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BYU's partner in NFTs has cut staff, shut office — and is getting 'major buyout offers' – Salt Lake Tribune

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(Photo illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
The Utah County tech firm partnering with Brigham Young University on an NFT marketplace has cut its workforce by about half and closed its office, according to CEO Jon Cheney.
But with an increased focus on developing NFTs, Ocavu is “still going strong,” including “currently receiving some major buyout offers,” Cheney told The Salt Lake Tribune.
“We just let underperformers go, was all,” he said, adding that tech companies often “optimize” their workforces. Ocavu shifted from 43 or 42 employees, he said, down to 34 and now down to 22, with layoffs in June, September and October.
The company moved out of its office space in the Younique Products building in Lehi earlier this month.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are essentially digital trading cards, and BYU players can choose to participate under NIL deals — which allow student athletes to earn money for uses of their name, image and likeness.
Ocavu and BYU announced their five-year partnership in August, with Cheney predicting it could be worth up to $20 million in its first year.
[Read more: Experts say BYU’s NFT venture is risky, but Cougars stand behind new NIL plan]
Jim Rampton, a former Ocavu employee who said he was laid off with “maybe four or five” others in September, said employees were told “that the budget was too tight” and that the layoffs were not based on performance.
(Photo by Jaren Wilkey | BYU) Casey Stauffer, Brigham Young University's associate athletic director for corporate sponsorships, at left, and Ocavu CEO Jon Cheney announced BYU Athletics NFTs on Aug. 16, 2022.
Rampton said he had been with the company for two and a half years. Ocavu “was doing really, really well a year ago at this time,” focusing on augmented reality, he said.
A company has a product such as “a table or a couch, et cetera, and we’d make a 3D model of it,” Rampton explained, “then the client could put that link on their website,” and viewers can see it in 3D using a phone or tablet.
Latter-day Saint influencers Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight, for example, used Ocavu’s augmented reality platform as part of their August launch of ITK (In The Know) skin care products. A QR code allows Walmart shoppers to virtually take the products out of their packaging and examine them.
Ocavu’s roots are in augmented reality; it grew out of the treasure hunting app Seek, which added AR features after the success of Pokemon Go, TechCrunch reported in 2017. In that interview, Cheney said Seek was shifting to become a hub for developers to post AR projects.
In May, rebranded as Ocavu, the privately held company announced its new Ocavu Network for NFTs and a crypto token.
And in August, Ocavu and BYU announced the CougsRise.com marketplace for buying and trading NFTs of players, relics (such as trophies) and moments. Cheney has declined to disclose the percentage of the payments that are kept by the players, BYU’s athletic department and Ocavu.
In an August article for Utah Business magazine, Cheney said the company’s revenue projection for 2022 was $22 million.
“We’ve decided to redirect our business model from a 20 percent blockchain focus to 50 percent,” he wrote then, “letting crypto and NFTs share the spotlight with our virtual and augmented reality technologies.”
Some resources have been diverted away from augmented reality toward NFTs, Rampton said, as Ocavu invested in developing the blockchain technology it relies on. “I felt like that was a really big gamble,” Rampton said.
Ocavu said it has already spent $2 million in making the current BYU NFTs, and will likely spend $2 million more next year.
(Ocavu) Screenshots of NFTs of BYU football players Gunner Romney and Micah Simon.
But Cheney said Ocavu has “balanced now,” with the company’s remaining staff focused about 60% on augmented reality and 40% on the cryptocurrency and NFTs. “We were extra heavy on the [augmented reality] side,” Cheney said.
Some experts said they viewed the BYU partnership as risky at the time the deal was announced, due to the volatile market for NFTs. NFT sales dropped 60% between the second and third quarter of the year.
The value of Ocavu’s cryptocurrency, the Ocavu Network Token, also took a hit recently; over the past two weeks, it’s down 48.5%.
Most of that drop was concentrated in a few days after a large sell-off of a major coin owner. The nature of cryptocurrency allows for a record of all transactions to be viewed publicly, though the user handles lack identifying information.
Asked about that sale, Cheney said, “I haven’t sold anything.” He added, “I can tell you for a fact that none of the founders have sold any of their airdrop tokens” — referring to tokens company employees receive automatically as a perk of their tenure or holdings.
However, Cheney continued, recently “one of our top investors decided to sell all of his tokens … I have no idea why.”
The Ocavu token is separate from the BYU NFT deal, he emphasized, and “doesn’t impact our ability to deliver.”
BYU did not respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s requests for comment.
