Below is a non-fictional narrative I wrote about a formative experience I had developing, branding and launching a cryptocurrency, inspired by the crypto-mania towards the end of 2017. I think it is important to mention as a preface that I am not a politically motivated individual, but rather someone who wanted to see how far an idea could go.
And with that, enjoy.
WWIII Was Just A Tweet Away
May 13, 2018, 2 days before ICO
My fuck-you flip flops slapped the asphalt as I shuffle-sprinted with overflowing arms of papers and laptop to my car for an emergency conference call with one of Europe‘s largest cryptocurrency exchange’s VP of Development, Jahid. I was reeling from the text he’d just sent me while I was smoke testing our test servers in the basement of the local public library — a.k.a my office. I needed privacy to take the call.
“Sean, remove your last Tweet… We will call you in a few minutes.” The text read.
“Uhh… What did I say? Who’s we?” I thought.
I’d “met” Jahid six weeks prior after his boss, the CEO of the exchange, and his assistant reached out to me on Telegram offering to host the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of my cryptocurrency, Fuck Trump Coin (FTC) — think taking a private company public. The exchange boasted $20 million in daily trading across their suite of over 50 cryptocurrencies and had an active international presence. Partnering with this exchange was my project’s big break.
The CEO saw potential in me and FTC, offering my team 12 full-time developers and a waived $80,000 integration cost, to be able to work on my project. We negotiated a creative payment structure, where a percentage of the money raised in the ICO would be kept by the Exchange. After successful negotiations, the CEO’s assistant, Jahid and I spent weeks hammering out every detail to seamlessly integrate my ERC20 token with their platform. By the end, we had a plan ensuring a sound technical foundation and a clear roadmap to attract investors.
Just two days away from the ICO, Jahid and I agreed we were getting close, so I sent a tweet to the world…
After settling in my car, my phone rang. I let it vibrate for a moment in my palm and took a breath before accepting the call. I was met by an army of people on the other end, bellowing and shrieking as I was conferenced in. I listened for Jahid or the CEO’s assistant, but recognized none of the voices and understood none of the words, until…
“Everyone, Sean from Fuck Trump Coin has joined the call… He only speaks English.” Finally a voice I recognized — Jahid.
Relief set in, and for a moment, the competition between who could yell the loudest subsided to whispers and murmurs. The calm was short-lived before another wave of verbal assault ensued, “WASTED!”
I heard papers shuffle sporadically in the background amidst yelling, “MESS UP!… TRUMP… SUPPORT TEAM CALLS!” The wailing was supplemented by indiscriminate yelling from a language I didn’t understand.
I pulled the phone from my ear. “Jeez, why are so many people on this call?” I thought.
The tweet I posted 10 minutes before did nothing more than announce the launch of FTC on the Exchange’s platform and encourage my audience to create trading accounts so they could participate in my project’s ICO that was to take place in two days. I had no idea it was going to unleash an avalanche of calls to the exchange’s support team from their users and investors. The incessant calls instigated the emergency company meeting.
I sat in my car with my phone, taking verbal punch after verbal punch, waiting for my turn to speak. It didn’t take long before realizing there would be no reprieve. I bullied my way into the roaring conversation and explained the timeline of events and my relationship with the platform, from the moment I was first approached, to the call we were on. After a few minutes of over explaining and standing my ground, I actually felt pretty good.
Pop! my confidence deflated to a used balloon as another verbal dam broke. Amidst the furry, I was able to make out a complete, English thought, “The politics are too hot.”
I gasped as thoughts and images flooded my mind. I was hyperventilating when I threw my phone to the floor of my car.
CLICK, call over.
“Could I be headed to jail? Is it possible to be arrested from another country? Is that what extradition means? Did I spawn an international incident? That’s actually kinda badass man…No it’s not, dumbass! World War Three??” Blinded by panic, my mind raced through every horrible outcome I thought was possible.
With buttery fingers, I checked my phone. It was 12:40 pm on Tuesday, May 15th 2018 and I was the only patron of the local movie theater watching Thanos stop at nothing in pursuit of the six Infinity Stones. The theater was the only place I could think of to go after my world collapsed with the conference call I left 20 minutes before. I was alone, in the dark, chilled auditorium with an I hate myself-sized popcorn I wasted $12.00 on and Chris Hemsworth getting the animated shit kicked out of him to keep me company.
