Interview with John Caldwell from NFT Principal at Wave Financial

Horacio sat down with John Caldwell, also known as VegSurfer, the NFT Principal at Wave Financial. Before his current role, John was a successful NFT collector and Layer 1 business developer. His expertise in the space has made him a critical member of the Wave Financial NFT Fund and a big reason for its current success.

Discussion topics include:

  • Journey toward working with Wave Financial as the NFT Principal at Wave Financial
  • Living in the CryptoPunk server with others as a “hivemind” for seeking alpha
  • Similarities between NFT communities and World of Warcraft guilds
  • What it means to be immersed in a space when finding arbitrage opportunities
  • $AGOLD airdrop from the Loot Project
  • Working with traditional financial analysts who don’t fully understand NFTs
  • The importance of open communities when gauging an NFT project
  • VegSurfer, as he is also known, as a quick way to describe himself
  • Taking a chance on potentially life-changing opportunities
  • Educating oneself in order to make the best possible decisions
  • NFTs in its proper context within art history
  • Strategies for conducting research on NFT projects and the pros and cons of Twitter
  • The PFP as a status symbol
  • Defining the metaverse, its future, and our present state

You can listen to the podcast through Spotify or YouTube.


[Horacio Ruiz]


Thanks for tuning into the Alts podcast. I’m Horacio Ruiz. And today we’re talking to John Caldwell, also known as Veg Surfer. John is the NFT principle at the Wave financial NFT fund. A few weeks ago, we talked to co-founder Les Borsai and he spoke so highly of John that we had to get him on the show. If you’re into NFTs, John is exactly the person you want to hear from. He is in the space, like really in it. Hope you enjoy our conversation. All right, John, thanks for joining us on the podcast. Really excited. We had spoken to Les Borsai a couple weeks ago and he was really insightful, and he mentioned your name, working in collaboration with you and that just kind of piqued my interest. Just to kind of begin, how did you get to Wave Financial to become the NFT principal for the fund?

[John Caldwell]


It kind of surprised me actually, because I don’t have much traditional finance background at all. And if a year ago you had told me you’d be working for a big regulated financial institution. I would’ve kind of laughed at you. Yeah. I mean, it depends how far back you want to go, how much time you have ETC. But the short story is they were launching their NFT fund, and they were looking for somebody who could help them with maybe publicity marketing. So, Les got in touch with me via another person who works at Wave named Annie. And I kind of know her personally via her boyfriend, or fiancé now. And yeah, so I got in touch, and I was like, yeah, I can get on a Twitter space for you or clubhouse. I said, we could do maybe like a Twitter space with Dee’s or my friend, Justin [Aborsano’s?] is going to help us. So yeah, we said we could help. And very quickly we kind of hit it off. We had a lot in common and I started saying some things like, oh, that I’m up at midnight checking discord. And Les started to say, oh, okay, now you’re speaking my language. Now I want to actually hire you. So yeah, one thing led to another, they offered me the job and I just wasn’t really sure if I wanted to get a salary job. I haven’t had a salary job in decades. I’ve been sort of freelancing and doing my own thing for a while. But I realised it would let me just go fully into NFTs and never look back. So yeah, I decided to give it a go and we’re like five, six months in and it’s just going really, really well. We have a great dynamic between the two of us. That’s pretty much it. I’m kind of their inside guy to the communities, to the crypto native people. And I translate that information basically over to Les and to like our investment model. And then we bring that strategy to our LPs, and they have no idea what witchcraft we’re working in the web three space with these NFTs. but so far have been happy. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. The way that Les compared it to like earlier parts of his career was having – and he talked about Bradley Nole who was the lead singer for sublime.

[John Caldwell]

Yeah. I love being compared to Bradley Nole. I’m the boss DJ. I’m the boss NFT DJ.

[Horacio Ruiz]

The boss NFT DJ. Yeah. And just having a guy that understands the music industry from – what are people actually listening to, right. What’s actually trending, and that’s kind of how you set up. And so, I found that interesting. When you mentioned that you weren’t sure if you wanted a salary job, what were you doing? Like, were you in that NFT space, doing different things with NFT? I don’t want to say just flipping them but were you able to look at these different projects, identify which ones were going to be successful or they piqued your interest and being able to make a living off of that? because we haven’t had anyone on the show that has done that like freelancing and I just find that making a living that way so fascinating.

