The Zeitgeist

Alex.BSL, Co-CEO - Blocksmith Labs

Episode Notes

Our guest this week is Alex.BSL, the co-CEO at Blocksmith Labs, the company behind the Smyths NFT collection.

Alex.BSL joins Brian Friel to discuss the origin story of Blocksmith Labs and how they started with the goal of creating NFT collections that provide real value, not just hype. He talks about their different products, including Mercury, a pre-mint tool, and Atlas, a hub for NFT activity. Alex also mentions their focus on solving problems and how they build products based on metas.

Brian and Alex dive into Smyths, Blocksmith Labs' classic early PFP collection, and its ascension to a premium collection. They talk about the launch of Megos, a new collection that will target a different demographic, with a focus on casual mobile gaming. Alex highlights the importance of building IP and how it takes more than dropping an NFT collection to create a brand.


Show Notes:  

0:49  - Who is Alex.BSL / Starting on Solana?                        

2:04 -  Transitioning to Web3

4:55 -   The initial goal for Blocksmith Labs                          

7:15 -   Who is Blocksmith Labs working with / Some of the early products                                

9:32  -  Process for building /  what the market needs                            

11:58 -  Origin story of Smiths

13:12 - Evolution of Smyths in the future      

17:05 - The Meegos collection                              

21:02 -   How to unblock crypto to make a mainstream splash in gaming                            

23:57 -   When is Migos coming                                

25:20 -   Where can people find out more about MeeJump/Meegos?

26:21 -   A builder he admires in the Solana ecosystem 


Full Transcript:

Brian Friel (00:06):

Hey, everyone, and welcome to The Zeitgeist, the show where we highlight the founders, developers, and designers who are pushing the Web 3.0 space forward. I'm Brian Friel, Developer Relations at Phantom, and I'm super excited to introduce our guest, Alex.BSL, the co-CEO at Blocksmith Labs, the company behind the Smyths NFT collection. Alex, welcome to the show.


Alex.BSL (00:28):

Hey, glad to be here.


Brian Friel (00:29):

Really excited to talk with you today. I've seen you over the years, my time on Solana, all across the crypto Twitter sphere. You guys have built a lot in the last couple of years that I want to get into. But maybe before we start talking about Blocksmith Labs and everything you're up to, I'd love to learn a little bit about you. Who is Alex.BSL and how did you get started in Solana?


Alex.BSL (00:49):

I think a lot of people know this, but my Web 2.0 career has been 10 years of shipping products for top tech companies. Over the last 10 years, I've worked with Apple, Cisco, Coinbase. Coinbase was my last Web 2.0 job. And then my first Web 3.0 job was DeGods. I started there as a mod just out of accident, and then lead dev. And then I started my own thing, Blocksmith Labs, because I wanted to do different things with Blocksmith Labs. It didn't really align with the incentives and what they wanted to do with DeGods. Yeah, that's the light version of it. We can go deeper.


Brian Friel (01:28):

Yeah. When you said you were working with all these Web 2.0 companies, was that in a technical capacity? You mentioned you were lead dev for DeGods at one point, but you also have experience running projects as well from an operational standpoint.


Alex.BSL (01:40):

I was a full stack engineer for the last 10 years. I led teams. I also did dev work over the last 10 years at different levels and capacities, but I've been mostly a dev for a decade.


Brian Friel (01:55):

Love it. What was the moment then when you're working in these Web 2.0 capacities, working with great companies, that made you decide, "Hey, Web 3.0 is something I need to jump into"?


Alex.BSL (02:05):

Web 3.0 just started out of curiosity. Because when you're a Web 2.0 dev and if you're a dev that's working with big companies, you got to stay on the cutting edge of the technology. Otherwise, someone with one year, two years of experience will come over and take your position. So you got to always be on the cutting edge. That's why I think around 2020, the huge high brand blockchain and crypto, it was all around. Just out of curiosity, I started learning about Eth and Bitcoin. I researched every single token and coin under 100 market cap. That's how I started this. It was just educational for me in the beginning. I started on Eth, started learning Solidity, and then I built some tabs. It was fun. It was fine. I ended up in Solana just by pure accident. Like I said, I was learning about every single thing every single day.



