Strong Community, Deep Social Connections, Better Curation — How Endemic Is Different Marketplace for NFTs
Human Guild “Next Creators” podcast w/ CEO Stipe Plejić and COO Milan Mašanović
Our CEO Stipe Plejić and COO Milan Mašanović were guests of the Human Guild’s “Next creators” podcast sharing the story about Endemic and their thoughts of the NFT/crypto sphere.
In their talk with Sasha, they covered topics such as Endemic and its advantages, social media aspect and NFT community, reasons for choosing Aurora and NEAR Protocol tech, digital ownership, Metaverse and more. Here’s the recap.
Sasha: Starting from the beginning, what’s Endemic?
Stipe: We like to call it an NFT marketplace with a soul. It’s an invite-only, quality-based NFT marketplace with social elements. The name is Endemic, as native and restricted to a certain place. That’s the concept we’re going to build — one global art community network which aims at targeting local art communities by providing more ways for them to expose themselves. In our home town Split there’s a lot of talented people who are making very nice art but with no infrastructure to publish it and show to the wider society. So we decided to use new, Web3, blockchain technology plus creative and smart people to make that infrastructure so all those amazing works can be published and society can see them and buy them. We want to establish an Endemic artistic society in every part of the world so when you open a global map, you see a lot of local societies making one big global community.
The networks has also a social element — you can interact with artists, speak with them, ask questions like what was the inspiration for the certain artwork or what’s the idea behind it, discover whatever you like to know, discuss or even give feedback on how something can be better — the point is interaction. Education as well, collectors and everyone included can learn about the art, the process, the scene, behind work and that’s something we think is important. Our aim is to bring quality art to the NFT space because most of the work we now see are collectibles. It’s the style blockchain and NFT community are used to but what we’re bringing differently to the Web3 is quality and rare art, something new. It is also something that will stay no matter what, whether bull circle or bear circle, it’s always going to be quality art meaning it will always have the fundaments and value.
Milan: Exactly. Endemic is a cool alternative to everything that exists right now in the NFT marketplace scene. From the scratch, we wanted to implement and involve alongside our artist team to make the platform most ready for bringing quality art. Stipe was talking about bridging the real-world artists in the NFT digital sphere. When we were talking with our friends and colleagues who are all crypto enthusiasts like us, they all said this is not the crypto savvy thing to do. Because real, physical art is not suitable for crypto. I said that we will need some period of time for people to transfer feelings and attachments from the physical world to digital. We are actually bridging people’s emotions from the physical to the digital ownership. In that regard, we think that we as crypto enthusiasts and ones who works in the crypto industry need to involve as much as possible so people can apprehend NFT and digital ownership.
Sasha: How did you guys start working together?
Stipe: We actually have a community here in Croatia we’re gathered around. It’s called Stoneblock and there are a lot of blockchains and various chain fans, people who work in IT. Even though it’s not a big city in Croatia and Croatia is not a big country. But you would be surprised how many representatives are there for Ethereum, Solana, Kusama, DOT, Avalanche, NEAR — many chains have enthusiasts here, it’s a very wide community and talented people we gather and educate. We’re super happy doing it, exploring technology and helping society get adapted. Coming from a town that is known as super artistic and with many artists, the idea was born to establish a marketplace with characteristics such as Endemics. What we see as a challenge is the artist cannot reach a fair price for their very nice and hard work. We wanted to give them the possibility and infrastructure to get to a wider audience and present themself and their work to the world thanks to the Web3 technology. That was the idea. Then we did a survey, analyzed the market and found a lot of gaps within the existing solutions and marketplaces out there. That was our confirmation to go with this project and do things better.
If you are Pablo Picasso of this time, you wouldn’t be so happy to put your work out there on Open Sea with everyone. You would like an artistic place, very customized for the artists, a place where you’ll feel comfortable. On Endemic, you belong and meet people who are a match or even better than you. It can challenge you as an artist, it can be a positive competition. It’s the atmosphere we’re trying to bring to the marketplace alongside the quality art.
