Even at deflated prices amid the ongoing crypto market decline, a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT will run you about $104,000 worth of ETH on the low end. Decentralized lending protocol Teller wants to help make that price tag seem a little less daunting: buy a “blue chip” NFT now… and pay it off later.
Teller’s new NFT buy now, pay later (BNPL) feature is like those spearheaded by startups like Affirm and Klarna and adopted by major online retailers, albeit with some key differences. It’s available only for a select number of notable NFT projects at present, and the funds are provided by potential lenders large and small who offer liquidity through the platform.
The service, called Ape Now, Pay Later, runs on Ethereum scaling platform Polygon. Ryan Berkun, founder and CEO at Teller Finance, says the platform helps fill a need in the market to enable prospective buyers to access pricier NFT assets by paying over time.
“Buying NFTs is one of the core things Web3 consumers want to do right now,” he told Decrypt. “Buy now, pay later is a no-brainer.”
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Here’s how it works. If, for example, a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT that a user wants is listed on the OpenSea marketplace, then they can use Teller’s platform to specify that they want to purchase that asset. The user is required to pay a minimum down payment of as much as 50%, depending on the project, and then the platform attempts to match the prospective borrower to a lender.
If the match is successful and a lender accepts the terms, then the down payment is pooled with the rest of the funds from the lender, the NFT is purchased from OpenSea, and it’s placed in an escrow wallet during the repayment cycle. If all payments are made on time, then the borrower receives the purchased NFT from the escrow wallet.
An NFT is a blockchain token that’s used to prove ownership for an item, and they can be used for things like artwork, profile pictures, access passes and tickets, and digital collectibles. The NFT market surged to $25 billion worth of trading volume in 2021 alone, and has already notched about $20 billion in organic trading so far this year, per DappRadar.
Supported Ethereum NFT projects at launch include the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club, as well as Moonbirds, Doodles, Cool Cats, Azuki, Meebits, Adidas Originals: Into the Metaverse, RTFKT-MNLTH, and Murakami.Flowers Seed.
The Adidas NFTs have the lowest down payment requirement of just 25% of the cost in ETH, while RTFKT-MNLTH and Murakami are at 33% each. All of the other “blue chip” collections require a minimum 50% down payment.
Berkun said that the rates were chosen based on factors like market liquidity and volatility. The Adidas NFTs are effectively interchangeable, for example, as they all look the same and offer the same functionality for holders. On the other hand, each Bored Ape or Doodle image is made up of a unique combination of attributes, even if many are ultimately similar in design.
NFTs meet DeFi
Teller’s service is part of a rising wave of NFT-centric financial infrastructure, including lending platforms like NFTfi and Arcade. Those platforms allow NFT owners to take out cryptocurrency loans by using their NFTs as collateral. Teller’s platform, on the other hand, facilitates the purchase of NFTs via loans.
There’s risk involved here, of course. The NFT market is famously volatile, and lenders take the gamble that a particular NFT project could lose significant value during the loan window. But if the buyer defaults and does not pay back the loan, then the lender can claim the NFT and attempt to sell it to recoup losses, if they please.
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Such a platform could also present opportunities for abuse. For example, if someone had inside info about a major announcement around an NFT collection that they believed would pump the value, then they could benefit by taking out a buy now, pay later loan at the current price, effectively preempting the expected price surge.
Presented with the potential scenario, Berkun suggested that it was a question that the wider crypto and NFT industry needs to wrestle with and develop ethical standards around. He pointed to the situation with former OpenSea executive Nate Chastain, who benefited from buying and selling NFTs using privileged info. Chastain now faces federal charges.
“This is a really important question for us as an industry to ask ourselves: How can these products be manipulated?” he said. “Right now, we don’t have some type of ethos in the space to restrict those with insider knowledge to not purchase an NFT. There’s going to be guardrails built around that. I think that’s how the industry will mature in general.”
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“This type of financing is like buying any product with a credit card, or buy now, pay later program today,” he added. “The action would be stopping the person [with insider info], rather than the platform itself.”
Berkun believes that this buy now, pay later feature will become all the more useful as NFT use cases proliferate, with things like music NFTs, virtual land in metaverse games, and even NFTs representing real-life real estate start to gain more traction.
“This is core infrastructure, I believe, of where Web3 goes,” he said, “especially as we start thinking about the intersection of DeFi and the NFT space.”