PROOF: Building products, providing knowledge and fostering community
A deep dive into PROOF, its exclusive collective and its plans for the future.
Over the last several months, we’ve seen a major trend emerging in the NFT market—artwork and collectables are evolving into content with utility. New experiments with membership NFTs are pushing the space forwards.
One particular project leading the way is the PROOF Collective.
Given its meteoric rise from a price of 1 to 68 $ETH ($239,295) in just over three months, it’s no wonder some are describing it as the “blue chip” of token gated communities.
“We’re clearly entering a world of membership NFTs” — Kevin Rose, Co-Founder and CEO of PROOF
Other examples of players in this space include Crypto Package Goods, Quantum Keys, Poolsuite and LinksDAO. Member benefits include admission to a private Discord server, early access to NFT drops, IRL experiences and much more—all while founder reputation underpins the value of the original asset.
Speaking of founders, PROOF was started by Kevin Rose and Justin Mezzel, two seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Aside from tossing the odd Racoon, Kevin is most well-known for co-founding the social news site Digg. He’s a partner at True Ventures, and before that, he did a three-year stint at Google.
Justin is a design whiz who’s spent the past 15+ years working across editorial, graphic and product design. He’s also the artist behind the popular Grim Syndicate NFT community on Solana.
Shortly after the collective launched, Ryan Carson joined as Chief Operating Officer. He’s another talented tech founder who brings a wealth of experience from past ventures. Most notably, Ryan co-founded ed-tech platform Treehouse and ran the well-known Future of Web Apps and Future of Web Design tech conferences.
Disclosure: I’m a PROOF Collective member; I bought a pass for 1 $ETH when the project launched (slight brag); I own Garry Vaynerchuck’s Grails piece; and if you’re reading this after April 16th, I’ll have at least two Moonbirds.
What is PROOF?
PROOF started life as a podcast about all things NFT, from conversations with artists, collectors and founders to in-depth coverage of the latest in generative art, gaming and the metaverse.
With appearances from the likes of Beeple, Snowfro and Tyler Hobbs, the podcast ballooned to 150,000+ listeners in no time. Kevin and Justin formed the collective to tap into the combined intelligence of their audience and help people cut through the noise in the NFT space. As Kevin puts it, the PROOF Collective sought to provide “curation with a point of view”.
They launched sales in mid-December 2021 using a Dutch auction. Prices started at 5 $ETH ($20,440 at the time) and decreased by 0.25 every 10 minutes—the majority of passes sold at the floor price of 1 $ETH ($4088).
Since then, the floor has rocketed to a staggering 74.5 $ETH ($260,928) at the time of writing (04/04/22). With a collection size of only 1000, that’s a market cap of $260,928,000.
At first glance, this may seem like an overvaluation, but it starts to make more sense once you dig a bit deeper into the project.
The PROOF Collective has since evolved into much more than a private Discord. So far, we’ve had exclusive minting rights to Emotes by Heart You; allowlist spots and giveaways for popular NFT collections; early access to PROOF podcasts; and best of all, exclusive access to PROOF’s first official project Grails.
Discord is the centrepiece of the membership. It’s where we talk about the projects and artists were following. We give each other advice on what to collect and where we think the space is headed. We cover everything from generative and AI art to photography and music NFTs across Ethereum, Solana and Tezos.
It’s an amazing tool for project discovery. For example, the “just-purchased-this” channel is a great place to find new artists and get a signal on what’s trending. You can catch a glimpse of it right here, courtesy of theNooch.
Oh, and we also talk about Rubber Duckz lots of Rubber Duck talk.
One of my favourite things about the collective is that artists participate in the conversation. We have super well-known and up-and-coming artists in the community. A couple of weeks ago, Tyler Hobbs gave a talk about the process behind his Grails piece “Wall”. The other day, IX Shells gave some insight into their process and where they find inspiration. And later this month, Tim Ferriss will be joining us to share the story behind his Grail “How to Start a War”.
