Developer Spotlight: How Antonio is Using Web3 and AI to Empower Creators

Developer Spotlight: How Antonio is Using Web3 and AI to Empower Creators

The thirdweb Developer Stories series interviews inspiring leaders pushing web3 and blockchain technologies forward around the world. Our goal is to learn more about what developers are working on, how they gained their skills with thirdweb, and what tips they have for us all.

Check out our conversation with Antonio about how he got started in Web3, how he is leveraging thirdweb to build his own Web3 & AI startup, and why every Web3 startup founder should use thirdweb.

Meet Antonio Di Francesco: Web3 & AI Startup Founder
Joined thirdweb Community: 8/25/2022
@donquixoteth on Twitter

Tell us about how you entered the web3 space and how you found out about thirdweb

From Web2 technology entrepreneur to Web3: I have always been fascinated by the long-term impact that technologies and projects can have on our society. I worked at NASA, founded companies and I was then working at Stripe, a company I loved for that same long-term impact reason, when I started exploring more deeply the web3 technology. While there are many aspects of it that will have a profound systemic impact, I got intrigued by the new business models that the digital ownership concept could offer (e.g. NFT) to creators. I built two startups in the past, always centered around collaborative social media platforms, and it was always hard to move away from advertisement as the main monetization strategy.

With blockchain and NFTs, I saw a way to empower everyone to make a living out of their passion, no matter their status or geography. And that is when I started thinking about an experience to attract mainstream audiences to Web3 creators and decided to go full-time on it. I feel like the general thinking expects crypto to go mainstream when we attach digital to real assets but I believe the opposite: I think digital assets or worlds, like those powered by AI, can provide experiences that simply cannot be matched by the physical world and that is the advantage we should exploit to bring the masses to Web3.

For example, creating your own content as a collaboration with your favorite artist, using just your thoughts. I started building apps around this concept, learning Solidity and the foundational tools to create dApps from smart contracts. I remember writing a Javascript script to read through Solidity and compile it. While that was interesting, it was too slow. Startups need velocity and don’t have resources: I started looking for APIs that could give me the startup speed I needed. Particularly, tools for users to create their own NFT collections based on collaborations with their favorite artists.

That is when I ended up on a YouTube video from thirdweb about signature-based minting. Initially, I thought there had to be a catch, it seemed too good to be true, not just the Signature-minting APIs, but thirdweb overall. Seeing that Shopify had invested in the company eased any “trust” concerns.

Another selling point for me was the audited contracts: as much as I could learn Solidity, I was always going to be worried about potential exploits in my contracts. What I was doing with scripts before, became one command in the terminal; the planned months of writing and auditing smart contracts became hours or days of coding around the thirdweb APIs.

As it turned out, thirdweb was perfect for us and I was immediately an advocate of the company. Plus, I remember during my first days I got completely stuck on an issue that was all on my end and the support team was fantastic, they helped me with the same urgency and care that you’d expect would be dedicated to an enterprise company rather than a solo founder. That is the kind of stuff you see in companies that are going to dominate their markets.

Tell us about what you do and what projects you completed with thirdweb

I'm currently working on a startup that utilizes thirdweb and AI to empower creators and their communities. - Empowering creators and their communities allows creators to monetize collaborations with their fanbase using thirdweb API and artificial intelligence. The creator shares an initial piece of art and their fans can use AI to extend it; the final result is minted into a collection of NFTs built by the artist’s audience. We keep a fee while the rest of the amount paid to mint goes to the artist. We are in private beta, meaning that we select the artists to share their project, but anyone can then create around their content!

  • Blockchain: Optimism
  • Account login: thirdweb SDK for Metamask login or Delegate.Cash login; in both cases, I use thirdweb to retrieve the wallet information; we also use ERC-4337 (Smart Wallet) to create an abstract account with Google.
  • Front-end: NextJS + thirdweb React SDK
  • Back-end: thirdweb signature-based minting APIs to generate the signature for on-demand minting and also thirdweb NFT APIs to read metadata from already minted NFTs; if you create a wallet logging in with Google, then I use thirdweb mint API to mint the NFT after you pay with credit card
  • Storage: I use thirdweb Storage to store NFTs images but also to retrieve the initial image that is fed to the AI APIs.

On top of the delightful experience of coding around thirdweb API, it sped up our development by 10x!

We were able to attract more than 3,000 users with no marketing budget and north of 1 ETH in revenues within the first 2 weeks of launching.

In addition to being a startup founder, I also consult for several Web3 startups and sit on a few boards. I am selective about the projects I work on, only choosing those that I am passionate about and believe can have a lasting impact on the Web3 and digital world overall. I always push them to try thirdweb to build the MVP and the foundation of their product.

Tell us about why you are involved with helping thirdweb succeed

I feel personally responsible for spreading the word around thirdweb as much as I can. During ETHDenver I recommended it to every startup project and in general, within my local community in the Denver area or whenever I am chatting or consulting a startup in the web3 space, I recommend thirdweb not just for the great technology, but because it is the RIGHT business strategy.

Basically, to me if you’re not using thirdweb you are not doing your startup right: you need only one technical person in your team, with Web2 expertise, and thirdweb can be your blockchain co-founder; if you grow, you can hire someone to own the blockchain side of your stack. But during that 0 to 1 step, thirdweb is all you need. I want people to avoid choosing different routes.

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