Visa made a big splash in the NFT space in August when the company purchased a CryptoPunks NFT avatar for about $150,000 worth of ETH—and market demand for Punks exploded soon thereafter. Now, the financial services giant wants to bring greater awareness of NFTs to an even larger audience of creators, thanks to a newly-launched initiative.
Today, Visa launched an NFT-centric program in partnership with noted crypto artist Micah Johnson, the creator of theNFT character Aku. Together, Visa and Johnson aim to help creators and small business owners better understand how NFTs work, and how they can use blockchain networks and cryptocurrency to create and sell digital work.
Visa will put out an open call for creators who want to take part in the initiative and choose an initial class of creators to take part in the project. The firm will sponsor and consult with the group, as well as “look to foster meaningful relationships” between the participating creators and Visa’s payment partners.
“We believe that we are at the beginning of a digital renaissance in the world of art and content creation—a flourishing ecosystem of artists, musicians, writers, photographers, and curators building communities at the intersection of culture and commerce,” tweeted Cuy Sheffield, Visa vice president and head of crypto.
“New technologies emerging in the crypto ecosystem, like NFTs, have the potential to lower the barrier to entry for digital creators across the world to build their own small businesses,” he said.
1/ I’m incredibly excited for @VisaNews to partner with @Micah_Johnson3 to build a new program focused on how we can help creators leverage NFTs to participate in digital commerce https://t.co/uH0X4kneTV
— Cuy Sheffield (@cuysheffield) October 13, 2021
An NFT is effectively a blockchain-based deed of ownership for a rare digital item, including digital artwork, video clips, interactive video game items, and more. Johnson launched his Aku character earlier this year in an ongoing series of NFT artwork pieces, which depict the fantastical adventures of a young Black boy who dreams of exploring space.
Aku was optioned for potential film and TV adaptations in April in a partnership between Anonymous Content and Permanent Content, making it the first crypto-native character to be licensed for use in other entertainment formats. In August, the artwork for an Aku NFT was sent to a server on the International Space Station, where it orbited the earth before being transferred home for the minting process and eventual auction.
“When I retired from baseball in 2018, I was terrified. I had no place to sell my work and no work experience,” Johnson tweeted. “The NFT community opened their arms and showed me what was possible, and that love is something that will always stick with me. Alongside Visa, I aim to pass that same love and guidance to the next wave of creators and be a candle that lights another candle.”
Visa’s CryptoPunk purchase on August 23 appeared to galvanize an already-hot NFT market, setting a then-all-time record for single-day CryptoPunks trading volume while boosting the floor price (or cheapest available) for the popular NFT collection.
Prior to Visa’s purchase announcement, some of the Ethereum-based CryptoPunks were selling for less than $170,000 worth of ETH. Today, the floor starts at about $370,000.
The firm joined a growing list of brands that have entered the NFT space in one way or another, including Budweiser, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Arizona Iced Tea, and Charmin.
More broadly, Visa has made a concerted push into the crypto space, taking a platform-agnostic stance as it outlines potential opportunities, forges relationships with payment processors, and builds a network to facilitate stablecoin and central bank digital currency payments.