Meet the New Cool Kids on the Block

2021 was a tremendous year for NFT’s, with a staggering 17 billion USD of NFT’s changing hands – however, the NFT highs of last year are no more, and following the peaks seen last autumn, the next few months took individual sales from a daily average of 225,000 sales to just 19,000, (a drastic drop of 92% from September 2021 to May 2022).

As the Wall Street Journal somberly reported in June 2022, NFT sales are “flatlining”. Yet, despite these pessimistic headlines and mainstream media expert doomsdaying, and yes, even despite some legitimate concerns, there is actually room for optimism. 

Firstly, the mainstream media expert class often has it wrong, and NFT’s are a very broad asset class. Some NFT’s are like traditional art pieces, with unique pieces selling well (value here is derived from the fame of the artist usually), some of them come in groupings or collections, with the famous Bored Ape Yacht Club being the prime example (these are “social NFT’s”, with value lying in the identity they offer their holders).

Despite the headlines, the mainstream media forgot to present the data sets that showed the shift within the NFT market itself – the most important shift was an increase in the ratio of wallets buying to that of wallets selling, and secondly, social NFT’s now command 83% of the NFT market (according to data from Nansen), which means the market has matured, and moved away from cheap and risky collections, and consolidated around established “blue chip” projects.  

Furthermore, NFT’s remain a key component of the transition from web 2.0 to web3. We are currently watching this transition happen in real time, and we can see the digital landscape shifting from the current, centralized web2, which is dominated by the huge conglomerates that jealously guard control over all the pathways to monetisation, to web3 in which we return to the very early days of the internet and its profoundly decentralized structure, with content ownership returning to the hands of those who created it, rather than those who provided the platform to host it. 

And thus, filled with optimism that the NFT market is not yet dead, this brings us to exploring some of the more exciting projects around today – as it so happens, one area that is particularly exciting is Central and Eastern Europe. 

Estonia, a tiny country of just 1.3 million people is also a tech powerhouse, which gave the world tech giants such as Skype, TransferWise or PlayTech. The country boasts digital services that are far ahead from some of the largest economies in the world, and its capital city Tallinn, despite being a beautiful medieval city, is also one of the most modern cities in the world. It’s no surprise that it is often referred to as the “Silicon Valley on the Baltic Sea”. 

Unsurprisingly for a tech powerhouse, Estonia has some stellar NFT projects, including Artano, a community-curated NFT marketplace on Cardano. Built on Cardano to avoid high gas fees and transaction fees, Artano focuses on being as accessible as possible as an ecosystem, and open to people around the world. Marija Skijevic, the Serbian co-founder and COO of the Estonian project recently told Unchained that she sees a bright future for Europe, at the heart of the creative side of decentralization.  

Artano is flourishing, with several important European values at the core of the project, such as a focus on democracy via community curation and sustainability guiding the founders in their choice of blockchain.

Poland, just like Estonia, has also been emerging as a major tech hub, but given its substantially larger population, the country has the advantage of a deeper talent pool. Polish developers are highly respected and sought after, with HackerRank ranking Polish developers 3rd in the world. The excitement around Polish tech is also confirmed by the major investments the country has attracted – Google invested almost $2.0 billion in the country in an attempt to make it the cloud capital of Europe whereas Microsoft announced it would invest $1 billion in expanding its operations in the country.

No surprise then that Poland has some excellent projects of its own, including Fancy Bears Metaverse, which operates as a DAO. FBM is a collection of 8,888 programmatically, randomly generated bear animations with unique accessories in the form of NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain and it is now one of Europe’s biggest NFT projects. 

Bartek Sibiga, one of the founders and the CEO of FBM says “I would say there was too much hype when many projects were launching – and I believe 95% of them will be gone in one or two years.”, as he argues that only those providing true utility and value will survive. FBM is very active in the metaverse and the founders have a 3D scanner that will allow holders of FBM NFTs to scan themselves at upcoming parties, in order to create digital avatars of themselves that can be uploaded into the metaverse. 

Another exciting project from Poland is Kleks Academy, which is the universe built around the Kleks Academy film, produced by the team behind smash hits “365 Days 1 and 2” and “How I Fell In Love With a Gangster” which garnered well over 500 million viewers worldwide. The film is a revival of an old Polish story, and of a cult film from the 1980’s, reinvented for the modern viewer and adapted for a global audience. 

The project with its limited collection of multi-D NFT’s, wants to provide film viewers with a completely new experience, bringing people cinema like never. The project is built primarily on the unprecedented in real life benefits of the multi-D NFT’s, which serve as an entry ticket to the Kleks Universe. These will bring holders into contact with the film at all staged.

Access will start before the film is even made, with the possibility to visit the set, be an extra or even get a speaking role in the film. When the film is released, holders will have access to special screenings and access to augmented reality elements within the film as well as the possibility to be featured in the credits and get parts of the set or costumes used in the production. After the film, the NFT holders will be able to continue the Kleks adventure with the Kleks Academy metaverse. 

Finally, adversity and tragedy has brought out yet another kind of innovation in the NFT world. Just east of Poland, in Ukraine, amidst the chaos and the horror of the Russian invasion, Alexey Kondakov, a multimedia artist working in Kyiv, launched Reverberate Ukraine, an art collection featuring 5 NFTs of artworks he created to “show the world what it’s like living in a war”. He teamed up with legendary auction house Bonhams and crypto donation solution The Giving Block, and his project will feature the sale of 1,000 physical prints of one of his artworks, and the proceeds will all go directly to World Central Kitchen’s Chefs for Ukraine. 

These are just some of the exciting and innovative projects coming out from Central and Eastern Europe, a region that has long been undiscovered, underappreciated and forgotten, but that is now finally emerging as a contender and a powerhouse in the tech industry. 

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