Almost a year to the day after massive Moonbird NFT dropProof co-founder and CEO Kevin Rose stands outside a gallery show the collective put on during NFT NYC 2023 week and says Decrypt why his Web3 startup has recently claimed its focus on digital art, artists and collectors.
“When everything is just ‘up and right’ and crazy and chaotic – like the whole crazy drive-up we saw [in the NFT market]- It is easy to lose your true north, Rose explained. “Because you’re just running, running, running, running, and you’re so busy with all the chaos that you don’t have time to sit down and say, ‘Okay, what do we really stand for?'”
It has been a decidedly up-and-down year for Proof since the Moonbirds coin in April 2022. The Ethereum Profile Pictures (PFPs) saw huge demand at launch, generating some trade worth 280 million dollars during the first two days. Proof raised money from the busy launch (and again a few months later) and quickly expanded the team with big ambitions in mind.
But the NFT market fell soon after the mint, and some holders did not participate Proof’s decision to open source Moonbird’s artwork for anyone to use and commercialize. And some of the plans went through: this year’s Proof of Conference event was canceled due to lack of demandand a planned one Project Highrise “social universe” platform was also scrapped.
“There is a lot of work to be done. It takes many years to build large companies, it turns out. It cannot be done in less than a year,” Rose explained. “I know we get a little crap sometimes… [but] building in public is very difficult. And then if you show all your dirty laundry, your community has to be willing to understand that it’s messy along the way.”
Rose recalled a bit of advice given to him by mentor Ben Horowitz, co-founder of VC giant Andreessen Horowtiz, who told him that “it’s better to be right than consistent.” And for Proof, that meant tightening the focus around digital art and collecting, and trimming projects that either didn’t work or didn’t support that focus.
At NFT NYC, the renewed focus meant using Proof’s resources and connections to host exclusive events for collectors. The aforementioned gallery show at Venus Over Manhattan, “Pixels in development” was curated by generative artist Emily Xie (“Memories of Qilin” on Art blocks) and featured a selection of works from generative and AI-assisted artists.
Rose said Proof has already been focused on “curation with a point of view” — as seen with that exclusive Grail mint for Proof Collective NFT holders – but that it wanted to expand beyond its own ranks and tap other well-known curators to join as well.
Proof also held an exclusive event with Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann – the artist behind it best NFT sale ever– for just 400 of the community’s members, where Beeple live-created a piece of art while taking suggestions from the crowd. Only 10 copies of the artwork were eventually minted as NFTs and given to selected participants.
While the core NFT NYC 2023 event felt significantly muted compared to last year, the various side events hosted by projects, communities and startups still captured glimpses of the highest excitement seen around Web3. Rose said the vibes remained strong at the events he held or attended, but admitted that the NFT bear market has weighed on almost all creators.
“My God, the last few months have been rough, haven’t they? Every NFT collection has been affected in some way,” Rose said. “But we’re finally getting to a place where I think we’re kind of bottoming out and people are saying, ‘Okay, these are the people who are going to continue to build this space, and they’re going to be for the next decade to come.'”
Rose rose to Web2 prominence as a co-founder of Digg, which later landed at Google as part of an acquisition, and then became a venture capitalist with Google Ventures and later True Ventures—where he remains a partner. Working in the volatile world of Web3 and building in the open has been a real shock to the system, he said.
“No one has been part of something like this that has been so much of a rollercoaster,” Rose said of the NFT market, “outside of, say, the stock market in general — but even that is much more defined and more stable than what this has been.”
For every excited NFT collector who bought an asset low and sold high, Rose said, there is someone on the other side who bought the top and may be disappointed. Evidence can’t control market swings, but Rose said part of the learning over the past year includes how and when to communicate with collectors — and when to swing as needed.
“As an entrepreneur, it’s a very strange dynamic,” he admitted, adding that Proof’s products are focused on delivering events, NFT coins and other exclusive opportunities that provide “value.” [that] must be seen over the years. It can’t just happen in three months.”
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