Think Tech Summit: NFTs, speculative bubble or future of finance?

If you are ready to buy the first text message in history for 107,000 euros or the first tweet from Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, for 2.4 million, then you are one of the 2% of French people who have chosen to invest in NFTmainly young people, according to a study by Adan (Association for the Development of Digital Assets).

For everyone else, these three mysterious letters mean “Non-Fungible Token” or non-fungible (unique) tokens. These are digital files (photos, videos, messages, audio files, etc.) to which a certificate of authenticity stored in the blockchain is attached. Not to be confused with cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ether, which are used in particular to buy these NFTs.

Crypto-assets: French startups organize themselves around the NFT Factory

In 2014, artist and co-founder of the Monegraph platform Kevin MacCoy tweeted about the transfer of ownership of one of his digital works via Readymade NFT software. But it was in 2017 that the hype around these tokens is exploding with CryptoKitties (virtual cats) considered the first real NFTs. The collection of CryptoPunks, small characters used as avatars by stars like Snoop Dog or Jay Z, has reached the sum of 1.6 billion of dollars. Hence the recurring accusation of a speculative bubble associated with these digital files. Jérôme de Tychey, founder of Cometh, a game based on blockchain and NFTs and president of Ethereum France, is a convinced defender of these non-fungible tokens.

“Long live the NFTs which offer a new medium of artistic expression, which have spawned a first unicorn made in France with Sorare (publisher of virtual cards for footballers who raised 680 million dollars in September 2021 Ed) and whose interoperability they allow offers a new perspective for network gaming! » he exclaimed on the stage of the Grand Rex. Gilles Cadignan, founder and president of Woleet, a solution for certifying business documents using the Bitcoin protocol, is far from sharing this enthusiasm: “These three letters are like an incantation. When we pronounce them, we are immediately in fashion. But remember the ICOs (fundraising in cryptocurrencies) of 2018 supposed to revolutionize the financing of startups. It’s 2022 and no one is doing ICOs anymore…”.

Speculation reserved for insiders

For Gilles Cadignan, NFTs are clearly a scam designed to siphon off money from “ gullible people ” by ” smart guys who are surfing this new wave. A wave which, according to him, has already subsided: ” it is now necessary to position oneself on the new technological hand spinner (spinning top) that is the DAO “. The DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) is a decentralized organization whose governance rules are automated and immutably registered in a blockchain, a kind of decentralized venture capital fund. For him, this hysteria around NFTs leads to excesses and scams, such as the “wash trading”or the fact of buying back his own works to raise the price.

“It certainly exists. But it’s done transparently on the blockchain” tempers Jerome of Tychey. NFT technology has nevertheless made it possible to secure the exchange of these tokens which represent works or other files. “Is it really disruptive? Not really. The classic art market and the NFT market are still separate,” insists Gilles Cadignan. Will the fashion effect soon collapse as the founder of Woleet prophesies?

“For the Panini vignettes of the 70s, it was the same principle: twenty years later, they were worth much more. A nostalgia effect that also worked for the MoonCats, an ancestor of the CryptoKitties who recently experienced a revival” replies Jerome of Tychey. The stratospheric valuations of NFTs raise questions and fascinate at the same time. The digital collage “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by the artist Beeple sold for $69 million, more than a Manet or a Picasso.

Should we engage in this form of speculation? “I wouldn’t risk it. It’s a nascent market but the craze has created a greed that attracts unreliable players. Better to play on our video game and accumulate NFTs for free” suggests Jerome of Tychey. Gilles Cadignan adds: ” You have to be very careful. We have the right to like a crust, even digital, but we must not hope to resell it a hundred times more expensive. Only initiates can achieve this”. Free warning to digital gold diggers.

What is an NFT used for? The unique digital token market in six questions

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WATCH the entire Think Tech Summit and the debate (at 6:03 a.m.)