• Boeing is getting ready for the arrival of flying cars…
  • The future of videoconferencing calls…
  • Even China wants in on the NFT boom…

Dear Reader,

Equidistant between the northeast corner of Hyde Park and the southern end of Marylebone High Street is Portman Square. It’s a block-sized green oasis just a block off Oxford Street in London.

And it’s a place I called home for about a year and a half when I was earning my Master’s degree at the London Business School. It’s a great part of London within easy walking distance to the underground, Hyde Park, Green Park, Regent’s Park, the weekly Marylebone farmers’ market, and just about any kind of shopping one might need.

That also included Selfridges, which was just a block away from my flat.

The century-plus-old retailer is housed in a remarkable piece of architecture designed by American architect Daniel Burnham. He also designed two other landmark department stores that I know well: Marshall Field’s in Chicago and Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia.

Ironically, I grew up going to these stores with my mother when I was a kid as we lived near both cities for a period of time. So, it’s no surprise that Selfridges grew quickly on me.

Iconic brands like Selfridges with a century-plus of history behind them don’t tend to come to mind when we think about digital assets or non-fungible tokens (NFTs). But they soon will…

Selfridges and the French fashion house Paco Rabanne announced a partnership a couple of weeks ago around metaverses. The two will team up to produce and sell NFTs related to the fashion brand… and it’s not as far-fetched as some might think.

Selfridges has always been known as a fashion trendsetter, and its street-facing windows provided the outside foot traffic a view of the hottest trends.

Its windows have become so popular, they are always a hot place to visit for many tourists who come to London. Some displays are definitely a sight to see.

Selfridges will go to market with more than 1,800 NFTs, selling for price points between £2,000 and as high as £100,000. Sales will be available both online and in-store. And physical displays will be available in real life (IRL).

Some of the NFTs will be based on 12 iconic dresses from Paco Rabanne, which will be called the “Unwearables.” Great name.

I know some of us might be thinking… What in the heck would anyone do with a virtual dress? It’s natural to question that. But fashion is a form of art, and NFTs have the ability to make unique and one-of-a-kind products.

We have to take one more leap to understand the relevance of this trend.

In a metaverse, most people will choose to interact through an avatar… and we wouldn’t want our avatars to be walking around naked, would we? If we’re going to dress them, they might as well be cool.

These fashion NFTs will be representations of who we are – or who we want to be – and how we want to be seen.

They will show status, how cool we are, how different we are, or how with it we are. It’s not different really than how we interact on social media, what we post, or what our profile picture is. We change these things from time to time, sometimes daily.

And because metaverses are social environments – essentially, powerful and immersive social media platforms – we’ll do the same.

There’s more to it than we might think. Aside from our own desires regarding how we want to be seen, fashion designers have the ability to unleash their creativity. In a digital world, apparel can take on shapes and looks that might be impossible in the real world.

Also interesting is that new fashion designs and trends can be tested quickly in a metaverse. Those that catch on and go viral can be quickly adapted for the real world. Think about that – digital design will be used to improve design and sales in the real world.

And that’s where NFTs can really become fun. We’ve talked about the concept of “digi-fizzy” NFTs in the past, and this is a perfect example.

To continue from yesterday’s Bleeding Edge, a consumer can purchase a sneaker NFT that has a physical component to it. It’s possible to design an NFT whereby a physical, IRL version of the sneaker will be shipped to them in time.

I find this model interesting because it helps solve an economic constraint for some. Historically, designers and fashion houses would produce products not fully knowing if they would sell well. This requires large working capital up-front with an uncertain return, as well as a lot of unnecessary waste for unsold apparel.

With a digi-fizzy, the NFTs are sold, the capital is raised to produce the apparel, and the precise number of goods desired can be shipped to the NFT holders… No waste.

The product is pre-funded. And the consumers get to enjoy both the digital good as well as an article of fashion for enjoyment or display.

This is a powerful economic model that is taking off quickly. That’s why so many major fashion brands like Adidas, Prada, and others are jumping on board.

It’s not so much about making money selling NFTs, but extending the brand into the digital world, testing ideas, and ultimately developing a more efficient go-to-market business model.

