Podcast Transcript

Black Dave’s Mental Model on Designing Experiences for Collectors


Mint Season 6 episode 12 welcomes Jenil Thakker, Founder of Coinvise, an open platform on Ethereum where creators can launch a social & build a tokenized community. For the next half hour we spoke about the launch of the new airdrop tool on coinvise, expectations for the new feature, how the airdrop filter works, and so much more.

I hope you guys enjoy our conversation.

Time Stamps

  • 00:13 – Intro
  • 11:05 – Getting Started With Music NFTs
  • 17:00 – The History of Black Dave
  • 23:09 – Why Community Ownership is So Important
  • 29:03 – Rent-Based NFTs
  • 32:19 – Creating Experiences Around Drops
  • 34:56 – Snoop Dogg’s NFT Drop
  • 39:30 – Any Collaborations On Your Wish List?
  • 43:00 – Free NFTs
  • 58:26 – The Balance Between Documenting Processes and Creating Music
  • 01:03:20 – How Do You Build a Legacy On Chain?
  • 01:07:58 – New Things On Your Radar
  • 01:15:29 – Outro

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Black Dave, the one and only, welcome to mint. What’s going on man?

Black Dave: Hey man, I’m about my girlfriend’s house. She’s watching industry and I’m chilling. How are you?

I’m feeling good. I’m doing well. It’s Wednesday, September 21, it’s the first episode we’re recording together. I feel like it’s long overdue. I’m a collector of yours across the different music NFTs that you’ve issued, and sort of just been like watching what you’ve been doing. So, I think a good place to start like Dave is who are you, man? What does a world need to know about you? And more specifically, how’d you get your start into web three?

Black Dave: So, I normally say my name is Dave, Black Dave in the streets. I got; I’ve been making music in varying forms for the last 20 years. Nothing crazy. I don’t have some like I went on tour with this person kind of story. But I’ve been making music just with my friends in Charleston where I live. I’m from Charleston, South Carolina. I got started in web three at the end of 2020. My story’s similar to a lot of people that just happened earlier. I was on clubhouse, someone was showing people how to make NFTs, it was Seer Sue, in case you know Seer Sue and he was doing a five-day course with, there’re like a few o G’s in there, Shawn, sometimes Sophie, his girlfriend was in there. There weren’t a lot of people. There’s like six or seven of us learning how to make NFTs at this time. And I started minting NFTs then, my first maybe 15 or so NFTs weren’t actually music. They were all images. And I started minting music in March of 2021. And then from there, I went full steam on music.

But you’ve been you’ve been a music artist for a minute now, right?

Black Dave: Yes, yes, I started out playing bass in pumping hardcore bands, which is why my music has like screaming and why music has guitars is because like, I’ve been trying to think a lot more about how to fuse all of my interests into one thing. And so that’s like what my musical goal and constant chases.

How would you explain, like your creative side to someone who’s not familiar with your work? Because I would consider you, not all over the place, but like artistically all over the place, which I really appreciate. How would you sort of explain it to someone, that isn’t maybe familiar with your work?

Black Dave: I tell people my goal like is like Virgil Abloh was a rapper who watched anime. My whole thing is that, I don’t want to be limited to a specific media, I really just want to be known for like my tastes and like the quality of work and the quality of ideas. So normally, I tell people that like I’m an all-around creative person, or I’ll say a lot of times, and I’m a creative director. But I like to just say, I’m a creative person, working out the intersection of anime, streetwear, rap music, sneakers, and fashion.

Walk me through more of like the early days of clubhouse. Because I think that was like an iconic moment for a lot of people who kind of came across NFTs in that era and clubhouse set the tone for a lot of new projects, a lot of like icons that maybe have set the tone for, yeah, like the standards of how to do drops, how to design websites, etc. And I remember all these like clubhouse spaces sort of activated that and considering you came into crypto through clubhouse, and you didn’t start with music, you started with images. I think that’s super interesting. Can you talk more about that?

Black Dave: Yes. So, in 2019, I had quit my job and decided that I was going to try to find a way to be a creative person for money, as opposed to working for somebody else for money. And so, when 2020 had started, I decided I was going to make more music. And so, I was making a three song EP every month and I was making a beat every day and uploading it and like putting it on my beat store. And so, when it got time to get into like crypto, web three, etc. I was already into crypto, I bought my first crypto and like 2017, with everybody else. And one of my friends early in the year was trying to get me into NFTs. He was like you could totally do this. And I was like, oh, I don’t do 3d art and that was pretty much the end of the conversation. And so, at the end of it. At the end of the year, I was going through the course and I minted a cover that I did use for one of my EPS is my first NFT. It was like December 19 or 20th. Right before Christmas, and it was a small clubhouse room. You know, Lady Phoenix, I think like, it was one of the big oh geez, who was on clubhouse at the time. Sirsi was a super old shrine, Israel. There was Cashmere, there like a handful of folks. And at that time.

There’s a ton. Yeah.

Black Dave: But at that time, there were a lot. I think, the early, early, earliest conversations I remember were all led by black people, which was kind of funny to think about now, just because of like, so much of the different race related things that happened throughout the space, but like, that was really interesting. And I just met lady Phoenix in New York. At NFT NYC, she’s amazing. I’ve met Seer Sue, before that, something I don’t know which one, somewhere, I’ve met all the people I named but I had minted an image, I didn’t sell it for about a month and a half. So, what happened was through that, I ended up teaching other people about NFTs, I joined the like, clubhouse crew NFTs dot tips, if you remember that, if you were around for that. So, I joined that crew a little bit after they started. And we would just onboard people for like 18 hours a day like literally like I would sit probably for like six- or seven-hours in time and when onboard people and we would just rotate like the like core team quote unquote and from there we just onboard so many people, you think about like the like the team for like Oni force like all of them were like pretty much on boarded by NF T’s tips like the OG team. I know they’re like, going through it as a project but like that team windboard APR club minted, it was still clubhouse time. So, all the rooms are happening on their, part of the reason that super Yeti is such like a meme is because that was clubhouse time. Just a bunch of stuff from that era. And then like something that I think is a little bit different now that was not, that was like, that was that, it was it’s different now but was really, I think important then was like the power of a crypto punk and owning a crypto punk. And like early 2021. Alan henna was like the only person we all knew who had a crypto punk at the time. And he was one of the people who was helping onboard tons and tons of folks and like, I would spend a lot of time like CO hosting rooms with Alan, which I think really informed like a lot of how I view the space because like, he’s such a deep thinker in general and was already working in crypto and like was already an engineer and all that stuff. So, hearing him describe the space versus hearing somebody who’s natively an artist described the space, I think really informed how I moved and thought.

How would you sort of explain to someone who wasn’t around the early like clubhouse days, the influence that black culture had on mainstream adoption? How would you sort of explain that narrative and kind of even reference examples?

Black Dave: I think the easiest example, especially for like clubhouse in particular, was clubhouse really took off when Atlanta rap music showed up on the app. So, I got on clubhouse in November of 2020, which was still far before a lot of people and I got one of my friends on before me because he like he made more, he was further along in the music journey than I am. And so, I was like, yo, you should get on clubhouse. I know your manager lives in Atlanta. Let’s see if you can get somebody to get you on. And so, he ended up getting on like a month and a half before me. And Neezy who’s 21 savage’s managers had like a really booming club on there. Sonny digital had a really booming club on there. And then what happened was clubhouse sort of, I remember tweeting, like, where all the white people on clubhouse at a point. And obviously, they’re all there. But this space, it was just such a different like space and territory. I think once like web three was kind of that thing that I think allowed race like to sort of be obfuscated a little bit and then all sorts of people started joining. But I think when people started joining, they also started creating and looking for communities like within their identity. 

So, like when I had joined there was a cohort called one off and they had crypto voxels show that was all black NFTs like NFTs by black art. As the NFTs weren’t black, but yeah and so that was like kind of one of my early entrances into it. And so, through that, and then through float, which is like a music based collective, or music-based project, founder of that black, lady Phoenix, of course. You know, Alan, and then black NFT art, the community, that community whom a diamond etc., etc., popped up around that time. And so, there were a lot of like, I think the first spaces that really catered towards certain demographics of people were all the black spaces, and then and then you started to see the women and NFTs, then you started to see, you know, people in Asia, especially in NFTs, and even at that point in time, we were like, through NFTs tips, people were like translating for other people. And so, we were teaching people about NFTs in another language, even through clubhouse. So, I think, I want to say like Japan had started onboarding maybe. And so that that kind of happened.

Getting Started With Music NFTs

Okay, so at what point did you sort of get involved on the music NFT front? Because you started with more of like, digital art, right? Yeah, I’m curious around the time, like the year, right, so was it like 2020, 2019, or more of like, 2021?

Black Dave: it was 2021, for sure. I saw my very first collection. So, I had done a whole collection before I’d done music. The collection was called flips. It’s like, if you just search flips on open sea, you’ll find it. But they were all logo flips of just popular brands. And they would just say like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Doge, etc. And what happened was I did that. And then I remember someone being like, oh, these are just like cheerio cards. And then I was like, shit. And then I like I still do; I still do them. But like I do them far less just because I know that there’s like a project that kind of already pushed the logo flip narrative for me. I ran a brand in Charleston, or I ran a brand in Charleston, called Charleston hype, which essentially did the exact same thing. But I would flip logos of companies and they would say Charleston instead. So, like, I had a Nike T for instance. And people it said Charleston and like in big cities, Nike does collaboration shirts, like are they do city shirts, but people would go to the Nike store and be like, I saw a Charleston Nike T, can I get that? And people would be like, oh, no, that’s not here. And like, the idea was that like, it was like tourists’ tees for locals. And, and I kind of felt the same way about the project. The flips project was it was like tourists’ tees for locals or tourists designs for locals. Were like, if you knew about the cryptocurrencies, you would get it. But if you knew about the brands, you would also want to get it because of the brands associated. So, like it was a nod to my streetwear. And then in March, I think I mentioned my first music project. And what I did with that, I think is kind of unique, even still is, I had minted a collection of 2d artworks, a collection of 3d artworks. And then just like the straight up audio file, like with the cover art, and I did that. And every, all the unlockable content was a download link to the song. So, it’s just an IPFS link, hash, I guess I should say, to the song. And that was like my first NFT drop. And because I was doing so much onboarding and stuff through NFTs tips, I decided to do like a, you know, clubhouse drop room. And I think I sold out, like that night of that whole project, which was really sick.

You know, it’s cool, just hearing you’d say this story in, like walking me through your process and the details that went into sort of creating the drop using IPFS to sort of figuring out what the dynamic would be between doing, like minting the audio file separately and whatnot. Like, it seems so complex on the surface, it also seems like you know exactly what you’re doing. And what’s interesting is that a lot of creators that you talk to, they’re just like sort of focused on just like minting the music NFT, but that’s also why you’re here today. Like, why I wanted to feature you is because like, I feel like you think so critically and so in depth on how you’re going to construct the drop and you also know some of the tech stack and infrastructure that’s related to kind of minting and bringing these pieces to life. 

Black Dave: You know, so I think lazy minting on open sea might have happened December 29. So, like my very first NFT was on wearable, I paid full gas, it might have been like $4 at the time and I know like right now, you know Ethereum is low, transactions are low. So, gas is low as well but like that, it was so cheap to do and I already had crypto from buying in 2017 that I just it was like a no brainer for me. But then like, you know, I said earlier like the whole like Virgil Abloh kind of reference, I feel like when you design something, and when you create something, the details are what really matters. I like to say that luxury is in the details. Like one of my recent cars, I go through cars like hotcakes, I guess. I had a BMW 323; it was a 2001. It’s like last year, they did the 323 series. And I remember when I got it, I would crank the car, and the radio wouldn’t turn off, while the car crank. So, you’d like most cars, when you crank the car, the radio turns off, and then it turns back on when your car cranks up all the way. My BMW didn’t do that. And I was like, wow. And like that sort of clicked to me that like, all the best parts of things are in the details. Even like more BMW stuff, like, under my passenger seat, there was a whole first aid kit, you know, and so it’s just like, just like little things that would make it better. You know, when you switch lanes, it would automatically turn the signal light off. And like in 2001, that was crazy. You know, like, just little stuff like that is really what makes things special. And so like, I always wanted to have attention to detail. And I always wanted to like, create stuff that like resonated with me because even like that first song was all anime themed, I use a sample from anime, my pet tag is anime. A lot of the images I was using were anime. But then like, trying to make it more like, considered, I guess, I think considered is probably the best word to explain. Like, I wanted to do things. And so, and then, like you said on the tech stack end, right. Like, I think my number one question this whole time has always been, why does this need to be an NFT? And why can’t this exist in a traditional sense? And so that’s what I’m always like, pushing for through every project I do.

The History of Black Dave

So that ended up being the first music NFT, what was the next one? Like walk me through the history like Dave, and sort of how you curated your drops shortly after.

Black Dave: So, the next NF T. One thing that’s crazy about the first NFT drop that I failed at, I was learning unreal Engine at the time, when I was trying to build a little Metaverse, that was an art gallery, and then upload it to my website, I failed. I didn’t sleep for a lot of days, I had burnout. And then in July, was in July, maybe June, the end of June, I had minted my second collection of works. And this time I’m into two songs, and that I mentioned a bunch of 2d artworks, some 3d artworks, and then the cover arts. What I did this time was, I created a special edition cover for the songs. And this is my second drop. I did a special edition cover for the songs, everybody who had my first song got that for free. So, I was already like doing versions of airdropping. And then the 25 editions of each song I had available as NFTs. And the special thing about this drop was, I had a token that was called the Black Dave verse token. And what that token was, is whoever owned that token, can get a rap verse for me, whenever they want. 

I remember like thinking about like another like, why NFTs, why web three and thinking about like, when I’m like one of the biggest artists in the world. And it’s really hard to get a rap first from me, somebody who bought this token really early, still has access to me through that token. And like I was thinking about this idea of like a service based NFT, so the person who want it, was the only person who bid on it. And he was like, I bid on it to start the auction but I thought this was a genius idea and that it would sell for a lot of money. And so, they paid point three Ethereum which was around $1,000 at the time and I think that’s going to be a great deal in the future. But I think like more than anything it opened up the idea of like services rendered by NFT ownership, so like, I had I had a discord back then but I don’t think my Discord was token gated, my Discord still not token gated. But I’ve token gated like channels, but it’s like open to all and but like even that, like is a service, right? Discord access as a service. And so, like just thinking about all the different services I could do. So, I did two songs, I had Airdropped all my previous collectors, a special edition version of the song. And then I had released two new songs and did the verse token. So that was my second music NFT drop and that was still on open sea like everything I did so far up to this point was on open sea, except my very first NFT which was on rare able and it was mostly because lazy minting came to be and I was like all right, cool. Let’s just run that. So that was my second drop.

Right. And then and then sound that XYZ comes into the picture? Yep.

Black Dave: Sound catalog. I minted on catalog first, before sound. And I minted on catalog in November of 2021. And I minted a song called sharp. And I feel like every story has like some obnoxious like, this is what NFTs can do thing to it. But like, I minted that song sharp and it was priced at three Ethereum, party bid was like a big thing at the time, especially for people making rap music, we were all, not we were all, a lot of people were like minting music videos and selling that for one Ethereum or two Ethereum. But getting the whole community to buy in on it, community ownership is like, definitely one of those things that I think web three enables really well. So, what I did was sharp was three Ethereum priced NFT. And I set it up as a party bid, 42 people got in on it. And from there, I gave governing power of the song to the collectors. So, everyone who bought in a fraction of the NFT, I gave him governing ability, the NFT didn’t sell in total for about two months, I was going on this crazy like run of like Twitter threads, Twitter spaces, clubhouse rooms, like, just like explaining the gospel of like, why this NFT matters, why I matter. Like making like NFT like music NFT hot takes, which is still like a thing that I do. And an NFT sold in January. 

So, like, I think at the beginning of January, it sold the same day, I’d gotten on the 22 artists to watch in 2022 lists by NFT now, so I got on that list the same day, the NFT sold, I was doing a space called why isn’t your NFT selling, where people would come in and talk to me about why their NFTs weren’t selling and we would just talk about it. And at the end of the space, somebody pretty much like paid the whole like last one Eth that was remaining. So, I was at like 2.1 out of three. And at the end of the space. Eric Spivak was like, Yo, I just ran up the last point nine NFTs done. And I was like, oh shit, and so 42 people in total, it was a crazy like, because he was like, did you notice you got on this list? And I was like No, not until after the room. And then the guy who collected the verse token, he hits me up every so often with like different ideas about like, what he could do, where he just wants to talk about, whatever. And he was like, he was like, did this sell because you got on the list. And I was like no, the list came out after I sold. And so, it’s like crazy timing. Because maybe if that didn’t happen, it would have ended up selling through like me getting that notoriety of being on the NFT analysis, which I also made it on the NFT 10 in 2021, which was sick or 2022, I guess.

Why Community Ownership is So Important

Wild. You know, earlier in the story, you sort of talked about this concept of community ownership. I’m curious why you decided to use that keyword and what that sort of means in the grand scheme of things, as you’re building communities and building like a fan base, the collector base in crypto, like why is community ownership so important?

Black Dave: I think like, the thing about communities owning things is, in a lot of ways communities haven’t really had an opportunity to own something together. This is going to be like a probably reach of a metaphor. But I live in Charleston, and I live on land that’s owned by my family. And my aunt is my neighbor. And I live with my mom and my great aunt’s my neighbor and I live with my mom and my aunt, her sister, and my grandma is going to build a house in front of us and my sister might build a house beside us and I might build a house somewhere. And like the idea that like my family is the community has this opportunity to own land provides a lot of new opportunities for us, but also allows us to create things we couldn’t create before. I think with web three, when community’s own thing, communities can benefit from owning a thing. So, like even with sharp, the whole idea of this project was that, we would do governing things around the song, so like stuff like the music video treatment, stuff like marketing, stuff like you know the budget for the song, stuff like you know, whatever and like when the song ended up going crazy in whatever form it did, we could sell the NFT in the community that supported me, now got a return on their support. And I think that’s something that’s really special about communities owning thing is that, if we all own something, we all can benefit from the ownership, either through participating and whatever the thing is that we get by owning it, or participating in the sale of that thing. And because we’re all owners, we all get to benefit from the sale of that thing.

That makes sense. I think a lot of creators still don’t understand the beauty and the value behind ownership, let alone like majority of people that exist on this planet. I think NFTs might have maybe educated people on what the value of ownership really means and what you can do once you own something. But I think it kind of comes down to like being financially literate, to an extent, right, or just being literate in general of why it’s better to own versus rent. Would you agree? Would you disagree? What do you think about that?

Black Dave: I think it depends, right? Like there are massively rich people who say don’t own things, because as soon as you own something, it’s worth less. And they’re like, you just lost money, because like driving a car off the lot, you know, depreciates the price of the car by a bunch of students, you get off the lot. I think that this is different. I think digital assets don’t depreciate and then a lot of ways only appreciate, especially when you factor in the blockchain, and like provenance, and like trackable ownership. Things really, in a lot of cases can only go up in value if shepherded the right way. When I was talking about the first token, and I made the comment about being the greatest artist in the world, and you know, what I’m doing being worth a bunch of money. If a community had owned that token, a community could benefit from the sale of that token, to a record label, to a rapper, or the community could benefit from, you know, getting one of their friends a song with me, and maybe it’s the same thing as getting a Drake verse, you know, in 2022.

I think like, you know, owning things, and not only owning things, but understanding that there’s power to ownership, and that, especially using this tech, you can enable special things for that ownership is the thing. You know, I know, we’re like going through my journey, but one of the most recent NFTs that I dropped, I had split the sale of that NFT with all of my collectors, it’s like the, I want to say, it is the and I hate using superlatives like this, but the largest on chain split for an NFT sale, it’s 159 wallets. And all 159 people are wallets involved in this, get a percentage of the sale of this NFT and varying amounts. And so just by being an owner, and something that like, you know, links back to me, you receive benefit through ownership, I think digital ownership is so different. I was on a call today, and someone used the phrase digital supply chain. And I thought that that was really interesting. And I think that there are all these like digital forms of things that are natively physical, that we’re coming to terms with. And because they’re digital, they have different properties. And we really need to be aware of what those properties are and what those properties mean. And so, I think owning is far more important. I do think that digital renting, you know, we’ve been doing that with like renting movies, you know, through like Apple TV and stuff like that. I think that that is useful. Because in a lot of ways that utility, right? Like the utility of owning the token that represents that you rented this movie is that you can watch the movie. And once you start the movie, you have 24 hours to finish the movie. I think that that’s really sick and so digital ownership through, digital ownership, I think matters most when utility is applied or used case or experience or whatever, I try not to use the word utility. I like to use the word experience.

Rent-Based NFTs

Okay, let’s talk about more rent based NFTs for the music sector. What do you think are some interesting experiences that can be created around renting NFTs?

Black Dave: I think on the music sense, a lot of its going to be tied to things like access to, I think a lot about seasons. And I know like seasons isn’t normally like a fashion or television thing. But I think a lot about seasons of music, especially as we move or we have moved more into a single driven economy for music and a lot less of an album driven economy for music, especially for independent and smaller artists. You know, every single is a chance at that in a sense. I think being able to be involved in different seasons of artists is really interesting. I know that’s not quite a rental. But if you think about something being seasonal, then it runs out something that’s been on mind a lot, is creating work in seasons and allowing people access to my work for that season. And then if you didn’t participate in that season, then the only thing that exists for you to do is get it on the secondary market. It’s to me a lot like street wear, you know, when supreme drops, and you don’t get the supreme item, you gotta go on stock X or eBay or Grail to get it. And I think this is kind of the same thing, where you have an NFT, the NFT is usable for a period of time, which would be the season, you can collect work from that artists or you receive work from the artist during that season, and then the season ends and all the work that you’ve received during that season. Is that’s just the work. And then you need to get a new token for the next season. I think something similar is like, I wish I could remember the name, when Moon birds does their artists, series drops where like, if you own a moon bird in that time, then you can get the artwork that drops in that time period. And yeah, that’s, I think rental is interesting. 

And I think more so, I think NFTs that are consumable might be better, right? Where, you know, with kudos, which I know is another project that I haven’t talked about that I did, with Matt Monday, we made a physical digital NFT and the commonly used case for a physical digital NFT is you get the NFT, you burn the NFT, you receive the item, what we did was you get the NFT, you go through a claim process and the metadata on the NF T changes. And the metadata represents the status of shipping. And if you think about changing metadata to make something consumable, in the same way that you think about like an HP bar, that you could put onto an NFT that becomes consumable if you put it into a game, for instance, then that becomes really interesting used case for NFTs, where something’s not rentable, but it’s consumable. And I don’t quite know, you know, what platform needs to exist to create that or how that could work. But I think thinking about the different ways to consume NFTs. And renting could be time, could be the thing that changes the status of the NFT, just as much as metadata itself.

Creating Experiences Around Drops

I think you do a good job of sort of like really thinking about not utility, but you’d like to use the word experiences. Okay, so let’s continue on that path. So, sort of creating experiences around. Yeah, collecting something and what sort of gets unlocked once you enter the black data ecosystem. How do you get your ideas for sort of creating experiences around your drops? That was one of the questions that somebody asked on Twitter?

Black Dave: For me, it’s funny, because I was reading the questions to my girlfriend the other day, and she was like, how do you, like I read it and she was like, what’s the answer? And I was like, I don’t know. I just think, I guess. And it feels like, I think what happens is, and this is another virtual vibe, you’ll hear me hit a lot of vibes like that reference other people. And I think there are lots of vibes in art, that are the same thing is this. Looking at things that you think are sick, and then trying to execute that with your own version is really important to me. When I think about like fan clubs, and when I think about, especially video games, I think a lot about, I remember explaining NFTs to my mom, and saying, okay, you know what fortnight is? And there’s a skin in fortnight, and what if you could sell that skin to somebody else, but only that the person who owns the, like digital skin could use it in the game. And she was like, oh, okay, I get it. And so like, for me, it’s always been like trying to find different used cases. But really challenging the idea of what an NFT could be. I actually, like, I’ve had a few like, I don’t want to say like confrontations but like conversations, I’ll say, now I feel like, yeah, and about, like the type of work I make and then it’s all anime referential. And they’re like, aren’t you just stealing other people’s ideas? And I’m like, sometimes, but I’m also like, I think that context matters. And especially like, art, right? Like, when you think about art, putting you know, putting a basketball in the middle of a museum versus putting a basketball on the basketball court. They have completely different values. And you would do completely different things to each of those basketballs, even if they’re the exact same ball. And so, I think that is, it’s kind of my energy going into this space is just like, a ton of reference and a ton of ideas, stuff like that.

Snoop Dogg’s NFT Drop

So that’s actually pretty interesting and I think experience can maybe extend beyond unlockable content, right? Or like Token gate, I think the experience can sort of extend into the art itself. And something that you did that was very experience based, was sort of record a song and mint a song with Snoop Dogg, amongst other independent artists on sound, which, that was an iconic drop within itself, hands down. And the fact that you got to participate in that was also even cooler. Can you talk about that entire experience? Because I remember when that came out, we were all just like, yo, like, that’s legit. Like we’re certified like everybody that’s been dumping money on NFTs like Snoop Dogg came in like, and he’s bringing up all these independent artists with him as well to sort of make this track. Like, I just remember it being like a very iconic moment. And you got to be a part of it. Can you talk to me more about that story and share how that came together?

