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Only recently, NFT collector CryptoNovo was posing for lots of of images, taking conferences with prime tech firms and attending scores of invitation-only events throughout New York Metropolis.
Right this moment, the former-schoolteacher-turned-Metaverse-mascot is raking leaves in his suburban Illinois entrance yard.
“Dude,” Novo remarks excitedly as he works, “That just happened.”
That can be NFT.NYC, the early November convention/gathering/bacchanal that represented a coming-out occasion of kinds for the nonfungible token neighborhood.
Whereas NFT.NYC 2021 was the third occasion in what’s going to nearly actually grow to be a sequence of (not less than) annual affairs, it represented an explosion in recognition over the 2020 providing. Ticket gross sales jumped. Extra days had been added. NFT.NYC ballooned to a four-day extravaganza at which Quentin Tarantino, Chris Rock and The Strokes, amongst others, made appearances.
Among the many massive names, NFT fans and curious passersby crisscrossing Instances Sq. that week, CryptoNovo stood out. Many NFT initiates knew who he was, and whereas NFT novices had no concept who he was, they appeared to instinctively perceive that even at this occasion, this man stood out.
 
 
 
CryptoNovo holds a group of NFTs that’s at present valued at $4 million. Meebits. Bored Ape Yacht Membership. Adam Bomb Squad. World of Girls. Many others. And, in fact, CryptoPunks.
Novo owns almost $2.5 million price of CryptoPunks alone. One in every of them, nevertheless — CryptoPunk #3706 — stands out from the others.
Not due to its financial worth, however as a result of Novo really makes use of it as his face, strapping an LED digital masks to his head that fully covers his precise options.
For Novo, NFT.NYC was one more leg in what has grow to be the journey of his life.
“I had friends come out to New York with me who didn’t even have any NFTs,” Novo recounts. “They figured they’d sleep on pull-out couches in my hotel room and maybe come around with me and see New York. Suddenly, they’re on this million-dollar ride, this Entourage-type situation. We’re getting into clubs without paying a dollar. All of the access is based on NFTs in my collection.”

“We’re rubbing shoulders with famous and semi-famous people who love us for the stake of value that we put into the community. When it was finally time to take off the mask and get on the plane home, it was weird.”
We could reside in a world by which Elon Musk named his youngster “X Æ A-Xii,” however CryptoNovo will not be, in reality, Novo’s actual title. What started as a web-based deal with has advanced into, effectively, a full-blown persona.
The story behind that persona begins with Novo’s journey to the world of NFTs, which he considers to be a typical one.
“It goes back to toys for me. When I was a kid, I didn’t get toys all the time. Birthdays, holidays — that was it. For me, toys were something to keep track of and protect. As I got older, that evolved into collectibles.”
 
 
 
 
Novo collected uncommon comics, unopened Star Wars Lego units and all the pieces in between. Like many collectors, he seen the emergence of cryptocurrency with much less skepticism than most: Right here was one thing that, along with its intrinsic worth, may very well be valued, purchased and bought the identical approach a baseball card may very well be. At some point, throughout a cryptocurrency dialog in 2019, a co-worker talked about NFTs. That was all it took to get Novo hooked. “I realized that we were looking at a new frontier, not just of currency but of collectibles.”
Novo threw himself into the NFT area with fervor, changing into a fixture on NFT Discord and surrounding himself with, as he places it, “the smartest people in the space.” Famous ground-floor NFT collector Tony Herrera taught Novo NFT fundamentals akin to getting a MetaMask pockets, transferring ETH into it, getting an ENS title, and really shopping for NFTs and posting them on the market. Novo met NFT creators such because the influential artist and collector Pranksy. Novo requested questions, took notes, and supplied assist and enter at any time when he felt that he might.
Ultimately, Novo arrived in the intervening time that he’s maybe most well-known for within the NFT world: his rags-to-riches buy of an NFT referred to as the “Pranksy Hoodie.”
“I was a teacher,” Novo begins. “I didn’t have money to be dumping into NFTs left and right. I set aside one paycheck to invest, and I couldn’t really go over that. I couldn’t afford an Alien, an Ape or a Zombie [three of the most elite, rare CryptoPunks], I couldn’t afford a Beanie, etc. So, I started looking at another class [of CryptoPunks]: the Hoodie. There were more of that class, but they were statistically still pretty rare. But I wasn’t interested because of that. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and I liked the Hoodies.”
“What I have been building since the beginning,” Novo continues, “is friends. I contacted Pranksy directly. I offered him 1.24 Ethereum for a Hoodie he owned. He countered with a slightly higher amount. I basically had to come back and say, ‘Look…1.24 is literally all I can afford.’ He was able to see my wallet on the public blockchain and know that I was telling the truth.”
This was not, Novo stresses, a very good deal for Pranksy — however Pranksy agreed to the sale, largely due to what Novo believes to be Pranksy’s religion in Novo’s need to advertise the NFT motion itself. It was nearly, Novo says, as if he was shopping for the NFT not simply with 1.24 ETH however with himself.
In any case, the transaction was made. The associated fee to Novo equated to roughly $400 on the time.
 
