Trading Digital Assets on the Blockchain with Devin Finzer from OpenSeaFeb 03, 2021
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HOST: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Unstoppable podcast. I'm Diana Chen, your host, and I'm joined today by Matthew Gould, my co-host, also CEO and Founder of Unstoppable Domains, and our guest, Devin Finzer, co-founder and CEO of OpenSea. Welcome, Devin.
DEVIN FINZER: Thank you so much for having me.
HOST: Thanks so much for being here. To start us off, Devin, I'm wondering, how did you get interested in crypto in the first place?
DEVIN FINZER: I got interested in crypto, in 2017, I was working as an engineering manager at a company called Credit Karma in San Francisco, and there was just a ton of excitement and hype around cryptocurrencies. I had followed the space peripherally earlier and, you know, bought a little bitcoin and that type of thing, but in 2017, it was really the talk of the town in San Francisco, and so like a lot of people, I kind of went down the crypto rabbit hole. At that time, you could actually go to physical meet-ups, so I went to some physical crypto meet-ups, met a lot of people, actually met Brad, another member of the Unstoppable Domains team, and just started learning as much as I possible could, and eventually, I think once you get to a certain point, you kind of get to the point of no return where you're like, okay, I'll leave my job and start a company in this space. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do, but it's going to be something crypto related, and that was kind of the position I was in, in later 2017, and my co-founder and I, my co-founder Alex and I applied to Y Combinator with an idea in the space that eventually kind of morphed into what became OpenSea. So yeah, that's kind of my, you know, maybe slightly cliché background in the space.
HOST: That's awesome. So, we're going to dive into the OpenSea stuff, Y Combinator, all that stuff, but just to backtrack a little bit, when you first got interested in crypto in 2017, other than going to all these meet-ups and meeting people in the space, what were some other ways that you learned about crypto?
DEVIN FINZER: Well, reading the white papers was a big one at that time, less of a thing these days, joining a lot of Facebook and Telegram groups, kind of reaching out to different projects. I think I actually applied to a couple projects just as an engineer and got to talk to Nadal from Dharma, so that can be a really way to, if you're on the fence or if you're sort of at a non-crypto company but sort of interested in getting into the crypto space, just going and applying, and even feeling out, you know, what options are there to get deeper into the space, that was a really a good avenue for me. And then, also just kind of learning the fundamentals, so diving really deep into how bitcoin works, how Ethereum works, and you know, tinkering with Solidity and Smart Contracts was a big thing, so getting your hands dirty.
Nowadays, there's more to kind of get your hands dirty with on the application side. So, back then, there wasn't actually a lot you could do with your crypto. You could kind of like buy it and sell it on an exchange and some people transferred it to their Meta Mass, but very few people actually did. Now, you can transfer to it a crypto wallet, you can buy an Unstoppable Domain, you can go and sell it on OpenSea, you can swap you eth to Dion. You can swap, there's just so much you can do, so it's actually, I think, an easier time to get involved in the crypto space because there's more of a visceral feeling around the applications that exist.
MATTHEW GOULD: You can also just check your crypto prices every morning, right? Like that's a--
DEVIN FINZER: Right, you could do that in 2017, too.
MATTHEW GOULD: Right. I think that's how most people get in. So, one thing I wanted to actually ask you about when you came in, you actually ended up in a non-financial use case for blockchain, which I actually think is quite innovative, and extremely innovative back in 2017, and would like to know, what kind of pointed you down that path as opposed to others? Was it just fortuitous? I'm actually kind of curious how that origin happened.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, well I think I'd always been really excited about more just general consumer applications. I used, my first job was at Pinterest where I was on the growth team. And I really, I was really fascinated by kind of the birth of, the birth of Facebook and social and Twitter and just all these interesting applications that people were using. I was just never, like super deep into the finance world, so I didn't have a ton of expertise there, and Crypto Kitties was really the, a lot of the inspiration for a lot of the people who were crypto-curious, sort of saw the vision of Web 3 beyond just the financial use cases of crypto, but were uncertain about what was actually something that you could go and build, and Crypto Kitties, what was awesome about that project was they just went, and they took the technology that existed, which was a little rough around the edges. It was hard to build solidity contracts. It was hard to build Solidity Contracts. It was hard to use Meta Mask, but they did go and launched this application, and they put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it.
So, it gave you the sense of, these are the sorts of things you could build that just aren't around trading and finance. Then, from there, what was interesting is, right after Crypto Kitties, all these people who were looking at Crypto Kitties had all these cool ideas. So, one idea was, now you own your digital cat, could you create other sort of game play experiences on top of it, so somebody built a kitty racing application where you could go and you could race your Crypto Kitties. There was another one, actually one of our first engineers here at OpenSeas built Kitty Hats, which was sort of the first layer to game on top of Crypto Kitties, so you could accessorize your Crypto Kitties with hats.