I wanted to clear my head and enjoy the movie, but my thoughts screamed and wandered as I anxiously scarfed down my snack, “How was I ever going to negotiate another partnership like that? Something I left everything to build is dying and I don’t think it can be saved this time.” My thoughts paused as I shoveled another handful of popcorn in my mouth.
“Oh Seany, ya dumb shit… how did everything fall apart so magnificently?” I asked a one-eyed and half-dead Thor.
After 30 minutes, I knew I wouldn’t get into the movie. So, I propped my feet on the headrest of the empty seat in front of me and retraced every step of the project.
Sipping The Kool-Aide
October 9th, 2017: 220 days before ICO
On October 9th, 2017 I dropped $2,500 on Bitcoin. Why not, right? I was standing aboard a tarmac transport with 50 other misplaced Clevelandites at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). I was flying home after a week away, working my day job as a traveling solution engineer for an enterprise content management software company. The perfect post-grad job for someone with my degree. Packed in the transport, sardine style, we were all anxious to make our plane to Cleveland and pissed off at the 15-minute delay.
Dealing with a particularly difficult customer in D.C that week left me drained and defeated. Honestly, I was just happy to be leaving the city and with a tired breath, turned to my phone in search of an ounce of control in my life. Normally, I’d unlock my naked, Rose Gold iPhone 7, complete with cracked screen and peeling screen protector, to launch the Tumblr social media app and tally how many notifications and followers my social media brand, Cwote, accumulated over the course of the day (or since the last time I checked, which was every five minutes), hoping the number would be high enough to trigger a drop of dopamine in my brain…
but a week prior, it had been acquired by a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur living in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, social media followers weren’t worth a whole lot. Even with high engagement, the exchange rate of 171,284 followers to $2,495 didn’t enable me to quit my job. But extra money is always nice. And, what is the only logical thing to do when you’re given extra money?
As sardines in the tin can of the moving transport, we jiggled with every bump on the tarmac. Phone in hand, I launched the AppStore before downloading CoinBase to input my banking information. Before I knew it, I was at the Buy Bitcoin screen ready to throw away — I mean invest — as much money as I could. With an unverified account, my weekly deposit limit was $2,500, enough for a little over .54 BTC. I wanted to purchase an entire coin, but was willing to take what I could get.
Hugging the standing pole of the transport, I stood staring at the Buy screen with an uncommitted transaction that longed to be confirmed or denied. My thumb hovered over complete purchase. I was waiting for courage. Turns out, all I needed was a deep crack in the tarmac to inspire a jolt from the bus. Phone in hand, my body lurched forward to collide with the passenger standing in front of me. After the cabin settled and I finished an awkward apology with the gentlemen I bumped, I looked to my phone. To my foggy and frazzled mind, the letters at the Buy screen rearranged themselves,
“What are you waiting for?” They taunted me.
My once empty CoinBase wallet was now blossoming with over half a Bitcoin, half of something I knew nothing about. A surge of body-tingling anxiety balanced by a tickle of excitement overwhelmed me as I came to that realization.
I had officially sipped the Kool-Aide… and it was delicious.
Chugging The Kool-Aid
October 29th, 2017: 200 days before ICO
After landing home, I immediately began consuming crypto content. Money is a hell of a motivator and I had to know what was to come of mine. Starving for the hows and the whys of blockchain, I snacked on Reddit’s /r/Cryptocurrency, dined on YouTube videos with a side of TED Talks, sipped on Medium epics by Daniel Jeffries, adding crumbs of podcasts and conversations with savvy co-workers in for good measure. It wasn’t a choice, I had to know more. That, and it was also nice to have a new side project.
I spent countless evenings after work inhaling mountains of this new information and it wasn’t long before I became absolutely insufferable at the office, preaching to my co-workers as if this was the second coming of Christ.
