He Moved to Berlin, Found Love, and Built an Ethereum Dapp

That's the man behind the latest NFT-minting platform

Good morning defiers, wishing you a great start to your week. Today’s interview is somewhat of an inspirational story.

When Nate Geier decided he wanted to focus on cryptocurrencies full time, he quit his job, put everything in storage, and went to travel the world on a mission to find his calling –and surf big waves. His journey took him to Lisbon, Bali, Singapore, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Prague, Budapest, Cape Town, and finally to Berlin, where he settled down, met a lady, and built an Ethereum dapp.

Last week he launched Mintbase, the company he has been building since winning the Devcon4 hackathon in Prague. He wants to enable anyone to create, or “mint,” non-fungible tokens. NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital tokens, with their own specific set of characteristics that live permanently on the blockchain. Instead of owning a coin or currency, like with Bitcoin, NFTs want to recreate owning a “thing.”

While most early use-cases have been for games –CryptoKitties are NFTs, for example–, Nate wants to focus on how they can be used in the real world. The first NFTs being minted on his platform are tickets for MetaCartel’s demo day at Berlin blockchain week. 49 tickets have been sold so far for an average price of $23. Next, he wants to start testing anything and everything else.

The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity and I’ve bolded what I think are the best quotes.

Camila Russo: Tell me a bit about your pre-crypto background.

Nate Geier: I was a wild land firefighter originally for a several years and I have a journalism major. I did wild land firefighting for a company called PatRick in the Pacific northwest. We would go to fires in pretty much all of the northwest. So Montana, Idaho, Washington, you name, it except for at California. I was able to support my college life by spending all summer fighting fires and digging lines and cutting down the trees and all that.

I graduated when the economy crashed in 2008 and started my first company. I just don't like relying on other people, also, I didn't have a lot of money then, so I couldn’t have hired programmers so I just had to learn how to code.

CR: What was your first company?

NG: I was building my first company, Coursetto, a corporate training platform. It allowed anyone within a company to create their own training courses.

Coursetto eventually ended up failing and I went to work at RGA, which is one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. One of their biggest clients is Nike and I ended up pushing them to completely rewrite their application called NikeiD.

My mentor back when I was building Coursetto was David Nelson, who built and sold a company called Giftango, which is the reason why you see the gift cards at Target. Years later he created a company called Bumped, which basically lets you you swipe your card at Starbucks and they give you fractional shares of publicly traded stock as a reward. He reached out to me and I was his first hire.

CR: How did you make your way to crypto?

I was always interested in crypto, but since my day job was either writing code for Nike or for Bumped or for, who knows what, I just didn't have time to actually jump into it. I started getting really into Ethereum back when it was like $1.14, so when everything spiked, that got me just too excited and I wanted to spend my entire focus on crypto at that point. Then last year I put everything in storage because I knew crypto was something I'm really passionate in working with.

I ended up by winning the Devcon 4 hackathon in Prague. I'm nomading at this point and everyone said I should go work out of Full Node in Berlin. It’s the main hub for crypto and blockchain and I’d get to meet all these interesting humans. I wasn't planning on staying here very long.

I ended up buying a ticket to South Africa because I'm an ocean man. Surfing is my main thing. I ride quite sizeable waves –almost died surfing big waves in Indonesia this time last year. But I ended up meeting a lady here, Caro, who's now helping me with the company. So I lasted two weeks in South Africa and came back here to be with her. Now I’m seven months deep hanging out down here.

CR: What did you build at Devcon4?

NG: I didn't really think I was going to even hack at the hackathon, but I just had this idea of basically doing pretty much the identical thing that Bumped was doing, allocating something to users based on a traditional bank or debit or credit transactions. So at the hackathon, I built a really basic system where people can mint NFTs and allocate them to users.

That evolved into Mintbase, which launched on mainnet last week [July 8th]. So the basic idea is someone mints an NFT and that NFT is an asset that's backed by them. The only thing Mintbase takes a fee on is if you sell the NFT. So you can create a smart contract, you can mint tokens, you can burn tokens, you can airdrop tokens to multiple addresses, you can connect them to OpenSea, which is an NFT exchange.

If you want a mint on my platform and sell everything on OpenSea, not a single ETH ends up in Mintbase's pocket. Our goal is to just get people using digital assets and becoming comfortable with digital assets. So the more people we get loaded into the system, the more beneficial it is for all of us.

I'm really excited about the potential of what NFT gives us. It gives us a digital ownership and digital scarcity. Once you have those two things combined, I think we can start getting really creative once we start building the infrastructure for better redeemers.

CR: Like how would a regular customer use an NFT?

NG: Our very first real world use case are tickets for the MetaCartel demo day during Berlin Blockchain week, which is coming up in August [MetaCartel is a community ecosystem of projects revolving around the Web 3.0 application layer]. We just launched Mintbase on Monday and the ticket sales are actually phenomenal. So if you have MetaMask, or either Trust wallet or Coinbase wallet, with two or three clicks you can buy a ticket and see all your collectibles within your wallet.

CR: In the Metacartel ticket's use case, what's the benefit of using an NFT versus selling a regular ticket?

NG: We're finding a couple of really neat use cases. One, is the minter will automatically see funds go into their account. If you start looking at fees with regular ticket, it's 2 percent to 3 percent could come from credit cards and then Eventbrite's fees alone could be up to 3 percent. When you mint and sell tickets as NFTs, proceeds go directly to your account.