So, another thing that kind of sparked my interested was I, I have never actually been a huge gamer. I did some gaming growing up, but I wasn't deep in the gaming system, and I just thought, I realized kind of naively how cool games were for, like, I kind of got a rejuvenated interest in these really fun applications that look kind of like games. So it was kind of a combination of factors, I would say.
MATTHEW GOULD: So, I'm going to back, so there was a lot there. I’m going to unpack it and back it up a little bit.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah.
MATTHEW GOULD: So, for people who don't know, a Crypto Kitties is a, kind of a piece of art on the blockchain, and I'll let Devin here give us a better explanation here in a second. And, when I was talking to him about non-financial use cases, everybody thinks, when you look at crypto and blockchain, everybody thinks, immediately, buy bitcoin, number go up, but there's actually this whole world of things that are happening on the blockchain that have nothing to do with that whatsoever, and the category here, and I think it's easier for users to think about this as, or for people out there listening, it's art. Just imagine art being out there and the very first implementation of this digital art that got really popular was a game about cats called Crypto Kitties, and you could essentially buy a cat on the blockchain, and the joke was, cats are everywhere on the internet. Now they've come to the blockchain, and this is the Crypto Kitties thing that Devin was just talking about. And the cool thing was, you had this piece of art that was a cat on the blockchain, and you could have that cat and you could take another cat, and you could cross the two cats together and make a third cat, right? And so you also had this, kind of like this Pokémon type feel to it, and these are called NFTs, non-fungible tokens, and a lot of it you're seeing as like art on the blockchain, so we've gone from cats, Devin, at the very beginning and now you're seeing hats for cats, racecars, like racing cats. What are some of the things that are popping up. More recently that you're excited about. Tell us what's going on in the space today because that's like three years ago, hard to imagine. And some of those cats are actually doing quite well today, like the original cat, I see them on OpenSea itself.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, so one really interesting thing to point out is, a subset of the items that were popular three years ago are actually experiencing a Renaissance today. The first project, actually, to make what you described as a non-fungible token or NFT was something called crypto punks, which was a precursor to Crypto Kitties, and crypto punks were the 10,000 sort of very simple representations of a punk, so there's like alien punks, there's like Afro punk, but there's just these really simple play off of--
MATTHEW GOULD: A play off of cyber punks, right?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, exactly. And they were given out for free, 10,000 of them, and people held onto them, and they're still today on the blockchain, and what's crazy is now they're selling for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they've become really this digital antique. So what's interesting in these assets is they can actually accumulate value over time, and the longevity of them is actually very different than what you'd see with like a traditional video game where you buy the item, you play the item and then when the game dies, it's no longer interesting. SO, that being said, of course, there were a lot of projects that came after Crypto Kitties that did phase out, so there were like your crypto puppies of the world, your crypto llamas, that type of things that, you know, they were kind of knock offs of Crypto Kitties and didn't end up kind of taking off.
MATTHEW GOULD: But in terms of what--
DEVIN FINZER: Did you have something Matthew?
MATTHEW GOULD: I was going to say, it's like a digital baseball card, is how I explain it to my dad, except for you don't have to worry about losing it at your parents' house, and now we're actually getting digital baseball cards, right? Like they have like digital NBA, do they? Or soccer players or something. You probably know better than I do. That's actually popping up.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, so recently, Dapper Labs, which is the company that created Crypto Kitties, partnered with the NBA to release a product called NBA Top Shot, which is essentially digital trading cards on the blockchain. They're actually on a different blockchain than Ethereum, which is where most of the NFT action has happened so far. But yeah, you can, and there are a couple of other trading card companies doing it, as well. There's So Rare doing it for soccer. There's, you know, these sort of Magic: The Gathering type applications where you own this digital card that you play inside of a game. So really, a lot of the physical things that people love to collect are actually coming online as digital, and they're sort of absorbing the best of both worlds. They have the physical properties where you can't tamper with them after you create them and you can trade them on, with physical things, you can do whatever you want with them. You can go and throw it in the trash, you can gift it to a friend, you can go and sell it on eBay, whereas, with digital stuff, in the old world, you couldn't really do all of those things. You could have them inside of one specific context, but you couldn't go and like trade them outside of that context. So, these digital, these crypto assets, these NFTs combine the best of both. They have the physical property of immutability, but then they have the digital property of being programmable and, you know, basically zero cost to product and transfer. So a lot of them, it's basically the best of everything.
MATTHEW GOULD: It's the best of everything, easy sell. So a couple questions. I'm actually going to pass this back to Diana right now. People trying to get into the space, Devin, how do you sell, and I like for people to have something to do other than to buy cryptocurrency and then lose all their money trading it, which seems to be most people's rite of passage, so there's a lot of other things you guys can do out there, so like Devin, if you were going to pitch Diana on picking up a cheap NFT that you can get for five or 10 bucks or something and then playing around with it, how would you explain this digital art, digital collectible, NFT market to someone like Diana who has never done anything with it before. How would you get them hyped?
