Who says the journey into the world of NFT is lonely? With a great, creative community to explore it with, you won’t have to worry about being alone. Yohei Nakajima took that up a notch and developed a generative NFT collection full of curious creatures exploring the metaverse looking for friends to play with: PixelBeasts. He joins today’s episodes to take us deep into his 10K project, sharing how he started in the world of NFT while continuing his career as an early-stage venture capitalist. Yohei also talks about the visible and invisible attributes that are driving rarities, the community of tech investors and NFT enthusiasts and his philosophy of choosing not to have a roadmap for PixelBeasts. There are so many more nuggets in this conversation, so don’t miss out and get to know Yohei and PixelBeasts.
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VC Yohei Nakajima Discusses PixelBeasts, His 24×24 Pixel Exploration Into NFT Art, Plus: A Bonus Conversation With Creatify CEO, Michael Krilivsky, And More…
This sponsored spotlight episode features Yohei Nakajima, the artist and developer behind PixelBeasts, the generative NFT collection with curious creatures exploring the Metaverse looking for friends to play with. They like to build, share, and collaborate on cross NFT utility tools. Yohei is an early-stage venture capitalist who is known for hacking together prototypes of various tools and sharing the process. He literally wrote the code for the open-source Tango NFT project. With PixelBeasts, he is bringing together a community of VCs, founders and collectors’ interests in learning about the Web3 ecosystem alongside him. Yohei, welcome to Edge of NFT.
Thanks for having me.
It’s awesome to have you here. I have the privilege often to have a little chat with some of our guests before they come on the show. I got a sneak preview of your background and what you’re up to. I’m personally excited. When a lot of people think about venture capitalists, they don’t think of hackers that are going in there and creating code and tools for developers and all sorts of cool stuff. You’re definitely cut from some different cloth, which is what we like to see in the NFT world. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you hear about NFTs and how did you get involved in all this fun stuff?
Being a VC, I’ve been tracking crypto, DeFi and Bitcoin for a while. I was aware of CryptoKitties and CryptoPunks pack. I started paying attention when there was that initial bump around February. I even went through the process of going through minting. I looked up Mintable, Rarible, Cargo and OpenSea. I went through the process of going through minting a test NFT.
We’ve all been through the same journey. It’s like everybody got set on a foot race at the same place. Some people sifted through the information more quickly and got their bearings quickly. Some people had a little bit of a head start because of their background. It’s been an interesting journey for everybody. It’s searching for information, making connections with people that might be useful, and also getting your hands dirty. Where did the idea for PixelBeasts come from? Is that something that’s been in your head for a while or it just popped in there one day in the shower?
No. I made the first drawing before the concept existed. I have always been a doodler. If you look at my notes from class, it has little animals on the side. I don’t have the attention span to draw a huge piece of art. Lots of respect for true artists who do. I’ve been doodling my whole life and I’ve done a lot of pixel art too. When I was looking at CryptoPunk site, I got fascinated by this idea of a 24×24 canvas and how little you can do in it. I thought, “That sounds fun. It sounds like something I could do before I go to bed.” I sat down and opened up Photoshop. I draw for fifteen minutes. That turned into a four-hour session where I ended up drawing 200 layers. The next night, I was like, “I have enough layers. I might as well see if I can write some generative code.” The next thing I knew, I had all the work in pieces for a 10K project.
For PixelBeasts, I wrote it in Python. There are some cool projects that are taking the actual transaction address and generating art base on that. It’s cool but I’m not doing that. I’m generating all 10,000 ahead of time, and then you’re picking one randomly when you mint, which is also true for other projects.
You mentioned the 10K project. This is some lexicon that’s becoming more common now. All these projects are doing that. Is that how many unique NFTs you’ll be generating from the project?
Yeah, I’ll be doing 10K. A lot of it was inspired by CryptoPunks. The backgrounds are not an attribute. It’s 24×24 pixels each. It’s hard, block, bold lines.
There are some big inspirations there. What are some of those fun attributes? One of the things that people are becoming more aware of is the visible attributes and the invisible attributes, the things behind the scenes that are driving rarities and whatnot. What can you share about the attributes?
Having all this space, there’s been so many exciting ideas. Loot was a big one that we all saw and that was an inspiration for adding a lot of what I call invisible attributes on the PixelBeasts. In addition to the visible attributes, which are 41 base beasts and visible attributes like hats and shirts, I have six invisible attribute types. I call them invisible attributes because you can’t see them in the image, but you can call them with an API and get the data.
My favorite by far is that each PixelBeast has a best friend and a nemesis. That’s 5,000 pairs of best friends and 5,000 pairs of nemesis. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with it, but there are a lot of fun things you can do. We’ve talked about doing an airdrop of 5,000 pieces, but you have to get there before your nemesis, or doing some reward if you collaborate with your best friend. It forces you to go find strangers across the internet to win stuff.
It drives the community element of it. It’s undefined. Who knows? You can do all kinds of fun things.
