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Ben Horning on Co-Founding BB Studios, Bar Spot Startup, and the Harmony and Discord Project
BY ERIC P. RHODES - Eric is an award-winning Crypto Art artist, renowned Trash Art artist, and creator of the iconic NFT collection, Unofficial Punks. Working exclusively in the Web3 space since 2019. 💬 Follow Eric on Twitter
Ben Horning is a computer scientist, entrepreneur, and NFT enthusiast. He’s the co-founder of BB Studios, an NFT art guild that promotes a wide range of different crypto artists and provides Web3 services to users.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that from the get-go, Ben was looking for ways to monetize his efforts in the NFT space. Ben is a businessperson, after all.
He’s pretty transparent about it. However, one thing that sets him apart from your average investor is that he’s also looking to help as many artists as possible along the way.
His motto is “artists and styles first.”
In less than a year, Ben and his team were able to create an active community that promotes new crypto artists, previews their work in the BB Studio Decentraland gallery, and
They’ve also collaborated with more than 40 artists on projects like Crybecats, Cyberdogs, Heroes and Villains, and Life’s Fire, Death’s Ice. BB Studios also owns some of the finest AR locations out there, which you can see on their website.
What was 12-year-old Ben like?
You know what’s interesting? I think I have an exact answer to that question. Recently, I received a bunch of stuff from my old room at my parents’ house. I found a notebook, not really a journal, but it still contained some writings.
It turns out that most of my problems haven’t changed since I was 12 years old. In the notebook, I complain about not having enough money and lacking resources to do what I want. You know, I don’t remember having those thoughts as a kid, but apparently, I did.
Basically, I hated not having money back then, just as I hate it now.
What were you doing before entering the NFT space?
I worked as a computer scientist for many years, but just before I started working with NFTs, I had my own company. It was called Bar Spot.
The idea behind it was to set up webcams at local bars, which would allow people to see if the bar is packed, who’s hanging out, and help them decide whether they want to visit it.
Now, the concept was fine. No one had a problem with it. But I messed up a lot of things. For instance, I approached VCs early in the process. That gave them a jaded view of who I was.
Is having that experience helpful for your business today?
I don’t waste any time courting VC firms, that’s for sure. Unless you’re a rockstar programmer with a big name, there’s no point in talking to VC firms, in all honesty. They always tell you that they love your idea and that they’ll probably invest in you at some point. Of course, that rarely happens. Some firms will even steal your idea.
What got you into crypto art?
I’ve been into crypto for a long, long time. I’ve heard about the whole NFT phenomenon, of course, but I didn’t really get into it. During the pandemic, I started learning more about it and I was fascinated. I wanted to get in on the action. But I didn’t know in what capacity.
Not until January 2021, when I discovered Decentraland for the first time.
As soon as I saw it, I thought to myself, this is the coolest thing ever. Virtual properties. The only problem was that everything looked like pure crap.
So I left the site, thinking I’ll completely forget about it. But then I saw somebody on Twitter beta-testing it. I don’t know who the person was, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t know they were broadcasting. While the thing was a bit glitchy, it still looked freaking awesome.
It looked like the Oculus Rift. That’s when I decided to buy a piece of Decentraland land for myself. Afterwards, I decided to open a crypto art gallery.
Can you please explain what BB Studios is?
My partner, Big Daddy, and I figured out that by collecting, hosting, and selling new content in the cyber world is a fairly sustainable business model. That’s because all it requires is our time and energy, nothing else. The entire project wasn’t a big investment.
All it required was a one-time purchase of a Decentraland property.
Once the property was secured, we needed to start producing content. That’s when we came up with Discord and Harmony. Ironically, I had the name for the project months before actually joining Discord. When the Discord channel was created, everything started going smoothly.
We recruited a good number of NFT artists off Twitter. So far, we’ve worked with more than 40 artists on multiple projects and pieces.
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on?
So far, we’ve had three themed collections. The first one was titled Cybercats and Cyberdogs. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I wanted to start with something that could result in simple, but eye-catching, collectible pieces.
The next collection we worked on was called “Heroes and Villains.” Another simple concept, although with stricter guidelines. The artists had to create pieces with either literary or historical figures. Not all of the submissions followed the format.
And the third project is titled “Life’s Fire, Death’s Ice.” It was a high-concept project, especially when compared to the previous two.
And what do you have going on now?
We’re currently working on the Artist Hour. That’s our show, we host every week on TokenSmart. It features talks with our artists.
Also, we’re working on the website non-stop. The original version of the website crashed. I tried to work on it, but I’m pretty bad with WordPress.
Luckily, I have some connections. You want to hear something funny? The person we hired to do our new website is a former illustrator for the Simpsons. How random is that?
How do you feel about the NFT community?
Pretty good. I’m trying to give new artists a shot, just like I was given a shot to curate this new, crypto art. We need to keep things going. I hate when people preach community, but in this case, it’s true. The NFT space functions as a tightly-knitted community.
Thus far, everyone I encountered has been polite and helpful. I hope things stay that way.
The only negative thing I have to talk about is the overwhelming number of brands and celebrities entering the space, trying to make a quick buck. I mean, I love people like Snoop Dogg. The idea of him entering the NFT space and creating pieces sounds awesome.
At least it does on paper. Let’s be realistic, is Snoop really interested in NFTs that much? Does he even understand what they are? I’m not convinced that he does.
What’s the future of BB Studios?
We’re now taking on clients. Actually, we already have one. I’m going to be perfectly honest, we’re going to take a slightly higher percentage from him than we do from regular members.
But don’t get me wrong, the client isn’t a random guy that wanted our services. We had other potential clients. A few of them, actually. However, we picked this guy because we thought that he would be a perfect fit for us.
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