This is why Nike opted in early and paid what is rumored to be at least $300 million for one of my favorite NFT design houses last month – RTFKT.

This is a massive business on the rise, and the infrastructure is being built right now at a rapid pace to support the explosion of NFTs.

I’m publishing my latest investment research on a project that is perfectly positioned to benefit from this trend. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can capitalize on the trend in NFTs, you can check out a special presentation I’ve prepared right here.

Flying cars are getting closer…

We profiled air mobility company Kitty Hawk back in June 2020. The company established a joint venture called Wisk Aero with aerospace giant Boeing to bring air taxis to life.

Wisk just raked in a $450 million investment from Boeing to make the dream a reality. Perhaps the life of the Jetsons isn’t that far off after all.

As a reminder, Kitty Hawk began as Google co-founder Larry Page’s pet project. The company is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology. We can think of an eVTOL aircraft as a smaller version of a helicopter, one built for shorter distances and entirely electic, thus much quieter.

eVTOL tech was all the rage in Silicon Valley a few years ago. Many saw it as the future of urban transportation. eVTOL aircraft offer an even greater convenience than traveling by car. Passengers are able to travel as the crow flies, all while avoiding any ground traffic.

Here’s a look at the new aircraft:

Wisk’s New Aircraft

Source: Wisk

This is the company’s fifth-generation aircraft. Right now, it has approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct test flights with a human passenger piloting the craft.

However, Wisk’s end goal is to make the aircraft a fully autonomous air taxi. And while that may sound counterintuitive at first, flying an aircraft autonomously is a much easier task than autonomously driving a car.

If we think about it, all takeoff and landing points are predefined. And there are no roads for the craft to navigate in between these points. That makes navigation much easier, and there’s no need to worry about pedestrians, dogs, cyclists, or other vehicles.

There’s limited traffic to worry about, and the sensors on the aircraft can easily “see” any other air traffic to avoid any accidents.

So autonomous air taxis are not that far-fetched. In fact, they will be simpler to implement than autonomous ride-hailing services on the ground.

For this reason, I’m confident that eVTOL air taxis will become a $100 billion industry within this decade.

That’s why we are seeing legacy incumbents like Boeing getting involved. I’m sure Boeing wants the manufacturing contracts for all the aircraft that will be produced. Hence the investment, which I’m sure will come with some strings attached.

That said, I don’t think this space will get much more interesting until later next year.

Historically, the FAA has been very slow to approve new aircraft for commercial flights. I expect that will be the case for these eVTOLs as well. There is a lot more safety testing to conduct before we can expect approvals.

But I’m still keeping a close eye on developments in this space.

Once the first commercial flights are approved in the 2024 timeframe, it will be a mad rush for services to be launched across the U.S. and in other large metropolitan markets around the world.

That means that there will be some fantastic investment opportunities coming up. We’ll have the opportunity to invest in companies designing eVTOLs, the software, and critical sensors required for flight. There will also be service companies offering Uber-like air taxi services.

Blade Air Mobility, which went public via a reverse merger with a SPAC last year, is already planning on offering a service like this when the aircraft are ready.

Blade is a service I know well and have used myself. They operate regularly scheduled helicopter flights between major metropolitan areas and airports like New York City and JFK.

The service is fantastic, avoids all of the traffic getting into and out of Manhattan, and can all be booked on our phone. Blade is a natural fit to be offering a future eVTOL air taxi service on a much greater scale.

The aerospace industry is undergoing a renaissance right now. Whether it is eVOTLs, supersonic jets, hypersonic jets, the Starship, or balloons and rockets into space… it’s all happening right now. Are you along for the ride?

The hidden downside to Zoom’s latest AI-based solution…

Videoconferencing company Zoom just integrated an interesting artificial intelligence (AI)-powered transcription service called Fathom. Fathom will offer some useful features that enterprise customers will be quick to adopt.

But there is a hidden risk underlying this technology…

Fathom is launching on Zoom as an “AI notetaking application.” For Zoom users who enable it, Fathom’s AI will listen in and record everything said on calls. It will also summarize each call for users who could not dial in.

