PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2022

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Page 31 of 131

S ince the boom of 2021, when sales of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) went from $82 million to $17.6 billion year over year, the number of people who are at least somewhat familiar with the term has increased dramatically. And, of course, Mark Zuckerberg's upcycled Meta preempted the incessant chatter of the metaverse and blockchain. All these concepts fold into a new, enigmatic Web3 world — where, if Web1 centers around email, and Web2 on e-commerce and social media, Web3 is the next iteration of the Internet. It's an immersive, decentralized space where you own your identity and can exist in a purely digital realm, if you so choose. If this all sounds like a foreign language to you, you're not alone. Adoption rates are still low. In spite of this, and notwithstanding the glaring reality that we are currently in the midst of a "crypto winter," innovators and disruptors are charging ahead. Entrepreneurs from all backgrounds — developers, creators, and dreamers — are pushing forward with a singular vision and joining the race with big business to build digital and virtual infrastructures and platforms. The underlying technology behind blockchain can empower anyone with an understanding of how it works. NFTs are proving their usefulness for the solo entrepreneur, niche interest groups, small ventures, and the most unique and personal brands alike. This is because an NFT is a unique digital asset that, simply put, represents ownership. And that's powerful. All That Glitters Being that an NFT asset can be digital (virtual), physical, or both (phygital), it's fascinating to learn by observation as the early pioneers of Web3 conceive purposeful use cases for NFTs. Contrary to popular belief, early adopters who are defining the future of industry aren't always science-driven technologists, genius young coders, or ideological crypto bros. Some leaders of the new industrial revolution are born of the necessity to solve a problem, satisfy a need, or achieve a greater ambition. It's no wonder that forward-thinking pioneers are almost always unlikely heroes of invention. A Golden Opportunity Francine Ballard, fashion editor and CEO of Metagolden, is one such heroine. Her serendipitous path to NFTs is an inspirational story about the pursuit of one's passions to inform what's next. Her use of blockchain technology couldn't be less native to her childhood. Growing up in Hawaii didn't offer the opportunities or perspective for her evolutionary journey in tech. "We didn't watch television. We didn't have the traditional childhood that other people had," Ballard says. "I was always kind of a sci-fi nerd, I read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World when I was 10. I'm not a rom- com girl." Instead of gaming and coding, she was camping and hiking, but when she left Hawaii for Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in the '90s, a world of creative possibilities was revealed. "The path chose me," she says. "I was hired by a PR firm, Harris Shepard PR, in L.A. — that was my first job, and my life snowballed from there." She was introduced to fashion publishing via her first role post-PR as the fashion director at Los Angeles magazine, which parlayed into a career on the business side at Time Inc. in New York, where she spent most of her career as American fashion director, then at Conde Nast as ad director of Lucky magazine until 2009. Yet the desire to create never went away, and what may have looked like an early diversion from her true calling was actually the planting of seeds for her future growth. "I've always been more creative than the job I was doing," she says. Rather than leap Gold The Standard Not all that glitters is Metagolden — yet blockchain technology proves that luxury digital assets are real. Meet Houston's Francine Ballard, whose Midas touch extends to the Metaverse and beyond. By Micah Ray. Portrait Gerardo Velazquez. (Continued) 30

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