NFTs: The First 5000 Beeples
How two immigrants from Tamil Nadu bought a piece of digital art for $69M. And what we’re funding next.
By Metakovan and Twobadour
Imagine an investor, a financier, a patron of the arts. Ten times out of nine, your palette is monochrome. By winning the Christie’s auction of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, we added a dash of mahogany to that color scheme.
We could have remained pseudonymous, but we decided to drop a few hints in our joint press release with Christie’s, and quite a few more in the Clubhouse room with Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy. The point was to show Indians and people of color that they too could be patrons, that crypto was an equalizing power between the West and the Rest, and that the global south was rising.
Of course, given the information we chose to reveal, anyone with access to Google could have doxxed us, as they did to Scott Alexander. Yet these pseudonyms were never meant to be masks. They are exosuits. Today Vignesh wears Metakovan and Anand wears Twobadour, but there can be others who wear them in time. Here’s the story of how we got our exosuits, and how we intend to use them to fund the arts and letters, starting with $500k for five fellowships to write about the convergence of tech, art and finance that NFTs represent.
Crypto is Free Access and Serendipity
When I discovered crypto in early 2013, I had no money, so I looked for ways to earn it on the global, open network of Bitcoin. I began by offering escrow services, which then became an exchange called Coins-e. In the 2013 bull run, I experienced exponential growth for the first time as an entrepreneur, clocking 14,000 users in six months. I sold Coins-e in May 2014. This was my first leg-up in the space.
Having worked with bitcoin code for a while, I had become part of a network of similar minds. The large crypto family, almost by osmosis, lets you absorb information and see ideas ahead of the curve. One such interesting problem to solve was physical on-ramps for crypto, which were notoriously hard.
With newfound creators in the space, I co-founded BitAccess, a Y-Combinator-backed project (S14), and took over as its CTO to program and install Bitcoin ATMs. Within a year, we installed 100 ATMs in 18 countries. As of today, there are over 1605 Bitcoin ATMs deployed by BitAccess all over the globe, running code I helped write. I left BitAccess in late 2016, to follow a trail of serendipity into the Ether.
The first BTM I sold was to Anthony Di Iorio, a co-founder of Ethereum. He urged a then-maximalist version of me to contribute to the crowd sale. So I invested in the world’s first ICO.
Crypto is Opportunity to Build Wealth
Unlike the startup world where the capital raise process is opaque and confined to a rarified group, new ideas in crypto are funded by people like you and I. The Ethereum ICO allowed me, an unknown, to invest in it. This investment would turn out to become a large sum of money in due course. And I didn’t stop there.
The money from that ETH investment rolled into several other new ideas, some of them billion-dollar projects like Polkadot, Tezos, Dfinity, Decentraland, Flow, and Avalanche. And this same fountainhead flows into Metapurse — with significant investments in NFTs — gaming assets, art, and yes, the iconic Beeple 5000.
The pattern of wealth building is dynamic. Like investing in a startup, there is rapid growth of capital, but the difference is early liquidity which leads to expedited compounding. This has allowed me free reign to continue to experiment in greenfield spaces and invest in high-potential but still unproven ideas.
Crypto is Access to Capital
The same free market that allowed me to build wealth allowed me to build on an idea as well. I have been a passionate champion of enabling globally accessible, un-opinionated credit. And Lendroid is a significant initiative in this direction.
The Lendroid Foundation, a registered, annually audited CLG in Singapore, concluded a token sale in 2018, not unlike the original Ethereum ICO.
Lendroid has been a trustworthy fiduciary of this capital, and deployed its monies towards the objective of disintermediating traditional financial infrastructures to create a global system of inclusive credit. It is actively developing open source software for crypto, as you can see at github.com/lendroidproject.
The Lendroid-powered WhaleStreet today has over $100 mn in total value locked (TVL). Before WhaleStreet, Lendroid created an array of experiments in DeFi. We were the first to enable ENS loans, champion decentralised margin trading, create a secondary market for DAI loans with Reloanr, and envision the future of risk through Deleuze. And in the NFT space we developed Rightshare for NFT leasing that evolved into the concept of Metatokens.
All of these experiments and opportunities seemed to coalesce into one big world: a Neal Stephenson-like Metaverse, built on virtual reality, virtual currency, and NFTs.
Taking the Plunge
I was exposed to crypto as early as 2013, thanks to Metakovan who was then an app developer/entrepreneur. By exposure, I mean he shared all of the information he had. Information that was enough to send him to the moon (via Canada). I, however, was convinced it wasn’t for me.
It was only four years later, when he returned, seasoned with the compressed experience of Coins-e and BitAccess behind him, that I ventured in.
“Let’s work on Lendroid,” he said. And we did. Went through a blitzkrieg of a Lendroid TGE, kept the community warm around campfires in the long crypto winter that followed. Wrote and talked much, and raved with the best of them when policy lacked gumption.
The building never stopped, and we reached a creative peak at the beginning of 2020. This was the year, we were all sure. We went to Denver, made fast friends, picked up a trail of NFTs, and contemplated a spectacular period of travel. And then COVID hit.
Finding my Tribe
We were forced to look inward during the lockdown. For Metakovan, who knew this world, it simply meant a minor recalibration. For me, it was a rabbit hole. I fell in deep.
