Spencer Yang: “Wrapping assets in the real world and digital realm is a major focus for 2023 in the NFT ecosystem.”

In this Q&A, Spencer Yang, the CEO & co-founder of Gomu shares with us his insights on the trends in the NFT industry that inspire the company’s products.

As the NFT space matures and evolves, new solutions are sprouting up to address issues that developers and consumers might face when building applications and trading digital collectibles.

After speaking to numerous developers – many of whom faced difficulties using inefficient existing solutions to build NFT experiences into their applications on a tight deadline – Spencer Yang founded Gomu, an NFT infrastructure company, to improve efficiency for developers and solve fundamental problems for users in the NFT space. 

The company is now providing solutions such as an NFT API that enables developers to add NFT data to their applications, wallets, and other Web3 services. The NFT API also powers another product of Gomu, an NFT DEX named Collection.xyz that enables users to automatically buy and sell NFTs they desire by allowing them to pool NFTs based on token IDs, traits or rarity.

Besides being the co-founder & CEO of Gomu, Yang is also a venture partner at Press Start Capital, a Web3 / Gaming / Entertainment-focused fund which counts Mighty Bear Games, Zerion, and Quadrata as part of its portfolio. 

Following a $5 million seed raise last October and the recent launch of Collection on the Goerli testnet, we speak to Yang about NFTs industry trends and what it’s like to attract and deploy capital in current market conditions.

Please tell us about yourself and the story behind Gomu.
I’m Spencer, the co-founder of Gomu & Collection.xyz. My touchpoints with NFTs started in 2017 around the time of the launch of CryptoKitties. I reached out to the team back then to help with a crypto consulting agency that I was running and we ended up assisting with the growth and marketing of the project in Asia in 2018. I had a front-row seat to the category back then and went on to work on other problems in the space at CoinMarketCap and Coinbase. 

At Coinbase in 2020, I focused on engaging users with the Coinbase Wallet product and spent time analyzing data on NFT adoption. It was fascinating to see how many users’ first touchpoint with crypto was their quest to purchase an NFT. The accessibility, imagery, lore, and community vibes really drew many people in. Even baristas at Starbucks were talking about NFTs in 2020. It became clear to me at the time that my next startup in crypto would focus on easing the friction of building and purchasing NFTs in the space. I started brainstorming various ideas with Jeremy, Wybe, and Kenneth over the following months. We founded Gomu in March of 2022 to tackle the problems we know users and developers face in the NFT industry.

What piqued your interest in the Web3 space and where did you first hear about it?
I attended my first bitcoin meetup in 2014 in Singapore after hearing about the technology from friends. It was only in 2017 that I fully immersed myself in the industry after exiting my previous startup in the conversational chat and AI industry. 

As a technology enthusiast and entrepreneur, I don’t shy away from new trends and the fact that many talented individuals started looking at crypto full-time in 2017 was a great signal for me to understand the space more deeply. My first foray into crypto was consulting with crypto projects where I could be helpful, such as CryptoKitties and CoinMarketCap. I also moved to China to help start the international business for a new startup, Cobo, which was founded by the founder of f2pool.

With the NFT market currently in a slump, why do you think NFT DEX infrastructure is essential for the growth of the NFT industry?
NFTs are a unique asset class that has its own cycles but has close relationships with the broader crypto industry. Over the past year, we’ve seen a general decline in market prices as users across the world react to the reality of the Federal Reserve using rate hikes to battle inflation. As 2023 progresses, the macroeconomy, crypto industry trends, and NFT-specific developments will all help to increase overall activity. 

During market slowdown periods, it gives builders more space and time to focus on what’s critical. For us, we believe that liquidity for NFTs is inevitable and we’ve just gotten some additional buffer time to test and optimize our application and infrastructure. When markets are in a frenzy, with projects launching left and right, it can be incredibly distracting for everyone, and messages do not cut through the noise as easily. 

Without proper infrastructure and liquidity backbones, when the next hype arrives in the NFT space, users will still have to pay 2.5% marketplace fees and manage orders manually. We definitely want to change that for the better in the next cycle.

How do you think NFTs can move away from being assets for speculative trading towards becoming the standard for wrapping assets like art, brands, IP,  membership, and real estate?
NFTs fulfil a variety of use cases. Speculative trading is a feature, not a bug, of any asset that has real value to the community. It’s great to see the infrastructure around trading and investing emerge over the past couple of quarters. Opensea, Blur, Collection.xyz, and many other projects make it easy for users to buy and sell. It also helps improve confidence in the space when collectors have a reliable index for knowing their current portfolio value. Newsworthy events and articles are often biased towards price as well.

Wrapping assets in the real world and digital realm is a major focus for 2023 in the NFT ecosystem. We’ve seen projects like Azuki paint the idea of a digital universe. We’ve seen Yuga Labs tease and launch their skill-based game for users to have a better chance for the next mint or rewards. NFT projects are already offering their holders access to free coffee, event access, and merchandise. Artists are also giving users a choice to hold the physical work or the digital work. I look forward to seeing more innovation in the space this year. The experiments that are coming are going to be thrilling to witness.

As a venture partner at Press Start Capital, what do you look out for when it comes to investing in founders, considering current market conditions?
I work closely with the general partners to source and evaluate potential deals, conduct due diligence and provide hands-on guidance and support to the teams we back. I thrive on the energy and drive of founders who are driven by a mission, have a chip on their shoulders, and are undeterred by market conditions. 

