Today, NFT firm RECUR announced a $50M Series A raise at a $333M USD valuation and the launch of a new NFT college sports platform. The platform, NFTU, will initially feature PAC-12 moments from all available sports. In addition, RECUR is deep into hiring mode with plans to add over 150 employees across departments, up from previous plans to hire 100. And, in more long-term news, RECUR claims to be developing an NFT standard that will allow for secondary royalties across blockchains.


RECUR shared its shift into a higher level of scaling in a company announcement after previously announcing in March a record-breaking seed round for an NFT startup of $5 million. Investors in the seed round included Gary Vaynerchuk, Courtside VC, Joseph Lubin, Gemini, and Behance’s Scott Belsky. RECUR’s Series A round of $50M, and post-money valuation of $333M, is led by a “metaverse investment platform” called DIGITAL. The platform is backed by the family office of Steve Cohen, who is also joining RECUR’s board.


The funding appears to have caused RECUR to up its recent hiring estimate of 100 openings to 150+. These openings are not just for engineers, though there will be plenty of those. The current job list also features a large number of open community, design, and marketing positions. This may be the largest single effort to hire employees with so-called soft skills in the current NFT industry. It also reveals RECUR’s intent to build offices nationwide in major U.S. cities.


The announcement of their new college sports platform, NFTU, is more big news. To enable this platform, RECUR has partnered with AI tech company Veritone, which licenses content for the Pac-12 Networks of television and digital outlets. Veritone will help RECUR obtain “moments” from all possible Pac-12 sporting efforts. Together, they will also connect with student-athletes for approved video highlights in keeping with the new Pac-12 Networks NIL Licensing Program. In addition, RECUR is partnering with CLC, which licenses college trademarks, to add marks and mascots to the NFTU platform.


RECUR’s only previous NFT project was the minting of an NFT featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room. This NFT was presented to corporate partners of the Cavs at a special event. However, today’s announcement of NFTU opens up a whole new level of the game.


In longer-term news, RECUR previously revealed that it is working on a new ERC standard for NFTs that will enable secondary royalties to be generated on sales across blockchains. If successful, this effort will be a considerable he achievement for the company, especially given that even on Ethereum, major NFT platforms have yet to successfully initiate such royalties across all platforms.


RECUR is clearly at a major point in its development which means it has potentially crushing challenges ahead. It’s one thing to announce plans for 150 new hires and to successfully make those hires and integrate them into new operations. That is not to speak of the challenge of working with major brands, a process with many pitfalls, and the technical challenges of emerging technologies that sometimes seem duct-taped together.


How RECUR navigates these challenges will be worth watching. And how established platforms respond will also be worth considering. The NFT industry is moving into a new phase of corporate engagement and outreach to mainstream collectors. Newer companies like RECUR and new platforms like NFTU will certainly face challenges but also present serious competition to incumbents.


Featured Image Courtesy RECUR

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In the world of physical collectibles, especially sports memorabilia, the autograph of a star, even a small one, can radically increase the value of a sports card or piece of equipment. While blockchain data provides provenance, mainstream collectors may not find that nearly as satisfying as the symbolic human element of NFT signatures. AllCertified is one of an emerging group of services focused on adding verifiable digital autographs to collectible NFTs.


AllCertified – NFTs Verified by Humans


AllCertified founder Michael Eckstein, in an interview for NFTS WTF, discussed the NFT autograph solution he and his company are developing. The basic concept is that celebrities and stars are onboarded and verified. Then NFTs with affixed signature stickers are created for distribution. Since AllCertified has no plans to develop a competing NFT marketplace, the celebrity’s team can then distribute the NFT as they wish to the growing range of options from open marketplaces to celebrity-focused platforms.


While proprietary patent-pending technology is involved, their key is human verification of the celebrity’s identity allied with all critical choices being made by the celebrity from pricing to which NFTs to mint. AllCertified can also suggest images for NFTs and can even take existing NFTs to use as the basis for new NFTs with affixed signatures. If celebs wish, they can sign into AllCertified by phone to approve NFTs and even upload content on the fly.