[John Caldwell]


Yeah. I was doing really well, but it had surprised me. I mean, I don’t know if I was necessarily taking too many gains or anything like that, but paper profits were, I mean it was mind blowing. Like I bought a crypto punk I think at like 20 Ethe. I don’t remember when, and that was when the Ethe was at like 2K. So, it was like 40K. And at the time I was terrified. I was like, this is worth more than my car. But I got convinced that it was the right thing to do. And I’ve just been – I had some other wins with NFTs, some other losses, whatever. And then a couple months later like that punk is worth at its peak, it was worth 150 Ethe or more. Back down to something a little bit more manageable, but still up hundreds of percent in a couple months, which definitely like covers my living expenses for many years if I were to sell it. And that’s just one of them. I mean, I’d had some other good wins, like cool cats. Bought those at like 0.02. There’s one great night. Just, I mean, I lived in the crypto punk server for a while and we just like kind of all became this hive mind of relative alpha, that we would all just sort of go into things together. And I remember one night in particular, people were like, oh cool cats, they’re awesome. They’re fun to look at. They have chunky lines, they’re fun. And like the people in there were just like, I need to go to sleep, but I need to buy more cats. And it was just this strange thing of all these people I had never met before, but kind of finding like it reminded me of world of Warcraft days. Like finding a Guild of people to like trade with and play this video game with. And I don’t know, I’m kind of rambling, but yeah, I could have supported myself off of NFT trading prior to this. Yes. I was working for another layer one network called Secret Network, which is a privacy focused layer one and I was doing business development for them. And doing clubhouse, doing Twitter spaces, sort of helping them network and stuff like that. But NFTs, especially on main net on Ethe there’s just so much going on. Every day there was a new, interesting thing happening, like multiple things happening. So, it quickly started taking a lot of my time. And to give a shout out to everybody says they have their secret discords with all their friends in it. I have one, I’m not going to give any details, but to all my friends out there silently listening. Thanks guys. And girls.

[Horacio Ruiz]

See there’s things like that. Right. You’re sharing. I don’t want to your thoughts; you’re sharing your potential alpha plays and things like that. Is that what it means to – because this is the word immersed, right? What does that mean? Because you play a completely different role, a vital role for this NFT fund and you’re immersed in the space and you mentioned, hey I need to go do something at midnight. Is that what that is? Like, I mean, is this like a 24-7 thing where you’re just waking up at random times of the night? Just check in on things. 

[John Caldwell]

Yeah. Beyond, I mean this isn’t related to NFTs, but for a while I was doing some cross chain arbitrage and I had set up like a bot. I wasn’t trading programmatically. I was like alerting myself to arbitrage opportunities and then I was executing the trade. But I had it synced up so that it would ping like my Alexa in my house. And it would set the volume really loud on a speaker and be like arbitrage alert. You must get out of bed. Or like – so there’s times at like four in the morning it would hit me or it would hit like – it would process like a big 10 to 20% arbitrage opportunity. And it would like alert me on my Alexa, wake me up out of bed at four or in the morning, I’d look at my phone. I’d literally sometimes run the computer and like do a quick trade and maybe make an Ethe or two. But I was still looking at this like real life money. Like, would you get up out of bed and go to your desk? If someone was like, you have 90 seconds to pick up $4,000. And that’s how I was still looking at it. But so yeah, that was more in my DeFi sort of times. Honestly, but then once I got into NFTs, the gains were so much bigger that I put DeFi sort of behind me. And it was more community based like in my discord. Not mine, but this one I’m part of. And yeah, if there was an alert or something was going on, it was like legitimately drop everything. You could miss out on generational wealth. And I’m not joking. Like there was a night that this thing called loot dropped and it was almost free to claim. And then you could get as many of these loots as you wanted. And then shortly after that, an airdrop of a gold came in. I mean the amount of wealth that came through, without being too specific – not to me, I didn’t do that well, I only picked up like, I don’t even know less than 10. So, by like some standards, I was like a loot peasant, but collectively a group of people I know made easily eight figures off that air drop.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Wow. 

[John Caldwell]

And that was off of a thing that you just had to be there that night, grab it. And a week later here’s an airdrop of eight figure – seven, eight figures for some people.

[Horacio Ruiz]

You mentioned, and this kind of a little off the, A gold, right. And you correct me if I’m wrong. That was developed by Will Papper is that correct?

[John Caldwell]


I actually have no idea. I don’t even know what A Gold’s doing anymore. I mean, it’s off of loot, which is made by Dom.

[Horacio Ruiz]


I think it was him he’s involved with a syndicate protocol. They’re kind of developing, helping Dows develop. And what I find is, and I mentioned that him, because when he was talking about it, he had zero intention of creating any wealth with that, right. To kind of accompany the loot community. He made it as like a social token.

[John Caldwell]


Well, it did a really bad job of that.

[Horacio Ruiz]


Yeah [laughter]

[John Caldwell]

Because I don’t know how that liquidity was there, but it was fierce. That’s the craziest airdrop of all time. I mean, it makes the Uni airdrop look like nothing.

[Horacio Ruiz]

I got to maybe do a case study on it. So, I guess what came out of that was he had a passion for the project. Right. And he developed this – he said he wrote it like within, I don’t know, 24 hours, maybe less, a couple hours. He wrote the code for the, A gold. And out of that, right, out of just something that he’s so interested in, and he thought the Loot idea was so tremendous comes this windfall that was kind of to him unexpected. And I’m kind of wondering if that’s how a lot of people’s journey is, is they’re so just into the space and they’ve just kind of been benefiting from it because of their love for something.

