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Cover Image for Windranger: A New Breed of Superfluid Product Lab

Windranger: A New Breed of Superfluid Product Lab

We believe that DAOs are organizations rebuilt for the internet age. From the very beginning, we’ve chosen to focus our research and development on accelerating their growth and infrastructure—as well as more experimental DAO product development. We work independently but with a focus on the BitDAO ecosystem and its Autonomous Entities (AEs) like EduDAO, Game7 and zkDAO. In a future post we will go into detail about what it means to be a BitDAO-dedicated lab and why we think BitDAO will become the premier coordination layer of the future.

Right now, we see a huge investment opportunity in helping global talent to build real, tangible value. We’re onboarding existing builders and incubating new ones from all over the world while growing in-house expertise across strategy, product, design, engineering, go-to-market, onboarding, recruitment, and legal. Owning a comprehensive production stack means that we can take the seed of an idea in the mind of a founder and summon the resources to build an entire ‘stadium’ around them. In short, Windranger is a new breed of superfluid, web3-native, product lab.

This article is a deep dive into our latest project, $CAR: a wild, epochal collaboration with the artist SHL0MS to blow up a Lambo in the desert and turn the resulting shards into 999 NFTs, rotating forever like asteroids in the depths of crypto-space…

SHL0MS: Entrepreneur In Residence

“We’re building stadiums around builders.” - Alec Taggart, Partner at Windranger Labs.

Most corporate sponsorship of art is pretty transactional: money up front in exchange for some kind of exposure later. When Windranger met SHL0MS, they simply wanted to make art and to develop a team to turn their ideas into reality. We saw someone with a clear vision and immediately decided to work together through our Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) program, not as a vanity hire, but as an (anonymous) artist, with full autonomy and creative control from day-one.

The Windranger EIR program was developed to provide a fluid arrangement that allows for builders to quickly engage with Windranger and gain access to the resources they need. Gaps on resumes don’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. Don’t show us your degree. Our only question is, “What can you build?” SHL0MS didn’t need board members, or a 9-to-5 with dental; they needed a patron and a production team, so that’s what we became.

The Destruction and Renewal of $CAR

Like all good art, $CAR is a lesson in looking beyond the headline. Blowing up a Lambo sounds like the ultimate crypto-bro circlejerk, but really it’s a secular Big Bang that marks the end of the moon-boy carry-trade and the birth of the mysterious new worlds, structures, and stories that will be worth orders of magnitude more than the monoliths of 2017.

In this moment, take time to watch and listen to the piece. In the midst of 24/7 crypto markets and breathless, utopian commentary, it can be almost physically painful to slow down and contemplate. Yet this is what the piece demands. It feels even more dissonant to mourn when there’s so much to look forward to, but it’s impossible not to listen to the minor key and analogue crackle without contemplating that the passing of one era is a precondition for the next. There’s beauty at every stage–even the ‘blowing shit up’ stage…

Like the Dadaists before him, SHL0MS was willing to be misunderstood, and we were ready to catch some flak with him.

Speaking of flak...

$Art = mc2

There are no Lamborghini explosion companies, so we got busy location scouting and figuring out the logistics of permits, a $500k high-speed camera, drones, insurance, and... dynamite. For this, we joined forces with ONC238, a 65-year-old highly decorated forensics engineer, aerial photographer, ordained bishop, father to eight children, grandfather to 23, and the most highly accredited explosives professional in his state:

“I’ve been on fire a couple of times. The first time I was 14 years old. I singed my hair, lost my eyebrows. They’ve never grown back right.” - ONC238

For the time we worked together, we wanted ONC238 to be an extension of SHL0MS’ studio and to see himself as we saw him: a ‘sculptor’ of explosives who would be the difference between a gratuitous firestorm and the pyro-symphony we wanted to create.

“I’ve done car bombs and usually there’s not much left, but they said “We want you to blow up the car but we need it to yield 1000 pieces.” And they were dead serious. I thought, “These guys are crazy”, but I put more thought into this project than any I’ve ever done. Most guys I know are blowing up dirt in a pit or bringing down a nasty hotel but this was the pinnacle of my career.” - ONC238

The final scene combined over 30 individual charges using a mixture of dynamite, PETN, ammonium nitrate and fuel explosives. Some were designed to slice through panels; others to lift the chassis off the ground, vaporize the fuel, separately ignite the vapor cloud; and even, counterintuitively, to contain the blast radius. With such complexity, the main dangers were blowing through a feed line before all the explosives had triggered or not fully igniting the fuel and leaving a cloud of vaporized gas hanging over the site.

ONC238 worked with technicians to drain all fluids from the car and come up with a game plan based on the blueprints. Trust grew on his side: he underwrote the whole operation on his own insurance and half-joked that his recently born grand-daughter had been named after a member of our team (but really though): “I’d name a grandkid after her in a heartbeat.” He also admitted that he was more scared working on $CAR than he had been during a recent SWAT call to a hostage situation. At the culmination of several 16-hour days between SHL0MS, ONC238, the high-speed camera operator, drone pilots, world-class technicians and art handlers, it was then that the whole process, according to one of our producers doctor_gm, “started to feel like jazz…”

Superfluid coordination means letting experts be experts as well as letting people optimize according to their own skill set, 0xVEER, our de-facto Director of Photography for $CAR is a great example of this. Within weeks of joining Windranger, he was in the middle of the desert, coordinating multiple rigs, drones and personnel for an all-or-nothing take. He and our producer, 0xJ4DE, also stepped in to help edit the footage later.

