Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful in Shark Tank, an NFT Faith

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Kevin O’Leary is a Canadian entrepreneur and, of course, best known for “Mr. Great,” is a regular co-host of the hit TV series Shark Tank. Like many other celebrities, he is involved in the world of non-changeable tokens (NFTs) and is particularly interested in how they are transforming the art market. Recently, O’Leary was photographed by fashion photographer Udo Spreitzenbarth in a print converted to NFT via the platform. Observer managing editor James Ledbetter recently caught up with O’Leary; this transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Observer: Tell me a little about how you got involved in NFTs and how you think it’s impacted the art world.

Kevin O’Leary: I got involved in NFTs not to trade them; I am much more concerned with validating physical assets and it started with hours for me. I have a very, very large collection of watches. And over time, the complexity of insuring them in different cities, in different safes, became problematic. One of the solutions we found was to create NFTs for the parts. So I can tell insurance companies which cities, which safes I travel with, because I only want to insure hours outside the safes. Same problem with my modern art collection – you know, which pieces are on loan and that’s how I got down the rabbit hole.

So take me from this to how you think NFTs have impacted the art world.

There are two ways. First of all, original NFTs, JPEG images, have come onto the scene in the last 36 months, although their prices are highly variable. this monkey seriesFor example, I remember 90 days ago someone tried to sell me one for $262,000. It is currently trading at $60. I don’t know if it’s worth $60, but it doesn’t matter. Someone does. And so this market has entered a multibillion-dollar phase both up and down, but that trend is not going away. Digital artists create one-of-a-kind NFTs and never make a physical representation of the same piece. And they can verify this on the Ethereum blockchain. Seeing this happen, I said to myself, if you go back to the gold rush days and look at what happened there, you better have picks and shovels and jeans rather than deciding which hole to dig. for gold.

And I started looking for companies that serve the NFT world, not necessarily selling NFTs. And so I found Immutable Holdings, run by a man named Jordan Fried. Owner of It’s a public company, I’m a shareholder now, but he was the one who actually helped. Udo prints his NFT for art exhibition in New York. I wasn’t ready to buy art, though, unless I had an NFT. Now I own the art and own NFT and my insurance company also has access to NFT.

Interesting. The readers of this newsletter are usually people in the creator economy. How would you advise people who have very influential accounts on TikTok or Instagram, create videos, create other types of content, to enter the world of NFT?

Now I advise them to be careful. One of the challenges we are currently facing with NFTs is are they a commodity or a security? Let’s say you gave and bought an NFT that issued tickets to the Formula 1 race in Miami next February. Now that’s one of the benefits of owning NFT. Is it a currency or a commodity or a security like a dividend paying stock? If you are trading with them and you are offside, it will not be a good result. That’s why I’m very, very cautious about getting involved with NFTs right now.

There was some kind of NFT boom last year, and somewhere towards the end of the year, trading volume has dropped pretty dramatically over most of this year. Do you think this will affect how these objects behave?

No, not long term. Go back 20 years to the familiar Amazon. I was a shareholder almost from day one. And I remember that for the first 17 years, the stock price fell from 38 percent to 57 percent every 11 months. NFTs are the same. They will be very, very volatile and you have to hold your nose for volatility. Creators will continue to participate and grow. Platforms will become more stable. What we really need in this area is policy. It’s here to stay digital. NFTs are here to stay. We’re in the first round, but they’re pioneers for the creators involved now. Some will end up with arrows on their backs and some will be fine.

It’s interesting that you talk about this in the context of American law. I’m wondering if there is any difference in how this sort of thing is treated there since you’re a Canadian.

Canadians are much more advanced. I am an investor in a (crypto trading) company called WonderFi. We have 800,000 accounts in Canada. In the United States, we lag significantly behind. No question about it. You have all these people from MIT and other great colleges and universities, and when you ask them where they want to work, they all want to work on the blockchain. They leave America, they work in Dubai. They work in the Caribbean islands. That’s a huge brain drain. There are billions of dollars of intellectual capital leaving the country to make money elsewhere. At the moment, Canada is the leader, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, England.

This interview was originally published on The Creators, a newsletter about the people powering the creator economy. Get it in your inbox before it goes online.

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