Letter 43: Ether, A Case Study

Breaking down one of the most hyped, and most fudded, NFT mints in recent history

I was planning to use this week to chat about Twitter vs Threads, but that can wait (the tl;dr though is Threads atm is a decent place to post content & a terrible place to consume content).

Instead we’re gonna do something I haven’t done in a long time, a case study on a specific NFT project: Ether.

I used to do these all the time. This Newsletter was built off the back of them. From Apymon to Apes, to Gutter Cats, to Pickles, Aliens, and Misfit University (anyone else feeling the nostalgia?)

Then it got to the point where when I would write positively about a project it would pump the price, and negatively and it would tank it, so I stopped.

I believe the space has significantly matured and the mutterings of yours truly will now have a negligible impact on the market. More importantly, I feel like there is a lot to be learned by looking at Ether and hopefully by dissecting their decisions we can all learn a thing or two.

Let’s start with the basics.

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What is Ether?

A good place to begin. Aside from being the native currency of the Ethereum blockchain we all know and love, Ether is also a PFP project.

In their own words:

Ether is an anime-themed project built on the Ethereum blockchain that combines fashion, innovation, and story-telling. The project consists of 5555 characters within its universe. Aiming to become one of the first luxury brands to use blockchain technology to create high-quality clothing and collectibles, Project Ether seeks to create a collaborative and immersive narrative that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.

So, basically, they’re another project trying to build an IP brand off the back of a PFP collection. They’re positioning themselves as a luxury brand from the get-go which is interesting, and they attempted to price themselves in line with that too but we’ll get to their pricing strategy in a bit.

We can track their history back to July 8, 2022, when their Twitter account (quite astonishingly they actually got @ether), shared this tweet:

It received tremendous hype and a lot of it was on the back of the founder of the project, viii, an extremely talented digital artist who had been in the space for a while.

They began a whitelisting campaign and would slowly add people over time who showed a genuine interest in the IP and being part of the journey.

This generated more hype and excitement and anticipation.

Then… they delayed the mint, announced a very-high mint price, went twitter-radio-silent for 6 months, reduced the mint price, reduced the supply, reduced the mint price again with a dutch auction, increased the royalties, and went from widespread admiration and support and excitement to widespread fud.

The timeline of events:

2022July 8: First TweetNov 18: Mint delayed to 2023Dec 10: Mint Price announced, 1e (public) / 0.5e (whitelist)Dec 21: First Video Trailer Tweeted2023June 6: Mint Price changed to 0.65e (public) / 0.35e (whitelist)June 28: Second Video Trailer Tweeted (no tweets for previous 6m)June 30: WL MintJuly 2: Total supply reduced from 10k to 5,555July 9: Public MintJuly 9: Public Mint paused after 200ish mintsJuly 12: New Plan to airdrop to existing holders + fair dutch auction starting at 0.45e → 0.15eJuly 12: Manual Reveal beginsJuly 12: Remaining Collection mints out at 0.3e

All told, they raised about 1,000 ETH ($1.87m) from the mint.

Not bad, not bad at all, especially for this market — but a far cry from what they had previously tried and hoped to raise (between 2000-9000 ETH).

Is the project a success? Depends who you ask, but if you ask me, to raise 1,000 ETH from a mint in this market, it is still a success for the project.

It is now TBD where they go from here. They have far less funds than they had planned for, and will probably need to make some (more) significant pivots in the direction they take as a business.

More importantly, I think Ether highlights a pivotal moment in the NFT space where, finally, people are waking up and trying to decipher exactly why they need so much money, what exactly they’re building, and how that value might funnel back to the holders.


I’ve advised a lot of projects in this space, both formally and informally. One thing I regularly harp on about is the importance of having contingencies upon contingencies upon contingencies.

Our space is fickle and unpredictable and changes at breakneck speeds. The market is liable (and even likely) to significantly change from the inception of an idea to the day of mint. It is even quite likely to change in the 2 months leading up to mint day.

A lot of projects have a Plan A. The mint price, the supply/collection size, etc. Then everything else hinges on this Plan A. Their marketing strategy, their mint-day strategy, their post-mint strategy. It’s all too often based on market conditions from months prior, or predicted market conditions based on wishful thinking.

But what happens when the entire NFT market crashes? What happens when engagement is at all time lows? What happens when another collection drops a massively extractive mint just before you do?

If you’re not prepared for these scenarios, then you scramble, and sadly, all too often fumble.

I believe that’s what happened with Ether, a few times.


Timing a mint is one of the more difficult things to do in this space. You ideally want to launch when liquidity is high in the market and people are feeling bullish. The problem here is that neither of these things are in your control — so the best you can do is pick a date and hope for the best, or have your project ready-to-go and wait until the market seems hot and then launch asap.

Neither option is particularly appealing. Much is left to the gods.

Ether got particularly unlucky with their timing because Azuki Elementals had their drop just prior, extracting 20,000 ETH from the market and crashing floors across the board. Low liquidity + bearish sentiment, the exact opposite of what you want.

What could they have done? Perhaps anticipated the event and pushed their launch up to be ahead of Azukis, but that is far easier said than done.

They could (and should) have had a strong Plan B, C, D, etc, and pivoted ahead of their first sale based on market conditions and sentiment.

Another thing to mention on timing is the fact that there was a 1 week delay between the WL mint and the public mint. That’s an enormous amount of time in our space, where attention is short lived. Compared this to the opposite extreme, where Azuki had a 10 minute difference between their various mint phases (also a terrible move imo).

I would have suggested a much shorter window between WL mint and public, a much lower mint price out the gate, and much more transparency and communication about what they were going to do with the funds. In 2023, people are increasingly demanding transparency (and rightly so). This brings us to..


