The Australian artist, who creates Afro-futuristic abstract NFTs, has 20,000 followers on Instagram, the Meta subsidiary. The platform, which she says originally helped her create a community, sell her work and grow her audience, has changed. Scams, data-privacy concerns and copyright infringements of her art are now an everyday part of life and she’s interacting on Instagram a lot less lately.
Meta plans to dive into the world of internet art known as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, according to Financial Times. But Attafuah says she’s not seduced by the possibilities of commerce on Facebook, another Meta subsidiary, which boasts nearly 3 billion global followers.
“To be honest,” she says, “I don’t really trust any of these platforms.”
NFT artists around the world contacted by Forbes echoed Attafuah’s concerns. Many have begun fleeing Instagram, migrating to other platforms like Twitter or gradually reducing their use of it. They expressed skepticism that Meta, a social-media behemoth, could develop, launch and manage a marketplace where they weren’t looking over their shoulders, alert to the next swindle.
Itzel Yard, the best-selling female NFT artist in the world, said Instagram is sprawling with impersonators. “In my case, someone scraped my Instagram, like they just took everything from it and they posted it on OpenSea” – another online marketplace – “and they started trying to sell it,” Yard told Forbes.
NFT experts and artists say they’re wary of Meta’s gambit for a number of reasons. It’s a centralized business, while the NFT community prizes decentralization and autonomy. Meta has tried to censor content on its platform, while NFT artists value free expression. There’s also the suspicion that Meta is only jumping on the bandwagon to capitalize on a Web3 innovation that can make a lot of money. In January, NFT trading broke records, topping $4 billion in sales on OpenSea as celebrities and fashion brands got involved.
Decentralized art sales don’t “resonate well with a company like Facebook,” said Merav Ozair, a blockchain expert and a fintech professor at Rutgers Business School. Ozair says she is dubious of the degree of control Meta will have on price manipulation of the art, highlighting an example of how Meta plans to track people’s movement in the metaverse.
Dan Kelly, co-founder and president of nonfungible.com, a platform that tracks NFT transactions, said he’s “cautiously skeptical” of Meta’s entry into the marketplace. He’s also aware that Meta’s decision could further legitimize the Web3 community, lead to a wider acceptance and a more lucrative marketplace.
Privacy concerns nag at creators, though. NFT experts mentioned the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where Facebook allegedly allowed the firm to scrape it, without user consent, for personal information it then used to help elect former President Donald Trump in 2016. “It’s really important for crypto artists and the community in general to keep their privacy and anonymity,” says Hackatao, an anonymous entity of two crypto artists who have never revealed their identity and work in the mountains of Italy. Hackatao, whose art expresses bold messages and features naked bodies, is also apprehensive of their work being banned by Facebook and Instagram.
Startups are supposed to specialize, but OpenSea’s founders thrived by building a wide-open market for creating and trading all manner of NFTs, whether art, music or gaming. Now that they’re centimillionaires and poised to become billionaires, they have other worries: competitors, fraudsters and the next crypto crash.
In March 2020, as Covid-19 began to spread, OpenSea founders Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah held a gut-check phone call. Their five-person startup had built a platform on which users could create, buy and sell all sorts of nonfungible tokens (NFTs)—computer files used to track ownership of unique digital assets like art and music on a ledger known as a blockchain. Yet 26 months after going live, they had just 4,000 active users doing $1.1 million in transactions a month, which translated (given OpenSea’s 2.5% sales commission) to a paltry $28,000 in monthly revenue. The NFT market had a “dead feeling,” recalls CTO Atallah, who conducted his side of the call from the basement of his parents’ Colorado home, where he had gone to work as New York locked down. Ominously, Rare Bits, a direct and better-funded competitor, had just announced it was folding. The pair set a do-or-die goal of doubling business by the end of the year—and met it in September.
Finally, in February 2021, the NFT market roused from hibernation—and went crazy. In July, OpenSea processed $350 million in NFT trades. That same month, in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz, it raised $100 million in venture capital at a $1.5 billion valuation. In August, as NFT hype (and FOMO) reached a fever pitch, volume spiked tenfold to $3.4 billion—an $85 million commission windfall for OpenSea in a month when it likely burned less than $5 million on expenses. Although transactions have since retreated to around $2 billion a month, the platform now has 1.8 million active users and a dominant share of the market. It’s up to 70 employees and is scouting for dozens more, including much-needed customer service reps.