Sasha: So, you’re trying to bring this space that feels like home for top creators.
Stipe: Do you know how many people use Open Sea. 1 million. Of the whole world. NFT is in a super beginning. Endemic is something that is curated, one of the first projects to have curator and art team as a part of a core team which is very important. What we also like to note as important is education. We educate established artists on how to use technology, bridge their artwork from the physical to the NFT sphere and how reach a much wider audience with this model.
Sasha: How did artists in Croatia use to sell their work before Web3?
Stipe: They used the old fashioned way of selling through the galleries. Actually approaching the known galleries is one of our concepts, besides the profile of the artists and collectors, there will also be an institution profile on the Endemic where they can make a profile and publish work. We’re also approaching them and educating them as well as artists.
Milan: Yeah, and it’s known that galleries take much cut from the artists. The most famous one takes up to 60% of earnings. Transferring them to the digital and teaching them about what crypto brings in freedom, it’s important for the local community of artists to expand on that.
Stipe: You actually connected to my first sentence. It’s also hard to get on the galleries’ lists. They are a closed world that is hard to penetrate and get represented even if you’re really good. And when you get the possibility, the provision is really high. So we feel as we’re helping them to be represented without any restrictions, it’s what in my opinion technology brings. Breaking barriers. Letting people who are the best to be the best. Yes, all of our artists will pass quality curatorial checks but in the end, the community will decide whose work is the best. They are our buyers and collectors and they will decide for which art they will pay the most.
Milan: What are we trying to do with the Endemic is to start a trend. If we succeed, you’ll see a lot of different NFT marketplaces that will try to do the same thing. We think that by helping local artists the way I mentioned, they will be more paid and have a better life with the same work. And if the trend catches up we think that the marketplaces of the future will have the same approach.
Sasha: Can you touch briefly on Web3, creators really got the chance to participate in sales rather the before
Milan: Yeah, before only galleries went online, nothing changed. We had psychical galleries and with the Internet boom digital galleries appear. But the wage was the same, the provision was the same and the selling went the same way. Now with Web3 and us connecting our wallet directly and switching directly the goods from buyer to the seller, this is the opportunity of a lifetime for lots of people and we’re trying to help them get on board.
Sasha: What do you think of the social aspect in the NFT sphere?
Stipe: That’s something we find very important. Without interaction, there is just one-way conversation. In every business, especially with marketplaces and NFTs, feedback is important and with social components, there is a two-way conversation all the time. Art can get feedback from customers, users, collectors, community and vice versa — it’s great for the quality of the art, for the quality of the community and the whole sphere. Everyone is communicating and rating NFTs so the best is the one community says it is. For example, through a blog, you can actually explain your art from the very start, starting from the inspiration to the ways it was created, what the shapes and colours represent. You can explain yourself through art and connections with your personality. Some buyers could be inspired by that blog post and buy that same art while reading the blog. It strengthens the artists, their connection with others and the Endemic brand in the end.
Sasha: You mentioned how you already work with some galleries, what do you think about the connection with the offline world. What’s important about it, what’s the right thing to do?
Stipe: It is important. We already agreed we are at the start of the new trend and the new technology, not a lot of people are still aware of. We’re the ones who should educate, show perspective and gather in the offline world, gather in one place all that participate, discuss the trends, technology, future and help other people to learn about the tech, perspectives about it and how to join the trend.
Milan: We’re planning to do NFT festivals. They are one of the ways of us trying to bridge real and digital. The goal is to go to one place, bring new people, understand the technology, grow fond of the digital ownership art, and start to comprehend the difference between owning the physical stuff and the importance of owning digital in the future.
Stipe: This is an important aspect. What changed with the Internet and with Web1, Web2 and Web3 is what makes the context of living. Digital ownership is something that we’re going to face even more and more and the new generations are more aware of it. It’s more important to them and we’re going to see even more adaption than we had until now.
Sasha: What have you learned in starting the project and what was the most challenging aspects in developing the NFT marketplace?