The first major release from PROOF saw 20 artists contribute 20 unique pieces of artwork to an NFT collection. Artist names were hidden through the mint window, so no one except Kevin knew who was behind each piece.
The team designed it in this way to shift attention away from flipping NFTs and towards focusing on the artwork and its long-term collectability.
Collective members were able to mint one item per membership pass held. The mint price was 0.05 $ETH ($147 at the time). We were told two things: (1) four of the top ten grossing NFT artists were in the mix, and (2) some artists have large followings outside of crypto and are contributing their genesis NFT.
With these two nuggets of information, the Discord exploded with wild theories and prompted several extended trips down the rabbit hole. Some played the guessing game, some chose what they loved, and some waited until the end to pick up the rarest pieces (i.e. the least minted).
As it happens, the collection included artwork from the likes of Dmitri Cherniak (Ringers), Larva Labs (CryptoPunks) and Gary Vaynerchuk (VeeFriends), as well as lesser-known but equally talented artists like Marlo Johnson, Grelysian and Lucréce. View the full collection here.
Grail #11 from Larva Labs, entitled “Protoglyph”, is being described as the “grail among a grails” as it turned out to be a prototype of their seminal Autoglyphs project. It sold for 80 $ETH ($213,294 at the time) shortly after the artist names were revealed. For perspective, the current floor on Autoglyphs is 177 $ETH ($619,923). Interestingly, the floor price dropped to a low of 20 $ETH a few weeks later (still a 400x increase from the mint price!).
And, if all of that wasn’t enough, entirely unbeknownst to the PROOF team, Larva Labs hid a secret message inside the artwork. Some collective members found and decoded it a few days after the reveal. It sent them on a week-long treasure hunt to find a secret NFT prize. With the solution in hand, they were able to claim Meebit #2858, worth somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000. You can read the full story here; it’s pretty wild.
The PROOF Roadmap
Moonbirds is PROOF’s official profile picture (PFP) NFT. With this project, the team aims to increase awareness about PROOF and grow the community without diluting the collective. As such, Moonbird holders will have access to the gated “Parliament” channels in the PROOF Collective Discord. It’s important to note this is not full access to the Discord, just these channels.
“Moonbirds is about community, it’s about identity, and it’s about being a part of something. We'd love to see it welcome a lot of great people in and keep them there”. — Justin Mezzell
Once inside, holders will receive rewards in the form of Moonbird-related drops, IRL events, and access to PROOF’s soon to be released metaverse, codenamed Project Highrise.
According to Kevin, Moonbirds will differ from existing utility-enabled PFPs like the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC). Instead of rewarding all holders equally as BAYC did with their recent $APE coin drop, “the lion’s share of rewards” will be weighted towards long-term holders.
To realise this vision, PROOF is deploying a Moonbirds “nesting” site where holders can stake their Moonbirds for additional rewards. Staking will be “non-custodial”, meaning the NFT doesn’t leave your wallet. Instead, the smart contract’s buy, sell, and swap functions are locked when a bird is nested.
The longer you nest your Moonbird, the higher nesting status you accrue and the more benefits you receive.
During a recent Future PROOF Twitter space, the team confirmed the first set of rewards, unlocking after 30-days, will be Moonbird stickers and merch. They also hinted that future rewards could include virtual land for Project Highrise and maybe even a token if (“big if”) PROOF were ever to launch a DAO.
Moonbirds is due to launch on April 16th (the next full moon!) with a collection size of 10,000. PROOF Collective members get two for free per membership pass held (2,000), and 125 are being retained for partnerships, marketing and advisors. That leaves a total of 7,875 birds for the public Dutch auction.
Mint price starts at 2.5 $ETH and decreases by 0.1 every 20 minutes.
// Update (04/08/22): Moonbirds have stirred up an overwhelming amount of demand over the past few days. To avoid the inevitable gas war, the team have changed the mint to an allowlist raffle instead of the planned Dutch auction. Winners will have three hours to mint on April 16th. All Moonbirds will be sold for 2.5 $ETH. Find the full details here.