Recently, there’s been talk of another round of venture investment at a valuation that could reach $10 billion. With a 19% ownership stake each, CEO Finzer, 31, and Atallah, 29, are centimillionaires on the cusp of becoming crypto’s newest billionaires.
Yet Atallah was humble as he chatted in November at a restaurant in New York’s kitschy new Margaritaville Resort Times Square, sitting near its 32-foot Statue of Liberty replica, which hoists a cocktail instead of a torch. He was there for the third annual NFT.NYC convention, which boasted 5,500 registrants with 3,000 on the waiting list. Young enthusiasts prowled the hotel wearing Bored Ape Yacht Club sweatshirts—a tribute to a collection of 10,000 simian NFTs whose owners treat it as a social club as much as a collectible or investment.
You might say humility was at the heart of Finzer and Atallah’s successful strategy. Some advisors had urged them to specialize in an NFT niche—say, art, gaming or music. But they opted to build a category-agnostic platform because they didn’t think they were prescient enough to predict which NFT types would catch on.
Beyond casting a wide net, Finzer says, OpenSea has thrived simply by “being in the right place at the right time” and listening to users about what they want. The platform tracks NFTs on ethereum and other blockchains, and all purchases are made in crypto. Sellers can opt for a fixed-price or auction format. Artists can reserve a percentage of each resale price. Ultimately, Finzer sees the NFT ownership verification model working for anything from concert tickets to real estate—he’s just not sure what will succeed when. “I’ve always had a pretty gray view of the future,” he says.
Despite its sudden success, OpenSea faces big and varied risks—from fraud and another NFT market bust to new competition. In October, Coinbase, the nation’s largest crypto exchange and an original investor in OpenSea, announced it will launch its own NFT peer-to-peer marketplace. Within weeks, Coinbase had 2.5 million sign-ups for its waiting list, and CEO Brian Armstrong was predicting the new business “could be as big or bigger” than its core crypto trading business.
OpenSea’s open-market approach heightens the risk of counterfeits, scams and fraud—just ask Amazon or eBay. For example, a scammer can copy an image of someone else’s art and sell it as an NFT on OpenSea. Finzer says the site is working on an automated way to spot fakes and has moderators who investigate suspicious offerings. Still, people can present problems too. In September, Finzer requested the resignation of OpenSea’s head of product after Twitter users discovered a crypto wallet linked to that executive was buying NFTs shortly before they appeared on the price-moving OpenSea homepage—in other words, he was allegedly frontrunning his own employer’s decisions.
While they come across as humble, OpenSea’s founders are hardly low on ambition. Raised in the Bay Area by a physician mom and a software engineer dad, Finzer says he was “devastated” to be rejected by Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and Yale. (He settled for Brown.) After a short stint as a Pinterest software engineer, he cofounded his first startup, Claimdog, in 2015 and sold it to Credit Karma a year later.
As a kid, Atallah, the Colorado-born son of Iranian immigrants, made spreadsheets to compare the attributes of everything from birds to browsers. After graduating from Stanford, he worked as a programmer before teaming up with Finzer. In January 2018 they entered the Y Combinator startup accelerator with an idea for paying users crypto to share their Wi-Fi hotspots. But at that point, CryptoKitties—the cartoonish virtual cats whose ownership records were digitally inscribed on the ethereum blockchain—had captured the public imagination. “It was the first time people who didn’t really care about crypto were suddenly getting interested in it for reasons other than flipping a coin. I thought that was really powerful,” Atallah says. They quickly pivoted to OpenSea and later moved their operation to New York City.
Much like Beanie Babies, their cloth-and-stuffing ancestors, CryptoKitties turned out to be duds as investment-grade collectibles—the supply was too great to make most of them worth much. After spiking in early 2018, interest in both crypto and NFTs went into hibernation.
What awakened the market in early 2021 wasn’t OpenSea’s doing. Instead, platforms like the billionaire Winklevoss twins’ Nifty Gateway captured attention with curated, high-quality art. Last March, Christie’s auctioned the NFT for digital artist Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” for $69 million, the third-highest price ever paid for work by a living artist.
