Upstream attended Benzinga’s crypto conference last week in NYC. Here’s what we learned sitting amongst industry thought leaders.

By Anastasia Samaras

Benzinga, the financial media and analytics platform, has recently joined Upstream’s strategic media community to raise visibility for the influx of issuers seeking a listing on Upstream’s blockchain-powered platform.

Last week, the Upstream team had the pleasure of attending Benzinga’s Future of Crypto Conference, sitting in with some of the brightest minds in crypto and blockchain.

This year’s conference featured a number of industry titans including investor and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary and Anthony Scaramucci, founder and managing partner of SkyBridge Capital.

Discussions surrounded key moments in crypto this year and how 2023 may provide significant clarification on issues that went unaddressed in earlier years.

FTX and the implications its fall had for the rest of the industry, the future of NFTs, the rise of user-friendly Web3 applications, and a general call for meaningful regulation were the recurring topics. Here are some of the notable themes and key takeaways we gathered from the conference:


Moderator Genevieve Roch-Decter from GRIT Capital kicked the morning off with Kevin O’Leary and Anthony Scaramucci to discuss FTX and the implications it had on the industry. Overall their sentiments were optimistic and didn’t believe this instance reflected the entire industry.

  • Not only was FTX not fully backing customer assets 1:1, but the exchange was also lending or trading customer deposits aggressively, including no way to cover its losses.
  • As the fallout from the FTX collapse continues to ripple across the industry, crypto leaders and the institutions backing them are becoming more vocal in their calls for meaningful regulation of the industry.
  • O’Leary and Scaramucci expressed regret over their involvement with FTX, but confirmed that standard due diligence was done and laughed agreeing that “we all have egg on our faces.”
  • Both O’Leary and Scaramucci stated their belief in our judicial system and agreed that Sam Bankman-Fried is innocent until proven guilty.
  • Since the conference, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested on December 12th in the Bahamas at the request of the U.S. government.
  • “We allege that Sam Bankman-Fried built a house of cards on a foundation of deception while telling investors that it was one of the safest buildings in crypto,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “The alleged fraud committed by Mr. Bankman-Fried is a clarion call to crypto platforms that they need to come into compliance with our laws.”
  • Learn more about how Upstream has prioritized investor protections with its methodology to protect against issues FTX and the crypto community may face: How Upstream is staying warm this Crypto Winter.

The Future of NFTs

A common consensus during the NFT panels echoed that the first wave of speculative NFTs was over, making way for more mainstream use cases. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but Upstream has been ushering in this next generation of NFTs from the onset. Here are some of the concepts and insights into these new use cases.

  • Since January 2019, Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) have been increasingly popular in the cryptocurrency world, particularly in the context of gaming and digital art.
  • The new wave is utility-focused NFTs expand on the notion of digital collectibles by offering holders tangible rewards and other incentives associated with ownership to build a bridge to users who are new to blockchain technology.
  • Many famous NFTs sold to date were works of art but for the general public, it was hard to get passed the notion that these “art collections” can simply be “right-clicked and saved.”
  • More practical use cases in sports, music and entertainment have emerged as a result of the new wave of utility-focused NFTs, where verifiable ownership, transparency, and fan engagement add value.
  • NFTs can be used to grant access to or ownership of unique merchandise, which is one of the significant use cases. NFTs offer a digital, trackable alternative to today’s tickets since they are non-fungible and traceable via the blockchain.
  • With Upstream’s redeemable NFTs, experiences can be enhanced with redeemable perks that drive meaningful user journeys at and beyond an event.
  • With blockchain’s potential to validate almost anything, new applications have emerged in industries including music, real estate, and public health records. NFTs are also being explored as cemented terms and conditions.
  • NFTs have the power to make individuals comfortable with self-custody and act as a more accessible entry point into Web3 and blockchain technology.

Trustless Economy

An interesting discussion on trustless economies was had on the divide between traditional and decentralized markets. Many of the popular cryptocurrency trading venues today are centralized, private, off-chain, and custodial. We believe this not only contradicts core blockchain founding principles but takes away from the true power that operating on a public blockchain can harness. Here are some takeaways from the panel on trustless economies.

