4NTS December Newsletter

Welcome to the 4NTS December Newsletter! December has been a month to remember in the crypto space, and also for the NEAR Ecosystem. In light of plenty of new content and new team members to the core NEAR Team, there have also been some important product updates relating to projects developing on NEAR at record speed. Let’s get started! 

NEAR – Calm Before the Storm?

December was definitely less volatile of a month compared to October or November. This does not mean that things are not happening—there is a lot going on in the background. New batch of Open Web Collective application? Check. New projects being signed on to the ecosystem? Check. New hires? Check. Interesting price action on $NEAR that might tell us that something really intriguing is going on? Check. 2021 is going to be very exciting for NEAR. Are you ready?

NEAR Without the Noise Recap: What Comes Next? 

December featured three episodes of NEAR Without the Noise from stellar people within the NEAR Ecosystem. In early December, Mildred and Chase from the Open Web Collective and OP Games respectively came on and shared their insight and experience from working with an up and coming Crypto Accelerator. 2 weeks later, Travis and Rob from Zed.run joined 4NTS Guild to discuss their innovative digital horse racing ecosystem, as well as the future of NFT’s. In late December, Rune Bentien – head of GooGuild and SharpDarts joined 4NTS Guild to talk about the state of crypto, the startup world, and the migration from Web2 to Web3. The full videos of Zed.Run and GooGuild can be found on Youtube

What’s Next? In January NEAR Without the Noise will continue to expand into the NFT’s angle of the NEAR Ecosystem, as well as featuring some completely new perspectives on the investment opportunity behind the NEAR Ecosystem, as well as the growth of NEAR in China! 

Guild Update – Education Guild Launches, Createbase Grants go Live, and Guilds Pioneer December Townhall! 

Guilds are quickly becoming a fundamental component of the NEAR Ecosystem. In the month of December the Education Guild launched on NEAR for anyone interested in learning more about NEAR, Crypto, and Ecosystem Design! In parallel, Createbase launched its Grant Program for prospective artists and NFT enthusiasts alike interested in building a home for NFTs on NEAR. Finally, the NEAR Townhall for the month of December featured an exclusive Guild update on the status of Guilds around the NEAR Ecosystem. For a full overview of this update check out the video here. 

Bonus: Students are prime candidates for recruitment into the Web3 space – Not only are most of them tech savvy and comfortable with the idea of decentralized products, but they also have time to learn crypto while they complete their studies! Check out a student’s perspective on the Crypto space through a member of 4NTS Guild.  

Electric Capital Report on NEAR: The Numbers Speak For Itself

Electric Capital is an early stage crypto investment firm that recently released a report on the state of the crypto space and the different levels of development across different Ecosystems. The Research Update known as “Electric Capital Developer Report 2020” had a number of  important insights into the state of NEAR protocol and its development in light of other L1 Ecosystems. The most notable ones? 

NEAR is one of the fastest growing Layer 1 Ecosystems at the Two Year Mark After Polkadot and Ethereum

NEAR has 3 times the number of developers in Q3 of 2020, that they had at Q3 in 2019.

NEAR is within 20 Devs of Ethereum at the 2 Year Mark. 

NEAR has increased their developer monthly average by 100%. 

Paras Is Building on NEAR: 

Paras is one of the newer projects that are currently building on NEAR. Paras is aiming to become a leading marketplace of digital cards, a cool concept that ties in with the surge of NFT-related startups. 

Even though the idea is pretty niche, you can’t deny that it’s pretty damn cool. And besides that, digital ownership of art is becoming a trend nowadays. To learn more about NFT’s on NEAR check out A Home for NFT’s is Building on NEAR.

NEAR Protocol Hiring Surge – Names that Matter:

Last but not least, the month of December witnessed a hiring surge of NEAR team members: From a VP of Marketing Alexandra Tinsman, to new Community Team Leads, NEAR is clearly staffing up for a big 2021. 

