Welcome to the ninth issue of the Nifty Newsletter, the community bulletin for Blitmap that highlights new and exciting projects derived from the original collection along with recent happenings in the Superverse! This issue highlights the “phygital” project Blitkicks by Endstate, an NFT/IRL sneaker designed by a shoe industry veteran in tandem with a blockchain enthusiast.
But before we get to Blitkicks, I just wanted to acknowledge the current state of the web3 world—this article was slated to go live on Tuesday but by then the NFT ecosystem turned on its head. Like many of you, I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions the past several days. While I’ve been in the tech industry for a while (and “crypto aware” during most that time), this is my first bear market as a participant. Plainly put, this has been an awful feeling. I recognize that this is a very stressful moment and genuinely hope that everyone takes care of their mental health during this time.
Switching gears, I also wanted to give a shout out to a fantastic mashup project released at the time of writing by Blitmap holder Steve. In this 50-piece collection called blit merge --force, the artist combined two Blitmaps in a creative and hysterical take on the original collection. If you’re a fan of Blitmap and haven’t seen these NFTs, take a spin over to OpenSea and check them out! As Dalawho wrote in the holders channel, “Haha, i’m [sic] trying to get my newborn to sleep in the carrier and laughing at this woke her up again 🙄😂 worth.”
I feel the same way, Dalawho! All right—let’s dive into Blitkicks and the highlights of an interview I had with Bennett Collen, CEO and co-founder of Endstate!
Collen’s journey to the blockchain started when he founded Cognate, a company that helped small businesses and entrepreneurs leverage the blockchain to protect their intellectual property (IP). By recording a business’s trademark use to the blockchain, Cognate was able to provide that company with definitive proof of the use of that IP on a distributed ledger. This enabled smaller organizations to enforce or defend their rights under common-law trademark rules without having to hire expensive IP lawyers.
“Instead of focusing on helping people who already had registered trademarks to protect their rights, we were trying to help people who may have trademark rights and were not aware of it,” says Collen. “Often these smaller businesses wouldn’t have anything compelling to prove ownership. Cognate gave them a cryptographic, hashed and timestamped record in a distributed database that’s propagated across thousands of different nodes. It leveled the playing field for the holders of these unregistered trademark rights.”
After selling this business to GoDaddy, Collen knew that he wanted to create another company built on blockchain technology.
“I always knew that my next play would be in NFTs, just because I was so fascinated by the concept of having blockchain-based records of non-fungible (everyday) assets,” Collen recalls. “[ERC-20] tokens were interesting for specific use cases, but NFTs just seemed limitless to me.”
One category that Collen viewed as the perfect combination of physical goods and digital assets was sneakers. While he’d never worked in the footwear industry before, Collen says that he is a lifelong sneakerhead and felt that it was a culturally relevant category. To complement his blockchain experience, he brought aboard industry veteran Stephanie Howard as Endstate’s co-founder.
“I attended a webinar that Stephanie was a speaker on and, frankly, I just bothered her for a few months and got her up to speed on NFTs,” recalls Collen. “Stephanie has an incredible résumé with 25 years of experience in the footwear industry. She was a design director at Nike and New Balance and designed some pretty famous sneaker silhouettes, including the New Balance 850, which was rereleased in 2019!”
The easiest way to make a custom kick is to “borrow” an existing silhouette and then apply a new colorway to it. However, Collen and Howard opted to design an entirely new sneaker from scratch for their Drop 0 release of 115 pairs of the 00:Predawn silhouette on the Solana blockchain. Available in Army, Navy and Tungsten colorways, this was their first foray into the “phygital” space. The drop was initially priced at 2 SOL ($470 at the time), and currently these shoes from their first release have a floor price of 18.6 SOL.
But Drop 0 was just the beginning—Collen would soon use the silhouette to launch Endstate's first community crossover with Blitmap. He made this choice in large part because the Blitmap assets were available in the public domain through the CC0 license.
After coming across Loot (for Adventurers) last summer, Collen started researching other projects by Dom Hofmann and came across Blitmap. As someone familiar with IP, Collen was particularly intrigued by the CC0 license around many of Hofmann’s projects.
“CC0 has such interesting potential for communities, and I think NFTs serve as building blocks of creativity,” he explains. “DeFi is often referred to as ‘money Legos,’ and I feel that NFTs are similar building blocks for culture and creativity in their current instantiation. When a project is in the public domain, it unlocks a lot of human creativity that would otherwise be shut out for fear of not having the right licenses or being sued.”
It was this permissive license that first drew Collen and Howard to Blitmap to initiate their first NFT crossover with Endstate. Collen adds Blitmap’s strong community, beautiful project aesthetic and history of success were also strong motivators for working with the project.
“Before determining which community we’d partner with, I had recently acquired a Roscoe Blitnaut (#453), and I loved it because it looks like he’s wearing streetwear—it just screams Endstate,” says Collen. “We had some conversations with other NFT projects, but we were really intrigued by the CC0 license and how it allows you to move quickly and drive value back to the ecosystem.”
After choosing Blitmap as their first Endstate collaboration, the team began to solicit feedback from the community on the decision of the design. Howard noted that this was unusual for her as a designer in the industry.
