Influencer, entrepreneur, speaker, and prominent NFT advocate, Gary “Vee” Vaynerchuk, is making good on his promises to holders of his VeeFriends NFTs with VeeCon 2022 — a conference “around Web3 and Culture” that kicks off next week in Minneapolis. VeeCon offers a huge speaker lineup including everyone from Snoop Dogg to Beeple and is available only to holders of the VeeFriends NFTs. Benzinga’s Chris Katje will be attending the event and covering it through his podcast Roadmaps.
As a use case that adds value for NFT holders, a conference makes a great deal of sense for VaynerX, VaynerMedia, and VaynerNFT — all permutations of the media machine built by Gary Vee. Vaynerchuk has been conducting seminars teaching his own brand of entrepreneurship and hustle-culture inspiration for decades, so putting on another seminar seems well within VaynerX’s established strengths. To be clear, that puts VeeFriends in a rare group among big NFT projects — they have the ability to add value to the community doing something they have a proven track record doing.
The timing makes sense for the project. VeeFriends just recently launched its Series Two NFTs, trading Gary’s hand-drawn doodle style for a slightly more polished cartoon style. No one could have predicted the less-than-auspicious NFT market conditions.
Actually, Gary Vee did predict a major drop in interviews and on Twitter in November.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal cited a study that indicated a 92% reduction in sales of NFTs. The WSJ article makes some valid points though its data is drawn from Nonfungible.com and the conclusions seemed questionable. But similar reports, like one published by Chainalysis, show a similar picture directionally.
Chainalysis report showed an NFT space that is still growing, but with a few exceptions, has become sluggish. As of May 1, NFT marketplaces have handled over $37 billion in transactions, putting it on track to beat the $40 billion spent in 2021. In fact, the number of unique addresses buying and selling NFTs has grown to over 950,000 in Q1 of 2022 from 627,000 in Q4 2021.
However, purchases have not grown consistently and many of the NFT projects that dropped in 2021 are holding on and braced for a shift in 2022. One notable indicator is the sudden drop in institutional sales, which went from a spike of 2,739 sales at the start of January to just 473 transactions in the week of Feb. 20.
Looking for Growth Beyond the Markets: With crypto and NFT markets both feeling bearish, now is a good time to look at the bigger picture. Individual projects may fail, but that’s to be expected. Taking some of the “air” out of the inflated enthusiasm of 2021 may be seen as a necessary correction — but regardless of the fates of individual projects (like the unfortunate Terra Network), the work toward a Web3 continues.
One of the most significant ancillary effects of NFTs has been to bring some of the most creative people in the world into the space — not just economists and technologists, but artists, communicators, and visionaries trying to create a balanced exchange between audience and creator in a way that brings greater rewards to both sides.
Unlike the crypto space which tends to still be visibly male-dominated, the NFT space appears more demographically balanced and the role of what women can contribute to the Web3 frontier is having a palpable impact.
That’s why this week, we collected some of the stories from the many women in leadership positions that are moving Web3 forward with real use cases.
The Women Leading in Web3
Genevieve Leveille has over 25 years of experience in supply chain optimization, so as CEO and Principal Founder of AgriLedger, she has applied a Web3 ethos to creating a “more credible supply chain” that rewards consumers and producers in the agricultural supply chain. In Haiti, the Fresh Fruit Value Chain pilot project brought an increase of over 700% in revenues and a 42% increase in exports for farmers producing mangoes, avocados, and pineapples. The project was a collaboration with the World Bank and the Haiti Ministry of Commerce.
“We need to create the education for others to understand what the distributed ledger and blockchain technology can bring us, and how these can be an integral part of the fabric that makes our lives better,” Leveille said.
Jessica Yatrofsky is a multi-disciplinary artist with a long history in blockchain and an impressive list of accomplishments. With seven sold-out NFT collections, Jessica has had her work featured at Miami Art Basel, her writing featured on Rarible’s homepage, and her photography featured on Coinbase NFT.
“We are on the leading edge, the crest of a wave, and there are no limits to what artists can create in the metaverse and with Web 3,” Yatrofsky said. “The ‘status symbol’ phenomenon of NFTs are of little interest to me because I’ve seen NFT ‘projects’ come and go, and I’ve seen entire NFT collections go to zero! But you know who’s not going to zero? Artists. We are witnessing a paradigm shift and I am optimistic about the future of Web 3 and an artist’s place within it.”
As a writer, speaker, and investor, Nadja Bester knows the value of attention — and she is working to turn user attention into a two-way value chain as co-founder of AdLunam. AdLunam is an IDO platform that uses a “Proof of Attention” model to encourage investors and projects to interact, which provides more reliable support for projects through a better vetted and better-informed investor.
“In crypto, fundraising and doing an IDO is the easy part. What requires far more support is how to build a sustainable company from the ground up. Founders feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of building a business around a token, yet they often have no choice but to suffer in silence. As a leader in the space, it’s crucial to seek out and maintain a steady professional support structure, both for yourself as a leader and your company as a whole,” Bester said.
El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin as a national currency was one of the highlights in crypto in 2021, and as Co-Founder & COO of Netki, Dawn Newton played a pivotal role. Working with El Salvador’s Bitcoin project, Netki provided the identity verification to handle the onboarding of over 4 million users in just 45 days. To date, there are more people registered in Chivo wallet than in the entire banking sector of El Salvador — over 70% of the country’s citizens are unbanked or underbanked.
