In this interview, Dan Khomenko, CEO at an NFT marketplace called NFT STARS, tells me about NFT technology and its advantages, explains how it works and shares his favorite pieces of art from their auction. Don’t miss this piece!
U.Today: Dan, it's very nice to have you here. Thank you for joining this interview. Can you please introduce yourself, tell us about your background and how and when you first got interested in cryptocurrencies?
Dan Khomenko: Thanks for having me today. It's my pleasure to be in such a beautiful place with an amazing community like yours. My name is Dan Khomenko, and I'm the CEO of NFT STARS and sidusheroes.com. I'm running a couple of big projects in the DeFi and NFT play-to-earn space.
I've had an interesting journey in the crypto industry, starting back in 2014. I worked for various organizations like Australian government banking, corporations and I joined the crypto community about six years ago to provide some consultancy. The initial idea was to be useful to the crypto community and to use my knowledge as much as possible in the Asia-Pacific region. I've been studying to be a diplomat, so I can speak some Asian languages. It was obvious for me to consult some Western companies on how to get localized in the Asia-Pacific region in general, in China, in Japan and so on.
Then, I started to help a lot of different crypto companies and realized that there was huge potential here. I established my own consultancy, and then we started to do a lot of software development and simple help for crypto projects to step into a big industry. We help with metrics, whitepapers and so on. It took a massive explosion, to be honest with you, in demand, and we realized that this is not something we are able to sustain with the current team. We started to add team members and expand the team to a very substantial size and started to work with some big companies out there.
We started to work with some very interesting airplane companies and construction businesses and banking corporations in the blockchain sphere as well. It was an amazing journey for me to go through until I actually reached that point when I got into the NFT industry. For the last year or so, we've been helping a lot of new artists to get as much exposure as possible to get their foot into that beautiful and amazing and extraordinary adventure that we call NFT.
U.Today: You're actually the first person from the NFT market that I'm talking to as part of my interview series. Let's discuss the advantages of this technology—apart from the obvious one that gives digital asset ownership. Why did this technology become so popular, in your opinion?
Dan Khomenko: We understand that NFT is a certificate of authentication, so it actually helps people to verify the originality of original work they've made themselves in the blockchain space. The token follows its creator, and it has amazing features. The creator of the NFT is able to achieve some amazing passive income from royalties on the secondary market after their work has been sold already, and people start to resell their work on the secondary market. He or she gets the royalties in their wallets.
Besides that, we understand that NFT is a technology that was created a long time ago; it's not like it was created yesterday. It offered a lot of different advantages to the industry in terms of possibilities people started to explore. NFT is not just great for artists and singers and a whole bunch of different people from the art industry; it's also great for the gaming industry, for example. We see a lot of games are moving into the NFT space because it allows them to use NFT as an in-game asset that is digitalized on the blockchain, and it's been approved by the blockchain, for you as a player to be confident that you're not buying some fake or scammy item. But you're buying an original item from the original game, and you can check it on the blockchain as well.
NFT allows artists to have free choice. They're becoming free. I would say they have a lot of opportunities and freedom of choice in terms of their adventure in the space, and they have the ability to join some different NFT platforms and sell their art and music to the whole planet without being attached to certain locations. You don't need to be physically attached to your location anymore. You can make your own art or sing a song, for example. You can attach it to the NFT and then offer it to worldwide NFT marketplaces.
We can see a lot of different players in this industry. Right now, we see OpenSea taking a lead in this industry, and they've got substantial volumes coming in via the generative arts or simple art—coming from regional artists, or even AI arts as we call it, our augmented reality art or virtual reality art. A whole bunch of different art is being sent to the platforms; not just OpenSea, but also super rare NFT STARS and others. It gives artists the freedom to select platforms. Artists can select communities that are willing to buy their work.
If you're based in Australia, you don't need to sell it to just the Australian community anymore. You can sell it to the Asia-Pacific community. You can sell it to the African community or the American community. You can actually do some research and learn how not just to be a good artist but how to be a good marketing specialist. You have to do your due diligence and understand what it takes to be a successful artist in this NFT space. That is great, because it's a great incentive for people to educate themselves, to learn something new.
