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Universe: Aggregating All NFT Media Components and Evolving The Components Faster than Peers

Jul 13, 2021 ·

By Tom Shaughnessy

The Delphi Podcast Host and GP of Delphi Ventures Tom Shaughnessy sits down with Tyler Ward and Tim Kang, co-founders of Universe, a community bootstrapping engine designed to embed community building mechanics into the way you mint and monetize NFTs. The three discuss how Universe is aggregating all NFT media components to launch an NFT community, iterating faster with a community-driven approach, and much more.

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 Music Attribution:


Interview Transcript:

Tom (00:02):

Hey everyone, welcome back to the podcast. I’m Tom Shaughnessy, I help the Delphi Ventures and host the podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have on Tim Kang and Tyler Ward who are the co-founders of Universe. Full disclosure here, I am a part of Universe. It’s actually a funny story, I was on vacation and Tyler hit me up and said, this is something you’re going to want be a part of, send me this money right now. And I said, “Tyler, absolutely my dude.” I mean, Tyler, that was a couple of months ago, I thought it was way back.

Tyler (00:33):

Yeah, it was February.

Tom (00:35):

It’s not.

Tyler (00:36):

[crosstalk 00:00:36] spear fishing, I think, and you’re like, I’m not sure and I was like, Tom, just do it.

Tom (00:40):

You and I was like, how am I even questioning this hindsight? Yeah, I was out on a boat, a couple of miles off shore, but I’m glad I did. Let’s start with quick intros guys. Tyler, why don’t you give your 30-second intro then we’ll go over to Tim.

Tyler (00:53):

So I am a co-founder Universe. I also co-founded BarnBridge, which I had a podcast with Delphi back in the day on that, if people kind of want to go catch up, but Universe has pretty much been a long time coming project that it was really like a conglomeration of, I think my brain, but less, mine lesser so than Tim and our co-founder Troy. And then some of the guys that we’ve been writing code with for a long time, going all the way back to consensus days. But I think Tim and Troy and some of the other… It’s a conglomeration of co-founders and I think that their experience landed it all of this even more than mine. I was really just here for the ride and making sure it all came together properly.

Tom (01:51):

Humble as ever Tyler. He did way more than that, man. Tim onto you.

Tim (01:55):

Hey guys. So I am the founder of a couple of things. I started something called CUE Music. It was a very low key projects. It’s a live music streaming platform for DJs and I was kind of working on that in the back while I was investing in crypto. Crypto fortunately helped me afford the time to be able to work on my own things like that. And then I jumped heavy into NFTs when discovering it, realizing that it was our future and it could help people understand what crypto can really do outside of just investing. And then I just really loved supporting artistes and that’s kind of… I have a deep passion of music and now visual arts and design. And I started Sevens Foundation, which is a charity to help elevate and uplift disadvantaged artists. And at the same time, I co-founded Universe with Tyler and all these amazing guys.

Tom (03:04):

That’s awesome, guys. I want to get right into it with Universe. One thing I think that might be a small point of confusion in the space is I’m not sure if everyone understands what exactly Universe is, because moving fast, biting off a lot, if you guys had to give the quick intro on what Universe is, what would you say?

Tim (03:26):

Yeah, so Universe is like kind of the name implies like a big kind of catch all universal platform that we were trying to build towards. I think when people ask, especially my friends, when they ask about NFTs and they ask how do I get into this? It’s hard to really find a place where you can just be like, check this out. We kind of like, I’ve kind of referenced like Nifty Gateway at one point or SuperRare and OpenSea, and then CryptoPunks. But a lot of times I also say you got to start using Twitter or you got to use discord. And all of that information is very second graded. It’s kind of just everywhere. There’s no place where there’s kind of like a central hub of information of history of discovering what exactly is happening in NFTs and crypto as well.

Tim (04:22):

And so, we’re building a bunch of products. The first being an auction house, I think it will be very powerful, because it’ll allow people to kind of sell their NFTs and trade them in a way that it’s not currently possible and also creating social tools kind of like Reddit and Wikipedia to really describe the history of things, to provide information for the broad audience, so that there can be a place where people can come and be like, oh, this is what the history of CryptoPunks is. Oh, this is what the history of Beeple and Blau, this is what happened. Currently, there’s like, yeah, it’s just hard to find that information. You have to search everywhere, but yeah.

Tom (05:09):

That’s a fair point. Tyler, what would you say Universe is to you? Because I’m sure that there’s… It’s just good to have a little bit of give and take from the founders on kind of what Universe is to them.

Tyler (05:20):

I think in the beginning, it’s what Tim described, because I think one of the problems with describing what Universe is, is what it is now versus where it’s going. So for the next year, it’s going to be exactly what Tim described. That’s why we’re focused on building and also just so everyone knows I apologize if y’all hear barking earlier. I currently live with one of the other Universe co-founders and he came home. So the dogs kind of went crazy like Troy. But I think the longer answer without giving in a long-winded discussion is I think it will turn into a fully fledged decentralized media company, whether you view that as like a social media company or a traditional media company. And I think that’s where my humility earlier came from. In the beginning stages of Universe, I did do a lot of the work and the bulk brunt of it, but when we had problems with Tate and joke around and call it the fallen amphibian, we had to pivot on like rapid clip.

Tyler (06:32):

And so we built more of a phase plan of where can we get immediately and some of the problems that we had, and even launching a collection like that and some of the gaps that we saw in the market. So the short-term, it’s very much what Tim described, but between like Tim, Troy like Dragos and Milad and the Mob Squad, they all have worked on I guess the more overarching harder to solve, bigger problems of centralized media versus decentralized media. And part of it will be where the market goes at aggregate. But I mean, I had a pretty long podcast with Kevin Rose on why we need to decentralize media and some of the anti-censorship components.

