A Maine man's digital art gallery has become one of the leading online marketplaces for non-fungible tokens.
NFTs are a digital art or object form, sort of like Bitcoin, getting headlines over the past few months for some eye-popping multi-million-dollar sales.
Because NFTs are on what is perhaps the sharpest point of the cutting edges of finance and technology, they may not be the first thing that come to mind for many people when they think of Maine, a state known for its natural, physical beauty.
Yet, the state has quite a strong connection to the trendy digital tokens.
Jonathan Perkins, a native of Penobscot who "comes from a fishing family up the coast," is a co-founder of a company called SuperRare, which is getting attention from investment groups connected to people like Ashton Kutcher and Mark Cuban.
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Asked to explain what SuperRare is during a Thursday interview with NECN and NBC10 Boston, Perkins described it as "a peer-to-peer network and marketplace kind of similar to Instagram" for tokenized digital art.
While one can't walk past these renderings hanging on a physical wall the same way they could visit the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa, scrolling through SuperRare's web portal shows artwork valued at various prices for auction or sale in the Ethereum bitcoin currency.
According to Perkins, the artwork gets its value through authenticity, as well as its timeline of ownership.
"The blockchain records the record of ownership for each collector, so that can become part of the story," Perkins said. "If somebody famous owns an artwork and then I collect it from that person, that's forever recorded as part of the artwork's history."
Perkins drew a comparison to someone having "a sculpture in your house that was owned by Louis XIV or some historical figure like that."
This week, the business model of SuperRare got a $9-million funding boost from the groups connected to Kutcher and Cuban, something Perkins said would "really enable us to scale up the team and make the product better."
Asked if NFTs had a place in technology ecosystem entities like Northeastern University's Roux Institute are trying to create in Maine, Perkins, who now lives in Portland after spending time in big cities like New York and San Francisco, said yes.
"There's a strong, burgeoning tech scene here, especially in Portland," said Perkins, adding that he's "enthusiastic about the growth in the sector."
Perkins said he thinks opportunity not only exists for remote workers like him who are able to site themselves any distance from a company headquarters in any city, but also for NFT artists themselves, who may be interested in creating in Maine's rural towns.
He said he knows an artist in Italy, who "moved away from Rome to live in the countryside, then discovered crypto-art and is making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from a very rustic setting."
As for why he chose to come back to Maine, Perkins said he was "a little tired of living in a big city" and that "Portland's a nice, small city, closer to family, close to the White Mountains" and numerous outdoor activities.