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: 

NEAR is one of the best blockchain protocols out there. They are really focused on production, their mainnet is really fast. Took like 3 seconds at most for every transaction. The gas fee is very cheap – like 1,000 Transactions will cost you 1 dollar. It is very cheap for developers wanting to build on top of the blockchain. Just build on NEAR it is fast, cheap, and the developer experience like I mentioned earlier: Most developers are really familiar with JavaScript. Well AssemblyScript is pretty much JavaScript, and fundamentally it is the same so JavaScript developers can use NEAR and AssemblyScript as an easy way to build your first decentralized app. 

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.

NEAR Without The Noise Episode 6: Rune Bentien

NEAR without the Noise Episode 6 Featured Rune Bentien from GooGuild and Sharpdarts. The discussion was one of the most insightful and important to describe the current state of crypto and the opportunities provided therein for developers and entrepreneurs just getting started. For a full overview of the episode, check out the YouTube repost here. 

In this summary, the most important points relating to Rune’s talk are broken down and explained: How Rune sees the nascent crypto industry, advice he gives to Web2 developers, his insights on launching a crypto company, and how he sees the fast-growing NEAR Ecosystem! 

Who is Rune Bentien? 

Rune is an experienced entrepreneur, investor, and technologist who has worked across companies such as Google and ConsenSys. An economist by training he spent 9 years working in commercial roles at Google, before moving  into crypto investing through ConsenSys Ventures. As an early supporter of the NEAR Ecosystem, Rune is founder of both GooGuild – a Guild on NEAR for Google Employees as well as Sharpdarts – a validator incubator that pioneers a business model of the future. 

In this episode of NEAR Without the Noise, Rune spoke about a wide range of topics: From the basics of crypto, to the migration from Web2 to Web3, to the future of the NEAR Ecosystem to the importance of entrepreneurship. As an insightful thinker and experienced crypto entrepreneur, Rune provides a unique perspective into the current state of the space. 

What is the Value Proposition of Blockchain? 

At the beginning of the conversation, Rune provided a multi-layered answer to what the value proposition behind blockchain really is from his own perspective, a more general crypto perspective, and then from the perspective of how some of his Googler friends see it: 

New Ways to Fund and Invest in Entrepreneurial Projects: “With the ICO craziness there was something here about enabling founders and startups with resources quicker and in a simpler way than previously possible. We know that the ICO model as we knew it was dead, but for me that was extremely powerful and the thought of being able to actually have liquid investments in early stage projects is this small aha moment.”

Crypto has Become Accepted Across the Mainstream: “The conversation has changed on Bitcoin and Crypto: It is no longer about this being illegal or a fraud, now it is a question about how it is compliant. We talk a lot about DeFi and what is next, but I am here for the long haul and same thing with NEAR. To enable real projects on top of NEAR to help the overall value of the community appreciate.” 

Google Is Paying Attention: “In Google there was a lot of interest in blockchain. The point is there is a lot of interest and there still is. Now you still have a lot of people [who aren’t familiar with the technology], but they are probably pretty comfortable given the outside situation. There are many people following this from these big tech firms.”

And perhaps the most important point of all three is that crypto provides a new way of fractionalizing and distributing value across different verticals. This value is something many stakeholders in the future will be interested in participating within. For Rune the first step in getting started in Crypto, is to recognize that the value is real value:  

Probably 99% of the people don’t really care if it is running on AWS or Google Cloud. Or Blockchain or a centralized technology. Some of those can be ownership of data control, etc. The first step of all in general is to get hold of some crypto – try to understand what this actually is and that this is actually real money. We all know this is all about trust.”

NEAR and GooGuild: 

Rune followed NEAR from its early days, through Illia – an ex-Googler and the Co-Founder of NEAR. With the launch of NEAR and the Open Web Collective, Rune was involved from the very beginning with NEAR’s stellar team – many of which have previously worked at Google and other big tech companies. On the topic of NEAR, Rune emphasized the speed with which the protocol has developed and how important that is for the Ecosystem as a whole: 

“I mean they moved incredibly fast. And that is one of the core traits for any company. Speed is bloody key. Right? And I think they have done that extremely well.” – Rune Bentien 

GooGuild was created by Rune, to try to help facilitate business development on top of the protocol: GooGuild is on NEAR to help people who either want to build, or people who want to help people build. As Rune explains, “And some of that can be for profit projects, some of that can be more ecosystem plays – and just trying to play a small but hopefully long term and valuable partner in the NEAR ecosystem.” 

