Americana, a crypto-native NFT trading platform that bridges digital collectibles to real world assets, hit the market on Friday.
A confidential marketing deck obtained by Blockworks teased a number of Americana partnerships brewing — including a deal with a prominent, undisclosed fine art auction house.
The US crypto startup is kicking things off with what it’s categorizing as a beta phase — building off of a $6.9 million seed raise in May 2022. Its valuation was not disclosed.
Led by CEO Jake Frey, who has worked in design roles for Apple and Twitter, Americana is now in the process of rustling up additional capital. It’s already received NFT marketplace OpenSea backing.
“We’re raising new capital now,” Frey said in an interview with Blockworks on Thursday. “We’re also a business that’s going to make money on day one, so that’s a luxury.”
The deck features a total of eight employees, including Frey, and showcases personalized Doodle NFTs as their headshots. He declined to comment on the deck’s contents.
Frey has positioned his startup as a competitor to enterprise digital collectible efforts — including Amazon’s NFT initiative, which the company has repeatedly delayed.
Blockworks previously reported that Amazon venture executives engaged in talks with Americana as far back as last year, though an initially pined-for partnership has not emerged.
OpenSea declined to make an executive available for an interview, and representatives likewise declined to answer written questions seeking additional details.
“At OpenSea, we see collectibles and redeemables as among the most salient applications where the blockchain can unlock new benefits such as the ability to represent your physical items across all digital experiences,” the company told Blockworks in a statement.
The state of NFTs
Industry participants say the shifting state of NFTs has triggered fragmentation of their use cases.
The NFT markets experienced a sharp decline in the fourth quarter of 2022. This led to significant staffing cuts within NFT-linked companies, which further worsened the situation.
Well-capitalized upstart NFT platforms since, including Blur, have raced to roll out a series of incentives and product lines designed to capitalize on the opportunity. The sentiment has extended to venture funding flows, as well as mergers and acquisition activity kicking back up anew.
The idea behind getting Americana’s core product off the ground, Frey said, is to take a “single NFT tied to physical and digital art,” allowing “all artists” to combine their “physical and digital [creations] that have previously been separated.”
“It’s been a huge pain in the ass for [artists],” Frey said. “This is what they want: they want their [art] to be married to its twin.”
How to vault
Americana’s tech stack relies on its NFT vaulting capabilities.
Tying real world items to digital collectibles via third party safekeeping has long been an expensive and arduous process, and Frey is positioning the launch as capable of moving the needle in that regard.
Americana is pitching a “climate-controlled” set of locations capable of protecting valuable and rare collectible items — and their ownership is verified by blockchain technology, with NFTs being the connecting medium.
The deck alludes to Americana doing business with Brinks, known for its ubiquitous armored trucks, as well as the fine arts shipping and storage company Crozier — plus Crozier competitor UOVO. Convelio, which bills itself as an antiques shipping specialist, is likewise said to be involved.
It runs on its own token. Americana’s real world vault is “located in a tax-free state,” the company said, implying that sales taxes on vaulted consumer purchases will not have to be coughed up when buying an item.
Users would have to pay up sales tax upon claiming items, which would then be shipped to them.
The idea is to allow artists and creators via Americana’s platform to render a digital collectible to a gamut of consumer goods and art, ranging from a Gucci purse to Kanye West’s Yeezy collection.
The odds of Frey’s startup succeeding hinges upon continuing to ink high profile partnerships with top brands in a bid to win over consumers willing to cough up what amounts to extra cash on their purchases.
Future, Ohanian among Americana backers
In addition to OpenSea, American’s seed round, per the deck, was led by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit who went on to launch crypto venture capital firm Seven Seven Six (776).
Also leading the round was the rapper Future, who has built out a bustling proprietary investing business, including backing what appears to be a growing number of cryptocurrency initiatives.
Ohanian — who made waves at New York’s Met Gala by flashing Gucci cufflinks — earlier this year was angling to raise a whopping $776 million for two new 776 venture funds, The Information reported in February.
Creators on the platform include Danny Cole, Vinnie Hager, Dustin Yellin, Tom Sachs, Alexis Ohanian and Andrew Wang.
Americana’s positioning, as emphasized by Frey, is aimed at creators, with a focus on providing customization options on the platform. This is highlighted in the marketing deck, which categorizes eBay and other traditional marketplaces as outdated.
“We’re not just straight up transactional,” he said. “It’s not eBay, where it’s just a listing, and I’m just a seller behind the listing. You get to tell your story with things you’re interested in, instead of buying this thing right now.”
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