It's great to do some art, but art is not the end of the world, right? We have to communicate, we have to interact with people. The interaction part is massive. It's super crucial if you want to be successful. That's what it takes, right? You have to go to Clubhouse, you have to go to Twitter spaces, you have to present yourself well. You have to clearly articulate what your objective is in terms of your art, being a part of this NFT industry.
Then people from all over the world will pay attention to your NFT art and they can buy from you. It creates opportunities. You never know, maybe tomorrow you'll become a millionaire by just selling your art piece that somebody likes in China, for example. You cannot predict it. That's why this industry is great because it creates a huge ecosystem where people are communicating, interacting with each other and doing a whole bunch of different activities.
U.Today: Let's talk about NFT STARS. This is a digital art marketplace, right? What services does it provide to its users?
Dan Khomenko: NFT STARS was created with the purpose of being excellent when it comes to customer service and the customer service approach. What I mean by the customer service approach is: Any artist or any celebrity who is willing to sell their art or offer it to the NFT market comes to us, and we basically look after them from start to finish. We help them with marketing. We help them to make a special landing page where they can express their story and share their story with the rest of the world, sharing their thoughts about the art they're making. Then we do a lot of media publications. We do some interviews on YouTube and Clubhouse and Twitter. In the end, we obviously help a lot with customized smart contracts because our marketplace is very strong when it comes to engineering.
Then we conduct celebrity drops, or auctions. All of our auctions are 100% successful because of this approach. We have a very dedicated and strong community of collectors who are coming to search for collectible pieces. Usually, the people we select for auctions are very high-quality, high-standard people. Even if they're not famous, we still do a lot of due diligence before we select the artists to go through the auction stage. We are very picky about how we present stuff because quality is more important than quantity for us. I know marketplaces out there that specialize in quantity and that's okay, that's their business model. But for us, there is no point in rushing. We prefer to specialize in quality. Quality means the quality of the picture we present.
For example, we don't cut the quality of the picture. When you upload your picture, it's usually 4K. You can actually see the pure and beautiful art that is presented by the digital art or a physical painting—or even music for NFT Radio. NFT Radio is one of our projects and products within the NFT STARS ecosystem.
The other thing about NFT STARS is that it is not just about the marketplace. It has cross-chain functionality, which means that people can switch between different blockchains. Some people are very picky. Some people are obsessed about environmental impacts. If you're obsessed about it, we've got a good selection for you to choose from. You can choose Polygon, or a variety of different chains that are willing to display your art, and you can easily get your NFT, and it will cost you very little in comparison to the Ethereum network.
Plus, another thing that is important to mention is that NFT STARS is not just a marketplace, but it's also a massive augmented reality gallery coming up in the very near future. By the end of this month, we're launching a mobile application in the app store where you can upload the NFT STARS augmented reality application, and then walk with your phone or tablet around the gallery, which is made of seven different rooms. We've been making this product for the last 12 months. It's an amazing quality gallery, very high quality, with no pixels. You won't even see the pixels. Everything has super high resolution. You can walk around these different rooms. Every room has a particular exhibition inside of it. You get this immersive experience because you've got butterflies flying around, you've got birds everywhere, music and beautiful clouds above your head. It's a very nice experience you can have in the NFT industry.
That's coming up in about two or three weeks. It's in the testing stage right now, but we already have a large number of applications for many artists to be a part of it. I'm very proud to launch this product. Many people will definitely use it for different exhibitions. You don't need to go to museums anymore, galleries. You can just do it from your home, with your phone, walk around the gallery and enjoy the experience.
U.Today: That sounds very interesting. Apart from the marketplace, you have your own NFT collection that became the basis for your upcoming game. Can you tell us about it?
Dan Khomenko: The collection was launched back in August this year. It was made in collaboration with NFT 256, and our director of this collection is Maxim Vavaev. He actually works for the Disney studio, and he's a friend of Beeple as well. I'm sure we all know who Beeple is, right? The beauty of this collection is that it's made of 6,000 characters, and it's made of a generated AI system made by Maxim Vavaev. He was able to produce a very unique algorithm that allows us to mix more than 10,000 elements made by more than 250 artists from NFT 256 Collaboration, as well as 2,500 different backgrounds into different characters. The computer mixes it all up together and came up with these 6,000 amazing characters, which are part of our future, a game that is coming up very soon.