Black Dave: You know, yes. So, what’s crazy about that specific drop was, that was Snoop second drop on sound. His first drop was a mix, and the second drop was a mix. And today, actually, they announced Snoops, third drop on sound, which is actually a free mint, which is crazy. But so, when Snoop dropped the first mix, I heavily critiqued it publicly on Twitter. I, you know, I remember the first song on the first Snoop mix, had Cray Shawn on it, who I love. I’m obsessed with Cray Shawn; I think she’s amazing. And she was on it. And I was looking at it. And I was like, man, like, I don’t know how the splits are working for this. But knowing like Cray Shawn label situation, she had that song Gucci, Gucci that was really popular in like, 2012. She got pregnant, got dropped from the label, but still owes them a ton of money Gucci, Gucci went viral again, and 2021. And she was like, hey, guys, like thank you. But I still owe my label $100,000. So, I get none of that money. And I was thinking about how the blockchain could enable an opportunity for someone like her to be able to get money for her work. And I didn’t see any of the splits on chain. They weren’t really trackable. And then I complained about that. And then I complained about, I won’t say complaint, I had recognized an opportunity with that. And I had also said something about, well, why doesn’t Snoop Dogg add web three artists, like he came into web three, and he’s not going to work with us. And David from sound actually called me and was like, he was like, you make some good points, blah, blah. 

And so, when it came time for Snoop to do a second drop, they pretty much threw the idea at him and was like, yo, you should add some web three artists. And, and I was at my girlfriend’s house, it was like, had to be like, midnight, 12:30, I might have been just leaving her house. And Iman calls me and it’s like, yo, Snoop is going to add a few of our songs to the mix. Can you send me a song? And I was like, I’m in my car. I don’t have any of my files. But as soon as I get home, and I sent two songs over. And he picked one, and threw it on the mix. And so like, and then I think what was even better was like, he took the criticism. And then like, did everything I said, right. So, he did the mix, added web three native artists to the mix. It was myself Maroof, Heno, and Iman, and then gave us a percent of the sales. And so, it’s like, you listen to me on like, all fronts. And like, I think from that moment, I had like a really, like, a new respect for Snoop in web three, my previous Snoop experiences weren’t as great. You know, his first drop was with And that drop was a mess. It sold a lot, I think Snoop had made like, like $20 million, or something obnoxious through it. And but what happened was, it was such a mess. The customer service was bad. No one understood the blockchain it was on, et cetera, et cetera. And so, I kinda was like, another rapper coming in and make money and he kept going. And so, when he did that drop on sound, I was like, oh, Snoops, like, really doing this. And I know he was already doing like, I don’t know, is it, I guess he, I don’t know if he was or wasn’t Cosmo, Dima de chi, but like that whole thing. And then like collecting a lot of works and talking about NFTs and stuff like that, and really digging in. The sound drops really like I think was the cherry on top of my respect for Snoop in web three.

Any Collaborations On Your Wish List?

That’s actually crazy, because I remember when that got announced, it was like it was a big moment for the space. And it’s so funny how you like you publicly critique him, despite doing a drop with him. And I think you being so vocal and being so honest on your feelings, and not sort of keeping that in, is sort of what maybe got you or at least kind of contributed to you getting that opportunity. I’m curious as to, is there are there any more collaborations that are going to be happening between you and him or any other, I guess more mainstream type of artists that are going to be coming into web three? And if not, are there any artists that you sort of like have on your maybe like, I guess, like wish list?

Black Dave: I don’t have anything planned. My main focus right now and I do want to work with more big artists and I definitely have like a bucket list. Someone who’s collected NFTs, that I really want to work with is Jaden Smith. He’s collected a couple of sound NFTs, he’s picked up a few other NFTs. So, he’s like in the space, I don’t quite know his wallet address, or I’m tracking him. But I’ve heard people say that he’s collected their stuff before. That’s somebody that I’m super interested in working with. I just think he’s like my favorite rapper in general. But I think Childish Gambino, as well, as somebody that I really want to work with, Donald Glover, he, there was a clip of him talking about like NFTs and he was talking about, like, just the things that blockchain can enable from like, an authentication standpoint, so he understands it from the tech perspective. It’s really tough, I think, to get mainstream artists to enter the space because they have a lot on the line, like they have a lot at stake, when they drop in the space, you know, I think the merge is going to help a lot of people on that front, when we can start to educate people on the enhancements to the environmental impact, that’s through proof of stake. 

So, I’m super pumped for that to happen. And artists who fan bases were complaining about the environment saying, hey, look like I think it said, the stat said that in in a one-year period Ethereum will use 126 of what Pay Pal uses. And so, I’m really excited for that to come to be, I do want to work with more large artists, I think, an ultimate cheat code. And I don’t know how many industry people listen to your podcast to like steal ideas, but an industry cheat code is exactly what Snoop Dogg did. Call one of us on the ground in web three, and do a song with us. And let’s put it out. And you will be like it’s the easy stamp. I think for like, a mainstream artist entering web three, and it’s probably a lot less paperwork. So yeah, like, you know, it’s like, and that was my whole thing was Snoop was like, meet us where we are, don’t hover over us, you know, don’t celebrity yourself in. And I think he’s done a really great job of that. And I think any, literally any artist who wants to enter web three, call us, I’ll do a record like, you know, I know a lot of people would do records with a lot of artists that they look up to. So, it’s about finding the artists and then doing collaboration with them. And I think that’s like the perfect way for almost anyone to enter the web three space.

Free NFTs

I completely agree like 1,000%, I think too many mainstream artists overthink it. And I think the best way, like you said to get a stamp of approval, is to sort of lock arms with those who are already doing really well on the space. Because just like web two streaming is a completely different beast. The same thing applies to web three music, right? Like, there’s people who are doing really well in web three music that might not see the light of day, and like across streaming platforms, for example, right. But they built this like brand, they built this virality, they built a collector base. And they’ve generated like hundreds of 1000s of primary and secondary sales combined, that someone new entering the space, that maybe has clout in the streaming side of things, might need to sort of latch on to kind of fit in with the quote unquote, cool kids of the web three music scene. Right. And I think you’re absolutely right. And we have yet to see another mainstream artist’s sort of latch on to that strategy. I think mainly because there’s ego involved. There’s pride involved. But I guess what people don’t understand that in crypto, it’s like a level playing field. Like, there are no rules like everybody’s new here, right? And if you bring your cloud and you try to use your cloud, it will only get you so far in the traditional world, if you try to apply it in crypto, right and at some point, like authenticity is going to kind of like prevail and people are gonna see like whether you’re here for like the short term or the long term, despite what happened with And in your opinion around that like Snoop continuously showed up over and over and over again right and came through with consistency and even now, introduced his third drop and he’s probably as mainstream as it can come right and now, he’s a legend Yacht Club. And the whole Yeah, he killed it. He killed it and he continues to kill it. He continues to reinvent himself which is really, really impressive to see. Especially as you kind of like join more and more industries, whether it be from like brand deals to acting to now, crypto to music to all these different sectors. Yeah, we can go all day. I want to talk to you about free NFTs because you brought that up during Snoops drop. And I think it’s a great segue. Because you sort of experimented with your NFTs. It’s something that I’m very vocal about. I’ve written a lot about; I’ve been talking a lot about on the podcast. I’d love to get your perspective because I know you did a free NFT drop. You were the first artist, if I recall correctly, to do a free NFT drop on sound that XYZ, it did really well. And the secondaries are actually like, really, really popping and even like generated maybe like, I don’t know, if more, more value than they would have in the primary sale. But yeah, I’ll just shut up. What are your thoughts on free NFTs? Talk to me about that first drop that you did? And we can just start there?

Black Dave: Yeah, so the free mint meta had just started. And David of sound does a really good job of like, hitting me up and asking me about like trends in the space. I remember, at the time, he was like, what do you think about them? He was like, I think he could work for music. And I was like, I’m interested to see because, you know, you lose out on the primary. And I think one of my actual complaints about music NFTs, and especially music NFT pricing is that we price at the max that people are willing to pay. And that kind of flattens the music secondary market. So, if you think about like, the secondary market of music outside of sound, there isn’t one, right. But the secondary market of art, there is and I think that artists aren’t pricing at the very edge of what people are willing to pay for something and that’s why. And so, you know, I was just like, okay, let’s try it. I was like, I got a song. Let’s try it. Like that was literally the conversation. And, and I was fine being the guinea pig. And as I thought about it more and more, I thought, okay, cool. This is an opportunity for community to happen. This is an opportunity for people who couldn’t get in, especially on sound because of price. Because that was still when NFTs were all point one Ethereum on sound, then they have an opportunity here. I think it went super well, one special story about that drop in specific is, the person who won the golden egg, he was in NFTs for about two months, he won my golden egg and sold the golden egg point7. 

So, he got it for free, sold it .75. Shout out to Cooper. And that point 75 Ethereum was the money for him to fly from Germany to NFT NYC. I think it was his first time in America. He met me at the wave world event. And he was like, it was crazy. He met me at wave road. And he was like, dude, you’re the whole reason I’m here. And I was like, oh, dude, I’m pumped. You came to see me, you know, like, oh, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t realize that. That’s what happened. And he was like, yeah, I sold your NFT that I had. And I was like, dude, I’m super pumped that you’re able to make money from my work. And, and he was like, yeah, and so I’m here and I was like, well, you can’t see me since you sold my NFT. So, I got him and all his friends NFTs. And they saw my wave world set. And I didn’t realize until like right before my set that he sold it to fly to America. And so like, that story sits with me forever. It’s definitely one of my like top web three stories. One of the greatest things that this happened to me like as an artist in general, and so like, that made me believe in free mints. Because what happened was someone who didn’t have the point one Eth to buy my NFT. Got to create this really special experience, not only for him, but for me, like utility aside, like, this is a truly special experience that two real people experience together. I even said like one thing that’s funny about me is like I’ve never smoked weed in my life. I’ve long dreadlocks, everyone thinks they smoke weed, but I’ve never smoked in my life. And I told him I was like, look, if I ever go on tour in Germany, I’ll come smoke weed with you. And he’s like, super pumped and like, I’ll probably end up smoking. Because like, he’ll remember. It’s like, I’ll be like, okay, like, this is my first time, so just laugh at me. I guess so. Yeah.

That’s hilarious. And it’s not if you toured Germany, it’s when you tour Germany, I’m a big believer in manifesting things into reality. I think like you sort of nailed it, like, the whole point of my opinion. Okay. Maybe a hot take. But I think the whole point or at least a big part of sort of having these mechanics and being like, being open to kind of like publicly selling your work and having secondary markets is so that collectors who support you, can have the opportunity to make a buck, right, and make some type of financial sort of yeah, I guess like, profit and benefit that extends beyond just kind of enjoying you as a collector, or as a creator, excuse me. Now I know people have controversial opinions and like maybe some platform founders don’t even want there to be secondary volume around music NFTs because their whole bed is like this thing is designed to kind of reconnect fans and bring them closer together and sort of like bridge the gap of, of your biggest, most passionate listeners. But I think a lot of the fun comes when you’re able to share and have experiences like that. And your fans are able to sort of like profit, right and gain value beyond just like the music that they enjoy from you specifically, right? So, I think you nailed the head, like, like being very cognizant of how you price your things, and allowing the secondary market to kick in, and it’s sort of like consume some of that value as well. And enjoy that value will just like play, like so much in your benefit, right, long term. So, I love your perspective on that. And I couldn’t agree agree more.

Black Dave: I appreciate it, you know, to that effect, I dropped into NFT that is an open edition, that’s available until the end of the year. And the price is point 01 Ethereum. And the idea is that, of course, I’ll deliver some sort of experience down the line. But anyone who wants to get in, can get in and price is not the thing that restricts you, you know, it’s mostly just your ability to get Ethereum and get on the blockchain, I think, you know, people are so caught up in making money, that they aren’t caught up in making communities. And what’s happening is people are saying they’re creating community, but they’re just creating customers. And I really want to find more and more ways to create communities. Because I think at the end of the day, those are going to be the people and the experiences that we have together individually through my work, are going to be the things that keep me around and keep me alive and keep me paid forever. But also keep them satisfied. Like here’s something that I always talk about is like, you know, a ticket to a concert could be 100 bucks. But people when they go to the concert, they don’t want to try to resell the ticket, you know, they got 100 bucks worth of experience. And I think as long as you’re delivering an experience that’s worth, whatever the person paid for the thing, they’re not even going to have a desire to resell it. 

It’s like keeping a ticket stub from a movie, right? Like, if you know, if I think about the first date, I had was my girlfriend, another Virgil Abloh reference, I went to go see figures or speech in Atlanta. And keeping the ticket from that has value to me, I got the money out of it, whether it’s through the day with my girlfriend or through seeing the work. And so, I really don’t want to sell the ticket because the value, I already captured the value but having the thing like continues to hold that value for me, no matter how much other people want for it. And I think it’s going to be the same thing with music, where if you have this token, you’re able to get the experience, you’re going to want to keep it as a as a memory of that experience. But I think that music NFTs especially, and I noticed this in the music NFT but especially popups, I believe popups are going to be the tour t shirt of NFTs, like in the in the music use case. Because if I’m only making popups at my shows, then you have the shirt that only has the date of that show, theoretically, and it’s tradable. And it never deteriorates in quality. And it has you know, it can possibly have its own utility that comes with having it, I used to always make this comment about like if Travis Scott’s AstroWorld tour, if every date had its own popups, but then you had to have seven popups in order to get a limited-edition t shirt, then what happens is the popup has a secondary value. And it was the NFT that you got for free just by being there. And I don’t think that it has to be like that. But I think that it’s really cool. And there gonna be people who want, who are going to say, I don’t want to get rid of my poll app, because I want other people to know that I was at the concert, and they’re going to people that are gonna say, I don’t care if other people know that I’m at the concert, I want the money. And I think both options are fine. And just thinking about, continuing to think about experience, delivering experiences is the real thing. And in trying to figure that out at a price point, that allows your common fans to be involved and allows people who are willing to spend a bunch of money to be involved, is worth it as well.

You know, I, it makes me so happy to hear how you sort of talk about your strategy and how you use sort of like create your own mental models and understanding like different ways to create values or value in general for your collectors and kind of recognizing that there is a market for both while, I think it may scare a lot of creators, right that sort of enter web three. They see the secondary market and they maybe feel pressured that they need to have like high primary and secondary sales to be seen as a success. While partially true, right? You’re just like, you’re just so open, I can tell it like, you’re just like, you’re like, have a bucket mentality. You know, like, if something sounds like something sounds cool to explore, maybe worth experimenting, like, you’ll double down, you’ll give it a shot. And you’ll see what happens, right. And I think that that energy, that mentality will obviously take you a long way. Another thing that’s really cool that you brought up earlier, is having something for anybody to collect. At any point in time, you have an NFT, whose timestamp kind of like expires at the end of the year. And for whatever reason, in case you go viral, right, or you have a spur of Twitter followers, or we have a new type, you have a new level of engagement, a song goes viral, whatever it may be, you will have some type of collectible to capture value. The second you are kind of like, hit that mark, like you’re ready, like you’re here loaded, you lock, you’re locked and loaded. And I love that. And you’re the first person that I’ve sort of seen approach that and think that far in advance. And I really appreciate that. I commend you on that. That’s really cool.

Black Dave: Thank you. I agree. I think that’s the goal is, like, I always want people to have some sort of access. I think scarcity matters. But I think openness matters, right? Like, we don’t need to hide songs from people. But I also think that a song that only one person can hear, is cool. For me, I want to make sure that people who are getting involved or people who want to get involved have an opportunity. The scarcity of assets model that we’ve been running on, is great, but it’s not sustainable for something that needs to play Madison Square Garden, for something that needs to perform at Coachella, you know, like, I need as many people as possible there. If I want to be on the stage at Coachella, I don’t want to say like, you know, only if you hold insert NFT, can you show up to my set, because then I’m limiting myself. And I just really want to be as open as possible. And like, you know, I talked earlier about seasonal NFTs, when this time period runs out. That’s it, you know, my goal for this drop is 100, I’m at about 55, 60. Right now, my goal is 100. If I get to 100, by the end of the year, I’ll be happy. And what happens is those 100 people, when next season’s drop happens, and I have a fan base, or collector base of 1000 or 500 or 200 or 300, people are going to want to have that previous season because you better believe, I’m going to say if you have season one and season two, you get something because I think like you’re able to play this game of thank you for supporting me early. Or if you want to look like you support me early, you got to pay and then offering experiences those people the same way that I was able to with the free mint, the same way that I was able to with the special edition cover of my second music NFT, the same way that I’ll be able to do with, you know, sharp whenever that song goes crazy. I just want to like people who support me early, they’re always going to be the biggest winner. So, I think, you know, crypto rewards you being early. And I want myself to be a reflection of that.

The Balance Between Documenting Processes and Creating Music

Yeah, I think another way you sort of build community is through content. And you’re very active when it comes to writing mirror posts. And like blog posts, just sharing your thoughts and also like tweet threads that you sort of compose every so often. Which is not something to sort of take for granted because I think a lot of creators lack the ability to sort of document their process, as they’re experimenting, as they’re creating. Right? Can you walk me through how you find the balance between documenting your process and sharing your thoughts versus like creating music, dropping NFTs in sort of like yeah, thinking about the whole, I guess monetization side of using these crypto primitives as a creator.

Black Dave: Something that Gary Vee once said, he says that a lot. Because he says everything, he says a lot. That’s what he does. But like, he says, I can tell you everything that I do every day and 95% of you aren’t going to do it. So why not share it right? If there’s a benefit for me being giving of my information and my knowledge. Why not? Most of you aren’t going to use it anyway. And I’m not competing with you anyway, right? The only person that I’m really competing with this myself, I say that right now, but I literally compare myself to people all the time. But I’m like, that’s the whole idea behind it. I think. You know, I’ve given away enough ideas in Twitter spaces, in clubhouse rooms, in threads on podcasts, et cetera, et cetera. That could probably build people really profitable businesses, which I’m cool with. Because I know that I can keep coming up with ideas, and I can keep doing things. And there’s always new information to be gotten. And I just want to be like a beacon of that information. And then I think, on top of that, something that I’ve learned about, you know, web three and NFTs, I’m trying to stop saying space, the space. I haven’t figured out a proper word yet. But something I’ve learned about being in this in this world is like, people resonate with, like, you being for real, and you’re not trying to sell me on stuff. And so, me just coming in and saying, hey, I’m Dave, these are the things that I’m doing. These are the hardships I’m facing. These are the positives I’m having. This is what I’m thinking about. This is how I’m thinking about, I tweeted earlier, before this space, before this space, before this podcast. I said, you know, reminder, genius isn’t what you know, but it’s how you think about things. It’s how you think through things. 

And I really think that that’s the thing, and I like, I almost turned that into a thread because like, I always make this joke to my friends that I’m a genius. And then I took the test to be a genius. And when I was in, like elementary school, especially, I had moved a bunch of times, but I was always in like those special student programs. And all of those tests that you take, have nothing to do with knowledge, right? They hand you a bunch of shapes, and say build this thing. They show you something and say, move this from here to here, following these rules, do this do that, if I have this, how do I get to that? And taking that test, and then being like, oh, you know, Dave’s mom, I think your son’s a genius, like, made me realize that genius isn’t what you know, genius is how you think. And if I can share that with other people, and hopefully inspire genius within them, knowing that genius isn’t what you know, but it’s how you think, then that’s really sick. And one of my biggest goals as an individual and as a creative, is to inspire other people. So, like, if someone ever comes to me and says, like, Dave, you inspired me, like that’s the day I can go to sleep like right then. So yeah.

Would you would you consider yourself a genius?

Black Dave: I like to say I am. But I try not to say I am like with a serious tone. So, like, my friends, like you guys know I’m a genius. I took the test. But I didn’t take the test, I really took the test. So, I don’t know if genius is the right thing. I definitely, I have an appreciation for how I think about things. And I think that the way that I think about things, is going to allow me to create great things and be remembered as a great person. I’m like, another like, blockchain thing is like legacy. And I think that, like what I’ll leave to the world, even if it is just through art is going to be really, really important. In the same way that I think what Virgil Abloh left behind, in terms of what inspires me, is really important.

How Do You Build a Legacy On Chain?

How do you think you build legacy on chain? So, in the reason I emphasize on chain is because we are so consumed in crypto culture, but there’s going to be a wave and a generation of users that sort of haven’t experienced the moments in a time that we’re sort of living through, right. But there still needs to be a way to sort of like prove provenance, right? History, legacy, etc. How would you measure legacy on chain? What does that look like, exactly?

Black Dave: Something, another tweet, Dave tweets, this episode of Dave’s tweets, like, I tweeted, a lot of people, so I guess for context, mint songs, the platform is going through its sort of shutdown phase, and they closed their minting. And they’re just no shutting down. They migrate all their NFTs, et cetera, et cetera. I said people who migrated their NFTs off of mint songs have ruined the provenance of the NFT and have such ruin the value because there’s no longer proof that you minted on a defunct platform. I think what’s going to happen and a lot of artists, I think, in response to this tweet, a lot of artists don’t understand what provenance is right? They don’t understand that the trail of who collected, who held for how long and when, really matters. I think one way that I was explaining it to someone is that the Ultra Rich, they buy art as a status symbol, as a flex, the same way that We buy NFTs, right? People want to own art because of Rockefeller previously owned that art. People want to own art because an institution previously owned that art. There’s something to be said about the impact of who owned something, for how long, how much they paid for it, and how much you paid for it. And I think that, in the long term, especially as the chain becomes easier to read and easier to translate, they’re going to be a lot of people who are going to be able to quickly look at something and be like, hey, did you see that, Dave sold this NFT, as a fraction of 42 people in this was that song. And then they sold it after the song blew up. And that story is the legacy or people will say, did you know that that person got it for free, and that person is now this person. And when they sell it, it’s going to be worth money or because it’s an addition piece, then everyone who owns that automatically has an inherent increased value, because the cool person also owns that, it’s kind of like when celebrities wear a certain clothing brand, and that clothing brand pops off. I think, you know, when you look at the long-term history of that brand.

I think here’s a great example, black scale the clothing brand. When mega the guy who founded black scale talks about the brand, he says there’s pre-ASAP Rocky in this post ASAP Rocky, and he uses that as a reference point for the brand. And so, the legacy of black scale has ASAP Rocky included, the legacy of ASAP Rocky has black scale included. And they both are like huge pivot points. And really important. And I think that ASAP Rocky’s involvement in black scale, will always contribute to the value of black scale. And then if you’re in street wear first, then the value of ASAP Rocky will always be valuable because he was involved with black scale, something that you place a lot of value in. So, I think Providence is the thing that we won’t think anything about for a long, long time. Because it doesn’t actually matter for a long, long time. We do it in small amounts, right? Like when prank C bought 1200 board apes, which I think was the actual catalyst to board API clips selling out. Like when he bought 1200 apes, there are what we call prank C apes out there. And so, owning an ape that prank C owned has a value to it, whether that’s why you positive or negative, it has a value to it, and prank C legacy is going to be tied to 1200 apes and the legacy of born ape Yacht Club is always going to be tied to prank C, if you believe the theory that I believe that prank C buying, you know, one 1/8 of the supply of board API club, is what pushed them to sell out in the last few days. Yeah, so provenance matters, people just don’t see it yet.

New Things On Your Radar

Wow. That’s really well put. That’s really, really well put, I haven’t thought about that. I guess, when I, sometimes when I collect stuff, I sort of look at who else bought it. But I’ve never went back in time to kind of further analyze and peel through the layers of seeing who has bought this from the gecko. Right? Like I’ve never, when I collected something, I never sort of thought like, this is a blockchain Brett NFT or this is a cooper music NFT right. Assuming these guys never sell their music NFTs but it actually makes a lot of sense. What you kind of use the analogies comparing it to, the fashion brand and ASAP Rocky, and how they sort of uplift each other’s legacies, as they kind of evolve over time. I think that’s a really, really interesting perspective. I’m curious, before we sort of wrap up like because I feel like we’ve been going like for about like, what, like, an hour in 15 minutes. Now, I think it might be the longest, one of the longest episodes of the season. So what other things are on your radar right now, that you think people should be sort of like paying more attention to, that you’re maybe thinking about, that you haven’t maybe talked about publicly yet? Fill me in on that.

Black Dave: Most immediately on the front of my mind, is enhancing what service base NFTs look like. I’m soon going to be coming out with a platform slash idea that’s specific to me. So, it’s not quite a platform. It’s a platform for me, but I’m thinking about trying to build it maybe as a platform that other people can use called minutes, where you mint NFTs that allow you a certain amount of minutes with someone, whether that’s minutes in consultation, whether that’s minutes in you playing your music for someone, whether that’s minutes in advisement, or anything and you’ll mint an NFT that then granted you token gated access, to schedule meetings on my calendar. That’s something that’s like front of mind for me, because I’m literally building it. I hope to announce it in the next week or so. But consider this the announcement. And so, I am going to be doing that soon. That’s really important.

Let’s go. We got we got Black Dave’s product launch on mint. I love it. All right, yeah. 

Black Dave: So, that’s like, that’s really front of mind for me is, how do we continue to enhance the service economy of NFTs. Second to that, something that I have seen. And I think these are the only people doing it, E commerce completely run through smart contracts. The Quantum tech team, they created something called rug supply, it’s rug dot supply, where if you have one of a bunch of different NFT projects, you can get a rug of your NFT. And you pay for it in USDC, you get a soul bound token, that is your receipt and the soul bound token updates with like shipping confirmation, you can actually take a picture of your rug when you get it and put it on the corner of the receipt, which is a soul bound token. I think that that’s really, really cool. I think like, you know, blockchain, and this is what Donald Glover was saying, blockchain is proof of receipt is gonna help with fraud detection. You know, and I think in the same way that you think about Digi mint this from that smart contract, or that smart contract, is the same thing. And so, I think that’s really important. Enhancing the physical to digital experience. I think it’s going to be really important as well, I think burn to claim, should find a way to exit existence. And then I think, lastly, looking at gaming and NFTs, I think a lot, I have a couple of game ideas that I want to try to put into the ether and, and play with. 