HOST: Sort of to add onto that, Devin. I think a lot of people when they think about crypto and blockchain, they think about either financial uses or gaming uses, right? And you said you didn't come from a financial background. That wasn't your first use case in the crypto world, and you weren't much of a gamer, either, until you discovered Crypto Kitties, so if you're talking to somebody who's not really super into the finance aspect of it and they're not into gaming, how would you explain all of this to them and pitch them on it, get them hyped?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, it's a good question. I think it definitely does help if you're interested in gaming because you're sort of, like you're already very digitally native, you're used to buying digital assets, and it’s not too much of a stretch to go and buy a blockchain based game item.
So, if you're not interested in gaming, you're not interested in finance, I do think there's a really compelling story around digital art that’s really just at its infancy, but is definitely starting to evolve. So, if you think about why do you buy a physical piece of art, you're not buying it for the raw materials of that piece, right? You're buying it because there's a story around the piece of art, and you know that you have property rights over that piece of art, right? If you buy the original Mona Lisa, and not a regular consumer's going to be able to make that kind of purchase, but if you buy the original, that's the only Mona Lisa out there. You can take a screen shot of it, you can take a photo of it, you can reprint it, you can get almost an exact replica, but it's not the original. There's no sort of status and excitement around owning it if it's not the original.
So that concept or that idea of digital property rights hasn't existed in the digital world. So, if I wanted to say, I own this piece of digital art, how would I actually prove that? I could, you know, send it to you. I could send the jpeg to you, but then you could send it to 10 other friends and it's unclear who is the original owner, where did this come from, is it the original, or is it just the copy? That's what blockchain introduces. It's this ledger that anyone can read from, all sorts of different applications are pointing to this same exact source of truth, so on the blockchain, you can have a piece of digital art and be the only owner of it and make it very clear that you're the original collector and make it very clear who the original creator of that was. Now, it's still a little bit of a stretch, I think, right? Because it's like, okay, you own this digital thing. What are, where are you going to display it, right? Because with a physical piece of art, you typically hang it on a wall, put it in a museum, these types of things, and that's where I think a lot of the infrastructure is still being built out, but there is an emergence of both just simple websites for you to display your art and curate it, and then also things like virtual worlds where you can create an actual VR museum of your art. Again, only if you are the actual owner of that piece can you display it inside of your virtual house, right? And the virtual worlds can respect that indifferent ways. There could be a virtual world where you could display something and you don’t have to be the owner. There could be a virtual world where you do have to be the owner. But that ownership means something in these various contexts and all the different applications are reading from the same thing.
It gets a little bit technical, as you carry the story on, but--
MATTHEW GOULD: I love it, but yeah.
DEVIN FINZER: Okay, go for it.
HOST: I think, Devin, the overarching thing is what you said, ownership and control, how you can own all of these things. That's something that drew me in when I first learned about this from Matt is the whole concept of digital ownership. So, for me, I'm not an art collector. I'm not a gamer, none of that, so I'm not buying digital art or buying Crypto Kitties or any of that, but I am somebody who is a content creator. I've got followers, and I work with brands and products on Instagram and social media, and so I think, I think this is super interesting for any content creator, influencer, anyone who has any sort of digital presence or digital business or way of making money online because, if you can own all of these things, that means you're not at the liberty of Instagram or whatever company that you're using to get your products or your brand out there to potentially shut down your, your brand and your platform for no reason other than you signed Terms and Conditions with them and you abide by their rules.
So, I think the overarching theme of that ownership, I think has so many applications and so many use cases that can really be interesting to just about anybody out there, not just people interested in finance or gaming or digital art.
MATTHEW GOULD: So how do I buy one for five bucks? I'm looking for my, my first NFT and I don't want to be the house on it. Do you have any suggestion? Maybe projects that are tailored to early users, or is the original Crypto Kitties a good spot to start if you're trying to, if you just one to have one on your crypto wallet so that you can, you know, get your feet wet?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, if you want to just buy one NFT for a very small amount, you can go to our marketplace, OpenSea and sort by lowest price, just look for something really cheap. Now, there's no guarantee you're going to be able to resell that. It could just be--
MATTHEW GOULD: Yeah, yeah, we're talking about doing this for fun.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, you could then have an NFT. You can also, the other thing you can do nowadays is you can mint your own NFTs. So there's really nothing stopping you from going and, we have a simple tool for this on our site where you can go and create what we call a collection. What we've done actually that's interesting is we allow you to mint this NFT without paying the usual fee that you would pay on the Ethereum network, which is called a gas fee, and you can create the NFT and put it on sale, see if anyone wants it, without having to pay that fee, and then the buyer will actually pay that fee.
