Non-Fungible Tokens: Ali Sabet of The Suite On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry
Map out who the key players are in the space — Considering that this is such a new space, you have to look at who the original pioneers were and how they got started.
Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing George Mazzella.
George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers. Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world’s leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
I suppose you could say that my journey to where I am today was pretty rough. I grew up in Brooklyn, raised by a working-class family of mostly Italian descent. I didn’t come from money and didn’t go to the best schools, so when I was graduating high school, I didn’t have many options in front of me. When I was in my second year of college, I had a son. I had to get two jobs to support him and his mother, but I remained a full-time student and graduated on time. Desperate for money, I took any job I could get. My wife jokes that there isn’t a job I haven’t done, and she’s probably right. I’ve worked in restaurants, cleaned toilets, spent time in construction, and even worked as a security officer. I didn’t have time for soul searching, so I never really figured out what I wanted to do after graduation, and since money was always tight, my focus was always on making as much money as possible. After all, diapers are pretty expensive… After what must’ve been a dozen dead-end jobs, I ended up falling into the world of recruiting after a large recruiting firm found my resume online and called me in for an interview. For me, it was a place where through grit and talent, I could decide my own future, and I loved it. It wasn’t until several years later that I started to recognize all the things that are wrong with that industry, but that’s a story for another time.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Without a doubt, the movie that has influenced my life in the biggest way has been Rocky. I first watched Rocky with my dad when I was 4 years old, making it one of my earliest memories. Watching those movies became a “pick-me-up” ritual that I would undergo whenever life beat me down. The idea that anyone can do anything so long as they have the grit, the work ethic, and the dream, has become a core foundation of my own beliefs and personality. I have always believed in the limitlessness of human potential and pride myself on my ability to shatter whatever barriers lie ahead.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.
I can’t say that there is a particular story so much as my own experience. Back when I was an executive recruiter, I couldn’t help but notice that of the roughly 50 people that I would consider for a job, only 1 got it, and nobody was paying attention to the other 49. I founded The Suite to be there for the 49 that no one else sees.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
I don’t know if I can pick just one story to share. To be honest, my career has led to meet fascinating people, experience extraordinary places and events, and build a list of hilarious barroom stories. Although I suppose being able to say I interviewed one of Jordan Belfort’s senior most team members was a pretty interesting experience… definitely top 5.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During my time at one of my first jobs out of school, I worked for a boutique search firm in their NYC office. The company was filled with 20-something-year-olds and the culture of the office really was that work-hard, play-harder vibe that young professionals gravitate towards. Anyway, at one of our team happy hours after being dared, I consumed more martinis than any person probably should and the night went from office banter to friendly martial arts sparring session with one of the Managing Partners. I wish someone got a video of it though. To this day he and I still get quite a laugh out of that one.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I owe most of my success to my amazing wife. She has been my biggest supporter, my trusted advisor, and my closest confidant. During the good times, she forces me to celebrate my victories, and during the bad, she is there to catch me when I fall. We all fall right? But that being said, it’s certainly a lot easier to fall when you know there is someone there who will catch you. When I first thought of stepping into The Suite full-time, I was terrified, but seeing how much she believed in me and my dream was enough to make me take the leap. A year later, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. In fact, I finally feel like I am doing what I was meant to do.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on setting our future product roadmap and I couldn’t be more excited for all that we have in store. When we first launched we wanted to give executives access to job listings at their level and remove the noise that other mass-market sites suffer from. Since then, we’ve developed several products that were designed to champion the jobseeker and empower executives to advance their careers and expand their networks. From our networking platform where members can connect and leverage one another, to our compensation tools that provide guidance on salary and equity packages, every tool we’ve developed at The Suite has been with the executive in mind. What’s next? We’ve identified, analyzed, and graded the top 500 executive recruiting firms in the world and we plan to build the world’s first verified recruiter database. Why is that a big deal? Recruiters control over 80% of the job market, and without a way to identify and contact them, job seekers miss out on thousands (yes, you’re reading that right) of job opportunities each year.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?
NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens are presently being used as a proof of authentication token for digitally disseminated arts, stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Their usage and value are not associated particularly with ownership or rights over the arts, but proof of provenance; which in the traditional art world is wildly anachronistic, inefficient, and subjective. By massively distributing the provenance ledger, no single party can act as a market-making bad actor, improving transparency and fairness.