To date, GooGuild is working to integrate other crypto projects with NEAR protocol, or to support projects already building on NEAR. This includes most notably, Flux as well as Enzyme. 

Sharp Darts

One of the first projects supported by GooGuild is known as Sharp Darts. Sharp Darts is a validator on NEAR that uses the fees from validation to incubate new projects building in the Ecosystem. As Rune explains in more detail:

“If you are trying to create a small ecosystem or network where we see the proof of stake network as a cornerstone – why don’t you make sure that that network keeps appreciating in value, why don’t you try to consider passing on the rewards to projects actually built with NEAR. That is what we are trying to do. If you stake with sharpdarts, the fees that we take would cover basic stuff and then everything else you go to projects. We are not there yet but we are working on it.”

In many ways Sharp Darts is pioneering a business model of the future: Where a validator of an open-source protocol recycles the profits from being a validator into supporting the development of new projects on top of that protocol. As the NEAR Ecosystem continues to grow, it is clear that the value accrued to validators will increase – providing Sharp Darts with a prime opportunity to invest in the long-term potential of the ecosystem. 

On Entering the Crypto Space as an Entrepreneur: 

While Rune brings a world of experience to investing, product market fit, and startups in general, he also is an experienced entrepreneur in his own right, he has an incomparable attitude and spirit to the nature of solving problems and creating new products for the world to use. 

For his story personally, he recollected his own journey as an entrepreneur and how he saw the importance of going out to solve problems instead of staying in a comfortable job at Google. The story is set when a friend of his explains what is really impressive about working at Google:

“Rune, you know what, I think it might be hard to get through the doors into somewhere like Google or Deep Mind. The Impressive part is when you decide to leave the most comfortable environment to actually pursue solving a hard problem, whether that is for money or something else.” 

Rune goes on to explain how the key to proper entrepreneurship is rapid execution paired with iteration and improvement. In this context, any founder or developer looking to build a project that improves the world and provides value to a new market should be supported and helped within the Ecosystem. 

Where Does NEAR Go From Here? 

As an early Guild in the NEAR Ecosystem, Rune spoke often about NEAR looking for product market fit in the emerging crypto market space. But more important to that, he spoke about the need for NEAR to focus on developing the stack of success stories within their ecosystem: 

I really only believe that the only way to create proper appreciation of value, is by building on the technology stack. The technology stack will evolve in maturity as people use it. I think where we are now, where there are several other Layer 1s, the key is more critical mass. I see these protocols as a market place as well. It is not only a function of good technology, but it is mind share, and user and dev adoption. I think that is where everybody is trying to – ConsenSys did an amazing job with Ethereum – to build out that whole engine to get mindshare with ethereum. But also how can you also expand that mindshare – to me the most critical part is to ensure Dev and User adoption to ensure they are successful. 

In addition to the need to keep projects building on NEAR, Rune emphasized the importance of staying on the cutting edge of crypto-innovation as a collaborator with other protocols: 

You can bridge to ETH to some extent – you can try to copy cat everything that has been done with other existing protocols. Do you believe that there is more to this than DeFi and if so, what is after DeFi? The question for NEAR as a community, and as a team is about what they want to support and become. What I really like is that they are trying to enable this open community cloud platform for decentralized applications. I think there is not necessarily an easy answer. Do the obvious ones really help? 

For a full overview of the episode, check out NEAR Without the Noise Episode 6: With Rune Bentien. For any prospective founder or team of entrepreneurs entering the space, the NEAR Ecosystem contains a number of opportunities to quickly and easily get started with building the future internet of value and the many new products contained therein. 

NEAR Without the Noise Episode 5: Zed.Run with Travis Winn and Rob Salha

4NTS Guild recently featured Travis and Rob from Zed.run on NEAR Without the Noise Episode 5. As an episode that featured an inside look at Zed.run, one of the most impressive crypto-based horse racing platforms in existence, NEAR community members and general crypto enthusiasts will gain much from listening to Travis and Rob as they discuss their solution, the future of gaming and crypto, NFT’s and why they chose to build on NEAR Protocol. 