Tyler (07:19):

And I probably borrowed 90% of what I said from working with the other co-founders. So whether it becomes like a decentralized Disney, whether that’s like streaming or media content creation or whether it moves more towards the social media components of it, I think that when you look back at NFTs and say why did these things get so popular at the time they did, similar to crypto, where we had like the ICO boom of 2017. We look back on that and it’s like, hindsight’s 2020. Of course, decentralized finance is going to be the first major use case because that’s why we all got into crypto in the first place. The fed can’t keep printing money forever. The timing of NFTs coming out, I think from like a cultural perspective, is more than just the art or the digital art that’s being created. That’s been around for a long time. Digital art isn’t anything new. DeviantArt was around when we were first starting to play around on the internet.

Tyler (08:26):

I think the anti-censorship ramifications and our concerns that centralized media and social media, whether it’s just media like Disney, whether it’s social media or content creation, like Google, Facebook, these platforms are being very irresponsible with the way that they’re handling the power that’s been given to them. And I think that it’s a lot about giving the power back to the artists, but I also believe in giving power back to the people on how they curate and mediate their own content. And that’s where we’re going longer term. So I don’t think Tim could have explained it better in the shorter term, but why that’s… I mean, that’s really just important for what NFTs are right now. The long, long vision is to go after bigger kind of players that be in media. And I don’t think we’re going to get there just kind of improving NFTs as they are right now. I think that we have a lot bigger journey in front of us.

Tom (09:27):

Yeah. Tyler, that’s a great answer to where Universe is going, right? I’d love to kind of dig into those specific pieces because you’re talking about a fantastic end state, but to get there, you need a lot of components that in your head, you know off the bat, you’re ready to go. The space might be a little, what exactly makes up a Disney, right? You have the artist, you have the theme parks, you have the content creators, the Imagineers. there’s so much that goes into that, and we only kind of see the end result. I’d love to kind of walk through the different pieces of Universe that’ll kind of help enable that. And I mean, you guys have a marketplace, an auction house, social media. I’m not sure where you want to start, but it’d be great to go through each one and kind of describe how you get to that end state. Maybe it makes most sense to start with the marketplace.

Tyler (10:13):

And I almost think, Tim, you can help on… I think we go through maybe the process of what’s in the immediate roadmap. We’re coming out with an auction and minting… Well, we came out with our first… Let’s call it a court drop. And so, we’re still going to do our own NFT drop. So, it’s not like that is the end all be all, that we’re just going to be dropping really cool technologically advanced NFT drops like polymorphs, but you can expect that we are going to make those. And the thought process there is one way that we need to empower artists is to build technology that gives them more tools to essentially play off of. So those are open source creative commons drops, where someone else can kind of come on and use the framework to either build a game or do their own type of NFT drop as an artist.

Tyler (11:10):

And we’ll keep coming out with what we think are technologically advanced drops. And that’s the point of core drops. And they bring revenue into the treasury, so they’re good for the project, but that’s not the purpose of the Universe. The main purpose, I think of some of the immediate stuff we’re building is Tim was the first guy that I got to help, one because of his like knowledge and NFTs, but then also he’s a lot more technically in dev savvy than I am. So he was really the first person that I got to help when I started non fungible Pepe. And just going through that process, we definitely saw some gaps in the market and things that needed to be fixed on that side. And Tim can probably talk through some of the deeper differences of how our auction and minting process works. Because that’s going to come out before the marketplace or any social components. And also give me a second because I got to open my door because I’m sweating like crazy [crosstalk 00:12:16].

Tom (12:15):

Yeah, yeah. No worries. Tim, we’ll let you take it from there.

Tim (12:18):

Yeah. So marketplaces are really nice, but starting this project out, there were no auctions, work with decentralized auction houses, right? There was a balanced finance, but it wasn’t really working well. And then, yeah, there’s just no… there were no decentralized marketplaces. A lot of services are built still on centralized services. And the way that we launch Universe was down first. We have governance, we have a token and it’s up to the community to decide things. And for example, if there’s someone that wants to sell or auction something, we’re kind of leaving it up to platforms to decide what gets chosen. For example, like Nifty or OpenSea, they’re the ones curating, but we want to kind of give the community the power for as much… for everything we can, and.

Tom (13:24):

And could you go into that a bit though? What’s the difference between me going on OpenSea minting an NFT and selling it versus doing it on Universe? Is the difference that on Universe you create a community that then mints it and then curates it or what exactly is the difference there?

Tyler (13:39):

Well, as a creator, you’re able to kind of mint on your own. And that’s separate from curation. Curation is kind of the selection of what gets presented on top. What gets presented first and highlighted, but on the front of minting, we want to provide and plug into as much as we can with existing custom ERC 721 NFT Smart Contracts. Most platforms are very primitive and basic on what types of NFTs can be created. But as something that should be open source, as this ecosystem is open source, things should be interoperable, things should be plugging in together. So our goal is to kind of innovate and also make available what is out there and what we also create. And so Manifold is doing… Manifold XYZ, they’re doing great things. Monstercat is doing great things innovating. If there are these custom contracts, we want to be able to provide a place where people can mince without any hassle and take advantage of the innovations that are happening in the broader ecosystem.

Tom (14:53):

That’s awesome. Tyler, I would love to kind of get your take on the minting process. How is it different from other platforms out there too?

