to Now
Yeah, I remember in, I think it was a fortune that released like the initial article on Zora, sort of talking about the easy problem, highlighting Ric and I remember in the very beginnings Zora was very much focused on like physical merchandise, or at least to an extent, and it’s 2022 now, and your marketplace has evolved tremendously from the API to different products that you guys’ sort of offer. And while you still focus on physical goods, right, with the nouns vision dropped, which I ended up collecting, there’s also a focus on like the Digital Goods, right? Can you talk about sort of like the learning lessons that you sort of discovered, along the way from the initial vision of what you sort of offered to what you guys offer now?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I mean, I guess the end result is basically that we realized creation is creation, any medium that it kind of is created through doesn’t really matter. The physical durations that we were helping sell were incredible. They were all like, very beautiful artifacts of work from all of these creators have been working with and they were very successful selling them. I think what we started to realize, as a very small team who had primarily only worked in crypto, running like a full physical logistics business is very difficult and requires a lot of, it’s not easy in that experience. But like, we’ve been talking about, you know, NFTs in the promise of purely digital media for a long time. And it seemed like a very natural step for us to just focus purely on digital creation and see where that gets us. And I think the thing to keep in mind with digital creation is there is no nothing stopping the digital creation from transcending into a physical 3d creation, that translation process is very simple to do. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be us directly creating that, it’d be an extension of what we already built.
So, do you think all media will be tokenized in the future?
Tyson Battistella: I think it will, I think all media will have some level of provenance stored on-Chain, whether or not that’s the media itself, directly stored on-Chain, or a reference to that media kind of remains to be seen. But it makes sense for there to be provenance completely visible for everyone to see.
So, does that make like anything digital sort of worth collecting, then? Like, you know, like what’s worth collecting? What’s not worth collecting? And who are we to decide even? But I guess it’s an interesting conversation app.
Tyson Battistella: I think what we start to see that gets really interesting, and we’re starting to see it with this creator tool we put out, this idea of like a timed open edition. And what that basically means is like, there’s no limit on the number of NFTs you can mint in this time period. But you have to mint within that time period to be a collector of this item. And what that kind of has sparked is this new form of provenance, where it’s like you marking like I was here for this moment in time, I saw this get minted. And that’s a very special moment, versus like being one of 10,000 people that were able to collect this over time. It’s like I was here at this moment in time, and I’ve marked my spot. And that form of provenance is not new, that we haven’t really been able to see in part collecting it all before. So, all of the actions that you do on-Chain kind of form this character, or this identity of your portfolio where you’re, you know, online identity entirely. That gets very interesting.
What Are Some Marketplaces or Platforms That You Would Want to See Created?
So, on that same thought, okay, there’s also a lot of marketplaces sort of built on top of Zora, right? Which is like the bread and butter of what Zora does, a lot of the marketplaces that I sort of love and adore and collect on and love supporting and also featuring artists on the podcast, sort of like built on Zora. So, on this premise of being able to collect everything, what are some marketplaces or platforms that you have yet to see sort of be created in web three that you actually want to see? Kind of like, I guess, the birth?
Tyson Battistella: That’s a really, really good question. I think we’ve yet to see, there’s been this like common theme of like realizing the potential of CC zero and completely open-source media and works. But along the same veins of like, the value of the provenance of these NFTs, what we haven’t really seen yet is a group or community that’s focused on the actual archiving of already existing public domain items. So, things like the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, for example, that are actually like, archiving these works into, you know, the web three domain or into the completely decentralized domain, such that they kind of will always exist there. But something that I think would be really, really exciting to see just how far can you extend the archival process of the intranet? Or what has been created on the intranet?
Interesting. How would one go by doing that?
Tyson Battistella: I imagine the noun Dao style mechanism might actually be very beneficial there. Where the, you know, the main mission or the reason of existence for this style would be to archive anything that is, you know, potentially archivable. And you kind of create this curated museum or gallery of historical digital works.