 
 
 
“Then, I held on to it. I watched it become a primer and primer asset. It was known as ‘The Albino Hoodie.’ It had a certain look. People wanted it. Honestly, I wasn’t as focused on that. I’m busy trying to do right by Pranksy, for believing in me. I ended up helping him give away 150 CryptoPunks in a raffle that turned into a major event for him in terms of publicity and just for all of us in terms of growing NFTs.”
 
 
 
 
As Novo interacted with increasingly more digital artists, his view of NFTs remodeled. Initially, he had considered NFTs as belongings — the best Bored Ape avatar might grow to be his equal of a Mickey Mantle rookie card. Right this moment, although, his rationalization of NFTs begins not with collectors however with creators.
“Think about just how many times the poop emoji has been used since it was created. Someone made that emoji, the same way someone makes any piece of art. But who has made the real money off of that emoji? Big corporations? Was the person who created that simple piece of art the one who profited?”
He cites components in video video games that make lots of of tens of millions of {dollars} and factors out that famed NFT creator Uncommon Diamond Arms works at an enormous recreation firm as a digital-hand designer for first-person shooters. Novo believes Uncommon Diamond Arms might be not being correctly compensated for his abilities at his job, however he now creates NFT photographs of arms holding diamonds — a nod to the Metaverse’s respect for “diamond-handed” collectors who by no means promote their NFTs.
“Anyone who purchases one of those images knows that they have exclusive rights to a hand designed by one of the elite video game artists.” The purpose, Novo emphasizes, is that no matter what somebody is keen to pay for a Uncommon Diamond Hand or a Bored Ape, that cash is cash that the artist who created the NFT deserves. For Novo, NFTs characterize alternatives — for creators, for collectors, for companies, for everybody.
 
 
 
This mindset had crystallized for Novo by mid-2020, and it modified his life. He grew to become one of many largest cheerleaders within the NFT area. He hosted on-line video interviews with NFT creators utilizing Restream. He tweeted always about each piece of NFT information. He supplied assist and knowledge to each new acolyte within the Metaverse, even dubbing his personal particular nook of that world the “Novoverse.”
“It’s been a grind. I’ve been producing content in some capacity every single day for over a year. Can I introduce this person to this person, knowing that they have a common understanding and can accomplish something bigger together?”
Novo can’t resist utilizing the form of on-the-nose reference that one would possibly count on from an NFT loyalist: “Can I open the door for more Neos in this Matrix?”
In The Matrix, Neo’s mentor, Morpheus, is understood for his iconic sun shades.
Within the land of NFTs, Novo has his masks.
For so long as he has been a determine within the NFT world, Novo has been utilizing digital images and “AR filters” — augmented actuality photographs that superimpose over real-life video — to switch his precise human face with a projection of CryptoPunk #3706.
As Novo grew to become increasingly more concerned within the NFT neighborhood, in-person interactions — each enterprise and private — grew to become a actuality. Novo’s response was to deliver a part of the Metaverse into actuality. He bought a face-worn digital masks that might show CryptoPunk #3706. He had a good friend’s mother knit him a hat an identical to the one worn by his avatar. He purchased a go well with that will look very a lot at dwelling on a Nineteen Sixties Batman villain.
 
 
 
 
All of a sudden, a bodily schooling instructor from Illinois successfully grew to become a Daft Punk robotic for the NFT area.
In New York, Novo was always approached by excited associates — “My Aliens, Apes and Zombies,” as Novo calls them — who had solely interacted with him on-line. A New York Instances reporter interviewed him for 45 minutes (although he was cited within the ensuing article merely as “the owner of CryptoPunk #3706.”) Novo gave a raucous speech at an NFT.NYC city corridor that ended with him dropping the mic and high-fiving his approach out via the gang towards the exit.
Everybody needed a photograph. Whether or not they knew him as CryptoNovo or just as “that goofy-looking robot-man on the sidewalk,” New Yorkers appeared to see Novo as a “piece” of the occasion. A banner, a mascot, an indicator: One thing totally different is going on right here. All of this was nice with Novo, although he does fear about something that might contribute to adverse stereotypes of both the occasion or the NFT motion itself, together with a simplistic “robot mascot.”
 