Tyler (15:00):

So one of them is just like where the stuff is even held. I think long-term the way that our minting works, it’s not going to stay the most innovative process in the entire world. I think people will like continue to innovate and innovate and innovate, which is why we’ve talked to groups like Manifold, like Tim said, where we can kind of plug and play. And as we even improve on some of the stuff we’re doing. There’s really two components that I like about our custom ERC-721 the most. One of them is like where they mint to. So like Jimmy, the guy who started Avatars and he’s actually building some pretty cool products, like in an ongoing capacity. He was the one that really championed a lot of the need for on chain metadata and where that gets housed.

Tyler (15:56):

Because you can’t just like mint NFTs on base layer, Ethereum. It’s not economically feasible. Maybe punks are on base layer Ethereum but they were made like back when Ethe was very inexpensive and gas fees were very inexpensive as well. So basically, where all of that data is stored, I think is probably going to be one of the areas that we focus on the most where, even with variable and even some of the stuff that’s pulled into OpenSea, not that we aren’t going to pull in other platforms like NFTs to be able to like house inside of the things that you curate and show, but like one guy basically at one point created a rogue project and literally just switched the images out because they were just pointing to a backend.

Tyler (16:47):

So when you’re talking about a mutable and an uncensorable, not immutable the group, but literally immutable at what the word means. And then uncensorable content, I think Jimmy probably championed that more than anyone else that I’ve known about in NFTs. And then me and Tim are kind of his disciples, following along and making sure that those contracts are proper. And then also just the way they even work inside of themselves, we created an ERC-721 that can actually house other collections. So as we build out, we’re more like building our contracts for the future of what Universe is going to become. So as it turns into more of a social platform that, NFT mentor will be able to… That ERC-721 will hold a collection of other ERC-721 that then can also moderate a community off of the same minting keys.

Tyler (17:49):

So, I mean, I think that while other groups are probably doing deep research into some of the cooler things you can do with minting functions, we’re probably doing deeper research into the uncensorable aspects of what we’re creating and who owns what and how it’s controlled, because that’s where we’re going to end up going longterm. So we’re trying to basically create… We’re trying to create contracts that will stand the test of time, at least on our platform.

Tim (18:20):

Yeah. There’s a bunch of NFTs that are really just pointing to centralized servers for the assets. And the whole promise and the reason why all of this is possible is because of unstoppableness I guess. And so if there’s a central entity that can just destroy a project and the way that it works in terms of the delivery of the asset, that’s just not fulfilling the promise. So what we’re building, we want to ensure that everything is pristine.

Tom (18:57):

So one [crosstalk 00:18:58] issue. Oh, sorry Tyler.

Tyler (18:58):

And actually, I want to really add on to what he said to tack on. When we look back on NFTs in five years and everybody’s like, oh, we’re these profile picture projects to really what everyone was excited about, and we’re going to look back and be like, no, we missed the 800 pound gorilla in the room that we have people getting censored left and right on the internet. I mean, if somebody watches this in five years now is the time where cancel culture is at large. It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on. It really shouldn’t be up to these centralized authorities to decide how it works. And I think that a lot of people right now in NFTs where we’ve got a lot of like… I mean, we even launched like polymorphs, which is an avatar type project.

Tyler (19:51):

So I’m not hating on that and I think that those are really fun and exciting, but we’re not building for that. We’re building for the longer term of what is unstoppable media. And I think that a lot of projects are missing that both at the protocol level, as well as the actual NFT minting level. I don’t want to call out particular projects, but they’re not… They’re a hundred percent either centralized by the people running those projects, or they’re centralized like things that are even out of their control, like AWS, which is even worse, right? So we’re making sure that we’re building guts and infrastructure where it’s the promise of what NRTs were supposed to be, because it’s kind of like Wayne Gretzky. We’re trying to go where the puck is headed, not where it is right now.

Tom (20:44):

Tyler, I love the vision and a question for you Tim, as a quick follow-up, what’s the chance that other NFT minting platforms reroute the metadata to our weave or put it on something unstoppable. I mean, the permanence of your NFTs is one thing that’s incredible, but the other aspects, I mean, you guys have a number of advances, supporting rare variable standards and resale royalties and batch minting NFTs, so uses wallet and optional signatures to verify the creators. There’s a lot of other technical things that you guys have put forward, but where do you guys think the line is drawn between this is an innovation for Universe and this is something someone else can copy.

Tim (21:26):

Right. And so a lot of projects they’re using contracts where once it’s launched, they can’t change the base URL. And so if IPFS goes down for their content, it’s gone. So what we built, for example, with polymorphs, we have to do a custom rendering engine to switch to traits and we’re going to be migrating this over to decentralized services, which is just currently not possible with the tech that’s available. But we put a DAO in front of it so that the DAO can, the DAO literally has control to change the URL. So for example, if our services go down, if we disappear for some reason, the DAO can vote to change the service and get it back up and running. That’s just kind of intermediary step before we moved to and migrate to something that’s actually decentralized.

Tim (22:23):

The best way currently is to just use Arweave and many projects have been starting to adopt and using Arweave as their pointer for these decentralized assets that likely will never disappear. And so we want to make sure that we create a platform that has it all proper, and then we can just offer it to everyone to start using. And it’ll just help everyone in the long run, hopefully.

Tom (22:49):

That makes sense. Yeah.

Tyler (22:50):

And Tom, I’d also add that, I don’t think that it’s a problem if people copied what we’re doing. If one of the number one things that we do is innovate to the point that everybody’s copying it, one, they’re playing catch up when we’ve done this from the beginning. And we’re still putting this power into the people’s hands via that DAO. And let’s say someone beats us, right, we still engineered a better world than what we started with. So it’s very much like the original DeFi groups that like so long, it’s like all the boats will rise with it. We’ll still be in the NFT industry. We’ll still be working with everyone. So let’s say that the original people that really pushed to have decentralized aspects of DeFi went out and DAOs went out, right?