A full link to the episode can be found here

Zed.Run Is THE Place to Race User Owned and Bred Digital Race Horses 

The episode started with Rob walking through the actual product that Zed.run has built: An online ecosystem of user owned and bred race horses, designed to reflect horse racing 200 years into the future, and largely inspired by the movie tron. Users have the opportunity to purchase thoroughbred racehorses, and then breed additional horses that can then be traded, raced, and (in the future) customized according to the user’s interests. 

“Horse racing is one of the oldest sports to exist, and one of the few remaining unchanging if you think about it. We did want to change that, and we wanted to bring a community driven ecosystem to a younger audience and introduce them to the world of horse racing and what it actually meant as well. That was a big motivator to us as well.”  — Rob Salha

Beyond simply purchasing any horse, horses are tokenized as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) that also contain complex features: Bloodlines, Genotypes, and Breed Types. Zed.run is thus an ecosystem for users to strategically breed, manage, and race horses for REAL MONEY staked as ZEST tokens or other currencies. In simple terms: Welcome to the Digital Era of Horseracing. 

Zed Run Started in 2018, and is Heavily Crypto Inspired: 

In early 2018 the Zed team decided to go all in on NFT’s and gaming, largely inspired by the fascinating inroads that crypto kitties were able to achieve (at great cost to the Ethereum network). Rob and Travis both found the crypto community to be interested and welcoming to the idea of Digital Horse Racing. On the unique nature of building a crypto project, Travis had the following to say: 

“It’s the most intelligent community space in the world. In a lot of other industries everyone is kind of normal, and then you get into crypto and blockchain and it seems like everyone has a PhD and you kind of just walk through nodding your head saying ‘yeah’, ‘yeah’ that’s cool, that’s awesome. But it is probably the most accepting community as well. Everyone just loves learning with you as well.  

Travis Winn

This attitude corresponds to the strong focus that the Zed team placed on their community: Where an active discord, and over 150 daily races, has led to widespread ecosystem engagement across demographics and global locations. 

“Most definitely the crypto community always has someone there willing to lend you their knowledge and walk you through something, explain something to you. It is one of the most welcome communities out there, and not just from a user level, like we see a lot of new users coming into our discord and our community, and we’ve got a whole bunch of users helping that user buy their first horse or install metamask.” — Rob Salha

Zed Has Big Plans for the Future Relating to Customization, Tokenization, and Governance! 

To date Zed Run offers users the capacity to purchase, breed, and race digital horses. The stats are impressive: Over 150 races a day, and between 3 to 4 thousand races per month with hundreds of thousands of dollars bet on race outcomes. In the future, Zed plans to incorporate its own unique token DEZ into the ecosystem. Players will also be able to design and host their own races, while users can customize the saddles and other features of their horses. The full scope of ZED’s ambitious and community-focused planning can be found in the Zed Vision Paper. 

For us the most important thing was to build an awesome product first and foremost – to make sure that racing was fun, and that racing was accessible, and to make sure that breeding worked as well. For us, we went more to the entertainment side of things. We felt like that if we did focus more on wagering and gambling its a very big black hole of jurisdictions, legal and all of these sorts of stuff. As a passionate startup focused on building games and building communities, we wanted to make sure that we were focused first and foremost on the product and at the same time on the community as well. – Rob Salha

NFT’s Are In Their Early Days:

As a project focused on building an ecosystem surrounding unique, non-fungible digital racehorses, Zed.Run is at the forefront of the impending wave of NFT solutions entering the crypto space. Rob had a number of important insights on the future of NFT’s in crypto, most aptly summarized in the following manner: 

 NFT’s are only a couple of years old. We see NFT’s as a way to game in the future as well. There is nothing cooler than pouring time and energy and love into a game you are playing and then being able to take things that you earn from an ecosystem or from a game and go on and monetize it through secondary markets or interoperability as well. I don’t think the mainstream has grasped that quite yet. — Rob Salha 

And just like other technologies, the team at Zed.run strongly believe that the future is on their side in terms of adoption: As more people become familiar with Web3 and more people start to understand the underlying values of ownership and distributed value embedded into NFT’s, access and engagement will undoubtedly follow: 

We haven’t even scratched the surface of what NFT’s is. Over time, the barriers will be brought down the onramps will be a lot easier and the bottlenecks will start to be removed. 

