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TECH & GAMING

Understanding NFTs: "Minting a photo should be like posting to Instagram"

Words by Nathan Irvine

EDGAR talks to Cheeze, Inc.'s Simon Hudson about what this latest tech craze is all about

NFTs - or Non-Fungible Tokens - are the next big thing in blockchain tech. They're essentially pieces of digital art that cover all manner of things such as GIFs, music, autographs and more. One piece of art by graphic designer Beeple sold at a Christie's auction recently for $69m (approx. AED 253m). And there are digital recreations of actual homes, which you can only visit online, that have sold for $500,000 (approx AED 1.8m).

In Dubai, things are just getting started. And Cheeze, Inc., one of the UAE's first NFT minting studios (read: company that can authenticate and get your art online), are set to make waves in the region.

We spoke to Cheeze Inc. founder, Simon Hudson to get the lowdown on NFTs and how it will be as easy as uploading to Instagram to make your own work of art soon.

Simon Hudson with Cheeze, Inc. partner, Mohamed AlRafi

On the current NFT boom

“They've been around since 2016-17, but NFTs became big when Dapper Labs brought NBA Top Shots [collectible NBA moments created as NFT] to market at the end of 2020. They linked a new space to a legacy brand and this brought out a lot more interest. There are artists that have been creating things like this for a long time, such as Beeple [Christies sold an NFT piece of his for $69m] but now they've found a new vehicle to sell their art.”

On NFT ownership

“Everybody is talking about "why would I own a JPEG?" but then people do pay thousands of dollars to get a blue tick next to their name on Instagram. Do you actually own anything? No. But you have verification and that's what people see. And this is how you prove that you have an original Beeple piece of art. Yeah, people can go in and view it publicly, but only person owns it. It's like if Snoop Dogg created an image. You can now be digitally linked to him if you buy it because there's a trail.”

On the hidden benefits

“Gary Vaynerchuk nails it when he talks about the underlying benefits NFTs being in the metadata. He said he's going to release a new book. You can go on Audible and purchase the digital book and there's going to be 200,000 available. But if they're released as an NFT then there could be 190,000 with a silver cover, 800 with a gold cover and 200 with a platinum one. The platinum cover, for example, gives the buyer free access to all his keynote speeches or allows them to spend a day with Gary. Justin Blau (AKA DJ 3LAU) sold his most recent album for $11.6m, and the owner now gets to help him collaborate on a new song with him. It's like having a platinum air miles card. Anyone can have the card, but the platinum version gives us status. So I can get free upgrades, first class lounge access and gold holders don't.”

Time magazine recently sold this cover as an NFT for $160,000

On the inflated prices

“People are sitting on millions and millions of dollars of Ethereum [cryptocurrency] in their heads it's kind of like video game currency. So if someone has spent $20,000 in real world money and they have $2m in crypto, it's like fairground money that they can go and buy stuff with. So if they see something that's $67,000 [in cryptocurrency] and they have $2m then it's 'oh, there's this famous artist, I've got the money and I can purchase it instantly without wire transfers or fees' they can.”

On investing cryptocurrency

“If you have $1m in Ethereum now, you could wake up tomorrow and only have $800,000. So it should be invested. If you currently had $700,000 in real world money in your bank, but someone offers you a Picasso for $250,000 you'd have something of certain value - this is an investment and legacy.”

On making photo-based NFTs

“The idea of Cheeze, Inc's platform is to disrupt and understand how the photography space is managed. Getty Images is an example. Take a fireworks shot from New Year's Eve, you'd have Getty photographers taking photos that would need to be approved. They would upload the image with metadata to Getty and then publications go to their platform and purchase it for use in articles. Let's say the photographer gets 30 per cent, but then there's no trackable way of knowing where that image has gone. What we're trying to say is that you could take an unbelievable photo of the same fireworks, but there's no way of getting it on Getty. What we're doing with the Cheeze platform is saying anybody can become a photographer.”

On using the Cheeze app

“The goal is to make minting a photo [to use as NFT] as easy as it is to post an Instagram story. That's the designer and engineer's mission - if I've got this photo I want to mint, which means it is tokenised, it should be easy to do it. Our prices to do this all depends on the "chain" that you want to use.”

On the future of NFTs

“Christies [who auctioned Beeple's $69m artwork] and Sotheby's next evolution is to have their own makerspace equivalents. They would mint the images and they would put them out there.”
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