Tyler (23:47):

Well, they’ve already won at the point that everybody’s copying them. So then you’re talking about like a 10 year business plan versus a one year business plan. And if we hit a point that the major players and NFTs are copying us by the end of a year from starting. So let’s say like February or March, then I’m not even worried about who’s going to win, because I think that we’re so early in this industry that we’re all going to win. I just don’t want centralized bullshit that got us to where we are in media now and the old media world to wins. So like.

Tom (24:23):

No, no, I’m totally with you, Tyler. I totally agree. Just moving on, I want to hit on the other core aspects of Universe. So we just talked a lot about minting. Let’s go on to the auction house. Tim, maybe we’ll start with you here, what’s unique about the auction house [crosstalk 00:24:40].

Tim (24:40):

Yeah. So our auction house is going to be formatted similar to what we’ve seen actually where there’s a leaderboard and kind of these slots with multiple NFTs in them. For example, Justin Blau kind of innovated this and Nifty Gateway also adopted it on their platform. And what we noticed was, I mean, these are on centralized services currently and there were some mishaps that had happened and it’s really due to centralization and something that’s not unstoppable. And so I had the idea we should definitely just decentralize this kind of feature, create a reserve auction where you can put in multiple NFTs and auction them off as a group. What is pretty powerful about this is that it will allow a collector like myself, someone who’s collected a ton of NFTs to be able to kind of auction off a whole lot, all at once instead of individually. And yeah, just providing this kind of decentralized service for switching hands will be healthy for the market, will allow people to start trading. And yeah, so that’s on the front of the auction.

Tom (26:04):

And Tim, are there any existing sites where you can do an NFT auction today?

Tim (26:14):

So, there was Bounce Finance but it just wasn’t working for me. I think it stole my NFT that I deposited. I don’t know what happened. And it just wasn’t also like intuitive and easy to use.

Tom (26:28):

Ow do the fees work on?

Tyler (26:29):

I do want to say [inaudible 00:26:29] is our friend and he did invest in the project, so I don’t want to just like.

Tim (26:35):

Oh yeah, yeah.

Tyler (26:35):

He’s a supporter. Bounce just, I think it works now. Okay, The difference between us and Bounce just as big asterisk, because I don’t want to make anybody mad, especially like bag holders of Bounce. Bounce is a financial protocol and they’re really focused on NFTs for finance at this point. I don’t think that they’re playing in the art game, like quite as much other than some of the work they’re doing with BSC and Binance. So there isn’t a de-centralized DAO-driven auction market place that is focused on NFTs as art. Bounce is the closest thing to it. It’s focusing on them from a financial perspective, and I mean, if Bounce innovates, we’ll work with them in parallel, right?

Tyler (27:26):

They’re kind of off doing their own thing, we’re off doing our own thing, but there’s no… I don’t think there’s anything close to a DAO-driven NFT auction house, marketplace, minting component, none of it is DAO-driven. And I think a big component of that is even when we came out, I don’t want to get too deep into what like DAO first is. I think people can just Google that term DAO first and understand that we never had a legal entity, we never had a foundation. There was never a company involved in Universe. We started as a DAO and immediately started distributing the tokens to the people, thousands of people that were involved in this project. And those are the people that are going to run the protocol long-term, not us. And one of the biggest disconnects that we had with polymorphs when we launched is I don’t even think the NFT community understood what that meant or how powerful it was, which makes me even further know that nobody is…

Tyler (28:28):

I was talking about DAOs to people really high up in NFTs and they thought I had made this shit up. They thought I made up what a DAO was, and they were like, oh, how are you going to manage all of this? I was like, it’s not just me, there’s a whole ecosystem and industry working on innovating on DAOs. So we’re not doing this ourselves. So the short answer is I don’t even think people completely have grasped how powerful that is, which, and that makes me know that there’s nothing mainstream that’s doing it like that.

Tom (29:01):

Tyler, just to dig in there. I mean, what I’m getting from you with all of your answers is that you’re, with Universe, you guys are putting together all the components to allow somebody to basically create their own media empire within a specific segment, through minting marketplace, social media, et cetera, et cetera. But the core component of your thesis is that all of these different pieces are decentralized, whereas they all kind of exist today, but they’re all centralized and they’re all scattered. So you’re bringing it all together and it’s all decentralized at the same time. Just to hit on this, and I know you spoke to Kevin Rose about it, but the aggregation of all of these components is important, but the decentralization of it is the one that I’m not totally clear on. What is the goal or what is the reason for having all these pieces decentralized? Who are you protecting? What’s the long-term vision there?

Tyler (29:53):

I think the people that utilize the platform, I think that people self-regulate online communities better than centralized entities do. And by people, I mean like people in mass. Reddit did a very good job of self policing itself before the thought police got involved in it. One of the best things to do on Reddit was to like shit on the CCP and their treatment of Hong Kong and posts like Tiananmen Square stop. And then there’s this like Chinese company called Tenzing that bought into Reddit. And then all of a sudden, all that stuff disappeared. The people of Reddit that were users that the users are the ones that drive all the value, which these people sitting in cubicles in Silicon valley don’t understand.

Tyler (30:48):

Reddit is like a little bit their effort, but it’s more of the community’s effort. And I think the community should own that platform, at least from a governance perspective, on how things are essentially managed, how they’re curated, how they’re… how the rules on the platform are made. When I say de-centralization, I’m like, I want to de-centralize everything as much as like technologically possible, but that includes even at the governance layer. All these online platforms, anything you know about NFTs, from literally every single one of them is a centralized entity, like a CEO, they’re companies. They’re making the decisions. The only reason that they’re the little guy now and we’re all cheering for them is they just haven’t gotten to the Google level yet. But as soon as one of those NFT platforms is bigger than Twitter, who’s to say that they’re not going to start ripping off, like Tiananmen Square off an open sea, right?

