Robert has reported for a variety of international publications including the Associated Press, The Guardian, Vice, and Decrypt. Current areas of interest include the political economy of technology, cryptocurrencies, and privacy. Robert has a Bachelor of Science from UCL, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford's Internet Institute.
Gary Vaynerchuck, also known as Gary Vee, is a social media entrepreneur. His big thing, aside from helping muddled 20-somethings through life and running multi-million-dollar marketing companies, is to always follow public attention. Indeed, one of his favourite business metaphors is that he is “day trading attention”. Here is a quote from Vee himself: “Whether it’s digital or whether it’s traditional, when I day trade attention, I don’t focus on the newest app. Instead, I focus on what the hell people are doing.”
Vee has identified that non-fungible tokens are what people from hell are doing. (At least, we think that’s what he means). Non-fungible tokens are one-of-a-kind cryptocurrency tokens that run on blockchains, often Ethereum. They went viral in 2017, when they were first created. You may remember the first NFT collection, a series of digital cats known as CryptoKitties. Then NFTs went viral again in 2020 and 2021 after digital artists realised that they were great ways to sell their art, which they had grown accustomed to publishing online for free or working at a piecemeal rate. Buyers, in turn, found that they made great speculative assets, and people were willing to pay eye-watering sums to buy them.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and over a dozen other cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
And where attention and money goes, Gary Vee follows. He has created his own NFT collection, a wildly successful series of doodles called Veefriends.
Here is how they work: Vaynerchuck drew 286 animals on a piece of card with markers, and filmed the process of drawing each one. Then he labelled all of these animals according to some “human traits that Gary most admires,” according to the project’s about page. Examples include noble camels, glowing glow worms and benevolent barn owls.
Why these? According to the site: Vee “focused on traits that he believes will lead to happiness and success. He called them friends “because he believes that business with friends can be fun and you can build a community around common interests and support one another through friendship, kindness and empathy.” There are a few exceptions to the animal rule. Some are simply motivational quotes that Vee has scribbled onto bits of paper and turned into NFTs, including “Your Poor Relationship With Time Is Your Biggest Vulnerability” and ”When You Live For Their Validation You Aren’t Living”. Deep! And expensive; the latter averages at 3.84 ETH, or about $17,000 at this writing.
Once Vee had done that, he itemised the collection into 10,255 NFTs. There are, for instance, 555 goats (Gift Goats, to be specific) and 80 “dedicated” dragonflies. Then, he sold them on VeeFriends.com on May 11, 2021. This is the primary site for buying VeeFriends.com, but because they’re on the Ethereum blockchain, you can find them on secondary marketplaces, like Rarible and OpenSea.
To be clear, the whole point of non-fungible tokens is that they represent art that cannot be reproduced and can be proven to be the spawn of Vaynerchuk himself. You can copy his pictures, paste them into an NFT template of your own and create VeeFriends 2.0: Return of the Vee. But through the blockchain, Vee can prove that your project has nothing to do with his own, so people might not buy them.
But people certainly are buying Vee’s tokens. As of this writing, November 3, 2021, it is the 22nd most successful non-fungible token project of all time, having generated just under $90 million in sales. The floor price for a single VeeFriends token, or the minimum amount you should expect to pay for one, is currently nine ETH, or about $40,000. (The market is highly volatile and illiquid, so this may have changed dramatically by the time you check it out yourself.)
Vee is keen to create a community out of his tokens. “The token is the key that unlocks you into Gary’s world,” reads an FAQ section on the site. Vee wants to “create access and serve his community,” and his NFTs do just that. “Over the last 15 years, he has spent time interacting with hundreds of thousands of people — what VeeFriends will allow will be a structure around these interactions.”
First and foremost, each NFT doubles up as a three-year pass to VeeCon conferences. The first one, described as a “super ‘un-conference’ jam-packed with value for NFT enthusiasts” is scheduled for May 2022 and will take place in Minneapolis, USA. (Vee says that Minneapolis was chosen “for the friendliness of its citizens (Minnesota Nice), and our values are built on kindness,” and because “we have business ties there.”) The conference will feature iconic keynote speakers, educational talks and panels, Q&A sessions and “A-List entertainment.” Tickets are not available to the public; you’ll need a VeeFriends NFT to attend. The NFT will not cover hotel rates or travel plans.
While all VeeFriends tokens grant you access to the conference, Vee has put out two more types of tokens: Access tokens and Gift tokens.
Access tokens let you hang out with Vee himself. They might let you go “garage saling with him” (one of Vee’s favourite hobbies is bargaining at garage sales and reselling his purchases for a tidy profit), playing tennis or having dinner with him (no word on who pays). There are 300 access tokens. 210 provide you with virtual access and the remaining 90 let you meet him in person. The 90 in-person access tokens are unique and carry original art.
Access tokens are split into four types of tokens. Group access tokens, like the Breakfast Bat or the Brunch Bear, let you meet him with nine other holders. One-on-one access tokens, like the Poker Pirate or the Workout Wolf, give you exclusive rights to spend time with Vee. Fox, Flea, Frog and Flies can book a five-minute FaceTime session.
