David Cash Interviews Scarlett Arana of BitBasel

11th January 2022

David Cash: Hello everybody, welcome back to NTFS.WTF. My name is David Cash. We are here in sunny Miami, Florida. The sun is about to set. It’s looking beautiful out here, and I’m joined today with the incredible Scarlett Arana, co-founder and CEO of BitBasel and many other amazing organizations. Scarlett, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you doing? How has this been for you this week?

 

Scarlett Arana: Oh my god. It’s been amazing. It’s been nonstop every day back-to-back activations and enjoying Miami Art week here at Sagamore. We had a series of events about SDG Sustainable Development Goals and impact, NFTs creating effect. So it’s been an exciting week with different types of activations and lineups.

DC: Beautiful. Yeah, that’s been cool. It’s been amazing experiencing a lot of your events first person, and you live in Miami, and you’ve watched this space grow, especially around Art Basel. A lot of the conversations I’ve had this week around how this is a historic year of being the NFT’s and digital art are really at the forefront now of this incredible event, so how has it been for you planning your event alongside and seeing the NFT community come together during Miami Art Week?

 

SA: Yeah. So, I was born and raised in Miami, one of the few people in Miami that’s actually from here, building the blockchain community and helping develop blockchain’s educational aspect and adoption. So, what we’ve been doing here is more of the entertainment-education with entertainment, teaching people about blockchain and NFTs. So we feel that art is a palatable interest world for many to learn the adoption of blockchain. So, what we did here is we have a series of events with panel talks, workshops, events, concerts, on all to like engage the community to learn about this. Now, we chose Sagamore because of the historical reference, and what I mean is that we’re BitBasel, and Art Basel originated here at the Sagamore. So Sagamore has historical value. So the gallery inside the Sagamore is where Art Basel first started. So, it has an origin story, and us being BitBasel and an NFT space, I thought what a great story to have it right here where it all started.

 

DC: Absolutely. That’s amazing. I didn’t know that. I think it’s really important what you guys are doing, especially within the realm of education and onboarding. You see, I like to throw out the stat that still only 0.0009% of Internet users own an NFT. So it’s still a huge onboarding endeavour. And I think it’s really important to have organizations such as yours doing the things you do, but maybe let people know how that all started for you and what got you interested in educating people about the blockchain?

 

SA: Yeah. So actually, my background is architecture and geospatial science. So that’s somebody good at creating digital assets and understanding digitizing the world. And one of the critical components of digitizing the world is creating virtual reality. As an architect student, I learned how to make 3D assets for any architecture and so forth. And I realized there was a need to understand the blockchain assets, and the intersection of blockchain and the XR, which is an extended reality aspect, was a perfect marriage. So, it started, you know, back when I was in school in Yorkshire, Florida, and, you know, got interested in cryptography and mining at the time. So it was really interesting, but the adoption of cryptocurrency was nothing, you know, I was more interested in the technical aspects. So that’s like kind of the birth of my experience in blockchain. And as I grew and NFT became more popular back in 2017, I started with the Crypto Kitties, but before that, it was a Rare Pepe living on Bitcoin. And so the Rare Pepe was caught a party. You know, they were based here in Miami. So I was working with them. I was like, Well, this is pretty cool. It wasn’t really until the Crypto Kitties scene late in mid-November, December was where they adopted. So, you know, it’s playing around with the idea well, arts and technology. Wow, this is interesting. So, I think it was in 2018 and ‘19 is where, you know, the notion of what if you intersect the blockchain aspect into the extended reality aspect where that marriage happens well. So, we’re talking about two ecosystems and what I mean about that is the blockchain ecosystem with the metaverse ecosystem. Now, this exists. We see this with unity. In the gaming community, they’re already using NFT in the sense of being at the center of a man and crypto voxel sandbox, for example, but for creating a native blockchain, Metaverse existed, so I was already involved in that. And as the community grew, it got me excited. But, the origin story for us was exactly a year ago, believe it or not, for BitBasel that we had, because everybody was in COVID mode, what we did here, we did a hybrid event, and we invited the CEO and founder of OpenSea rare able. Super rare to talk about NFT because we thought this was an excellent opportunity to get the art community which was already here due to our Miami Art week, to teach blockchain technology. So, we created a panel talk and invited all the founders of these companies to do NFTs. Wow, that’s exactly a year ago. That’s amazing. It was kind of like the birthing, I would say, where a lot of the NFT community was really into it. But even within the blockchain community, they didn’t understand NFT. It was very much defined. And so, there were also cutting trees because you have to be mindful when we’re talking about the metaverse. That’s another community, right? It’s like this intersection boat. So, this adoption happened when we say, and hey, you know, art could be that palatable entry point for many to learn about the technology and educate the artist. Of course, the art community here embraced it. You know, they were just so hungry for more and more. So, of course, we took it upon ourselves to create a curriculum all to learn adoptions as technology. So it was fascinating to watch how quickly people started to receive this. And the way BitBasel did it is through entertainment. What that means is education was entertainment. So, many of our events focus on engaging the community through workshops, hackathons, concerts, and events. You know, have more fun, more palatable, accessible aspects. So, and this is an excellent example of how people can adopt blockchain technology through these methods where it’s fun and instead of being passive, you’re engaging on this. So what’s the interesting point that we did this year is we created a hackathon. This was a global hackathon that had two tracks. It was the crypto art track and the crypto hacker tracks. Now, it was an introduction to blockchain on the crypto art track. The artists themselves just learned how to create a crypto art wallet, what it is and what is NFT as a non-funded token and learned about intelligent contracts and different types of smart contracts. That has to do more with the IP aspect of existing technology. And then, of course, the crypto hacker track was exciting as well because the crypto hacker track uses datasets that came from Miami. And Miami, their CTO Mayor Mike Selassie provided he’s a data scientist himself. So we obtain the data sets from Miami Dade County to resolve issues like sea level, rise energy, Smart City…

