Vladislav Ginzburg: “Be Authentic with what you have to offer”

In order for NFTs to do anything we want them to do they need to run on a smart contract. If this movement makes sense, then we don’t just talk about the charities we support, but we actually put our money where our mouth is and write what our mouth is saying with smart contracts. […]

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In order for NFTs to do anything we want them to do they need to run on a smart contract. If this movement makes sense, then we don’t just talk about the charities we support, but we actually put our money where our mouth is and write what our mouth is saying with smart contracts. With all the money flying around in blockchain, I’m dedicated to utilizing smart contracts to route some of the money directly into charity.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing CEO, Co-Founder — Vladislav Ginzburg.

Vlad serves as Chief Operating Officer of Blockparty. Earlier he ran an art hedge fund and was a former director at Rock Paper Photo, a LiveNation backed photography marketplace. He also previously managed a blue-chip artwork investment fund and individual artists, during which he closed 100mm dollars in art transactions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born in Kyiv in 1987, left the Soviet Union with my family when I was young and came to America by way of Austria and Italy, eventually ending up in Brooklyn. After I graduated college, I was looking for a career in finance and ended up getting into the fine art industry. I did some odd jobs for auction houses and realized that the art business was a financial market but was lacking in the tools and analytics that financial markets rely on, and felt I could make an impact there. Combining that knowledge with my love for music and art and experience working as an art dealer and managing art collected by musicians, I found myself at the intersection of music and art. I stepped away from art briefly to focus on and pursue technology until I met Blockparty co-founder Shiv Madan. We worked hard on creating a ticketing use case for NFT’s, eventually expanding our scope to NFT’s for music, art and culture collectibles. Given my experience in the art world, I stepped in as CEO to lead the expansion.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I think that Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a book that resonates with a lot of people in the industry, myself included, because of how much it ties retro futurism into a future that is largely lived online and tying into things like the Metaverse, and how important of a role gaming plays into the development of exciting products.

As for other books, I get asked a lot about the fantastical prices being made in NFT’s in this early hype cycle and if there’s any precedent in the Contemporary Art market. While I wouldn’t say that this book necessarily impacted me, nor do I agree with many of it’s assessments, I recommend The 10 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark by Dan Johnson to folks trying to understand the parallels of the art market to what’s happening now with NFT’s.

Books like the Truth Machine and The Age of Cryptocurrency by Michael Casey were instrumental in turning my blockchain/bitcoin hobby into a legitimate career interest.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry?

Most tech companies or founders largely build products for ourselves, something that we would use or something that would matter to us. I’ve always been a fan of music and art and wanted to be a part of and give back to the industry. I also spent my career studying the psychology of collectorship, so with that knowledge and my passion for music and art I was able to better understand the intersection of the two and help create something authentic.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

The first time we ticketed a music festival end to end we came into it from the perspective of solving the market problems (ticket scalping, fake tickets, etc.), all of which NFTs did solve, but what we realized is despite the problems with incumbent ticket platforms, people didn’t understand NFTs yet, and were used to convenience and habit, so we had to learn how to add value to the market while also creating a platform and service that is easy to use. Confirmation times, requiring one ticket (NFT) per wallet, non allowance of 3rd party marketplaces confused the consumer, leading to some frustrated interactions at the entrance to the festival. I laugh when I remember that day, thinking about how the consumer didn’t exactly feel better about their customer service needs because they were among the first to use an NFT for a ticket. Lesson learned that we continue to carry with us to this day as an organization.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career I met a massively significant artist named Astrid Kirchherr. We met shortly after the fine art investment fund I managed acquired the copyrights to her iconic first-ever photographs of the Beatles, in order to begin creating prints that she would sign and sell to collectors via galleries and exhibit in museums around the world.

That day, I arrived to meet her at her attorney’s office in Hamburg, DE. I flew in from New York with a portfolio box containing prints of her photographs that I had made at a leading photography print studio in Manhattan. I also flew with a ceremonial pen I purchased as a gift. I thought presenting her with the first run of high-quality prints, and a ceremonial pen for the first signing was the right move.

Quite quickly, she let me know that the prints were not created with the correct attention to detail that she demands in prints of her work, and that she never, ever signs in pen. What a faux pas, and a tremendously embarrassing moment to say the least.

Fortunately, I would go on to have commercial and cultural success with her archive of works, and she and I would laugh about that moment later on.

However, that day (and that feeling) has stuck with me every day since and reminds me never to fall into the trap of mistaking artworks (or NFTs now) for assets first and foremost. These are artworks, and above all else the art and artists perspective must be respected to be truly authentic — and the authenticity is the value, and authenticity often means more than just real.