December 4, 2018: 162 days before ICO
By December, the success of Bitcoin caught on with the mainstream and pushed my co-workers to invest with me. Soon, a small troop of us would meet in a pod of desks at work between meetings and client calls to discuss new coins, progressive tech and the future of money. The day Bitcoin surpassed $10,000 per coin, I swaggered into the office with my collared shirt opened one button lower than usual and was greeted with rounds of high-fives by my fellow bandits. Our gains were nothing to abandon careers over, but even so, we felt like we’d cracked one of life’s secret codes.
We rode out the neverending bull runs for 8–10 weeks, going to bed in the green and waking up even greener. My hands grew sore from endless high-fives and my cheeks began to cramp from the bottomless excitement as we eagerly threw more and more money into the flourishing ecosystem, reaping immediate gains.
The frenzy could never end… until it did.
January 16th, 2018: Red Tuesday & 119 days before ICO
Red Tuesday will forever have its place in crypto’s Hall of Infamy as 49 of the top 50 cryptocurrencies went deep red. The morale of my colleagues crashed with the value of each respective portfolio, every last one tanking as spectacularly as they’d risen. My portfolio was no exception, as the once blossoming garden of gains devolved to an equally desolate wasteland to that of my comrades’.
Through the glaring red and endless FUD articles about the crypto market around this time, it was hard to stay positive, but still, I couldn’t help but see a global market with unrealized potential. My curiosity towered my fear.
By the end of January, the crypto market continued its complete collapse. With the high-fives from only weeks ago feeling like a dream, I began reminiscing of December’s bull runs and lunar landings. Through my memory of the “glory days”, I recounted a conversation I’d had with my co-workers one afternoon, high off the market’s green. Through the confidence only achieved by dumb luck, we agreed we wanted to do more than just invest.
We wanted our own coin.
A Rose By Any Other Name Would Not Be As Sweet
January 29, 2018. 106 days before ICO
Back in December, my co-workers and I were blinded by 1,000 percent altcoin gains and equipped only with the buzzwords, FOMO, FUD, decentralization, HODL and TO THE MOOOON!. It was clear we knew very little of the blockchain framework actually supporting cryptocurrencies, but were naive enough to think we could launch a crypto project anyway. Without the crutch of a life-changing application for blockchain or a progressive codebase, our only hope was to create a coin that could yell, really, really loudly. It was also during December’s bull runs when I began to notice an excited itch surface at the back of my neck, pushing every conversation.
“Heyo!” I looked up from my computer to see the wide eyes and cheeky smile of my coworker and fellow cryptonaut, Asher. It was two weeks after Red Tuesday and ever since, my crypto conversations with the bandits had fallen away. We all went back to concentrating on our day jobs and our real futures as solution engineers.
“Bro!” He raised his eyebrows in emphasis. “I was scrolling through Twitter today and it just came to me.”
My confused face did little to deter Asher’s enthusiasm. He continued, “Remember when all of those travel bans were placed on immigrants trying to come to the United States and families were held hostage at airports and everyone was confused and they were all pissed off at Donny?” He paused, sucking in air to catch his breath. “That’s our coin man! A coin against Trump!”
Admittedly, I was politically-naive (and still am), but understood that Donald Trump was the epicenter of passionate debate around the world. From the most left-sided liberals to right-wing conservatives, Trump inspired bottomless chatter and everyone had their opinions.
I was intrigued.
“That might just work man.” My mind wandered as a familiar itch in my neck resurfaced.
It wasn’t a day later before my co-workers and I reunited in the same pod of desks talking about our new idea.
“People absolutely hate the guy!” Asher defended.
“Boys listen, we just need to get the market cap of our coin higher than Trump’s net worth!” Encouraged another excited co-worker. “Then we cash out!”
The revival of our previous enthusiasm was welcomed with open arms, but I seemed to be the only one to realize none of us knew the first thing about writing the code of a cryptocurrency and I wasn’t convinced my fellow comrades were interested in learning how. If the project was to have any chance of seeing the light of day, one of us would have to learn.
With every new headline combating Trump and his administration, our enthusiasm multiplied as we saw an opportunity to market our uncreated coin with every one of our presidents’ “YUGE!”es. Trump wasn’t stupid and we knew as long as he was in office, he would be at the forefront of people’s minds and their smartphones.
