NEAR’s May Town Hall Highlights

June 2, 2022

In the NEAR galaxy, May has been a month for creatives, coders, community, and everything in between. NEAR’s May Town Hall was a perfect reflection of those themes, from a record-setting number of NEAR wallets being surpassed to a slew of IRL events like the inaugural Miami Hacker House.

And since May was NFT month, NEAR Foundation CEO Marieke Flament hosted a Town Hall panel going beyond the hype of NFTs. The community also saw one of the first projects from the Terra ecosystem accept the open invitation to migrate over to NEAR. 

Here’s everything that went down at the NEAR Town Hall, May edition. 

NEAR growth milestones and announcements

May was a groundbreaking month for user growth on the protocol, with NEAR surpassing the 10 million wallets created mark. Flament noted that since the partnership announcement with move-to-earn project Sweatcoin, over 6 million wallets have been created.

“To put things in perspective, Bitcoin has 68 million active wallets, Ethereum 71 million, Solana two million, and Avalanche one million,” Flament commented. “We see this as an important platform to enable active, engaged users and shows phenomenal ecosystem growth over the last few months.”

Flament also pointed out a slew of recent announcements from Aurora, NEAR’s Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). In May, Aurora initiated a $90 million developer fund to boost DeFi on the NEAR Protocol. Aurora also launched the Aurora Plus, a new membership platform providing a suite of benefits to developers who join.

Listen to Marieke’s talk here.

NEAR events: Permissionless and Miami Hacker House

Next, May Town Hall attendees were treated to a recap of notable NEAR events that took place throughout the past month. Changwe Mutakasha, a business development consultant for the NEAR Foundation, gave his impressions of NEAR’s presence at the Permissionless conference in Miami, Florida.

“Despite market conditions, the overall mood of the conference was positive with high awareness of NEAR,” Mutakasha recounted. “Many projects approached us organically, including a few that actually confirmed they are moving to NEAR from other L1s.”

NEAR’s presence at Permissionless also included co-founder Illia Polosukhin participating in a DeFi panel with founders from Polygon, Optimism, and Arbitrum. And at the conclusion of the first day of Permissionless, NEAR hosted a happy hour with over 150 attendees and more than 600 on the waiting list. Mutakasha then ceded the floor to ecosystem lead Cameron Dennis, who led the NEAR Hacker House Miami initiative that took place around the same time.

“We had a ton of submissions and people from all over the world traveled to Miami to participate,” Dennis said. “People would not only learn basic stuff, but also dive deeper into certain topics like NEAR accounts, key management, and building subgraphs.”

Overall, there were about 300 people who attended the Hacker House Miami, which included dancing, good food, and even a full-time masseuse. All attendees, speakers, and sponsors will also be admitted into the NEAR Hacker House DAO, to be announced shortly. Dennis pointed out that the Hacker House was critical in allowing the developer community to meet in real life, and that the next one will take place during Consensus in Austin, Texas in June.

Hear Changwe and Cameron’s remarks here.

NFT projects in focus for NEAR Grants

On the education and funding fronts, NFTs were front and center for the May Town Hall. Sharif Abushadi, head of NEAR Education, noted that NEAR Certified Developer certificates will now be shipping in the form of NFTs. He also previewed the latest NFT-focused episode of “TL;DR with Ben” on NEAR University. The series will cover core Web3 and blockchain concepts in plain language.

Abushadi then shared some notable NFT projects that were recipients of NEAR Grants in May. The first was UniqArt, a Music NFT project founded by an entrepreneur in India who’s focusing on engaging artists in that region. Built on NEAR, UniqArt recently onboarded 50 musicians, including a top Punjabi artist. NEAR is also funding the CURA fellowship project to further the generative art ecosystem and community.

Sherif concluded his segment by previewing upcoming fellowships and NFT projects. They included NEARBooks, a proposed marketplace for buying and selling books in NFT format, and NEAR-f-tickets, which will allow people to buy tokenized versions of event tickets. And, of course, the highly anticipated play-to-earn NFT game Burrito Battle, with players fighting mini mules for rewards and bragging rights.