As NFTs fetched eye-popping prices, more and more ordinary folks decided they too wanted to become creators, collectors or speculators—and turned to OpenSea, with its anyone-can-be-an-artist ethos, built-in secondary market and handy features. For instance, the site has an advanced filtering system so users can find NFTs with the rarest—and theoretically most valuable—attributes. (Only 46 Bored Apes have solid-gold fur, and they command a hefty premium.) When a new NFT is created and recorded on ethereum, the site automatically spawns a webpage displaying it—a nice feature as NFTs became a status symbol, with people sharing their OpenSea pages and changing their Twitter profile pictures to an NFT they own. “It became this circular feedback loop, driven by envy and desire. And OpenSea really captured that market,” observes Richard Chen, a partner at VC firm 1Confirmation and an early OpenSea investor.
Dani, 27, a former fashion designer living in Georgia, has turned a $17,000 investment in NFTs like the World of Women into a portfolio worth $715,000. AJ, a 37-year-old former gaming company CEO from North Carolina, put less than $10,000 into NFTs and now values his digital assets at $1.3 million. He recently convinced his gastroenterologist brother to start buying NFTs. The brother, in turn, hooked his own buddies. “They’re pretty much doing colonoscopies and then checking their phones for new NFT drops,” AJ says.
Sounds like a bubble, all right, raising the question of how OpenSea will fare when it bursts. Responds Finzer: “We have a large amount of padding in case we need to weather a winter.”
Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin bought a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution for $43 million—outbidding a group of cryptocurrency investors in a record-setting auction Thursday, Sotheby’s announced in a press release.
The “extremely rare” first-edition copy of the Constitution sold for more than double its $20 million high estimate, setting a world auction record for any printed document, according to Sotheby’s.
Ken Griffin, who founded and runs Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel, came out on top in an eight minute-long bidding war with his winning bid of $43.2 million on Thursday.
The hedge fund billionaire was narrowly underbid by ConstitutionDAO, a group of more than 17,000 crypto investors who raised $40 million in an effort to purchase the document.
The copy in question was one of the last first editions still privately owned and is one of just 13 surviving copies of the Official Edition of the Constitution printed in 1787.
Griffin said that he intends to loan the copy of the Constitution to the free-admission Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is owned by Walmart billionaire heiress Alice Walton.
“We are honored to exhibit one of the most important documents in our nation’s history from our location in the Heartland of America,” said Olivia Walton, who is head of the Crystal Bridges board.
Griffin started Citadel in 1990; today the hedge fund has nearly $40 billion of assets under management. The Chicago billionaire also founded one of Wall Street’s biggest market-making firms, Citadel Securities, which is responsible for one of every five stock trades in America. Griffin will add the Constitution to his already impressive art collection which includes pieces by Willem de Kooning and Edgar Degas.
Big Number: $20.9 Billion
That’s how much Griffin is worth, according to Forbes’ estimates.
“The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American,” Griffin said in a statement. “That is why I intend to ensure that this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces.”
Wider adoption for nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and play-to-earn games appears on the horizon as one of the biggest names in the gaming industry sees both as the future of the industry.
Speaking at an earnings call, Andrew Wilson, the CEO of the major video game company Electronic Arts (EA), said that NFT and play-to-earn games are the gaming industry’s future even though it’s still early to figure out how that would work.
Widely known as a business-oriented company that utilizes the pay-to-win model in several games, EA has not yet tried its hand at the play-to-earn games. However, EA hinted that it had set its sights on blockchain and NFTs, as a job posting from summer revealed.
The popularity of titles like Axie Infinity shows that play-to-earn products could easily find a solid player base if the product is well refined. In such games, players gain in-game digital assets by completing daily quests, defeating monsters and besting other players in arenas. Those assets have real-life monetary value and can be sold at crypto exchanges.
Wilson believes that collectible digital content will play a meaningful role in the company’s future, given the fact that it aligns perfectly with EA’s games and live services. “So, it’s still early to tell. But I think we’re in a really good position, and we should expect us to kind of think more innovatively and creatively about that on a go-forward basis,” he added.
Related:The Sandbox raises $93M to expand its NFT metaverse
Another big name in the gaming industry, Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft, recently shared that it has intentions for investment in and adoption of blockchain-centric gaming companies on the platform. Ubisoft was also one of the participants in NFT game developer Animoca Brands’ $65 million funding round.
Over the first three years of the Forbes Blockchain 50, our list of billion-dollar companies making meaningful use of the technology popularized by bitcoin, has become a bellwether of institutional adoption. Our list shines light on how large corporations—often household names like Walmart and Novartis— are using blockchain tech to improve business processes and become more efficient and profitable. Now is your chance to help us find the best possible honorees for next year.
