Rarity Sniper Spotlight with Bob Bodily from Bioniq

When the Bitcoin Ordinals protocol was launched in January 2023 by software engineer and Bitcoiner Casey Rodarmor, it was met with enthusiasm, criticism, and even fear. Many Bitcoin maximalists believed NFTs on Bitcoin would clog up the network while adding nothing of real value. On the other hand, NFT degens were ecstatic, and top NFT projects like DeGods and Yuga Labs even launched their own Ordinals collections.

Fast forward a year later and Ordinal NFTs, which enable data to be stored on individual Bitcoin Satoshis (Bitcoin’s smallest denomination), look like they’re here to stay. Last week, we caught up with Bob Bodily, the founder and CEO of a new Bitcoin Ordinals marketplace called Bioniq. Unsurprisingly, he was excited about the future of Bitcoin Ordinals and happy to discuss some of the benefits of Bitcoin NFTs and what we can expect from the Bioniq marketplace.

Check it out.

To get started, please introduce yourself and tell us about your role at Bioniq.

Hi, I’m Bob Bodily — CEO of Bioniq — a Bitcoin Ordinals marketplace that was released around two months ago. Our Launchpad will be released shortly, and we’re really excited about that. We are built entirely on a Bitcoin sidechain called Internet Computer Protocol (ICP).

We’re built on a Bitcoin sidechain because we can transact Ordinals at the speed and cost of ICP rather than speed and cost of Bitcoin — because Bitcoin can be slow and expensive. ICP is very affordable and very fast. And so, we can build really great user experiences on a Bitcoin sidechain, and our aim is to onboard millions of people to Ordinals and Bitcoin for the first time.

What’s the genesis story of the company? How did you decide Bitcoin Ordinals is what you want to do?

We’ve been building on the Internet Computer Protocol since May of 2021. We built an NFT Marketplace on ICP. We built a smart contract wallet and an NFT lending protocol. We built all kinds of tech on ICP directly, and then the Divinity Foundation, who is the major contributor to building the ICP protocol, started pushing out a few Bitcoin integration features.

One is a threshold ECDSA protocol that allows you to sign Bitcoin transactions essentially right to Bitcoin. You can also read to Bitcoin. There’s a Bitcoin light node running on-chain on ICP so you can get balances or get UTXOs, and then they also developed ckBTC — which is a bridge essentially wrapping Bitcoin over to ckBTC.

It was in the beginning of 2023 that we were seeing all of those improvements culminate, and then in January 2023, we saw Ordinals take off like wildfire. I think it was February 6th when I decided I’d seen enough to know that Ordinals was going to be absolutely massive.

And so, we decided to just jump in, essentially leveraging the awesome Bitcoin integration features on the ICP sidechain with our ICP tech knowledge to build a fantastic user experience marketplace for Ordinals. So, that’s kind of the genesis story. It was like this swirl of interesting forces combining and it just made sense for us to build it.

Are you guys the only Ordinals Marketplace on ICP?

Yes, there are probably ten or so other Ordinals marketplaces, but most of them are built on Bitcoin leveraging Payment Service Provider (PSP) fees. Those are partially signed Bitcoin transactions. It’s like an atomic swap on Bitcoin. But like I said before, it’s slow and expensive to do that.

We’re taking the opposite approach. Let’s make it user-friendly, really fast, and really affordable — and see if we can onboard new users that way. We’re a bit different of a value proposition.

What are the benefits of minting Bitcoin NFTs as opposed to using other blockchains?

On Ethereum, for example, your token is on-chain, but your data is off-chain. This isn’t a hundred percent true, but it’s probably 98% true. There are some collections that do on-chain image storage on Ethereum, but it’s just more expensive and not many people have done it. Ordinals, by default, has on-chain data storage.

And so, people have been calling Ordinals “Digital Artifacts,” meaning your image and all your data and the token is all on-chain on Bitcoin on everyone’s full nodes forevermore, until Bitcoin dies or something else happens, whereas on Ethereum a lot of people are using IPFS pointers or they’re using other data storage solutions that may not have the resilience and permanent of Bitcoin itself. So, another difference is the “pay once, store forever” model. It just lives on Bitcoin forever.

We’ve seen a lot of PFP collections minted on Ordinals and a lot of meme coins. But I’ve listened to Michael Saylor talk a bit about the idea of potentially minting more substantial documents like land deeds or wills onto Bitcoin because of its immutability and security. Do you have any thoughts about where that could go in the future?

I think it makes a lot of sense to think about alternative data storage options for public records. If you need something that’s private, then it gets more complicated because with Bitcoin everything is public, so you’d have to do some kind of encryption but then you need the encryption key, which couldn’t be private data.

