DCentral Miami has yet again brought well-known NFT enthusiasts together to share their knowledge and experiences with NFT. In this episode, Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney, Josh Kriger bring together two great interviews. First they chat with James Lawrence, CEO of NFTY Labs, a blockchain studio and incubator for the next generation of NFT technology. After that catch an awesome conversation with Shane Lightowler of Euler Beats. James takes us in on a new perspective as he discusses how NFTs can serve as digital keys to unlock new worlds. James shares which areas he thinks NFTs can make a huge difference in and how he’s working on achieving that goal. Shane Lightowler gives an inside look on an incredible project mixing music, art and math that Mark Cuban and many others are wild over. Listen in for exclusive access to conversations at DCentral Miami and Art Basel with key leaders in NFT tech and culture.
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Digital Lawrence (NFTY Labs) & Shane Lightowler (Euler Beats) @ dCentral Miami & Art Basel
This episode is one of an incredible series we’re sharing from our visit to DCentralCon Miami in Art Basel from November 30th through the first week of December 2021. Keep reading for exclusive access to conversations with key NFT tech and culture leaders. These sessions cut right from one hot interview to the next, without much chatter in between to give you the feeling of being there and listening in on various key conversations. We’ll introduce our guests as they enter. Enjoy.
This next session features James Lawrence, CEO of NFTY Labs, a blockchain studio and incubator for the next generation of NFT technology. James, welcome.
Thanks for having me.
It’s great to have you here. We’d love for you to take a minute to expound a little bit about who you are and NFTY Labs before we launch into some questions.
I’m Lawrence. Most people call me Digital Lawrence. I’ve been on crypto Twitter since 2017. My background in crypto is I was a private investor and then moved into a public commenter. I did the conference circuit in 2017, ’18, and ’19, mostly overseas. I spent about two years in Asia. I got back to America right before COVID hit and have been in America since. At the end of 2020, our team and I decided to launch NFTY Labs. It was prompted by what we thought NFTs would be big and had like a general base product we wanted to build people wanted. We started building that. It’s been about a year of the process and we tried to expand it the best we could.
Was there a moment like that you can point to where you said, “This was the trigger for me seeing what’s possible with NFTs?”
I hate to say it, but I feel with most things in crypto, most of the time when you see the money that’s happening. You’re like, “Something’s happening here?” I remember, with DeFi Summer, I had a buddy in Osaka, Japan at Eth DevCon telling me like, “DeFi’s going to be massive like Uniswap.” This was right before it came out and I was like, “That’s cool.” I didn’t listen and missed out on ten million X gains. The same group of people was like, “NFT’s are going to be big.”
I’m like, “You can’t make the same mistake twice,” hopefully, not. I wasn’t as fast-moving as other people on it, but near the end of 2020, I saw a lot of projects starting to launch NFTs and things like that. I’ve seen it evolve and I’m sure you had to in 2021. It’s matured rapidly, the whole market. It was the same people that were saying, “Don’t miss DeFi or don’t miss NFTs.” I was like, “I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.” I started doing research going down the rabbit hole.
It’s tough, those moments, but they’re learning moments.
In life, there are a lot of things you can miss out on too. Pursuing one thing, you miss out on others. We call this show the Edge of NFT. I think I speak for us all when we feel we’re riding this crazy wave. You never know what’s coming next. That philosophy of the best way to predict the future is to create it. That’s part of what you’re doing and what we’re doing. That’s a good sign.
On that note, tell us about how the idea came together for NFTY Labs and how you assembled the team for it?
Pretty much somebody was saying, “There needs to be a Discord server that you could only join if you own an NFT.” One of my buddies is a developer and I was like, “How quick can we build this? How quick can we spin it up and make something happen?” He was like, “I don’t know. Maybe two weeks.” I was like, “Let’s do it.” This was last October 2021. We had a general basic beta that would always break out in three weeks. We were like, “This is crap. How can we make it better?”