[John Caldwell]


Yeah. It’s funny. We were just talking about what I was talking about, and I was like, what is that noise going on in my headphones? And there’s a significant arbitrage opportunity on something. But I am taking some of these strategies that I used to do or that are more considered sort of like, not fringe, but just like normal financial people would, their heads would hurt thinking about the things that we’re doing in NFT land with NFTs, with tokens. But I’m employing some of these strategies for the fund. And I mean, because I do think that’s the mandate is I have to go out and work with our LPs money and have it perform as well as I would if like it was my money. So, it’s been really fun. And on top of that we get some benefits of like having deeper liquidity, longer lockup, being able to sort of do sort of venture deals too, which is obviously like not available for retail a lot of the time. So, we’ve had some really good plays with that.


[Horacio Ruiz]

How is it? Cause you alluded to that where it would hurt some people’s, hurt their heads. How is that? How do you fit into that company and the culture of it right where you’re doing things differently? You said you have a mandate. Not just a mandate, but you have this experience, right. This a way of doing things. How do you work with somebody who’s more, I guess, comes from more of a mainstream financial background? Could you gimme an idea of what the dynamic is?

[John Caldwell]


Yeah. I mean, I mainly work with Les. Like we kind of are segmented off doing our own thing because a lot of the traditional financial models just don’t work with what we’re doing. I mean, some of them maybe do a little bit, but not really. Yeah. It’s hard to describe, but like, I mean, how can you in all seriousness talk about like, oh, well this cat with a cowboy hat is definitely worth more as a – in our nav than this cat with a fish on its head. Like those are the conversations and it just is what it is. A lot of people don’t necessarily take that seriously.

[Horacio Ruiz]

How do you go about like evaluating projects like that? And do you have like a checklist or some non-negotiables?

[John Caldwell]


Yeah, I would say community is probably the most important. And oftentimes we sort of gauge that by looking at Twitter discord engagement and the ones that have done really well, for example, cool cats or small brains, and the communities are awesome. Like they are supportive of what we’re doing. They like talking about what we’re doing, they’ll engage us. And then there’s other projects where like, I’ll reach out, not as any type of VC bad guy or something, but just like, hey, I’m really interested in your project. We talk about it sometime and they’re kind of elitist and they’re like, send me your deck. We’ll get back to you if we’re interested. And I don’t know, there’s like an elitism that I pretty much am very averse to. I think being inclusive in terms of like communities is really important. So that’s sort of how I feel about that.

 [Horacio Ruiz]

When you talk about the inclusivity, when I heard about your Twitter handle Veg Surfer, and I love the man because I think of, I don’t know, for some reason I think of silver surfer.

[John Caldwell]

There’s this friend named Ronan and he always says, yeah, it’s like a vegetable who’s surfing. Or he’s like, is it a vegetable who’s surfing? Or is it a – are you surfing on a vegetable? And I’m like, neither I’m a vegan surfer. It’s pretty basic. Actually. It’s just probably a couple words I would use to describe myself being surfer, but just sort of shortened a little bit.
[Horacio Ruiz]

So on your [Inaudible 00:15:39] think and yeah, I’m guilty of stalking future guests. There’s somebody writing a big wave. Is that you or is that picture of someone riding a wave? I mean, I know you’re a surfer.

[John Caldwell]

Right now. That would be totally weird if I had a picture of someone else surfing.

[Horacio Ruiz]


I don’t know [laughter]

[John Caldwell]

In my previous life I worked for this sort of dream job. I was working with an explorer, probably the world’s most travelled surf exploration captain on earth named Martin Daley. He helped find some of the best waves on earth. Like in the Mentawai’s in Indonesia, he has private – he has like a few private boats, luxury yachts, and then a private island in the Marshall Islands. So, I was doing logistics and marketing for them and would occasionally sort of like pinch hit and come out there and surf guide or take care of the resort over Christmas, things like that. And one of the job perks was surfing like perfect. Like the best waves on earth, warm water, nobody else around. I mean, that’s what I was doing before crypto stuff more seriously.

[Horacio Ruiz]

That’s what I mean, like that picture, like you’re riding like a serious wave there and I was like – and for somebody to capture that picture was just cool, man. So, and then I kind of wondered what were your ties there?

