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Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s annual VeeCon conference is underway this week, and the core mix looks familiar: panels and interviews featuring notable celebs, creators, and business leaders paired with concerts and activities, all set within a Midwestern NFL stadium.
But this year’s move from Minneapolis to Indianapolis comes with another change, Vaynerchuk told Decrypt: an expanding focus that’s less centered on NFTs and Web3. In particular, he said via video call, he's hyped about the rise of A.I. tools and their impact on business and creators.
Last year, Vaynerchuk described VeeCon to Decrypt as a “summer camp” of sorts, designed to educate attendees about NFTs—and entertain them, too. But this year, with the NFT market seeing a steep decline over the past year, he said the aim was to expand the event and turn VeeCon into the “coolest business conference in the world.”
“Cool” is meant to represent “contemporary voices and individuals that are representing the ‘now’ in business and in popular culture,” he explained, albeit within a conference framework that’s still focused on business, marketing, and entrepreneurial pursuits. Vaynerchuk further described the evolution as a “strategy shift” from the original event.
Broadly, the lineup of speakers hit a similar vibe as last year, with celebrities (Drew Barrymore, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Alba) plus NFT artists and project creators (Art Blocks’ Erick “Snowfro” Calderon and pseudonymous Deadfellaz co-founder Betty), along with musician Timbaland, spiritual thinker Deepak Chopra, and entrepreneurs from various industries.
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) May 19, 2023
But the NFT-ticketed event’s lineup of panels and chats has a wider scope, ranging from sports partnerships to the pairing of business and culture—and A.I. is also in the mix. Vaynerchuk said that A.I. conversations could’ve dominated the event if they’d approached it like VeeCon 2022.
“Last year, I was incredibly focused on the education of new innovation,” he told Decrypt. “If I was to do it this year, there would have been 80% of the panels on A.I.”
Vaynerchuk said that his Vayner3 consultancy has similarly expanded its focus from Web3 to broader tech innovations, including things like augmented reality and A.I. The firm is now helping brands navigate the new and potentially thorny generative A.I. space.
And he’s personally excited about the tech, too. Vaynerchuk told Decrypt that he believes that A.I. is going to streamline and simplify many daily tasks, freeing people up to “use our incredible brains and hearts and souls to do new things.” He likens the rise of A.I. tools to the creation of the tractor, which he said had kickstarted a larger wave of progress and innovation.
“I think A.I. is about to unlock a lot of hours for very creative people,” he said, adding that shaving away hours typically spent on elaborate tasks—like developing a visual idea from scratch in Photoshop—by tapping A.I. instead is “going to be profoundly good” for people.
Vaynerchuk added that he’s been using A.I. “less than I want to” amid his hectic schedule of VeeCon planning and his other myriad business ventures, but it’s already impacting his routine.
“I am using it multiple times a week—I wish it was 50 times a day, given how profound it is—but multiple times a week to give me insights,” he explained. “I'm using it as a thinking partner [for] observations and curiosities.”
Despite the NFT market decline over the past year and VeeCon’s expanding focus, Vaynerchuk told Decrypt that he still believes that a sustainable NFT market will someday emerge.
Vaynerchuk was quick to note his 2021 prediction that “99% of [NFTs] are going to zero,” and said that many people didn’t really believe him at the time. But he also noted that in markets like art and sports cards, 99% of such items aren’t significantly valuable—and the collector of CryptoPunks and other pricey NFTs is excited to find out what retains value in the long term.
“What's gonna be most neat for someone like me, who likes collecting and collectability, is what's the 1% of this era in 30 years?” he asked. "[It] will be fun to watch.”