: ‘They could be the next LeBron!’: Why the new-era media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk is bullish on NFTs, crypto and 13-year-olds

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Gary Vaynerchuk wears many hats.

He’s an entrepreneur, CEO, angel investor, public speaker and social-media guru — not to mention the actual hat he wore during his interview with MarketWatch showing he’s a fan of the New York Jets.

Vaynerchuk, 45, is the CEO of media and communications company VaynerMedia, and has famously invested early in notable companies including Facebook FB, -1.38%, Twitter TWTR, -2.81%, Tumblr, Uber UBER, -2.32%, Snap SNAP, -4.87% and Venmo — he also has accumulated over 40 million followers across his social-media profiles.

In a one-on-one interview with MarketWatch, Vaynerchuk, who talked about his love for NFTs, alternative forms of investing, and what young people should do with their money.

MarketWatch: You are a New York guy. Did you ever consider leaving during the pandemic?

Vaynerchuk: I went to the countryside of New Jersey to spend a lot of time with my parents, but, other than that, absolutely not. None of these I-am-going-to-Texas-or-Florida feelings. I’m East Coast.

MarketWatch: We’ve been reporting a lot about NFTs in the last year, and it seems like you talk about them every day. Are you sick of talking about them yet?

Vaynerchuk: (Laughs.) Not yet!

MarketWatch: Why are you so bullish on NFTs?

Vaynerchuk: I think it’s the next evolution in the digitalization of society: Web 1.0 was digitized information, Web 2.0 was digitized socialization, [and] Web 3.0 is going to digitize assets. I’m completely convinced. I think the NFT thing is big, way big. I do think the prices of certain products, art projects are widely bubbled-out, but I view this exactly the way I viewed the internet in 1999. Internet stocks and their valuations were through the roof, prematurely, and a lot of things collapsed. Meanwhile, eBay EBAY, -2.03%, Google GOOG, -0.69% GOOGL, -1.13% and Amazon were all there.

MarketWatch: When you’re looking at some of these NFTs, whether it’s NBA Top Shot or Beeple art, how do you sort the ones that could be a golden goose versus the ones that could be [valueless]?

Vaynerchuk: That’s a tough question, and I’ll tell you why. Nobody in an interview can really answer that, because here is what the actual answer looks like: You the human need to do an incredible amount of homework on the humans that are running that NFT project — you judge them and you judge your intuitive ability to understand if the creative and utility are going to be interesting to society over the next decade, and then you jump. I am deciding if I believe in the asset and the people behind it enough to feel good in seven years.

You have to do the work. Just because you believe in the UFC, which I do tremendously, you still have to look at what their product is going to be. Because if they make a million Sean O’Malley NFTs and O’ Malley is potentially the next Conor McGregor, but he loses four fights in a row and there’s a million, you’re not going to win on that. You have to decide if Da Baby is going to be Jay-Z or if he’s going to have a one- or two-year hot run. You have to then look at how many NFTs did he put out — is it six, or is it 6 million?

‘I view [NFTs] exactly the way I viewed the internet in 1999. Internet stocks and their valuations were through the roof, prematurely, and a lot of things collapsed. Meanwhile, eBay, Google and Amazon were all there.’

— Gary Vaynerchuk

MarketWatch: Do you view whether you’re going to invest into an NFT from a specific group similar to how you would invest in a business?

Vaynerchuk: Yes. Jockey and horse, jockey and horse. I bought 52 Crypto Punks. I believe in it the most, it’s the O.G. project. Bored Ape Yacht Club looks promising right now, but it needs to do a lot of things in order for it to go over the moon. NBA Top Shot will forever be that thing, but I want to buy LeBron and Melo, not Mitchell Robinson, who I adore, but do I think in 11 years that’s going to be a great collectible? No idea.

MarketWatch: So only the high-end players have you interested?

Vaynerchuk: (Nods.) That nuance is important.

‘I believe that 13-year-olds know a lot more about what’s going on than most people believe.’

— Gary Vaynerchuk

MarketWatch: I want to talk about your appeal to young people. I first learned about you through TikTok — why do young people like you so much?

