A Surprising New Link Between Spotify, Facebook—And Coinbase

A couple weeks ago, it would’ve been hard to identify a great deal of common threading between Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook billionaire, Daniel Ek, the Spotify billionaire, and Brian Armstrong, the Coinbase billionaire.

More recently, a link between the three has become pretty apparent: none of them want an active role deciding what belongs on their sites. This won’t shock anyone familiar with the past five years for Zuckerberg, who has long insisted it shouldn’t be his company’s responsibility to referee what belongs on the web. But it’s not something we’ve thought a lot about in connection to Ek and Armstrong, who seem willing to withstand the same hellish conversation and debate around content moderation that has enveloped Facebook (and other social media companies) for much of the last decade.

Armstrong is the latest to wade into this thicket. Late Friday evening, he published a new blog post to Coinbase’s website, outlining a strategy for deciding what NFTs will trade on the exchange once it adds the tokens to its platform: In short, Coinbase will allow pretty much everything—as long as its not funding something illegal. “We believe that governments, not companies, should be deciding what is allowed in society,” he writes, sounding quite Zuckerbergian. The only thing that could get Coinbase to change its mind, Armstrong says, is pressure from a partner like Apple or Google. They might (very theoretically) threaten to remove Coinbase from their app stores if it doesn’t take down a controversial NFT. “Our approach is to be free speech supporters, but not free speech martyrs, and to make accommodations if it is essential for us to function as a business,” Armstrong writes (the bold emphasis his).

Until this, Armstrong hasn’t really needed to express any views on free speech or content moderation, issues not really applicable to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ether. NFTs are different, though, and the digital images, art and collectibles effectively combine crypto and content together. During the past boom year for NFTs, most of the criticism has revolved around the skyrocketing prices for these assets, which lack any underlying financial value. Those increasing prices have brought greater attention to the space, more NFTs being created. The ability to trade them on a more mainstream platform like Coinbase will only widen this further. And Armstrong is girding himself for a debate about whether Coinbase should allow, say, a right-wing group’s NFTs to trade on Coinbase. That’s a harder call to make than whether to pull down an obvious scam or fake, one redolent of the discussion that has risen over what Facebook should permit on its site.

Ek has adopted a similar stance. Like Coinbase, Spotify had largely avoided any content moderation controversies. But like Coinbase, its expansive attitude has pushed it to contend with one now. How’d that happen? Joe Rogan happened. Over the last few weeks, criticism for his remarks about covid and use of the N-Word have mounted, prompting calls for Spotify to cut ties with him. But he is a prize asset for the company, one reportedly costing it $100 million, the amount Spotify pays as his show’s exclusive distributor.

The exclusivity makes Rogan’s relationship with Spotify is different than the ones the app has had with most artists placing content on its platform, who are free to post it elsewhere, too. Plenty of people have argued the exclusivity makes Spotify Rogan’s publisher, and as a result, Spotify should act more like a traditional publisher would in dealing with Rogan.

Ek doesn’t buy this and maintains Spotify is a platform, which lets him argue that the company doesn’t control any of the people publishing on its site, including Rogan. Fundamentally, it’s the same argument Armstrong makes about Coinbase. As such, both men would argue it’s not their job to police speech on their apps. Whether that freedom of expression involves a podcast or an NFT.

What’s most striking about Ek and Armstrong’s willingness to take this stand on content moderation: doing so hasn’t gone particularly great for Zuckerberg.

Since the 2016 presidential election, Zuckerberg has sung the same tune that Ek and Armstrong have now picked up. Over those years, Facebook and Instagram have taken some steps to curb toxic content. Holocaust denialism, for example, is now banned, a change from a few years ago but only an incremental change—as most such moderation shifts have been at Facebook. Zuckerberg has mostly stuck to his beliefs, even as it has meant a recent plummet in stock price, declining growth at Facebook and jettisoning the Facebook brand last year to rebrand his company around plans for a new social network based around virtual reality, the metaverse.

No one is sure what the metaverse will look. But experts have been clear that the emergence of the new technology—and increased interest around it—will likely add to concerns around moderation rather than tamp them down. Not all too dissimilar to the circumstances now surrounding Ek and Armstrong.


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NFT Startup Unblocked Raises Seed Round At $90 Million Valuation From Tiger Global, Dapper Labs, Jay-Z

Harrison Wang has a theory: More people would buy non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, if this category of blockchain-based art and trading cards were called something else.

“I think when people think NFT’s, it’s just daunting for them,” he says. “So that’s why we’ve been calling them ‘digital collectibles.’ It’s also why we rebranded.” Yes, investor and early customer feedback informed him and his cofounders that the name for their The Non Fungible Token Company stunk. So they’ve changed it to, simply, Unblocked, a nod to the startup’s mission to remove some hurdles to purchasing NFTs.


