The BYU NFT example was shown at a press conference held in Provo on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, announcing the partnership between BYU and Ocabu. The partnership will launch his NFT Marketplace on CougsRise.com, offering unique his NIL components to benefit student-athletes. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
Estimated duration: 7-8 minutes
PROVO — Jon Cheney understands much of the skepticism about NFTs and Web3 marketplaces.
Let’s be honest, the market wasn’t very well positioned last year when the co-founder and CEO of Lehi-based Ocabu tried to launch a business with his co-founders. Heck, even earlier this year, unregulated markets were sometimes out of control.
If you thought the college realm of names, images, and likenesses was the Wild West, wait until you hear about blockchain, Web3, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
“If you look at the NFT market as a whole, it’s been pretty bloody over the past six months, even three months,” said Cheney. “It’s inconceivable that a photo could be worth $1,000, $10,000, or $50 million in JPEGs. But it was an NFT, and no one knew what it was.
“But we see a fundamental shift in how we interact with the world on blockchain. It revolves around ownership and allows the right people to get rewarded for their work. As opposed to a centralized social network making all the money.”
The market didn’t seem ripe for BYU, a school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So when Chaney started talking to Casey Stauffer, Associate Athletic Director of Corporate Sponsorships, and his team, the first thing they wanted to understand was to curb a highly speculative market and make it into BYU. It was a way to help launch Cougars by taming them into something that could appeal to fans. He leads athletes into familiar territory at the NIL.
Ten months after the first meeting, the launch was deemed successful. At least it was enough to launch his website in beta at cougsrise.com and start buying, selling and exchanging his NFTs with his Ocabu, the athletic arm of BYU. Most of the BYU football team, and his nearly 200 athletes on campus.
“I was there this morning and have purchased nine so far,” Stauffer said Tuesday at a press conference announcing the new initiative.
For each NFT purchased from the marketplace, Ocabu will receive a portion of the undisclosed proceeds and individual contracts with BYU Athletics and each athlete through individual NIL contracts.
So what exactly are NFTs? To borrow the phrase Cheney used, it is essentially a digital trading card of players, items, moments or highlights from his season of football next season. A full announcement is expected in time for the season opener in South Florida on September 3rd. Also, as part of the athletic department’s historical archives, he is owned by BYU.
Tokens redeemable for 5 famous desserts at various games and events on campus, including the specially designed CougarTail Maple Bar, redeemable for tangible gifts and experiences. A field pass to the home opener with Baylor, access to the VIP lodge and parking lot, and a chance to fire BYU ROTC sideline cannon George Q. after the Cougars scored a touchdown were mentioned. was one of his early advantages.
Previous iterations of the NFT Marketplace have been less profitable for all but the heaviest investors in new ventures. The plan set up shop, released an ill-fated version of the NFT to the public, raised thousands to millions of dollars, and departed with little profit for the players who partnered with it.
Cheney and Ocabu hope that’s not the case at BYU. He’s proud to have graduated from college, and when the sports department approached him about launching a venture, he jumped at it — even if it came with a hefty initial cost.
Details of the five-year deal were not available under a confidentiality agreement between the companies. But Cheney candidly admitted that the company would make the necessary cuts to cover the indirect production costs. This includes an investment of approximately $2 million over the last 10 months to build, maintain and operate the marketplace. Creating an extra NFT of him isn’t cheap either.
“It’s not a small number. It’s very expensive to develop,” said Cheney, whose company has raised $11.4 million in three funding rounds. “This is also not an easy-to-use technology and requires coordinating with a large group of expensive developers, huge design teams, photography, video, sports departments, even bakeries.
“But in the end, as a BYU graduate, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to do it. I didn’t care about the cost. “It makes money, but that doesn’t make it successful. If the players make money and the fans enjoy it, it makes it successful.”
Players sign personalized NIL contracts with Ocavu — non-NCAA teams like the Cougarettes dance company have already signed team-wide contracts — appearing on the marketplace for people to buy Automatically attached to highlights, photos, or other tokens Limited quantity.
For each purchase, athletes who agree to the contract will receive a portion of the proceeds in addition to BYU and Ocabu.
However, the price of the token remains unchanged in the market. It is a closed system designed exclusively by Okave, with its own wallet and collections, and will not even migrate to any other of his NFT platforms.
Part of that is by design, as Cheney explained to KSL.com. The Marketplace is built on a unique engine designed from the ground up using a horizontal architecture where each subsystem is independent of the next to improve security. Passwords are also stored in proprietary systems owned by Ocavu to improve security and prevent data breaches.
Chaney says he knows security can be as tough as anyone trying to break into a system, so of course he’ll try. We believe we have built a platform that is more resistant to breaches than any other platform in the world.
BYU’s NFT Marketplace is not completely immune to speculation. That’s how markets work, he says Cheney. But it is contained as much as possible within a closed network.
“I don’t think you can avoid speculation,” Cheney said. “It’s a free market and that’s the way we want it to be. Just do what it does instead of trying to force it. And you have (have some speculation ) But ultimately, the main focus will be on how fans can support players in ways no other platform can.”
Stauffer added that the platform is “as close as possible” to avoid running speculation.
“This is a platform for buying and selling,” he said. It really inflates. ”
The website will go live Tuesday morning and will allow users to add additional tokens for each BYU home football game. It is also expected to add other sports. The company is currently working to sign athletes for fall sports, including popular women’s soccer and volleyball teams on campus.
Redshirt freshman kicker Cash Peterman also thinks the project will only get bigger. Beyond the highlights and photos provided by his in-house media team at BYU, which will be sold as tokens on the marketplace, players can sell additional of his NFTs (and accompanying experiences) among his BYU fanbase can.
For example, instead of auctioning off game-worn spikes to fans, Peterman worked with Ocavu’s designers to create signed digital replicas of the spikes and attached them with special visits, hangouts, or clinics. You can go
“I think the sky is the limit,” said Peterman, a former Okabu intern who helped launch the effort within the team. “No matter how hard we try, we can get out of it. If players hold on as tightly as they already have in the locker room, moments like Tyler Allgaier’s punches last game.” I know it will benefit him soon — as will the team.”
Early reports suggested the market could earn as much as $200 million, a figure that previous NFT retailers threw out and rarely, if ever, achieved. Skeptics disliked the idea for obvious reasons.
Cheney does not deny this claim, but acknowledges that the actual monetary value of the market and what each player receives can be significantly lower. It all depends on how much each individual puts into it.
No, he doesn’t back down from that concept. he adds that warning.
And one more, from BYU.
“But players want to engage with NFTs on this platform,” Stauffer said.
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