And then I have one more, curation, I’ve been thinking a lot about curation. Just like for everybody listening, hopefully, in sort of three methods, the idea of curation from like a centralized stance where like, platforms let artists in, and if the platform has that artists are then that sort of like, their sign like that, like we rock with them, thinking about community based, like fully, like community-based curation, where like, I really want to build a platform, where, and I’ve been DMing people about this, but I’m just gonna put it out there. And if someone builds it great, where you can put an NFT up, and then people can rate that NFT and comment on that NFT, whether it’s a song, whether it’s an artwork, whether it’s a collection, whether it’s like let’s say, for instance, you know, as a key, for instance, like if someone could go to the ASCII collection and rate it, and then leave comments on what they think about it, kind of like, like Amazon reviews, but then people can go to specific ASCII NFTs and say, this one has three out of four the same traits as that one. 

So, one star, you know, or this one has, this is the only one that has a red shirt, and this hairstyle, five stars, or whatever. I think that that could be really interesting way of curation. Even along the lines of music. This is Dave’s best song, five stars. I think Dave has better songs in this, two stars. I think Dave shouldn’t have used this word. I think the production is great, but the lyrics are weak. I think that that’s going to be a really big thing that allows the mass influencers, to lose power, I think decentralization has an opportunity to give power to people, to individuals. And if individuals can use a tool to empower themselves in mass, then I think that’s really going to change the face of the space. It makes you wonder if your favorite NFT artist is your favorite NFT artist because of the work or because of what an influencer said about it. And if the influencer is the only person who feels that way about it, then you can realize that you’re being gamed by an influencer and have a different feeling on the work or at least approach it from your own individual perspective. 

And so, I really want to create some sort of platform that empowers individuals in their opinions and hopefully like we get, you know, true critics right, like real art critic show up and say, you know, I study 3d artwork. I studied generative artwork, and I believe this and then you can go to their profile and see all the generative artwork they’ve reviewed, and really have like people who are becoming influential because of their tastes, because tastes matter so much, another virtual Kanye, like Pat, I think tastes is so important. So those, all of those things are front of mind and then just empowering and enhancing the community for koodos. KOODOS, which is an NFT that I dropped with Matt Monday, that dropped the same week as headless chaos, so it didn’t sell well, but we’re still pushing forward and trying to get that out as far as possible.


You have really quality ideas. And I’m getting incredibly stimulated just listening to you sort of like think through these problems, and how you could sort of solve them. I’m so upset I haven’t had you on the podcast earlier. I’m really happy we did this episode. We’re gonna have to run it again very soon. But before I let you go Black Dave, where can we find you? Where can we learn more? Where can we stay up to date? Show it away.

Black Dave: I’m at Black Dave on Twitter. I am Black Dave, Black Dave on Instagram. And also, on Tik Tok, I promise I’m going to start using Tik Tok, everyone’s yelling at me. You can head to Black Dave dot XYZ, to check me out, especially on the web three side and then also Black Dave Black, to check out some of my music and then I’ll be posting also a lot of my other work because I am a multi-disciplined, creative person. And so, I’ll be showing more of my photo work, more of my video work, more graphic design, etc., etc. So, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I am most active there.

Amazing. Thanks again. We’ll have to do this again soon. But till next time. 

Black Dave: Thank you, man.

Podcast Transcript

Tools for Executing Airdrops with Coinvise


Mint Season 6 episode 12 welcomes Jenil Thakker, Founder of Coinvise, an open platform on Ethereum where creators can launch a social & build a tokenized community. For the next half hour we spoke about the launch of the new airdrop tool on coinvise, expectations for the new feature, how the airdrop filter works, and so much more.

I hope you guys enjoy our conversation.

Time Stamps

  • 00:06 – Intro
  • 01:40 – Membership NFTs
  • 06:00 – The Airdrop Tool
  • 07:21 – Incentivizing Participation
  • 10:04 – Expectations for the Airdrop Feature
  • 13:06 – How the Airdrop Filter Works
  • 14:54 – Thoughts On People Airdrop Hacking
  • 17:11 – The Next Focus for Coinvise
  • 19:14 – ETH Berlin
  • 21:59 – Who Else is Using Sponsorship NFTs?
  • 24:33 – Current State of the Web3 Creator Economy
  • 26:29 – Details for Today’s Announcement

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Jenil, we’re in Berlin. What’s up, man? Welcome to mint, how are you doing? Round three, I think. 

Jenil Thakker: Round three. 


Jenil Thakker: Thank you for having me.

Yes, season one. I think you’re one of the first episodes and then last season we did one on membership NFTs. And then today what are we doing?

Jenil Thakker: Today we’re doing airdrops 

Airdrops. Okay.

Jenil Thakker: A new feature on Coinvise is launching, airdrops is our like, most used tool and our oldest tool. When I started Coinvise in about late 2020. Airdrop is the first thing we worked on. It was token creation and Airdrops, but I had about $2,000 in my savings, and we work together to build out Airdrops, I think we worked two weeks, and we shipped a feature out and it was the exact same tool, which we, which we’re upgrading today. It was the claim page. So, anybody could create their own claim page and share it on social media, and you can create like a retroactive Airdrop like platforms can. And now we’ve upgraded Airdrops to three different tools. You can send it to wallet addresses, you can create your own claim page. And you can do NFT Airdrops as well. Yeah.

So, last conversation we had was on membership NFTs and now the focus is on air drops. Why focus on air drops? What opportunity are you seeing?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, I mean, we’re focusing on Airdrops and membership NFTs in conjunction. And we see these two connected in a way where the user can embed Airdrops into membership NFTs. And membership NFTs could be automated with Airdrops as well. And I’m happy to go more deeper into what that looks like. But yeah, those are the two core tools we’re working on today.

Membership NFTs

Okay, cool. So, I remember you guys had a really viral tweet that happened about two months ago, right? When you guys announced membership NFTs, I’m curious sort of how that announcement go like what was the progression since you guys issued membership NFTs and yeah, I guess the next obvious step would be airdrops because once you build a community using membership NFTs, you want to reward, you want to maybe do some marketing, etc. Airdrops are good way to do it. Yeah.

Jenil Thakker: Yeah. So initially, when we did the membership NFT announcement, we wanted to sort of showcase the idea that membership NFT should look like drag and drop sort of utilities that you can plug into sort of like your Patreon tier, which has benefited a series of benefits for, you know, whenever somebody purchases that tier, and they get access to them, what does the web three version of that look like? So, we introduced something called plugins. And those plugins could be access to discord, those plus plugins could be access to events, it could be, you know, you could route some of the funds or revenue to public goods funding, there could be just a number of benefits that you can get, which are all enforced on chain. And one of the benefits or one of the plugins that we designed was Airdrop, because Airdrop is something we’ve been working on for, I don’t know, about a year and a half now. So, we added that as one of the benefits or plugins for membership and NFTs. So, whenever somebody purchases your membership NFT, they automatically get an Airdrop and the same transaction. 

And this sort of idea was something that we were trying to communicate with that tweet that it is all like, it’s not like I’m promising something to my community, to my audience. And then there was this missing link that off like sort of accountability, that once I raise a certain amount of Eth, or dollars from a crowd fund, or from selling NFTs, there was no sort of like obligation for me to even add that value six months down the line, two years down the line. And for projects to truly build networks, it was important that a lot of the value was given back to the audience or community on chain and was proven on chain. So, at Coin vise, we decided okay, why don’t we just build use cases and integrate with plugins like that, where you can just give an Airdrop every time somebody purchases an NFT, which is how, which is why that tweet went viral. And obviously now we’re trying to improve Airdrops more than what it is today, which I can obviously.

Yeah, I’m trying to think of like the use cases around why someone wouldn’t, like create an Airdrop right after they claim something. So, like, if you mint NFT, okay, you get that and then you automatically get something sent to your wallet. Right? What are the use cases behind why you would do something that because typically, you just see like phase one of issuing memberships NFTs and then down the line, you see maybe an ERC 20 Get issued as a form of governance, right. As a form of like community currency. Why do them for example, in the same type of transaction or like, like simultaneously?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, so a lot of membership NFTs like the word says, they represented access to a community. It was something that wasn’t seen as a mechanism for creating liquidity or using for governance. Maybe they were used for governance, but they were extensively used for access to a private channel in our Discord, or access to a small group of people, right? And Airdrops have community tokens specifically. So, if you have a community and the community ends up having a token, even if you’re a personal creator yourself, you can sort of give those tokens for broader use cases outside of the NFT. So, we saw, before we launched this as a plugin, we saw a lot of people asking us, hey, I want to sort of Airdrop tokens to all the people that invested in us, when we release it, because you sort of want to, like distribute tokens or ownership to people that truly support you. Right? So might as well like sort of create this automation where you having to do it later or even like you having to, like expand use cases to governance, or are you know, like the tokens itself represented as like royalties. Those were made possible with like community tokens are fungible tokens. And this is optional. So, if fungible token is indeed something that comes down the line, and if liquidity is not something you’re thinking about right now, because the community is in its early stages, NFTs memberships alone can be released, and one of the plugins is discord access, which is live right now. You can start creating a discord and automatically people get access when they purchased the NFT. 

The Airdrop Tool

Okay, cool. I’m trying to think of like, examples, like in practice, the most iconic Airdrops I think, if you’ve been in the space for long enough is the uniswap Airdrop, right. I remember where I was, when I got that. I think that was like, it was probably the first Airdrop as well, right? 420, uniswap, or spore 20 tokens, I think at some point even got up to like 15k for that, $100, $420 that I got for free. And from that point on, like we had an Airdrop frenzy. That was two summers ago, right. Looking back today, how would you say, cuz you’ve been working on this Airdrop tool for a while now, as you said, how have you seen sort of the evolution of airdrops from like a feature point of view, from a marketing point of view, from a timing point of view, etc.

Jenil Thakker: Yeah. So initially, I mean, like you said, it was uniswap Airdrop, then we saw the ENS Airdrop, and there were a lot of other platforms in between, I think looks rare did an airdrop and a lot of the overarching theme for all these Airdrops was recruitment. There’s a really good article written on speaking about that Airdrops can be used really well for recruitment, whether it’s recruitment of users, for your platform, for community members, for our community, or even recruiting the right people to support your project and become your early community data project.

Incentivizing Participation

Got it. Okay. Got it. So, what does this article actually outline? Because it still doesn’t really create like the initial question was like, how do you create like meaningful connections? Right, right. How do you incentivize long term participation, so that users actually feel like have a voice in whatever system they’re playing in?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah. So, this is the core problem that we are trying to address with Airdrops? version Three, is to date, Airdrops on Coinvise, were similar, very similar to Airdrops, how you’ve seen till today, is you can send tokens to a group of people by creating a claim page or by distributing to wallet addresses. But again, you have to come up with incentives yourself. And you have to like sort of figure out what how you like, give that value back to your community and how value is accrued over a certain period of time. With version three on coin vise, we’ve sort of build templates or plugins. And these plugins are essentially just meaningful forms of contribution or participation. This is the one thing we say in our company a lot, is distribute tokens at the speed of participation. And participation is the core problem. We’re trying to solve with Airdrops because that’s the missing link. And that’s something that you should distribute ownership on, is participate. And that’s how like conditional to participation is how you should distribute tokens.

How would you sort of define participation in an independent creator’s use case?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, I think like it like for independent creators, I think participation is a like some kind of collective effort into a producing media or like helping them produce media or helping expand the network and strengthen that network. Because a lot of times, it’s not, you know, the number of people in the community, they’re more interested in building stronger relationships. So, anything that contributes meaningfully to building that network stronger, or if media is something that you’re producing as an independent creator, if you can sort of crowdsource content in a very high-quality way, you sort of become a really large team that’s collectively building media on the Internet, but a lot of aligned values. And I think that could be really powerful in so many ways, even efficient, with a lot of battery tools that are out there. But Airdrops could be programmed to be distributed to these people that are A, like helping you provide content or helping you filter content and make sure it’s like the right quality or B, helped, like, further strengthen the network. And you can sort of figure out what’s more important to you, but ultimately, what’s always important or what makes somebody hold their token is either the people or the content or the media that you produce.

Right. Yeah, got it, got it. Okay. So right now, we’re in Berlin. It’s basically Berlin blockchain week, Berlin is towards the end of the week. This is the first time we’re meeting. We’ve known each other for over a year.

Jenil Thakker: Over a year.

Expectations for the Airdrop Feature

Over a year. Maybe close to a year and a half. Yeah. You’re the reason one of the main reasons, if not the primary reason why mint got started. I remember you called, or we were talking about doing some type of token project at the time. And you were also looking for people to do marketing, whatever. And I just had left my job at Draper going home to start the podcast. And it’s funny because a lot of why originally quit Draper going home was to start a token-based community for creator and was thinking of using coin vise essentially, as that foundation to sort of launch the token, build a community around it, etc. And I’m curious how you sort of, and that was about a year and a half ago. So how are Airdrops being used then, right? And now with this new feature that you’re introducing, how do you expect them to be used now?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, so Airdrops before were used for rewarding soft contributions, and rewarding community specific interactions that were, hey, go retweet this tweet. Hey, help me moderate this discord call or hey, why don’t you sort of help manage our community, and we will sort of give you X amount of returns every month. So, there were sort of community specific actions that were rewarded with tokens. And what we realized is A, Airdrops should be participation first, and because these tokens are valuable, and they often represent ownership in our community, even though they’re utility tokens, so even if they’re non liquid tokens, what are some ways which are meaningful forms of participation that you can scope out, they can sort of be applied to a lot of the creator communities that we work with today. Right? So, we sort of made a list. And some of the used cases that really stood out for airdrops was a, this week’s something we’ve seen with platforms to but vampire attacks, I think vampire attacks, has been like the overarching theme of like, go to market strategy for a lot of individuals, creators, platforms, this is our sushi swap became is because of the vampire deck. And essentially, for people who don’t know vampire attack is essentially when a sushi swap, did Airdrop tokens to people, I think that were uniswap liquidity, LP token holders. And now you if you go to coin vise, you can essentially just fetch any token, so you can put in, let’s say, bankless Dao. And it’ll return all the tokens of a bankless Dao holder, and you can Airdrop them tokens directly to their wallet. So, we’ve sort of built plugins for popup. So, you can get all the people that hold a particular popup, all you have to do is just put in an ID, or you can put, you can get all the people that voted for a snapshot proposal. So, you can just put in the proposal ID, or you can get all any kind of token holder, token NFT or like reward participation on Twitter. And all these tools are like all no code. So, before we saw people, like manually trying to fetch these addresses, and then Airdrop them, but now you can just put in the token, or putting the Popup ID or snapshot ID for governance, and you can Airdrop them tokens for meaningful contribution. 

How the Airdrop Filter Works

Got it. So, I like how you sort of segmented the Airdrop tool around either a certain action or a certain sort of filter, right? I’m curious how to what extent this filter sort of go. So, can I find people who were a part of bankless, who also signed signatures, who have about X amount in their wallet, right? And extract that accordingly?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, so this is exactly the idea is when you look at the optimism Airdrop, they also had certain conditions on what made you a valuable member to the optimism collective. Right. And one of them was, you should be a good coin grantee, you should have participated in their governance proposals, you should have been, like, you know, participated on the optimism network. So, what makes you valuable as a community member is, a that you’ve participated in any form of their governance, snapshot has been by far the most popular. And even when we did user interviews, the requests for a lot of these like, hey, I want you to automate X and reward Y tokens. Right? They range from like really wide, like really like way things like hey, I want to distribute tokens for them having to do some kind of work. So that was like bounties or D work. All the way to like really specific is like if they read this article on my website, I wanted to distribute them tokens. So, we sort of had to find a middle ground on what was possible and what was like, what is something that we can do on chain at scale for multiple communities. So, popup. I mean, if you think about it for creative communities, hosting events is the best way to build and strengthen relationships. So, we saw most of the events that we attended or even studied. popups were one tool that they used almost every single time.

Thoughts On People Airdrop Hacking

It’s like, go back to the events point of view. Like I haven’t seen too many creators sort of throw events and races from like individual creators, music creators, whatever. Maybe they don’t need to, maybe it’s very much irrelevant to them. But one sort of group that continuously does events that I just like always remember like Ravi like Ave, right? There’s DEF CON happening in Colombia and a few months, they’re doing a Ave. It’s like such a cool way to bring people together. But also meet developers, right? Show them a good time, celebrate, do all these things. And now they can maybe even take it one step further, by kind of like everybody that sort of kind of like attend all Ave events, being able to extract that information in a very seamless way, okay, cool. I’m also trying to think in terms of bots, because all these civil attacks, they’re very real. And there’s certain groups that are sort of dedicated to Airdrops and they built like insane bot communities and yeah, fake profiles and fake addresses, etc. What do you have to say to those people?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, I think it’s a very real problem, which is why we’ve like carefully selected some of the templates we’ve built on how you sort of get those addresses and how you can sort of combine all of these conditions together. So snapshot, it’s very difficult to do a bot attack, even though, even if you could, participating, or like doing a bot attack on a particular proposal and making it sort of go one way or the other. And then once you win. you sort of get air dropped is extremely difficult to do. Same thing with popups if you went to Rave. And if you have the popup, it’s really difficult to acquire that popup, if you were at rate, right. So, we sort of built like, we’re going slow in the sense that we’ve built these considering like bots in the first place, and otherwise, like the previous version of coin vise, was very open ended. So, you could do a lot of these things. And I think that’s when it was like a huge problem. But now, you can sort of choose and you can just select these, and these are, like pre-configured for you right out of the box. So, you can like do multiple conditions, you can say you must have attended Ravi, you must have voted in this proposal, you must hold 75 FWB and you must be like, let’s say a gitcoin grantee. And if you mix those, no, I mean, it’s really difficult to satisfy all of those, right?

The Next Focus for Coinvise

Yeah, cuz like you’d have to actually be a human to do those things. Okay, interesting. So, membership NFTs, Airdrops, what do you imagine being the next focus?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, so the idea is to go deeper into Airdrops and membership NFT. The premise of coin vise is to build no code tools. So, building communities is easier. And we want to sort of we’ve mean, over the past 1.5 years, we’ve identified that to be able to build start and just grow networks in general Airdrops and membership NFTs play a crucial role. membership NFTs is a great way to start out. So, if you’re just starting out, you might launch membership NFTs that would attract your early community. You will progressively do Airdrops as in when they participate more. So that’s A, acquisition and B, retention with airdrops, and you continue doing that over a period of time for different meaningful forms of participation. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do with coin vise, we’re going to add more plugins for memberships. So that right now, you have you can add in an Airdrop add an access to discord as a benefit. And obviously, you can add custom benefits to your tiers. But you could in future, you’d be able to add like you get access to events online and watch in person, you get access to, let’s say, some kind of media or content, because a lot of creators produce content, you just drag and drop that into your tier, and we make sure that you sort of are able to token gate that. Same thing for Airdrops, we want people to be able to do Airdrops similar to how ENS or a lot of these platforms are doing but in a very meaningful way. So, you can add these conditions, like I just mentioned, and we’re going to add more and more of these plugins, you can think of it like similar to Zapier, where we build these integrations, so that it’s easier for you to build a community.

So, it feels like a marketplace, essentially. 

Jenil Thakker: Yeah.

Like a plug-in store, essentially.

Jenil Thakker: It’s just a variety of used cases. And we just want to like show our users used cases when they go to our platform because before it was just, they had to come up with use cases. But now they just see all the used cases right in front of them and you just drag and drop like Lego blocks.

ETH Berlin

Yeah, very cool. I like that. That’s like a big focus on like user experience, a big focus on like on product because we lack, I still think we lacked like really good products. In crypto consumer facing products. Yeah, man. This is super cool. Super exciting. What’s on your agenda for Eth Berlin?

Jenil Thakker: So, for Eth Berlin, I mean, this week is really important to us because we’re releasing Airdrops version three. We’re releasing a billion glorious music NFTs. This is one of the first used cases of music NFTs going live on coin vise. He’s going to be doing his sort of Patreon style subscription tiers for access to his content, all via coin vise so you can pay in Eth, and you get access to a lot of his content, as well as a lot of the music albums that he’s going to be producing in future, we’re also doing membership NFTs. And going live with Eth vest Dao, which is an investment Dao based out of LA. And their membership NFTs are now live on coin vise, you can go to Eth members on coin vise and check it out. And then we are doing membership NFTs with rider. And these are like sort of sponsorship. So, they’re hosting an event in the future, which obviously everybody will learn more about. But they’re raising their funds for this, for the event with sponsorships. And all the sponsors can go to coin vise get the NFTs. And for like coined those NFTs, they get a certain amount of benefits, visibility. Sponsorship is also very interesting used case that we see over and over again, because most of these events that you see in crypto are funded via sponsorships, even like content that is produced today. If you’re writing a premium newsletter, a lot of the sort of funds are raised by riders from sponsorships today, believe it or not. So, I think that was also a really interesting avenue for us to explore.

How did you figure out that correlation riders bring in a lot of the sponsorships just like newsletter ads?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, I mean, we saw like a lot of the newsletters that I read or even if like you talk to you or go over a lot of the top 10, top 20 publications, most of the people if you look at them, I think, I forgot the number, but you can actually contact them. And some of them, you know have them on their about page, is you can sort of get featured on their newsletter because they get certain views. And that’s how they, that’s like an additional source of revenue that they have in addition to subscriptions. 

Okay, so you see sponsorship NFTs as being a?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, something’s going on. I mean, I just think that this is one of those areas, which is a bit more under explored. And this is one of those early used cases where sponsorship NFTs could be used as a way for creators and communities to get funding or even, like attract people from the outside to work with.

Who Else is Using Sponsorship NFTs?

So, I’ve been using sponsorship NFT since episode one, your first person to collect my first sponsorship NFT. And I think I’ve given it like over 15 today across six seasons or something, which is crazy to think about. And a really cool concept because all revenue for me has been on chain, since like day zero. And I haven’t really seen anybody really explore like sponsorship based NFTs like NFT that unlocks a certain level of utility, if collected. For me, though, I kind of see it as the as like my sort of steppingstones to building some type of on chain community in the future. And these brands playing a role beyond just sending me money, right? And me just like promoting the brand kind of thing, like they have something to collect for them to see that they were part of the community, for the community to see who else is collecting alongside them. Right? Yeah, super, super cool. Have you seen any other communities sort of mingle and like mess around with the sponsorship NFTs? 

Jenil Thakker: Of course. 

So, is it, but is it just from the point of view of just like sending money on chain to then receive utility or do they get an NFT in return?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, so this is perfect segue. We just did FWB fest. And coin vise was one of the sponsors in FWB fest. And that was a perfect example of what sponsorship NFTs could look like. Being like one of the partners of FWB fest, we got to Airdrop NFT’s to people that attended the fest and even attended some of the sessions. As well as like, it was a great way for us to get utility because we were physically at the event, we hosted a workshop, we sort of got access to a wider community of artists, that we’re all there in person. And we could do like a session on what coin vise has to offer. So as a brand, and as somebody working with FWB I think it was a great opportunity for us to explore like what sponsorship NFTs could look like. And once we started like seeing more of those examples with like, I started radar, which is going live this week, and a few other communities’ refraction is one of them, refraction as an events community. There’s so many other Daos, even pizza Dao, a lot of these communities, if you like sort of scope out and see where does the Treasury come from? Sponsorship NFTs is like, are just sponsorship or advertisement revenue that creators do for brands is like huge portion of it. And I think that could be an interesting used case of membership NFTs themselves. Because when you’re sort of working with a brand, you’re like, that’s your acquisition costs. That’s your community building cost. So, I think like that’s something that could unlock a lot more potential. So, I’m interested in seeing what it’s got.

Current State of the Web3 Creator Economy

Yeah, really, really cool. I still think sponsorship based NFTs are super early. Yeah. Let alone NFTs in general of course. Yeah, I’m curious for you to also like to also hear your point of view of, you’ve been in the creative economy space building web three for a minute. What have you seen sort of the vibe is right now? Considering we’re in a bear market, in terms of like creators doing new projects, funding all these other cool things that are happening in and around like creators?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, I think like, if you look, ask anybody, it’s like one of the ones difficult times for funding But I think like, some of the, I guess gaps are wide, if you look at just scope out for projects, and web three, one of them is like messaging. Messaging has been the weakest link in web three for a really long time. So, I think we’re starting to see like better UX and better UI, but also, that should be in conjunction with real used cases. So, seeing a lot of used cases evolve is something that I’m really interested in seeing. And one of them that I’m seeing is with yield XYZ, they’re doing membership management. And that was, it was one of those first platforms that showed us that, if you show people use cases in a templatized way, where everything comes out of the box, and you can sort of create unique things out of it, I think that was like something very powerful. And that showed the message. So, I think more of that, where you don’t work against, but you sort of work with a lot of the platforms that are complementary to you. And that was a great article, like it goes way back in the 90s, on how dungeons and dragons evolved. And Joel Spolsky wrote an article on commoditize your compliment, which is very popular, is essentially saying every platform that are or every tool that plays complementary to do, you sort of commoditize that, and what ends up leaving is sort of the core value that you end up adding. And that’s the best way to build a community, which is how dungeons and dragons became one of the biggest games in history.

Details for Today’s Announcement 

Got it. Super exciting stuff. Really, really cool. I’m excited to see how people sort of integrate their membership NFT on coin vise, now with Airdrops and sort of like what the evolution is from here, I guess before we wrap this up and go into our time at Eth, Berlin, any last words? What sort of details do we need to know for this announcement that’s dropping today?

Jenil Thakker: Yeah, so, Ardrops version three, the biggest part, our biggest change for Airdrops for claim page and sending tokens to multiple wallet addresses. I guess for multiple wallet addresses. If you’re sending them tokens directly to their wallet. Now you have the option to essentially just type in the token, and it’ll send you all the token holders. And it works for tokens, it works for NFT. So, you can say, give me all the people that hold crypto punks. And also give me all the people that hold more than 75 FWB and you can pick and choose multiple of these options and snapshot popup. And you can sort of curate what kind of audience you’re trying to reach out to and then distribute tokens and you can do it progressively in a continuous way because token distributions are meant to be done again and again. Like I said, distribute tokens at the speed of participation. So, I think that’s something that keep an eye out for if you’re going to coin vise, try to just play around with it and see like what makes sense for your community. Maybe try to curate and send tokens people that actually add value and then even for claim pages you can say you must hold this NFT to claim this Airdrop, you must hold these popups, you can add as many conditions as you want. So, I guess check it out. All these conditions and ways to get these addresses are live. It’s all no code. And now you can create your Airdrop in seconds.

