Voidonauts interview

Who or what is Voidonauts?

Voidonauts is a company - or more like a gallery - that specialises in officially licensed collectible digital art. It’s made up of me, Matt Griffin (aka Griff), and my long-time friends Neil Ford & Jussi Aulin. We work with amazing artists to create licensed NFTs based on famous movies…

What’s licensed collectible art?

Well, if you create a piece of art featuring a famous IP (eg Star Wars) and then sell it, you will get in hot water because that IP belongs to someone else. Licensed art is where a licensee (like Voidonauts) has obtained a license to sell art for a specific IP. So we hold a license from a major film studio to create & sell NFTs featuring art based on their movies…

How & why did it come about?

My professional background, as a freelance illustrator, is in publishing & film. A large portion of my work is in creating posters & DVD/BluRay covers for movies. A few years ago I saw that there was room here in Ireland (which has a really thriving film & animation scene) for a studio specialising in marketing & development for films, so I set up Voidonauts.

It had a great start, winning a couple of American Advertising Awards for work on the Newport Beach Film Festival & being named ‘Best of the Billboards’ in SciFiNow magazine for my poster work on The Hole in the Ground (great horror, on Netflix - recommend!). But, I got too busy as a freelancer to give the company the time & effort it needed to properly get going. I reluctantly let it go dormant.

The other thing I do in my professional life is make licensed alternative film posters for galleries like Bottleneck in New York and Vice Press in the UK. The licensed poster scene is huge, with a thriving and brilliant community of artists & collectors (much like crypto art). Then in October 2020 the magic of NFTs arrived in my life. My eyes were opened to a whole new world of possibilities, which I’m exploring with my personal work. I noticed though that there was no one doing what we do in the poster world for NFTs. There are licensed NFTs out there of course, but none, thus far, in terms of alternative posters or artistic interpretations based on specific films (that are licensed). I saw a reason for Voidonauts to be reborn… So I spoke to my good friends Neil & Jussi and asked if they’d like to come on board as partners. I knew I couldn’t do it without them, as they bring actual business nous to the table, while I draw good.

What’s the appeal for licensed collectibles in terms of NFTs?

Well the licensed print scene works for two reasons - the love of film & the love of good art. People like having a gorgeous poster for their favourite movies on their wall. Now imagine if those posters & art pieces could move. Or be immersive? Or be a 1/1. Or appear on your wall in AR. Imagine a one-off motion poster for your favourite film looping on a display on your wall. Or your wallet stuffed with art based on a film you love and that art is officially endorsed by the studio who made the movie? I think it’s very exciting - to take a love of film and art and combine it with all the possibilities NFTs have to offer.

Tell us about the three of you. How did you meet and what are your backgrounds?

I’ve given my background above so I won’t bore you with it again! As for how we met - way back in 2002 I moved to London for a while and lived in a house share. People came & went but the sweet spot hit with an Irishman (me), a Fin (Jussi), an Aussie (Neil), a Scot, a Swede & and Englishman ended up there and hit it off. It was our early 20s, and it was incredible fun. We were very studious and quiet and didn’t get up to any hijinx ever. I think it’s fair to say we never, in our wildest dreams, imagined starting a company together.

I will let the others give their backgrounds in their own words:

Neil: After finishing university in Melbourne, Australia I found myself residing in Canada as a snowboard bum. Unfortunately, my visa said I had to go after a certain period of time (boo!), and I ended up moving to London in 2002. It was there I started my career in project management and tech across a variety of companies. It was also at this stage that I crossed paths with Griff and Jussi, living in what can only be described as a house of ill repute in leafy Richmond. After enjoying ourselves (far too much!) we each moved on to other places. Jussi back to Finland. Griff back to Ireland and myself, to Dubai with my wife to be. Once in Dubai I continued working in digital and innovation and most recently ended up heading an Innovation HUB for one of the largest groups in the region. Working in innovation, I've always been drawn to new tech and new opportunities and when Griff started talking about the concept of licensed crypto-art - I was in. Our group of miscreants has always stayed close and now, here we are: looking forward to bringing you the big plans we have in store.

Jussi: I moved to London in 1995 to study European law in what is now the University of West London. I finished uni in 1999 for the first time but decided to stay in London and study for my Master's degree. So I went to King's College 1999-2001 and got my degree in Banking and Financial Law. After this I moved back to Finland for a short period to work on a consultancy assignment. After i finished this I moved back to London to work in the city as a consultant covering the Nordic ERP/CRM markets. This is when I met you guys. After a year of this I got headhunted back to Finland to start the IT-consultancy business of a recuitment firm. After only a few months the company was acquired and I was made a partner. I stayed with the company for 4 years and exited it in 2008 when company was sold. Straight after I was asked to become a partner and run a business for another private equity-backed firm - this time in healthcare. I was with this company for 9 years and exited it in 2017, 18 months after the company had been publicly listed on the Stockholm stock exchange. After this I was asked to join another private equity backed venture, funnily enough the same company I had alread exited once in 2008. The company had been sold again and they needed someone to work on analysing and restructuring the business. I did this for 2 years after which I quit the day-to-day operations but remained as an investor. In 2020 I also started my own business which aims to build new service models to elderly care to wrestle the problem relating to the shortage of workforce in relation to elderly people that need care and attention in the future. This is also very much in the start-up phase and has also been slightly delayed by covid-19. This takes us to 2021 when you asked me and Neil to be part of Voidonauts.

So as old friends, how is it working together?

Working with me has been the greatest privelage of their lives. Actually, it’s surprisingly professional. Maybe because we’re all a bit older. Now we’re all level-headed and have a few years experience under our belt, we can knuckle down when we need to, and have a laugh when we need to. If we had done this in our 20s, we would have drunk/smoked all the ethereum.

What are your hopes for the Voidonauts project?

To be honest our first hope is that there is a collector base out there for licensed movie art! If we can show that there is, we have big plans for more licenses and new ways to deliver art based on them. We already have a roster of incredible artists working on our first drops, many of whom the readers will have heard of from the crypto space. Others are legends of the print scene. The one thing we can guarantee is the art will be amazing. And it will be across all kinds of styles and mediums. After that, it’s a case of diving in and hoping for the best.

What can we expect from Voidonauts in the near & far future?

First up we have our debut drop coming to KO in a few weeks. We’re dropping on a film by film basis, and this first one is very sexy. A real killer… After that there will be a new film dropped (featuring a variety of artists & pieces) roughly every three weeks. As for the far future, we have lots of plans. To expand licenses and genres and explore all that web3 can offer us. It’s a relatively new space for everyone, and right now it looks like anything could happen. We’ll be there, celebrating pop culture in whatever metaverse we find ourselves in.

How can artists who want to work on licensed art get in touch?

We’re always open to working with new artists, and it’s very much about finding the right one for the right property. But while it’s a curated list, we’d love interested artists to get in touch. We have a discord (of course) which we can now open to the public - check @voidonauts on twitter for updated invite links. Or if you prefer to email, send 2-4 of your best pieces to matt@voidonauts.com. I’m always on the hunt on crypto twitter too, so I may be in touch…. :)