Non-Fungible Tokens: Behdad Shahsavari and David Garrett of Club dVIN On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readJun 21, 2022

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You have to be ambitious. The winners right now will be the ones swinging for the fences. There is a huge premium paid to ambitious ideas — even if you may not be sure how you will attain them. The consequences of failure are asymmetric to the value of even a modest success. Paint an expansive target and take as much ground as you can. This is the time in the cycle when Amazon and Google were born, and a bunch of companies they acquired. Fortune favors the bold.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing David Garrett and Behdad Shahsavari with Club dVIN, the world’s premier global non-fungible token (NFT) wine club.

Behdad Shahsavari is a co-founder, investor, venture builder, board advisor and consultant. He has been in the consumer and tech spaces for all of his career. Most recently, he led BCGs Digital Ventures business in North America which has built several blockchain ventures. He has been a passionate wine collector for over 20 years.

David Garrett brings more than 25 years of expertise in the tech, wine and the finance industry globally to Club dVIN, the world’s premier global non-fungible token (NFT) wine club. Through Club dVIN, Garrett and his co-founders have created the ultimate community of wine insiders; a group of 100 founding members who are the top names in wine’s new guard, from Masters of Wine to Master Sommeliers to top winemakers, wine experts, wine collectors, and investors. He looks forward to leading Club dVIN’s community efforts, fostering meaningful connections among the ever-growing community of wine enthusiasts.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

Behdad Shahsavari: Hard to tell the short version of the story, but I grew up all over. Having fled Iran as a child during the revolution, the family moved around a bit before settling in the US. I have lived in and worked primarily in the US (Chicago, Los Angeles and Nashville) and in Europe (Amsterdam and now Edinburgh). My career has been in management consulting (e.g., Booz & Co and BCG), incubators and foundries (e.g. BCG DV), as a co-founder and as a board member / advisor.

David Garrett: I grew up in a small town in the center of Michigan, and only once or twice left the Midwest before I was 20. Since then, I have been fortunate to live all over the world, from Vail, Colorado, to Washington DC to Los Angeles — then Cusco, Peru, Argentina, Hong Kong, and Barcelona. I have always been an entrepreneur — starting my first tech company at 22. I’ve worked primarily in technology and wine for the last 30 years.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

BS: I love the novels of Milan Kundera. When I first read them, they were novel and radical in tone, economy of language, and subject matter all at the same time. The honesty and ability to cut through to the heart of things stood out in particular, and of course the stories themselves were beautifully crafted and compelling.

DG: I listen to the Tim Ferriss podcast a lot, and loved his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” I haven’t been great at accomplishing that, but it did inspire me to live all over the world.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

BS: I have always been passionate about supporting amazing people with great ideas to become successful. Technology has always been an enabler to getting great ideas to market quickly, and access to capital and tech has just become easier and easier over the last couple of decades. Passion for a specific business has not come along for me often — and when the opportunity to bring tech, entrepreneurship and wine together in a compelling way came across, well, I could not resist.

DG: Behdad told me the story about building the blockchain for the diamond industry. He explained how digital twin NFTs work, and how they could track a diamond through the supply chain. It was fascinating and had a lot of parallels to the wine industry.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

DG: I’m not sure if it is the most interesting, but the most rewarding story was the first week of onboarding friends and family onto the platform. I showed a winemaker in Bordeaux how we could build a new web3 wallet and mint a Tasting Token™ NFT, which is a functional NFT connected to our proprietary Digital Cork™ technology, on the fly in 30 seconds. When he saw how easy it would be for him to build a community with his customers using web3, he was practically giddy. It was a big affirmation that we were on the right track.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

DG: We had set up the ability for our customers to buy our membership NFT using FIAT currency (a government-issued currency that is not backed by a physical commodity) with Stripe. 20 minutes before launch, we realized that we had only been doing QA on the testnet. We did our first real test purchase about three minutes before the first real customer purchased.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

BS: There are so many people that it would be impossible to select a single one for impact, but I will pick one close to home. My son, who is 16 years old, has been an enormous help. He is a fantastic sounding board and reflects future consumers — he is a gamer, digital native, and crypto-curious, plus he’s grown up with a wine nut, so he’s been exposed to that passion his whole life. He is also one of the kindest people I know. So, when I do not get feedback from him on things that we are pushing out, I know it is a bad sign. But when I get unsolicited positive feedback, then I know we are on the right track.

