HO, HO, HO, WTF!

‘Tis the season to be jolly (if possible) and work from home yet again. So let your gift list reflect that! For loved ones still trapped by their screens, here’s Raskin’s last-minute list of gifts to make working at home at least a better experience.

It’s beginning to look a lot like a remote Christmas.

Yes, ‘tis the season to be jolly (if possible) and work from home yet again.  For the loved ones in your life, trapped in their screens, here’s our last-minute gift list, created by the editors of the Virtual Events Group (which I founded amidst the pandemic).

Lumecube Cordless Ring Light

Perfect for live-streaming, it includes adjustable color temperature, adjustable brightness, and a cordless battery-powered option. You can mount it easily and always look great on Zoom, Teams, Webex, FaceTime, even Blue Jeans. $149  

Poly’s Work From Home Kit

Audio and video in a single kit–it includes the Voyager 5200 UC Bluetooth headset with noise-canceling and the EagleEye Mini HD video-conferencing desktop camera. Free cloud device management software for one year is included.

$279 at CDW. Poly has lots of products that make virtual meetings better.

Oculus Quest 2

Like Gillette with its razor blades, Meta (you know it still as Facebook) is practically giving these away to get you hooked on its virtual reality service. This will be the key to really immerse your remote worker in the next-gen of meetings.

$299.00 at Target (where you can see it in 3D) and Amazon, among others.

Blue Yeti

The gold standard in USB microphones, for everything from Zoom meetings to podcasting. It excels at rejecting room noise and stray sounds, and will give you much better sound quality than your laptop or webcam.

$100 from Blue, Amazon, and other retailers.

Elgato Stream Deck Mini

Run your video sessions like the big kids do! The Stream Deck Mini gives you six programmable push buttons that can lead to nested folders to enable infinite combinations of functions for a video session. The buttons light up with graphics of your choice so you can tell at a glance what each one does.

$80 at Amazon, MicroCenter, and other retailers.

Boyata Adjustable Laptop Stand

Avoid the dreaded “up your nose” webcam view with this excellent laptop stand. It raises your computer up off your desk, angles the keyboard so you can reach it, and puts the camera near eye level, where it should be.

$31 at Amazon.

CoosBonfik Chair-Back Green Screen

Virtual backgrounds like photos or graphics are cool, but they work much better if you have a green screen behind you. If you don’t have the space (or patience) for a full green screen backdrop, try one that fits onto your chair like this one. And it folds up to become an easy-to-store circle.

$44 at Amazon.

Logitech C920s PRO Webcam

For video meetings, get significantly better image quality and more camera control with an external webcam. The Logitech C920s PRO makes a visible difference for an affordable price.

$60 from Logitech or Amazon.

An NFT from Rarible

The digital equivalent of collectibles it’s sort of like buying your loved one a lotto ticket. Don’t worry if they don’t understand it. Hardly anyone else does either. But it’s certifiably cool. Rarible seems to have the best prices and an easy way of gifting, even to those that don’t have a digital wallet yet. https://rarible.com/

Gift Certificates

Every work-from-homer needs a soundtrack for life (Spotify), a way to chill (Headspace) or food deliveries (DoorDash). Let them buy exactly what they want themselves, with your money.

Related Posts
See All

ChatGPT Makes Your Head Spin, But At Least Explains Why

'Tis the season to be jolly (if possible) and work from home yet again. So let your gift list reflect that! For loved ones still trapped by their screens, here’s Raskin's last-minute list of gifts...

Seven Ways to Include Biodiversity in Economic Choices

'Tis the season to be jolly (if possible) and work from home yet again. So let your gift list reflect that! For loved ones still trapped by their screens, here’s Raskin's last-minute list of gifts...

Understanding Tech’s Unexpected Season of Layoffs

'Tis the season to be jolly (if possible) and work from home yet again. So let your gift list reflect that! For loved ones still trapped by their screens, here’s Raskin's last-minute list of gifts...

Business is the Battery of Society: Reflections On Innovation

'Tis the season to be jolly (if possible) and work from home yet again. So let your gift list reflect that! For loved ones still trapped by their screens, here’s Raskin's last-minute list of gifts...

Art Basel Meets the NFT Cool Kids

NFTs continue their invasion of the art world, most recently at Art Basel. The rich, newly-rich, and JPEG-rich converged in proximity to Basquiat et al.

