New-Fangled Tech: How tech giants are adopting NFTs

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Technology waits for no man. Since the turn of the millennium, companies have been forced to undergo digital transformations. Those who have successfully adopted technology are the ones who live to tell the tale, while those who haven’t fall by the wayside. For every Google there’s an Ask Jeeves; for every Facebook, a Geocities; for Tiktok, a Vine – you get the picture.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the dotcom bubble of the mid-nineties though, and we’re arguably overdue a new technological revolution. The tech companies that came out on top first time around are having to make sure they’re prepared for the future so that they, too, don’t slip into irrelevance.

That’s exactly why eBay – one of the biggest names in global commerce – isn’t dragging its feet. As physical assets make way for digital ones and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) become increasingly popular, eBay’s current technology wouldn’t have allowed them to move into that space any time soon. A slow start puts you at an instant disadvantage, and this is a race for survival.

Their solution? The acquisition of KnownOrigin, a leading NFT platform that “provides artists a place to create unique, authentic, digital collectibles,” and for collectors a place to buy and sell them on the blockchain.

Why is it doing it?

It’s a shrewd move. NFTs might seem like a bit of a fad – one that isn’t helped by Premier League footballers and other celebrities jumping on the bandwagon to buy or even release their own – but they’re here to stay. We’re not sure anything that sells for tens of millions of dollars can be shrugged off as a passing trend. 

It’s shrewd because instead of having to shift into a new market, adapt new technologies and practices, and play catch-up to the dozens of very early starters, eBay has committed early and got itself in on the ground level. KnownOrigin already has four years of experience in the market, and eBay is acquiring all of it by bringing the existing team over. The online marketplace of today is already prepared to be the online marketplace of tomorrow.

Mergers and acquisitions happen all the time in technology, but this one is significant. It represents a major tech firm preparing itself for a brand-new wave of innovation. eBay has to weather the same storm it benefitted from in the nineties, and it has prepared itself extremely well.

Mutual benefit

It’s not just eBay that benefits from this, though. While KnownOrigin’s founders are likely to have received hundreds of millions of dollars between them (the actual fee has not been disclosed), there’s plenty more in it for them – and the NFT market as a whole – than just an immediate boost to the bank balance.

They add decades of commerce experience to their operations, while also putting themselves in front of a new, much wider audience. eBay serves almost 190 million customers, and for every customer there are an average of nine products listed for sale. That’s a far more active platform than any NFT marketplace can boast, and KnownOrigin will reap the rewards.

Watch and learn

eBay isn’t the first business having to adapt, and it certainly won’t be the last. But as a tech-first business looking to stay ahead of the curve and become a new-tech-first business, it sends a message to its fellow bubble beneficiaries that they cannot stand still. The biggest ships turn slowest, so proactivity is crucial. 

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