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Benzinga Did Madonna Pay Too Much For Her NFT – Tokenized Investments With Tal Elyashiv Founder of SPiCE VC Podcast – Benzinga



Topics: Spice VC, FTX Bankruptcy, Crypto Regulation, Sam Bankman Fried,NFT ,Madonna, tokens,celebrity NFTs


Anthony Noto , Benzinga Editor @iamtonynoto

Featured Guest:

Tal Elyashiv, Founder & Managing Partner of SPiCE VC @TElyashiv

Tokenization is disrupting the financial industry. It is on a rapid growth path to becoming a multi trillion dollar industry.

SPiCE provides investors wide exposure to the massive growth of the Blockchain / tokenization ecosystem.
BZ: Hello, Tal Elyashiv. Welcome to Benzinga Interviews. It's nice to have you.

 Tal Elyashiv: Pleasure to be here.

BZ: So it's interesting that behind. Is a wonderful piece of artwork of Charlie Brown and Snoopy that you told me before we hit record that your daughter did. So for the listeners who might not be able to see it it's a beautiful painting.

And for those, watching this on YouTube or anywhere else where they have a visual it's obviously a wonderful work of art, and that ties into a lot of blockchain technology these days in the form of NFT.  We will discuss on this show as I understand that you are an NFT expert, right? But before we get into that, I want to talk a little bit about Spice VC.

This past year has been a. Pretty much an ugly one for the crypto space anything related to blockchain. But when it comes to Spice VC you guys have a lot of good news especially for investors. So I'd like to talk a little bit about the First Spice Fund. , which you would do a great job in better explaining than I would.So what was the accomplishment with that fund that just closed? 

Tal Elyashiv:  So Spice I  our first fund that is focused on the blockchain ecosystem launched in 2000. By the way, it was also a tough time to launch because you remember that 2018 was a year where crypto went down significantly.

And the fund is fully invested at this point. It's a venture capital fund we invest in Companies that build significant components of the blockchain ecosystem companies that build platforms and services that we feel will benefit the. From the growth of this ecosystem. And most of the investment period where we invested in portfolio companies was 2018, 2019, and 2020.

We made investments in 17 companies. The performance of the fund is through the roof. The IRR is over 50% and the multiple of the fund is above Six. But I think the most significant achievement this year, given everything that happened this year in crypto and blockchain is that we made we just completed our second distribution to investors.

It brings the distribution to. Investment capital to 82%, which means that 82% of the original capital that was invested in the fund was already distributed back to investors' accounts. And they're still invested in a fund that is way above five x what they invested, which is pretty significant for a VC fund.

Pretty significant for a year like this. So this is great. And. We're now in the process of capital raising for Spice II. The second fund focused on the same ecosystem with the same investment strategy. I think more exciting times. What happened in the crypto and blockchain space this year actually positions VC funds much better in terms of investing.

Reasonable valuations. And I think that if we continue with similar performance we will probably end up with a much better performance for Spice II  than Spice I

BZ: So say I'm an investor. I wanna get involved in this space, but I feel a little bit.  in recent months because of the FTX fiasco and all of the bankruptcies that are now piling up.

What do you tell me? I have plenty of money to spend. I don't really, I'm playing a role here, but if I did and I wanna get involved in Spice VC, what's your pitch? What do I get? How do I buy it?

Tal Elyashiv: There, there are two things I'll say about the blockchain ecosystem. One, any portfolio needs to have some exposure to the blockchain ecosystem.

I'm not talking about crypto, I'm talking about blockchain ecosystem. Blockchain ecosystem is way bigger than just crypto. Crypto. It's just a sliver within that. And the reason is that it's a revolutionary technology that. Impact almost every industry, definitely every transactional industry we're aware of over the next 10 to 15 years.

Investment in that ecosystem is expected to produce more than 50% c per year for the next 10, 15 years. This. Phenomenal and unheard of in terms of investment in a, in an ecosystem or set of industries. And this is why every portfolio needs to have an exposure to this. The problem is it's a very new domain, relatively speaking.

It's very complicated. It's very broad. It impacts many industries. And technology keeps changing at a rate that is totally. If you compare it to the internet revolution, for example, we're 40 years into that revolution and it's not done yet. You were talking about a revolution that will take 10 to 15 years and where with the internet revolution, the basic technology remains the same.

With blockchain, the underlying foundation technologies keep. So it requires a lot of understanding and staying up-to-date in order to invest in this industry. And so it's very hard for investors to make individual bets on companies and have a decent shot at success. And, FTX is good. An example to to that investing in a VC fund gives you broad exposure to this industry through a team that is focused on investing in multiple portfolio companies. Spice I was 17 companies, Spice II is going to be around 30 companies. And so you are spreading your investment increasing.