Stipe: It’s a startup, everything is kinda hard. You are in an industry where there are not many set things. Lots of systems and solutions you have to construct by yourself and sometimes you have just a half an hour deadline for it. When you’re in some traditional business, you have good guidelines you can just implement. But when you are in Web3 there is no process you could just replicate, you should be very innovative, willing, ready to adapt and find solutions fast. That’s just a few cents from our daily basis tasks.
Milan: What we thought will be hard when started making our own project after investing for years in crypto is fundraising. I believe a lot of people who are thinking of starting in crypto are afraid of the same thing. It was difficult in the beginning, but in crypto, fundraising is just a start. When you realize you can find the money for your project, that’s where a lot of problems actually start. When money comes you need to stay focused and find the right people, touch their emotions as a leader and keep grinding. I know a lot of projects that raised a lot of money and didn’t stay focus as they were at the start. For me, the most difficult part at this moment is keeping the team together, keeping them focused and motivated trying to finalize the platform so we can start selling NFTs and show the world what we were preparing for almost a year now.
Sasha: What are your plans for 2022, what would be considered a good year for the Endemic?
Milan: For a start, we want the whole NEAR ecosystem to grow and we will grow together. The goal is to become the curator only high-end NFT marketplace on NEAR. With the big volume, we will try to transfer a lot of artists that are used to Ethereum and the most expensive NFTs today are living on Ethereum. We are trying to onboard a lot of digital artists, the best in the world and we’re trying to show them that the NEAR blockchain, their community and everything they are building are the way for the future. I think we’re succeeding and the most successful thing to me will be if we bridge lots of both real-world and digital artists to the NEAR ecosystem and Endemic platform.
Stipe: What we have in plan for this year surely starts with our launch. We are going with two standards, first is Ethereum which is facing Aurora (it is actually Ethereum 2 experience) and we’re combining it with NEAR experience on which blockchain Aurora is actually working. We will have both chains offered on our platform. That’s the primary goal for this year regarding the tech. We have plans to add other chains in time and truly be a multichain platform and offer the best possible UX so they don’t have to worry about which chain they are on. In addition, we’ll fully implement the social component because we really want to be a place where people can gather, learn, see something nice, doesn’t matter are they buying art or not, to just enjoy it or dream about it. Lastly, the artists component, we want to bring the best artists and the best art and have a good community and present something to the whole Web 3 community they haven’t seen until now.
Sasha: What do you think about the other side of marketplaces, they are art supporters and speculative side of things happening in Web 3?
Stipe: You could see in the traditional market first, then later with NFT and crypto market cycles — there are bull cycles where people are very speculative and buying something just of speculation. But what we could learn from these experiences is that the small percentages of the startups succeed and the one that does are the one with the quality offer. In our opinion, if some renovated artist is behind the artwork, it has fundaments and quality. Even if you are going from the market perspective in bear cycles, people are buying old, real estate and expensive art to hedge their portfolios. In that regard, even during the bear market, the quality art is not speculative, it’s a good investment.
Sasha: People just kinda copy what works in crypto (apes, punks). You’re saying that there is this other market
Stipe: In my opinion, we are now in the very first phase. People are trying to see how the market works. How I think this sphere is going to look — much of the traditional assets are going to be bridged to the digital. The art is going to stay the same. The final aim is to see a lot of quality art up there and that will mean we are in some serious phase. I remember 2017 when Crypto Kitties came and we were kind of joking with it and being very speculative. In the end, it is a joke but it brought us is the idea of NFTs, what they can mean and what is the final product (and in my opinion, it is going to be quality art). They had to start with something. In every process you’re starting with the elemental phase — it’s a start. They didn’t bring to us some value but they did bring some ideas, they are the pioneers in that field which brought us to the stage we’re at.
Milan: We can mention here Metaverse, we cannot talk about NFTs without mentioning it. What Stipe was talking about is transferable to the Metaverse. It’s a virtual world and how I see it, it’s just another escape from reality. We had videos, PS, games, TV shows and escapes from the reality in that way. But with the Metaverse involving and connecting to the NFTs, we’re having an escape from our lives and a new playground for it. Some of those things from this point will be speculative and worthless. In the future, the best will survive and show that people can use it in their spare time, enjoying friends that are living in other countries and other things Metaverse is going to bring to us.