The game is called Sidus Heroes. Sidus means the “night sky” in Latin or Greek. The game idea was to provide an amazing RPG adventure to players around the world to travel in the universe of Sidus and explore the planets, explore some different landscapes, fight against each other, PVP-style search for some rare animals and creatures, fly on spaceships and many different things. We have a big team working on this project right now. We have a team of professionals working on it from PlayDisplay Studio, which is a very successful gaming studio in the NFT play-to-earn industry. We are very proud of these projects.
There is amazing interest and demand for this project right now. The community is really hyped up for it. I can't wait to play it myself, to be honest with you. It's going to be a great game, and every character serves access to the game. We're going to have another collection very soon, but this unique collection is a historical piece because it's a masterpiece made by many different artists.
The second collection will not be so valuable because it's not a masterpiece anymore. It's just going to be characters in the game, but this collection is all about this art approach. All the money we raised, we actually shared with the artists because we were willing to help the artists get into the NFT industry. The money we raised out of this collection was used to provide money to these artists and to develop the project as well. These artists earned a very good profit from this collection.
For us, it's not about money; it's all about trying to be as helpful as possible in the NFT industry, so people actually talk about us and they understand that NFT STARS is a high quality platform that helps people not just to make money, but also human relations is a big part of our approach. We want to establish some great relationships with artists that will spread the word and bring other artists to our platform as well.
That's what we are trying to establish in this industry. It will be a very interesting game, for sure. You can try the demo already: it is a little, pre-alpha, tiny part of our game, but you can already try it on sidusheroes.com. We have a lot of venture capital funds willing to sponsor this game and a lot of players from many different gaming guilds who are willing to play this game. There will be outstanding demand for this product, which will be launched very soon. I'm very proud to be a part of this project as well.
U.Today: You also launched the first ever 24/7 NFT Radio station where people can purchase their favorite songs from young artists, right? How does this work—does it mean that no one can ever listen to this song apart from the new owner, or how does it work?
Dan Khomenko: This amazing product was actually built by one of our employees, Vladimir Henry, from London. He's worked on music projects in the past and worked for a radio station in the past. He was a big initiator of this particular idea, which I supported as well. We decided to get into the music industry—not just art and physical art, but also music. When you think of NFT, it's not just about art, it's also about music. Music is essential for us to listen, to relax, to enjoy. Sometimes when you go for a run, when you go to the gym, when you are driving, you listen to music, and this is what NFT Radio is all about.
We are allowing young artists, young musicians and singers to offer their music to the rest of the world via NFT in a very simple way. We're going to have an interface or an application in the future that will allow people to purchase their favorite music from their favorite artists. Then these artists will get sponsorship to develop their music abilities even more. It's kind of like public goods funding in a way; we remove the obstacles. We removed the intermediaries between the musicians and the buyers.
We allow the community to buy their song and sponsor their favorite artists to expand the music industry, make a new album, record new music, etc. That's what NFT Radio is all about: enjoy music from talented people, and if you like them, you can purchase their song. You can purchase the ownership of the song as well by NFT blockchain verification. Then you can sponsor your favorite artists as well.
U.Today: What are the new features that you're going to implement in the next few years?
Dan Khomenko: NFT STARS is an Australian marketplace, but it's all about cross-chain functionality. We're going to implement some new blockchains, for sure. We are planning to integrate some use cases and utilities for NFTS token, which is the native token of our NFT STARS marketplace. We're going to have some decentralized finance farming pools coming up. We'll have some cross-chain bridges that will work with different blockchains. There will be a lot of different, interesting products coming from the DeFi industry. As I mentioned before, augmented reality will be a big part of it as well. The augmented reality application will be downloadable from the app store and a whole bunch of other devices. In the future, we are planning to consider fractional offerings as well, where you can split your NFT into little pieces and then you can offer it via a 1155 standard instead of 721. There'll be a lot of things coming up very soon.
U.Today: Let's talk about your auction. What are your favorite items and what was, for example, the most expensive one?
