Miami NFT Week draws thousands of creators and doles out inspiration, community learning. ‘We’re creating this world in real time’

It is rather fitting that the 3-day Miami NFT Week, part conference and part festival, is kicking off Miami Tech Month. For the 3,000 or so attendees at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center starting April 1, it has been a celebration of all things NFT, with a hopping exhibit area, a very Miami vibe, after-parties and some 250 speakers coming from the worlds of art, music, gaming, sports, travel, fashion, real estate, tech and more.

The speakers list included many from the Miami ecosystem, newbies and OGs, including founders and executives from MoonPay, OneOf, and TradeStation, as well as numerous creators from the music and art worlds. On full display was Miami’s eagerness to be a key player in the rise of web3, “a nosotros moment,” as Saif Ishoof, founder of Lab22C and #MiamiTech OG, called it in opening the conference.

Gianni D’Alerta, Ted Lucas and Erik LaPaglia founded Miami NFT Week with the mission of the conference/festival being a welcoming place to learn about NFTs for locals as well as visitors, mirroring the diversity that is Miami. Mission accomplished on that front. It was one of the most diverse crowds yet at a tech conference.

While our Bored Apes get all the buzz now and there will always be a place for digital collectibles, NFT use cases are growing and offering real utility, said VaynerNFT President Avery Akkineni and LaPaglia, both of Miami who kicked off Day 1 on the main stage.

‘Tentpole moments’

“What we need to drive adoption is a couple of tentpole moments. What is going to drive every kid to NFTs? It is going to be some really cool IP,” said Akkineni. “We’re going to see consumer brands launch seemingly out of nowhere that really understand web3.”

New platforms that will rise up as well as players like Coinbase, Snapchat and Instagram will have the ability to drive billions of users into the space if done in the right way, she said.

Still, she said, the space is too expensive for wide accessibility. “Brands have the unique ability to offer NFTs for free. Celebrity brands will use them to connect with fans, we will see more of that, but right now everyone sees dollar signs.”

Will Weinraub, who founded the Miami-based venture-backed startup OnChain Studios, creator of Cryptoys games and collectibles (think NFT-native Nintendo), hopes to be one of those consumer brands Akkineni referenced that will rise up. And Weinraub plans to involve the community in all steps of development including in creating cryptoyverse storylines – “the community wants to be in the writers room with you,” he said.

Community, of course, was a recurring theme throughout the conference, including the power of DAOs in the NFT universe. Alex Taub, the Miami-based CEO of  Upstream, is a big believer in DAOs and has pivoted his company in that direction. He sees “Participate 2 Earn” as a way to allow many more people to access the space. People without financial means could earn their way into DAOs, he said. Michelle Abbs, founder of Web3 Equity that recently dropped the Tuttle Tribe NFT collection, spoke about bringing  the female community into web3 – whether they are creating the projects, collecting or investing in NFTs, or developing the tech.

Kenasha Paul, Will Weinraub, Michelle Abbs, Alex Taub, Nabs Ishoof

Onramps to mass adoption

The No 1 onramp into nextgen web3 mass adoption will be gaming, says David Goldberg, partner in Alpaca VC, and he’s bullish on the space.  His 12 year old VC firm has gone down the “web3 rabbit hole” and a number of its new investments are in the space. Any of the major gaming brands not going into the space will be left behind, he says. “Blockchain and NFTs have upended the user experience and the business model.’

Other use cases for NFTs were also probed. Real estate mogul and South Floridian Grant Cardone,  speaker on Day 2 of the conference, said he is only just beginning to explore NFTs and used his stage time to probe the other panelists on why he should. How much will it cost? Where do I drop? What should I offer? He asked.

Don’t be in a rush, but look to add insane value, said LaPaglia, who also explained that smart contracts will be the utility – bye-bye title companies. That would be fine with Cardone. Another benefit fir real estate: The whole history of a property can live on the blockchain, making it easier to make investing decisions and to manage the property. That pleased Cardone as well.

Can web3 help us find the value of our human potential?

85% of us don’t like our jobs, said Angela Antony, the Miami-based founder and CEO of Scoutible, the first gamified professional metaverse designed to help anyone find and achieve their purpose. Her famous funder, Mark Cuban, said  Scoutible will allow people to “Learn 2 Earn“ hard skills and soft skills “Careers are dead; everyone is a free agent. I’m a big believer that everyone is amazing at something. We allow you to find your passion,” Cuban said.

Another common theme in the conference was the social impact that web3 and NFTs can make. For instance, web3 removes borders, creating revenue streams for women in third world countries to monetize their creations, said Hofit Golin, fashion influencer, as part of an all-women panel on the future of Web3. “Anyone can get into the space, that’s huge.”

Indeed, several of the booths emphasized the social missions of their projects or companies.  “NFTs and Web3 have the power to bring the world together,” said music artist Young Paris. “And we’re creating this world in real time.”

The wild, wild west

A barrier to mass adoption in this gold rush is still that it’s still a wild wild west, as numerous conference goers echoed. Fraud is rampant and onboarding into the space is too complicated. High gas fees are another barrier. Yet, since this was a conference of NFT bulls, many presenters made the point that there are already entrepreneurs at work on solving these problems.

Speaking of bulls, James Putra of TradeStation Crypto, presenting sponsor of Miami NFT Week, teased out a big unveiling of a statue on April 6 that will celebrate Miami’s aspiration to be the Crypto Capital, the vision of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Suarez, who took the stage on Day 1, spoke of the “Miami Miracle” and why he is excited   

“We understand this opportunity. We embrace this opportunity. Having been to all part of the world, they know what is happening here and they are scared,” Suarez said.

“These kinds of democratizing technologies like non-fungible tokens are going to change the world. They are going to create access for everyone, and as a city and a country and a world we’ve got to take advantage of it. We cannot create regulations that stifle it,” the mayor continued. “I call upon all of you to continue to believe, continue to build, to create, to innovate.”


All photos by NancY Dahlberg

READ MORE ON REFRESH MIAMI: Miami frens from around the world will soon descend on Wynwood for Miami NFT Week

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Nancy Dahlberg