If you either missed the recent VeeCon or you went and are simply missing being there, then you are in luck! In this special episode of the Edge of NFT Podcast, we listen to Jeff Kelley at VeeCon as he brings us some of the greatest minds from the event talking about the world of NFTs and where it is headed. Jeff sitsdown with Todd Kaplan, the CMO of Pepsi, Gary Vee of VaynerMedia (the man himself!), and Millie Go Lightly of Beautiful Thugger Girls. Each guest shares about how they got into the space, the cool new projects they are making, where they see NFT headed in the future, and what they have learned over the past couple of years. How are brands like Pepsi approaching NFTs? What is the NFT community like? How are women moving and shaking the space? Join this episode as these guests share their answers and more!
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Edge Of VeeCon: Feat. Gary Vee (VaynerMedia), Todd Kaplan (CMO, Pepsi) & Millie Go Lightly (Beautiful Thugger Girls)
We’re here at VeeCon rocking out this massive Ferris wheel from Stranger Things here in SoFi Stadium. It’s sick. We’ve heard from Gary Vee, Tom Bilyeu, Steve Aoki, Swan Sit, Shira Lazar, and Yam from World of Women. It’s an amazing time. This has been an amazing event so far. I want to give some love out to the whole team of VeeCon with this killer event. Zach, what do you think so far?
This has been special. I’ve been putting on a show, teaching people, and it is truly unique to be in an environment like this with 10,000 people around you all are mega-fans holding the same collections of NFT. I’ve never been in this environment before. I don’t think it has ever happened personally.
It’s a special one. If you’re not a VeeFriend holder, if you ever have the opportunity to check it out, go check it out and this community. It’s second to none. Kudos to the team for putting this thing on. Congratulations on a successful event. We appreciate you having us.
We’re with Todd Kaplan, the CMO of PepsiCo talking about the VeeCon NFT.
We’re chilling out here enjoying this amazing event. Todd, welcome. It’s so great to see you.
I’m happy to be here. It’s been awesome.
It’s been amazing. Let’s start at the beginning as far as your world and your understanding of NFTs is concerned. What was that moment when it all came together for you where you realized this is a game-changer?
I got into this space personally during the summer when a lot of people were starting to get their feet wet in the space. I’ve been reading a little bit more about it. I had some friends who are getting into crypto and I’m like, “That’s not for me. I’m not looking to invest in stuff,” but then when I started to see some of these projects and I was talking to Gary and he’s like, “You got to check out OpenSea.” I’m looking around, and I’m like, “It’s pretty interesting.”
I started to get in there. I went down the rabbit hole like everybody. You set up your MetaMask wallet and give every piece of information about your personal identity. You set up your Coinbase account and once I got in, I was like, “I got my first NFT and then, away we go.” It has been a blast and I’ve been neck-deep in this space ever since and I love it.
It sucks you in.
It sucks you in and it’s amazing. This is something I’ve given advice as I’m trying to onboard folks at a big company like PepsiCo is learning by doing. You make missteps, go into a Discord and someone says, “Click here,” and all that crap you get into, buy in on a project too high and sell too low. It’s all that stuff. It’s a lot of good learning. It’s been great.
I’ll tell you one of the interesting things about where we’re at right now. There’s a dip in the market in general, where we’re dealing with the recession fears overall and funky times but fundamentally, we’re talking about the building blocks of something for the future here.
This is a long plan. That’s why I keep saying like, “All these people that are here are in the flip game, but that’s not for me. This is the long play. This is here to stay.” It’s going to be the infrastructure for things that you didn’t even realize. I give the analogy earlier when I was speaking about QR codes that have been around forever, but now you see them everywhere because people finally realize and the pandemic accelerated that, the menus and stuff. I feel like there are going to be a lot of steps along how and when these things will tip and what will enable it. Big brands like Pepsi play a role in that as well.
Let’s talk about it. What is going on with Pepsi with NFTs?
We’re doing a lot of fun stuff in the space. It’s one of the things I want to make sure your readers understand out there too is that, as a big company, we have a lot of different guardrails in a lot of other places in smaller things. Not because we’re bureaucratic and we’ve got layers or any kind of thing, but what I would say is, as a publicly-traded entity, where there’s securities law with the SEC. It’s a very unregulated space.
In finance, how does our balance sheet take cryptocurrency? Where do we bank? As you look at a lot of these things, even as we build community, which again, we’re still at the early stages of developing that going into Discord. If someone gets scammed in a Pepsi Discord server, they’re going to sue PepsiCo, not Discord.
There are a lot of considerations that people didn’t understand, but I would say for a brand like Pepsi, the potential in this space is infinite. As you think about how our brand shows up in the Metaverse long-term, utility, connecting with consumers, and building community as a marketer and revenue. There are so many possibilities that I said, “It’s important for us to get our feet wet and get everybody in that.”
We launched this project called the Pepsi Mic Drop back in December 2021, the Genesis edition on the Ethereum blockchain, with a very limited amount. We gave it out for free to consumers and we followed it up now with our second drop on the Billboard Music Awards, where we partnered with them and created a physical moment within the show. They have extra microphones in the show and so we made a Pepsi Mic Drop Moment of the Year and had a live minting on-air throughout the broadcast and minted over 375,000 NFTs for free in a matter of hours.
Talking about onboarding consumers, that was all on Dapper Labs and the Flow Blockchain, which is much easier getting in from a consumer standpoint. It’s a walled garden and there are issues on one end of where you take them. It has an email address assignment and you got your first NFT versus the whole other side of the Ethereum which is what we did. We’re playing in a bunch of different places and have a lot of fun with where we’re heading and I’m excited about it.
Let’s talk about a little bit of where you’re heading and how it applies to Pepsi overall, a world-known amazing brand for decades. What about all the subsidiary grants? People don’t necessarily realize how many brands are in that family.
For context for your readers. PepsiCo is a $70 billion company or more than that. We have many billion-dollar brands all over the world. This isn’t any flex or anything like that. It’s more a matter of we have these brands that are in 90% as you look at Mountain Dew, Doritos, Gatorade, Starbucks, Lays, Cheetos, Quaker, Tropicana, it goes on and on. The presence we have with our established brands and we’re building new brands as well.
I created it when I was in the water business a few years ago, bubly sparkling water or LIFEWTR. These brands have a deeper purpose and stuff. There are a variety of things. As we’re looking at the space, some say, “Why are you slow to build and roll out your community? Why are you slow to do that?” This is the long game for us.
When we built the infrastructure, we want to build it once because then we can wrap it for all our brands in the same way and connect it on the back end where the one-on-one equals three. If we rush out, we have the wrong sold and then they got to do something custom for another brand. We want to be very thoughtful. Now, we’re at a stage where we’re looking to build out what our NFT practice looks like internally, what capabilities we need, insource, outsource, and all that fun stuff. It has been a little crazy while we run our day-to-day business, marketing, and everything.
Where do you look for inspiration? There are so many things happening and so many projects. What’s inspiring you?
There are a lot of projects I love and I’ve always been following. I’m a big fan of World of Women and Flower Girls, Creature World, and a lot more art projects. I also have been geeking out about some of the more historical NFT stuff on a personal level, like the Strikers’ cards. I got a CryptoKittes and Curio Cards if you believe all the folklore and when and how that stuff went down. I’m always looking at new projects coming up. Again, not for the big investment or anything like that, but new models as well. A lot of companies are doing some interesting things.
Snoop, has been doing some interesting stuff. There’s a lot of fun stuff going on in this space. There’s inspiration everywhere when you get these craters. It’s everywhere coming up.
VeeCon: NFT is a long plan. It’s not the flip game. This is the long play. This is here to stay.
We’re going to have Pepsi to that ground as well. I appreciate you sharing a little bit with us and our readers. I would love to have you out at NFT LA. That’s our event. I think you heard about it. It’s a lot of fun. I would love to have you out. I can’t ask for a better person to talk to about how to take something amazing like the brand Pepsi and its community, and layer that onto what NFTs can do and all of its power.
Thanks. We have an exciting road ahead.
It’s awesome to be here with you.
This is amazing. You called VeeCon a career-defining conference of your life. That’s a pretty astounding statement considering everything you have done. How does it feel to finally be here?