Tyler (31:55):

The people who built all of these platforms are the people that are utilizing them and I think from the very get-go, we should be giving that power to the people before we get too greedy. Because I can’t tell you who the hell I’m going to be in 15 years, but I can tell you right now, I don’t want me in 15 years making that decision when I can just make it right now to give that power to the people.

Tom (32:16):

All right. That’s an awesome answer. So just to close the loop on what your Universe is, we talked about a lot of the components that you guys are bringing together, marketplaces, social media, minting, auctions, et cetera, to allow somebody to have like an end to end service with their NFT and their media. But the other thing you brought up is that the reason it’s decentralized is because the community can innovate on every single one of these core components and fashion the centralized company. And I think that’s kind of already clear because you guys have already innovated on the contracts and minting themselves because the ERC-721s you guys have are just custom, and you’re already iterating on that from what you’ve learned from the community. So I think that aggregation and community iteration is pretty powerful for you guys.

Tyler (33:03):

Well, even with polymorphs for instance, I think that the NFT community didn’t understand that when we dropped that, the biggest question was, okay, well polymorphs are kind of controlled by the XYZ community. And I just think they hadn’t done enough research when those drop to know what that meant. But every aspect, even Larva Labs, right, they’re sending like, what is a DCMA to people right now. I know GMoney went out and tried to talk to them about doing work with the Ape that he owns. And I’m not trying to trash on Larva Labs in any capacity, because like, I think they probably are like the OGs and most innovative people in the NFT space up to, I mean, even now. Look, they innovated a lot of things, even the concept of what a collection is in NFTs.

Tyler (34:04):

So I don’t want someone to listen to this and think I’m shitting on Larva Labs, I’m shitting on Punks. But at the end of the day, those people make all the decisions on that. Even down to our first NFT drop, the amount to scramble a polymorph of the way the bonding curve functions, whether or not we add additional traits, all of… Even like the actual polymorph themselves, is in the hand of the owner on what they want it to look like. It’s a hundred percent about putting the power back into the people that are using this, as opposed to me and Tim or Troy or anybody else just particularly getting rich off of other people minting polymorphs or other people doing stuff with it.

Tyler (34:50):

We’ve very much taken every effort to not put ourselves in a position to be able to make power plays with those, as soon as that doubt gets activated. And if that’s what we’re doing on our first NFT drop to put that much time and energy into making sure it functions that way, imagine what the platform is going to function in that capacity too, because that’s the biggest area where… I mean, you need that type of stuff.

Tim (35:20):

Yeah. And to some of the key differences, like Larva Labs and Bored Apes, there are these DAOs that kind of formed around it, but it wasn’t DAO first. All of the revenue and profits went directly to Larva Labs, went directly to the Board Apes team. And I mean, the Bored Apes team, they’re dope and the Larva Labs team, they’re dope, but if you really want it to be community driven, the community should be able to have some control over the funds that were profited. But it’s the actual DAO as a separate entity. So it’s not really the same. So the way we [crosstalk 00:35:55].

Tom (35:55):

One question for you there, Tim, just not to cut you off, but you bring up a good point and I’m not a massive punk like advocate or holder or anything like that, but it seems to me like there’s a dichotomy between what Larva Labs does to promote punks and what the community does to promote punks. And it seems like the community is way more aggressive and obviously building out their reach and exposure. What you’re saying is that through Universe, the owners and the creators are kind of one and the same.

Tyler (36:24):

Kind of what Punks didn’t ever sell Punk. So it’s a little bit different, right? They’re a little more clean and I think it’s appropriate that the punks owners left the project because you get into all sorts of regulatory conversations and that, if anyone’s looking at it at like a regulatory body, truly is a decentralized project that the community made it what it was essentially. And yeah, there’s centralized aspects, where I guess larva labs owns certain aspects of Punks and consume people over it. But the way it got to where it was, wasn’t a hundred percent by their efforts, but the biggest thing is when they draw Meebits, there was real money that was generated somewhere. It’s not like it went back to Punks holders. Punks owners got a free Meebit, right?

Tyler (37:16):

But they didn’t control the treasury. We raised $2 million with polymorphs and that didn’t go to Tyler, Tim, Troy, or anybody else on the team. It went to a DAO that we can’t even access that money to do anything with it, without the vote of the community that we set forth. And that’s probably the big difference that nobody’s… Nobody’s done that even at a collection level of NFTs, but definitely nobody’s done that on the auction and minting level. So it’s decentralized the whole tech stack as much as technologically possible, but put the power in the hands of the community as fast as possible because human greed’s a real thing, and you get… I mean, I wish I own more BarnBridge than I asked for in the very beginning. I’m probably going to wish I own more Universe. So be altruistic when you’re building, as opposed to when you built, because it’s very hard to look back and do it later once you’ve created something.

Tom (38:26):

That’s a really good point, Tyler. And I mean, I already hit on my thought, which surely was that the community driven-components could iterate fast in centralized companies. That’s very obvious. But do you think there might be an edge case where someone like an OpenSea or Nifty or whatever or maybe they have, not sure, decentralize it to the community and kind of goes throughout your talking? I feel like it’s impossible, but would love your take.