If life imitates art (Oscar Wilde) then NFTs imitate both art and life. NFTs, if you haven’t heard, are digital things — art, music, video, and even, sometimes, physical things, that you can purchase, collect, own and display. Your proof of ownership is stored on a blockchain and you can trade or sell whenever you can find somebody else to buy it.  But the NFT craze, which along with its crypto parent has created much new wealth, is decisively blending with the traditional worlds of wealth.

Earlier this month, at Art Basel in Miami, the crypto and art worlds converged, in a  multitude of parties, events, conferences and glitz-outs. At a minimum, Miami reinforced its status as the hottest place (in all senses) for everything wealthy and glittery. Ultimately, Art Basel may have been transformed, perhaps forever, by the technorati. And the NFT contingent insisted that NFT art will be attached to the world of high art forever after, for better or worse. 

Miami for those few days in early December was reminiscent of the story of the blind man and the elephant, depending on which part of the festivities you touched. Jon Wayne Gurman, the father of WooshiWorld, a new NFT property he hopes will become a physical property and series of merchandise, attended both the Art Basel show and the many surrounding NFT events. “Art Basel was very boring compared to the energy and excitement generated at the NFT events,” he said. 

Jordan French, editor of Grit Daily and an events producer, took a page from the Art Basel playbook by co-locating there the Token Society, a crypto-VIP gathering. Its speakers spanned both the art world and that of NFTs. The soiree included creators, comedians, TV hosts, and as well as the usual hangers-on. French promoted it as a “classy” event, worthy of Miami’s see and be seen vibe.

Meeting of the Token Society (photo by Jordan French)

Akbar Hamid’s PR firm, 5th Column, is a rising star for helping NFT properties get launched and noticed. What jazzed him the most in Miami Beach was the feeling that he was witnessing the birth of a work in progress. “You know you were hearing brilliant ideas that have not been realized yet, “ he told me. Hamid’s clients included  Sandbox, whose party-event featured Blond:ish.  His other client, Wax, appeared at NFT BZEL event that Hamid helped organize. Wax’s William Quigley was a featured speaker. It aimed to cross-pollinate entertainment, investment, and collecting to create a conference covering a spectrum from “NFT for newbies” to a roadmap to the future. Aku — a helmeted digital explorer whose story is told across 10 NFT “chapters” – was unveiled by former MLB player Micah Johnson (who made $2 million during his own debut NFT sale in March). Fans and collectors of Bored Ape Yacht Club, whose owners include a roster of celebrities, celebrated their newfound status over BAYC-branded beers.

With 4000 attendees, NFT BZL was probably the largest of the numerous NFT soirees. (Confusingly, both #NFTBASEL and #NFTBZA were other events.)

The DNA connecting NFTs and the art world is clear. You create a piece of art and instead of framing it, mint it into an NFT, which you can sell at any number of sites like Rarible and OpenSea.  This past March, the gavel heard round the world was sounded by the venerable Christies auction house, when when it sold an NFT created by the relatively-unknown Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple,  for an astonishing $69.3 million. With that gavel thump, Beeple became the third most valuable living artist at auction, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.  At Art Basel, 255–year-old Christie’s partnered with 6-month-old  nftnow in Miami to produce The Gateway, a music art celebration heralding the NFT world.

The Miami Art Week is summed up in a tweet from Janet Lee.

 

NFTs weren’t the sole province of sideshows. Humans + Machines: NFTs and the Ever-Evolving World of Art exhibited at Art Basel proper, with an interactive show built on the energy-efficient blockchain Tezos. Guests created their own NFTs by fusing their video-captured likeness with an algorithm and then selecting the visual image they found most engaging. More than 4,500 unique NFTs were thus populated.

Growing the NFT Ecosystem

Daniel Mikesell, an art collector-cum-technologist, seized the moment with his company Blackdove.  It has a top-of-the-line platform aiming to create world-class display frames for NFT art. It wants to liberate NFT art from its paltry home on your mobile phone and turn it into a beautiful true collectible displayed in the same way you’d display any piece of fine art.  “I’m not judgemental about the importance of the value of art, “ says Mikesell. “It’s in the eye of the beholder,” he says when comparing NFTs to physical art. (Many NFTs are not the slightest bit visually or artistically sophisticated.) But, Mikesell believes NFTs need to be showcased somewhere else than the screen of a phone to be enjoyed and properly shown to others.  “When you buy a painting, you don’t carry it around with you. Why would you want artwork you collect to stay on your phone?”

