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Metapurse is a crypto-based investment fund that reportedly owns the largest collection of NFTs in the world. It’s financed by pseudonymous founder Metakovan (later revealed as Singapore-based blockchain entrepreneur Vignesh Sundaresan) and managed by Twobadour (Anand Venkateswaran).
On March 11, Metakovan purchased Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days for USD 69 million, making it the world’s most expensive NFT and the third most expensive work of art to be sold by a living artist.
Our journalist speaks with Twobadour, who calls himself the “steward of Metapurse”, on Metakovan’s historical purchase, the importance of blockchain education, and the evolving art investment industry.
“Can I address you as Anand or do you prefer Twobadour?”, I asked nervously as Twobadour’s colourful (and rather intimidating) online avatar stared back at me on Google Meets.
“Let’s go with Twobadour, it’s more fun!”, he chuckled. My nerves were somewhat calmed but my surprise and curiosity grew. I was expecting a snobbish reply from a mysterious crypto personality but it became clear from his demeanour that a friendly chat with a fellow blockchain enthusiast was about to ensue.
This is what the Twobadour had to share:
Metakovan is a metaphor for crypto or what is possible in crypto. The idea that crypto opens up financial opportunity and exposure to people from anywhere in the world lives by Metakovan in that sense.
Metakovan discovered Bitcoin in 2013, and the package of information that he had was sufficient to send him off on the journey of entrepreneurship and discovery in the crypto space. Incidentally, when he discovered Bitcoin in 2013, he told me about it.
I was a journalist at the time, but considering the fact that I let go of a story of that magnitude maybe calling myself a journalist would be a bit of a stretch but there you have it! Bitcoin and blockchain were even more abstract than it is today. And I found myself unable to connect with the technology at any meaningful level.
It took me another four years of meandering through several modes of communication. I wrote about financial technology for about four or five years and a variety of other things before it started to make sense to me. I started to understand Bitcoin and what blockchain technology is capable of. I had been in touch with Metakovan and he kept me abreast of his Y Combinator days. In 2017, we joined forces again and worked in the DeFi (Decentralised Finance) space for some time.
I had a bit of an awakening in 2020 when the world was shut down due to the pandemic and we were all forced to reckon with what our place is in the scheme of things. I discovered the NFT space and found out about the abstract beauty of NFTs: financial independence, immutability and inalienable ownership. All of these suddenly became vivid and the stuff that you could actually see, experience and enjoy other than just going through charts and patterns on Ethereum. That was a very powerful moment for me.
Why We Decided To Buy Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days
What drove us to fall in love with that piece of art is easy. We have been fans of Beeple for some time now because he brought a very powerful narrative to the digital native generation.
Beeple is someone who has an almost spiritual knowledge of consistency. He created one work of art every day on his good days, sick days, healthy days and even on days when his wife went into labor, so that’s extremely powerful. What it portrays is that you can start anywhere but if you keep at it you can hit the end of the rainbow whether it’s at the end of one year or 13 years.
But we had no idea how much we would end up spending on this work of art because there was no ceiling, there were no precedents to this. All we focused on was establishing a relationship with Christie’s and asking them for a free runway: don’t set any arbitrary ceiling on how much we can spend in this auction!
And it ended up being USD 69 million. If it had stopped at 20 million we would have been sad!
NFTs Are More Than Just JPEG Files
When people bunch NFTs en masse as one asset class, they’re doing themselves a disservice. Unlike other asset classes that are hard to immediately understand if you haven’t been in the field for a really long time, NFTs have a packaged culture which gives people the chance to approach them from an angle that they’re familiar with.
For instance, if you’re into gaming you start with Axie Infinity. If you’re into basketball you can go for NBA Top Shot. You have this unique opportunity of approaching an asset class from a place that you’re familiar with. It becomes easy for you to understand the economics of that.
And you can still display NFTs in your home! Just use a different medium. The beauty of it is that it’s actually more portable and durable than any art that you own. If your art is deemed valuable and worthy it can be made accessible and the value of that is amplified a 100,000 fold. That’s just on the aesthetic and experience itself.
What you’re really owning is not just a JPEG. It’s provenance, which happens to be the biggest cost center and also worry center when it comes to conventional art, to establish the provenance of a particular piece.
The provenance is often unclear and is determined purely by the people who say that it belongs to somebody. But on the blockchain the provenance is cast in stone. It’s inalienable and immutable.
If you own a CryptoPunk, which is the first art experiment on Ethereum, you know that it’s the first art experiment on Ethereum and as long as the internet is alive, you can establish that story without any loss in translation. That’s where the value comes from.
Real Estate NFTs: A New Technology For Illiquid Assets
Decentraland and a bunch of other virtual worlds are experiments in that. Real estate in the real world and in the metaverse are similar to a certain extent, but have very different possibilities going forward. You need to look at virtual real estate like how you look at websites. Those plots of virtual land become virtual identities and marketplaces. One might argue that there’s a potentially infinite amount of land you can see on the internet. However, there are millions of websites but only five or six that control your activities on a day to day basis.
There will be some pockets of virtual space, which will become the focal point of global attention, and to approach it from that angle would be very interesting. And the metaverse is never meant to be an alternative to the real world, but rather something that augments it.
An example is our physical event in New York called Dreamverse. Because it’s blockchain-based, we’re going to work with incredible creators, artists and technologists from around the world. We’ll have Beeple, Time Magazine, Alesso and another 150 artists that we’re going to feature.
Those relationships are forged in the metaverse and then translated into experiences in the real world. As for providing liquidity around illiquid assets, this is exactly how it happens. There are many financial instruments that are evolving to match the potential of NFT’s, things like fractionalised ownership of large buckets of assets which opens up global capital in a way that has never been possible before.
The NFT Market in Asia is a Vast, Untapped Market
The blockchain movement itself has been confined to the West for the most part. Once that begins to shift I think we’ll see some real change, especially because it’s cultural and artistic.
One of the ideas we have is to really increase representation of underrepresented cultures, which typically tend to be Eastern cultures. The old narrative is that unless you can express your art or culture in one of five European languages, it’s not considered high art or culture. NFT’s break that barrier. I have an artist working out of Chennai, India and we’re able to have him perform in one of the biggest venues in New York!
Blockchain & Crypto Education are Massively Important
The reason why it remains a niche at this stage is because it’s the other side of the decentralisation coin. There’s no central authority in charge of telling the world about blockchain or crypto.
Every project about blockchain talks about it only in its own context. It’s not a collective standard like banking where everybody talks about savings, deposits, or how to invest. Here, it’s all very compartmentalised. Decentralised!
And as Metakovan would say: Education first and only then the crypto will come.
Everydays: The First 5000 Days will be on display at the world’s first NFT-focused festival “Dreamverse” in New York’s Terminal 5 on 4 November 2021.