Tyler (38:50):

I hope they do. I think there’s components of the fact that their front-end interfaces. We’re going to run into this problem too, that it’s kind of like Zapper and DeFi. It’s a front end interface. So it makes it harder to decentralize where we’re looking into some of the tech stack to fix that. Let me put it this way. We could do an entire podcast on that question and I [crosstalk 00:39:24].

Tom (39:24):

[crosstalk 00:39:24] yeah.

Tyler (39:26):

So it’s not an easy answer. The short answer is that I hope that they do. I hope that they do give that power to the people through a DAO [crosstalk 00:39:35].

Tom (39:34):

I love that. Guys, just make sure we… I want to get to a couple other things while we have time, but polymorphs are truly innovative. What are the differences between polymorphs and other NFTs from a high level and why are people kind of going crazy for them right now?

Tyler (39:53):

I kind of almost wanted Tim to answer that because I wrote a whole blog post about it [crosstalk 00:39:57].

Tom (39:58):

Well, make sure I link to it, it’s a killer post.

Tyler (39:59):

Everybody’s heard my take, right? Or you can go Google it, but Tim, I feel like may have a unique, fresh look at it.

Tim (40:07):

I think I did mention like the main innovation there, the one the… All the proceeds went to a DAO to the URL to the assets, are controlled by the DAO as well. And so, it is currently pointing to an API on a centralized front-end, but once we do migrate over to decentralized services, the DAO can vote to maintain the project, to keep it running.

Tom (40:40):

Who controls that for Punks? It’s Larva Labs?

Tim (40:44):


Tom (40:45):

Got it. Okay.

Tyler (40:46):

Well, wait a second-

Tim (40:47):

I believe so.

Tyler (40:47):

… I don’t like you to know because Punks might have been minted on a theory of Mint NET, so I don’t know.

Tim (40:53):

Yeah, I’m not sure. Yeah, and I’ll check after the [crosstalk 00:40:54] itself, I’m not sure.

Tom (40:54):

Yeah, and I’ll check it after, so [crosstalk 00:40:55].

Tyler (40:55):

Let’s not [crosstalk 00:40:55] Punks because they were so early on. They’re not even in ERC-721s. There’s a very high likelihood that those Punks are minted on a theory of Mint NET, but it’s not financially viable to do that anymore. So let’s say every project after Avastars, that’s controlled by the project.

Tom (41:15):

Got it. Cool. Cool. Sorry to cut you off, Tim.

Tim (41:17):

Oh, no. All good. And then, yeah, the Rarities, like the rarities are what everyone thinks of these NFT collectibles are these predetermined, rarities and traits that are kind of depicted and as properties and visually. And so the innovation that George of Long-chain came up with is that the people decide the rarity. They can shuffle the traits and determine what is aesthetic? What is a full set of traits? And there was no predetermined rarity. Everything has the same chance to be rolled to get a specific trait. And so for people to come from this notion of, oh, rarity is beautifying to a completely different project that turns that on its head, I think was a good thing for the space?

Tom (42:20):

How do you guys think about that though?

Tyler (42:22):

If I [crosstalk 00:42:24].

Tom (42:24):

Yes, sorry.

Tyler (42:25):

We’re working with the community on an Excel spreadsheet on how we even determine, because I do actually want to say that Punks, I feel like I was really involved in Punks before people knew what Punks were, and I sold a lot of my Punks because I started BarnBridge. But I watched even some of the concepts of five, six attributes Punks like a lot of that stuff ended up being community driven and Larva Labs even dropped it in later. So I don’t want to say that like none of this stuff’s been community driven up to this point, but if you really look into polymorphs, it takes it a step further and we are going to release rarity components, but they’re not going to be based off individual features. It’s going to be feature pairing. So like there is rarity with polymers, it’s just a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot different than what the industry is releasing right now. And I don’t think people were ready for it, but it’s our job now to educate everybody going forward on what they actually are.

Tom (43:33):

So how how do you describe to somebody though that really understands Punks well? People that understand Punks well know that there’s four Punks, there’s punks with millions of dollars. How do you describe rarity to them when if I go buy a polymorph on OpenSea and let’s say, I go on the Universe site and re-roll it how exactly do I get a rare one? How does the whole rarity value dynamic work here?

Tyler (43:59):

I think that part, one thing that I do want is I want Tim to talk about some of like even like music components and stuff that he just worked on, because I feel like he deserves recognition, but I can just sum that up real quick to say, if you go read that article that I wrote about how polymorph rarity works, it’s community driven in and of itself where we map the entire thing on a genome. And we’re actually able to introduce new traits into the genome. So we can add like a tail on them, we could add a pet, we could add earrings, you could add bell. Basically improve once they’re already there. So the way that it will essentially work is, if you go look at my profile picture right now, I have an iguana with a soccer Jersey with two double livesabers that are both yellow.

Tyler (44:56):

That’s probably the only what you would call version of iguana with two double livesabers. But we’ve essentially mapped out with the community, all of the things that would be called full set. So someone who understands Punks would be like, okay, there’s six. There’s 6, 11, 6 attribute punks, right? Well those essentially are these 11. And so they’re rare because of this. There’s also like 24 Apes. I think there’s nine Aliens. On ours, it’s going to be like, well, there’s actually only one full astronaut alien with two double corn shooters with it essentially. And so we’ll basically as a community build out a rarity scale that you’ll actually know down to a T, like how rare is your actual polymorph. The difference between that is like, as punks get more and more and more popular, there’s this concept of floor Punks, and all of the current platforms operate off of like floor.