Mikesell suggested that this year’s Art Basel Miami was not a takeover of traditional art fairs but rather the beginning of a true melding of the worlds of physical artworks and NFTs. Many artists,  he noted,  are showcasing real-life artworks side by side with NFT digital counterparts.

The Great Co-mingling

For the FOMO crowd, it was hard to know where to be. The Information reported on the scene in a piece called The NFTS that Ate Miami: “The Winklevoss twins sauntered through a private waterfront mansion dressed identically. DJ Khaled bellowed “Gem-in-i” and “Cryp-to” from the stage. NFT pioneer Beeple, pop star Macy Gray, and Larsa Pippen, ex-wife of Scottie and ex-friend of Kim Kardashian, all made appearances.”  Artist Jason Keath, founder of NFT Fresh, summarized for The Information:“A lot of people walking around with millions of dollars of JPEGs in their pockets.”

Even Time Magazine and Conde Nast went ga-ga over the high celeb quotient and meteoric  rise of NFTs. Interviewing Diplo, the Grammy Award winning DJ, Conde Nast explained what inspired him to buy a Bored Ape NFT: “I like the apes the most because they remind me of the stuff I collected as a kid, like Ninja Turtles. And it feels cool to have one — I can show it to Post Malone at a party, and he’ll be like, “Oh cool, you got that one?” It’s kind of silly, but it’s a flex — like buying a really nice outfit.”

Andy Fischer Wright, an academic, nails some of the oddities of the moment in his treatise   “Art Imitates Life, NFT Verifies Art.”

Alas, The Rich are Not Immune

Seeing, being seen, and being seen owning the trendiest most whimsical and perhaps evanescent collectible may have come at a cost to some who were there. The rich and connected are no more immune to COVID-19 than to a money-drenched fad. One investor in the know told me that many of the crypto crowd were using fake proof of vaccinations cobbled together from QR codes. Another told me that eight of his colleagues left Miami with the Omicron variant.

Favorite tweet:

Related Posts
See All

My Epiphanies at a Climate Innovation Breakfast

NFTs continue their invasion of the art world, most recently at Art Basel. The rich, newly-rich, and JPEG-rich converged in proximity to Basquiat et al.

Metaverse Hype Befuddles Everyone–Even Techonomists

NFTs continue their invasion of the art world, most recently at Art Basel. The rich, newly-rich, and JPEG-rich converged in proximity to Basquiat et al.

Climate Tech, Compassion, and the Innovation Crucible: Highlights of TE22

NFTs continue their invasion of the art world, most recently at Art Basel. The rich, newly-rich, and JPEG-rich converged in proximity to Basquiat et al.

EU Proposes Immediate Loss and Damage Fund, Emissions Peak Before 2025

NFTs continue their invasion of the art world, most recently at Art Basel. The rich, newly-rich, and JPEG-rich converged in proximity to Basquiat et al.

Like Taking Candy from Babies: Grownups in the Metaverse

I see caution flags about how kids will be catered to in this new world everywhere. Now that we’re all big babies in the metaverse, it’s time to make sure we’re minding the real babies with a lot more intention.

This summer, my colleague David Kleeman explained how kids kickstarted the metaverse. The habits and practices that go along with metaversal life are already spawning a mosh pit of ideas about digital ownership, like a recognition of the value of digital accessories as well as, of course, in-game currencies.

Now we’re seeing strange phenomena. Instead of kids wanting to age up (like in the old days when most readers of Seventeen magazine were actually thirteen, for example)  we’re seeing older folks (myself included) aging down, trying desperately to make friends in Roblox, grok Discord, and pass themselves off as anything but newbies in VR Chat. (Accompanying soundtrack: Neil Young singing “You can be twenty on Sugar Mountain.”).