We have the six basic Dungeons and Dragons stats like strength, speed and whatnot, which all 360 dice rolls. They have a class such as a mage, thief and warrior. They have an element such as fire, water, air and earth. A habitat, which is based on Magic: The Gathering cards such as island, plain, mountain, forest and swamp. They have one dice roll each of a D4, D6, D10, D12, and D20. I put these in without knowing what I was going to do with them. Part of it was I wanted to pack it with attributes so that we could build cross NFT utility later. If somebody is building a game where all you need is 1 of 4 elements, in theory, they could swap out the address and let PixelBeasts play that game as well.
It reminds me of character development in screenwriting, where you develop an entire backstory to this character and you only see this character in front of you. You’re doing the things within that half hour or an hour that you’re seeing them on a show for a couple of hours in a movie. There’s an entire history usually written about them and it fills them with reality. This reminds me of that. You’re talking about the hidden attributes and how deep you could go with that if you wanted to. You could look at core values. I know a lot of Gary Vee’s NFTs are rooted in these individual values. What about the entire set of core values that drive a particular character? Is it empathy?The unexpected is the most exciting. Click To Tweet
It’s funny you brought that up because I did find a huge list of personality traits for non-playable characters. I did consider putting in personalities into the PixelBeasts, but upon thinking through the process of purchasing one and I wanted people to feel ownership of it, I felt like I wanted people to add their own personalities to it so I decided against the personality traits as an attribute.
Let’s go into the roadmap a little bit. Give us a sneak peek at some of the benefits and utility that you’re conjuring up for owning one of these PixelBeasts. Maybe not owning one but twenty.
I’ll start by saying let’s not call it a roadmap because I’ve been clear I don’t want to come up with a roadmap. I would rather underpromise and overdeliver. My communication says there’s no roadmap. It’s just me. It’s not a team. That’s why I built all the utility myself. I’m running a fund. This is my side project and how I learn. I’m bringing people alongside me.
That being said, we will have a couple of utility pieces on day one. I know the Tango project was mentioned in the intro. These are just hacky prototypes. For people who don’t know, Tango NFT is a private chat room for every NFT collection that requires no setup by the collection owner. If you log in with MetaMask, whatever NFTs you own, the collections those are in are the rooms you have access to.
If I have a more Loot NFT, the moment I go in and sees that I have that, it gives me access to more Looters. If I go and type a chat-only, people with more Loot can see it and so on with the Robotos, CryptoPunks, or whatever you want to call it. That was a quick hack that probably took me two nights to do. I pushed it out and open-sourced it, then we got a lot of people coming to me saying, “I want to help build this. I’m building a different version of this.”
Going back to utilities, one of the big utilities for PixelBeasts is going to be experimenting with various token-gated tools. This is a way for me as a VC to learn about these tools and experiments. Essentially, everybody who has a PixelBeasts along the ride with me. We have a couple of startups we’re talking to that I’m excited to announce on the token-gated tools about being the first to test them out. We have our own token-gated tool called Beastopia. This is different from Tango and this is just for PixelBeasts owners.
I built Tango into Beastopia. I know this gets confusing, but what that means is within Beastopia, each collection has its own room. If you find the CryptoPunks room within Beastopia, you have to have a PixelBeasts and the CryptoPunks to go in. The whole idea came up because somebody in the PixelBeasts Discord was wondering who else in the group had friends with benefits. This started the whole conversation, “Wouldn’t it be nice to find other holders of the NFT collections you’re in when you’re in a certain community?” The Tango within Beastopia is a feature to help people find other community members that you’re in the community with alongside others.
Which other NFTs do you own that would get you into various communities? Any examples?
I love those Kokeshis. I don’t know what happened with that project. I don’t think people have realized how cool it is.
We have a handful of those.
It didn’t blow up but I like them. I have two little half-Japanese girls. Worst case scenario, it’s a perfect gift for them.
They’re super cool.
Is there some way for you to get access to those private chat groups that you don’t hold the NFTs? Are you excluded as well?
Yes, I am.
It’s decentralized in terms of code.
Being in control of the code, I could give myself access to all the rooms. If it’s this specific wallet, I’d show them all the rooms. I am excluded from those rooms.
It’s a super cool feature that you came up with. I’m sure there are all sorts of other fun stuff that will be part of the PixelBeasts ecosystem over time.
It’s definitely not part of the roadmap because I haven’t even figured out how I’m going to make it happen, but I did design this massive multiplayer fantasy board game that I want to make happen. We’ll go into that when I get a little more detail.
It’s PixelBeasts/Yohei’s hacker journey. I love it. We’ll have Michael, the founder of Creatify on the show. Why did you end up choosing that platform? It’s an interesting backstory.
I had mentioned back in February 2021, I went through the collection of minting. It was a silly concept called the Numbers Collection and it was 1 through 10. There was only one 1, two 2s, three 3s. I went through that whole process but when I did it, I made a significant minting error. I minted my collection twice, which means I paid an extra $350. This was my first foray into it and it was such a bad experience. To have made a mistake that cost me money and thinking through other people getting into the space, I realized, “This is broken.”
