Serial entrepreneur and investor Gary Vee will headline AIBC Eurasia as a keynote speaker for the AIBC summit to be held in Dubai next March. As part of the cover story feature for BLOCK magazine, he sat down for an exclusive interview in the runup to the 2023 event.
What does the emergence of new tech like Blockchain bring to the table for creative entrepreneurs like yourself?
The blockchain empowers creators in many ways. First and foremost, the blockchain is a ledger at scale that can confirm and affirm ownership of digital assets, which is non-manipulatable or non-alterable.
The technology’s capabilities are a big deal for entrepreneurs as it allows them to provide additional utility and value to the assets they issue – this is unprecedented in the history of technology. I believe that more people will understand the magnitude of this technology over the next decade.
What is the single most important thing brands looking to build and scale their communities should know? How can they incorporate social media tools into their strategy?
One of the most significant problems I’ve seen in the last 15 years of community building is watching 97% of people/brands try to build communities founded on a framework of selfishness. In other words, they call it their community, but they are customers. And, when you’re thinking of your audience as “customers,” it is very different from a “community.” They are probably not providing value to their audience through their attempt to build a community. Instead, they are so focused on extracting value that they will never be able to create that meaningful community.
Now, think about how to incorporate this mindset in social media. Social media is the most effective way to build an actual community in the modern marketing world, given that there is no cost associated with the distribution of the creative – especially when you’re producing interesting and meaningful content.
Could you imagine how in the 1980s, you could write a good article, and all the newspapers in the world would pick it up? That’s basically what social media is today.
VeeFriends leverages the benefits of smart contracts – can you tell us more about deriving value from NFT tech that looks beyond the more obvious art and collectibles side of things?
The utility capabilities of smart contracts are so important! For example, a smart contract can represent the deed of a home; it can represent access to a plane trip, cruise ship, or sporting event. In addition, it can represent anything that needs to be a contract/ arrangement – think of any binding contract. Here’s a fun one. It can even represent a marriage!
Simply put, it’s a contract, and any contract that exists today can be placed on the blockchain and developed into a smart contract. This is why the technology is so important – think about how many contracts have been debated, how many contracts have been lost in fires, and consequently caused issues amongst families and business partners – developing a smart contract can eliminate all these potential risks.
Today, this profound technology seems to be focused on collectability and art, but it will inevitably expand over the next 20 years.
The 283 VeeFriends characters represent the human traits you most admire. You’ve said that you believe that these characters and what they stand for will be your legacy – how are you using these traits to scale your ideas?
That’s one of the most meta-questions of all time – One of the characters is Tenacious Termite: today, I’m using tenacity to drive this brand to success. Another character is Curious Crane – I’m staying curious daily to figure out what to do and how to do it.
I mean, there isn’t a single trait from the 283 VeeFriends characters that a CEO and leader doesn’t use. Each character has a unique story, which embodies traits humans need to lead to happiness and success.
VeeFriends launched its first collectibles edition with Macys and Toys “R” US in October. How can physical NFTs bridge our physical and digital lives and change how we interact with real-world items?
VeeFriends’ ambition is to grow the IP around each VeeFriends character and to scale the traits through storytelling. This collection and partnership is the first step in bringing the VeeFriends characters to life, from digital NFT collectibles to physical collectibles. In addition, these collectibles come with flow codes that lead to 3D-animated heartfelt short films. These animations build affinity around these characters. They will be an essential part of how we are thinking about building the VeeFriends universe, which will lead to metaverses in the future, video games, more NFTs, and its core to what we are developing.
Web2 platforms like social media have shown a need for some form of moderation – will the more open web 3 marketplaces need the same?
Moderation debates are always based on human behaviour. As long as there are humans, there’s always going to be an incredibly challenging understanding of moderation regarding many subjects: governments, institutions, schools, parenting, and so on.
What’s the balance of freedom? I think the world has long struggled to balance the extremes of deep democracy to a hard-line dictatorship and everything in between.
And so all you’re seeing with Web 1, Web 2, and Web 3 is the continuation of humans being humans, and then humans struggling with humans being humans or pondering better ways for humans to be humans.
When it comes to consumer behaviour – what are the things you look at when trying to understand the psychology behind the culture?
I look for pattern recognition. It’s hard to explain what I look for in consumer behaviour, but I read, synthesise and listen. I consume and ponder – then I consume and ponder, and consume and ponder.
I have a knack for figuring out where the wind is blowing. But one thing I don’t do is guess. So I am very quick at observing actual behaviour versus trying to predict. I think too many people take a chance and try to predict what people are going to do versus acting very quickly on what people are doing. So I guess it comes down to the speed in research and taking action on top of the observation that allows me to do what I do.
You’ve been in the business of building a community for a long time – why is supporting the personal growth of community members so important to you?
Supporting personal growth is essential to me because I was raised very well. My mother and father instilled good values in me, and I care about people. I was also born to be very empathetic and compassionate and I enjoy it immensely. It’s a selfish act – I enjoy seeing others flourish and being happier.
I take a lot of pride. I also sense that I have a communication style that resonates, and I’m proud of that. And I will continue to push that and find clever ways to communicate and bring value to the community.
Read more interviews like this in the BLOCK magazine archive.