Vignesh Sundaresan and Anand Venkateswaran, formerly known as Metakovan and Twobadour, made waves – or, more accurately, a tsunami – when they bought Beeple’s Daily: first 5,000 days for the modest sum of $69.3 million at Christie’s in March 2021.
The acquisition immediately propelled NFTs to the forefront of cultural conversation and Every day remains the most expensive NFT ever sold. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know: who are these guys?
In the year and a half since their headline-grabbing purchase, Metakovan and Twobadour have become the ambassadors of the NFT world and made Every day the centerpiece of a sprawling empire that now includes more Beeple NFTs, music from 3LAU and works from other NFT stars like Pak and Snowfro, much of which was bundled and tokenized by their company Metapurse’s B20 token. During their publicity tour after the Beeple sale, the couple revealed their intention to creating a fund to publish pro-NFT journalism, as well as providing greater access to NFT for people who, like them, identify with the Global South.
But with the NFT market all but destroyed in recent months, the dynamic duo have gone their separate ways. And their new directions offer a glimpse of where the once-robust sector is headed.
Twobadour, who was a science and technology-focused journalist before joining Metapurse, announced via Twitter in April that he would be stepping down to focus on writing memoirs. Metakovan sounded wistful about the decision in his own post: “Although it was always part of the plan, and I look forward to reading these memoirs, I would rather he stayed,” he wrote at the time.
In addition to the promised memoirs, Venkateswaran unveiled a new online character, launching Twobadour’s “exosuit”, and a new venture: eDAO, a Web3 access node for NFTs in sports, media and entertainment, built with Polygon co-founder Sandeep Nailwal. The DAO began with an NFT artist residency affiliated with Rare Marketplace.
Although they had different strategies for approaching art and investing, it seems that Twobadour focused on relationship building, while Metakovan was more interested in funding and collecting.
In a Zoom interview with Artnet News, Metakovan praised his relationship with Twobadour, but declined to speak more directly about the reasons for the split. “We are still friends,” he said. Twobadour declined to comment for this story.
The origins of Metapurse
The story of Metapurse is, in some ways, the story of the evolution of the NFT space as a whole. It sprang from other crypto entities and grew into something much bigger than now, against the backdrop of an NFT market that has plunged 70% since February 2021, still has to reinvent itself.
Metakovan discovered Bitcoin in the mid-2010s. “I grew up in India where I had to borrow laptops to work,” Metakovan told Artnet News from his home in Singapore. “It was not until 2013 when I left India that I started looking for remittances to send money to my family back home. While doing a Google search, I just found this thing called Bitcoin.
After studying mechanical engineering in Dubai and Canada, he started a crypto exchange called Coinse in 2014. The The platform allowed users to trade what was at the time an emerging market for alt-coins like Litecoin and Dogecoin. Notably, it was Dogecoin that nearly ruined Metakovan early on, after a blockchain discrepancy (or “fork” in industry parlance) allowed people to freely access coins on its exchange for a while. several hours while on a transpacific flight. “Dogecoin nearly bankrupted me,” Metakovan said.
Yet he continued. He quickly invited Twobadour, his longtime friend, to collaborate on the creation of a fund that would focus on collecting something new: NFTs. An occasional journalist, Twobadour has also worked as head of digital affairs at Sony Music and led content and media distribution activities for the NBA in India.
In 2016, Vitalik Buterin launched Ethereum, which enabled smart contracts to be used on all types of assets, from mortgages to digital art. Metakovan and Twobadour believed that if they focused their energies on early-stage Ethereum-related venture capital projects – ranging from finance to art, unique collectibles and virtual real estate – they would be ready. to impact what, at the time, wasn’t even called Web3. As smart contracts grew in popularity, the duo felt like they were onto something.
“We got to work right away,” Metakovan said. At that time, artists like Beeple and Snowfro, the founder of generative art platform Art Blocks, were gaining attention. And Metapurse started acquiring their work, fast.
As of the first quarter of 2021, Metapurse had approximately $189 million in digital assets under management. The $69 million Beeple accounted for about 36% of Metapurse’s total portfolio in the first quarter of 2021, according to data compiled by Coingecko. But there were plenty of other NFTs and projects, cryptocurrencies and, of course, their own B.20 token.
The rise and fall of B.20
The initial idea behind B.20 was to symbolize and package 20 different Beeple artworks. At the time, both Metakovan and Twobadour compared the B.20 project to a film production – a platform for other creatives to come together to build something greater than the sum of its parts.
Last year, they opened a virtual museum to show off their B.20 NFTs in a variety of online worlds and held a big party at Terminal 5 during the NFT.NYC conference, called “Dreamverse”, which featured a film version of Beeple. Every day and a performance by DJ Alesso. They also hosted “Metapalooza”, which Twobadour touted as the “first interoperable event” taking place in two metaverses simultaneously. Top crypto-literates (in avatar form, of course) were in attendance: Beeple, Jason Bailey, and Nifty Gateway co-founder Duncan Cock Foster all came together for the launch of the B.20 token. At its peak, the B.20 project employed 27 people, from architects to digital designers to coders, according to Metakovan.
The B.20 token still exists today and functions as a stake in a pool of NFTs under management. Once trading at around $25 per token, B.20 has now fallen to around 0.13 cents, largely due to the broader bear market around crypto and NFTs as a whole. (At one point, the duo attempted to sell out the token holders by selling a “master key” to the B.20 fund as a new NFT for $58 million, but that doesn’t appear to have happened.)
During the bull market, Metakovan and Twobadour also offered a $100,000 storytelling grant for NFT and crypto-art writers. Those grants eventually went to artists NFT Paradoxx and Pachoman, but they ended up receiving considerably less than expected: about $7,000 each to make films and projects, according to Metakovan.
Look to the future, with only one regret
Now Metapurse is a lean operation. Its NFT holdings remain top-notch, but it remains to be seen whether this translates into increased recognition and engagement at the museum and institutional level.
On September 5, Metakovan and Acute Art announced a new VR artwork by Olafur Eliasson, which of course includes an accompanying NFT. Entitled Your point of view mattersthe work will be an integral part of Eliasson’s upcoming exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and is expected to be exhibited worldwide, including in Metakovan’s native India.
The mechanical engineer-turned-patron of digital art remains perplexed by the bear market in NFTs. He developed a new strategy to coincide with the changing situation. Rather than focusing on multiple NFTs at once, he plans to focus his attention on single NFTs over a longer period of time, as seems to be the case with his new interest in Eliasson.
Its B.20 token, which is still tradable on different exchanges, is still supported by the collection and events that spawned it.
“I still, to this day, have never sold a single B.20 token,” Metakovan said. “I don’t care about material things, I look at the social value of projects. In Beeple’s case Every day, I think it’s part of a cultural story, and now my idea is to focus on unique projects.
Metakovan continues to live and work in Singapore, a jurisdiction he says remains one of the best for crypto entrepreneurs, but travels the world frequently in search of new ventures. “I come from India, a nation of a million minorities,” he said. “I think NFTs have great power. They have the ability to unlock our cultural memory, but also the keys to prevent the erasure of other people’s cultural memory.
Looking back, Metakovan says he regrets tokenizing access to B.20, which resulted in more attention being paid to the market price than the story and values behind the collection.
“B.20 is not a social, community or utility token,” he said. “It was and always will be a shared experience and collaboration that proved such an endeavor was even possible.”
He remains more determined than ever to see NFTs deployed in the real world, “I think the blockchain revolution is just beginning,” he said. “Right now, I’m not focusing on managing other people’s money, I’m focusing on art. It took a long time to sort everything out. »
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