AllCertified’s Roots in Sports Memorabilia


Eckstein revealed that AllCertified‘s initial market is sports, followed by five target markets: movie studios, TV and streaming services, music, art, and social media influencers. Given the current growth of the sports memorabilia movement and the remarkable power of a verifiable autograph to raise the value of such memorabilia, it’s not that surprising that AllCertified is starting there. However, there is a more personal dimension to that choice which Eckstein shared:


“I have been a sports memorabilia collector for many years…And every time I went to a sports memorabilia show, I was one of the guys in line to get the autograph of the person whose baseball card I had.”


“When NFTs started to move forward, I saw what an amazing upside potential this was. Literally, in the middle of the night, I woke up, and I said, how about the ability to have the sports personality not just be limited to physical presence to sign at a show? How about giving them an authorized blockchain-certified way to look at somebody submitting an NFT and then being able to affix their signature sticker to that. And that’s how the idea was born.”


According to Eckstein, AllCertified is already receiving a strong, positive response. Sports card dealers are also very excited by the idea and would love to be able to take their inventory, create digital images, add the appropriate signatures and create a valuable NFT. Dealers could make quite a bit of revenue, but Eckstein had a disappointing message for most of them. AllCertified will only be working with such companies as Upper Deck and Panini that have direct relationships with athletes. In addition, the company’s commitment to verifiability and celeb control ultimately limits who will be able to use their services.


NFT Signatures Likely to Get Hot


NFT signatures seem likely to be an especially relevant offering in industries in which celebrities have huge fan bases, such as athletes, tv and movie stars, and social media influencers, and may want to put out specific NFTs in large numbers. Signatures provide a means to make them all seem a bit more special and can also provide an option for a limited signed edition being released along with a larger unsigned edition. Of course, a much broader range of use cases will be developed over time.


And as those use cases develop, new competitors will enter the game. One entrant in the NFT Signature space, AutographNFT, is further along with its approach which takes a very different direction. AutographNFT starts from the collector’s side with an already existing NFT for which collectors can request a signature. The NFT creator’s identity is verified through Twitter and, if approved, the original NFT is wrapped in a synthetic NFT, dubbed an “aNFT,” which is essentially a new ERC721 NFT tradable on open markets.


AutographNFT‘s use of Web 2 identity verification is an intelligent approach but also seems likely to have a level of direct outreach behind the scenes. Whether or not that’s the case, the use of what is essentially a removable wrapper, with the ability to restore the original NFT, is likely to be an appealing option.


The Human Element


In many ways, one can think of Web 3 as an attempt to code humans out of the picture as much as possible in the service of creating excellent tools for humans. Companies like AllCertified and AutographNFT remind us that the visible presence and involvement of humans, especially individual celebrities, is a powerful force that fits digital collectibles well. But it does seem likely to require a lot of upfront expense that can’t be automated away. In the case of NFT signature companies, victory will go to those who can combine the most appealing technology for mainstream users with the strongest connection to celebrities and their representatives.

Featured Image Courtesy AllCertified

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When you manage to capture a moment defined by excitement, then combine it with the tokenization that is an NFT, it immediately solidifies that event in time. Those who were present for a now minted event can relive said experience a million times over and even transfer it to someone who missed out on that opportunity, giving them the chance to be exposed to what they may have missed. In other words, past generations can hold onto these moments of nostalgia while future generations can understand first-hand the significance of monumental events that took place before their time. NBA Topshot has managed to do this repeatedly and has cemented itself among the top contributors to the digital world that is NFT’s.


     This begs the question, is this exclusive to athletics and can this be applied to other aspects of entertainment? I believe this is not exclusive to sports, but also applicable to a wide variety of entertainment genres including, but not limited to, music. We already know music can be minted in a variety of ways, so why am I bringing it up? Well as we’ve seen, music entertainment, more specifically- rap music, has been captured via imagery, digital gifs, and sound bytes – then later sold as exclusive NFT’s. What if we could capture a famous moment on stage, such as the infamous performance of the Tupac hologram, and give it the 1/1 stamp to pass on ownership of the experience? For instance, Lebron James’ Dunk on November 15th, 2019 is being sold by NBA Topshot for $250,000 (or at the time of writing this 97.64 ETH). 