The third type of access token is the competition token, which grants you the right to play a game with Vee: “Basketball Butterfly” and “Checkers Chicken”. The final type of token is a scholarship access token. There are only five of these, and you have to apply to get one. They let you “redeem mentoring and coaching from Gary personally as well as his professional network.”
The gift tokens are all “Gift Goats”. They are 555 “verifiable tokens to a gifting experience curated by Gary and the VeeFriends team.” Holders are entitled to receive a minimum of six physical gifts “from epic brands” each year for three years. No word on what the gifts are as of this writing, but Vee says they “are going to make your head spin.”
We have already mentioned the admission tokens. There are 9,400 of them, and each of them grants access to VeeCon (so far). Each character has 40 types of admission tokens, ranging from 20 Core tokens to Spectacular tokens, of which there is only one of each kind. Each is made from different virtual ‘materials’, including diamonds, lava, gold and bubblegum.
The benefits expire in May 2024, and tokens have a set number of redemptions hardcoded into them. Once they are all used up, Vee is under no obligation to play tennis or basketball with the holders. Owning specific tokens may also grant you other rights, like joining exclusive chats in the project’s Discord server, or claiming new tokens minted on the VeeFriends platform. For Halloween 2021, holders of one of ten tokens, such as the ‘Skilled Skeleton’ or the ‘Very, Very, Very, Very, Lucky Black Cat’, could claim one of 31 ‘Spooky Vees’ on a first come first serve basis.
VeeFriends has also created a collection of tokens that Vee has previously owned. Called “Gary Originaly Owned” tokens, or the “GOO collection”, these are a ”special personal collection of tokens” that “publicly authenticates Gary’s original ownership for any future token holders.” As of this writing, he has owned about 1,000 of the VeeFriends animals and motivational quotes.
How to buy a VeeFriends token
The primary place to look at VeeFriends is directly on the VeeFriends site itself. On the site, you can browse a library of all the tokens, redeem any entitlements a token affords, and check out the video of Vaynerchuck drawing the picture represented by the NFT.
While you could buy tokens directly on VeeFriends when they first launched in scheduled auctions, you can’t buy them off other owners directly on the site. To do that, you’ll have to use a secondary marketplace like OpenSea. OpenSea is the largest secondary NFT marketplace, and as of the end of October 2021 accounted for the greatest amount of burned ETH. (ETH gets burned whenever someone makes a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain).
You can’t use your credit card to buy a VeeFriends NFT on OpenSea. You’ll have to buy the token using Ethereum (ETH), the native currency of the Ethereum blockchain. To do so, you’ll need to buy ETH with regular money on a cryptocurrency exchange (which may let you use your credit card or a wire transfer from a bank), or buy ETH with other cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. You’ll need to ensure that you can move your Ethereum outside of the venue from which you bought it. Wealthsimple, for instance, only lets you buy and sell Ethereum—you can’t move it to an external wallet.
Once you have your ETH, you’ll need to send it to a wallet that can connect with OpenSea. A popular example is MetaMask, a browser extension you can install on your computer or phone. If you haven’t created a cryptocurrency wallet before, note that you’ll need to keep a seed phrase, a set of 12 or 24 random words, very secure—think of it as the password to your cryptocurrency wallet.
After you have filled your MetaMask (or equivalent) wallet with ETH, you can head to the OpenSea page for VeeFriends and find a token that you like. Note that the official VeeFriends marketplace has a blue check next to it; ensure that the token you plan to buy is verified, because there’s little way of stopping someone from creating an unofficial collection. You can also verify the address of the NFT you plan to buy on Etherscan, a kind of database for Ethereum accounts. This is an example of a correct one for VeeFriends.
OpenSea lets you sort through different tokens according to different attributes. As a reminder, some are rarer than others and certain tokens grant you the right to claim gifts or experiences, plus all tokens get you into VeeCon. You can check how many uses an access or gift token has by checking the VeeFriends site.
Then you’re ready to place your bid. You’ll be bidding against other fans of VeeFriends, and owners are unlikely to part with their tokens for a small amount of money. Owners also get to set the terms of the sale; they can reject or accept any bid they like, and choose whether they list a token for a direct sale or for an auction-style sale.
Note that you’ll need a little extra ETH to pay for the transaction cost of buying a fixed-price item. This is known as the transaction fee, or gas fee. You’ll also have to pay to cancel bids, or to convert ETH to WETH (Wrapped Ethereum, a variant of ETH that many NFTs are listed for). If you’re reselling a VeeFriends NFT on OpenSea, you’ll have to pay a one-time initialisation fee, plus a fee to accept a bid and transfer an NFT. These fees are not cheap: the average cost of transferring a token as of November 3, 2021 (granted, a period when fees are particularly high) is $45.
You’ll also have to pay royalty fees of 10% to Gary Vee each time you resell a token. Vee will donate 1% of all royalties to charities of his choosing. “Due to the various reasons (including legal and regulatory concerns), VeeFriends cannot establish or distribute potential royalties to token owners,” reads the site’s FAQ. Unlike some other NFT projects, you also can’t sell merchandise around your NFT.
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