We started putting it on Twitter. We were going to call it like the NFTY Dow. We wanted to make a Dow of all the big NFT projects. We realized that the whole market was moving so quickly. It’s hard to get ten projects on the same page towards a singular goal. We’re like, “We’ll do it ourselves. We were going to try to involve more people.” We hired another guy and started growing the team. We started putting the product out there.
More and more communities were like, “This is cool. This token-gated Discord is awesome. Can you do Telegram?” We’re like, “That’s cool.” They were like, “Can you token-gate protected links?” We’re like, “Yeah, we could do that.” The general concept of token gating or a verifiable authentication through digital assets was like, “That could be the next big thing.” You can get whitelisted into things based upon the digital asset you own. The way we think about it is if you have like an American Express Black Card in the ’80s, you could probably do anything you wanted. We’re saying that NFTs can serve as digital keys to unlock new worlds.
It’s interesting how that one feature has unlocked so many elements of community and then underlies what’s happening in NFTs. To be able to do that, all the utility that’s being tied in. VeeFriends is a great example. They launched with this idea in mind that we can do so much more with these things but you need the underlying tools to unlock this capability.
It almost makes me think you’ve got these password managers, like, “I’ve got to log in to this site and this site.” If you have one password for your MetaMask and all those sites recognize your NFTs, password managers got to make a run for their money there.
That’s 100% what we’re thinking. In the future, each NFT will serve as your username password to different services. For example, on Netflix, you pretty much put in your credit card and have to create a username and password, which is cool because fiat is helpful at times, banking and debit cards. You can’t live without them at this point but there are also some drawbacks to giving people your personal identified information like username, password and email. There are data leaks and things like that. As a consumer, you miss out on any growth that a company has of you is like a ten-year Netflix subscriber. The way we’re thinking about it is you could mint a yearly NFT for Netflix and you’re web connection.
DCentral Miami 2: Token gating could be the next big thing where you can get whitelisted into things just based on the digital asset you own.
If you own that yearly subscription NFT, let’s say it’s valid for 2022. Essentially at any time, you can cancel your membership and sell it on the open market. If Netflix decides to bake any rewards into that Web 3.0 community, it’s possible you can participate in some of Netflix’s upside. If you own Netflix stock and you’re a Netflix subscriber, there’s no crossover. You get no benefit besides seeing the movies. The way we see it, NFTs allow you to fractionalize brand ownership in the future.
We had Yohei, who created this pixel-based project. He’s a programmer, so he knew how to do it. It’s something he spun up quickly reminiscent, but not so complex as Discord. If you own an NFT, you get into a private chat community. These types of things are so simple. In terms of the process, where do you see yourselves? You’ve gotten through beta. Where are you in the launching process of what you guys have going?
We launched our first product in real life. It’s been the most remote team. Everything we’re doing with people is remote, but we decided to launch our Web 3.0 ticketing at the conference. Essentially, it’s like a simple thing where you connect your wallet. We verify you on a specific digital asset. From there, we can whitelist and generate you a one-on-one ticket that’s off-chain. You could take that ticket to get into an event in the future.
Essentially, you could whitelist any PFP project to get into Coachella if they wanted to make that agreement. Once we verify that your wallet has the required digital asset, we can generate you a one-on-one ticket, and then we can scan you in at the door. We built that end to end. Essentially, what that does is allows you to approve that people not only claimed a ticket but they also showed up. We also have their wallets pseudo anonymously linked to their attendance.
Essentially, we know what wallet address showed up. Essentially, you connect your wallet to NFTYConnect.com. You walk by the booth and show us your one-on-one QR code that was generated. We scan you in. You’re on the airdrop whitelist. It’s a new way because there is another way to do NFT ticketing. We felt like that was a bit complicated to ask people to move digital assets outside the door of a conference, especially with limited WiFi and security risks.
You don’t want people walking around with their CryptoPunks or Bored Ape on the phone at night in front of a club. We thought it was a better solution to generate them an off-chain delegated ticket that says like, “This paper ticket that you’re getting represents that, at home, on your hardware, you own this digital asset.”