Okay. Interesting. I’ve yet to see what that would even look like. I’m trying to imagine like okay, you bring up the nouns Dao, like, okay, I get the action of like, what that would look like as an end user, right? Or maybe as a community. But in the grand scheme of things, like if you were to start something like that, what would be the first few things that you would index? So, space artifacts, Okay, what else comes to mind?
Tyson Battistella: I think the like, there are, like, particular sets of images or moments in time on the internet, where you kind of feel this gravitational pull, especially in places like Twitter or Facebook. Yeah, exactly. There’s that algorithmic pull towards certain means or certain moments on the internet. And I think recognizing those patterns and seeing, you know, if there’s enough signal on a certain topic or a certain subject, there is a reason I think to archive that and mark that moment in time, that we get to see.
What Would You Pay for the Collectible Telescope Artifact or a Moment in Time?
What would you pay for a space artifact like collectible of like the telescope artifact or a moment in time, will the prices range?
Tyson Battistella: I think what becomes kind of exciting there is the idea of like, rather than there being only one of those artifacts to exist, you use that model we talked about earlier, like an open edition where it’s okay. Anyone who was at this moment in time can now mark their place and say, hey, I was here, I participated in this moment. So rather than have like, you know, one large price you say, maybe sell them each for $1. And just like pay $1, to see that you were there. But just like, I think some of that gets very, very exciting. We’ve been seeing it on our tool as well, we’ve had just in the last few months, like a quarter million of these open mission type mints, or you say have a day or a few hours to actually meet this piece, just to mark your moments in time.
How Should Creators Be Using This New Open Edition Format?
So how should creators be using like this new open edition format? I remember back in the early days, about a year and a half, two years ago, when NFTs had like their moment, the nifty gateway era, there was a lot of discussions around diluting your value or the elements of scarcity, right? You also seen this today with like music NFTs like how many editions should you release, right? What’s considered rare? How do you do in a way where you don’t dilute your value on-Chain as a creator, right? How do you think about that, that sort of like mental model at Zora?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I guess a way to look at it is maybe instead of looking at it as each individual piece having its own partition value. The collection as a whole has one large unit of value. So rather than one NFT being worth one Eth, you can say this collection of 1000 NFTs is worth 1000 Eth. And what’s important there is rather than looking at these individual collectors as individuals, you treat the entire collection as a community. So, if you were able to turn the collection of music conditions into a community that can share these experiences together, and actually work together as a unit with this shared value of, you know, valuing this this individual item, you might be able to actually activate a little bit more engagement or energy around the project that you’re doing.
Interesting. What are some examples that come to mind that have done this well?
Tyson Battistella: I think I keep using nouns Daos as an example. Because it’s so interesting to me lately, but there are groups of, I imagine very soon, we’ll start to see, you know, these additional type NFT is being treated almost as like a flag of the country, where everyone who’s a part of this group is now you know, within this community or within this organization, you could imagine like board apes or crypto punks for example, when everyone you know, sets their profile picture as a board ape, or as a crypto punk, you are operating under the flag of the crypto punk or board ape project. If, instead of Yugoslavs being, you know, the sole decider of kind of where that project can go, despite you actually having the individual rights to the NFT, built the project as a whole is still kind of controlled and run by Yugoslavs. If all of that event our project was operated by the holders of that project, I think you’ll start to see a lot more interesting spin offs start to appear. And that’s where things like we’ve seen NASDAQ get really interesting, where we’ve seen, you know, a luxury fashion brand pop up. Right now, it’s being sent to space, there is like a cooking show with noun. There’re all sorts of just random serendipitous moments that start to happen when you have this community, you control the entire mission of the project versus individuals that have created the spark for it.
Favorite Moments from Nouns
What have you seen, like your favorite moments, throughout, like the evolution of nouns community, and that you sort of like learned yourself as a contributor and as a builder?
