- Jenny Wang is an investor at Neo and cofounder of re-inc, a streetwear apparel company.
- In April, she helped mint a trio of NFTs for three US Women’s soccer team players and World Cup champions.
- Wang hopes NFTs will inspire more creators to make and directly profit from their own artwork.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
This past month, I helped mint a trio of Non Fungible Tokens for three of the US Women’s soccer team players and World Cup Champions – the first NFTs to be released by elite female Olympic athletes.
It was an artistic experiment. We did it quickly – wanting to get the set of NFTs out there early to show anyone who has felt left out of the new world of crypto that they are included. We hope that they inspire more underrepresented communities to get into the NFT world as investors or creators.
The NFT world is ablaze.
An abbreviation that few knew a few months ago is now part of the everyday vernacular. From Beeple’s $69M sale at Christie’s, to the SNL skit on NFTs, to Pizza Hut launching a pizza NFT, to Elon Musk tweeting about it day and night – NFTs are being minted, sold, swapped, and collected.
Celebrities have quickly embraced NFTs with open arms.
Just like in any emerging market, the first adopters become the thought leaders, successful investors, iconic CEOs. With Bitcoin and Ethereum at all time highs, the cryptocurrency bull market hasn’t yet largely benefited underrepresented or underbanked communities, including those who haven’t had sufficient access to mainstream financial services.
Each of the three NFTs, which were drawn by US Women’s National Soccer Team player Tobin Heath and brought to life by a team of female and BIPOC digital artists, are unique in that they are one-of-one cards featuring a pixelated visual of each player and their authentic signatures. The winning bidders will receive personalized cameo videos from the player, as well as signed merchandise. These NFTs are also differentiated in that they include a donation to a nonprofit, in this case to Black Girls Code, and a promise to buy carbon offsets.
Alluding to her team’s ongoing legal battle for equal pay, Tobin told me that for “our entire careers, established organizations have been using our image and likenesses for their benefit, and without valuing it fairly – which is why we have to fight for equal pay. With NFTs, we can directly profit from our own work.” Both of us felt like it was time for more diverse creators to get their foot in the NFT door, and benefit directly from their work.
As a new form of digital art, NFTs are compelling because they empower creators directly.
They do this by democratizing access to the art and entertainment industries, which historically have many walled gardens and gatekeepers, and by allowing creators to directly profit off their work in perpetuity. By adding unlockable content, NFT artists can also deepen the relationship with the eventual owner by including physical merchandise or tickets to a live experience – and even hidden premium surprises for those who collect more than one NFT from a collection. Just like buying a share of $BYND is like investing in sustainable meat, buying an NFT is like investing in a piece of culture.
After the launch, I received messages from two close friends who are also well-known creators: the first, a principal ballet dancer at the top of her field and curator of a popular dance account on TikTok, and the other, an entrepreneurial Supermodel with a blossoming YouTube channel and food brand. Both asked how they could also monetize their likenesses as NFTs, but were hesitant because they hadn’t seen anyone who looked or acted like them participate in the crypto world.
I hope these NFTs can be a success story and inspire more women to mint art, start a business, or create content.
I think a lot about inclusion, from who can enter the art world, to who gets to play in financial markets. I believe that everyone has a talent to offer, can create things of value, and can build a community around them that shares their vision for the change they want to see.
If an NFT sale is able to empower an emerging singer-songwriter to be able to own their masters rights and sell copies of their work independently, without needing the connections or upfront capital to have a seat at a talent agency, then why not enable that? No asset is perfect – any industry has asymmetric power distribution and unintended side effects, including the inconclusive environmental impacts of cryptocurrency. But the beauty of the creator economy is in enabling this access, discovering new talent, and direct creator-fan relationships.
After a two-week auction, both Tobin’s and Meghan Klingenberg’s NFTs sold in the thousands, and I was excited to celebrate these small wins. These winning bids are an order of magnitude away from the Beeple’s, Jack Dorsey‘s, or Gronk’s of the world, but a step towards increasing the overall franchise value of women’s sports teams and underrepresented communities. And if they are ever resold, I’m happy that the players will be able to receive an eternal commission on every resale.
Just like Robinhood allowed a new wave of consumers to be able to participate more easily in the stock market, participation in the creator economy, whether through NFTs, personal digital tokens, live tips, or other financial products to come, can empower each of us to use our dollars to vote on the talented artists and changemakers we believe in, and be included in their success.
As Megan Rapinoe would say, isn’t that what equity, progress, creativity and art is all about?
Jenny Wang is an investor at Neo and cofounder of re-inc. She is a Harvard computer science alum based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter.