Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Naming famed musician and producer Pharrell Williams as the chief brand officer of Ethereum NFT project Doodles might have seemed like a stunt to some observers. However, the company’s CEO claims that Williams is actually key to the project’s growing mainstream push.
At WebSummit in Lisbon today, Doodles CEO Julian Holguin spoke on the subject and others during an onstage discussion with Katelin Holloway, founding partner at VC firm Seven Seven Six and member of the Doodles board, alongside Williams. Seven Seven Six, which was co-founded by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, led Doodles’ recent $54 million seed round.
Holguin discussed Williams’ impact on the colorful profile picture (PFP) project, citing his wide range of artistic output throughout popular culture and ability to reach various audiences with his work. His appointment was announced in June.
“From [Williams'] influence on clothing collaborations,” said Holguin, “to his work on ‘Despicable Me’ and movie products, to his music, his reach is significant.”
“If we truly wanted to be global, we needed to have a creative partner that could help us reach global audiences outside of their current followers,” Holguin added. “[Williams is] not just an endorser of the company—he’s a day-to-day influence on the brand and very involved in a lot of the biggest decisions that we're making.”
Holguin discussed a desire for Doodles to create content across a broad spectrum of entertainment mediums, from music on Spotify and Apple Music to shows on YouTube, noting that Williams would be an “integral part of the business and creating that top performing product.” They’re already working on Doodles-inspired music together.
The Doodles CEO joined in May following a decade with music industry chartmaker Billboard, where he last served as president. Holguin revealed at WebSummit that his personal catalyst for entering Web3 centered around a desire to pursue innovation in a nascent space, rather than try to push Web2 firms towards decentralized models.
“It became apparent to me that I could either continue to try and drag a traditional brand into the future, or go help be a part of making that new future,” he explained. “That's ultimately what led me to Web3 and blockchain technology.”
Holguin argued that the technological complexities of blockchain networks remain high barriers to entry for onboarding consumers. He claimed that Doodles is a brand intent on “coloring the world with joy,” utilizing vibrant artwork as a welcoming and “disarming” invitation to the project's broader experience.
He believes that style will aid in Doodles’ broader expansion, akin to how NBA Top Shot used appealing basketball video highlights to draw people into the NFT space. Doodles has already generated over $535 million worth of secondary trading volume since launching in October 2021, and the team plans to launch a larger Doodles 2 collection ahead.
“I think that art is going to be the tip of the spear for the onboarding process moving forward,” Holguin concluded.
Prior to co-founding Seven Seven Six—which has also funded notable NFT startups Yuga Labs and Proof—Holloway worked for prominent Web2 firms including Reddit and Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios. Reflecting on Seven Seven Six’s decision to lead Doodle’s $54 million seed round, she emphasized inclusion and diversity as core attractions.
“We are investing in the team that we believe can bring incredible innovation to the space and has a very keen eye for inclusion,” Holloway explained, “ensuring that we're bringing everyone along for the ride.”
Following the on-stage discussion, Holloway spoke with Decrypt about how the tumultuous economic landscape has affected her temperament for strategic investments in the Web3 space. “I haven't really changed my strategy,” she declared, citing the experience of having “lived through so many economic downturns.”
“I was raised by a woman who was raised by a woman who lived through the Great Depression,” she said. “So, my family has always thrived in moments of less and constraint.”
The crypto market crashed in May amid the collapse of Terra’s UST and LUNA, sending ripples throughout the wider blockchain ecosystem. The NFT market has suffered, as well. But there’s plenty of economic pain to go around on a macro level right now. Holloway said that there’s also “opportunity” as prices fall and expectations shift.
“I've always been very disciplined and pragmatic in my investing, so I always focus on things that I’ve been focused on for years,” she told Decrypt. “But I do think there's incredible opportunity in this moment.”