And then one day on Decrypt, I saw this article about Degen Apes mint and how it's going to be a huge thing and how it's going to break Solana. Just out of curiosity, I ended up and then I minted. But in Solana, once you click mint, it hits you different. You can't go back. Because when I was on Eth, I was minting stuff, I was doing shit, but it felt so backward to me. I'm going to be a 100% honest with you on this. Because imagine the next billion people, you're asking for them to pay $10, $20. Imagine you, going and buying a salad and there's a tax of 10 more dollars. It felt so backward to me. I understood what B2C meant and why it's the way it is, but it didn't make sense to me. But I was still going on with it.



But once I hit mint on Solana, it just hit me. "Oh, this is the closest thing people are used to in terms of experience." I haven't looked back since then. I've been in Solana. I've just done everything to add value to the ecosystem, and the ecosystem has given me so much back.


Brian Friel (03:56):

Yeah, I think that story resonates with a lot of people, the Degen Ape mint being that flagship moment where everyone realized, why do we need to settle for subpar user experiences? The mint itself was, I remember, chaotic, which is true Degen Ape form, which is great, but the network was held enough. Great.


Alex.BSL (04:14):

Yeah, I was up until 6:00 AM to mint, and it was chaotic. There was no Candy Machine by then. I remember that. Yeah. Candy Machine was born out of necessity from that mint. Yeah, I remember that in those days.


Brian Friel (04:27):

Yeah, we've come a long way. It can be easy to forget how much has been built.


Alex.BSL (04:32):

Now, you can just mint and it'll drop 150K NFTs out of nowhere with $100.


Brian Friel (04:37):

Yeah, and it's only going to get crazier, I imagine. Let's go back to that time. You've already researched crypto. You just made the Degen Ape mint. You have all this wealth of experience. You mentioned that you briefly worked with DeGods, but when you were ready to start Blocksmith Labs, what was it that you were pursuing? What was it that you set out to do with Blocksmith Labs?


Alex.BSL (04:55):

I always see new technologies and new industries. What problem are they solving? What is this adding to the society that people would need? That's how I see things. By then, I've not seen any NFT collection doing anything more than minting more collections, airdropping hype there was about NFTs. I wanted Blocksmith Labs to be a blueprint for the next generation of NFTs, or at least a new category of NFTs that can actually provide real value. It's not just hype. It's not just, "Oh, this is going to go to the moon." We have seen that a lot. Because 99% of those projects that are just solely based on hype, they mint and then they drop. I don't know if you remember, there was a time in Solana where there were 10 projects minting at the same day. It was like, you hit something. Oh, it hits? It's fine. You're ragged? You move on.



The reason none of them last is that first thing, the NFT business model, I think it's not set up in a way to last long. Some projects realize this over time, like Pudgy Penguins. Now, they're trying to sell physical products so that they can use the brand, use the IP, sell products, make revenue and last longer as a company. But I realized this back two years ago, and that is why BSL started in a different way. Oh, we are going to create products, have users, create value, and then we are going to drive them back to Smyths, our first NFT collection. I don't want to take too much credit for this, but since then, you have seen this new kind of NFT projects who are actually building products, who are using this as a seed round to build their own products, services, and bring value back.



It's not really just about hype or just about pumping bags. It's also about contributing to the ecosystem, building relationships, helping other NFT projects. I'd like to think we have been successful in that, and now, you have been seeing that a lot of projects mention us as their favorite builders. Maybe we are successful in doing that.


Brian Friel (06:57):

Let's dive into that. You mentioned that you guys have taken a real builder-first mentality. I think you guys describe yourself as a Web 3.0 or crypto B2B SaaS company. What is the other businesses in this B2B relationship? Who are you guys working with, and what are some of these early products that you guys have started to build for them?


Alex.BSL (07:15):

Our first product was Mercury. We have onboarded over 1100 projects on Mercury. I think it was the defining moment on Solana where projects, you realized, you could do actual things, create products, create services, being the hype cycle, being the attention cycle. Because now, you see projects doing a lot of other things to stay in the hype cycle, to stay in the attention. Back then, Mercury was all we needed because every time a hype project was on Mercury, we also monetized it in a clever way. We didn't take money from those projects. We took percentage of white list spots and auctioned them, and raffled them in our own token called Forge. That helped add a lot of value to Forge, which, in turn, added value to our NFT, Smyths.



