NFT BZL, a digital art conference, kicks off Miami Art Week and Art Basel

Miami’s crypto-craze brought 5,000 people to the conference yesterday.

pplpleaser and other NFT creators discuss the future of the digital creator economy at NFT BZL
By Marcella McCarthy (EN)
December 01, 2021 | 12:31 PM

Miami — A little more than a year ago, pplpleaser, an NFT artist, was unemployed. Tuesday, she was on the stage of NFT BZL during Miami Art Week, talking about how Web 3.0 is all about “anonymous celebrities,” and how it’s a “meritocracy.” Like for many others, crypto has changed her life. She’s an animation artist by training, and when she couldn’t find a job she started creating art just for fun, but she was quickly able to monetize it. In fact, her first NFT sold for $310 Ethereum, ($525,000 at the time).

Her real name is unknown, and that’s precisely the point: she’s anonymous and she’s just a regular, everyday person, but the speed at which crypto is developing has made her “someone” today, and that’s the part she really likes about the whole craze.

NFT BZL, a conference about the world of NFT’s, brought in 5,000 people and the event was sold out, according to organizers. The conference was educational, and meant to teach people about NFT’s, crypto, blockchain and how they work together. The speakers also talked about how the NFT craze got to where it is today, and its potential for the future.

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Perfect for Miami

Miami has always attracted everything that’s shiny and new, and there’s nothing newer than NFT’s and the metaverse - it’s being built as we speak. Whenever there is something that’s new and can make money overnight, you’ll find Miami front and center of the equation.

“I’d equate the fair to NFT NYC [another NFT conference],” said William Quigley, the founder of Tether, a digital coin that’s “tethered” or tied to the value of $1 US. It’s also the second most traded coin in Latin America after Bitcoin.

The question at stake is always the same: will Miami become the next tech hub, or NFT hub, or (fill in the blank) hub? One thing is for sure: the city and business leaders are hoping it becomes all the above. But this time it looks like it’s actually happening.

“Simply looking at the number of people attending, it’s a sign that Miami has become a primary location for all things crypto,” Quigley said. Quigley was a speaker at the conference, along with other crypto celebrities such as the founders of The Sandbox, Bill Tai, and many other “celebrities” the everyday person has never heard about, but who are riding the crypto wave that just seems to get bigger by the day.

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“Hosting this conference forces people to really take us [Miami] seriously,” said Michelle Abbs, managing director of Mana Tech, one of the hosts of the conference. “There’s no way to deny the power that’s being created and magnetizing people to Miami,” she added. This is true. You can feel the fervor in the air (and on Twitter).

Michelle Abbs, managing director of Mana Tech, ran the conference from backstage.dfd

Miami tech is still very small, there’s an inner circle, and while that circle has grown exponentially this last year, real, big, concrete things like a 5,000 person NFT conference are still the result of a quick phone call between friends.

“Will Weinruab [founder of OnChain studios] called me last summer and said, ‘What about we host an NFT conference, and I said, ‘Sure, but let’s keep it very small, like 200 people,’” said Abbs. That small idea hardly lasted before they expanded it to 700 people, and then the mammoth size it was.

What’s the Hype About?

Unlike traditional art, which many people buy because they think it’s beautiful and they can decorate their homes with it, the allure of NFT’s is different. It’s about being part of a club, one you can only get into if you own the *right* NFT, and it’s about making money, virtually overnight, of course.

While this is not financial advice, Bloomberg Línea got some NFT investment tips from none other than Bill Tai, one of the venture capitalists who was a seed investor in Zoom technologies. (ZTNO) and today is an investor in Dapper Labs, the group behind booming NFT collections such as CryptoKitties and NBATopshot.

“I look for deeply engaged communities,” he said. “Community leads to commerce leads to currency,” he added. His favorite NFT, OnChain Monkey #808, which was “minted” (i.e. created) by one of his projects called Metagood, an NFT marketplace for social good.

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OnChain Monkey #808dfd

But is it all just hype? Probably not, but even some of the business leaders behind the movement aren’t investing their own money. Moishe Mana, a real estate mogul, the developer behind Miami’s artsy Wynwood neighborhood, and the owner of Mana Tech, which organized the event, is playing it like poker: he thinks the house always wins.

“You know, I told one of my managers, because she kept asking me ‘When are we going to invest in NFTs?” And I said, ‘Just because we own the casino doesn’t mean we’re going to gamble,’” Mana said at a lunch the day before the conference.