NFTs Are the Pillars of Digital Capitalism, Animoca Founder Says

Yat Siu explains why we shouldn't dismiss NFTs as monkey JPEGs and how blockchain acts as a political system of sorts, fostering a consensus-based democratic process.

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  • Yat Siu, founder of Animoca Brands, believes NFTs are underutilized and can be a major component of digital capitalism, transforming industries such as rights management and education.
  • Siu argues that the current lower valuations of NFTs indicate a healthier, more genuine interest in the technology’s utility, which could be crucial in addressing global financial inequality and promoting financial literacy.
  • Legal frameworks, specifically in the U.S., must evolve to fully support this vision.

We have not begun to tap into the utility of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), founder of Web3 giant Animoca Brands, Yat Siu, said in a recent interview with CoinDesk.

NFTs are tokens that provide a user ownership of digital or tangible assets. These tokens hit the moon during the 2021 bull market and subsequently plummeted.

There have been some positive market moves, like the Grails NFT collection – once part of the Three Arrows Starry Night portfolio – selling at Sotheby’s for more than double the expected price and NFT’s outpacing ether’s (ETH) gains in January.

However, the ability to have proper digital ownership on the blockchain is the key to disrupting the multi-billion dollar industry of rights management and content delivery, which touches everything from education to gaming.

“NFTs can revolutionize educational content delivery, offering significant financial opportunities, especially in less affluent regions,” Siu said.

Siu highlighted the example of TinyTap, an edtech company the firm acquired in 2022. Teachers on the platform can monetize their content, bypassing traditional barriers like publishing houses, which may just be rent-seekers. While the numbers so far are small, this could be a significant source of passive income for those in the global south.

Siu argues that it’s not bad that NFT valuations are compressed compared to what they once were during the height of the bull market, because without the speculators, the only people left behind are those genuinely interested in the technology, strengthening its foundation.

“The utility of NFTs is digital ownership and the ability for anyone to earn and make money,” Siu said, adding that this is the antidote to inequality and the first step in building a financially literate society.

“In Asia, NFTs and blockchain crypto are popular as they are seen as an extension of digital capitalism,” he said, arguing that the relationship between democracy and capitalism is integral. "The biggest threat that I now see is because we don't understand capitalism, and therefore when we see what's happening in the world with money, we think it's unjust."

"Property rights and capitalism are the foundation that allows for democracy to happen," he continued.

Siu notes that in the U.S., there's a rejection of this digital capitalism. This disparity, he argues, stems from emotional reactions to the monetary aspects of NFTs, mirroring broader sentiments about money in the real world, underscoring the importance of education in addressing these perceptions

Inequality is on the rise, and he says that the Democratic Party in the U.S. has moved “far left,” which he views as a “threat to democracy.”

“The roots of communism came from feelings of inequality. There’s a correlation between this, Web3, and financial literacy,” he said. “Web3 can save the capitalist narrative by turning users into stakeholders and co-owners.”

While Siu’s optimistic vision of NFTs might be a breath of fresh air for those arguing that blockchain and Web3 have utility beyond speculation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seems ready to pounce on the industry, with its first enforcement action announced last August.

A legal framework still needs to evolve, lest the NFT project that seeks to save capitalism and ease inequality be given the scarlet letter of “unregistered security.”

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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