Alex Migitko: ‘Blockchain is a social, not a financial phenomenon’
Anna Akopyan talks to UNQ.Club’s Alex Migitko about his career, NFTs and blockchain
The Solana Breakpoint conference concluded in Lisbon last week – young startup founders and experienced developers took the stage to speak about their projects at three locations dotted around the Portuguese capital. UNQ.Club, an NFT platform for collectors built on the Solana blockchain, was one of Breakpoint’s most intriguing participants. Currency.com journalist Anna Akopyan spoke to UNQ.Club co-founder Alex Migitko.
Anna Akopian (AA): Let's talk a little about you first. I wonder why you studied to be a journalist but didn’t finish your degree – why was that?
Alex Migitko (AM): Yes, I studied journalism. That was 20 years ago, I really wanted to do something interesting. A journalism faculty had just opened in our local university [in Vologda, Russia]. On the one hand, that gave us the opportunity to take up an interesting profession but on the other, even the teachers didn’t understand what to do with us or how to teach us.
I studied journalism for a year and a half and then they kicked me out because I just stopped going. By that time, I’d already realised that I was interested in gaming. I packed my stuff, moved to Moscow and started working for a company that was one of the first in the Russian online gaming industry.
AA: Did you start working for Game Credits after that?
AM: Yeah. That was the first blockchain job in my life.
AA: You quit after two years at Game Credits.
AM: After that, I worked on a few projects related to enterprise blockchain, digital identity, biometrics and so on. Those were projects we worked on with the Belgrade team.
AA: Did you study anywhere after you moved to Moscow? How did you start working with blockchain?
AM: Well, I was trying to study PR, but I quit that, too.
We tried to do something covering both blockchain and gameplay – services for gaming companies.
The idea was that there are a lot of bottlenecks in game development that need solutions. For example, a player can make a payment in a game but the company won’t receive it until 30 days later. They may also need to pay for marketing, but they won’t get the money for several weeks. These incredibly lengthy cycles could all be erased if there was some sort of currency within the ecosystem that would allow the movement of funds between all the participants.
I had various projects after that, but now I’m back to blockchain. This time it’s Solana.
AA: Why did you decide to work with NFTs (non-fungible tokens)? The hardest thing to explain to people outside of crypto is usually the fun of NFTs.
AM: You’re right, that’s why they’re so interesting. We started working towards that in early 2021, that’s when we discovered NFTs. CryptoPunk started blowing up, and there was Beeple… [his NFT] sold for $69m at a Christie’s auction. We asked ourselves – what the hell’s going on? We should get in on this!
On the other hand, we realised we couldn’t do it because we had to be at work 24/7 to keep track of all the drops. We started talking to people and realised that this problem wasn’t exclusive to us – it was massive. Since we’re software developers, we decided to try to build something around it.
The idea was to create a social platform for collectors – for people that buy these NFTs. This isn’t a platform for selling them – UNQ.Club is for buyers only.
AA: Could you give me some insight into UNQ.Club’s future?
AM: Right now we’re finishing up our fundraising rounds. I’ll be announcing the list of investors soon, hopefully.
We’ll launch a closed beta in December or January with NFT collectors we’ve been talking to for the last six months. After that, our goal is to go further and develop and increase the number of clubs collecting non-fungible tokens.
We’re focusing on DAOs – decentralised autonomous organisations – based on blockchains.
We are also working on a cross-chain solution. We’re trying to do something that’s not as regular as Bridge, and we’re doing it on Solana because it’s fast and cheap. We'll see what comes out of it.
We’re experimenting a lot, doing a lot of weird and quirky stuff.
AA: That's how solutions are born.
AM: Indeed. If somebody wants to give it a go, we leave most of our work in open-source code that anyone can modify.
Obviously, the first solutions of our experiments won’t be the most successful but they’ll lay the foundation for everything that’ll come afterwards.
AA: I have one more question for you, more of a philosophical one. What do you think the future holds for NFTs? Everyone's excited about them right now – will these tokens replace art in the physical world?
AM: From a philosophical standpoint, I have the same approach to NFTs as I do to blockchain in general. A lot of people think they’re the future of finance. That's not quite right, in my opinion, as blockchain is the future of how we work and interact with each other as humans. I mean, we work more effectively directly than through intermediaries in the form of banks, regulators and so on. Currency is just one example. It might not even be the best one. Blockchain is a social phenomenon, not a financial one.
It's the same story with NFTs. Sure, there are some speculative aspects to it all, but over time, I think they’ll die out. But the social component of NFTs will remain. That’s what's interesting to me.
Tokens won't replace art. Yes, NFTs are convenient for artists in many ways but they don't really change the overall picture of their world.
I think it’ll be more like the Renaissance when the Medici family patronised artists. Creators won’t only have the support of one gallery but of a worldwide community.
UNQ.Club was founded in March 2021, while the decision to base it on the Solana blockchain was made a month later – in April 2021. The team took part in the Solana hackathon in May and came third in Eastern Europe. Most of the team lives and works in Serbia.