This week we had the honor to interview Gerbert Vandenberghe, COO of Venly, a leading NFT technology enabler startup.
Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, and his role at Venly. We also talked about his startup, his product, how it benefits for sports organizations, and the impact of regulators on the NFT space. We also discussed Meta / Facebook, the metaverse space, and his plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Gerbert:
- On his background: “I grew up in Belgium, where I studied computer science and media. I worked in the IT space as a consultant and across different roles, which were mostly focused on analysis and project management. In one of these consulting assignments I met my co-founders, with which I started the company, Venly, which we recently rebranded from Arkane to Venly”.
- On his company Venly: “We started Arkane in 2018, which is now called Venly since April 2021. Before that, we created some projects in the blockchain space, that are known as BATs. We often got the feedback that these (blockchain projects) were not very user friendly because of the nature of blockchain. So we realized that we first had to make blockchain user friendly so that anyone could use blockchain in cryptocurrencies, in the same way that everyone can send an email to anyone. That’s how we got the idea to create Venly. We started in 2018. We went live at the end of 2018 with the product launch, and then we got our first B2B and B2C customers after that”.
- On how Venly’s product can benefit sports organizations to launch NFT/Metaverse solutions: “We are a technology provider and our goal is to make it easy for developers or creators to create blockchain friendly applications that are easy to use and without the need to know anything about blockchain. We do have wallets for which people can sign up to through their social logins. We have a whole NFT management solution as well as tools to create marketplaces. You can use our frontend or you can use a white labeled version that teams can use to build their own NFT/Metaverse applications”.
- On how their technology can enable NFT vendors like Sorare and its customers: “Sorare could actually use our technology to provide wallets to their users in order to create their NFTs. Now they have their own solutions, they know the blockchain technologies, but all of these teams that are out there, they have development teams, they have designers, but they have no clue how blockchain works. That’s where we come in. We can help these existing teams and their IT staff and designers reap the benefits of NFT, blockchain and cryptocurrencies to create NFT/Metaverse solutions for their own sports teams”.
- On the recent announcement by the UK gambling regulator to require NFT vendors like Sorare to have a license: “Well, there’s quite a lot of money involved. The more money gets involved, the more people will start building NFTs and cryptocurrencies, and the more the space will get regulated. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, the regulation can be beneficial for the space as well. It can help the space mature. If people can earn money based on betting performances, like how soccer teams perform, then it’s normal that it qualifies as other gambling applications and they need the same licenses. It’s the same for wallets. You also need applications. And for NFT marketplaces and NFTs itself in the future, you’ll probably also need a license to allow people to keep trading on NFTs for example”.
- On his belief that most NFT vendors will get a license to operate: “I think most NFT companies will get a license. If you’re based in Europe, you have to adhere to the European legislation. You won’t have much choice. The same applies for the US. You can, of course, have some companies that run these wallets or these NFT marketplaces from regions where it’s not regulated. So we will see how it plays out. For example, the US has a very broad interpretation of jurisdictions. Oftentimes you don’t have to have a local presence there. But just being active there (USA) is enough to be subject to the regulation. In Europe, as far as I know, that’s not the case yet, but Europe could impose the same interpretations of jurisdictions. Of course, it’s the main difference to have this interpretation for your jurisdiction and to really be able to proceed with lawsuits against people who are overseas”.
- On the risk of seeing money laundry in the NFT space: “Well, they often refer to NFT as Art. The Art world is actually pretty well known for money laundering. Europe is regulating this, and in the meantime, they will also start looking at NFTs and see how they can regulate the whole NFT space”.
- On the metaverse space: ”I see the metaverse as an open space, a virtual space, in which everyone can contribute, take part of the metaverse, and have experiences there. Now, since it’s open, it’s very unlikely that the Facebook metaverse will qualify as a metaverse, according to my definition, since I highly doubt that it will be very open. For example, Apple and Google, they take a 30% cut on everything that they sell through their respective app stores. It’s something that Facebook misses out on and I think their metaverse play is their way to try to get a cut on everything that these app developers and content creators are creating. Then, for the metaverse, actually, the blockchain is ideally suited for this since it’s by nature a very open ecosystem. Right now you have a lot of collaboration between all the big players. For example you have these two big metaverses, such as The Sandbox and Vulcan Forged, which just announced a partnership, which is completely the opposite of the closed ecosystem of Facebook”.
- On the hype surrounding the Metaverse space: “At the moment, the metaverse is mainly a “hype” word. It’s a lot of buzz, but there’s no clear idea yet on how the metaverse will play out and how it will evolve. It’s clear that on the blockchain front you already have a lot of collaboration between different universes and this will increase over time. I think all the big brands are watching how it will play out and they are also experimenting with it. For example, AB Inbev did a NFT drop with Zed Run. Dolce & Gabbana also did an NFT sale. So I think most major brands are starting to experiment with it or see what’s happening in the blockchain and NFT space. Then they will be ready to move forward with their NFT/Metaverse strategy”.
- On the upcoming emergence of multiple metaverse ecosystems : “I don’t think that there will be one single metaverse to rule them all. In fact, I think that there will be multiple multiverses, which will be able to interact with each other. For example, you have an avatar in one multiverse, and you’ll probably be able to take it or to purchase it on other multiverses if they are open. But these multiverses will need to be open if they want to become successful (..) I am assuming that in the future we will get some standards on how these multiverses can interact with each other and how you have to design content for these different multiverses. I think that standardization is key to the success of the multiverse space”.
- On his company’s plans for the next 12 months :”We are currently growing very fast, so it’s already a challenge for us to keep up with the current growth with the addition of new users and new customers on an ongoing basis. The NFT space is booming and we have been lucky to be ahead of the pack in the NFT space so that we could enable a lot of companies and provide them with the right technology. Moving forward we will focus on continuing to improve our systems. We are expanding on the marketplace front by adding a lot of functionalities there, and our goal is to keep growing. Then in the next 12 months, our plan is to close our series A”.
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