The Agent of Innovation: How Akbar Hamid Is Embracing The New World Of Crypto Communications

In 2015, Akbar Hamid founded the creative consultancy 5th Column. Today, Hamid has evolved the company with offices spanning over three cities—New York, Los Angeles, and Miami—and in 2020, he launched a new cryptocurrency division. Hamid stands at the helm of innovation as 5th Column is one of the only communications firms rooted in a consumer practice, leading the conversation in cryptocurrency, NFT, metaverse thought leadership and transformation.

Akbar HamidPhoto Credit: Gregory Alders

Haute Living sat down with Hamid to hear more about how he got involved in the industry, how he uniquely works with brands in the space and what’s next. 

HAUTE LIVING: How did you first get involved in the industry? 
AKBAR HAMID: We were introduced to a cryptocurrency investment firm, Magnetic, about two-and-a-half years ago, when we were entirely a consumer and luxury brand-focused practice. It was eye-opening to learn from our clients plugged into the space investing in emerging markets and technologies. When we understood the use case for NFTs, metaverse and cryptocurrency assets, we were blown away. I could not believe that brands had not already harnessed the power of the blockchain. Our consumer and luxury brand-focused brains went on overdrive, and we were able to very clearly see the immense gap and opportunity between consumer brands and cryptocurrency projects and technologies. This is where we found our foothold in bridging the gap between consumer and crypto. We are proudly minority-owned and majority women-led with a diverse team across the country. We are a creative communications consultancy that helps brands transform for the future. Companies seek us out when they need to lead the business and cultural conversation.

HL: How exactly do you work with brands?  
AH: We are the leading communications agency for cryptocurrency, metaverse, NFTs and consumer brands across all categories. Seeing an early burgeoning trend and opportunity, The 5th Column set up a cryptocurrency, NFT, metaverse and blockchain practice—5CRYTPO —to help facilitate B2B thought leadership and partnerships, press, B2C education, and integration of consumer brands into the world of crypto. The team works with brands across music, gaming, collectibles, fashion, sports, lifestyle and technology in many aspects of crypto and NFT collection drops, expanding into the metaverse, partnerships, and collaborations.

5CRYPTO is helping brands bridge the gap between consumer and crypto and leads the conversation in an emergent crypto-culture, bridging crypto into the mainstream, disseminating the message and educating leaders on how to tap into the movement. We are agents of innovation.

HL: For brands entering the space, what is the biggest missing link you see and what tools do you provide to bridge the gap? 
AH: There is an immense lack of understanding and education in this space. The crypto, NFT and the tech community are great at communicating with one another as they innovate and create incredible tools for consumers and brands. Still, there is a big gap in educating brands and consumers on harnessing the technology and incorporating it into their strategies going forward. 5CRYPTO is filling that gap. We are the vehicle for the industry and consult with brands and crypto platforms globally to help translate the technology and product to consumer-facing narratives. It is important to start slow and educate your audience so they don’t feel alienated. Integrate into the ecosystem with a wallet to build a sense of security and comfort or start with small limited edition NFT drops that unlock unique experiences or actual physical goods. Many brands are sitting on intellectual property goldmines and have so many assets they can already work with—but don’t know how to tap into the NFT space. We should not be jumping to creating NFTs just to ride the wave; it is important to have a long-term vision and keep community engagement top of mind.  

HL: What is the biggest misconception you see in the industry?
AH: Currently, I feel the biggest misconception is not understanding that we have barely scratched the surface of this technology. Many of the ideas and concepts we hear about are at the very infant stages of development. We must realize that we are at the beginning of a renaissance and have another 5 to 10 years before we are fully immersed in both physical and digital worlds. We still have to solve for things like interoperability between metaverses and blockchains so that our NFTs and Avatars can operate and transfer easily between the different worlds. We are a ways away from that. While there is so much innovation taking place, it is still at an early stage, and this is such an exhilarating moment to think about where we might be in a decade—the opportunities are endless!

HL: The industry is shifting at a rapid pace. Where do you see the industry evolving? 
AH: We already saw with Art Basel a complete mix of NFTs/crypto into the art world. For us, this was a signal that going forward, cultural events will have NFTs/crypto ingrained into their framework. It was incredible to see that in Miami—this whole shift in thinking and the fact that now this has become part of a significant cultural moment around the world. At 5Crypto, we are lucky to have a lot of incredible clients that are leading the conversation. This gives us an edge in that we are always plugged into the latest innovation and can go to brands and consumers with these ideas. We keep our finger on the pulse by having a solid understanding of the foundations of this industry. My team and I have signed up to take courses; one of them is the MIT Blockchain Technologies: Business Innovation and Application.

HL: What are your goals for this year? 
AH: Our goal going into 2022 is mainly to have a strong education platform for consumer brands to really explain to our clients how they can integrate the technology into their marketing practices and their consumer offerings. We’d love to have an office in the metaverse as one of our new locations within the next five years. We would love to be working with many more clients across their metaverse/NFTs projects.