[John Caldwell]

That particular photo? I mean, I was, interestingly I was on this yacht called the Indies trader 3. We were in Indonesia. I got like really, really sick one night. Like I got like a flu and a cold at the same. I was like, so sick. I was dead. And I literally was like, had a fever. I thought I was going to like need to get airlifted out the night before, but I just took a bunch of Tylenol, woke up in the morning and the waves were so, so good. And I knew that I had an opportunity. So, I sort of calmed myself down as much as I could and went through a ritual of like centering myself and getting my board ready, sort of saying to myself, I need to take advantage of this opportunity. And if I don’t, I’m going to regret it the rest of my life. So did that got out there and that particular wave, I was very happy that there was a photographer there in the channel to get a photo. I mean, that particular wave was like the craziest take-off. I had to commit to it because once you get to a point, if you don’t commit, you are going to really get hurt or like fall really bad. But, yeah, so that, I mean, that was a super meaningful one. I mean that wave, I remember coming off into the channel to the boat and talking to the photographer named Andy Potts and it was like, dude, you got it. That was the wave of my trip. And he was stoked to like get that and good vibes all around. And then I went back to the boat and felt horrible for another few hours.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Wow. That’s the story behind the picture. And I mentioned that because surfing something that I’ve always been attracted to, I used to do, live about an hour away from Coco beach in Florida. And I’d go out and surf there. But I never caught a wave like that. Never got the skills to catch a wave like that. But there’s just something about using that wave right. To just kind of channelling the energy to just kind of, I don’t know man, to just play around in the ocean, there’s something about it.

[John Caldwell]

Yeah, and I mean, if you want to, I can attempt to tie it into crypto and NFTs. Not that anyone cares. Like, but I do think there’s something about like, you set yourself up for an opportunity. So, you have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to have your training, got to have the right equipment, but then the wave has to come to you. And at that point, you’re in this like crunch time where you’re either going to execute and make it. You’re going to execute and maybe fall, which usually isn’t that bad actually, or you’re going to hesitate and then you’re going to regret it the rest of your life. And I think that, especially with what’s going on with NFTs right now, it’s very applicable. Like the FOMO and the feeling of like missing an opportunity that ends up being worth millions and millions of dollars is like torturous. So, there’s this feeling of like, if you’re there, it’s almost your responsibility to like ape into something and take advantage of these opportunities.

[Horacio Ruiz]

That’s a great way of putting it, right. Not your standard financial advice. 

[John Caldwell]

Well, put your head down and go, like you could be on the sidelines the rest of your life. And when people start asking me about crypto and all that stuff, I try to empower them to learn on their own. I guess now that I’m part of a fund, they could just LP with us. But people have to have their own, they have to take their own race. They have to make their own decisions. They can start small of course, but if they’re not willing to put in their own time and effort and research, like, I don’t know, they’re not going to make it. Like maybe they’ll never feel FOMO of it that they missed out on this opportunity. But I don’t know, I’m not wired that way. I’m wired in a way where I have intense FOMO. I have intense desire to capitalise on this exact situation that we’re in right now, or over this past year, I’m technical. I have a gaming background. I played world of Warcraft. I did heroic rating. I know how to like work in a team setting. I know how to not alienate people like basic social graciousness with people. And then I can stomach some amount of risk, probably more than most people. But I also know my limits. Like I’m a horrible, like let’s say I’m not a good trader. I never try to day trade or anything like that. I’m so bad at it. And at some point, I realised that and was just like, okay, I’m not day trading anymore. I’m bad at this. But I can invest. And I can look at do some qualitative analysis on projects or use certain investment models to like invest in the things. Like to come back to your question, that the community’s really the most important – the vibe of like the art and all that stuff is very important. And I mean, utility is cool, but I look at this as like an art movement that I think it’s like a fashion and status as well. Which look at a Rolex, there’s no utility of a Rolex that like a Casio doesn’t have, or like my iPhone doesn’t have, but it’s status. So yeah, it’s such a weird crossover of things. And I don’t know which way it’s going to go. I do know that as the metaverse comes or whatever, I know that’s almost like a meme to say, but like, the question for me is like in the next 10 years, are we going to be more technical? Are we going to be more embedded with our tech or less? And if your answer to that is less, I don’t know what to tell you. Like, I think that’s a – like this utopian vision that we’re all going to go back to nature and like sit around a campfire and sing kumbaya. I don’t think that’s going to happen. That still can happen to some people at some points. But like now that we have iPhones, now that we have Air Pods, we are like so deeply embedded with our tech. I mean the average person’s screen time is probably a third of their day. Half of their waking hours. I don’t see that going away. And so, as the tech progresses, as there’s like wearable contacts, wearable glasses, AR, VR, more of a desire after COVID to interact with people across the world without having to go into an office or just engage with people. Have fun with people. Not just do these zoom meetings all the time. Like I think that digital ownership is going to be a very important part of that, both in the data point of view. So, like abandoning our web to Google and Facebook models of like, you guys own all our data, and we just trust with it. And you constantly abuse that. And we just say, okay, oh well, you leaked my data Equifax, but we’re not going to do anything about it. Oh well. So, there’s that element of it, like a sovereignty over your own data and your activity is just like a person on internet. But then also in a more fun way, I play games and I want a cool world of Warcraft Mount. Or I want a cool, like Tabard that only I have because I participated in this even.t Or I have a skin for my Call of Duty gun or something. All that stuff I think is going to happen and going to become more and more important that it is your ownership. And no one can take it away from you. It’s liquid. You can buy it, sell it, you can use it on whatever market you want. The supply of it. No company’s just going to come and release a bunch more. So, it’s going to start to reflect, I think the real world a bit more. And I think that’s what NFTs have basically done like fungibility in terms of tokens is probably analogous to money. But that’s about it. Everything else it’s like is basically non fungible in this world. So that tech, I do think will be like the underlying tech of like everything in the future. I’m not saying PFPs are going to take over the world or anything like that. But the underlying tech I see, essentially like blockchain and whether it’s the 721 standard or 1155 or some new standard or some new standard after that, I think is going to really drive like under the hood of how everything operates in the next decade, two decades and further out. And we’re just beginning to scratch the surface.