Amazing. Congratulations with the drop. Congratulations and the announcement. This was fun as always, third episode. Can’t wait for the fourth one. But yeah, man, thanks for being on.

Jenil Thakker: Thank you for having me.

Podcast Transcript

Rantum’s Mental Model for Analyzing Blockchain Data


Mint Season 6 episode 11 welcomes Rantum – The blockchain data wizard whose work can be seen across Art Blocks, Uniswap Grants, and writer at the Our Network newsletter. 

Our theme for the next half hour revolves around on-chain data; specifically, how creators can use on-chain data to build stronger communities. We outline various metrics you should consider tracking, Rantums mental model for analyzing dashboards, and so much more.

Time Stamps

  • 00:37 – Intro
  • 03:41 – On-chain Data Tool Set
  • 05:12 – Interoperability in Web3
  • 08:07 – Key Dashboards for Web3 Communities
  • 11:08 – How Many Communities Actively Use On-chain Data?
  • 13:22 – Rantum’s Analytics Structure
  • 16:04 – Using Data vs. Trusting Your Gut
  • 21:17 – Anonymous NFT Ownership and Zero-Knowledge Technology
  • 24:55 – Trends in the Web3 Creator Economy
  • 26:38 – Metrics Web3 Communities Should Measure
  • 29:14 – How Can Creators Become More Data-Informed?
  • 31:22 – Outro

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Rantum, welcome to mint podcast. Thank you for being on, special guests of season six, all things on chain data. How are you doing, man?

Rantum: I’m doing great. Very excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

I feel like an idiot. I’ll tell you why I feel like an idiot. Because when I was planning season six, I was like, okay, I want to do an on-chain data type of topic. And I should have looked at the wizards on dune. And then I came across the wizards of dune after I announced the season, and there you were in the top five created too many dashboards, you can count. So, I’m seriously stoked to have you on. I think a good place to start here.

Rantum: Say that you looked at that.


You got it. All right. A good place to start is, who are your Rantum? What does the world need to know about you? And I’m specifically interested, like, how did you get your start into crypto?

Rantum: All right, so let’s see, I’ve been working in crypto in data, crypto data analytics for about a year and a half now, get started early 2021, had been, you know, interested in crypto, held crypto assets before but hadn’t really been actively participating in it other than, you know, I mean, I had different tokens, you know, held them but not much more than that. Started getting interested more in NFTs actually, and that’s what kind of drew me in initially, with some top shot over their initial summer when they were first out before a crazy, before it got crazy. And then got into sort of like the art side of NFTs. Before I was working in crypto, I was working in E commerce, consulting with other many companies, working in marketing, with web marketing with data analytics in that area, and saw an opportunity to kind of transition some of those skills over to blockchain data. So started making some dashboards on doing analytics and kept making them and some of them have gotten me a lot of stars and moved me up those ranks and help some people to find me once in a while.

I also know you’re like a collector, I checked out your open sea profile is from what’s public. And you’ve got a ton of NFTs as well. So, I guess kind of seeing your interest from the top shot days, and then kind of seeing all these things that you’ve collected. And now being actually an active contributor, I consider your contributions as like, you’re like a participant in a Dao. And I think Daos and communities have different levels of participation. And being able to create dashboards is just like another one of those elements of participation that I would sort of argue is super important. I’m curious, though, of everything to kind of get involved in, why the data side of things? Because you seem to spend a lot of your energy on that side.

Rantum: Yeah, I mean, part of it was that I was already interested in that side of it. And then the other part is that once you start looking into this, there’s just endless amounts of data to keep looking at, I wasn’t used to looking at, to work with data from individual companies. And you know, it’s very siloed data, you could maybe get some metrics of what other companies were doing. But it really was an open data that anybody could use. And obviously, we have a very different case with blockchain data that anybody can go and access this data, anybody can use it. Very different case that we have here. And I found that really interesting. You know, you can look at all of these different things, both from whether, you know, whether it’s a collector perspective, we are looking at tokens, but we are also as a creator looking at all this information is such a different world that we lived in with siloed web two data.

On-chain Data Tool Set

So, when you look at the current, like tooling landscape for data applications, and you sort of think about the different tools that are available for people to sort of either understand their communities, to either build communities, to understand certain metrics, what does your tool stack look like right now, beyond dune?

Rantum: So, dunes do is my number one and is still. I use that pretty much daily. And I well, definitely had to work with the open sea, API, quite a bit. I mean, you know. 

It’s painful.

Rantum: It’s interesting, because, you know, we do have this, all of this public data, but then we know, we still have a lot of siloed data, and that, you know, open sea data, at least is available via API, but really, that all sorts of different marketplaces out there. And if you’re trying to look at that off chain data, in NFT, specific you’d be looking at listings. Could be hitting listings are the big thing that you’re looking for NFTs and they can be all over the place with different marketplaces popping up. So, you know, trying to come to kind of wrangle that data in you know, different cloud databases for them, although, it seems there our new tools coming or new options coming or features coming to dune that make that easier to access right in their platform.

Interoperability in Web3

Got it. Okay. So, I want to talk to you about, like a lot of this conversation on where like data meets the creator economy in web three, and how creators should sort of be thinking about data. And I think a big trend that we’re sort of seeing recently is this concept of community interoperability, building identity, credentialing, all these sorts of keywords that I guess we didn’t really see a couple of years back, especially when NFTs weren’t at the sort of like premieres type of spotlight in crypto as they are today. How do you sort of understand the concept of community interoperability audience, interoperability in web three? What does that really mean? you can also take it from a point of view of either user being the platform, and they don’t really need to rely on sort of like creating value on platforms like they are the platform in crypto, right? It can also be taken from the point of view of understanding like you can take your audience, wherever you go, sort of in platforms are building around this interoperable, this open transparent ledger that possesses all this information. You know, what I mean? How do you see it?

Rantum: Yeah, I mean, so I guess I do see, I see that audiences can move around, you will see that, you know, for artists, you will see them produce on many different platforms. But there are artists are following them around. You know, when I’m looking at artists, specifically, if I look at someone like Kody, one of my favorite artists, he might produce on nifty gateway, on his own contract, super rare. And it’s different. It may be different audiences at some degree, but it’s really, it’s the same base audience that’s kind of following him from platform to platform, and it’s less, you know, there’s some importance on the platform, but less importance on the specific platform to bring, to go find that community rather than just bringing that community with him to that, to these other platforms, and even enabling people to maybe use what they’ve already collected in the past to get access. And I think that’s something that we’re really seeing, too, that you can, you can use what the audiences have already collected, what they’ve done in the past, actions that you could see on the blockchain and allow more when you move forward with another collection, it doesn’t even have to be on that same platform.

Key Dashboards for Web3 Communities

Yeah, that makes sense. As an analyst, and someone who spends a lot of time creating dashboards, either for your own interests, or for sort of to help communities. What are some of the first few sorts of dashboards you create, to help the community understand who their users are?

Rantum: So I tried to give tools that, I really tried to make data more accessible in general, I mean, that’s one of things that I like to do with these, with my dashboards is build them as tools that others can use, be able to plug contracts and plug contract addresses in or plug different wallet addresses, and be able to build something that people can then look into more, when trying to give insight to an audience for NFTs specifically, looking at what other collections they might hold, what else they have in their wallet. And trying to look at that from a collection wide standpoint, you know, get ideas of what is this collector base interested in, what other things are trying to find the overlap? You know, that’s definitely something that I look at.

Got it. Okay. And when you sort of create these dashboards for communities, what tends to be like the most common metrics that you sort of look at and that you measure across either community like to measure like community’s health, to measure community’s engagement, and things around that nature?

Rantum: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s one we’re still developing a lot, you know, trying to understand how much engagement is there because it’s really different for different communities, you know, how much you want someone to be active, at least on chain. You know, we wouldn’t think that some issues in the NFT world where a lot of a lot of revenue is coming from royalties. And that requires people to be selling, you know, and if people aren’t selling, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the collection. So, you know, still trying to get some of that, you know, where is the engagement? How do you gauge engagement? But I think that looking at, I mean, obviously, looking at the trends over time, price trends, also, how many holders there may be of a particular token or NFT collection? You know, if you see that falling off over time, that’s, you know, generally people are getting less interested. I mean, there are cases where you can see that people are, the existing community members, may be becoming more excited about the project, but usually see that, you can easily pick that out a little bit better. And that’s ultimately knowing who those holders are, are they new to the ecosystem or they existing holders?

How Many Communities Actively Use On-chain Data?

How many communities do you actually see using on chain Data actively? Like, the day-to-day process of building a community, trying to create unique experiences? Or is it very much like the top 1% of communities actually use data, despite all the dashboards that are out there?

Rantum: Good question. For community building, I don’t know that they’re being utilized all that much yet. I think that we’re at a point where there’s, you know, there’s so much opportunity that people are running ahead, right now to try to get somewhere before, you know, before all the competitors do, and that the small, some of the small data differences aren’t quite coming into play yet, I think they’ll become a lot more interesting as people start really taking the time to dig into them. I think there’s a ton there for artists, for creators, especially when you start looking at what people are doing. Otherwise, I know, you’ve talked about it on your podcast, how you’ve used it, use data, and with your own tool to find what your audience was interested in. And I think that’s such a smart thing that many people are not doing yet.

Interesting. Why don’t you think many people are doing that yet? Like what’s missing here?

Rantum: Good question. I think some of it may be, Oh, well, I mean, sort of, was the first point, you know, that I think people are running to stake their claim to different areas, but, you know, areas within this ecosystem, but you know, I think the other side is, it’s still thought of as maybe more difficult than it needs to be, I think there’s this idea that blockchain data must be really difficult to decipher. And, you know, it’s much easier to just use these, you know, look at open sea history or something for NFTs or to, you know, occasionally, you know, go scan, very easy to read things. And, you know, the truth is, I think a lot of these dashboards, a lot of these tools have made it very accessible, and people should start taking more time to look into this.

Rantum’s Analytics Structure

You know, for me, I see the biggest setback with creators and communities trying to use data is trying to understand what action they can take, by understanding and looking at that data. And my next question to you is, do you yourself have a mental model? It’s one thing to create a dashboard. It’s another thing to understand what to do with that information. Do you have a mental model yourself as to how you analyze information, whether it be a pie chart, whether it be a bar graph, whether it be a light, whatever the media may be? Do you have a specific structure as to how you approach things?

Rantum: Yeah, I think one of the reasons that my NFT dashboard specifically have become so popular is because I am active as an NFT trader, and I look at them much, trying to use it for my own purposes. And I think by looking at what some of the other dashboards were out there, when I first started creating them, they weren’t, it seemed like they weren’t getting into some of the details that traders would need. And it’s much more about kind of volumes and total transaction numbers, but that doesn’t really mean a lot to, when you’re making an individual sale, I think a lot of these like a lot of metrics out there are giving you total volume numbers and I don’t know that that means a lot, especially when you’re not looking at, it just some of the more detailed metrics that are happening looking at things like how many, I mean, how many sales is that really? How many, what’s the collection size? And how much what’s the liquidity in a particular project? I mean, you know, I think a lot of times these big numbers, whether it’s Eth, or dollar, or you know, whatever other numbers are used kind of as a, you know, this big shock number, and it doesn’t always mean a whole lot, you know, for praises is definitely something that you can look at more, NFTs that’s used often. And I think there’s even more than that, you know, when we see that there’s little volume over at all. And he just said that don’t use volume, but trying to see volume or turnover over time inventory turnover, how fast is a collection moving? Trying to get a better idea and some of the details of a particular collection?

Using Data vs. Trusting Your Gut

Sure. I think also another element to that is like, going back to the question of, there’s a lot of data out there, but why communities? Maybe not why, but maybe the argument is like a lot of communities maybe aren’t tapping into that data on a regular basis. I want to pick your brain, another tangent of that is like, how do you find the balance between using data to make a decision versus sort of following your gut? What does that balance, that trade off look like?

Rantum: Yeah, man, I wish I had a very good answer for that, because I think it is really hard right now. You know, somewhat, there is so much data, and I think you can use it to inform decisions. It doesn’t, you know, I don’t rely 100% on data. You know, I don’t think that’s even possible. So, you know, trying to weigh those other, I don’t know, because those metrics that can’t be measured as well. And is definitely tougher in this industry, especially when, you know, I think you probably know, how much sentiment plays a factor NFTs and crypto in general. You know, I think, you know, I do actually try to keep an idea of that, you know, what is the center, what is the market sentiment overall, and try to keep an idea, you know, my falling into something when I’m making a decision, am I trying to confirm something that I’m hearing out there or my final, you know, trying to look at this objectively?

Another thing I want to know about you, Rantum is like, what is a day in your sort of life look like? Because I see you’ve created so many dashboards, you’re obviously living on dune, you study data consistently. When you sort of create these dashboards and you’re like, you’re waking up in the morning, like, it’s the first thing that you’re doing sort of like building a dashboard, or trying to find something new to create? 

Rantum: I think I get what you’re asking there. I mean, I looked at a lot of my dashboards, I tried to build dashboards that mean something to me, when I do look at them in the morning trying to get an idea of what’s been going on, you know, both in crypto and prices, token prices, you know, as you know, there’s often surprises when you wake up, so like to know what’s going on a bit and build those dashboards. You know, there’s a lot of maintenance in dashboards and whether it’s because of you know, whether it’s a dune, whether it’s dune updates or upgrades, upgrades still require some work. But also, open sea changes, different NFT marketplaces coming up. And as much as there’s, as much as I’d like to rely on, on chain data, there’s still a lot of manual data that needs to be put into dune right now. A lot of collection names need to be put in there. So, you know, update a lot of those things on my own. So, I also work, do some work for art block right now. So, make a few internal dashboards for them, less collector, focused and more internal for them when they’re trying to reconcile royalties and things like that. So those are always fun getting little different and find those but, you know, I like trying to build these dashboards that can be used over and over again, and no matter what, there’s always maintenance that needs to happen. And then, you know, when thing, when new protocols, everyone new collections come out, definitely try to dig into that a little bit more and see what’s going on.

Anonymous NFT Ownership and Zero-Knowledge Technology

Right. I also want to talk to you about, like, new technology that’s emerging in the ecosystem. I remember if Vitalik recently proposed, like a stealth address for anonymous NFT ownership. I’m curious if you have any thoughts around sort of that area, and also like with the introduction of like, zero knowledge technology, how that would influence future usage and analysis of on chain data?

Rantum: Yeah, I thought about that, you know, and then one of things that has attracted me, like I said, it is interesting is the openness of data. But I also think that there is some need for some privacy. I know that there’s times where I don’t necessarily want anybody that’s paying me to see every single transaction that I’ve done. You know, it’s a little hard once the wallets public and you know, I think that there will become, there will be, solutions will become more easy to access and not having to go through OFAC. Yeah, things against their terms anyway. But you know, so I think that summons will change. And I do wonder how much it changes once people, once kind of the blockchain park gets pushed a little bit more to the back end, I think right now people have a pretty good understanding of what it means to have your wallet public and people that are in it, it’s a pretty small number of people, it takes a lot of steps. And you almost have to interact with some of the underlying tech. And it makes you a little bit more aware of this. So, I do wonder what happens when this becomes pushed kind of to the, where people can’t see it, when you’re just opening an app on your phone, and it’s running on the blockchain. You don’t think about this. I do wonder how people, what people will expect for data privacy at that point? You know, so I think that will, we’ll see some shifts here, we may get to a point where we’re seeing more, you know, we’ll see a lot of maybe, you know, the second layer two type of activity rolled up, that you can’t see quite as well, can’t see individually as well, as you can some of the big transactions on the Ethereum network.

So, what happens when that happens? Like what what do you do, as someone who spend so much time on doing, someone who analyzes data and uses these tools as a way to kind of find your contribution in the space? 

Rantum: You know, I think, I think one thing to keep in mind is, if we can, if we do have good privacy solutions, that there’s still going to be standardized. And it won’t be quite as much as you know, build a website, and now you’ve got to go figure out all your analytics, and all your data is going to look different, it’s still going to be, going to be standardized. And, you know, maybe it won’t be public, but it’s still there for companies, that companies, creators, whatever that are ready to, use that data. It’s a little bit more, you know, probably a little more. And I wouldn’t say it’s web two, because I think you’re getting user data, but you’re not getting at that point, you wouldn’t be you wouldn’t know the individual person. So, it provides a lot more privacy for individuals, but I think there’s still a lot of data that you can work with publicly and be able to take steps to improve your audience.

Trends in the Web3 Creator Economy

Yeah. The next thing I want to talk to you about is, I guess like the current state of where we are in the creator economy, you obviously spent a lot of time collecting stuff yourself. You spent a lot of time analyzing communities. What are some interesting trends, insights, notable things that have sort of sparked your curiosity or attention that you’ve discovered by being on chain data analyst?

Rantum: Let’s see. So, in real life events, I think are really big for blockchain communities. I think that those, that’s somebody that’s really helped, I’ve helped a lot of communities that I’ve seen, grow more and even grow together a little bit further than you could online I think, you know, these online communities are great for bringing people together. But also, people want to get together in real life. And I’ve seen that in many different communities that mentioned that I do some work for our blocks, they do. They do event of they’re doing a big event in Marfa, Texas, but they’ve done some other events. More with bright moments as another company, I’ve worked with a gallery down in, based in Venice Beach, but they’ve, been going around to New York, or Berlin, London, next month in Mexico City coming up, art block as well. And I see that that brings a lot more people out. And you see people from different cities and different kind of coming out from the crypto communities that are there. And I think that’s, I mean, I got into a lot of this when we were all standing inside and you know, like many of us, and you know, I definitely appreciate getting together with people.

Metrics Web3 Communities Should Measure

Right. Interesting. That’s another like, okay, now it’s about to spark a side tangent. All right, what metrics do you look at to sort of measure community togetherness, and how different wallet addresses are interacting within one another amongst one another? Right? And I guess I asked that question, because when you’re looking at on chain data, or when you’re looking to understand how your community is performing primary sales, secondary sales, total volume look like these things can only say so much. But if you’re trying to build longevity, right, you want to see how your community sort of interacting amongst themselves, right? Are there any metrics or anything that you’ve sort of seen or worked on that indicate kind of like the strengthening of a community?

Rantum: You know, I don’t think I have, it’s a good question. I think those are some good metrics to start measuring. You know, I think right now we’re, when we’re looking at these, we’re looking at things like vote, you know, people are participating in votes. And governance. You can see that on chain, I wouldn’t say that that’s a, you know, great indicator of people coming together. Although I do think that participation in votes is a sign of at least people paying attention as it usually doesn’t take all that much to sign the transaction and do that. I think that is, that’s something I’ve worked on, actually, with the uniswap team, we’ve looked at a lot of issues around the governance there and how much participation there is because there are cases. I mean, they had an issue where there was nearly an improvement proposal passed, that was not there, very favorable to the community. And that was one where there just weren’t very, very many people voting at a certain point. So, I think that is something that is important. And it’s nice to see, I think we’re still coming up with more, we need to come up with more ways to gauge how communities are evolving over time. I do. I think we’re probably; it seems like we kind of need to have off chain data linked with on chain in some way. I mean, when we’re looking at, when we’ve got most of the activity for these communities happening in discord and more Twitter, you gotta start looking at those, when you’re looking at community activity that more than just on chain activity.

How Can Creators Become More Data-Informed?

Got it. Okay, the last question that I have for you, before we wrap up is, in the beginning, we talked about how communities they’re using data, but maybe not as frequent as they should, right? And for it could be for many different reasons. My question to you is, how can one become a more data informed creator, more data informed founder, more data informed community builder? What do you think about that?

Rantum: So, I think every creator, every artist should have some kind of dashboard of their own. When I’m thinking about an NFT artists. You know, I’m thinking about artists that are all over the place on different platforms. I think that having a dashboard for, can give so much insight both to the creator and to the audience, you can see, when we’re talking about all these different blockchain assets, you can see where they all are, where they’re trading. And, yeah, it may not all be about trading, but it’s nice to know where they are and what people are doing with them. And, you know, I think when you certainly get that, as a creator, you can start understanding who the people are, who are they, what else are they doing on chain? What other collections might they have? What other tokens do they have? Are they new wallets? Are they, you know, is there a long history there? And, you know, I think it’s even worth just reaching out directly to some of them. I think, in many cases, when you see that, you know, if someone has a lot of assets that you’ve put out, you know, definitely worth reaching out and seeing what brought them to you. And you can find more of that. I think right now, you know, like you said, there’s a little bit of a problem, what do you do with some of this data? And I think we are, you know, we’re at the point that it’s a little bit of you got to get creative with it. Figure out what to go do with it. But I think really understanding it kind of digging into it and understanding it will kind of spark ideas if you’re in that mindset anyway.


That’s super interesting.  Rantum, before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find your work? I know you’re also a contributor to our network, as well. I saw that in your bio. Yeah, show it away, where can we learn more and stay in touch?

Rantum: Yeah, I’m Rantum bits on Twitter. And you can find me also Rantum dot XYZ is my site. And yeah, reach out, if you have any questions about data analytics.

Amazing. Till next time. Thank you so much. 

Rantum: Thank you. 

Podcast Transcript

Coop Records Just Raised $10 Million


Mint Season 6 episode 10 welcomes Cooper Turley aka Coopahtroopa who rejoins Mint to debut his new venture Coop Records backed by a $10 million funding round to double on his love for supporting music artists and early-stage crypto startups. I feel like we’re gonna look back at this episode as an iconic moment in his career as he sets the example for what he calls an Artist Seed Round.

Time Stamps

  • 00:43 – Introducing Coop Records
  • 03:57 – Angel Investing
  • 07:41 – Cooper’s Investment Thesis
  • 09:21 – Early DeFi Days and Shit Coin Trading
  • 14:10 – How Do You Evaluate Which Creators to Bet On?
  • 19:45 – What Are You Excited to Invest In That Doesn’t Exist in Today’s Market?
  • 23:40 – The Ideal Artist or Founder to Invest In
  • 25:57 – Cooper”s Vision For the Next 10 Years
  • 28:27 – What is an Artist Seed Round?
  • 33:27 – The Value Of Ownership
  • 36:45 – What is the Average Size Check Artist’s Will Be Getting?
  • 38:31 – How Are You Measuring Success For an Artist?
  • 41:13 – Comparing Coop Records to a Traditional Record Label
  • 45:59 – What is the Current State of Web3 Music?
  • 47:22 – The General Playbook For a New Artist Coming Into the Space Today
  • 49:19 – Thoughts on Free NFTs
  • 56:42 – What is the Music NFT Launchpad?
  • 58:50 – What Does the Curriculum Look Like For New Artists Joining the Cohort?
  • 01:00:45 – How Did You Curate the First Cohort?
  • 01:05:50 – What’s Next For Cooper?
  • 01:10:27 – Outro

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Coop, welcome back to mint. What’s up, bro? How are you doing?

Cooper Turley: I’m doing wonderful, man. Thank you for having me back on.

Of course, man, always welcomed on. I want to start with, what the hell have you been up to since Eth Denver? We recorded an episode at Eth Denver in person. It was one of my first few in person episodes, it was a great episode, got a ton of downloads. But I know you’ve been up to a lot of stuff. And there’s a reason why we’re here today. So, I don’t want to introduce it, you should just go ahead and introduce it. And it’ll be that great moment to just kick off the episode.

Cooper Turley: Yeah, well, I want to start by saying that I’m proud to announce that I’ve raised the $10 million fund to invest in the future in music. It’s called Coop records. And it’s now live in business. 

Introducing Coop Records

I wish I had one of those studio audience clapping and whatnot. All right, dude, big moment, big moment, I see the smile on your face. You’re obviously super proud about it. I’m honored for you to release it on the podcast, too. Let’s start with, what the hell is Coop records? What should we expect right now?

Cooper Turley: Coop records is a fund to invest in the next generation of music, what that means is investing in platforms and protocols. It’s investing in artists that’s buying some NFTs. You know, there’s a lot of nuances there. But basically, I’ve been a big collector in this space for a while, I’ve been angel investing in a lot of companies, I wanted to figure out how to really just level up, the way that I was deploying into the web three music space as a whole. And this fund is my way of doing so.

How long have you been building the fund out?

Cooper Turley: About the last six months, I’d say, you know, I’d say that like the inception of it came six to eight months ago. I have a cool story to tell about that one a little bit later on. But you know, a lot of paperwork behind the scenes on the legal front, a lot of just infrastructure setup, then raising the fund for about the last two months. And then, you know, very recently closed it and by the time you’re listening to this episode, you will have seen that it is now live to the world.

Crazy, dude $10 million. That’s serious, that’s legit, that’s a lot of money to a lot of people, what is 10 million mean to you?

Cooper Turley: It’s a way for me to sort of level up my career, my profession and sort of the allocations I’m making into the space, you know, 10 mil from a venture fund is actually a very small fund, relatively speaking, it’s about the smallest fund that I could raise to make sense for myself. But something that I feel like allows me to really put myself on the line, you know, show that I have high conviction in this space, you know, show that other people have trusted me enough to give me money to deploy into the space. You know, it’s really just a steppingstone, I’d say, to really making this whole music NFT, web three music movement, something more serious. And I’m really excited to be working with the next chapter founder and artists that are making it a reality.

Amazing, dude, I think I first heard about it, we were at sea club, they were doing a happy hour, you’re sitting on a couch, I was sitting on a chair, a couple of others were around us, you know, like yo, Adam, starting this fund. It’s gonna be super exclusive, 25 LPS only, but it’s gonna be it’s gonna be propagating the future of music and web three. And I’m super excited about it, I was like, damn cool. Honestly, don’t expect anything less. That’s super exciting. And a lot has happened. Since you’ve dropped you. You’ve helped to sort of propagate many artists too, you’ve dropped some collections yourself. Can you talk about the last six months, at least since February? That’s when the last time you were on the podcast. Give me Give me a quick recap.