So one of the kind of tricky things with the state of the Ethereum world at the moment, and one of the things that we're working on at OpenSea is that things are rather expensive. So, everything that you do on the network costs a fee, paid in ether, and that can be a bit of a barrier to entry to somebody who doesn't necessarily want to pay every time they're buying, or pay every time they're moving something around. So, those things are getting better. But yeah, for now, I think the, a good place to start is either buying something that's really cheap just to see what it's like or creating your own.
MATTHEW GOULD: Yeah, so sidenote there, the way that I like to explain scaling problems on the blockchain to my dad and my friends and family, it's like dial up in the early 90s, and everybody remembers when they had the 14K dial up and that thing was like super slow, so we're at like the 14K dial up phase of the internet and broadband is going to roll out slowly, right? It's going to happen in some places first, and then it's going to happen in some other places, and it, that was a lot harder and it took 20 years before everyone now has fast internet at their house. But we have to do the same thing on the blockchain. Just, it's going to be mostly software because we don't have to lay fiber down. It won't take 20 years to do that, but it is going to take three to five years to make blockchains faster.
So, one of the criticisms that people lever against blockchains and blockchain products and blockchain companies all the time, and I'm sure you get this at OpenSea, just like we do at Unstoppable Domains, they're like, how is any normal person every going to use this thing. It's too slow or the transaction fees are too expensive. So, for those people out there, I would just say it's a process and technology has done this same thing before where something was very slow and had to be made faster. You've seen that with processors, with storage for memory, with bandwidth. I agree with Devin that this is going to be solved. People are working on it right now, so we're actually seeing some things in the space, which I think is pretty cool. Devin and I could jam out on scaling for like an hour and a half here, Diana, so we'll save that for a future discussion. I wanted to make sure you got any other thing you wanted to walk Devin through before we got moving here?
HOST: Yeah, I guess another thing sort of one the same topic of challenges that we're facing the crypto or blockchain world right now, what do you see as some of the major challenges that are preventing quote, unquote normal people from getting in to the crypto space.
DEVIN FINZER: Well, yeah, so I think the analogy that Matthew made of dial up internet is a perfect one. When you, the other thing to remember is when you started using the internet way back when, there was like all of this special stuff that you had to install on your computer even to just get on the internet, and we're in a similar stage in blockchain. There's all of this special stuff that you have to do, this black magic, as it were, to get started on something like OpenSea, right? So you have to get yourself a wallet. You've got to get yourself cryptocurrency, which usually involves going to an exchange or, there's some things that make it a little bit easier, but traditionally, it's a bit of a process, and then you have to get your cryptocurrency into that wallet, and then oftentimes, you'll have to submit a transaction and maybe that transaction will not be priced high enough to get through to the blockchain. So, there's all these things that can kind of go wrong as you're getting set up. What's pretty crazy, though, is that right now in the NFT space, especially with artists, they're really excited about, like, this stuff, and they're just going and doing it, so there are experiences that abstract all of this away from the user and get them started earlier. I think that's great for bringing in new users, but then to, to experience kind of the real magic of the blockchain and kind of some of the interoperability benefits that you get when you have things in a, in your actual, in your own wallet, something like Meta Mask, you do have to go through these hurdles. But, people are excited enough about the promise of digital ownership that they are going through these hurdles, which I think is a really strong sign for, for the space going forward.
MATTHEW GOULD: Let's get a shout out for some of these artists. Do you actually, I know 3 Lao is one of them, so there's someone pushing the boundaries for blockchain and digital art, so shoutout to 3 Lao there. Do you have any, I actually don't have a list in front of me. Do you have any you want, let's shout some artists out here if you've got a few Devin.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, sure, well I'll shout out some ones that aren't as famous as, I believe it's pronounced Blao, or so I've heard, but some folks who are sort of have been with the NFT space for a really long time and are some of my favorite crypto-native artists, there's Josie, so she's an artist who does a lot of like crypto specific paintings, both physical and digital paintings and digital art pieces. She's been selling work on OpenSea since maybe, maybe even 2018, I think, early 2019. And then another guy who we met with way back when, really just when Crypto Kitties had taken off is a guy by the name of John Orion Young, who creates this very, very interesting, very cool VR art, and he does a lot of stuff. He is what you might call an independent artist in that he doesn't go through some of the platforms for creating crypto art, like the Super Rare. So, Super Rare is kind of a platform where you can mint art through their system. There's Maker's Place. There's Rareable. There's all these different art platforms. He actually has deployed his own smart contracts and even written code to implement interesting pricing features into how people buy and sell his art. He's really pushing the boundaries of what can be done and is always coming up with a lot of really interesting projects. But yeah, there's, I mean, if you look at kind of the emerging crypto art space, there's just tons of people who are doing really interesting things.
