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Visa is recruiting creators for one-year NFT program

Visa (V) is recruiting creators bent on selling their work and services using NFTs.

On Wednesday, the global payments giant began accepting applications for a one-year immersive program aiming to help gig workers, entrepreneurs, and artists dive deeper into the commercial side of NFTs, short for non-fungible tokens.

“We want to build a small cohort of amazing talented creators from different geographies across the world that are focused on leveraging NFTs for different use cases,” Cuy Sheffield, head of digital assets with Visa, told Yahoo Finance.

The move comes after these digital goods caught fire last year, buoyed by the new money cryptocurrency investors gained on the back of a bull market. The market since has become more subdued.

This new program, through a test partnership with Micah Johnson, a former professional baseball player turned notable NFT creator, will allow selected creators to draw on Visa's technical knowledge of the NFT space as well as give them an undisclosed one-time stipend, exposure to other emerging NFT creators and multinational company’s partners and clients.

A Visa credit card is seen on a computer keyboard in this picture illustration taken September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Illustration
A Visa credit card is seen on a computer keyboard in this picture illustration taken September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Illustration

According to Sheffield, the company won’t receive any direct financial incentive but instead, can use the program as a way to learn how it can enhance NFT commerce and help their clients navigate the emerging technology.

“We have some of the largest merchants and brands across the world that are coming to Visa, and they're asking about NFT's and how they can participate and get involved in this space,” Sheffield added. “And so we want to have this cohort that we can then connect to clients across our ecosystem to help enable really interesting collaborations.”

Visa took its first step into NFTs in August 2021 by purchasing a Crypto Punk NFT for roughly $150,000 worth of ETH at the time. The timing of the purchase coincided with the start of the market’s meteoric growth.

Investors spent $44 billion dollars on NFTs last year and already more than $23 billion in 2022, according to data from blockchain analysis firm, Chainalysis. But following record demand in January, the market of NFT buyers has plummeted from its year-to-date peak to more than a fifth of that size, according to data tracker, Nonfungible.

Despite this downslide over the past several weeks, several of the top NFT collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Azuki, and World of Women have fared far better than the market’s average, notably for evolving the use of their tokens from mere collectibles to passports that give holders access to exclusive online communities.

A representation of cryptocurrency Ethereum is seen next to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of Yuga Labs
A representation of cryptocurrency Ethereum is seen next to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of Yuga Labs "Bored Ape Yacht Club" collection displayed on its website, in this illustration picture taken March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

During the March downslide, BAYC creator, Yuga Labs, raised $450 million for a $4 billion post-money valuation. It also helped launch a BAYC cryptocurrency — ApeCoin — which it awarded to its NFT holders in units worth approximately $134,000 as of Wednesday.

While Yuga Labs could prove to be a rarity in the NFT space, the company’s success spells enormous potential for a digital creator’s ability to make a decent living off their work — something Visa is looking to foster.

The payments giant cites research from the venture firm, SignalFire, which estimates there are some 50 million people across the world drawing at least a part-time source of income by creating digital content, equating to a more than $100 billion market.

As another, Sheffield pointed to Micah Johnson’s success with his now well-known NFT character, Aku, a Black kid with dreams of becoming an astronaut who sports an oversized space helmet. An Aku collection sold for $2 million last year before a Hollywood studio bought film and television rights for the character two months later.

However, Johnson’s case like Yuga Labs appear like break-out examples, and those are likely the kind of projects Visa’s program is seeking.

A recent report from the blockchain analytics company, Nansen, found that one in three NFT collections “end up as a dead collection with little or no trading activity.” But as Yahoo Finance previously reported, even if creators aren’t behind the effort there is a growing market for NFT-related services.

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David Hollerith covers cryptocurrency for Yahoo Finance. Follow him @dshollers.

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