Each year’s list, which requires that members be valued at $1 billion or more, or generate $1 billion in revenue, has demonstrated the technology’s wide and growing geographic and industry reach. Over time, it has shifted from a focus on early stage proof of concept projects to functioning technology with giant transaction volumes. And it has increasingly featured consumer-facing companies, rather than only B2B players.
In other words, the distributed ledger technology that lets a group of users agree on a single truth, and prove that a digital object is only in one place at a time, is actually being used. And it’s not only being used by nimble startups with little to lose, but also by generations-old enterprises with some of the best known and trusted names in the world: Fidelity, Honeywell, Visa and the NBA.
Forbes Blockchain 50 – Inside The Class Of 2021
With the rapid rise of bitcoin, which this year reached an all time high of $64,000, the number of companies aiming to capitalize on the original digital asset has surged. What began with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which made the first list in 2019 when bitcoin was only worth $5,000 and went public this year with an $86 billion direct listing, has expanded to include companies such as business analytics firm MicroStrategy, which essentially turned itself into bitcoin ETF by holding more than $5 billion worth of bitcoin.
“There is going to be more change in the next 5 years than we have seen in the last 30 years in the financial system,” said Dan Schulman, the CEO of Blockchain 50 lister, PayPal, speaking at last year’s Blockchain 50 Symposium. “And I think digital currencies are going to lead the way.”
Know a company whose blockchain innovation is under-appreciated? Let us know now, and help us spread the word using #Blockchain50 on Twitter. Has your company been overlooked in the past, or fallen off the list, but is breaking new ground by making real strides with blockchain? Let us know how. Do you work at one of the nine firms that has been on the list all three years, and is still leading the way? We want to know what the company is doing that merits it remaining on the list.
The nomination deadline is Friday, November 5. Once the nomination period ends, a team of Forbes reporters and editors will sort through the nominees, looking for the most mature blockchain programs run by the most talented teams in the world. Winners will be revealed in a 2022 magazine issue, and online.
In 2020, Ryoma Ito, the cofounder and CMO of MakersPlace, a startup that mints and sells non-fungible tokens (NFTs), approached Christie’s, the centuries’ old auction house, with an idea. MakersPlace would create an NFT of the digital artist Beeple’s collage-style project Everydays: The First 5000 Days, and Christie’s would sell it old-school-style, as if it were a painting bound by a tactile frame. Christie’s agreed, and in March the artwork went for over $69 million, about the same amount that Los Angeles’ Getty Museum once spent on an 1881 painting by the French impressionist Edouard Manet. When the auction came around, the buyer—who goes by the alias MetaKovan—was primed and ready to go: Ito had already approached him with the idea of bidding, and MetaKovan was all in.
At the time, MakersPlace was a barely three-year-old company, the brainchild of Pinterest employee number one Yash Nelapati, fellow Pinterest employee Dannie Chu, and Ito. They had a little over $2 million in seed funding, a relatively small amount for a software company. Beeple—and, to an extent, Christie’s—blew them up. Former Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht decided to invest. So did Eminem; according to Chu, the rapper was into NFTs long before his cheeky, much-hyped response to an SNL skit that broke down the technology by riffing on his 2002 hit “Without Me.” And so, finally, did Bessemer Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley-based fund best known both for its investments in now-public companies like Pinterest, Twilio and Shopify, and for being arguably the oldest venture capital firm in the country.
Alongside Pantera Capital, an asset manager with a focus on blockchain, Bessemer led MakersPlace’s next round, helping the startup raise a $30 million Series A that will allow it both to compete with heavily financed marketplaces like OpenSea and—according to the company and Bessemer— to differentiate itself by homing in on “premium” NFTs, the digital equivalent of the kind of physical art that gatekeepers (collectors, galleries, auction houses, museums, and others) believe matter.
“You can’t imagine a future where you’re going to have more and better digital art, and more people creating, if you don’t create an economy for these people,” says Chu, CEO of the invite-only platform, whose policy of taking a 15% cut of artists’ and creators’ revenue has generated over $100 million in sales volume, and about $15 million in revenues a year. The cut is significantly less than the 50% commission most physical galleries take, although the overhead for selling art and maintaining artist relationships in the brick-and-mortar world is much higher.
