Despite crypto crash, NFT enthusiasts keep the party going

The crypto market has collapsed. The digital art trade has fallen. But for the world’s largest gathering of NFT enthusiasts, the party is still stronger than ever.

More than 15,000 people are expected to gather in Times Square this week for NFT.NYC, a conference dedicated to non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, a technology that has been compared to digital certificates of authenticity and that enthusiasts see the future of everything. from art and collecting to the internet. Driven by rising cryptocurrency prices, NFTs became a $ 40 billion market last year.

And as a digital movement built on overwhelming positivity, the NFT community has shown few signs of letting recent market issues shake its confidence.

“It’s a construction market,” said Travis Wright, co-host of the Bad Crypto podcast and one of the MCs on the event’s main speaker stage on Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall. The conference rented the legendary theater with the help of sponsors such as Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States.

“At this conference did you feel that somehow this is difficult right now?” said Joel Comm, Wright’s podcast partner and co-MC. “No, that’s a great thing.”

Bored Ape’s NFTs are displayed on pillars in the basement of Radio City Music Hall during NFT NYC.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

Inside the nearby Marriott Marquis, where the conference rented six floors, the crowd crowded the aisles, flanked by vendors who took up almost all the available space. Many in the crowd, mostly men ranging from teenagers to the late 30s, were in a perpetual state of launching their idea of ​​how to improve what they all seem to agree on is the future of art and digital collectibles.

The NFT market has been growing slowly for several years and then exploded in 2021. But the prices of some NFTs have dropped dramatically and the number of accounts trading with NFT has finally decreased this year.

Meanwhile, the wider cryptographic market has also declined significantly. Ethereum, the cryptocurrency that serves as the backbone of most NFT and other Web3.0 projects, is now worth a third to a quarter of what it was for most of last year.

But the event organizer predicts that attendance at NFT.NYC will triple since its last meeting in November. Unperturbed by the “cryptographic winter,” attendees paid between $ 599 and $ 1,999 for tickets, and then waited in rows that stretched around the block to enter the Marriott.

And many of the attendees who spoke to NBC News offered a mix of optimism and inevitability around NFT technology. Many still see it as the early days of NFT, ripe for people to experiment with their own projects.

David Angelo, who along with three friends started an NFT art project called Naughty Giraffes, a collection of 10,000 giraffe cartoons, said he has long-term faith in technology.

“Not everyone is going to get it,” said Angelo, who wore a giraffe costume to the conference. “Not everyone is going to be able to get to the promised land, which may be longer than we all expect and all expect.”

Like many attendees, Angelo, one of the first to adopt cryptocurrencies, said he was personally well-weathered in the winter of cryptocurrencies and saw it as an investment opportunity rather than a sign that the NFT market had reached its peak. But he acknowledged that people who had just invested in space before the accident could be left with the stock market.

It’s not just about your long-term optimism. Despite the collapse, venture capitalists continue to invest in NFT and other Web 3.0 companies.

FalconX, a platform for digital asset trading, has been valued at $ 8 billion in a new round of financing, the company said Wednesday. Magic Eden, an NFT market launched in 2021, has just raised an additional $ 130 million. And Meta on Wednesday released an NFT guide for beginners, part of the company’s broader drive to convince its users that it is home to virtual worlds.

Some also see real-world applications. Jeanne Anderson, co-founder and CEO of Danvas, a company that plans to sell screens as canvases for digital art, told NFT.NYC that art galleries that had invested heavily in NFT were still embracing that market despite the recession.

Jeanne Anderson is the co-founder of Danvas
Jeanne Anderson is the co-founder of Danvas, which makes high-end displays for NFT displays.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

“Everyone knew winter was coming,” he said. “It came a little faster than some people estimated, but no one came in 2022 thinking there wouldn’t be a period of change.”

“There are very few institutional museums that respond immediately to trends. That’s not what a museum is usually,” Anderson said.

Still, he said he was lucky enough to get $ 7 million in funding for his business in December, shortly before the crash.

An imitator of Snoop Dogg
A Snoop Dogg impersonator makes an appearance on NFT NYC in New York on Tuesday.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

“It would be difficult to start fundraising right now, for sure,” he said. “I think I feel lucky that we raised funds when we did.”

NFT skeptics continue to express concerns about the propensity of the community to promise too much and sometimes blur the details. At one point in a Marriott corridor, a security guard paved the way for someone who appeared to be rapper Snoop Dogg, who sells branded NFT.

Only after closer inspection did it become clear that the man was an imitator contracted by an NFT company, and that its official conference badge read “Doop Snogg.”

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