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Justin Bieber’s profile picture, inBetweeners NFT #6798 created by GianPiero
Celebrity brings high-performance PR juice in a simple name. And no name carries more youth-cultural weight than Justin Bieber.
NFTs provide value through their branding, community, culture, artistic expression, and – depending on who you talk to, most importantly – their technology. So, when fans noticed Justin Bieber attached himself to an NFT project, a collection of cartoon bears, its value skyrocketed.
We’re already living in the metaverse. Screen time is the default. All J. Bieber had to do to signal his investment was change his ‘profile picture’ – his public face in 2022 – to an inBetweener bear.
“If a hundred percent of Justin’s audience started trading NFTs that would multiply the amount of people in the world trading by 200 times. I think that’s the opportunity that we have in hand,” said Ogden, co-founder of the inBetweeners: the team behind the bears.
Ogden (whose real name is Reid Moncada) dropped out of college to build a laundry platform. The pandemic hit. The public audio chatroom Clubhouse rose alongside Twitter as the radicalizing hotbed for crypto technologies evangelists, and Ogden started to listen. There were dozens of stories of people coming away as millionaires from dropping NFTs and other Web3 projects.
He watched single tweets turned into NFTs sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of Ogden’s friends started the largest NFT project on Solana, a blockchain competitor of Ethereum and Blockchain. “I’ve made a hundred X my investment into them,” said Ogden.
No one can go it alone. From a friend of a friend Ogden met Berks. Berks started in the cryptocurrency space in 2013 but is an admitted latecomer to NFTs. He said it took time for their value to jive with his sensibilities. Web3 confusion is a broadly experienced feeling, even amongst the landed barons of the landscape.
Berks and Ogden started to dream. The goldrush was on, and the proverbial California was non-fungible tokens.
If the internet swaps infrastructure like we think it will over the next 20 odd something years, Berks asserted, we can own a chunk of the new world.
Ogden and Berks are pseudonyms, work nicknames, secret identities.
“We stayed anonymous at the time to not alert current investors and stakeholders in our other company know what we were working on, while also elevating Gianpiero’s face for the project,” they said.
Luck and circumstance are difficult to discern between. And another friend appeared. From an acquaintance of a colleague at an industry conference, Ogden’s name ended up in Gianpiero’s ear and Gianpiero’s landed in Ogden’s open hands.
His Drew House clothing brand has over 1.6 million followers on Instagram. Gianpiero is a pop artist with ties to Justin Bieber, Dolce and Gabbana, and many, many other high squares of the cultural quilt.
Gianpiero told Ogden he wanted to launch an entity collection, meaning he wanted to sell a collection of NFTs each with their own individual character design and personalities. They’re mascots of sorts – intellectual property with a relatable face up for public bid, of course. Bored Apes, the blue chip of blue chip NFT projects, are an entity collection.
Unexpected luck or circumstance struck again and again, as it – ironically and inevitably – often does. Bieber called Gianpiero, out of the blue as friends often do, to say he was interested in the NFT game. Gianpiero said plainly, “how convenient. I’ve got just the thing.”
Ogden was supposed to fly home to LA at the time, but once he got the news Justin B. wanted in, he skipped his flight, maxed out his credit card, flew to Italy, and emptied everything in his digital wallet to launch the initial contract and mint, expensive startup costs for NFT initiatives. He was expecting to be in Italy for a week for the drop. It tripled. He worked Christmas and his birthday.
“There were a million reasons why it shouldn’t have worked. We went from zero to 5,000 people in our Discord in the first three days. Then we had all this hype and anticipation ready for our launch,” said Ogden.
Building pressure is a marketer’s dream and a risk manager’s nightmare. Without a place for that pressure to go, it was in constant danger of pieing Ogden, Berks, and Gianpiero in their faces.
The initial mint was delayed. Justin’s announcement he is involved was delayed. And one command in an overlooked line of code cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“You live, and you learn,” said Ogden.
“So, the code was my mistake,” said Berks. “I had a ‘false’ where a ‘true’ should have been. The contract was already deployed to the Ethereum network which essentially wouldn’t allow us to reveal people’s bears. Everyone was stuck with the preset unrevealed image. We had to airdrop their NFTs at that point, and that was $300,000 out of our pockets. We never batted an eye at spending that money. They had joined with full faith in us, after all.”
Plenty of their community started calling their project a ‘rug.’ In a space as lawless as the early crypto industry, the ‘rug’ often gets pulled out from under potential investors – leaving people who generally see themselves as savvy capitalists with a sore bum and angry fingers hungry for a vent on Twitter.
The other side of the community coin is sweet. There’s plenty of inBetweener bears tattooed on thighs, forearms, and the occasional buttock. A bear is on a billboard in Milan. The inBetweeners invited bear holders to a Coachella after-party with enough of Kendall Jenner’s tequila to tranq a grizzly. Bieber, Jenner, Billie Ellish, Travis Scott, and Jaden Smith were in attendance. Depending on the price of Ethereum, the inBetweeners’ bears have so far seen somewhere between $20 million and $35 million in trading volume. Dolce and Gabbana and the inBetweeners launched a collaboration with a party at Tao Uptown in NYC at the end of June. Trey Songz performed. It’s a bear market.


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