This One-Man Hobby Grew To A $360K/Year Eco-Friendly NFTs Business
This is a follow up story for RMRK . If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I am Bruno, the founder of RMRK - an advanced set of NFT standards that uniquely make the decentralized metaverse (and many more things) possible. A year and a half ago our journey began as a one-man hobby and is now an 18 people company.
We build the infrastructure for the next generation of NFT users - those who will care about more than just images and static media and will build entire systems and games on top of this, to be censorship and downtime resistant.
The NFT standards we developed don’t make money on their own - we make money by innovating in the NFT space by using these standards instead. So we launch extremely creative and complex NFT projects that are otherwise impossible without serious compromises. A shining example is Moonglade, a reforestation effort in Portugal where every tree is an NFT seed pouch with exact coordinates of its planting location, and if the tree lives the owner’s NFT evolves into a funky psychedelic tree, but if it dies, the owner gets a spirit tree.
We currently make anywhere from 50k to 150k per month in royalties and fees, despite the bear market and a very niche industry in a very niche blockchain ecosystem (Polkadot).
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
Over the past year and a half, as we grew from zero to 18 people, our users have minted over 100,000 multi-resource NFTs, that’s NFTs that can be multiple things at the same time, like an ebook NFT being a PDF and an audiobook simultaneously, or a video game skin being compatible with two or more games at once by containing the file needed by each game, and loading them on-demand depending on the game the NFT is loaded into.
Over 50,000 of those are cross-collection equipable, meaning you can hook into a sort of “global item economy” where parts of NFTs are compatible with other unrelated collections. In other words, an avatar’s sword could be moved into another game and equipped by a completely different avatar.
Our volume has been fluctuating depending on what we launch and when, and what partners building on our technology launch, but over the past year we did 500,000 KSM in volume (our native currency) at an average price of $200 per KSM, bringing the volume to around USD 100m over a single year of a nascent niche product.
We launched things like the reforestation project Moonglade, the world’s first composable NFT PFP project Mushroomtopia, and even begun construction of the world’s first decentralized metaverse - Skybreach - where the virtual land that people can purchase is an actual NFT that can contain building NFTs, avatar NFTs, and more, and is fully under the control of the community.
Abstracting the solutions to many of these problems, we even started the newest project - the CypherMOD SDK - which will allow anyone to launch these complex things in a few clicks.
In short, the shipping is not slowing down, and we’re committed to changing the web3 world for the better.
Make sure you are replaceable.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
The absolute biggest challenge has been marketing. The Polkadot ecosystem is quite a niche, and it has been very hard to reach outside it. We have technology that is a few generations beyond anything available elsewhere (see why in this video) but it has simply been very, very hard to organically reach outside the ecosystem we started in.
We tried various marketing approaches, but the moat is serious and since we never wanted to drop to the level of paying influencers to advertise us, we counted on building, out shipping everyone. We still hope it will bear fruit.
The second biggest challenge was trying to replace me and turn myself into less of a single point of failure. It is difficult to stop caring so much about “my baby”, and it is also mentally, and spiritually hard to manage a team in which not everyone is so passionate about this same thing as I am. This is something that I need to work through, to defeat the feeling.
If I manage to do this one day, I will be able to stop micromanaging and participating in every part of the company, which right now is a very big problem because I am 100% in everyone’s way, giving them very little agency and certainly lots of anxiety. So, I guess, being a better “boss” by being absent more is a major challenge I need to resolve ASAP.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
This year and a half have been much more educational than my past ~7 years of “blockchain”, mostly because you see how the “founder” sausage is made when you lead a project. Not just in terms of opportunities with regards to seed investments in new projects or connections to VCs and other teams, but also in negative ways like stolen ideas and concepts, politics between funding entities and both collaborators and competitors, as well as effects on personal health when you focus on something so obsessively.
The entire experience is quite stressful, emotionally taxing, and not at all financially rewarding, and something I would not do again if I were starting from scratch, but something I am determined to see followed through. The lessons, however, have been clear on the next directions:
- Always take care of yourself and loved ones first, do not abandon those close to you because of passion.
- Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
- Announce details about new launches only slightly before those launches. Do not give out your ideas freely.
- Having a good CFO is important.
- Make sure you are replaceable.
I do understand that this sounds a bit ominous and negative, so please trust me when I say that it is all in all still a net positive experience - much growth, much friendship, and much amazing tech has been the result of this journey, despite hardships, and I could not be more proud of our incredible team.
Do not hire too fast. Fast growth is often fast death.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We have very specific plans for the immediate three years:
- Run the Skybreach Land Sale so that we get the necessary runway to finish the below steps.
- Launch a multi-chain version of RMRK so that it is directly usable on all chains. This is almost ready and going into production in July.
- Develop the CypherMOD project to create the SDK for everyone to be able to easily use this technology.
- Build and launch an advanced version of music-NFT-focused Singular (our current NFT marketplace) to give our music artists an extra edge and the UX they deserve.
- Build and deploy the world’s only decentralized metaverse - Skybreach - using the RMRK multi-chain technology and the CypherMOD SDK.
This should all be done in the next three years, at which point I hope to no longer be in charge of the company and expect to be climbing boulders with my daughter somewhere in nature, Kratos and Atreus style.
That’s not to say this industry does not excite me, but after 10 years I will have had enough and will want to live a little again, I remain incredibly optimistic about the tech we are launching, especially in its ability to allow anyone to very easily launch an online virtual hangout that is completely decentralized and censorship-resistant.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
I have not had time to read anything, to be honest. I took the time to learn basic Swedish and honed my existing skills and knowledge in blockchain to be most useful to the team. The honing was done almost entirely on doing, however - practice instead of theory.
I do get tiny drops of occasional inspiration from watching Kurzgesagt videos, though, and I do enjoy the odd Joe Rogan podcast from time to time to be exposed to as many unbiased differing views as possible and keep myself up to date on current affairs.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
There are some key lessons to keep in mind, in addition to those shared above. Some are implied or obvious but still worth repeating, others are something you might not expect:
- Do not hire too fast. Fast growth is often fast death.
- Do not hire past your runway. Estimate the road to profit, and calculate accordingly. Adjust expectations along the way.
- Do not try to be a one-man army. Hire help. You will feel the need to be a part of everything, but you will just become a chokepoint. Give people agency, and let them find their voice.
- Do not hire based on trends, but on skills and qualifications.
- Hire C-level staff that is okay with being vested in the project, rather than paid exorbitant salaries upfront.
- Do not underestimate good marketing. If you are in crypto, do not underestimate good memes. Good Twitter meme-warriors are as rare as good developers, pay them well, especially if they demonstrate the ability to learn everything about your company and projects.
- Overshare plans and ideas with neither friend nor foe.
- In most cases, you are okay to ignore the USA unless you live there. It makes the whole regulatory and hiring landscape immeasurably easier to handle.
- Support remote work, but try to meet the team in person at least twice per year. In-person conversations just hit differently, they have a different cadence and style and convey emotion and intent much differently. People who you have been talking to for a long time may turn out to be extremely different from the impression they had been giving out in text or video calls.
- Everyone you ever meet will know something you don’t. Listen to everything anyone says, then filter.
- Don’t think, ship. The world moves fast - every minute spent thinking is a minute by someone else spent shipping the same thing, especially if you’ve thought out loud about it. Ship faster. Ship recklessly. Done is better than perfect.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
- Community Managers (Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, Reddit)
- Illustrators and pixel artists
- Game developers and designers experienced with Godot
- Artist Advocates (people in charge of talking to artists, for artists, and bringing more artists on board - from traditional art, digital art, or other NFT platforms)
- Solidity developers
All positions are paid, can come with vested RMRK tokens, have annual bonuses based on performance, offer reasonably unlimited time-off, paid education, and more of the usual stuff. Those willing to accept stablecoins or crypto for payment are at an advantage. Hit us up at [email protected]!
Where can we go to learn more?
- Here we’ll document everything but the best knowledge dump is here - a 1h conference talk that explains everything about RMRK and where we are going
- Our NFT marketplace
- Versatile metaverse development toolkit
- The world’s only decentralized metaverse
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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