The bear market was tough for creators.
From marketplaces deciding not to enforce royalties to collectors leaving the scene, many artists and creators of all types struggled to find buyers for their works or continuous income streams. The frustration, at least on Crypto Twitter, has been palpable.
The new kid on the block is trying something different: building a vertical ecosystem for artists that it hopes will restore trust in the market, and lead to many artists making a sustainable living.
We had the opportunity to interview Nik Kalyani, project lead at Vitruveo, for the full deets on the ecosystem, the technical specs, and, of course, how the ecosystem will benefit creators.
Could you identify yourself and the role you play at Vitruveo?
My name is Nik Kalyani and I am the project lead of Vitruveo. I am a serial tech entrepreneur with five prior startups (three exits). The most notable of these was a company I co-founded “DNN Corporation,” a popular, Open Source CMS in the Microsoft ecosystem. For this I was awarded Microsoft’s “Most Valuable Professional” award for 11 years.
I have been involved in crypto since building my own rig to mine bitcoin back in 2013. I got my first NFTs with CryptoKitties in 2017. I co-authored Udacity’s “Blockchain Nanodegree” to teach developers how to program smart contracts with Solidity.
I founded Decentology and raised venture capital to build developer tools to help Web2 devs build on Web3. As I got more involved in art NFTs, I also founded NftyDreams, an artist’s collective to help artists thrive in Web3.
In order to support and understand artists better I organized the NamasteyNFT conference in India with 10K attendees, I managed a physical art exhibition at a mainstream Dubai gallery “Foundry” for one month with 500+ global artists, I visited the remote villages of the Amazon rainforest in Paraguay and Argentina to understand how Web3 could help indigenous artists, and I supported thousands of artists through online art challenges and art buys.
Today, Vitruveo is literally and metaphorically the confluence of all my work in the space, merging the technology and art aspects of web3 into a single platform, optimized for the success of all creators.
If you could deliver an elevator pitch for Vitruveo, what would that be?
Vitruveo is a decentralized ecosystem for creators. It includes a blockchain protocol with early adopter reward tokens, an asset consignment system, industry-standards based metadata, on-chain licensing, and innovative dApps that simplify discovery, commerce and distribution of artworks at scale.
What will separate Vitruveo from other digital art platforms: What will make it special?
Vitruveo is different from other blockchains because it isn’t a horizontal protocol. It is a “vertically integrated ecosystem” focused on creators. While most protocols have USP’s around technology such as security, transaction speed, architecture etc., Vitruveo is different.
We take the same software that is run by the Ethereum blockchain with two important areas of modification: early adopter token incentives and protocol-level features for creator asset consignment and licensing. In addition, as a protocol, we provide human, social, and capital resources to help creators thrive.
With every other blockchain, creators don’t have much say in the direction of the core technology as they are horizontal platforms catering to all domains and use cases. As a result, what has emerged with NFT 1.0 is a fundamentally broken system in which artists mint their work and then spend 80% of their time on marketing, selling and social media promotion.
Artists would rather be creating artwork. Also, since the NFT standard is very generic and non-conformant to any existing art standards, fake art, scammers, and general bad actors run rampant.
Vitruveo is our solution to approaching the Web3 art ecosystem with first principles. If we build this ecosystem from the bottom-up with a creator mindset and optimized for creators, what could be different and better? Turns out we can not only make a better system, but it can be several orders of magnitude better for creators.
The initial tendency is to compare Vitruveo to marketplaces like OpenSea, etc. But this would be an inaccurate comparison. A better analogy is Apple’s vertically integrated ecosystem for its products and services.
That’s Vitruveo. We’re a vertically integrated ecosystem for creators starting with the blockchain and then moving up the stack with smart contracts, dApps, marketplaces, learning resources, workshops, communities, marketing and technology, and legal frameworks highly optimized for creators.
Our approach is to start with Trust, the number one thing missing in the current art ecosystem and the reason why 84% of traditional artists and art organizations are not in the space.
We have implemented features like TruID (“Know Your Creator”), industry standards-based metadata using LinkedArt (the same standard used by top museums), on-chain licensing with royalties conforming to the Creative Commons standard, and cryptographic signing of media using the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity’s standards.
Upon this industry-standard layer of trust, we have solutions catering specifically to creator needs. We’re starting with visual artists, but soon growing into the music, film and writing industries.
Unlike marketplaces on other blockchains, creators do not mint their artworks. Instead they consign their artwork to the protocol with the standards described. Anyone can create a marketplace, gallery, streaming or other app to then view and buy any artwork using very granular search. This increases the scope for an artist’s work to be discovered and monetized thus enabling Vitruveo to achieve its mission — making it possible for all creators to have a sustainable income through their art.
You aim to create trust for artists and collectors in a largely trustless (technologically-speaking) environment. How do you plan to achieve this?
A significant amount of the conversation around the NFT market is centered around what are called “PFP (Profile Picture)” projects. These are the Apes, Punks and other collections that are focused on using NFT technology as the anchor for creating communities with a common goal or utility.
This is NOT the NFT art ecosystem — that’s separate. It’s important not to conflate the two because the former are created and run by crypto natives, while the latter are newcomers in the space (artists) who have found a new way to monetize their work by going directly to buyers.
