Unanswered questions about NFTs

Beeple's Everydays

I don't hate NFTs. I just have a lot of questions.

The narrative: Bitcoin is the epitome of digital scarcity. Bitcoin makes transferring value unstoppable and uncensorable. NFTs further this concept and make digital content like images, videos, and music scarce and programmable.

I love this narrative. It is cool to have artwork programmatically payout royalties to the artist. It is cool to have music programmatically payout royalties to the musician when listened to or used in another song. It is cool to have a user-owned racetrack in a video game that charges tolls every time racers go around the track.

But the map is not the territory.

  • What if people copy your content and upload it onto the same blockchain?
  • What if people copy your content and upload it onto a different blockchain?
  • Are NFT contracts legally enforceable?
  • What if my artwork gets deleted?
  • What if platforms like Opensea and Rarible compete and only payout creators if the artwork gets sold on their platforms?
  • What if the content the signature points to changes?
  • Who pays to store the content?
  • What if I buy a digital asset to use in a video game that is no longer being developed?
  • Do you really own that NBA topshot clip-can you legally license it without the NBAs permission?

Bitcoin is equally complex as it is simple. Your coins, the digital asset, are always on chain and don't rely on a third party to store content. The Bitcoin community has opted for a model that prioritizes security and enables anyone to run their own nodes for under $50.

NFTs add an extreme amount of complexity and risk, and the above questions don't even go into any of Ethereum's risks.

NFTs are cool. People should experiment. But it's going to end like the ICO bubble so don't put any money in you're not 100% okay with losing. It's a cash grab and the bubble will pop. Content will be priced down 90%+ and most will think their dreams of creator equality are over. And from the ashes, some use cases will emerge. Time will tell.

My current thesis is that outside of Bitcoin, programmable digital assets and blockchains will enable and empower third parties that will treat their customers better under the constant threat that their userbase can fork to another company or protocol.

Let me know what you think. Let's discuss on Twitter.

Braintrust Explained: Freelance talent marketplace with a twist

Since my recent post about Pipe, Peter from FinVC recommended that I check out what Braintrust is up to. I dug in and was not disappointed. Let's go!

Braintrust is a two-sided talent marketplace with a blockchain token, $BTRUST.

🥖 The Marketplace

Similar to other talent marketplaces, Braintrust aggregates companies looking to hire freelance talent (demand side) and high-quality tech talent (supply side). The playbook for this part of the business is well-known: continue to grow both sides until the marketplace becomes self-sustaining via network effects and other moats. Sound easy? It's not.

Marketplace businesses are tricky to get off the ground. They require doing things that don't scale in order to grab market share. It's grueling work akin to building two businesses at once. Moreover, Braintrust is up against some big competition with established brands including Toptal, Fiverr, and Upwork.

To assure continued success, Braintrust must execute the following at a minimum:

  • processing payments
  • settling disputes
  • building sticky tools & features (e.g. discovery, scheduling, time-tracking, reputation systems)
  • vetting talent
  • and everything else customers (hiring organizations) offload to Braintrust instead of handling internally.

So we know it's difficult, but how might Braintrust dominate the talent marketplace of the future and beat the competition?

🌪 The Twist

Braintrust is a non-profit that prides itself on transparency, user-ownership, and not extracting rents.

How?

  • Braintrust doesn't take a cut from its talent base (👈 this is hugely important to freelancers).
  • Hiring companies gain transparency: jobs are marked up at a flat 10% rate (so Braintrust can cover its bills).
  • Talent and companies own the network via the $BTRUST token, a digital asset issued by Braintrust that incentivizes referrals and enables token holders to play an active role in the network by voting and vetting peers.

Typically, most marketplaces succeed by first aggregating supply. Braintrust believes that its non-profit model and token are enough to align incentives and diminish the resources needed to hit self-sustaining growth.

Braintrust’s accomplishments include:

  • Capturing $2M+ revenue in the first 11 months of private beta since Jan 2020.
  • Gaining 52 active customers, mostly large enterprises
  • Growing 59% MoM organically with no marketing spend
  • Onboarding 1,000 approved freelancers with 55k more on wait list, growing through word of mouth

🤷‍♂️ User-owned what?

The user-owned economy is a model whereby customers benefit by sharing in the success of the companies whose products they consume. For example:

AirCnc is a marketplace where hosts can rent their homes to travelers. AirCnc bets that by creating a loyalty program, they can incentivize their host community to only list their homes on AirCnc. In return, hosts get special recognition on the site, access to benefits and perks such as exclusive host-only events, and dividends every quarter.


User-Owned Economy.png

The thesis is sound, but how long until it becomes mainstream?

First, Bitcoin needs to solidify its place as an excellent store of value (hitting gold's market cap). Once consumers store large amounts of wealth in a decentralized currency, blockchain based digital assets like $BTRUST will be easier to understand and utilize. Shifting demographics and the remote work wave are both trends that Braintrust will ride.

Until then, Braintrust should mitigate the complexity of digital assets and lead with the value: matching freelancers to gigs without price gouging, and connecting companies with the best, distributed talent. Gradually, Braintrust should test new features for the $BTRUST token and course-correct when necessary. Braintrust should include the "Beta" or "Preview" labels on all $BTRUST technology and be transparent about utilizing experimental tech so they’re in a position to exceed expectations.

What's exciting about Braintrust?

Braintrust is taking a radically different approach to building the talent network of the future. Other companies are either beholden to shareholders (Fiverr) or will be once they go public. If Braintrust stays true to its mission, it can build a wonderful, future-proof network to show the world there are alternatives to riding the VC route to IPO.

Tailwinds

  • remote work
  • software eating the world
  • distributed talent, demand for specific needs
  • user-owned economy thesis
  • sovereign individual thesis
  • Metcalfe's law

Headwinds

  • established players with market share
  • digital assets can be confusing
  • experimental tech
  • unclear regulation

🔑 Nuggets

  1. Braintrust is building a great business and then rewarding users with tokens. This is absolutely the right way to do it as opposed to many ICOs in 2017 who sold a token and then tried to create a business. As Braintrust is a trailblazer in the space, I'll be keeping an eye on its endeavor to integrate a digital asset thoughtfully. Braintrust will benefit from having a dedicated team to work through gamification, growth, tech, and regulation as it creates not only a marketplace but a community.
  2. With a small team, word of mouth marketing, and excellent customer experience, Braintrust has the potential to become one of the best talent marketplaces globally.

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Typehut