ZED and NEAR Have A Very Close Relationship:

The Zed staking and betting platform Zest is built on NEAR Protocol. Zed originally got into touch with NEAR just over a year ago, and has a fantastic relationship with them to date. According to Rob, common visions of the future, a strong focus on communities, and a win-win mentality in crypto truly ground the two projects. 

“When we met the guys at NEAR we just hit it off. It was a match made in heaven, love at first sight, whatever you want to call it. But they were absolutely so passionate about helping creators create without the shackles so to speak. We love the way that NEAR Approached us. They just wanted to get to know us, and to get to know why we were building what we were building. And to us that was really important.” – Rob Salha

As Zed continues to build out its ecosystem as defined in its vision paper, NEAR Protocol will undoubtedly play an important role in supporting the DEZ and ZEST infrastructure among other things. 

“NEAR is willing to work with other businesses, other companies, and other blockchains, to make sure that we get adoption as an entire industry, as an entire community as well. We do see NEAR playing a really massively important role into the ZED Run Ecosystem as well.”

– Rob Salha

To get started with Zed check out Zed.run

NEAR Without the Noise Episode 4: The Open Web Collective and OP Games

At our core, we believe that the future of blockchain is not a zero sum game. The future is one network and many chains. The future is a positive-sum game – it is a multichain world, where founders will build on  NEAR for pieces of their tech stack and leverage others as well” – Mildred Idada

4NTS Guild sat down with Mildred Idada from the NEAR team and Chase Freo from OP Games to talk about one of the most unique and exciting accelerator programs in all of crypto: The Open Web Collective. 

A full link to the talk can be found here. 

The Open Web Collective Is A 3-Month Silicon Valley Based Crypto Accelerator, For Early Stage Crypto Startups

At the beginning of the discussion, Mildred explained the importance of the Open Web Collective in the context of gaining traction for new products based upon where the cryptocurrency space is today:  

I think in crypto, traction kind of starts off with who believes in your vision of the future, well before you have a product to market. That’s actually a really new concept. So how do we test and think about this new way of looking at traction? 

The best solution put forward by the NEAR team is a blockchain agnostic, 3 month, cryptocurrency incubator known as the Open Web Collective, that accepts founders and teams at all stages of product development into their program! 

The Vision Of The Open Web Collective Is To Help Build Out New Crypto Solutions Across Chains

Crucial to the understanding of what the OWC is, is their vision for participation in the new crypto economy. In essence, the OWC is trying to get more developers from Web2, and founders from the traditional startup space into building crypto-based solutions that help advance the ownership economy as well as decentralized infrastructure. 

Batch 1 of the accelerator was much more focused on teams that already understand the space. Going forward our vision is that we can pull more Web2s in. Including those that are already dabbling and those who are less technical (i.e., crypto enthusiasts).

What Does The Open Web Collective Include? 

As a 3 month accelerator, the OWC collective puts teams in touch with mentors, industry experts, and other founders all looking to build a better and more open internet of value. Crucial to advancing this vision, the OWC provides any company with the following help and services during the 3 month adventure:

Funding opportunities. 

Launching a Token and the Considerations Therein (When is the right time to launch a token?). 

Understanding Traction and Product Market Fit: What does traction look like? 

Traction and Crypto Communities: How To Build A Community Around Your Product? 

New Economies and New Ideas Being Spun up (Thinking Through A New Product in the Ownership or Passion Economy). 

As Mildred explained in discussion, crypto-based product models actually have the potential to not just build more open and accessible services, but they can also be funded in new and creative ways: 

What crypto does is literally allow them to remove VC’s altogether, and enable their communities and spectators and that is really awesome and powerful. In the Open Web Collective we focus on these new forms of deal structuring. 

The OWC Includes Group Meetings, Mentor Trainings, and a Network of Experts

During the 3 month accelerator, teams and individuals can expect to have group meetings with other teams, specific mentor trainings based upon the industry or niche that a product fits into, and a lasting network of contacts in the Web3 space. Teams are able to join any event remotely, making the Collective a truly global opportunity for companies from around the world. 