What’s more, Fathom offers an interactive platform where participants – a moderator – can comment on what’s being said in real time. The following visual demonstrates how it works:

Fathom’s Interface

Source: Fathom

Here we can see somebody talking on a Zoom call. On the right-hand side, there are buttons that listeners can click to “highlight” parts of the call.

For example, we can see that somebody clicked the “Positive” button at one point in this call. This creates a bookmark at that exact spot for anyone reviewing the call later.

In this way, viewers can express their own thoughts and opinions on what’s being discussed. And Fathom will create a record of truth, which provides a transcript of the call, as well as identifying key points of the call and any action items.

On the surface, it’s easy to see how these features are useful. The ability to bookmark an action item for quick review later is certainly convenient.

But there’s a major downside here…

If all participants in a call know that an AI is listening in and documenting everything, it’s almost a given that people will modify their behavior… especially when you add in the peer-review element where listeners click buttons like “Positive” or “Pain Point.”

As we have seen from the social media world, humans naturally seek positive reinforcement. That’s why Facebook implemented the thumbs-up “Like” button very early on. It trains people to seek “likes.” And at the psychological level, that can become addictive.

Platforms like Fathom could dampen open and creative discussion as a result. Brainstorming sessions where all ideas are encouraged could become a thing of the past.

Instead, people will naturally want to restrict themselves to talking about ideas that will cause their peers to click “Positive” or “Insight.”

So this is something we should all be mindful of – especially because this is the future of videoconferencing.

I have no doubt that corporations will adopt this technology. Internal controllers will want the permanent record, and managers will want the call summaries to refer back to.

My team and I have just started experimenting with the technology ourselves. There are some very clear benefits already. The question is… Can we implement this technology without succumbing to groupthink and self-censorship?

China just enabled “permissioned” NFTs…

We’ll wrap up today with an interesting development in mainland China concerning non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The nation-state just launched its own “permissioned” NFT platform. This is quite the departure from the spirit of the industry.

As a reminder, China banned cryptocurrency mining and transactions within the country last year. This was done to pave the way for the launch of China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC).

China doesn’t want any competition for its own state-backed digital currency… it feels it should control all of the “money” used in China.

Of course, China’s cryptocurrency ban also includes NFT transactions, because most occur on the Ethereum blockchain which is decentralized. But at the same time, China recognizes how big the NFT trend is… and the country doesn’t want to fall behind.

China’s solution is to create its own Blockchain-Based Service Network – BSN, for short. The BSN will make permissioned blockchains available to Chinese nationals.

These are state-approved blockchains that don’t provide the same openness and transparency as public blockchains like Ethereum. Instead, the state maintains control over permissioned blockchains.

NFTs will trade on these blockchains as Distributed Digital Certificates (DDCs). We can think of these as highly regulated NFTs. They will be exclusively for Chinese citizens.

And to take the level of control one step further, China will require all DDCs to be purchased with fiat currency. That means everything will have to flow through the country’s state-backed banking system.

China plans to test out the BSN platform in the city of Nanjing next month. Then, in time, it will roll out the system to the rest of the country. And once China’s CBDC is launched, I’m sure that purchases will be allowed using the state digital currency.

This gives us insight into how authoritarian countries will try to usurp excitement surrounding digital assets and blockchain technology.

They will centralize control in a permissioned way, while still allowing the technology to be developed and used. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other countries adopt this same model.

That’s something to watch.

And this speaks to the fact that the genie is now out of the bottle. Countries like China know that they can’t stop blockchain technology from gaining adoption… The best they can do is try to steer citizens towards permissioned blockchains.

And while I don’t agree with this kind of heavy-handed approach, it would be unrealistic to expect that all countries adopt the technology in the same way. Either way – NFTs and digital assets are here to stay. Their adoption is only just beginning.

That’s why I hosted my NFT Moment event a week ago. There is so much capital flowing into this space… and as a result, we have such a unique money-making opportunity in front of us.

Please, if you haven’t yet had the chance, take some time now to watch the replay of this event. I even share the name of one investment you can take action on right away.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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