The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- This is not the first instance of an NFT being publicly available — Cryptokitties wins that. However, this is the first global application of the technology in a sector that deeply needs it.
- The Beeple NFT token exposes the hype around this industry — and that it is a fervently supply and demand rich marketplace; vindicating the opportunity of the marketplace, even if it is in its infancy.
- In the longer term, I am excited about how this technology will be used to fuel the wider creator economy — the paper-thin authenticity of ad deals with creators (“I just love Raid Shadow legends — you should too”), and challenges subscription-based ‘patron’ accounts are having (e.g. Patreon) means existing business models cannot support creators widely. NFTs give the opportunity for creators to be unleashed from platforms as their source of income. This will disrupt much of what exists today.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
- Hype — it is the very early days of the technology, and hype might be hurting the underlying value.
- Market inefficiency — the Beeple work, whilst an incredible achievement, was sold through a “fiat” equivalent brokerage, Christie’s, and was bought by someone with vested interests in NFT’s success. Not exactly a shining example of the market equilibrium.
- Ignorance — crypto technology will always be infected with scammers and ignorance — as will all money markets. We need to shift the argument to be about the positive future of where this tech can go, and not get bogged down in the immaturity of the technology.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?
- Linked to the above answer, the main myths surround the inefficiency and security risks of NFTs, and cryptos more widely.
- On the power efficiency of the ETH blockchain — yes, it is carbon-draining now, but so was equivalent power generation in steam engines in the 1700s vs. harnessing the power of the sun in fusion reactors we’re developing now. People bad-mouthed steam vs. horse at the time — but with 20/20 vision, we can see how misguided they were.
- Concerning security, as with all markets, there will be bad actors looking to scam people. As adoption rates increase, whilst the incentives will increase for those actors, as do those for good actors, leading to higher transparency and steady-state technological applications. Bitcoin is looked at like gold now — in the future, could NFTs be seen in the same way as music licensors are seen now as an annuity asset class? Possibly.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?
- They pretend to know more than they do: Be yourself and own your shortcomings. This is a new space, anyone proclaiming to be an expert is probably lying.
- They put their head down and get lost in work: In a space this new, you need to be aware of what is going on in the industry at all times. Failure to keep up with movement in the space will result in you getting left behind in the innovation race.
How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?
Non-traditional and intangible income sources suffer from provenance and distribution issues. Cryptocurrencies are perfectly geared to solve this issue with a distributed ledger held on a cryptographically secured blockchain. Whilst NFTs might not be the exact application of this technology — it holds huge potential in feeding the wider economy. I believe we will be in a society soon where proof of ownership, dissemination, and license will be held on the blockchain — and if so — this has a massive knock-on effect on how people prove and source value from their IP.
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Map out who the key players are in the space
Considering that this is such a new space, you have to look at who the original pioneers were and how they got started.
2) Rest easy, no one is an expert yet.
There was a time when nobody knew what NFTs were, so anyone currently in the space didn’t start there.
3) Let’s say you already made the jump; how do you remain relevant?
In a space that is evolving as quickly as Crypto, it’s hard to say what will help you stay in the know. Monitor your competitors and see how the market is adapting.
4) Establish yourself as an expert in the space.
Research research research. If there is a question, you need to know the answer or be able to learn it quickly.
5) Broaden your network
Meet as many people as you can, build relationships with every known “expert”. The world is big, but the professional world is small.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As a country, we have taken such amazing strides in raising awareness of sexual abuse and misconduct, but one victim who has yet to get the focus they deserve is young boys. 1 out of 6 boys is sexually abused before they turn 18 and so rarely do you hear that statistic shared. If I could inspire a movement it would be to raise awareness of this issue and create a program dedicated to helping those boys through what is the darkest time of their lives. To remind them that they are not alone. To teach them that they are strong because of their trauma, not in spite of it. To show them that true strength is not the ability to ignore pain, but the ability to live on despite it.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I have always admired Jack Ma. His beliefs on culture, his ability to create innovation, and his grit to build a company no one believed would flourish, are all things that I try to model myself on. A meal with him would be an honor.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!
Non-Fungible Tokens: Ali Sabet of The Suite On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.