The irritability in my neck intensified as my thoughts continued festering about the viral possibilities of our uncreated crypto. Relief came only when I was distracted by work but unfortunately, my day job wasn’t the remedy. As January inched along, I remember looking forward more and more to 5:00 pm so I could run to the parking lot and drive home to do research.
I was on a mission.
Fueled by anti-Trump headlines and an even more desperate appetite to learn, I embarked on my new crypto tangent. It was clear that if this project was going to evolve beyond conversations of dollar signs among laughs, I would need to be the one to figure out how. My research shifted from market conditions to development framework and cryptocurrency parameters.
In college, I did well in my two object-oriented programming classes, but I am not a developer and blockchain is not object oriented programming. So, I began my climb at the base of the cryptographic mountain in front of me, with YouTube videos by “What The Func” as my guide. The host showed how simple it was to deploy a new cryptocurrency to Ethereum’s blockchain, using its ERC20 protocol. But his videos were carpet bombed with jargon I was unfamiliar with, forcing me to pause the videos every 30 seconds, Google a term, annotate an article that detailed what the term was and why it was important to cryptos, before navigating back to YouTube to resume the video. This process turned every 15-minute video into a feature film as I started to understand.
After spending untold hours watching videos, reading source code on Ethereum’s website and deploying a waste bin full of failed code on Ethereum’s Ropsten Test Network, I had what felt like the perfect codebase for my perfect shitcoin. I knew my ERC20 smart contract had no progressive technology sitting behind it, but instead carried a novelty similar to the 1970’s Pet Rock. If I were unsuccessful in repeating the meteoric success of Gary Dahl — who in 1975, sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks for $4 each — at its very worst, the FTC project could teach me the business side of cryptocurrencies. What could I lose?
Finally, Fuck Trump Coin (FTC), with its supply of 73,500,000 tokens representing every American who voted against Trump-Pence in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, was now searchable on Ethereum’s block explorer, EtherScan.io. The feeling of having my very own space on the public blockchain, searchable and tradeable by anyone in the world, was the first of many rewarding experiences throughout the project.
I Had My Product. Time To Quit My Job.
February 9, 2018: 95 days before ICO
Arrogance is a damned thing. With my decorated college degree, almost two years of paychecks signed by one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and the blind optimism of a 22-year-old, it was time to quit my job!
Unfortunately for me, the above swagger didn’t quite make it to my boss’s office that Monday morning.
I folded like a deck of cards at his desk as I submitted my two weeks notice. It was a disaster, complete with shaky voice, sweaty palms and the heartbeat of Usain Bolt finishing the 100-meter dash. My boss was shocked. But he wished me well and said I was welcome to come back if it didn’t work out.
Fresh from goodbyes and best wishes, as I left the office for the last time and made my way to my car, a lump formed in my throat. I was partnerless and had no clue what I was going to do to make FTC work.
What Did I Do?
March 5, 2018: 71 days before ICO
It was now early March 2018. In my Cleveland apartment, I sat at my laptop wearing unemployment sweatpants and sipping I Made a Mistake coffee as I stared at FTC’s Twitter account, languishing with its zero followers.
“I’ve done this before. Social media is easy Sean, just pick your audience, your content and fuckin’ go!”, I thought to myself as I began retracing the steps I’d taken to build a successful social media community for Cwote.
In the spring of 2015 I was in my second year at Ohio University. After recently leaving my previous side venture as a hedgehog breeder (I know), I was looking for another project. Surprisingly, social media was something I neglected to embrace after graduating high school in 2013. I didn’t use Facebook, I didn’t tweet, tumbl, or gram. Honestly, I was blind to social media, but it was something I wish I’d been fluent in while running the breedery, so I decided for my next project, I was to become a social-media guru.
While shopping around for a platform to host the Internet’s next viral social media account, I came across a video by the YouTuber, Lazy Ass Stoner, about the under utilized platform Tumblr (it’s essentially the marriage of an anonymous Instagram and Blogger.com). With only a few hours left as an angsty teenager, I embraced this social media counterculture by creating my Tumblr account, Cwote, on April 15th, 2015, the eve of my 20th birthday.
After following the steps outlined in Lazy Ass Stoner’s how-to video (and making modifications where I saw fit), it was only a few months before Cwote went from 0 followers to a respectable 21,000 active followers. Though it required a fair amount of work and daily discipline, I was amazed at how quickly a community grew around my content.
