Illustration by Josh Brill
Dec. 17, 2021 6:00 AM PST

Erick Calderon is an entrepreneur down to his bones. In college, he opened a snow cone stand across from the University of Texas at Austin. For the past 18 years, the 40-year-old has run a business in Houston that imports high-end porcelain and ceramic tiles from Spain and Italy. But both ventures pale in comparison with Calderon’s success in his most recent and improbable career twist: crypto entrepreneur.

A year ago, Calderon launched a platform called Art Blocks that allows artists to create and sell computer-generated art stored on the blockchain. To his surprise, Art Blocks took off—its total sales volume has surpassed $1 billion, according to data provider CryptoSlam—and the resale value of its pieces has exploded on the secondary market. For Calderon, who has raised $6 million in venture capital funding for the buzzy startup despite never having worked in tech, the experience has been surreal.

“I’m the first to admit that I actually don’t know what I’m doing,” said Calderon. “I’m just blindly navigating what feels like a pirate ship with all these crazy people hanging on to it.”

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
Exclusive startups
Instacart Cuts Staff, Curbs Hiring in Run-up to IPO
Instacart CEO Fidji Simo. Photo by Bloomberg.
Instacart has been letting go of staff, slowing hiring and curbing other expenses as it heads toward a public listing, when the grocery-delivery company will try to convince public investors that it can maintain its growth—and make a profit—as the economy slows. The San Francisco startup over the last two months has fired some of its more than 3,000 workers after holding midyear...
Latest Briefs
 
Twitch’s Creators Chief Departs Amid Payout Cutbacks
Amazon Informs Employees It Miscalculated Raises
Google CEO Addresses Employee Questions about Cost-Cutting
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Data Point startups venture capital
Venture Firms’ $290 Billion ‘Dry Powder’ is About to Revive Startup Funding
Startup founders should expect a tidal wave of venture capital interest next year as a record level of dry powder pressures VC funds to step up their investment pace, according to a new analysis of these cash reserves.
Exclusive amazon entertainment
Netflix’s New Ad Chief Has an Appetite for Danger
Before Netflix hired Jeremi Gorman as its new advertising chief to bring growth back to its struggling business, Gorman had compiled a colorful résumé of professional and personal accomplishments.
Patrick Collison. Photo by Getty Images.
Exclusive startups venture capital
Stripe’s Early Stock Awards Could Spur IPO Plans
Stripe founders John and Patrick Collison have indicated the payments software pioneer, valued in its last fundraising at $95 billion, is in no rush to go public.
Art by Mike Sullivan
True Value google amazon
The Haziness in Microsoft’s Cloud Numbers
Here’s a quick question for enterprise software acolytes out there: which tech giant is bigger in cloud, Microsoft or Amazon?
startups venture capital
Debt Pitches Are in Vogue, but Not All Tech Startups Are Biting
When bankers from Morgan Stanley pitched cloud security firm Wiz last month about raising money through an issue of convertible notes, Wiz could have become the latest startup to pursue a financing tool that’s suddenly in vogue.
Illustration by Matheus Costa.
apple crypto
How Apple’s App Store Policies Squeeze NFT Startups
Non-fungible tokens, like much of the crypto world, are in regulators’ and lawmakers’ crosshairs.