The NFTs that BYU fans can purchase and swap on Cougsrise.com are also tied to experiences. For example, a fan who is among the first to acquire all the NFTs in a certain collection might get free Cougartail treats, or might get to fire the George Q. Cannon at a football game. The platform is also hoping to become a hub of communication for BYU fans.
Fans have left enthusiastic comments on the site’s home page about the NFTs they’ve bought and their experiences. One user wrote, “thanks Cougs Rise for the great experience I had with the field pass to watch warmups against Wyoming. Such a memorable experience.” Another posted, “excited to see the next drop.”
Leto Sapunar is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.
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Cardano (ADA) and Dogecoin (DOGE) Volatility Leads Investors To Buy Flasko (FLSK) | Bitcoinist.com – Bitcoinist

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Some cryptocurrencies are stable, but they are not capable of delivering the returns that investors are looking forward to having. Cardano (ADA) and Dogecoin (DOGE) are great examples of cryptocurrencies. Due to the same reason, investors are now looking for alternative cryptocurrencies like Flasko.
Dogecoin (DOGE) Is Hanging On
There is no demand at all for meme coins as of now. However, the best meme coin, Dogecoin (DOGE), is still hanging on.
Dogecoin (DOGE) completed a $44 billion acquisition last month. And Twitter is looking forward to working closely with Dogecoin (DOGE) as well. Hence, Dogecoin (DOGE) will be able to stay while other leading cryptocurrencies struggle.
Cardano (ADA) Might Bounce Back
Another major cryptocurrency that investors are mindful of is Cardano (ADA). Cardano (ADA) recently went through a massive update that helped investors to keep better hopes for the future of cryptocurrency.
Cardano (ADA) is gaining value along with the increasing popularity of Metaverse. At the end of the current bear market, Cardano (ADA) is expected to become one of the fastest-growing cryptocurrencies to be made available out there.
Flasko (FLSK) Is Doing Well
Despite the bear market, Flasko is doing good as a new project because of its unique and innovative concept. Flasko enables people to purchase luxurious and rare wines, champagne, and whiskey. The purchases are made digitally in the form of NFTs. However, there will be a physical allocation of the bottles, which users can get when they purchase the full NFT.
The phase 2 presale of Flasko project recently started at $0.085. This value is further expected to increase exponentially in early 2023.
Website: https://flasko.io
Presale: https://presale.flasko.io
Telegram: https://t.me/flaskoio
Twitter: https://twitter.com/flasko_io
 
Disclaimer: This is a paid release. The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the content provider and do not necessarily represent those of Bitcoinist. Bitcoinist does not guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of information available in such content. Do your research and invest at your own risk.
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Here's Why This Rare Bored Ape NFT Just Sold For $933,792 In ETH – Ethereum (ETH/USD) – Benzinga

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The Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) is an exclusive community for holders of the ape and mutant themed NFT collections on Ethereum's blockchain. Commonly referred to as the Bored Apes, only 10,000 generative art pieces will ever be in existence.
What happened: Bored Ape #1268 just sold for 780.00 ETH ETH/USD ($933,792 USD). The value of Bored Apes is typically determined by the Ape's attributes, with the laser eyes, crown, and golden fur traits being the most coveted.
Here are a list of its attributes and how many others have the same trait:
Why it Matters: Bored Apes are the ultimate store of culture for NFT collectors. The NFT collection has gained huge influence in 2021, with an ever growing list of top tier celebrities making apes their profile pictures on Twitter. With the recent explosion in popularity surrounding the Metaverse, rare blockchain-based avatars are all the rage for those looking to flex online.
Being a member of the Bored Ape Yacht Club is not just about flexing online. Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Apes throw exclusive parties often with free private performances from members of the club such as Lil Baby. Other notable celebrities in the club include Post Malone, Stephen Curry, Dez Bryant, and Jimmy Kimmel.
Yuga Labs also created another NFT collection known as the Mutant Apes, which also provides membership to the elusive club. There are a total of 20,000 Mutant Apes, and the price floor is historically lower than the Bored Apes.

See Also: NFT Release Calendar and Best NFT Projects of 2021
Data provided by OpenSea.
Checkout the full Bored Ape Yacht Club collection
You can learn more about this NFT here.
This article was generated by Benzinga's automated content engine and reviewed by an editor.
© 2022 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
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How to buy NFTs: Trojans' venture Moonlight aims to make it easier – USC News

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Blake Asherian realizes that most people don’t have a spare $60,000 just lying around — which is about what you’d need to buy an NFT (non-fungible token) of any real value. He also understands that at a broader level, most people don’t even know what an NFT is or how to buy one.
