Pussy Riot Founder’s UnicornDAO To Make Space for Women, LGBTQ+ NFT Artists

DAO members include musicians Grimes and Sia, NFT artist Beeple and entrepreneur Guy Oseary

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Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova | Photo by Santiago Imkorpo Pagnotta via UnicornDAO

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key takeaways

  • UnicornDAO raised $4.5 million with contributions from Yuga Labs and ConsenSys Mesh, among others
  • Only 5% of NFT sales are generated from female-led projects, according to UnicornDAO

A new DAO is challenging the male-dominated NFT and Web3 landscape by funding and empowering women and LGBTQ+ artists.

UnicornDAO, started by Pussy Riot founding member Nadya Tolokonnikova, collects NFT (non-fungible token) artwork from such artists and provides them with the platform and funds to continue their creative endeavors.

Tolokonnikova and fellow co-founder John Caldwell were inspired to take action in the space after witnessing the long line of Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and Mutant Ape Yacht Club “bros” awaiting entry to a yacht party during NFT.NYC in November 2021.

After waiting three hours in line and realizing she was one of a handful of girls in attendance, Tolokonnikova left. Caldwell, head of asset management firm’s Wave Financial’s NFT fund, was struck by the homogeneity of BAYC members at the time and gathered his network to organize a more inclusive Web3 movement. 

UnicornDAO can be the instrument that “brings beautiful and cute adoption of NFTs by people who are repulsed right now by bro culture,” Tolokonnikova told Blockworks.

“If you’re not going to involve women and girls, then mass adoption is never going to happen. Or it’s going to happen in a really ugly way. Not cute,” she said.

The art collective announced on Thursday that it has raised $4.5 million so far, and has purchased $1.4 million worth of art. Contributors include Yuga Labs, MoonPay, World of Women, Tribute Labs and Beeple, among others. The DAO was built using the Tribute DAO framework by Tribute Labs, a ConsenSys Mesh-incubated company. 

DAO members include musicians Grimes and Sia, NFT artist Beeple and entrepreneur Guy Oseary. Grimes recently joined the board of curators and donated her latest music video to the DAO’s collection.

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UnicornDAO’s partnership with crypto payments infrastructure provider MoonPay enables creators to become members of the DAO via a sponsorship program without being hindered by financial barriers to entry.

When asked about other hurdles that may discourage women from working in crypto, Tolokonnikova admitted to being “shamed as a female queer artist” by those in the entertainment industry.

“Girls are just taught from their childhood that they’re not supposed to be technical. So they just never ended up in places where people adopted crypto early. There are not really a lot of female whales,” she said.

UnicornDAO launched during the South by Southwest conference in March 2022, marking the 10-year anniversary of the co-founder’s arrest in Moscow for her leadership in an anti-Putin protest Punk Prayer and subsequent 2-year jail sentence.

The DAO community will extend its operation to include a political arm, UnicornRiot, to politically organize and fundraise for activist causes. Its current primary focus is reproductive justice in the US.

UnicornRiot will be free to join, but prospective members of UnicornDAO need to apply. The activist branch will implement strategies and lessons learned from UkraineDAO, another of Tolokonnikova and Caldwell’s recent ventures that raised over $7 million in less than one week via an NFT sale to aid Ukrainian citizens during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Caldwell said UnicornDAO is not like other communities because it’s “safe, fun, accepting, and there’s a path towards activism and financial freedom.” He described the organization as a “lighthouse” for those who are crypto- and Web3-curious but may not fit into the space’s traditional communities.

“Behind all the tech, I still think the NFT community is about human connection,” Caldwell said.


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