Nick Dalmady flew from his home in Australia to Minneapolis, so that he could meet his idol. Not Mila Kunis, Eva Longoria, Spike Lee, or Snoop Dogg—all featured guests at the inaugural convention in Minneapolis are touting non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, as the next big thing.
“Gary is the guy,” Delmadi said, standing in line for more than an hour to meet Gary Vaynerchuk, chief educator at VeeCon, which drew more than 5,000 people from around the world to the US Bank Stadium this weekend.
NFTs are mostly used to purchase digital art, from classic photos to new animated characters. It exists only in digital form, and can be bought, sold, and traded online. Like cryptocurrencies, with which they share some similarities but also some differences, NFTs have generated intense interest and skepticism.
For those who don’t know the difference between Bitcoin and a doubloon, Vaynerchuk, who wears a hoodie and a backward baseball cap, will directly blend in with this massive crowd. Especially when he’s wearing his signature hoodie and a backward baseball cap. Delamadi, who sells toys, said the business took off after he started taking advice from podcasts and Vaynerchuk’s social media posts.
“I just want to thank him face to face,” Delamade said.
Critics compare NFTs to a Ponzi scheme.
“Besides a handful of high-profile scams, there has been a dark cloud over the NFT market,” Dan Ives, technology analyst at investment firm Wedbush, told CBS News Money Watch in March. “Obviously some bad actors have removed the blossom from the rose.”
According to NonFungible, NFT sales are down 92 percent since last September. The first NFT tweet was sold to Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for $2.9 million last year. At an auction last April, the highest bid was $280.
Skeptics are not found in the US Bank stadium. Since Vaynerchuk – better known to his fans as Gary Vee – gave the keynote, motivational speaker Tony Robbins drew more than Steve Jobs.
“If someone has a better life because of you, that’s the most intoxicating feeling you can have,” he said, biting down on gum as he whipped the crowd.
Vaynerchuk, a native of Belarus, made his initial fortune in the wine business and later became an early investor in Facebook and Twitter. Chosen by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s best technology influencers. His move into the NFT market was accompanied by the founding of a company, VeeFriends, and with VeeCon he has recruited a roster of distinguished speakers to impress those interested in the investment opportunity about NFTs.
“The world is full of reason. If you want to get something done, you surround yourself with what people don’t,” said Kevin Smith, the director who produced Clerks and Mallrats. Smith said he’s using NFTs to push his upcoming horror anthology series, “KillRoy Was Here.”
“There is no end to the critics. They are always sniping from the sidelines,” Smith said in a speech full of obscenity, barely stopping to catch his breath. “But I do what I always do. I close my eyes and dive in. Sometimes it works and you make it big. It feels like a place I want to play.”
Lee, the director of Oscar-winning films like “Do the Right Thing” and “Black KKKlansman,” doesn’t use cryptocurrency (he joked that he couldn’t even turn on TV without the help of his kids backstage). But Lee, 65, said he was fascinated enough by the NFTs that he agreed to organize a group of NFTs that includes Mars Blackmon, the featured character from his 1986 debut feature film, “She’s Gotta Have It.”
“Look, I got nothing but love,” he told me about Vaynerchuk. “This is America. What did PT Barnum do that day?”
I had a story about another investment opportunity that at first seemed like a long shot. He said he was walking down Martha’s Vineyard for lobster rolls when someone approached him to showcase a new product. He looked at me in the trunk of the stranger’s car, not impressed. he passed.
He told me that this product turned out to be Crocs.
VeeCon has provided plenty of fun distractions for those who aren’t sold on get-rich-quick opportunities. On stage in front of the crowd, Lee, dressed in purple, talked about his friendship with Prince, and the time the Minneapolis rocker sent him a guitar.
At the opening ceremony, the scent of herbs mingled with the scent of paint fumes from a free-for-all art tent. Sellers offered free samples of sunflower seeds, beef jerky, and sundae from brands you might be hard-pressed to find at Trader Vic’s. She was throwing bean bags everywhere.
On Friday evening, Wyclef Jean introduced the entertainment, filling out the previously scheduled TLC, which did not show up. Hip-hopper performed a signature tune, “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)”. His enthusiastic rap partner? Gary in.