 

DC: Social good, yeah.

 

SA: Social good, exactly. So, as part of this hackathon, all this data says that they are the crypto hacker either to solve a solution through a DeFi, NFT or a Metaverse. So as part of the track, the winner of the hackathon can win up to one Bitcoin.

 

DC: Oh, amazing. Wow.

 

SA: Yeah. So it’s really exciting. The community can still engage in Miami even if they weren’t in Miami. So it’s like a bit of part of this whole Miami Art week. So this global hackathon…

 

DC: Decentralize a little bit more, yeah.

 

SA: Yep, decentralizing. So this whole hackathon has been built up for Miami Art Week. And so we had a Metaverse, so we had a live concert within our Metaverse and a real show in the real world. So it was like digital hybrid events. So what’s excited so? That’s what kind of transpired this whole week. All of this has been just a build-up to that. We worked with the center comm. We were the official hackathon for that conference. So it’s really exciting. So there are many facets to this event.

 

DC: Amazing. Congratulations, it’s been such a beautiful event and such a beautiful week. I think you’ve done such incredible work, and yeah, the fact that you’ve been around since counterparty and watch the space grow from there. That’s incredible. Back when it was just crypto art, not even an NFT. So that’s amazing. And I think that you know, you touched on many significant points there. But I think what’s important for people to realize is that you know, the NFT phenomenon is just a recent rise, and it’s a use of this one technology as a buzzword to kind of exemplify the whole space, but really what we’re looking at here is like the entire web three ecosystem, like you were saying, like the metaverse, all these other, like virtual fashion, and NFTs, all these constituent elements, which now we’re kind of seeing come together and seeing people start to appreciate or take seriously. So I’m sure that’s been a fantastic thing to watch over the past few years. But yeah, how do you see the space evolving from this point? We’ve come thus far to an end where you know, an event like this. People will be going to crypto events on top of, you know, over often some of the art events. But now, moving forward and seeing more people taking the metaverse more and more seriously, how do you see this evolving from this point forwards?

 

SA: Well, we’re so early on. I can’t emphasize that enough. What it means is that, what I see from my perspective, is DPhi now merging with NFT, and that is such a game-changer. What I mean about that is its decentralized finance. So let’s say you have an NFT, you could stake your NFT, you can take out a loan on an NFT.

 

DC: That’s the future.

