On January 12, a group of five men in their thirties living in Los Angeles launched an 8700 NFT of an anime-like character called “Azuki.” The $ 3,400 collection sold out in three minutes, earning more than $ 29 million.
A few days later, another $ 2 million was sold at the private offering, with total sales of $ 31 million. Azuki’s NFT has since been traded on major marketplaces such as OpenSea, with a total trading volume of around $ 300 million for the four weeks ending February 11.
The most expensive Azuki is currently trading for $ 500,000, and the cheaper ones can be purchased for $ 36,000. Azuki’s total sales of NFTs surpassed the famous “Bored Ape Yacht Club” and “CryptoPunks,” ranking 8th among all NFTs of all time. There is.
Azuki’s initial startup, Chiru Labs, has earned 5% royalties from the resale of the NFT, earning $ 15 million in royalties in addition to $ 31 million in sales at the time of release.
Chiru’s four founders are anonymous, which is not uncommon in the privacy-focused world of crypto. But the fifth key person is Arnold Tsang, at least well-known in the gaming industry.
A 39-year-old concept artist, Tsang was in charge of character design for Activision Blizzard’s blockbuster game “Overwatch” until a few weeks ago. He has since devoted himself to Chiru’s work full-time, expanding the Azuki brand into apparel and other areas.
“Our dream is to grow Azuki into a big IP used in anime and games,” Tsang said. He says he has decided to reveal his identity to gain public trust. “I’m not the kind of person who runs away and hides on a desert island if he earns as much as he earns. Believe me.”
Gold Rush “Light and Shadow”
The five founders of Chiru Labs, including Tsang, are the latest example of an entrepreneur trying to jump into the NFT’s gold rush. Born about five years ago, the industry has grown explosively, with OpenSea’s January trading volume surpassing $ 5 billion, a record high.
However, it has been pointed out that there are many suspicious transactions under the surface in this market. According to a Reuters survey, 27 of the most expensive NFT transactions on a marketplace last month (over $ 1 billion total) were traded between just two wallets, with the top 100 trading in just 16 wallets. It is said that it was done in between.
According to Chainalysis of blockchain analysis, with more than 1000 NFT collections launched each month, it is a mystery why some groups are successful, and most are unsuccessful.
However, Andrew Steinwold, who runs a $ 100 million NFT investment fund based in Chicago and owns several Azuki’s, says Azuki’s art quality is higher than other NFTs. Says. Other collectors also appreciate the sophisticated filtering capabilities of Azuki’s website, such as OpenSea.
Chiru Labs has also released open-source software that allows you to “mint” multiple NFTs for a lower fee. Tsang says Azuki has a rebellious scent-like skater culture, which appeals well to people interested in cryptos and NFTs.
Another factor that has increased interest in Azuki is the growing demand for anime art. Netflix has been strengthening anime content over the last few years, and by the end of 2020, it announced that 100 million households would watch anime programs on Netflix each year.
With a view to “advancing to Hollywood.”
Meanwhile, Zzzagabond, one of Chiru’s founders, believes Asian investors are driving the popularity of Azuki’s NFTs. Born in China, he has spoken to Asian investors several times and said, “They said it was the first NFT they bought.”
Zazagabond was previously responsible for business development at Google and has worked for the unnamed Defi (decentralized finance) platform for four years. Another founding member named Location Tba is from Facebook, and a member named Hoshiboy has won two awards at Y Combinator.
To build a sustainable business, Chiru will open up new sources of income other than Azuki’s NFT royalties and expand into apparel in late February, launching a red jacket first.
They are also looking to expand into Hollywood, and Zaza Gabond believes that Azuki’s design may be used as one of the costumes for the popular TV show “The Masked Singer.” Furthermore, we are aiming for monetization in the Metaverse.