What is good about my experience with OWC is that they really take time to pair you up with mentors that really make sense for your specific business. So it’s not like, okay you are in gaming, someone here knows games’ lets pair you up – that’s not how it works at the very least for the first cohort. It is really them taking the time to understand what inventors have done in the past and what it can do for you, and what you can do as well. 

OP Games: An Open Web Collective Case Study 

OP Games is a Canadian – Filipino team of gamers and developers interested in building crypto-based monetization models for small and medium size game developers who may normally struggle to catch any market share at all because of the size of the Gaming giants. OP Games allows such companies to plug into the crypto economy to host tournaments, and increase the stakes on their games as an alternative revenue stream to advertising. 

Chase went through the first cycle of the Open Web Collective, during which time he refined the idea behind OP Games, to make it more market focused, and sustainable in the long term.  

In terms of the experience that I have and we have with the Open Web Collective and what we have gone through so far on phase 1 of that, it was a really Amazing experience in terms of the support that they provided for the founders. I can elaborate more on that as we go along. Essentially giving us a much more broader understanding of how crypto works in relation to the product that we are building. 

Most importantly, the experience helped him not only refine his product to find a better fit within the existing market, but it also equipped him with the tools he needed to understand the state of his industry in the context of Web3 Adoption: 

In crypto in general, and blockchain, it’s really hard to catch up. Even on the gaming side of things, the new technologies and standards that are emerging you have to keep yourself abreast. Otherwise if you sleep for one week you wake up with a new world altogether. That is probably something that is going to happen continuously. 

Chase Freo, CEO of OP Games

Applications For Round Two Are Open Until December 11th!

Applications for the second round of the Open Web Collective are Open until December 11th. A Submission form can be found here. Remote teams, solo founders, and those just starting to get an idea of their product are all welcome to apply! 

For a full overview of the episode check out the full Youtube video here

NEAR Without the Noise Episode 3: Plantary, Createbase, NFT’s and Decentralized Art

The most recent episode of NEAR Without the Noise dropped this past week, featuring Lenara and Mykle from a new crypto startup Plantary. Plantary offers a platform for artists and collectors to share in the management process of digital artwork. Beyond strictly financial incentives, Plantary incorporates gamified elements in the creation and harvesting of ‘digital art plants’ using AI-based algorithms. The specific topics covered on the episode went beyond Plantary, and also included the Createbase Guild, the decentralized Art marketplace, the revolution of NFT’s and key barriers of adoption when it comes to getting new players involved in the space. 

Point 1: Art is Ready for Crypto – But Lots of Thinking Remains. 

Towards the beginning of the discussion, Lead Plantary developer Mykle explained how the current structure of the Art industry has it well positioned for disruption by more decentralized and ‘artist first’ user models. As he explains about the traditional art industry: 

“All of your efforts to make your art public has gone to gatekeepers in the past. You look at really inspiring independent artists like a street artist that does what he wants when he wants. But a lot of artists are waiting to be published by someone else…But very frequently when you put out something you lose a lot of it. Decentralization has given sort of a new ground for publishers and artists to stand on in terms of the ability to say I am going to give this to the world but I am going to hang on to it.” 

At the same, however, it is clear that there remains much thinking and discovery in the movement to decentralize Art going forward: 

“Everybody is asking these questions about how to merge the physical art works with the digital art works, and those are some of the more complicated questions. But what the NFT space has been doing is kind of hunting that question for the future, and let’s see what we can do with art works that are purely digital. For a lot of artists it is going to be about deciding to what degree they want their work existing in the Digital Web3 world.” 

Point 2: Plantary is Gamified Art Creation and Collection for Arists and Collectors 

Lenara and Mykle both explained the importance of creating a platform that is not only focused on financial value: But also as an open and creative space for users, collectors, and artists to share in more creative and imaginative value creation. This is known as Plantary – a new project building on NEAR Protocol: 

“For right now what you can do on Plantary, is there are artists creating works that you can sort of – You go there, and it is all about growing and caring for plants really is the metaphor. You can mint a plant and that plant is really going to be a piece of art that is about a plant. You end up with this plant becoming part of your plant collection, and then as it is part of your collections, there are all sorts of things we are planning to do with its growth and aging. For the moment what you can do is harvest fruit off of it, and you pay a couple of tokens, and it gives you an associated work of art.” 