It feels rewarding and emotional. I feel good. A lot of friends and family are here which triggers me in the feels. I’m proud. I call it a career definer because I’ve always wanted to do it. The 2nd or 3rd year I went to South by Southwest, I was like, “I’m going do this.” I’m going to say as long as you’re going to South at this point, we’re having a win.
This idea intersects with VeeFriends in a significant way. Was VeeFriend an idea before VeeFriends came about and intersect with it? How did that all come to be?
Buying an intellectual property that had lost its way. Gumby, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and gem were always on my mind. Even as my career started getting better and bigger, I was like, “Maybe I can afford ThunderCats one day.” It was always on my mind or brands. What you see now with Crocs. Crocs were superhot. Several years ago, it’s dead as a doorknob. I didn’t see anybody wear Crocs for a day.
I started VaynerMedia to be a machine and to be able to be good at that. That was on my mind then the South by thing. One day I’ll throw a conference and I got close. That’s a little real estate agent thing once. The answer to your question is both those energies have been in my mind for many years. When NFTs entered it, that became the framework that accelerated both realities. The first one changed a little bit. I decided to create one versus buying one. This one is now very real. VeeCon is here.
It was amazing. We did NFT LA and I’ve seen that idea become reality was a special moment. Congrats, this is amazing. Let’s talk future of VeeCon. We’ve got a couple more years on the docket here. How do you envision those going locations, ideas, and concepts? What’s on your mind?
It’s fun to see, Lou. I threw a wine event in October of 2001 right after 9/11. I remember debating if it needed to be canceled because it was mid-October. I decided somewhere in late September that I was like, “I’m going to keep it. Maybe people need this wine event.” It’s a charity wine event for Susan Komen breast cancer. I’m like, “Let me do good. What’s the best you can do when people are down?”
We set it all up and launched. My dad got there about twenty minutes into the event. My dad was so stunned that everybody at that event was there. He was like, “What other event is going on?” He didn’t understand how big the event would be. The reason I say it’s fun to see my friend, Lou, is because he was there and he was there the next year.
The biggest jump in the fifteen-year history of that wine event was from year 1 to 2 because I’m an operator, and how this I think. This VeeCon is 57% to 65% of my juice. I couldn’t put a 100% on it because I hadn’t done this before on this scale. What if we made too many big missteps? There was too much. To me, 2023 VeeCon is even more than 2024. I feel like 2024 will be a refinement, but there’ll be a quantum step.
We have an offsite Monday here in Minnesota with the team and we start planning 2023 Monday. What’s expected in 2024 is going to take people aback because the energy and effort that I’m going to put into it are much greater because I need it to hold it back this 2022 to contextualize it. I’m like a boxer. You better knock me out in round one because once I figure you out in round one, you’re in trouble.
You mentioned this, but I want to take it back. I’ve heard you speak a lot about the major influences on you around NFTs, the major people, and steps along the way, but I want to know about the moment because there was one where it all clicked and that flood of ideas started coming. What was that?
It was a culmination of a lot of talks, videos, articles, Discord, and Twitter that I was consuming in December 2021 and January 2022. It’s like digging for gold or oil. There was nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn’t a single speech or conversation. It was as mundane. I don’t even know if I was on Twitter, Discord, or had a podcast on the back, but I know this is what happened physically. I stood up and said, “This is it,” because I’ve been there twice before.
I was in a dorm room in college when I was like, “I’m going to sell wine on this thing.” I was there when I was like, “I need to videotape myself, talk about wine, and do this Twitter or YouTube thing. I have a conviction the first time and I have a conviction the second time. This one is different. I’m in the prime of my career, and I knew it.
I was like, “This one is going to be the craziest of them all.” I don’t know exactly, but I was digging and finally hit oil. It was very real. It was like, “This is it. This is what the next decade is going to be about. This is what everyone is going to come to and underestimate. This is where all the bad behaviors going to go. All of it was crystal clear.”
You can watch the videos I put out that nailed it. Goldrush 98% has gone to zero. Bad behavior, but profound. Some of the biggest things of all time will come from it. Everyone is going to get captivated and a lot of education. This is much more Web1 than Web2. As tough as Twitter was to figure out, Web1 was a website, email, and www, people confused that in their minds, and that’s what Web3 is.
We do this with all of our readers and guests. It’s called Edge Quick Hitters. It’s ten questions. We would like to run through them for everybody. Every single person we’ve talked to. We want to jump in.