The Prehistory of 999 NFTs

Two months’ of planning, collaboration and experimentation collided with SHL0MS’ vision in a literal fractionalization of crypto’s most iconic symbol. As the dust settled and the echoes of the explosion died away, an army of PAs and art handlers set about recovering and cataloging thousands of fragments from the desert floor. Six hours later, the site had been cleared according to Leave No Trace principles and the fragments were on route to the photographic studio to be graded for traits and then cleaned and filmed.

From the very beginning of the project, 0xJ4DE was tasked with “making sure the idea is presented in its most beautiful potential form.” Working with SHL0MS back at the studio, 0xJ4DE, 0xVEER and the team sifted the wreckage of the Lamborghini down to 999 iconic pieces and ranked them in order of aesthetic desirability, beginning with ONC238’s customized detonator. The remnants of the Big Bang were beginning to coalesce…

Every piece was cleaned, labeled, and prepared with an archaeological rigor before being sent to one of several turntable stations to be filmed. Because of the differences in size, shape, and reflectivity, all 999 pieces needed a bespoke camera and lighting setup, while maintaining a consistent overall ambiance for the collection. After filming, the raw footage was sent to a digital technician to be cataloged and backed up and then on to professional editors for clipping, post-production, and grading as individual NFTs.

Tuning into $CAR

0xJ4DE describes the project’s announcement video as “a pseudo-music video for $CAR”. It’s an art piece in itself—full of glitches and archival footage—which shows how $CAR fits into the history of art and contributes to the eternal conversation of destruction and renewal, interspersed with teasing glimpses of the explosion.

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For the hero film, all of the staccato visuals and sonic dissonance of the announcement video have been resolved:

ONC238, our conservative firestarter, had tears in his eyes when he watched it and this was, no doubt, instrumental in his decision to fund an Ethereum wallet and purchase two of the 999 NFTs himself:

“As far as art investing goes, I’ve done a little, but I came to a point where I realized that NFTs should be taken seriously and said, ‘I’ve gotta be part of this.’ What went on that day was art, and it was brilliant. I know it when I see it; I know it when I feel it. You get to a point in life when you look at life with less enthusiasm, but this kind of jarred me out of it. I’m gonna try and be the old guy that gives people credit and has an open mind. It left me with a sensibility that I didn’t expect. So my heart told me, ‘Do it.’ It’s something I will always be proud of getting involved with. It has become part of who I am. I don’t know that I will ever sell it.” - ONC238

An Auction for the Ages

The team were determined to make the auction and minting process as simple, fair and enjoyable as possible, avoiding the gas wars, price gouging and failed transactions that could have cast a shadow on the work if they had not been designed away. Designer Cole Jorissen and engineers Jasheal, bitparadigm and AFK, collaborated with SHL0MS to build a gasless auction platform at car.shl0ms.com. Within the simple, bare-metal aesthetic, users were able to wrap their $ETH into $WETH on the site and approve one signature in MetaMask to verify it, after which they could bid any number of times without transaction fees.

Instead of the informational complexity of bidding on hundreds of individual NFTs concurrently, every bid was ranked by amount and automatically paired with the corresponding NFT by tokenID. A real-time leaderboard displayed the top 20 bids, which was extended to cover the top 50 towards the end of the auction. After 24hrs, if any of the top 50 NFTs received a new bid then the entire auction was extended by ten minutes to prevent sniping. After the auction, the winners were able to mint their NFTs to their wallets using the claim function.

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Overall, the platform was widely praised for its clear, engaging UI, designed to walk users of any familiarity level through each step from start to finish, explain any unfamiliar terms, minimize cognitive strain, and gracefully cater for every possible error state.

The auction raised a total of 798.94 $ETH (~$2m) from 1,784 bidders.

Auction screenshot

The New Chemistry of Web3

The ‘LEGO Thesis’ is a simple way of understanding the composability of Web3 on a Layer-1 blockchain, where every decentralized application can plug into every other. Below this level is the mysterious, elemental, Layer-0 world of the people who work in web3 and the composability between them. This is where Windranger operates: as a new breed of experimental laboratory, mixing together artists, designers, economists, activists and other elements into superfluid states with extraordinary results.

$CAR was the first of these extraordinarily explosive results. It’s not only about logistics; the real chemistry happens when everyone in the room believes in the vision, trusts one another, and works together to seize a moment in time. The fact that the auction was worth almost 10x the cost of the car is a testament to SHL0MS’ vision and all of the collaborators who brought it to life in only a few weeks.

$CAR is also a love letter to builders: if we can do this while scaling total Windranger personnel from 5 to 65 and before we’ve even hung our sign on the door, there’s nothing too big or too ambitious. Let us set your ideas free.

P.s. If you're wondering how $CAR, Windranger, OBELISK and BitDAO all intersect, stay tuned for upcoming announcements ;)

Credits:

Thanks to everyone who contributed their time and expertise to this article, especially: SHL0MS, ONC238, 0xJ4DE, Alec Taggart, Kevin Rose, cateatpeanut, penryn, doctor_gm, 0xVEER, Cole Jorissen, AFK, Jasheal, bitparadigm and the entire $CAR team.

Windranger is a superfluid, web3 product lab, focused on the BitDAO ecosystem. Hit us up on Twitter to build / blow shit up.