Curation/Acquisition Process and Budget Discussion

Fingerprints has, thanks for the great judgment and effort of @samspike and the Curation Committee, built a fantastic collection of top-tier art that is second to none.

However, I think as an organization, we’d benefit from introducing some structure to our curation and acquisition efforts. There are two primary reasons:

  1. The process of actually acquiring new pieces is somewhat disorganized, and results in a little bit of a scramble to fund wallets and execute acquisitions, particularly for time-sensitive pieces.
  2. There’s no budget framework around acquisitions, making it unpredictable and somewhat difficult to plan around in the context of the broader organization.

So I would like to start a discussion around this topic. I have some thoughts of my own.

On the process - this should be relatively straightforward. I think at the beginning of each quarter, we should pre-fund the Finance Vault with a specific amount of capital dedicated for acquisitions. Then, when an acquisition is needed, the Finance Vault (which is a little more agile and more responsive than the main vault) can quickly transfer funds to any destination needed to acquire a piece that’s been decided by the Curation Committee.

This should result in a more responsive process, and better predictability - it removes the need to decide whether we should be deploying capital, whether we have enough capital available, and reduces the interactions needed from the main vault signers.

On the budget - I’d like input from other members here. Our curation activity is of paramount importance, but it’s obviously important to balance this use of capital with other uses for the organization.

I estimate that between compensation, projects, marketing, legal, tax, and other uses, the expected spend for the DAO is somewhere around $1.0mm-$2.0mm annually, excluding acquisitions.

What is a reasonable amount to allocate for curation/acquisitions that balances sustainable operation of the DAO?

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Thanks for initiating this discussion, Glory. Having several times now had to scramble with you to source funds for acquisitions, I agree that we need to streamline this process to ensure that:

  1. Everyone involved in the process has complete information regarding acquisition intent and expected cost;
  2. We have ETH readily to hand to execute acquisitions without relying on the main vault;
  3. We can continue to grow and consolidate our collection sustainably over time.

Regarding (1), the current system is that you and I determine the size of acquisition based on (a) committee sentiment and conviction, (b) previous acquisitions expenditure, and (c) available funds. I think @luiz should also be involved in this process, if he wants to be. I also think that we should look to formalise the process where we rank a prospective acquisition relative to other works in our collection.

Regarding (2), I support the idea of dispersing ETH quarterly to the Finance vault, as long as we can make sure that the Finance vault is also able to transfer ETH within 24 hours. If there is ever an urgent acquisition requiring funds in <24 hours, I think we have to accept that the Finance vault may not be able to transfer funds in time, in which case we will have to look for emergency options and potentially accept that we will miss that opportunity.

Regarding (3), based on my sense of the cost basis for our previous acquisitions (barring Autoglyphs), an annual budget of around $750k seems doable. I do, however, think that there needs to be a conversation about how much we hope to consolidate our existing collection as well as acquire new work, since this is what requires the most capital. If we don’t hope to do any consolidation, we could budget for less.

The line of thinking here works well but I do think the finance vault should be funded quarterly to ensure the emergency purchases can happen if needed. These sometimes are the best deals but the slower market could help here.
For the yearly budget for acquisitions, it should depend on the artwork itself since some collections seem much more important than others.
I will defer to Sam’s judgment for budget.

I agree that having the ability to quickly execute transactions is important and the quarterly funding could work. But I suggest we discuss the entire process to come up with a complete proposal.

After the Curation Committee decides that a collection should be acquired, who exactly will be responsible for selecting the specific artworks and, therefore, the size of the acquisition? Should the Curation Committee as a whole also decide that? What are the objective variables that need to be measured to make the decision (@samspike pointed out a few). I would include how those variables were measured in the Curation Reports.

In relation to the Finance Vault, will we be able to execute an acquisition within 24h as Sam mentioned? If not, I would include in the proposal a mechanism to enable it, although I believe we should avoid acquisitions under time pressure.

Regarding the collection budget, I believe we should have a better visibility once we also decide other relevant expenditures for the year such as the NFT Projects and Marketing, which are still under discussion.