In parallel, Plantary is one of the first projects to also include Artificial Intelligence for generating Art as a part of it’s gamification: 

“The plant itself is uniquely created by an artist, several artists will create several versions of the portrait plant. The harvest will be mostly AI Generated. We Can get the AI to work much faster to have cheap and abundant harvest. They will still be unique and different from one another – but they will be uniquely mass produced by the AI.” 

Pont 3: Non-Fungible Tokens Are Getting Ready to Explode 

Lenara emphasized the rapid growth of NFT’s on NEAR Protocol specifically: With Mintbase and Createbase Guild, Non-Fungible Tokens are well positioned to explode in the coming months: 

“I see a lot of interest in NFTs. It is really, really, like a young time for NFT’s on NEAR. Mintbase is going to be the first platform to release a working app where anyone can go and mint NFT’s so it is completely open. You just go and login and connect your NEAR account and you can just start minting right away.” – Lenara

Mykle emphasized the importance of the NEAR – ETH bridge in facilitating this revolution: 

“It is going to be really interesting when collectors ownership of an NFT can flow back and forth between those two blockchains, that is going to break a lot of interest and certainly monetize some things and open up another interesting meta-area of artistic discussion, about meaning of ownership and the meaning of money, which is gain major things in the NFT art space. I am excited to see that happen – that is going to just increase the volume, awareness and interaction in the system. We are going to get just more good ideas than we already have as our user base grows, so I am looking forward to that.” – Mykle 

To get started in Createbase Guild check out the Guild Telegram: 

Point 4: The Move From Web2 to Web3 Has Begun and Is Poised to Accelerate

Speaking on the topic of the larger developer space, and the migration from Web2 to Web3, Mykle emphasized the importance of embracing the philosophical basis of decentralization, transparency, and open-access in Web3. He added though, that beyond such differences, the overall transition is relatively smooth, with NEAR being especially easy to build upon from a traditional software development background:

“I don’t think Web2 developers have that much to overcome. They just need to spend some time looking at the NEAR ecosystem, understanding where the gas comes in and where the gas goes out, and understand the tradeoffs of services and computation and the costs of that. But the rest of that is not SO different. I think that honestly, NEAR is just going to be a lot more approachable than Ethereum was. Everything is there to just say take your current concept of say what a client server web app is and this is where you plug the parts in over here. To me what is existing is the different types of web business – and the different economic structure – that you can fund things directly from user contributions so easily.” 

Conclusion: 

Plantary is the first of many NFT based projects on NEAR protocol that seek to build the internet of value, while also re-developing existing industries. In the context of decentralized art, collectors items and building Web3, Plantary is a first step in building a more open, transparent and equitable future: 

“In the coming years especially as Web3 grows and there are starting to be transactional contracts between blockchains and everything is plugged together in more of building blocks, it is just going to be a matter of establishing trustworthiness in these blockchains that they are real and that they will be here for a long time.” 

NEAR Without the Noise: Episode 2 With Dr. Alex Shevchenko

The second episode of NEAR Without the Noise focused primarily on the notion of interoperability and the value provided by the NEAR – ETH Rainbow Bridge, as well as the EVM built into NEAR Protocol. Dr. Alex Shevchenko – a relatively new pick up on the NEAR team discussed the nature of interoperability, the value of blockchain, the importance of a permissionless bridge, as well as the NEAR Team and the roadmap going forward! 

Point 1: Interoperability is a Natural Next Step for Blockchain 

Alex started the conversation by talking about the current state of blockchain and the importance of interoperability between different blockchain networks: Of moving from closed universe’s to being able to put information into the state’s of different blockchains. 

“There will be no single blockchain standard anytime soon. Everyone is trying to be their first creator of blockchains. This means we need to have something that will enable some kind of communication between blockchains. Why is this important? Because Blockchain’s are a closed universe….There is no API that blockchain is able to query from another blockchain: That’s another problem this is something that needs to be solved. We need to have something that would be able to put the information into the state of a different blockchain.”