I connected with Michael who was passionate about solving that specific problem and the UI and making this NFT space more welcoming to other people. He’s done that before in other industries, helping people take their art and sell physical products from it. Given his background and his passion for this specific problem that I had experienced, combined with how excited I was for the NFT space. I was excited to work with Creatify as an investor, and then the PixelBeasts project was in parallel. I drew those completely separate from Creatify. When I realized I had Michael and these guys like Brett by my side, I went to them first and said, “I got some art. Should we do it together?”
We’ll get a little bit deeper into that connection story when we bring Michael on and how you guys met or something. I’m curious how you’re collaborating with early-stage startups and expanding your community.
I have a couple of developers interested in building for Web3 and for every startup, that’s a value-add. Anytime a startup comes to me or I come across them, I reach out, jump on a call, and post about their startup to our PixelBeasts community in our Discord and say, “If you’re looking for startups to work with, here’s some fun ones I’ve come across.” That’s when we try to help the startups that are already building in this space.
On the investor side as well, my background, I’ve worked with Disney on the Disney Accelerator. I’ve worked with Nintendo for a couple of years. I have a deep entertainment media VC network, half of which haven’t touched Web3, but they’re all interested, especially with NFTs so I’ve pulled them all into. I’m trying to use this as a way to get crypto-curious folks sucked into the ecosystem. Once I add value to the startup then they’re like, “Thanks for helping promote us.” I go back and say, “When you’re ready to launch your product, let PixelBeasts be one of the first to test out this token game experience you’re building.”
It seems like the future is wide open for this project but at the same time, aside from a lot of the other projects we see, there does seem to be developing a theme around entrepreneurship and tech investment, even though it’s potentially a character-based role-playing game at some point. There’s also this piece of bringing the community together around tech investors and people interested in NFTs from that aspect of things. I’m excited about that piece of it. That’s interesting.
To summarize, it is like the startup ecosystem VCs and founders plus the no-code ecosystem because I’m a big no-coder. There are no-code tools that are building MetaMask login functionality. Those people I’m connecting with quickly. It’s startup ecosystem meets the no-code ecosystem. We’re learning about the Web3 community combined. It’s what PixelBeasts has turned into.
Have you ever checked out the Indie Hackers Podcasts? Are you familiar with that podcast?
I was trying to imagine if you’d be a good guest. They’re anti-VC over there but they’re also pro no-code. It’s an interesting mix of interests. For anybody who’s not familiar, definitely go check out the Indie Hackers Podcast. It’s founded by a guy who went through a Y Combinator and decided, “I don’t know if I need a VC startup type of project. I could just start a business that funds my lifestyle and support a community like that.” Long story short, he ended up being acquired by Stripe, which is back to the original idea.NFTs are all about authenticity, so people want to hear from the developers on their challenges. Click To Tweet
I’d love to back up and talk a little bit more about the larger philosophy of not having a roadmap and what that means now and in the future for PixelBeasts.
I’ve always used this analogy for as long as I can. Some people who know me well probably hate it, but I use this analogy of being a classical music player versus a jazz music player. A good classical music player has sheet music in front of them and they play it perfectly. The nuance is where their skills are versus a jazz player. If you set them on a stage and somebody else jumps on stage, a good jazz player jams with whatever sound is happening around them.
I always took the philosophy of wanting to be more like a jazz player. There are great classical music players and my brother is one. He had a ten-year roadmap to becoming a celebrity chef and he became one, so that’s great. If I can guess today where I’m in five years, I failed. I’m bringing that whole philosophy into PixelBeasts with me. If I can tell you what PixelBeasts is going to be in five years, I failed because, to me, the unexpected is the most exciting.
One of us is a jazz piano player, so you’re talking to the right crowd.
It’ll be fun. I don’t know where it’s going to go but I’m having a ton of fun with it. The people who’ve jumped on board are having fun with me. Web3 is going to be in a lot of places so we’ll figure it out as we go. There’s so much information. Having people to learn alongside has been nice.
That’s a great way to think about it.
The other aspect I appreciated about what you’re talking about is that you are an investor and there are these certain negative stories or tropes about the VC world of folks that want to give you money and then own you or something like that. They don’t necessarily know how to do anything that you’re doing. It can be oppressive. It’s fun to see that you’re getting your hands dirty just like anybody else would who’s starting a business, and you’re interested in the tech and how it works. Yes, you might not be a pro at all the details but you’re leading by example by creating in front of everyone. I definitely appreciate that aspect of all this.
My goal is to share as much as possible. All the code I write will be open source. All the templates I use for design will be open source. Hopefully, it’ll help some other people who run projects and find inspiration to help theirs. Mike is always like, “Yohei, you need to put all the utilities in one place.” I’m like, “I can’t because they come up with new ones every day.” We also decided to do a weekly Beastopia. It’ll be a weekly event in a virtual setting that you can walk around with and meet people. We found a couple of platforms around that. That’s another utility we’ll be doing. I’ll probably do some office hours. I’ll find some VCs and friends to do private talks.
