Full ponderware & Bankless HQ Interview
When did you first hear about NFTs? How soon after this did you conceptualise the idea of MoonCats?
A: David and Jason, the original two ponderware devs, connected over long discussions about the original DAO on Ethereum. Realizing the incredible potential of the technology, they decided to build something together. The concept of NFTs hadn’t solidified yet and, after talking through countless possibilities, we opted to direct our efforts towards creating a novel kind of
user-customizable digital collectible. Something that was fairly distributed and allowed the rescuer to express themselves. Four months later, MoonCatRescue was born.
Was there anything that inspired the world and narrative of rescuing cats from the moon?
A: Yes! In 2017, there was a lot of excitement about space in general, and in particular a big solar eclipse, which David decided would be the basis of the lore behind the MoonCatRescue. David has written, and Jason edited, all the ponderware MoonCats lore from the beginning through today, and you can still see the original site (though some parts of it no longer function)
Similarly, what inspired the design, colors, and varied poses of the cats?
A: MoonCats were designed to evoke pixelated nostalgia for the 8-bit era. We wanted there to be enough variety in the poses and expressions to give each cat their own personality. After some experimentation, we decided that the MoonCats should use fully saturated colors to emphasize the fun and lighthearted nature of the project, and so that all taken together, they
form a delightful rainbow!
How soon did you start to see receptivity and engagement from your community?
A: The first week was pretty good, we saw almost 1600 mints. We put a lot of care into the whole experience of “rescuing” (minting) MoonCats and loved hearing about the fun people had “scanning” the moon (actually, mining) to find cats. When interest petered out over the subsequent years development paused, and we decided to simply support the interface in case, at some point in the future, people got interested again. And they did!
As creators of what many consider one of the premier NFT collections from 2017, what were/are your chief principles and values? Do you believe staying true to these values is what has sustained your growth over the past few years?
A: Our primary driver has, and continues to be, innovation. We want to continue to drive new ideas into the crypto and NFT space; staying true to this ideal has produced the MoonCatBoutique, where you can customize your kitties, and lootprints (for MoonCats), spaceship blueprints you can use in future ecosystem developments.
What were some of the more significant challenges you encountered while creating MoonCats and after the launch? Looking back, is there anything you believe you could have done differently to save time and effort?
A: There are some things about the smart contract we would revise if we could do it again. There wasn’t nearly as much prior art to draw on at the time, including any sort of NFT standard. The biggest challenge though was marketing, we were builders and not adept at the hype game, and it was hard to watch our project be eclipsed by projects with better marketing and forgotten so long. That said, the nature of the blockchain meant MoonCats would forever live on. And we have no complaints, MoonCats have brought a lot of joy and have grown a robust and engaged community.
What key lessons or insights have you learned from creating the world of MoonCats? If you could share any learned, experiential wisdom to help other NFT collectors and creators on their journey, what would these be?
A: Sometimes it feels like we could write a book, so we’ll stick to 4.
Trust is your greatest asset! Always be ethical and consistent with your community, treat them with respect and honesty and you will open amazing opportunities to build and grow together. Test your contracts! Everyone’s going to make mistakes sometimes, and we do a lot of testing to ensure everything is rock solid we put out now. Push the Envelope! We recently allowed people to make mini-franchises inside the MoonCats environment with MoonCatPop — you could design and mint your own animated vending machine NFT, which dispenses animated NFT cans featuring your personally selected MoonCat, and now it’s up to the owners to decide how they create and manage their own mini “can communities” inside the bigger MoonCats community. Hire people whose strengths are your weaknesses! MoonCats really took off in the March 2021 renaissance and ponderware quickly realized none of us knew anything about social media or how to build and retain a community. So, we hired a Community Manager — best decision we made, hands down.
As technologists, what do you consider to be the core value of NFTs? Do you see any under-explored concepts and industries that NFTs could drastically improve?
A: Art and gaming have been instrumental in helping NFTs gain a foothold in the public consciousness. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. NFTs can ultimately represent almost anything. Transferable subscriptions and content licenses, to tokenized real-estate ownership.Throughout 2021, the world has seen an explosion of new NFT collections along with a renewed appreciation and discovery of “legacy projects” like MoonCats and CryptoPunks. That said, it can be confusing at times to analyze the value of a new or existing community.
