It’s difficult to describe the Cool Cats NFT project any better than its founders. To that end, Evan Luza (aka Elu), who carries the title “Pixel Wrangler” on the team’s website, calls Cool Cats, “Hello Kitty meets Pokémon on the blockchain.”
It’s an apt description of the NFT collection that is one of the most beloved in the space. All the more impressive considering that the Cool Cats mint on July 1st, 2021 was so slow at first, the team had to lower its 0.06 ETH mint price. Nevertheless, it sold out six hours after that and the now-iconic Blue Cat never looked back.
Evan and his fellow Cool Cats founder, Clon, each sat down with NFTevening at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX, to tell the story of Cool Cats’ journey from passion project to blue-chip NFT status.
Interviews were conducted by NFTevening’s Angela Giampolo. Quotes are condensed and edited for clarity.
The pre-NFT history of Blue Cat
Clon’s history with the Blue Cat character stretches back to his late teens. And it certainly didn’t come from any specific intention to create the artwork of a brand whose primary collectibles have generated nearly $270 million in sales.
“I consider myself a doodler. I was just drawing on the side of my homework, and then it turned into a cat.” Obviously, that cat resonated with Clon and he continued to experiment with it. Then in January 2015, he began posting Blue Cat and some other illustrations under a new moniker, “The Catoonist”.
Clon struggled to find an audience for Blue Cat early on
However, the work on Clon’s Instagram page never came close to reaching the audience that his NFTs would later attain. What’s more, he became a bit disillusioned on account of what got engagement on Instagram versus what didn’t.
“When I would post something that was cat-related, it would get a bunch of likes. If I posted anything I was really proud of from an illustration standpoint, it would get nothing. And so that’s when it just started entering my brain that, I don’t like where this is going.”
Between Blue Cat not catching on and finding work as a graphic designer after his college graduation, Clon eventually put the character, and the Catoonist persona, on the back burner.
“I tried, tried, tried, and then hit a point in 2018. I made this post of Blue Cat looking at his hands… and the background starts fading. And then I never touched the page again. Until Cool Cats.”
Evan’s first NFT project led to a reconnection with Clon
As Clon alludes to, everything would change for him and Blue Cat when an old friend got in touch. That friend, of course, was fellow Cool Cats founder, and an old Georgia State classmate, Evan.
While Clon went the route of freelance graphic design after graduation, Evan went on to work in brand design at a few different tech companies. Perhaps most relevant to his current career path was the time he spent at Bitcoin.com helping with their rebrand.
Naturally, Evan had crypto fully on his radar earlier than most. But even for the crypto native, NFTs were a confusing proposition when he first encountered them.
“At first I didn’t really get NFTs. I liked the art but I didn’t understand the price tag. I didn’t get what I was looking at.”
As with many people, what changed for Evan was the early energy around the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Finally, he decided that it was time to go down the NFT rabbit hole. And needless to say, he liked what he saw. Soon enough, he felt ready to take a stab at an NFT collection of his own.
Evan first contacted Clon looking for help to flesh out his first NFT project – a collection of cute, pixelated sushis. Clon had experience doing motion graphics. So Evan knew that he could help him tell the story behind the collection, and offer some internet-ready content.
Clon wasn’t particularly aware of NFTs or crypto at the time, so Evan had to walk him through the opportunity he was seeing. Luckily, Clon soon grasped the concept and came on board.
Evan and Clon met the other two Cool Cats founders through a Discord community
As with many a good founding story, serendipity came into play for Clon and Evan as they worked on the pixelated sushi NFTs. Basically, their first developer flaked on them. Clon describes that situation as a sad one. What’s more, it put the future of their project somewhat in jeopardy.
“We now had to find a new developer. It wasn’t as easy at the time, because the space wasn’t as big as it is now”.
Amazingly, the process that followed for Clon and Evan is something that later repeated itself in the Cool Cats Discord server for other people. That is to say, they came across their new developers – Tom (@xtremetom) and Lynq (@lynqoid) in a Discord community for an NFT project that Clon had bought into. As a matter of fact, they were the devs for that very project. A 10K collection of husky unicorns called, well, Faticorns.