Cooper Turley: I would say in February, there was very early traction around music NFTs, you know, catalog and sound had come up, I started to collect pretty actively on there. You know, I was working with some of the more formative what the artists and kind of helping them develop their drops, you know, some that I’ll call out would be Daniel Allen and his glasshouse dropped that launch pretty recently, I was involved as a project manager and help to connect some dots there. The rookie project, which I’ve been super involved in as a project manager, and then behind the scenes just helping a lot of artists think through how to actually release their music NFTs, I started a newsletter called this week in music NFTs, that’s published every Monday to stay up with the space. And then more recently launched a cohort called the music NFT launchpad to bring 10 new artists into web three.

Angel Investing

It’s almost as if you’re tripling down on the space, just so happens. I think that’s super exciting. I think it’s a great way to also kick off the episode, as well, because there’s a few things I want to talk to you about the next hour or so. Okay, I want to talk to you about sort of your early days in crypto, how he got started with Angel investing, I want to talk to you about like, the history of music and why it’s been so difficult to invest in music in general? Of course, your fun thesis, what you’re looking for in artists and just all the things sort of in and out of that. Okay, so I think a good place to start coop is out there. How did you get into angel investing? What was the first sort of startup you’ve cut a check to, what did that look like?

Cooper Turley: Basically, defi summer, I’d say 2019, 2020, people were doing pretty well for themselves, just trading these different tokens, you know, doing yield farming, etc. I joined a syndicate group called freak out that was basically a bunch of different operators and investors in the space. We were getting to see private deals and at the time, I was writing $1,000 angel checks. So just about the worst thing I could do. Even if the company 100x says I make 100 grand, which is terrible for investing, I want to go on record saying, but I just was fascinated by the idea of getting to invest in companies in their private rounds. Some of the earlier companies that I invested in were my close friend Brian Flynn, his company, rabbit hole, Alex Masmej, his company, Showtime, a couple early defi protocols like ribbon finance, Fe protocol, etc. And at that point in time, you know, creator economy wasn’t really a thing. It was primarily like, you know, early defi protocols. And then some, like Dao tooling companies. And basically, my early entry into angel investing was saying, you know, I feel like I’ve established a brand for myself, I want to start working with founders more so than just being a consultant or a sort of like an advisor, and angel investing was my way to have more serious ownership stakes in the companies that I was really, really stoked on.

So, between rabbit hole between Showtime, those were sort of like your earliest bets on the creator economy, right? From what I understand. And that sort of just spiral like just a wave of you just like cutting checks left and right, from all the defi earnings that you’re sort of racking up or what am I missing?

Cooper Turley: No. I mean, I think you’re right, it was very much a spray and pray mentality. If I had to think of some other companies off the top of my head, I would say Zora was one that I was really, really lucky to be a part of, I think that what Jacobs building over there was incredible, like, his thesis on hyper structures is fascinating. And that was one that early on, I was just like, this makes perfect sense. And his credit, you know, he was very kind to reach out to me and say, like, hey, I would love to have you involved in that, you know, just kind of looking at some companies on the list here. You know, fractional and what Andy is was building was really, really exciting to me. I think, in total, I ended up doing close to 40 to 50 deals over the course of like the last year and a half. And these were all basically 10 to 25k checks. And so for me, it was really just a conversation of like, how do I get myself on that tweet storm when people announce around to say, like, hey, like we’ve been backed by leading investors and strategic angels, including x y & z, you know, I never really saw angel investing as a way to make a lot of money, although I’m optimistic that the investments will turn into something, it was really just a way to start building credibility in the space. And that’s actually what led to the venture partnership that I had with variant which was something that was extremely helpful and constructive in my career as an investor, general partners, Jesse Walden, Legion, Spencer, they’re all phenomenal. And a lot of the early ideation around Coop records came through that relationship, you know, me thinking more formally, though, why am I investing what I’m investing in? Not necessarily doing it for the sake of investing, but actually developing conviction and strategy around what I’m investing in. And it was through that process that I started to really think about this idea of Coop records, developing a thesis around music, and, you know, Jesse Waltons credit, he was very much like an early advocate for saying, like, I think this is a really good idea, I think you would learn a lot from it. And, you know, here we are today, six months later doing the damn thing.

Cooper’s Investment Thesis

So, the first few investments that you make, did you have any sort of like, north star that you were following? I know, you mentioned it was a spray and pray mentality, but even between cutting a check into rabbit hole, try Showtime, Zora, they all have somewhat something in common. Right. And I’m trying to understand like your thesis as an angel investor, because I feel like that also trickles to the things that you collect, right on like a hobbyist basis too, talk to me more about sort of, like your thesis early on, and how has it evolved to where we are today?

Cooper Turley: Yeah, I would say broadly, projects that help people understand web three is, you know, whether it’s using a product to be able to find new opportunities to contribute on chain, you know, whether it’s something that allows you to buy an NFT, whether it’s something that allows you to join a Dao and get to meet new people, you know, even defi protocols, I was always investing with a thesis of like, okay, this is going to be helpful for people getting into the space. And I think across the board, I started to realize that there’s a vast number of ways that people can get involved in web three. At that point in time, you know, it was really no different from how I was doing shit coin trading, or NFT trading, where it’s just kind of like, I have a real, I really liked this founder, I think this project is great. You know, I see a lot of other good people that are involved in this round, like I’m gonna come into, it was really just like a vibe thing. And I think that’s something that I try and carry with all my investments is like, do I just really back this founder? And do I really like what they’re working on and what their vision is? You know, I didn’t really have too much of a strategy around like, okay, what are projected earnings? Like, what are they? Going to be valued at as a food delivery company or anything like that, it was just kind of like, me getting in the weeds with founders doing a couple calls. And if I liked what they’re working on, I would put in 10k, and then share it with, you know, 10 people on my network that I thought were good strategics and most of the time, those people would come on board as well. Yeah.

Early DeFi Days and Shit Coin Trading

I’m also curious, like, you’re just back to the early days of angel investing. Obviously, there’s a big culture in web three around investing. And a lot of Twitter characters end up investing, everybody makes their money in all sorts of ways. Talk to me more about your defi early days, and you’d like your shit coin trading. I want to just get like up close and personal like the best trade that you’ve made that sort of like set your trajectory of where you are as an angel investor today and being able to back so many creators and change so many lives.

Cooper Turley: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to recall what the best one was. I would say that the turning point here is in 2018. I started writing a blog called This Week in Defi. I was covering projects every single week. It’s actually the exact format that I’m using for that this week in music NFTs, where I would cover projects every single week, I’ll be finding out about new project launches, new collaborations, new funding opportunities. And so, I was very active as launching governance participant early on for projects like Ave compound, synthetics, Khyber, shout out to my friend Lucas, we actually ran a newsletter called token Tuesdays where we would cover a token and talk about why we liked it. You know, if we liked it a lot, we’d buy some of it, you know, some of those early defi tokens end up doing extremely well, you know, like before Ave was called Ave, it was called lend protocol. And so had a pretty good position in lend that I’d accumulated over time, bought a lot of like synthetics token around like 10 cents and end up going up to like $6. I don’t want to like list off plays here, because I don’t like talking in this way. But basically, it was just like, finding these projects early on, having conviction in them when they were like low cap coins, let’s call it worth like 20 or $30 million. And then defi happens and all of a sudden, these tokens are trading at like 500 mil fully diluted valuations. And you know, for those people that were just paying attention, frankly, it’s not even like you needed to be an investor in the private rounds, there was a lot of upside opportunities for just being active and knowing how to use uniswap, essentially.

Yeah, I think back in the early days, during defi, summer, it was all just gray area, and there were opportunities flying left and right. And it’s cool to see, I have a friend that has capitalized on it and was able to like to make something of it right. And also, to see it sort of like evolve over time, and how you use that money that you made in a smart format. And rather than just like going and splurging, right, which of course you splurge, but doing it in a strategic way where you reinvest back into the ecosystem, carry on your thesis and just like consistently learn and evolve as you go.

Cooper Turley: Yeah, it was fantastic. I mean, that was when Eth started to really see a lot of upsides. At the time, when I was buying a lot of my Eth, I’d say it was like 80 or $100. You know, it was just like me every week investing the money I got from reading my newsletter into buying Eth and buying other tokens, I think what really started to change for me is, you know, not only was I participating in public markets, but I was also providing services for a lot of these early defi projects, and a lot of these creator economy projects. So, I would come on board to help them write their tweet storms, help them write their white paper to be active in governance on these different forums. You know, just to basically like give them a vibe check on what the community thought about their project. You know, a lot of times the founders are so heads down that they don’t really know what the perception of them is like, in the public. And so like, a lot of the times me and my colleagues would be brought in just to be like, yo, people really don’t like the way that you’re doing this or like this is not being well received. Right? Don’t think that this is going to go well. And thankfully, that end up landing me some token allocations and projects very early on, that I ended up doing super well. You know, like a fun example, this is I started eSports style called meta clan, and probably 2019. This was me, my friend, James, my friend, Piers, and Alex. And we’re just messing around, we’re like, what’s the eSports style sounds great. Let’s go ahead and do like an x infinity breeding tournament. This was before access token it ever launched before.

 So, we’re playing the game, we’re giving people you know, rewards for winning the tournament, and then access token launches, and it’s trading at like, six cents, let’s call it or something. Obviously, we’d all been familiar with Axi for a very long time. And so, I picked up a couple $1,000 worth. And then Axi token ends up peaking in the last bull market at like $100 a token. And like that was simply just being active and early in these communities. What I’m trying to get across here is I wasn’t some like wizard who was like, getting like secrets or like, you know, like all this unparalleled advantage, it was just like being on the ground floor and being like, really tapped into what was happening, like very actively participating in these communities where I was, like, helping to shine a light on them and like figuring out like the ins and outs of these different governance systems, but no, I’m extremely thankful because I think, for many people, COVID was the worst year of their life. And I feel really terrible for those people. And I’m really sorry that they went through what they did. But for me, COVID was staying inside every single day, it was being on the computer for 13 hours a day, it was the peak of defi summer, it’s when all this crazy activity happened in crypto. And, frankly, during COVID, I was working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. And I think that that period of time when most people were really struggling to find meaning and purpose actually ended up being like my kind of launch point. And I think that that’s what gave me a foundation to do a lot of the stuff that I’m doing today.

How Do You Evaluate Which Creators to Bet On?

Yeah, let’s transition into Coop records, why we’re here today. Okay. So, this is a fund that’s sort of invested or sort of focused on investing on projects, right, continuously angel investing, but also betting on creators, right. Can you talk more about that, like, what does that mean to actually bet on a creator? And more specifically, in the article that you sort of lay out, you have a specific model as to how you evaluate these creators, like web three has enabled a new business model for sort of understanding the value of what music artists create. Right. Can you talk more about that?

Cooper Turley: Yeah, absolutely. I think that people selling NFTs is really formative because prior to that, it’s been very difficult to value creators cash flow on chain, you know, like we have streaming, we have to run we have merchandise, all these things that have existed in the past. I think that NFTs are a net new revenue stream. And so, for a lot of these the early web three artists, instead of looking at their monthly listeners, the way to gauge the income that they’re making, we’re now looking at primary and secondary sales, we’re looking at things like membership passes, we’re looking at secondary royalties. And I think that that net new revenue stream combined with all of the existing revenue streams of streaming merchandise, touring, ticketing, etc, it creates this really exciting opportunity to start thinking about creators in terms of artists economies, so it’s no longer just about like, what song came out on Friday. It’s like, what is the whole picture look like here? Like, what does this look like if we stack up their NFT sales with their streaming, with their publishing, with their merchandise, with their ticketing, and that landscape, I think paints a very clear picture of like an artist value, I don’t think historically, we’ve ever had a chance to, like ask that question about, like, what is this artist worth? You know, I think that’s basically what labels are asking every time they enter into a deal with someone. But with web three, I think we have new ways to value culture, you know, like, there was a really big wave around social tokens, co-founder of a Dao called FWB, that I think really clearly highlights this. And in many ways, you don’t necessarily need to have specific on chain cash flows or specific revenue statements or something to have value. You know, obviously, that adds a lot to it. But what I see as the big opportunity with web three is to basically stack all of those different income streams together, you know, structure them into one master holding company, which represents an artist brand, essentially, and then basically sell off portions of that brand to the community, and allow that community to collectively participate in the upside of that artists, but do it in a way that feels really collaborative, and truly like in the spirit of web three, in the same way that we’ve seen a lot of these governance tokens launched in the past.

So, is it in many ways sort of scaling what you did with overstimulated or what you sort of partook in with overstimulated?

Cooper Turley: I’d say it’s a fusion of what we did with overstimulated, combined with some of the token launches that I’ve done for teams like audience Gitcoin, Superare, Ens, you know, Rockpool, Optimism, etc. But to really break this down in crypto, most companies raise funding from private investors early on in the company, you know, they build a product, they build a service, they get some product market fit for it, they start getting a lot of people to use it. And then at a certain point in time, they launch a token. And typically, what you see as a user of these platforms is a really big Airdrop, where you’re ending up getting, you know, $1,000 worth of tokens, because you traded five times on uniswap. Like that’s an Airdrop. But what’s happening behind the scenes is that all the investors that invested in uniswap, much earlier on in the lifecycle of the projects are getting their equity converted to tokens, or they’re getting pro rata claim of tokens. And so, what I think’s going to happen with creators, is we’re going to start to see more investors investing in artists early on, basically buying equity in the artist brand. And then over a longer time horizon, I think it’s likely that artists will start to launch tokens that are no longer just social tokens that have like no underlying claim on them. You’re basically buying tokens which represent governance and equity over an artist’s brand that’s very collaborative with that artist itself.

Yeah, I think what’s also interesting is the timing of it. Music web three is like, it’s the category within itself is like, still relatively small, right? We’re like, we’re still growing, I think, what was it? There’s only about like, 5000 music artists based off the water music report, I’m probably butchering the number, but it’s either 5000 or less than 5000 music artists that are wiped through native in the space. And, like thousands upon thousands of songs get published every single day on Spotify. And I’m curious, like, why now like, why now is a perfect opportunity to sort of double down on this niche and release Coop records as a way to help kind of proliferate division and help creators in the process.

Cooper Turley: Yeah, and really, just to highlight that, there are 85,000 songs a week released on Spotify, there’s 8 million artists on Spotify. And I agree with you that there’s less than 5000 artists doing music NFTs right now, there’s probably less than 10,000 music NFTs collectors in the world right now. And so, I think that delta is the opportunity, the fact that there are the possibility of 8 million artists being able to use web three one day and the fact that they aren’t currently. That’s what I see as related to design space here. And I want to go out and say that not every artist is well suited for web three, not every artist is well suited to launch a token. This takes a very specific type of artists, but for the ones that are highly engaged with their community, they’re thinking through new revenue streams and mechanisms like selling music NFTs, I think there’s a really new chapter of music that’s happening right now. And when I look at this fun, it’s basically saying, hey, we had Napster. And then we had SoundCloud. And then we had Spotify. And next we have web three. And in terms of what web threes winners look like, I think it’s way too early to tell, you know, we’re seeing really strong really signals of that, you know, hats off to sound XYZ for what they’re doing, to royal, to catalog, the people that we all talk about on this podcast a lot. But we are very early in that conversation. You know, if we zoom out over a long enough time horizon, I think there’s going to be incredible opportunities to invest in the next generation of music. And this fund is really my way of saying, hey, I think there’s something here, I’m going to raise a small fund $10 million to invest in pre seed and seed stage startups to help figure out what this landscape looks like over the next 10 years.

What Are You Excited to Invest In That Doesn’t Exist in Today’s Market?

So, what are you actually excited to invest in that doesn’t currently exist in the market?

Cooper Turley: I think it’s less about what doesn’t exist in the market. I think it’s just about helping founders get to that point, one at a time, you know, and so the vast majority of the fund is being invested in platforms and protocols. So, think of this of companies like sound XYZ, royal, catalog, but kind of like the next generation of that. And I think that for a lot of these projects today, there’s more culture happening that just didn’t exist previous to that, you know, like, I think there’s a really big shift around like collectives and these kind of like cologne, record labels and cooperatives and whatnot, very synonymous with what we’re seeing on kinda like the Dao side of things. That mentality, I think, lends very well to music. And so being able to play a formative role in setting up, you know, the next transformative record labels in the world, the next transformative collectives in the world, having ownership stakes, and then by purchasing a percentage of equity, and being really involved with the founder, I’m really stoked about that. You know, as we alluded to earlier, I’ve been acting as a project manager across a lot of different artists projects, when they’re doing something bigger than just like a typical music NFT drop. And so, me being able to actually partner with them to build product around their brand, invest into the brand directly, and then bring a portfolio company on board to help like really level that up, I kind of see this as almost like a very composable mash, where ideally, the coop records portfolio is a series of companies that can all work with one another to help any artists really further themselves in web three. And then make sure for those artists that were invested in through the fund, we can be really hands on and helping to connect the dots and make their artists economy as valuable as possible.

Yeah, I think another interesting component of this is, there’s there’s multiple parts, it’s not just a fun because you invest yourself, you also started this new incubator called the music NFT Launchpad. And now you have sort of the capital to support the artists not only coming out of it, of course, but other artists sort of collectively around it. But it’s like you’ve built this vehicle where it’s like, it’s multidisciplinary. And they each support one another, right? Am I getting this correctly? Or what am I missing here?

Cooper Turley: No, you’re exactly right. I think the thing that I want to like highlight here is that the fun is not going to be writing 10k checks into buying everyone’s music NFTs. Like that’s just the design of the Sonics, it is gonna get like an influx of new capital from Coop records, sweeping floors left and right. You know, it’s very, it’s very consolidated. And what we highlighted earlier is that when I was doing angel investing, I was very much taking a spray and pray mentality, right? You know, this fund is a very convicted way to bet on select artists and select platforms, I think that it will benefit the space as a whole. But I just want to put that out there that Coop records is not buying, your music NFTs because I have a new source of capital here, but rather, you know, when there’s something that’s working and working well, being able to add leverage, I think that’s something that does not exist in the sector currently, is that when an artist starts to break out, when a platform starts to break out, there’s so few people paying attention this that it’s hard for them to really scale, you know, let’s think about hiring, let’s think about marketing campaigns ways to kind of get these brands out there. That’s what this fund is for us to really like add leverage to something that’s already working. And then behind the scenes, I’m going to still be collecting music NF T’s all the time, I’m gonna be supporting a lot of artists, but I see this fund as a way to really just help amplify what the space is doing as a whole and take more convicted baths in the people who are winning the space gradually.

Damn, so I thought you’re gonna be buying everybody’s bags now. But I was like, damn, I’m about to eat well, tonight. Yeah. No. Okay. All right. More serious note, I also see it as like a funnel approach, okay, I see you as an individual sort of betting your own money, buying and doing a spray and pray mentality. And basically, using that as keeping tabs on everybody that you find interesting. And using this new capital as a way to sort of like double down, triple down on the individuals that actually want to take to the next level, right? Because of course, just like there’s a bunch of artists dropping songs on Spotify, Apple Music cetera, there’s gonna be a bunch of artists minting songs. And while in the beginning, it was very novel and unique, over time, it’s not really going to become that novel and unique. The artists that are gonna stand out are the ones that are sort of taking it to the next level. And that’s where coop records come in.

Cooper Turley: That’s exactly right.

The Ideal Artist or Founder to Invest In

Yes, I fucking nailed it. All right. So, I want you to paint me the ideal profile of an artist that you would sort of double down on, what does that look like in today’s world. And from there, do it for the same thing as a founder, like what is the ideal founder, the ideal project or protocol sort of look like that you want to sort of kind of tag along to?

Cooper Turley: I’m going to flip that, because the vast majority of the funds being allocated into platforms and protocols. And so I’d say that starting from the founder profile, I think is a little bit better to start with. But ideal founder is someone who really understands the culture of what’s happening, you know, I don’t have to explain to them why music NFTs are valuable, I don’t have to explain to them who the leading artists are, you know, they already have pretty much a good sense of what’s happening. You know, they’re very formative and recognizing that web three will be a net new playbook, you know, they’re not really super concerned with like, bridging over the old world into the new like, I think that there’s value in that. But I’d say that the fund is more focused on like, what’s new that hasn’t existed before, what’s uniquely unlocked by web three that didn’t exist previously. And then more than that, just sort of like who is the founder that’s capable of building a team around them? Like if there’s one scrappy developer who could just like goes out and wings it on the weekends and build tools? Love that. Do I think that they’re necessarily going to be able to build a billion-dollar company? Maybe not, you know.

And so, I kind of look at like the mesh between co-founders, you know, do these founders have kind of the connective tissue where someone’s really focused on development, someone’s really tapped into the community. Someone is really able to grow a discord community. And across that I think the line here is that all the companies that we’ll be investing in have a very good understanding of culture, you know, specifically with relation to web three. And as that translate to the artists themselves, once an artist has been able to demonstrate that they can check all the boxes of doing what’s expected of them, so let’s say like minting NFTs on catalog, selling out there drops on sound, you know, maybe doing a release on royal, they start to go a little bit further than that, right? They start to do drops on their own website, they start to think about, like, what are creative ways that I can distribute my album or bring other artists on board? And at that point in time, you start to recognize that there’s like a launch off point, you know, where they’re basically going bigger than what already exists. And I think at that point in time, that’s where we want to start getting involved to say like, hey, if you want to sell 10,000 music NFTs and have there be like a really formative moment around that. How can we help you hire developers and build a team around you, so that when you want to go and do that drop, it’s not you in a silo, you actually have a team of three to five people around here that are fully on staff to be able to go and make that a reality.

Cooper’s Vision For the Next 10 Years

Yeah, I mean, there’s only one person that sort of comes to mind that fits that profile, currently, maybe two, three, but like one that obviously fits that profile, and not to go too in depth, right. But I think over time, this individual sort of set the model, right? For what’s, maybe not what’s expected, but what’s possible, and there’s gonna be other people that may be taken from different directions. And it’s actually, I believe they’re going to be excellent place to sort of double down on and play like a long-term bet on. So yeah, man, that’s really exciting. That’s really big. And I don’t like you minimizing it, you say like, it’s $10 million in the grand scheme of things. Like it’s no big deal, but it’s a big deal. And don’t minimize it, because it’s legit as fuck. Alright, let’s talk about big picture. Okay. What is the vision here, Cooper, like 10 years from now? Are these like 10-years bets? Are these like five-year bets? Are these three-year bets? Like, what’s the big picture over here?

Cooper Turley: They’re 10-year bets. Yeah, I believe in 10 years from now we’re going to be able to invest in our favorite creators, I think exactly how that’s going to take form is a big question mark. But I think you’re going to be able to buy individual songs, like you’re going to be able to buy into individual artists projects, and I think you’re gonna be able to buy into platforms. And so right now, there’s not really liquidity for any of those events. And you kind of have audience token, which is publicly tradable. But basically, the only thing that you can really buy to get exposure to like web three music right now from an ERC 20 token perspective, you have these individual songs being minted on sound, catalog, royal, which are all really interesting at a very granular level. But I don’t think it’s telling the full picture of like, how do I invest into an artist collectively, beyond one song that they’re doing, but over across their entire project. And then over time, I think just like better connective tissue between all the different pieces of it, you know, there was an entire generation of artists on Spotify and SoundCloud, who ended up creating tremendous amount of value for that company, and they don’t have equity in that, you know, and I think if web three has showed anything, I always come back to the word ownership, you know, I would highlight the early variant piece ownership economy, which is very transformative in how I thought about the space. And I think that needs to apply more to music. Or if you’re an artist who’s creating value for these platforms are able to capture that value in the form of either equity or tokens. You know, if you’re an artist who’s creating a lot of value for their fans, that fan being able to capture value in the form of either NFTs, tokens or equity, you know, I think there’s just going to be a lot more connective tissue between the experience of listening and consuming music. And I’m hoping that over a 10-year horizon, we can unlock a lot more of those opportunities, so that people who are really passionate about this space can have more deeper ways to get involved.

What is an Artist Seed Round?

Yeah, and also in your blog posts, you sort of titled this concept as artists seed rounds. This is very typical in startup culture. But for those creators that are listening right now, what is a seed round? How does it differ from pre seed round? I guess a pre seed round would maybe be you just buying something off sound, right? Would that be considered a pre seed round? Or how do you think about it exactly.

Cooper Turley: I would consider a round basically the first time that you’re selling equity to investors with the hope of building something bigger than yourself. And so, in the concept of artists seed round, if I want to hire employees to work for me full time, I need capital to do that. I don’t think that it’s smart to be living paycheck to paycheck or using your NFT proceeds to be able to hire those people, instead, being able to bring on long term partners that can purchase equity stakes in your brand in exchange for you having the capital to go higher and build a team around you. That’s basically what we’re talking about here. So instead of just doing a drop, you know, making a couple Eth off sound and then going in like spending that on a one-off project. It’s like what if you had a developer working for you full time? What if you had a community manager working for you full time? What if your manager didn’t have to have five different clients on their roster, they’re taking commission off of, but they could represent you full time. And I think what I’ve started to notice across the industry is that when these artists get to be the biggest in the game, you know, they typically have three to five people around them that are working for them full time. But up until that point, there’s never been economic opportunities to have that be a reality. You know, like a manager needs to commission off of five artists because they’re one artist doesn’t make enough money for them to survive off of but if they have a capital pool that was provided by investors to say, hey, here’s a salary and an equity option that you can have long term ownership and get paid on a monthly basis for working for me, I think there’s some really exciting things that come out of that, I’ll be the first to say there’s a ton of complications here. The ways that you structure this is extremely complicated. The way that you help other players understand this that are typically operating on a commission model that maybe might defer some of their commission in the future is extremely complicated. But at its source, it’s just saying, like, hey, we want to formalize this vehicle more, you know, artists can act as CEOs, I don’t think that all artists are CEOs, but I think they have the ability to if they choose to, and if you’re a CEO, taking on some funding to go ahead and build your company into something bigger than yourself. I think it’s a really exciting opportunity.