Tyson Battistella: I think one of the things that’s been most interesting to me, noun’s vision, especially, but all of the like physical manifestations of the noun’s meme get very, very interesting, where you as a creator, or artists can come to this community say, hey, I really liked the flag or the brand, or the meme behind what this community is doing. Here’s my interpretation of how you could extend it. And if you look at noun’s Dao, is was like, the sole purpose of extending the meme of the noun’s classes, by attracting all these creators into that meme, you’re able to expand in all sorts of really interesting and unique ways that we haven’t really seen since companies like Red Bull, who have not one of the strongest marketing teams that exist.
Do you imagine implementing those like those style those tactics to sort of like growing Zora? And if so, like, how would you plan on applying them?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I mean, I think that mechanism could work very well for something like Zora. Where we built this like core infrastructure, right? The core protocol we built is meant to be built on by everyone in whatever extension they can find. We, like there’s really nothing too different about how Zora protocol works from how the underlying nouns protocol works. What we don’t have is Zora that, like, you know, I would imagine we could see in the future is, is that community activation of being like you are actually a member of the noun’s Dao or The Zora Dao. And in like, in being that member having a direct input into the brand or creations that come out of Zora.
Building for Creators and Top Entrepreneurs
Got it. Got it. Okay, a little shift from nouns. I want to come back to it towards the end, because we have some questions on Twitter. And I want to hit you with, as it pertains to nouns and Zora. Okay. But I want to also talk about Zora topia, I think in terms of like in the scope of building a brand and web three, in a world where things are so threatening, and keywords are so scary and like just getting involved as a creator as very, like overwhelming, to be honest, just having an open conversation about like, it’s hard to get involved. It’s hard to overcome a lot of those barriers, but Zora topia has kind of like, proven to be a really cool outlet to meet like-minded people, at least from the one that I joined, right? Shout out to Natasha. It’s a great event. You guys really curate it in a really, really fascinating way. And I think it’s also allowed you guys to establish yourselves, to have this like cultural presence in web three, that’s sort of different from the rest. Can you talk more about that and more specifically, like what is it like building for like the cool cultural user base, but also like the top entrepreneurs and builders in the space? Like how do you think about that as a builder?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I think I mean, first of all, like this entire project all of Zora topia is very much the brainchild of Latasha, like all credit goes to her for what has come out of that it’s been incredible. I think the core thing that’s really exciting there is just like, web three inherently is a very complex and scary place to be, just like when people first started using the internet like, it is dark and kind and creepy, and there’s all sorts of weird individuals there. But if you start to open up that space of, you know, here are actual used cases, and here are things that we are starting to see that get very exciting, and make that accessible to way more people, you kind of engage a much wider audience of people that can bring much more interesting things to the space. If you limit the type of individual can enter the space, you end up with the same things being created over and over and over again, the original versions of the Ethereum were all like super higher, like hyper financialized products, because it was very easy for financialized people to get an idea of what to do. Now, with the Zora topia, if we start to like, explain what creative types can do, and what’s possible to be created with Ethereum, we’re able to bring creative archetypes into Ethereum and that have creative ideas be brought into the space. I think, in general, the more types of people you can attract to a new technology or new solution. The more exciting and more different approaches to building things kind of arise on the internet.
I think with that also comes the hackathons that you guys put together, digitally, alongside Eth, global and also your own hackathons. And I was told you also spearhead that right? And sort of like producing them and bringing them to life, maybe not like actually producing them. But a lot of like the challenges Zora, the developers that come through, obviously much of a value add for Zora, can you talk more about the Zora hackathons that you guys put together? And what that means in the grand scheme of things?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I mean, very similar to Zora topia, it’s the idea of like, if we show people what’s possible to be built, and allow them to start building on top of it, we get all sorts of exciting ideas that we can start to help build on as well. So, in the same way that Zora topia introduced a lot of musicians and a lot of creators into the powers into web three. The idea with the hackathons is like introduce GarageBand packers, like I was like everyone else is or is into, like, what’s possible with these, like very simple tools that we provide, at the end of the day Zora’s protocol is pretty simple. It is like tools to buy and sell NFTs tools to create NFTs, tools for your communities like those are very simple atomic units that can be used by anyone, how hackers or how developers are able to use those is entirely up to them. And that leads us to all sorts of crazy and insane ideas that we get to see through these hackathons that always excites us and gets us kind of set up for what we can be building next.