I guess maybe the most famous recent one was Beeple, who's this digital artist who's been doing, I believe, a new digital art piece every day, and he sold a set of digital artworks on a site called Nifty Gateway, which is another of these art platforms for, I think it was $3 million, and it was just, suddenly, he was able to effectively monetize digital art that previously wasn't a big source of income for him.
MATTHEW GOULD: Yeah, I would say that's one thing that crypto is really good at is being able to take anything that you want to create on a blockchain and plugging it in, because it's super comp-able. I've seen lending against NFTs. I saw like a pretend indexed fund or something for NFTs, which I thought was pretty crazy, and I saw fractional ownership. And this is actually, a pretty big company is doing this for consumers, so you can buy 1/10,000th of a piece of Monet or something. The thing that I tell people is like, this market, all of these markets are going to multiply by, there's going to be 1,000 X more people participating in these things over the next decades because there's only a couple hundred thousand users actively interacting with these blockchains every day, so really, we are that early and 100 percent of all the complaints we get, they sound just like the complaints from 1992. I'm not going to fall for it. I've seen how this plays out, so I'm not fooled.
One other thing I want to point out to people who may not have known this, but you actually wrote the NFT Bible, which we will plug in the show notes here. Yeah, I'm not going to make you break that down because it's pretty long, but Devin is actually an expert here, so if you're looking to learn more about NFTs, I would point you to his NFT Bible. I think that's a good place for you to go learn more about digital art and read, literally, the NFT Bible yourself to get an idea of where this market is and where we could be going. Shameless plug.
DEVIN FINZER: Thank you.
HOST: I want to get into more of OpenSea and how you got the idea of that. So, you said back in 2017, you first learned about crypto, you got really deep into crypto and you knew that you had to create something in the crypto space. Why OpenSea of all things you could have created in the crypto space? What inspired OpenSea?
DEVIN FINZER: Right, so as I said, we were very interested in Crypto Kitties, and we joined a lot of the Crypto Kitties communities. I remember I was at some concert and just constantly checking the Crypto Kitties Reddit because there was just all this weird stuff going on and I thought it was fascinating. What we saw was a lot of people in the gaming space and the consumer tech space, crypto space, intersecting around this idea of the nonfungible token, which was pioneered by the Crypto Kitties team, and starting to build new non-fungible tokens, so we kind of thought that a natural piece of infrastructure for that emerging eco-system would be a place where you could buy and sell your non-fungible tokens, so when we started, it was kind of almost a silly project because all we had on our marketplace was Crypto Kitties, so it was really just an eBay for this one specific thing, which was this one game where you could trade around these digital cats, and not, at first, not a lot of people really used it because Crypto Kitties had their own marketplace and that was where the trading happened. What was exciting was, as new games came online, often, in contrast to like a regular game where you kind of build every single piece of the game, you build, if there's a marketplace, you build the marketplace yourself. If there's game play, you build all the game play, the assets just kind of live within the game. In contrast, these new games, they would sell their assets, but people wouldn't have a place to re-sell them, so that was really exciting for us because we saw these games coming online and we kind of scrambled to support them on our marketplace.
What was cool was that, over time, at first, sometimes we'd have to do some heavy lifting to make sure that the game items showed up perfectly on our site, talk to the developers, see if their contract was implementing something wrong, but over time, all of the, all of the smart contracts representing these items became more and more standardized, so now, anyone can come along and have a digital asset or an NFT and use our marketplace to buy and sell without ever having to have a high tough experience with us. That was kind of a natural evolution from seeing this sort of first use case around this one particular game and then seeing other projects come online that needed a marketplace.
HOST: Got it. So can you give some more examples of some of the other assets that are on OpenSea now. You started with Crypto Kitties. Now, obviously, there's way more than that. How has OpenSea evolved over time and what are some of the most exciting assets that are being sold on OpenSea today?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, so today there, on OpenSea, we break things down into five or six different categories, although there's probably more categories that you can come up with. The first is art, so art has really taken off and we've talked a bit about this since Crypto Kitties. What's interesting about art is that it's really simple, right? You just upload a piece of digital art and then you put it on sale and the value of that art is just kind of related to the provenance or the history and the creator of that particular piece of art, so it's a really simple, compelling use case and it's almost a no brainer for digital artists that want to be able to sell their work. The second, of course, is domain names, so this is where Unstoppable Domains comes into play. These are crypto powered domains that probably your viewers are already familiar with, but what's exciting is you can trade them on OpenSea, as well, so you actually own these domains on the blockchain. You can go and connect your wallet and then put a domain name on sale, and there's sort of this emerging early economy around people speculating or, that are interested in making a transaction to buy a particular domain that they want to put their de-centralized website on.