Probability of seeing significant returns from that. The VC industry, by the way, in general, is very uncorrelated. To market movements. People are very concerned about investing in current market conditions. Need to be aware that VC investments are totally uncorrelated to the market.

So it's a piece of the portfolio that needs to be there. If you can afford to have that that will give you long-term returns that are uncorrelated to short-term market move. How? , and I'll say that the last thing about Spice II, in terms of the pitch, it's already the second VC fund that is focused on this industry that we that we manage.

The first one performance is stellar. And hopefully the second one will be the same. There are very few, if at all, second funds in this ecosystem. Most of them are. First funds, so they're still building their track record. 

8:18 BZ: So you said before that Spice II is probably gonna have 30 companies in it.
How do you find your companies? What do you look for in a blockchain startup?

Tal Elyashiv:  It's not very different than any startup. We look and it's very hard to say what's more important because everything is important. But team is paramount for success of a company. We invest in early stage companies, not very much at the beginning, but after a company already has a product and market.

Presence and their market indicators that you can look at, clients, customers, and so on. So we're looking for a business model that we feel is right and reasonable with where the market is going. We're looking for, we're looking for a company that is in a domain that we believe will grow.

Significantly over the next five to 10 years we're looking at technology and products that are unique in a team that we believe. With their business plan, they can really dominate their corner of the market. And there are a lot of environmental factors as well because every company is really a piece of a bigger ecosystem.

It's very important that they're. Business assumptions on what will happen around them, jive with ours. So we believe that their model is sound given where the market is going. But at the end of the day, it's also important that the team is one that we feel is a fit. For the business model is strong enough to be able to navigate the waters even if things change and they can still navigate success.

And this is no different in the blockchain domain than any other startup. 

10:30 BZ:So you mentioned something that I always try to see how people find talent in this space because like you said, it's a very young industry. How do you deepen your bench? What kind of experts does Spice have that other firms don't have?

I imagine finding true experts in the blockchain space, because it's such a young industry,

Tal Elyashiv: It is very difficult. I come for many years in the financial industry and other transactional industries. So lots of operational experience technology experience and business experience.

And I'm also a serial entrepreneur, so I sat on both sides of that table. And I've also been involved with the blockchain domain since 2016, 2017 very very deeply. Spice is the first fully tokenized Spice I is the first fully tokenized VC fund. Our token, our digital security was the first digital security in the world to.

Traded on a fully regulated digital security exchange. And we've done a lot of firsts in the blockchain domain. Not only as investors, but in actually using blockchain to further our our business and building systems around that. It puts us very much in the heart of the blockchain ecosystem.

We know the ecosystem from the inside. We have a very strong. Brand name within the industry. So obviously our access to talent and our access to companies is very different than any outsider looking in, into the ecosystem. But you're right finding talent in the blockchain domain is not easy.

And my co-founder and partner and. In Spice Carlos Domingo has been in this domain even longer than I have and is also considered one of the visionaries in the digital security space. And it's not just about blockchain. We have other partners that come from a.

Long venture capital investing and private equity investing. So the discipline and being able to look at companies and being able. Assist companies in growing and moving towards healthy exits and so on is also very very significant. So my Swiss partner Renee Eichenberger, for example, started and managed seven funds before Spice, ranging from 200 million to 10 billion in.

In assets. You build your expertise, not just around blockchain, but around investing in companies, helping them succeed and and so on, and screening companies and and so forth. So with your background, you've, like you said, you've done a lot across all different corners of the financial world in different industries.

BZ: Why blockchain? You could have done anything. , 

Tal Elyashiv: it's actually very interesting when we started Spice in 2017 and started looking building our investment strategy and focus and so on. It was the height of the ICO Period in the world. And we looked at this and it was clear to us that this is gonna go away because it's it's not gonna jive with regulations and so on.

But the technology struck us as a an amazing technology that will impact. Capital markets industries and coming from capital markets you either see it or you don't. But I saw it back then and it was clear to me that blockchain technology and distributed ledger technology has the capability to solve a lot of the problems of financial industries that became more and more complex.

As those industries became more regulations and as more regulated and as more players started forming in those industries. And blockchain technology offers very simple solutions for automating a lot of the processes that make those industries really complex. So we. Financial industries is a huge cluster on its own, and it was clear that other industries like supply chain management and and so on, are gonna benefit from this as well.