DG: I’ve gotten a lot of great advice and fellowship from an old friend and mentor, Rich Antoniello. Rich is the co-founder of Complex Media, and a source of inspiration for a lot of people. His most important note to me was about community and inclusivity. It was that conversation that led us to adopting our core values: Generosity, Curiosity and Inclusivity.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

BS: David and I are about to launch Club dVIN, which is a membership-based platform for the wine community. It intends to bring wine lovers, experts and producers together in order to create unique experiences around wine — not just access and tastings and education but also participating in interesting aspects of the wine making process itself, from harvest events to blending. Ultimately, using NFTs, we aim to become the experience platform for consumers and the CRM system for the industry. We think it will help build real bridges and authenticity in a very old system that needs it.

DG: We have been working with a number of small wineries to attach Digital Cork™ NFTs and Tasting Token™ NFTs to all of their bottles. As soon as the bottle is tagged by the producer, it is linked to a Digital Cork™ NFT on the blockchain. Digital Cork™ tracks each bottle of wine “from grape to glass,” starting with the winemaker and through sale to the consumer and subsequent resale. Wine collectors will be able to access every detail of the chain of custody, from the dates of shipment and where the bottle was stored, to climate control data and other care and handling details.

Tasting Token™ NFTs are minted when a bottle connected to a Digital Cork™ is opened. In addition to the visual storytelling element of the NFT and detailed information about the wine, the holder of the Tasting Token™ can add their own tasting notes, as well as photos or videos to commemorate the event.

This tech, for the first time, will not only let them earn more in the short term, but with the data they will receive about their customers, and the community it will build, they will have more power to negotiate with their buyers. For many of them, it will change their lives.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

BS: NFTs are smart contracts associated with specific objects or assets — digital or physical or both. The contracts reside on the blockchain and have all of the associated benefits of transparency, immutability, transferability, tradability, etc. They can also include terms around the exclusivity and resale conditions. For example, if you have a digital piece of art, you can do an edition of 1 (truly unique) or 100 (like a series of photographs) and stipulate that every time they are re-sold that a 10% creator fee goes back to the artist. Which is in fact normative for digital art now. You can just as easily link that smart contract to a physical object like a house and have a simple one step mechanism for trade. The NF part simply means that it is a unique object requiring an agreed price, as opposed to a fungible object which is 1:1 tradeable with any other like object — for example a US dollar or a bitcoin. Bitcoins are fungible tokens, also backed by smart contracts, with an agreed 1:1 exchange.

DG: An NFT is a digital deed of ownership over a non-fungible asset that is trusted and immutable, and can contain a smart contract governing how and under what conditions changes to the deed can occur.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

BS: NFTs do a lot of cool things like simplifying transactions, providing traceability, taking out middle-men and creating efficiency. But that is well-covered ground and frankly not what excites me the most. I am excited primarily by new business models. Two of the most interesting for me are membership collaboratives which bring together like-minded people and fund specific interests, and DAOs — decentralized autonomous organizations — that allow interested parties to fund and govern activities in a new way. A third thing I am excited about is the mainstreaming of NFTs. Developments like fiat purchases on scaled platforms like OpenSea, and Meta platforms (IG and FB) allowing native sharing of NFTs, we will start to see more mainstream adoption, acceptance and normalization of NFTs and related business opportunities.

DG: Community. NFTs provide a unique way for a creator to build and reward community around their fans, followers and customers.

Affinity. For the first time, early fans of a creator can be rewarded for their affinity. I love the idea of finding a new band, or a new artist, or a new winemaker, and through collecting their NFTs participate in their success.