What We Are Reading and Watching: 

Leadership in The Ownership Economy—Scaling Decision Making while Minimizing Securities Risk by Jesse Walden

Crypto Theses for 2021 by Messari

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff.

Psychopolitics, Neoliberalism, and New Technologies of Power by  Byung-Chul Han 

Giancaspro, M. (2017). Is a ‘smart contract’ really a smart idea? Insights from a legal perspective. The Computer Law and Security Report, 33(6), 825-835.

Pentland, A., & Hardjono, T. (2019, November 23). Empowering Artists, Songwriters & Musicians in a Data Cooperative through Blockchains and Smart Contracts. ArXiv. arXiv.

Questions We’re Asking: 

With Uniswap gaining in popularity and fees skyrocketing again, will NEAR be the perfect solution? How does 1inch fit into the picture?

What will the BTC bull run mean for us in the future?

Is DeFi actually the future of finance or a mere fad?

Is the digital art NFT surge a bubble or the start of a long term trend? 

How long will it take retail investors to discover layer 1 alt coins? 

What is the future of Ripple? 

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. 

What Do Developers Have To Say About NEAR? Figment / NEAR Update

Last month the NEAR team announced a partnership with Figment Pathway, a hub for developers to get started on the basics of different protocols including NEAR. In a recent event featuring NEAR Head of Education Sherif Abushadi, the Figment team provided an update as to the development of the NEAR Learning Pathway, alongside a number of developers taking part. Here are the most important takeaways from that update: 

Developers Are Signing Onto NEAR At Record Numbers: 

A lot of Devs are joining NEAR, starting to build on NEAR, learning how to interact with the Stack SDK, completing tutorials and learning how to deploy their first smart contract. Those users come from over 60 different countries and have created over 563 accounts on NEAR data hub. 

Notably, these developers are also eligible to earn rewards in NEAR with over 14,000 NEAR already rewarded. 

What Have The Developers Said? 

Over the course of the update, a number of developers from around the world spoke on the nature of the program as well as their perspectives on NEAR. Here are their most important insights: 

The one thing on NEAR that Ethereum Developers will especially like is that 30% of fees go to the owner of the contract.  

On the topic of NEAR and Ethereum, the Devs – many of which have been building on Ethereum or Bitcoin for more than 3 years – were clear that there was really no comparison between NEAR and ETH as separate blockchain Ecosystems:

There is no ecosystem comparison between NEAR and Ethereum – They are both different Ecosystems that can collaboratively evolve in the future: Ethereum has already 4 or 5 more years of developing the tooling, NEAR has had about a year and a half. There is not really an ecosystem comparison. NEAR has taken many lessons from Ethereum and tried to improve upon it. 

It’s easy to build on NEAR With Rust: 

The good thing about NEAR is that if you want to experiment and play around on Test Net you can do that super easily. You can do it easily on Rust. You don’t have to learn a different language or a special book on programming.” 

And some developers think, you should only be building on Rust: 

If you are serious don’t bother with AssemblyScript, if you are serious use Rust

Many developers see themselves on the cutting edge of a new era in the NEAR Ecosystem: 

We are the pioneers. This is the dawn of a new era. The opportunities are boundless. This will have, in my opinion, the greatest impact in revolutionizing technology bigger than the internet, bigger than oil – people don’t realize what this will do. Life will be tremendously different, and we are just in the early stages. We don’t have – there is no Google, Amazon, ExxonMobile, the Microsoft, the Apple – these giants still need to be created. There is a tremendous opportunity for everyone here.

OysterPack on Figment – NEAR Learn Session

New Team Members on NEAR: A Strong Team is Getting Stronger

In crypto the team behind a project is as important, if not more important, than the technical goals and larger vision that the project puts forward. As the 2017 bubble has demonstrated, being able to execute as a team and bring to life the goals of a particular crypto-ecosystem, is very much dependent upon the personalities involved in that ecosystem day-in-and-day out. 