It, it is a domain that is worth investing in. I know that a lot of people back then were thinking crypto. As the main thing that that will come out of this crypto is what contributed blockchain technology to the world. But then blockchain technology came got a life of its own and it was clear to us that this will be a very significant domain to invest in.

And we were betting that it would be experiencing an a an exponential growth that is unprecedented, which was the case.

16:25 BZ: So Benzinga has this event coming up on December 7th and December 8th in New York called The Future of Crypto, and a lot of the dialogue at this event, they expect to talk about this past year and what happened, and cryptocurrency and blockchain, they're intricate.

Tied together as the technology that underpins cryptocurrency. 

What surprised you in 2022? What? What did we learn? Because looking back there was a lot going on. 

Tal Elyashiv: It's a mixed bag. It is a mixed bag. 2022 was a very eventful year, and it's not over yet. So we have another almost a little bit more than a month of potential eventful period.

But I think we've seen several things. One the cryptocurrency industry has grown. Really fast. And it's grown wild with no regulations, no oversight. And if you look at some of the things that happened you mentioned those events anywhere from the Terra Luna crash Celsius collapse blockfi.

And and there were a bunch of others, but now FTX, a lot of things have nothing to do with crypto. They have to do with lack of regulations, lack of transparency, lack of corporate governance, lack of financial experience and lack of fiduciary responsibility of people running those.

And fraud. A lot of this was plain fraud. And this the, I think the reason we see this more here is because crypto has grown so fast and was very attractive for bad actors and also because there were no regulations To speak off at a decent level for financial activity, because this is financial activity.

You can argue about what crypto really is, but the type of activity that takes place, whether it's banking or or lending. Or trading or providing investment advice or managing risk between investments and lending and so on, are very complicated domains that require a lot of oversight and a lot of experience.

And this didn't exist here, right? , we, the industry grew based on technology and automation, and much less about learning from the traditional financial industry that is learned a lot of things that were written in blood over the last 40, 50, 60 years. So I think what will happen now is some maturation of the crypto industry.

We'll see. Definitely more oversight than and regulations, although US is in a very strange place because of the kind of deadlock situation in the houses and so on. It's gonna be very hard to. Any meaningful regulation in the NA or any meaningful legislation in the next two years, I would guess.

But I would see much more focus on regulation and oversight in in the industry. And even good players, not just the bad players are lacking someone that will focus in and. Prescribe ways to to act. If you look at Coinbase, for example Coinbase is publicly traded, so they're under a lot of scrutiny and have significant reporting.

Responsibilities and so on. And much more transparency than any other player in the crypto domain. But most of the licenses are still money transfer license. It's not an exchange, it's not licensed as an exchange. It's not licensed as a as a. Someone managing deposits. It's not, and, but a lot of those activities really happen there, right?

So unless it's looked at this way and and managed that way, then risk exists that doesn't exist in parallel organizations in the traditional finance. We'll see that I, to me, if you ask me what the, what surprised me is the magnitude. And the speed in which things happen this year. And I think

. I think anybody, including people who were predicting doom and gloom, I don't think anybody was predicting that fast of of the doom. Yes. But I, long term I think we'll see growth in. In the crypto portion of this market, we'll see much more institutional involvement.

And this will drive more oversight and and processes around things. And we'll see some changes in how crypto is run. That will make it more. Palatable to to more institutional investors. To me, what's, what was interesting is that if you look at the behavior of institutional investors, they're still focusing on the long term and still investing in creating crypto related capabilities.

There were news from. Fidelity, for example only a week ago about enabling free trading of crypto. We've seen news from. From Goldman Sachs with their digital assets categorization system, which is really significant here. All this investment is significant as part of maturing this market.

. So I think we'll see over time the recovery of this at what. I don't know. Nobody knows. I unfortunately don't have the crystal ball, but I think it will happen. But I think the interesting thing is that. Investment in blockchain capabilities, not crypto per se has continued full force.

Nothing has changed. Most banks, most financial institutions are focused on blockchain related technologies and adopting those capabilities within their processing environment. Whether it's in the securities industry where almost any major player is adopting blockchain technology for registration and for settling transactions and so on through payments, all the big payments players from.

MasterCard and and Visa to to PayPal and so on, are all engaged in blockchain technology. And they're not doing it because it's cool they're doing it because it is, . It's necessary. Absolutely. . And that circles back to why investing in blockchain, right?

24:30 BZ: I'd like to talk a little bit about NFTs. This year, the price of NFTs plummeted. We saw a lot of big companies over the past couple years get involved in this space. , you talked about institutional investors. They're in it for the long game. A lot of institutional investors are looking at NFT portfolios and ETFs.

