Texel is creating a vibrant world of living, digital tulips.
How it Started
There’s an oft-quoted line about the first time the Sex Pistols played Manchester, UK, in 1976. “There were only a handful of people in the audience,” goes the adage, “but every one of them started a band.” It’s the rare legend that checks out.
In the club that night were Morissey and future members of the Smiths, friends who would become Joy Division and then New Order, and formative members of the Fall and the Buzzcocks. These groups went on, in turn, to help shape and define entire movements in popular music in the 80s, 90s and beyond. One might fairly speculate that punk, britpop, shoegaze, electronica and grunge could have evolved differently had that one punk show not occurred exactly when and how it did.
At Texel, we think a lot about moments like this. What must it have been like to be at that Pistols gig in June of ‘76? Imagine the feelings: This is the future. We can do this. We have to do this. When can we start?
Texel has an origin story that (we think) evokes these feelings. In January of 2018, the founders of what would become Texel attended the very first Rare Art Festival in New York City.
The first “Rare AF” was an incredible one-day gathering of people and ideas. Blockchain developers mingled with Manhattan gallery owners. Artists and cryptocurrency evangelists and curators and designers learned from each other in turn between presentations from the creators of seminal blockchain projects like Cryptokitties, Cryptopunks and Decentraland. Then-emerging technologies like non-fungible, tokenized digital property and blockchain-backed information oracles were explained and debated and theoretically applied to fine art. Esoteric ideas like “unique digital items” and “living art” suddenly made sense in new ways.
Speculation and excitement were rampant; an in-session auction of digital collectibles (settled in cryptocurrency, of course) netted the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars, set records, and opened eyes. The entire day was revelatory: artists realized what the blockchain could do, and technologists realized how perfectly artistic ideas could help the ecosystem blossom.
Our co-founders Sam and Mark happened to be sitting next to each other and it wasn’t long before they struck up a conversation. We both loved the idea of provably unique, on-chain, digital artwork that could not only be collected and exchanged between owners, but also made to be responsive to real-world information — maybe even made to feel alive. As we talked between sessions, we figured out we’d each taken the Amtrak up from Philadelphia that morning. The more we spoke, the more we took in the vibe at Rare AF, the more we felt it:
This is the future. We can do this. We have to do this. When can we start?
We knew we needed to make something: a project that would be equal parts art experiment and blockchain-backed social experience. It would bridge digital and physical worlds. It would be beautiful and compelling and weird. We just needed our muse. And then, it hit us.
It made perfect sense. Not only are tulips beautiful, diverse, ubiquitous, and well-loved — they’ve also been known to inspire interesting social behavior. In the mid-1600s, tulip speculation in Holland reached such a fevered pitch that certain single especially rare tulip bulbs (such as Semper Augustus) could be traded for townhouses. And then, amidst the mania, the market crashed. Hard. It was the original speculative economic bubble, and one (given the world of cryptocurrency speculation) we thought lent some beautiful meta-commentary to our project. As we came to find out, tulips have also inspired centuries of botanical artwork — work we could draw on for the project.
We had the beginnings of our team. We had our muse. We settled on a name, Texel, a real Dutch island where tulips are cultivated. For the last two years, we’ve been building our world. Now, we’re almost ready to reveal it. Soon, you’ll be able to own a digital, living Texel tulip.
If you’re curious, you can get a sense of what our digital tulips will look like at this demo tulip generator. When our beta is live, you’ll be able to do much more: not only purchase and own tulips, but breed them together to create unique offspring that carry traits between generations.
Soon after, you’ll be able to enter those tulips in games and competitions that prioritize breeding and cultivation skills. Eventually, you’ll be able to plant and garden your tulips in the virtual space we’re creating: Texel.
Under the Hood: How Tulips Come To Life
Our tulips are non-fungible ERC-721 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. Each one is defined by a string of numbers — digital DNA, if you will — that is recorded in the tulip’s token and defines its characteristics. Like DNA, some traits are directly expressed (like bloom type), and others indicate that certain tulips may respond to specific external factors (like a tulip whose breeding potency is dependent on the real-life weather in a specific location). It’s nature and nurture, all on the blockchain. And to us, it’s a revelation — an artful simulation of life. It goes further: our tulips aren’t merely responding to the inherited and environmental forces that might shape actual, living tulips. Our tulips can respond to anything — say, the price of ETH, how many points the 76ers scored last night, the phase of the moon…. anything we can get structured data about, we can use. And that makes the tulips almost supernatural — digital organisms unlike anything else in the world.
None of this would be possible without an integration with Chainlink. Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network that allows the blockchain to take in information from the real world to augment actions on the blockchains. Our initial integration will utilize Chainlink VRF to determine the DNA and characteristics of our tulips. In the future, Chainlink’s network of oracles will supply Texel tulips with the information they need to seem alive and responsive to the real world and beyond — whether that’s the weather in Amsterdam, the exchange rate for gold bullion, how the latest Marvel movie is doing at the box office… or any information served by any API, anywhere.
Together with Chainlink, we’re creating supernatural, living, own-able, digital works of art. We’ve come a long way from meeting in the audience at that first event. Our initial excitement has multiplied, as has our team. And soon, so will our tulips.
Texel was founded in 2018. The Texel team includes Mark Willis (artist, designer, directed web & digital strategy at Harvard University), Sam Weinrott (developer, filmmaker, Philadelphia blockchain community leader), John May (blockchain developer and data scientist), Eric Manganaro (blockchain developer, musician, natural language processing at University of Pennsylvania), Drew Taylor (blockchain and node.js developer, with concentrations in on-chain gaming and cryptography), Andrew Malkin (blockchain engineer) and several other contributors. The team is based in Philadelphia. For more about Texel’s roadmap, and to learn how you can be made aware of Texel’s initial tulip distribution, sign up for updates here, or find the team on Twitter and Instagram.
If you are a smart contract developer and want to take advantage of Chainlink’s VRF feature, visit their developer documentation, and join the technical discussion on Discord. Learn more by visiting the Chainlink website or following them on Twitter or Reddit.
Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network that enables smart contracts to securely access off-chain data feeds, web APIs, and traditional bank payments. It is well known for providing highly secure and reliable oracles to large enterprises (Google, Oracle, and SWIFT) and leading smart contract development teams such as Polkadot/Substrate, Synthetix, Loopring, Aave, OpenLaw, Conflux, and many others.