It’s amazing stuff. We’ve been talking about this project and everything you’re doing, and all the associated projects but let’s take a step back and put your VC hat on. Let us know what other projects or platforms that we didn’t touch on here are getting you jazzed. What are you pumped about?
I’ll be honest, if I put my VC hat on, the NFT ecosystem is so challenging to track. I have a clear eye on which projects I like as an individual. I don’t know how to look at NFT projects as a VC. NFT startups in technologies, I don’t. As an individual, Cool Cats is definitely my favorite blue-chip. I love the community. I love the drawing. I love cute stuff. On the blue-chip side, I respect Apes and Punks, but Cool Cats is my favorite.
I’m a huge fan of what Woodies is doing. In building an entertainment brand, there’s something about not letting people see behind the curtain and trying to give people a magical experience. It’s hard to do that because NFTs are all about authenticity so people want to hear from the developers on their challenges. Having looked at a lot of projects, Woodies has done a good job of consistently communicating as a brand. I never feel like I’m peeking behind the curtain. They’re doing a good job with that.
We’ll keep an eye out and we’re also going to keep a big eye out for everything that’s happening with PixelBeasts. We’re excited about it. What we want to do is to get your personal perspective on some things. We got these questions called Edge Quick Hitters. We’d love to dive in on them. They’re a fun quick way to get to know you. There are ten questions. We’re looking for short, single word or few-word answers, but feel free to expand if you get the urge. Question number one, what is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
I’m not sure but the first thing that popped to mind was magic cards. Probably Mirage Edition pack of magic cards.
Question number two, what is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
I’m sure it was also a magic card. It was a Nightmare.
Around what age would that have happened and who would you have sold it to?
Elementary school. I don’t know if it was for real cash but I remember getting a Nightmare in a booster pack and I was excited. I didn’t play with blocks and my friends want it. That was the first time I got something that my friend wanted. I remember that specific one, getting a rare card in a booster pack.
Speaking of being a kid, trading and selling things, and not knowing exactly what’s going on, I have to bring this out in an episode. This is the right time. My son made his first purchase. We went to a resale shop where they have housewares because we’re doing some remodeling in our house and he found these little trinkets. They’re like little treasures. They’re little golden things that you put on stuff.
He found one and he asked if he could buy it with the $1 that he had because they were $1. We look at things for the dollar. He asked his mom, “Can I have two?” At first, she was like, “No, it’s $1 for one of those. You can only have one.” I said, “Why don’t you ask them if you can have 2 for $1?” We took him up to the front and he asked the guy who was on staff there, “Can I have 2 for $1?” Sure enough, they gave it to him. His first purchase was a bargain. It’s exciting.
That’s a good first purchase.
We’ve had many amazing people on the show, including yourself, share their first purchase. Eathan wanted to make sure that his son had a cool story if he ever gets on a show like this in ten years.
Onward and upward.
You will have to remind him of it. Question number three, what’s the most recent thing you purchased?
The first thing that came to mind was a bowl of sushi because I had it for lunch. I was craving sushi and went out and got it.
We don’t get the literal most recent thing people purchase often even if we want to elevate the craziest thing, but we appreciate it.
I automatically paid my gas bill.
That’s what we want. I don’t know if you actually do.
We both have those couple of crazy purchases.
Question four, what is the most recent thing you sold?
The recent thing I sold is probably a car. We got rid of a car. It’s a big thing.We can reach more people faster if we are building the actual railroad tracks and the NFT space infrastructure than if we're just a marketplace competing. Click To Tweet
Notice the trend. We got a few guests moving cars.
Was it Tesla?
No, it was not. It’s Prius, actually.
Number five, what is your most prized possession?
I don’t have many prized possessions but I have this pirate ship that’s been sitting behind me for several years now. I feel like I can never move it. I’ve been remote for several years, so everybody I work with has seen that pirate ship.
This is also something I have to bring up that’s interesting here. I’ve been noticing that pirate ship in your background and of course, because we’re all into crypto, we’ve probably seen Michael Saylor talking about crypto, Bitcoin and stuff. If you ever noticed, there’s always an actual ship in his background. I think that you know Michael Saylor’s seed phrase and it’s got the word ship in it.
Question number six, if you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service and experience that’s currently for sale, what would that be?
Some big piece of land in nature.
Would you get the digital equivalent to that as well?
I’d be open to it but no, it’s okay. I don’t need it yet, but there are some cool companies. Fabrica.land is a startup that’s doing digital titles on the Ethereum chain.
I totally know those guys.
On this piece of land, would you want to just enjoy that land or build a home on that?
