Proof — It’s been over a year since NFT project Moonbirds released their collection, and the scene has shifted dramatically.
Proof co-founder and CEO Kevin Rose was seen outside a gallery set up by the project during NFT NYC 2023 week.
There, he explained why his Web3 firm recently moved its focus to the art sector, with a greater emphasis on digital art, artists, and collectors.
“When everything is just ‘up and to the right’ and crazy and chaotic – like the whole crazy run-up that we saw [in the NFT market] – it’s easy to lose your north,” he said.
“Because you’re just 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?’”
Rise to the top
Kevin gained fame in the Web2 space after co-founding Digg.
He eventually joined Google as part of an acqui-hire before going on to work as a venture investor with Google Ventures and then True Ventures.
Working in the realm of Web3 and constructing in the open has been a shock to the system, according to Rose.
“No one’s been a part of something like this that’s been this much of a roller coaster like that,” he said regarding the NFT market.
“Out of, say, the stock market in general – but even that is way more defined and more stable than what this has been.”
He also mentioned that for every NFT collector who purchased an asset low and sold it high, there is someone on the other side who purchased at the top and may be dissatisfied.
Proof cannot control market fluctuations, but one of the lessons learned in the last year is how and when to communicate with collectors.
“As an entrepreneur, it’s a really weird dynamic,” Rose admitted.
The Moonbirds mint
Since its April 2022 mint, proof has had an up and down year.
The Ethereum-based profile photos (PFP) NFTs had tremendous demand during their initial two days of operation, earning around $280 million in transactions.
Proof then generated additional money from the widely anticipated debut, as well as months thereafter.
With lofty goals, the business soon increased its personnel.
However, the NFT market suffered a setback soon after the mint.
Several holders disagreed with Proof’s decision to open-source Moonbirds artworks, allowing anyone to use and commercialize the works.
Some of the firm’s plans were thwarted.
For example, the 2023 Proof of Conference event was canceled due to insufficient interest.
A Project Highrise “social universe” platform was proposed, however it was subsequently canceled.
“It’s a lot of work to do,” said Rose. “Great businesses take many years to be built, it turns out. It can’t be done in less than a year.”
“I know we get some shit sometimes… [but] building in public is really difficult.”
“And so, if you show all your dirty laundry, your community has to be willing to understand that it’s messy along the way.”
Advice and new focus
Ben Horowitz, mentor and co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, formerly advised Kevin Rose.
According to Horowitz, “it’s better to be right than consistent.”
Proof would benefit from narrowing its attention to digital artwork and collecting.
Projects that were not progressing well or did not support the firm’s focus would have to be cut.
During NFT NYC, the renewed focus manifested itself in Proof organizing exclusive events for collectors using its resources and connections.
The gallery show
“Evolving Pixels,” a gallery show, was hosted at Venus Over Manhattan.
Emily Xie, a generative artist who developed “Memories of Qilin” on Art Blocks, organized the exhibition.
Evolving Pixels also includes works by generative and AI-assisted artists.
Proof, according to Rose, was already focusing on curation with a point of view.
Its unique Grail mints for Proof Collective NFT holders are a demonstration of its commitment.
However, it also wanted to go beyond its own ranks and collaborate with other notable curators.
Proof also hosted a private event for 400 of its community members, which included Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, the artist who created the top NFT sale.
Beeple made a piece of artwork live while receiving public input.
Only ten of the artworks were minted as NFTs and were later distributed to select attendees.
NFT NYC 2023
The main NFT NYC 2023 event felt more muted than the 2022 version.
Several side events hosted by projects, communities, and startups, on the other hand, maintained the spirit and peak excitement surrounding Web3.
According to Rose, the atmosphere at the events he arranged or attended remained positive, but he admitted that the NFT bear market was still on practically every creator’s mind.
“Holy shit have the last few months been tough, right? Every NFT collection has been impacted in some way,” said Rose.
“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.’”