The NEAR Team has been known for being exceptionally strong, with serial entrepreneurs, gold medalist coders (6 Gold Medals at ACM ICPC), and decades of combined experience at top Silicon Valley Tech companies (5 ex-Googlers). Nevertheless, there are a couple of noticeable recent hires that should continue to inspire confidence in the development of NEAR as it becomes more widespread, known, and used across the crypto space: 

“Some hubs are located in Switzerland, Germany, Russia, the US and China. Regardless of where you work, this is a high performance culture that values ownership, execution and professionalism but pairs it with curiosity and experimentation. The vision is big but the right team is behind it.” 

– The Global NEAR Team

Point 1: Alexandra Tinsman Joins NEAR as a Vice President of Marketing 

Alexandra Tinsman brings decades of experience to NEAR. She has worked on Xbox, Pokemon International, and Riot Games. She has been front and center on marketing the world’s first digital assets from League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering Online, and Pokemon Go. What’s interesting is that her background is focused on driving results “by cultivating customer-centered cultures”. In short, she will play a prime role in making sure that usability remains the first priority of NEAR Protocol as it continues to expand for developers and users. 

Note: She will be livestream on YouTube today, December 2nd here

Point 2: NEAR’s Content Team is Gearing Up Alongside It’s Community Team 

Mally Anderson recently joined the NEAR team about 2 months ago to take over as ‘Head of Content’. Her background is diverse and well rounded: She was an associate editor for Penguin Press, a writer and editor at ConsenSys, and well published across mainstream journals including Decrypt, Devcon, and Quartz. 

In parallel to Mally’s hire, James  (@jwaup) and Eunice (@eunicecyl) have joined the NEAR Community Team to focus specifically on Community development in the context of the Guild Program, as well as NEAR Validators. 

When one takes all three hires together, it becomes clear that NEAR is investing in not only the technical and social elements of their ecosystem but also the more creative and community based parts as well. It will be interesting to see in the coming months how new content, planning, and community engagement lead to new initiatives and communities within the ecosystem. 

Point 3: Business Development and Recruitment Rounds Out The Final Group of Hires 

Cameron Dennis and Austin Harshberger join NEAR as recent hires, but this time with a focus on the business and recruitment side of things: Cameron is previously president and founder of the blockchain acceleration foundation based out of California. He Joins NEAR as a Business Development Analyst. Austin meanwhile, is a software engineer by training who is looking to recruit developers into the NEAR ecosystem – he brings experience from Apple, Coinbase, and Github. Last but not least Ashley Tyson, Co-Founder of the Web3 Foundation, is also listed on the NEAR Team Page (although the full extent of her role isn’t clear). 

Point 4: Dr. Alex Shevchenko The Joins Rainbow Bridge Team 

Dr. Alex Shevchenko joined the NEAR team four months ago. While not a super recent hire, he is an important point in the development of the NEAR Team, especially as it relates to the NEAR – ETH Bridge. With experience from Bitfury, and a Ph.D. in Physics and Mathematics, Alex brings deep experience in high performance computing – perfect for handling massive macro challenges like the NEAR – ETH Bridge, and the implementation of EVM on NEAR. 

Taking Stock: New Hires For Growth 

The most recent set of hires for the NEAR team brings together more talented individual to execute the NEAR Team’s ambitious vision of Building the Open Web. Team members come from the likes of Pokemon Go, Academia, Apple, Coinbase, ConsenSys and much more. 

Most importantly, the hires reflect a balanced engagement with the different pillars of the NEAR Ecosystem: Marketing, Business Development,  Community Development, Content, Recruiting, and Ecosystem Growth. 

NEAR is Hiring! 

If you are interested in joining one of the most stacked teams in the crypto space, check ou the open positions on the NEAR Website. Ecosystem Development, Engineering and Operations are looking for many hires in the coming months! 

NEAR Asia Community Update: A Roaring Start For The NEAR Chinese Community!

