📝 #69: NFTs Didn't Work

The first-hand signal from NFT NYC. Telegram and Japan's Sony Bank go crypto. The rise of Memecoins. Funding Q1 snapshot. Record stablecoin supply. Paradigm plans $750M fund. Top charts & more.

Hey, it’s Marc. ✌️

Reporting from New York this week, I bring first-hand impressions from NFT NYC. Spoiler: The turnout wasn't great, indicative of a broader trend — the decline of NFTs for consumer brands. We also talk about what’s behind Memecoins and Q1 funding.

Be inspired✨

“Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.” ― Matthew McConaughey

📚 Top 4 Reads

  • A Brief History of Memecoins: Their Past and Future. By 1kx. Link

  • How to sell to the Creative Class. By  Link

  • The token is the product. By Mark. Link

  • Rise of the smart open metaverse. By William M. Peaster. Link

✨ Web3 & Brands

Beyond NFTs 🖼️

Yesterday’s NFT NYC conference day was a ghost town.

For me, this is symbolic for the inevitable decline of the “NFT” as a concept that was hyped as a single vertical for brands to innovate in.

It’s also the sign of an awakening that consumer engagement is hard and doesn’t get easier by throwing “digital collectibles”, aka. NFTs, at consumers.

Looking back: 50% of Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands have launched NFT projects. Most of them failed to create sustained engagement or ROI.

Be smart: Brands have recognized this. Many brands moved away from Web3, disappointed by the meagre results.

The ones who stayed either backtrack (Starbucks & Nike) or start looking at the future of consumer engagement more holistically.

Start-ups building in this space have a hard time making cash, as they’re held back by endless education sessions with brands without bringing traction on their platforms.

They now have to rethink their business models or focus on a more crypto-native audience, where engagement is higher.

The big picture: NFTs will continue to play a role for specific use-cases, but they’ll be a small puzzle piece in a broader mix of technologies. Brands will start focusing on:

  • Solving business problems

  • Creating value for consumers

  • Generating ROI

This will involve blockchain technology, virtual immersive experiences, generative AI, data, and other emerging technologies.

Punchline: NFTs didn’t work for brands. As we're entering a new phase of Web3 maturity, “Web3 for consumer brands” is being rethought and will require a more more holistic approach.

Telegram Goes Crypto 📱 

  • Telegram is letting advertisers purchase ads in crypto and kicking 50% of the revenue back to channel owners, creating a “circular advertising economy”. Link

  • The TON Foundation, a separate entity building its layer 1 blockchain and Toncoin, hopes to attract +500M users by 2028.

Zooming in: Telegram's payment system allows users to buy ads with Toncoin and target specific channels.

Why it matters: With the potential to reach billions of users, Telegram’s model could significantly influence consumer behavior and brand strategies, promoting wider acceptance and use of cryptocurrencies in everyday commerce.

More on Web3:

  • OpenSea enables support for enforceable creator earnings onchain. Link

  • Japan's Sony Bank tests yen-backed stablecoin for gaming and sports IP payments. Link

🌎 Crypto & Macro

The Rise of Memecoins 🐶

Everyone in the space is talking about Memecoins.

  • The narrative started with $DEGEN, the unofficial token of Farcaster, a Web3 social network, which started as a free airdrop to active users of Farcaster.

  •  Users have found tons of actual uses for $DEGEN, including tpping content creators on Farcaster, bootstrapping community projects and more.

Zooming in: Memecoins are cutely designed cryptocurrencies that form around and are hyped by communities.

How it works: What’s special about $DEGEN, and other community coins on Farcaster, like $HIGHER, and Zora’s new fan favorite $ENJOY is that financial incentivisation is aligned with community values.

Why it matters: To outsiders, Memecoins might appear as a fad or just pure gambling. But that’s just half of the truth. They’re part of a bigger trend of shifting power back to consumers.

Punchline: Memecoins make us rethink how crypto tips and trades could redefine online community interaction, content creation, and the very essence of what constitutes money in the digital age.

Funding is back🚀

Crypto VC funding saw a positive shift in Q1 2024, breaking a two-year slump:

  • Early-stage volume and deal count increased 73% and 53% QoQ. Link 

  • Crypto-focused venture firms dominated the investments, with Andreessen Horowitz Crypto, OKX Ventures, Multicoin Capital, Paradigm, and Polychain leading the way.

  • In March alone, over $1.1BN was invested across 180 investments, with a focus on infrastructure and decentralized finance (DeFi) projects. Link

Punchline: Investor sentiment is back, in the hopes of allocating their capital before the real bull market starts.

More on Crypto:

  • Two of the most highly anticipated token drops happened this week with Ethena and Wormhole. Link

  • Thailand’s largest crypto exchange, Bitkub, plans a 2025 IPO to compete in global market. Link

  • Argentina rolls out mandatory registration for crypto platforms. Link

  • Decentralized exchange activity in March was very high. Link

  • Stablecoin supply hits new high. Link

🧠AI + Metaverse

  • Amazon offers free credits to cover the costs of startups using AI models including Anthropic, Mistral AI, Cohere, and Meta. Link

  • Stanford researchers just revealed Octopus v2, an on-device model for AI agents. Link 

💰 Money Moves

  • IoTeX: The modular infrastructure for DePIN projects has raised $50M.

  • Xion: Web3 infrastructure firm secures $25M with Animoca Brands participating. Link

  • Agora: Stablecoin issuer raises $12M seed round to develop blockchain-based payments, with Dragonfly leading. Link

  • Paradigm is reported to be looking to raise roughly $750 million to seed a new fund. Link

  • A16z plants to invest $30M into multiple gaming-related tech startups. Link

That’s all for now, folks. Thank you for being part of the journey.Talk soon,

– Marc

PS: Follow me on LinkedIn and X for shorter insights.

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