NFT Artists To Meta: We Don’t Trust You

Serwah Attafuah has no use for Meta anymore. 

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, 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. 


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What Every Crypto Buyer Should Know About OpenSea, The King Of The NFT Market

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.”  


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Billionaire Ken Griffin Outbids Group Of Crypto Investors For Rare Copy Of U.S. Constitution


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.

Key Facts

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.

Key Background:

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.

Crucial Quote:

“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.”


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NFTs and play-to-earn are future of gaming industry, says EA boss

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.