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The 'Amazon' of NFTs that no one saw coming: this unknown company is already worth $10B

It is said that there are projects that go through the roof, but the metaphor is an understatement when it comes to OpenSea. What is already the world's largest NFT marketplace is shooting up like a rocket. It is a platform for buying and selling non-fungible tokens, or NFT, which aspires, according to its founders, to be the Amazon of the trade. After months of breaking its records, the latest information points to a valuation of $10 billion. Despite this, you probably don't know anything about it. The company was born at the end of 2017, almost parallel to the first NFT standard, and, half a year later, raised an investment round of $2 million, a relatively modest amount. It is something that, to a large extent, is explained by the fact that non-fungible tokens have not finished taking off until this year when they have become known among the general public.

In its four-year history, the value of transactions that have taken place on OpenSea is $11 billion. However, the bulk of this volume has occurred in recent months: between February and August, this figure rose from $8 million to $3.25 billion in six months. Yes, you read that correctly: 406 times more. A rise where the popularization of NFTs had a lot to do with the financing above round, which took place days before the sales volume skyrocketed. Although that rate has dropped since then, it has remained above the 2 billion lines for the time being. It does not seem to have been too severely affected by perhaps the most shameful episode in its history. Just two months ago, product manager Nate Chastain was found to have used inside to buy NFT, which cost him his job. The operation consisted of getting hold of the assets before they were promoted on the platform. When this happened, he sold them and took the profit.

Today, OpenSea hosts more than 20 million NFTs published on its platform, has 1.8 million active users, and has not yet reached a hundred employees. Purchases can be made at a fixed price or auction and mainly works with Ethereum, one of the most valued cryptocurrencies worldwide. However, others such as Polygon have recently been included. According to company data, sellers have obtained an average of $1,178 for their NFTs.

"It's as simple as becoming Facebook."

"It has been so successful because the rest of the platforms had and have many requirements to enter, such as those of an aesthetic nature, so you have to go through a healing process. In OpenSea, that doesn't happen. It is a platform without walls or doors; anyone can enter. It is as simple as registering on Facebook", summarizes Javier Arrés, one of the most successful Spanish crypto-artists, to this newspaper.

For example, back in 2019, they developed an interface that simplified creating and offering NFTs in OpenSea. So much so that, according to the company, the process could be completed in just three minutes. Last year they also announced a new option that allowed these tokens to be created without paying gas, which are the fees charged for registering new data on 'blockchain' and can amount to up to 32 euros. "It works as a kind of open central market of NFT where you can find all the works, even if they are sold elsewhere, but they are listed," says Arrés, who points out that "just because it has the largest number of users and their corresponding data, it has greater possibilities". That said, it is not the one he uses for his professional activity, nor does he recommend it for other artists, at least if they have a certain rank. "It's difficult to get visibility because, since there is no curation system, you can get a little lost in the crowd," he says, although it can offer certain advantages "for those who are just starting."

Although he does have an account at OpenSea, he admits that he does not have time to stock more platforms, as it takes about two or three weeks to create more outlets. And, of course, the collectors are elsewhere. In his case, he's signed up with MakerPlace and SuperRare because he notes, "there's a curation team that gives you a seal of quality, which allows you more sales possibilities." "They are like the Barça and Real Madrid of marketplaces," he exemplifies.

Like any other digital platform, security problems are not foreign to NFTs. "As there is no curation process, they could take someone else's work and coin it in OpenSea," says Arrés, who, due to the platform's size and ease of access, attributes it "more to a question of volume than low security." In any case, the company has already had some acute episodes, such as the breach detected a few weeks ago that allowed the theft of cryptocurrencies through a fraudulent NFT.

However, OpenSea has already hosted significant projects such as the NBA's GoldenStateWarriors, the first professional team to launch an NFT collection in April this year. The most recent one was announced a few days ago: the platform will start collaborating with Christie's, one of the most important auction houses in the world.  The first bid will be -Ethereum through- next December 1st and will be hosted by OpenSea, but the curation will be in charge of its new partners. The agreement represents an alliance between a company with 250 years of history and a newborn of one of the most booming markets of the moment in which many only see a speculative bubble. How far will it go?

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