VanEck’s new NFT platform SegMint highlights TradFi’s keen interest in Web3 tokenization

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Asset management firm VanEck will look to emulate the success of its recently launched Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the United States with a new self-custody nonfungible token (NFT) platform to explore the potential of tokenized digital asset ownership. 

Cointelegraph spoke exclusively to Matthew Bartlett, VanEck’s NFT community and Web3 head, ahead of the launch of SegMint at NFT Paris. The NFT asset management platform allows users to vault and fractionalize digital assets by issuing keys that will be tradable on the platform’s in-house exchange.

VanEck, the first U.S. asset manager to file for a spot Bitcoin (BTC) ETF in 2017, has garnered a reputation as a traditional finance firm actively exploring cryptocurrency ETFs and digital asset ownership.

VanEck’s NFT “degen”

Bartlett’s mandate as the firm’s NFT and Web3 head is partly thanks to his personal interest in the space. Coupling nearly two decades of experience split between TradFi players Franklin Templeton and VanEck with his love of NFTs, Bartlett was given the go-ahead to build an in-house platform for NFT ownership and digital asset fractionalization.

“Jan van Eck said I want you to build something, but he didn’t know I was an NFT degen, so I had to start there. I put on my cap as a user and looked at the problems I encountered, figured out what they were, and that’s how we formed the thesis of what we built,” Bartlett explains.

Matthew Bartlett on stage at NFT Paris in February 2024. Source: Cointelegraph

VanEck’s Web3 lead became an NFT buyer in 2017 and dabbled in the space, minting and auctioning in Decentraland. Bartlett also helped VanEck take its first steps in the space with a free NFT giveaway that served as a real-world ticket to bell ringing ceremonies at the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq.

Over the past seven years, the firm has been building what Bartlett describes as a robust digital asset team, mainly consisting of cryptocurrency investment analysts and digital asset product managers.

Testing the “lock and key” NFT model

SegMint joins an array of platforms offering NFT minting, trading and management. With that in mind, Bartlett sought to build a platform primarily focused on shared ownership and fractionalization of assets.

“As I started looking at all of the platforms out there that exist, they all sort of suffer from at least three problems. Firstly, they’re custodial in nature. They say, ‘Here are your fractions, but we’re going to take your asset.’ Now you’ve lost out on airdrops or token-gated access,” Bartlett said.

Related: EU remains skeptical of crypto investments despite Bitcoin ETF fever — VanEck Europe CEO

According to Bartlett, SegMint maintains users’ self-custody of digital assets by providing vaults owned by their Web3 wallet:

“It’s still self-custody. So now you get to also manage all of the consumptive utilities, your airdrops, your gameplay and once you lock it, you can mint any number of SegMint keys.”

SegMint keys are ERC-1155 tokens, meaning they’re fungible clones of whatever is in the users’ vaults. A vault owner needs to own all the respective keys to unlock it, and keys will be tradable on the platform’s closed exchange.

Related: Bitcoin won’t be beaten as digital store of value: VanEck CEO

SegMint launched on Feb. 28 and requires users to go through a Know Your Customer process to create vaults and keys and launch NFTs. Bartlett said he hoped that the platform would attract the likes of CryptoPunks, Squiggles and Pudgy Penguin owners to fractionalize their NFTs. He said:

“It’s wishful thinking, but that is where we would start. Now you can democratize access to the best collections at a lower price point for people globally.”

The potential of tokenized real estate

A longer-term goal is for SegMint to build partnerships with other blockchain-based platforms that tokenize real-world assets like vintage wines and luxury watches. Tokenized real estate is another prospect Bartlett sees as having high potential for fractionalized ownership in the coming years.

Bartlett envisions a separate platform that could tap into blockchain technology for a range of real estate use cases. An example would be “vaulting” a vacation home to create 52 keys for each week of the year that could be traded on an open marketplace.

“You’ve got sort of like a disrupter between Airbnb and timeshares where now I’ve got that key, I show up to your house. I hit the RFID reader, and I’m in for the week.”

This lofty hypothetical example could be replicated for a variety of high-value assets, from private jets to collectible cars. While Bartlett believes it’s an intriguing model, he admits that these types of use cases may take years to come to fruition.

“It’s going to take time for the community to figure out the best use cases, and we haven’t even scratched the surface. Right now, I’m in my confined box of what’s regulatory compliant now,” Bartlett admits.

VanEck’s Bitcoin ETF has attracted over $272 million in investments since it was given the green light by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in January 2024. Meanwhile, VanEck Europe’s Bitcoin and crypto exchange-traded products are also attracting interest from investors keen on diversifying their portfolios to add exposure to the cryptocurrency sector.

Magazine: Owner of seven-trait CryptoPunk Seedphrase partners with Sotheby’s: NFT Collector

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