4NTS Guild recently sat down with Steve Huang from the NEAR Chinese Community to get an update on the development of NEAR protocol in China and the larger Asian community. As a status update for the rest of the NEAR community, there are a number of important takeaways relating to the global development of NEAR Protocol including a link to the most recent NEAR Chinese Community AMA

Point 1: NEAR Has A Solid Chinese Team 

What may come as a surprise for many in Crypto from Europe and North America, is that NEAR has a well-established Chinese team based out of Shanghai and led by NEAR Co-Founder Ilia Polosukhin. 

As Joyce Yang of Global Coin Research originally explained on Building the Open Web Podcast #23:

I think one of the reasons I invested in NEAR was that I knew you guys were globally minded in the first place. Illia spoke Chinese, and I see him in conferences there all of the time. To see a founder engaged with the global community regardless of geography is something worth learning from.” 

Joyce Yang, Global Coin Research

In total Steve, Amos, and Ilia are all based out of Shanghai, while other team members work remotely from other parts of China. Active engagement with the Chinese community is a core part of NEAR’s China engagement strategy, and as such Ilia and Amos partake in Weekly AMA’s on WeChat. For the most recent one that has been translated see Here

Point 2: The Chinese Community Is Large – And Expanding Quickly 

Notably, the NEAR Chinese community is already large, and expanding rapidly. As the images below demonstrate, NEAR’s Chinese Community boasts an astounding 22 Guilds, with a WeChat community of 9,000 strong. Of the 22 Guilds, 2 are considered pure developer guilds looking to build native solutions on NEAR, or using the Rainbow Bridge (more on this below). 

A notable business development gem explained in the NEAR Chinese Community AMA: 

“Our Business Development team has actually talked to more than 300 projects thus far, spanning across a wide range of verticals, such as eSports gaming, transcoding services, p2p tournaments, social network, and various other use cases of NFT” – Chinese Community AMA. 

A further question also explains NEAR’s approach to China in particular: 

The Chinese market has become a huge emerging market that many projects concerns. Share with us some efforts have you made in rooting in the Chinese market, and what’s your plans on building the Chinese community? 

China has the largest internet user base in the world and is pretty much cashless. Applications tend to iterate and grow faster in China, and people are much more willing to try out new things. As a project aiming to make blockchain usable for every day users, we place a great strategic focus in China because it’s probably the best place for us to get a bunch of innovative entrepreneurs and a large set of users to help us with quick product iteration. 

Point 3: NEAR’s Asia Development Plan Is Just Getting Started 

The NEAR China Community officially launched in 2019, and has been growing strong. NEAR Team efforts combined with a rapid growth in NEAR guilds has NEAR Expanding across much of Asia in the coming months. Notably, expansion is already planned into Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam. In this approach, the NEAR team will be focusing on Devs and Founders who will be building solutions on top of NEAR. 

To date, many of the most active members in the NEAR Chinese Community already work in other Chinese crypto firms, and thus provide a sustainable foundation for organic development into the future. 

The long term development goals of NEAR in China and the larger Asia region are also outlined from the AMA: 

“We are already working with many local partners in China and will continue building on these relationships to get more developers, more entrepreneurs, and more users into NEAR’s ecosystem in the next a few years. I am personally super excited about NEAR’s potential in China.” – Chinese Community AMA Question 12.

Point 4: A Lot of Development Is Waiting for the Public Launch and Completion of the NEAR — ETH Rainbow Bridge 

A final important point is to understand the importance of the development of the NEAR – ETH Bridge in the context of NEAR’s Asia Development Strategy. According to Steve, half of the Developers building on NEAR in China are waiting on the EVM to be implemented in order to bring their solution onto NEAR. The other half are already actively building solutions that will launch in the coming year. 

And even though NEAR is trading on top Chinese exchanges with good support and liquidity, Steve emphasizes the focus of the NEAR team on cultivating developers to build long-term solutions that will bring value to the protocol: 

“We are planning to do some localizations and some more localized events, we are planning to experiment with some educational series, and to introduce the technology side of NEAR to more audiences right now. We are still being careful though: We won’t hold any other trading competitions so far. That is not what NEAR aims for. NEAR Will mainly focus on developers and real blockchain users for now.”