Question number one. What’s the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
A bubble gum at Krauszer’s in Edison, New Jersey.
Question two, what’s the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
VeeCon: This is much more Web1 than Web2 is tough.
I remember selling lemonade first or maybe flowers. I used to rip flowers out of people’s yards and sell them back to them. Not my proudest day, but it was lemonade.
Question three, what’s the most recent thing you purchased?
I don’t buy a lot of stuff. I buy sneakers for myself, but a pair of Travis Scott Air Maxes.
Do you rock all those sneakers or do you keep them on a shelf?
I rock them. I drive sneakerheads crazy. They’re like, “Why are you wearing that?” I’m like, “Because they’re sneakers.”
Question four, what’s the most recent thing you sold?
I probably sold a VeeFriend while we were here. This is what’s so fun. I sell for a living. VaynerMedia landed a huge supermarket account this week. VeeFriends sell every hour on the hour. I’m sure my best friend, Brandon pressed the button on WineText.com and sold some wine. The most recent thing I sold was about an hour ago on stage. I sold the idea of how much opportunity there is to be happier if you work and fight for it. Recalibrate your perspective and surround yourself with that people. I sell practical optimism, but I’m proud of that.
It’s hard to put a price on that too. Question five, what’s your most prized possession?
My most prized possession is a football jersey that my mother knitted for me when I was five years old because I wanted a Jets jersey, but we didn’t have money and she couldn’t buy me one. She knitted me one with the number five. That’s my prized possession.
Question six, if you buy anything in the world, physical, digital, service, or an experience that’s for sale, what would it be? What do you get your eye on?
I would buy time. I have struggled with private aviation because I don’t like being boujee. I don’t want anything, but time.
It’s such a precious resource. I will flip it up with question seven, if you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would it be?
Patience. Everybody wants it right now because they’re insecure.
Question eight flip side, if you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would that be?
I have struggled with candor one-on-one. I’m incredibly candor as a public figure. I’ve struggled with candor as an operator. Everything that has not worked for me in my life has been because I’ve been unable to be candorous with the individual, and that has led to mockery. Sometimes, you fire and they’re mad at you and I’m like, “That should have never happened. They were not great at their job and were inappropriate. My lack of candor put me in this precarious spot.” Candor is important and now that I’ve defined it as kind candor, I’ve been able to do it much better.
Question number nine, what did you do before joining us on this show?
What are you going to do next after this one?
Thank you so much, Gary. I appreciate it.
Thank you, guys.
I’m here with Millie Go Lightly. Millie, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
Thanks for having me.
We’re here at VeeCon. It’s an amazing event. What do you think of this thing?
It’s pretty impressive and loud. When I was walking on stage, I was like, “It’s quite a lot of people.” It’s really good.
That’s quite the performance. I heard a lot of good things. Let’s start beginning here for our readers who may not be familiar with you and your music. Give us a little bit of background. How did you get into the music business?
VeeCon: I would really love to have my own NFT project. I really value the community and the fanbase that I’m building within the community.
I’ve been singing pretty much my whole life, but I had no idea how I was going to make it a real career. After I got out of school, I had a regular job. I was working in London on a desk and I ended up getting in contact with Young Thug. I wanted to work in rap music. Somebody on his team passed my music to him. I ended up meeting him and he pretty much changed my life. He started my career. From that moment, I pretty much became the singer in rap music.
That’s special. You’re no longer in London.
I live in Atlanta now.
How long have you been out there?
I’ve been going back and forth since 2018. That’s when I got my visa to be in the US. 2018 was when I started going there.
What do you think so far?
I love it. It’s like a second home to me now. I felt very privileged.
We’re here VeeCon and it’s all about NFT and VeeFriends. Tell me a little bit about how you got into the world of NFTs.
A good friend of mine who’s an artist whose album I was on, Jimmy Edgar. He’s pretty active in the space. I went over to his studio and we started talking about them. He makes his own NFTs. That was the first time I ever heard about what they were. A few weeks after, Mike Boyd from Vayner reached out. They were doing a project with Budweiser. They had 22 artists collaborate on their first NFT. I was a part of that project.
Tell me a little bit more about that project. What’s the story? Who are the other artists? What’s the utility?