We’ve been dealing with this as we’re thinking about our event coming up in February 2022, NFTLA. It’s so interesting. We do have some NFTs out there. It’s a select group of folks called Spirit Seeds. They get a VIP ticket as part of these. There are only 100 of them. It’s a small group. We’ve been talking about how do we get them the fricking tickets in a way that makes sense? If you drop it on-chain and it’s like the QR code you’re using to check-in, it’s accessible and transparent and anybody could use it. How do you do that? This is a solution for that.
You have those 100 NFTs that you want to whitelist into the event. You would essentially build a token gate or a ticket gate on NFT Connect. It takes five minutes. You essentially put the contract with the address you want to whitelist for that NFT. Essentially, there’s like custom parameters you can do, but on the base level, that’s it. You would have an event bright style page. It’s like, “These tickets are available for 500, maybe Ethereum or fiat or if you have one of these NFTs, click here.” We’ll authenticate your wallet. It’s loading one second, we ping a node and make sure the person has it. We’ll snapshot that wallet to make sure they don’t send it to their friend to get another ticket.
You got to make sure it doesn’t change hands a million times. We snapshot it, check their wallet, generate the ticket and then we can associate that this wallet had this NFT on this date. This NFT can’t be re-used. In a sense, your ticket is locked in. You’re given a PNG file. That’s a one-on-one gas list. It’s an image file and you show up with that. The next step essentially could turn those into NFTs, a layer two as a commemorative ticket, but there are problems with putting a QR code that is for you only on the blockchain before the event. People will be like, “I got that. Here’s my ticket.”
Maybe we have a Spirit Seed check-in at NFTLA.
I definitely think we’re going to be adding a little layer of icing on that particular VIP access.
It sounds crazy that we didn’t know it, but we were picking a date. We picked February 22nd. Ethan was going on the weekend before trying to find a good day. We had some other dates on the calendar and it’s 2-22-22. We got the angel number. We had no clue about it. It happened to be the case. That’s the launch date.
What categories of NFT are you most interested in? What are you watching? What do you think is cool?
I’m fascinated by the PFP projects. There are a couple of projects that everybody knows about that went from zero to hero in six months that are crossing over into the mainstream, the cover magazines. That’s super fascinating to see how many collections can reach into that tier. Can there only be 2, 5? Can the industry support 50? That’s going to serve as a good gauge on how rapidly we can get new people into this industry, which is how many Tier A projects can it support? Watching that is super cool. I keep hearing photography NFTs are supposed to blow up in 2022.
I keep seeing that on Twitter. All these other people are like, “Trust me.” Gary Vee even said it. That’s interesting. I personally think one of the reasons why NFTs have blown up so much is the profile pictures. It makes people feel a part of the community. It gives people a digital home, a home base, someone you can associate with. It’s like all being in the same high school or sports team or things like that. There is shared camaraderie. I find those the most fascinating. There are some that are really cool, like one of the ones, amazing digital artists.
There are some that are a little more financially motivated. They have NFTs that have essentially other assets underneath them. It’s like how Uniswap is using NFTs to represent LP position now. There are some ways to use NFTs directly with financial motives. They attach either underlying liquidity or things like that. I liked the PFPs the best right now.
DCentral Miami 2: In the future, each NFT will serve as your username password to different services.
One of our guys on our team bought a Bored Ape when they came out pretty much or in the first month or something. He wears this Bored Ape hoodie. We’re all in the lobby of the hotel. Some dude’s like, “Shout out Bored Ape.” I’m like, “Okay.” It crosses over. Sometimes, maybe years ago, but you don’t see that with a Bitcoin or Ethereum t-shirt these days. No, one’s like, “Shout out, Bitcoin.” These are a pretty strong community.
It’s pretty special. One of the things we always talk about is the metafunction of what’s happening right now. There may not be for some projects, a ton of utility behind them, others more so, but generally speaking, not. They’re a lot of fun and it attracts people into the space. It gets them interested. They start learning about it. They go down the rabbit hole and there’s no stopping it once you’ve done that. That’s what we look at and it’s fun. Fun matters.