Those investors recently showered Unblocked in real-life money: It has raised a $10 million seed round at a $90 million valuation, a high price tag for such an early round—even in crypto, where heady numbers abound. Tiger Global led the investment, which included the maker of NBA Top Shots, Dapper Labs; the singer Shawn Mendes; Jay-Z’s Marcy Ventures Partners; and Oaktree Capital Management.

What does Unblocked do exactly? It is, broadly speaking, a consultancy, which will build a big brand or a big celebrity a bespoke NFT platform. They’ve done a couple already, one for hip-hop group Cypress Group, another for Billboard. (Billboard’s parent company, Penske Media, contributed to the seed money, too.) Unblocked platforms are meant to be as simple and as visually appealing as possible. (Many existing ones are neither.) With this, Wang, who is CEO, is taking a page directly from Dapper’s playbook: Dapper’s release of a sleek and easily used marketplace for Top Shots—video trading cards of basketball players and highlights—ignited the early fervor for NFTs a year ago. They’re collectively now worth nearly a billion dollars.

On an Unblocked platform, a brand will be able to create and distribute NFTs, as well as establish a secondary marketplace for collectors to continue trading them, theoretically continuing to fuel interest for original sales as well as resales. In addition, the Unblocked apps will feature a directory and allow people to list their social media handles to sites like Twitter and Discord, hopefully sparking online communities around the NFTs, which would also help keeping the markets going. Everything is built on Flow, the blockchain launched by Dapper.


Unblocked’s decision to rename itself and to refer to NFTs by the less dorky sounding “digital collectibles” sits in a broader discussion happening around NFTs and what’s called Web 3, a movement in technology for more industries—beyond art and collectibles—to embrace the blockchain. These supporters would like to see widespread adoption happen quickly but continue to recounter resistance, much of it routed in the lingering complexity around completing even the most basic tasks, like buying and selling.

Some have suggested the route taken by Wang and Unblocked: change the marketing and conversation around the tech toward something more consumer friendly. It is not a route loudly advocated by crypto purists, so it is interesting to see Wang publicly trumpet it—and raise so much money based on the idea, a sign that investors see definite promising in such a rechristening.

Wang has some definite challenges ahead. The most obvious: Many NFT platforms and exchanges already exist, including industry leading OpenSea, which enjoys a considerable first-mover advantage. OpenSea and the others offer many thousands of NFTs, not just items from one brand.


Long-term success for a NFT platform selling only one brand largely revolves around the strength of that brand. It’s why Wang envisions producing them mostly for celebrities and other bold-faced names—folks famous enough to pull people away from the large marketplaces such as OpenSea. Wang has reached an informal deal with Dapper where Dapper has promised to pass over some non-sports business to Unblocked. (In the future, do not be surprised to see Dapper buy Unblocked or some additional corporate tie between the two.)

Celebrities certainly have embraced NFTs. Everyone from Quentin Tarrantino to Melania Trump have sold them over the last year. And it makes some sense for stars to want to own their distribution method, where they can ensure all of it—the website design, the resale marketplace, the actual NFTs—meets their standards.

The rush toward NFTs might seem, well, opportunistic at least. “This is not a cash grab,” promises Natalia Nataskin, chief content officer at Primary Wave Music. (The music publisher and talent agency is another investor in Unblocked.) “It’s much more about an extensive engagement building and super fans identifying their communities.” Leaving aside the marketing, there’s a more existential reason. “With the absence of touring for most of the last two years, NFTs and any other ways that fans and artists can engage with one another in the digital world has become really, really important.”



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McDonald’s Dumb Joke With Elon Musk About A Meme Coin Has Led To Possible Crypto Scams

Grimace, the purple blob character in McDonald’s advertising, is a complicated guy. When he first appeared in 1971, he played the villain, a stolen milkshake often clutched in each of his four—four!—arms. The company called him “Evil Grimace.” But as Grimace found, it’s hard to make crime pay forever. A decade or so later, McDonald’s rethought him rather significantly, reduced his arms by two, dropped the epithet from his name and turned him into Ronald McDonald’s dopey sidekick.

