Every startup faces rejection at some point. However, rejection is not synonymous with failure, as the CEO and Co-Founder of OwnTrail, Rebekah Bastian, stated.
Based on that concept, Rebekah decided to contact startups, gather rejection letters they received from investors, and turn them into non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
In turn, this would monetize those rejections and support the companies, as the profit from the NFT sale will directly benefit them.
Rebekah’s NFT initiative really intrigued us. In order to find out more about her project, we invited her for an insightful Q&A session.
Here’s how it turned out!
1) When did you first learn about NFTs and why did you become interested in them?
I started getting into NFTs in the spring of 2021. My first explorations were actually with my startup founder hat on, as I was really intrigued by the concepts around community-based ownership and collaborative storytelling.
OwnTrail, which is a platform for people to own their stories and get help reaching their next milestones, has always been very community-driven in terms of product development and growth, so I thought there might be something for us to tap into. As it turned out, I decided “not yet” for OwnTrail, but in the process I got really deep into the Web3 space on a personal level.
As a tech leader and lifelong artist, the intersection of tech + art is really enticing to me. And I love the potential that NFTs have to remove gatekeepers and redistribute wealth (in theory – we have work to do on that!).
2) Can you explain how you came up with the idea of turning rejection letters into NFTs?
Getting rejected is such a universal part of the startup fundraising experience. But founders don’t talk as openly about it, because there’s a stigma that rejection = failure. That’s clearly not true, since even the most successful companies have faced their share of people that didn’t believe in them.
I was talking about this over lunch with a couple of my founder friends, and came up with the idea of both celebrating and monetizing those rejections! NFTs are a great technology for this, because they support unlockable data that’s revealed only to the buyer, create an on-chain record of what founders/startups have been underestimated, and make it easy to monetize those rejections.
3) What are the key benefits of the Rejection Letters NFTs? Why should anyone purchase them?
The primary goal of the project is to provide transparency and solidarity about the painfully-common experience of receiving a rejection letter from an investor you really wanted to work with. But it’s also a fun investment opportunity for the NFT buyers, as some of the letters will prove to be historically significant. Imagine owning on-chain proof of an investor that thought Uber, Bumble or Canva weren’t a good bet. The unlockable content (name of founder and startup) are like a classic NFT art reveal, and the value is also determined over time as the startup progresses.
4) What was the reaction of the community to your NFT initiative?
Super positive! Not just from the Web3 community, but from startup founders all over. There are such persistent power dynamics between founders and investors, and I know founders can end up feeling really alone and powerless in a sea of rejections. This project is taking some of that power back, and creating a kind of an inside joke for the 100% of VC-backed founders that have experienced rejections along the way.
5) What role do you think crypto, NFT, and metaverse will play in changing how startups acquire funding in the future?
There are some interesting options for community-based funding that come with DAOs and tokens. For example, Floor App funded all of their early development through NFT sales, where the NFT gave holders early access to their app (disclosure: I’m now an angel investor in them, as they did go on to raise venture capital as well). And NFT project MetaAngels started an accelerator to help launch emerging Web3 startups, creating new entrepreneurial ecosystems that don’t rely on traditional early-stage venture rounds. I think we’ll see a lot more cool models for community-based investments and ownerships in this space.
6) Will you return to the NFT space with another project in the future?
Oh, I’m in it! 🙂 I have a 1:1 collection that I’ve been working on called Aerialists, which are digital drawings of my past aerial acts. I’m an active member of the OG Collective, a really cool group that supports and launches 1:1 NFT artists, I’m on the board JPEG Morgan, a group of NFT leaders, creators and investors, and I’m a founding member of the all-woman investment DAO, JOAN DAO. I also do some writing about NFTs and Web3 in my Forbes column.
And the Rejection Letter NFT project will keep growing! If there are startup founders that want to add their past rejection letters, they can DM me to be included.
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