 

SA: That is the future. You could imagine buying a property, and that contract is an NFT. So the possibility of NFT is almost endless. It comes down to how intelligent projects are defined. And since that merge of defined NFT is becoming more alive, we here define DAOs which is a decentralized autonomous organization, happening as well. So, when it comes to adoption, we are early, so for us, as educators, you know, we want to make sure that this technology is accessible to everybody. Since solutions are decentralized, it comes down to the user’s imagination. So it’s a pretty exciting time because it’s almost a new renaissance of the tech age.

 

DC: Yeah. No, it’s amazing. You know, our magazine is backed by a DAO. And it’s yeah, so you know, it’s a fantastic time to be in the space where we can integrate defy into our day-to-day lives. And I think it’s really important that you guys are educating people about smart contracts because I think it’s fairly obvious for people on the inside that you know, why trust a lawyer or a piece of paper when you can trust code, don’t trust verify, you know, the essence of the whole crypto space. And you, you know that probably better than anybody else being here from the very beginning, but, you know, it’s very impressive. And congratulations on all the success so far.

 

SA: Thank you. One thing I want to emphasize as an educator, I want to make this very accessible to everybody, especially women and people of colour. This technology is for everybody, and, you know, I’m a developer, so I’d love to encourage more women into the space it is a great space to be in. Because the possibilities are endless and also…

 

DC: It can change your life.

 

SA: Yes, it will also change your life as we continue to disrupt the more excellent economy. There’s a new opportunity and innovation that’s happening here. So it is an exciting time. I feel like, after COVID, everybody’s got into a real awakening realize, you know, the possibility of this merging tech has opened up new doors, new careers. So this aspect has been accelerating. So I encourage more women to look into blockchain as a new career, especially in an NFT space, because it could be a new way to empower yourself to be more creative and have financial independence.

 

DC: And there are so many opportunities right now. Yeah, it’s amazing to get into the space.

 

SA: Mmhmm. Absolutely.

 

DC: Beautiful.

 

SA: Yeah, so that’s our narrative here, you know, learn more about the blockchain community. Miami is ground zero in terms of how the blockchain community happened. That has to do, partially because Miami before was often seen as a tourist destination, but really, Miami is like, the Bridge of Latane in the Caribbean. So we know a lot of innovation that happens in May, which helps us accelerate the technology here, which is interesting. So what I see from my perspective is the intersection of blockchain for many different areas such as space tech, ocean tech or blue tech to medicine so that NFTs can be applied to all those areas or aspects. Hence, it’s no longer limited to just one type of ecosystem. It does open more doors.

 

DC: Totally. I mean, NFTs and intelligent contracts are our way to democratize anything, the whole world. Governments, banks, healthcare, and I’m excited to see that happen. But just before we end this one out, I do think I want to touch on one more thing that you mentioned, how you’re hackathon. A lot of your work is specifically around the challenges you create, specifically around improving the environment. There’s a hugely positive trend in good social NFTs now that we’ve had some people get very successful in the space and make quite a bit of eef. It’s amazing that a lot of the projects that we’re seeing are social good related or environmentally friendly, especially in response, a lot of the fud that we’ve been getting around being bad for the environment and, you know, bad PR, so maybe tell us a little bit more about the initiatives you guys are doing around the hackathon and the environment.

 

SA: Yes. So a lot of our NFTs come from chia or nori. So what they do is they have net harmful mining, so they’re not net neutral. They’re not negative. They help improve the carbon removal aspects. So that’s one example of how NFT and minting can help with the environment.

 

DC: And companies like that are on the chain. It’s 100% transparent. There’s no fooling.

 

SA: So you can see how this technology is, yes, it’s actually helping with their environment and also validating to the support so for instance, now you can create NFT trees to help support the restoration or NFT Amazons.

 

DC: Yeah.

 

SA: So that’s a few examples of how you can create impact using NFT. And this whole week has been about impact. We did one for the ocean. NFT for the sea, NFT for gender equality, the penalty for sustainability. So those are all energy for impact and social good. So that’s quite exciting. That was pretty much the narrative we’re trying to push very hard of, like, you know, what it would take to be part of that initiative and instead of being a bystander, you can be part of the solution.

 

DC: Inclusivity, environmental friendliness, decentralization. It’s an incredible set of ideals that we’re putting together and pushing here in Miami. It’s amazing.