That’s an ethic I bring to work every day at Blockparty and to the artists that trust us with their artworks.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My parents first and foremost have had a big impact on my success. They’ve always instilled the ‘immigrant mentality’ of never giving up, even if the odds are stacked against you and that definitely is something that has driven me throughout my career. My wife has also been an integral part of my success — she was extremely supportive in 2016 when I decided to change career paths and has been a support system throughout. As a highly accomplished marketing and brand professional, she’s taught me a lot about brand and how critical the mission and story is in the business I run, and how living that mission is vital to the success of the company and brand. There were also quite a few people who took the time to explain the music industry to help me become more thoughtful about the industry, which was important for me as well.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we recently launched a refreshed platform, which offers a variety of tools and options for creators including bespoke and customizable storefronts, auction functionality, tooling, and multi chain-support. This updated platform provides a more personalized experience for artists and musicians, allowing them to manage and conduct their own drops, direct sales, auctions and reach new audiences with their authentic NFTs.

For the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

NFTs are a type of cryptographic token initially made possible by the Ethereum blockchain, which is a decentralized and open-source blockchain that allows developers the freedom and tools to create custom tokens for whatever purpose they see fit. In this case, each token is fully unique and therefore its value is derived only from the characteristics that make it unique.

It is therefore easiest to think of an NFT as a digital certificate of title. Owning the NFT means you own the media that is connected to it (just as the certificate of title you have on a car means you own the car that is connected to the certificate).

Digital art has existed for many decades, but faced a great challenge to develop a culture of collectorship: It’s hard to prove ownership of a digital asset. NFT’s help by establishing a digital certificate of title that is linked to a digital artwork, and ownership is guaranteed, and tracked throughout resale.

One of the main benefits of owning a digital collectible versus a physical collectible is that each NFT contains distinguishing characteristics that make each unique and easily verifiable. This is a major selling point for collectors, because it means that their investment is protected since the original can be traced back to the original creator, so any fake collectibles won’t hold up.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

One thing I’m excited for is when the industry gets out of the pandemic. Right now, the great equalizer of NFTs is that we’re all on our screens 24/7, but once we’re back in the world there’s an opportunity for NFTs to be usable in the real world and to continue to deliver value.

On the flip side of that, I’m excited to see how digital solutions will continue to have an impact post-pandemic. As virtual experiences become more robust and high quality, digital ownership within those things will really start to matter and we have to step out of our defaults and think about reaching a digital generation.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

Celebrity Takeover: with the influx of celebrities coming into the NFT space, it might take audiences away from entering creators.

Data Security: creators and fans not using established platforms that have clear security guidelines when it comes to collecting personal and financial information.

NFT’s becoming a ‘fad’: people may try to jump on the bandwagon and invest in NFTs or creators that they’re not passionate about.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

NFTs are complicated

NFTs may sound complicated, but they’re not. Logically, it’s no different than two rectangular sheets of canvas. If I paint on it, thus making that canvas completely unique to characteristics I applied, it’s only worth something to my mom. If Andy Warhol does it, it’s a commercially-viable asset. The same goes for NFTs.

NFTs are a bad investment

If you are passionate about the industry and creator that you’re investing in, NFTs are a great investment because they have the potential to exponentially increase their value, which not only benefits the investor but also the creator who developed the work.

NFTs are pointless

Crypto art is the future as it enables traditional artists — who still prefer canvas and paintbrush — to create new digital features of their works. By allowing these artists to expand their creative mediums, they’re able to create a more well rounded experiences for fans and collectors and open up a new revenue stream.

NFTs promote forgery and misattribution

While NFTs do guarantee ownership of an asset, they do not guarantee that the creator of the asset isn’t knocking it off. My advice to consumers looking to purchase NFTs is to buy from a legitimate NFT platform that vet creators to ensure their work is legit.

NFTs are bad for the environment

The problem that must be solved here is not NFTs being bad for the environment, it is the energy consumption associated with proof of work mining. This is actively being worked on by the Ethereum community with various solutions, including new approaches to mining and scaling solutions. Also, we must not assume that all NFTs are made on Ethereum.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

The most common mistake people make when they enter the NFT industry is investing in an NFT as a way to make money. While many NFT’s are going to skyrocket in value, an overwhelming majority will not. My main piece of advice to avoid that is to invest in quality NFTs that you love and that are from a reputable source.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

NFTs tap into culturally relevant trends and moments that are present in society and therefore have the potential to open up different aspects of culture to various groups of people. NFTs also provide an engagement opportunity for both creators and fans to connect over their love of art, music and more.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Be Authentic with what you have to offer

2. Have passion for what you’re creating/what you’re buying

3. Give time to build up your audience

4. Take advantage of the NFT marketplace to build your network

5. Don’t force blockchain to do something it can’t do, instead, adapt to what the technology will allow us to do

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

In order for NFTs to do anything we want them to do they need to run on a smart contract. If this movement makes sense, then we don’t just talk about the charities we support, but we actually put our money where our mouth is and write what our mouth is saying with smart contracts. With all the money flying around in blockchain, I’m dedicated to utilizing smart contracts to route some of the money directly into charity.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

We have been quarantined in a pandemic for over a year. I would love to host my friends and family for lunch.

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