Crypto naturally intimidates the uninitiated. Unless you’re steeped in finance, technology, philosophy, and geopolitics, it is difficult to gainfully engage with crypto. Consequently, the vast ecosystem of creatives - the craftsmen, artists, raconteurs like myself, and performers - have been left out.
Until you discover NFTs. Like moonflower cacti, creators like me explode with life when they encounter the fertile artistic playing field of the NFT space. Thus Twobadour, until then a professional with tolerable skills, shed his chrysalis to find a voice, and his people.
Twobadour’s trajectory is a metaphor for the potential of the crypto Metaverse. Artists can circumvent some of the crypto learning curve by jumping straight into a virtual domain where they can immediately create value with NFTs, while asking “obvious” questions from behind a pseudonymous avatar.
Pseudonyms as Exosuits
Why pseudonyms, though? The initial patrons of the NFT space were from the gamer community. If you have an Xbox or a PS4, choosing an ‘avatar’ is part of the onboarding process. Virtual worlds and pseudonyms go hand in hand. But what do they mean in a decentralized metaverse, where your identity is exclusively yours?
The Metakovan and Twobadour identities, loosely guarded with café doors, are exosuits for introverts. Vignesh probably wouldn’t have bought Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, but Metakovan didn’t rest until he did. Anand is reticent, but Twobadour can band together the best of the metaverse for a common purpose.
Metakovan and Twobadour are powerful personas that need not be one person or have just one purpose. As founder and steward of Metapurse, they are charged with helping build the metaverse. We now know they can do the heavy lifting, backed by a growing team.
The Metapurse Story
Metapurse is a crypto-exclusive fund that specializes in identifying early-stage projects across blockchain infrastructure, finance, art, unique collectibles, and virtual estate. The thesis of Metapurse is that the art of the Metaverse will be crucial, beautiful, digital, and cryptographical. And it will be stored on-chain.
Digital decentralization enables cultural decentralization. Anyone can create NFT art, anyone can buy it, anyone can see it, and anyone can be inspired by it. Dominant cultures have a tendency to imperialize, to centralize. We see the global Metaverse as an antidote to this tendency. There is space for many cultures, lifestyles, and ideologies. An opportunity to find your ‘tribe’, no matter where you’re from. And that is powerful. That is the future.
As the space expands, it becomes vital to have access to NFTs that carry a narrative, as well as financial upside. You can’t have one without the other.
Metapurse captures the zeitgeist of the NFT renaissance. As the largest NFT fund in the world, it represents Metakovan’s collection of NFTs, and his investments in key projects in the space. These include art platforms like Async.Art and Superrare, proudly customer-centric blockchains like Flow which hosts NBA Top Shots, lifestyle NFT platforms like Grow Your Base, IP-aware conglomerates like Animoca Brands, and native experiments in the space like $Whale.
The first Metapurse experiment in this space was the B.20 project, where we opened up experience and exposure to a bundle of high-value NFTs. At an open auction, not unlike Christie’s in many ways, we bought 20 single edition art pieces of Beeple’s for $2.2M. We then bought prime real estate in virtual worlds, brought in virtual architects to build huge monuments for these iconic pieces, and infused these builds with an original soundscape. We then bundled all of these NFTs, and tokenized the ownership of this entire experience into the B20 tokens. Nearly 30 people worked on this project, all of whom chose to be compensated in B20s. For having made all of this possible with his incredible work, we gave Beeple 2% of the tokens, as a token of appreciation. We also paid $69.3M at Christie’s for the other piece. You might say we’re fans of his work!
The virtual museums, like the MOMA or the Louvre, are open to all. But unlike the MOMA or the Louvre, access is not ticketed, and you can own a share of this bundle — art, real estate, ambient music, and the potential upside of it all. B.20 was a bona fide virtual production with solid underlying tech from WhaleStreet. Nothing of this scale had ever been done before.
And Beeple, the muse for this frontier madness, is the artist of our generation. Look at the first (top-left) picture in his Everyday series all the way diagonally to the bottom-right. The story of the 5000 is simple. Start somewhere, be genuine, be consistent, work hard, and you will find success.
There will be a monument for Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days. One befitting this historic work. We don’t yet know what else we would want to do with this, but we do know it will be awesome.
The Metapurse Fellowship: $500k for Crypto Storytellers
We spoke of building the metaverse. This implies collaboration on an unprecedented scale. To begin with, we need people who find and tell fascinating stories about this space, and open up portals for others. Telling those stories and lighting those portals is worth a bounty. We are proud to announce the Metapurse Fellowship, a grant which kicks off with a $500,000 purse. In this first edition, we offer $100,000 to five storytellers — writers, producers, content makers — spread across 12 monthly stipends.
There are three conditions:
You must have a portfolio of work.
You must have personally created at least one NFT.
No anti-coiners allowed :)
Send Metapurse your applications here, and we will contact you if you are shortlisted. The grant is open worldwide, to young and old, pseudonymous and named alike.
This virtual community is home. A very particular emotion, articulated by the philosopher Kaniyan Poongunranaar 3,000 years ago, comes to mind — யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர், it talks of finding kinship, your land, a world away. The Metaverse asked us what we could do for it, not who we are. We won’t ask, either. See you around.