[Horacio Ruiz]


Yeah. I was having a conversation today with somebody and his thesis was basically, we’re not really using the blockchain right now. He’s like, just wait until the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the real estate industry gets a hold, and really, truly understands how to use blockchain technology for smart contracts. And then you’ll really see how it’ll come to dominate the world like in 20 years, like how everything’s going to be operated off of the blockchain because of its programmability. Just kind of taking it back a little bit. You mentioned talking about a community, because the NFT space is always like looking through Twitter, who’s influencing what, who’s peddling what product. If you’re looking for these NFT projects that you want to buy into or you’re looking to buy into something, you want to go into a community before everybody else does, right, before then the name is out before there’s 150,000 followers on discord and everybody’s whitelisted and you can’t get a mint. What would be the way to go about discovering different projects? Is it Twitter? Is it going on different websites that kind of promote NFT drops? What would your suggestion be for somebody who’s entering the space and wants to get their feet wet? Because there are so many people out there, we forget that, right. Have never bought a single PFP NFT, right. And someone that’s in the space, it’s almost like what. But that’s the majority of people. 

[John Caldwell]

Yeah. It’s really hard. Like Twitter is a necessary evil. I feel like Twitter, you can almost like [Inaudible 00:27:12] yourself out of opportunities. Like I remember when weird whales launched that was this project by a 12-year-old. And it was cool. A 12-year-old made it and I bought a bunch of them and then there was all this stuff on Twitter like, oh, it’s not a 12-year-old. It’s a 35-year-old man. Larping as a 12-year-old. This is a scam dump, dump, dump, dump dump. And so, I’m not impervious to that. I started like selling a bit and then it came out it was this 12-year-old, and the prices went back up and I mean, that’s just one example of sort of being [Inaudible 00:27:50] by your own research. That happened with gutter cat gang too. There was a lot of FUD initially, but then it turned out it was fine.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. Where does that FUD come from? Like, is it from competitors or people that don’t want to see a project succeed for whatever reason? 

[John Caldwell]

Well a lot of it’s just engagement, farming on Twitter. It’s cool to be controversial and talk shit about stuff, right. Like you’re going to get that troll type behaviour, is going to get people angry at you. It’s going to get people on your team and then everybody’s yelling at each other in the comments. And then you ultimately get more likes and followers. And there’s a lot of personalities that have sort of built their following an engagement off of that.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. You definitely see that on Twitter a lot. So, you kind of touched on that a little bit about Twitter being a necessary evil. 


[John Caldwell]

It’s a necessary evil. You have to be on Twitter. You have to be on Discord. If you go into a Discord for a community, they’re going to obviously be pumping their own bags. So, you got to be like aware of that. I mean, I would just say like, if you’re totally new to this space, find somebody smarter than you. Stop pretending like you’re the smartest person on earth and to find people who are smarter than you and listen to them, ask them questions, don’t be annoying. And don’t ask for free money. But people in this space are generally pretty nice. And I think that’s what clubhouse and Twitter spaces was so cool about. Like you could just jump into a room and talk and ask people questions, earnestly and genuinely, and they would answer. And if somebody is being an elitist or whatever, just like find somebody else to talk to that cares. And if I come off as being elitist, I promise I am only half the time.


[Horacio Ruiz]


You know, you’re bullish on the space. Obviously, you see the future right, through NFTs?