So maybe we could move forward with the discussion/proposal on the acquisition mechanics and complete with the budget once we have more visibility.

Using the Finance Vault I’m pretty confident we’d be able to execute transactions in under 24 hours - there are less signers required, and the signers are generally more active/connected members.

@samspike - how are you thinking about that budget number? Curious as to the rationale for the $750k figure.

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One thing I keep mulling over, which I don’t know the answer to, is this - what is strategically value-maximizing for our acquisition/curation program @samspike?

Does more collections acquired increase our signaling power as tastemakers, does it dilute it, or does it not really matter?

I have zero background in the art world, so I don’t trust my own instinct on this - but my instinct would say that less is optimal, in that if we’re collecting infrequently, then it implies that when we do collect, we have extremely high conviction that we’re collecting something rarified and precious.

I’m really interested in your opinion here, because I think that this is a line of thought that directly feeds into how we get to an optimal budget for this pillar of the DAO.

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From what I have observed in RAW DAO, collecting more generates more engagement, but makes it less so of an occasion.

So it’s a pro for community and visibility, but does dillute the signal a bit.
Which is why having a dedicated community collection might be desirable for us.

From the discussions I’ve had with dozens of people in the spaces (art and crypto), the largest value-add is the canonical authority that Fingerprints brings — and a huge part of that comes from the stringency of how we collect. Every piece collected is high signal and indicates thoughtfulness and consideration for the arts. +1 for remaining stringent, while using the “community collection” in parallel to raise engagement levels.

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Completely agree with you both @lucaspon and @Unit

I guess what I’m really trying to get at is - what is the ‘right’ amount to budget for our (historically fantastic) curation and acquisition activity? In my mind, the optimal strategy is to spend the least amount that will still maintain the signaling power and reputation we’ve built up.

However, we definitely do not want to diminish or deteriorate the reputation we’ve built. But I want to ensure that we’re doing this in a thoughtful way with regards to how much we plan to spend on ongoing acquisitions.

It’s a very difficult question to answer but is one that I think we should really think deeply about.

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I think since the curation is one of our largest value props with regards to Fingerprints, it makes me wonder if the right idea is to allocate a budget (perhaps based on average price of our previous acquisitions, etc.), but provision a “flex” clause that allows us to spend more if needed. As the best pieces rarely go on sale, the provisional clause might be useful to allow us to strike at opportune times and secure an artwork that we may not see on the market again for years.

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This feels like the right approach to me: consider each opportunity at an ad-hoc basis, using the curation committee.

For the community collection, we can have a monthly budget.

I think there’s a broader conversation to be had here.

For now - I think something that is achievable in the short-term and would reduce friction for the acquisition process would be to authorize a process that allows something like 20 ETH per quarter to reside in the Finance wallet to be used for acquisitions that have been approved by the Curation Committee.

This would be a simple step that would enable the committee to more quickly react to small opportunities, but isn’t such a large amount that it would vastly impact the DAO or our finances.

Any feedback on that?

That seems reasonable, setting a fixed, “pre-approved” amount to be frictionless allocated per quarter by the Curation Committee and the Community Collection while performing ad-hoc analysis and votes for larger acquisitions.

Can you clarify the meaning of consolidation here?

By consolidation I mean continuing to acquire pieces from series and artists that we already collect. For example, acquiring more Autoglyphs.

This seems ballpark sensible to me, if slightly on the low end for a quarterly figure. I do definitely think that we need fixed number budgets for standard acquisitions rather than doing everything ad-hoc, as we have until now, though I support a ‘flex’ arrangement for exceptional circumstances as well.

One scenario that I don’t think we yet have an answer for is if, for example, an Autoglyph is listed at a 50% discount from floor. How can we be organized to assess and potentially execute on that opportunity as rapidly as we’d need to be?

Maybe in those cases the Curation Committee would be eligible to start a soft voting that would require an specific quorum to be approved (e.g. 30 votes).