Unfortunately for Grimace, his legacy has grown even more complex after a weird swirl of events Tuesday. Over the past day, more than a half-dozen meme coins using Grimace’s name and image have been minted and subsequently shilled widely on social media, mostly on Twitter and Discord. Despite the broader price plummet among established cryptocurrencies, the Grimace coins attracted nearly a million dollars in collective market value within hours. Like most meme coins, the Grimace coin creators are anonymous. And like all meme coins, they lack any intrinsic value, and their owners have limited protections. In the past, meme coins have been the source of scams. (Remember the recent Squid Coin swindle?) Grimace’s accidental rise to crypto front man registers as the latest cautionary chapter in the on-going tragicomedy surrounding cryptocurrency, a technology with real promise, mostly as a better digital record-keeping system, but one that’s also a popular instrument for criminals, which ends up making everything crypto seem shady by association. 

Trading things like the Grimaces amounts to people “gambling with each other,” says Billy Markus, the software engineer who created the very first meme coin, DogeCoin, in 2013. In the casino Markus describes, “most lose, some win,” he says, “and the game is usually rigged.”

To back up some, this all started Tuesday morning when Elon Musk tweeted at Grimace’s corporate parent, offering to eat a Happy Meal on live television if McDonald’s started accepting DogeCoin. (OK, let’s back up even more: Musk is a longtime supporter of DogeCoin. He mentioned it during his Saturday Night Live appearance last May and has continued to publicly tout the cryptocurrency on Twitter—even as it sank nearly 80% from its record high last spring.)

Musk’s offer to McDonald’s may seem out of the blue. It really shouldn’t. He loves to stir the internet’s pot, to provoke conversation around things he supposedly likes and many other people don’t. The other thing is, it wouldn’t be crazy for McDonald’s to take him up on it and capitalize on a viral marketing moment that cost nothing. An ever-growing list of big-banner businesses — Microsoft, PayPal, Starbucks, AT&T, Overstock.com, Twitch, Twitter, Crate and Barrel, Nordstrom and on and on — accept some form of cryptocurrency payment. Why not McDonald’s, too, especially if it could get a TV spot with the world’s richest person out of it?

McDonald’s decided to neither accept Musk’s proposal nor tell him to shove it. What it did was worse. On Tuesday evening, it tweeted this at Musk:

Clearly, this was a joke, though one not at all matching the energy of Musk’s original. The fast-food giant has no intention to start its own cryptocurrency. But the company just as clearly didn’t fully think through what might happen next. Even though the outcome was apparent to plenty of other people:

Shortly after the McDonald’s tweet to Musk, some crypto enthusiasts decided to take advantage of the corporation’s lame comeback and possibly get rich in the process. They made real Grimace meme coins, established on the Ethereum and Binance Smart Contract blockchains and traded on crypto exchanges like QuickSwap and PancakeSwap, popular places for the newest, riskiest issues that might not make it onto the mainstream places such as CoinBase.

A bunch of people had the same idea at once, so there are many different Grimace meme coins available right now. One of the bigger ones already has a market value of nearly $300,000; it has its own Discord group, where the coin’s putative creator has anonymously styled himself as BigDGrimace and set an image of Grimace dressed like a pimp as his profile picture. (Unfortunately, BigDGrimace declined to comment for this story.) To keep things going, he has implored his followers on Discord and Twitter to further market the coin. “Want to help keep the pump going strong?” BigDGrimace asks in a note to his investors posted on Discord, referring to the coin’s increasing price. “Keep searching ‘grimacecoin’ on twitter search, and spread the good gospel of Grimacecoin to those who have yet to experience salvation.”

Since it’s quite literally Day 1, it’s impossible to know what happens with the Grimace coins. Maybe their founders operated with the purest of intentions, content to create the latest internet collectible and nothing more. But … cryptocurrencies with anonymous oversight, overnight investor interest and zero fundamental financial value are perfect tools for crooks, an opportunity for someone to start a cryptocurrency, then unexpectedly end the project and somehow make off with the invested funds. In the crypto world, such a scam is so commonplace it has a name: “rug pull.” Chainanalysis, a startup that monitors cryptocurrency trading, counted nearly 25 such incidents last year, up from around 10 a year before. Rug pullers absconded with nearly $3 billion in 2021, almost triple the 2020 haul.

The rug pull we all probably know best involved the aforementioned Squid Coin. It debuted shortly after Netflix’s Squid Game series and rapidly went from less than $1 per a coin to as much as $2,860. Within weeks, the Squid Coin creator abruptly shut down the cryptocurrency and walked away with $3.3 million.

Many investors in the Squid and Grimace coins “believe that if they can get in early enough, they can win the pump-and-dump game and dump before someone else does,” says Markus, the DogeCoin creator. He draws a number of distinctions between DogeCoin and these meme coins used for no good. The most obvious: Unlike the people behind those coins, DogeCoin wasn’t invented to steal anyone’s money. Markus just wanted to have some fun online. He didn’t get rich. Two years after starting DogeCoin, he sold off his portion of the cryptocurrency and purchased a used Honda Civic.

