🎙 "NFTs are Giving Way to The First Art Revolution Since the Internet:" SuperRare's John Crain

In this week’s episode, I speak with John Crain, the co-founder & CEO of SuperRare, one of the top NFT marketplaces. SuperRare wants to differentiate itself by being the NFT marketplace that best curates art, specifically. John believes the natural evolution for NFT platforms will be to specialize in verticals. For example, the interface for art should be different than the one for real estate, or domain names, and so on. The team recently launched a token and a DAO, and John explains how the move will be instrumental for SuperRare to scale its curation, as the original team gives up control and other participants propose and vote on what should go on the platform. 

We talk about the NFT boom more broadly, and how John believes NFTs are enabling the first artistic revolution since the internet. The movement includes changes in form, with VR, AI, video and audio, but also in the way people collect, with art becoming more democratized. This time around, the revolution is also global for the first time, and more open, as NFTs which are becoming the art world’s certificates of authenticity, are all public and with a trading history that’s there for all to see.

The podcast was led by Camila Russo, and edited by Alp Gasimov. Transcript was edited by Owen Fernau.

🎙Listen to the interview in this week’s podcast episode here:


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Camila Russo: John is co-founder and CEO of SuperRare Labs, one of the top NFT marketplaces. SuperRare recently launched a token and the DAO, which is a bit different from what other NFT marketplaces are doing. So I'm super excited to get into all of that and more. But to start, I’d just love to learn more about you, your background, what were you doing pre-crypto, what led you to crypto, and then what led you to found SuperRare?

John Crain: Yeah, absolutely. I'll try to keep it a little bit short, because it's a very meandering path. I was actually studying civil engineering and architecture in college, and that's when I learned about Processing, which is a programming language kind of designed to help artists learn to code. And I was a big doodler. So I started playing around and teaching myself to code and just got very excited, slowly started falling down that rabbit hole, making websites and things. 

And decided I was actually not going to go into architecture, and so moved to New York, worked in advertising. And while I was in New York, I was going to a lot of different meetups. And one of those meetups I found was the New York Bitcoin meetup, which was very exciting. I had been kind of reading about Bitcoin online a little bit, but was still really confused. I think I remember like getting there at the meetup, and the first question I asked, was what exactly is the hash rate? I keep reading about it, but I'm just not sure what this is.

CR: Totally valid question, to be fair.

JC: Yeah. I had read so many blogs, and felt like I was just getting more confused after each blog post I read. But every day I was just falling more and more down the crypto rabbit hole. And that was right around the time that the counterparty protocol had launched. So I was interested in colored coins. I was very excited about the idea of sound money, but also okay, how could we take this idea of native internet value transfer, and also bring it into consumer web experiences?

“I was very excited about the idea of sound money, but also okay, how could we take this idea of native internet value transfer, and also bring it into consumer web experiences?”

And just hanging out as part of the meetup, eventually, I saw the work happening on Ethereum, which I was actually very skeptical about at first. But then, once the network launched, I started experimenting with Solidity and smart contracts in general, and just got super excited. At the time, I was working at actually an eyewear startup, but left to go work with ConsenSys in Bushwick, and was with them for about two years doing a whole bunch of different things, focused on one of their spokes called BlockApps, which is kind of like enterprise Ethereum. 

And that was really interesting. I did a lot of education, I guess, with some of these bigger companies that were trying to figure out what blockchains are good at. What are they not good at? There's a lot of things they're not good at. There’s a very small set of things that you should do with the blockchain. And that was all really interesting. But in the back of my mind, I was still thinking about, for me what's exciting about Web 3.0 is how this is going to impact internet business models. So thinking about how so many of the social platforms have advertising built into the core, and so what does it look like if you have products that don't need to rely on advertising?

“...thinking about how so many of the social platforms have advertising built into the core, and so what does it look like if you have products that don't need to rely on advertising?”

And so when I saw NFTs, I got really excited thinking about all the things, all these digital objects that exist, they do have unique identifiers, and maybe this standard was a way to start to bridge the consumer web we all know and love with crypto, to build something a little bit better.

Disrupting Web 2.0

CR: Oh, that's interesting. So was your first take on NFTs was a way to reduce ads in the way that we consume the internet? Coming from an ads background yourself that's pretty interesting.

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