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The new influx of capital will also help MakersPlace forge ahead in its goal of eradicating blockchain foul-play on its platform, ensuring that the artists who take credit for certain works and profit from it are in fact the creators behind these works, and that royalties from both primary and secondary market sales will (hopefully) trickle back.
“The blockchain is known for proliferating with scams and fakes,” Chu says. “We want to build a place where you can for sure know that you’re getting an authentic art piece by the creator. We want to build that trusted network before we go broad.”
Ruprecht, who ran Sotheby’s for 14 years before reportedly being pushed out by shareholders, sees MakersPlace as heading in a direction that is in line with the way the world—and the art world in particular—has always operated. “The dynamics of markets is that you’ve got to have two things in place: you’ve got to have creators, and you’ve got to have collectors. This company has done a remarkable job of creating a community of both,” he says, while also comparing the collectors of NFTs to those of stamps, baseball cards, and Roman coins. “There’s a really robust community that they have nurtured since 2018, and that means they’ve got a good supply of works, and it means they’ve got vigorous demand.”
In San Francisco, Bessemer partner Talia Goldberg, who was compelled to invest at the urging of Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, watches her collection of NFTs rotate on a digital frame. Goldberg, the youngest investor to ever make partner at the firm, is especially stoked about Fnnch, an SF-based street artist whose work she just won in a MakersPlace auction. “The only reason that the original Mona Lisa is worth hundreds of millions”—for the record, it may be worth a lot more than that— “when another isn’t, or you could buy a perfect replica, is because it’s the original,” she says. “Our theory is that by providing the technical infrastructure to prove originality will allow humans to start embracing the digital art side.”
Humans may already have. According to a report by L’Atelier BNP Paribas and Nonfungible.com, the global NFT market grew by 299% in 2020, exceeding $250 million in trade volume.
Swelling in popularity in the first quarter of 2021, this year appeared to be the year of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as prolific celebrities, athletes, and musicians poured into the space awash with buzz and excitement over the revolutionary creative possibilities the nascent ecosystem presented. But just as quickly as the NFT phenomenon emerged, NFT marketplace activity had frozen over, leaving creators, collectors, and other market participants questioning whether the NFT market was dead and a prolonged multi-year bear market would ensue.
In recent weeks, through the emergence of new community-led NFT products and platforms, the NFT space has seen renewed hope that life is coming back to the market and the burgeoning technology is not just a short-lived fad of celebrities cashing in on the hype.
NFT weekly trade volume across the top NFT marketplaces surged 3,300% from the beginning of the year ($5.9 million) to its peak in February ($198 million) before diving 82% to $35.3 million in May. Since then, NFT activity has been grinding higher reaching $78 million in transaction volume the last week of June, a rebound of 120% month-over-month.
Source: DappRadar, TheBlock
The recent rebound can be attributed to renewed interest in the space as NFT creators began to understand how to build communities and layer incentives into their NFT constructs to properly energize community members and cultivate natural evangelists.
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For a collector, it is now a badge of social status to proudly display her NFT on social media, signaling she is a member of a community that embodies vanguard values of open technological experimentation and social engagement. Akin to exclusive luxury brands and goods, high value NFTs are beginning to confer cultural capital as they rapidly pervade the public consciousness and are embraced by community leaders and influencers.
CryptoPunks were originally released in June 2017 as one of the very first NFT projects and set the standard for the modern crypto art movement. Inspired by a combination of London punk scenes, the cyberpunk movement, and electronic artists such as Daft Punk, the digital collectibles represent the online zeitgeist of digital exploration that is instantly mimetic and viral.
Only 10,000 CryptoPunks will ever be minted, and each one has unique traits with varying degrees of rarity algorithmically generated through computer code. They were originally released for free and could be claimed by anyone, but they are now heavily demanded with secondary sales exceeding millions of dollars for individual CryptoPunks. CryptoPunk owners proudly display their avatars to signal they are early adopters of the ethereum-based NFT ecosystem and they value an irreverent culture willing to push the boundaries of society’s pre-conceptions of artistic expression and value.
Adding his credibility and reputational weight to the project, Jay-Z recently purchased a CryptoPunk and set it as his Twitter profile picture, exposing the project to his three million followers for the first time. He reportedly purchased it on April 25 for 55 ETH, worth $126,000 at the time.
To capitalize on the success of CryptoPunks, similar NFT communities and projects have appeared and implemented additional innovations to incentivize increased participation amongst a larger cohort of collectors.
