For Joey Primiani, designing a new NFT marketplace is just the latest stop in what’s been a long and fascinating trip through the world of tech.
After stints at Google and Cortex and a gig developing Lady Gaga’s online fan community, Primiani, together with business partner Mirko Kiefer, unveiled his latest venture this week: Folio, a social network that offers artists a platform and tools to showcase their NFT creations.
Billing itself as the “first mobile NFT marketplace and social network,” Los Angeles-based Folio is an invite-only community allowing artists to promote their work, collaborate with other artists and connect with NFT collectors. The platform, which is accessible via iOS app or web browser, is meant to act as both a digital portfolio for artists and a tool allowing collectors to search and discover digital art. Artists decide what price they want to sell their art for, and Folio takes a cut of every work sold.
Primiani told dot.LA that the idea was motivated by the difficulties those in the NFT art community can face when accessing various online platforms, such as setting up and logging in through digital wallets like MetaMask.
“The onboarding experience is a pain point for a lot of artists that we really want to solve,” he said. “We want to make that an easier experience so that more people can use it.”
Primiani first interned at Google in 2009, where he helped design the Silicon Valley giant’s search products, and later worked as a designer at the Google Labs tech incubator. From there, he went on to work with Lady Gaga to create LittleMonsters.com, a social network for the singer’s devoted fan following. It was his work with the renowned entertainer that turned Primiani onto the idea of creating a marketplace of his own—particularly one focused on showcasing LGBTQ+ and underrepresented artists, which is a focus of Folio’s.
“The big problem in the art world previously was that a lot of people were making art for the galleries, and now they're actually making it directly for the fans and the consumers,” he said.
Primiani’s dream came closer to fruition after he connected via Twitter with Mirko Kiefer, an engineer and blockchain entrepreneur. After some workshopping, they officially—and quietly—created Folio in 2020. The platform was in private beta testing in recent months, during which time the founders were completing a Web3-focused residency at L.A.’s Launch House accelerator. (Creatives such as Pol Kurucz, Zigor, and Marc Hemeon had access to the beta product.)
“We really wanted to be one of the first to really nail that experience, because it's so new and platforms couldn't handle a lot of the demand that was happening,” Primiani said.
Folio and its small five-person team is still in its pre-seed stages and has bootstrapped all of its funding to this point. Primiani said any new funding will go toward hiring both in L.A. and remotely, and to grow and scale the company.
“I think we're only at like 5% of what's possible,” Primiani said of the blockchain-enabled internet known as Web3. “It kind of feels like the internet in the ‘90s, where it's like the wild West and anything's possible.”
Autograph—the Santa Monica-based NFT agency co-founded by superstar NFL quarterback Tom Brady—has raised $170 million in Series B funding.
The funding was co-led by Silicon Valley venture giants Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins, and included participation from Nicole Quinn of Lightspeed Venture Partners and Katie Haun, the former a16z partner who led the firm’s $2.2 billion crypto fund before launching her own fund last year.
Brady co-founded Autograph with entrepreneur Richard Rosenblatt last year. The platform launched in July 2021 and has since been used by famous athletes and celebrities including Tiger Woods, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, Tony Hawk, Derek Jeter and The Weeknd to drop their own NFT collectibles. Film studio Lionsgate and NBA magazine Slam have also used the platform.
Autograph previously raised a Series A round last summer co-led by former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s 01A and Velvet Sea Ventures. That round raised $35 million and valued the startup at $735 million, according to PitchBook data.
Non-fungible tokens—better known as NFTs—have gone mainstream in the past year, with everyone from major art auction houses to Hollywood movie studios buying into the hype.
NFTs are unique pieces of data tracked and stored on blockchains like Ethereum. They’re usually associated with digital images, such as cartoon apes or the artist Beeple’s $69 million digital collage. NFTs offer a record of ownership that is verifiable through a digital ledger, opening up a whole range of possibilities for digital assets that people can buy, sell, and transact with.
Major venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz are among those to have entered the NFT fray, with the Silicon Valley giant targeting NFT startups through its new $2.2 billion crypto fund. As such, dot.LA decided to gauge how local VC investors—who are accustomed to navigating burgeoning tech bubbles—feel about this latest trend.
In a dot.LA poll of 32 leading Los Angeles-based venture capitalists, roughly 9% described NFTs as a "good” investment, while an equal percentage indicated the opposite, calling them a “bad” investment. A roughly 66% majority of respondents, meanwhile, said they were simply “not sure.” The remaining 16% selected “other”—listing a range of responses including “Not great for a venture fund, good for individuals,” “Fundamentally a good development, but currently overvalued,” and “Depends on the NFT!”
When dot.LA reached out for further comment, none of the NFT skeptics chose to share their take on the record.
Like the crypto space at large, NFTs have no shortage of doubters and proponents alike. Some prominent technologists—including Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike and Square CEO Jack Dorsey—have publicly questioned whether the scene is as decentralized as it seems. In the gaming industry, some developers are looking to build entire games around NFTs, while others are reportedly turning away NFTs as payment.
“2021 was a watershed year for NFTs focused on art, collectibles & gaming. People value scarcity, and NFTs fit the bill,” said M13 investor Mark Grace. “Add in their traits of transportability and programmability, and it's easy to see why people are so engaged,” he added, though noting that he’s cautious of “NFTs marketed as a cure-all.”
TenOneTen partner Minnie Ingersoll shared the enthusiasm.
“No one yet knows how things will shake out, but ownership, the metaverse, and digital identity are being rethought and that's exciting,” said Ingersoll. “Personally, I'm more bullish on tokens that have functionality or represent digital work (e.g., NFTs that unlock access or represent digital art) than I am on NFTs that try to bridge the physical world onto the blockchain. I think both will happen eventually but from a timing perspective the latter is not where I would focus on investing now.”
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