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  • Writer's pictureMustafa Hourani

Rapid-Fire Interview with Kevin Henrikson, Founder and CEO of Dust Labs

The key differences between a startup journey in the Web2 world versus the Web3 world, along with an honest examination of the challenges encountered when building a Web3 NFT company.

This week, Academy Ventures is excited to present an exclusive, rapid-fire interview with Kevin Henrikson, the founder and CEO of Dust Labs. Dust Labs is the software company behind two of the most popular non-fungible token (NFT) collections: DeGods and y00ts. By providing valuable B2B SaaS tools to other Web3 companies, Dust Labs places itself at the forefront of innovation within the NFT vertical of the Web3 realm.

Beyond his work at Dust Labs, Kevin Henrikson has an impressive track record in the Web2 entrepreneurial landscape. He served as the Director of Engineering at Zimbra, a software suite encompassing an email server and web client, which was acquired by Yahoo! for $350 million in 2007. Moreover, he co-founded Acompli, a mobile email app, and served as its VP of Engineering before its acquisition by Microsoft for $200 million in 2014. Most recently, Henrikson held the position of VP of Engineering at Instacart, a popular grocery delivery company in the USA.

In this rapid-fire interview, Kevin Henrikson candidly answers questions about his experiences as a founder, the journey of building a startup, the challenges associated with working in the Web3 environment, and the advice he would offer to aspiring college student founders.

How has your background as an experienced Web2 founder and tech leader influenced your role as the CEO of Dust Labs?

Honestly, everything I learned in the Web2 world is helping me a ton at Dust Labs. It's given me a solid grip on the nuts and bolts of running a tech company, and it guides how I build teams, make products, and think about users.

How has your experience in Web3 changed your perception and understanding of traditional Web2 companies?

Hanging out in Web3 is like learning the Internet all over again, but with a cool twist. The big lightbulb moment for me is how Web3 flips the power dynamics - it's all about giving control and benefits to the users, which is totally different from traditional Web2 setups.

Based on your experience, what is the make-or-break step in the startup journey?

In my book, the make-or-break thing for startups is the team. Find the right gang who can vibe together, who've got the chops, and who are jazzed about what you're doing, and you'll be able to face whatever crazy stuff comes your way.

How do community NFT projects compare to typical Web2 startups?

Community NFT projects are like Web2 startups on a community adrenaline rush. They're more of a team sport, with the community right in the driver's seat influencing where things go, not just along for the ride.

How do you balance the experimental approach of Dust Labs/DeLabs with the traditional product-market fit model that most companies strive to achieve?

At Dust Labs/DeLabs, it's about having our cake and eating it too. We like to push the envelope and play around with new ideas, but we're always super focused on our community and making sure we're delivering the good stuff they want.

What was the biggest challenge when bridging from the Solana blockchain to the Ethereum blockchain?

Making the jump from Solana to Ethereum was like changing trains at rush hour while juggling flaming torches. We had to get deep into the weeds of both ecosystems and make sure everything was safe and sound. Lots of coffee was consumed.

How does your team balance customer empathy and meeting expectations with a risk-taking attitude that could potentially elicit a negative community reaction?

For us, it's all about keeping it real. We listen to our community, take risks, and sometimes that can ruffle some feathers. But when it happens, we don't shy away - we listen, learn, and tweak things based on what we hear.

What advice would you give to college students looking to build their own Web3 community project? How should they manage high expectations from community members?

For college students dreaming up their own Web3 project, my advice is this: be stoked about what you're doing, and have a clear vision for the tribe you want to build. And remember, keeping it real with your community, talking to them, and delivering the goods is the key to managing their expectations.

Closing Remarks

This concludes our most recent startup interview with Kevin Henrikson, the founder and CEO of Dust Labs. We hope this can serve as a valuable resource for college students interested in Web3. If you would like to gain insight into the startup journey from a different sector within Web3, we invite you to read our previous interview with Taiko, a Zk-EVM.

To connect with Kevin Henrikson, and learn more about the amazing work underway at Dust Labs, please check out the links below:


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