Build a home. If it’s big enough and if I had all the money in the world, absolutely. I’ll build a place for people to stay but a little bit far from my home, and then a place for people to hang out, and then do some organic farming. I’d make sure I have really fast Wi-Fi.
Where in the world do you think it would be? Will it be in the United States?
I like being near big bodies of water. It doesn’t have to be the United States. Somewhere like New Zealand would be beautiful too, but my family is in the US. A lot of discussions would happen to decide.
Maybe in the near future.
I would do California too because I have a lot of families down there.
Once you buy it, we’ll be showing up, so be prepared.
Question seven, if you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would that be?
Being happy all the time.
Question eight, if you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would that be?
I wouldn’t mind if they were a little less sloppy than I was.
Are we talking about sloppy code or sloppy house?
Sloppy code. My house is clean. I’m not that sloppy. I wouldn’t really change anything. I like my sloppiness but at the same time, there’s definitely a beauty to finished products. I’m more of a quick hacker. I have a lot of working prototypes that haven’t been polished.
Is your desktop reflective of that? Do you have a lot of tabs and icons on your desktop?
I have a couple of folders on my desktop that has dates where I moved everything on my desktop into that folder. I have a folder that says October 2020. When I put everything on my desktop, I stack it in there.
Does anybody use Stacks on a Mac desktop? It’s awesome. It takes all of the jumble that happened to be on your desktop and it puts it in little stacks of like, “Here are images and here are videos.” It cleans it up, but it’s weird because you realize that none of it needs to be there in the first place at all because it could just go over there and sit in little piles. You don’t even look at it anyway.
Question number nine, what did you do before joining us on the show?
I had breakfast with my child. We had oatmeal. My other child was still sleeping, but she’s awake now. I can hear her.
Question number ten, last one, what are you going to do next after the show?
I got a big day full of meetings with founders. Some are in our portfolio and some are not in our portfolio, so it’s always a good day.One of the most exciting things about the NFT space and all this attention is how much demand there is for great artists. Click To Tweet
Anything in the blockchain NFT world outside of your project?
We have a couple. I’ve met a ton of founders in this space in the process of launching PixelBeasts in Tango. There are a couple of founders in there in the crypto space.
It’s a nice little side benefit of being in the space directly and going down the rabbit hole.
This is what it is. If you look at VCs, a lot of VCs run a community. It’s a mailing list and a Slack channel. Mine happens to be the NFT community.
First, thanks for indulging us there with your answers in Quick Hitters. It’s always a fun time and a good way to get to know you a little bit better. We have a couple of Hot Topics we can hit before Mike joins us. Eathan, I know there were a couple of fun things happening in the Twitter, TikTok, and Dapper Labs world. We wanted to talk about this.
Let’s talk about TikTok. TikTok launches first creator-led NFT collection featuring Lil Nas X, Bella Poarch, Brittany Broski, Curtis Roach, and more. “Inspired by the creativity and innovation of the TikTok creator community, we’re exploring the world of NFTs as a new creator empowerment tool. Today, we’re announcing our first ever NFT collection, TikTok Top Moments.” Sounds a little bit too much like Top Shots but that’s okay. “Designed by some of our community defining creators and inspired by the trending videos they created.” They’re jumping in.
That’s funny, Top Moments. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. I wouldn’t say they’re stealing anything here. We’re not talking about the underlying tech.
They should call it TikTok’s Top Moments Aping In.
TikTok is leading the way. Their algorithm is crazy. There are so many users and followers. There’s so much attention. It makes sense that they would incorporate NFTs into the mix. They’re also a relatively fast-moving and innovative company. One of the things I was talking about on the panel for NFTcon was the difference between a company building a crypto native solution from the ground up versus an established company. You’re trying to incorporate it into the business and bringing with it a lot of the following of its community and the infrastructure of a bigger organization, just the pros and cons of it.
I feel like TikTok, even though it’s been around a minute and there’s a big company and doing a lot of things, it’s demonstrated the capability to evolve quickly, iterate, and deploy stuff that its community wants. NFTs are right in there. We’ll see. Time will tell how well they do that, but this is a great first start.
In a similar fashion, what Twitter has been doing is they announced that they’re going to have a way to authenticate that what you put up as your profile picture is an NFT that you own so that there’s a level of authenticity. These guys get it. They see the future, the writing on the wall. They want to be part of the NFT ecosystem and they’re trying to do it in a genuine way. That makes sense to not only their traditional community members, but folks that are in the NFT space that like the creativity that’s collaborative. They don’t want to buy things from big companies that only benefit one side. It’s cool to see that evolution occurring.
What do you think, Yohei? Are you going to start NFT-ing things on TikTok?
I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see. I feel like the big companies are struggling to get traction in the space. The newer people do get excited about the launches if there’s a celebrity attached. It feels to me like the people who’ve been around the space, some of the whales were moving, some of the bigger chunks around don’t love buying into corporate-run projects. It’s what I’ve seen but I’m excited that they’re buying in. There are a lot of opportunities. The way TikTok is doing it is right. It’s focusing on the creator and building opportunities for them. I used to be a dancer though, so maybe I do have to do TikTok NFT.