Vaynerchuk: Because I like them more. That’s the real goddamn answer. I think I have a totally different relationship with those 10- to 25-year-olds than most people. Mainly because I really was in tune at 10 to 25. In hindsight, I was incredibly emotionally intelligent, self-aware, confident. I was raised so well by my mom and had the luck of DNA and circumstance. I believe that 13-year-olds know a lot more about what’s going on than most people believe. I also think in sports terms (pointing to his New York Jets hat). When I was 19, I was an all-star businessman. Nobody will ever know that, but had I been in the NBA they would have (shrugs).

MarketWatch: What made you an all-star businessman?

Vaynerchuk: I was driving the shit out of my dad’s wine business. I was crushing as a child. Innovation and ideation and salesmanship and strategy and consumer behavior. I was a natural talent. So I don’t walk into conversations with two 17-year-olds thinking they don’t get it and they have a lot to learn. They could be the next LeBron!

MarketWatch: Somebody is going to be the next LeBron.

Vaynerchuk: Somebody always is, and it’s hidden in business unless you do a Mark Zuckerberg kind of thing. I just respect kids more. I also think they have a lot of anxieties that they shouldn’t because they don’t have good relationships with time. One of my greatest passions is patience. Weston, if we hung out for a month, you would be stunned at how young you would feel hanging out with me.

MarketWatch: When you are talking to young people about money, what are some things you’re telling people under 25 to do — and not do — with their money?

Vaynerchuk: The biggest thing I believe in wholeheartedly is don’t buy things to impress other people. I actually think the majority of people spend money to impress other people. Whether it’s clothes, cars, travel, home — I believe most people spend money on keeping up with the Joneses.

MarketWatch: So I should just write in my notes, “Don’t spend money on dumb stuff”?

Vaynerchuk: To impress other people. If you can afford and you want to go high-risk with alternative investments, I can see the logic. The No. 1 thing is live within your means. You do that in your 20s, and it gets real good, real fast.

MarketWatch: Speaking of alternative forms of investing, would you ever advise a kid who maybe has more interest in sneakers than Amazon’s AMZN, +0.94% next earnings call to put their money into something they know more?

Vaynerchuk: Yes, but I always explain these are much more volatile markets. And I’ve seen that. But if you know rocks, and how to buy and sell them, I’d rather you buy that than Amazon, the stock that I’m most comfortable with. I always start where you are most educated.

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MarketWatch: What are some other forms of alternative investments you’re looking at?

Vaynerchuk: I know sports cards are an asset class, I know comic books are an asset class, [and] I know sneakers are an asset class. I do think comic books and collectible toys and videogames are underpriced compared to sports cards. Contemporary art, too, but it’s just usually a higher cost of entry.

MarketWatch: What are your views on cryptocurrency?

Vaynerchuk: I’m bullish. The caveat is that I don’t know what governments are going to do, but I am pretty damn bullish. I’m way more bullish on NFTs than I am with crypto because I understand it better.

MarketWatch: They both use blockchain technology — can one succeed without the other?

Vaynerchuk: Yeah, I think they can. A digital asset that converts to fiat is different from a currency that doesn’t have utility. An NFT has more utility than cryptocurrency because you’re getting an asset that you want as a collectible, which is a status symbol.

MarketWatch: Why have you been such a proponent of sports betting?

Vaynerchuk: I think it’s inherently human. People have been betting on sports since a lion was trying to eat a man. I like human behavior. It’s a core human trait. The end.

‘An NFT has more utility than cryptocurrency because you’re getting an asset that you want as a collectible, which is a status symbol.’

— Gary Vaynerchuk

MarketWatch: Whether it’s sports betting, NFTs or new investors creating accounts on Robinhood HOOD, , do you have any fear that people are using their money unwisely?

Vaynerchuk: Yes, I worry for people. Any time you spend money or invest money into something you don’t understand, you are in a very vulnerable situation. People are frivolous with their money.

MarketWatch: What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve ever made?

Vaynerchuk: Not investing in Uber during the angel round, twice, even though [co-founder and former CEO] Travis [Kalanick] was one of my best friends, because I just bought an apartment in Manhattan and was less liquid than I would like to be ideologically.

MarketWatch: Best money advice somebody ever gave you?

Vaynerchuk: Never spend more than you have.