Here’s why CNET co-founder Halsey Minor is bullish on NFTs

'The opportunities are only limited by creators’ own creativity'

Halsey Minor has lived many lives.

One of the founders of CNET, Minor entered tech media at a time when the closest thing most of us had to the web was a spider spinning cobwebs on an old NES. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Minor worked for Merrill Lynch during the rise of the internet in the early 1990s and, in the words of Wayne Gretzky, has been skating to where the puck is going ever since.

Since his initial foray into media, Minor has taken to cryptocurrency and blockchain in a big way. In 2014, he started an exchange, Bitreserve, which morphed into Uphold, a money transfer product that supported over 30 currencies, including crypto.

Over the last few years, he built Live Planet, a video service, and VideoCoin, a token that rewards idle data centers for serving up video content. Now he’s expanded into NFTs and sees the space as wide open yet in need of serious change. We spoke to Minor about his view of the current NFT market and what needs to be done to turn today’s technology into tomorrow’s CNET.

NFTs are one of those ubiquitous technologies that will touch virtually everything we do, from e-commerce to marketing and entertainment. In three years, everyone will be interacting with NFTs every day. Halsey Minor

These days, Minor is building startups – and running Zoom calls.

“I’ve spent the pandemic educating five children — with two dogs and a cat,” Minor said. “It’s been incredibly hard if you have a lot of children because of all the added work that comes from Zoom-based homeschooling. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to be able to work from home.”

“With five children in school it leaves very little time for anything other than around-the-clock work,” he said. “People honestly don’t talk about this enough probably because it’s not a sexy story.”

TechCrunch: You’ve gone all-in on crypto and NFTs after a career in content. Why?

Halsey Minor: Much like I recognized the massive explosion of the internet many years ago, I see crypto and NFTs as the technology of the future. As NFTs become more accessible and mainstream, the creator economy will continue to migrate to the blockchain and, I believe, will eventually overtake traditional platforms. I am all-in on video NFTs with Vivid Labs because we believe video is the next great bulwark for NFTs and has the potential to spread into various verticals, from gaming to art to traditional entertainment. Video has always been one of the most compelling, engaging and empathetic mediums across all swaths of entertainment, and we don’t expect NFTs to be immune to that.

What advice do you have for new founders right now? What’s the best route to raising capital?

When I started my first company CNET, 26 years ago, I had no track record. Everything I did was to build credibility. I hired a former head of programming and marketing at Fox and the head of multimedia from Bell Labs with extensive internet experience (rare skill in 1995). You need to sell great people on your vision to build great things. These people helped turn CNET into a NASDAQ 100 company in four years.

Over my 26 years of building in technology, it has become so much more competitive. The best thing any entrepreneur can do is to hire incredible people, even if it takes longer. Second, get investors that trust you fully and can help when they are asked. Bad hires and bad investors kill a shocking number of promising companies.

If you were investing in one technology right now, what would it be?

I focus on the most important technology I see at any moment in time. In the 1990s, which was all about web publishing, I built CNET into a NASDAQ 100 content company and created the largest web publishing solution in Vignette.

In 1999, I invested $19.5 million in and left CNET to dedicate my time as the company’s second-largest shareholder for six years. The “cloud” was clear to me but was called “software as service” at the time, so I took a very, very big swing.

After went public, I left the board and created Google Voice, called Grand Central pre-sale, and OpenDNS — both cloud companies, voice and DNS respectively. In 2012, seeing the possibilities in crypto, I created the now very popular wallet/exchange called Uphold.

I created Vivid Labs because NFTs are the most promising new technology today, by far. We’ve just scratched the surface of what they will become. Web3 as a whole is also just beginning.

What is it about the NFT market that is compelling to you right now? Why should anyone care about them?

NFTs are one of those ubiquitous technologies that will touch virtually everything we do, from e-commerce to marketing and entertainment. In three years, everyone will be interacting with NFTs every day. Today’s NFTs are very rudimentary. Their use will permeate our lives as the technology matures, which will happen quickly.

Say I want to pivot to NFTs or start in the space. What should I be doing? Where should I be looking?

The NFT world is highly competitive. There will be an enormous premium on creativity.  NFT success demands it no matter the market. Virtually every large company is now looking at how to use NFTs in their business.

Blockchain applications are still too complex. There are now great products that make the blockchain a back-end tool you never see. You never know you are using a blockchain. You just transfer funds. This gives everyone the same opportunities as hardcore blockchain users.

Tell us about your new project. What does it do?

Vivid Labs is a full-service NFT technology and strategy provider. The VIVID technology stack is built upon the company’s decentralized media processing infrastructure, formerly known as the VideoCoin Network.

Vivid Labs believes in the power of NFTs to create significant new value from digital assets, catalyze novel engagement between creators and fans, and establish channels for persistent communication between brands and customers.

The new platform is aimed at creating what sounds like a new form of NFT. Tell me about it. What’s bad about the current crop of solutions?

The current crop of solutions focuses on NFTs simply as digital collectibles, while Vivid Labs views NFTs as dynamic media experiences, offering immense value for both creators and consumers. Our NFTs have advanced features — including multiformat, multiasset and updateable — that we call NFT+. Our NFTs also use an on-chain DRM so you can permission different levels of access. Through integration with Filecoin, we offer decentralized storage that, combined with our DRM methodology, preserves the longevity of the NFT so they do not vanish or break. Altogether, we believe these NFT+ features pioneer new use cases and business models for anyone from content creators, brands, retailers, developers, to content platforms.

These features are enabled by a white-label, backend NFT-as-a-service solution that allows anyone to easily set up their own NFT capabilities through their existing e-commerce sites.

When does all this technology turn into an actual product? Ten years? Five years? Twenty?

2021 was a big year for NFTs, supported by an ecosystem of creators, marketplaces, backend infrastructure technology, competing L1s and L2s, and social and community-building platforms. Together, this ecosystem represents an accretion estimated at $40 billion of revenue in 2021 and, according to Jeffries, will reach $80 billion by 2025.

You were around for the birth of the web as we know it. How is this gold rush different from that one?

It’s very similar. The technology of publishing NFTs will change quickly, just like HTML of the early Internet. Early HTML was very limiting as a publishing medium. We are transforming the publishing of simple NFTs into rich media experiences, either purely digital or connected to analog products.

The Blockchain is itself also beginning to finally change the way “real” fiat money works, catching up to the hype.

How do you sell NFTs to “normies”? What’s that tech hook? The marketing hook?

On top of simplifying access, the monetization of property is attractive to many people. NFTs have endless capabilities for creators and consumers alike, from selling music album NFTs directly from artist to consumer, to distributing feature-length movies as NFTs secured through DRM technology, to allowing breeders to monetize horses in the horse racing industry. The opportunities are only limited by creators’ own creativity.