Why People Are Paying $100K+ To Change Their Profile to a Digital Ape

I publish essays about building products in the creator economy every two weeks. Join thousands of other readers by subscribing below:

Dear subscribers,

Last weekend, Steph Curry paid $180,000 to change his Twitter profile to a Bored Ape:

Let me explain why.

Bored Ape Yacht Club is an NFT project featuring a collection of 10,000 digital ape avatars. Owning a Bored Ape grants access to a members-only club with special perks. When the project launched in April, each Ape cost $186. Four months later, the cheapest ape now costs $135,000.

Bored Ape Yacht Club pulled this off by building one of the best communities in recent memory.

Let’s break it down by looking at the club’s:

  1. Creative

  2. Content

  3. Communication

  4. Co-creation

1. Creative

To understand the appeal of Bored Ape’s creative, we need to start with CryptoPunks - the OG profile pic (PFP) NFT project. CryptoPunks launched in 2017 with 10,000 pixelated punk NFTs:

Over the next three years, the punks grew in value as crypto people and top influencers made them their profile pics. Today, the lowest price for a punk is 94 eth or $353K.

Earlier this year, CryptoPunks was the only well-known profile pic NFT project. As I wrote in my step-by-step guide to NFTs, the market was more focused on digital art and NBA sports collectibles.

The founders of Bored Ape Yacht Club saw an opportunity.

We’re not technical guys. We couldn’t be blockchain programmers even if we tried …We’re creatives, right? - Gordon Goner, co-founder of Bored Ape Yacht Club (source)

Going by the pseudonyms of Gargamel and Gordon Goner, they spent $40,000 and recruited two blockchain programmers to create 10,000 apes with unique expressions and streetwear-inspired accessories:

The team also set up a website with alluring tiki bar visuals to bring to life the exclusive club that Ape owners would get access to:

After a slow pre-sales week, all 10,000 apes sold out in one night on April 30. Word of mouth spread rapidly after well known NFT collectors bought the Apes and updated their profile pics. Hashtags like #ApeFollowApe trended all night.

2. Content

Bored Ape launched with a detailed roadmap to highlight the benefits of owning an ape. These benefits include a members only merch store and a digital graffiti wall:

But what really captured people's attention was the subsequent NFT drops:

  1. On June 18, every ape holder could suddenly mint a canine companion NFT for free. The Bored Ape Kennel Club was born and the community raised over $1M for animal shelters through secondary sale royalties.

  2. On August 28, every ape holder got a free “serum” to mint a Mutant Ape NFT. Another 10,000 mutant apes were sold to the public. The insane mutant ape art took Twitter and Discord by storm and the drop raised $96M in one hour.

The Bored Ape team is not done - they're planning to gift a 3D render of each ape to community members in a few months. This constant flow of great drops strengthens the 5,000+ strong Bored Ape community and makes people want to hold long-term.

3. Communication

Like any great product and community manager, Bored Ape’s founders provide regular and detailed updates to the community:

Being able to talk to the founders directly makes people feel part of the journey.

4. Co-creation

One final ingredient that drove Bored Ape's growth:

Ape holders have full commercial rights for the apes that they own.

This has led to the creation of thousands of derivative content - from merch drops to YouTube shows to comic books:

I've always believed that the best communities are where the creators empower their fans to become creators too. From Gordon (Bored Ape co-founder): "Anything that people create with their apes only grows the brand."

Bored Ape Yacht Club launched at a time when NFT enthusiasts were looking for an attractive alternative to the pixel graphics and high prices of CryptoPunks.

But the project also grew rapidly because the founders built an amazing community through:

  1. Expressive art that people want to tie their identities to.

  2. Great content drops that make people want to hold onto their apes long term.

  3. Transparent communication and co-creation with community members.

If you think all of this is wild, wait till I tell you about an NFT community built around a few random lines of text that cost thousands of dollars.

Further reading on Bored Apes:

  1. New Yorker: Why Bored Ape Avatars Are Taking Over Twitter

  2. MomentRanks: What is Bored Ape Yacht Club