The CEO of OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace, shares his predictions for the future of crypto – including the biggest risks on his radar as digital assets become accessible to billions

People walk past a CryptoPunk digital art NFT displayed on a digital billboard in Times Square.

  • Devin Finzer, co-founder and CEO of OpenSea, says individual expression is key for crypto’s future.
  • He also shared some of the risks of the largely unregulated space, including hackers and scammers.
  • Finzer forecasts that NFTs will evolve to become more customized and accessible for billions.

The CEO of the largest NFT marketplace believes that crypto is a “cultural movement.”

“You talk to people today and they’re devoting their entire lives to crypto,” Devin Finzer told host Patrick O’Shaughnessy during the October 7 episode of the “Founder’s Field Guide” podcast. “All of their friends are in crypto, and that community is slowly but steadily growing.”

You don’t have to look any further than OpenSea, the marketplace that Finzer co-founded in 2017, to realize the truth of his statement.

In August, the transaction volume on the platform reached $3.4 billion, compared to about $1 million a mere twelve months ago. Currently, there are nearly 22 million items listed for sale on the platform.

OpenSea’s position as one of the earliest and longest-enduring players in the space means it was perfectly positioned when interest in NFTs skyrocketed earlier this year. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique, irreplaceable, mostly digital items of value that users buy and sell online.

NFTs use blockchain technology to keep a digital record of ownership, similar to cryptocurrencies. They were first launched on ethereum, the same blockchain that supports the cryptocurrency ether, and to this day most NFTs can still only be purchased using ether.

Given the cyclical nature of crypto and blockchain businesses, Finzer says that it’s not unusual to observe a surge in price and excitement followed by a sudden abatement.

“As a business, you have to prepare for that from a cash flow, cultural perspective within the company,” he said.

NFT art is evolving

One NFT category Finzer says is gaining traction these days is generative art. This art form is created by an algorithm rather than a human, allowing a single artist to produce a large amount of unique and idiosyncratic pieces.

Fidenza #313, from the Fidenza collection of generative artwork, was resold on OpenSea on August 23 for 1,000 ether, or $3.3 million at the time. Creator Tyler Hobbs, a software engineer turned full-time artist, has already netted over $4 million in commissions from an estimated $85 million in secondary sales.

Finzer also points towards the emergence of profile picture-style NFTs as a defining identity of the crypto movement.

“I think these specific types of entities – the Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunk of the world – are really playing into that cultural movement and providing people with a way to show off and appreciate each other in this environment,” Finzer said, referencing two popular collections of digital images that online users have been popularizing as their avatars on sites such as Twitter and Discord.

Owning an NFT not only allows users to join an exclusive community with membership perks, but also provides them a distinguishable digital identity.

Finzer’s thoughts on the future of NFTs

In fact, Finzer emphasizes this growing sentiment of individual idiosyncrasy as one of the leading traits in the future NFT marketplace.

“I think you’ll see a more customized and tailored experience,” he stated. “And then also, maybe this is hopefully a shorter run than five years, but also just making this completely accessible to a regular user. Someone can go from zero to owning an NFT in minutes. I think that’s super important.”

Today, NFTs mainly represent digital collectibles, but Finzer also believes that there is potential for change in the future, and one day imagines a space on OpenSea dedicated to physical items. He thinks that real estate and event tickets in particular could benefit from NFT tokenization.

Finzer also hints at upcoming changes regarding the dominance of ether in purchasing NFTs, although he admits that ethereum’s rich ecosystem will be challenging to replicate.

“Starting fresh, supporting different programming languages, rethinking some of the fundamentals is worthwhile to think about,” he said. “We built OpenSea in a way that we can add additional blockchains as they make sense to support. And you’ll be seeing some interesting stuff from us there pretty soon.”

The dark side of NFTs

Finzer mentioned that one of the fundamental elements of OpenSea – its accessibility to everybody – has also been the source of major risk.

On OpenSea, any user has the ability to generate and sell an NFT – but the openness of the platform can invite problems. One real-life example Finzer pointed to is scammers screenshotting existing Cryptopunks and reselling them as the originals.

While OpenSea has infrastructure in place to deal with scammers, they continue to develop more sophisticated ways to circumvent the systems in what Finzer describes as a “cat and mouse game.” He admits that scammers are just another challenge OpenSea is forced to accept in its role as the leading marketplace and as it tries to cement its permanence.

Due to the novelty of the NFT ecosystem, it’s also largely unregulated, opening up other opportunities for phishers and hackers.

“​​People are getting taken advantage of because it’s such a new space and they just don’t understand how everything works,” Finzer said.

There’s also the emerging issue of insider trading. A scandal exploded in September when one of OpenSea’s own employees resigned after purchasing NFTs before they were featured on the marketplace’s front page, and then making a windfall from resulting sales.

Although Finzer acknowledges the dark side of the space, he firmly believes that NFTs will grow from its current status as a somewhat niche market to a use case for billions of people.

“I think it’s something that will go more and more and more mainstream and just have a bigger and bigger impact on the world,” he said.

“That order of magnitude shift in terms of the size of the market I think, will happen over [the next five years].”

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