The third category is virtual worlds. So virtual worlds are these game-type experiences where inside the of the game you own a piece of virtual land and you can build whatever you want on top of that land. So, if anyone ever played Minecraft or maybe Second Life, those were these games where you could have a whole economy inside of the game, right? You could have clothing. You could have avatars, and there was exchange of these assets, and what's interesting about these new types of virtual worlds is, instead of it being confined to a specific game or specific application, you can actually go and trade the lane in that world, or the stuff in that world on a third party marketplace like OpenSea.
And probably the last category to talk about is sort of this collectible, trading card category of things, so here is, we've touched a little bit on the NBA Top Shot project from Dapper Labs. There's also God's Unchained, which is another trading card game, So Rare, but basically these are these collectibles that are sort of almost a hybrid between the art use case and the gaming use case where they're collectible items, just, and some people collect them for the sake of collecting, but other people collect them because they're using them inside of the game, so that's, so yeah, it's a really, a really diverse ecosystem. What's crazy about non-fungible tokens is you can represent whatever you want to represent with them, so the design space is pretty much unlimited.
HOST: Yeah, that's super cool. So it sounds like the categories of users you have right now are pretty much gamers, collectors and maybe crypto fans or people who are more knowledgeable about the space. How do you see OpenSea evolving in the future? What are some things that you see being sold on OpenSea in the future, and how long would you, if you had to guess, how long would it be until quote, unquote normal people are on OpenSea or the masses are all using OpenSea.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, well, that's a good question around the masses. I guess what I think may evolve over the next while, we're already seeing sort of interesting signs of selling tokenized physical assets on OpenSea, so an example here is, let's say that, actually, this is something that we have supported on OpenSea is someone can tokenize a bottle of wine. They can have the custody of that bottle of wine, but the asset, the digital asset can be traded around many different times before it's redeemed for the actual physical thing. What's interesting about that is you can have this really vibrant, digitally native market for an asset that is tied ultimately to something physical.
So, you can imagine that maybe you decide to trade your rare sneakers on OpenSea because you can trade them around digitally before you ever need to take custody, so you can have a much more efficient marketplace here. That gets into the territory of more traditional marketplaces today like Stock X and GOAT that are kind of breaking off chunks of eBay.
Now, I'm not sure how long it'll be before OpenSea gets into that territory. I think we found a really interesting niche with these very digitally native assets, and we're actually really excited about more and more regular people experiencing digital ownership because it is a new phenomenon, but it's a pretty exciting one when you get deeper into it. Part of the, I think there's two possible worlds. One is that maybe regular people won't be coming onto OpenSea until you can trade regular things. Or, maybe the other world is that regular people come on to OpenSea because they get excited about these new weird crypto things, eventually. So, I don't know. I think I can see a mixture of both of those happening, actually.
HOST: So I want to go back to the sneakers or the wine example real quick. So, okay, what you're saying is basically, if I have a super rare bottle of wine that's worth a lot of money and I want to sell it, what I can do is turn that into a digital token and sort of sell that around or pass that around on OpenSea? Like, I might post that on OpenSea and you see it and say, ooh, yeah, this bottle of wine is really good, and I want it, so you buy it for a certain amount, but then you try to sell it again? At what point does somebody else take ownership of my bottle of wine?
DEVIN FINZER: Right. So there's the current state of affairs and then there's maybe future state of affairs. The current state of affairs is, there's, there was a company called WiV that experimented with this, and they held the wine, but they turned it into tokens and put it on sale. You could buy it and do one of two things. You could either just hold the token and then resell the token for some other price, or you could redeem the token for that actual bottle of wine. Now, once you redeem that token and you have the rare bottle of wine, maybe you can set up a system where you can send it back and tokenize it again, but at least in the simple version of this, it was over at that point.
What's interesting is you could have these digital representation bought and sold maybe different times, just for pure speculation purposes before it's actually redeemed for the physical asset.
Looking in the future, you know, you can start to think about more sophisticated ways of doing physical transactions through the blockchain. People have, I think there's a project called Erasure Bay that has this kind of concept where you will stake tokens. So you'll basically say, as long as I actually send you the physical assets, I'm sort of depositing this amount of capital and if I don't actually send you it, then I will lose that. So there's other sophisticated ways you can do physical trades. We're not really in that business at the moment. We're more interested in, once it's become digital and once you know that it represents a certain thing, can you trade it around digitally a lot of different times? But certainly, I think maybe one day we could facilitate peer to peer physical transfer, as well.
HOST: Got it.
MATTHEW GOULD: I think that's a pretty cool use case for Kickstarters or sneakers, anything you buy presale. Like, if you bought a Kickstarter thing and you're like, actually, I don't want this. Maybe you're just kind of stuck and you've got to ask for a refund, but you could resell the Kickstarter item.