The real takeaway from the Grimace coins is that not everyone can or should treat the web as lightly as Markus, who was just a random dude before creating his meme coin, not a $190 billion multi-national hamburger maker with 4.4 million Twitter followers. 

What started as McDonald’s misguided attempt to poke back at Musk has led to an enormous opportunity for fraud with thousands of investors piling into financial assets that didn’t exist 20 hours ago. It’s an outcome companies like McDonald’s should probably mull over before romping around CryptoLand, a place without many rules—except that, there, wealth truly does materialize from thin air and bumbling old-fashioned institutions like McDonald’s and Grimace deserve to have the milkshakes knocked out of their hands.


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Twitter Rolls Out NFT Profile Pictures—Fueling A New Rat Race With Facebook

Is that a real Crypto Punk—or is someone, well, punking people?

Twitter hopes to provide the answer as it continues to enjoy a wellspring of interest on its platform around NFTs like Crypto Punks and other digital collectibles and cryptocurrencies. The social media company today debuted a feature that will verify a Twitter user’s ownership of a specific NFTs. The function allows someone to link their Ether wallet to their Twitter account. Once done, that person can display their NFTs as their Twitter profile pictures within a hexagonal frame, that hexagon serving the same function as an authentication sign post as Twitter’s blue check marks. (Without some sort of verification tool, a dozen people could use the same NFT in their profile pictures without anyone knowing who really owned it—such is the drawback to digital art.) For now these verified NFTs are available only to iPhone users who pay for Twitter’s premium subscription service, Twitter Blue.

It is a small but significant move for Twitter, which has sought to capitalize on founder Jack Dorsey’s interest in cryptocurrency and make its site a hotbed for discussion around crypto, increasingly one of the internet’s favorite topics. These NFT profile pictures are the first publicly unveiled project since Twitter formed a specific unit within the company—Twitter Crypto—designed to think about incorporating blockchain tech into the business. A few months earlier, Twitter announced it would allow bitcoin in its Tips function, where users can send money to a creator on the site.

The launch by Twitter comes at a conspicuous moment: The Financial Times today reported on Meta’s own plans for NFTs, amibitions that same distinctly like Twitter’s. In addition to allowing users to display NFTs, Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, is also reportedly looking to establish its own marketplace and mechanism for creating NFTs, which would place it in competition with a slew of existing NFT startups, most prominently OpenSea.

With this, Meta would like you think that its sheer size—around 3 billion users on Facebook and Instagram—will give it a leg up in this competition. If you buy that thinking unskeptically, there’s some virutal swampland I’d like to sell you, too: Facebook has a long track record of trying to innovate through straight up copy-catting, a tactic that has failed nearly every time it has tried.


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Crypto Investors Wanted To Buy The Constitution. Instead, They Birthed Another Hyped-Up Meme Coin

What started a couple weeks ago as a novel, if slap-dash, crypto experiment has devolved into what’s altogether more common in that world: leqal questions—and speculative trading.

In a five-day stretch earlier in mid-November, an internet collective called Constitution DAO crowfunded close to $47 million in Ether, a popular cryptocurrency, through a campaign carried out over social media. The group quickly became the most prominient example of a so-called decentralized autonomous organization, which is essentially a co-op that governs itself using votes tallied through blockchain technology. Someone wishing to join a DAO pays for a token; the more tokens you own, the more votes you get. In the case of Constitution DAO, $4,000 in Ether purchased 1 million tokens.

The group’s leaders intended to use the money to buy a rare copy of the U.S. Constutition at a Sotheby’s auction on Nov. 18, then turn it over to a formal non-profit run by the DAO’s donors. Fueling their push was an enjoyable enough historical parallel, a group of ordinary people coming together to upend a traditionalist institution.

But the collective didn’t prevail at auction—the document instead went to billionaire Ken Griffin—leaving Constitution DAO wondering what to do next. That’s when things went topsy-turvy. At first, the DAO’s leaders considered keeping the group together and going after some other item. Within a few days, they changed their minds, returning to the original plan if they walked away empty handed from the sale: refund everyone’s money. But giving it back was complicated. Due to the fees involved with converting cryptocurrency to dollars and vice versa, the DAO’s sponsors who contributed a small amount likely walked away with zilch, their capital eaten up in those fees. This was undoubtedly the situation for many: The average contribution was $206.26, the group said.

