In light of NFT.NYC this week, we are sharing an exclusive interview with Mauricio Morales: entrepreneur, creator and founder of Starcatchers. Morales’ perspective on the evolving world of NFTs, Web3 and artist discovery is unique. Through his story as a latino founder looking to expand diverse voices in the space, as well as the challenges and triumphs that come with entrepreneurship in Web3 - Mauricio takes our audience on the captivating journey of Starcatchers, where the future is only bright from here.
Founder Mauricio Morales on the Journey of Starcatchers and the Importance of Diversifying Web3
ONE37PM: Mauricio, it’s so great to have you here with us! Let’s start from the top: tell us about your background in the tech space, and how it’s impacted your desire to found Starcatchers.
Mauricio Morales: Throughout launching Starcatchers, I have worked at a data distribution agency. The world has gotten so distributed and data has become such a commodity that the systems that we are familiar with, which previously powered the world, are becoming obsolete. Much like blockchain, the company I work for provides a database solution that’s built to run the way the world’s largest applications need to run today.
ONE37pm: How did that inspire you to get involved in the NFT space?
MM: At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it to be honest! But after working with these companies and seeing how a lot of the big players from Web2 started jumping in, I was intrigued. After researching, I immediately became hooked on crypto; it was this new technology that had the potential to break down major borders across the world and across income classes. From the perspective of a kid that grew up in the hood, I had a ton of friends that had so much potential but simply didn’t have the ability to get exposure to these types of financial instruments.
When I saw what crypto could do in regards to embracing an open source culture, providing ultimate transparency, borderless payments, synthetic derivatives, etc. It blew my mind about what could really be done with it and how much the world can change with blockchain. It wasn’t until about a year later that I became invested in the NFT space.
ONE37pm: And then, you founded Starcatchers - the celestial bridge between iconic art and cutting-edge Web3 experiences. What projects were you into at the time, and do you credit them to your inspiration for the project?
MM: To this day I’m still enamored with Doodles, Cool Cats, Letter by Vinnie Hager, Merge by Pak, etc. Getting a little deeper into it, I have a lot of respect for the work Jeff Staples has done as well. A lot of what these early projects founders have done is actually serving as inspiration for what we have coming up next for Starcatchers.
ONE37pm: Take us through that step-by-step process. There was a stint in the news about due diligence around Starcatchers’ practices in the upfront, that has since been resolved through the exit of your co-founder. Can you dive into that a bit?
MM: Starcatchers started from an idea that one of my co-founders had. Originally, we met through an alpha channel where we were some of the top shot callers. Eventually, we became close friends and I doxxed myself. He told me more about his background and we agreed that we’d try and start a project together one day. A few weeks later, he told me about this idea he had about these celestial characters with star and planet shaped heads.
The idea was to create these whimsical like characters that had a familiar feel to our audience. We wanted to pull inspiration from things like street wear, cartoons, anime, and other pop culture references and you’ll see that across some of the traits.
Once we got the general vibe down, we started discussing the brand and its values. During that time, there were a lot of brands rug pulling and there was just no accountability for their actions. Knowing all of this, we wanted to separate ourselves by creating what we call a time-lock vault. Essentially, this pulls from the idea of how equity/stock grants within web2 work. We took a portion of the mint revenue and we had it set to release over a period of four years. To show we were serious, we created a smart contract that made it impossible for us to unlock the money until that time period expired.
We also instilled what’s called a one-year cliff. This means that if a founder was to leave within a year, they wouldn’t receive anything. After that one year expires, month over month, a small amount of ETH would be released that could be claimed over the next three years.
We felt that this was the ultimate way to prove that we as a team were in it for the long run and that we’ll be held accountable throughout the ups and downs of the brand.
ONE37pm: Just like any business venture, starting an NFT project is an entrepreneurial feat. What are some challenges you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
MM: One of the biggest challenges we faced was in our initial team. We put a lot of trust into our original artist, and gave him a founder title. Unfortunately, that power was abused through his access to the metadata, and although we did not know at the time, we found out about this fraud soon after and of course parted ways. This was hard, as a team, we were responsible as well. It set the brand back quite a bit and it taught me a lot of lessons about security and ensuring that despite all your best intentions and trust, there needs to be accountability systems put in place at all times in this industry.
Thankfully, the systems we put in place in regard to the time lock contract worked just as expected. Upon being let go, our artist is no longer able to claim his locked ETH. Looking back at it, I think doing this was one of the best decisions our team made because it proved to our community that we will hold people accountable - including ourselves - and will ensure that those rewarded also have the best intentions for the project.
On top of this, we also redid the entire collection, launched new merch, created two successful events for NFT LA and NFT NYC, did a partnership with American Eagle, and are now working on the next launch for our community. We still need to continue creating and push to grow the brand larger than it ever was.
ONE37pm: It’s noted in the space that there are a limited number of Hispanic voices in Web3; why do you think that is, and what actions should the community be taking to encourage a diverse range of voices amongst founders, artists and community members?
MM: The space has a limited number of Hispanic voices because of the level of exposure that Hispanic communities have to these opportunities. Not just in web3, but tech in general.
It’s a challenge to grow those numbers and I think it’s a systemic issue that stretches far beyond the realm of Web3. Statistically speaking, the number of hispanics in tech is decreasing, not increasing. From a more defined standpoint, it’s a general lack of resources across communities that have larger minority populations.
One of the most eye opening experiences I recently had was at my niece's science olympiad competition. She didn’t get the luxury of growing up in a privileged neighborhood, but she worked hard to compete against the more affluent schools. It brought me back to the reality I used to live in. People I knew in high school were gunned down when I was growing up. I was one of the lucky ones that got out of the hood, but for a large portion of my life while growing up, I wasn’t being told to go to college or to take these electives to get ahead in life. My school literally had seminars for how to talk to cops and not join gangs to protect our lives.
In my opinion, part of the solution to this problem is that, as founders, we need to feel more of a sense of responsibility and become the role models we always needed when growing up. Hispanics need to see more representation from who is already there.
As a community, I think we should speak up more about our differences and celebrate those differences. Being different is what makes web3 so special.
- Mauricio Morales
As a community, I think we should speak up more about our differences and celebrate those differences. Being different is what makes web3 so special. Those PFP’s that we put up are an extension of our person but we should also celebrate the people behind those PFP’s. I’m excited to pursue this message through Starcatchers and what we have in the pipeline.
ONE37pm: Such an incredible point of view, and it sounds like you’re proactively being the change you wish to see in the space, which is beautiful. What is the next drop that you’re excited about?
MM: Our capsule collection! We partnered with a top clothing supplier that works with some incredibly prominent American streetwear brands to create our inaugural capsule collection. It was featured in Vogue Business alongside the likes of Gmoney and RTFKT. We believe in bringing in the best in class to build out every aspect of the brand and that includes all of our web2 initiatives.
RAPID FIRE 37 SECONDS:
Favorite NFT artists of the moment?
Favorite Web3 projects?
What are you excited about and hope to see more of in Web3 in 2023?
Im really excited to see all of the decentralized tech stacks like time & space, armada, alchemy, etc.
Where can we find you? Twitter, Discord, etc. Link yourself out!
Twitter = @ethmaurice
Discord = maurice#4264
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