[John Caldwell]

Well, I’m bullish on the tech. I mean the space remains to be seen. I don’t know where we are within any cycle. What is the comp of what like a good PFP is worth? Is it somebody’s highest priced clothing item? So, like my nicest coat that I own is that where my – the comp of what my PFP should be for an average retail user? Or is it my car? And I think you could sort of look at it both ways because when I show up to a meeting now it’s generally on LinkedIn, Twitter, Discord, Zoom, whatever. The first thing this person sees about me is my PFP and my handle. So is my crypto punk or my toad, or like, whatever it is, what does that say about me. Depending on the circle I’m in, like it says something. You’re making some type of statement. There’s like a financial statement as well as a community statement, which flag you’re flying. But to me, it’s not that different. I know people who are real estate agents and it’s a necessary evil that they drive a nice car. If they’re trying to sell a house in Malibu, they have to show up in a nice car. They have to be presentable. It’s just part of the job. And I don’t know if that’s where PFPs fit in, is it’s like, that’s your first impression. That’s more of like a car. And at that point it’s worth, I don’t know, 50K a 100K for like a really nice car. Or is it more like a nice coat, which is worth 500 bucks or a thousand bucks? I don’t really know where the comp is for retail. I think we’re in this weird sort of bubble where a lot of early crypto money is being like, sort of sloshed around right now in different PFP projects and people make money on NFTs and then they take some out, they spend it on more. I’m very curious to see what retail adoption looks like. Coinbase NFT may bring that about. And we’ll see if people are more buying $50 NFTs or if they do actually go for the $2,500 NFTs to $50,000 NFTs, I don’t really know.

[Horacio Ruiz]

That’s really interesting because to me someone like you, right, who’s in the space 24-7 making a living, managing a fund. And it seems to me and correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t want to speak for you. Right. But what I’m getting is you’re not even sure what this stuff is worth. Like when five years down the line, let’s say, let me put it that way. You’re not really sure what this stuff is going to be worth.

[John Caldwell]

It just depends which lens you look at it through. So, like I know a little bit about art history. I majored in art in college and had an amazing art history professor and learning about the context of different artists throughout sort of 19th and 20th century. You start to see the art that happens in the traditional art world, it doesn’t come out of a vacuum. It comes out of the context of what came previous to that. So, when I look at what’s happening now as an art movement, I am like almost sure this stuff is going to end up in art history books in 50 years to a hundred years. It’s like the advent of the printing press or the screen printing, which kicked off like pop art stuff a lot. But I’m mostly interested in gen art at that point. Like what happened with art blocks? Not in terms of like an investment vehicle, but in terms of like the art that’s going on there. And the fact that the art is the code, the code is the art, and the output is not selected, picked and choose. It’s like created on the fly by users. There’s a thousand mins and there’s no doovers after that a thousand mint it’s public, it’s on the chain forever. You look at it and those are your out puts. That’s your collection. That stuff is amazing. And crypto punks, I think, are part of that. They’re one of the first sort of gen art – they became PFPs. But to me, I look at it as essentially a giant work of art and a social experiment as well. So that stuff I’m almost positive will get written about in the history books. And we’ve already probably seen some really significant artists in this space who who’ve helped push it forward and builders. And I know that for example, snow fro is out there trying to put gen art curriculum into like colleges, art schools and stuff like that. And that’s amazing. But all that being said, I think we’re at like a very early state for gen art on change, gen art. Like I’ve talked about it with people who are somewhat critical of some of the stuff that’s out there. And it’s just like, we’re just playing, we’re just scratching the surface. And where it’s going to be in 10 years is mind blowing. We cannot even begin to think about it. But that being said, this was the first pass. And when you look at some art history movements, like the first people to break into a new genre are historically significant. So yeah, that’s where I think we’re at with – like, from an art point of view. And from a gaming point of view, I think it’s huge. I mean… 

[Horacio Ruiz]

…Are we just seeing the beginning of that?

[John Caldwell]

Well, we took like a 30-year step backwards. Look at the best like on chain game right now is like from the eighties or nineties, it’s like, so basic, you can’t do anything if you’re on main net, your gas fees are crazy. Like, I mean, honestly, if like pong came out right now on chain Pong, I think people would lose their mind. And if on chain Goldeneye came out, which is like 25 years old or something people would lose their mind. It would be the most amazing thing ever let alone some like AAA title with on chain elements and stuff like that. Like, we haven’t even remotely touched that yet. I think we’ll accelerate towards it. We’ll get there within a couple years. I don’t know where big AAA studios stand on that. Some of them are embracing it. Some of them are scared of it. They want their closed walled garden marketplaces, but hopefully they’ll be forced to adopt. And that’s the hope. And if you want to read more about that, it’s punk 6529, like he has a whole thread on the open metaverse and sort of what we’re fighting for here versus like these companies like Facebook or whatever, meta, trying to own our data versus like us owning our data via web three. And he has this really interesting points that like, we’re kind of in a battle right now for our own data and for what the future looks like. It’s kind of interesting and inspiring.

[Horacio Ruiz]


You know, I wanted to talk to you about that. What is the metaverse to you like – and I’ll give you a quick little experience of mine. I’ve jumped into like Crypto voxels a couple times, right. Kind of walking around and I don’t own anything in the there, but you can walk in and kind of see what people have set up and it’s pretty cool. There’s just not much to do there. Right. You play around with your little figure, you can make it dance, you can make a skip. It’s cool. But it’s nothing that I haven’t seen when I was say ten, nine years old playing my video games. Right. I had the same experience where you could connect with other people and do different things. Obviously. What exactly is the metaverse right now? What will it be? And I guess my third question, the third question is what is it that meta right, Facebook, what is it that they’re building, right, that we’re not even remotely aware of. Because we have the central land. We have the sandbox crypto voxels, other places. 

