Software company Engine Room is usually known for building secure platforms and solutions for its clients in banking, higher education or healthcare.
But the company entered a new space recently, a quickly growing slice of tech that also relies heavily on security — NFTs. Engine Room is partnering with fellow Philly tech company AllCertified, an NFT toolkit developer, in order to develop an integrated platform that would allow celebrities, athletes and artists to mint their NFTs with an autograph.
NFTs — nonfungible tokens — have risen in popularity in the last few years as a way for creators to sell and share their digital work. They’re based in the idea that rarity and authenticity are less common in the digital age, and those features ought to be brought back. By selling on the blockchain, users can verify what they’re getting is an original. (And hey — the leading standard for them was born in the Philadelphia area.)
Dennis Egen, president of Engine Room, and Michael Eckstein, founder and CEO of AllCertified, both grew up with a fascination with baseball cards. The pair were both collectors, and rare items caught their interest.
“There’s inherent value to something when you understand that there’s a limit to how many are out there,” Egen said.
The pair said the growing trend of NFTs reminds them of their younger years chasing down a certain baseball card, or waiting in line to grab a signature from their favorite player.
“But once you get the autograph and you walk away, you have a card that’s now worth a whole lot more money, but the player doesn’t gain anything from that,” Eckstein said.
His idea for authenticated autographed NFTs exist in this thinking. Someone who creates and distributes a piece of work should be able to have some control or gain over future sales of that work, and affixing an NFT with a signature gives more power back to the creator, Eckstein said.
For example, when Taylor Swift re-releases her “Red” album next month, she could create 100 signed album cover NFTs, selling them to fans at a fixed rate. Suddenly, a limited collection series of work exists, and all sales — which occur on blockchain technology — would track back to her original creations. The concept works for athletes, music or visual artists and even influencers.
Eckstein had been developing the concept behind AllCertified for some time, but said he needed the right team of security pros who understood how to build for blockchain technology, and was glad to find a local partner in Center City’s Engine Room. He’s applied for a patent for the technology, and has until May 2022 to finalize the submission functionally.
Egen said the company is hiring some new talent to specialize in this new space of smart contracts and blockchain, and the service itself should be ready to roll out in Q1 of 2022. While it’s a new avenue for the company, it makes sense to expand in this way, the founder said.
“Things like encryption and security we do everyday, and blockchain is another implementation of security or encryption,” he said. “The audience may be different, but the underlying tech is in our wheelhouse.”-30-