I’m working on a chapter on Bored Ape Yacht Club for the NFT book that David Gerard and I are painfully slogging away on. It’s like dredging through a swamp full of stupid.
Anyway, I’ve come across a series of unanswered questions that I need help answering. If you know anything, my DMs are open. I will update this document accordingly if I come up with more unanswered questions — which I’m sure I will.
Why do we know so little about Yuga Labs’ founders?
How is it these two have made it into their 30s with almost no Web presence? It just doesn’t make sense — unless, they never held down real jobs before.
Most of what we do know about them comes from an interview they did with Rolling Stone, in an article published on November 1. This three months before Buzzfeed revealed their real names. (They weren’t doxxed; their names were clearly listed on public business records.)
Both grew up in Miami. They claim they met in a dive bar in their 20s and bonded over a heated discussion on David Foster Wallace. Apparently, they are somewhat literary, so this is likely true.
While he was living in Chicago for a stint, Aronow was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s “Readers of the Week” in November 2014.
Solano has some poetry reviews on ZYZZYVA, circa 2013 and 2014, but that’s all I can find on the two in terms of their literary obsessions.
In the Rolling Stone interview, Aronow refers to his “gambling problem days,” and says he was a high-school dropout. He admits he never had a real job.
On the other hand, Solano claims he did go to college and grad school. He previously worked as a writer and editor. His roommate from college was mining bitcoin in 2010, he said.
Aronow and Solano became crypto traders during the crypto bubble/ICO period of 2017.
If Solano went to college, where did he earn his degree? Where did he go to grad school? Inquiring minds want to know.
Were the pair involved in any earlier crypto projects, like maybe a token offering? If so, did they use other pseudonyms?
What about Yuga Labs’ other two founders?
The two software engineers “doxxed” themselves in early February right after the Buzzfeed story came out on Aronow and Solano. They revealed their first names — Zeshan and Kerem — but not their surnames.
Their full names are Zeshan Ali and Karem Atalay, as listed on Form D filed with the Security and Exchange Commission on March 22.
Form D is a notice of an exempt offering of securities. These filings are specifically for the purpose of fully informing the public. Aronow and Solano’s names are also on the Form.
The filing was so Yuga could sell shares in the company to accredited investors, such as A16z, and raise $450 million. It’s not clear that these shares were related to Apecoin.*
Who did Aronow and Solano know? Early connections?
Bored Ape Yacht Club has followed what appears to be a planned and well-strategized trajectory from launching an NFT project to getting a fungible token (APE) listed on Coinbase.
The key to NFT collections is keeping holders holding, so they don’t sell their NFTs and go off to invest in other NFT collections, of which there are many. You want to keep the floor price up.
This is usually done by airdropping holders more NFTs, which they can flip on OpenSea, and inviting them to networking events, where they can pitch their own NFT projects, etc.
In their Rolling Stone interview, Aronow and Solano used words like “Web3” and “metaverse” and spoke about giving their NFTs real-world utility. This is investor speak.
I suspect Solano and Aronow knew someone who advised them early on. What connections did they have? Who did they speak to before launching their project?
How are celebrities acquiring Bored Ape NFTs?
Bored Ape Yacht Club has benefited from a number of high-profile celebrity endorsements.
Celebs have been buying up Bored Ape NFTs, announcing their purchases on social media, and switching their Twitter profile pics to Bored Apes.
Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Curry, Post Malone, Lil Baby, Paris Hilton, and Madonna currently own Bored Ape NFTs, along with about a dozen other Hollywood influencers.
Did these celebs pay full price for their Bored Apes? Is someone gifting NFTs to them for the purpose of promoting the project?
Crypto payments company Moonpay has played a role in onboarding many celebs. Who is sending Moonpay ETH or cash to buy the BAYC NFTs?
The Federal Trade Commission has social media guidelines for influencers. If you endorse a product through social media, you have to make it obvious that you have a material connection with the brand. How is Yuga Labs getting around this?
*Update, April 27: In an earlier version of this story, I said the Form D was related to distribution of Apecoin. It could just be equity in the company.
If you like my work, consider supporting my writing by subscribing to my Patreon account for as little as $5 or $20 a month. Every little bit helps!