“Being an overnight success usually takes a lot of time in planning and preparation. When the big event occurs, make sure you have laid the foundation so that you, your team, your tools, and your platform are all ready to go,” Newton said.
Valeria Benitez Florez is not only Co-Founder of Pocket Network, but she is also the design and product lead for a developer-driven protocol that provides bandwidth for devs to build and deploy cross-chain apps for Web3. Pocket Network has more than 47,000 full nodes across 46 blockchains, including Ethereum, Polygon, Fantom, Solana, Fuse, Avalanche, and Harmony.
“We need to open the space to more people from multiple fields if we want to advance web3. We have to incentivize people, especially women, by opening more doors and closing more gaps to be inclusive so we can grow from various ideas and perspectives. Embrace flexibility and diverse teams,” Florez said. “We are part of a very dynamic space that requires determination, but also we need to face changes and disruption with multiple perspectives, not only technical skills are required to make projects bright. Let’s build something the world has never seen, and let’s build it together.”
Mukaya “Tai” Panich is Chief Venture and Investment Officer at SCB 10x, the venture arm of Thailand’s biggest and oldest bank, Siam Commercial Bank.
Panich led and launched Metathon 2022, Southeast Asia’s leading hackathon focusing on driving innovation in the metaverse, in partnership with The Sandbox, Metaplex, Zepeto, GuildFi, Knowhere, Ape Board and Token X. The hackathon will empower Southeast Asian creators, artists and developers with the opportunity to win prizes worth over $60,000 from global metaverse partners, in addition to an opportunity for winning teams to work together with metaverse leaders to further develop the project.
“The structure of venture capital itself is constantly changing, especially with Web3’s unique business models, and faster cycles. SCB10x expects VC investments in crypto and blockchain to continue growing this year, where VCs are starting to see investments in the crypto space begin paying off. It is important to keep pace with fast-changing technologies and regulations as web3 and the metaverse continue to shape new frontiers for the economy of the future,” Panich said. “The metaverse will have a profound impact on the world. All of it will be driven by the builders and creators of today and tomorrow…”
As Co-Founder of MedacityMD, Eliza Gwendalyn helped to bring and promote telehealth to a Web3 audience. The project’s mission is to bring affordable and accessible Telehealth and medical services to the world using Web3 technology. MedacityMD will allow users easy access to seeing a doctor from the comfort of their home.
“The sky’s the limit in this space. We are in its infantile stage, while it is the wild wild west right now and you should always have your guard up, do your research and consult with professionals…” Gwendalyn said. “I think the beautiful thing about the crypto/web3 industry is the heavy emphasis most people put on the community. Everyone is in it to win, but they are also in it to work together and make this space a trusted industry with long-term utility and value.”
Sarojini McKenna is the co-founder of Alien Worlds, a breakthrough gaming metaverse and the world’s leading play-to-earn blockchain game according to DappRadar. Alien Worlds allows users to gather, build and compete in a metaverse using strategy over skill, and building communities together.
McKenna is also the CEO of Dacoco, creator of Alien Worlds, and one of the most established DACs in the eosDAC ecosystem.
“We wanted to bring crypto and blockchain concepts to the masses. To do so, we rely on “two big pillars” of Alien Worlds: DAOs and non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” McKenna said.
Unlike other NFT games, such as Axie Infinity, the presence of DAOs is at the core of Alien Worlds.
“Giving groups of people with a common goal or purpose the ability to better themselves economically and socially is a powerful idea that will impact many lives, especially in developing countries,” McKenna said. “I think human beings are naturally ambitious and want to meet other people, collaborate and compete. They want to win. Metaverses give people the opportunity to do that…”
Jillian Godsil is a lifelong journalist, writer, speaker, and communicator who has made it her mission to find the best human stories in blockchain and share them with the community.
Godsil is a contributor to CoinDesk and Irish Tech News and the founder of Blockleaders.io, a platform dedicated to showcasing leadership in blockchain. Next month, the site is due to relaunch with RoundTable, a censorship-resistant platform led by Brock Pierce and David Bailey. Her goal is to make the site “the Vanity Fair of Web 3.”
Godsil’s stated goal is to bring Web3 to a crossover audience and her advice is simple and pragmatic. “Don’t be afraid to put your neck above the parapet. Do expect to get shot, often by the most unlikely characters. But keep on going even when days can be tough. Don’t give up, no really don’t give up. The best is yet to come — her best is yet to come,” Godsil said.
Recently, I had the pleasure of having Scott Melker (aka “The Wolf of All Streets”) on my show, Web3 Anarchy. During our discussion of the ailing crypto market, Melker said “the investments are out there, they just aren’t where you expect them to be.” His comment was a good reminder to not obsess on success as measured by a balance sheet — success comes with improving lives everywhere and mainstreaming the technology and ways of thinking that allow those shifts.
There are real people changing the world today, with real, accessible, use cases that improve lives. And if we are very lucky, those leaders when they emerge will come from a range of people that reflects our intended global audience. It isn’t just a party for white techy men in rich nations anymore — and for mainstreaming of Web3, that’s a good thing.