After building a career in big tech, Bharat Krymo has become a prolific art collector and one of the most influential voices in web3. He speaks with Leo Naskau about what motivates him, why artists need a narrative, and how OnCyber is leveraging AI and the metaverse to create the experiential platform of the future. Clovis McEvoy tells the story.
“At heart, I’m a technologist,” says Bharat Krymo. If anything, he’s selling himself short. Having built a career in big tech and having now become one of the savviest investors in web3, his technical bona fides are beyond question. Yet a brief look is all one needs to see that where Bharat truly thrives is the space where technology and culture meet.
“My persona is really focused on the intersection of art and tech,” Bharat says on the Culture3 podcast. “Even before web3, I was collecting art for years. It’s always been a passion of mine.” Those experiences as a collector have allowed Bharat to clearly see the advantages that blockchain offers the art world. Gallery gatekeepers that restrict what you see, paying cuts to dealers, and the limitations of physical storage were all removed when he began collecting art as NFTs.
“The idea of an inertia-free approach to art collecting was very powerful to me,” he recalls. “You take decentralisation principles, and suddenly art is available on a person-to-person basis without anyone in the middle.” Diving into the crypto art sector in 2019, Bharat was an early supporter of both the ecosystem writ large and some of its first artists. He bought his first XCOPY piece for $50 in 2019, many years before pieces from the anonymous artist sold for millions.
“The idea of an inertia-free approach was very powerful.”
— Bharat Krymo
Having watched a number of artists, like Sam Spratt and Fewocious, rise from obscurity to become celebrated artists in the space, Bharat sees a number of common threads which run through their journey. “They’re all very good network builders,” he summarises. “They’re all artists that work tirelessly, they’re constantly creating because they’re passionate about it, but they are also the first ones to promote other artists, and I think that’s an aspect of web3 which is very different from the traditional art world.”
However, networking and work ethic are only part of the puzzle. More than anything, Bharat believes artists need to communicate the process and brand of their art; the emotional and intellectual narrative that informs the work. This ‘social construction’, as Bharat terms it, is essential to how digital creators connect with their audience.
“Collectors want to understand the artist: their passion, what motivates them; and then connect that to the art itself,” he explains. “In the traditional art world, there are individuals and gatekeepers that promote your art, and they make the market for you. In the digital world, those gatekeepers are gone, and so making your own social construction becomes very important.”
Bharat will be first to point out that the burden of building narratives and branding around one’s work can overload an artist, and even stymie their creative output. “Creators should focus on creativity and focus 100% of their time on their art,” he says, even if the need for artists to develop their own market and social construction gets in the way today. “I think there will eventually be other things that come in to shoulder that burden, because when you have great aggregation and great curation, a lot of this is built into the tech itself.”
Nevertheless, he remains adamant that narrative is what lets artists connect with collectors and communities. “It either happens at the artist level or at a platform level — but it has to happen somewhere.”
He should know. Alongside his impact as a collector, Bharat is increasingly working on developing new forms of cultural connection. As of January 2023, he has led Strategy and Growth at the metaverse platform, OnCyber, after spending years as one of its earliest power-users and supporters.
“I had the good fortune of opening one of the first galleries in OnCyber,” he recalls. “Up until that point, art was in your wallet; sharing art meant sharing your wallet and I had hundreds of 1/1 pieces that were not properly displayed. It was a huge zero-to-one moment for me when I opened my own gallery, because then myself and others could really experience these pieces.”
“Creators should focus on creativity and focus 100% of their time on their art.”
— Bharat Krymo
But while OnCyber may have begun its life as a space for art, Bharat says the platform’s ambition is far broader than just one aspect of culture. “We’re taking OnCyber into the metaverse more broadly as a transformative, collaborative, experience-based platform,” he says. “OnCyber is a place where you can display great art, you can socially interact with your friends, and you can build amazing worlds.”
What separates OnCyber’s vision from that of other metaverse platforms is a deeply held conviction of what is valuable in the digital realm. For him, that means staying away from ideas of digital scarcity that define most of today’s metaverse platforms. “We fundamentally don’t think that digital land scarcity is a concept that makes sense,” he emphasises. “We believe it is about experience; what you build is going to be more important than the fact that you paid money to buy up the land.”
Of course, what users can build is being reshaped in real time by generative AI — and OnCyber are already in the vanguard of adopting this technology. The platform’s Magic Composer tool, currently in early-access, lets users remake their world through simple text prompts — making what would once have required specialised knowledge and years of experience easily accessible to anyone.
“There’s no aspect of centralisation here.”
— Bharat Krymo
And Bharat is keen that OnCyber retains the same principles of decentralisation that originally inspired his interest in web3. “There’s no aspect of centralisation here,” he explains. “As long as you have a web browser, you’ll be able to have this experience anywhere in the world without having to download a plugin or a piece of software. We’re very focused on decentralisation and on open-source tech, and we will continue to be very hard advocates in that area.”
In his view, that open access and synthesis is critical for blockchain and AI to “unleash the creative mind” as it intersects with the rest of the world. “It’s like yin and yang coming together; AI is one side of the coin and blockchain is the other,” Bharat says. “I think they will not reach mainstream adoption unless they’re connected. The two technologies are very synergistic, and people are going to see that borne out over the next 12 months.”
These two technologies, symbiotically evolving, provide a fertile space for the metaverse to solidify and flourish. With OnCyber, Bharat plans to be at the heart of it. “You have the blockchain, you have AI tech, and now you have this deeply visual and immersive platform where all of these great technologies intersect,” he says. “We want to be the best hyper-flexible platform, delivering these capabilities, all connected to the blockchain, all infused with AI tech, and we want it to be a completely open source.”
Amidst rising sea levels, the island nation of Tuvalu is exploring digitising itself in the metaverse. Clovis McEvoy writes that it is one of many extended reality experiments that show how the future of the internet lies in connection and collaboration.
Beneath the undercurrents of crypto culture lies a foundation of social and technological subversion. Above it is a countercultural movement that traces back to the punks and hippies of the 20th century.