DAOs represent the newest thing to emerge out of cryptoland, a place already famously beset by murky legal obligations. In 2017, the SEC investigated an earlier DAO and decided it did have jurisdication over it, concluding the group had offered what amounted to securities. But it’s unclear whether Constitution DAO’s leaders sold securities, and they certainly would argue they did not, since the DAO as a non-profit entity rather than one designed to increase in value. (More complicatedly, they have also insisted the purchased tokens represented merely an ability to govern the group, not fractional ownership. By contrast, the DAO investigated by the SEC made no such claims. It did offer fractional ownership of a what amounted to an crowdsourced investment fund. )

Any unhappy donors who wanted to sue the DAO would likely need “creative lawyering,” says Stephen Palley, a Washington, D.C. technology attorney. What about government action? It is not even clear which regulatory agency this would fall to. Maybe the SEC, maybe the IRS, which looks over non-profits. “I don’t know where this would be on any regulator’s radar screen or list of proritites,” says Palley, who partly specializes in advising fintech and crypto companies. “Then again, it did get a lot of media attention.”


Regardless of the DAO organizers’ intentions, a portion of the token holders are certainly treating them like securities. An enormous secondary market has bubbled up with roughly $100 million in daily trading volume over the last week. Their price has risen as much as 3,700% in the past week, though it has sank in recent days. On Tuesday, they fetched a price correspending to only a 1,400% rise. The tokens’ price on the exchanges is entirely disconnected from their fundamental value, which hasn’t changed from the 1 Ether to 1 million tokens offered by the DAO.

Cryptocurrency at its core seeks to stick it to conventional authority. Constitution DAO certainly sought the same and, nobly, tried to avoid another defining characertistic of the space, the purely speculative frenzy that have turned things like Dogecoin into assets with hundreds of millions of dollars in market value. (As it stands, the Constitution DAO tokens are collectively worth about a half billion.) But Constitution DAO’s inability to escape the same conjectural fate is an uncomfortable comment about the difficulty in navigating cryptocurrency, which remains a financial frontier land.

“The Constitution DAO token is being turned into the latest meme, this living, breathing thing onto itself,” says Yossi Hosson, cofounder and CEO of Metaversal. Hosson’s firm collects and invests in blockchain companies and cryptoassets, primarily the digtial collectibles known as NFTs, and put $1 million into Constitution DAO. He has taken a refund, receiving almost all of the money back, a few hundred of dollars in fees insequential to a seven-figure sum. “That’s the beauty of this technology. It’s messy, it can appear chaotic. But those are features, not bugs.”

“Maybe a new leadership team can emerge, who are holders of the token and say, ‘Let’s reinvigorate this community and fund this next mission,’” Hosson says. “Though I don’t know what that mission should be or who those people would be.”


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Crypto Investors Lose Out In $41 Million Sale Of Rare Copy Of U.S. Constitution

A rare copy of the U.S. Constitution sold for $41 million at Sotheby’s Thursday. The winner remains unknown, though the internet collective called Constitution DAO, which mounted an upstart bid for the doucment and publicly touted its interest, has confirmed it wasn’t the buyer.

Constitution DAO crowdfunded its bid, attracting thousands of individual donors who contributed in Ether, a popular cryptocurrency. The group’s organizers first met a week ago and began soliciting donations on Sunday, ochestrating a word-of-mouth campaign through Twitter and other social media. (Most of Constitutional DAO’s original organizers have revealed themselves—largely a group of young people working in technology and crypto—but the majority of its membership remains anonymous.) It set a goal of $20 million, the high end of what Sotheby’s estimated the document selling for. By Tuesday, it had raised $5 million. A day later, over $40 million.

“I definitely thought we would reach $20 million, but I didn’t expect the rapid acceleration,” says Yossi Hasson, CEO of Metaversal, a New York-based crypto investment firm that put $1 million into Constitution DAO. “These crypto networks enable global coordination of people so quickly. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.”

The copy of the Constitution sold on Thursday is one of 13 remaining from a printing made for the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It is one of only two privately owned copies. Constitution DAO had planned to create a 501(c)(3) foundation to take custody of the Constitution and then find a museum or another public home for the artifact. Constitution DAO has said it would return the money if it lost.


The Constitution’s previous owner, Dorothy Goldman, plans to donate the proceeds from the sale to her foundation, which supports constitutional law study. She should be pleased by Thursday’s sale: It represents a 24,700% return on the $165,000 her husband, real estate developer S. Howard Goldman, paid for the Constitution in 1988.

The would-be buyer, Constitution DAO, is a so-called Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO, an organization that records its membership using blockchain ledger technology and lets those members vote on how the DAO should operate. There are no boardrooms or club lounges involved: DAOs are organized and promoted through chat apps like Discord and social media platforms like Twitter. And they’re an obvious pairing with cryptocurrencies, since both focus on upending traditional centers of power.