Still March 5th 2018. Dreaming of previous accomplishments was an easy escape and after two hours of recounting Cwote’s success and mindlessly watching YouTube videos, I’d finished nothing but my third cup of coffee. I began questioning my judgement in quitting my job — a job I was good at, a job that paid well, a job where I had a great boss and engaging and talented co-workers. I’d left a fabulous company where I could have built a career. Another flood of panic drowned me.
“Shit.” Echoed in my unfocused mind.
It was through this flurry of self-doubt and anxiety I was reminded of one of Cwote’s most simple and shared Tumblr posts:
“The first step is the hardest, but always the most important.”
Versions of that quote have been shared across the Internet millions of times and the sentiment is vague enough to apply to almost any of life’s situations. It provided a combined sense of calm and guilt motivating me to get back to work.
And so I did. I took an unsure step forward, trying hard as shit to not look back.
At The Base of A Mountain
Still March 5, 2018: 71 days before ICO
Buzzed off Starbucks Light Roast and Motivation Monday YouTube videos chronicling successful careers of Hustlers like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Rob Dierdek and others, I began crafting the first iteration of FTC’s content strategy for Twitter. Of all the social networks I’d spent time with, Twitter was at the bottom of the totem pole, above only LinkedIn and Facebook. Though I made FTC accounts on Reddit, Telegram, YouTube and Medium, I felt Twitter was the best platform to begin brand building as it most closely resembled the Tumblr platform I’d mastered. It didn’t hurt too, that Twitter was home to an active crypto community and Donald’s soapbox.
Resistors Aren’t Buying Crypto
My first step when creating a social media brand was “audience identification”. Knowing who I’d be creating content for would help focus the type of content I’d share. With the name “Fuck Trump Coin (FTC)” it was obvious passionate Trump resistors would be the first in line to adopt and rally around my project. The conversion cost would be negligible!
I could not have been more off base.
I knew making sales was hard, I mean, at least, that’s what I’d heard people say. I had no idea. A close friend of mine who was a high-achieving salesman told me a 10 percent success is considered good. I trusted his advice, but accepting a 10 percent rate of success is also accepting that you will hear “no” 90 percent of the time. For the purposes of the project, I defined a success as a Trump resistor holding at least one of my coins. Simple enough. But after a month of 12-hour days spent trying to replicate my previous triumph on Tumblr, my successes were a big fat zero. The dust settled from the first 30-day tornado of disappointment, leaving me with a community of 670 semi-active Twitter followers who hated Trump and didn’t give a shit about crypto.
Not completely defeated, I modified my approach slightly, using the email Freedom@FuckTrumpCoin.io to reach out to writers with a clear interest in politics and fintech. That overlap was my project’s sweet spot. I sent email after email, exhausting rosters at BuzzFeed and other clickbait-centric online publishers. FTC had a firm grasp on both Bitcoin Mania’s and Donald’s coattails, ready to fly to viral stardom.
But, it was as if the dismal 670 Twitter followers was an omen to my new approach. I completed another fruitless pursuit with an empty inbox and onset carpal tunnel.
The People Interested In Crypto Are The People Interested In Crypto
April 2, 2018 43 before ICO
It soon became obvious that my audience generation tactics sucked. My self-doubt was sky high as I continued pursuing empty leads and Twitter conversations that went nowhere.
I don’t know what made me continue. I really don’t. I knew if I swallowed my pride, I could quit this and go back to my job or interview at a dozen other software organizations. At 22, a month of unemployment could easily be packaged as some sort of post-grad break to an HR department that’s ready to hire. But I continued anyway.
Like a sunburnt castaway gently rocking on a quiet and foggy Pacific, I heard the heavy horn of a passing ship that spotted me.
“Hi…” Messaged Jordan, a Netherlandic crypto enthusiast. “… I came across your project by accident and wanted to know if I could share it with my WhatsApp group. We have about 40 members who love crypto and hate Trump.” Through a Twitter DM after 30 days adrift, I was no longer alone.