It's definitely got a lot of people excited, but this year the price went down a lot. You had a lot of scrutiny and the board ape area and. I think Warner Media completely abandoned their NFT plans with CNN that grabbed headlines with no little to no explanation. And I'd like to read you a quote that I found from a blog that I liked.

So by Janice Greenwood, she said that  “NFTs are the obvious next iteration in an art world that has become more like the stock market and less like the keeper of our culture's greatest creative treasures.”  And I thought that was interesting because as an illustrator myself, and as you said your daughter is clearly an amazing artist. With that Charlie Brown artwork behind you, NFTs art, what is the point? 
I still think that it's not clear to the average person that this serves any benefit to. So NFTs blew out of proportion last year as in 2021. And I think the world forgot that NFTs are basically a framework.

Tal Elyashiv: NFTs are non-fungible tokens, and they're very different than the tokens that were used before, which are all fungible. And it basically says the token represents something unique. Okay, so it's just a vehicle. To do something. It's, it doesn't have a value on its own. It's a vehicle to do something.

And it started evolving in the art space, mostly because of digital art, right? The problem that it came to solve is in digital art. If I created the jpeg, how do I prove that? I'm the creator. And how do I prevent you from copying and saying it's yours, right? And the NFT basically said, I'm gonna wrap it in a token, and this token is gonna be registered on the blockchain, which is immutable, and then I can prove that it's that I, because I own it, it's mine, right?

And the date is the first date this NFT is written. So nobody can claim that they did it. Okay. But the NFT itself is just a container that is holding my art, right? In this case, if you're an illustrator, it can be an illustration. If you are a photographer, it can be a photo, it doesn't matter, right?

It can be a digital piece and it could be. Representing a a real-world piece, with the rights to that real-world piece that I can sell. And that means if I sell you the NFT, I also need to deliver the real-world art if it represents something in the real world. The value of NFTs should be driven by the value of the piece of art that you're buying.

And because it blew out of proportion and it becames the, rich person's the high tech person's Ferrari it got, NFTs, got value on their own because they're NFTs. But at the end of the day it's what they represent. And, it will come back to the reasonable situation where, what NFTs do is they create more accessibility to artists to artists, to their audience.

They help in establishing providence over pieces of art and so on. And also they facilitate some of the financial transactions. One of the concepts that were edited by NFTs. To this world where royalties to the creator that, go through the future generations and so on. So all these are very significant value propositions.

If you let things calm down and you look at the real value of what is it that the NFT represents, rather than an NFT is like, Value proposition on its own. And I think this makes a lot of this makes a lot of sense. I would also make a comment that NFTs as a framework are going to be extremely valuable technology solution to things we'll see them very useful in healthcare industry. It could be a concept that in the US one of the issues we've been dealing with is the lack of Lifetime healthcare record of people because we keep moving between healthcare plans and so on. This could be one of the keys to solving that problem and providing this.

And it has nothing to do with art. It has to do with the technology concept that wraps something that is unique. It's definitely used in supply chain management today already. For example a lot of. A lot of luxury good producers are using NFTs in order to prove providence and authenticity of items.

A good buying a Gucci or a Prada item, you get an NFT with it. And the NFT really proves the authenticity of that item because it goes back to the company's system. And you can see the whole chain of events that brought this item to. And it proves your ownership of that item. And it's used in the healthcare industry to approve authenticity of medicine in the pharma industry, the authenticity of medicine and the ability to track that these medicines have not gone through environmental exposure that voids their validity and so on and so forth. So it's a very useful concept beyond the art world. But I think that in the art world, it will still be very valuable to to creators and to collectors. And the fact that it calmed down is actually not a bad thing in the long run.

Because we needed to be, to go back to a rational way of valuing NFTs. . And remembering it's the art behind it. It's not the NFT itself.

30:59 BZ:  So celebrities like Madonna who paid half a million dollars for the board ape at NFT, did they over pay ?

Tal Elyashiv:   In my mind, yes. But, at the end of the day what determines the value of collectables in the market?

And I think you can look at board apes as as NFT as collectables, and not just the pure art collectables are. Valued based on supply and demand. That's all right. Something is really valuable if there's someone who's willing to pay a lot of money for it. So the market will decide if Madonna overpaid or didn't.

Obviously when we recover from the crypto crash. But it sounds more like I love that you mentioned that the benefits that it could bring to industries like healthcare, because that to me makes a lot of sense. And in the terms. And I love that. It's a, it solves a problem, whereas in the art world, it's almost like the art of the commerce.

