Gary Vaynerchuk is a force of nature. For those who don’t know him, the entrepreneur created a $300 million a year social media empire over the course of several years through grit, hard work and by dint of his larger-than-life personality.
And now he’s all in on NFTs.
A couple of hours ago, Gary Vee, as he’s popularly known, launched a pioneering NFT collection called VeeFriends. It’s a series of 10,255 character tokens available for purchase via the cryptocurrency Ethereum. And Gary being Gary, it has stirred an outsize amount of media attention on CNBC, Bloomberg and a number of leading podcasts.
Now, what’s significant here is not that Gary Vee has thrown his hat into the NFT ring. Lots of individuals and organizations have.
No, the big deal here is that Gary is pushing the NFT space into important new terrain — toward blockchain authentication of real-world events. Toward new business use cases that will some day become standard but seem a bit out there today.
I’ll refer to Gary by his first name here because he seems like a familiar friend. As someone who once ran a small but influential global marketing agency before going all in on tech startups, I learned a lot from his thought leadership in the marketing world through books like Crush It! and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. I’m even a long-suffering New York Jets fan … on the West Coast! … due to my boyhood in New Jersey, and Gary’s early investments in Facebook, Uber and Coinbase have led to a level of financial success that may position him to buy the New York Jets some day — a dream he has repeatedly voiced.
I’ve long skated along the bleeding edge of tech adoption, and so it’s no surprise that most of my friends and colleagues remain skeptical of this whole NFT-crypto thing. (Bill Maher, too.) They’ll come around (maybe not Bill), but it’s still early days.
So this is the other important aspect of Gary’s endorsement of NFTs. There’s no doubt in my mind that his evangelism will contribute to the slow but steady adoption of NFTs in the mass marketplace. (Our goals are aligned there.) For sure, we’re still a long way from getting there, but this VeeFriends drop is no small thing.
For those who are still skeptical of NFTs, I urge you to tune in to one of the podcasts Gary has appeared on this month to explain why he’s so excited about the space, specifically:
- Modern Finance (May 5 episode) with host Kevin Rose of Digg and Revision3 fame (my personal favorite)
- Bankless (May 6 episode) with hosts Ryan Sean Adams and David Hoffman
- The Gary Vee Audio Experience from the man himself
Vaynerchuk is helping steer the NFT conversation to new places: NFTs that apply not just to the world of digital art but NFT “smart event” tokens that have real value in the real world.
His NFT drop centered on the announcement that Gary is launching a big new superconference called VeeCon, a multi-day event where only VeeFriend token holders can attend. Taking place in 2022, 2023 and 2024, the annual event will focus on entrepreneurship, marketing, tech and culture — South by Southwest meets Coachella meets Davos, as he put it.
Fascinating — and pioneering. The world’s first conference that accepts only NFT tokens for admittance.
“It’s that thing again, it’s that feeling, like when you tell most of your friends [that something’s about to] blow up,” he told longtime friend Kevin Rose on the Modern Finance podcast. “It’s early. Like normal people don’t know yet. But this is going to be massive.”
“Right now we’re so fixated on the collectibility of the art, which is amazing, but there’s so much more that can be done,” he told Rose. “With a smart contract, you could do anything.”
Here is a breakdown of some of the NFT tokens that Gary has put up for bid. (And by the way, the tokens — all hand-drawn by Gary himself — cannot be stolen. They cannot be forged. At the time of the transaction, your identity is indelibly enscribed in the blockchain with your unique ID.)
Gift Goat tokens
What you get with the token: Like the other tokens, a Gift Goat gets you admission to VeeCon. But they do more. If you buy a gift goat, you’ll enter your address, connect your MetaMask or custodial wallet, and Gary will send you surprise gifts “from epic brands” through the U.S. mail six times a year, as often as 18 times over the course of this project. “Gifts that are going to make your head spin,” he promises.
There are 555 of these suckers that are up for bid … which will keep the Postal Service busy. On day one, these tokens sold for as much as 14.77, 14.47 and 13.44 Ethereum at this moment — a staggering $63,626, $62,334 and $57,897 apiece! And by the way, the value of those tokens could double or triple by the time VeeCon I rolls around.
Hangout Hawk tokens
What you get with the token: If you acquire one of the 125 hangout hawk token, you become part of a new hangout community Gary will convene. “We get together five times a year for 45 minutes on Google Hangout and jam,” he told Rose.
Facetime Fox tokens
What you get with the token: Snag a Facetime Fox token and you get admission to three years of VeeCon plus a five-minute FaceTime chat with Gary. Record it and turn it into a podcast if you’d like. On day one the bids for a Facetime Fox token started at 5.909 Ethereum, or $25,455 US.
Courtside Cat token
What you get with the token: One of the most sought-after tokens is the Courtside Cat. The single token entitles you to sit courtside with Gary at a New York Knicks game. The bidding is already up to 50.269 eth, or $216,550 US. Crazy, right?
Basketball Butterfly tokens
What you get with the token: Five Basketball Butterfly tokens will be sold, which gets you into a five-on-five basketball game with Gary and four of his friends. Bidding seems to be starting at 31.443 eth, or $135,451 apiece. That better be some hell of a pickup game.
The bidding will continue through Saturday. Tokens can be bid on via a Dutch auction, which allows any investor — institutional or individual — to place a bid at a certain price without knowing what others are offering to pay.
Vaynerchuk puts his heart and soul into all his projects, so his inaugural VeeCon conference should be a blast. Buyers can continue to attend in years two and three or sell their tokens on the secondary market.
From a CNBC event Tuesday:
“I think that everybody in small business is going to learn that NFTs are a way to do memberships, clubs and discounts,” Vaynerchuk said at the CNBC Small Business Playbook virtual event May 4. “Just like a lot of small businesses went out and built apps on phones a decade ago, I do believe that NFTs will be a part of the strategy for small businesses going forward.”
Gary said a portion of revenue generated from token sales will go to charity, and five tokens include access to a scholarship that allows the holder to learn from the VaynerMedia CEO and his professional network. Additionally, contributions will be made to DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) to offset the environmental impact of crypto mining. Bravo!
Now, a reality check: Not everyone is Gary Vaynerchuk. Few of us can sell out a 10,000-seat arena. So your mileage will definitely vary depending on the kind of social following you’ve managed to build up over the years, as Gary freely acknowledges. So put in the work first.
And a second reality check: Gary can be a bit over-effusive at times, predicting that nearly every piece of intellectual property in the world will be turned into an NFT (“because why wouldn’t you?” he asks on one podcast.) The answer, of course, is because most IP isn’t valuable enough to bother turning into an NFT. It’s fine to believe otherwise, because none of us knows where this is heading. But I do agree, this will be a wild ride, one that’s much, much bigger than most people realize.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NFT revolution has just entered an important new phase. NFTs are not quite ready for a quinceañera coming out party — they’re way too young for that — but this the beginning of the mainstreaming of a movement.
If you’re a crypto enthusiast with a big wallet, grab a gift goat while you can.
Postscript: Gary Vee announced on June 7 that he’d sold $35 million worth of tokens through the VeeFriends Dutch auction.