Karen Sheng is Co-founder of Nifty Royale, a novel NFT marketplace using Chainlink VRF and Chainlink Keepers to power provably fair blockchain-based battle royale games to acquire 1/1 edition NFT art. The idea for Nifty Royale was conceived during the Spring 2021 Chainlink Virtual Hackathon, where the project was the NFT & Gaming Prize runner-up. The platform’s first NFT drop featured an epic original portrait of Chainlink Co-Founder Sergey Nazarov by world-renowned Australian street artist Lushsux.
Karen will join over 200 panelists representing top projects in revolutionary industries like DeFi and NFT gaming at Chainlink’s SmartCon #1, August 5-7, 2021. She’ll be sharing the floor with two other Chainlink Spring Hackathon finalists – Sammy Bauch, who created NFT game CryptOrchids, and Theresa Huang, who co-founded DeFI protocol Tamago Finance. All three panelists will share what it’s like to go from participating in a hackathon to being accepted into the Filecoin Launchpad Accelerator.
Chainlink Today caught up with Karen for a short Q&A about how she entered the NFT realm and why the blockchain world is wide-open to “crypto-curious” professionals from diverse backgrounds.
CT: What inspired you to get involved in the NFT space? What excites you most about the NFT world?
KS: My background is in economics and data science but I’ve always been passionate about art, particularly photography. I was inspired to build products in the NFT space initially because it empowers creators to monetize their work properly and it has the ability to show proof of provenance.
The pivotal moment was when I realized that many of the artists I follow on social media were still relying on selling prints or taking on sponsored ads as influencers for monetization, whereas the social media platforms monetize through impressions and clicks of these artists’ work. This was around late February 2021, when I heard about NFTs and started doing research into NFT-related products.
I’m most excited about the seemingly endless possibilities for NFTs to expand beyond digital art. We have seen the emergence and growth of utility tokens, the crossover of NFTs and gaming (both NFT games and on-chain games), NFTs with AR/VR functionalities, gamified DeFi with NFTs, fractionalization of tangible properties through NFTs, etc. The speed at which the NFT space is evolving is unprecedented, and I’m really excited to see that so much talent has been invigorated and drawn into this space.
CT: How is Chainlink VRF powering news ways of monetizing and distributing digital art?
KS: Chainlink VRF has been used in the creation of generative art in many NFT projects. Some notable projects include Rare Pizzas and Tiny Boxes. Chainlink VRF powers the randomization of the attributes or components of digital arts in these projects. It is more nuanced to use Chainlink VRF to power the distribution of NFTs. Nifty Royale leverages Chainlink VRF and Keepers oracles, which allow us to construct a no-loss prize pool and a fully autonomous and provably fair game.
CT: How does it feel to go from participating in the Chainlink Spring Hackathon to speaking at SmartCon #1?
KS: It’s been an incredible journey to go from the ideation of a project and developing an MVP during the Chainlink Spring Hackathon to completing a beta launch of our platform at the end of June. It’s a great privilege to have this opportunity to share our experience with the Chainlink community at SmartCon.
The Chainlink team has done such an amazing job building a healthy ecosystem to help innovators grow from being problem-solvers at a hackathon to launching a business with a streamlined GTM trajectory. The NFT space is hyper-competitive and evolves at lightning speed. Without the assistance of the Chainlink team in both technical implementation and co-marketing initiatives, my team would have never imagined building and launching a product in a mere 17 weeks.
CT: What can SmartCon attendees expect to learn from your panel discussion? What key points are you hoping to communicate?
KS: One of the key points I’m hoping to communicate is that participation in blockchain-related hackathons and the opportunity to co-found a business in the blockchain space are not limited to developers only. Any “crypto-curious” professionals – product managers, designers, data scientists, business ops wizards – should be encouraged to participate in these hackathons.
This point is particularly important to women, as women are often intimidated out of getting involved in hackathons unless they are developers by training. Now that hackathons have become a crucial funnel for these Web 3.0 accelerators, the underrepresentation of women has a domino effect. A successful product launch and sustainable business growth require a lot more than a tech stack and code repositories. In my own case, I pivoted from being a data scientist who worked with code and charts on a daily basis to running the business ops and growth of a post-revenue early-stage startup.
CT: What are you personally most excited to see at this year’s SmartCon, particularly in the NFT space?
KS: I’m personally most excited to watch the talks by leaders in the NFT gaming space. It’s really exciting to know that co-founders of platforms such as Axie Infinity and Illuvium are going to speak at SmartCon. The meteoric rise of Axie Infinity and its socioeconomic impact is nothing short of a miracle.
To learn more about SmartCon #1 and stay up-to-date on the latest announcements, visit the Smart Contract Summit website, follow Chainlink Labs and Chainlink Today on Twitter and check back for Chainlink Today’s in-depth coverage leading up to and during the event.