Before Mercury was a thing, the way you submitted wallets was literally manual. You had to either give your wallet, or you had to give your Discord accounts and then give wallets. We automated all of that. No, we cannot take it for granted. Now, there is Atlas, a lot of other tools. But then, it was a huge thing. We solved a problem. Like I said early on, that's my core belief, that you have to solve a problem. That is why even in Atlas, we have something called a white list marketplace. That only came up because people were selling white lists as spots, but they were selling on shady Discord accounts. You had to give up your wallet, and then there was a middleman. You had to put collateral, all kinds of shit.



But that is why we know there is a problem and we solved it. And then it was a huge success. That is how I see our products adding value to the ecosystem and us getting back value.


Brian Friel (08:54):

You mentioned two products there I just want to hit on. Mercury, which is a white list management tool-


Alex.BSL (08:59):

We have a ton more.


Brian Friel (09:00):

Right. ... Atlas, which is this hub for NFT activity. You guys have built a ton more. You guys, list them off here. I know Bifrost, which is a price discovery launchpad. You guys have Raven and Shift. You guys have basically built out this entire suite of tools and infrastructure for other NFT projects to leverage and build their own brands and communities based on them.



I guess, zooming out on everything that you guys have built, how do you decide what is your process there? Who do you talk to first, and how do you realize that this is what the market needs?


Alex.BSL (09:33):

That's a good question. You know what? We are only a four-member full-time team for the past one-and-a-half years, and with the extended team, it's around 20, 21, the full team. But since the inception, there are only four full-time members in Blocksmith Labs. It's crazy how much we've been able to achieve with just four full-time members. It makes it even harder to make a decision, and that is why you don't see Bifrost running now. You don't see Shift running now. Raven is still there. It's self-service. It goes on by itself there, but we haven't made really significant changes to Raven. We are completely focusing on Atlas now.



The way I see it is, the space moves so fast and people need stuff based on a meta. There was a meta of needing a good, premium launchpad when Bifrost was a thing. It was a natural extension in the NFT lifecycle. We had Mercury, which is a pre-mint tool, and then we built a mint tool, which is a launchpad. And then we built post-mint tools, which is Raven and Shift. That was the thinking behind. "Oh, we are going to build everything around NFT lifecycle. Oh, there's going to be pre-mint tools, mint tools, post-mint tools." That was the thinking. But over time, we realized that we have our shit in way too many products. We need to focus on a single product and go deep, instead of going wide. That is why we turned off a lot of products.



Now, we are solely focusing on Atlas, if there's anything that we want to add. We are planning to integrate Raven even into Atlas, so that's our mentality now. Yeah. Before then, it was just building products and seeing what works, and I believe that's also helped us keeping the attention for a long time. Because if we didn't build all those products, we wouldn't have the same reputation that we have today. We wouldn't be in people's minds today. I think that helped us. They were cool experiments, but we've found our footing now, and we are happy with focusing on Atlas completely now.


Brian Friel (11:35):

That's great to hear. You mentioned some of the other things that you guys offer as well. You mentioned the Forge token, which we can talk about some of the synergies there with what you're building. But you guys also have a couple NFT collections to talk about. First off being Smyths. Smyths, I would say, is what most people think of when they think of Blocksmith Labs. Can you walk us through some of the origin story of how Smyths came to be?


Alex.BSL (11:58):

It was me and Harmy. Harmy and I were in DeGods. He was also doing some dev work for DeGods. And then we were both just discussing tech stuff and we realized that we have had the same thought process about how NFT should be like and what the future of NFT should be like. That's the only reason we started this.



Since we're also good with the execution speed, a lot of this stuff that you see, probably from idea to execution, none of it would've taken more than three months. I think there was something, that they built something for the TIROCULAR donations. From idea to execution, it was just three hours.