DAOs are an new-age experiment in governance, and the chance to buy an artifact connected to the start of the most significant governance experiment in the last 300 years appealed to Constitution DAO’s base.

“What we’re seeing here is people using a DAO to communicate an emotional connection with their country’s history. How cool is that?” says Robbie Heeger, CEO of Endaoment, an advisory firm for crypto investors. Endaoment helped the DAO understand and carry out the small-print details of the Sotheby’s sale, including the fact that it had to pay in U.S. dollars, not Ether. “‘DAO’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ can really seem like foreign terms. We’re demystifying them with this through an approachable lens: buying a rare document.”

DAO enthusiasts hope they’ll grow in popularity over the next few years—just as cryptocurrencies did during the mid to late 2010s. By design, their co-op nature can make a DAO resemble a disorganized group-text-message thread, and some of the earliest ones suffered mishaps, including a high-profile hack in 2016.

More recently, another such group, PleasrDAO, bought a different high-profile item: the one-of-a-kind digital Wu Tang album originally purchased by disgraced pharmaceutical financier Martin Shkreli. PleasrDAO acquired it for $4 million last month.


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Dogecoin, Elon Musk—And The Latest Reddit Mania

Jed Rawson has reached an unescapable conclusion. “I’m pretty sure it’s the greatest accumulation of wealth in my family going back 500 years in my family tree,” Rawson, 38, declares. “My dad was a teacher, I’m one of seven kids. And if you do go back 500 years, it’s all sock-knitters and coal miners in England.” He says this with one eye on the climbing price of Dogecoin—nearing a total market cap of around $50 billion, up more than sixfold in two weeks—and the other on R/Dogecoin, the Reddit community devoted to this latest fad in cryptocurrency.

Rawson has become a star on R/Dogecoin, where he has posted daily screenshots of his Robinhood brokerage account. On Monday, it totaled well over $700,000, some 1.7 million Dogecoins. “One guy on Reddit today called me the DFV of Dogecoin,” he says proudly. He’s alluding, elliptically, to the Redditor known as Deep F—king Value, or DFV, who helped spark the months-long run on GameStop shares. “I’ve been riding this wave, and it’s been pretty wild,” says Rawson, who runs his own e-commerce consultancy in San Diego during his spare time away from Dogecoin.

Wild may be something of an understatement. Dogecoin is today the sixth most valuable cryptocurrency, an all-time high for what was originally conceived eight years ago as a meta joke about monetary value and the internet, its mascot a Shiba Inu, an oft-memed dog breed. The token’s price has increased from about 6 cents two weeks ago to over 40 cents, and its low price per coin has surely contributed its rise, allowing investors who might be unable to afford more expensive cryptos such as Bitcoin or Ether to buy up Dogecoins. Purchasing Dogecoins is a bet they could become a permanently viable currency—and an unquestionable gamble given the frequent fluctuations in value across crypto, including industry-leading Bitcoin.

As more people wager on Dogecoin, R/Dogecoin is experiencing a spike in popularity, too, with the Reddit forum emerging as the latest virtual epicenter of a financial mania. It now has over 1.5 million members, a 25% increase in about a week, and bears an increasingly close resemblance to R/WallStreetBets, the group on Reddit that played such an active role in the GameStop mania in late January.

Back then, it was hard to know precisely how much GameStop trading came from R/WallStreetBets. And it’s pretty much impossible to pinpoint exactly which Dogecoin trades originate from R/Dogecoin, since these are mostly anonymous social media users buying and selling digital tokens designed to obscure their holders’ identities.

Nonetheless the Reddit communities and the assets seem to have interlinked relationships—self-inforcing feedback loops. As Dogecoin prices keep going up, it sparks greater conversation and interest on the Reddit forum, driving more investment in the crypto…which then helps push up prices further, repeating the cycle.

“That’s gotta be happening—at least to some extent,” says Tanner Sims, a 22-year-old R/Dogecoin member. “That’s where a lot of people are finding out about Dogecoin, and it’s kind of where everyone is in it together.”

Like many on R/Dogecoin, Sims is a relative newcomer to the group, which has existed as long as the currency it revolves around. He found it back in July while doing some research on potential crypto investments—Sims helps manages his family’s hotel near Big Sur, California, and plans to return to school and study finance at Texas Tech come fall.

To start last summer, “I had $20 to spare,” he says, “so I threw it in,” buying up around 500 Dogecoins. “I started looking more at Reddit and what people were thinking. Then just throughout the past few months, I’ve been putting a lot of my paycheck toward it.” And like many on R/Dogecoin, he had an unshakeable belief. “I knew it was gonna go up at some point.”