Maybe it doesn’t make as much sense with private data, but for public data, it definitely makes sense. And we’ve already started to see people doing this. Bitcoin is ideal for documents that are important and that you don’t want history to change.

Last year, the Bitcoin maximalists were very skeptical of Ordinals. How do you respond to critics who think Ordinals doesn’t have any place on Bitcoin?

The main thing I want to say to them is thank you for driving the Ordinals movement forward. I think the opposition is one of the loudest ways to blow up the space, and the more they yell, the more people know about it. People are like, “Wait, why do you hate it? What is that? How can I get something like that?”

It’s an inevitable progression of someone that’s newer to the space. So, the more you try to hate on even BRC20 — and there are people that have tried to do things to stop the BRC20 — but the more you do, the more news it gets and the more people find out about it and want to know more and want to join. I think generally it’s been interesting that trying to stop it is just helping it succeed.

I also think there’s the case that Bitcoin is a decentralized censorship resistant permissionless protocol, and so who is to say what can and can’t be done on that protocol? Other than perhaps consensus driven changes to the protocol itself. It feels funny when people try to determine what should and shouldn’t be done on the blockchain that they love.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen on Bitcoin Ordinals recently? What excites you or comes to mind?

One of the cooler things happening on Bitcoin right now are called recursions. Recursion means that anything stored on Bitcoin can be referenced using a native slash content slash ID. Which means you can pull in things from other places to create a new inscription, a new Ordinal.

Think of Art Blocks on Ethereum. Now think of a set of code that you can inscribe to Bitcoin that generates an Art Blocks-style image leveraging any original inscription as the base. You could take inscription number one and run it through my code that programmatically generates a really cool, abstract Art Blocks-style piece.

You can start to do that, and you only need to inscribe the code once and you only have to inscribe all of the existing artwork. There’s millions of inscriptions that you can use as a base on Bitcoin now. And now, using a really small transaction, you can inscribe a new artwork form, which is this combination of elements that have been previously inscribed. This is what they call recursion. It’s like a remix.

Do you pay much attention to things like the Bitcoin ETF or Bitcoin’s price? How much does that affect your business?

Well, I think it’s very relevant. There’s a Bitcoin halving coming up in April, and combine that with the ETF. I think what the Bitcoin ETF means is greater inflows over the next two years or longer. Especially as other ETFs start to allocate a portion of their funds to the Bitcoin ETF. They’ll take a normal current ETF and they’ll say, “We can have up to 15% of Bitcoin exposure as part of our ETF.” I think we’ll see that becoming a lot more common.

So, with more inflows, I think we’ll see price go up over the long term, which just adds more relevance to everything happening on Bitcoin. So, we do pay attention to the Bitcoin ETF and the halving coming up.

But there’s no near-term impact on our business. We’re going to build for our users regardless of what happens in the macro environment. But the Bitcoin ETF does legitimize Bitcoin in the eyes of a lot of people, and I think it starts to bring more attention to other “crazy” Ordinals and DeFi things happening on Bitcoin.

Is there anything that you have planned for 2024 that you want to share or that you’re excited about?

One of the key things we’re doing with Bioniq is we’re mixing the best of both worlds. We’re taking the decentralization immutability security of Bitcoin and assets stored there and mixing it with the flexibility and speed and programmability of ICP.

I believe this hybrid model is going to be really important. Imagine you’re a creator with a one megabyte video, and you want to tokenize that but you can’t put that on Bitcoin without spending a couple thousand dollars. And so maybe you store the asset on ICP, and you store a hash with a thumbnail on Bitcoin.

So, hybrid storage is kind of the best of both worlds. You have lower cost high resolution assets on ICP, pulled with the thumbnail plus some kind of token on Bitcoin. I think this kind of hybrid model is going to be a lot more popular moving forward, especially for artists in developing nations. I think there’s a huge group of unserved creators that want to participate in the Bitcoin economy but are likely priced out by current Bitcoin fees and asset sizes.

Final Thoughts

Before our interview came to an end, Bob told me about the marketplace’s upcoming launchpad and how creators can apply to create Bitcoin NFTs on the platform. He said Bioniq is looking for dedicated artists, musicians, and content creators to build on Bitcoin, and was excited for Bioniq’s role handling the tech side of inscribing NFTs on Bitcoin.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a writer friend a few months back. My friend told me about how he had recently finished a new poetry album that took years to write, think about, and record. He said it felt wrong to take something that cost him so much time and hard work and release it onto a traditional, ephemeral streaming platform like Spotify.

Perhaps I should give my poet friend a call and tell him to talk with Bob Bodily. After all, at Bioniq, they’re inscribing art on a blockchain that lasts forever.

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