What kind of dancing?
I was a competitive hip-hop dancer in high school.
I’m assuming you’re in a group like most of the crews are in groups.
Yes. We used to practice at midnight in Shinjuku or in Tokyo. There are these big corporate buildings and all the dancers knew which buildings had bright lights on the outside because it made their windows reflective and it works like a mirror. You’d have a whole bunch of dance crews dancing at midnight outside in these big corporate buildings.
I’m a huge fan of Jabbawockeez. There was a TV show they were on that introduced them. That’s so much fun and cool.
We got a special guest here coming in.
I love the fact that Yohei was a hip-hop dancer when he was younger. It reminds me of when I was a guitarist in rock bands. There’s this common thread of creativity and self-expression and everything from these great minds that have jumped and attacked. People want to create a new universe and empower people, and they came from the creative cloth themselves. I’d love to see some videos, Yohei. We must send them in the PixelBeasts Discord to get people involved.
I will share some.
One of the things I did during one summer when I was growing up was I took a magic class. There’s an element of magic in the room when we were talking about this space on this convergent technology.
We do have Mike here and we’re fortunate because he is the founder of the primary Hot Topic that we’re going to be discussing, and that is Creatify which is the easiest way to create, buy, and sell NFTs by lowering the barriers to entry. We have a video that we can show to give a little background to our followers and then anybody that catches this on YouTube. I felt like we might see some dancing come out of that. Yohei didn’t give us anything but I was hoping.
That’s a little early for that.
For those reading, some things in the video that we could see there is somebody who’s able to potentially purchase an NFT with their bank account or credit card or crypto. It looks like the main thing that’s coming across in a video like that is facilitating the usage, purchasing, and transactionality of NFTs for anybody. They don’t have to think about investigating something they don’t already understand.
We’re a twelve-step crypto wallet process. It’s tough. Even when I first started, I was like, “You have to do what?” You’re questioning. You hear all these things about everything getting hacked and you’re like, “Is this the right place for me to make a crypto wallet?” You have to do your research or ask your friends. They scare the hell out of you with like, “Remember this 12 or 16-word passcode. If you lose it, you lose everything.” Creatify is not going to scare the hell out of people. We’re going to keep your stuff safe. We’re going to let you come and create and buy and sell NFTs super easily.
It feels like something we’re heavily in need of as we try to bring more people into the fold. Let’s talk more specifically about how Creatify is building the railroad for the NFT system. How much does it even cost to make an NFT with Creatify?
It costs absolutely nothing to create an NFT with Creatify. The railroad question is awesome because that happened almost by accident. My last company was a marketplace that had about a million online stores, famous brands like Netflix, T-Mobile, Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am., and Kiss. They created over 100 million products on the platform. It was print on demand. People would upload an image on a t-shirt and sell it online. It was done in a very green manner.
We wrestled with the same problem that Amazon, Shopify and Alibaba all wrestled with, where sometimes users don’t always do what they should. They took images of Mickey Mouse, put it on a T-shirt, and try to sell it without Walt Disney’s permission. We all know that’s a no-no. I was a guitarist in bands at a young age and then also ran a record label. I saw both sides of the intellectual property value, what was right, and what to do. I said, “This isn’t right. We should try and stop this.”
When blockchain was super hot in San Francisco in 2016, we started building a solution on a blockchain to help mitigate intellectual property theft. We wanted to take the image, put it on the blockchain, and let the whole world know that there’s one source of truth. “This is the image. This is the intellectual property owner. Here are the rules and how they can be used.” Life is better without as much intellectual property theft.
This is a great concept. Some people got behind it, but then the bear market came in 2018 and we put it on pause. We continued with RageOn!’s trajectory, and then in January 2021, NFTs are exploding. We were essentially building the early version of NFTs a few years ago. What we wanted to do is when I got the right people on the team, we looked at all the marketplaces. We got all the feedback from everyone, including guys like Yohei and everyone who struggled initially to create NFTs to make them easier than to buy them.
Yohei’s exact words were, “I didn’t even know where my NFT went when I first made it. I spent $400 in making two different NFTs and I couldn’t find them.” How is that even possible? In my head, I’m thinking, “This is crazy. This is actually happening and there are millions of dollars being transacted? This is an easy problem to solve here.” This is a UI-UX and we’ll dig down into the deep tech to crack this. I teamed up with the best people that I possibly could have teamed up with to build this.“Any world where people are focusing on and paying attention to artists is a beautiful world.” Click To Tweet
Essentially, our goal is to build a better version of OpenSea or SuperRare or Rarible and make it easy for people to create with no cost, make it easy for people to buy, no crypto wallet needed. We did that before we even launched. We had amazing investors come in like Yohei, Cindy Bi from CapitalX, and Alchemist Accelerator, the number one B2B Enterprise accelerator and support our mission.
