Earn money in the metaverse: Early adopters are looking for real fortune in the virtual world

Watch the CBS Reports documentary “Welcome to the Metaverse” in the video player above. It will premiere Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET on CBS News streaming.

The Metaverse has recently become a buzzword in the tech world and beyond. It represents a further migration from the real world to a digital reality and it is also a place where users can own their virtual assets thanks to the blockchain. Blockchain, the underlying technology of cryptocurrency, is a digital ledger that records transactions and securely tracks digital assets.

In the Metaverse, these assets can include digital art, video game characters, and even parcels of virtual land that have skyrocketed in value over the past year. In November 2021, a plot of land in the virtual world Decentraland was sold for $2.4 million.

Some early adopters of the metaverse are making real-life fortunes in the virtual world—although it’s not without it risk.

Kevin “KevinOnEarth” Clark

Kevin Clark says he was first drawn to the metaverse after feeling cut off from the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clark used the Metaverse to reconnect with humans and go to virtual events while much of the real world was shut down.

“That was kind of the moment I realized that something that was being taken from us could be made available through the metaverse,” he said.

Clark first bought land in Decentraland for $700 in late 2020. Today he says it could sell for over $20,000. Clark used his land to build a Metaverse news channel. His show The Decentraland Report is streamed live on Twitch. Its goal is to tell the stories of the early adopters of the metaverse and to document the history of Decentraland.

Kevin Clark, also known as KevinOnEarth, in Decentraland.

CBS News

“I said I’m the Decentraland reporter here on the ground,” says Clark. “I would show up somewhere, start interviewing people and just ask them, ‘Why are you here? What was your inspiration?’ And from there, just people in the community were like, ‘I want my story to be told.’”

Jaiden Stipp

The digital assets that make up the metaverse are stored as NFTs or non-fungible tokens. Each NFT is a completely unique digital asset – unlike Bitcoin, which is interchangeable. An NFT can take the form of packages of virtual land, music, or digital art.

Jaiden Stipp, 15, started making art in July 2020. His fully digital work was inspired by Nintendo and video games like Kirby. In February 2021, less than a year after launch, he decided to “imprint” one of his pieces – turning a digital file into an NFT.

“At the time, I didn’t even know what an NFT was,” he recalls. “I just coined it because I thought it was cool, you know.”

Jaiden Stipp

CBS News

Stipp hoped his piece could sell for $50, but within two days bidding was in the hundreds. His piece then caught the attention of FEWOCiOUS, one of the most popular artists in the NFT world. FEWOCiOUS made a public bid for Stipp’s work, causing the price to skyrocket. Eventually it was sold for 20 Ethereum – worth over $30,000 at the time. Stipp minted four more pieces this week, with each NFT selling for more than $30,000.

“I have no idea how much money I made last year, all I know is that it’s definitely over a million in sales,” says Stipp.

Brenda Gentry

After growing up in Kenya, Brenda Gentry worked as a mortgage underwriter for USAA for more than a decade. She says she loved working there but wanted more than the traditional 9-to-5 job.

“A friend of mine at the bank retired last year,” Gentry said. “And she kept saying, ‘Hey girl, just go ahead, you’ve got 20 years to go.’ When she said that, I think it made me sad.”

Brenda Gentry at Haze Radio

CBS News

Gentry’s daughter Cynthia studied computer science in college and became interested in blockchain technology.

“My daughter goes to college and says, ‘I don’t like computer science, Mom. I don’t like computers,’” Gentry said. “We are now talking about a different technology. We’re talking about blockchain. And it turned into a conversation where she got excited every time she talked about it.”

She followed her daughter into the world of digital assets, buying cryptocurrencies and NFTs and building a following on social media under the name “Cryptomom”.

Gentry soon became involved in consulting for Web3 Products — Web3 is that much hyped next phase of the Internet, including innovations such as NFTs and cryptocurrency – and advising NFT developers on product launches. After 15 years in banking, Brenda was able to quit her job and start Gentry Media Productions, an NFT marketing company, with her daughters.

“Before I got into crypto, I was making about $4,000 a month,” says Gentry. “[Now on] I’m doing fine on the investing side – where I’m doing roughly seven figures here. But yes, I’m fine. I’ll just say that.”

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