It's the art of the buy, not the artwork itself. That's correct. Making an impression on people. That's right. 

BZ: This has been an excellent conversation. I'm so glad that you took the time to speak with us today and I hope to keep in touch and have plenty more conversations as we look forward to 2023.

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Ether Turns Deflationary Again, Led by Spike in NFT Sales – Yahoo Finance



Ether has become deflationary again amid this year’s market rebound.
Data from shows ether’s net issuance, or the annualized inflation rate, has dropped to -0.07%, meaning the volume of ether being burnt is outpacing the amount that is being minted.
Marcus Sotiriou, market analyst at digital asset broker GlobalBlock, attributed the recent surge in ether burnt to a spike in non-fungible token (NFT) sales driven by positive sentiment about the broader crypto market.
More than 14,600 ethers (ETH), worth around $23 million, have been burnt over the past seven days, according to Some 3,400 of these ETH were burned during NFT trades. NTF marketplace OpenSea is the top seven-day and 30-day Ethereum gas-guzzler among platforms, found.
According to data from cryptoslam, NFT sales volume jumped more than 5% to $244 million over the past week, and 81% of sales volume, or approximately $198 million, is based on the Ethereum network.
“More NFT sales on Ethereum means more transactions are occurring, resulting in more ETH being burnt,” Sotiriou told CoinDesk.
Market participants widely expected that last fall’s Ethereum Merge, which shifted the platform’s protocol from a proof-of-work (PoW) to more energy-efficient proof-of-stake (PoS) protocol, would turn ether deflationary.
Ether’s inflation rate also depends on a separate mechanism known as Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP)-1559, where fees paid for transactions on the network are “burned,” or eliminated from circulation. The EIP-1559 is tied to the amount of ether burned with network usage: The more transactions on the blockchain, the more ETH is burnt.
ETH became deflationary in November when the amount of ether being burned rose amid market volatility triggered by crypto exchange FTX’s implosion. But ETH subsequently turned inflationary because of slow network usage as the crypto market remained in the doldrums.
As the market rallied more recently, usage of the Ethereum platform spiked and ETH turned deflationary again. Daily burn rates soared from a range of 1,000 to 2,000 ETH over the past six months to a high of over 2,700 ETH on Jan. 18, according to data from Etherscan.
ETH was recently trading at $1,618 Tuesday, up roughly 3% in the past seven days.
You could say he cleaned up.
Costco has a very simple business model. It sells memberships in exchange for offering members a low-cost, no-frills shopping experience. People pay in order to access the chain's warehouses. Those membership fees provide a significant portion of the chain's profits, allowing Costco to sell its limited selection of merchandise at a lower markup than its rivals.
Apple earnings and the Fed meeting loom, but don't sit out a possible "life-changing" market rally.
The stock market would likely move higher if inflation cools off, but these two stocks could be big winners.
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Sales were crashing, earnings turned to losses, and the pain is likely to persist. You can understand why investors were not happy with Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) fourth-quarter results. *Stock prices used were the afternoon prices of Jan.
While 2022 was a year for stock price corrections across the electric vehicle (EV) sector, 2023 looks to be a transition year for the businesses themselves. Europe and China are leading the way, with fully electric vehicles accounting for 11% and 19% of all new vehicles sold, respectively. With stock prices down and sales continuing to pick up, investors should look at investing in a diverse mix of EV makers in 2023.
(Bloomberg) — Investor Bill Ackman doubled down on his criticism of Adani Group, saying that there’s just too much liability exposure for the banks involved in the Indian company’s equity sale. Most Read from BloombergAdani Tries to Calm Investors With 413-Page Hindenburg RebuttalRussia Can’t Replace the Energy Market Putin BrokeFed Set to Shrink Rate Hikes Again as Inflation SlowsUkraine Latest: Russian Missile Hit on Kharkiv Building ReportedBed Bath & Beyond Customers Confront Empty Shelves
The stock is already down about 15% in 2023 as the pharmaceutical giant gets set to report earnings.
Wall Street will be buzzing in the week ahead, as earnings from Big Tech, the Federal Reserve’s first meeting of the year, and the monthly jobs report for January set up the busiest week of the new year.
'Because of the 2.5% rate, none of us are interested in selling the house and getting our rates jacked up to 7%.'
Teladoc Health (NYSE: TDOC) sank 74% last year — and for one particular reason. The telemedicine giant reported two billion-dollar noncash goodwill impairment charges. Both were linked to the acquisition of chronic-care specialist Livongo.
Energy inflation remains a serious concern. Protect your portfolio.
Using technical analysis of the charts of those stocks, and, when appropriate, recent actions and grades from TheStreet's Quant Ratings, we zero in on three names. While we will not be weighing in with fundamental analysis, we hope this piece will give investors interested in stocks on the way down a good starting point to do further homework on the names. Automatic Data Processing Inc. is rated Buy with a B rating by TheStreet's Quant Ratings.
The Federal Reserve and investors appear to be locked in a stare-down. What Fed Chair Jerome Powell says Wednesday could determine the winner.
"Any conversation for an 11th hour acquisition goes away when the clock strikes 12. They’re at 11:59.”
When some stocks fall, it's best to run for the hills. But when others decline, it's a great buying opportunity. The difference ultimately stems from how strong the companies' underlying businesses are.
The energy industry is a passive income lover's dream these days. For example, a $10,000 investment spread across monster dividend payers like Crestwood Equity Partners (NYSE: CEQP), MPLX (NYSE: MPLX), and Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD) could produce $2,000 of passive income in less than three years.
Cathie Wood and Warren Buffett are two of the most well-known investors in the world, albeit for very different reasons. Buffett runs the large conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A)(NYSE: BRK.B) and has historically been a value investor, although he dabbles in a variety of investing strategies and in almost every industry. Wood, on the other hand, runs ARK Invest, which manages several exchange-traded funds (ETF) focused on growth stocks and is known for being a big-tech investor and a believer in crypto, as well.
This industry-leading company has been caught up in the bear market carnage, but it's setting the stage for a massive rebound.


