This article was published on January 6, 2022

Welcome to Cryptoland: The Fyre Festival for crypto fans

Hell isn't around the corner, it's on a Fijian island


Welcome to Cryptoland: The Fyre Festival for crypto fans
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

Close your eyes. Shut them nice and tight. Now, imagine, if you will, a tropical island populated only by crypto enthusiasts… Open your eyes. What have you done?

Cryptoland is real — and it can hurt you. Also, it can scam you out of quite a bit of cash.

This crypto island project first gained public attention with a video that can only be described as unhinged and a Molly White Twitter thread. In the video, a pitch for buying stakes on the island via NFTs rubs shoulders with an animated video that seems closer to a crypto satire than a sales pitch.

Words struggle to do it justice, but have a watch.

We could write an entire article about the bizarre animated section of this video. I mean, the thing includes an anthropomorphic talking coin, a song-and-dance number, and endless hackneyed crypto in-jokes.

But today we want to get a little bit more serious and try to get our heads around what Cryptoland actually is.

What is Cryptoland?

In the simplest terms, the project is an attempt to buy an island and make it a global crypto hub.

The people behind it have claimed they want to split the land into three main areas:

cryptoland island split
I, simply, cannot

To give a bit more context, these are:

  • Cryptoland Bay: An area consisting of workspaces, bars, and a resort.
  • The House of Dao: An incubator for crypto startups.
  • The Blockchain Hills: 60 parcels of lands the project’s creators plan on selling to people.

We’ll return to this information later, so keep it in mind.

Where is this island?

According to Cryptoland’s “Why Paper,” it’s an island in Fiji, called Nananu-i-cake. But this is where we start to get into shady territory.

On the Cryptoland Discord, the people behind the project claimed they have secured the island with a purchase agreement:

cryptoland Nananu-i-cake purchase agreement
Hmm.

Despite this, Nananu-i-cake is still listed as available on at least two different real estate sites. (If you’re interested, it’s currently listed at $12M).

I’ve contacted the real estate brokers at Vladi Private Islands ascertain if there is any purchase agreement on Nananu-i-cake. They told me the island is still for sale.

This isn’t the only worrying detail. Another is the island listed as being around 600 acres. This works out to be 0.9375 square miles. In other words, Nananu-i-cake doesn’t seem big enough for all the areas above that the Cryptoland team (that the Cryptolanders will inhabit) are planning.

How is Cryptoland being funded?

Seemingly, getting people to mint (or, you know, buyNFTs. These are based on Connie, the bizarre talking coin from the video. And are all variations of the below:

cryptolander NFT
The hat, eyes, colors, and accessories of the Connies are randomly generated from a select list.

I’m saying this despite there being no real attempt in any of the documents I’ve seen to explain to how Cryptoland will be funded. At the start of the video, Kyle Chasse (a leading crypto figure) claims the Cryptoland founders have put in half a million dollars to get to this point — but this is tough to verify.

What we can say for sure is the video and website cost something, and it probably wasn’t cheap.

The clearest way that Cryptoland appears to want to make money is by selling the parcels of land in the Blockchain Hills area as “King Cryptolander NFTs“. There’s evidence of these costing around 319 ETH — or anywhere between $1M and $1.2M depending on the fluctuations of the cryptocurrency.

Then, we have the above. No matter what you think about the project so far, there’s no way that having to confirm you’re not a US citizen to buy land is a good thing.

Who’s behind Cryptoland?

The two co-founders are Max Olivier and Helena Lopez. According to Molly White’s research, the pair previously worked for a magazine, which shut down shortly after a paparazzi scandal.

This could be nothing — everyone has a past after all — but it appears Olivier attempted to hide his ties to the magazine and claim he wasn’t involved, despite evidence to the contrary.

Alongside these slightly shady founders, there are some bigger crypto names at least tangentially involved: Charlie Shrem and the aforementioned Kyle Chasse.

There’s further information on the other individuals involved on the Cryptoland site here.

What’s the problem with Cryptoland?

On a fundamental level, nothing.

Personally, I can’t imagine anywhere I’d like to be less than on an island made solely for crypto people, but that doesn’t mean the place doesn’t have the right to exist. I mean, much of US history is based on communities striking out for themselves and claiming land. And, on an intellectual level, how different is the Saudi Neom project?

No, the problem is the whole thing is rife with slapdash questions and poorly thought-through responses.

Cryptoland is supposedly going to be powered by diesel generators. Much of the infrastructure (including staff quarters) will be based on the mainland. And, maybe worst of all, hugely complex topics are dealt with on the Discord with a wave of the hand and toxic positivity.

Cryptolander infrastructure plan
I mean… excuse me?

The budget to make something like Cryptoland is eye-wateringly high. Even if all 60 parcels of land are sold, this would only amount to about $60M in total.

The generic Cryptolanders NFTs we mentioned above have an average price of 0.1517 ETH, or just above $500. The organisation also states there’ll only be 10,000 of these, meaning, at their current cost, they’d only raise $5M.

From the evidence in front of me, I can only arrive at two potential hypothesises. The first is that this is a scam. The people behind Cryptoland will get as much cash as possible before shutting down and disappearing with the money.

The second is they truly believe in this project and are dangerously misguided. If this is the case, it’s likely Cryptoland will end up as a humanitarian crisis that makes Fyre Festival look like a walk in the park.

One thing is for certain though — this is far from over and it’s more than likely a lot more details will be uncovered in the coming weeks and months. All we can do is watch and report, so make sure you stay tuned to TNW for more information on what becomes of Cryptoland.

(Note: This thread from Molly White was an excellent resource and contains some incredible research and analysis. I’d highly recommend reading it, especially if you want a laugh).

Update — Jan 7, 2022: We added the fact that Nananu-i-cake, the island Cryptoland wants to buy, is still for sale.

Update — Jan 10, 2022: The original video was taken down by Cryptoland, so we provided an alternative link.

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