Even in a challenging market environment, I am confident in my ability to identify and back the most exceptional founding teams who will rise above the noise and build something truly remarkable. I am excited to be a part of this journey and see the impact that these teams will have on the future of the web3 space.

Have recent events such as the FTX collapse changed how Gomu approaches future funding rounds or how Press Start Capital makes investments? What’s your experience like coming from both ends of the spectrum?
The overall NFT space has cooled significantly since mid-2022, as valuations have dropped and there’s a greater need for traction across the board. At Gomu, we’ve always been cautious with our capital and have managed to attract a great team with our existing resources. We continue to grow and build out innovative products for the space, and believe that great teams with momentum will attract capital in all market situations.

From the Press Start Capital perspective, the market slowdown has allowed us to spend more time with founders, evaluating and supporting them before writing the first check. Through our partnerships with OrangeDAO, Near Foundation, and other groups, we’ve been able to support many early-stage teams to navigate the new environment. We’re on the same side as the founders, working together to navigate the market.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from working in the Web3 space and how do you apply them to your role as CEO of Gomu?
When the market seems great, it’s an opportunity to capitalize on the momentum and growth. Similarly, when prices seem down, it’s a chance to buy in at a lower price and potentially see a greater return on investment. It’s important to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook, and not let the fluctuations and turmoil affect your vision and purpose as a founder.

I’ve had my fair share of experiences in chasing hype trends, be it investing or building products. Over time, you learn to see through the hype and focus on what truly matters—your mission and long-term goals. It’s okay to miss out on certain opportunities, as long as you stay true to your vision and values. 

As the CEO of the company, I always strive to provide a positive and uplifting perspective to the team, even in the face of challenges. The Gomu team is here to not only survive but thrive on this journey together. Each and every day, we work on things that help us to become better and stronger. With this mindset, we can achieve anything we set our minds to.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role at Gomu and how do you overcome these challenges?
Developing the first-of-its-kind NFT DEX protocol involves solving technical, partnership, growth, and UX challenges. We’d love to partner with more projects and teams to co-market and collaborate. The community has given us a lot of good feedback on user experience and feature requests. On the technical side of things, we’ve overcome and pushed through many technical innovations, such as being able to create pools based on token IDs, create incentive vaults with ERC-721 and ERC-20 tokens, as well as a better fee structure.

There’s so much more to improve, such as gas efficiencies, integrations with other protocols in a composable manner, while ensuring the security of contracts. Open protocols are extremely vulnerable to exploits and we have to be very careful. We’ve arranged smart contract audits and other measures to increase our confidence in security.

As the CEO of the company, I’m always thinking about how to help each team member and our company to be more effective together. I wear the coach, captain, and team player hats at the same time. Helping orchestrate the team to be in flow is crucial for our team’s success.

What else is in the pipeline for Gomu and its products this year?
We’ve launched Collection.xyz on testnet on 5 January, 2023. We’re launching an exciting testnet competition at the end of January for our community and users to participate in and have some fun. This is an opportunity for users to get an early hands-on experience and give feedback on the features and usability of the platform. 

We’re aiming for a release of Collection.xyz on the Ethereum mainnet shortly after, and we’re looking forward to getting more feedback from the community to prioritize our roadmap accordingly. This is a huge step for us and we couldn’t have done it without the support and input from our community. We’re excited to see how our users interact with the platform and how it will evolve in the coming months.

What do you think about the current state of the Web3 space? What kind of role is Gomu playing in it?
The cryptocurrency portion of the Web3 thesis is undeniably an alternative store of value and medium of exchange. The ownership of your own data and experiences through Web3 apps is still being proven across the industry. But I see Collection.xyz and Gomu’s role as critical to the alternative digital asset narrative. We enable liquid trading and movement of NFTs, which are essential to the Web3 ecosystem.

And on top of that, we make it easier for developers to build for the space, which will grow the overall ecosystem of dapps in the Web3 space. It’s a win-win situation for us to be offering consumer products and developer services simultaneously. It keeps us nimble and also very well in touch with the latest developments in the industry. I’m truly optimistic about the future of the NFT and Web3 space, and I’m excited to see how our products and services will contribute to its growth.

Where do you think we could see Web3 in the near future?
My prediction is that NFTs and digital assets will wrap around all assets in the world. Physical-only embodiment of rights, utility, and assets will become the alternative. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about what that will mean and laying the groundwork for that eventuality. It will take a lot from every participant in the space to make it possible. 

I would love to see more regulatory clarity that’s not enforcement-based, more compliance and security professionals making the space safer for users, and great builders solving the toughest problems with innovative products. I truly believe that this is the future and it’s just a matter of time before we start to see the full potential of NFTs and digital assets being realized. 

NFT finance can play a key role in increasing liquidity in the space, by providing a range of financial products, such as lending, borrowing, trading and yield generation. This will help to increase the overall liquidity and accessibility of the NFT and digital assets. 

Any other Web3-related industry issue you would like to talk about?
Despite everything that has happened in the past year, there is still a huge issue around trust in the Web3 industry. I would love to see more teams working on solutions to improve trust for the space. These solutions will hopefully mitigate scams, rugs, and other negative activities that occur in the industry.

One way to improve trust is through on-chain credit scoring, which can provide transparency and accountability for users and projects. This will help to mitigate risks and increase trust for all participants in the ecosystem. Additionally, better onboarding and user experiences can also help to increase trust and accessibility for new users. We’re always looking for ways to improve trust and mitigate risks for our users, and we’re excited to see what other teams are working on in this area as well.


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