As the NEAR China community grows rapidly, it is now easy to see why NEAR Co-Founder Ilia Polosukhin is known as @Ilblackdragon!

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.” 

Introducing the Sandbox on NEAR

The Sandbox is launching as an open and permissionless Guild for anyone and everyone interested in contributing to the development of the NEAR Ecosystem in the broadest sense of the word! It is a place for solo contributors, teams, and prospective Guild leaders of the future. The Sandbox is an ecosystem hub for rolling bounties, community rewards, and ecosystem updates! Here is everything you need to know about the Sandbox: 

What is the Sandbox in a nutshell?

Specifically, the Sandbox is a place—with its own discord channel—for contributors, prospective Guild leaders, and veteran members of the NEAR community to collaborate with one another in helping develop and promote the NEAR Ecosystem. 

What Kind of Activities Can I Expect to Engage In? 

In the Sandbox there are are number of different activities you can expect to engage in: 

Rolling Opportunities from the NEAR community: Where a list of deliverables and areas of development are outlined with relevant rewards designated. 

Solo Ops from a Guild interested in getting help for a specific task or project. 

Projects or tasks from businesses and projects building in the NEAR Ecosystem or from the Open-Web collective, looking for specific skills, translations, designs, or content. 

To meet other contributors to launch your own projects or Guild. 

To build up a reputation in the NEAR community as a leader in a specific area. 

Why Would I Want To Join the Sandbox? 

The Sandbox is open to everyone! It’s a place where anyone can join with no previous knowledge about NEAR. On top of that, it’s also a place where individuals can contribute to different projects and opportunities in the NEAR ecosystem, while prospective Guild founders can incubate their guild plan and recruit future Guild members Joining the Sandbox is the best way to get involved in the community development of the different aspects of the NEAR Ecosystem! Above all, you’ll be part of a friendly, welcoming and open community.

How Can I Get Started? 

Joining the Sandbox is pretty simple. Head over to the Sandbox Discord, join a channel that you are interested in contributing in, start sharing your ideas with other members, and start building from the list of available and rolling opportunities!  

Why Now is the Time To Join the Sandbox: 

The NEAR Ecosystem is young. In crypto, young projects mean opportunity and plenty of room to grow. This is especially the case with NEAR. With the NEAR – ETH Rainbow Bridge and the Open Web Collective supporting future project development on NEAR, now is the best time to learn about the Ecosystem and the many projects that are preparing to launch on top of it! Whether you are looking to hone your skills as a contributor, or launch your own Guild down the road, the Sandbox is the place to be right now! 

👉 Join the Discord here: https://discord.gg/zh9XDYJ

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

Community Spotlight: Is It Time for NEAR DAOs? A Review in Context

DAO’s or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, have existing in crypto since the launch of Ethereum and the numerous community pioneered projects built on top of the platform. Now, more than 4 years later, DAO’s remain a fascinating and important community vehicle for funding and supporting new projects in any crypto ecosystem. 

First Things First: What is a DAO and How Can DAO’s Help Grow the NEAR Ecosystem?

Back in September, at the Hack the Rainbow Hackathon, the NEAR Team sat down with a number of experts in the DAO space to go over the state of DAO’s and how a DAO might be useful within the framework of NEAR. The full transcript of that talk can be found here. Meanwhile, the main takeaways include:

“All a DAO really is in my mind, is a multisig with different voting schemes. And so if you can create that function and that voting scheme you basically have a DAO. It’s basically people coordinating whether you own all of those keys to that account. Or its multiple people on the internet – the code doesn’t care about the ownership part of it – and if you have these access permissions you can vote to add people or add methods or remove methods, at a high level – you actually have a DAO.”  

DAOs Generally Defined, NEAR Hack the Rainbow Session 9.