Dan Khomenko: I really like Mo Tuncay, a physical artist who makes a lot of amazing art pieces, physical art pieces. He paints paintings and then scans them and digitalizes them. There are two different versions: when you actually buy the NFT copy, you also get a physical copy at your address. I actually bought one of these paintings recently, so I got it in my mailbox, which is amazing. That's what the industry is moving toward. It's not just the digital, but it's also physical, and they work together. So, Mo Tuncay is great. I love him. The most expensive piece that we sold was a product called Singularity. It was made by an anonymous artist actually. It was the beginning of the beginning when we had a not-so-complex verification process. This guy got approved and then he made an amazing robot/human that looks like Prince Constantine, the future king of the Netherlands. His piece was sold for 229 ETH, which is half a million dollars. That was pretty outstanding. Maybe he bought it himself, I don't know.
We had a very successful celebrity drop for Eva Shaw. She's one of the famous Canadian DJs, and she has more than 65 million downloads on Spotify. She did a lot of activities with us. All of our artists are amazing, so I wouldn't say anyone is better than the others, but I would say every artist brings something valuable to the NFT industry. We are very proud to have all of them onboard.
U.Today: I also have some personal questions. I hope you don't mind answering them. What aspect of NFT STARS are you most proud of?
Dan Khomenko: What makes me proud is that we offer quality in this marketplace. We offer pure quality. I'm very much about quality for myself because anything we make, we try to make with a very high-quality approach. Yes, we understand we're not perfect and we're all humans, but it's in our capacity to make products for real use cases. We want to make products that are being used by people and not just because we are looking for a sponsor. We are making products that we want to see people using on a daily basis.
Currently, we have hundreds of artists visiting these websites, visiting the marketplace, uploading their work, selling and buying, which is amazing. That's what we need. I'm very proud of creating a community from scratch. We have a very active community, I believe. We're getting massive exposure now. A lot of Australian media talk about us and American media.
NFT STARS is taking the lead in terms of the quality approach. If you compare us to a whole bunch of other NFT marketplaces out there, not many people are able to achieve a very unique style. We were able to achieve our own unique style. When you go to this website, it's not the same as others--it's not just white, black, blue and yellow. We've got a very interesting effect that we've selected as sort of a branding style. We have a special paper effect that you can see on our website. It looks a little oldish, but it's a little bit futuristic as well.
Every single aspect of our NFT STARS marketplace was actually designed by our designers, Angelica and Anastasia. These women are just amazing when it comes to execution, and they contributed a lot into creating this unique style of our marketplace. I'm very proud to be a part of this team. I'm very proud to have such talented employees in this marketplace as well, who helped me to make it what it is now.
U.Today: Yeah, I really like your website style. What companies in the industry do you respect the most?
Dan Khomenko: Well, every company is doing something right. It's great to be a part of the NFT industry. You know, I wouldn't say some companies are better than others. I would say every company brings something valuable to this industry. We all try to make a contribution. We're sort of promotional specialists. We educate people about it on the streets. We tell people what it is. I'm not sure if you have been to New York recently, but it was amazing to see how many NFTs we could see on Times Square. They were just all over the place. CryptoKitties, Cool Cats, dApps, etc. All of these people are making a massive contribution. It's not just about marketplaces. It's all about community. The community is just unbelievable. Everyone is so supportive and helpful. What could be better? Everyone is doing an excellent job.
U.Today: Do you have a crypto portfolio?
Dan Khomenko: I'm not big into crypto, to be honest with you. I prefer to make products instead of actually being a part of the volatile, speculative part of things. It's great to see the market going up. I'm happy to see that, but it doesn't make a difference to me.
U.Today: So, you are not an investor?
Dan Khomenko: I wouldn't say I'm an investor. My company and my friends are dealing with different cryptocurrencies. I can see many of them are making money. Many of them are losing money, too. But once again, I'm more of a developer. I'm trying to create ideas and execute them, and if I get rewarded for it, that's great.
U.Today: And the last question: How much do you think Bitcoin will cost one year from now?
Dan Khomenko: PlanB—I'm sure all of you guys are familiar with PlanB on Twitter—is saying it's going to go up to $135,000. Fingers crossed. There is a lot of excitement and hype around the market, which we have to be very careful about because cryptocurrencies are all about cycles today. It's going up, tomorrow it's going to go down, and then everyone will be upset. We have to be emotionally consistent as to how we manage crypto portfolios. We're dealing with the crypto industry as well. But as I said, I'm not a financial advisor, so I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what's going to happen.
U.Today: Thank you so much, Dan. It was a pleasure to meet you.
Dan Khomenko: Thank you so much for having me today. It's a pleasure.