Then, sneakers, I know people who are sneaker heads, and they sit there with a bot and try to buy that sneaker, and they can't always get it on the day the sneaker is released, but they would love to just be able to go on a secondary market and pick up a digital, essentially, coupon to redeem for that sneaker, whenever that sneaker is available. I think that's pretty cool. Thanks for sharing.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah.
HOST: That's super cool. SO, I guess what is the market, is OpenSea pretty unique in its space, or do you guys have competitors? What are they doing? What are you doing differently from them?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, so over the last six months, the space has definitely grown in size and we do have folks that are either doing roughly similar things that we're doing or kind of tangentially related or in the similar markets. One note that I'll say is that the space is uniquely collaborative, probably even more so than kind of if you look at the early internet as a good analogy for where crypto is today, the collaboration and sort of inter-connectedness of all the different applications that are working the space is extremely high because, at the end of the day, the blockchain is a coordination layer. For example, pretty much all the companies that we would consider our competitors will have shared chat channels with, we'll constantly be coordinating, we'll link to their site. They'll link to our site. They'll have assets they can sell on OpenSea. We'll have assets that you can sell on their site that all of these things are very connected.
I would say what distinguishes OpenSea from our competitors is we've always been very horizontally focused. We've always allowed you to trade all sorts of different things on OpenSea. We haven't really, as much, focused on a very specific vertical. Now, we are doing some things recently in the creator and art space that are a little more tailored towards that market, but in general, we've always tried to build tools that any project can use, whether it's a piece of art, a domain name, virtual world, and I think that has been a really exciting feature for, or a really exciting piece of the project for our users is that they know they can go on to OpenSea and find what they're looking for. We aggregate prices across all, a bunch of different markets, so we're always trying to find the user the best deal for an asset, and I think that will become more and more important as the market expands.
HOST: That's awesome. Do you guy have anything exciting, new, cool planned for 2021?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, the biggest thing that we haven't officially announced but is in the works is we're expanding to other blockchains, so we'll be able to support chain in addition to Ethereum, and the reason that's exciting is that Ethereum right now is limited in its ability to cheaply process transactions. If you want to buy and sell something on OpenSea, you typically have to pay a pretty large sum of money just to facilitate that, so we think that other blockchains and other complimentary scaling solutions to Ethereum that are coming out over the next three months or have already hit the market are really going to enable a new set of use cases for NFTs that aren't just these sort of high value, $100, $1,000, $10,000 assets that aren't necessarily as accessible to a more mainstream user. That's a big focus for us, and the other area we're focusing on is we are making it easier for people to create brand new NFTs on OpenSea. So, I mentioned before we have a simple collection manager tool, which allows anyone to come onto OpenSea, upload whatever asset, whatever file and immediately tokenize and turn it into a tradable, non-fungible token, so we're making investments in, just making that process easier for creatives and people who want to experiment with the space.
HOST: That's awesome. Cool, well, Devin, the next thing I want to do is I've got a fun little activity I like to play with all the guests where I do a deep dive into your Twitter account, which you actually have a very interesting Twitter. You tweet about a lot of things and a lot of philosophical tweets that I've pulled up, but before I do that, Matt, do you have any other questions for Devin?
MATTHEW GOULD: I'm ready for the Explain your Tweet game. I'm excited for that.
HOST: The Twitter Dive? All right.
DEVIN FINZER: Oh my gosh. - -
HOST: All right, so I've done a deep dive in your Twitter. I'm just going to pull out some Tweets. I'll read the Tweet. I'll tell you when it was posted, and then I'll give you a chance to sort of explain what you were talking about, all right?
DEVIN FINZER: Sure.
HOST: All right, so on January 12th of this year, you tweeted, Considering declaring Telegram DM bankruptcy. What's that all about?
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, well, so for those of you who don't know Telegram, I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with it, but it's a messenger app, and you, it's kind of like any messenger app, Facebook messenger, Slack, these types of things. The thing, I like Telegram, but there are certain things I do not like about it, and the biggest one is the way that they order your messages. If anyone has a fix for this, let me know. I've looked, and I, I haven't looked recently, but last time I checked, there's not a good fix. If you have a new DM, it's really hard to find it because you have to scroll down to where there's this blue bubble that indicates that you have an unread message, so it's, long story short, it makes it really, really hard to find unread messages. So this Tweet was sort of like, okay, I might just give up on trying to respond to my Telegram messages.
The other thing that's really annoying is, when you mark a message as unread, it scrolls you back to the top so you can't, you're like, you go down. You're like, okay, I'm going to look at this message. I don't want to respond. I'm going to mark it as unread, and then you start from the top again, so that was my frustration with that.
HOST: Got it, got it, so if anyone's listening who works at Telegram or has control over any of that, go and fix your UX UI or else Devin's getting off your platform.
