Last March G20 Member Patrick MeLampy introduced us to Henry Katz, a senior engineer who had “joined a bunch of folks trying to get a business off the ground in the Web 3.0/Block chain space, solving a problem around analyzing provenance of NFT’s.” We were intrigued.
NFTs (“Non-Fungible Tokens,” coded creations on the blockchain that can’t be copied or counterfeited) are a big deal because they’re the key to protecting creativity itself. They’re vessels for cultural artifacts… a new way to capture, display, associate with, assemble, and trade in the bits of intellectual property that collectively represent human culture… art, music, stories, and ideas.
While the market value of NFTs has fallen from the heady peaks of BAYC and Moonbirds, just last week Oscar-winning actor and fava bean enthusiast Sir Anthony Hopkins sold out a collection of 1,000 pieces of original art representing his long and storied career. It sold out in 7 minutes, fetching up to 1 ETH (about $1,300.00) per piece.
Artists like Beeple are pushing the frontier of the medium, including a recent piece that crossed over into the real world. Collectors have taken notice, scooping up his work for $69 million at a recent Christie’s auction.
If this all seems silly to you, it might just mean no one’s gotten around to putting something you love on the blockchain.
What did you collect as a kid? What song was played at your wedding? What film scene lingers in your imagination? When those things are for sale — in digital versions everyone will be able to appreciate but only a few will be able to own — will you want one?
Imagine a single, verifiably unique, digital version of the Honus Wagner Baseball Card, or Born to Run, or the scene in The Godfather where Sonny gets killed. Each would be worth what someone was willing to pay for it, and in those cases — and almost infinite others — that will be a lot.
Use cases for NFTs go way beyond art. Concert tickets are becoming NFTs, which you can buy and trade as you like, with a cut of each secondary transaction going to the venue and the artist. SaaS is being replaced with SaaT (software as a token,) giving users more control and freeing developers from managing licenses while reducing piracy. Businesses from golf courses to hotels are looking for ways to increase revenue and cut costs using NFTs, and the list grows every day.
Not all of those experiments will work, but some surely will.
As these assets take hold of people’s expectations businesses will need new technology platforms to manage identity, privacy, custody, compliance, finance, and community… all disruptive startup opportunities. Security is right at the top of that list.
Standing between early experimentation and mainstream adoption of NFTs are all manner of unscrupulous folks. Some will try and sell you the digital version of intellectual property they don’t actually own. You can “mint” a digital image of the Mona Lisa on Niftify, Thirdweb, or Crossmint, right now, for example, but there’s a big difference between an NFT that gives you the rights to A Mona Lisa, and the one that does the same for THE FREAKING Mona Lisa.
It’s also possible to inflate the value of an NFT artificially, by selling it back and forth between wallets you control. And because there are no intermediaries to take a cut of an NFT transaction (definitely a feature,) it falls on the user to verify the smart contract that enables the transaction (a bug ripe for exploitation.)
As NFTs go mainstream, buyers and sellers will need tools to manage the risks of trading digital assets that are held, managed, and transferred off-chain.
That was the problem Henry and his merry band of heroes had set off to solve, and it was one we were really interested in.
Today the fruits of their labors ripened with the launch of TrustCheck, a Chrome browser extension that instantly and automatically analyzes the risk of a wide range of crypto transactions, including NFT transfers, smart contract interactions, permissions approvals, minting, token purchases and swaps. By simulating transactions before they occur, running checks against the company’s machine-learning engine, and analyzing data from over a dozen sources, TrustCheck offers users personalized, real-time security recommendations prior to finalizing a transaction.
There will be others in this business, of course, but we think over time the winner will bring the right cocktail of AI and blockchain expertise, while out-executing the others on product in a fast changing category.
Henry Katz — Pat MeLampy’s guy — is the company’s CTO. He previously served as CTO of AI innovator Tomorrow.io, as VP of Engineering at RapidSOS, and as a Sr. Manager/Architect at Oracle.
Nicholas Horelik is the crypto guy, TrustCheck’s Chief Blockchain Officer. Nick was the Co-founder and CTO at RapidSOS, after earning a PhD in Nuclear Engineering at MIT with a thesis on monte carlo simulation distributed memory architecture (I scanned it, but got a headache.)
The team is led by CEO Riccardo Pellegrini, who previously served as Head of Product at AWS Data Exchange, was a VP of Product at RapidSOS, and did a stint in Investment Banking Analyst at Lazard. Harvard undergrad and MBA… not to mention proudly Italian-American, a big plus in my book.
We think these guys and their growing list of talented compatriots have a pretty good shot at coming out on top in the competition to serve a fundamental market need in a space that will transform the way human beings share the intangibles that make life worth living.
That’s why we invested.
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