“In the early stages of this project, we created a few designs and sent them to the Blitmap community for voting before we landed on this final design,” Howard said in a previously recorded Twitter Spaces. “And I just love, after all these years of just designing, talking to people that I'm designing for but never having this sort of direct [contact].”
The design the community chose leaned heavily towards the RGB palette from the original Logo (#84) design by Hofmann. The heel tab features a repeating checkerboard pattern of the red and green squares from the design with the bright blue as webbing on the outside of the shoe. Along the interior of the sneaker is Hofmann’s Rose (#1) composition, a design that Collen called the “perfect combination of minimalism with the right level of detail.”
The Endstate team wanted to be sure to nail the craftsmanship of the shoe, especially with a public mint price of 0.25 ETH. It was important to Collen to use premium materials and to manufacture the shoes domestically to ensure good working conditions and minimize the environmental impact of overseas shipping.
But what really takes the Blitkick to the next level is its tight integration with the Ethereum blockchain.
Accompanying the physical Blitkick is a digital NFT featuring the pair of shoes on a Roscoe-esque television screen. The shoes spin around within the monitor to show off some of the details of the forthcoming physical item. Owners of the NFT can redeem it for a physical pair of shoes on Endstate’s website. And if you’re looking to pick an NFT up on the secondary market, be sure to refresh the metadata and see if the shoes have already been redeemed.
Paired with the physical piece, the NFT serves as a vehicle for authentication so that the end user knows they are getting a legitimate set of kicks instead of a forgery, a problem that has historically plagued the high-end footwear industry. But the Blitkick NFT goes beyond the authentication to deliver both IRL and digital utility.
While he has never formally been involved in the footwear industry until now, Collen says that growing up he would fill notebooks with sneaker designs. One thing that always interested him was the idea of creating shoes with additional functions. As an adolescent, this meant something silly like having a pair of shoes that could perform a dreaded chore for you, such as setting the table. But the notion that a sneaker could be more than footwear took root in Collen’s mind, helping shape the idea of the digital NFT counterpart to the physical shoe that he would later bring to Endstate.
The IRL sneaker has a near-field communication (NFC) chip inside that ties to the digital token. This creates opportunities for token-gating real-life events, such as parties. Just as an NFC chip can help record your 5K race time when you run over a sensor, the Blitkick can serve as a physical ticket to enter an exclusive event. Collen notes this potential for having Endstate parties at future NFT conferences and events. And the utility can be extended into our digital realms as well.
“We already spend a ton of our time online, and more and more of our experiences are migrating there and becoming digital,” offers Collen. “Asset utility in the emergent metaverse is really exciting for us because a lot of our online interactions will change from typing furiously into our glowing rectangles and become more rich, high-fidelity experiences.”
Collen expresses a hope for a defined protocol in the metaverse for future wearables. This will allow digital goods to transport seamlessly from one digital environment to another.
“It's tough right now because different environments render items with different poly counts, which affects how high-fidelity you're able to make the asset,” explains Collen. “Then there's the different engines, so Unity and Unreal Engine are the two big ones, and the graphics and the designs are interpreted differently. It really is very scattershot. But I believe the ultimate end goal would be the ability to move digital assets from one place to another, independent of the individual requirements of the environment that you want to wear them in. And long after a customer has received the physical Endstate sneakers, the digital utility will continue to improve.”
Already the team has a second Endstate native sneaker drop in the pipeline that will feature an entirely new silhouette. To get more information about the drop, readers are encouraged to check out the Endstate Discord server. But Collen says that sneakers are just the beginning—he’s hopeful for the future and is bullish on the possibility of more and more physical items being tokenized for digital experiences.
“Our name comes from the fact that we envision the end state of product ownership to be that any physical item of value will have a digital counterpart,” states Collen. “We’re planning to expand into a variety of categories that are valuable and have cultural cachet, creating items a person would want to own in both a digital and physical environment. That's the end state that we're building towards.”
After interviewing Bennett for this newsletter and checking out some of the Endstate unboxing videos, I’m really regretting only picking up one pair of Blitkicks! But then again, I may have the only size 14 Blitkick on the market—talk about rarity!
There are two main things that stuck out to me from this interview. The first is how Endstate was able to tap into the collective community without fear of reproach or infringement, which really shows the value of CC0. Not only is the community able to purchase a sneaker that is top shelf, but Endstate is also driving value back to the Blitmap project by releasing such an incredible physical product. I expect we will see more and more of these boutique/bespoke fashion brands interacting with CC0 communities, in particular with Blitmap. Between Endstate and Blitwear, high-quality physical merch projects are choosing Blitmap to launch their line—this should give all holders an immense source of pride.
My second thought concerns the need for an open protocol for the metaverse. If we cannot have truly portable wearables, I feel that we run a very real risk of these digital environments becoming the web3 equivalent of our web2 social networks: walled gardens. There is clearly a lot to win by becoming the de facto metaverse—a company that controls the most popular digital destination can exact a “tax” on digital goods much in the same manner as the App Store charges developers a 30% premium to have their app listed there. This, my dear readers, is not decentralization. But with so many big brands, who is going to build the decentralized metaverse that can compete with the Sandboxes and Othersides of this brave new world?