“I’m a geriatic Millennial,” laments Alexis Ohanian, the 38-year-old cofounder of Reddit. “Even I don’t understand it all.”
He’s referring not to the online oddities—memes, GIFs, NSFW comment threads— that have turned Reddit into a prosperous virtual hangout spot with over 50 million users. Instead, he’s talking about another topic that takes up a lot of the internet’s attention today: NFTs.
As a guy who’s lived on the web for decades, Ohanian’s being modest, but his comment gets at a core truth. The NFT world is a hard-to-navigate space, full of unfamiliar people, complex ideas and jargon galore, like what even is an NFT. (For the record, it is a non-fungible token, a digital collectible or art bought and sold through online marketplaces.) Ohanian will do his best to work through it all as the cohost of a podcast launching today dedicated to NFTs, “Probably Nothing,” available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, the name a nod to how the virtual asset is often dismissed as fundamentally worthless.
For a cohost, Ohanian has teamed up with another internet enthusiast, 24-year-old Tiffany Zhong, whose startup, Islands, offers a platform for digital influencers looking to better monetize their following. The pair originally met at a Y-Combinator hackathon in 2014 when Zhong was still in high school: She went and a built a speed-reading app, he was then a Y-Combinator partner. (Ohanian has also since started his own venture capital firm, Seven Seven Six.) They struck up a friendship more recently after noticing they had similar interests on Twitter.
“We were just exchanging NFT memes with each other, talking about interesting projects. It’s grown out of a conversation we’ve had in our DMs”—their direct messages between each other on Twitter—“for several months,” says Zhong.
They’re not the only ones thinking about NFTs, which have become one of the biggest stories of 2021. A year ago, the digital assets recorded less than $10 million a month in sales. By constrast, $323 million worth of NFTs traded hands on a single day in August, a record unbeaten for now.
But as even money and attention has picked up, the space remains seperate from the regulated world of mainstream finance and investment, making it a place uncomfortably rife with speculation and speculators. To defend against any criticism of bias, Zhong and Ohanian say they will be open about their own crypto investments on the podcast and have publicly published links to the digital wallets containing their holdings. “People are starting to looking for more content in this space, to look for people who are not trying to pull a fast one,” Zhong says. “We want to be the go-to space with legitimate guests and topics that span being a collector, a creator and an investor in this space.”
Unsurprisingly, many of those guests aren’t exactly household names, such as Farokh Sarmad, an active NFT investor, and ThankYouX, an artist whose work has been sold by Phillips auction house. Zhong and Ohanian also plan on speaking to people like Keith Grossman, the president of Time magazine, which has offered some of its archival covers as NFTs, and Noah Davis, the Christie’s executive who helped established the company as an early mover in this world through a record-setting $69.3 million sale of a collage by the artist Beeple in March.
It was around that same time when Ohanian “was talking about the future investment portfolio and how it was gonna look much different,” he recalls. “It’s not going to be just stocks and bonds.”
“The same trends that made Reddit work 16 years ago, are now acting out way more effectively, way faster,” he says, pointing to the speed at which fast online communities can form and flourish today. “And that’s pretty damn exciting.”