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A buzzy NFT startup from Decentraland’s founder was supposed to be the future of crypto gaming. His $20M gamble on Genesis could cost the company its future – Fortune



For a brief moment in 2021, it looked like crypto had finally found its killer application: video games. The “play-to-earn” game Axie Infinity had notched millions of users, and platforms like Sandbox raked in venture funding. Perhaps the most promising of all was a much touted metaverse project out of Argentina called Decentraland, whose token—known as Mana—exploded a whopping 6,000%. 
As the hype cycle for crypto gaming grew, one of Decentraland’s founders, Ari Meilich, set out to start his own title—an NFT-powered, multiplayer role-playing game called Big Time. The project raised $10.3 million from prominent crypto investors, enjoyed a successful test launch, and reportedly pulled in millions in profit. Then Meilich decided to invest in the crypto markets. 
As filings from bankrupt Genesis reveal, Big Time plowed a large chunk of its capital not into growth, but into the high-risk crypto lender in hopes of making upwards of 5%. Its $20 million wager is now frozen, making it one of Genesis’s top creditors. Experts say Big Time’s bet was not only a highly unusual move for a game still in an early phase of development, but a reckless gamble that could imperil the future of the company.  
Ari Meilich began developing Decentraland with Esteban Ordano in 2015 as part of a crypto-focused hacker house in Buenos Aires called Voltaire House, envisioning the metaverse platform as a kind of utopian alternative to the real-world economy.  
In the ensuing years, gaming emerged as a potential conduit for crypto to enter the mainstream—players could partake in role-playing or first-person-shooter titles and be rewarded with tokens and NFTs, which developers said would offer gamers more control and autonomy.
Decentraland positioned itself as a crypto-powered version of the pioneering virtual world Second Life, letting players purchase virtual land and other items by means of the metaverse’s token, Mana. While it attracted only a relative handful of players, Decentraland was the first metaverse project to incorporate blockchain technology, which quickly made it a darling in the crypto industry. Over the course of 2021 and early 2022, Decentraland’s Mana token soared, while big brands poured in like Dolce & Gabbana and J.P. Morgan, which opened a virtual lounge in the platform in February 2022.  
Because of Decentraland’s reputation, Meilich’s next project—Big Time—arrived with a torrent of hype at a time when crypto investors were salivating at the prospect of a Web3 game achieving mainstream adoption. While Axie Infinity had racked up an impressive number of players, the vast majority of them showed up in hopes of making money—most notably young workers in the Philippines and Vietnam who treated token farming as a full-time job. Big Time, however, promised to be the NFT-powered game that connected with real gamers.  
Fortune obtained a pitch deck that Big Time circulated in December 2021 ahead of a planned Series B funding round. Big Time was in the early “alpha” stage of development, with the game accessible to players who bought NFT passes. As the overall NFT market soared, Big Time boasted impressive stats for a game still closed to the public, including $38.5 million in primary NFT sales and over 89,000 users.  
The deck reveals that Big Time raised a $10 million Series A funding round in March 2021, with investors including Sam Bankman-Fried’s Alameda Research and Digital Currency Group, the parent company of Genesis. In the deck, Big Time also said that it was raising a $110 million Series B in January 2022.  
That funding round never materialized, nor did Big Time’s growth continue.  