Masking my desperation, I crafted the perfect response. “UH, FUCK YA YOU CAN! CAN I JOIN THE GROUP TOO? DO YOU WANT LINKS TO MY WEBSITE?? MY WHITEPAPER??”
I played it very cool.
It wasn’t long after Jordan shared my project that I began receiving questions about FTC, what I was doing and the complete arc of my project. People began joining my once-quiet Telegram group chat and following the project on Twitter. The momentum only grew as members of that small WhatsApp group shared the project with their individual networks. I hadn’t felt a paralleled surge of optimism since first deploying my smart contract to Ethereum’s live net. Through that one conversation with Jordan, the tides of FTC began to shift.
My New Team of Bandits
April 9, 2018: 36 days before ICO
I was on fire! I was welcoming every new member to the Telegram group chat, exchanging Red Tuesday war stories and sharing cringe-worthy Trump memes. This was my first big break and I was killing it!
“Dude, you’re doing everything wrong.” Proclaimed Nic, one of Jordan’s friends, in a private message to me on Telegram.
It was two days after Jordan first reached out to me — a Wednesday in early April. My time spent tweeting recycled clickbait content about Trump had since been reallocated to networking with people all over the world. With crypto’s global adoption rate doing laps around America’s, almost everyone I messaged either knew of, or had been involved in an entire cryptocurrency’s life cycle. They knew their stuff and as my Telegram group continued to grow, I knew I was going to need help.
“What do you mean?” I shot Nic a response. Without a team behind me, I was hoping he could highlight my project’s shortcomings.
He and I went back and forth, adjusting to one another’s differences in written English (he spoke Dutch). I began to realize just how little I knew about a crypto project’s best practices. I sat at my phone, eagerly waiting his every message, humbly absorbing every comment and flaw he saw in FTC. Through his experience at past projects, he was answering questions I knew would stump even Google.
After Nic’s barrage of fables commenced, he said, “Really, your next step is doing a good airdrop. See if people like it.”
Hiding my ignorance, I quickly Googled, “what tf is an airdrop?” before responding. “Yeah, it’d be a good idea to get people excited about the project.” Reciting a crypto forum I continued, “Should we use a Google Form to capture participant info?”
His response cut right through my bullshit. “😂😂😂” I had no idea what I was doing and he knew it, “No man. We use a Telegram bot… I have a friend to help.”
I learned an AirDrop is pretty much the first step of any crypto project after the coin is created, (i.e. what I should have spent my first 30 days doing instead of targeting people on Twitter that just hated Trump). In this step, a project team offers free coins to anyone that joins their project’s community within a finite number of days (airdrops could be hosted on a Telegram group chat, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc.). We elected my Telegram channel, blossoming with its almost 100 community members.
It wasn’t long before Nic’s friend Sebi, a developer versed in Python, was messaging me. One of the benefits of using Telegram as the channel to curate a large community, is every chat is configurable. Programmable bots can “join” a chat, enabling its community to interact with it based upon pre-configured commands. Sebi developed a custom Telegram bot designed to collect AirDrop participants’ information and he wanted to test it out on FTC.
Though I was still operating as a one man show, I began paying more attention to the Telegram conversations that snowballed from Jordan sharing my project. Hundreds of people reached out to me. Some spent entire conversations spamming Trump memes and pictures of Lamborghinis to my private inbox, excited they were on the ground floor of a new project. And others, among the flurry of hate from who I could only assume were Trump supporters, wrote me saying I was wasting my life and should kill myself.
People like Nic and Sebi, with their curiosity, desire to help and interest in fintech, were the people I was looking for as potential team members.
Not officially on the team (yet), Nic began to spend more and more of his time with me and the project, and together we formulated the parameters for our airdrop (the airdrop would last for 30 days, participants would receive 100 FTC for joining our Telegram group and an additional 50 FTC for every member they referred). After completing smoke testing on his Telegram bot, Sebi gave Nic and I the green light to launch the airdrop on April 16th 7:00 am EST.
The Only Thing That Dropped Was My Doubt
April 16, 2018: 29 days before ICO
It was 6:30 am my time and Nic was just finishing up lunch in Holland. I’d been awake since 5:45 am EST testing Sebi’s bot myself, finalizing my Announcement Tweet, Telegram announcement message and pacing in front of my computer.