In terms of IP, Moonbirds will reportedly follow a similar model to BAYC. Holders will have commercial art rights to their specific bird, but not the Moonbird logo, name or any Moonbirds branding. These details aren’t confirmed, so check the Moonbirds site for the latest info.
PROOF hold strong opinions about the future of the metaverse. They’re determined to build something that “exists for a purpose” rather than recreate the 3D expansive worlds we’ve seen in the past with games like Second Life.
On the last Twitter space, Kevin described it as a building or a collection of buildings (a city?) where each building exists for a specific purpose like a DAO. He went on to say it would be as though “GeoCities and The Sims had a baby”.
This is pure speculation, but it sounds like a thoughtful take on how to improve the current state of the metaverse (i.e. Discord). Communities that form around NFT projects are essentially just micro-social networks, and right now, we’re all soiled with groups splintered across different Discord servers. Highrise could be the platform that bridges tribes together, making cross-community collaboration much easier.
Following the immense success of Grails, the team have committed to doing it at least once a year. They might even run a second one towards the end of this year (2022). Either way, it sounds like plans for Grails II are already underway:
"An artist reached out to me yesterday who I never thought would want to be a part of Grails. They're a really well known artist that I would have loved to have in the first time. They were like 'let's jump on a call and talk about Grails II' and I was like 'oh damn'". — Kevin Rose
Deep Dives and Highlights
Crypto’s rapid pace of innovation is part of what makes it so much fun. However, this often means that as NFT collectors, we’re inundated with information about new projects, artists and technologies.
“We’re hiring two full-time NFT research analysts whose job will be to research, analyse and synthesise the voluminous information we’re all dealing with.” — Ryan Carson
PROOF’s solution is to produce editorial content exclusively for the collective. The plan is to release weekly Deep Dive reports on projects of interest and weekly Highlights of notable things mentioned in the PROOF Discord.
On top of Deep Dives and Highlights, PROOF plans to create educational content for the collective. There’s so much foundational knowledge needed to succeed in the NFT space. This includes things like wallet security, NFT tax strategies, L1s vs L2s, how to use complex software, how to avoid gas wars—the list goes on.
PROOF Academy will host regular expert panel sessions and share video tutorials covering these topics and more.
PROOF of Conference
Last but not least, another exciting item on the roadmap is the PROOF Conference slated for late-2023! All are welcome, but PROOF Collective members and Moonbird holders will reportedly have early access and discounted entry.
Investing in PROOF
You have three options if you’re looking to gain some exposure to PROOF.
Unsurprisingly, your first option is to buy a PROOF Collective pass. You'll unlock access to everything I mentioned above but bear in mind nothing is set in stone. According to PROOF's terms of service, they make no guarantee that members will receive any perks.
If you believe the team can reach their aspiration of building Moonbirds into a "top five NFT project", this could be a smart play. You'll get two free Moonbirds when they drop on April 16th, and you could sell one down the line to cover the cost of entering the collective. Although, if Moonbirds does reach this value, I suspect it won't get there for quite some time.
If you don't have a spare 74.5 $ETH lying around (lol), your next best bet is to try minting a Moonbird on April 16th. There's no real consensus in the community about when the project will mint out. Some think it will go at 2.5 $ETH, and others believe it will get to 1 $ETH.
Personally, I think you'll be lucky to get a Moonbird for less than 2 $ETH. The team are doing an excellent job of building hype—they've gained just under 40,000 Twitter followers over the last week. Enthusiasm for the project is also through the roof inside our Discord, so I reckon we'll see an additional 1000 or so Moonbirds minted by the collective.
Another interesting consideration is to pick up a Grail on the secondary market. There are some pretty good deals available right now. For example, Tyler Hobbs' "Wall" is listed at 17.5 $ETH (according to cryptoart.io, the average sale for a Hobbs is ~40 $ETH). Nothing official has been released as far as utility goes, but some artists have hinted at the possibility of doing something in the future.