According to data from Crunchbase, Big Time did not raise further funding after its $10.3 million Series A. And today, the game is still in closed alpha, accessible only to players holding NFT passes.  
Ari Meilich did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Fortune. 
Fortune also reached out to several of Big Time’s investors, including Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, North Island Ventures, and FBG Capital, but did not receive a response.  
With the onset of “Crypto Winter” in 2022, the NFT market evaporated and overall trading volumes fell as much as 97%.  
Because Big Time is still in closed alpha, analytics platforms like DappRadar do not yet track activity for many of the NFTs sold through Big Time’s private marketplace. Pedro Herrera, the head of research at DappRadar, said that once the game is live, players will start earning on-chain rewards through NFTs or tokens, which platforms will be able to track. Currently, the only way to track Big Time’s popularity is through public marketplaces like OpenSea and Binance, where Big Time sells the NFT passes that provide early access. 
The total value of two Big Time collections for sale on OpenSea is 2,000 ETH, or around $3 million at today’s prices, but trading volume has been anemic over the past 90 days. One collection has only seen 64 sales, amounting to around $5,000, and sales of the other have been even more sluggish. Together, the two collections have fewer than 2,000 owners.  
With the apparent drop-off in revenue, Big Time likely still had a sizable runway, thanks to profit realized during crypto’s boom cycle and the company’s Series A funding round. However, the Genesis filings reveal Big Time parked $20 million of its treasury on the now-bankrupt lending platform—an investment that is currently frozen.
A top crypto gaming venture capitalist, who spoke to Fortune on the condition of anonymity, described the move as “very strange, and very questionable.” 
Before the collapse of fraudulent crypto projects TerraUSD and Three Arrows Capital last May, the VC—who had not invested in Big Time or Decentraland—said that it was popular for companies to put some of their treasury onto Genesis, as the platform was offering yields upwards of 5%.
Big Time was likely holding a high percentage of its treasury on Genesis when it halted withdrawals, which the gaming VC said would be a poor decision for any company. Big Time, however, was still building a game not yet open to the public, making the move even riskier. The VC said the money instead should have been going to hiring and other development. Although discussions between Genesis and creditors may free up the frozen funds in the coming weeks, it is currently inaccessible to investors.   
Meilich, Big Time’s founder, was not alone among his Decentraland peers in trusting Genesis with their money. According to the bankruptcy filings, his cofounder, Esteban Ordano, had over $25 million on Genesis through a Panamanian company called Winah Securities. Current Decentraland CFO Santiago Esponda had over $55 million on Genesis through a different company called Heliva International Corp., headquartered at the same building as Winah in Panama City.  
The Decentraland Foundation, the nonprofit that oversees the metaverse platform, revealed last week that it also had a credit against Genesis of almost $8 million. Like Big Time, Genesis’s parent company, Digital Currency Group, also happened to be an investor, as well as one of the biggest owners of virtual land.  
With the circular flow of funding, the choice of name for Decentraland’s central square should not come as a surprise: Genesis Plaza.  
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Obscure NFT Collection Based on Memes Fetches $83M Market Cap – The Defiant – DeFi News