Since we're able to execute things fast, we have the capability, even with a smaller team, to make decisions on the fly. Not just think about something now and wait for six months and the meta is gone and no one cares about it anymore. It's not like that.


Brian Friel (12:54):

You had mentioned a lot about metas there. Smyths being one of those classic early PFP collections and have since gone through an as ascension, so to speak, I think you guys went from OG Smyths to ascended Smyths, talk a little bit about that process. Is that something that might continue to evolve in the future?


Alex.BSL (13:12):

Yeah, 100%. The next thing coming up after Megos Mint, which is our second collection, is Fund of Youth for Smyths. That's going to fix more problems, I think, that Smyths has now, which is to do with rarity, top ranks not being top-rank-looking. A lot of stuff like that will be fixed. We are in a very specific niche. It's strong, muscular Norse men. We want the art to be more accessible, more relatable for a lot more people, so we'll be doing something around that as well.


Brian Friel (13:47):

Oh, yeah. If you haven't seen these, these are strong Norse men that are true builders. They're all holding hammers and wrenches.


Alex.BSL (13:55):

Yeah. Hammers and weapons and all kinds of shit. Actually, to your question, we needed that ascension upgrade to be honest. It just came out of necessary. Because when we minted, Harmy and I, my co-founder, we were both devs. We didn't really care about art a lot. To be honest, we left all the art decisions to the artists, and obviously, he didn't care about the collection as much as us. So he did his best. But then, I think in a month, we realized that, oh, this needs to change. If you're really serious about making a PFP collection, we should go all in. This half-arsing two things is not working. We've got to full-arse this thing. That is why we had to do it.



Actually, there was a point where we wanted to do cards with three different kinds of rarities. I'm glad we didn't do that. I'm glad I made the decision to stick with PFP. It was born out of necessity and I'm glad we did that. It helped a lot of people, and it also helped us distinguish between different Smyths. Because the early versions were a lot more zoomed out, you couldn't figure them out. Small Twitter, PFP circle. Now, it's all about optimizing that small, little thing that you see on Twitter. Also, with Megos, we are always testing. How is it looking on Twitter in this small size? How is it looking on a huge screen on the Mac size when you print it and stuff like that?


Brian Friel (15:20):

Yeah, it's interesting to think about. If you're running this community or a collection like this, the end goal is you want people representing this picture as their identity on the internet.


Alex.BSL (15:30):

It has to be optimized, yeah.


Brian Friel (15:32):

Yeah, how you come to something that serves a large number of people. There's thousands of people who own these PFPs. I don't even know if there are thousands of strong Norse men on the internet wielding hammers and wrenches, but I think it symbolizes something that people want, that builder mentality.


Alex.BSL (15:50):

Yeah. It also attracted a different kind of user base and that is why out of necessity, we have a second collection. The way we ran Smyths, the way we ran Blocksmith Labs, attracted a demographic of older gentlemen who know how sustainable businesses are run, but they don't have the time to go on Twitter, be active on Twitter. They just want to buy this and just go on and do their own thing, run their own business.



There are a lot of business owners within Smyths who don't really have time for crypto as much, but they bought Smyths because the way we ran things, they understood, "Oh, this is the only legit project that can sustain for a long time, because they have a different business model than all the other NFT collections." It has its pros and cons, and that is why we have a second collection called Megos, which is going to target a different demographic; people who are into gaming, content creation, who are more active on Twitter. Yeah, that is why Megos will exist.


Brian Friel (16:49):

Let's dive into that. Let's talk more about Megos. You mentioned some of the inspiration there, that you want to appeal to a broader audience, potentially a younger crowd. There's also a game involved with Megos as I understand. Can you talk a little bit about everything that you guys have planned for that collection?


Alex.BSL (17:05):

I think there's a niche no one's really focusing, in the NFT space at least, that is casual mobile gaming. It's a huge industry. It's bigger than traditional PC gaming or PS5, Xbox gaming. I tweeted this art earlier today. Candy Crush alone makes more than a billion dollars per year, and it's growing at 15%. PUBG Mobile is making more than a billion dollars. And some games you have not heard of, Clash of Titans is making 500 million. There are so many casual games that makes millions and millions of users. We've also seen the growth of IP from a simple mobile game to a movie with Angry Birds.



