UniArts, an interview with founder Kyle Gu
It’s undeniable that NFTs have taken the world by storm and that the primary application has been in the field of art, as exemplified by the momentous Christie’s auction of Beeple’s art piece for $69M. But the field of art suffers from a number of important pain points
Could you talk about what motivated you to build UniArts?
I think every member of UniArts team has different reasons to build UniArts. I may be able to talk about this for a whole day. lol.
For myself, the main reason is that I truly believe in the vision of Web 3, and I wish to become a small part in making this vision come true. Of course, there are lots of things we can do to realize this vision, but I think NFTs might be the most obvious scenario; so for me it is very important to build and operate an NFT project that means something to the crypto community
Could you give the reader a synopsis of the project?
UniArts is a multi-network NFT platform that offers NFT valuation and usage scenarios. Basically we design UniArts to answer 2 difficult questions: 1) how to value an NFT and 2) how NFTs can be useful
The answer to the first question is obviously our bottom-up valuation approach, which you can simply understand as “vote NFT to mine”. As for the second question — what one can do with NFTs — we will have a further announcement
Your white paper talks about this “bottom-up” approach to valuations, which I find exciting and right on point. Could you elaborate for our readers on the notion?
Well, the most intuitive description of the “bottom-up” approach is NFT vote mining, or appreciate-NFT-to-earn. Basically it’s a representation of how everyone on the platform feels about UniArts, or at least what we want to present. It works like this:
- In the UniArts gallery, you can vote for NFTs that you believe most popular or simply those you like; the votes are made with the UART token or wETH and you will be rewarded with more UARTs
- At the same time, UARTs will be minted into an NFT with the amount of votes received, which would give the NFTs extra value and liquidity since these minted UARTs can be retrieved by the NTF owner
- If the NFT you vote on is sold with a high price in the following auction, you will receive more reward for your votes
By doing so, we wish to build a consensus mechanism of NFT fair value using blockchain technology but without implementing it as an algorithm. Instead, it’s market-driven and “bottom-up” because everyone who has wETH or UART tokens can vote, and every vote matters
So instead of a single sale deciding the value of an artwork, the number of tokens minted helps determine pricing. It works like a predictions market
How did you meet your partner Carl Chen? How long have you known each other?
Carl and I met early this year. He found me after hearing my AMA about UniArts. He said he totally agreed with my thoughts about NFTs, and we had received some investments at that time, so he has been on board since
As for me the other developers, we met in 2017 and we used to work together on a lot of outsourcing blockchain projects. These guys are great, and I think 2 grants from the Web3 foundation proves their strength
What have been some of the bigger challenges you’ve faced? What are you struggling with at present?
At first, none of our team members had experience with art. Yes… I’m not joking, this has been a big problem for us. But things changed since Sonia Xie joined; she is an art historian and manages Artsy.net, the biggest online marketplace for art in China, and suddenly… we are somehow different
As for technology, we had some problems when upgrading our network from substrate 2.0 to 3.0, but it’s fine for now, all solved
Our biggest struggle is when to integrad our galley with our main net. We have a running uniarts main net, and the gallery, impossible art formula, is built on Polygon. It’s a good and proper start for a project like us to launch our gallery on an established network, but still, we are finding the most proper way to put the gallery and NFTs on our own network.
What keeps you motivated?
lol. Why do I feel this question is like “do you still love your wife? And why do you get married?”
A lot of things keep us motivated, like our community; I’m always so glad to receive a positive response in our Telegram group, and some people said they like our NFT voting, and said keep up the good work, I really don’t want to let them down.
The team is another important reason. I like my team, and we need to be successful or maybe at least not fail to keep the team together and work on NFTs
Also, one great thing about blockchain is it’s permissionless. If I want to build a gallery, I just build a gallery — no need to apply for an exhibit permission, business license, deal with anti-money laundering or all of the troubles found in non-blockchain businesses. With UniArts, the only limitation I have is my personal ability and my team’s ability, so there never is any excuse for us to fail. We believe the vision, both Web3 and UniArts’, we have the resources required to start a decent project, so we will make UniArts great with the support of our community
You guys are based in Singapore… how do you find the regulatory environment for what you do? and has China’s position on cryptocurrencies affected your outlook for the future?
We are based in Singapore, our team is in the US and Argentina etc. I believe this question is about the crypto related regulatory environment for China, which is really bad, like the central bank has banned crypto for 100 times, that bad. China forbids developers for crypto exchanges to work in the office, no matter whether the exchange is for the Chinese market or not.
The truth is, they banned every possible thing related to crypto. From now on, exchanging cryptos for fiat money is illegal financial behavior, so what we can do is PR on our gallery, NFT, artist, and technology
It’s ironic that the government publicly supports blockchain technology, and what they want is to separate blockchain from crypto, which actually worries me. We use the term “economic model” instead of “business plan” for blockchain because for a blockchain ecosystem, it’s not about making money; instead it’s about providing proper incentives for everyone who does something for the system. In a public chain, crypto is the economy, code is law, power is naturelly bottom-up from everyone who holds crypto and performs by the governance model. If someone takes crypto away, then what’s left is law and absolute power
But when it comes to the future, things become interesting. Firstly, we can operate normally almost everywhere else, and we still can sell NFT to the Chinese crypto community, although they only exist in Telegram instead of WeChat now
You’ve built on Polkadot, and that’s very exciting. How easy or difficult has the development journey been for your team?
Technically we built it with Substrate, and we consider our mainnet as a potential Polkadot parachain. Building a blockchain network with substrate is much easier compared with the old fashioned way. It’s like shopping at the supermarket: you choose all the components and put them together, yet the supermarket layout keeps changing
And you have plans to migrate to other networks like Polygon. Any plans for Cosmos? have you guys looked into the platform?
We started our gallery on polygon, and plan to integrate our mainnet into it in the future. We wish to expand our ecosystem to all of the NFT-rich networks
As an blue-sky question, what is the best outcome you could hope for from your efforts?
lol. Our gallery becomes the place for NFT fair valuation, that both artists and collectors wish to put their artwork on our gallery to be voted, and UART becomes the vote ticket that never expires for NFT valuation
Kyle, it’s been great talking with you. Let’s do this again as the project comes to life!
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