It definitely does. This conference is a lot more fun than a crypto conference. Maybe it’s a bull market. I’m thinking back to the bear market conferences, but the NFT crowd is a whole new crowd. It’s not the same crypto crowd. It’s almost a whole parallel community. There is a crossover, but not as much as you would think.
It’s definitely evolving. We think of evolution, in your mind, for NFTY Labs, what are the next steps? Where are you guys going from here?
We see it as we have a traditional side of our company and a smart contract side of our company. We have traditional web products and mobile apps coming out. It’s all related to the authentication of digital assets and the used cases for them. That’s what we’ve been working on hard, trying to hit scale. We’ve talked to a lot of big brands and even big crypto companies that want to utilize us. We’re like, “We can’t handle a 40,000-person event check-in. We are focused on scaling that up.” On the other side, we first launched an entity with 40 NFTs when we first launched in 2021.
Essentially, those have turned into early access to our core early community. That whitelists them into all our product suites. Earlier this summer, we launched the NFTY token. It’s a cool thing. Essentially, it’s going to turn into an access-to-earn economy, similar to play-to-earn. We’re copying that a bit. I’ll admit it. Essentially, you get rewarded for access.
The whole token side of the company is starting to go pretty good. Our stake platforms have 80% of all the supply staked. We’re going to turn that into a mechanism where essentially you can burn your token and get back the NFT. We’re going to do exotic NFT token things in the future. It’s heads down grind until the end of the year. In 2023, we will try to roll out this product suite even bigger.
It’s an exciting path. I know the founder of ID.me. He is a fellow West Point Navy. He’s an awesome guy and I look at everything they’ve done with ID.me. It started with creating verification of veterans and first responders and whatnot for discounts at any number of different locations. It’s grown into this massive thing where people are plugging in and even to governments now for different ID functions. It’s clearly going to go in the direction of NFTs in the future. I wonder about big companies like that. I don’t know that it’s a user on the roadmap. I haven’t heard anything from them, but it feels like either collaboration or straight-out targeting those markets make a ton of sense going forward for companies like yours.
We talked to a couple of the big public gaming companies. I don’t even know how we ended up on their radar. One of our cofounders put a tweet thread and, like some big guy from a massive company, hit us up and was like, “Can we like talk about NFTs?” A couple of other massive public companies we’ve spoken to as well. This is my opinion. They’re all looking at it. I think their biggest hurdle is legal. It’s so unclear regulation, especially for large public companies.
They’re like, “We want to get in, but we need to run it by our council. We are a $100 billion company, so we have 200 lawyers.” That’s what it seemed to me. They’re bogged down by bureaucracy. If they YOLO’d it, all the big companies would be doing it already. They’re public companies and regulated by different groups. For the most part, they are hesitant.
Some of them have been more YOLO than others. Twitter did their NFTs, but they specifically made it so they won’t get any royalties. They would sell it for $100 and that’s it. They felt it was a safe bet. They didn’t talk about it and things like that. I’m thinking as more brands dip their toes in, more brands would feel more comfortable, but I think it’s legal at this point. Why not? They’re not all-in.
It’s legal, bureaucracy and all of that. It’s a bummer on one side because they have the resources to make some waves and do some cool stuff. On the other side, it’s interesting because you got everybody who can like to bootstrap it, make something happen and disrupt the entire industry, which is pretty cool too.
It’s been great hearing from you. There are many cool paths that the company has taken already. I think it’s going to make some waves going forward here. We’ll definitely want to keep an eye on everything you’re doing. I know our readers will want to as well. Where should they go to follow you in the company?
I think our primary source of information is our Twitter account, @NFTYLab. Everything gets aggregated there. From there, there’s like spinoffs. We have multiple language channels on Telegram. We have quite a few. We’re in six languages and Discord as well. We have a Linktree on our Twitter that connects to Medium, YouTube and Instagram. If you go to our Twitter, that’ll get you started.
