Before you dive in, check out the first post in our Kraken NFT Behind the Build Series, The NFT Frontier.
Sometimes we reference pseudonyms to keep our Krakenites anonymous to avoid the security risks associated with building and maintaining a crypto exchange.
In September 2021, Kraken NFT received the green light to build a new kind of NFT marketplace.
Since then, the project has intersected with almost every team at Kraken, including Engineering, Product, Design, Marketing, Compliance, Client Engagement, and Legal. Kraken NFT became a manifestation of the company’s globally-inclusive mindset with teams from Australia, Europe, US, and Asia working around the clock to build something the NFT community would love.
Here’s how it all came together.
Access for all
Cheems, a Product Manager who worked on Kraken NFT, had a personal attachment to the NFT project that brought out the best in his work.
Cheems’ experience in crypto began at a young age. In 2015, during his last year of high school, he came across the Bitcoin white paper. After reading it, he decided he wanted to study software engineering to strengthen his fundamental knowledge of decentralized software.
“As someone who grew up in a poor area, getting access to high-level financial products and services was always hard,” Cheems said. “Crypto and decentralized finance allowed me to level the playing field.”
Cheems worked as a telecommunications engineer until mid-2020. At that point a friend recommended that he apply for a job at Kraken. In early 2021, Cheems started at Kraken as a new product manager in staking. NFTs were starting to take off and it became clear to him that Kraken needed to have a strategy in place to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Eventually that strategy snowballed into one of the largest initiatives this company has undertaken,” he said.
A number of departments within Kraken inspired Cheems’ work. On the Product team he met Pepe, a pseudonym for one of Kraken NFTs product managers.
Pepe worked for a digital marketplace project a few years before his time at Kraken. The project was a decentralized system for buying and selling real world goods and services using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They had to build much of the infrastructure from scratch. At the time, there wasn’t much appetite for people to spend crypto for physical things, and clients were more likely to spend crypto on digital items sold on the site. Pepe brought that expertise to bear on Kraken’s NFT mission.
“At the time, the main thing I learned at my old project was that people were only willing to spend crypto to buy something that could potentially make them more money than holding Bitcoin or Ethereum,” Pepe said. “NFTs were the perfect nexus of these lessons: combining the instant gratification of consuming digital content with a speculative asset, yet with much more utility.”
Pepe took his experience in building crypto marketplaces with him to Kraken.
“Kraken’s mission is to make crypto accessible to the masses,” Pepe said. “This product is an extension of our mission. Years in the future, I can say I had an impact, however small, on the crypto space as a whole.”
So, how exactly is Kraken making NFTs more accessible to the masses?
Kraken NFT stands out in a number of other ways and allows traders to:
- Securely trade verified collections
- Easily buy NFTs with no gas fees*
- Effortlessly track rarity rankings of each NFT
- Seamlessly collect NFTs across multiple blockchains
- Conveniently bid with cash or over 200 cryptocurrencies
While the current NFT market is focused on art and collectibles, the real use cases are endless, according to Pepe. Take gaming, for example. In-game NFTs can distribute value to gamers instead of concentrating it exclusively with studios. Other real world applications include things like mitigating the loss of value in ticket and digital content resales.
“We strongly believe in the future of NFTs in other forms of creative content such as music and movies, not only for monetization but also in building thriving communities of fans that can engage and collaborate with creators on a deeper level,” Pepe said. “During my time at Kraken, we’ve observed the NFT ecosystem closely and it’s been amazing to see NFTs evolve from merely a speculative asset to an incredible tool that empowers creators to monetize their unique content in a sustainable way.”
Diversity of perspectives
Kraken NFT brought out some of the best aspects of learning and working with diverse industry professionals that came from a myriad of backgrounds.
Take Harold for instance. Within five years of starting his engineering career 30 years ago he transitioned into building trading systems including work at exchanges, hedge funds, high frequency trading companies, broker firms, and global market data providers.
“I saw every side of the trading world,” he said. “I’m very much a ‘roll the sleeves up’ person and adjust to what the situation requires, whether that’s hands-on coding all the way to leadership roles. All of the work takes courage – or servant leadership – by enabling and helping others.”
Kraken NFT was the result of a large collaboration across time zones. Teams at Kraken rely heavily on async communication where timezones often don’t overlap. On the design side of things in particular, teams got into the habit of sharing frequent videos outlining design progress and challenges.
For product designers at Kraken, passing the baton seamlessly with other Krakenites around the globe in other time zones was a daily task. The openness of Slack meant everyone was a part of the conversation, so the teams were able to move on decisions quickly.
One of the more challenging aspects of working on the Kraken NFT marketplace was the speed of iteration.
“We would explore design concepts and build prototypes – anything from Figma all the way to fully-functional HTML/CSS/JS prototypes – to share with the engineering team,” said Aayushi, one of Kraken’s senior managers of software engineering. “We worked closely with engineering and were able to quickly start testing the real thing in a staging environment. We had a great working style centered around rapid prototyping, iteration and feedback cycles.”
Kraken’s highly-collaborative environment meant that everyone brought exemplary ideas, high energy, and creative spirit to the table.
“Our relationships are really important,” said Aayushi. “Each side had to show respect and empathy for our two forces: one side delivers value to our customers quickly, the other side makes it all happen. The two don’t always align. So by listening, being open to each other’s concerns, we can find that balance to deliver with negotiation and compromise.”
Their roles on the project helped the team execute faster by removing delivery friction and breaking silos. In the end, everyone had an important role to play in one of Kraken’s most complex platform builds.
“I love solving problems and helping people,” said Aayushi. “I’m proud to work alongside such a diverse and talented group.”
*Gas fees will be incurred when transferring NFTs and other cryptoassets on and off the Kraken platform.
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