There were three levels. Visually, they were red, silver, and gold. They got you different things. One of the cool things about the project was a lot of the holders got to come to the Budweiser factory. Myself and Fresco Trey will be performing He’s another one of the artists. We put on a show inside the headquarters of the Budweiser factory. A lot of the holders came to that. I’ve met a lot of them through Discord and social media. It’s nice to see them in real life. Somebody came up to me after the show, they have two of my NFTs. I took a photo next to them and say, “I hope I looked similar to the photo.”
That’s very cool.
Let’s talk roadmap a little bit. Do you have anything else in inbound in the world of NFTs?
Every artist says this, but I would love to have my own NFT project. I value the community and fan base that I’m building within the community. Many people have come up to me and been like, “We’ve got your NFT. We’re rooting for you,” which is so nice. These people are invested in the infancy of your career. Once I continue to build that foundation, I want to have my own NFT projects.
One of the things you’ll hear most consistently, at least we do, with the guests that we interview is, the community is at the center of everything. Folks that have built that community, building that community, or bringing it to the stage and then introducing NFTs to that community as a way to connect with you as the creator. There’s something special about that.
I tell people all the time, “Wouldn’t you love to have an NFT of your favorite artists before their career blew up?” I know I would love to have a utility pass to see my favorite artist backstage for the rest of my life or whatever the utility is. It’s a special time to be a fan of music, especially if you’re involved in NFTs. As an artist, that’s new, why would you not?
I would love not to only have that, but also to prove to the world that, “I was an early fan.”
That’s what everybody has been saying to me and it makes me feel so good. Some of them have been to every event that I’ve done. I’ve been so privileged. This is my third NFT performance. A lot of people have been at those shows and seen the development of my career alongside the shows, so they’re happy.
Let’s talk about women in NFTs. This is something that many people are focused on is trying to elevate the space and make it accessible to everybody. Elevate everybody who’s contributing to the space. A lot of women moving and shaking in this space. What are your thoughts on it?
I was saying, “I don’t care what space is. Women need to be in every room and every environment.” I was very lucky in rap music. I have good mentors. I bulldozed my way in. I’ve seen it so often in music that women not getting the same opportunities. Outside looking in, you might think crypto is like that, women are not that welcomed, but my experience has been completely the opposite. I feel like the community is willing to answer questions. They probably want to see women. Women can do anything. I’m like, “Why would we not want women in NFTs when they’re smart?”
There are so many great projects happening. There are so many great women creators and doers in this space. Along that line of thinking, where do you draw your greatest inspiration from? Let’s start with music.
Musically, I always look to women who are trailblazed. I value authenticity. I love Stevie Nicks. I remember going to see Fleetwood Mac when I was a kid. She said something on stage that resonated with me. She was young when she started and she just kept going. I love Lana del Ray. I love any female vocalists that came out that were different and were true to themselves. I love an underdog story because I feel like that’s been my journey.
I can see that. How about in Web3?
We were talking about this earlier, it’s Huda Beauty. She’s incredible. I saw a bit of Mila Kunis talk and she is so cool for everything she’s contributed to the space, even Reese Witherspoon. These role models for women in other areas, whether it’s beauty, fashion, or you liked them as an actress. People like that are key. They have a transferable fan base. Big stars continuing to co-sign NFTs is important.
You’re part of that community now, trailblazing and doing some amazing things. We’ll be watching closely and our followers will as well. Thank you so much for taking this time to talk with us.
VeeCon: Why would we not want women in NFTs when they’re really smart?
Thanks for having me.
I appreciate it. Best of luck.
Thank you so much.
We have reached the outer limit. Thank you everyone for exploring with us. We’ve got space though, for more adventures on this Starship. Invite your friends. Recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey so much better. How? Go to Spotify or iTunes, rate us, and say something awesome, then go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole. You can also come and participate in EdgeOf NFT.com/Discord and get to know the community. Jesse will be in there with a special tag. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks for sharing this time with us.
- Dapper Labs
- Flow Blockchain
- Pepsi Mic Drop
- Curio Cards
- Millie Go Lightly – Instagram
- Spotify – Edge of NFT Podcast
- iTunes – Edge of NFT Podcast
- EdgeOf NFT.com/Discord