Differentiate what an NFT is. Unlike more popular blockchain elements like Bitcoin, an NFT is a unique digital file (image, video, music, video game, podcast, gif, etc.). The differentiator from a Youtube video, a podcast you’d get on Spotify, a screenshot from Google, is the ownership factor. You own that file. Just like you own a physical baseball card, you own a short NBA video called NBA Top Shot.
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 Dr. Dustin York.
Dr. Dustin York is an Associate Professor at Maryville University in St. Louis. Prior to entering academia, Dr. York worked in public relations for the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign, and clients like Pepsi Co., and Nike. Dr. York’s specialties include public communication, digital transformation, social media, and brand development, which he now brings to life in the classroom. Beyond his primary passion for teaching, Dr. York is a subject matter expert for CNN, Entrepreneur.com, and Forbes, a contributor for Harvard Business Review and serves as a keynote speaker and trainer. Dr. York was awarded the St. Louis Business Journal 30 Under 30 Award, Maryville University’s President’s Award for Strategic Leadership and Transformation Innovation as well as an Apple Distinguished Educator.
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?
I grew up fascinated by all things digital and trends. This passion actually led me to public relations and social media for organizations like the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign and agency clients like PepsiCo and Nike. When colleagues were focused on getting our message featured on Good Morning America, I was more interested on working with 50 blogs/vlogs that, although had less “prestige”, had much more reach. Working with influencers today is not a hot take, but in 2008, it definitely was. This passion for finding what’s next has driven me ever since.
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?
Less a particular book or podcast, but rather, a vast (and sometimes random) variety. I’ll watch a documentary on augmented reality, listen to a podcast on Reddit’s role in Wall Street, read how-to manuals on creating your own Alexa Skills, and then go on a Wikipedia rabbit hole on streaming effects for sites like Twitch. For example, in early COVID days I become fascinated with the Twitch style media, but for non-video game usage. I now teach my college courses using Streamlabs with awesome results. The same goes with NFTs, and how they can make a disruptive change.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.
When Bitcoin first became the “cool” talking point in innovation circles, honestly, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. However, while others were talking about this new form of currency, I was fascinated by what else besides money could be disrupted by blockchain. This led me dive into other uses of blockchain, and thus NFTs.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m interested in how NFTs and other blockchain technology can have a large impact on higher education. From credentialing to customizing the academic journey. From new tuition models to student life and retention. I feel this technology can be incredibly impactful in just a few years.
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?
An NFT is a unique digital file (image, video, music, video game, podcast, gif, etc.). The differentiator from a Youtube video, a podcast you’d get on Spotify, an image from Google, is ownership. You own that file. Just like you own a physical baseball card, you own a short NBA video called NBA Top Shot. You may be able to watch that Lebron James dunk on Youtube, but you don’t own it unless you purchase the NFT. You could easily print an at scale image of the Mona Lisa and hang it on your wall — that doesn’t mean you own the Mona Lisa. A great example of NFTs being used for years is one of the most popular video games on the market, Fortnite. Fortnite is free, different than the traditional $60 price tag of video games. Fortnite makes their money off of selling users “skins” or outfits for their characters. That outfit doesn’t exist physically, but users are spending real money on those digital files. You can own those unique outfits.
The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What excites you most about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The decentralization and new forms of “value” fascinates me. Digital artists have a new canvas. College students have more direct access to their education. Why can’t all educational textbooks be NFTs? Professional sports teams have a more intimate relationship with fans. Retail, travel and more can become more experiential. My work, education, passion and curiosity are focused on one thing: Humans like to communicate. If you believe that statement, you believe in NFTs.
What concerns you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
Here’s a bold statement, there will be a bubble. Expensive NFTs will follow the same process of a Hype Cycle that has happened to almost all innovative areas. NFTs are incredibly hot right now. There will be a major fall out within the next 18 months, and skeptics will loudly say “Told you so!” But in a few years, NFTs will reach the plateau of productivity and be part of our everyday lives. There was the dotcom bubble in the 90s, and people said eCommerce was a fad. Now, over half of all US households have an Amazon Prime account. Understanding the Hype Cycle will show you the future of NFTs.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?
That NFTs are “worthless” or “why would any pay for a video that you can find on Youtube?”. Think of it this way, I don’t like wine. I would never pay thousands of dollars for a unique wine, but that doesn’t mean that wine has no value. Value is given when the market speaks. Ownership for market driven value has been around since 600 BC and what items are seen as valuable has changed ever sense. I know that if given a chance, the majority of my college students would spend a lot of money for the verified blue checkmark on Instagram. That alone should make you take notice to NFTs.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?
NFTs are just one area of a larger conversation — blockchain. Backtrack and first understand blockchain, then you’ll understand NFTs, cryptocurrencies, secure digital IDs and more.
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.)
- Differentiate what an NFT is. Unlike more popular blockchain elements like Bitcoin, an NFT is a unique digital file (image, video, music, video game, podcast, gif, etc.). The differentiator from a Youtube video, a podcast you’d get on Spotify, a screenshot from Google, is the ownership factor. You own that file. Just like you own a physical baseball card, you own a short NBA video called NBA Top Shot. A great example of NFTs being used for years is one of the most popular video games on the market, Fortnite. Fortnite is free, different than the traditional $60 price tag of video games. Fortnite makes their money off of selling users “skins” or outfits for their characters. That outfit doesn’t exist physically, but users are spending real money on those digital files. They have worth.
- Understand the organizational use of NFTs. Customizable and student owned education, Safe and trustworthy personal identification, Communicating your fandom for a sports team, anime, subcultures, etc. There are people that say NFTs are “worthless”. Or “why would any pay for a video that you can find on Youtube?”. My response, why are some wines worth thousands of dollars when professional blind taste testers can’t tell the difference between many cheap and expensive wines? The answer: value is given when the market speaks. Ownership for market driven value has been around since 600 BC (Mesopotamian shekel — the first currency). The market says digital ownership has value.
- The downside. Know that a bubble is coming. Just like the dotcom bubble, NFTs will follow the same process of a Hype Cycle that has happened to almost all innovative areas. NFTs are hot right now. There will likely be a major fall out within the next 18 months, and skeptics will loudly say “Told you so!” But in a few years, NFTs will reach the plateau of productivity and be part of our everyday lives. E-commerce faced the dotcom bubble in the late 90s and people called the internet a fad, and now the majority of households have an Amazon Prime account. Organizations who move on NFTs early will reap the rewards.
- What are the career opportunities? Job growth in NFTs parent, blockchain, is large right now. Companies investing in blockchain initiatives include Walmart, Anheuser-Busch, Visa, Pfizer, Ford, and Delta. Most things digital have seen a major accelerate due to COVID, and organizations looking at digital transformation will look in the direction of NFTs.
- What are the job titles? There are many blockchain focused jobs in software, marketing, law, customer service, human resources, and even freelancing. All these fields have the same opportunity engage in NFTs. For example, what if the NFL wants to get into NFTs in their marketing department. They would need employees to create the backend to support and house Tennessee Titans avatar hoodies, stadium tickets, digital trading cards, or souvenirs, etc.
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. :-)
Assume you are wrong and there is more for you to understand. Slight of hand magic doesn’t work well on young children because they are curious about everything, unlike adults. The more genuinely curious you are, the more the world will open up.
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 :-)
A prominent voice in this field and genuinely curious mind about digital transformation is Mark Cuban. A lunch with Mr. Shark Tank himself would be a digital curiosity dream.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!
Thank you for having me!