I have already addressed the trust concerns and the new user concerns above, so I’ll summarize it here with a picture.
Could you talk about all the technical aspects of your ecosystem: the nuts and bolts?
It is a “vertically integrated ecosystem” focused on creators. While most protocols have USP’s around technology such as security, transaction speed, architecture, etc., Vitruveo is different.
We take the same software that is run by the Ethereum blockchain with two important areas of modification: early adopter token incentives and protocol-level features for creator asset consignment and licensing. In addition, as a protocol, we provide human, social and capital resources to help creators thrive.
Vitruveo’s early adopter reward feature can be technically described as “rebasing” or in financial terms as “compound interest.” The growth of tokens held in all wallets is automated for the first five years through rebasing.
Thus creators have the opportunity to join early, avail of the incentive tokens we provide and through the rewards feature have income that they can use or re-invest back into the ecosystem.
The posts I’ve read from y’all almost have a ‘revolutionary’ feel to them, like you’re really trying to change the system. What would be a home run for you in one year’s time?
Our mission is to make it possible for every creator to have a sustainable income through their art. And, it turns out that this mission dovetails well with our hypothesis that in a world traumatized by animosity, wars, and general havoc wreaked by social media, art is the antidote for a kinder, gentler world.
In practical terms, this means increasing the number of channels by which artists can use Web3 for themselves and their art to be discoverable and monetizable. We’re taking existing channels and decentralizing them to scale better and without middle-men.
We’re focused on creating a platform that makes art more accessible to mainstream users at a scale never before possible or imagined. Achieving this in a year’s time will mean a home run for us — achieving our mission and also making the world better.
What is boosting and how can interested investors get involved?
Boosting is getting a Booster Token to do a few things: Accelerate Vesting, Support the Creative Scene and Amplify the Adoption of Blockchain Technology for the Good.
A Booster is an NFT that you can go and purchase on booster.vitruveo.xyz. The primary benefit of a booster to the business, to the protocol, is that it provides funding in order for the project to succeed. There are several perks that come with the Booster tokens like AR-enabled genesis artworks by some of the top Web3 artists, $VTRU coins, accelerated vesting and more. But, the primary benefit is the revenue share.
As a protocol focused entirely on creators and art, we are essentially set up to have every transaction of every marketplace on this protocol yield a 2% fee and a portion of that 2% is allocated to Boosters. And, this is a significant portion, why…
As you may have observed on other marketplaces, you can see that at their peak, the sales of artworks get into the billions of dollars. Also, many buy artwork to flip it for a higher price, so think secondary sales. And every one of those secondary sales yields a 2% fee to the treasury and therefore to the owners of a booster.
So, simply put, the primary benefit of a booster is essentially long-term perpetual income.
The name is intriguing. Is there a story behind it and, if so, could you share it?
Vitruveo is inspired by the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.
The Vitruvian man symbolizes the harmonious blend of art and science during the Renaissance. The man’s outstretched limbs fits within both a square and a circle, representing the ideal, balanced proportions of the human body. It embodies the Renaissance’s pursuit of art, science, and innovation.
At Vitruveo, we are re-imagining the creative economy. By bridging the gap between art and technology, we are empowering creators to realize their full potential, earn a living through their art, thereby herald a new art renaissance.
How big is your team and what is a day in the life of a typical team member?
Our governance model is designed to be community-driven, with a Senate at its core. This Senate consists of nine members, five council leads plus four community members. The primary team is the Council Leads, with additional roles being filled on a contractual basis.
As a Web3 organization, we don’t make any demands of regular hours on the team, but focus more on objectives and results. Each team member collaborates with others as needed to achieve their objectives. We have a fixed daily standup meeting for coordination, but otherwise it’s mostly Discord DMs and Zoom meetings.
Do you have an overarching organizational philosophy to guide the company that you’d like to share?
I’d say it is TRUST. Over the past two years I have spoken to thousands of artists, collected thousands of artworks, hosted many exhibitions both virtual and IRL, and studied every aspect of the Web3 art ecosystem: marketplaces, contracts, royalties, wallets, licenses, UIs … all of it.
There are many things that work, but there are many more that are broken. The biggest problem we have to fix if we want to get more artists and art appreciators in the space is TRUST.
Web3 has all the technology elements for trustlessness, but ironically, these very elements have thwarted the growth of Web3 art by letting scammers, copycats, and fraudsters run amok.
The fix for this is to dial the decentralization back a little and add controlled centralized elements by conforming to current industry standards that are trusted by many, especially professionals in the art industry.
My vision for Vitruveo blockchain is to build the most trusted blockchain for creators in existence. I think of all the key features of the blockchain as circles that work harmoniously to create a single Circle of TRUST <refer to image above> that becomes the foundation of everything we do in our vertically integrated ecosystem.
Vitruveo — it’s all about TRUST!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Vitruveo is blockchain technology powered by dreams. I think of all creators as VTRU Dreamers, and my mission is to make their dreams a reality.
Finally, where can our readers find you?
Primarily on X.com (@techbubble). Join in the conversation, reach out to me in DMs or better still, jump in on one of my X Spaces!
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