NFT Startup Americana thinks it can take on eBay
Americana, a crypto-native NFT trading platform that bridges digital collectibles to real-world values, hit the market on Friday.
A confidential marketing memo obtained by Blockworks teased a number of Americana partnerships brewing — including a deal with a prominent, undisclosed art auction house.
The American crypto startup is entering what it categorizes as a beta phase – building on a $6.9 million seed raise in May 2022. The valuation was not disclosed.
Led by CEO Jake Frey, who has worked in design roles for Apple and Twitter, Americana is now rustling up additional capital. It has already received NFT marketplace OpenSea support.
“We’re raising new capital now,” Frey said in an interview with Blockworks on Thursday. “We’re also a business that’s going to make money on day one, so that’s a luxury.”
The deck has a total of eight employees, including Frey, and showcases personalized Doodle NFTs as headshots. He refused to comment on the tire’s contents.
Frey has positioned his startup as a competitor to the digital collectibles business — including Amazon’s NFT initiative, which the company has repeatedly delayed.
Blockworks previously reported that Amazon venture executives were engaged in talks with Americana as far back as last year, though an initially sought-after partnership has not emerged.
OpenSea declined to make an executive available for an interview, and representatives also declined to respond to written questions seeking additional details.
“At OpenSea, we see collectibles and redeemables as among the most prominent applications where blockchain can unlock new benefits such as the ability to represent your physical items across all digital experiences,” the company told Blockworks in a statement.
The state of NFTs
Industry participants say the changing state of NFTs has triggered fragmentation of their use cases.
The NFT markets experienced a sharp decline in the fourth quarter of 2022. This led to significant staffing cuts within NFT-affiliated companies, which further worsened the situation.
Well-capitalized upstart NFT platforms since, including Blur, have raced to roll out a variety of incentives and product lines designed to capitalize on the opportunity. Sentiment has extended to venture funding flows, as well as M&A activity picking up again.
The idea behind getting Americana’s core product off the ground, Frey said, is to take a “simple NFT tied to physical and digital art,” so that “all artists” can combine their “physical and digital [creations] who have previously been divorced.”
“It’s been a big pain in the ass for [artists]”, said Frey. “This is what they want: they want theirs [art] to be married to the twin.”
How to vault
Americana’s technology stack relies on its NFT vault capabilities.
Linking real-world objects to digital collectibles via third-party storage has long been a costly and demanding process, and Frey is positioning the launch as capable of moving the needle in that regard.
Americana presents a “climate-controlled” set of locations capable of protecting valuable and rare collectibles – and their ownership is verified by blockchain technology, with NFTs as the linking medium.
The deck alludes to Americana doing business with Brinks, known for its ubiquitous armored trucks, as well as art shipping and storage company Crozier — plus Crozier competitor UOVO. Convelio, which bills itself as an antiques shipping specialist, is also said to be involved.
It runs on its own token. Americana’s real vault is “located in a tax-free state,” the company said, suggesting that sales taxes on vaulted consumer purchases don’t need to be coughed up when you buy an item.
Users must pay VAT when they claim goods, which will then be shipped to them.
The idea is to allow artists and creators via Americana’s platform to turn a digital collectible into a range of consumer goods and art, ranging from a Gucci bag to Kanye West’s Yeezy collection.
Frey’s startup’s chance of success depends on continuing to forge high-profile partnerships with top brands in an effort to win over consumers willing to cough up what amounts to extra cash on their purchases.
Future, Ohanian among Americana supporters
In addition to OpenSea, America’s seed round was, per the deck, led by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit who went on to launch crypto venture capital firm Seven Seven Six (776).
The round was also led by rapper Future, who has built a bustling proprietary investment business, including backing what appears to be a growing number of cryptocurrency initiatives.
Ohanian — who made waves at New York’s Met Gala by flashing Gucci cufflinks — was earlier this year looking to raise a whopping $776 million for two new 776 venture funds, The Information reported in February.
Creators on the platform include Danny Cole, Vinnie Hager, Dustin Yellin, Tom Sachs, Alexis Ohanian and Andrew Wang.
Americana’s positioning, as stressed by Frey, is aimed at creators, with a focus on offering customization options on the platform. This is highlighted in the marketing deck, which categorizes eBay and other traditional marketplaces as outdated.
“We’re not just straight transactional,” he said. “It’s not eBay, where it’s just a listing and I’m just a seller behind the listing. You get to tell your story with things you’re interested in, instead of buying this thing right now.”
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