Tyler (46:06):

What is floor worth? What is floor worth. Well polymorphs, I don’t think it’ll ever matter what floor it is because there’s this concept of proof of work that has to do with minting Bitcoin that your effort and work is part of what creates value in the Bitcoin itself. Well, part of what is going to make people think something is more rare is the effort that people are willing to put into it, and then social consensus around aesthetics. So I don’t think that it’s… It’s not one-to-one with with Punks, but the number one thing that I like about polymorphs the most is, there’s not really going to be so such thing as a floor Punk, because one, if you put these things five, 10 years out and people have played around with them enough, then the floor one is just one that you can get and scramble and make look cooler, right?

Tyler (47:00):

It doesn’t have to be a floor. They can just all end up being dope, and if there ends up being a monopoly on a certain trait, then we’ll add new traits in. And so that it’ll add new rarities and factors into it and the DAO.

Tom (47:14):

Tyler, good question there, just to, not to cut you off, but you mentioned the idea of a full set or let’s say a polymorph that has specific attributes, like specific pants and shoes and left hand, right hand, et cetera. Can’t I buy a polymorph and just keep re-rolling the single traits until I get that or is there only one of this full set and existence?

Tyler (47:35):

No. So you can. The problem is [crosstalk 00:47:40]-

Tim (47:39):

But you need a… It’s on a bonding curve though.

Tyler (47:41):

… absolutely. I mean if you want to do that, nobody’s role to full set yet. Even to this point, right, there’s been, I think 48 spent on scrambling and rolling and nobody has a… They are close to it. There’s like some people that definitely have close to them, but if you extrapolate that over five years, yes, there’s going to be full sets, but then we can also… The DAO, we’ve… That’s what I’m saying. We mapped a full genome and I think it’s 93 traits and characteristics, we’ve only mapped 17. So there’s incentive right now to go and try to roll like a full alien astronaut costume with two corn shooters. I will buy that if someone rolls that. And basically as soon as that gets like rolled in, a lot of people have those, then we’ll introduce new traits into the polymorphs and then you’ll never want to roll that old one again. So that will just be set, right. And then it will be harder to roll that in the future. I don’t know. The game theory is music, it’s almost.

Tom (48:48):

And Tyler, how expensive Tim, to your point, how expensive would it be for me to buy a polymorph and either continue to scramble all or scramble specific features until I got that full set. It’s just an astronomical amount of money or how does the bonding curve work?

Tim (49:04):

It’s partially built on a lot, but the bonding is on single traits. And so it starts at point out to it and it basically exponentially goes up every time you roll. The scrambling resets, the bonding curve, so it’s 0.01, so you best bet. Part of the reason that I think we haven’t seen more people morphing is because we haven’t released some type of rarity thing. I think when we do, they’ll start morphing and they’ll start playing around more because you almost want to scramble, scramble, scramble, scramble, scramble until you get three similar traits, right. But it’s not cheap. I mean, nobody’s done it yet. There’s not a set price. You could get really lucky and do it for less than a [inaudible 00:49:54]. You can get really unlucky and spend 50 doing it, like.

Tom (49:58):

Well, the other thing to keep in mind, I guess, is there’s not an unlimited amount of polymorphs to even try to scramble, right. There’s only 10,000. So I mean, you have to not only get one, but I mean, granted they’re cheap now, but you not only have to get one, but there’s the supply aspect there and then the obvious scramble aspect of the bonding curve. It’s pretty like the game theory between buying a full set and trying to scramble for one is definitely kind of interesting.

Tim (50:27):

Yeah. I mean, it’s like proof of work. I mean, it’s very similar to Bitcoin’s algorithm for rarity and scarcity versus like, I don’t even know what you call CryptoPunks, but I’m sure they’ll write stories in a couple of years about it and they’ll have names for all this shit. We just kind of launched it with different… they’re definitely innovative. There are a lot more innovative than just like copy paste, like avatar projects. People can say what they want about the R, but the game theory and the technology is a lot different than anything anyone’s seen. I think it took people five years to figure out what Punks were. Even a year ago, I heard people shit talking about Punks saying that that pixel art wasn’t cool and these things are never going to take off because the art was ugly.

Tim (51:24):

And last week Jay-Z made his point, right? So people can say what they want about the art being ugly. It doesn’t even offend me, I didn’t make the art. I think they’re fucking dope, I think they’re awesome and I think they’ll stand the test of time and I think we’ll be talking about them for a long time. It may be three years before people realized the beauty of what they are and then they take off. Maybe they never take off. I don’t really care. All I know is we made something cool. It’s a mixture between art and technology. I think it’s worth talking about and I’m here for it. That’s [crosstalk 00:51:55].

Tom (51:55):

I think the bonding curve aspects, the re-rolling and rolling for specific traits is super interesting. One of my last questions on polymorphs is just what are the edge factors in your opinion? You have the ability to add attributes through the doubt of these, which could impact the value of those that are existing, but you also, I guess, have the ability to take away aspects, right?

Tim (52:17):

No, we can’t. Okay. So there was some miscommunication, when we started it. We can’t take anything away and we can’t add new attributes into the ones that exist. We can’t make helmets, right? The helmets are set. We can’t make new characters, the characters are set. We can add in new traits. We can add in a tail or the polymorph having a pet or something in the background or eyebrow piercing, right. But we cannot, you can’t subtract and that’s really important because they are immutable, right. We can’t make your polymorph more shitty. If you’ve done the work to make it cool, we cannot subtract or even add to it unless you do something as the owner to call the contract.

Tom (53:14):

Got it. No, polymorphs are super cool, and I mean, it’s cool because you’re basically bootstrapping Universe, right? You’re showing people what you can do with the tech, which is really cool. But guys, I’d love to kind of close out by talking about your foundation Tim. Let’s dive into it. I’ll let you kind of take the reins here. It’s super interesting to be doing incredible work. You kind of pitched a little before we got started, so please go off [crosstalk 00:53:38].