To build upon the importance of interoperability Dr. Shevchenko used the analogy of intranet and internet in the early days of the internet: 

Point 2: The Design of the NEAR – ETH Bridge is What Makes It Important in the Crypto Space: 

The second point emphasized in the discussion was the value of the NEAR – ETH bridge being built as completely permissionless and decentralized. In the crypto space, Alex emphasized this as being the beginning of a new way of approaching interoperability in a truly blockchain fashion: 

“The most interesting thing about the bridge is how the Bridge was built. In the market we have a lot of proof of authority bridges, where there is an entity holding a key from two accounts. The escrow account or the locker account on one blockchain, and the same entity mints the certificates for these tokens on another blockchain. Lots of different blockchains and everyone is building the bridge in the same way. Whether this entity is a single entity or a multi-signature contract. That is the problem. It goes against the philosophy of decentralization of operations.” 

Point 3: The NEAR – ETH Bridge, and Any Future Bridge Is A Win-Win For Everyone In Crypto

The third major point emphasized by Alex was the importance of Positive Sum approaches to building interoperable infrastructures in crypto. In the case of the NEAR – ETH Bridge, as well as any future bridge built between NEAR and other L1 Protocols the goal was to create a solution that benefits both platforms involved. As Alex explained: 

We would like to be friends with everybody. This is my personal view but this is also the corporate communications: We are not trying to compete with people. We are trying to find some kind of things where we are complementing each other. That is why we have lots of partners and that is why we are talking to lots of different blockchains.”

Point 4: So What Does The Bridge Do? 

Perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet important points made in the entire discussion was the value of the bridge for both NEAR and Ethereum. According to Alex: 

The bridge brings access to liquidity that is available on Ethereum. That is the most important thing. Many of our partners are saying, we would like to launch Automatic Market Making – We would like to launch flash loans, or another DeFi project, so they would like to do it. But in order to do this, they need to have a backbone of DeFi – multiple ERC20 tokens that are interchangeable that they can trade etc. We can launch these tokens on NEAR but it would cost zero. It would be a good addition to NEAR to have this liquidity from Ethereum on NEAR. So that is the most important thing that the bridge is enabling.”

For Ethereum developers the incentive to migrate over to NEAR via the bridge is simple: To scale. As Alex explains: 

In order to scale you need to cut your costs for the gas fees. In order to cut your gas fees you need to go to another layer 2 solution, or some other layer 1 solution that will provide lower cost. Here, the bridge helps you to transition the state of your contracts or the liquidity you are capturing into another blockchain. Another thing that helps you to do this transition is support from EVM on the NEAR side. This is something we are going to roll out soon. In general, this is another thing that helps people to transition.” 

Point 5: The NEAR Team is Stacked

When asked about his experience with the NEAR Team, and his overall thoughts on the quality of the team provided by NEAR, Alex was straightforward in his praise. The NEAR team is one of the most stacked teams in crypto, with the most experience across the board in scaling distributed systems. Notably, the spirit of positive sum engagement with other protocols, and NEAR’s commitment to Decentralization are other perks to add on top of this stacked team. 

Point 6: The Blockchain Inversion is Coming! 

Towards the end of the talk, Alex spoke on the more general topic of the value of blockchain for remaking existing systems in more open, transparent, and decentralized fashions. 

“Blockchain is all about decentralization and permissionless systems: Whether it is finance or organizations – why do we need to have a centralized authority? Why do we need to have a centralized authority for this? I encourage everyone to take a look at the permissionless nature of the bridge…Blockchain is all about this: Why would you sacrifice decentralization and permisionlessness in one piece of your application.”

With a new future that is open – the NEAR – ETH bridge represents a very real bridge between the future: The future of open finance in Ethereum, and the future of the Open Web on NEAR. Check out the full episode with Dr. Alex Shevchenko here

NEAR Without Noise Episode 1: The Future of Open Markets with Flux Protocol CEO Peter Mitchell and CTO Jasper Gooijer

Recently the NEAR Without The Noise series was launched for the NEAR community, future entrepreneurs, developers and investors. We kicked off the first episode with the two founding members of FLUX Protocol: CEO Peter Mitchell and CTO Jasper Gooijer. In this first-of-a-kind livestream, the 4NTS Guild interviewed the Flux team about the current state of prediction markets in general, Flux, and its position within the industry. Topics discussed ranged, from the nature of open-markets, to the unique protocol design of Flux, to the NEAR sponsored Open-Web Collective Program and the incentives for building on the right blockchain! 