What are some of the more exciting projects that have come out of out of these hackathons and have any sort of continued and continuing to build till today?
Tyson Battistella: I think my favorite one that comes to mind right now is a sports vision. I don’t know if you’ve seen the sport’s Dao.
No, I haven’t.
Tyson Battistella: Effectively it takes music NFTs and turns them into STEM players online that you can actually like, remix and mix and match with, they get really, really exciting. And it’s a really, really cool site. I can send you a link to that.
Yeah, send me a link afterwards. Yeah, that’s really interesting.
Tyson Battistella: Okay, so we’ve been seeing all sorts of cool ones like that.
Okay, anything else that comes to mind?
Tyson Battistella: I mean, obviously, catalog like music NFT marketplace, was one of the original hackathons we did was catalog being spun up out of that.
No way. Yeah.
Tyson Battistella: I think just seeing the number of companies that have started from Zora hackathon and actually gotten to raise around and become a real team and a real company has been really, really exciting to see.
Other Problems to Solve in Web3
What are some of the more like exciting projects or problems for you right now in web three to solve like, okay, you’re focused on the creator economy at Zora. But you seem like a very intellectual person, you spend a lot of time, a lot of your time thinking about the space. And one of the biggest issues like challenges of being a founder is like staying focused, right? Because there’s always new things to work on and problems to solve. Do you encounter that yourself? And if so, like, what problems would you think you would also be working on if it wasn’t for Zora?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think the nature of like, what we’re trying to build with, like the concept of Hyperstructures is that it’s a lot more akin to building hardware than it is software. And what I mean by that is, if we ship something, it is vital that, once it’s on the production line that being shipped, we can go ahead and change it anymore, because people are now actively building on top of it. And we just have no way of updating. So, there’s this everlasting tension between doing what we think is right in the moment than doing what we think will last as public infrastructure that can be extended and built upon, it gets very difficult. And that’s kind of like biggest one of the biggest challenges of building things, with Zora it’s just that act of making sure that it’s as open as possible for creation, but also immediately useful for people at the moment we release it.
So, this concept of Hyperstructures, is it a meme or is it actually is it like, it’s a legit thing?
Tyson Battistella: It’s absolutely both. All good Things tend to be memes anyways.
What is a Hyperstructure?
Right? What is a Hyperstructure? Can we start with that?
Tyson Battistella: So Hyperstructure is basically a, you can kind of imagine as infrastructure for the internet. And what I mean by that is, it is a tool that is completely open, it is free, and it is valuable. So, when it’s open, that means that anyone is able to build whatever they want on top of it, they can use the tool, however they see fit. It’s free, meaning there is no cost to maintain it, where, you know, public infrastructure in the real world has maintenance costs, and has upkeep costs, because this is deployed on Ethereum. And community on upgradeable, once it’s deployed, it’s there forever, and will work forever, for as long as Ethereum exists. And then finally, it’s valuable, meaning that despite it having no maintenance costs, and usually not taking a fee, at the transaction level, or any sort of extractive fee, there is a way to capture value from the Hyperstructure. And the way that that can be done is kind of this like threat of a fee, where it’s like, there may be no fee for the infrastructure as it exists today. But there’s always the optionality of turning on a fee later. And we see that with like a protocol like uniswap, for example, have this kind of built in, where there is a fee built into uniswap, that’s just never been turned on. And it’s actually, you know, the incentive of the holders of uni token, or the participants of the uni Dao to make sure that he does not get turned on. Because you want that infrastructure, that core infrastructure of the Internet to stay free. But the value of having control of that fee becomes very valuable.
How do you monetize? Yeah, go ahead, continue.