Yeah, it feels like artists are now becoming startups. That’s sort of how I see it. And it’s a concept we’ve talked a lot about on the podcast, how artists are like creators are going to start very, like operating very nimbly, right, like a very nimble fashion, where they’re gonna focus on creating, but they’re gonna have other people on their team that sort of focus on other things. And it’s going to be living in this sort of, I guess, like vehicle, it’s very similar to how an early, early company sort of operates, right? I also see it from the point of view of, there’s going to be option pools, right? For these artists, employees, right, whatever, whatever you want to call them. And treating yourself as a startup and having external capital to help sort of fund your creative endeavors is really, really powerful. We’re seeing this sort of form through web three through very public markets, people sort of supporting artists through patronage, royalty compensation, whatever it may be. And now it’s kind of coming to the next level with Coop records. Do you imagine this model sort of being replicated? Or do you think it’s actually quite risky, what you’re doing?

Cooper Turley: I think it is extremely risky. And I hope that it gets replicated. I think that over time, it will become less risky, because there’s more standards around it for the early iterations of this, we’re taking our best guess at it, you know, we’re operating off of assumptions that we think are logical but have not been proven out yet. You know, I said, it’s really going to take time. And I think it’s really going to take a select type of artists for these things to work. You know, like I highlighted before, not every artist is well suited for this, I don’t think that every artist should try and do a seed round, I don’t think that every artist should try and hire employees. Most artists just want to make music. And I think that’s perfectly fine. And I encourage that, you know, I collect a lot of music NFTs from artists that just want to make beats, and I absolutely love that. But I think there are a select demographic of artists, let’s call out Kanye, Jay Z, etc. These artists that have built something bigger than themselves, that show that they’re capable of doing something beyond the music itself, I think the music becomes like the bedrock of what all this is around.

 But for artists that are building these brands and doing things that are bigger than them, having formal structures in place that you can bring on partners, and long term investors, having it so that if your manager works for you for 10 years, then they get fired, they just lose their income stream now, because there’s no agreement in place such that they can have like early ownership, you know, there’s very small things in the way that the music industry is designed, where if I was your manager for the first four years of your career, and you became a superstar, and you now need a bigger manager, and you fire me, I don’t think that’s fair that that early person who worked in the first four years has no exposure to the project anymore. No, I think that equity and options pool exist such that if you created value for something early on its lifecycle, you got to own that, you know, and that doesn’t mean it’s just given to you on a silver platter on day one, here’s 5% of my company. But these all works with tech startups, you know, you get an options plan over the course of 2, 3, 4 years. If you stick with that company for four years, you fully invest, and you can go do whatever you want. But I don’t think that those models really exist with relation to music right now. And so, I’m hoping that these structures can be very early examples and the way that that might work.

The Value Of Ownership

Let’s also not forget that majority of creators don’t understand the value of ownership. The jobs that they typically work to support the creative endeavors, pays him by the hour, or it’s probably by salary. Tech culture is like the only sort of culture that’s propagated that allows people to get ownership, a stake in the time that they commit to creating value, right. And I think for a lot of creators entering web three, it’s a very new concept, like this whole idea of owning something, let alone digitally, like what does that mean, in the grand scheme of things? I don’t think we’ve sort of seen that proliferate in real time just yet, I think more and more creators understanding it. I think some of that you did back in the day where, I think you tweeted, like, I’m only working for ownership, like you had this entire campaign that you sort of like pushed out or like you had this mirror post, blah, blah, blah, sort of explain the value of ownership and what that means. I think that’s sort of like dented a little bit. But there’s a lot more homework, a lot more work for all of us to do to sort of understand and educate creators what it means to work for ownership. But what that means in the grand scheme of things, how do we get there? How do we teach more creators about the value of ownership, either on a playful level on a forceful level? Like, what does that really look like from your point of view?

Cooper Turley: It’s a really great question. I wish I had one, you know, succinct answer for that. Just to quickly highlight that blog post was called full time, Dallas, and thank you for highlighting that because the thesis of it was basically, I don’t want to get paid dollars, I want to get paid and ownership. So, I want to take payment and equity and tokens, whatever that might look like. And my thesis was that no salary is ever going to amount to the amount of value you’re gonna get from having ownership and things that work out really well in the future. And so, what that looks like tangibly today, I think we owe it to a lot of the early platforms and protocols that exist to be able to allow their creators to have ownership stakes and what they’re building. You know, it’s a conscious decision to say like, hey, at some point in time, we will launch a token and do an Airdrop to our early artists or give some tokens to collectors. I think we owe it a lot to the early artists in the space that are being very forward thinking how they share their brand. You know, I’ve talked to a lot of creators here in LA that don’t really know what a cap table is, they don’t really know the concept of equity, they get really scared about giving anything to anyone because they’ve just been treated poorly for so long. What you start to recognize is that when you have a collective pie, you are being the only owner of that collective pie isn’t important. If it’s not a valuable thing in the first place, you know, like to make it more valuable, you need to bring more people into the picture. And the only way to get them fully bought in is to actually give them part of that pie in the first place. 

And so, what I think this looks like is very slowly introducing models where, hey, if you’re a manager taking a 15% commission, maybe you take a 5% commission, and instead you take a base, and then a small amount of equity. Or if you’re an artist that has a superfan showing up to your discord every day, maybe you give them $5,000 a month and a little bit of equity to start working on your brand. If you’re a platform that’s doing your next venture round, instead of only raising from VCs, going out and saying, hey, I want to bring this artist on board and give them a 10k Angel allocation in this company. There’re very small things that happened like in isolation, but I think making this culture around investing and financial literacy and sort of the mentality around like wealth creation, it gets very dystopian and actually get a lot of pushbacks on this because people think I just want to make money. But it’s actually, I don’t really care about that that much. I just care more about like creators being free to pursue their craft and having like, their value actually owned by them. But I would say yeah, like in isolation, I would say, just figure out new ways to give ownership back to the people that are supporting you and figure out ways to capture ownership from the different platforms that you’re giving value to yourself. 

What is the Average Size Check Artist’s Will Be Getting?

Yeah, I think it’s also like, the point is, you don’t know what you don’t know. And until maybe you eat enough shit, it’s like, alright, there must be another way. And maybe it doesn’t have to be that way either. But I think with the model that you’re introducing; it’s actually making investing cool. In my opinion, like, it’s like you’re betting on culture, like that’s what it comes down to, right? And I want to highlight like this next point, and sort of talk about the average check size that artists are going to be getting. And with that check, what does the post value check look like? Post check value. Excuse me, that’s the term. What does that look like after you invest?

Cooper Turley: Yeah, so um, who’s going to be a very, very select few artists who are actually being invested in from the fund. So again, I want to caveat this, I’m not invested in a ton of artists, I’m not doing super small checks into a lot of artists, the ideal investment for Coop records is a 250k check. And so that’s typically me taking either a co-lead or a lead position in a very early round, let’s say that someone’s raising anywhere from 500k to a million dollars, anywhere from a 5 to 10 mil post money valuation, Coop records is coming in is sort of the anchor of that, we’re giving you 250k. And we’re acting as a long term partner to help think through your web three strategy, to think about how you’re setting up your corporation, to structure all your companies in such a way that it feels very synergistic, to help you hire your early employees, create a cap table, do all the things that are very, you know, common with tech companies that I just don’t think I’ve ever really been tried to be done with artists before, if they have in very small iterations. And I’m doing that with a very, very select few artists for this first one, I’m hoping that if it does go well, and we can talk about what that looks like, there’ll be opportunities to raise other vehicles that are entirely allocated to this type of work. But for right now, it’s just going to be working with a very select few artists to help, just try it out and see if it really works. And you know, really applaud the people that are taking the initiative to try this today.

How Are You Measuring Success For an Artist?

So, what does success actually look like? Let’s talk about that. How are you measuring success?

Cooper Turley: Success is twofold. I’d say one, are you able to create a community of fans who constantly support you and everything that you do? You know, like, do you have an artist project that’s reputable becomes a household name, are you playing shows that you’re selling out stadiums, etc? The obvious stuff. Like what does success look like in eyes of being an artist today? I don’t think I need to explain that very much. But more from like an investment perspective. Are you able to raise future rounds at a higher valuation? Are you able to bring people in who weren’t there from the beginning to understand why owning a piece of your company is valuable? Are you able to launch a token and give that back to your collectors? Now, if I had to extremely oversimplify this, I would say that the success metric looks like 100 axing and artists, you know, basically like investing in the early stage of their development, you know, giving them capital at their earliest form, they then launch a token, and that token ends up performing extremely well for early investors, for collectors, for fans, I as a fan of an artist can just go buy $5 worth of my favorite creator, I never have to worry about buying a music NFT, there’s a very easy way for me to participate in these artists economies. And I think that over a long enough time horizon across a lot of creators, I think that that opens up a really exciting new playing field and that’s kind of what I’m hoping to be doing with this fund is helping to create those early examples of that chapter.

Yeah, I think something that’s also interesting about your journey Coop is, you’ve always very much focused on building your own personal brand, but you always part take in other communities. Why do this independently versus joining forces with an existing group that already has capital and just contributing additional value to that? Like, why branch off and do your own thing?

Cooper Turley: It’s a really good question. And you know, to be honest with you, I was definitely a bit a little bit hesitant to do it in this way, at first, for that exact reason. You know, I think like going off in an island can be like, kind of scary and like a little bit isolating. But to be frank, I don’t think there’s many people as much conviction in web three music as I do, you know, I could probably name on one hand, the amount of people that are willing to write 250k checks into like early music companies. This is my identity in my life. You know, if you’ve spent time with me here in LA, all I do is focus on music. It’s all I talk about. I don’t think there’s many other companies in the space that are designed to zoom in this deeply on this one specific pocket and sector. I think it’s really important for people to see that I’m not just like, talking the game or like just tweeting music, NFTs with nothing behind it. Like this is very serious for me, like this is literally my life’s work. And I think that this is the first way to highlight that I don’t need a crutch or to lean off someone else’s reputation or prior success to sort of make this successful. Like I want to take the risk of running it myself. And if it fails, it fails. But if it does, well, I think that it’s going to be difficult to attribute that to anyone else outside of myself.

Comparing Coop Records to a Traditional Record Label

Yeah. Let’s also talk about comparing Coop records to a traditional record label. Okay, well, I think like 85% is going to be spent on investing in like founders’ protocols, projects, there’s still a percentage is going to be invested in artists. What makes you different than a record label?

Cooper Turley: It’s a really good question. I wrote a post called web three labels; I would highly recommend that you read it, if you haven’t already. Basically, when an artist answers into a label agreement, they are selling the rights to their future songs. And so, they’re selling three projects, let’s call it three albums, they’re taking an advance against that, and they’re selling 80% of the rights to it, that advances recoupable, which means that the label has to make back their money first before the artists gets paid. The difference here is that Coop records is not buying masters, we are buying equity, that has a claim on those masters. The difference is that these investments are not recoupable, which means that we don’t get paid out before the artist gets paid out. We are partners, which means that we’re all making money collectively. And in fact, there’s not an expectation of dividends being issued. Because when you run an early company, you recognize that giving dollars back to investors is not the most productive way to spend that money, it’s actually more valuable to hire more people and build additional staff and product around you. And then stated plainly, we work with a lot less artists, you know, like most labels are working with anywhere from 10 to 50 artists at a time, you know, I would expect Coop records as a vehicle to be investing in roughly four to five artists out of this first fund. And so, we’re going to be taking a lot more convicted vets and working a lot more closely with those partners, we’re going to do things very unconventionally, but I think for now, those that are willing to take the journey and take the ride. I’m very excited about what this has to offer.

And I’m excited for you. I think this is going to be really, really exciting. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more, more record labels sort of pursue a model like this as well. And maybe there’s already some. Well, I know there are some already like pursuing like buying web three assets as a way to like experiment, right? But nobody’s really doing it publicly yet. Everybody’s just being super hush hush about it, because they don’t want to make a mistake, right? They don’t want to like to seem like they were wrong about a bet. But you’re like, you’re going balls deep, like you’re going all out. Like I raise 10 million bucks. Like this is what I’m doing. This is what we’re about. And I think that says that says a lot.

Cooper Turley: I want to add to that last point. 

Yeah, please, please. 

Cooper Turley: I also want to highlight some of the things that Coop records does not offer that labels do. Because I think it’s important to recognize that like, Coop records isn’t this shiny new thing that’s perfect and record labels suck like, you know, burn them out of the ground. It’s me, I’m an individual, I don’t know how to break your song on Spotify, I’m probably not going to get you on editorial playlists, I’m probably not going to book you for a headline tour. I could name like 5 or 10. Other things that I’m not able to do that a record label can definitely help out with. But I’d say like, the biggest thing to highlight here is that most artists today look to labels as a bank, you know, like they want an advance. They basically want money to make records, we can provide that they need resources. And while we can’t directly place those resources every time, you know, I think that the network I’ve developed is strong enough that we can start to think through, who are people that are going to be willing to work for you full time? And I’m optimistic that there’s a world where Coop records invest in artists who then signs a major label deal. I don’t think that these are mutually exclusive. But what I want to highlight is that these entities will represent the artists share of proceeds and whatever they work on. And so, if an artist signs a major label deal, and they own 20% of the records, that means that the entity owns 20% of those records, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t enter a label deal. And what I think is exciting here is that when you do go to the table to negotiate with a major, it’s no longer saying hey, I need a million dollars to make records. You can say hey, I have this money tucked away from my partners that back me in the past. I need resources, I need to get on playlists, I need to get on radio. I need you to get me pressed and find a talent agent, whatever it might be. And if you’re able to come to the table with very specific ask and not really need to rely on the capital. I think that these deals can be structured a little bit more favorably. And I’m excited to welcome a world where Coop records is working with an artist that’s also signed to a major label.

Okay, interesting. So, do you plan to hire people yourself under coop records? Or is it just gonna be like a solopreneur kind of endeavor?

Cooper Turley: Yeah, definitely plan to hire out, I want to give a shout out to my assistant, Robert, who’s been running all the backend operations on the fund, he’s been doing a phenomenal job. That’s the first hire that I’ve ever made personally, some of the things that I’m excited to bring on-board would-be development talent to help resource all the early portfolio companies, we have analysts to be able to scout out new projects and new investment opportunities, A&R to be able to find new artists to invest in and new songs to be able to take ownership stakes. And so, it’s very early, you know, a $10 million fund is not structured in such a way that I can hire a big team around me, but you know, myself at the center of this, basically scouting deals, some people on the back end to help make sure that everything’s functioning properly. And then some residual pieces around that to help really add value to portfolio companies. I think it makes for a pretty compelling narrative.

What is the Current State of Web3 Music?

Yeah. Coop, what would you say is the current state of web three music? Where are we today?

Cooper Turley: Misunderstood. That’d be my reaction there.

Okay. Yeah, elaborate, what does that mean?

Cooper Turley: I’d say that most people think that there’s like some really crazy weird casino game happening over here that only applies like five random artists. But what do you do, man? What’s really supporting emerging artists trying to take a new path with their music. I don’t think that it’s well suited for major artists yet. I think that most of the artists playing with web three music are emerging artists who haven’t really had a chance to succeed on a platform like Spotify before. I think that there’s a lot of early players, that’s a little bit overwhelming. You know, my music NFT landscape graphic, there’s probably close to 100 companies and from someone on the outside that doesn’t like music or understand what’s going on. You look at 1000 companies on a page and you start to think, Okay, this is like a Cardano map, where it’s like, who knows what’s happening here. But like, when you zoom in under the hood there, I think when you come out to these community events, you start to really feel the culture of it. You know, what’s happening, answer your question directly is there’s a very select handful of artists that are really leaning into this new chapter of music. Now, they’re really focusing on building relationships with their collectors, which may be fans but don’t have to be fans think that’s very important. And I think they’re thinking through new models on how to build their artists projects, and basically connect, you know, the lane that they have on Spotify and touring with this entirely new ecosystem that is web three music.

The General Playbook For a New Artist Coming Into the Space Today

So now that we’ve seen like, thousands, we can confidently say now thousands of artists in web three music, what tends to be the playbook, the standard, the general playbook? Of course, everybody does their own thing, uniquely experiments, whatever. But what tends to be the general playbook as a new artist coming into the space now that we have more experienced than we had in February, when we recorded that one episode,

Cooper Turley: love that. If you’re an artist getting started today that has no prior connections, you basically go and you sell music NFT on Zora, you know, you release 10, 15, 20 copies of that either for free or for a very cheap price, you’re able to prove that you can get some collectors in the door, you do that once or twice, and then you’re able to release on hopefully a curated platform like catalog or sound where it has a little bit more credibility behind it, you do this for maybe three to five songs, we are selling anywhere from 25 to 50 editions, being consistent with it getting a little bit of buzz. And when you put out songs on Spotify, the day before you dropped them, you’re actually selling collectible versions as music, NFT’s. And so, there’s this very clear relationship between my artist project and what people are seeing publicly and what’s happening in web three. And then it starts to kind of leapfrog, which is interesting, where there’s more songs that are released in web three that are currently out on Spotify. And so, you almost have this reverse incentive, or artists have an album that was released as music NFTs, that’s going to be released on Spotify in a month from now. And at that point in time, once you have a couple of wins under your belt, you start to get a little bit experimental. You go okay, what is my artist site look like? What is artists dot XYZ look like? What does it look like for me to do more than one song? What does it look like for me to do more than just sell a song with the cover art and instead start to introduce some different rarity traits? What does it look like for me to have a collector group across all my collections on telegram or discord? And then if you zoom out far enough, you start to introduce things like what does it look like for me to hire developer? What does it look like for me to hire a community manager? You know, a lot of what we were alluding to earlier, but that’s where we’re at. I don’t think many people have gotten like further along that but hopefully this leads to like a full-fledged sustainable artists ecosystem.

And then you believe the artists seed rounds is where we’re going?

Cooper Turley: Correct. 

Thoughts on Free NFTs

Okay, so I want to double down for a second on the free NFT stuff because I’m a big fan of free NFTs, I’m very vocal about them. I’m so happy that I’m seeing more artists sort of issue free NFTs as a top-level funnel to build like a wide net of collectors. So, then kind of like create more unique experiences. What are your thoughts on the whole free NFT movement? I know in the beginning we were selling music NFTs for point one Eth, point five Eth now they’re like the new point one is like point 05, right? So far. Yeah, thank you, sir. Thank you. Thank you. And now we’re seeing free NFTs. I love it. I’m a big, big fan. What do you make of all this noise of all this experimentation?

Cooper Turley: I completely agree with you. I think that if you’re just getting started, getting people to collect your work is more important than how much you raise off of selling that work. And so, if you’re able to go and release some music NFT for free and get 50 people to buy it, it’s a lot harder than you think, you know, just getting people to press that button and actually buy the free NF T is a lot more challenging than it might seem. To your point, I think just kind of getting familiar with minting, getting familiar with people like collecting these things, hopefully encouraging people to have a secondary market because you’ve released it in such a way that there’s excess demand. One mistake that I see people make a lot early on as they try and overcomplicate it, you know, they they’re trying shoot for the stars and do 1000 music NFTs they try, and do you know 20 different songs that have some small variation with them. They try and like do this giant six-month project that either is going to like flop or fail on Friday at two PST. And what I’d say now is like if you’re getting started, when people uploaded to SoundCloud in 2013, they didn’t upload like expecting there to be a sell out in the first day they didn’t upload expecting you to get like major repost right away, there was a very free culture around like music discovery and curation, I think that’s where we’re starting to get back to with web three is like maybe instead of scheduling a six month release strategy on Spotify, just upload a song every Friday, and then sell 25 music NFTs for free, and see what happens. And like that sounds really scary to people, because every manager in the game would tell you not to do that because it goes against the status quo. But I’m collecting free music NFTs all the time, you know, like I’m looking at these jobs every week, I think that I’m one of many collectors that are like actively seeking out new and emerging talent. And I think there’s actually something to be said for not scheduling your drops, you know, and instead just kind of uploading it in real time and seeing who’s paying attention. And the absence of you marketing it, you really start to figure out like, who’s here to support me when I’m not posting a big campaign around it. And I think that that’s how you start to build really deep relationships with facts.

So, talking more on the free NFT stuff. Also just talking about building an audience, a music audience and web three, how is that different than sort of building a listenership? or building a bunch of listeners in web two? Like, is the value the same? Is it different? How do you sort of see those two models?

Cooper Turley: I think that they’re two very different things right now. And I think it’s important to highlight that because everyone always says, how do we get fans to buy music NFTs? And well, I think that might happen. I want to highlight that that’s not required for music NFTs to be successful. You know, the current demographic of collectors or music fans, for sure, like most of the people that you go to the sound leaderboards of collectors, and you look at the top 20 profiles, all those people love music, but I would say more so than them like worrying about getting new music or getting like VIP tickets to shows or something. They just want to kind of feel more involved in that process. And so, what that looks like is simply putting people into a telegram chat and having ton of your collectors like say GM to one another saying, hey, guys, I have a draft coming out on sound next week, should I do 50 or 75 editions? And what price should I do with that? Part of having Adam Levy come in and say use my new tool bellow to price your drops. Allow me to release. But yeah, I’d say like broadly, collectors are not, you know, like your average fan. They’re much more sophisticated, in most case scenarios, you know, like, they’re aware of the fact that this is a new emerging medium, we’re not expecting you to get a million streams on Spotify, they’re not expecting you to have like a 10x return over one day. They’re like advanced patrons and a lot of ways right now, where they’re like recognizing that you’re leaning into something early. They applaud you for being consistent. They’re excited when you give back more than just like selling NFT. But I don’t think it’s required. You know, I think like the whole PFP roadmap game really like set us back because there’s this whole, like, expectation of a 6-to-12-month roadmap, but I don’t expect that from artists, you know what I mean? Like, I’ll talk to them when they’re putting out their next song and like help them move along the playbook. But I’m not expecting you to have your next two years figured out, you know, and especially when you’re selling these in batches of 25 or 50, like I said, the simplest thing that I’m hoping for from any artists, if you’re putting out a song on Spotify on Friday, salsa music NFTs on Thursday, there’s NFTs gonna have no ownership they can have no access, they can have no utility, no t-shirts, no VIP tickets, no discord group, whatever it might be. If you do that, at the very, very least, I’m going to be very excited about that. And I think once we have that as sort of the standard playbook, which we don’t currently, then you start to see really exciting games around curation, around discovery around blog culture reemerging because at that point in time, then there’s now opportunities for you to be active and the discovery experience. And I think that we’ve gotten really far away from that and music, and I’m really excited to see that start to make its way back. Thanks to web three.

Can we talk about one of my favorite examples recently? A whole lot of nothing by DlG featuring. I’m going to butcher his last name of Peter Saputo; did I pronounce that correctly? Right. Okay. First of all, fire track, amazing track, released it first in web three, then in web two, and then it got editorial placement on Spotify. And you know, it’s funny, it’s like slow like, they took it really slowly. It didn’t sell out instantly. But I feel like as soon as they kind of went public that the editorial feature made it and then sold out. Like I don’t know why I thought like the timing was just like on par. And I think that’s super cool. Like, I was able to sort of like collect that, like there’s this meme in the music NFT community where it’s like, they don’t know, I own this song, you know that, that I own the version of the song. And I think there’s just it’s something as a collector, it’s so interesting. It’s so fascinating, because I feel like I was a part of that journey. I feel like I have like, even though it was just a small contribution, for whatever reason, I feel a much closer, sentimental value. And I actually appreciate it so much more when an artist released a song in web three. And then they released in web two, it’s like us, we get like the first look, it’s like we’re the coolest bunch before the mainstream gets to see it. Are you thinking about it the same way? Or am I just like, in my own head here?

Cooper Turley: No, that was the first thing that really clicked for me with music NFTs you know, it was Mike Shinoda doing that on Zora and probably 2019, before he put out a song with EMDR. And like, he sold NFTs a week in advance, and then he put it out. And it was the top song of my release radar. And I immediately had this connection with it in a way that I’ve never had with music before. And that was before any of this stuff like before, catalog existed, before sound existed. And, you know, to your point, I think that that is what a lot of people are looking for. It’s just to have a deeper relationship with the song. I think what’s exciting is that over the next two years, most of the artists that are releasing today are kind of like in the middle of their career, you know, they’ve released a couple of songs on Spotify before, maybe it didn’t work out. Now they’re leaning more into web three, maybe I’m a bigger artist that has an existing song that I’m now tokenizing, I think where this gets really exciting is artists who have never released a song before releasing music, NFTs with their first song ever. And so, from the origin of their story, you have the ability to collect their first song and be involved from the very, very insights of their career. I think when that starts, which just takes time, you know, I’d say it’s gonna start to happen over the next two years, when more of those examples start to happen. That’s when I think this stuff is gonna get really, really serious.

Are some of the artists that you curated for the first cohort of the music NFT Launchpad, do they fall in that category? 

Cooper Turley: Yes. 

What is the Music NFT Launchpad?

Okay, cool. Can you talk more about the launchpad? What is it exactly? I know we talked about like the triangle of you being a collector, Coop capital and a launchpad. Focus on the launchpad really quick. What is that? Why should people care? 

