We were lucky enough to interview POAP Director Lucas Verra at the Non-fungible conference in Lisbon about how he feels about the industry.
For Verra, his current role is a natural progression of an early fascination with the evolving internet. As the Director of POAP, Verra hopes to recreate a feeling of excitement and curiosity for brands and individuals wading into the nascent Web3 space.
“I do cherish the moments of my life. And there is a lot of stuff that I do because I feel that maybe it will be a memory later on. So I guess that’s why I fit very much into the POAP ecosystem and I want to develop it the most I can.”
Verra leads POAP.fr – an experience agency powered by POAP
If you’re somewhat familiar with NFTs and Web3, there’s a very good chance you’ve already heard of POAP. As a matter of fact, POAP has been the entry point into the space for many people. Perhaps it was even their first NFT.
For those unaware, POAP stands for Proof of Attendance Protocol. In essence, POAP is an infrastructure that allows people to create, issue, and store tokens. Specifically, these NFTs work as digital proof that a person has attended or taken part in an event – whether physically or virtually. Thus POAP describes its collectibles as a form of digital memory.
How did POAP Begin?
POAP started in 2018 and officially launched at ETH Denver 2019, where it was given out as a reward to devs who participated in its hackathon, or “BUIDL” event. And Verra’s story with POAP actually began at another longstanding Ethereum conference.
To explain, Verra’s first Web3 role came back in the first quarter of 2018. He was pitching “Cryptocup”, an early NFT blockchain game. The role took him to the Ethereum Community Conference (ETH CC) in Paris, France, where he spends much of his time.
“And most of it was pitching and going to presentations. But it allowed me to go to the first ETH CC, which is an amazing conference.”
ETH CC also happened to be where he first encountered POAP founder and CEO, Patricio Worthalter. This was where he fell in love with the project, and a POAP from ETH CC later became his very first.
Verra thinks of POAP as the gateway to Web3
Verra’s first exposure to the blockchain came in 2013 when he first learned about Bitcoin. He does laugh as he clarifies that he didn’t have the money to invest in the early cryptocurrency back then. Nevertheless, he was thrilled by the concept of digital currency. And was just as excited by Ethereum when it popped up a couple of years later.
Even so, Verra notes that as conceptually promising as both blockchains were and are, they still have a very long way to go when it comes to their user experience. For one thing, Verra, like many people, is not a fan of gas fees. He uses an analogy that may well resemble a thought that a person first encountering the concept would have.
“Imagine having to pay to send an email?”
Not to say that he dismisses the necessity of blockchain transaction fees. And certainly, he understands how they are an improvement on the Web2 entities we have grown accustomed to.
“Of course, there is a bad thing about not paying, because then my information goes to Gmail, my information goes to Facebook… I do understand the value of information and I also understand that there has to be a highway for that value. But still, you know, UX-wise, it’s a really hard sell.”
POAP removes some of the barriers to entry with NFTs and the blockchain
It seems fair to say that this conceptual reframing is one of the stumbling blocks as far as onboarding people into the blockchain world. Especially the Ethereum blockchain which has had notoriously high gas fees over the past year. Indeed, once one has taken the leap into the Web3 arena, it can be easy to take for granted how foreign so many of these concepts can be to a non-crypto native.
And that’s precisely one of the value propositions that Verra sees in POAP. As he notes,
“You can go really deep without any Ether, without any gas fees – you just connect your wallet and collect your POAP. You have some form of recognition just because of your cognitive time.
You’ve been to this event physically or you’ve joined a Twitter space. And then you receive your POAP and you know, it’s fun to see. It’s an image, a description, and it lives on the blockchain forever.”
Verra wants to help brands get to the “Far West”
The arm of POAP that Verra leads is known simply as POAP.fr. It is described on its website as an “experience agency”. Verra has a beautiful way of describing his work, likening this new Web3 world to the Western frontier of the 19th Century United States. It certainly lines up well with crypto’s frequent descriptions as the “Wild West”.
However, in contrast to the lawlessness and lack of regulation that “Wild West” refers to, Verra speaks more specifically about the difficult journey of even getting to the West in the first place.