Tyson Battistella: I was just gonna say, you could imagine that, like, if you had the key, to charge everyone in, I don’t know, everyone in New York to use the subway, like, if you had the key to be able to set the fee for the New York subway, that’s a very valuable key to have. So, what you can do is kind of incentivize the writers of the New York subway, to have a ownership share in that key to keep that fee as low as possible. So, you would have this kind of tension between speculators who would want to increase the fee to make more revenue, and users who would want to keep that fee as low as possible, kind of continually wanting ownership in that key. And the same thing works for things like uni, where you have speculators who want to earn a fee on uni. And you have users of uni, who want to make sure that these days as low as possible, and that tension is where that value starts to arise.
So how do you monetize a Hyperstructure? So, in the case of uniswap, there’s different ways to monetize but I guess, in the Zora protocol esque format, okay. How does that look like at scale? Like, what does that look like at scale? And how do you monetize something like that?
Tyson Battistella: I would argue you do not need to directly monetize a Hyperstructure. Okay. And what I mean by that is, in the same way that I mentioned, the ownership of the fees, which for that Hyperstructure is very valuable, you might choose to monetize by selling ownership rights in the entity that holds that V switch. So, you could have, for example, a Hyperstructure deployed, that I don’t know does something, anything, literally anything, you could then create a, I don’t know, noun style Dao, for example, that every day means one more person into the ownership group of that V switch. And the monetization or the, you know, the way that that value kind of kind of compounds into the current holders of that is by allowing one more member to buy into this group every single day. You’re continually compounding treachery on top of the tool.
What Do You Think About the Nouns Model as a Potential Mechanism for Open Hyperstructured Development?
So that was one of the questions from the audience, like, what do you think about the nouns model as a potential mechanism for open Hyperstructured development? I think you can guess where that came from, too.
Tyson Battistella: But that was definitely a Jacob tweet. Yeah, of course, that would be very, very in line with Jacobs, recent thinking. Yeah, I think the idea there basically is like, the nouns Dao mechanism is extremely interesting as of late, just because it’s one of the first kind of Dao constructs that aren’t predicated on having fees being earned from a political where, you know, a lot of other Daos that exist in most other Daos, I’d say, the value of ownership of those Daos because there’s fees happening on the protocol where it directly relies on some form of extractive fee model, to bring value directly to that Dao. The nouns model, if it worked with a Hyperstructure would mean you’re not actually extracting fees, you’re just selling the right to turn on a fee in the future over time. And that gets very interesting and is a small nuance, but it’s an important one, because you’re not buying into this Dao, with the expectation that you’re getting an extractive fee which actually puts you against a user of the protocol. You’re buying into the ownership of the Dao to be a participant in the expansion of this protocol, where you want more and more users of this protocol to exist, because you want that tension to continue to exist of that thread.
So why should creators care about this? Like, why should the creators give an F about Hyperstructures?
Tyson Battistella: So, from a creator level, I think one of the most important things about Hyperstructure is that it is infrastructure that you can build on top of, and know that it will work, the way it’s worked forever with no changes. A lot of COVID on Ethereum is completely upgradeable. And that means that you could choose to build on top of it. But at any moment, the owner of that code could change it, it could completely alter how it works without telling you about it or without asking for your permission. A Hyperstructure is effectively like being given a hammer or a piece of hardware and allowing you to use it however you want for as long as you want. Because we have no permission, we have no way of changing it from underneath you.
Interesting. So, I feel like it’s gonna be one of those things where it’s just obscured underneath the surface, like you’ll never even know you’re using, you’ll never know it’s there, but it’s there. And it’s the reason why you’re here is because it’s there.
Tyson Battistella: Exactly. Just like I mentioned, like infrastructure for the internet, you probably won’t think you’re using it, but it’s very important that it does exist, you know, stays there.
How Do You Capture the Value Created Through a Hyperstructure?