What was crazy is these large companies, these $800 million crypto payments companies are coming to us and saying, “Mike, we love the solution you built. We want it for us. We want an NFT marketplace that has zero cost to make the NFTs and a way to easily buy them.” We’re like, “Okay,” so they started offering us some good money to do this. We started to notice that we can reach more people faster if we are building the actual railroad tracks or the infrastructure of the NFT space than if we’re just a marketplace competing with OpenSea.
We are still going to launch our marketplace because it’s done. We are going to have great projects on it. We have amazing artists. We have some of our incredible art from my previous company that we acquired. We have some name brands. We’re even more excited by empowering the masses and people like Yohei and his project, his brainchild, and being the technology and the foundation behind it. We think we can reach a billion people by doing this, and that’s our goal.
It’s worth sharing with our readers that Edge of NFT is all about co-creating this ecosystem. That’s our mission. We know it takes a village to get that done. It’s been amazing talking to all these founders that welcome competition. We had the Palm Studio folks on the show, Matt from over there. There’s a handful of NFT studios out there and there’s so much opportunity to reach all those masses.
We were inspired to pull the trigger and have some skin in the game with Creatify. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s to come with laying down these railroad tracks. I’m so excited to have you on the show with us. I want to let our readers understand that this is a little bit of a special relationship here. Let’s talk about the tech because it’s an ambitious vision you got there. Does the tech work? That’s what people want to know because this stuff isn’t easy.
People have been asking that and they’re going off my word. They’re like, “Does this tech work? Is it really going to do what it says?” On the B2B side, we’ve acquired a bunch of clients in our pipeline and we did show them some tech demos on our stage. Staging is different from reality. We’re getting ready for the PixelBeasts launch. Yohei made the coolest 10K NFT collection. You can imagine this awesome utility where you can get VC advice. If you’re a founder, you can get more VC networks. If you’re an investor, you can play these fun games he’s built.
We said, “We cannot mess up this launch. We have to touch this stuff to make sure it works so that way, PixelBeasts goes off without a hint.” We tested a project and it was a 10K NFT project. We wanted to make sure we can successfully mint 10,000 NFTs, allow people to buy them, and see if we could handle the bandwidth in case there was a rush or whatever. When we launched, to our surprise, the 10,000 collections sold out in 27 minutes for $1.5 million. It was crazy. It works.
We’re excited to bring that power behind PixelBeasts and all of the amazing people on our pipeline. Some of them, we can disclose at this point. We have a professional golfer turn supermodel, Holly Sonders. You would love to bring her to the show. She’s a famous host herself. We have Chevy Chase, a famous movie star from Caddyshack, Saturday Night Live, and Christmas Vacation. We have some other big ones that we’re trying to lockdown.
We got a yes from one of the top producers in all of music history, especially in the ‘90s, John Feldmann, who is a band member of Goldfinger that holds the Guinness Book of World Records for performing the most shows in a single year. It’s about 380 shows in a 365-day year. He produced albums like The Used, Good Charlotte, All Time Low, and 311. We got the yes from his team.
All of this stuff is inbound. We’ve done zero outbound like zero marketing. We’re trying to create massive value for the NFT space because we’re NFT lifers that believe in this stuff. It’s crazy that we saw the early glimpses of this a few years ago and then to see it explode in early January 2021. I’m super humbled and blessed to have you guys be supportive as investors and having us on the show. It was amazing to get that support.
When I first met Josh, he was supercritical because he hears so much information and knowledge about everything that’s happening in NFT space. He was trying to poke holes and he made me better. He made Creatify better, so I will never forget those early conversations. I am humbled and blessed to have you guys as part of the team.
As we said, let’s co-create. The next question I wanted to ask you about, bringing Yohei back to the conversation, is as you alluded to the launch, how did you two come together? Let’s get into details a little bit as we go forward here.
It was Cindy who introduced us. She was a good friend of mine. Funny enough, I’d known about Michael’s last company, RageOn! I was a huge fan of RageOn! itself so I connected to Michael. I used to do a lot of custom printing of T-shirts in college. I was excited when he first came out with the full T-shirts screen print. It was innovative back then.
I love RageOn! as well. Cindy Bi is amazing. I have been following her career and we’ve been Facebook friends for several years. I have been wanting to join her fund because she’s an excellent investor. She has over eleven unicorns. To get one unicorn in your portfolio at a seed stage is an honor and can set you free for the rest of your life. She has the foresight to see the future.
I love connecting with people that have this vision. It was an honor to team up with Cindy as an early investor from CapitalX. She introduced me to Yohei. Yohei and I clicked right off the bat in our first conversation. He loved the pain points we’re solving. I commonly reference Yohei as the ideal investor that I’d want. By the way, any startups and any founders out there, Yohei from Untapped VC is one of the most value-added investors I’ve ever worked with in my life. I’ve worked with over 100 investors in my companies alone, probably thousands within my ecosystem, and Yohei is easily top 5 or 10.