[John Caldwell]

Yeah. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

What is meta building? That kind of freaks me out a little bit. You know.

[John Caldwell]

I don’t know the answer to the second one, just to let’s start there. I have no idea. And in fact, my guess is they’d probably just go out and acquire a bunch of companies if they had to. But yeah, to go back to question one, what is the metaverse, I’d say it’s like a transposable digital identity. So, in that sense, I do think we’re already in somewhat of a metaverse, a proto metaverse. Again, to borrow from punk 6259, or whatever, our interactions on Discord, Twitter, Zoom, Gmail, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Across the whole web were in this sort of building blocks of a metaverse already. And if I make my PFP the same across all of them, that’s the first step in me being like, this is my identity or my screen name, Veg Surfer. This is part of my identity of who I am online. At some point that may become more 3D, and I’ll have more of like a 3D avatar of myself or a 3D avatar of like a cyber callings VX that I like, that just becomes me. I mean, if you take a step back, we essentially lived in our houses for like two years now, completely isolated from everybody. But we’ve adapted by like leaning into like Zoom, Google meet, FaceTime, like the fact that you can just jump on a video call with anybody on earth at any point is pretty crazy. That never existed before. So, we’re doing that, but it’s still a little bit like it’s just a grid of boxes. The face is talking and we’re all kind of bored of it at this point. So maybe we do actually get to go exist in a virtual space. Still kind of boring. I think you got to do something like play games together is probably the most fun version of that. Like I played a lot of world of Warcraft. I remember you could type slash played, and it would give you some horrible amount of time you spent in the game. And for me, it was like months of actual in game time, but it was fun. And I like redownloaded the latest expansion during, when COVID first started, because I was like, okay, if I can’t be social, if I can’t see anybody I’m stuck in my house, I’ll go jump around and find people and join a Guild and raid and all that stuff. Because you still make meaningful connections with these people online. And the human spirit and the human need for connection can exist within a digital world. It totally can. And if like there’s ever a bigger case for that, it’s like COVID and that we’ve been on lockdown and we’ve been able to interact with our families and friends for the past couple years. And like, we’re not just isolated Gollum creatures now. Like we’ve managed to maintain our social packs by doing this stuff and even expand. I mean, I have so many new friends that I just met online that I trust, I build up trust with these people. I send them Ethe, they send me NFTs. It’s like we know each other. Now we work on stuff together. So yeah, I do think like the metaverse is here already. There’s no like threshold, like, okay. Once it looks like ready player one and I’m jumping through portals and stuff, it’s all going to be there. Like I already think we’re in it. Like in our digital identity is out there. I exist on all these online sorts of platforms. And I create human relationships on these platforms. Being able to like wear a skin or have a handle or an identity is just sort of part of that. I do think the one threshold moment could be analogous to like early internet and then the iPhone came out and that was just this like tipping point where it’s like, okay, now you have the computer in your pocket, 24 7. And now we spend like eight hours a day on it. I do think there will probably be a point where like an augmented reality visual component is going to come out the same way that we have earbuds. Now I think a visual element, whether it’s glasses or contact lens or some really high-end VR headset or something. I do think there’s going to be a moment where that is like a tipping point. And then people do start to overlay the digital on top of the real world. At some point, I don’t think we’re too far away. Like I said, we already carry our phone in our pocket and have our earbuds in. So, we’re already kind of doing it. I don’t think it’s this scary dystopian thing all the time. I think it’s like people will use it for driving directions and people will use it for like fun, like games.

 
[Horacio Ruiz]

You allude to that. Right. And I guess my thing is you talked about this fight for our privacy or our data, our information. And that’s why alluded to it, like, could this be something that companies are looking to leverage to take advantage of? And that’s kind of why I mentioned what Facebook is changing to meta and I’m not talking bad about it necessarily, but I’m just – you mentioned before what has happened with people’s data and privacy and it’s non-existent, right? Like we’re being tracked all the time and it’s just like, how much more can they ramp it up if you’re living in it? 

[John Caldwell]

Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t really think much more. Honestly, if you look at what’s actually happening now is like the massive metadata collection that’s happening. Whether or not you believe that’s constitutional or a necessary evil to prevent terrorism or whatever, it’s still happening. There’s no denying that it’s happening. Essentially, all of our data is being catalogued by the government. If you’re in the US, or by these big web two companies. And then the web two companies take that data, and they just sell it. It just is what it is it’s already happening. I don’t really know how much deeper they could go. And if they’re tracking my world of Warcraft, I don’t care. Go ahead. The FBI agent can like sit and eat popcorn and watch me like jumping around storm wind and try to get on top of the fountain for two hours. I don’t know how much they can, how much more they could possibly do. Like we’re already interacting almost our entire lives during the past two years digitally. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

No, I hear you. I know what you’re saying. It’s part of our reality and at this point where it’s kind of like, what more, what can we do about it?