So there has to be a way to capture value somehow, like, you’re not just going to build to build, right, okay, like, sure there’s an element of that, right. But you still need to find a way to capture value, right? Capturing the value that you create; how do you capture the value created through a Hyperstructure? What does that look like?
Tyson Battistella: So as a creator or as Zora?
I guess, as Zora and as a creator. Yeah.
Tyson Battistella: So as a creator, I’d say, you can quite safely just use the Hyperstructure and build whatever fee mechanism on top of that, that you would like if you wanted to capture value. Like, for example, one of the Hyperstructures we’ve built with our code has a way to sell NFTs. So, you would just use that tool, the sales module that we built into our protocol to sell NFT and indirectly capture value from the NFTs that you’re selling.
Tyson Battistella: The side for Zora perspective on like how Zora captures value from that is pretty straightforward as well, we can sell NFTs as well, we can use our tools, building our own models or building our own ideas that we think it’d be interesting, we’re very, very much into dogfooding our own products.
Tyson Battistella: It is very easy for us just to use the infrastructure that we’ve built, to be like to capture our own values, and have one of the like, one of the best content marketing or like artists, groups that we could possibly have come together on the Internet in Zora and allowing us to use our own tools is very important for us. Yeah.
Solving the Web3’s Metadata Problem
I want to shift the conversation to talk more about data, on-Chain data. And as I say that I see you smiling too. So, I’m assuming you like this topic. So, I know web three has a metadata problem. Can you quickly break it down? And then how you could like how you would propose essentially, to solve it?
Tyson Battistella: I guess. So, I’ll say one of the reasons that I like on-Chain data, when it comes to the metadata problem is very much in the same way that I like Hyperstructure, Hyperstructure is valuable, because you know that it’s going to work forever, for as long as there even exists. So, to build a Hyperstructure, if you bring data on-Chain, and ensure that that data cannot be changed, you’re doing the same thing. You’re ensuring to every future user or every future interactor, have that media or have that data that is not going to change, it will exist there forever, that there’s really no way to censor or to remove that kind of media.
Got it? Okay. So, with that being said, how would you sort of propose we solve, like, how do we create a standard where everybody follows and that everybody’s aligned with? And of course, I guess, like, the most obvious answer is like, if you all build on Zora, then we all sort of went to an extent. But in the grand scheme of things like one, I want to be, I want to be optimistic, let’s say that’s gonna happen. Okay. How do we solve that problem that in the grand scheme of things for all marketplaces to align on the same data standards, and for it to scale accordingly?
Tyson Battistella: I mean, it’s almost like a paradox. I think, I don’t know if you follow XKCD, though?
No, I don’t know.
Tyson Battistella: So, this XKCD is this incredible, like set of comics, basically. But there’s one panel that always sticks out where it’s like we’ve solved, we’ve created a protocol to solve all the problems of these other protocols. And then like five years later, it’s like, oh, we created another protocol to solve all those other protocols. And I think like, I imagine that will continue to happen with you know, archival and media, like these ideas of how we can archive media and archive data online. There is likely always going to be iterations and evolutions such that we can’t have the single feel and all of these protocols look alike, but we can kind of work together to have, you know, one for the immediate term and one for the near term, it’s just likely that that protocol or that that method will continue to evolve over time, as you know, new forms of media start to the rise.
What Does it Mean to Be a Data-Informed Creator?
