NEAR’s April Town Hall Highlights
NEAR’s explosive and diverse ecosystem growth continued into the spring. As always, the NEAR Town Hall is a virtual venue for the growing global NEAR community to put their finger on the ecosystem pulse. It’s also a great opportunity to meet community members, as well as teach, learn, and collectively advance NEAR adoption and the multi-chain Open Web future.
The April NEAR Town Hall explored music on the blockchain, new partnerships like Sweatcoin, events such as Paris Blockchain Week Summit, and more. Here are the highlights.
A Flurry of NEAR Initiatives and Conferences
NEAR Foundation CEO Marieke Flament opened the April Town Hall with details on NEAR’s latest initiatives. This included a recent partnership with Sweatcoin, announced at Paris Blockchain Week Summit, which will power the “movement economy”. In little under a month, Sweatcoin has added 1 million wallets to the NEAR ecosystem.
Flament highlighted NEAR’s presence at New York Blockchain Week, PBWS, and Devconnect Amsterdam blockchain conferences. But the conferences haven’t been the only places where you can find in-person activities from NEAR’s global community.
“We had several meetups organized in several parts of the world,” said Flament. “In particular, one in Portugal for the new EU integration of our Ukraine In Exile hub. And last but not least, we’re also working on our first hacker house in Miami.”
“Again, lots of amazing things are happening, [especially] on the side of fundraising,” she added. “Congrats to the many projects who have raised significant amounts of external capital. In particular, Mintbase, Bastion, Trisolaris, Sender Wallet, Rocketo, and Burrow.”
Flament also got into the NEAR Foundation’s efforts to keep the NEAR Protocol climate neutral.
“The new blockchain is climate neutral… but also our entire ecosystem,” she said at the town hall. “We’ve partnered with South Pole to continuously assess and look at auditing the footprint not only of the NEAR Protocol but also our entire ecosystem.”
NEAR partnerships in the news
After Flament’s introduction, Chris Ghent, Head of Marketing and Brand Partnerships at NEAR Foundation, updated the community on strategic partnerships. Many of these collaborations have made the news, not only elevating NEAR’s profile but also laying the groundwork for mass adoption.
“The Sweat economy from the Sweatcoin team has really been an amazing thing to see,” said Ghent. “In the last 11 days or so we’ve seen over a million accounts created on the NEAR. Pretty phenomenal when you think about the future of movement and a new economy based on movement.”
“So, jumping into crypto is as easy as just walking,” he added. “And, really, the health benefits, the economic benefits of that are going to be amazing to see unfold.”
Ghent also talked about upcoming milestones for the NEAR partnership with SailGP. In case you missed it, this partnership will feature a variety of activations and products, including the creation and launch of a SailGP by a DAO run on the NEAR ecosystem.
NEAR Education launches NEAR Certified Analyst program
Next, Sherif Abushadi, Head of Education at NEAR Foundation, updated the community on its education efforts. He noted that NEAR Education has tens of thousands of students, millions in ecosystem grants, and dozens of programs shipping with more on the way.
“We are interested in engaging people with our NEAR Certified programs,” Abushadi said. “NEAR Certified Analyst, Developer, and Entrepreneur.”
Abushadi noted that half of the NEAR Certified program applications are submitting to join a certification program without any software development experience. So, NEAR Education wants to meet applicants where they are with the NEAR Certified Analyst program.
“And that is, basically to spend some time talking about what are these [blockchain] systems?” Abushadi said during the town hall. “How do you think about them? And how can you make a contribution without necessarily, you know, fingers on a keyboard typing code, as would a NEAR Certified Developer?”
“So, we’re excited to announce the upcoming launch here of NEAR Certified Analysts,” he added. “We have a couple of different proposals in play. Hopefully, this quarter we’ll see that course in full swing.”
This is just a small fraction of NEAR Education’s learning opportunities. Stay tuned to the NEAR Education homepage, which is expanding and evolving monthly to learn more.
NEAR funding and ecosystem updates
Josh Daniels, Head of Funding at NEAR Foundation, noted that there has been a great deal of growth in funding in the first quarter of 2022. He noted that there has been a lot of positive ecosystem activity with regard to funding, both from external sources and NEAR Foundation grants.
