Anyone keeping an eye on internet business trends is going to come across Gary Vaynerchuk sooner or later.
An entrepreneur, marketing whiz and early investor in Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Coinbase, he has parlayed his expertise into status as an internet celebrity in his own right. Known far and wide by his nickname “Gary Vee,” he has 3 million Twitter followers and his YouTube channel has 3.73 million subscribers.
Given the rise of crypto over the past few years, it is perhaps unsurprising that Vaynerchuk has been moving into that space. Since he first started dabbling in crypto in 2017, and in NFTs more recently in late 2020, he has grown into one the industry’s biggest influencers (though he doesn't love the term). He now advises major brands on crypto and NFTs through his consultancy business VaynerNFT. His moves in the space also make big waves.
Here is a closer look at Vaynerchuck’s entry into crypto and why the industry apparently makes him just as excited as the internet did in the 1990s.
Who is Gary Vee?
Vaynerchuck, now based in New York, was born in Belarus in 1975 and moved to Edison, New Jersey at the age of 3. Vaynerchuk claims to have been a serial entrepreneur since his youth, starting with selling lemonade to running a highly-successful baseball card flipping business in high school.
His first adult business endeavor was at his family’s wine store in New Jersey, where he reportedly grew the business from $3 million to more than $60 million a year through innovative marketing techniques; he continues to mention that although he didn’t get paid much at the time, the experience was vital to his success today.
Vaynerchuk’s “internet celebrity” days started when he first published wine videos on YouTube, on a channel called Wine Library TV. Since then, his channel has blossomed into a platform for content on entrepreneurship, which he posts daily.
Currently, Vaynerchuk’s main venture is VaynerMedia, a subsidiary of VaynerX, which he started with his brother, AJ in 2009. VaynerMedia is a social media agency that provides strategy services to many Fortune 500 companies. According to Vaynerchuck, it has 800 employees and grosses $150 million a year.
His move into crypto and NFTs
Vaynerchuk became aware of cryptocurrency in 2014. In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, he revealed that venture capitalist Aaron Batalion introduced him to Bitcoin at SXSW that year. At first, Vaynerchuk was dismissive of crypto, and confessed that the industry sounded like “outer space” to him. But the following year, Battalion and others explained Ethereum to him and something clicked. He made his first ETH investment when it was priced at $0.06. ETH is now worth about $2,650.
After the launch of the first NFT collections, CryptoKitties, Vaynerchuk started to become interested in the new digital assets. He didn’t get heavily involved until more recently, however. In mid-2020, he connected with Roham Gharegozlou, the founder of Dapper Labs, which was behind the launch of CryptoKitties.
Later, he was introduced to another NFT project, CryptoPunks by Kevin Rose. Falling down a rabbit hole of research, he ended up purchasing his first CryptoPunk in January 2021. Since then he has purchased countless NFTs, some of which have been profitable, some of which have been less so.
Some of his more successful investments in NFTs include Cryptopunks, Bored Ape Yacht Clubs, Doodles and World of Women. Meanwhile, he has also had some failures. One of the most signficant was an investment in a Koala Intelligence Agency NFT. Purchased for 23 ether in August 2021, the NFT had a floor price at the time of 1 ether. That minimum value has since dropped to 0.08 ether.
About NFT project VeeFriends
In May 2021, Vaynerchuk launched his own NFT collection, VeeFriends, with the hopes of engaging his large following, allowing for them to have access to him, and rewarding them financially for supporting him over the years. Prior to the launch, in order to prepare his audience, he aimed to teach absolute beginners how to work the very basics of NFTs and cryptocurrency through tutorials.
The initial launch was a success. Vaynerchuk reaped handsome rewards from the sales. Sources have reported that he made $90 million on the sales in 90 days. However, on a podcast he said the actual amount he made was lower because he only took 10% from secondary sales. His earnings were about $50 million, he told listeners.
Controversy over his crypto and NFT influence
Whether Vaynerchuk has had a positive impact on crypto and NFTs is a matter of debate. Some people have accused him of pumping and dumping NFTs. Often as soon as he purchases an NFT, the price of a collection will rise massively and quickly before settling. But the public nature of blockchain makes it possible for Vaynerchuk to prove that he hasn’t sold many of the NFTs he’s purchased, punching a hole in the “pump and dump” theory.
He has also taken flak from crypto and NFT enthusiasts for his allegedly “childish” artwork. Vaynerchuk has brushed off the naysayers by asserting that his collection was authentic and true to himself — especially since he appears to view NFTs as a long-term bet.
"I felt it was important that series one came from my hand," Vaynerchuk tweeted in December 2021, replying to a critic who called an NFT of his llama drawing "ridiculous." "It was important to me because I will be developing these characters for 40 years and I wanted the provenance to be Me."