Thanks to the behavior of babes, we’re seeing the formation of a new Internet, based on their patterns of online play.  That raises the dander of long-time children’s internet safety activists like Parry Aftab, an attorney. In an email, she writes, “The time to start thinking about human risks and cyber safety is before the first code is written. Surveys and audits must be designed and conducted to anticipate human risks and apply ways to address them.” Role-playing and virtual reality worlds and identities aren’t new, she reminds me. And neither are the risks associated with their use and misuse. Her Cybersafety Group is working to codify appropriate guardrails for metaverse systems.

Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the well-respected Family Online Safety Institute,  also likens these early metaverse days to the early web and the onset of social media. “This new platform that incorporates VR and AR is not being built with kids and safety in mind.  Meta and the many other players in this space will need to incorporate the thinking and expertise of a wide range of child safety experts, psychologists, educators and ordinary parents as they build out this next great iteration of the Internet.”

Many early metaverses (Second Life being the exception) were born with a focus on kids.  Minecraft was created in 2009, bought by Microsoft in 2019, and morphed into a collaborative immersive play space. Roblox appeared slightly earlier, beginning its life as a kid’s playground where you earned in-game currency called Robux. Players can now buy, sell, and create virtual items to decorate their virtual characters on the platform. A few enterprising Roblox kids moved beyond spectators, designing their own games and items for sale. The interesting thing about Roblox’s monetization model is that all kids can roam around freely, but only Premium members and able to build and sell things.

Roblox may be the shining star, but there is no shortage of earlier games that groomed kids for today’s online avatar-based collaborative adventures.  Communities like Neopets and Club Penguin (which was discontinued in 2017) informed many of today’s online rambles.

Here’s the generational rub. After going public in March, Roblox has its eyes on the next prize — an older audience. New advertisers like Vans and Gucci are building their own Roblox worlds on the site. Recent Roblox concerts included Twenty One Pilots and Lil Nas (watch and listen at those links). Roblox executives like Tami Bhaumik, who I spoke with, are touting the move to serve an older audience, saying that they’re following its users. And they’re succeeding. According to AdWeek, the company recently reported that it has as many users over age 13 as under it, and revenues are growing commensurately.

Visions of COPA

Why move away from the kids audience? Because we have a body of laws that governs how media (including TV and online) can interact with and market to kids.  In 1998, Congress enacted the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) to give the FTC power to enforce safety guidelines for websites with children under the age of 13 as their audience. The list of responsibilities includes parental permissions, no data collection, and restrictions on inappropriate marketing. What upshot?  Some of the bigger sites for kids, like Disney, Sesame Street, Nick, and YouTube, for example, invested in ways to obtain parental permissions and became COPPA compliant.  But thousands of other software creators (CDs, DVDs, and apps were very prevalent at that time)  were forced to either shutter or stop servicing kids under 13. The unintended consequence of enacting a law to make the Internet safer for kids was to drive companies away from their market because of the expense of compliance.

Today COPPA is woefully out of date, with nary a word about avatars or in-game currency. History repeats itself. In-game currencies like the one on Roblox or digital wallets that hold cryptocurrencies or store non-fungible tokens are the stuff this new Web is made of. In bygone days, a responsible parent would shell out tangible $60 for a tangible DVD or CD game. Today they’d need to open a digital wallet, maybe with some Ethereum or Solana coin to spend, and put their kids on a fixed allowance (one sword or accessory per week?). 

And yet despite the technical hurdles, parents tell me that kids are spending digital currency on digital things. “My 15-year-old doesn’t call it the metaverse. He calls it ‘playing with his friends,’” said William Tustin, principal of Chicken Waffle, an AR/VR company. Dubit, the consultancy and research firm where Kleeman works, is hard at work researching how kids will interact with the metaverse, even conducting focus groups in Roblox (the first one was designed as an elaborate pirate ship, by the way). Kleeman finds there’s been “a huge jump in the number of households subscribing to online games” (up 47% compared to a year ago).

Kleeman sees parents giving more credence to the burgeoning online world, including the metaverse.  “A number of things have happened to make parents more comfortable with kids spending digital dollars,”  he continues. “During the pandemic, families had no choice but to use digital innovations to see movie premieres, when cinemas were closed, or to watch virtual events in virtual games instead of attending attractions and events in-person.” Digital entertainment  ‘tapped’ into the dollars that families used to spend on physical attractions and events. In the future families will weigh the convenience of at-home versus the experience of going to a venue, attraction or event.”  The study also found a generation gap among parents, with young ones who grew up on games being more comfortable with concepts like the metaverse and digital allowance.