NEAR’s Account Model is Well Suited for DAOs:  So if I were to make an analogy, on Ethereum you have a computer that is only root access, whereas on NEAR the account system is like an ACL essential? An access control list, where you can have different levels of permissions on – so it’s almost like halfway there in terms of becoming a DAO itself.” The NEAR Account model, allowing for function-call limited permissions is well suited for accommodating multisignature activities, from different accounts on the NEAR ecosystem. James, a participant in the panel goes so far to say that NEAR’s inbuilt model is ‘half-way there in terms of becoming a DAO itself.’ 

DAO’s Democratically Fund New Projects Within an Ecosystem: Depending on the amount of funds committed, DAO’s have the opportunity to democratically fund new projects within an Ecosystem based upon the votes of the different members of the DAO. This funding can operate either in an all-or-nothing fashion similar to Moloch DAO, or in an incremental time-dispersal fashion, similar to Colony. The choice is for the community to make! 

There are MANY Different Models for DAO’s Depending on the Interests of the Community: DAO’s are ultimately community run entities for fostering ecosystem development and growth. As such, the community will have to decide on the complexity of the DAO model, the different voting rights and thresholds built into the mechanism, as well as the manner in which projects are funded and how automatic or hands-on the structure itself is. Regardless of the many different model of DAO’s that the NEAR community will have to choose from, what is clear is that DAOs represent a serious upgrade for finance opportunities, within the NEAR ecosystem itself! 

The Time For NEAR DAOs? 

Recently, there has been a proposal put forward for DAO’s on NEAR titled: “DAO Implementation in Rust for NEAR”. As the document goes on to detail: 

“The goal is to implement the Rust version of LAOLAND so anyone using NEAR can use it to manage a DAO. This is also an opportunity to write a standard interface for this architecture so anyone can upgrade their DAO on NEAR or Ethereum.”

In context, this means that a proposal has been put forward to create DAO’s on NEAR. As community vehicles of investment, such an opportunity might be critically important for allowing projects building on NEAR to access capital in their early stages, as they get off the ground! This would also apply for the NEAR Guild program, the Sandbox and future community initiatives, that may need to be funded over time. 

Key questions that the NEAR Community Can Start With: 

Would you be interested in investing in a NEAR DAO to support early ecosystem projects like Plantary

What kind of an entity structure would you like to have a NEAR DAO possible have? 

Are there any early stage ecosystem projects that you think would be key to fund right now? 

Do you have other friends or investors who would be interested in supporting the launch of a NEAR DAO?

Let’s get the conversation going!

An Action Packed NEAR Community Townhall #2:

The second townhall in the NEAR Ecosystem was confidence inspiring and content packed! For an hour and a half, the key players on the NEAR team went through in detail where NEAR has been, what the current status of many initiatives are, and where NEAR is going. A number of highly important points were made during the townhall, relevant for the future development of the NEAR Ecosystem. 

Where Did NEAR Start? 

The townhall kicked off with Alex and Illia discussing the origins of NEAR: It started in 2018, when Alex and Illia were working on an AI based project that they wanted to improve into something similar to Gitcoin. They started using Ethereum to do this, but as they were exploring this idea, they realized that for simple use cases, they would be doing a task and they would end up paying more in transaction fees than they would pay the contractors themselves. That didn’t make any sense, and it prompted a deeper dive into the state of blockchain:

The Inspiring Goal of NEAR: 

“Decentralized Organizations, Open Web, Ownership Economy – they will all operate and be enabled by blockchain, and operate in a borderless fashion being completely community driven without anyone having control over them.” – Alex Skidanov

After the introduction to the origin of NEAR, Alex launched into the main goal of NEAR especially in the context of the type of world that NEAR is going to try to bring about: 

A world where innovation and creativity can flourish, with musicians and artists being rewarded directly. Many new business models will appear – and this is the future that we want to build. When we build NEAR we are not thinking about building a platform for existing use-cases to scale to hundreds of thousands of users, we are thinking of the platform which will enable the decentralized internet of value in the decades to come at scale – Alex S. 