Cooper Turley: There’s a lot of artists that are excited about the idea of web three, but just don’t really have the proper guidance on how to get started. You know, these are artists that have incredible music, you know, they’ve heard me talk their ear off about getting in the space for a long time. But they just didn’t really know how, you know, frankly, there just wasn’t a playbook for them. What I found is, the best way to get started is to really just meet other people that are also getting started and having like a collective to be able to share ideas with and just talk through very basic questions. And so, this Launchpad was really a way just to highlight emerging artists, people new to the space now underrepresented creators that might not be on a platform like cataloger sound yet, but that have the talent and potential to get there one day, and then taking them through a very simple four-week course, that’s saying, hey, here’s how you set up with meta mask. Here’s what gases, here’s how you set up your ENS name. Here’s some people to follow on Twitter, here’s some etiquette around why you shouldn’t use hashtags. Here’s some different players to keep an eye on. And here’s some different artists to go and support. And when you give someone those resources, obviously can’t do any work for them. But I think it increases their likelihood of success. I think it brings them in in a way that feels a lot more, you know, connected. And it feels like you have more of a purpose in the space. And I want to really give a shout out here to seed club because seed club was a very early inspiration for this, you know, the way that seed club brings in different web three projects to space, the way that they spend time with their founders help connect them to other founders and talk through different strategies. I went through one of those early programs as a mentor. And I was like, this is fantastic. You know, I think that every industry could benefit from this. I don’t think that we’ve done the best job of doing that with web three music yet. But you know, now that we have these different programs like the launchpad, the program that Hi Fi Labs is doing, what Nifty socks is doing, what a number of other artists people are doing, there’s going to be easier ways to get involved. And I think that the people that are willing to put in the time and effort to learning the space, when they want to get started with web three, hopefully have more resources than what already existed today.

What Does the Curriculum Look Like For New Artists Joining the Cohort?

What does the curriculum specifically look like for new artists joining the cohort? How do you guys’ sort of break down the scary keywords, is the first thing that you do like open up a meta mask, you send them their first Eth, like go collect something or go mint something? Or do you approach it more thoughtfully and strategically? How do you sort of approach it?

Cooper Turley: No, it was open your Metamask, let me send you Eth instead of going to click something go and set up your ENS domain. That was the homework assignment for week one, actually. 

Oh, okay. Cool. Yeah, interesting. 

Cooper Turley: And so, we’ll start with the basics, we start with understanding like how does all this stuff work under the hood? You know, like what is gas? What is transaction nonce? What is ENS domain? What’s the difference between Ethereum and Solana? Very basic questions like that. This week, we’re planning on getting more into like the music NFT Launchpad so just or the landscape, excuse me, so like, who are the different players that are on the table? What’s the difference between a marketplace versus a collector Dao versus you know, a social club, etc, etc. Then we get into some more of the nuance on like do’s and don’ts so like, hey, if I want to go and apply to be part of these communities, like what are some ones that I should start tapping into, you know, what is the song camp heartbeat called? What streams never die called? What is the music? What are the differences between these? And then the last week it’s just sort of like Let’s go on into music NFT. And so, when you do that, what are the questions that you ask yourself? How do I price this? Where do I release it? Who do I talk to in advance? How do I actually market this properly. And then I think the connective tissue of all that, again, it’s a four-week program. But we’re talking in the telegram every day leading up to that, I’m making time to go and meet with these artists outside of the one-on-one courses we’re doing, the weekly courses, excuse me, and I don’t know, by the end of it, I’m hopeful that all those artists will be able to mint their first music NFT. I’m hopeful that that will happen across different platforms. You know, today, we just got announced as one of the first curators on catalog for their new curation campaign, which I’m very excited about. And I’m hoping we can just give these creators a chance to shine in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to without the launchpad. And then from there, you know, use that framework to hopefully inspire many future cohorts to come.

How Did You Curate the First Cohort?

Interesting. How did you sort of put the first cohort together? I know you have a curation board, but it had to start with you like, I’m sure you sort of like you’re the, the engine behind the vehicle that sort of like organized everything. So, talk to me about putting together the curation board to then sort of picking the first cohort, that is what it is today.

Cooper Turley: Yeah, so I want to give a big shout out here to Charles Taylor, who’s one of the people that’s on the board with me, we were just talking through, like how to highlight underrepresented creators and ways for me to give back to the space that felt very, you know, like ethical and forward thinking, and, frankly, this cohort was the best way to do that, you know, I was thinking through like, how do I spotlight emerging creators? How do I show that I’m not just only tapping into the biggest artists on sound, and this design for a cohort really just came to fruition over the course of many months, you know, at that point in time, music NFTs were pretty early, just kind of sat on the back burner for a little bit. And then as I saw the space progressing, I was like, we need to do this launchpad, you know, like, there’s so many artists that want to get in the space now, you know, frankly, it’s kind of hard to get on to these new platforms unless you have an existing plug in. You know, as I do with most of my projects, I was like, let’s just go for it, you know, like put together a mirror post, like draft up some different curriculums where I got a bunch of feedback from different people in my network. Before I announced that I was very intentional to go to, everyone that’s on that board if you look at them, they’ve all either been really involved in different communities in web three or had like a very formative role in discovering emerging talent. And so, someone like Rio was the loners Dao, someone like CeCe who’s on the team at catalog and has been working actively with Zora topia and Charm, running a lot of her rehabilitation workshops and doing a lot of stuff on the ground in New Orleans. You know, Bihar, who’s super connected here in LA with a lot of different curators, Austin, who was formerly at Venice music, doing a fantastic job there, and just like very plugged into the space, you know, I wanted the board to really help me identify pockets that I wasn’t following myself. And then, you know, in total, we had probably, like 200 plus applications. And the way we did it was, every board member got broken up into a section where you reviewed, like, let’s call it roughly 30 to 40 artists, you got one pick who was kind of like your artists that you were willing to champion and say like, hey, like, I really think this person is gonna do well, I’m gonna vouch for them and put my reputation on it. And then we all basically aggregated some quote unquote, honorable mentions. And then we just voted, you know, everyone got three stars, everyone put those three stars next to the artists that they thought would be a good fit for the program. And then in total, we ended up with, it ended up being 12 artists instead of 10. But 12 artists for the first batch, and I think that that process was really good, because it wasn’t just me, it was kind of the collective whole of everyone. And I think through that we ended up with a really amazing, you know, rounded out lineup of the first cohort.

Yeah, I think the next component to this is, this week in music NFTs. So actually, the triangle is now diamond. From, from our visualizing this. So, you started this week in music NFTs not too long ago, you already racked up a few 1000 subscribers, high open rates, it sort of picks up on your defi days, which you mentioned earlier, but how does that sort of play into everything that you’re doing?

Cooper Turley: It’s a free resource, you know, like, I can’t tweet enough about everything that I’m seeing, I can’t like talk to enough people on a given day, what I can do is spend a couple hours on a weekend rounding up everything I saw from the past week and giving it away to people for free. And so, if there’s someone getting into the space that wants to get started, but I might not be free or available to sit down with them, I can send them the newsletter and say, hey, take 10 minutes a week and read this. And if you read this for four weeks in a row, and then you’re going to start to get a pretty clear picture for what’s going on here. You know, as I alluded to earlier, this week in defi, was extremely transformative in my early career, I learned so much from it, I was able to connect with so many new people, it was a huge, huge role in the way that I developed my own personal career. And so being able to use it as a way just to kind of shine a light on the space more broadly. You know, it’s not about any one individual platform. It’s not about any one individual artist, it’s the collective whole of it and this is just me. 

So, this is just my point of view. You know, people will roast me and be like, oh, you never talked about us. You don’t care about the community. I’m like, it’s just me out here. You know what I mean? Like, I promise you, I’ll try to do what I can, but you know, I think tying it all back to coop records when you think about the way that I want to work with companies. I’m a very big believer in value added investors. You know, I’m a very big believer that investors should be on the ground floors with their projects and with their communities. You know, me and my friend Brett we through an event called the music NFT movement, and NFT NYC, spotlighted five emerging artists in the space through a great event together, completely free, the newsletters completely free. You know, when I work with founders, I want them to see that I’m not just talking the game, you know, I’m not saying that I’m not here collecting, and I’m not or I’m not saying that I’m like, tapping in with people behind the scenes and it’s hard to see it’s like, no, like, you want to see the work that I do for the community, go and read the newsletter, you know, like, go and look at the launch track, go come to one of our music nit movement events. And I think that ability to really highlight that this community participation is very serious and active, I get a ton of enjoyment out of I think that it helps a lot of people out. And so, I’m gonna be doing it for a long time to come.

I think when you texted me, when you were starting it, you’re like, This is gonna be the biggest publication on mirror one day. I’m excited to see that. And I started collecting yours as well. So hopefully they play some value capture in that at some point.

Cooper Turley: Not many people know that you can collect them on a mirror, to be honest with you. 

What’s Next For Cooper?

Yeah. Bunch of alpha, bunch of alpha, a bunch of alpha. Okay. The next thing that I want to talk to you about coop is coop records is out 10 million bucks, doubling down on some investments, investing in new projects, betting on your beliefs. What’s next, like, what’s next for you, as someone, a character on Twitter, as a collector across all these sound platforms, or these music platforms? As someone who’s investing? What’s next for you? Like, what can we expect?  

Cooper Turley: Just taking more consistent shots on goals, you know, like supporting early companies, I think you’re gonna start to see a couple rounds announced that I’m participating in as the fund, a couple of new projects springing up that I think are very exciting, you know, new mechanisms for doing drops together. So other jobs that I’m being active on as a project manager, artist seed rounds, as we alluded to earlier, so announcing a couple of those, and really just creating more of like a mesh around like this movement as a whole, you know, what’s gonna change my Twitter, not much, frankly, I mean, I’m still probably gonna tweet music NFTs every week, so we’re gonna, you know, piss people off, because it’s all that I talked about. But frankly, man, I’ve never been in like a more peaceful state, like with like, how I’ve kind of structured my life, you know, like, I love music. And I’ve loved it for such a long time. Like, I always live this double life. And I talked about this in some of our last episodes, but I like love music on the side, and then like use crypto to pay the bills. And I’ve somehow been lucky enough to kind of connect the two together, I’m well aware that there’s a very vibrant world of stuff happening in web three outside of just music, and I do my best to keep up with it. But the flip side of that is that I can kind of just be in this small little niche that not many people care about, just vibing out, collecting music NFTs. And it’s like, yeah, it’s this fun over here. Like, frankly, like, I don’t have to tell you this. But like, you know, you come spend sometimes at these events, you go to these concerts, you’re on the sound Twitter spaces and whatnot. Like, we’re having a good time. And so, I feel like in a very blessed state right now, you know, I’m super thankful for all the investors who took a chance on me to do something with this fund. I’m very thankful for the network I’ve developed here in LA, I’m extremely thankful for the web three network I’ve developed online. We’re super early. I’m 27. You know, I have a very long career ahead of me. And I’m excited to use this as the next vehicle to really help amplify this space as a whole.

Did you know what else we need to talk about? The whole Kobe debates. That guy has yet to come on. He publicly said, sure. He’s not answering DMS anymore. What’s up with that? I think it’s net positive overall, it’s more exposure. Haters are gonna hate and it’s just better publicity. But how do we get Kobe on? What’s the message Cooper?

Cooper Turley: I think we got Kobe on by doing more impressive work and showing that this is something more than just a meme. You know, I think that for someone of his stature and caliber, it’s not worth his time, frankly, to talk about this stuff yet. I think it’s like a fun thought piece. But he’s got bigger things, bigger fish to fry, let’s call it and I think the reality is that him coming on this podcast was a lot more for us than it does for him. Like I said, in text with you and David, I am hopeful that this happens. But realistically, I’m not expecting it anytime soon. And frankly, for most people that are on Twitter, music NFTs are a joke. You know, like, no one cares about them. No one’s paying attention, whatever all the people say. But we’re having fun in our little pocket over here. You know, if you want to come and learn more about it, I think it goes deeper than just buying all kinds of songs. But you know, it’s across the board. And I’m excited to hopefully use this fund as another way to share this is a very serious space worth paying attention to.

Coop, before I let you go, what am I missing over here? What do we need to talk about? What did I not highlight about Coop records? Tell me like what are we missing here?

Cooper Turley:  I think you’ve covered basically everything I could think of, the one section that I’ll talk about a little bit just quickly is that many artists relation with web three, if you’re an established artist is either you just buying JPEGs for fun and just flipping it for profit. It’s maybe you are doing like a drop once or twice here and there and not really fully leaning into it. I’m hoping this fund can be a vehicle to like really allow artists to think more thoroughly about investing. You know, like, let’s take the other side of this. Let’s say that you’ve actually done really well for yourself as an artist, you know, you’re selling out stadiums, you have a number one hit on Spotify. Allocating money to different investment opportunities is super important. And I think that a lot of the times investing just becomes not very fun because you talk about like getting savings rates or like a PRs that are just like fixed rate returns and whatnot. And that’s all great. Don’t get me wrong, but I think that investing culture is extremely exciting. And so, one thing that I’m really stoked on is just bringing in a couple high profile artists who have done well for themselves, you know, like educating them on the culture around investing, sharing investment opportunities, bringing them into early seed rounds. I’m really excited for different artists to start thinking more deeply about how they’re managing their capital. And I think on the flip side of doing an artist seed round, artists becoming investors themselves is also extremely exciting. And one thing that I think Coop records is going to do is show that there’s opportunities for artists of all shapes and sizes and we’re here happy to help out however we can’t.


I love it dude, before I let you go Coop, where can we find you? Where can we tune in? Show it away.

Cooper Turley: Best place to stay up with me would be at our newly launched website which is live at the time of this podcast going live, Cube records dot XYZ, you can follow me on Twitter at Coopa Troopa. This week in music NFTs is the name of the newsletter and then yeah, just keep an eye out for more announcements coming from my personal account. You know, I don’t know whether or not there’ll be a Coop records Twitter account for the time that this is live but I’m just me at the end of the day, so I’m excited to see what happens.

Amazing, dude, congratulations, and we’ll have to do this again soon.

Cooper Turley: Cheers, man. Appreciate you always.

Podcast Transcript

Turning Web2 Consumers into Web3 Contributors With Nati From Koop


Mint Season 6 episode 9 welcomes Natalia Murillo aka Nati, who’s the founder of Koop, a new home for communities to become more personal and collaborative. In this episode, we discuss Koop’s product vision, Nati’s plan for turning consumers into contributors, on-chain data, her vision for a new social media, the evolution of creator governance, and so much more.

Time Stamps

  • 00:10 – Intro
  • 07:22 – Getting Started in Web3
  • 10:18 – Lessons Learned for New Creators Joining Web3
  • 12:11 – What is Koop?
  • 20:25 –  How Scalable is Centering Access Around Money?
  • 27:10 – Why are NFTs The Perfect Medium For Membership-Based Communities?
  • 30:06 – How Have You Seen Creator Governance Evolve?
  • 33:30 – What Does It Take for More Web2 Creators to Enter Web3?
  • 36:00 – The Current State of the Web3 Creator Economy
  • 39:56 – What Will Social Media Look Like in Web3?
  • 42:04 – Where Community Governance and Social Overlap
  • 48:58 – Outro

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Natty Welcome to mint. Thank you for being on a part of season six. So, what’s going on? How are you feeling?

Natalia Murillo: Yes, I’m good. Thank you for having me on. Excited to chat a little more today.


I’m excited to have you on, you’re doing really cool stuff at Koop. You’ve been working on great projects with like a lot of mainstream creators that we’ll get into soon. But I think a good place to start is, who are you? Natty? What does the world need to know about you? But more specifically, how did you get your start into crypto?

Natalia Murillo: Yes, definitely. So, I got started in crypto about three, four years ago now, I was a student at USC, I actually met you were in the first people who was rubbing crypto at USC and got introduced to a class, I had a professor who is taught me about zero knowledge proof. So, one of my math professor’s kind of kept sparking that curiosity inside me. And then when COVID hit, I went full time in crypto, I started investing in NFTs, contributing to communities. And that really led me to where I am today with Koop, which is a company I started about a year ago.

So, can you talk more about the crypto scene on campus? I talk a lot about it. But I feel like I’m a little bit bias. What would you say, crypto scene at USC was like?

Natalia Murillo: Definitely, I think it’s unique to every person. So maybe we had different experiences. But I would say it was pretty desolate, being a 2018. So, when I came to campus, around that time, you were one of the few people talking about it. There were a couple of people investing in it. But in terms of building core infrastructure, there weren’t a lot of builders around campus. I was at a lava Lab, which is a student kind of startup organization and very web two products being built. But yeah, I would say pretty, pretty empty. Not a lot of conversation compared to today where I think there’s a ton of USC.

A ton of activity. Yeah, yeah. Shout out to the students that are actually doing it much better than I did and then we did. It’s really cool because back in like when I was doing it, I did the club on campus. And it was like 2017, 2018, 2019, like I transferred in as a junior. And there wasn’t a policy like there wasn’t really going on. I felt like I was trying to make some type of policy on campus, even though it was like struggling, but there were people we were doing like white paper roundtables. There was something but today, I see online like just following blockchain at USC, that they’re killing it, like much better than anyone at the time was sort of doing so props to them. What’s cool about your story, though, Natty is that you also dropped out from what I remember, right? 

Natalia Murillo: Yeah. 

Can you talk more about that?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. To be very honest, I didn’t always love USC. I didn’t love college. I don’t think that it was a result of the university, I think I would have felt there in a lot of places. But I’m curious. I’m really curious person. So even when I’m not in classes, I would be online trying to study topics, trying to find out new things and kind of going down the rabbit hole as they say. And I felt like the traditional structure of school kind of slowed down that process. It’s very structured. It’s week by week, month by month, you take the test, and then you never apply the topic or dive deep into it again. And so, I never really felt fully like I fit in inside of school. And then once I found crypto and could make money to support myself on my own, it was pretty clear that I was going to take a hiatus and thankfully, I have parents who push back at first but came around to it.

Can you talk more about your parents backlash of you leaving, I feel like college is a very big thing in people’s families. And I know if I dropped out, my dad would have hung me. And I’m curious what sort of experience you went through.

Natalia Murillo: Definitely. So, my mom is from Argentina. My dad is from Colombia, and neither of them had the opportunity to go to college. They couldn’t afford it at the time. And so, me being the first in my family to go to college was a really, really, really big deal. And so I think it’s really just that, not even traditional values that many individuals in my family had gone to college before but the idea behind education really acting as a level of prestige, a level of acceptance. I think for immigrant families, it represents all of those things and I think I have the opportunity now building a company to bring that same type of sense of pride and belonging that many look for an education through making an impact by building something that people need.

Okay, but when you left USC, when we were talking behind the scenes, you actually joined a cool initiative. Right? Which is interesting because if you look today, you’re very like crypto native, but the initiative that you joined, they weren’t really doing like crypto native things right? You were telling me you join the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Right? And you got involved in the crypto scene over there. Walk me more through that. First of all, I’m sure like you dropping out and then going into the initiative was maybe like a better point for your parent’s sort of like seeing what you’re transitioning to, right? Talk to me more about that. And also, what you got involved with over there?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, no, that is an awesome question. I actually forgot, I almost forgot about CCI.

Which I feel like it’s such a big part of your career.

Natalia Murillo: I scraped my whole LinkedIn, like, in my LinkedIn, I like to forget that I had a professional. But, you know, I worked at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, about two to three years after the fund was started to get rolling. So, they’re only about 7 to 10 individuals full time on the team, and I was their first intern, and then kind of worked in an analyst role there. And I got exposure to crypto through CCI as well. The biggest reasons why I wanted to work at CCI is because I think capital is one of the biggest ways to make an impact and actually see change, and CCI, many people claim to represent that value or instill that value. But CCI backs it through their money, where the Zuckerberg foundation takes an incredible amount of funds, millions each year and puts it behind, not only companies and venture funds, but also building out their incubating and building out their own products as well. So, it was through them. I actually was on the crypto initiative there. And so that was how I learned about crypto VCs and investing in tokens. And that kind of led me even deeper into exploring crypto.

So, what was the crypto pulse at CCI at the time? And what year was this?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, this was 2019. And very early, they were just exploring the topic. I think that they were of the belief there’s no doubt that crypto plays a role in the future. And a lot of my role for that period of time was determining to what extent it plays a future and in what areas, but I learned a ton. I learned a ton from everybody on that team.

Getting Started in Web3

Okay, so dropped out of USC went to CCI, okay, did crypto research. And then you left CCI and joined web three more full time or what’s the transitional story into web three?

Natalia Murillo: Yes. So, I, right after I stopped CCI, I said to my parents, I need to take one year and learn everything possible about crypto from infrastructure to consumer, every single opportunity. I know that this is the future. And if I figure something out, how to support myself over that year, I’ll go back, I’ll still continue. If not, I’ll go back to school. So, I moved back home. I was in my parent’s basement. I know it’s like a meme on crypto Twitter living in your mom’s basement. But that was literally me. And I just spent every day reading white papers on CT and in discord. And I made an Al Anon. And I was just getting inside of communities, hey, how can I help out? What can I build? What are we doing? And I just tried to work my way up, I saw this huge opportunity to almost become this like protocol politician. And that was my goal for three months is how can I become core to these teams? How can I influence, how can I learn? And I did that for about three months. So maybe spent 16 hours a day online.


Natalia Murillo: Which is scary.

That’s crazy. Which I feel like is for a lot of us too like we live online. And I think what’s cool about your story is like your share willingness to just understand things and just go into it like knees deep, not knowing what you’re getting yourself to and just trying to find your place in the noise. What were some of the like, more contributor-based hats that you wore, while you were infiltrating these communities?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. So, one of the first ones that I hopped into actually docs was juice box. So, Django is actually one of the first people I DM didn’t crypto, he’s the one of the founders that did juice box. And we were just going back and forth. I was trying to learn about how the protocol worked. And as time went on inside of the community, I would help manage their community calls. I would write articles, I would share ideas around how to manage the treasury, I would have the biggest role that I played inside of, one there is no set roll. It’s like whatever. It’s like a startup whatever’s on the floor you try to pick up but one of the most interesting things that I learned from Juicebox is how big narratives play into crypto. I think Juicebox is an incredible, maybe even groundbreaking experimentation and protocols and governance. And I would get on calls and I DM community, saying you need to launch a token through juice box, and they wouldn’t get it. But then the second that constitution now happened, juice box absolutely blew up and so, I think a lot of web three teams tend to over index on building and less so on distribution. And I think we’ve learned that through web two products, you know, a lot of product lead companies forget their go to market. And I think it’s equally as important for protocols to consider those things as well.

Lessons Learned for New Creators Joining Web3

So, what are some like the biggest insights or learning lessons you sort of took away, kind of like bumping around these communities, whether it be through Juicebox, other organizations that you sort of got involved with? And the reason that I asked, by the way, is because you are the one who possesses the mentality of like, I want to, I see this excitement, I want to try to find a way to get involved. A lot of people coming to the space, I feel like want to do something similar, but don’t know how to get started. And what you just prove to us that there’s no real way to get started, you just gotta get started. Like, you just got to dive in. Right? And by doing so, I feel like you’ve picked up so many things along the way. I’m curious, like, what were those lessons that you’ve learned?

Natalia Murillo: Yes, one, that was incredible advice, like you said it, just get started. And for me, whenever you’re getting started, like what makes you laugh? Like, I would hop in these calls, and I would be dying, laughing and sometimes I’d get on the voice. And this is when I was eating on. And they would hear my voice as a girl, they would be like, are you using a voice changing app? Who is this person? Like no, there are girls who exist. But so that’s one. But second biggest learning is that people participate inside of these digital worlds with more passion and fever ins than their local democracies. And even before crypto, I was a subscriber of the NELC boys of impulsive, and all that I can do is subscribe. It almost feels like paying taxes, I’m paying a tax and all that I get for that tax is commenting and buying a piece of merch. And so, I felt like there was a ton of improvement. And even you may even call it innovation to be made in terms of our role inside of these communities, and also how we participate in them because they’re literally our states, our unions, our networks.

What is Koop?

So, by you saying that it makes me think like, how did the internet get so boring? Like the way you just sort of put it like we are paying taxes when we subscribe to these Patron pages. Okay, there’s a level of excitement to it. But what’s missing? And I guess like web three is the missing puzzle piece. But from your point of view, and I guess it’s a great transition into Koop too, right? You’re sort of on a mission to kind of like, make the future of communities more personal and collaborative, right. Like, that’s what I understand from Koop, right. And you’ve worked with a variety of projects, either intimately or independently that sort of embody those principles now. You’re talking about paying a tax, right? But web three is now this new primitive of being able to build communities that are more incentive aligned. Is Koop trying to go after that market, like what is Koop doing in the grand scheme of things and how does it prevent like that tax paying experience?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. I think less so I think there isn’t much changes to be made in terms of that initial entry into a community. It will always be, you need buy in, right? On Instagram. That means a follow-on YouTube. It means subscribe and crypto today, it means buying, minting midseason to pass, right? So, I don’t think that’s where we see change. I think we see change in terms of participatory mechanisms, which today are one to many, right? Even inside of Twitch, I’ll even go as far as to call it spam, there are spam across the Internet today. If I’m a Twitch streamer, how can I engage in a high touch way? I can implement TTS, which means that anybody in my can chat can donate. And then a robot says out loud what that person is saying. And then you have a human who’s collecting donations and ignoring that thousands of messages and spam. And so, our step one or our first goal is creating new mechanisms for participation inside of communities.

Wow. So that was actually a really good visual description of what happens if you look at a lot of the live streamers or the Twitch streamers. They have massive discord servers where and they like mirror the chat on their screen as they’re like doing these conversations. And it’s like it’s fast, like they’re going, they’re standing, they’re typing, but also there’s a level of excitement to that. And from what I understand Koop is trying to do the exact opposite. Like you guys are focusing on a more niche type of audience a non-fungible sort of membership NFT that gets you into a community that doesn’t have that level of scale. Am I getting it right?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. So, discord, right? Twitch, Instagram today, they have fungible membership. So, there is no sense of self inside of the community, because you exist in the perspective of the creator. So, you are one of thousands, if you looked at Mr. Beast most recent video, it was kind of funny. It’s actually funny.  I actually love Mr. Beast, not hating on him, but I am a little bit here. Everyone’s got a shirt. Everyone got a shirt, and, on the third’s, the goal was to win an island, right? If you participated in these three games, the winner at the end won this island. And everyone was wearing a red shirt with the number of subscribers that they were. So, you had 250 subscriber all the way to 96.4 million subscribers. And one of the competitions was his earliest subscriber could kick out 10 people out of the 20 in round three, and they were booted off the island. But that’s the only metric of support or loyalty that a creator has today. And if you look at like innovations and social the only example is tick tock and what has tick tock done? it shifted that perspective. But it’s still one to many, except that one is you, were it’s you in the centerfold, and you have a feed and now the feed is based on your interests, not on the thousands of creators that that you followed. But as you were hinting at, what do we believe the future is? it looks like non fungible membership, where you can actually create an identity and a space and that identity is portable, across social networks. So, I know that was a lot.