Given your experience and long-standing involvement in the NFT world, what key metrics do you suggest people consider before getting involved with a project, collection, or creator?
A: Spend some time in the community before committing to buying is what we always encourage people thinking about getting a MoonCat. We’ve got a vibrant discord, with members active pretty much 24/7, so there’s always someone around who can answer questions. We’ve got a channel dedicated to community-built tools to help you make your first or second or fiftieth MoonCat purchase. And the ponderware team is there to answer technical questions as well. The Sotheby’s auction created significant exposure for MoonCats and welcomed even more collectors.
Are there any prevalent aspects that people new to the MoonCats community should consider when either collecting cats or seeking to understand your ecosystem?
A: Read the Community Buying Guide! Link: https://mooncatcommunity.medium.com/mooncat-
MoonCats is very different from most NFT projects. Generally, in a typical “10k pfp project” there’s some randomization or generation to create the collection, but it’s pre-determined how many “bow ties” or “blue skinned” there will be in current collections. However, there were 4 BILLION POTENTIAL MoonCats, which meant the rarities of the collection were determined by the people rescuing (minting) MoonCats. And that ended up creating an interesting set of rarities called “character cats” — essentially, MoonCats that look like a popular cat in media, such as Garfield and the Pink Panther. We didn’t create that rarity – the community did.
Do you find any red flags or concerns with projects and collections that have skyrocketed, (perhaps a little too quickly) especially throughout 2021? Do you believe rapid growth is sustainable even with emerging functionality like tokens, staking, and breeding?
A: People love embracing potential — isn’t that why many of us got into cryptocurrency to begin with? There’s no one “right way” to be an NFT project; some will dream big and hit that lofty goal, others might fall, but we’re all so early in this amazing space that it’s hard to predict. For MoonCats, we’re trying to strike a healthy balance of regular improvements and utility, alongside fun things that we have no idea if they’ll moon, because we’re the first ones doing it. The MoonCatNameService, which is a free ENS subdomain that points to the wallet you keep your MoonCats in, was made because we thought it would be cool and no one else was doing it. We also rewarded early adopters recently by airdropping them all the $ENS tokens ponderware received from their collective ENS domains.
Do you find any parallels between the culture of NFTs and other industries? For example, some people have noticed that flex culture from luxury watches, and fashion has directly carried over to people flaunting “blue chip” NFTs as profile pictures. What are your thoughts on this?
A: Anna Marie left the video games industry to join ponderware, and there’s parallels between the two. That blend of collaboration and competition, the team drive towards watching numbers go up and winning, and the tribalism of “I belong to a community” all see reflections in NFTs.
What do you believe is the most undervalued trait or aspect of NFTs that most people are missing?
A: Utility and proof of ownership. Anna Marie has attended a lot of video game conventions and ensuring only people with a proper pass can get in is always a topic of discussion. NFT ticketing is a great alternative to trying to bend over backwards with embedded security functions that are simple to duplicate. Similarly, being able to safely purchase and transfer a convention pass could be done on the existing blockchain tech efficiently. It would allow cosplayers to wear their costumes without having to find a way to hang their badges somewhere it can be easily seen.
Considering the MoonCat collection is fixed at the current supply, how do you envision growing the world, story, and community? Will this be through more accessories and collaborations? Or will you gradually move over into new industries like music and fashion? Is there anything you’re able to divulge at this stage?
A: Having made the commitment to the community not to increase the total supply of MoonCats has been a blessing in disguise. Since we’re primarily interested in doing new and fun things, closing off the obvious door to “just make more MoonCats!” gives us the freedom to do so.
Did you always understand that storytelling and world-building were essential components when creating NFTs, or was this something that came from happenstance?
A: A little of both. At the time, the few NFT projects that were around had minimal or no lore, and the ones that did (for example, the 2015 Etheria) weren’t well-known. So, it was something new and novel to do, and still is to this day.
What are some of the more easily avoided or common mistakes that you see NFT creators and collectors make, and amongst the MoonCat community?