Discovery. In a world of endless noise, bots and shills screaming for your attention, with NFTs and ownership it becomes very clear, very quickly which projects or creators or artists rise to the top due to authentic value, versus pure hype.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

BS: I am most concerned about scams and regulatory policy, which are actually linked issues. Too many people are jumping in to make a quick buck, doing lookalike “projects” like all of the BAYC clones, and in general decreasing trust and cluttering the space. Even for experienced insiders, it can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff and that is undermining trust in the space which is already a challenge. The regulatory side is equally uncertain. Governing authorities are slow moving and that encourages the hurry-up-and-cash-out behaviors, which fuel the scams.

DG: Volatility. The last few weeks speak for themselves. I think we need to separate the utility and value creation possible with NFTs from the speculation in cryptocurrencies.

Inclusivity. Too much of the NFT community today still feels like it is a very small homogenous club. I think a lot of that has to do with difficulty of use. We have found that our most enthusiastic consumers can’t muster the energy to learn how to use Discord. Too many roadblocks for people with different life experiences.

Signal to noise ratio. It feels like the media are very focused on celebrity and speculation in the NFT world. It’s understandable — it’s clickbait-y. But I think that when we start seeing stories about real-work utility, we will start to see real-world growth in awareness and adoption by a wider swath of consumers.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

BS: The biggest myths are that NFTs are a fad, that they are all scams, and that they are ways for the crypto-rich to buy things more cheaply than others and, hence, scam us all. The first two are already covered above. But the third point presumes that the crypto wealthy are irrational. While they may have made their fortunes through crypto, they can still convert that crypto to fiat at market rates and so will not de facto behave any differently than anyone else with access to such funds.

DG: It’s just a big speculative bubble. There are some projects that are very speculative, and there are a lot of people out there trying to cash in on the sudden popularity of NFTs to make a few dollars. But the real value of NFTs and the blockchain are in the utility. I think we will start seeing more and more NFTs like our Tasting Token NFTs — non-transferable, non-tradeable — they exist purely for the utility.

It’s only for tech geeks — it’s impossible for a regular human to get a wallet and buy an NFT. Every day it is easier and there are fewer barriers. At Club dVIN that was our mission from the beginning. How do we get a regular wine enthusiast onboarded with their first NFT in less than 30 seconds. We got there last week — now we are shooting for 10 seconds.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

BS: Spending what they cannot afford to lose, speculating with unreasonable expectations, and jumping on bandwagons without doing the work.

DG: The biggest mistake I have seen is the misconception that it’s all easy money. We encourage people to think of a web3 business like any other business. There is great opportunity and great upside potential, but you have to put in the work.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

BS: Challenging legacy business models to re-invent themselves in commerce around tradeable assets (including, but not limited to, art) would be a huge benefit not just in terms of efficiency but even more importantly in access. Increased affordability and fractional ownership will open up investment opportunities to a large segment of the population that did not have that kind of access, and thereby improve their quality of life and increase generational wealth and security.

DG: I remember speaking to an economist in Peru when I lived there. He told me that the reason Peruvians had such struggles with building stable finances was that the regulations and customs around land and real estate ownership was broken. And that ambiguity around ownership of a family’s home, which was usually their most important asset, created and sustained instability for generations. Creators, musicians, and artists will earn more this year for web3 (NFTs, DAOs, etc.) than they will from web2 (Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, etc.). And we are only one year in. I think web3 brings equity to economics in a way that few technologies have.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

BS: These are largely true for any disruptive start-up but are particularly relevant in NFTs now and I have tried to focus examples there:

  1. Trust matters a lot — this was covered above but with skepticism and scams rampant, it is vital that what you build generates a lot of trust. That has to be prominent in all aspects of your business model: in your ownership (in the case of dVIN, reserving significant equity for the producers), in your funding flows (how much you raise versus what you need and making sure that money goes to operations and good causes), and in your ethos and behaviors.
  2. You should genuinely care about and be deeply connected with what you do. It sounds cliché but having seen a lot of founders in VC and incubators I can honestly say that it helps in all aspects of the business — from raising money to hiring great people to getting customers to join. Life is too short for what you do not to be deep in your head and heart. In NFT-land which is emerging and in motion, this is doubly true.
  3. Technology is just a means to an end — if you are making it about the tech rather than the benefit to the consumer and the industry then you are doing something wrong. There are lots of stories of tech for its own sake failing but it is a common founder challenge — becoming so enamored of your product that you build feature after feature without seeing if anyone wants it. Apple is probably the best example — computers used to be sold based on long lists of features and what is under the hood. The longer and bigger the better. Apple turned that on its head with design and functionality — here is what it does and don’t worry about the rest. In NFTs that is easy to forget. Too many projects are using NFTs where they do not really add value but are just novelty. The benefits should be tied deeply to the advantages of blockchain.
  4. The problem has to be real. If you are not solving a real friction for a real consumer, and you do not know that based on real first-hand experience and evidence, then you risk riding bandwagons for no true benefit and that is not sustainable. You do not have to have it all figured out on day one, but do not be a solution hunting for a problem — which is all too easy with the hype of NFTs.
  5. Your solution has to be a reasonable resolution to the problem — the worst thing you can do is target a meaningful and significant friction but fail to deliver meaningfully on the solution. That is true product-market fit. In NFTs, frictions are easy to overstate and the projects often under-deliver versus the hype. Promising a vague roadmap of big benefits and lots of “utility” might drive speculation early but ultimately you have to deliver. NFTs are not miracles. They offer very specific benefits which can be tied to other real-world experiences but those also have to be brought together and delivered in a meaningful way. With a global audience, that can be a challenge.

DG: You have to have patience. Every industry has a cycle. Some have bubbles. The web3 industry is having a bubble almost before it even started. Don’t pay attention to the day-to-day headlines. Lots of people told me in 2000 that the Internet was a fad and that DVDs would always be the gold standard for at-home cinema. Nobody could have imagined what web2 has become in 2000. In 20 years, where will web3 be?

You have to be resilient. New industries with a lot of competition and a lot of buzz create environments with sharp elbows. There will be setbacks. There will be cynics, doubters and haters. The polite people will say no — everyone else will find new and more exaggerated ways to roll their eyes at you. Get used to tight condescending smiles and teeth sucking. Stick to your guns and you will be closer to right than any of them.

You have to focus on value creation. As is true with a lot of new platforms and marketplaces, we notice a lot of urge to dress up a mediocre idea in NFT clothes to try to make a buck. Always think: “Could this be done without the blockchain? How does blockchain or NFTs make this better? How is the technology creating value?” If you can’t answer honestly and authentically, start over.

You have to be ambitious. The winners right now will be the ones swinging for the fences. There is a huge premium paid to ambitious ideas — even if you may not be sure how you will attain them. The consequences of failure are asymmetric to the value of even a modest success. Paint an expansive target and take as much ground as you can. This is the time in the cycle when Amazon and Google were born, and a bunch of companies they acquired. Fortune favors the bold.

You have to be creative. Web3 is a new paradigm. To succeed you have to tear down the web2 version and build from scratch based on first principles. Don’t think “how can web3 make web2 better?” Think “how can web3 solve the underlying problem in a more decentralized, more scalable, more equitable way?”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

BS: Too many wishes for one place! But a lot of the dVIN ethos is a reflection of my and David’s values. Sustainability, diversity, care for the environment, and building a platform for the future good of the industry are all parts of that equation. I think by doing a successful NFT based project and contributing to the acceptance of NFT-driven business models and the benefits they bring would be a great point of pride.

DG: I read a book called “The Ministry for the Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson. In the book, he describes a carbon capture coin that funded the switch to renewable energy. I’d love to work on a project with a similar goal.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

BS: I would love to hang out with Neil deGrasse Tyson. I am a big physics buff and hear that he is quite into wine — so here’s hoping!

DG: I’d love to have a glass of wine with President Obama.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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Authority Magazine
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