What inspired you to start your company?
I’ve been in online digital art communities for over a decade, and seen artists make amazing work but still struggle to make a living. The rise of NFTs highlighted the need to be able to buy art from digital artists, but did not actually solve the problem, and introduced new ones with excessive complexity, frequent theft and high energy consumption. I wanted to create a way for the art community to do what they really want to – support artists and help the environment.
CO2ign Art uses a new approach to selling digital art that doesn’t require blockchain. Via digital signatures in an image’s metadata, buyers can get a unique, verified purchase that funds carbon credits, helping to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.
Who are your cofounders, and what makes you a great team?
I’m a solo founder. My first employee was Dane, who is a long-time friend and roommate I’ve worked with on a lot of personal projects. Shortly after that I hired Michael, my CMO, who has the business and marketing skills to complement my technical and product skills. He’s helped build out the team, and we have 7 people total now, who cover a range of skills and backgrounds.
How is CO2ign making a difference?
CO2ign Art allows people to own and enjoy more art, helps artists to make a living, and helps fight climate change by funding carbon reduction projects – it’s a win for everyone involved
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
I’m a software engineer, and like many people who make a career out of writing code at a computer all day, I’m very introverted. I also used to be pretty socially anxious and have a lot of impostor syndrome. I’ve come a long way on that over the last several years, mostly through trial by fire trying to influence up the corporate hierarchy at Amazon. In some ways running my own company is a lot less stressful!
What is your biggest win?
I’m proud of the team I’ve built so far. This isn’t a project I could do on my own, and I’ve done enough hiring in the tech industry to know how hard it can be. I’m grateful that I managed to find talented people who are passionate about my idea and I think we’re set up really well to progress.
Who is your role model?
I have a lot of people I admire for different things. Lately, I’ve been really impressed by Molly White’s work on web3isgoinggreat.com, her newsletter, and other writings in the crypto-skeptic space.
What do you wish you had known before starting your company?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned with fundraising and promotion is that not everyone has to see the vision of the company, or even a majority of people—just the right people. If someone doesn’t believe in the core foundations of the business—in our case, that people will pay money to support artists or help the environment—you don’t need to convince them. They can just be wrong. Relatedly, majority-vote pitch competitions and such can be great, but it’s good to remember that selecting for things that are broadly appealing to investors is not necessarily selecting for the things that are the best opportunities.
What is your CEO superpower?
I’ve always been good at getting a quick read on things – with a little bit of research I can usually get enough of an idea of a subject to make reasonable directional decisions on it. Combining that with being willing to take advice from or delegate to the people who really know the area is what I think makes me a good CEO.
I also think it’s vital to bring together technical and business perspective. A technical product should be the simplest thing to build that addresses the customer problem you’re looking to solve. It’s very common to either have a solution looking for a problem, or overly complicate the required solution because you’re not matching those things together. This can certainly be accomplished by people working closely together, but I like to I think I have pretty good perspective across both!