“Our job in POAP.fr is to help legacy brands and their communities get to the Far West. If you have a good horse, you can go far but it’s not easy, right? There’s a lot of sun, a lot of sand, a lot of complications. It’s hard. Our mission is to give this POAP horse to legacy brands that have already had some form of reflection on [Web3].”
Of course, as with the young United States, Verra remarks on how the journey to an unknown place simply isn’t for everyone just yet. Or every brand.
“We cannot onboard everyone. [Some people] don’t go to the far west, right? They want to be safe at home. And then whenever you feel comfortable you go to the far west, you should have some form of preparation. And I would say that POAP is by far the best horse to ride on.”
POAP has already logged a number of brand partnerships – with more to come
Given the number of brands that have partnered with POAP on different initiatives, or simply issued POAPs of their own, it would appear that Verra’s not alone in his assessment of POAP’s value to brands. Take for example some of the legacy brands that have embraced POAP. There’s the U.S. Open, Paco Rabanne, Sotheby’s, and Adidas.
Verra does confirm that we will see POAP appearing at many more events and brand activations throughout the year. One such event will be the 2022 VivaTech conference in Paris. There, POAP will provide a Proof of Attendance NFT for every single attendee.
And that’s not all. Incredibly, some lucky attendees will get an NFT Golden Ticket POAP that will grant them free access to VivaTech until 2048! And that’s just one exciting installation that Verra was at liberty to share when we spoke.
2022 could be “The Year of The Crypto Curious”
Of course, as you’ll see browsing through POAP’s gallery, the tokens are most popular among crypto native brands and influencers, NFT projects, and IRL crypto events. Verra himself notes that the core of POAP collectors and issuers are “still crypto natives”.
However, POAP Director Verra adds that this isn’t surprising, or POAP-specific. As much as NFTs have grown in the popular consciousness over the past year, it is still, as the saying goes, incredibly early. As Verra puts it,
“If there’s a 10-point scale, I would say we went from 0.1 to maybe 0.3.”
Naturally, as crypto continues to take larger strides into the mainstream, we’ll go further up that 10-point scale. As one recent example, there’s Binance’s recent campaign around the Super Bowl. The clever, very meta (no pun intended) campaign took advantage of the influx of celebrity-endorsed ads at that time.
It launched the website “CryptoCelebAlert.com”, where viewers could go and sound an “alarm” for every Super Bowl commercial featuring a celebrity talking about crypto. The reward for doing so? 2,222 POAPs featuring NBA star Jimmy Butler.
To be sure, 2022 is already proving to be even bigger for NFTs than last year. As Verra says, “2021 I guess was the year of NFTs but it’s all really Web3/crypto native I would say. Hopefully, 2022 will be the year of the crypto curious.”
The future of POAP – your memories on the blockchain
POAPs are unique for the fact that they almost entirely avoid the obsessive price speculation and emphasis on secondary sales that accompany so much of the wider NFT space.
After all, the intended value of a POAP is wholly subjective – they’re digital memories, important to holders for the experiences they represent. To that end, Ethereum founder himself, Vitalik Buterin, specifically referenced POAP as “the best example” of a project that shows the power of soulbound NFTs.
POAP Director Verra sees this service as an important alternative and a great example of the value of the blockchain.
“Whenever you say memories, it’s yours and you should have a digital process to keep it. Giving it to Google or Apple or Facebook, personally, I feel it’s not the best way. And POAP is a solution for us.”
POAP’s ability to reward past behaviors enables exciting possible utilities
That’s not to say that POAP Director Verra is resting on his laurels. On the contrary, he buzzes with different ideas on how POAP may evolve and provide added utility in the future.
Something he highlights is the way that POAPs can allow issuers and third parties to reward holders of existing POAPS for past behaviors. As opposed to getting people to buy an NFT with the vague promise of utility in the future.
“Utility can also be post factum, right? That’s super interesting. It’s not always about the future. It could also be about the past. [POAPs could] be rewarding what you naturally did.”
Whether for rewarding past behavior, or even as a way of linking people with shared interests via their event attendance, the possibilities for the future of POAP are endless. Just as well, as Verra and POAP continue to advance their goals.
There was just one final thought from the project’s director: “POAP is achieving its vision to onboard as many people as possible to Web3, one POAP and one activation at a time.”