The airdrop was the test to see if this project had any legs. If it flopped, the project would be over.
I was nervous.
Nic had helped other organizations launch airdrops and even participated in some himself. He had a good idea of what to expect.
“Dude, chill. You’re making me nervous lol. Our bot works and the announcements look fine.” Nic typed me as 7:00 am quickly approached. “I have some crypto groups to share our airdrop to and if we’re lucky 3,000 members on Friday.”
His confidence calmed me down.
“Just be ready to answer questions on Telegram when people show up.” He said. “I’ll do the rest.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee at five ‘till seven, before returning to my computer.
Sip. Announcements queued and ready to post.
With a “👍” from Nic, he began sharing news of our airdrop with his network, a small handful of Telegram groups interested in new crypto projects. At this point, all I could do was wait. To reach our goal of 3,000 community members in five days, we needed to attract 600 new members every day.
That’s only 25 every hour.
Less than 1 every 2 minutes.
For a group that began with only 100 members, breaking down the goal made it seem less audacious.
“We can do this shit”, I thought to myself as our first few members trickled in to join the group.
And do this shit we did…
To The Moon
April 17, 2018: 28 days before ICO
I’ve never posted a YouTube video that went viral and never have been retweeted by a celebrity, but I imagine it felt something like the week of FTC’s airdrop.
Integrated into Sebi’s bot was a unique referral link generator. This meant that every member who properly interacted with the bot was given a shareable link to track who clicked through as well as tally that participant’s total number of referrals. Between the ease in which people could share news of our airdrop and the instant understanding afforded by the coin’s name and logo, participants were eager to join our growing community.
We absolutely demolished Nic’s initial prediction of 3,000 members, passing it in less than five hours instead of five days.
Fueled by excitement, I stayed up well past midnight on day one of the airdrop to answer questions and welcome the new community members as fast as my thumbs could type. After waking up to 15,000 new Telegram notifications and 7,000 group chat members, I knew I didn’t make a dent.
“Bro! Holy Shiiiiiit!” I messaged Nic, who had already been up for a few hours welcoming our new members — the morning of day two.
Our airdrop took off without a hitch, skyrocketing faster than most projects equipped with a marketing budget and full staff do. There was only three of us at the helm (Nic, Sebi and Me), piloting our rocket to the moon.
After a quick Telegram celebration of sharing memes and listening to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” with Nic and Sebi (reminiscent of the bull run pod talks I relished from December with my ex co-workers) I scrolled through the FTC chat to get an update on what questions people asked while I was asleep. In addition to the swollen group chat, personal messages to me were out of control. There were now thousands of people DMing me memes, new members saying thanks and expressing excitement, and in the midst of endless notifications, more Nic’s and Sebi’s wanting to lend their help.
April 19, 2018: 26 days. before ICO
Nic and Sebi were officially members of team FTC, but I needed more manpower still. Thankfully, with the success of FTC’s airdrop, there was no shortage of people offering help. I combed my inbox, vetting people through Telegram conversations. I didn’t have job descriptions or a specific criteria, but was looking for past experience, honest opinions and trustworthiness. Many people wanted to help, but only a handful truly impressed me with their aptitude and honest intentions. Mind you, I was communicating exclusively through Telegram texting and emojis with people that were probably not native English speakers, but even so it wasn’t hard to differentiate between the veterans and ill-intentioned. It took only a few hours before my starting line was assembled and I had my team:
Nic — 23, From Holland, task oriented, gritty, my right-hand man
Sebi — 25, From Norway, tech savvy developer & fintech enthusiast
Zareef — 22, From South Africa, comic relief, manpower
Henri — 31, From Holland, workhorse
Matías — 25, From Brazil, web designer
Jordan — 23, From Holland, my starter
Of the hundreds of Telegram applicants, these six were people I felt I could trust. They were tech smart, they cared and — based upon their fluency in memes — I felt I’d enjoy working with them. Shortly after identifying my band of rockstars, we made ourselves a private group chat where we could talk about the project and “hang out”.
