Spending millions for a digital work of art that could be screenshotted feels similar to traipsing around a strip of concrete as a tourist activity. The optics don’t make immediate sense — there’s hardly any appeal in something as accessible as a Google image or street.
That’s my best bet at explaining at least some of the confusion around the explosive rise of NFTs, or nonfungible tokens. The token, minted on the blockchain, can give digital assets a unique signifier. In other words, anyone could screenshot a piece of art, but only one of us will own the true, original piece of art. This context is part of the reason why Beeple, a digital artist, had his artwork sold for $69 million just a few days ago.
The reason this topic is coming up in a Startups Weekly newsletter is because of the impact it could have on the cryptocurrency movement, of which there is a growing tide of early-stage and late-stage startups. The popularization of NFTs, as I argued in Equity this week, could be what makes cryptocurrency finally palpable to the average human — beside the average bitcoin hoarder. Platforms that sell NFTs usually need you to use cryptocurrency (usually Ethereum) to purchase anything. Mix that with the fact that humans have an innate desire to own, protect and immortalize their assets, and you might have the perfect storm. Beeple, a digital artist, made $69 million for his work, and this isn’t just a big financing event, it’s a signal that crypto enthusiasts and crypto assets are getting to an inescapable spot in public dialogue.
Ownership as a way for a decentralized network to become mainstream is its own meta conversation, and I’ll be clear that the blockchain and NFTs have a long way to go before they are truly equitable, accessible and hit their stride. But, it’s hard to not to let your mind wander about the opportunities here.
It’s more than a screenshot, it’s about the potential of pixels having more meaning than they ever did before. And it’s more than a strip of concrete, it’s the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Finding exclusive aspects of accessible things in our lives is compelling to a consumer and could be great for creators.
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll discuss Coupang’s competitive industrial edge, a startup hoping to be the Nasdaq for revenue and Google’s brains fighting Google itself. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @nmasc_ for my thoughts throughout the week and tech news.
The Amazon of South Korea goes public
Coupang, which some describe as the Amazon of South Korea, priced and started trading this week on the public markets. At one point on Thursday, the company was valued at $92 billion.
Here’s what to know: When Coupang first launched, it found that South Korea had an absence of third-party logistics companies similar to UPS or FedEx in the United States. Now, it wasn’t without competition, but it did have an opportunity to build an end-to-end logistics company that is now worth a boatload of money.
Other IPO news:
The Nasdaq for Revenue
Pipe has a compelling narrative: It’s anti-VC, doesn’t like naming its rounds and says its goal is to be the Nasdaq for revenue. The goal since it started was to give SaaS companies a way to get their revenue upfront by connecting them to investors that would pay a rate for the annual value of those contracts. It turns monthly recurring revenue into annual recurring revenue.
Here’s what to know: The startup raised $50 million in a financing event this week. In the first quarter of 2021, tens of millions of dollars were traded through its platform, reports TechCrunch’s Mary Ann Azevedo.
Can you beat Google with Google’s brains?
(By the way, if you want a huge discount for Extra Crunch, just use our code, EQUITY, when you sign up to access great articles like this one and most of our analytical work).
Here’s what to know: Neeva, built by a team of ex-Googlers including the guy who built Google’s advertising engine, is one startup to watch. There’s a lot to chew and we do it best during the episode, so take a listen and figure out if you’re team Natasha and Danny, or team Alex.
Other news bits:
‘Blaming the intern’ won’t save your startup from cybersecurity liability
As SolarWinds is showcasing, a company can be liable for the mistakes of its employees via a legal term called “vicarious liability.”
Cybersecurity writer Chandu Gopalakrishnan explains what it means for you and what you can do to stay on the right side of the law.
A few house-keeping things this week: