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A year after the Moonbirds NFT drop, Rose talks about how Proof is now putting more emphasis on art and the “weird dynamic” of running Web3 projects.


A year after the Moonbirds NFT drop, Rose talks about how Proof is now putting more emphasis on art and the “weird dynamic” of running Web3 projects.

Nearly a year to the day after the huge Moonbirds NFT drop, Proof co-founder and CEO Kevin Rose is standing outside a gallery show that the collective put on during NFT NYC 2023 week and telling Decrypt why his Web3 startup recently refocused on digital art, artists, and fans.

“When everything is just “up and to the right” and crazy and chaotic, like the whole crazy run-up we saw [in the NFT market], it’s easy to lose your true north,” Rose said. “Because you’re always running, running, running, running, and you’re so busy with all the chaos that you don’t have time to sit down and say, ‘Okay, what do we really stand for?'”

Since the April 2022 Moonbirds mint, Proof has had a very up and down year. At the start, there was a lot of interest in the Ethereum profile pictures (PFPs), which led to about $280 million worth of deals in the first two days. Proof got money from its successful start and again a few months later. It quickly grew its team and had big plans.

But the NFT market fell soon after the mint, and some users didn’t agree with Proof’s move to let anyone use and sell the artwork from Moonbirds. And some of its ideas didn’t work out. This year’s Proof of Conference was canceled because there wasn’t enough interest, and a “social universe” site for Project Highrise was also scrapped.

“There’s a lot to do. It turns out that building a great business takes a long time. “You can’t finish it in less than a year,” Rose said. “I know we get some crap sometimes, but it’s hard to build in public. So, if you show all of your dirty clothes, your community has to be willing to accept that it will get messy along the way.”

Ben Horowitz, a friend of Rose’s and co-founder of the huge venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, told him that “it’s better to be right than consistent.” And for Proof, that meant putting more emphasis on digital art and collecting and getting rid of projects that weren’t working or didn’t fit with that goal.

At NFT NYC, this meant that Proof would use its resources and contacts to put on special events just for collectors. “Evolving Pixels,” the gallery show at Venus Over Manhattan mentioned above, was put together by generative artist Emily Xie (“Memories of Qilin” on Art Blocks) and included works by generative and AI-assisted artists.

Rose said that Proof has already been focused on “curation with a point of view,” which can be seen in its exclusive Grails mints for Proof Collective NFT users. However, it wanted to invite other well-known curators to join in as well.

Proof also held a private event with Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, the artist behind the top NFT sale of all time, for only 400 of its community members. At the event, Beeple made a piece of art live while taking ideas from the crowd. In the end, only 10 NFTs of the artwork were made and given to a few guests.

Even though the main NFT NYC 2023 event was much less exciting than last year’s, the side events put on by projects, communities, and companies still had flashes of the Web3 peak energy. Rose said that the vibes at the events he hosted or went to were still good, but he did say that the NFT bear market has been hard on almost every artist.

“Holy shit have the last few months been tough, right? Every NFT collection has been impacted in some way,” Rose said. “But we’re finally getting to a place where I think we’re kind of bottoming out, and people are like, ‘Okay, these are the people that are going to continue to build this space, and they’re going to be for the next decade to come.’”

Rose became well-known in Web2 as a co-founder of Digg. He later joined Google as part of an acqui-hire, and then he became a venture capitalist with Google Ventures and then True Ventures, where he is still a partner. He said that working in the unpredictable world of Web3 and making in the open has been a big shock to his mind.

“No one’s been a part of something like this that’s been this much of a roller coaster like that,” Rose said of the NFT market, “outside of, say, the stock market in general—but even that is way more defined and more stable than what this has been.”

Rose said that for every happy NFT buyer who bought an asset low and sold it high, there is someone who bought it high and may be unhappy. Proof can’t control how the market moves, but Rose says that one of the things they’ve learned in the last year is how and when to talk to buyers and when to change direction if they need to.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s a really strange situation,” he said. He added that Proof’s goods are focused on providing events, NFT mints, and other exclusive chances that provide “value [that] has to be seen over years. It can’t just happen in three months.”

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About MahKa

MahKa loves exploring the decentralized world. She writes about NFTs, the metaverse, Web3 and similar topics.

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