Celebrities and Digital Token Enthusiasts Gather in Minneapolis for First NFT Convention

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Nick Delmadi flew from his Australian home to Minneapolis just so he could meet his idol. Not Mila Kunis, Eva Longoria, Spike Lee or Snoop Dogg – all special guests at an inaugural conference in Minneapolis touting non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, as the next big thing.

“Gary is the guy,” said Delmadi, queuing for more than an hour to meet chief conference guru Gary Vaynerchuk at VeeCon, which drew more than 6,000 people from around the world to US Bank Stadium this weekend. -end.

NFTs are primarily used to purchase digital art, ranging from classic photos to new animated characters. They only exist 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 both intense interest and skepticism.

“I just want to thank him face-to-face,” said Delmadi, who credits Vaynerchuk’s podcasting and social media postings for his toy-selling success.

Critics liken NFTs to a Ponzi scheme.

“With a handful of high-profile scams, there’s been a dark cloud over the NFT market,” Dan Ives, technology analyst at investment firm Wedbush Securities, told CBS News’ Moneywatch in March. “Some bad actors have clearly taken the flower out of the rose.”

According to website NonFungible, NFT sales have fallen 92% since last September. An NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for $2.9 million last year. At an auction last April, the highest bid was $280.

But skeptics were nowhere to be found at US Bank Stadium, where Vaynerchuk, in a hoodie and backwards baseball cap, blended in with the excited crowd. Known to his fans as Gary Vee, he delivered the keynote which channeled motivational speaker Tony Robbins more than Steve Jobs.

“If a person has a better life because of you, that’s the most intoxicating feeling you can have,” he said, chewing gum while whipping the crowd.

Originally from Belarus, Vaynerchuk made his fortune in the wine business and later became one of the first investors on Facebook and Twitter. Forbes named him one of the top tech influencers in the world. His entry into the NFT market was accompanied by the creation of a company, VeeFriends, and with VeeCon, he enlisted a list of high profile speakers to convince interested parties of the investment opportunity around NFTs. .

“The world is full of whys. If you want to do something, you surround yourself with whys, not people,” Kevin Smith, the director who directed “Clerks” and “Mallrats,” told attendees. Smith said he’s been using NFTs to promote his upcoming horror anthology series, “KillRoy Was Here.”

“There’s never an end to the critics. They always shoot the sidelines,” Smith said in a lewd speech, barely pausing to catch his breath. “But I do what I always do. I close my eyes and dive in. Sometimes it works and you go big. It seems like a place I want to play.”

Lee, the Oscar-winning director of movies like “Do the Right Thing” and “BlacKkKlansman,” doesn’t use cryptocurrency. (He joked backstage that he couldn’t even turn on a TV without the help of his kids.) But Lee, 65, said he was intrigued enough by NFTs to agree to create a line from NFT featuring Mars Blackmon, the star character of his 1986 debut feature, “She’s Gotta Have It”.

“Look, I have nothing but love for him,” Lee said of Vaynerchuk. “This is America. What did PT Barnum do at the time?”

Lee had a story about another investment opportunity that initially seemed like a long shot. He was walking down Martha’s Vineyard to get a lobster roll, he said, when someone approached him to show him a new product. Lee looked in the trunk of the stranger’s car and was unimpressed. He spent.

That product, Lee said, turned out to be Crocs.

VeeCon offered plenty of pleasant distractions for those unconvinced by the get-rich-quick opportunities. On stage in front of the crowd, Lee, decked out in purple, opened up about his friendship with Prince and the time the Minneapolis rocker sent him a guitar.

On opening night, the smell of weed mingled with the smell of paint fumes from a free-for-all art tent. Vendors offered samples of sunflower seeds, beef jerky, and popsicles from brands you’d be hard pressed to find at Trader Joe’s. Beanbag throws were everywhere.

On Friday night, Wyclef Jean provided the entertainment, replacing the previously scheduled TLC, who didn’t show up. The rapper performed a signature track, “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)”. His enthusiastic rap partner? Gary Vee.

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