 
 
 
“On one hand,” Novo provides, “Any kind of discussion is going to onboard more people, and having a discussion — negative or positive — will drive conversation and allow people to come to their own conclusions. Ninety-eight percent of the people who read an article about NFTs have no clue what an NFT is. If my glass is always half full, their glass is empty. I want to fill it. So, I’m always happy people are talking.”
However, Novo explains, he chafes at two conceptions: that the NFT motion consists of “a bunch of crypto bros” and that it’s about making a fast buck.
“When I showed up in New York for NFT.NYC, I had hundreds of people I was expecting to interact with who I’d never seen before. Maybe I had tweeted with them, or had them on my Restream show where they had an AR filter on.”
“Honestly, I was stunned by the diversity. I’m posing for all of these pictures, and it’s such a mix of gender, of ages, of cultures. And I’m realizing, ‘This community is everyone now, and everyone is bringing their unique aspect to it.’”
The second conception is a bit more difficult for Novo to deal with. In spite of everything, he’s close to the pinnacle of the road of NFT “early adopters” who have made actual cash.
At some point, somebody contacted Novo on Discord, asking if he’d be keen to promote the Pranksy Hoodie. Novo retains the client nameless, however not the provide: 350 Ether.
Each NFTs and cryptocurrency had lately skyrocketed in worth.
Novo was being supplied the equal of $1.07 million for his Hoodie.
“I had already realized I was going to have to sell some of my NFTs just to cover taxes,” Novo admits. “And, um… that’s a lot of money there.” He made the sale.
“Here’s what I don’t like,” Novo shortly continues. “Any time I tell this story to anyone who isn’t already in on NFTs, at this point I feel like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”
 
 
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Novo is referring to what he did, or quite, what he didn’t do together with his million-dollar windfall in cryptocurrency. He didn’t money out — not most of it, anyway. He nearly instantly reinvested in one other Hoodie of lesser worth that he felt he might get at a cut price worth.
“So, let’s think about this,” Novo ranges. “If I put my money back into our community because I see value, but mainly because I believe in the power of this movement, then I’m an idiot because this is all a big bubble that is going to collapse, according to people who aren’t actually a part of this. But if I do cash out, then I’m just another bro who’s only in it for the money. I’m going to be stereotyped either way.”
“I just have to believe,” Novo finishes. “Stories like this are going to make more people really see what’s going on, and those people are going to get it, and that’s going to grow our community.”
Explaining what’s happening, by the best way, is now successfully Novo’s full-time job.
Earlier this yr, Novo lastly reached a crossroads. He had acquired provides to work full-time within the NFT area, and he sat down together with his spouse to debate a profession change. Thankfully, his spouse — an promoting govt — believes within the energy of NFTs as a brand new pressure in each expertise and {the marketplace}. She inspired him to make the change.
Right this moment, Novo is, for lack of a greater time period, an “ideas man.”
“It’s calls,” he laughs. “Lots and lots of calls — but fun calls!”
NFTs, Novo explains, are an area that the enterprise world needs in on however doesn’t absolutely perceive. Novo usually helps companies discover pathways to significant NFT involvement. At some point, he may be connecting a blue-blood company with a promising digital artist. One other day, he would possibly assist a serious lodge chain perceive simply what is feasible by way of a Metaverse-themed resort.
Novo believes that anybody — from a serious company to a struggling artist — who treats NFTs not as a novelty however as a automobile to actually add one thing to the NFT neighborhood can be rewarded with model loyalty. Some producers or collectors will strike it wealthy, however the area itself can be transformational — a completely new panorama by which all folks can work together, collect and, sure, revenue.
 
 
 
 
This, in fact, is the form of rose-colored premonition you would possibly count on from somebody who recurrently sits in boardrooms whereas sporting an NFT on his face. 
“Yeah,” Novo admits. “I’m a true believer. But I don’t think it’s just me. I think the evidence is right there for anyone who actually looks.”
Novo mentions a podcast he listened to lately. “The same reporter who interviewed me at NFT.NYC was on it. He said that NFT.NYC was celebrities, scene people, hackers, artists, venture capitalists, libertarians and more, all mixing together. He said it was really weird. Sorry, but that doesn’t sound like ‘weird’ to me.”
“That sounds,” Novo opines with typical optimism, “like everyone.
 
 
 
 
John Lacombe is a author and podcaster. He lives within the Chicago suburbs. Twitter: @johnblacombe
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