It was a super simple mobile game, but it was so successful and they were making so much money, they made so many of those games. They had merchandise, events, products, a movie. I don't even know what other shit they have, but it's a true testament to the fact that if you want to build IP, you really need some product or some service. I think a lot of people in the NFT ecosystem don't really understand when they say, "I want to build an IP." It's not just, "Oh, I'm going to drop this NFT collection and people are going to start caring about me."



It's never like that because it took years and years for, let's say, Harry Potter, for people who care about the IP or the characters. It takes some sort of a movie, a game, some sort of product or a service, or anything like that. That is why we are now focused on the gaming and content creation with Megos. Because gaming is not just a single thing anymore, it's an experience. People stream a lot. People make content around games a lot now, and I consume a lot of that content. I've been watching GTA role-play videos a lot, and they have millions and millions of views. I bet there are more people watching than there are people playing these games. I think they go hand-in-hand, and these niche, no one's really targeting it.



I like what Pudgy is doing. I'm going to bring that back up. They're selling those toys. If they're successful in selling those toys to 100,000 people, a million people, a lot more people are going to know Pudgies. And then the brand and the IP, over years, is going to be valuable. We are targeting this demographic and these gamers and content creators. MeJump is only the first thing, and we are going to have something called MeArcade, different kinds of games and fun game theories involving different types of cutting edge technology. Maybe a year from now, you're going to have a game on Apple Vision Pro because we can do that. We have proven that over time that we can take cutting edge technology and make something out of it.



With MeJump, compress NFTs. We have worked on it. There is no end. In fact, there is no tooling, but we made it work. And now, MeJump is live. The MeCartridges are going to users, they're playing them, they're burning them. It's a fun game mechanic. In the first 24 hours, 3,000 of them were burned, so it's clearly working. That'll be what Megos is about.


Brian Friel (20:16):

Oh, you're going deep on it. I love it because it's an exciting new product that you guys are coming up with. It makes me wonder too, and I want to ask you this, is I'm someone who grew up in this age where, and I think a lot of the younger generation just natively understands, there is a massive market for not only just playing video games, but like you said, watching and consuming content related to video games. Twitch is massive, YouTube Gaming is massive, and it really only feels like this is going to accelerate.



It feels like there's this really natural complimentary pairing with what's happening in crypto and in gaming when you consider, at the end of the day, digital items. There's communities that are being built online, people want to own their assets. I'm curious to hear your perspective. Is there anything that's currently blocking, or would be an unlock for crypto to make a mainstream splash into gaming?


Alex.BSL (21:02):

Oh, into gaming? I truly believe that the missing part are the wallets. Because when you go on to a website in the Web 2.0, you're annoyed if there is no Google sign in or Twitter sign in, or Apple sign in. Oh, I got to put in my email and then have to create a password? It's annoying. Even if you just add two more clicks, it's annoying to the user. Imagine pushing them to create a wallet, understand on-ramp money, transfer it to their wallets and remember their mnemonic phrase, save it somewhere. This is all, I think, a huge blocker when you want to onboard millions and millions of users. I truly think the wallets have the power to make crypto mainstream. Because imagine, a wallet could replace everything from sign in to checkout.



You could be signing in with your Phantom wallet and then you could check out with your Phantom wallet, and everything is seamless. You don't even have to go through all that process of Stripe, and then you're going to have to create a card, debit card. You know how it is. Yeah. To be honest, I think wallets have that capability and in the future, I think there will be versions of these wallets that will do this. I think I saw this. I don't remember the wallet. I think I just saw this today, that they have an option on mobile, sign in with wallet. And when you do that, it creates a wallet for you and then you can download. Something like that.



So I think removing those steps for the next 500 million users who are used to one-click checkouts. You know how Amazon is? It's just one click, done. It gets to your home. Why do we have so many steps in Web 3.0 and on wallets?


Brian Friel (22:49):

No, it's a huge thing We think about too, making these things intuitive. I think there's a lot of layers to all of this. There's the game developers that we need to work with. There's operating systems, app stores, all of that.


