While daily headlines paint a progressively gloomy picture of our economic outlook, both globally and in these shaky isles, one growing sector of our economy has been on an absolute tear – all while mainstream economic pundits look studiously in any other direction for inspiration.
I’m talking – hold your eye-roll – about Web3.
You may not want to hear this. You may have absorbed all the trendily cynical take from your LinkedIn feed about the over-hyped Web3 ecosystem, venturing no further than chuckling at memes about right-clicking to download an NFT. But allow me to confront you with boots-on-the-ground reality.
New Zealand’s fledgling web3 sector has quietly become world-leading, with very little fanfare, and all the headwinds of an endeavour actively dismissed as a joke at best or scam at worst.
Exhibit A: Jerome Faury, Kiwi founder of Web3 payment protocol IMMERSVE, quietly let slip while announcing a blockbuster partnership with global payment technology company Mastercard (heard of them?), that last year they completed what is probably the largest seed round in New Zealand history, valuing the business at US$70m. But you didn’t hear about it at the time because nobody other than those who understand the immense potential of these technologies is paying attention.
Exhibit B: Kiwi Web3 start-up Non-Fungible Labs has, in the space of three years, become one of the largest creative powerhouses in the sector globally. One of its FLUF World launches delivered $US42 million in sales in five weeks. If the language of Web3 turns you off, consider Non-Fungible Labs as a modern media company. By that yardstick, they’d be the fastest-growing media company in New Zealand and already one of the largest.
Exhibit C: Glorious. You may still harbour some reservations after hearing examples of tech start-ups celebrating massive early wins – after all, that’s what tech start-ups do. But what does it tell you when a legendary Kiwi entrepreneur who’s made a career out of correctly anticipating the evolution of commerce, technology and creativity dives into Web3? Glorious, the brainchild of well-known partners, including celebrated entrepreneur Murray Thom and All-Black legend Dan Carter has been working on several blockchain-enabled projects, including world-first digital patronage with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
My point is, whether you believe in this technology or not, my colleagues in the industry are out there building it. Right here in New Zealand. And while you roll your eyes, clever Kiwis are building incredibly high-growth businesses leveraging ridiculously complex technologies at the cutting edge of cryptography and AI.
They’re generating interest from global fintech companies, sports and entertainment brands, and VCs who can feel where the wind’s blowing.
And it makes sense. Articles in CNBC and The Economist point out that while global investment activity looks sheepish, investment in AI is running red hot. A recent Reuters article notes that the confluence of AI and Crypto is driving significant investor activity. When growth is hard to come by, you look to the sectors with the most promise.
Commercial success aside, these Kiwi entrepreneurs are good people. They’ve orchestrated multi-million dollar donations to the Auckland City Mission. Spearheaded timely flood relief during recent weather events through community legend David Letele. They’ve generated a dizzying array of creatively challenging, technically exciting employment opportunities for young, ambitious New Zealanders.
So, to the Kiwi Web3 industry, I say: nothing silences doubters like success. Congratulations on all your success so far. Keep building.
To the doubters, I say: keep doubting. It’s your loss.