Lil Nas X Billy Ray Cyrus
Lil Nas X Billy Ray Cyrus


I’d argue there are moments of history in music entertainment that are just as, if not more valuable, than Lebron’s aforementioned dunk. I know everyone in my generation looks back fondly upon the up in smoke tour lead by Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. Imagine the green lights, Snoop Dogg’s impeccable wardrobe, the atmosphere encapsulated into a single moment that thousands of people wish they could reimagine. There are similar moments that are more contemporary such as the first Rolling Loud tour, The Courtroom Chronicles of Tekashi69 as documented in sketches by artist Jane Rosenberg, or even the groundbreaking release of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X. Note how these are critical moments in an artist’s timeline, not just on-stage performances. Footage of the first Rolling Loud Tour can be condensed into a digital gif, Tekashi 69 could use his sense of self-deprecating humor to compile a digitized version of songs he hand wrote in prison, Lil Nas X could accompany a gif of him and Billy Ray Cyrus with a sound-byte of Old Town Road’s chorus. 

Biggie Tupac Budweiser Fest.
Biggie Tupac Budweiser Fest.


An epic performance can now be minted and transformed from a moment of nostalgia into a not-so-distant memory. Like many articles you’ll find here, this one is quite speculative. Suffice it to say it is my personal opinion that music entertainment in relation to NFTs will only evolve. So far, all we’ve seen in the hip-hop space are Pieces based on smaller moments in time such as Lil Pump’s Jewelry or “esskeetit” card.These just seem like digital pieces of merchandise and pale in comparison to other substantial moments in his career, such as his Gucci Gang video which, as it stands, currently has amassed over one billion views after garnering 10 million on its first day. Don’t give me these poorly thought-out generic pieces of ‘merch,’ Lil Pump… Give me a moment in time! It still remains to be seen as to who the first artist or label will be to implement a level of nostalgia for the fans in this space. What we need is releases with more magnitude, with the consumer in mind, and not what seems to be artists’ money-grubbing simply because NFT’s are popular.


     The NBA differs from Hip-Hop in many important ways. Most significantly, the NBA essentially has American basketball under its belt in a roster format that would be impossible for a record label. This is critical in understanding the challenges that coincide with minting various moments in time. There are a multitude of legalities that have the potential to be deterrents for massive events in the hip hop world. Where as in the world of NBA, we can find on NBA Topshots’ website Zion Williamson’s iconic block which is #49 of their first cosmic series. However  Atlantic or Warner Brothers may have trouble coming to a mutually beneficial agreement to create and release a product. Especially considering the frequency in which artists have fallen out in the music, but more specifically Hip-Hop, industries. Think about the enormity that would be associated with a minting of the mind blowing freestyle Tupac and Biggie Smalls showcased at the Budweiser Superfest of January 15th 1994. The politics surrounding their relationships with one another while they were alive, in addition to the lure and mystery of their careers, alongside the preceding ‘beef,’ would only prove to be a major selling point. It also would inevitably prove to be the reason this would never happen. There are too many similar situations in the world of rap music from those as extreme as this example to instances as simple as an image issue.


Tekashi-= 6ix9ine courtroom sketch
Tekashi 6ix9ine courtroom sketch


In summary there is infinite potential for the world of Hip-Hop to make major virtual strides just like the NBA has managed to. However, their maximum potential won’t be realized until this artform can practice more unity amongst itself and it’s artists. It is also critical that competing record labels establish more comradery with one another to allow for more cultural growth. This benefits everyone from big wig executives down to the kid listening to the radio on the way to school. The metaverse, as it currently stands, is nowhere near as fruitful as it can be. Influence from other forms of entertainment will be what takes it to the next level. Let me be clear when I say that the minting process is brand new to most within it’s space. It is up to us as creatives and influencers to spread the knowledge and grow collectively. And this is what will ultimately open more doors for our community. The potential is there, let’s actualize it.

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