That’s why Asherian and three other Trojans — Gabriel Perez, Matthew Hausman and Can Toraman — have started Moonlight, a fractionalized NFT marketplace that allows users to buy, own and sell fractions of an NFT in a simple and user-friendly way.
Moonlight — Blake Asherian, CEO and founder; Matthew Hausman, frontend architect; Can Toraman, technical advisor; and Gabriel Perez, product and community (clockwise from top left) — allows users to buy, own and sell fractions of an NFT in a simple and user-friendly way. (Photos/Courtesy of Blake Asherian, Matthew Hausman, Can Toraman and Gabriel Perez)
Despite gaining significant traction within the last year, NFTs are still in their infancy, and there are financial risks involved given their uncertainty and high price tags. Moonlight hopes to remedy that, or at least help bridge the gap between most people and this emerging space.
“If the average personal income is 63K, and the average cost of a blue-chip NFT is 51K, that’s a big problem,” said Asherian, a business administration undergraduate in the USC Marshall School of Business.
“Part of the reason why people are not as prone to getting into NFTs is because there’s such a high barrier in terms of knowledge, and technology,” Asherian added. “We’re breaking down that barrier.”
The concept of Moonlight is simple: A group of people will choose an NFT they want to crowdfund, and once the funding goal is reached, each crowdfunder becomes a co-owner. From there, co-owners can buy and sell their fractions on Moonlight’s platform.
Though the platform might be simple — or at the least the goal is to make it as simple as possible for people — the concept of an NFT isn’t widely understood and can seem a little daunting.
Essentially, an NFT is a unique piece of digital art that is certified using blockchain, an immutable record of ownership. The non-fungible part means that no two items are alike or equal. NFTs function similarly to how people collect and sell art or trading cards. Some items are worth next to nothing, while others fetch millions of dollars.
Moonlight’s goal is for people to have the opportunity to own fractions of NFTs of real value, which is why the company focuses on “blue chip” — or most valuable — NFTs, like Bored Ape or CryptoPunks, which have the potential to provide long-term returns and can easily go for six figures.
But why would a digital image of an ape or a pixelated person be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?
Well, why would someone pay over $7 million for a baseball card? Or thousands for any of the “contemporary art” listed on Sotheby’s?
All are fair questions, and the answers could vary depending on the person or item. The common factor is that collectors feel that these are assets that will increase in value. NFTs are just the newest version.
I would always argue with people: What is the difference between your trading card and an NFT? They took a picture of a guy and then put it on a piece of paper, and it has value somehow.
Matthew Hausman, Moonlight frontend architect
“I would always argue with people: What is the difference between your trading card and an NFT?” said Hausman, Moonlight frontend architect and 2021 USC Viterbi School of Engineering graduate.
“They took a picture of a guy and then put it on a piece of paper, and it has value somehow.”
For those who only read certain media accounts, it may seem like NFTs and the cryptocurrency used to buy them are a losing venture, and they might be for some. However, the creators of Moonlight were quick to point out that there are a lot of financial risks out there, and their platform’s crowdfunding feature can help eliminate some of those potential dangers.
With Moonlight, crowdfunding is key. Users select an NFT and then have a certain number of days to raise the funds. If the money is raised in time, the NFT is moved to the Moonlight platform where people can buy and sell shares. If the funds are not raised in time, then everyone who contributed gets their money back.
“No other protocol allows you to literally raise funds to buy cool stuff together,” Asherian said. “The secret sauce here is having a technology that can allow any number of people to put their money into something and as a group get anything they want.”
The next concept, fractionalization, is not necessarily new, but how Moonlight allows users to fractionalize is in direct response to a large issue within the NFT community. Right now, someone who owns an NFT can fractionalize it and sell those fractions at whatever price they see fit, regardless of the actual market value. People who are knowledgeable about and can afford a six-figure blue-chip NFT don’t have a need for fractionalization. So, the practice can take advantage of those who are new to the space — a problem that Moonlight wants to correct.
“For a bunch of people who are just entering the space of NFTs, how can they trust that that valuation is true?” Asherian said. “They don’t know enough about the protocols or the NFT collections. They’re kind of swayed in an untrue direction and it’s unfair to them.”
Asherian and his team at Moonlight emphasize that their platform is truly for everyone. NFTs — and even the cryptocurrency used to purchase them — might seem daunting for those who aren’t already in that world, but their hope is to take away some of that hesitance.