Got it. So as a creative entrepreneur, for those who are creating content, those are tokenizing, their art, their craft, okay. I think one of the biggest benefits of being a web three native creator is, one you get to build an ecosystem, I think, the most exciting and the most innovative ecosystem that has sort of like evolved in our time, in our lifetime. But two, what’s even more interesting, you are kind of like you’re building a new medium for you, as a creator, to understand who your audience is. And to sort of build a community online that can never be shadow banned, right, the blockchain can never shadow ban you. And I think a lot of what web two creators transitioning into web three, they need to understand that, they need to understand that concept where it when you build an audience on-Chain, there’s all this data that you sort of can tap into, that you can sort of become a better creator, a smarter creator, right? I’m curious from your point of view, like what does it mean to be like a data informed creator, right? It’s just like, I feel like a lot of creators aren’t there yet, to an extent, but it’s like one of these like, it’s like the gold in the blockchain that will allow a lot more creators to be better creators, smarter creators, you know what I mean? What do you think about that?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I think, I don’t think it’s the fault of the creator that we haven’t seen that utilize yet. I think a big reason for that is the act of actually getting that data and being able to find patterns and find different methodologies is very hard right now. We know the data exists, and it is all there. But the act of actually extracting that data is very difficult. And like, I think that’d be something would be incredible for people to do, and people do on you know, things like doing dashboards and things like that tried to like, all these different scenarios. But reality, like the data is there, it’s just not accessible yet. So as that data becomes more and more accessible with different dashboards or different extraction methods, I think we’ll start to see all sorts of really cool evolutions form, as people can see, you know, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, especially with different types of collectors for different types of communities. It’ll get interesting.
How Does Zora Use On-chain Data?
How do you guys use data at Zora, as a platform founder to better understand the people minting on your site, to better understand who your users are, to better understand your community? How do you guys use on-Chain data to better inform yourselves?
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I think we actually almost only use on-Chain data. Other than a few minor analytical things. We don’t track anything about our websites or how people are using them right now. We’re very explicitly just tracking what’s working on-Chain. And that’s important for us, because really, that’s what matters is what actual transactions are happening with our protocol or with protocols around us that we think are interesting. So, we have, you know, this incredible index here that we’ve been using to kind of track and predict what’s happening, that we finally started to open up through this API we’ve released, that allows us to make these predictions and like, understand what’s happening around Ethereum right now. So, we largely use it just to track the status of the on-chain transactions that are happening, which we think are kind of the most important metrics for any crypto company.
Yeah, makes a lot of sense. All right. as we sort of wrap up, I want to ask you a couple more questions. Okay. So, what do you wish you knew more about?
Tyson Battistella: In general?
Yeah, in general, because you seem you seem like a very informed person, okay. You seem like you like you know your shit, like, you know what you’re doing in crypto. But you also, I also feel like, I get the impression from you that you spend a lot of time thinking about the space. And I’m curious, like, what do you wish you knew more about?
Tyson Battistella: I think if I were to go back, five, how long have I been in crypto for? A long time though. Okay, let’s say 10 years ago. I really wish I knew more about the fundamentals of cryptography, and decentralized networks, such that we could see the evolutions of things like how proof of stake is working, how ZK starks and ZK snarks are working all of these, like new core fundamentals underneath these blockchains that actually allow them to work. I really wish I understood more about that and had more of a grasp on that, which I’m working towards. But you know, it’s just, it’s not there yet. And the reason I think that’s really exciting is because in the same way that we see, you know, new collection or NFT mechanisms for different communities, I really want to see new protocol mechanisms built on different chains that can’t be done on how Ethereum works today, for example. I think that’s something that I I really wish I knew more about.
As you sort of like, jumped down that rabbit hole, anything sorts of come to mind that sort of fits in in that line of thinking.
Tyson Battistella: Yeah, I think like, for example, there’s this new technology called Stark that allows for a effectively like a hidden blockchain, where you can have these transactions that are done all at once but not immediately visible. And what that would allow for from a political standpoint is all sorts of new interesting mechanisms that we can’t have with Ethereum yet. In the same way that Ethereum is extremely valuable because everything is so transparent. It’s probable that there’s equally valuable things from completely nontransparent data. And I really want to see like, what the inverse of Zora could look like. If you take the fact that everything was not transparent and put on-Chain what can be created through that as well.
Challenges With Building Zora
Okay, okay. All right. Another question. I’m going through the Twitter replies, let’s see, we already got the nouns one, there’s another one that comes through. Alright, what was the biggest challenge when building the Zora protocol?