  • In order to make investors comfortable with trustless ecosystems, they need to be made more user-friendly. Blockchain technology should be hidden and the practical benefits should be at the forefront.
  • Upstream adopted this methodology early on with in-app wallet creation, streamlined compliance checks, and familiar payment onramps to familiarize this new audience with this new technology.
  • Industry players need to step out of the crypto bubble to educate participants on the benefits of the technology in order for crypto to have the potential of becoming widely adopted, beginning with the concept of ‘trust’.
  • The concept that needs to get across is that instead of trusting a central authority which is found in conventional financial systems, with trustless economies, you’re putting trust in computers. Because transactions on the blockchain are transparent and secure, the system as a whole is held in the faith of code.

User-friendly Web3 applications

Throughout the conversation of user-friendly Web3 applications, innovators have acknowledged the necessity of providing a secure infrastructure for users to transact and interact with Web3 applications.

Due to the benefits of digital assets, innovators are reshaping connections and offering their communities better access and influence. The discussion placed a strong emphasis on how the industry can provide users with easier and safer access.

  • For brands and creators, entering into this new space can be overwhelming, but at the same time, there is a chance of missing the opportunity to capitalize on the future of digital fan engagement.
  • A user-friendly Web3 interface enables a better user experience through innovative infrastructure in wallet technology, partnerships, and customer experience.
  • In the decentralized Web3 environment, user-facing apps are accessed through blockchain-based identity systems. Users of dApps may currently find it difficult to create an account and log in.
  • Upstream is known for keeping intricate blockchain technology behind user-friendly features with our next-generation trading app to make NFTs and digital securities accessible to the masses.
  • With in-app wallet creation, biometrics to unlock private keys and sign transactions, and familiar funding methods like PayPal, debit, and credit, along with USDC stablecoin; Upstream is ushering in the future of NFTs and securities trading.


There was significant chatter around metaverses and how companies are creating metaverse environments to collaborate and work on digital projects. Since the emergence of the play-to-earn gaming model, much has changed in the gaming world.

Gamers now have control over their in-game rewards and assets, including their characters. The discussion was centered on how these developments will compel traditional gamers to transition to blockchain in the coming years.

  • Those who believe the internet’s future is decentralized and built on blockchain are experimenting with NFTs to enable online ownership of digital assets and decentralized organizations aimed at bringing digital democracy to the digital environments we reside in.
  • NFTs will play a significant role in the Metaverse. Users will be able to interact with virtual worlds by collecting objects, earning prizes, buying property, and trading goods and services just like they can in the real world. It will all be traceable and verifiable on the blockchain, which is the main distinction.
  • The need for virtualized assets will expand as more individuals interact with the metaverse. Virtual accessories can be used to unlock physical products, allowing them to have access to exclusive drops that aren’t open to the general public.
  • Upstream is working on some incredible use cases for the metaverse, we even had a team meeting in Decentraland yesterday at the new Upstream location. Stay tuned for more on this!
Upstream Base in Decentraland


It was incredible to see Upstream’s core values echoed in the discussions about where the industry is headed. The conference was an excellent example of how an area that was previously dominated by ‘Big Tech’ has attracted significant interest and new participants that you wouldn’t necessarily see in the space.

We aim to continue at the forefront of blockchain technology. Upstream works with brands across sports, music, and entertainment offering a secure, safe entry point into Web3. Visit the Exchange tab on Upstream to explore!

Learn more at or reach the team at

About Upstream:

Upstream, a MERJ Exchange Market (, is a fully regulated global stock exchange for digital securities. Powered by Horizon’s proprietary matching engine technology, the exchange will enable investors to trade NFTs, shares in IPOs, crowdfunded companies, U.S. & Int’l. equities, and celebrity ventures directly from the app: Interested issuers can reach the team at

About MERJ:

MERJ Exchange (MERJ) operates Upstream as a fully regulated and licensed integrated securities exchange, clearing system and depository for digital and non-digital securities. MERJ is an affiliate of the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), recognized by HM Revenue and Customs UK, a full member of the Association of National Numbering Agencies (ANNA) and a Qualifying Foreign Exchange for OTC Markets in the US. MERJ is also a member of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative. Visit to learn more.

About Horizon:

Horizon is a fintech company that builds and powers global securities exchanges with an integrated suite of software for compliant issuance, management, and secondary trading of securities. Our in-house solutions combine Wall Street and Silicon Valley to power the next generation of securities offerings and trading in the U.S. and globally. Learn more at


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