Thanks again for exploring this amazing and accompanying us.
We were catching Shane right before his trip back to London. Shane, thanks for joining us. I hope it was a good week for you. We’d love your thoughts on how the week went and maybe a little introduction about yourself and the project.
I’ve been here for DCentral Miami and Art Basel stuff. It’s been epic. I’ve been here with the rest of EulerBeats team essentially to spread the gospel of EulerBeats. We’re on the verge of dropping our new release, our third drop, FUTURA. I’ve been out and about talking to people to spread the gospel.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and the project and how you got into the mix?
I am the Product Lead for EulerBeats on the Treum team. Treum now being fully part of ConsenSys. I came on to the team in July, essentially to stir FUTURA through to realization. Most EulerBeats fans will know we dropped two releases back in February and March 2021. They were hugely successful. I was one of the OG community members for those drops at the time.
That’s essentially how I came to be in the EulerBeats world. I kept with the project to get close with the team. I spotted an opportunity to come in and directly contribute. That is my massive pleasure to be doing. We’ve been working on FUTURA as a dedicated team. I’m being truthful here. I’m an NFT degen through and through.
FUTURA is one of the deepest, most complex, most ambitious NFT projects that I’ve had a chance to be a part of either as a contributor or a community member. What we’re doing is generative art and music to a level that is beyond what we did back in February, March. We’re trying to push the boundaries and create what we’re describing as a roadmap for EulerBeats into the future that has genuine longevity.
Some of the reasoning there is around, we can’t do continuous music and drops where we ourselves are the artists. What we’re doing with FUTURA is we are laying the groundwork for a platform, which we will intend to collaborate with artists big and small, so that you, as an artist, can come to EulerBeats, collaborate with us to do a generative project utilizing the blockchain for royalties.
You’ve mentioned EulerBeats and FUTURA a couple of times. Can you give a quick idea of the distinction between the two?
EulerBeats is the brand. FUTURA is the name of the third drop. Genesis and Enigma are the names of drops one and two. FUTURA is drop three.
We were listening to a little interview that I think you’ve gotten a lot of miles out of Mark Cuban. He says, “The most genius project ever,” that’s a great quote. In it, he explains how he enjoyed the bonding curve aspect and how there was not only Math and Science baked into the art and music, but also into how the price is going to change according to who’s buying it and stuff like that. Can you explain the thought that was put into that and how those ideas we came up with?
It’s definitely true to say we’ve gotten loads of mileage out of that quote from Mark. Bonding curve mechanics were one of the major factors behind EulerBeats brand landing in the NFT marketplace in February, March. It wasn’t by any means. We weren’t the first NFT project to put our NFTs for sale on a bonding curve, nor were we the first project to be NFTs of generative music/art, but the two in combination with the royalties mechanism that the bonding curve enabled for us. I’m pretty sure in saying we were the only project at the time to have all three of those things running at the same time. That’s what made it novel.
The bonding curve is an interesting one because the bonding curve is not something that we are implementing for FUTURA. That was a purposeful decision on our part. Although, we liked the bonding curve for what it enabled back in Genesis and Enigma. By that, this arbitrage game where subsequent people buy prints, you already enabled to sell your print for more than the price that you bought it for. That’s cool but it’s not all good in the sense that you can be a loser in that game.
If you buy a print at a high price and then others sell, you’re sitting on an NFT, which you can’t get back the money that you paid. There’s a balance to be struck in these commercial considerations. That’s something that we wanted to take into FUTURA. How could we still be novel? How could we still permit a blockchain-based royalty scheme?
There are some challenges with the bonding curve that we purposely didn’t want to have to tackle or create in the marketplace for FUTURA. The focus of FUTURA is royalties for musicians. Not as necessarily an arbitrage game for NFT collectors. We want to promote scarcity for NFTs. That is something that the bonding curve made difficult.