One such project, Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), created 10,000 unique digital ape avatars that provides owners access to special features such as a digital graffiti wall called The Bathroom. The BAYC Bathroom is a canvas accessible only to wallets that own at least one ape, and it serves as a communal digital mural where community members can draw, scrawl, or write expletives. Community members are able to paint a pixel on the bathroom wall every fifteen minutes, culminating in a collaborative and emergent art experiment that is open only to members and resides in the internet-native metaverse.
The BAYC also included other fundamental changes such as clear intellectual property rights for ape owners. This means the NFT token holders can create t-shirts or other merchandise with the art linked to their ape, effectively commercializing their digital avatars without fear of copyright infringement or messy legal battles. Additionally, the BAYC lead developers recently released the Bored Ape Kennel Club, rewarding ape owners with a free drop of a canine companion NFT for each ape.
Cool Cats is another recent project that launched on July 1st and minted 10,000 programmatically randomly generated cartoon cat avatars. Each Cool Cat possesses a unique body, hat, face, and outfit comprising 300,000 total possibilities. Future Cool Cat developments will include breeding capabilities, monthly exclusive custom Cool Cat airdrops, merchandise giveaways, liquidity pools to fractionalize and stake Cool Cats to receive token rewards, and potential community-made cat derivatives such as 3D cats or cat comics. The creative possibilities to increase engagement are truly endless, and community members are incentivized to come up with new ideas to increase the market value of their Cool Cats.
Imbedding Once-in-a-lifetime Experiences And Historical Tributes Into NFTs
In addition to the creation of scarce digital cartoon avatars, NFT content creators are teaming up with top talent to deliver unforgettable experiences. Launched by renowned NFT artist Mike Winkelmann (known professionally as Beeple), WENEW is an NFT platform that curates and provisions iconic moments and powerful cultural artifacts. Winkelmann is best known for the $69 million sale of his NFT piece “Everydays: the First 5000 Days”, and WENEW represents his next act as an entrepreneur building a premier NFT platform.
WENEW’s first NFT auction memorializes tennis star Andy Murray’s historic 2013 Wimbledon victory. The top edition provides the auction winner the chance to play tennis with Murray at the All England Club, two VIP tour experiences and Centre Court tickets to the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Final in 2020, as well as a variety of physical and digital memorabilia. The auction was completed July 5th with the winner bidding $177,777 for the top edition.
Beyond sporting events, NFTs may also serve as an artistic tribute to momentous historical events. J-P Metsavainio is a Finnish astrophotographer that has spent his life capturing mesmerizing images of our universe.
One of J-P’s most prolific pieces, “Voices of Apollo 11”, is a tribute to Michael Collins and the Apollo 11 crew who completed the first moon landing in 1969. “Voices of Apollo 11” will be auctioned on the SuperRare NFT marketplace to celebrate the 52-year anniversary of the historic trip to the moon. The sale will start on July 20, 2021 which corresponds to the lunar landing in the Sea of Tranquility and end on July 24, 2021 which was the date that the crew landed safely back on Earth.
In the NFT, J-P placed the transcribed audio from the Apollo 11 mission over his image of the moon to create a magnificent artistic piece that combines and transcends the audio and visual senses. J-P’s artwork signifies the great work Collins has done to bring the study of space to the public, particularly through his efforts as the head of NASA and the National Air and Space museum.
“Because he was a director of educational STEM projects for the Air & Space Museum, I decided that I would donate a large part of the funds from the sale of the NFT to help fund the Virtual Moon project creating multi-user virtual experiences for kids and providing access to the Apollo 11 landing site for educational institutions worldwide,” said J-P.
A portion of the proceeds from the NFT sale will also be donated to Janet’s Planet, a charitable organization that teaches young people about Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics (STEAM) and outer space.
Like any other market with public liquidity, the NFT space will experience hype cycles with valuations that fluctuate as sentiment ebbs and flows. The NFT ecosystem may have just completed its first market cycle with considerable volatility in user engagement and NFT valuations, but new projects and innovations are breathing life back into the market.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage—more commonly known as the star of Netflix’s “Tiger King,” Joe Exotic—is the latest viral sensation to cash in on the non-fungible token (NFT) craze, auctioning off a suite of digital and physical assets from federal prison, including autographed photos, an adult film star’s bikini and his Smith & Weston pistol.
