At NFT BZL, Miami shines as crypto capital

Miami’s crypto credentials were on full view at yesterday’s NFT BZL event in Downtown Miami. Attendees descended upon the FTX Arena, home of the Miami Heat, to learn about what all the non-fungible tokens fuss is about. The lineup didn’t disappoint – technologists, artists, and innovators were all on deck to satiate the crypto-curious crowd’s appetite for NFT insights. 

The audience included everything from crypto newbies to blue-sweatshirt clad JPEG Morgan memelords. Don’t worry if you didn’t have a chance to join the party: Refresh Miami has got you covered! Here are some of the top takeaways from Tuesday’s event by Mana Tech.

Beginning with the basics

The day began with a primer of what exactly is an NFT. Will Weinraub, co-founder and CEO of OnChain Studios, Clubhouse personality and digital marketing expert Swan Sit, and ESPN broadcaster Ros Gold-Onwude sat down to cover the NFT fundamentals.

NFTs “make the internet ownable,” asserted Weinraub. In his estimation, “so many opportunities exist” because NFTs empower people to assign ownership rights on digital assets. This points to the broader message reverberating throughout the day that NFTs are much more than JPEGs.

Gold-Onwude articulated a point to which all panelists would agree: “NFTs make stronger communities,” said Gold-Onwude. In order to find success in the NFT game, she argued that “you have got to get active – follow people on Twitter, follow people in the Discords.”

For her part, Sit highlighted what would become a recurring theme: “We have to bring more people in. It has to be mass adoption.”

Another recurring theme: We are in super early innings of NFT and everyone is learning and willing to share what they’ve learned. “If anyone calls themselves an NFT expert, run!” Weinraub said.

An explosion tech-fueled creativity

As art plays a central role in the development of today’s NFT space, so did it take center stage at the NFT BZL event (it is Miami Art Week after all!). Griffin Cock Foster, co-founder of online NFT auction platform Nifty Gateway, noted the “absolute explosion of creativity” brought on by the NFT movement. “It’s always good to bet on human creativity,” he said.

Jonathan Choi, the CIO and Head of Partnerships at Metaplex Studios, a protocol for building branded NFT storefronts on the Solana blockchain, says that this is just the beginning of much more to come: “I’m excited to push the boundaries of what NFTs can do. I think we’re just getting started.”

NFTs aren’t just for the visual arts. Musicians can get in on the game, as evidenced by heavy metal star Matt Sanders (better known by his stage name, M. Shadows) and singer Pia Mia, both of whom participated in a music-focused panel. “Everyone with an audience should be doing NFTs,” said Sanders.

Fashion was also in focus during NFT BZL. Celebrity fashion stylist Wayne Scot Lukas gave the audience a peak of a Versace dress that Tina Turner wore on tour in the 90s; he said it was Versace’s last creation. The dress has been made into an NFT that will be auctioned off this week, with a part of the proceeds going to charity.

Celebrity fashion stylist Wayne Scot Lukas shows the audience hos Tina Turner modified her dress herself to make it more comfortable.

Apart from the arts, gaming also had a strong presence at NFT BZL. Miami native Jonathan Ovadia from AEXLAB gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the future of virtual reality and virtual social spaces. A panel of gaming experts including Jeff Zirlin (better known as “The Jiho”), co-founder of Axie Infinity, and Donnell Wright, co-founder of play-and-earn gaming organization MetaGoons, weighed in on how gaming can usher in the metaverse era.

Practical tips on how to buy NFTs without getting burned

The founders of Miami-based crypto education platform Defy Trends curated a series of presentations from artists who are involved in the world of NFTs. The Defy Trends team offered insights into what to look for when considering an NFT purchase.

Top of the list was community and interactivity. CFO Elena Garidis noted that when Defy Trends’ platform assesses an NFT’s value, it looks at “how a holder can benefit from the NFT.” That’s because the benefits associated with ownership can “add to the long term value” of a particular NFT, she explained. 

Another key factor according to the Defy Trends team is rarity. Their platform lets users track how rare a particular NFT is, and compare the scarcity of an NFT with its price over time. These insights, the team suggests, can give users the edge needed to score a deal on an NFT.

Defy Trends’ CFO Elena Garidis. left, and CEO Imge Su Cetin break it all down for the audience. Photo from Defy Trends.

Mayor Suarez energizes the crowd

What would be a Miami tech event without an appearance of Mayor Frances Suarez himself?

Suarez painted a picture of NFTs playing an integral role in the day-to-day functioning of the city. “I believe that cities can leverage non-fungible tokens as a critical part of our information architecture,” he said, noting that the city could keep track of records like parking tickets and zoning by leveraging blockchain technology.

He also said that “NFTs can help us solve challenges that ultimately impact our quality of life,” citing building resilient communities and improving transit as two potential areas where NFTs can be used for good.

“I’m very excited for what lies ahead from the builders that I’ve met here at NFT BZL,” Suarez remarked.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez with Moishe Mana and Michelle Abbs of Mana Tech, which put on NFT BZL.

Nancy Dahlberg contributed to this report.


Riley Kaminer