But let’s break it down. No, I think that’s a good start. Yeah, so a couple of things. So, I like the gamification example that you gave, because it actually gives a good sort of visualization of what an NFT can be used for, as a way to sort of kind of like earmark your participation early on in a creator’s journey, right? So instead of using the subscriber count, as a way to sort of measure certain access and rights to sort of maybe kick someone off an island, the NFT could kind of represent that. And it can be used in an interoperable way. So, you can create those experiences not just across YouTube, but across other platforms, as well across Twitch, across web three, Twitch web three Twitter, whatever the web three platforms and becoming that I get that right, that’s number one, right? 

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. 

Okay, so number two is sort of thinking about, but wait a minute, these systems actually work, why do we need to change them? They work but they don’t work, I guess in the grand scheme of things, but they still work. Like when we talk about the problem space of seeing all the chats flicker on the screen. When we talk about Mr. Beast just using the subscriber count of his early subscribers as a metric is sort of gamify and experience, these things still work in the grand scheme of things, right, like creators are still using these to cultivate experiences. Why are you betting on the fact that there actually needs to be a non-fungible version of that, where we need to create smaller, tighter knit communities?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, I think that one thing that never changes is the competition for engagement. So, the web two today, every platform, whether it’s a new platform, why they able to grow so quickly, so early. Let’s say mint creates a new social network, it’s because their distribution channels aren’t flooded yet. So early individuals, online forecaster, forecaster, just by us being early there, we have the ability to grow probably to millions of followers that we could never do on Twitter today, solely for being early. In web three, that engagement metric becomes a liquidity metric. And so, every single token, whether it’s an NFT collection, or an ERC 20 is competing for liquidity. So, you’re no longer competing for engagement that is determined by outside players, you’re competing for liquidity and an open market. And so, in order to access that liquidity, I believe that you need strong backers, you need strong LPs, you need strong participants in that network. And to do so you can no longer play the game of let’s scale to one to 10 million, and Instagram will do that for you, you need to play the game of how can you scale from one to a thousand. And those one thousand will back you and grow your cultural relevance, as well as the stability of your treasury.

Interesting. So, it still feels like the creator still needs to take the initiative to create the initial group, right? 

Natalia Murillo: Yes. 

What about examples where fans make groups on behalf of creators, and like, for example, more like visual example is if you go on Facebook, and you look up Lady Gaga, I use this example on the podcast, you’ll see a bunch of Lady Gaga fan pages where the fans created these communities on behalf of Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga is not in there creating communities and managing these communities, right? So, I’m trying to think, where does that come into play in the web three cents, maybe with the rarity traits, right? Maybe Or where else could it come into play?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, I think today that actually looks like a collector Dao. And today it’s hard to fork those collector Daos, right? Like I think what will be super powerful is that core collector Dao can act as a central source of liquidity. And then there can be spin off sub-Dao which actually represent the niche interests. So you can almost think of them like Reddit threads, where the core Reddit thread is Bitcoin but then you have Bitcoin maximalism, people fighting about the merch, shitting on Ethereum and then you have other people trying to turn BTC into the next app chain, and so I think that that’s the way that I think about collector Daos today, since we’re so early is, these are the early curators, they’re willing to back their money in time and to shifting and investing in culture. And soon it’ll be segmented and fragmented once we see enough volume and interest where my collector Dao will actually be the next Taylor Swift fan base.

How Scalable is Centering Access Around Money?

Interesting. How scalable is that? The concept of using money as a way for access, like it works today, without using money like all these communities, they live and exist without the incentives, the financial incentives. And I think it’s a question that doesn’t have an answer just yet. But I’m wondering like, what your take is on that?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah. So, I think that people like people are scarred from Defi. And also, human incentives and human nature rarely changes across history, when it comes to how we handle and interact with finances. But I would make the argument that people tend to over index on how financialized these NFT communities are. I’m a part of a ton of NFT projects that I expect zero rewards and profit from because when I buy it, it’s point one Eth or point 05 Eth. And I think a lot of these communities come together, and the way that I see it is I just bought equity in a company. I’m a seed stage investor, and I bought equity. And maybe I get exposure down the line. But because it’s my money, and I don’t have the dependencies of LPs, I see it Gary Vee has this really famous line where he actually found Logan Paul on Vine. And he said, I brought Logan Paul in, and I invested in one of his projects, not because I thought that one was going to blow up because you always bet on the jockey. And I want to form this closer relationship with the jockey. And I feel the same exact way about every brand. every community, every creator that I invest in, I’m not expecting upside, I’m expecting a closer relationship, as well as an opportunity. Literally a professional one to expand my opportunity set, whether that be in crypto, the music, space, etc.

I think that’s actually a fantastic way to answer that question. Because I take my collection like thesis, I don’t if you don’t want to call it a thesis. When I collect something, I usually bet on the person, right? I usually, I collect because I love what they stand for. I love how many times they like how consistently they show up in the space. And I know at some point, they’re going to just figure it out, right? And I want to be along that journey. So, but I also think that’s like an early adopter’s mindset. I don’t think everybody thinks like that. Because also in the grand scheme of things. And maybe like a counterpoint to this is like web three is only meant for a certain subset of people. But in the grand scheme of things, majority of people live like paycheck to paycheck, like they don’t have the additional expenditure to collect things the way we do, maybe we have the privilege to, so maybe web three is like a subsection for the creator economy or for fandom that allows us to get even closer with fans like they could still listen to music, right? But then there’s like an even subset of listeners that want to be even closer to the creator. They want to be engaging in these like non fungible communities. You think I’m on the right path over here? Do you feel something similar?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, no, I do. I think long term just as an example, marketplace fees, any protocol fees trend towards zero. I think very similarly, around this concept of token gating, right or locked access. There is no freemium model for NFTs outside of CCO myths that we’ve seen today. And the long tail of even something like Koop looks like you can hop on a Twitch stream, right? A creator can still be making content, that’s their first form of interaction with the entire internet. And then through the chat, you can be collecting and earning some part of that creator share or just relevance, very similar to streaming mechanisms today. And then that initial exposure interests will then convert you into a sale or convert you into purchasing a closer experience. And I think, rather than the lens of financialization, it’s more so increasing the quality and bar of participants throughout the levels of a creator’s life, a creator’s community, etc.

So, you’re talking like a freemium to premium model, that’s what you’re referencing? 

Natalia Murillo: Exactly.

I think that’s a fantastic example because my bet also is that a lot of creators are going to trend towards the free NFT strategy and they’re going to build like, they’re going to cast a wide net of collectors and then find a way to funnel them in based off different experiences, traits, etc. And we’re actually already seeing that happen in real time. I wrote an article and mirror basically talking about like the free NFT model where it references this artist, her name is Queen George, okay. And she was preparing for a sound drop that she had, she wanted to sell out 25 editions. I think it was like point 01 or point 08, something like that. But what she did, she basically contacted on Twitter like a lot of the top music NFT collectors, DM them about her new song that she’s releasing, and said, hey, join my telegram group chat. And once you do, I’ll give you a free enough to pull up, essentially for coming in, right? And then she amassed like 50 collectors in that group. And she was kind of teasing them with like new music that was coming out, preparing for the drop. And then when the drop happened, she had 25 editions to sell out. And she sold out, right? And it worked. And she was able to use like the top funnel free model to then filter them down until like converting collectors to actually join her community. That’s one example. Are you seeing other examples in practice?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, I think the clearest one is board ape PR club. I have an ape, OG ape, I even called OG because they think they’ll launch a ton of stuff in the future. And they’re continuously thinking about how to increase supply. They’ve increased supply, and we haven’t seen the delusionary effects of it. But I am invested today, because I want to be an owner. And I think that let’s say the floor price is at 30 today, it shouldn’t drop down less than 30 over the next few years. But I don’t think that it has the same, it’s the same type of investment as punks, where that’s going to 10x over the next 200 years. I look at it as they are a team that’s looking to create a game and a Metaverse and they want to increase access and distribution. So, they created a board ape kennel club, they created MAYC they created other side Meta, ape coin, I promise you that the next launch that they do, there’ll be three of them. There’ll be even larger supplies. And the more the supply, the more that the separate collections are diluted individually. And so, I think that that’ll open them up to in the context of that musician, right? For her or him, it was minting out that initial collection. And their goal was to raise money. But with board ape yacht club, their goal is to increase the distribution. And that means like the same concept around this pull up, it means not expecting financial upside at the beginning.

Why are NFTs The Perfect Medium For Membership-Based Communities?

Interesting. That’s actually a really good example, a completely different model. I like that. Okay, let’s transition into talking more about membership NFTs. Okay, because that’s a big component of Koop. And I think when designing Koop, you’ve taken upon yourself like specific decisions to sort of made Koop what it is today from a product point of view. And membership NFT has come into the picture because you’re sort of betting on the non-fungibleness of a community. But in the beginning of I guess, I don’t want to say like the Dao era, but let’s call it the Dao. The token base community era, a lot of communities were creating communities based off ERC 20s, fungible tokens, right. And now we’re seeing a shift from fungible tokens to non-fungible tokens on a larger scale. Why do you think we’re seeing that shift? And why do non fungible tokens play a better type of model for creating a membership-based community?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, I think it’s very simple, content and currency are converging. And so, you slap a picture on top of a token, which both represent the same type of models, and you take a currency, and that’s all of a sudden that currency becomes content, and content and currency are converging, I’m going to bring another one, for example. Same with ape coin being able to be purchased at Gucci. So, I think even the biggest, when we think about the biggest challenges for communities or brands, or even when thinking about the US dollar, previously, they had to ask the question, you know, how do we stay stable enough? How can the US dollar be sound enough? How can we create enough trust around it? But I think long tail with crypto adoption, it won’t just be how stable is this currency? But how relevant is it? And how interesting is it? And in order for it to also be interesting, there needs to be a cultural element. And art is the first step in that direction, which is why from the beginning, everything in Koop is centered around the concept of a membership NFT.

Got it. I also remember, there was a certain point in time where, as more Dao sort of evolved, they also sort of transitioned to the NFT model, the best examples using like developer Daos, that’s like one of the more mainstream Daos that came out and issued NFTs as a form of access to the community versus an ERC 20 like we saw with FWB or forefront, etc. So, I also think for me from like, a consumer’s point of view, okay, it’s like, it makes more sense for me to collect a ticket to enter something versus like buy stock, even though it does have the sort of financial like both tokens have open markets, right? But I It feels more native to me to just purchase one thing and to get access, or just versus purchase like 75 things and get access, you know what I mean? Do you think about it the same way?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, no, I think it’s honestly a very simple answer. I think people overcomplicate it. But I completely agree with everything that you’re saying.

How Have You Seen Creator Governance Evolve?

Alright, let’s talk about governance right now too. Okay, so a big portion of Koop obviously is focusing on the Creator economy. I’m curious how have you seen creator governance evolve over the year, two years, etc?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. So today, governance is really boring. Very, very frankly, it’s hosted on discourse or snapshot. And that means that it’s static long form text. I think the long tail version of governance looks like Kickstarter videos, Tik Tok videos, live streaming everything around proposals is storytelling, especially in NFT communities, especially around creators and artists. So, everything that we do at Koop on governance is how do we make this more fun and engaging?

So, can you give me an example of someone that’s doing it right, would like a storytelling approach?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. So, one example is 99 original styles. So, Logan Paul has this NFT collection, 99 Polaroids, he auctions them off every day. Very similar, if not exactly the same as Nouns Dao model, he manages the treasury outside of Koop, and individuals inside of the community are rewarded for voting on what to do with the treasury and for supporting his content. So, he posts the storytelling videos on Tik Tok would create this incredible story around every Polaroid or round every community proposal. And then the community is then incentivized to distribute and grow the relevance of his content, or of the content that one day they’ll create around the story as well.

So, Logan Paul uses Koop is that what you’re saying? 

Natalia Murillo: Yes. 

How did that come about? That’s pretty big. How did that come about?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. Some of our investors, our investors in, not in investors in him but have collected some of his passes. I own one of the 99 originals and I thought it was a really cool project. So, once I was in the token holders chat in the discord, I started talking about Koop and got enough buy in from him and the community to get people behind it.

So casual, all right. What’s the next question? That’s like, that’s like the biggest creator in the world. Not like the OG creators and just like, oh, yeah, I just use the skills that I have masked, entering web three, joining all these communities and infiltrating my way through and just found one of the biggest creators to build on Koop like, alright, no big deal. Next question.

Natalia Murillo: I actually, yeah, that’s very funny my response, but it is. I’m not gonna overplay it. I’m not gonna say I did something today. But, but yeah, I actually think Logan is incredible. As a side comment. I think we’re both like very into creators and what he’s managed to do, from Pokémon to WWE to NFTs. I know, he gets a lot of shit in the NFT community for some of his past projects. But I think that more generally, when you’re a large creator, there’s a lot of attention on you. And it’s easy for us to experiment without a lot of eyes and dependencies. And really excited for 99 originals. I think it’s one of the most underrated projects in crypto right now.

What Does It Take for More Web2 Creators to Enter Web3?

I agree. I’m a fan of the project. And also, it continuously goes viral on Tik Tok and his web two fans, they love it. They love it without even knowing what a Dao is. They absolutely obsess over it. And they starting to comment like wow, Logan Paul’s actually artistic like I’m actually really enjoying this side of Logan, like I didn’t know he had this in him, and how he’s using NFTs and like Dao formats to sort of formulate that entire concept, using content kind of normalizes this entire space. And it kind of abstracts all the bullshit of all these keywords and these primitives and just lets you focus on the art, right, which I think I think is super cool and very unique to his project. And we haven’t really seen a mainstream creator like himself from web two coming into web three, do it accordingly. My next question to you, Natty is, what does it take for more web two creators to enter web three? What are we missing?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. I think that it’s not through going after the top creators. Logan was more of an accident. He was looking for a tool, we had a tool. I think that historically, products or platforms that go after kind of like what is the traditional meta, tend to fail. And so internally, we’re looking for ways to create more bottoms up experimentation, where as an example on track is an artist that works with us and when he started his first Koop, he was thinking about using it for his entire persona. This would be how tracks Dao represent every piece of future current and past art and music, and then we decided as a team with him involved as well, you should just launch this with your first DP, or for the hound pack, which is his discord community of individuals, we kind of shows them how to produce and they learn and grow together. And so I think the more that we can take away the pressure, and even less so the financialization, but more so the responsibility that comes along with raising a large amount of money or putting a large roadmap ahead, and the more that we’ll be able to set adoption, I think a lot of people run away when they hear Dao, because they’re like, now I have to run a discord and a thousand other tools. And at Koop our goal is, if you want to just try a new experiment with voting, or you want to try a new mechanism for streaming, let’s just do it once. It’s no pressure, no stakes, and we’re going to try to make it as fun as possible. And I think that’s actually how you get more web two creators, is just creating a medium for experimentation.

The Current State of the Web3 Creator Economy

What do you think the current state of the creator economy in web three looks like today? With that sort of your mental model of getting more people in.

Natalia Murillo: The current? Could you repeat that question?

Yeah, the current state of like, what the creator economy in web three looks and feels like today?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, today, I think that we still haven’t solved the distribution problem. So, until we.

The virality component?

Natalia Murillo: Exactly. And I think to give one quick example, Mr. Beast, I think it was on, let’s just say it was on Joe Rogan. Mr. Beast was on Joe Rogan. And Joe asked him, why have you not created your own white labeled version of YouTube, and he said, I think YouTube will grow 10x faster than I’ll ever be able to grow outside of YouTube. So, he’s taking a bet that their network effects are greater than his. And a goal of anyone building in the creator economy should be to solve the distribution problem for creators. And I think that it’s around the corner. It’s not that we’re missing any infrastructure, it’s just we’re missing a new model to do so. So as an example, right? Andrew Tate, he did this spectacularly. He said, anyone can buy a subscription into my Discord community. Your one role in this discord community is I’m going to come on your podcast, I’m going to come on your YouTube videos, you’re going to clip that content, I’m going to teach you how to clip it. And then we’re going to grow together, we’re gonna beat the algorithm, we’re gonna push and move forward. And then everything after that initial bootstrapping of an audience was outside of his community, just the fact that Andrew Tate is saying really crazy things online that invokes an audience. But I think that the creator economy today in terms of what can crypto offer, that’s not offering in web to is that initial buy in to then grow that network without having to hack a, literally hack a distribution channel through YouTube as Andrew Tate did or as Mr. Beast is doing as well.

I feel like Andrew Tate is like the epitome of CC0. It’s like anybody can sort of use his content, like his community is literally replicating on his behalf. And they’re using him as like their memefying him, essentially. Now that he got banned across Tik Tok, YouTube, like all the main social platforms, he’s still on my feet, like I still see. Right? Because like, I don’t know, I feel like there’s like some sort of saying that sort of, like, sprouting from this case study. It’s like, many is greater than one, right? And that can be applied in many different ways. But also, from an audience point of view. Like you haven’t really seen people do that. Like maybe you see, like JRE shorts, like Joe Rogan shorts and like the community sort of like replicates that through like financialization, Instagram or whatever. But you’ve never really seen the content proliferate on that level with any other creator. Yeah, I think it’s an interesting example. Yeah, you want to you want to add something?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, I think that will be productize. Like a creator will not have to do all of that work. And like I said, game the system, I think there will be a product that enables that type of magic, where you’ll be able to connect with those thousands of individuals with similar interests, similar goals, you’ll be able to set a clear mission, right? These are the roles and responsibilities in the case of entertain, it was hosting the podcast, clip it, post it and then from there, you’ll be able to see these like new niches implode across the internet that we would have never unsurfaced or uncovered before because of the way our algorithms are structured today and that is what’s going to make the internet more fun in my opinion. I think you’re muted. 

Can you hear me now? 

Natalia Murillo: Yes. 

What Will Social Media Look Like in Web3? 

All right, hold on. Let me write that. Okay, let me let me start over. Now that we’ve sort of talked about governance, we’ve talked about, we’re like skimming the surface on social. I want to transition talking about web three social. And I’m curious to get your point of view of what like, what does the new social media look like and where does crypto come into place?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. I have quite few opinions here. I think that the new social looks like high touch experiences. It means no diversions of chat, it means no concepts of long form discord posts, and it means rich experiences. So today, that means streaming tomorrow, that means ARVR. And I don’t know what that looks like 100 years from now, but that’s my bet is that social does not look like Twitter. The second bet around social is kind of the idea of controlling your own algorithm and curating your niche personal spaces. And that was one of the initial reasons why I got into crypto anyway, was discord kind of did that for me in a scrappy way. I was going through all of these different communities, with all these different sentiments and portals. And today, a lot of backlashes on Twitter, and other socials comes from the idea that you have to disagree or agree with opinions. It’s very combative. And in the future, I think that you’ll be in environments with people who actually highly agree with you around certain opinions. And some may argue that that’s bad. I actually think that it can be productive as long as you have exposure and discoverability and to other types of discourse. But Twitter is already trending to that today, if you’re a Republican, rarely do you see content around Democrats. I almost think Ethereum and Solana and almost make the analogy. It’s like Democrats and Republicans fighting on Twitter. Because very different beliefs around guess the spectrum of centralization and can invoke a reaction around its audience.

Where Community Governance and Social Overlap

Where do you think community governance and social overlap? We talked about content as a way to proliferate. But where do you think it goes even beyond content?

Natalia Murillo: Community governance is the new social, I bet everything on that, I think the ability to vote right? Today voting is very, it’s very boring. As I said, you see a long form text and you vote yes, or no. Instagram pose is the next meta of that, you can long form and I can share a little message and then we get live polling at the end, I think the future of voting looks like a video stream, where you can actually be engaged throughout using some type of form of token curated registries or new mechanisms that somebody creates, but live voting, the ability to have a say whether that be today through a numeric system, or tomorrow through voice or another type of digital interaction is, in my eyes, what’s unique about crypto and what will actually be a new type of participatory mechanism to drive forward social interactions more generally?

So, with that same train of thought, where do you think data comes in like on chain data?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. So, one, I would love to hear your thoughts about this afterwards. So, I’ll say my opinion, but I also want to hear yours because I think you’re have been speaking to a ton of people about this, you’re also building in this similar idea of realm. But today in web two social the only idea that you have the concepts of follow, which is support, you have the concepts of liking, which is determining preferences. On crypto today, you don’t necessarily have this idea around preferences. And that is going to be a new zero to one in my eyes. The only concept of preferences is voting and governance. And at Koop, we connect that to your NFT and our contingency thinking of different ways to create a unique identity algorithm around an individual rather than around a network.

So, I think that’s great. I think there’s also layers to it, too, just to build on what you’re saying. I think governance and voting is like, the bottom of the triangle, like the more funnelized, triangle, right? But I think just being able to sort of collect something just indicates what your preference is, right? And being able to buy something or being able to just, whether it’s a free collect, or a paid collect. I think that indicates sort of like, what you like on chain, from the communities that you are part of, to the events that you attend to all these sorts of things that we do on chain kind of build up our persona, right? I use data, on chain data, and I think in a very unique way, I haven’t seen other creators sort of use it. I’m hoping more creators do, which is like a lot of the reason why I wanted to do season six, is to teach creators that the reason why we’re here, there’s many reasons why we’re here, we’re here to make money, we’re here to be free, we’re here to be independent, but part of doing that is like owning our audience, right? Owning the little like, pieces that make an audience and with that is the data that comprises our audience. And in web two, as a creator, I don’t really get to see like, who my audience is, right, I don’t really get to know them, right? And the perfect example is like, if you have millions of listeners on Spotify, you don’t really know who these millions of listeners are, you don’t. When you sell tickets to a concert, you don’t really know much about who’s attending, right? But if you kind of like bring all that on chain, and you start issuing tickets, as NFTs, you’re able to sort of build like a minimum viable community, through your music by people who collect your wav files, you’re able to sort of build this audience persona profile, who are the people that love and adore you, who are actually spending dollars to come and see you and to support you. That’s how I think about it. There’s a lot of like, every single wallet possesses a bunch of things, right? And you can access that information and get to know more about those wallets in a non-intrusive way, without knowing their first name, without knowing their last name, without knowing their address, in a way that’s sort of like much better compared to how web two datacenters are sort of like doing it. Right. So, I use on chain data as a way to formulate my content strategy, I use on chain data to understand what my listeners like. And based off that I bring in the right guests to kind of like formulate the right conversations that tailors to what they’re collecting, right? I bring in sponsors based off their crypto nativeness. Right. So, I tried to use that as a way to become a smarter creator and a better creator. And I think you’re on the money though. Like I think it’s all about building like an interoperable community. And it’s a community that lives freely like the community is the social platform like we are, it’s no longer creator against platform, it’s like platforms now need us more than we need platforms kind of thing, because we have all these tools to sort of build our own platform, right? To build our own audience. So that’s a little bit of my hot take, what do you think based off of that?

Natalia Murillo: No, I’m in line with everything you said, I think the biggest kind of nugget that you said is that it’s non-intrusive, I can get all of this information without actually knowing who you are, where you live, what you do, the non, I guess, necessary pieces of information around a user or community member. So absolutely agree with everything you said. And hopefully we’re able to build out aspects or segments of that future together.

Yeah, I really hope so. And I think whoever ends up building it, it’s very net positive, because at the end of the day, like the reason why the podcast exists is to create more, I guess, like transparency around a lot of these primitives that many creators might not know of like, there’s more to being in web three than just minting a wav file and selling music NFTs, there’s more to web three than just sort of like having somebody vote yes or no on something or, like, there’s layers to and I think we don’t even know what that really means. In the grand scheme of things. We’re seeing it sort of develop in real time.


alright, let’s bring it back now. Okay. I know we only have a few more minutes. So, what can we expect from Koop in the future? And from there, I also want you to let us know like, where can we find you? Where can we keep in touch? And we’ll wrap this thing up?

Natalia Murillo: Yeah, definitely. So, kind of summarizing all this points about creators, communities. Today, Koop is a place where you can bring yourself, your community, you can build a treasury, which we see as an ecosystem and network and you can use those, that treasury to back anything from content to software and proliferate not only your cultural resonance, but also the strength and ties through a bunch of the different tools we have, which are some of which we discussed today, from governance to NFT memberships, to some of the things that we’re building in the future. We’re launching a twitch product similar to some of the concepts that we see today, creators using to engage in a live forum setting like I said, how do we make it fun? If you’re interested in creating a fun experience with free community, you could check out Koop on Twitter, @Koop XYZ and then my personal Twitter Na0XM. But thank you so much, Adam, for having me on today and really excited about the future of the mint pod and the mint ecosystem.

I’m excited too, I’m excited for you. I’m a fan of what you guys are doing at Koop, so we’ll have to do this again soon. Natty, thank you so much for being a part of the season, for making the time and yeah, we’ll talk soon. 

Natalia Murillo: Thank you.

Podcast Transcript

How To Quit Working For Coinbase and Build Your Own NFT Marketplace


Mint Season 6 episode 8 welcomes Tyson Battistella, CTO and Co-Founder of 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.

Time Stamps

  • 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. 

Favorite ones?

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. 

Oh, wow. 

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.

Zora Hackathons

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.

Got it. 

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.

Got it.

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.

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.