If we thought crypto was polarizing, NFTs are 10X worse. Are they cool? Are they awesome? Are they nonsense? Are they a cash grab? Are they even anything real at all?
Well, even the Olympics have NFTs.
In this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier, I chat with Harrison Schulman and Francisco Lopez, both co-founders of one of the newest NFT marketplaces, New Renaissance. New Renaissance is the first to create an NFT out of a major sports championship icon … in this case, Danny Green’s NBA championship ring.
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Full transcript: Why NTFs might just not suck as much as you thought
(This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
John Koetsier: Excellent. Thanks guys for joining, really do appreciate it. You have some cool news about a new NFT that you are launching or just dropped. Tell us about it.
Harrison Shulman: Yeah, we are really excited to have launched — I guess four days ago now, with Danny Green, three-time NBA champion — a very multidimensional drop that incorporates a lot of different elements from asset to experience, and we’re really excited about it.
So essentially the drop, which is on our website newrenaissance.io, is a one-of-one holographic version interpretation actually of Danny Green’s ring, which is actually significant in and of itself because we had a little back and forth with the NBA and were not granted the rights to be able to represent the true digital rendering of the championship brand itself, which created its own kind of culturally relevant story, especially in this world of institution vs man, that brought a lot of interesting narratives to the table here.
But that’s the basis of our NFT, is one holographic version of this ring followed by an experiential element, which is the opportunity to play horse with Danny Green, which is pretty cool. And then a philanthropic component, which is very near and dear to Danny and all of us, which is the ability to donate a portion of the proceeds to Blacks in Tech.
And that’s on our homepage, that’s followed by 25 other NFTs that are created by up-and-coming artists who Danny was also able to promote and shed light on, and they’re extremely talented as well, and they did their own interpretation of Danny Green and the ring.
Lawyers ruin everything
John Koetsier: Cool. So, at the risk of getting way too technical into legal speak and what lawyers love to talk about, what was the difference between what you actually did and what the NBA did not want you to do?
Harrison Shulman: Sure. And, yeah, in case you could not tell by my first response … I’m being careful with my words, of course, because we’re really respectful of the situation.
John Koetsier: Throw caution to winds [laughing].
Harrison Shulman: Yeah, exactly. So the ring itself, the main changes were we had to take off some of the logos, including the NBA logo, as well as, I think the biggest change that you would see if you went to our site is the Lakers logo on top of the ring which we replaced with a basketball. Which is pretty clever, I thought. One of our team members came up with that idea. But those are the main differences between the ring itself and the NFT.
John Koetsier: That is really quite interesting, because if I walk around with a camera and I snap a picture and it happens to be somewhere where there’s a Lakers logo in it or something like that … I own that picture. It’s in a public place. I can take a picture of somebody in a public place as well as other things there.
So it’s interesting, I guess — they have more lawyers than you do, so I guess rather than standing on principle and saying that here’s an item in the real world that we’re taking a representation of, you just decided, okay, whatever, we’ll let them win on that one.
Talk about Danny Green. You’re a brand new company. I mean, you’re literally a couple months old, and somehow, magically, amazingly, you’ve got Danny Green as one of the key first NFTs that you’re doing. How’d that happen?
Francisco Lopes: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, definitely some serendipity there, and we met this person, Scott, that was working with Danny Green’s team and was building this NFT experience and then this idea of bringing together the augmented reality component with the hologram component. And we started talking about it; we met in person.
And really for the kind of NFT experience that they wanted to do, and they were talking to some of the biggest platforms out there, they couldn’t support them. So it was the fact that we could provide that white glove service and help support the drop — not only just in terms of the narrative, but especially in terms of the technology and all the integrations that were needed to do something like that and to empower the NFT hologram — that I really think it made us work together and personalize the drop to what we have now.
NFT marketing cooling?
John Koetsier: Cool. Let’s talk about NFTs in general. Obviously they have massively taken off. We’ll see if the current clawback in crypto prices cools that market just a little bit. When you’re a paper, or maybe I should say digital multi-billionaire, who cares $100 million here, $50 million there for a digital representation of something, so what … we’ll see what happens with that.
But let’s talk about what makes an NFT an NFT, and what makes that interesting for people. Who wants to hit that one?
NFTs are changing
Harrison Shulman: Yeah, I think I’ll start. So, I think one of the great challenges but also opportunities with NFTs is how to appeal to a very broad audience. Because, as you said and as is true, a lot of the big ticket items are going to people who are already liquid enough to be able to spend the money on these different digital assets that are typically NFTs.
And I think that’s how the industry, how we saw this space begin, which was just to offer a virtual autograph or a picture or a video of someone, a famous musician’s backstage concert, their very first concert. And I think where it’s heading now, and where it’s actually headed in the past few weeks, is incorporating these experiential components into the assets themselves, because those experiential opportunities — such as, playing a game of horse with Danny Green and taking that in many different directions — that is something that money can’t buy.
