Eva Beylin: NFTs Are Empowering to Artists

The director of The Graph Foundation, and a speaker at this year’s Consensus festival, on why NFT artists should get royalty payments and why online pseudonymity matters.

AccessTimeIconMar 20, 2023 at 6:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 28, 2023 at 2:28 p.m. UTC
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Often we don’t take our side hobbies as seriously as we'd want. We skip those guitar lessons, the baking book we bought is now covered in dust, the new running shoes are hiding in the closet and, almost always, we promise ourselves we’d do better next time.

So imagine when your side hobby suddenly becomes an integral part of your professional life, giving you an edge that most might not have. That’s what happened when Eva Beylin, director of The Graph, who couldn’t believe that non-fungible tokens (NFT) could be a way for her to become an artist.

Eva Beylin, director of The Graph Foundation, is a speaker at CoinDesk's Consensus festival in April.

“I've now been able to sell my art, which would have never happened before if I was just casually doing it because I'm not a big artist. I don't do this full time. To me, that’s incredibly empowering.”

There’s more to Eva’s portfolio than her art. With her background in economics and a career in Web3, Eva Beylin represents the modern-day crypto leader. Not to mention, Elon Musk retweeted her meme, which she eventually sold as an NFT, making nearly $20,000. Talk about seizing the moment.

Currently working with an indexing protocol for blockchain data called The Graph, Beylin has led the distribution of over $135 million in grants to The Graph's core developers. She is also a member of the influential Web3 venture capital fund called eGirl Capital.

eGirl Capital is a digital native brand and a venture capital that was founded by 14 acquaintances on Telegram. Its portfolio includes Arbitrum, Yat (the emoji identity startup) and Radicle (a decentralized platform for developers). Fun fact: Most partners in eGirl to this day remain pseudonymous to each other.

“A lot of the people who are pseudonymous in crypto are not anonymous to their core. They've built an identity around a specific expertise or a job or a skill set that they want to then emulate. And it's very possible they have multiple identities,” said Beylin.

But as the world embraces the world of crypto and Web3, the technological shift is not as easy it seems. Many stay curious about the upcoming challenges the industry may face. So we reached out to Eva Beylin to understand the future of Web3, why NFTs matter and, most importantly, to get a Twitter tip or two.

(Interview has been edited for clarity.)

CoinDesk: How does it feel when you can combine your interest in art with technology like NFTs?

My background is in economics, which was my first love, and with Ethereum [that] was sort of realizing how we can use it for payments and rethinking our financial systems. Art was more like a side hobby and a surprising consequence of my interest in crypto. I didn't expect that when I would join Ethereum that I would be able to become a side hobby artist because I've now been able to sell my art, which would have never happened before. You know, if I was just casually doing that, because I'm not a big artist. I don't do this full time. To me, it's incredibly empowering.

What are your opinions on NFT royalties?

I think this topic is really controversial because the term “royalty” is being misunderstood to mean a specific implementation. Whereas the plain definition of royalties is just a recurring financial payment for some kind of IP [intellectual property] or copyright usage. And so, it sounds like a lot of the artists that joined crypto, bought into this idea that royalties are a percentage of the sale explicitly extracted at the time of you’re making that transaction. And that let a lot of people down.

We should be rethinking how we can create recurring payments to creators as a concept. It doesn't have to be a percentage of the NFT sale because there are some limitations to that. But can we think of new ways of actually creating that revenue? And the reason I think this is important is because it's beyond our current creator economy. For example, if we think of authors who write books, their whole business model is built off the idea of recurring payments. So if we're saying that publishing is fundamentally incompatible with Etheruem, I resent that.

A lot of the people who are pseudonymous in crypto are not anonymous to their core. They've built an identity around a specific expertise or a job or a skill set

And do you think that NFT royalty should be programmatically enforced on-chain?

I think that question is very nuanced, because to simply enforce them with the NFT has a lot of limitations that they're not fully enforced. I think that dapps should do their best to enforce them for social reasons. You know, ultimately, when we think about the value of the NFT market it's about the artists' creations, and if artists aren't funded they're not going to create things. When it comes to programmatically enforcing, this is where I think we need more innovation because there are limitations with wrapping those NFT contracts, whether or not you can actually enforce a payment at the time of sale or transfer. So that's kind of what I'm saying is a very primitive view of royalties and we need to be thinking what is that next mechanism that can not make royalties possible.

Speaking of NFTs, how is your NFT portfolio doing? Do you have anything that has surpassed Elon Musk retweet experience?

I have not. It was definitely the combination of the retweet and also being able to sell it that’s why I won the internet that day. But I am really, really big into collecting art simply because I really like art. So I have not stopped collecting, especially finding new artists. One of my hobbies on Twitter is to find an artist that seems really exciting. I am interested in the open edition and the additions trend. I think that we're going to see less-open editions in the future and more curated editions because of the benefits that creators have by informing their community or providing opportunities for their community.

And is eGirl Capital still active in the bear market?

We're always active and passive at the same time. Most members have other full-time jobs or other focus areas. So we continue to invest in whatever is interesting to us. I believe we invested in “Oh Baby Games” just a few months ago.

What about The Graph? What are the challenges you’ve faced there?

We're always learning and growing. I sometimes can't believe it's been more than two years since we launched the network. But I would say the biggest challenge is estimating the time it takes to make progress in Web3 technologically. It's just that there's so many unpredictable things that come up with building these new sets of infrastructure that we're kind of seeing across that board. There might be an issue in some kind of node client that then affects our ability to serve that data, until it becomes a larger sentiment that we still have a lot of work to do on the infrastructure.

Do you think pseudonymous identities on Web3 will be able to gain trust of the public?

I come from management consulting working in New York and I definitely recognize wanting a little bit more of a traditional identity KYC [know-your-customer] structure. However Web3, as part of its overall movement, provides access and openness. And part of that openness is to people choosing different identities, openness to people living their lives in different ways. I think there's definitely reasons to not trust certain individuals, whether anonymous or not and sometimes that has come up in scams. But there's also a lot that you gain from just having an identity that is a brand.

Would you ever consider getting a pseudonymous identity for yourself?

I was already public so that's partially why I'm not pseudonymous. However, I do have some anon accounts. And I don't see any issues with that. I think it creates much more opportunity for people to actually express themselves in nontraditional ways. Whereas historically, you really only had one job and you were only really allowed to do that one job.

What are you most excited about Consensus this year?

Oh, good question. The past year has been pretty challenging for most projects, and especially builders. And so I'm really looking forward to refocusing on what it is that builders need to get us to the next step. We are basically ready for our prime time. And now it's just finishing these last few bits. So I'm looking forward to insightful conversations, maybe even if it emulates a salon type of environment. That would be exciting.

We’re excited about that, too. See you at Consensus.


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Prachi Vashisht

Prachi Vashisht is a Consensus Magazine Intern.

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