Every time Ether made a pivot and announced a new approach to their mint: reduced supply, reduced price, dutch auction — it was met with widespread FUD. The key question being asked over and over (which was not really properly answered) was: why do you need all this money, and what are you going to do with it?

The response was generally vague and along the lines of “we’re building a luxury brand, clothing, figurines, IP, etc”. Again — this is the type of thing that would fly in 2021, and they would have gotten away with in 2022, but in mid-2023 the market has matured quite a bit to begin to significantly question this approach.

Even more — more real questions were being asked. Okay so you want to build a luxury brand, what is the team’s experience in building a luxury brand? How are you going to take the mint funds and do that? What benefit might minters/holders get from being part of this journey with you all?

Afaik, none of these questions have been appropriately answered.

There’s no denying that viii is an amazing artist, but there’s a Grand Canyon sized chasm between being an amazing artist and building a global luxury IP brand.

So what about the rest of the team? This is where more FUD came into question. The entire team is two, undoxxed (anonymous) people:

In the good/bad ole days of mid 2021 to mid 2022, the market didn’t seem to care much about stuff like this. It led to hype and speculation and mystery and intrigue. Anything and everything under the sun would mint out, and mass liquidity was extracted from speculators trying to gamble on projects hoping for a big win.

Once again — it is mid 2023 now. Looking back over the most successful projects, people generally want to see a team with experience, with substance, and with a plan.

Sidenote but some people took it among themselves to doxx both the founders of this project, against their wishes. I wholeheartedly condemn that type of behaviour. Doxxing people is not the web3 way. If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t buy what they’re selling.

The Art

Given how important the art is for this project - it’s worth taking a look at it. Here are some samples:

Art is subjective, but having seen approximately eleventy million PFP projects in my time in the space, I think this is some very high quality art. Not all agree, and that’s fine.

One thing I will say though is that when it comes to PFP art specifically, consideration should be made as to how well the art works as a PFP. How recognizable and identifiable is it? Can you distinguish one from another? Etc. To me, some of the collection is great at this, but other parts of the collection are “too busy” and have a bit much going on.

Again, amazing art, but perhaps not the most ideal to use as a PFP (in my personal opinion).

The NFT World: Pre Ether and Post Ether

I believe and hope that Ether is the last project we will ever see that mints out based on the 2021 model. Anon team, ambitious yet vague roadmap, high mint price.

In 2021, projects would mint out because the majority of the minters were looking to make money, and they thought they could make money by minting and flipping, or minting and holding for a while and then dumping on someone else. Greater fool theory at its finest.

Now that we’ve seen market-wide collapse of PFP floor prices, and we’re seeing more and more projects run out of runway and fold, it seems that, finally, the market is starting to wisen up.

No longer are we haphazardly throwing money at any half-baked idea with a fancy roadmap and a website full of buzzwords. People want to know what the funds will be used for, what the business plan is, how buying an NFT might provide them value, utility, perks, longevity.

Note that all of this is for the “roadmap” style projects, that are fundraising with a goal (ie to be an IP brand). When it comes to art, or less utility based projects, a lot of this doesn’t apply. Please keep throwing money at genuine artists and creators, we love them, and art = utility. Just don’t ask for ponzinomics and wen moon.

Bringing this all back to Ether — the market in 2022 still had enough hopium and unrekt gambling addicts that I believe this is exactly the type of project that would have minted out at a higher price. Would it have been successful afterwards? That’s impossible to know. But check out how much support there was when they announced their delay:

What changed from then until now? The market matured.

Of course they still minted out, but it required several pivots and, again, people-at-large are not particularly happy about it.

This is a good thread highlighting a lot of the specific issues people seem to have with Ether: https://twitter.com/profleoeth/status/1679414708032487425?s=46&t=sQ0QVUQyoiZQeVyh-DXZpg

What Now for Ether?

The project has minted out, and they raised a non insignificant amount of money, especially for a two-person team. There is a community forming, although how much of it is true supporters and ardent fans believing in the vision and how much of it is made up of the final remnants of speculators looking for unwitting exit liquidity.. is hard to know.

Does this mean Ether can’t succeed from here? Of course not. I’ve been in this space long enough to know how powerful a strong community can be if it forms, and how founders and leaders of projects can turn the most extreme FUD into success stories. But it’s going to be a long and difficult road ahead for all involved if they’re “gonna make it”.

I truly do wish them the best. I’ve had some brief interactions with Viii and he seems like a great person, with good intentions. This is not a rug pull, and they don’t deserve to be labeled as scammers like so many have so quickly labeled them as.

People are very quick to blame founders, and less quick to take personal responsibility. Ultimately this is a free and open market, and people can (and will) vote with their wallets. It is sad when people throw their money at scammers, it is sad when people throw their money at ponzis, but nobody is forcing them to.

99% of the time those people are themselves chasing greed and riches.

I hope for increased transparency from the Ether team, and would implore all future project founders and people looking to launch a similar project, to also be more transparent.

I’d also encourage everyone to have a plan B, C, D, etc. The old models are (thankfully) crumbling, and what works in the future will probably not be what has worked up until now.

If you’re going to raise 7 figures from the community, you’re going to need to answer some basic questions about what you’re going to do with the money.

If you’re going to mint or buy an NFT, you should be asking these basic questions.

You should know what you’re buying, and why you’re buying it, and be truly honest with yourself.

Have a strategy and stick to it.

Most importantly, think for yourself, and don’t listen to the “influencers”.

Everyone has an agenda.

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Disclaimer: The content covered in this newsletter is not to be considered as investment advice. I’m not a financial adviser. These are only my own opinions and ideas. You should always consult with a professional/licensed financial adviser before trading or investing in any cryptocurrency related product.

I own no Ether assets at the time of publishing this.

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