Exotic, a former zoo operator and big cat collector serving a 22-year sentence for numerous wildlife violations and plotting to kill his rival Carole Baskin, is launching his first NFT collection from his cell in Fort Worth, Texas.
The digital tokens are due to go under the hammer Friday on NFT marketplace Mintable, with winners of some auctions set to receive physical items along with the digital artwork.
Exotic’s pistol, a fringed leather jacket and a bikini worn by adult film actress Rachel Starr on the “Tiger King” show are all set to be posted to the auction winner.
Some NFT’s will also feature audio recordings of Exotic from prison.
In a press release, Exotic said being able to auction off his collectibles makes him “feel connected with the outside world, especially without my cats by my side.”
“Whether you love me or hate me for what you think I’ve done, there’s no doubt that everyone wants a piece of The Tiger King!” Exotic said.
NFTs have exploded in popularity in recent years and have become a lucrative source of income for viral stars. “Tiger King,” in which Exotic starred, was undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the early pandemic, drawing in millions of housebound viewers around the world. Exotic is not the only “Tiger King” star to cash in on the fame: Carole Baskin, the rival Exotic is in prison for plotting to kill, has appeared on Dancing With The Stars and launched her own cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Exotic reportedly sent Jeff Lowe, another person who appeared on “Tiger King,” a cease and desist over plans to host an “official” “Tiger King” NFT auction.
$4 million. This is how much an NFT of the original Shiba Inu dog meme Doge—the inspiration for the cryptocurrency—sold for in June. One of Exotic’s digital artworks features him with a cartoon version of the dog.
‘Tiger King’ Star Joe Exotic’s Legal Team So Confident In Trump Pardon There’s A Limo Booked To Pick Him Up From Jail (Forbes)
Feds Seize 68 Lions, Tigers And Other Big Cats From Tiger King Park In Oklahoma (NPR)
34 Million People Watched ‘Tiger King’ In Its First Ten Days On Netflix (Forbes)
The “Charlie bit my finger” video, one of YouTube’s original and most viewed viral videos, is set to be deleted from the platform after its creators auctioned it off as a non-fungible token for $760,000, the latest meme to be sold on the blockchain as part of an increasingly lucrative NFT craze.
The short, home-style clip, published to YouTube in 2007, features infant Charlie biting his brother Harry’s finger.
The family behind the video—which has racked up over 880 million views—put the clip up for auction on its 14th anniversary.
Following an anonymous bidding war Sunday, the clip sold for over $760,000, along with the opportunity to create their own parody of the video with its original—and now grown up—stars.
The popular video was set to be deleted from YouTube after the auction finished on 23 May in order to leave the winner the “sole owner” of the clip, though at the time of writing it is still accessible.
NFTs have exploded in popularity in recent years and are a lucrative source of income for some of the internet’s earliest stars. As a concept, an NFT is a new way of buying or selling media digitally, functioning as proof of ownership for a digital asset. Numerous memes have undergone the NFT treatment this year, including Nyan Cat, Leave Britney Alone, and Disaster Girl, who scored nearly $500,000 for the image. Memes are not the only thing to sell well as an NFT—the New York Times recently sold off ownership to a column for over $550,000 and a piece of digital art sold for $69.3 million at auction in March.
Beeple NFT Sells For $69.3 Million, Becoming Most-Expensive Ever (Forbes)
What Is An NFT—And Should You Buy One? (Forbes)
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A Thiel Fellow turned unicorn CEO, Dylan Field is known in tech and design circles for his software startup Figma, which powers much of the visual design happening at companies like Airbnb, Slack and Twitter, but increasingly also non-tech companies like several big banks. Backed by a who’s who of investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Greylock, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia, Figma was valued at $2 billion last April.
Last week, Field has become known for a very different role: NFT collector. Last Wednesday night, he sold a non-fungible token of a computer-generated face – an avatar of a pipe-smoking, hat and sunglasses-wearing teal alien – for the equivalent of about $7.5 million in Ethereum, the cryptocurrency. The sale was a record for CryptoPunks, the limited series of 10,000 collectible avatars created in 2017, and an eye-popping sum just hours before Beeple set an NFT sale record when his work “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s auction. Then that Friday night, Field took to Clubhouse, joining popular room “The Good Time Show” to compare his sold punk, called CryptoPunk #7804, to a digital Mona Lisa.