A: MoonCats are, unfortunately, divided between 3 states: most are in the official “Acclimated” wrapper (73% of the collection), but some are still unwrapped, and some are in an old, featureless wrapper made by someone in the community, who has since abandoned it. Getting the word out that the official wrapper is THE place to be because it supports all current and
future developments, has been an ongoing education. So, it always breaks our hearts a little when folks buy out of the old wrapper then discover they
can’t get accessories or announce their unique ENS subdomain until they re-wrap.
What have been some of the most unique and creative designs/contributions you’ve seen from the MoonCat community?
A: Seeing the rise of some amazing artists in the Boutique! Digivatar was someone who was making outfits for MoonCats off-chain that we spotted prior to the launch of accessories. We invited him to join the community team that would be debuting launch day accessories at the start of July. Since then, he’s gone on to make a variety of items, many of which work together as complete accessory sets, and even more interesting, work together with many other designers’ works. We had hoped there would be interesting synergies between different designers, and Digivatar is really good at it.
What are your thoughts about the emerging developments with NFT projects tokenizing their collections and breeding? Do you believe these are sustainable models to scale?
A: Maybe? There’s another cat NFT that saw MoonCats and quickly came up with their own designs and ideas, but it’s ended up causing something of a schism in the community and spawned a number of different contracts. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done well; just that it’s challenging to do well. In terms of MoonCats, there is one tokenized set: uGMC is a collection of 24 Genesis MoonCats (25% of the total supply) have been locked into a collection and sharded into uGMC tokens. For those interested in holding a slice of a historical NFT, it’s a fun way to get into the MoonCats community!
What is your ultimate dream or vision for MoonCats to give and leave for posterity?
A: We want people to look back at MoonCats and realize there’s a lot of firsts that later NFTs have gone on to borrow, and that many things we’ve done or did remain unique in the space.
Do you have any suggestions for people who want to be involved but may be priced out of buying a 2017 cat or even a 2021 cat？ Are there any alternative ways for newcomers to collect/adopt a cat or contribute to the community?
A: We’ve mentioned both! In addition to uGMC tokens above, MoonCatPop is going to be a great way for those who don’t want to, or can’t commit to, a MoonCat. Pop cans, once the vending machines are minted, cost 0.05 ETH to dispense. This is a much lower price point to enter the community, and we hope to see many folks who were priced out of a MoonCat enjoy can collection as an alternative!
What do you believe makes MoonCats special, and what do you want to give your community when all is said and done?
A: The MoonCats projects have a strong focus on community engagement and expression. We hope to continue to give creators the opportunity to express themselves in the ecosystem and run their own small businesses. The Accessories and MoonCatPop Systems are both expressions of these values. From people there at the beginning of the rescue in 2017 through those that came in during the march frenzy and others who joined later, we’ve heard countless heart-warming tales of excitement, adventure, skills honed, and new friendships formed. We couldn’t ask for a better legacy than that.
Are there any unique applications for NFTs that you’d like to see but haven’t been explored yet?
A: Art adoptions! There’s been a long-time concept in both gaming and the furry community of original characters (OCs) being designed by artists, complete with reference sheets, personality grids, and sometimes even short stories and other supporting documentation, and then the artists selling off these to “adopters” who then own that character and the accompanying information. It would be great to see that have provable provenance you can
find on the blockchain and create ongoing revenue streams for the original creators as folks buy/sell/swap these sorts of characters.
In terms of legacy pieces with NFTs, most people know about your contemporaries like Larva Labs and their punks. But not many would be exposed to other older collections like rare pepes. Are there any collections that you resonate with that you believe deserve more attention? If so, which ones and why?
A: For sure: Etheria, Curio Cards, and Pixel Map all immediately spring to mind. We’re four projects that all brought something unique to the NFT space and have been frequently imitated, but it’s rare for projects and people inspired by us to mention their muses.
Where do you see the evolution and growth of NFTs in the next 5–10 years?
A: Fortune-telling is not our specialty, but it’s likely NFTs are here to stay. They will begin to permeate other industries and many of them won’t remotely reflect the 10k PfP zeitgist of this era, but they will trace their roots directly back to the enthusiasm, creative-energy, and hard-work thousands are putting in today.
In three words or less, what does a MoonCat mean to you?
A: Insanely Cute Operation.
Any parting words, wisdom, or insights you’d like to share?
A: All cats are good cats.