And that is, I think, on all levels of the spectrum of fandom, something that is definitely going to be leveraged, not just by creators themselves, but also by brands. Imagine a brand that gives in an auction or a flat-out purchase to a group of select fans who, if they buy there an avatar representative of that brand or the token, which is sort of another path here, but they actually are granted the rights to vote on the next cover of said outlet, you know, inside media channel. And that’s a way to really bring people into the decision-making, which is what this decentralized universe, I think, is becoming all about.
It’s about community and it’s about giving everyone a say. And that’s a great way for brands and creators to tie in their fan following in a really cool, engaging, and unique way.
Francisco Lopes: Yeah—
John Koetsier: Go ahead.
Francisco Lopes: Yeah. Sorry, just to add to that great question, you know, NFT, just through the basic principle is just a technology that allows you to authenticate and prove that their art is the piece, digital art is the original, which is, you know, breakthrough.
And for us, we really as people that, for example, sports fans will get the sports jersey and put that jersey on the wall.
We think that the future is for you to be able to have these collectibles that are digital, and maybe you host them through some hardware, such as the PORTL hologram that we partner up with as well on these drops. And you can have that in your house, and you can have a digital version of the ring that is 3D instead of having the jersey. So, we really think that’s something that NFT as a technology enables and is the natural progression of the world. And you can think about not only on sports, but, you know, an artist, kind of like as a parallel with what you have in sculpture today.
John Koetsier: It is interesting when you look at the scope of what NFTs can be, right? If you look at maybe what Beeple has done or something like that, you see that there’s an actual artist who’s been creating art for a long time in a digital space, has gotten really good at it and well-known, and has been able to absolutely monetize that incredibly well.
You see sort of the NBA Top Shot type of scenario where it’s kind of the modern version of collectible trading cards, right, where you get a few seconds of motion perhaps, and the rights to that trading card — maybe not exclusive, maybe exclusive — depends.
You also see an incredible swell of crappy art from people who say, ‘Oh! NFTs are hot. Boom. I’ll take a picture of random X, Y, Z thing’ and [laughing] there you go, right? There’s an NFT. It’s one of. Buy it for a million dollars. It’s, you know, the junk in my gym floor or something like that, whatever, right?
And so you’ve got some sort of mix there.
What you’ve kind of added there — and Harrison, you kind of referred to that — is the idea of community. If you own this, or if you own one-of, you belong to a club, and belonging to that club gives you some privileges. Do you see that as kind of a third way?
Decentralized Disney and modern Marvels
Harrison Shulman: Yeah, I think those privileges also come in the form of something that’s unlockable over time, meaning: generative art, which is what a lot of people are talking about is an upcoming trend — current trend, but really upcoming trend in 2021 — is the idea that the next Marvel or Disney could be decentralized and the next Mickey Mouse could be a JPEG.
Because these NFTs are now in an advanced way, I think, are the opportunity to create something, put something out there, and grant someone the rights to be able to build on that and monetize that in certain ways, depending on the agreement between the buyer and the seller. But those are ways to really encourage decentralized content creation, is how I would put it.
Issues with NFTs
John Koetsier: Let’s get a little bit deep and a little bit hardcore, because the idea of an NFT is that you own the original; you own the one-of, right? And that’s a hard concept in the digital space because somewhere that image was created, and that image was created on somebody’s computer, somebody’s laptop, and then perhaps transferred.
Where does it live after that? We’ve seen NFTs, for instance, where you know the original is gone. So you own a record in a blockchain that links to someplace that is broken — link rot, basically in the NFT age — and you have a certificate saying that you have something but you don’t have the thing. And what does that mean when I can have an exact copy of a JPEG or, you know what, the original is actually on your laptop and I’m getting the copy?
Francisco Lopes: Yeah, it’s a great question. So, for us, that’s actually, you know, when we started doing this we realized that we needed to have a legal certificate assigning the rights to the NFT … and deciding, you know, typically in a non-commercial license and license to exhibit and showcase that.
So that’s why we built this legal contract with Morgan Lewis as our legal advisors, and it goes on the NFT in all our drops and is signed by the artist, and establishes as well the copyrights frameworks. And then the other question that you kind of mentioned there, is where there’s this link, you know, is the NFT, where is it going to? And for us, I know we thought about that and we didn’t want to host on something centralized. So we got it going more technical here, but on the IPFS. And the link is on metadata on the token itself, so that’s the way we kind of thought about that topic. And you know—
John Koetsier: So IPFS is interplanetary file system …
Francisco Lopes: Yes.
John Koetsier: Excellent. I thought I had that right, but I wanted to make sure.
Francisco Lopes: Yep. Uh, go ahead Harrison.
Harrison Shulman: Yeah, that’s exactly what I would have said. And the one thing I would add too, is that I think what we’ll see in the future of this space, and really in the next few months or so probably, is there are many platforms with many different angles. Everyone wants to be the fastest horse. We are about white glove service, which is something that does differentiate us from some of the bigger fish in the market.
But, at the same time, there will be some consolidation and correction in the market in the next few months. And I think what form that will take is the platforms that are focused on interoperability, which is something that we’re absolutely laser focused on, especially as we’ve just launched.