DEVIN FINZER: Exactly, yeah.
HOST: All right, cool. Next tweet, this is from January 7th of this year, you tweeted, Speak your mind and you'll say what you think. Speak from your soul and you'll say exactly what they need to hear. That is very philosophical.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, that was a thought that I think I had while I was meditating, but it was, it's basically this idea that oftentimes it's tempting to, when you're talking to someone, you want to say, you want to generally be open and honest and say roughly what you're thinking. Obviously there are circumstances where that doesn't make sense, but that's, being honest and transparent is one layer of excellent, but I think the layer about that is actually feeling like what is the right thing to say in this circumstance, given what the situation and your relationship with the other person. So, often I think it can be tempting to want to explain exactly your perspective and it's sort of an ego reduction type thing. Instead of trying to explain your exact perspective on something or trying to communicate everything on how you see something, you can kind of feel into, well, what is the thing that this person needs to hear at this moment, even if it's not, even if they're not going to see everything the same way that I say things, what is the thing they need to hear. Also, even if that doesn’t satisfy my craving for them to understand my perspective if that makes sense.
HOST: Yeah, I love that. I feel like everybody listening needs to just pause this podcast right now and think on that before you continue.
DEVIN FINZER: Totally.
HOST: Okay, the next tweet I personally loved because patience is not one of my virtues, and I can admit that, but on December 31st, you tweeted, impatience can be a virtual.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah, so by the way, none of my philosophical tweets ever get a lot of love relative to my NFT tweets. Whenever I tweet something about NFTs, it's great, but these tweets I get very little activity.
HOST: I'm going to go through and like all of them. Listeners, you should, too, as well. I love these.
DEVIN FINZER: But yeah, I think I was thinking about, I also struggle with patience, as well. In fact, that tweet was, I think in general, patience is a really strong virtue and it's something that I err on the side of being too impatient. But, I do think that, like, there's this, I can't remember what book this was in, but I think this guy had a conversation with Peter Thiel, and one of the questions Peter Thiel would ask is, what's your 10 year plan, right? What are you going to do in 10 years? And the follow up is, how would you do that in six months? So, this question of, are you planning way too far in advance and actually not thinking about how you could accelerate your roadmap for various things and just constantly feeling like, you know, there's a balance, right? You don't want to constantly feel like there's this fuel on the fire. You don't want to feel like you're rushing things. You do want to make long-term plans, but at the same time, you also want to be incredibly ambitious and have a sense of urgency around the things you want to accomplish, otherwise you'll just never accomplish them. I think that tweet was sort of encapsulated the thought that there's two sides of that coin.
HOST: I like it. I like it. All right, well, that's it, Devin. That wasn't too painful, hopefully. I didn't go too far back into your Twitter history and pull tweets from years ago, but I do think you have very interesting tweets, and a lot of people in this space just tweet about crypto and bitcoin and things like that, but you actually do have just general philosophical tweets that everybody can go and read and enjoy and think some deep thoughts on, so thank you for that.
DEVIN FINZER: Yeah.
HOST: All right, well before you go, Devin, I really appreciate your time, but tell people where they can connect with your personally, if they want to reach out to you, where they can learn more about OpenSea and also point people in the direction of, once you sign up for OpenSea, what are some of the first things that they can or just easy and exciting things that they can do initially on OpenSea.
DEVIN FINZER: Sure, so for me, you can find me on Twitter at twitter.com/dfinzer. For OpenSea, our Twitter is, our handle is OpenSea, and our website is OpenSea.io. In terms of exciting things you can do when you first get started, you'll need a Meta Mask or some crypto wallet to get started, so make sure you install that. It's not too much of a hassle, but it is your first, if you're brand new, it's probably your first entry point into the crypto space. Once you do that, you can create a collection for free today, and go and mint your own NFTs and start putting them on sale, that type of thing, and you can also just kind of explore and see what is interesting, so if you go to our rankings page, you can get a sense of what are the top non-fungible tokens that are being traded across different categories, and you can kind of find projects that might be interesting to you. Some of the products I mentioned here, obviously Unstoppable Domains, virtual world projects like Cryptovoxels and Decentraland are all really awesome projects that you can browse around on and learn about on OpenSea.
MATTHEW GOULD: Well, Devin, thanks for coming on here, and I just want to say for everyone listening out there, it's people like Devin who are impatient and they try to make things happen in six months that should take 10 years that are going to get blockchain into your hands sooner rather than later. Devin, for us at Unstoppable and everyone here in the community, thanks for the world that you do. Very excited to keep following along with what you guys are building at OpenSea.
DEVIN FINZER: Thanks for having me.
HOST: Thanks so much, Devin. Thanks, listeners for tuning in. Thanks, Matt for being an awesome co-host and we'll be back again soon with another episode of the Unstoppable Podcast.