From Origin to Launch: 

The next part of the townhall was a short recap on the launch of NEAR Mainnet. The main points about the timeline and goals of this process include: 

NEAR Mainnet started small and as more was learned, it was expanded into this bigger vision. It became clear during this process that to build NEAR one of the core needs was to solve scalability. 

A second thing that became apparent was Usability. The ability for developers to really quickly go from 0 to their idea – for users to actually be able to use it. If you build your prototype it works. 

The launch spanned from April to October – while NEAR launched after 27 months of building.

Erik Trautman on the Purpose of NEAR: 

Towards the middle of the townhall, CEO of the NEAR Foundation Erik Trautman went over the underlying ethos of NEAR:

“The Purpose of NEAR is to drive community driven innovation to benefit people from around the world. We help builders make stuff and we try to help them distribute that stuff.” – NEAR CEO Erik Trautman 

He then took the time to explain clearly and concisely what exactly NEAR Is: 

What is NEAR? Specifically NEAR is a fundamentally reimagined layer 1 blockchain, It is not a sidechain, it is not a dApp, it is not a layer 2. It is a full blockchain that runs its own independent consensus with its own independent security. The benefits of reinventing that blockchain is that, with this dual mandate that we have to focus on scalability and usability, the only way to address that is to start from the ground up. 

The NEAR Network is Live: Here’s What’s Possible on NEAR Today 

Beyond the key stats shared about accounts, contract deployment and transactions on NEAR, the most important piece of information was shared relating to sharding and the capacity for NEAR to scale: 

“Sharding allows NEAR to scale linearly – in a single shard we can execute around 20,000 transactions per second. Initially launch with 8 shards, and with community governance we will go to 16 – 32 and then beyond.” – Illia P. 

According to Illia: 

“Sharding is critical for bringing a lot of applications and making them successful. The other critical piece is having assets and being able to operate inside the economy.”

More concretely, this means that the build out on opt of NEAR in the future will be centered upon bringing the core building blocks of an open-economy, and open-web onto NEAR to jumpstart development: 

“Tooling and Apps will take some time to build and some time to make sure they are robust. There are a number of ETH applications that are already battle tested.”

Bootstrapping Open Finance, as it was labelled, includes bringing Oracles, Stable Coins, Automated Market Makers, Decentralized Exchanges, Lending, and Risk Management onto NEAR as the core building blocks of the future open economy. 

NEAR Business Development: Alive and Well with Sasha! 

The third and final presentation from a core NEAR team member came from Sasha (Aliaksandr) on the current status of business development upon NEAR. The news he brought was highly important for the entire community:

“The NEAR team is working closely with 17 applications right now, launching at different points in time in November, December, January and February.” – Sasha

Not only is the NEAR team actively stewarding these next projects within the ecosystem – they are also building out community and support systems around the project. As Sasha went on to discuss, this included University Blockchain Groups in the future as a unique target offering for the future of the Open Web. 

Sasha put forward a very important comparison of NEAR in relation to Bitcoin and Ethereum – one that seems poised to fit: 

Bitcoin = Open Money

Ethereum = Open Finance

NEAR = Open Web

What Can You Build on NEAR? What is Already Building on NEAR? 

The final part of the community townhall was devoted to showcasing some of the fascinating projects building and updates on NEAR from the Rainbow hackathon: 

yNEAR – Allows you to send NEAR to Ethereum for DeFi purposes. 

Planetary – AI generated NFT’s that users have the capacity to Harvest and breed. 

Trust Token – Is integrating their stablecoin on NEAR. 

The NEAR Merchandise Store is Launching Soon! 

In what was a total of 1 hour 24min townhall, the NEAR Team covered the comprehensive essentials of where the project stands, as well as where it is going. For any community member, investor, or user interested in building the future of the open web or participating in NEAR, there is no better time to get started!