Kiwi artists and entrepreneurs with an interest in non-fungible tokens (NFT) are being offered a chance to learn how to accelerate their business plans with a new online programme.
Visa has announced it is working with community creators already active in the NFT industry to deliver a one-year Creator Programme, with applications for entry closing on May 11.
The programme, open to entry around the world, is targeting New Zealand's digital-first artists such as musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers who are serious about incorporating NFTs into their business model, regardless of experience.
Visa's head of innovation and partnerships for New Zealand Anthony Jones told Newshub the company sees NFTs as a way for creators to be able to liaise and work with their fans and customers directly.
"We have identified that a lot of people don't know where to start when it comes to non-fungible tokens. They perhaps don't even understand what they are, necessarily," Jones said.
"So the idea of the Creator Program is to engage, to help small businesses and individuals through that process, understanding what an NFT stands for, how to create an NFT and potentially what blockchains that they should be looking at to use."
That will involve a small community of creators that can share ideas with those selected worldwide, helping others upskill. It can also point new creators to best practice when it comes to selection of platforms to sell NFTs as well as host blockchains.
That aspect is vitally important, with major concerns over the intensive use of energy around cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
Bitcoin alone uses more energy during the mining of new digital tokens every year than many countries do, leading technology writer Stephen Diehl to call them a "destructive force" that is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.
However that's something Visa is definitely aware of, Jones said.
"We have a very strong ecological approach," he told Newshub. "When it comes to blockchains, we don't control how [they're] created, we don't control the consensus mechanism that they use.
"What I would say is 80 percent of NFTs are created using the Ethereum blockchain. And even though it's 'proof of work' today, which is energy intensive, it is quickly transitioning to 'proof of stake'.
"That's likely to happen by around the midpoint of this year. And at that point, the energy consumption of ether is going to drop by about 99.9 percent from where it is today."
The other blockchains largely used for NFTs - like Solana and Polygon - are already using the less energy-intensive 'proof of stake' mechanism, Jones said.
"As I said, we don't control the mechanisms today, but we can certainly point towards those blockchains that don't have such an impact on the environment."
The prevalence of scams in the cryptocurrency and NFT world, which have cost users millions and millions of dollars, is also something that will be dealt with by the programme, Jones said.
"Scams exist in many aspects of society, unfortunately, so it is about making it as safe as possible using trusted brands, using trusted websites and those that have good security.
"Part of the creative program is to point towards the ones that we feel are a little bit more reputable and trustworthy than others."
There may also be an opportunity for Kiwis who have already made an impact in the NFT space, like those behind the Snoop Dogg-supported FLUF World, to help those in Aotearoa, with Visa looking for local community members too.
"Certainly open to that as an idea and if they are keen to join then we'd be very interested to discuss it with them," Jones said.
If that happens, they'd join the likes of former pro-baseballer Micah Johnson, who "talks very strongly to the Black community in the United States" and has already been along the journey from traditional art to NFTs.
One thing Visa isn't doing, however, is encouraging people to rush out and invest in NFTs - it's more about education.
"We can see that this is an emerging new e-commerce asset a lot of people are interested in, and in the same way that individuals might go out and buy physical artwork today," Jones said.
That has included exploring the process with his 12-year-old daughter, herself an artist who has transitioned from pen, paper and oils to digital art.
"We went onto the creator page of OpenSea, uploaded some JPEG images, used the Polygon blockchain and, at no cost, we've then created NFT's of her artwork.
"Going through it was really interesting for me and her, but also made me realise that it's not a difficult process," he told Newshub.
"And people only need a little bit of education to get to that point where you can transform something from your iPad into digital artwork of a limited edition number of 10 that anybody globally can purchase."
Those insights could well help someone in Aotearoa take their creative ideas and help transform them into a sustainable business.
Those interested can find out more on the Visa website.