Captainz, $MEME, and Ray Chan's Master Plan
We Dig Deep on Memeland's Success
👋 Gm, gm y’all and welcome to another edition of the Overpriced JPEGs newsletter and we’re so happy to have you joining us for this edition.
The NFT market is looking…better? The last week has seen some life come back to the space, floors are slightly up across the board and while we don’t entirely trust this ~not~ to be a scam pump, there are some stories worth tracking.
One of these continues to be Memeland. The slow burn of the project is something we’ve been watching for quite some time and we wanted to take this week as a chance to dig in even further on the extensive, rewarding and, at times, confusing project. There’s no doubt that Memeland has been one of the (very few) bright spots of 2023 and below we get into it! Enjoy!
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In the beginning… there was Ray.
To fully understand what has made Captainz so successful, we must first start to talk about Memeland’s founder, Ray Chan, and the approach he’s taken to NFTs. Unlike a lot of web2 founders who’ve come into the space, Ray (aka 9gagCEO) started his web3 journey as a full degen. He minted, traded, and vocally participated in various communities. He went on podcasts and spaces. And it wasn’t just dabbling… trades such as buying rarity rank 1 Cryptodickbutts for 30ETH & purchasing 5 ETH rares from an experimental project called WAGDIE. He was absolutely everywhere. Diving in this quickly very early on earned Ray respect from the most active participants in the space.
To get to know Ray better you can rewatch to our conversation with him earlier this year on Overpriced JPEGS…
Memeland’s first launch didn’t go so well.
The initial Memeland mint, MVPs, didn’t even mint out and Ray himself has said (see podcast above) that they misjudged the market in the beginning. While it wasn’t a flawless launch, they still sold 300 of the 420 initial MVPs at an price of 5.3 ETH. That sizable raise at a time when the future of NFTs was bleak inspired confidence in Memeland’s ability to produce a successful project. It also marked the beginning of the “slow burn” strategy, whether intentional or not.
All three of Memeland’s collections started off slowly and then grew in value over time, which, we don’t have to tell you, is extremely unusual in a world of pump & dumps. From this point forward, Ray made it his goal to obsess over rewarding his supporters and keeping them in the loop with a private MVP chat where he would share alpha & other information.
After the launch of MVP, Memeland pivoted from the traditional playbook for their next product. Typically projects release their crowned jewel 10,000 unit PFP collection and then go on to airdrop a less desirable PFP down the line. This has been the standard project playbook since Yuga dropped the Apes…into Mutants, Azuki…into Beanz, etc, etc. Memeland on the other hand, dropped their (relatively speaking) least valuable project, Potatoz, first as a means for driving attention and engagement to their more valuable collection, Captainz.
This sets us up for the three part Memeland playbook that we’ll be diving into below:
1. Controlling Speculation / Communication
2. Simple Gamification
3. Realistic Mass Market Strategy
Controlling Speculation / Communication
Instead of going the traditional route, Memeland launched a 10,000 unit utility based free mint called Potatoz. It was the heart of the Goblintown free meta era, and Ray smartly saw an opportunity to jump into the market and kickstart the next stage of his vision.
Making these NFTs free and obtainable by raffle was a genius way of adding tons of new eyes to their ecosystem. The main draw with the Potatoz collection was to earn Memelist and obtaining Memelist meant having a guaranteed mint to the Memeland Captainz collection. This working backwards approach to earn access to Captainz motivated those who were bullish on Captainz to then accumulate and hold large amounts of Potatoz. The price of Potatoz skyrocketed as there began to be a series of “next events” or catalysts to look forward to with Memeland.
In fact, that is a recurring theme of how Memeland has been so successful over this past year, there is always a looming event but never too many details announced in advance.
Whether we like it or not, the NFT space is speculation based and profit driven.
There has always been a “next step” looming whether it was Potatoz staking, Captainz mint, Treasure Mapz, $Meme, or any countless others. There has always been something to speculate upon when it comes to Memeland and what the next step to further the ecosystem will be.
The big question is always: How long can this last? It’s something we ask everyday when looking at promises or “roadmaps” of any ongoing projects. However, when you step back and think about it, nearly *all* companies, not just web3 ones, are stuck in this same loop - the “what’s next” conversation - and Memeland seems to understand this will just never end and is prepared for it to go on.
SIDEBAR: Other Examples Of The Catalyst Game
Of course, catalyst games are something that NFTs have played for quite some time. There are always projects looking to tease out what’s happening next, choosing different pathways to doing it.
Interestingly, part of this game is exactly *how much* you’re willing to say, how much hype and mystery vs letting people know exactly what they’re going to get.
Let’s look at a couple of examples from NFT history below and see how each worked depending upon how the catalyst game played out:
Leading up to their inaugural in person event in Los Angeles during late March 2022, there was buzz around an announcement. Popular theories ranged from an anime TV series all the way to being acquired by a clothing brand. Speculation was rampant and people were having fun tossing these theories around online. The hype hit a crescendo during the event itself as Zagabond (pre-revelations that he’d worked anonymously on rugged projects) declared “check your wallets” and all Azuki holders found they’d been airdropped two NFTs for free. These, of course, eventually became Beanz and the project actually went *up* in the weeks following.
A different example of a similar sort of cycle played out when the Proof team laid out an entire year’s worth of plans at once in a single event called Future Proof. The intentions of the team were to show that they’d clearly thought through their roadmap and wanted everyone to see how much was upcoming but unfortunately also tended to take a lot of the speculation and mystery out of the process. It’s incredibly counter-intuitive at times but it seems like the world really does value the idea of keeping things close to the vest and dripping out information over time.
Granted, these two instances happened at ~vastly~ different times in the NFT space and that could be a driver of success but…
Speculation is a necessity and controlling it is an art that Ray Chan & Memeland have mastered so far.