“On the grant side of things, we’ve had a stellar quarter in terms of grant growth and support,” Daniels said. “But I think the important thing to note as we look at our grants program is not necessarily how much we’re deploying or committing to deploy, but the quality of those projects. And we’ve really seen an uptick in the quality of products that are coming into the ecosystem.”
New NEAR products include those looking for a multi-chain strategy, transitioning from Web2, and Tier 1 teams coming in to build from the ground up.
“So, we’ve committed to deploying almost $26 million in capital to date for almost 360 projects,” Daniels said. “And the important thing to notice here is that the diversity of those projects is quite expansive.”
One such project is eFuse, an esports and gaming platform that received a NEAR Foundation grant to build on NEAR. This grant allows eFuse to bring their project into a Web3 environment.
“There’s two ways we’re going to be partnering with them,” said Daniels. “One is the creation of an NFT platform to help mint gaming moments for, in particular, folks that are using the eFuse environment. The next is setting up a league via DAOs to help basically run gaming eSports leagues on top of eFuse leveraging the NEAR and Astro DAO technology.”
Be sure to check out Daniels’ spot for a bumper reel of all of Web3 games building on NEAR.
NEAR’s Regional Hubs strategy
Grace Torrellas, NEAR Foundation’s Head of Regional Hubs, followed Daniels with an update on hubs. NEAR Regional Hubs fulfill many functions, but chief among them are helping NEAR decentralize and spur mass adoption.
“What are the hubs? Well, they’re independent entities,” said Torrellas. “They are completely aligned with the foundation’s missions and objectives, but they are completely autonomous and independent entities. They have been set up by a Web3 experienced leader and they are looking at creating traction in the Open Web world.”
Hubs do this in two different ways. Firstly, a hub aims to foster Web3 talent. The hub’s other function is to help create Web3 projects on NEAR.
“Just to make sure that it’s clear hubs are not NEAR offices in those locations, they are not an extension of the NEAR foundation,” Torrellas said at the town hall. “So, the current state shows that we have 5 hubs. We are allocating $100 million in funding to create the network of regional hubs. And all these are very much focusing on developing the ecosystem. That means very close ties with NEAR University, with product labs, with Web3 incubators for both talent and projects coming for ecosystem funds.”
Torrellas spoke in detail on the Kenya Regional Hub. Emerging out of the NEAR Guild Sankore’s meetups, the Kenya hub will be critical in fostering the Open Web in continental Africa.
Beyond the five currently active NEAR Regional Hubs, 14 prospective hubs are currently under consideration across the globe. The next hub set to go live is LATAM, which will include the Latin American countries Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina.
Panel on music in the Open Web era
The Town Hall wrapped with an exploration of music on the blockchain. Moderated by Vijay Gurbaxni, Founding Director of the Center for Digital Transformation, the discussion was lively, fascinating, and informative. Check out some choice quotes below and watch the blockchain music panel here.
Amber Stoneman, Minting Music
“What we’re working on with Minting Music is [creating] that bridge between Web2 and Web3, making the NFT marketplace feel very 2.0… Blockchain doesn’t look pretty behind the scenes. The cool thing about building with NEAR is that we’ve been able to really focus on a clean, very simple, and easy to use interface.”
Tim Exile, Endlesss
“What’s really magical about Endlesss is it allows you to collaborate in real time with musicians around the world. So, you can spin up what is kind of music’s answer to a live musical chat. You can throw down musical ideas, share them with a bunch of people in real time, and anybody can chime in, add layers to that, remix it, and send it back.”
Iota Chan, Tenk DAO
“NEAR is a new chain. You have to attract artists with an alternative way to launch their NFT project. What is [also] successful in attracting them is to build this creator’s culture.”
Nathan Pillai, SailGP
“Every time there’s been a major technological advancement it’s just about evolution… What we should all be working toward is how we all come together, whether that’s through A&R, whether that’s filmmaking, and try to get your project funded. There are just so many areas where I see those communities who may have been disenfranchised and not had access now have opportunity. Opportunity is really what Web3 comes down to. It’s broadening reach and that, for me, is the most exciting aspect of this.”