If you look at secondary marketplace activity for EulerBeats, keep in mind, we have this notion of OG, LP originals and prints being on the bonding curve. There’s next to no secondary activity for prints because they’re on a bonding curve. There are tradeoffs for FUTURA and EB Artists because these will be collaborations with real artists. The music won’t be coming from ourselves. We certainly want to encourage secondary activities scarcity in the NFTs that are output. For those reasons, the bonding curve is out.
What artist are you collaborating with now and in the future?
I can’t name names because it’s a secret. We’re certainly talking with many musicians, both big and small, not necessarily all from electronic music, which you might expect given how EulerBeats have traditionally sounded. FUTURA indeed is more on the EDM techno house vibe. We want to collaborate with artists who are original and have something interesting to say. Certainly, if you feel as an artist, music producer, musician that you want to be involved in generative art, generative music NFTs, get in touch with us. We’re easy to find at EulerBeats.com. We can have a sit-down conversation and think about how we might deliver that for you in collaboration.
We certainly know some EDM artists and non-EDM artists that would be excited about collaborating. We’ll have to put them in touch.
Are the doors open and closed on various projects? FUTURA closed and then other future projects are what people would be reaching out about?
The door is closed on FUTURA. It’s literally about to launch, but the door is very much open for our future drops, which we’re describing will come under the broad umbrella of EB Artists, we’re calling it. That will be the platform.
I’m browsing the website. You guys chose to do a metaverse in Cryptovoxels. I’m curious why you chose Cryptovoxels and what plans you have for your Metaverse and these cool headphones that get you access?
There are two Cryptovoxels headphone drops that we’ve done. One is leading into FUTURA as our mixed pass concept. Those are out in the marketplace now. There are still some for sale if you want to grab them. The first one was back in August September 2021, when we did drop free headphones in Cryptovoxels, the concept for that was very much about utility for original EulerBeats holders. This is an extension of the bonding curve conversation. One thing that we are very mindful of is out of the box by default, and there’s not a lot of utility for EulerBeats print holders specifically.
The game is very much in favor of OG, LP owners. This has been driving a lot of effort for EB Artists and FUTURA. Our thinking has been, “How can we add value to those holders who are the people in the community that has been with us the longest?” Cryptovoxels wearable came about from a conversation, “What is something easy that we can do that we can deliver something that is cool looking that might even have some value in the marketplace?” That is what we did.
DCentral Miami 2: NFTs have blown up so much because the profile pictures make people feel like a part of the community and gives them a digital home, a home base, or someone they can associate with.
The cool feature was we implemented what we described as a token-gated vending machine in Cryptovoxels. I’m not sure it had been done before, whereby you go to the vending machine. If you happen to hold EulerBeats, we will send you these free headphones, which you could then use to access the building and the puzzle. Inside that building, it was a very small thing.
That was the first alpha of information on FUTURA, leading into EB Artists. That’s where the thinking came from. That’s not to say that’s the only utility or implementation or NFT drop that we would look to facilitate through Cryptovoxels or metaverses in general. We do have plans to launch events in the metaverse, but that is down the track. It’s very much a watch in this space.
We appreciate you squeezing us in before you run back to your home. I think we’ve covered a little bit of this, but we want to make sure before you go that we get information on how people can find out more and follow you and whatever you’d like to send them towards. Why don’t we take care of that and get that out of the way?
This was exciting and we are glad we could connect. Obviously, there’s a lot more we can dive into here and some upcoming news that hopefully, we can break the scoop on the next time you are around or connect virtually. Thanks for joining us, Shane. We appreciate your time.
Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.
I think we’ve reached the outer limit at the Edge of NFT. Thanks for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on this starship, so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to iTunes, rate us, and say something awesome. Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole.
Remember, we always invite you to co-create and build with us at Edge of NFT. We are unlocking a whole new way to connect and collaborate with us through our NFT drops, Spirit Seeds, leading to the Living Tree NFTs, which light the way to our event, NFTLA. It’s a one-of-a-kind, immersive and unforgettable experience live in Los Angeles from March 28 to 30, 2022. Check it out at NFTLA.live. Also, move quickly on our early bird tickets as they are selling out fast. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.