Thank you for saying that.
When Yohei leaves, we can say other stuff about him. How about details on the launch? When is this happening? How do I get PixelBeasts? What should I do to get my feet wet and my hands dirty?
Friday, October 8th, 2021, at 8:30 AM Pacific Time is the public launch. All you need is a MetaMask wallet with ETH in it. We’ll be getting it out there. Beastopia, the first token-gated experience that I’m staying up nights to build is ready. I just need to map it to the contract. You should have utility day one to go into this private chat room with a couple of other features in there.
We’re doing this three days before launch and you seem relatively calm and happy.
That’s my thing.
Readers, when you read this, the launch would have happened but we will be sharing all kinds of fun stuff in advance on our socials.
We’ll put out a YouTube video and some other info.
Mike, this has been great having you on and talking to you here on the show. It’s good to reconnect with you as always. Where should folks go to keep tabs on what Creatify and you’re up to?
They can go to create a Creatify.art and sign up. Follow the social media and join our Discord as well. All the hype and the magic are on the PixelBeasts Discord. You’re definitely going to want to get on that one. The website there, which you can find also on Creatify.art is PixelBeasts.xyz. That’s where you can find all the information. We got the website live with all the details and the utility.
I highly encourage even people that are interested in creating NFTs or 10,000 NFT collections to check out the utility and the thought behind PixelBeasts. This is something that’s Yohei’s brainchild, but also the Creatify team put a lot of hard thought into how we can deliver the most value to every NFT owner of a PixelBeasts.
This is exciting stuff. Yohei, is there any other place you’d like folks to follow, either what you’re up to personally or your work in the investment world?
I’m active on Twitter. It’s probably the easiest place to follow me. I’m open and candid. It’s @YoheiNakajima. You can see all the stuff I’m investing in as a VC and all the fun stuff I’m doing with PixelBeasts.
I heard we have a little giveaway that’s getting cooked up as well. Do you want to give a little color on what we’re thinking there?
We’ll give away three PixelBeasts to the audience of the show and we’re going to be posting details on the giveaway around the time you post the show.
When we launch the video, we’ll launch the contest as well. Not to say that folks should not try to get in right away, but a little bit of extra something. I appreciate you giving that to our followers. I know they’ll be excited. I love how you’re integrating founders and developers into your community. They are the lifeblood of the NFT ecosystem.
It’s the artists. Artists are there. We want the devs and the founders to build utilities so that these artists can focus on the creative. The devs and the startups can build the utility.
I should clarify, in this space, the artists are the founders. That is the big difference between what we’re doing in the World of NFTs. Some of the other things where you have an artist in your team, this is a chance for the artists to rise up and to take over. A previous guest said, “As we get into the world of AI and machine learning and everything, the thing that separates us from the rest of the technology is creativity.” You’re trying to do something to support creativity at the end of the day.
One of the most exciting things about the NFT space and all this attention is how much demand there is for great artists. I feel like this is a great quote to end with, “Any world where people are focusing on and paying attention to artists is a beautiful world.”
There you go. That’s a wrap.
We’ve reached the outer limit at the Edge of NFTs for this episode. Thanks for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on the starship, so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to iTunes, rate us and say something awesome, and then go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole.
Do you want to help co-create Edge of NFT with us, got a guest you want to see on the episode, questions for the hosts or guests, an NFT you’d like us to review? Drop us a line at Contact@EdgeOfNFT.com or tweet us @EdgeOfNFT to get in the mix. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- Tango NFT
- Magic: The Gathering
- PixelBeasts – Discord
- Koala Intelligence Agency
- Woodies Mint Pass
- Farmers Market
- Indie Hackers Podcasts
- Cool Cats
- Michael Saylor
- Dapper Labs
- TikTok launches first creator-led NFT collection – article by TikTok
- YouTube – Creatify
- Alchemist Accelerator
- Palm Studio – past episode
- John Feldmann
- @YoheiNakajima – Twitter
- iTunes – Edge of NFT Podcast
- @EdgeOfNFT – Twitter
About Yohei Nakajima
We recently announced Untapped Capital, a new VC firm I started w/ my true friend and role model Jessica Jackley.
We’re a pre-seed/seed fund investing in unexpected founders, found off the beaten path, not well connected to VCs. We’re talking young, underrepresented, small town, immigrant, and so on. These founders aren’t in our network (almost by definition), so we primarily source through outbound, meaning we reach out to founders.
We look at tens of thousands, track and tag thousands, and reach out to the startups that stand out to us. We like to do other things in unexpected ways too. We’re fully remote, impact minded, and run our firm off of a custom no code CRM. We’re lean, experimental, and collaborative.
More than anything, we’re all about our founders. Very humbled to be working with incredible companies such as MilkRun (ag/food), Level (fintech/marketplaces), Obviously AI (No Code/ML), Endpoint Logistics (proptech/logistics), Tennibot (sports/robotics), and Windmill (home/climate).