I see caution flags about how kids will be catered to in this new world everywhere. A new kids TV series is being created based on the Robotos NFT. AMC theatres are using NFTs to help sell tickets to the new Spiderman movie. There’s even a new magazine focusing on NFTS for and by kids.  

Organizations like Aftab’s Cybersafety Group, Dubit and others like the Futures Commission can play a big role in developing rules of the road for protecting kids in the metaverse. But now that we’re all big babies in the metaverse, it’s time to make sure we’re minding the real babies with a lot more intention.

Related Posts
See All

How the Pandemic Birthed the Metaverse

I see caution flags about how kids will be catered to in this new world everywhere. Now that we’re all big babies in the metaverse, it’s time to make sure we’re minding the real babies...

Kids have Kickstarted the Metaverse

I see caution flags about how kids will be catered to in this new world everywhere. Now that we’re all big babies in the metaverse, it’s time to make sure we’re minding the real babies...

Lilliputians Will Tie Up Gulliver in the Metaverse

I see caution flags about how kids will be catered to in this new world everywhere. Now that we’re all big babies in the metaverse, it’s time to make sure we’re minding the real babies...

What the Moon and the Metaverse Have in Common

I see caution flags about how kids will be catered to in this new world everywhere. Now that we’re all big babies in the metaverse, it’s time to make sure we’re minding the real babies...

How the Pandemic Birthed the Metaverse

Forced isolation, ad fatigue, the desire to be recognized as a full-fledged citizen with rights in cyberspace, and some fantastic technology advancements are bringing us to the birth of the metaverse. It’s still just gestating.

Suddenly hundreds of brands are making more real money in the virtual world than they did in the real world…and spending a lot less on the cost of goods.  Popstar Zara Larsson offers the same kind of merch at her concerts that many entertainers do — sunglasses, baseball caps and such with her name emblazoned on them. But Lasson’s merch is all sold virtually on Robolox, to the tune of $1 million dollars worth since May.

Here are some companies that didn’t exist only several years ago but all sell NFT creatures and artwork on the blockchain:  Axie, Larva Labs/Crypto Punks, NBA Top Shot, Rariable and OpenSea. Most of them are valued in the billions of dollars. Digital replicas of everything from Hello Kitty to Taco Bell can now be bought and sold in the virtual world. Superworld.app lets you buy and sell virtual real-estate.  ChainGuardians lets you earn real money while you play virtual games.

WTF! And why now are the two questions we need to wrap our heads around. There are a couple of different answers.

The Pandemic Made Me Do It

Living in social isolation for nearly two years definitely moved many of us from physically roaming the world to virtually roaming the world.  It was, in many instances, our only escape. Locked in our households, the internet became the place for exploring, playing, creating, and socializing. “I love the fact that I get to use avatars in my conference calls, because I don’t have to worry about my makeup and hair” said Cathy Hackl, who calls herself the Chief Metaverse Officer, in an interview I did with her the other day as part of the Virtual Events Group series my company organizes.

Hackl believes we’re going to experiment with our avatars to open a new level of freedom for people to express themselves. “I might show up in my suited-up avatar for a meeting, but when I hang out with friends I may want to be more fantastical, like a unicorn with ponytails on fire.” 

We’re Sick of Looking at Ads

You’ve probably wondered how Google knew you were looking for something to do in Rome, before you’d even bought the plane ticket, right?  Well, we’re all fatigued by ads that pop up in our faces. Even the advertisers are fatigued. So while they continue to sink their ad dollars into digital, they’re thinking more about building communities and engagements. That spending will be on creating their digital identities. Instead of viewing a static ad, the brands will move towards a more seamless portrayal of themselves in the metaverse. Hackl says the “metaverse will become the brand calling card.” Warner Brothers, Gucci and HBO have already built their own metaverses.  Nike, Mac Cosmetics  and other apparel companies let you dress your avatar in their products. An added plus? You the consumer will help them iterate their products to your liking. For example, Nascar lets you design racing uniforms, which does the double duty of satisfying you while informing them about their audience’s preferences.

