October 30, 2018

Sndbox: The Blockchain-Powered Incubator

Sndbox is a multimedia studio and incubator that utilizes the Steem blockchain to develop various creative projects. The Brooklyn-based studio was founded in 2017 by Kirk Finkel and Michael Lee, who I had the chance to interview for this article.

This interview was conducted collaboratively with both co-founders over email.

Kirk Finkel Sndbox
Sndbox Co-Founder and Creative Director Kirk Finkel.

How did Sndbox get started?

We started Sndbox in mid-2017, about a year after learning about blockchain technology and beginning to experiment with it. We both come from architectural and design backgrounds, and this technology immediately appealed to us with the prospect of decentralizing the traditional client-based model for creative professions. After getting a much better grasp of Steem in particular, we decided to attempt the first public design project, funded 100% by the cryptocurrency generated on the Steem blockchain. Once we successfully fundraised for and implemented “Steem Park,” we were motivated to build a whole studio around this creative form of blockchain development.

For the uninitiated, what does Sndbox do?

Sndbox is a creative studio that develops projects and social programs to empower blockchain initiatives. We’ve been working within the studio framework for about a year and a half now, so there’s a number of diverse projects under our belts from exhibitions to educational events and an incubator program for creative professionals. We’re starting to work with prominent blockchain-centric companies including CryptoKitties and the New Art Academy to help them produce unique content and more engaging resources.

What are some of the cool things Sndbox has done? From your website, it looks like Sndbox has been all over the place?

One notable project we recently completed was The Crypto Renaissance exhibition in New York City. The show visualized the work developed in our creative incubator based on the Steem blockchain and went into depth with how Steem works. The whole affair was produced in a way to be very newbie friendly and hosted several educational programs that anyone with even a slight interest in blockchain and creativity could join in on.

We’re also very excited about our ongoing production with The Creative Crypto magazine, an online source dedicated to everything creative and cultural in the blockchain space. In the last few months, we’ve been able to capture the industry’s energy with interviews with leading projects (i.e. Codex, Indiegogo, OMF, OpenSea) and collaborative work. Our goal is to grow the magazine to best represent the diverse potential of the sector and invite more creatives to participate.

Our portfolio of work will become even more dynamic in the near future with upcoming events and our first physical publication, so be sure to keep an eye out for updates on these developments.

What are you most proud of in your time at Sndbox?

We’re very proud of the community we’ve been able to nurture, one that is deeply interdisciplinary, global and connects even competing entities and blockchains. Unfortunately, the blockchain space can be extremely fragmented at times with many companies and circles focused solely on their products. From the beginning, we sought to focus on the overall vibrancy and culture of the space instead of just the financial or technical qualities.

Now, with our ongoing incubator program and magazine, our contributing network consists of a few hundred members, helping us catalyze some significant initiatives.

What made you pick the cryptocurrency space?

The immediate attraction was the potential to decentralize creative industries, in particular the field of architecture where a traditional studio is almost 100% reliant on a handful of wealthy clients. The prospects of decentralizing creative work and fostering an environment of self-sufficiency within design professions was too promising to ignore. Blockchain has a long way to go before our desired impact on these industries is possible, but we’re confident in the vision and the community’s capacity in achieving it.

How would you say cryptocurrency has changed since Sndbox started?

We started Sndbox right on the beginning cusp of the bull market in mid-2017, and the rest of the year was colored by the overall ICO frenzy that led to the eventual $20k Bitcoin. People were investing in hypothetical solutions, which isn’t very healthy when mixed in with blind FOMO. With so many people in it for the pure earning potential, the crypto industry was beginning to get propped up by a very unstable commitment.

Now that the market has cooled off, it has been easier to both identify the truly dedicated players in the space as well as shave away the financially-driven hype that characterized 2017. More serious companies and groups are emerging, committed to growing the tech into the long-term. There is a notably greater focus on workable products that are compelling on their own without the prospects of high financial returns.

Michael Lee Sndbox
Sndbox Co-Founder and Director of Operations Michael Lee.

Where do you think the company is going next?

Our team is going to continue pursuing larger-scale projects that exemplify the potential of the cryptocurrency landscape. Right now we’re working at the level of exhibitions, educational events, installations, and creative personal assets, but we’re looking to quickly scale to apply these procedures to properties, buildings, and even parts of cities. Achieving this will require growth in all aspects of the blockchain industry - education, engagement, entrepreneurship, etc. - and we want to become key agents in that endeavor.

Where do you think crypto is going next?

We’re starting to see true products such as games, social apps, and polished exchanges looking to truly enter mainstream consumption. They’re easier to use, more secure, and don’t harp on crypto buzzwords to peak interest. We’re hoping this will be a growing trend that produces more unique experiences and compelling products that inherently leverage blockchain without the need of 30-minute explainer videos.

Alexander Culafi is a Staff Writer at VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @culafia.
Cover photo credit to Angela Altus.