Forbes caught up with Field over the weekend to talk about the sale and NFTs. Highlights of that conversation were first published in the Midas Touch newsletter on Sunday. Here, Field goes deeper on digital art, NFTs and his anticipation of a “metaverse” to come.
The $7.5 alien avatar
Field purchased #7804 in January 2018, a year after Matt Hall and John Watkinson created the limited set of 10,000, which were initially given away for free. (The two came out of the Toronto-area university tech scene, as did Field’s now-wife Elena Nadolinski.)
lready interested in cryptocurrencies and especially Ethereum, Field saw the buy as a potentially viable investment. But he was more excited to support activity happening over ETH, especially digital artists playing around on the blockchain. “I was on a road trip with Elena, and I said, this is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. And I had total conviction in it, which is what I’m going to try to listen to in the future: when I think something’s both really stupid and I have conviction, I think it’s a good sign now.”
After a month spent closely tracking a CryptoPunks Discord channel, Field sold last Wednesday to an anonymous investor known on Twitter as “Peruggia,” who tweeted a thread explaining the rational of their purchase (recommended reading in its own right). Field says the financial gain of the sale was meaningful to him, but he was also motivated by the desire to spread the gospel of crypto art through #7804, sharing it with more people through the subsequent publicity. He feels a deep bond to “Peruggia,” whoever they are. “Owning #7804 is a paradox and also a curse,” he said on “The Good Time Show.” What Fields means, he says: if you believe in NFTs or digital art like CryptoPunks, you’ll want to hype them and spread the word – which eventually means selling at an eye-popping value, to prove the point.
Digital art to last
As money and interest have only continued to flow into digital art and NFTs since last week’s sales, some challenges have appeared, too. The buyer of Beeple’s record work was revealed as Vignesh Sundaresan, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur offering digital tokens, or digital pieces of ownership of works, including Beeple art, raising questions of ulterior motives. Other artists noted the risk of their own works being offered by others as NFTs without their knowledge or benefit. And Beeple himself nodded to concerns about the environmental impact of electricity-hungry crypto mining by announcing that he would donate several works to a charity auction to benefit the pursuit of climate-friendly blockchain technology.
Field remains an owner of a range of digital artworks, despite having sold another CryptoPunk, fedora-wearing ape #6965, for about $1.5 million in February. (That means of about $39,000 invested, Field’s sitting on profits of about $9.5 million.) He still owns 11 CryptoPunks, though they’re not as rare as the pipe-smoking alien, as well as one work by Beeple and several by the creators of CryptoPunks in a newer project, Autoglyphs. (List prices for those already run more than $100,000 in ETH.) Field says he might like Autoglyphs even more – not to hype their value, he says but as an experiment in generative art, meaning each glyph was generated by code running on the Ethereum blockchain itself.
Looking forward, Field believes digital art – and digital objects more broadly – will continue to enter the vernacular, especially as it comes to an area he expected to embrace the NFT before the art world: gaming. At the same time, Field admits that current NFT prices are being driven, at least in part, by a “hype cycle right now about crypto in general.’ “I think we are going to see more wealth generated with cryptocurrency, and when that happens, people want to do things with it,” Field says.
But Field thinks plenty of NFTs will remain cheap and accessible, at least in their early stages. A bigger issue to Field: the scalability of the Ethereum platform, which is currently limited in how many transactions it can support. More computer “mining,” meanwhile, could compound the environmental problem. “I think it’s important that cryptocurrency mining creates a bounty for better and more efficient energy,” Field says. Another idea he floats: a federal subsidy for such research.
As for authenticity and ownership in the digital art category, Field believes technology is already in development to better identify whether art has already been published as an NFT to avoid resharing. Technical layers of abstraction make it difficult to spoof ownership already, but Field says it “will fall on the platforms” to help determine original creators are the ones posting an NFT. Field just invested in one, Open Sea that announced $23 million in funding today in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Where will such art be enjoyed? Figma’s CEO envisions a world parallel to our physical ones, in which people will increasingly invest their time, money, and identities. “We’re going to have a metaverse where people will be able to transport themselves across different areas, different spaces, and have digital items that are unique to the metaverse,” Field says.
Field says he has already had dreams about his CryptoPunks, but so far still about the real-world transactions – not as a CryptoPunk itself, at least yet. In the metaverse, he’ll have to prepare to go face-to-face with someone else appearing as his old friend, the alien #7804.