Persistent Identity

The pundit Matthew Ball, a VC who wrote the oft-cited Metaverse Primer, defines it like this: “The Metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.”

When there’s a record of what you own in cyberspace and when your identity goes with you wherever your virtual worlds may take you, optimists say there will be more accountability and transparency. 

Ready, Player, Metaverse

If you were a fan of Maxis’ Sim City (released in 1989)  or The Sims (released in 2000) you were in the metaverse. If you played Second Life, you were there in 2002. It’s just that the technology lagged the vision. E-commerce was in its infancy, so there was no scalable business model.  There was certainly no blockchain showing the provenance of your purchases. There was no cloud storage of data.  There were no immersive VR or AR headsets, no mobile phones to take your virtual world with you and no fast chips optimized for graphical rendering. 

Today, many metaverses, like Facebook Horizon,  represent you as a disembodied torso, simply because the camera cannot detect leg motion. This week we heard about the haptic glove that Facebook is creating so that you can feel objects in the metaverse. Tomorrow we’ll probably have sensor-tracking clothing so that our entire bodies can be conveyed into the metaverse experience much as movie-makers use a green screen and body scanning today to help guide animations. Tomorrow, as Zoom’s Eric Yuan likes to say, you’ll smell the virtual coffee brewing or shake hands at your virtual meeting.

Forced isolation, ad fatigue, the desire to be recognized as a full-fledged citizen with rights in cyberspace, and some fantastic technology advancements are bringing us to the birth of the metaverse.  And trust me, it’s still just gestating.

Related Posts
See All

Lilliputians Will Tie Up Gulliver in the Metaverse

Forced isolation, ad fatigue, the desire to be recognized as a full-fledged citizen with rights in cyberspace, and some fantastic technology advancements are bringing us to the birth of the metaverse. It’s still just gestating.

Niantic Calls the Current Metaverse Dystopian

Forced isolation, ad fatigue, the desire to be recognized as a full-fledged citizen with rights in cyberspace, and some fantastic technology advancements are bringing us to the birth of the metaverse. It’s still just gestating.

Kids have Kickstarted the Metaverse

Forced isolation, ad fatigue, the desire to be recognized as a full-fledged citizen with rights in cyberspace, and some fantastic technology advancements are bringing us to the birth of the metaverse. It’s still just gestating.

What the Moon and the Metaverse Have in Common

Forced isolation, ad fatigue, the desire to be recognized as a full-fledged citizen with rights in cyberspace, and some fantastic technology advancements are bringing us to the birth of the metaverse. It’s still just gestating.

NFTs: Sh**t Show or Shift to A New Kind of Commerce?

NFTs are being touted as the cure for just about everything that can ail us. Not since the Internet itself has a single concept opened up so much opportunity, speculation and conversely, trepidation.

Image from Memes.com

These days, it seems like male pattern baldness and menopausal hot flashes are about the only ailments that could not be remedied by the purchase of an NFT. Built on the foundation of crypto and blockchain, NFTs are being touted as the cure for just about everything that can or will ail us–from combatting climate change to improving artists’ compensation, including benefitting charitable causes solving the economic crisis and fighting crime. Not since the Internet itself has a single concept opened up so much opportunity, speculation and conversely, trepidation. 

The idea is mind-blowingly simple and deeply profound at the same time. NFTs (the acronym for non-fungible tokens) are blockchain-based digital codes signifying the ownership of a digital asset.  When you buy an NFT, it becomes your certificate of ownership. But even though the digital “thing” you paid money for (typically you pay with cryptocurrency)  belongs to you, just like the Mona Lisa belongs to the Louvre, the world is free to view it, reproduce it and share it.  You cannot do or control those things any more than anyone else can. What you do own is the right to call it yours and resell that right to others. Assets “sold” in this way include digital possessions like avatars, digital fashions, images of celebrity autographs, digital artwork and more — anything with a perceived value in a digital format is fair game.

