Nate Alex: From Cryptokitties To Building NFT42

In this episode, NFT creator Nate Alex discusses the future of NFT42 and why he and his team have made decisions that will create a legacy. He’s known for the creation of on-chain projects like chainfaces and squiggly.wtf, and is the co-founder of NFT42.

How Alex started out

  • Entering the crypto space: The way Nate got into crypto is similar to many others. He began getting media attention. In 2017, he would discuss the success of Bitcoin with a co-worker. At first, he thought it would be a way to earn extra money.
  • Turning towards NFTs: In December of that same year, when CryptoKitties began having $100,000 sales it captured his imagination. He saw himself flipping digital cats for more money than his annual salary. He started investing $100 on cats and lost his money but didn’t give up.
  • Curious about what drives people: As a newbie in the NFT space, Nate wanted to figure out what drove people to invest. In 2021, there have been several NFTs that have sold for over $1 Million.   


Timestamp: 21:28 – “If they figure out a way to store this on a blockchain, file, coin, or whatever infrastructure that they end up building for this, they at least can retroactively add it to a blockchain. But, at the time, we had this vision for everything to be on a blockchain, even if it isn’t necessarily on Ethereum.”

Timestamp 25:37: “At least somebody can re-create it from the information that’s left behind, with or without you.”

Timestamp: 33:36– “I don’t think that we’re seeing a lot of innovation. I feel like we’re seeing a lot – not necessarily Punk clones, but Punk reskins.”

The next steps

  • Learning about NFTs: For Nate, what led to success in the NFT industry was years of learning. Today, if the NFT market reached saturation, many people would struggle to continue to learn and build on their initial investment. He found the space so interesting which gave him the drive to learn as much as possible.
  • Focusing on CryptoKitties: For the first year, Nate mainly focused on investing in CryptoKitties. In terms of development tools, he would build CryptoKitties tools like google-sheets, and pool information from on-chain contracts. It was a genuine interest rather than a way to make money. He got involved with the community and spoke with others in the space.  
  • Learning the landscape: In 2019, Nate branched out into games and other networks like Tron. He was getting a feel for the crypto landscape. Trading is a big part of the market. For him, the market changes that year led to his exploration of the crypto space. Later that year, he began getting more involved in development.

Nate’s start in development

  • Starting out: One of his first projects was the CryptoZombies tutorial. Some of his friends were Solidity experts and hackers. They helped Nate figure out his first project which never launched. When his projects don’t get to where he wants them to be, he doesn’t launch them.
  • First breakout project: Eventually, he became involved with Chainfaces.He saw it as cool, simple, and ultra-cheap. At the time, sales were going for $1 each. Now, it seems people charge $300 and want to make $1 to 3 Million. He felt good about his project. Chainfaces generates over 10,000 faces from ASCII code. It was inspired by Cryptopunks and the Larvalabs team.   
  • Hybrid NFT: Although the project is simpler, Nate considers it a hybrid. You have five pieces of the face and from on-chain RNG it would be assembled randomly. Parts of the fact would be selected at random. The other piece was the 10,000 faces that were generative.

Connecting with the community

  • Joining Discord: Nate joined Discord in the middle of 2018. He recommends doing the same thing if you’re new to crypto. The real-time conversation offers so much information to help you understand the space. Discord has many people who are very knowledgeable about NFTs.
  • Collaborating on cryptos: He joined a group of CryptoKitties collectors. He also met Jim McNelis, the creator of Avastars, around the same time. Nate was planning to make a move into the space and Jim offered him to come work for him on the first revision of nameless.
  • Beginnings of nft40: This was the first project Nate did with nft40. In the spring of 2020, he joined the team. The company has been iterative and has included projects like the JOYtoys, NFTboxes, and VeeFriends. The challenge is how to provide features that make it distinguishable from others.

Branding users’ NFTs

  • Giving users a brand experience: They are trying to create products that allow people to have their own brands but are hosted by Nameless. The website is created for users and their NFTs would have their own brand experience rather than sharing a space with other creators.
  • Choosing a system: People have several NFT platforms to choose from. When the company first began the journey, Nate considered IPFS wasn’t enough, but he now believes it could be a good solution. The concern in the past has been the gas cost increase.
  • Storage solutions: For storage, the idea was to get metadata on the chain. It was a good long-term solution. Arweave was used as a plan B protocol in case IPFS folded.  

Creating a legacy

  • Creating a legacy: The goal was to have a storage solution that would allow the project to live forever.Nate believes that their implementation is not the only option. During the design phase, they decided to choose a system that would allow people in the future to re-create the project without them.
  • Ensuring permanence: For Nate, as an experimenter, he recognizes not everyone cares about his concern for permanence. Eventually, people will spend money on projects on servers that collapse. He expects if projects like cryptokitties were to fold, the community would re-create them. The goal with projects like Avastar and Squiggly.wtf make it so you don’t have to worry about this happening.

Focused on innovation: Nate believes we’re seeing a lot of “punk reskins” in the NFT world. Hashmasks explored the naming of the token which was new. But, mostly nothing has blown his mind. It’s hard not to think about doing a project for the purpose of making money. The esthetic is really important, but most projects aren’t ground-breaking. If it’s not planned in the design, it’s hard to implement innovation later.

Where NFT is going

  • Connecting with like-minded people: For Nate, the feeling of belonging with like-minded people has kept him going. It became a place where all of his spare time and money would go to. From that community, the big players in the industry were born.
  • Vision for the future: Today, the emphasis is on the NFT price and not always on quality. Just one year ago, most people didn’t know what NFTs were. Nate thinks the future of NFT will depend on the crypto market. More shallow investors could be shaken out if the market bottoms out. The pool of people who will last will become smaller.  
  • Where to find Nate: You can find Nate on Twitter @NateAlexNFT. You can also message him on Discord.