Because that answers your question of what if a platform really shuts down and you bought this NFT and you can’t move it to OpenSea or another platform, or even if this one dies and you move it to OpenSea, then what? What is it? And that’s something that I think every player in this space, both existing and new enterprise, are trying to figure out how to best approach.
John Koetsier: And, Harrison, how to display, showcase, and enjoy your collection of NFTs, right? So I have this collection — you know, I’m not a big collector … as I look at my collection of various things over there in the other room [laughing] but I’m not a huge collector — but I collected hockey cards as a kid. I’m Canadian, I’m from Vancouver. Right?
And you could look through your hockey cards; you could trade your hockey cards; you could do a lot of different things with them. That experience of the pleasure of ownership is something that isn’t done extremely well in a lot of NFT marketplaces.
What are you going to do about that?
Hardware to display NFTs
Harrison Shulman: Yeah, I think Francisco will have some things to say, but I’ll jump in first, which is to say, first of all, the immediate solution to that, that a lot of companies are looking to solve and we ourselves are looking to create our own proprietary product, is hardware to be able to display these NFTs.
And that, I think, is probably the most intuitive answer if you asked anyone what am I going to do with this digital image or video? It’s to display it. Which is really cool and is happening, and we will/are living in a world where, especially with the Gen Zs, you know, and the generation where you will have massive screens on your walls showing off the highlight clip of LeBron dunking in the finals.
John Koetsier: And you own that clip, and this is your personal art gallery in your home.
Harrison Shulman: [crosstalk] If you own that clip [then you will]. And anyone, and any time someone goes to your house, they’ll see that. And we took that to the max with this Danny Green drop. So that’s, I think, the first obvious answer.
But then, I think in addition to that, it’s really the opportunity to build a long-lasting, really a lifelong relationship between the creator and the buyer, so that over time they’re either pieces of content that are unlockable, experiences that are unlockable, or just overall creating a dynamic between the creator and the buyer to give them an opportunity to flex on their friends this NFT they create, which is both an asset — and I know, that is the word that we use all the time.
It really is to flex on their friends, either with the asset that they create or the relationship that they now have, however close or however exclusive with that creator that expands and is dynamic over time.
NFTs and creator rights
John Koetsier: So one of the most interesting things about NFTs to me — very nebulous concept, obviously very new and hard to understand for a lot of people who are not in tech, or maybe who are even in tech and think that this is the next blockchain magic show — but one of the best things about NFTs is the ability of creators to retain certain rights in their creation, which you never had and so you had starving artists who made amazing works of art and sold for pennies, and then all of a sudden people are selling them for tens of millions of dollars, right, and they get zero benefit out of that. Is that happening on your platform as well? How’s that work?
Harrison Shulman: Absolutely.
That’s, I mean, that’s one of the really the greatest innovations and applications of NFTs is really for physical art too, being able to put it on an RFID chip on your painting and be able to trace the purchase history so that the buyer receives perpetual royalties every time it sells, which is just enormously groundbreaking for the art world, and is something that we offer that is not something that differentiates us. But I’m actually proud to say that, because it means that all these other platforms realize that one of the true, very real benefits is being able to provide artists with royalties.
And every platform is doing it slightly differently in terms of percentage, but everyone— most players that I’ve seen in the space are offering that, which in and of itself, everything else aside, is truly groundbreaking.
John Koetsier: So interesting to think about where this could go in the future. I mean, you think about rentable artwork. If you think about a subscription to artwork, a subscription so that I rotate through this company’s amazing collection of digital art or whatever the case might be … unlocks a lot of very interesting things that nobody born 80 years ago would ever even be able to imagine.
Very cool stuff. What’s the next step? What do you think some of the pricing will be on this Danny Green piece?
Harrison Shulman: Next step, well I’ll answer the pricing on the Danny Green piece. You know, we are hoping for a very high bid and many bids to come, but definitely don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and speak too directly on that, but we are really excited about the drop.
We do have a lot of other things in the works, which is not the focus of these next two days, but since you asked, creators and brands, a lot of conversations going on to be able to leverage the platform that we created as well as the tech that we built in two months, is something that has really been of great interest to a lot of the people that we’ve been talking to — both on the investor side but also the creator side — people who appreciate the value of hiring a development team, and in a very short period of time, putting together a very minimal but very elegant platform.
And that is a shameless plug to our development team, because they are the backbone of this company, and also, really our entire dynamic has been— I said our platform and our values and our identity and brand is about community, and that’s really representative of the makeup of this team, truly. Our development team is based in Nepal; there are 200 developers. And then the founding team is one guy from Portugal, another guy from Nepal, and then I am the only American in the group here, but I’m so incredibly humbled to be with this incredibly diverse group. All of us are honestly equally motivated, excited, and committed to this company and this brand and this vision that we have, and that’s what we hope and know that we’ll spread and disseminate to everyone that we work with and everyone that we bring into the platform … which again, just is really all about community that we’ve been able to cultivate here.
John Koetsier: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for your time.
Harrison Shulman: Thank you.
Francisco Lopes: Thanks so much, John. Great conversation.
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