Sims and the rest of R/Dogecoin have spent a great deal of time thinking about and discussing Elon Musk. The world’s second-richest person has tweeted positively about Dogecoin nearly a dozen times in the last four months and voiced support for it while speaking on the new audio-chat app Clubhouse: “Dogecoin was made as a joke to make fun of cryptocurrencies, but fate loves irony. The most ironic outcome would be that Dogecoin becomes the currency of Earth in the future.” R/Dogecoin has come to see Musk’s interest as the highest form of validation possible. “The backing from Elon Musk has been a huge thing,” says Sim, whose Dogecoin stake rests around $16,000. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”

When not talking about Musk, the Reddit community has, unsurprisingly, tended to obsess over the latest price increase and guesses about where the coin could top out. Its recent level of 42 cents drew a thundering round of applause on the message board, partly because someone drew a reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a sci-fi series where 42 is said to be the answer to everything in the universe. And partly because the Redditors had already declared April 20—or 4-20—as Doge Day, an attempt to co-opt the long-standing subversive holiday dedicated to marijuana culture and weed, which, like cryptocurrency, has spent many years being frowned upon by mainstream culture.

One of the most popular posts of the past month garnered 23,300 “upvotes,” the Reddit equivalent of Facebook likes, thanks to a personal short story and an accompanying GIF meme. They were the handiwork of Toben Blalock, 48, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who six years ago used a different Reddit forum to swap his Xbox for 1.15 million Dogecoins and currently has close to $200,000 worth of the tokens after actively trading them since 2015. His told this tale in the post and included a bit of self-deprecating humor: an animated video clip of a dog in an astronaut’s suit floating around a space station, the words “I have no idea what I’m doing” below the weightless canine.

These days Blalock worries too many on R/Dogecoin truly have no idea what they’re doing as they pile into crypto with digitally driven euphoria. “Those coins are a great thing to kind of play around with it,” he says. “But a lot of people are investing their life savings. And I think that’s a terrible idea right now.”


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Ja Rule Enters NFT Mania…Selling A Painting Of Fyre Festival Mania

Compounding to the absurdity of the white-hot NFT market, rapper Ja Rule is auctioning off artwork he commissioned as a cofounder of the misbegotten Fyre Festival.

The 48-inch-by-60-inch, oil-paint portrait of the fest’s corporate logo has hung in his New Jersey mansion since the company’s Manhattan headquarters closed several years ago. “I just wanted that energy out,” says Ja Rule, considering the bad juju he feels the picture has been throwing off inside his home.

It’ll be sold on a new NFT exchange, FlipKart, focusing on selling NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, that are part digital, part physical objects. Most NFTs are purely digital—often virtual artwork and its accompanying blockchain ownership record. But many of the ones sold on FlipKart, including Ja Rule’s, will feature a digital ledger entry for a real-life item. Bidding for his Fyre Festival portrait begins Tuesday at noon with a reserve price set at $600,000, meaning, it won’t trade hands for anything less than that. (Among the item notes for this auction lot, Ja Rule writes: “F—k this painting.”) Upon request, he will autograph it, too.

In exchange for selling the Fyre Festival picture on this new platform, Ja Rule is now a part owner of Flipkart and, officially, its head of artists and repertoire, a term borrowed from the music industry where a record label’s A&R department scouts for talent. For FlipKart, Ja Rule will probably try to convince his celebrity friends to sell their own NFTs. Like much of the rest of the world, “I heard about NFTs [first] maybe like, a couple of weeks ago,” admits Ja Rule. “I wasn’t too educated on them, and I’m still learning a lot about it….I think people got a little bit tired of the regular stocks-and-bonds way of investing.”

The portrait’s sale amounts to something like a meta comment on manias. When the Fyre Festival started its initial marketing, it attracted a frenzy of eager attendees, lured by the promise of a Caribbean bacchanal with luxury accommodations and top-notch musical performances. Through a wild cycle of hype and mismanagement, it turned out to be nothing so extravagant. In fact, the whole thing was enough of a disaster to land one of its cofounders, Billy McFarland, in prison, sentenced to six years in 2018 over a $26 million fraud. Ja Rule, who helped promote the festival on his social media, walked away from the experience unscathed—cleared by a judge in 2019 of any legal wrongdoing.


When they first began planning the carnival, Ja Rule commissioned an artist he found off Instagram to commemorate the occasion, paying the aptly named @Tripp_Art, a.k.a. South Carolina-based Tripp Derick Barnes, around $2,000 to splash rainbow paint across the festival’s logo. Before a friend suggested turning it into an NFT, he considered simply listing it on eBay.

