Few industries have risen as quickly as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have done over the last few months. Since the launch of CryptoPunks in June 2017, the industry has generated more than $174 million in sales, creating entirely new markets for artists, creators, and collectors.
Much of that growth has been driven by influencers who saw the potential in this industry — and spread the word — has been realized.
From artists and entrepreneurs to musicians and millionaires — here are ten of the most influential people in NFTs from across the spectrum.
On the Internet, everything starts and ends with cats. Roham Gharegozlou is the co-creator of CryptoKitties, the first NFT-based collectible to really catch people’s imagination.
The combination of cute kittens, blockchain-powered authenticity, and breeding pairs showed that the blockchain could be more fun than holding Bitcoin and still just as lucrative. It’s generated more than $40 million in sales. Gharegozlou is now the CEO of Dapper Labs which, in addition to digital kittens, has also produced NBA Top Shots.
Her partner, Elon Musk, might steal most of the headlines but Grimes is the most high-profile artist making sales backed by NFTs. At the end of February, the Canadian musician put up a series of ten pieces including short videos and songs.
Altogether the sale generated around $6 million in sales, showing that singers have a new way to earn from their talent in an age of limited concerts and streaming technology.
Mike Winkelmann is a graphic designer from Charleston, South Carolina. He’s created concert visuals for artists including Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Katy Perry among others, and for the last ten years has created and published one 3D image every day.
This year, the artist also known as Beeple became the first digital creator to offer an NFT-supported work through a major auction house when he minted a collage of 5,000 everyday artists for Christie’s.
The sale raked in an earth-shattering $70 million and came just days after another piece sold for $6.6 million.
Beeple will take part in a digital exhibition at Beijing’s UCCA Lab this year, and alongside the veteran-designer will be a young rival — Fewocious. Fewocious is still only 18 years old but while most teenagers might hope for a new iPhone on their 18th birthday, the self-taught artist-generated $370,000 with an NFT drop of surrealist art.
He’s now working with RTFKT to match NFT art with designer clothing. His Fewo World drop also delivered real sneakers and other clothing items, and generated more than $3 million in seconds.
Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster
Artists like Beeple and Fewocious are making their sales on NFT art platforms which function like real-world galleries. One of the leading platforms is Nifty Gateway. Created by twins Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster to enable mainstream buyers to pay for digital art with a credit card. No need to pay by sending Ether to a private wallet, they exited within a year.
The new version of the platform has become a central site for the world’s leading digital artists. The twins celebrated the sale of the platform to Gemini with a dinner party at which they gave away limited edition NFT art.
Like Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Cuban is famous for his business success. In 1999, he sold his company Broadcast.com to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion of Yahoo stock. He’s now famous as one of the sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank.
Cuban has now said that if he were starting a business today, he would build it on the blockchain and in the NFT space. From Mark Cuban, that’s the kind of endorsement that people notice.
The rise of NFTs should liberate creative potential. Artists who create works that people want to buy should be able to attach them to a token and make them available online. The barrier at the moment is gas fees—the cost of minting a token. Creating a collection on some platforms can cost as much as $1,000.
William Quigley’s contribution to the development of NFTs has been the Worldwide Asset eXchange or WAX token. Unlike Ethereum, Wax was created with NFTs in mind and has been responsible for the successful launch of brands including the Garbage Pail Kids and Blockchain Heroes. If NFTs continue their rise, it will be because of no-gas networks like Wax.
It’s not just Grimes who’s spotted the opportunity in NFT. Justin Blau, who performs and produces under the name 3LAU, has also shown that it’s possible for musicians to make rapid sales using tokens.
In the last three days of February, Justin Blau celebrated the three-year anniversary of his album Ultraviolet by selling 33 NFTs. They raised $11.6 million.
Gary Vaynerchuk is best known for his work in the wine business. After building his father’s liquor store into a $60 million wine brand, he turned his expertise in marketing and online business-building into one of the world’s leading media companies.
Vaynerchuk is now excited by the potential in the blockchain. His expertise in entrepreneurship has ensured that his predictions and advice about cryptocurrencies and NFTs find an audience and generate discussions.
Joel Comm and Travis Wright
Joel Comm and Travis Wright entered the crypto space with The Bad Crypto Podcast. As they took audiences through the world of cryptocurrency, they spotted the opportunity in NFTs and were quick to explain how they work and what they can do.
This duo’s Nifty Show was the first NFT podcast and has interviewed dozens of the leading NFT pioneers.
Rather than just talk the talk, they walk the walk by creating a number of top-selling original digital collections on WAX, including Blockchain Heroes, The Bitcoin Collection and the world’s first NFT subscription box.