We Were Made for NFTs

Speculation is part of our collective DNA.  So is acting like lemmings. We love following early adopters up the next rung of cultural Darwinism. In the 1800s, when speculative opportunities for getting rich quickly on the East Coast waned, the rallying cry “Go West Young Man” sent thousands in search of their fortunes panning for gold nuggets on a new coast. Many died or became impoverished, a few struck gold, but some of the more clever built the services to support the rush — general stores, saloons and other outposts, or even a “dry goods” company called Levi’s, that helped clothe the miners. In the NFT world, the equivalent of saloons are NFT galleries like OpenSea, Dapper  and Rarible. Examples of outposts today profiting from the NFT gold rush include staid establishments like Art Basel, the Christies and Sotheby’s auction houses, and newly-created metaverse software platforms that sometimes sell pieces of their digital land like Ertha.

NFT cheerleaders are showing unbridled enthusiasm for minting NFTs and selling them on NFT marketplaces. If you can collect it, and there’s a hope it might keep or grow in value, it will be “minted” as an NFT. Some of the earliest NFT bonanzas have come from sports, art and fashion, arenas which have always spun off high-priced collectibles. Joey Graziano, SVP of Global Events for the NBA, went whole hog embracing NFTs as a new revenue stream and a way to present new value to get people returning to events. Balenciaga, the luxury brand of luxury brands, is joining Fortnite to create NFTs for fashionistas.   (I wrote an earlier piece about NFTs for Techonomy when I noticed the gold rush approaching.)

Today, brands of all feathers are whipping up recipes for new NFTs faster than you can say “non-fungible.” Mattel just announced its HotWheels Garage NFT adventure. Neopets announced its NFT this week. Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Pringles, and even Charmin toilet paper have released NFTs selling for oodles more than any of their real world goods.

The astronomical prices and the sophomoric quality of many NFTs are baffling to self-respecting real-life investors. One-of-a-kind renditions of Punks, Apes, Kitties, and Akira avatars are being bought and hoarded faster than toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic. Owning a digital ape from the Bored Ape Yacht Club on your Twitter feed is a contemporary status symbol. A pair of NFT Bored Apes sold for over $24 Million in Sotheby’s auction.

Top Moments in NFT Crazy?

Not a day goes by when you don’t read about an over-the-top NFT sale and then, the next day, it goes more over the top. In March of 2021, Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, sold a piece of digital art for nearly $70 million. It even took him by surprise, but he realized that whatever people want has value. Clip art images of pet rocks were some of the earliest NFTs. Recently one sold for 400 ether, or about $1.3 million.  Visa bought a $150,000 CryptoPunk NFT  as a way to learn more about NFT investment strategies.

Rapturous or Reprehensible? 

Entertainment, retail, and the art worlds are wide-eyed with the expectation of entirely new revenue streams. Gary Vaynerchuk, an ardent believer in the value of NFTs, said in a recent talk, “When new shit happens people either decide to go all in on ‘yes’ or all in on ‘no’. If you’re someone who’s going in on no then your framework is fear and insecurity.” But caution is warranted. A primer on the kind of markets you can join and the legal licensing ramifications of each is a humbling read. 

It’s increasingly clear that NFTs will be part of the currency and business models of the metaverse. If you collected stuff while you were young—Barbie dolls, Pogs, Hot Wheels, electric trains, comic books—then you are temperamentally suited to NFT investing.  But if you can’t keep a password straight and you’re not following this regularly you’re also in trouble. Going all in is either for the visionary or the foolhardy.  

Writer and investor Jeremiah Owyangcreates a sort of personality profile for the brands and investors most likely to succeed in this gold rush.  And trust me, the SEC and other regulators are wringing their collective hands worrying about how to account for and manage this burgeoning industry. It may be messy, but it’s going to be interesting.

Related Posts
See All

ChatGPT Makes Your Head Spin, But At Least Explains Why

NFTs are being touted as the cure for just about everything that can ail us. Not since the Internet itself has a single concept opened up so much opportunity, speculation and conversely, trepidation.

Seven Ways to Include Biodiversity in Economic Choices

NFTs are being touted as the cure for just about everything that can ail us. Not since the Internet itself has a single concept opened up so much opportunity, speculation and conversely, trepidation.

Understanding Tech’s Unexpected Season of Layoffs

NFTs are being touted as the cure for just about everything that can ail us. Not since the Internet itself has a single concept opened up so much opportunity, speculation and conversely, trepidation.

Business is the Battery of Society: Reflections On Innovation

NFTs are being touted as the cure for just about everything that can ail us. Not since the Internet itself has a single concept opened up so much opportunity, speculation and conversely, trepidation.