CR: So it could be cheaper to host an event with NFTs?

NG: I didn't say that quite yet. It definitely costs money to create a smart contract. It cost money to create the tokens and depending on what Ethereum is doing, one day it could be $6 to create a contract, the next day it could be $3.

So I'm not going to say today that it's cheaper, but the other huge part is the interoperability aspect of it. It's the fact that I can move this thing around easily. So my tokens immediately register with OpenSea and once the ticket’s out, you can move your ticket. Once the tickets are all sold out, you can then go sell it for a higher price.

CR: So it's easier to create markets with these tools.

NG: Exactly. So I'm pitching a shoe company. Let's say someone mints a shoe from a large shoe company then they want to go to market this shoe. How do you do that? Being able to send maybe 10 NFTs linked to specific shoes to an ad agency to be able to do whatever they want with it or send it directly to maybe an influencer who can literally have their hands on an asset, and use it to give out prizes which can then be redeemed for the actual thing.

When you think about it, like, I think NFTs are one of the OG stable coins. It's a one-to-one ratio of a thing.

CR: Yeah, it's really interesting to look at it that way. So after MetaCartel, what projects will you be working on?

NG: I'm at that spot where now it's time to see what the use cases are. So Raiden just created the first light client to full node transfer. So we took a picture and I minted that moment.

CR: So one use case could be kind of preserving moments and then trading them. Like if somebody had taken a picture of the day Ethereum launched and connected it to an NFT, that could potentially be worth a lot of money.

NG: Yeah, and you can mint tokens in the wild. It’s really quick and you can do it on your cel phone.

{Nate proceeded to mint a smart contract out of a screen shot of the video call we were having}

CR: So what does that smart contract do?

NG: So this actually immediately gets loaded to OpenSea. You can set an auction and do all sorts of interesting stuff. You can send this link out to some people to purchase or grab or do whatever they want.

CR: What's the big picture for NFTs that you're seeing in the future?

NG: I think NFTs, and basic programmable assets are going to be widely used and we’re just starting to explore how. I think some of the Plasma team, they're using NFTs for a streaming video content and distributing who gets what based on how much they contributed, so maybe the actor gets 70 percent and the cameraman gets 2 percent and then everyone involved in the video gets whatever percent. The same with ticket sales. Maybe someone creating an event has no money, but they can guarantee the vendors with an open, verifiable smart contract that they’ll get a percentage of the tickets being sold, realtime. As that ticket gets sold, everyone's looking at their account and just seeing those that funds starting to pop up.

CR: What about onboarding non crypto people? Is that something you’re thinking about?

NG: Going from fiat to ETH to get the token, that process, that's the hard part. But as soon as people get a wallet, it doesn't really take a whole lot to onboard users. With my application, once they get an address, tokens can be airdropped into their wallets. But I don't think the non crypto user is my first go-to right now. I feel like every boom is going to give us just a new flood of people.

CR: I guess that's the main struggle for anyone building; getting past that first hurdle of people having to have a wallet in the first place to use all this stuff. But it's true that once you have a wallet and have some ether, using these things isn't that hard really.

NG: It's nice because within the app it's two clicks to make purchase. How many clicks is it to do it through Eventbrite? You have to go, put in your credit card number, your first name and your last name, your expiration date, this and that, and the other. And then that's more data to get leaked. My application is a dapp where the only thing required is, if you are a minter, is what address hash you have.

CR: How have you been funded so far?

NG: Self funded and I made five grand on the hackathon. Eventually I'm going to have to start making money. The next fall I want to hit the VC round, but I really want to do that with use cases. I want to mess around with tickets. I want to mess around with digital asset redemption for physical goods, I want to mess around with at least another two different industries. And I want to see what actually makes sense. So once I see something that feels like could get some true legs, that’s when I’m going to go forward. And with just launching, last week, I think that I'm dead on target for doing a pretty good raise.

CR: How is the Mintbase different from other NFTs applications?

NG: I hate to say bad things about other ones. I think our design is clean and easy to use. I also think some of the companies aren't doing it right where they're asking for like, I would say $40, just to mint like five tokens. They're kind of hitting people at the beginning.

I want to just allow more and more people to get familiar with digital assets before taking a fee. So they're hitting a fee right at the minting. I'm more concerned about wanting more and more people in the system and using it and then finding the use cases. I really want to just play with all the creative things that we can do with NFTs.

And I'm definitely a far more focused on usability in the real world. I've never been a gamer. I think I just bought a CryptoKitty just for fun way back in the day just to see how the system worked.

CR: Yeah, NFTs as of today have been mostly used for gaming, but you're a lot more concerned with real-world things. That's an interesting difference. Who are other teams doing something similar to you.

NG: Mintable is one, Super Rare is another, OpenSea just created their own minting system as well. There's a few. I really think that there's a ton of room in this NFT space and I bet we're all going to be successful. We're all going to start narrowing our focus down over the next six months.

CR: How do you think NFTs will be able to connect with finance, like with DeFi?

NG: That's a big question. I think some companies are using them as invoices… I don't have a proper answer for that right now. I've been so focused on getting the minters minting and now with people buying, it's time to take a step back and start answering those questions because I would love to start working with Compound and a lot of these other companies to figure out how Mintbase could interact with them as well. I mean, digital ownership and digital scarcity. Once you have those two, it's like, okay, let's get creative.