Tune into Sherif’s talk here.

Terra community invitation and Regional Hubs

In light of recent events, the NEAR Foundation decided to initiate a substantial fund and extend an open invitation to all developers, projects, and founders who wish to migrate from Terra over to NEAR. Nicky Chalabi, from the foundation’s ecosystem team, reiterated NEAR’s ongoing commitment to providing resources to the Terra community. She then introduced the founder of a move-to-earn project that has already migrated to NEAR.

The project is called Tracer, and founder Jacob explained that the goal is to build a sustainable move-to-earn experience that doesn’t suffer from the common tokenomics flaws that have plagued other projects in the space.

“We started on Terra and, searching for other migration points, felt that our best option was to go to NEAR,” Jacob said. “So we landed on NEAR and are now trying to build the most playable and sustainable move-to-earn project on Web3 with our composable, 3D NFTs.”

The Town Hall also featured several exciting developments in various NEAR Regional Hubs. The Balkans Regional Hub made its presence felt at the recent BlockSplit conference in Croatia, the biggest Web3 conference in the Balkans to date. Ida Pandur, general manager of the Balkans Regional Hub, added that over 100 people attended NEAR meetups adjacent to BlockSplit.

But perhaps the biggest Regional Hub news in May was the launch of the Kenya Regional Hub. Founded in partnership with the local NEAR Guild Sankore, the new hub is being headed up by Kevin Imani and a four-person team. Imani provided a detailed update on the Regional Hubs activities and strategy in attracting students, conducting pitch competitions, and marketing channels to reach quality blockchain enthusiasts.

Tune into Kevin’s talk here.

Panel on going beyond the hype of NFTs

The Town Hall wrapped up with an NFT panel hosted by Eli Tan from CoinDesk. A diverse array of individuals, creators, and projects gave their take on where NFTs are heading, how NFTs can empower creators, and innovative use cases for NFTs and DAOs.

Clarion North, Tamago

“What excites me about NFTs from the music side of things is the ability to be transparent. It doesn’t matter what Rolling Stone magazine has to say or if the government has an opinion. You can have some form of immutable authentication that everybody in the world can actually hold and accept as value.”

Chloe Lewis, Marma J Foundation

“What I like to do is experiment with AstroDAO and what DAOs can do on NEAR, whether it’s purchasing an NFT or adding a new minter. But the idea is that we have these tools on NEAR to allow people to come in. So when you ask me why am I building on NEAR, it’s the ease of allowing new people to come on board. So as we onboard the next billion people onto NFTs and the blockchain, it can be done in a safe, transparent, and user-friendly way.

Asya Abdrahaman, The Kin DAO

“We started NFTs for Good to launch many homeless and displaced people into income. We started on Open Sea, teaching NFT Bible Study to our communities, and from there we met NEAR Protocol. We felt like it was a nice address to have, and that the NEAR community is very regenerative and cares about the environment. If we’re going to be walking the walk, we should be on a blockchain that’s making similar strides in terms of sustainability.” 

Nate Grier, Mintbase

“We’re on NEAR and super excited to be where we’re at. We love Open Sea, but we see it as kind of like the stock market. What we’re trying to build is more of a digital railway system for NFT creators. We’re more interested in the farmer’s markets, with people firing up their own incremental niche markets using our interface or even their own.”

Sophia Adampour, Verse Gallery

“What we’re emphasizing is that blockchain is the only approach to put consumers at the center. So we’re starting out with an NFT gallery and an artist royalty program. And we’re not just reaching out to artists and creators, but to everyone that’s interested in this technology. The Metaverse and NFTs are two super hyped words right now, so having Verse Gallery as a space where the metaverse meets reality is bringing all sorts of new people into art and NFTs.”

Listen to the entire NFT panel here.

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