Alex.BSL (23:02):

Yeah. To be honest, I believe Phantom has done the best job. I believe a huge part of Solana's success is Phantom. I think everyone's first experience on Solana, at least around Degen Apes mint, was Phantom wallet. And then anyone that's coming from MetaMask, this is fucking 10X upgrade. And then that was really the thing that hooked me into Solana, and you guys have done a great job.


Brian Friel (23:30):

Wow. Very kind. Yeah, thank you so much. Appreciate it. That was my experience, too. I was just a user of Phantom at the time with the Degen Ape mint. Wasn't working for the team, but-


Alex.BSL (23:38):



Brian Friel (23:38):

Yeah. No, I definitely resonate with that. Well, Alex, I guess turning back real quick just to Megos, we talked about a lot there with gaming and what you guys have upcoming. But what can you tell people about when Megos is coming, what they can expect when MeJump is launching? Is there anything you can share, or what people should be thinking about in the next couple months?


Alex.BSL (23:58):

Oh, MeJump is live right now. You can go on and play.


Brian Friel (24:00):

Oh, I love it.


Alex.BSL (24:01):

We went live yesterday. That's what I was saying. We have 150K compressed NFTs. It dropped to a lot of communities in the ecosystem and the first 24 hours, I think just half an hour ago, it was 24 hours, they burned around 3000 compressed NFTs out of 150K. It's a fun game mechanic usually because I'll tell you how we use compressed NFTs. There's something called MeCartridge. The supply is 150K and then we drop them, and it's used as an in-game item. You're going for a run in the game, so it's an endless jumper. If you die somewhere, to continue the game, you have to burn the NFT. That's how it works. We have up to five per run.



Usually, I think in the Web 2.0 world, you see buy some sort of credits in that place. In Candy Crush when you couldn't do it, you click on something. Buy using real money, and then you continue the game. We have seen this model work in a lot of Web 2.0 games. We have adopted that same model and we're using Web 3.0 compressed NFTs with this. It's been fun. The people are having a lot of fun. It's addictive. People are raging and also having fun at the same time. Yeah, it's a good sign.


Brian Friel (25:14):

Oh, that's great to hear. Well, where can people then go, I'd say, to learn more about Megos in particular, or MeJump?


Alex.BSL (25:20):

Oh, everything we have is on Megos NFT Twitter. All the information is right there. You can go, or you can come to Megos' Discord,, and then you can ask any questions. We have a team all the time answering all kinds of questions.



Yeah. We have one more thing after MeJump. MeJump is going to run for four weeks, and we are distributing 1000 white list spots through MeJump. We distributed 3,000 through MeBoard, which was our first experience. Yeah, third is going to be MeList. It's not what you think it is. It's going to come later, and we are going to mint a claim after the MeList ends.


Brian Friel (26:04):

Awesome. We've got a lot of stuff coming down the pipe here to be excited about. Well, Alex, this has been an awesome discussion. I got to ask this question because Blocksmith Labs has a reputation for being builders. We would love to know, who is a builder that you admire in the Solana ecosystem?


Alex.BSL (26:22):

That's a tough question. I like Famous Foxes. I think we both are at the same level, but we sit in our own space and don't really bother each other. Yeah, I like them.


Brian Friel (26:35):

Okay. Awesome.


Alex.BSL (26:35):

Maybe you've had that answer as well.


Brian Friel (26:37):

Yeah, we've had Drax TS on the show as well. I think he actually might have been the one that shouted you guys out as well, so there's a mutual respect there for the NFT builders.


Alex.BSL (26:45):

Yeah, 100% we do. Yeah.


Brian Friel (26:46):

Well, maybe we'll have to do a follow-up episode, get you and Drax on, and see what you guys are all up to in a year from now. You guys have been putting out a lot, and I know the Solana ecosystem is very thankful to have you guys involved.


Alex.BSL (26:58):

I appreciate it. Thank you.


Brian Friel (26:59):

Alex.BSL, the co-CEO of Blocksmith Labs. Thanks so much for coming on The Zeitgeist.


Alex.BSL (27:03):

Thanks for having me, Brian.