Near Without the Noise Episode 7: Paras With Founders Riqi and Afiq
NEAR Without the Noise Episode 7, went in depth on a new collectible platform building on NEAR known as Paras. The name – an Indonesian word – is used to describe the face or persona of a thing, and refers to one of crypto’s first Digital Collectable Platforms, built around Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s). For educational and product purposes, the episode was interesting on many fronts: What was Paras’ original vision? How do they see the digital collectable marketspace? Why did they choose to build on NEAR and what is the future of NFTs? These were only some of the questions touched upon.
Context is Key:
Paras is a platform for Artists to publish collections of artwork or trading cards, and investors or collectors to accrue these collections for their diverse purposes. While this may sound initially unfamiliar, trading cards and collectables currently take up a marketspace of over $300 billion US dollars. Fan favorites like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Baseball Cards have increased in both popularity and value in the past twenty years. In parallel, novelists of some of the most popular fan fiction create cards of different characters for use either inside or outside of novels – as expanded versions of gameplay.
What Paras is effectively building is an open digital frontier for this space to inhabit: Where a kid from Uganda can trade a collectable with a teenager from Argentina: Where artists from any culture or background can share what they find beautiful, creative and valuable with collectors from all over the world. The value proposition for this vision is large, and that is why Paras is so exciting. Below are some of the most important takeaways from the Interview with their team.
Paras Found Digital Collectables Accidentally:
Originally, Paras was created as a form of decentralized social media and memory preservation for different users. They started building on Blockstack and were brainstorming different ways to involve users. The discovery of digital collectables and artists interested in selling their work via NFT tokenization was through a product-market fit event:
So in a conventional digital market artists usually share their portfolios, and expect that there are people who will use their commission. But what if they can also post their content – that they already have – as a way to fund their next big project? But at the same time they can also sell their own content in order to get more money to create newer content. That is the background of how Paras is today.
As a collectable platform, Paras allows Artists and Collectors to transact works embedded as digital trading cards. According to Founders Riqi and Afiq this is much different from other NFT platforms on either Ethereum or NEAR:
Paras is really unique because there are a lot of NFT marketplaces out there. Especially on the Ethereum. We wanted to have some differentiation – after a while we were doing a lot more research. One of the biggest collectables out there are the card collectibles. Everything else is really big – from small children until maybe 20 people in their 20s or 30s. So I think the card collectable market – the physical one is really big. It is already there. And we just need to digitize it. This is where we will be focusing on – NFT Card collectibles, because the market is already there and it is pretty easy to just digitize it.
And the focus of collectables is on the series of items rather than a single item:
We wanted the collectors to collect the collection – not only just stand alone art like any item in an NFT marketplace. Because of that we wanted the collector to focus on the narrative, on the lore, on the story of the collection, on the universe of the collection that is being built by the artists themselves. Not just because of the visual or who the artists are.
Why Build A Premier Collectable Platform on NEAR?
The marketplace on paras.id
Originally, Paras was built on Blockstack. Shortly after, they migrated to NEAR and started building at breakneck speed. Why did the Paras founders decide to build on NEAR? For starters, because of its speed and cost:
Beyond the speed of the protocol, the cheapness of transactions, and the ease in building, Riqi and Afiq also emphasized how quickly it was to build their solution on top of NEAR:
Building on top of NEAR is making our life easier and that is why we can build this marketplace within a month: Since our first launch, the social media one, we have already built our indexer up and running; we already have our notification system; most of the things needed in our platform now is already being built.
As a whole, what the founders of Paras are emphasizing about NEAR has been told time and time again by other founders and builders in the Ecosystem: NEAR is a scalable blockchain platform that puts usability first – not only for developers, but also for users.
What Kind of Artists is Paras Looking For?
As a digital art collectables platform, Paras has the important task of recruiting not only crypto-artists, but also artists who are not familiar with cryptocurrency and the digitization of art via NFT’s. While this can be challenging, Paras is still bullish on bringing new and unfamiliar artists into the crypto space:
For now we are having a lot of crypto artists that really help the community, and help onboarding other artists. For now we are just like 70% crypto artists and 30% non crypto artists…When we are trying to onboard people that are not coming to the crypto space. The concept is very foreign to them. It is hard for them to imagine buying a digital art card online – who is buying that?
Beyond focusing on creating a collection – i.e. some sort of long term value engagement with their audiences, Paras currently has a form available for prospective artists to apply to get whitelisted onto the platform. This is to ensure that content remains safe-for-work and within the parameters of the early days of the project.
What’s Next In The Development Plan?
The market for collectibles themselves is around 370 billion dollars. And virtual goods are around 50 billion dollars. From the Pokemon cards, from their first Pokemon cards until now they sold around 30 million cards. The Card Collectibles market and the collectibles market is really big for us to disrupt. This is where the NFT – the crypto space – will be growing much bigger from this year because we have a lot of newer blockchains like NEAR Protocol. We can onboard some non-tech users to the platform really easy.
Paras has big plans for its platform on NEAR, and in many ways can be seen to be on the frontier of the digital collectable marketplace. Future planning and development on Paras is focused on two primary things: (1) Catching up to other NFT marketplaces in terms of features and user experience, and (2) making it easier for artists to showcase their work and fund future work via an original creative launchpad. This is what they had to say about both respectively:
One thing we are trying to catch up to is to have similar features to other NFT marketplaces like auctions, on-bidding, but some different aspects that we are really focused on is the card features: The booster pack. We wanted our artists to create our collection and put it into the booster pack and just like your physical trading cards you buy a booster pack and get 5 random cards. Aside from the booster pack we are also trying to build these trading mechanisms. In real life people trade cards and that is where we are hoping to build this year for Paras. And for the narrative for the series for the collections we wanted to build the publication place for the artists to share their lore, their narrative, their story and hopefully in the future create a novel, omics and other creative stuff for Paras.
On the topic of the all new Paras Launchpad in the works:
We want to create a creative launch pad – if you new in 2017 that we had ICO’s and that is it. With Paras we believe that we can create more like a creative launch pad where some artists can create a project and fund it through these initial criterias. We can onboard a lot more impressed people like gameday developers, comic artists, developers, and many more. Also other creatives as well. It’s going to be very exciting and offer many things that artists and creatives have never had access too before.
What Does Paras Hope To Be In The Future?
All things considered, this is what Paras left us with, as their vision for the platform in the long term future:
We are not just looking for 1 hit wonder artists that can sell cards that cost thousands of dollars. We want to be a one hit wonder platform in which we sell the highest bid cards that exist in NFT marketplaces: But we want to grow a sustainable community in which their creative process and their creative ideas can be stored and expanded for the long run. We want our artists to collaborate with one another. We are very much open to a lot of artworks that we have.