(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
What’s the next big opportunity for budding entrepreneurs? How about selling memes? Apparently, there’s a lot of money to be made there.
Take, for example, the Nyan Cat.
The Nyan Cat was actually a YouTube video that was uploaded back in 2011 and yes, if you’ve looked at the link you’re reading that right: it has more than 185m views. The video was of an animated cartoon cat with a Pop-Tart as its body flying through the air trailing a rainbow … and accompanied by a Japanese song playing in the background. Yes, it’s bizarre, but it was and to this day remains a popular meme used by many for social media posts.
According to an Artnet report, the meme made news this past week after a digital recreation was sold on the online crypto art platform Foundation for 300 Ether (Ethereum is a digital currency not unlike Bitcoin). The value as of then? About $600,000.
Yes, someone paid more than half a million dollars for a digital image of a cat with a Pop-Tart body flying through the air. And we’re in a recession.
What made this sale special is that it highlighted the possibilities of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Mashable’s Jack Morse said that these are “unique digital items authenticated on the blockchain that are selling for upwards of hundreds of dollars”. There are digital workplaces like Rarible and the aforementioned Foundation that sell these pieces of art and they can do so because NFT technology allows the artwork to be unique and identifiable. What’s even more enticing is that, because these tokens are digital and permanently associated with the artwork, artists can potentially also get a piece of any future resales.
The meme’s creator, Chris Torres, was – as you can imagine – pleased. “Thanks for believing in Nyan Cat all these years,” he gushed on Twitter. “I hope this inspires future artists to get into #NFT universe so they can get proper recognition for their work!”
Apparently, other entrepreneurial artists and digital selling platforms are also getting into the game. Foundation has only been around for a few weeks and has already sold more than $1m of digital art. And the market has heated up so much that even the well-known auction house Christie’s has entered into the sale of these digital items and will be featuring the work of Mike Winkelmann, otherwise known as Beeple, who recently sold more than $3.5m of his token-encrypted work in a single weekend last year.
All of this means opportunity and the chance to make some money in the art world. “To be able to say that I’m the collector who actually owns and is a patron of this artist carries a certain kind of prestige that is really appealing to people,” Lindsay Howard, Foundation’s head of community, told the Verge. “You also get to directly support an artist, and I think that is really exciting for people.”
So who would pay $600,000 for a digital meme? Why, it’s none other than someone or something called “oxy7eb2…3f6b”. Of course, it’s that person/persons. I should have guessed. What a character! It is the mysteriously dark world of digital, right?
All of this is a great financial opportunity for entrepreneurial artists and the art investors and platforms who support them. And who am I to judge what is art or not? I know nothing of that. But, as a business owner, I do know something of risk. And, given the volatile nature of digital currencies (not to mention digital art) I do have some advice for Chris Torres and other entrepreneurs who are operating in this wild, wild world:
Please. Seriously consider converting that $600,000 into something a little more stable – at least for now. A nice savings bond, perhaps?