Vignesh Sundaresan and Anand Venkateswaran, once known only by their pseudonyms Metakovan and Twobadour, made waves—or rather, a tsunami—when they bought Beeple’s. All days: The first 5,000 days for a whopping $69.3 million at Christie’s in March 2021.
The purchase immediately catapulted NFTs to the forefront of the cultural conversation and All days is still the most expensive NFT ever sold. Suddenly everyone wanted to know: who are these guys?
In the year and a half since they bought the headlines, Metakovan and Twobadour emerged as world ambassadors for NFT, making All days the center of a vast empire that now includes more Beeple NFTs, music by 3LAU, and work by other NFT stars like Pak and Snowfro—many of which have been compiled and tagged with their company Metapurse’s B20 logo. During their promotional tour after the Beeple sale, the pair revealed plans to do so create a fund to publish pro-NFT journalism, as well as provide greater access to NFT for people who, like them, identified with the Global South.
But as the NFT market has all but broken in recent months, the dynamic duo has split. And their new guidelines offer insight into where the once-powerful sector is headed.
Twobadour, who was a science and technology journalist before joining Metapurse, announced on Twitter in April that he would be stepping down to focus on writing a memoir. Metakovan sounded sad about the decision in his own post: “While it was always part of the plan and I’m looking forward to reading the obituary, I’d rather he stayed,” he wrote at the time.
In addition to the promised memoir, Venkateswaran revealed new character online, shedding Twobadour’s “exosuit,” and a new project: eDAO, a Web3 access node for NFTs across sports, media, and entertainment, built with Polygon founder Sandeep Nailwal. The DAO started with an NFT artist home connected to the marketplace Rarible.
Although they have different approaches to art and investment, it seems that Twobadour focused on building relationships while Metakovan was more interested in funding and collecting.
In a Zoom interview with Artnet News, Metakovan spoke highly of her relationship with Twobadour, but declined to speak more directly about the reasons for the split. “We’re still friends,” he said. Twobadour declined to comment for this report.
Origin of Metapurse
The story of Metapurse is in some ways the story of the evolution of the NFT space as a whole. It grew out of other crypto entities and became something much bigger that now, behind the NFT market which has fallen by 70 percent since February 2021, must reinvent himself.
Metakovan invented Bitcoin in mid-2010. “I grew up in India where I had to borrow laptops to work,” Metakovan told Artnet News from his home in Singapore. “It wasn’t until 2013, when I left India, that I started looking into remittances to send money to my family back home. When I did a Google search, I just learned about this thing called Bitcoin.
After studying mechanical engineering in Dubai and Canada, he started a crypto exchange called Coinse in 2014. platform allowed users to exchange what was then a growing market for alt-coins such as Litecoin and Dogecoin. Interestingly, it was Dogecoin that nearly destroyed Metakovan early on, after a divergence in the blockchain (or “fork” in industry parlance) allowed people to freely access coins on his exchange for several hours while he was on a trans-Pacific flight. “Dogecoin almost bankrupted me,” Metakovan said.
He continued anyway. He soon invited his longtime friend Twobadour to work together to create a fund that would focus on collecting something new: NFTs. A erstwhile journalist, Twobadour also served as head of digital business at Sony music and managed content and media distribution for the NBA in India.
In 2016, Vitalik Buterin launched Ethereum, which enabled the use of smart contracts across all types of assets, from mortgages to digital art. Metakovan and Twobadour believed that if they focused their efforts on early-stage Ethereum-related venture capital projects—everything from finance to art, unique collectibles, and virtual real estate—they would be poised to make an impact on what wasn’t even called Web3 at the time. As smart contracts gained popularity, the duo felt like they were on to something.
“We went to work right away,” Metakovan said. Around this time, artists such as Beeple and Snowfro, founder of the creative art platform Art Blocks, gained attention. And Metapurse started acquiring their work – quickly.
In the first quarter of 2021, Metapurse had an estimated $189 million of digital assets under management. Beeple’s $69 million accounted for about 36 percent of Metapurse’s total assets in the first quarter of 2021, according to data compiled by Coingecko. But there were plenty of other NFTs and projects, cryptocurrencies and of course their own B.20 token.
Rise and fall B.20
The original idea behind B.20 was to represent and package 20 different Beeple artworks. At the time, Metakovan and Twobadour both likened the B.20 project to a film production—a platform for other creatives to come together to build something greater than the sum of its parts.
Last year, they opened a virtual museum to showcase their B.20 NFT devices in various cyberspaces and held a huge party in Terminal 5 of the NFT.NYC conference, called “Dreamverse,” which featured a movie version of Beeple’s. All days and a performance by DJ Alesso. They also hosted “Metapalooza,” which Twobadour described as the “first compatible” event to take place simultaneously in two metaverses. Major crypto-literature (in avatar form, obviously) was in attendance: Beeple, Jason Bailey, and Duncan Cock Foster, founder of Nifty Gateway, all came together to launch the B.20 token. At its peak, 27 people worked on the B.20 project, from architects to digital designers to coders, according to Metakovan.
The B.20 token still exists today and functions like a share in a group of regulated NFTs. Once trading at around $25 per token, B.20 is now down to around 0.13 cents, largely due to the broader bear market around cryptocurrencies and NFTs as a whole. (At one point, the duo tried to sell token holders after selling a “master key” to the B.20 fund as a new NFT for $58 million, but this doesn’t appear to have happened.)
During the bull market, Metakovan and Twobadour also offered a $100,000 storytelling grant for NFT and crypto creators. Those grants eventually went to NFT artists Paradoxx and Pachoman — but they ended up getting considerably less than advertised: about $7,000 each to make films and projects, according to Metakovan.
Looking to the future, with one regret
Now Metapurse is a diluted operation. Its NFT holdings are still as blue as it gets, but whether that translates into increased recognition and engagement at the museum and institutional level remains to be seen.
On September 5th, Metakovan and Acute Art announced a recently commissioned virtual reality artwork made by Ólaf Elíasson, which of course includes the accompanying NFT. Right Your view mattersthe work will form an integral part of Eliasson’s upcoming exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, and is aimed at being exhibited internationally, including in Metakovan’s home country, India.
The mechanical engineer turned patron of digital art remains unhappy with the bear market for NFTs. He has developed a new strategy to coincide with the changing state of the game. Rather than focusing on several NFTs at once, he plans to focus his attention on individual NFTs over a longer period of time, as appears to be the case with his newfound interest in Eliasson.
His B.20 token, which can still be traded on different exchanges, is still supported by the collection and the events that led to it.
“To this day, I have never sold a single B.20 token,” Metakovan said. “I don’t care about material things, I look at the social value of projects. In Beeple’s case All days, I think it’s part of cultural history and now my idea is to focus on individual projects.”
Metakovan continues to live and work in Singapore, a jurisdiction he believes remains one of the best for crypto entrepreneurs, but frequently travels the world in search of new ventures. “I come from India, a nation with a million minorities,” he said. “I think NFTs have a lot of power. They have the ability to unlock our cultural memory, but also the keys to preventing the destruction of other people’s cultural memory.”
Looking back, Metakovan says he regrets identifying access to B.20, which led to more attention being paid to the market price than the history and values behind the collection.
“The B.20 is not a social, community or utility symbol,” he said. “It was and always will be a joint effort and collaboration that proved that such a project was even possible.”
He remains as committed as ever to seeing NFTs applied in the real world, “I think the blockchain revolution is just getting started,” he said. “Now my focus is not on taking other people’s money, my focus is on art. It took a long time to get it all right.”
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