Before launching the airdrop, my biggest worry was a dismal turnout ending the project in a dull fizzle. Less than 48 hours later, my biggest worry was if my new team and I could maintain our speed. Working around the clock, we took turns alternating sleep and work to maintain the Telegram chat and publish announcements to our multiplying audience. We were a well oiled machine, extending our first day’s triumph through the rest of the week.
FTC was a rocket with a full tank, headed straight through the clouds.
Hi Sean, It’s Jahid
May 1, 2018: 14 days until ICO
It was the beginning of May and just over two weeks since the launch of FTC’s airdrop. After amassing over 33,000 Telegram chat members in seven days, my team and I decided to end the airdrop early in an attempt to carry our momentum into the yet-to-be planned ICO. Aside from the minor setback of manual airdrop distribution and the ego hit of identifying and removing almost 20,000 spam accounts from our Telegram Supergroup, few problems arose. I was on autopilot balancing customer relationship management and leading my international team, all from the basement of the local public library — FTC HQ.
In the FTC community chat, our members would rejoice after seeing airdrop coins in their crypto wallets and reassure other frustrated participants that theirs were coming too. Though we were tasked with the manual distribution of millions of FTC, my team and I were able to execute almost 13,000 transactions in under two weeks as promised.
To keep my focus on distribution and not on the low hanging fruit of Trump memes in the FTC group chat, I’d mute the FTC main Telegram channel and every DM to me, responding only to messages in my team’s chat when I needed a quick breather from the monotony of sending transactions. We were getting toward the end of the week and though it looked like we would complete the distribution on time, I was still worried about our next step being unplanned — the FTC ICO.
After a six-hour stint of sending transactions, I needed a break and walked through the picture book section of the public library. I scrolled through my DMs while brushing up on Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
“Good Project! Always support FTC”, read one.
“GREAT PROJECT SEAN!!! FTC TO MOON!”, read another.
An endless stream of quick, congratulatory messages flowed my inbox. Tickled, I was scrolling past another dozen or so messages from people excited about the project, when I came across one that caught my attention. This message was longer. This message carried a more serious tone and was void of emojis and superfluous exclamation marks.
“Hi Sean. My name is Haines and I am speaking on behalf of our CEO and one of Europe’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. We wanted to congratulate you on the success of your airdrop and offer our help. If you don’t already have plans, we would like to host the ICO of Fuck Trump Coin (FTC).” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “If you are interested, I will have our lead of development, Jahid, reach out to you shortly.” I was saved.
After quickly fact-checking the European exchange on Coin Market Cap and verifying the employee who had reached out to me, my phone buzzed, “Hi Sean, it’s Jahid…”
Thanos finished wiping out half the universe and my popcorn was gone. The Movie’s post credits ended, as did my hope for FTC.
For the moment, there was nothing beyond the project for me and I couldn’t help but feel despair for FTC and my team as I left the theater. There was no solution this time and no one waiting in the wings to save the project. The connection to the European exchange had been a wildly successful fluke that we would not be able to replicate without A LOT of money.
Looking to my phone, I knew I could only be absent from Telegram for a few more hours before I’d have to share the project’s demise with my team. It was time for me to let go.
A New Beginning
June 29, 2018: 45 days after ICO
The dust of my adventure has settled and through the writing of this piece, I’ve had time to reflect on the project; what happened and where the project currently sits. Fuck Trump Coins do and will always exist so long as Ethereum maintains their blockchain. Being the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, I am confident Ethereum and FTC will be here to stay.
I believe there is still value in the FTC project and am very proud of the work my team and I accomplished in the Spring of 2018. Mainstream adoption of any product is an idealistic goal, and my team and I came within hours of that goal by way of our partnership with one of Europe’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, before being left at the altar for being “too hot to handle”.
Still, FTC has potential to be used as a novelty or a statement of protest, forever an immutable middle finger to Trump on Ethereum’s blockchain. FTC could have a life during the midterm elections in November 2018 or be used as a vehicle to protest Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. At the very least, Fuck Trump Coin (FTC) joins hundreds, if not thousands, of others in the graveyard of dead cryptos waiting for its time to be resurrected.
I don’t regret a thing.
*Disclaimer: Names of characters were changed to preserve anonymity*
Below are some links to the block explorer, website and a promotional video to provide some context to the project, thanks for reading.