Sasha: There are a lot of negativities related to NFTs, especially about the energy and that kind of stuff. Do you think it is kinda a sign of the success of the industry, NFTs becoming more mainstream even tho people are not yet educated as they should be, do you see some sentiment or reasons behind it?
Milan: People hear from other people that you can earn money from NFTs. This was also the story with crypto and tokens. They just wanted to hear where to invest to make money. It’s the same with NFTs now. People don’t explore, they don’t read, they don’t think about what way they investing in and why they are investing in that particular way. I can agree with you and recently they are lots of newcomers that don’t know why are they buying, they didn’t read about digital ownership, they didn’t think about the emotional connections with the token, picture…
There is a sentence we like to say: “Don’t marry your token”. But you marry your NFT even more because you can see how it looks like, and you cannot do that with tokens. There is a lot of space for educating those newcomers (as we were already talking about here) because those newcomers need to stay. And somebody needs to educate them to put them in the right situations to understand what are NFTs and what they will bring humankind in the future.
Sasha: What do you think about openness in the crypto, everyone can see your progress and how the work is being created?
Stipe: A lot of people copy each other from chain to chain. We saw the same things on Ethereum then Solana, Avalanche and now the same creators doing the same thing on NEAR. That is not good, but it’s kind of common phases of the cycles and each chain itself. There are several initial phases every chain should pass and be serious with time. I’m repeating again, what will be important and going to stay is quality. What we haven’t mentioned about Endemic here yet is that you can have NFTs in your wallets, but you are also able to order physical peace from the artist with your NFT to order, redeemable art. That’s also one way and one step how to bridge physical and digital and how to show people what it’s all about because you have both.
If you have an artwork in your wallet, you have proof of the ownership and you are authentic about it. But if you just print it from a random picture on the Internet, it’s false. To return to your question is opensource good — from the one side yes, because it is helping us with blockchain solutions, it saves our job, developers and energy. But what is not good is that copy machines and mechanisms. We also have a solution for that because in blockchain everything is written and you can see what was firstly validated meaning one that is real. Everyone coming later is falsified. So the openness has good premises, the ones that are useful, there is no point in making up things that are already there. What’s not good are those falsification issues. But blockchain is the technology in which we can control what is original what is not and which block is first validated so we can see in that regard who is original.
Milan: For me, the most important thing about open source is that we don’t do the same mistakes twice. Before, in the traditional world, companies that were closed were doing the same things in different parts of the world meaning they were doing the same mistakes. That’s why the crypto sphere evolved this quickly. With open-source, we’re done with repeating others’ mistakes. When somebody in the USA making mistake about something, I’ll implement that knowledge in my marketplace. That’s why the development of everything and sphere are faster and the world is moving faster. Thinking about Discord channels and Telegram groups, they also intro to the Metaverse. We can consider Discord channels as a Metaverse. When I stick around for some time there, my consciousness transfer there and I’m feeling like I’m really there with those people. It’s good to get to know that feeling of what the Metaverse will be like when we have real persons and can hang out with somebody who is far far away from us.
Sasha: What’s the best place to read or hear about Endemic for people who would like to know more?
Stipe: Firstly, that would be our web https://endemic.app/, plus they can follow us on our social networks starting with Twitter, Discord, Telegram, Instagram and Medium which is the most informed. Everything is detailed explained there from the phases to the tech, artists, AMA’s with them and very beautiful art already presented on all of those channels.
Milan: Also, our deck is downloadable from our website, everybody can download it and read what are we’re trying to do.
I just want to share a thought for the end — All new people who want to join crypto or startup, don’t be afraid. The good thing about crypto is that you can contact everybody and almost everybody will try to help you. You can constant the CEO of the biggest crypto companies on Telegram and there will be a response. You can start with me, contact me and we will try to help. That’s not common in traditional markets. Use that. Don’t be afraid and just start.