Main Takeaway #1: The NEAR Blockchain Had a Unique Appeal to Peter and Jasper:

The largest competitors at the time, or a next generation blockchain, when we had to choose a new Layer 1 protocol: we’d either wait for Ethereum 2.0, try to do something on Cosmos or Polkadot, and Solana wasn’t really an option yet at the time. NEAR is the only one of these protocols that actually resembles the way you build smart contracts on Ethereum due to dynamic sharding, and NEAR has infinite linear scaling. Basically 200 times the amount of shards live on the network, which allows you to load balances and transactions.

Main Takeaway #2: In Spite of Being Actively Recruited By Other Protocols, Peter and Jasper Stuck With NEAR.

Flux CEO Peter Mitchell explained how the core team at Flux was approached by numerous different L1 protocol’s and offered large sums of money to migrate off of NEAR to another platform. Peter’s advice was especially telling: Consider why a protocol is offering those sums, and what that says about their design. Peter and Jasper then both went on to discuss the value of the Open-Web collective in helping get them off the ground, and connected to key talent pools and investors. 

Main Takeaway #3: Flux is Built To Inspire Developers, and Entrepreneurs to Scale the Open-Markets of the Future.

Both Jasper and Peter emphasized how Flux operates as a protocol to equip the next generation of developers and entrepreneurs building open-markets: Be it through connecting to twitch, a real-time sporting event, or a geopolitical event, Flux is built as a scalable infrastructure for reliably managing large markets that are both decentralized and permissionless. 

“So what we want to basically become, is this open-source infrastructure that all markets in the future are running on, and interacting with, and we really supply this plumbing for this liquidity to move through.” – Flux CEO Peter Mitchell, at 34:11

Main Takeaway #4: Flux is Approaching Mainnet Launch Around Q1 of 2021.

Last but not least, Peter and Jasper went on to explain the upcoming roadmap of Flux: Including a Quantstamp Audit, a community vote, and then the launch of Flux protocol with real tokens, Peter and Jasper expect Flux to be primed for business as early as Quarter 1 of 2021! 

Don’t Miss Near With Noise Episode 2: November 5th with Alex Shevchenko!

Next week, 4NTS guild will host Dr. Alex Shevchenko on Episode Two of NEAR without the Noise: Join us to discuss the NEAR-ETH Bridge, the roadmap for two of NEAR’s largest technical projects in the coming months, and much more! 

Introducing NEAR Without the Noise!

NEAR Without The Noise is a Community-Run Ecosystem initiative developed and supported by the NEAR Team and 4NTS Guild. Once a week on Thursday at 4pm CET time, 4NTS will host a 45min to 1 hour discussion with a person or project building on or involved in the NEAR Ecosystem. 

These talks are meant to be informal and substantive. Community members are able to actively participate – ask questions, share their point of view, or passively listen as different speakers and topics catch-up with the community on where they are at, how their project is developing, what they have been focused on recently, and more. Talks might involve AMA’s, Product Demos, Workshops on Onboarding to a Particular App or simply a casual conversation. 

The goal of these talks is to cut through the noise and deliver quality information and personal insight from the NEAR Ecosystem to the larger cryptocurrency community. Prepare to ask questions, hear about what is actually happening, and get an idea about what is in the pipeline across the NEAR Ecosystem! 

First Launch: 

  • Peter and Jasper: Building Flux, The Vision and Opportunity of Open Markets – Thursday October 22nd.

Future Topics in the Pipeline Include: Dates TBD!

  • The Rainbow Bridge in Context: Why Does It Matter? 
  • Validating on NEAR: The Details For Token Holders and Validators with Dokia and Stardust
  • What’s Building on NEAR? 
  • Introducing GooGuild with Rune: Why Build on NEAR as a Dev Team?
  • NFT’s and their future on NEAR: With Mintbase and Nate Geier 
  • Designing Web3: With The NEAR Design Guild and NEAR’s Jake Stutzman 
  • NEAR Crypto-Economics Made Simple. 

Be sure to follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest NEAR ecosystem news!