Tyson Battistella: I think the hardest thing that we’ve always had to deal with is the fact that, like I said earlier, this is very much shipping hardware. We can’t change what we built. And we always have this tension. And these like, really, really intense debates about what needs to be in the core version of what we’re trying to build, it’s really easy for us to try to build things that feel like they would make a lot of sense in the way we’re seeing, you know, the environment of crypto right now. But the reality is, we often have to peel that back with the understanding that we need to be building for the very, very long term with this core infrastructure that we’re building. So, it’s important that what we build is meant to be built on and not perfectly curated for one used case. I think that’s the biggest challenge that we’re really consistently facing. It’s like what is good enough to be the core pure version of what we’re trying to build.
Can you elaborate, you keep saying hardware is that because once you put something out, like there’s no going back? Is that what you represent as hardware?
Tyson Battistella: If you ship, I have these air pods right here. It’s like, when these air pods get shipped out, Apple has no way to update the hardware, or like the circuit board that exists here. So, if I ever have a better idea of how this should be built, I can change that for my users. Speaking from Apple, right, so for us at Zora, it’s like when we released this protocol, and developers start to use it. We can’t just say, okay, here’s v2, everyone’s not using it, we need to create a v2 and make it compel enough that the developer would want to switch their work onto that v2, because the understanding of these Hyperstructures is that they will exist forever. And there’s really no need to switch unless there is something absolutely more compelling on version two or version three. So, it comes to that like n plus one version that gets much more difficult for us, where all of the future iterations have to be extra compelling.
How do you incentivize teams to switch once they’ve already built their entire stack on an older version?
Tyson Battistella: Like I said, I think it has to be extremely compelling, that we created and like, in all fairness, there’s really no need. Like, there’s no reason to. If a version one of a product that we put out is working for everyone. They should continue to use it. It’s never going to change, we can’t do anything about it, they should continue to use it and that’s kind of the whole point. But for you know, future users or people that haven’t started building on Zora yet, then you know, maybe it makes sense to use the version two to the version three is what we put out.
How Can a Team Manage Magnificent Meme Game With Top Tier Tools, Software Development?
Alright, last question. This one comes from Richard. How can a team manage magnificent meme game with top tier tools, software development?
Tyson Battistella: I think I really love the fact that we’ve kind of organically had this perfect duo of like, somewhat put together at our Zora and then absolutely chaotic energy. That’s our engineering. And that duo in that tandem seems to work really, really well together. But Gemin Max running this or engineering, Twitter, it’s just, they’re just killing it.
Zora’s Mood Board
All right, amazing. Well, now that you answered that, another question sparked up, alright, this is the last question. Okay. Zora is brand is very unique. From a design point of view. I know you’re the CTO. But if you have some insight, what was the, what did the mood board look like when sort of designing Zora?
Tyson Battistella: It’s actually funny. You mentioned that because the original mood board for Zora was completely built by a community. So, we actually just tweeted a tweet stream and a figma link and just allowed anyone to dump anything they wanted into our figma board. That was the original mood board for what Zora brand was going to be. We were just running a tweet stream and dumping cool images into figma, until we kind of reached the Zora mood board. Yeah.
Does that give you guys a lot of traction, kickstarting Zora?
Tyson Battistella: I think so. Yeah. I mean, we wanted to build in the open from the very beginning and rather than, you know, build a product from the very beginning, we needed the brand to go with their product. So, we were building the brand completely in the open from the beginning. And that led to all sorts of really cool engagement and all sorts of incredible creators and users of Zora from the beginning.
Tyson, this was great. Thanks for being on, before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find Zora? Show it away.
Tyson Battistella: For sure. I mean, as we talked about, I think at the beginning, I’m quite covert online, but I think I’m still pretty active on Twitter at TBT STL. More covert this basically. And then obviously, yeah, Zora is a very pro Twitter place. So, we are always on Twitter.
Amazing. Thank you so much for being a part of the season. Thanks for being on. We’ll have to do this again soon.
Tyson Battistella: For sure. Thank you for having me.