Singaporeans probably know what their zodiacs are, or have at least googled them during conversations over the Chinese New Year period.
It’s something that some even follow religiously, and they pour over predictions over predictions in an attempt to get a peek at their fortunes in the new year.
Some people believe that certain zodiacs contain better character traits than others (e.g. more hardworking or lucky) and many even collect and display items in their home that represent their zodiac signs – like a golden tiger statue ornament – to symbolize good luck.
Therefore when 29-year-old Alan Seng, founder and CEO of Darkmeta, the parent firm of Dark Zodiac, decided to create a series of zodiac art collectibles, the products caught the attention of investors.
The unique selling point about these artworks is that they are on the blockchain.
The founder who previously worked as a product marketer and manager in tech firms, together with his team created 3,876 non-fungible tokens (NFT) collectibles of zodiac characters. The characters follow the 12 creatures on the Chinese zodiac, such as the Ox, Goat, and Tiger.
“I started Dark Zodiac back in May 2021 because I wanted to create an NFT project that carries a slice of Asian culture. I thought that the Chinese zodiac story is a well-known one among Asians, so building a collection around that concept makes sense,” shared Alan in an interview with Vulcan Post.
It seems Alan and his team got the formula right – as Dark Zodiac sold its entire debut series of three thousand NFTs within 90 minutes when it launched in Sept 2021, raising nearly S$1.4 million.
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NFTs are cryptographic tokens that cannot be replicated. They are digital assets bought and sold online and are used to represent various types of assets, namely digital artworks and even real estate. Other NFT assets that can be created include game avatars, domain names, and event tickets.
Many youths are getting into the collection of such digital assets, as they believe they are the future of art and investment. Even international artists have also gone on the NFT space to sell their artworks and creations, like Chinese singer Jay Chou.
The combination of art and tech, in addition to allowing consumers to own the original copy of a digital file and to be able to access them anytime makes it the very reason why NFTs are gaining popularity over physical artworks.
Dark Zodiac sold its collection at a time when NFTs were getting keen interest from newcomers and investors. Alan said that many of Dark Zodiac’s cards ballooned in the resale market since its launch in Sept last year, with some surpassing S$4,000 in value.
On why Dark Zodiac launched its artwork collectibles in the NFT space, we can first look at Alan’s personal investments in the crypto industry for a better understanding. The founder is familiar with crypto – he has been investing in them since Apr 2017, and when the NFT scene started growing in Dec 2019, he jumped in and invested too.
This familiarity and knowledge of the nascent crypto space made him confident in launching and developing his own NFT collection.
Dark Zodiac is a non-generative 3D art NFT collectibles project based on Chinese zodiac folklore. It raised 344.4 ETH for the sale of the NFTs when it launched last year and the funds were used to develop Darkmeta.
“We are building Darkmeta, an NFT studio and software company. Under Darkmeta, we are starting an NFT studio to enable prominent brands with iconic products to launch their own NFT projects. We are currently partnering with regional brands, providing marketing, creative, and engineering advisory,” he shared.
The CEO added that the NFTs can be bought on OpenSea, a peer-to-peer marketplace for NFTs and crypto collectibles. “The common Dark Zodiac NFTs are very affordable, while the rarer ones start in the range of a few hundred dollars.”
“We are first and foremost an NFT company. It just so happens our NFTs are in the form of trading cards and collectibles,” he said.
But as usual, the crypto market is volatile. It’s currently in bear territory, and altcoins have fallen as much as 50 per cent in the past month. In January, Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two largest cryptos by trading volume, sank 23 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
On whether the current avalanche in prices is a cause for concern to Dark Zodiac, Alan said that the team is “not too worried”. “We are here for the long haul and we are building for the future. The cryptocurrency industry has gone through three to four hype cycles and with each cycle, we are seeing more and more talent and capital inflow, more consumer and enterprise adoption, and more well-designed software products being launched.”
“With more consumer and enterprise adoption and investments into cryptocurrencies, the narrative for cryptocurrency and its role as an emerging technology and asset class in the global economy is getting stronger than ever,” Alan claimed.
While prices remain volatile, he believes Bitcoin and Ethereum have plenty of opportunities to grow. “Bitcoin, even after 13 years, is still the leader of the market and new technological improvements are being introduced to the protocol. Ethereum, on the other hand, has the largest ecosystem of developers, users, and applications.”
The team has nine staff, including designers, software engineers, and marketers, and is currently hiring more.
“We are looking for people who are passionate about building unique gamification and utility mechanisms with NFT technology or build software solutions to solve pain points in the NFT industry.”
Dark Zodiac is also in talks with potential angels and institutional investors to invest in the company. “But we are not in a rush to raise funds as we are cash flow positive and profitable,” said Alan.
As for his personal investments in crypto, Alan shared that he hasn’t spent any money he has made from crypto. “I am still HODLing and investing,” he said with a smile.
On whether the business will ever plan to create NFTs on other blockchains, Alan said that when it comes to blockchains, there’s no particular preference.
“The two key considerations are if there’s a large enough NFT consumer market (e.g. trading volume) and do we have the engineers to build on a new blockchain stack. Right now, Ethereum is the most popular choice for NFTs.”
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Featured Image Credit: Dark Zodiac, Alan Seng
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