 

SA: One thing I want to emphasize is the Metaverse and what that looks like. Yes, and you’re probably wondering why I’m wearing this because as we enter starting next year you’re going to start seeing more like Apple glass and spatial computing type devices where.

 

DC: VR sets with mixed reality. Yeah.

 

SA: Yes. Where you actually could see your digital assets virtually so I could see how telepresence of somebody using my glass right here. And that’s all put on web three where a blockchain technology.

 

DC: So cool.

 

SA: Yeah. So that’s like what I’m having here being displayed so I could just pop it up using Motion and pinpoint my avatar here without using my phone.

 

DC: Yeah, and also, once you get used to VR and some of these other experiences, you’re almost used to having to something pin here or here and be able to touch on things. So yeah, I mean, you’re already in the future now we’re just catching up, so yeah.

 

SA: Yeah, so it’s pretty exciting. So giving people the opportunity to expose themselves to this technology is what BitBasel is really about. To learn and engage and more hands-on experience, and learn the different types of stuff like learning intelligent contracts. Believe it or not, we do get many lawyers interested in blockchain, NFT. So I think that’s very important because you have to understand intelligent contracts and IPs.

 

DC: And a lot of them, you know, the litigation has not been done yet. So we’re still, you know, I feel like many lawyers are interested in this right now. Because there are no rules, they’re writing the rules. So yeah, it’s very exciting.

 

SA: This is a fascinating case where technology advances much quicker than the laws.

 

DC: Yeah.

 

SA: So, there are plenty of opportunities here as you see it’s opening new careers and more options. And to go in different directions. 

DC: Beautiful, beautiful. Well, the sun and sun are setting here in beautiful Miami, California. Oh my god. The sun is setting here in beautiful Miami, Florida. It’s been a fantastic week—such a success. Again, congratulations. Just so the people watching at home know, what can they look forward to from BitBasel and your companies next year or in the future?

 

SA: Well, next year, we have a massive lineup. So the first event that we’re having for 2022 is Miami Blockchain Week. We do it every year. Our mayor always comes to our events and supports the community. Remember, we are from the grassroots efforts we’re building the blockchain community that has been adopted. We’re based in Miami. We are a part of the… our office is at The Lab Miami– the first co-working space way before we worked.

 

DC: I don’t want to interrupt you, but I say that co-working and remote working is the first example of decentralization.

 

SA: Absolutely. And that’s why we’re there. And so, we want to again, going for the origin story. The lab Miami was the original. We’re here at Sagamore, where Art Basel started, so you can start seeing the ties, and for those who don’t know what Wynwood is, they’re famous for the Wynwood Walls. So we’re there because we wanted to earn the creators who are painting graffiti, but it’s also part of the narrative, you know, those origin stories involve the community. So earlier this year, we had Bitcoin at a conference in Brentwood, which built up the blockchain community’s narrative wall in Miami. So, you know, that helped also accelerate, so never before have I seen- be mindful I was born and raised here. So I’ve seen how the evolution of art week has evolved. So what’s happening here is where you have the blockchain community and the art community coming together for the first time through Miami Art Week, so these two significant events are just really exploding and the use of adoption technology through the NFT. So starting next year, we’re planning on doing a series of events from Miami Blockchain week to the Bitcoin Conference, which happened in April. So it’s going to be a series of events that, again, you do small events as a build-up to our more significant events like the Bitcoin Conference. And similar to this, we have a lot of workshops, hackathons, meetups, and panel talks to discuss the narrative of blockchain. It’s important to note. It does take a community to build community. So that’s what we’re all about.

 

DC: 100% and web three is all about communities. You can’t do it alone. No, everybody’s, you know, dependent on others in the best way possible. So you guys are doing fantastic work. Very impressive. I’m sure that many people watching will want to come to check out the events next year. And yeah, thanks so much for doing this. Appreciate you taking the time. Yeah.

 

SA: Thank you, I appreciate it.

 

DC: Once again, I’m here with Scarlett. We’re here at the lovely Sagamore Hotel, Miami, Florida, during Art Basel. Thank you all so much for taking the time. This is NFTS.wtf.

 

SA: And, if you want to know more, yes, check out bit-based.Miami.

 

DC: Check it out. Thanks for taking the time.

 

SA: Thank you.

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