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At Gary Vaynerchuk's 'VeeCon' in Minneapolis, the only way in is an NFT ticket

Key Points
  • The first-ever NFT-ticketed event is being hosted by serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
  • Vaynerchuk's "VeeFriends" NFT collection is comprised of 10,255 character nonfungible tokens available for purchase via the cryptocurrency ethereum.
  • Token holders also are given exclusive access to the annual event for three years after the NFT's purchase.
VIDEO13:3013:30
Watch CNBC's full interview with Gary Vaynerchuk on the state of NFTs

Those seeking evidence of the recent crypto meltdown need not look to Minneapolis — at least for the next few days.

This weekend, thousands of NFT-holders are descending upon the Twin Cities for Gary Vaynerchuk's "VeeCon" — a four-day conference bringing together business leaders, entrepreneurs and Web3 evangelists to discuss digital transformation in everything from art to assets.

In addition to being a serial entrepreneur and social media influencer, Vaynerchuk is well known for his early investments in companies, including Facebook and Coinbase.

Vaynerchuk's "VeeFriends" NFT collection is comprised of 10,255 character nonfungible tokens available for purchase via the cryptocurrency ethereum. Each token includes a "smart contract" with metadata that Vaynerchuk can use to interact with its buyer. Token holders also are given exclusive access to the annual event for three years after the NFT's purchase.

"VeeFriends" character mascots getting ready for Gary Vaynerchuk's "VeeCon" conference.
Riley de León | CNBC

Not only is this the inaugural VeeCon, it's also the first-ever NFT-ticketed event. Token holders access their ticket via a digital wallet on their phones that verifies their ownership of Vaynerchuk's digital assets.

NFTs are a type of digital asset created to track ownership of a virtual item using blockchain technology. Such unique items could be artwork or sports trading cards — a market that Vaynerchuk became familiar with as a teenager, peddling baseball cards for thousands of dollars every week.

The price of ethereum has recently traded down by as much as 60% from its 2021 peak.

"The timing of VeeCon could not be better," Vaynerchuk said in his opening remarks at the conference on Friday. "There's an incredible chapter of Web3 coming this next year. Everyone here is wildly aware that there has been a correction in [crypto] pricing ... it's not fun when your assets go down on paper. It is what it is, but the timing is remarkable because now a lot of good work gets done. A lot of the innovation gets done."

The event, hosted at U.S. Bank Stadium, features keynote speakers that have recently come onto the Web3 scene, including Snoop Dogg, Spike Lee, Deepak Chopra, Eva Longoria and Mila Kunis, among others.

VIDEO10:0410:04
Bitcoin prices sink, Gary Vee on state of NFT market, Coinbase slashes spending: CNBC Crypto World

"Obviously because of who they are, celebrities are going to get a lot of attention and I think they have a responsibility [to educate] with the size of their audience," Vaynerchuk told CNBC. "Anybody involved in this space has to give a lot of thought to whether or not the short term money is worth the reputational risk."

VeeCon has also been a boon for the local economy in Minneapolis, which is one of many communities around the country attempting to recover lost tourism dollars from the Covid-19 pandemic. In attendance are token holders from around the world, including India, Australia, Romania, France and Sweden.

"As a local Minnesotan, I'm really proud that the first-ever VeeCon is taking place in my backyard," said Maha Abouelenein, a local organizer of the event and CEO of media organization Digital & Savvy. "I can't wait to see all the friendships that are created at VeeCon."

Still, there's some fear surrounding the space's longevity. Bitcoin hit its lowest level since December 2020 earlier this week, under $26,000, and shares of publicly traded crypto brokerage company Coinbase were down by as much as 74% year-to-date this week.

"Right now the overwhelming energy of the space is very short term. I would call it greed. Many are not spending their time on education," Vaynerchuk said.

"The reality is that all that behavior is going to lead to 97-98% of these current projects losing value over the next 24-36 months because the supply and demand curves will not work out."