🕵🏻 An NFT scandal


September 22, 2021

The Hustle

Earlier this month, Pokemon and Oreo partnered for the cookie collab of the year. Pokemon Oreos feature 16 unique characters with varying rarity. The original box of cookies sold for $3.79, but listed at up to $2.5k on eBay. Gotta catch ’em all.

Today’s rundown:

  • An NFT scandal: How insider trading works on the blockchain.
  • Drive-thru deep dive: What diners care about besides speed.
  • Braintrust Network: The gig platform owned by workers.

Let’s do it.

The Big Lead
OpenSea scandal

The OpenSea scandal can teach us a lot about blockchain scams

Dr. Merav Ozair, a blockchain expert and fintech professor at Rutgers Business School, finds it “amusing” when people think criminals would flock to the blockchain.

A recent NFT scandal illustrates why.

The backstory

Last week, Twitter sleuths accused Nate Chastain, then-head of product at OpenSea, of using secret wallets to buy specific NFTs right before they were featured on the digital marketplace’s homepage.

In essence, the claim is that he was using insider info to turn a bigger profit.

OpenSea later released a statement confirming there’d been an investigation and that an employee had resigned.

The sleuths used the blockchain’s very trackable transactions

“Every transaction, once it’s recorded on the blockchain, nothing can be changed or deleted. It just lives there forever,” Ozair told The Hustle.

Because NFTs are minted on Ethereum, a public blockchain, transactions related to particular NFTs can be tracked, too.

The 1 thing you can’t see is an account holder’s identity, but…

… that doesn’t stop the FBI. With serious crimes, like ransomware hacks, the FBI works with companies that specialize in tracking down bad actors with algorithms — a process Ozair said is often faster than if someone used cash.

Should OpenSea users still trust the platform?

Ozair thinks so.

“You can be scammed on any platform… but finding the scammers on the blockchain is much easier, so you shouldn’t fear too much,” Ozair said.

OpenSea also announced 2 new policies for its employees, which Ozair compares to the policies many companies have regarding insider trading on the stock market:

  • They can’t buy or sell from currently featured collections or creators
  • They can’t use confidential info to buy or sell any NFTs — whether they’re on OpenSea or not

In related news: OpenSea also launched an app, but for browsing only, possibly to avoid Apple and Google’s commission fees (which we covered here).

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SNIPPETS

Helping the cause: A group of Instacart drivers asked customers to stop using the platform in an effort protest poor treatment by the company. #ecommerce-retail

Partnering for good: Apple partnered with UCLA and Biogen to develop iPhone features that help identify depression and other mental health ailments. #emerging-tech

Zuck wants privacy: Analysis of Facebook code identified an update that will block 3rd-party watchdogs from collecting data. #privacy

Rolling it back: Coinbase canceled its crypto lending product after the SEC issued a warning against it. #fintech-cryptocurrency

Acquisition crazy: FT reported that big tech companies have spent $264B on acquisitions valued under $1B, doubling the previous record. #big-tech

Story in a Chart
drive-thru speeds chart

Visual: Singdhi Sokpo

For drive-thrus, faster doesn’t always mean better

Much of what makes fast food fast is the drive-thru. Even pre-pandemic, some 70% of fast-food sales came from the driver’s seat. (It’s now 90%+.)

A recent study by QSR Magazine found that Taco Bell leads the pack in speed and Chick-fil-A comes in dead-last:

  • 52.4% of Chick-fil-A customers say drive-thru service is excellent versus 26.7% of Taco Bell customers.
  • Chick-fil-A notches 100% order accuracy versus 86.7% at Taco Bell.

But don’t expect Taco Bell to slow down. The brand has plans for a 2-story drive-thru format, with the kitchen on top and 4 drive-thru lanes underneath. This brings a whole new meaning to locos tacos.

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Podcast

Opportunities in unbundling $24B Etsy

Shaan sees plenty of space to break into marketplaces like Etsy, Poshmark, and thredUP…

But not in the ways that you’d think.

Sellers have limited SaaS tools, and entire marketplaces could use makeovers. Hear Shaan explain 2 lucrative approaches.

Plus — Sam analyzes the multibillion dollar elevator business

After learning Otis’ net worth, you’ll never ride the same.

Another classic example of MFM delivering business ideas for the strangest industries.

Watch the pod →
Cool AF Business
Braintrust Network image

This futuristic gig platform is owned by workers who keep 100% of earnings

delete this

Freelancing is hotter than ever in a post-pandemic economy, but it has downsides — one being the 20%-40% cuts taken by talent sites like Upwork and Toptal.

Braintrust Network is looking to change that

The nonprofit is building a user-owned tech talent network that removes middlemen and lets talent set their own rates, keeping 100% of what they earn. Clients are charged a 10% flat fee, used to fund network operations.

Braintrust promises access to Fortune 1000 clients, from Nestlé to Nike to NASA, and the company matches talent with clients.

Braintrust says this system means talent keeps 20%-45% more of their earnings, and companies save 50%-75% more than they would with traditional hiring.

But here’s where things get interesting

Braintrust introduced its own cryptocurrency ($BTRST) — earned by completing projects, leaving reviews, or screening new freelancers — to give users a cut of the pie.

Some $BTRST use cases:

  • Governance: Holders become voters who have a say in the organization’s development (1 token = 1 vote).
  • Bid staking: Talent can stake tokens as collateral for failing to deliver projects, and clients can stake tokens as incentives for talent to submit proposals.
  • Benefits: Holders can receive exclusive discounts, and tokens can be used for community perks.

Added bonus: Just say the word “cryptocurrency” to stop any job-related questions from your parents.

(Have an idea for a Cool AF Business story? Tell us about it here.)

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AROUND THE WEB

🚂 On this day: In 1892, a sinkhole swallowed a locomotive in an English village. The locomotive was never seen again. The Lindal railway incident, as it’s known, later inspired a “Thomas & Friends” story.

🎨 Whoa: Singaporean artist QimmyShimmy is a viral sensation for her “creepy-cute” sculptures that combine desserts with… baby faces?

🍺 Wait, what: Samuel Adams’ latest beer has an ABV of 28%, which is so strong it’s illegal in 15 states. In other states, it’ll set you back $240 per 25.4-ounce bottle.

🤓 How to: Job hunting can be exhausting and so can hiring. Vox has tips for both job seekers and employers to make things a little easier.

📷 That’s interesting: These previously unseen photographs show what indigenous culture was like in Alaska in 1927.

🥫 Useful: Tell this site what ingredients you have, and it’ll offer you a recipe.

Meme of the day
NFT meme

Sounds about right (Source: Memes.com)

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