“At the end of the day, if you look at who’s into NFTs, it’s that 1%, right?” Asherian said. “We want to tap into the 99%, so we have to create a product that’s comprehensive for that group, which not too long ago included myself.”
The initial concept for Moonlight came to Asherian in late 2021, but his interest in NFTs started around two years ago when he was working for his cousin, Sean Rad, the founder and former CEO of the dating app Tinder. Rad — at one time at USC student — had invested in Genies, an avatar technology company, and Genies co-founder Akash Nigam started talking to Asherian about the company’s venture into NFTs. Though Asherian knew nothing about NFTs or blockchain, the concepts piqued his interest.
Soon after, he left his jobs to buy and sell NFTs full time. He admits that there were some definite growing pains early on because of the high barrier to entry, but those missteps put him in a position to succeed down the road.
He started drafting up the concept for Moonlight while studying abroad in Paris last year. He connected with fellow Trojans abroad which led to even more connections when he returned stateside. Asherian credits USC with introducing him to Perez, Hausman and Toraman, and making Moonlight what it is today.
Ever since I was a freshman, I’ve always heard that term ‘Trojan Family,’ but then I was really able to witness what it can do.
Blake Asherian, Moonlight CEO and founder
“I really believe in the Trojan Family and what it offers,” Asherian said. “Ever since I was a freshman, I’ve always heard that term ‘Trojan Family,’ but then I was really able to witness what it can do.”
A transfer student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Perez said his interest in NFTs has been a gradual progression since he was in high school. He started by selling stocks with his friends, and then in college he found a new interest in cryptocurrency.
“I kind of fell in love with the philosophy behind Bitcoin, which is a very anti-centralization of money, anti-central banks, power-back-to-the-people sort of thing,” said Perez, a junior economics major in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“Then I learned about Ethereum, which was the first time I realized this has a huge potential to be the currency of the internet in the future.”
Ultimately, Perez, product and community lead at Moonlight, felt that if he wanted to further his career in the crypto world, he’d have to move somewhere where he felt it was more popular and valued. He found just such an innovative environment at USC, where USC Viterbi even offers a blockchain minor.
He came to USC before the fall 2021 semester and joined Blockchain@USC — a student-run organization that engages with blockchain-related topics, develops blockchain applications, and connects with industry professionals — as the director of external relations.
We started talking about fractionalizing NFTs and the ability for smaller capital players to be able to dive into these collections, and I was hooked from there.
Gabriel Perez, Moonlight, product and community
At USC, both within his field of study and social groups, Perez surrounded himself with other like-minded people that shared his passion, which is when he first heard about NFTs and eventually met Asherian.
“We started talking about fractionalizing NFTs and the ability for smaller capital players to be able to dive into these collections, and I was hooked from there,” Perez said.
By the end of the spring 2022 semester, Perez and Asherian had formed the Moonlight team formed and started the work to launch their idea.
The Moonlight crew is aware of some of the sustainability concerns with NFTs, primarily the proof-of-work blockchain system that is used by most cryptocurrencies so that transactions can be processed peer-to-peer in a secure manner without the need for a third party. Proof-of-work consumes a significant amount of energy. Rooms full of computers are needed to run complex mathematical equations, and coolers are needed to make sure those computers don’t overheat. By one estimate, mining 1 Bitcoin consumes as much electricity as a standard American home would use in nine years.
Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain, which currently uses proof-of-work. However, next month the Ethereum “Merge” will shift its blockchain to proof-of-stake, which uses 99.95% less energy by reducing the amount of computational work needed to verify the blocks and transactions that keep the blockchain secure.
“Fingers crossed that ‘Merge’ goes well because it’s a very anticipated catalyst in the crypto world,” Perez said. “If it does go correctly, NFTs are probably not going to have much of an environmental footprint at all, compared to something like a few office buildings downtown.”
But before they get to the point of using more sustainable blockchain, Asherian said they must establish their footing. Moonlight is projected to go live later this fall, and Asherian said once they’ve developed their community and built trust, they can influence people to move towards more sustainable methods.
“When you’re a huge marketplace that everyone starts suspecting has authority within the NFT space, then you’re able to sort of tell them what to do next,” Asherian said. “We really want to be able to gain that authority, and the way to do so is by being transparent, simple and fun.”
Trust and NFTs — or crypto, for that matter — might not go hand-in-hand just yet for much of the general population, but that’s exactly what Moonlight is hoping to fix. They see NFTs as an opportunity not just for those “in the know,” but for everyone.
“We believe there is power in numbers,” Asherian said. “At the end of the day, we want to give power to the people so they can own anything they want, together.”
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