A Non-Fungible Token is a digital certificate of ownership
If you’re like me, you might still be grappling with the concept of Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs – What exactly are they? Why are they so sought-after? And how can I get my hands on one? Well, INSEAD alumnus Oktawian Zajac MBA’09D, Managing Director & Partner at Boston Consulting Group, might just be the perfect person to help offer an explanation. Oktawian is the proud owner of 30 NFTs – including one of three rare legendary Salamander NFTs launched by the school this year.
So, what are NFTs?
NFTs are digital assets and one can make an NFT of anything that can be reproduced on a multimedia file. By “minting” a NFT on a blockchain, the digital file becomes unique or “non fungible”. So NFTs typically give the holder a certificate of ownership.
NFTs first took off in art, collectibles and gaming and have now grown fast in number and value. The craze about NFTs peaked in March 2021 with the US$69M sale of Beeple’s digital collage Everydays: The First 5000 Days at Christie’s Auction House. While the enthusiasm around NFTs has deflated somewhat with the recent crypto market crash, NFTs still present vast potential for value creation, particularly once related legal and environmental challenges are addressed. Since NFT ownership is easy to certify and transfer, and its underlying blockchain is programmable, this new technology can be used to create markets in a wide spectrum of areas and provide value for its holder besides just ownership. As such, NFT applications are emerging in education, healthcare, government, retail, metaverse and more.
NFTs also present new fundraising opportunities. During the INSEAD Robin Hood Campaign in 2021, MBA’22J students Ferdinand Issels, Michelle Yu, Jack Ni and Rodrigo Perez raised almost US$3,000 for a need-based scholarship by auctioning off an NFT of a short animation depicting a cartoon Robin Hood riding a green salamander.
The very first NFT created by INSEAD students for fundraising purposes helped to raise money for the Robin Hood Scholarship Campaign
INSEAD joins the crypto world of blockchain fundraising
In line with INSEAD’s mission to be a pioneer in management education and a force for good, the digital@INSEAD initiative partnered with members of the Robin Hood Campaign to launch three legendary Salamander NFTs – Napoleon, Moonshot and Oktawian’s Unicorn – on 1 April 2022. This was done under the umbrella of The Savvy Salamander Study Club (SSSC), a newly formed group founded by five MBA’22J students – Ferdinand, Michelle, Jack and Rodrigo, along with Joning Lee – looking to explore the intersection of fundraising, education, technology and Web3. In June, Junting He MBA’22D and Aditya Rane MBA’22D minted and dropped another 97 NFTs, out of a total collection of 500. Since then all 100 collectibles have already been sold on digital marketplace OpenSea. The proceeds from the sale raised a total of 11 Ethers (about US$15,000 at today’s rate) for student scholarships at INSEAD and SSSC.
But it was not all smooth sailing on the OpenSea for the students. “At times it felt like we were moving in circles, and it was difficult to make time for this ambitious extra-curricular activity. However, we were driven by a greater purpose – to help future INSEADers access world-class education regardless of their financial situation. This played an important role in keeping the flame alive.”
From left: Napoleon, Unicorn and Moonshot
“I find the NFT space fascinating”
Oktawian has been in the NFT space for two years now and is always on the lookout for an interesting addition to his collection. “I find the whole space fascinating – from acquiring digital art as collectibles or using the concept to build a community, to even purchasing NFTs as an investment piece,” he said.
When SSSC launched its collection, Oktawian was excited. “I’m a big fan. I think it’s great that INSEAD students are at the forefront of this area and I’m sure the initiative has a bright future!” Although he had set his sights on clinching all three legendary Salamanders, he only managed to snap up Unicorn – the last one available but also his first choice. Securing Unicorn was a triple win for Oktawian, allowing him to indulge in his pastime while also supporting the school and a great cause.
When asked how much his current collection is worth, he explains that it’s a difficult question to answer as “it depends – on how much someone is willing to pay for it and how willing I am to part with it”.
Thinking of getting your own NFT? Start small.
Oktawian’s very first NFT was one of the famous MoonCat critters, at a time when there were few NFTs on the market. “It was my first foray into the space and while I had read up on the topic, I thought that the best way to learn was actually by doing”.
His advice for budding NFT enthusiasts is to go slow, taking time to explore the space. “And more importantly – have fun!”