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Founded by Punk6529 The Memes Seeks to Change Up NFT Model and Pursue ‘Open Metaverse’
By: Owen Fernau    
On Jan. 19, something unusual happened in the NFT market — a CryptoPunk, which typically sells for a minimum of $100,000, was swapped for a full set of tokens from an obscure collection called The Memes
The transaction wouldn’t have been conceivable three months ago. The Memes, a collection that declares the viral images are “the most important thing in the world,” was little known in the NFT market. Now the value of the collection has skyrocketed 19-fold, to 52,916 ETH or $83M, according to data provider NFTGo
The idea behind The Memes collection is that memes, transmittable units of culture, can be owned in the form of NFTs. It may strike many as counterintuitive — the whole point of memes, of course, is to share takes through widely recognizable images. So how could you “own” one?
But Punk6529, a popular pseudonymous figure in the crypto community and the primary driver of The Memes project, has long argued  NFTs expressing “memetic ownership” are negotiable products. Punk6529 rose to fame in 2021 thanks to a slew of threads offering unique perspectives on crypto, with a particular focus on NFTs’ potential.
 “NFTs are the fastest, most scalable, most potent layer ever built to finance and transport ‘art,’ and ‘memes,’” Punk6529 tweeted in August 2021. 
The pseudonymous influencer thinks of symbols like American Flag and the Nike logo as memes. He thinks equally powerful memes, which he sees as forms of “myths,” will rise from the world of NFTs.
“In three to five years we will see global brands that were built off NFT collections,” Punk6529 said on a recent podcast with Raoul Pal, CEO and co-founder Real Vision, a media platform. 
In terms of art, Punk6529 may have a point. The artist Jasper Johns, after all, struck a chord in 1954-55 with his acclaimed painting of an American flag. While he used newsprint in the substrate, Flag was not stylized in any radical way. But the very act of its painting reflected Old Glory’s iconic power as symbol, especially in a post-war context.
By the same token, Andy Warhol revolutionized the conception of art by reproducing pop icons — the memes of their day — such as the Campbell soup can and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.  
Punk6529 isn’t making art, but with memes the new lingua franca of social media, the collector is spotlighting the idea that icons can be owned. 
It would appear that other collectors agree, at least for now. 
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Even so, the value of The Memes may have more to do with speculation than the appreciation of artistic concepts. Moreover, it’s difficult to prove that owning an NFT of The Memes collection actually means a person owns the culture unit at all — after all, memes are arguably freely transmissible by nature. 
Regardless, The Memes are on fire right now. And like all art, it’s hard to discern exactly why some collections get hot and others don’t. But The Memes uses a novel minting model that’s caught the eye of investors.
Instead of a one-time mint of 10,000 NFTs, a distribution method used by many projects, The Memes is continually minting new tokens, referred to as “cards” — the mint for the 58th card went live on Jan. 25. 
This generates continuous excitement, and, as new artists are consistently being brought in to create the image for the next card, significant reach as the fanbase of each creator gets exposed to Memes.
Adding to the excitement, each mint comes with its own allowlist, meaning the list of wallet addresses which are eligible to purchase the NFT. The list is typically some fusion of holders of other NFTs made by the card’s creator, as well as those who hold some of The Memes already in existence. 
The allowlist changes a bit each time, which keeps people engaged, and sometimes too much so — the pseudonymous buyer of the CryptoPunk cited the 2:30am mints as a reason they wanted to sell a full set of The Memes. 
The Memes also employs a novel way of categorizing its images. Meme NFTs are grouped by crypto-centric memes like “not your keys not your coins,” and “WAGMI,” which stands for “we’re all gonna make it.” 
Each meme has a subset of NFTs — some may have just a few tokens associated with it, others more — “GM,” which stands for the crypto greeting “good morning,” has 10.
The Memes are further divided into seasons, the second of which is in progress. Tens of different artists are behind the Memes — for example Drift, a famous artist known for taking pictures of his feet dangling off the roofs of 1,000-foot tall buildings, did a card for the first season of the “WAGMI” meme.
Taken together, this approach is redefining the way an NFT collection can be managed. Or at least, that’s what the market action appears to be demonstrating. 
The Memes collection plays into Punk6529’s larger vision of what he calls “the open metaverse” a permissionlessly accessed digital realm stitched together by NFTs and their holders — His outfit, called simply “6529,” is also working on a digital world, called “OM.”
Punk6529’s says the metaverse will be controlled by large companies, like Meta, which wanted to associate itself so much with the idea of a new digital world that it changed its name in October 2021.
The influencer asserts that the open metaverse is dependent on ownership of memes, rather than any specific plot of land. It’s an open debate — another metaversal project, Nifty Island, is also designed without a scarcity of land
Punk6529’s plans aren’t entirely distinct from other metaversal ventures, however. Like Meta, the influencer is promoting a digital world where one’s property is portable, rather than being confined to one application. And Punk6529 is collecting major NFTs under a “museum” venture which he believes will play a significant role in the metaverse he envisions. 
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The museum also receives 10% of the supply of each minted card of the Memes collection.
Punk6529 has also announced a capital arm, an education arm, and more, all under the 6529 banner in the same month of Facebook’s rebrand. He has said on Twitter that he took on seed investors to develop 6529’s multi-pronged vision. 
For now, The Memes venture, underpinned by the idea that memes can be owned in the form of NFTs, has momentum — 5,889 wallets hold at least one NFT in the collection. Though as it grows, fewer and fewer can hold onto a full set. 
Many collectors may be betting that if they hold a full set of The Memes they will eventually be able to garner more than a $100,000 CryptoPunk. 
Samuel Haig
Samuel Haig
Aleksandar Gilbert
Samuel Haig
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