NFTs, the New 'Social Media Playbook'

How big businesses will really use non-fungible tokens.

By Eric LamLayer 2
Apr 26, 2022 at 4:52 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 26, 2022 at 11:24 p.m. UTC
By Eric LamLayer 2
Apr 26, 2022 at 4:52 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 26, 2022 at 11:24 p.m. UTC

Eric Lam is a portfolio manager at Mirana Ventures and formerly ran NFT strategy at Universal Music Publishing Group.

It’s impossible to predict whether GameStop shifting its failing business model to involve NFTs will pay off in the end, but it certainly is symbolic of a shifting paradigm. On the back of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, a thousand corporate flowers may bloom and a thousand more may falter.

These unique, digital assets – often associated with cartoon animals and “rug pulls” – are a new technological standard. One that helps link creators and fans closer together by removing the middleman.

Eric Lam is a portfolio manager at Mirana Ventures and formerly ran NFT strategy at Universal Music Publishing Group.

So where then does “the company” fit in this new world of NFTs? Well, speaking from experience, companies are still figuring it out. There are as many diverse strategies for using NFTs as there are “social media playbooks.”

Crypto native companies like Autograph, OpenSea and Dapper Labs are obviously optimistic about the future of NFTs. But so are traditional media companies like Universal Music, which recently signed a new NFT music group and bought its own Bored Ape.

Traditional talent agencies UTA and CAA are beginning to sign NFT projects and are figuring out how to leverage that intellectual property (IP) to create additional derivative works of art.

In other words, major corporations are taking NFTs seriously. Not every company, mind you. But considering it’s an asset class that was created less than a decade ago, people are still trying to make sense of it.

Crafting a thesis and being flexible is the only way forward for companies looking to capitalize on the digital economy. Either by creating their own corporate-owned NFT projects or by hitching their wagon to a popular project, corporations are committed to their involvement in the growth of the NFT ecosystem.

As the NFT space continues to change, new projects are beginning to push the technological limits and starting to show the world their true power and potential.

New models

Like many other disruptive technologies of the internet age, NFTs are changing the ways you can choose to interact with other people as well as brands. The general trend of the World Wide Web has been more choices, more potential relationships and more ownership.

This logic is playing out in the realm of NFTs, which enable token holders to earn a stake in the companies they support.

There are multiple projects that are pushing the capabilities of NFT technology and strengthening the relationship between token holder and creator.

Projects like the Bored Ape Yacht Club, managed by the incorporated company Yuga Labs, transfer intellectual property ownership rights to their buyers. As a buyer, if you want to make a movie about your cartoon ape, you can because you own it.

Jenkins the Valet is one such NFT project that is taking advantage of this new ownership model. Recently created by one of the members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club community, and now under the incorporated company Tally Labs, the vision for Jenkins the Valet is to create a crowdsourced IP licensing syndicate.

Jenkins the Valet is a character in the wider world of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, one of the most successful NFT projects to date and recently valued at over $4 billion after a funding round led by famed venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Jenkins is quickly growing into its own identifiable brand.

In Hollywood, traditionally, companies like UTA and ICM sign actors, artists and other talent to represent through different mediums like film and TV. Jenkins presents a new vision: Sell 6,942 NFTs that give holders the right to license their token-based intellectual property, and Tally Labs, at the direction of the 6,942 members, will create new intellectual property around it.

The creators of Jenkins the Valet signed a deal with CAA, one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood, to manage its newly created IP. They hired New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss to write a book based on this IP. Royalty sales of the book will trickle down to the community. Soon, Tally Labs is looking to get into podcasting and other media.

Tally Labs is essentially creating a Web 3 talent agency, where for the price of an NFT, anyone can be a talent agent, capable of licensing in their NFTs or doing deals with others with valuable NFT IP, who don’t own a Jenkins the Valet NFT.

It’s this coordination from communities that can truly shake up the entertainment industry, yielding to vast worlds of creative, interrelated projects. It’s no wonder why corporations, as well as everyday people, are looking to capitalize on NFTs: Each new project only strengthens this entire economy. It could be a cost-free way to earn revenues and develop your brand.

The Bored Ape Yacht Club, which captured lightning in a bottle and kicked off this economy, is further experimenting with crypto in an attempt to benefit its community.

The Club is building play-to-earn games, which enable people to play video games using their Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. They also launched ApeCoin (APE), their ecosystem’s native crypto that holders can redeem for additional products and merch. ApeCoin is similar to “Chuck E. Cheese” tokens with a twist: The tokens can be liquidated on an exchange like Coinbase or FTX.

Some Bored Ape holders earned as much as $100,000, and the Bored Ape Yacht Club was able to ensure that only true fans (token holders) received their allocation by using the information in smart contracts to authenticate and prove ownership.

The future

The permissionless nature of NFTs has the potential to reshape interactions between fans and creators, as now fans can take part in a project's financial upside. Said a little differently, NFTs combine cryptocurrency + culture + social status.

NFTs are not just art, they’re a new medium in which creators can have financial interaction with their supporters. This could be used to crowdsource businesses, independently represent music projects and so much more. The creative opportunities are endless.

One company may issue a 1 of 50 gaming item as an NFT. Another company can integrate that gaming item into their game and allow users to connect their virtual wallet to the video game, allowing them to bring that new gaming item into the subsequent game.

As creators and entrepreneurs continue to experiment with blockchain and NFT technology, there is a high probability that there will be increasingly abstract projects that exponentially rise in value due to their precedent-setting impact.

Continuing to follow the space can help set you up to understand these projects once they emerge and position you to take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves.

Just like Amazon and eBay came out of the internet bubble, the same will most likely happen with NFTs. The boom-and-bust cycles, although violent, are not necessarily symbolic of a dead market, but one that appears to be blossoming.

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Eric Lam is a portfolio manager at Mirana Ventures and formerly ran NFT strategy at Universal Music Publishing Group.

Eric Lam is a portfolio manager at Mirana Ventures and formerly ran NFT strategy at Universal Music Publishing Group.

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