To hear Evan tell it, Faticorns had somewhat stalled around that time. Nevertheless, he and Clon were big fans of Tom and Lynq’s work. As Evan says,
“The website was really clean. The smart contract was optimized, they had a foundation. So they could plug the holes that we were missing.”
Tom and Lynq’s desire to do something fresh led to Blue Cat’s blockchain rebirth
There was just one small wrinkle in Clon and Evan’s plans to bring Tom and Lynq on board. While the two devs were excited to work with them, they weren’t so much interested in just pushing a project over the finish line. Rather, they wanted to be part of building something.
As a result, Evan and Clon decided to pivot. Tom and Lynq tasked their new partners with coming up with a new idea for an NFT project that the four could tackle together, as co-founders. And the way both Evan and Clon tell it, it didn’t take them very long to find an answer in Clon’s old friend, Blue Cat. Clon describes the moment of realization,
“I saw a poster on my wall of Blue Cat dressed up in all these different costumes I did way back in 2015. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, this has been right in front of us the whole time on my wall.”
The ingredients for Cool Cats’ massive success
Putting care for the community first
It will come as no surprise that both Evan and Clon particularly highlight the importance of community. Not just as the reason for their success, but also as their advice to up-and-coming NFT project founders.
After all, it was an NFT community that led them to the other two founders, and those two founders that led them to what became Cool Cats. At the same time, Tom made sure to set community as the team’s first priority. Clon says about it,
“Right when we started, Tom said to us, We need to make sure community is always number one. They are what’s gonna drive this and we need to care about them.”
And care for their community is exactly what they did. Besides that, it’s one of the things that they value most about their NFT experience. As Clon illustrates,
“People have made lifelong friends in our community. And they’ve even gone as far as making their own projects that are now successful because of Cool Cats. And that’s what community is all about. Because no one will forget that moment of connection.”
Art driven by passion
To be sure, Clon’s story with Blue Cat, in particular, is something that has endeared him to the Cool Cats community, and the NFT community at large. Indeed, the fact that he never gave up on Blue Cat makes him easy to root for.
All in all, Evan sees Clon’s love of the character as the main thing that shines through the art. It’s the unseen story that permeates the art that captures people. Beyond just being a cute blue cartoon cat.
“As cliché as it sounds, Clon had spent years of blood, sweat, and tears, putting himself in a character. And I think that it really just translates and resonates. There’s literally a piece of him in it. And I think that’s the thing. You don’t even know that that’s what you’re responding to.”
What the future holds for the Cool Cats brand
Answering the question of what the future holds for Cool Cats, Evan is honest about the uncertainty of the still-maturing NFT space.
“I’ve worked in the tech space for a while. But this is the first industry I’ve been in where I couldn’t tell you what even next month looks like. We know the direction we’re growing and going in but there are so many unknowns, and that’s just what it is. There’s no crystal ball that anyone has.”
Both of the Cool Cats founders do a good job of staying tight-lipped on what they may have in store. After all, that would fly in the face of the team’s “under promise and over deliver” mantra. This makes a ton of sense given that both founders reflect on the painful lessons that came from having to delay the Cool Pets launch a few times.
Moving forward they want to make sure to give themselves plenty of time. That way they can ensure that everything they put out is ready and up to their standards. Although, Clon does let NFTevening know that “there are more characters to come. And they’ll come soon.”
Overall, Evan speaks to the guiding philosophy that the team has, no matter what surprises may come down the line.
“We’re open to any things that perpetuate our IP in a way that is beneficial to the masses and our brand.”
And to match Clon’s sneak preview, Evan hints at – but does not confirm! – some of the ways that the Cool Cats IP might find itself in the real world in the near future.
“It would be really cool to live in a reality in which we may be locking down production on things like toys and plushies.”
Make of that what you will.