[John Caldwell]

And this is where if people get sort of weird about centralisation versus decentralisation and self-custodianship is like, or self-custody, I don’t know how you say it, but like Equifax is a good example. They leaked all of our private data and like, what can we do about that? We just go, okay, bad, bad Equifax. Okay. You leaked our data. You’re still the main sort of holder of all this data. Nothing happened. But with web three, theoretically, you are in charge of that data. Now, if you make a mistake and you have a board ape and you put in your seed phrase, because somebody pretends to be support or give you a good deal and you lose your ape, there’s no one you can call. You can’t be a web three Karen, and call to get your board ape sent back. Like it’s just over. It’s done. That’s the risk of living in sort of a decentralised world. It’s not black and white. I do think there could be sort of escrow periods or things like that. Intermediaries that can sort of step in. But ultimately, it’s like kind of in a weird way, like owning land or gold. Like if you own gold and you put it under your pillow or whatever you want to do, because you don’t trust a bank. Like, I mean, I don’t do that, but I can see why maybe some people do and they it’s tangible to them. And they’re like this is mine. It doesn’t matter if a run on the banks happens, this is mine. Kind of similar with web three. It’s like if you have it stored safely on a hardware wallet or whatever, it’s yours and there’s literally nothing anybody can do on earth to take that away from you. So, there’s something cool about that. And with NFTs and this technology goes beyond just currency, it goes to like your data. So, it’s cool.

[Horacio Ruiz]

You know, thanks for talking about some high-level stuff here. John, I really appreciate that. And, and your insights and your background and history in the space. 

[John Caldwell]

Sure.

[Horacio Ruiz]

If you have like a minute or two John, just another minute or two like space specific like photography music regarding the NFT space and what’s heating up and what are we going to see in the coming year?

[John Caldwell]

I’d be interested in gaming, like the crossover of NFTs and gaming. Like I said, we took a huge step backwards with like the tech, but people who are building and who are integrating NFTs into games. I just think there’s so much opportunity there. So, we’ll really see a lot of growth in that sector over the next year, two years, five years, even. And for that you can go and look at a project and actually go to their website, look at if they have quality devs that built their website that are doing interesting things. The concept that a project is just going to go from kind of like a basic PFP project, to then overnight becoming a AAA game. I don’t buy that. Like it’s going to be a talented dev team and project manager and stuff on board. So, like you should be able to notice that this thing is interesting and engaging before it becomes the next Nintendo or whatever. So, I think you can just use your own intuition on that. Do some research. If you find a project, just check it out, like see if it’s all hype or see if there’s actually some cool stuff being built. And then invest or deploy accordingly. Ultimately, it’s going to be kind of your gut, but that’s a good way to at least sift out just like things that are pure hype. We saw that during the ICO boom, a few years ago. So just try to not repeat that same thing.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. A lot of stuff that came out of that. Not so good, and then – but some stuff did come out of that. Right. Some stuff did end up coming out of that. Well, thank you so much John, this is great, great insights and I know why you’re a part of the NFT team there with Les. I mean some good stuff, man. That’s all I got to say. So, thanks for joining me and thanks for spending an hour of your time here with us man. 

[John Caldwell]

Yeah. Thank you so much. I hope I didn’t, ramble too much about this metaverse stuff that I think about all the time, but it’s fascinating. I think we’re at like a crazy inflection point and it’s just interesting to be part of it right now. And we’ll see where we’re at. I’ll remind myself to listen to this in five years and see how wildly off I was about everything.


[Horacio Ruiz]

Have a great day, John. Thank you very much.

[John Caldwell]

All right. Thank you so much,

[Horacio Ruiz]

John really has a unique perspective. I don’t know of too many other people like him who are doing their own thing as a collector and are now working for an actively managed portfolio fund. I hope you enjoyed the episode as much as I enjoyed participating in it. Don’t forget to like, subscribe or leave a review wherever you can and wherever you are, thanks for joining us. Until next time.

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Author

Horacio Ruiz

Horacio Ruiz

Horacio is a veteran math teacher of the New York City public school system. Prior to teaching, he lived in New Orleans where he worked in sales for the New Orleans Hornets before joining The Institute for Sport and Social Justice to rebuild homes in the Lower Ninth Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He currently lives in Staten Island with his wife, Alicia, his three sons; Oliver, Henry, and Jacob, and their pitt-mi,x Tipitina. In 2019, Horacio published a biography, The White Knight: Calvin Patterson and the Integration of Florida State University Football.

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