With undiminished brio, Ja Rule now hopes to rid himself of the ill-fated emblem of a previous mania in the latest mania. NFTs have exploded in popularity in 2021, accounting for $209 million in transactions, more than 50% of all the volume in the category’s four-year history. Where the Fyre Festival once sold $100,000 ticket packages, there are now CryptoKitties—feline cartoons sold via the Ethereum blockchain—fetching the same price. The market hit a new height last week, when an anonymously run investment fund in Singapore paid $69.3 million for a massive JPEG at a Christie’s auction; the sale of Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” was the most ever paid for a NFT and the third most ever paid for a living artist’s work.

For his part, Ja Rule is, somewhat at least, in on the joke. “It really feels like the new Roaring ’20s,” he says, booming out a laugh. “You know, for me, it’s like, ‘Out with the old,’ you know?”

Right. And then in with the new.


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Beeple NFT Sells For $69.3 Million, Becoming Most-Expensive Ever

A piece of digital art sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s Thursday morning, a record amount money paid for a new but booming category of art called nonfungible tokens or NFTs.

“Everyday: The First 5,000 Days” by Beeple, a 41-year-old illustrator in Minnesota, was a collage of 5,000 images the artist made over as many days. Its eight-figure sale represents the latest height in a mounting frenzy for NFTs, a type of digital media built on the blockchain that has catapulted to mainstream attention—and demand—over the past two months.

With 30 minutes to go in the Christie’s auction, “5,000 Days” hadn’t topped $15 million, but a flurry of last-minute bids sent its price skyrocketed. The $69.3 million price tag put on the piece is far more than market participants thought it could fetch even amid the surging interest in NFTs. It also vastly outstrips the previous record for a Beeple work: the $6.6 million paid last week for a 10-second video.


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Beeple NFT At Christie’s Could Fetch As Much As $20 Million In Record Sale

A digital collage by the artist Beeple will fetch a record amount at a Christie’s auction concluding Thursday morning, further heightening attention around an emerging type of virtual art called non-fungible tokens or NFTs.

“5,000 Days” has vaulted from a starting minimum bid of $100 on Feb. 25 in the online sale to $13.25 million on Wednesday afternoon—with 18 hours still to go. Even if sold at its present price, the picture would be the most-expensive NFT ever sold, beating out the $6.6 million paid last week for another Beeple work, a 10-second video.

Where will bidding end? Christie’s didn’t offer an estimated price range for “5,000 Days,” an unusual decision that has contributed to speculation about what the NFT might finally go for. (Beeple requested the auction leave out the customary estimate, eager to let the market run its course undisturbed.) It’s possible it could fetch as much as $20 million and perhaps higher, according to three active participants in the nascent market for NFTs. For perspective, such a price tag would place Beeple alongside names like Picasso, Rembrandt, Rothko and Van Gogh, all of whom have had work sell at similar levels.

“NFTs, I think, really could be an alternate asset class, one that speaks to a younger generation, who maybe does not want to invest in stocks,” says Beeple. “Maybe they would rather invest in digital collectibles and things like that—things that speak more to their culture and how they sort of interact with the world.”

NFTs are various types of digital media, including artwork like Beeple’s, that trade hands over several different internet marketplaces with the ownership records entered onto the blockchain. The tokens are only a few years old, and they didn’t catch mainstream attention until the past two months attention, driven in large part by the NBA’s Top Shot site and its NFT-based trading cards and by a surge of celebrities selling their own tokens. And, of course, by Beeple’s work going under the hammer at Christie’s, the venerable auction house adding an additional sense of legitimacy to the new genre.


“What he’s done for the space is an incredible achievement. He’s brought a lot of eyes to the whole industry,” says Danny Maegarrd, a longtime, Australia-based collector of NFTs. “We’re seeing an influx of new people”—both buyers and sellers—“and I’ve been speaking with a number of big name people getting into the space because of Beeple.”

“5,000 Days,” an enormous image measuring 21,069-pixels wide and 21,069-pixels long, is aptly named. It is a collection of 5,000 pictures Beeple drew using computer software over nearly 14 years, many of them completed in a sometimes-disturbing technoir, one that takes an obviously dismal attitude toward capitalism, technology and authority. In one image, teens swig Ocean Spray and skateboard around a skyscraper-size bottle of the cranberry juice, a reference to a viral TikTok video last year. In another, former vice president Mike Pence sits atop a burning White House surrounded by a swarm of giant flies.

“There a lot of people coming into the NFT space quickly. It’s definitely crazy,” Beeple says. “It’s really cool to see its huge potential. I really look at it as something that’s kind of a blank canvas.”


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