Tim (53:38):

Yeah. We’d love to talk about it. So, it’s been something that I’ve been building on my own with the help of support from kind of leading artists and a space in the space and it’s charity to help elevate and put up… Oh yeah, I mentioned this, our artists that are disadvantaged and around the world to take over, take hold of this opportunity, but kind of what it evolved into was something I believe is quite innovative and it’s a platform that allows people to start curate together. And it was kind of like a proof of concept to see if curation as a community really works. And we’ve launched two exhibitions, one being the Genesis Grant, which was for inviting new artists submit their first NFT. And then we had David Ariew you who had his community get NFT create works that represented what distorted reality meant to them.

Tim (54:47):

And it was curated by some amazing, amazing artists including, people like Katherine, David Ariew, Chelsea, Evan Star. These people, they all voted together on what they thought was really meeting the vision of the exhibition. And yeah, it’s really putting artists up a kind of in a spotlight in a curated exhibition and it’s coming soon. We have Paris Hilton doing one for the female perspective and women’s empowerment. And so this kind of platform that I built I’d really hope stands the test of time because I think arts and galleries and exhibitions should be themed, should be curated, should be making cultural relevance and statements about what’s happening right now. For example, this space is very predominantly male, white male heavy and so really uplifts artists, and we would love to work with block NFT art, the group, and hopefully herstoryDAO.

Tim (56:03):

But these groups that are really voicing themselves and should very much deserve the recognition that others are getting. So I really hope this kind of foundation really stands the test of time when people look back and see what, during this kind of start to NFTs, what was culture… What was really making an impact and helping people and in an honest and genuine way.

Tom (56:32):

Yeah, Tim, I think it’s incredible and it’s admirable. I guess my one critical question for you would be how do you incentivize people to curate and get involved? Because as we know, everybody’s just looking for a paycheck somewhere.

Tim (56:46):

Yeah. It’s tough. There is no financial incentive. It’s just like, I just hope that there are people that see the vision and would like to contribute through their kind of their own will and participate. And so we actually just announced that we’re having a new exhibition called decentralized where the artworks need to represent what decentralization means. And we hope that this kind of challenges artists to think about how that’s represented and what this technology is actually doing and hope. Yeah we hope to like.

Tom (57:28):

It’s okay. Anyone submit to that exhibition. If I, let’s say I got creative a creative piece, can I submit it?

Tim (57:33):

Yeah. It’s open submission. And then the curation is… For this particular exhibition, we want the entire community to come in and curate. And so we hope, we hope that it’s the largest community curated art show. And for NFTs in history, and.

Tom (57:52):

Now, this is sick. And Tim, sorry, one other question for you because I’m just, now I’m super interested. How are you sure though, that the people sending the artwork are from underprivileged areas or emerging artists? How do you know they’re not super well-known [crosstalk 00:58:08].

Tim (58:07):

Yeah. I mean, all we have, what’s required is submitting. You need to link your Twitter, your Instagram, a website. And so that’s really all we have to go off of, and hopefully, the curation teams vet that after they select artworks that they like. And so that’s, I think that as much as we can do. But yeah, that’s kind of ongoing thing, especially… I mean, it is different because it’s not very like anonymous, but some people do choose to be anonymous, but I think that’s what we can do. If it becomes problematic, we’d have to do some further kind of vetting, but for now, that’s what we’re doing, and.

Tom (58:55):

Yeah, you’re solving an awesome avenue here. This is this incredible work, and I love the URL, is just so memorable.

Tim (59:03):

Yeah, I was so happy when I saw that that was available. I was like, yes, let’s do it.

Tom (59:08):

Yeah, no, I definitely want to point everyone to check out [crosstalk 00:59:11].

Tyler (59:11):

Is it available or you had to buy it. It was available like you pay [crosstalk 00:59:16].

Tim (59:16):

Okay, primary domains that shows like, all right.

Tyler (59:20):

$10 [crosstalk 00:59:20].

Tim (59:22):

Yap, $10 is available.

Tom (59:23):

[crosstalk 00:59:23]. Make sure you throw auto renew on man.

Tim (59:26):

It’s important for now. Exactly, well, it’s on that’s for sure.

Tom (59:29):

Geez. Well guys, this has been incredible. Really appreciate you guys carving out time for this. I’m super excited for Universe, the part of it. Love the vision and shout out Tim for It’s incredible. I definitely want everyone to check it out, but thanks so much for coming on guys.

Tim (59:46):

Thanks for having me and thanks for having us.

Tyler (59:49):

Yeah, me too.

Show Notes:

(2:20) – First Question – Tyler´s Intro.

(3:21) – Tim´s Intro.

(4:26) – What is Universe.

(10:39) – Walkthrough Universe’s components.

(14:18) – Differences between minting on Universe vs. other platforms.

(21:23) – Chance of other NFT minting platforms rerouting the metadata to Arweave or putting it on something unstoppable.

(25:03) – Universe’s Auction House.

(29:56) – Reason behind decentralization of Universe’s components.

(36:03) – Tyler’s thoughts on the dichotomy between what Larva Labs does to promote punks and what the community does to promote punks.

(39:33) – Differences between polymorphs and other NFTs / why people are going crazy for them right now.

(41:09) – Tim and Tyler’s thoughts on Rarities / How to describe rarity to somebody that understands Punks well / how does the rarity value dynamic work.

(46:52) – Polymorph: Rolling and Re-rolling / how expensive is to buy it / bonding curve aspects.

(52:52) – The Foundation / how to incentivize people to curate and get involved.