Sniper Spotlight with Tally Labs: JTV, Azurbala, and More

Tally Labs. In the NFT space, the company’s name evokes a wide range of reactions, from enthusiasm to disappointment.

The company started with high hopes, providing utility non-fungible tokens in the era of 10K profile-pic collections, partnering with 10x New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss to ghostwrite a book about the company’s lead character Jenkins the Valet and provide lore to the fabled Bored Ape Yacht Club.

Soon, the prices of their NFTs were spiking and NFT degens were hyped. But a single mistake, the preview of their Azurian V1 PFPs, cost them goodwill and opened them to questioning.

After a long period of building, they have emerged from silence and in a big way. They distributed over $300,000 in royalties from the book back to the community, reinvented their metaverse called Azurbala, and most importantly, debuted new Azurian profile-pics, which over the past two weeks they revealed on Twitter.

Now, the book burning is upon us.

Rarity Sniper sat down with the company’s two founders, See Ape Follow Ape (SAFA) and Valet Jones, to get their takes on Bored & Dangerous, the Writer’s Room, Azurbala, and the pressures of current U.S. crypto regulation.

Let’s get to it.

First, for our readers, could you introduce yourselves and provide some background on the roles you play in Tally Labs?

We’re SAFA and Valet Jones, the co-founders and co-CEOs of Tally Labs. We started the company as two people in May 2021, and we’re a team of 18 now across a number of functions. It’s been amazing to see it grow!

Let’s start with Jenkins the Valet. How did it feel to give over $300,000 back to the community in royalties for Bored and Dangerous?

It felt incredible. We truly believe folks will look back at Bored & Dangerous as a case study for what can be possible in web3. We had 4,000 folks contribute their own IP to make this work a success, and they’re all sharing in the upside in a legally compliant way. We hope to see more of this across the space.

What are the plans for Bored and Dangerous going forward? Will you still seek out a traditional publisher?

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that you can burn a Bored & Dangerous book for an Azurbala PFP (they’re looking pretty amazing!). We absolutely do have ambitions to see Bored & Dangerous continue to live in other mediums. It’s one of the benefits of our relationship with [Creative Artists Agency]. Of course, there is no guarantee that happens as publishers can sometimes be a bit slower to react to trends. But we’re going to keep pushing.

Regarding the disbursement of royalties, how challenging has the U.S. regulatory environment been to work within as you try to implement all these innovations?

Of course, working within current regulatory frameworks has always been top priority. We have an awesome team of lawyers who help steer us here. There is no promise of compensation for owning any of our assets. Folks license their characters, providing a service to us and to the work. We’re compensating them for that service.

What does it mean for Tally Labs to ‘work with the community’ rather than ‘for the community?’

Let’s take both Bored & Dangerous and Azurbala as examples. With Bored & Dangerous, folks voted on major decisions that drove the direction of the book. Neil Strauss took these answers from the community and went to work from there. Additionally, all of the characters were owned by members of the community.

With Azurbala, we’re all aware of what happened with v1 Azurians. Moving forward for v2, we set up a Community Council, we put out a number of surveys asking the community what they wanted to see in a PFP, and we even allowed them to submit moodboards.

To me, both of these show the power of working with the community. Gone are the days of simply making things in a silo and distributing it to “customers.” Our holders are in this with us.

What was your intention behind creating Avenue and what impact do you hope it will have in the NFT space?

Avenue is the culmination of all of the custom software we’ve been building for our own communities from Day 1. When we set out to build Writers Room and Azurbala in a truly community-first way, we didn’t find the existing software solutions to be enough. Discord and Twitter are important (and we’re avid users of both), but we needed more. We built custom surveys, forums, moodboard submissions, character creation, licensing, and more.

Many other projects began asking us to open these up to them. Avenue was a natural next step. We hope it can be a place where holders and creators come together to create meaningfully, engage one another in important dialogue, separate signal from noise, and make for a more vibrant ecosystem.

Now, for the project on everyone’s mind: Azurbala. Let’s start with the catalyst for all these changes: the preview of v1 Azurian PFPs. What was your initial reaction as a team to the community’s response to the art?

We were devastated. It was a really rough period for our team. More importantly, it was a really rough period for the community who had trusted us. We got to work immediately and knew we needed to correct it. We had an all hands Zoom and we were all very vulnerable. It was evident how much everyone at Tally cares about doing right by the community.

What did you reflect on after that response and realize that you needed to change?

We reflected on the process from A to Z. The process, the internal team who was running point with the artist, the original brief and goal, the artists we chose and their interpretation, etc.

One thing was abundantly clear: the importance of a creative director. We did not have anyone on the team with extensive creative direction background and ensuring a cohesive vision. This put a large responsibility on the artist to also creative direct. In reality, they were a 3D modeler. We lacked a strong cohesive vision and the resources to pull it off. We rectified that by bringing in one of the most sought after creative directors in all of animation (Ty Carter).

What was the inspiration for turning Azurbala into a Jungle Punk franchise?

This is what the community wanted. We allowed them to submit free text answers as well as submit images for inspiration. They all laddered back to a futuristic punk vibe set in a jungle. It wasn’t quite cyberpunk, it wasn’t quite steampunk, it was Jungle Punk. We think we can really pioneer this term.

‘When it bleeds, let it scar.’ How does this motto relate to the ethos of Azurbala?

If there was one thing v1 Azurians did, it was bleed. We wear our missteps like a badge of honor and we’re not afraid of them. It’s forever ingrained in Azurbala history. Azurians are resilient and don’t ever quit or give up. That’s us. That’s our community that’s still here. We let it scar and we keep moving forward, coming back even stronger.

Explain the big Azurian event on June 15th.

This is the opening of the burn window! We are so excited. Folks will be able to begin burning Bored & Dangerous books in exchange for Azur Roots. After the period ends, those roots will be able to be redeemed for Azurians.

Why did you decide to remove the 0.08 ETH requirement when burning the books?

We implemented that price prior to v1 and when the market was in a very different place. If we look at today’s landscape and the prices projects are minting at, as well as the small percentage of projects that actually mint out, it makes sense. The community was vital in pushing for this. We always want to be aligned with the community.

How do you hope people will react to the new Azurbala art?

We hope that they will love it and feel pride in the role they played to help get it where it is. It was truly informed by the community’s preferences. We hope they recognize how much work has gone into it and the level of detail that Ty and his team approach it with.

For Tally Labs in general, what do you have planned for the rest of 2023?

Lots of fun stuff for Azurbala, continued development of Writers Room ecosystem, and a ton of new features for Avenue. Both Azurbala and Writers Room will have vibrant presences on Avenue.

Then the obligatory slice-of-life question: What is a typical day like at Tally Labs?

No two days are the same! And surely, it depends on who you ask. For us as co-founders, we wear a lot of hats. We go from running through our financial model and making critical decisions with Mtn Man, to being sounding boards for the Azurbala strategy team, to helping identify necessary features with Roebs for Avenue, and more.

To us, we recognize that we have an incredible team around us, all with domain expertise. We believe in hiring great people, building an amazing team culture, and giving them autonomy to be their best selves. Our most important job is ensuring that remains the case every day.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We’re grateful to be doing this every day and we’re grateful for having a community made up of so many incredible people. Working in web3 can be stressful, but seeing folks’ reactions to things like Azurbala and Bored & Dangerous makes it worth it. We’re going to keep doing our best daily to navigate this ever-changing space and do it with our community in mind. Thanks for being on this ride with us!