Me , as a fat golden budda

Boo , Voodoo, and NFTs

“I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered, I guessed and I tried
You just knew
I sighed
But you swooned, I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon”

  • Mike Scott

In the olden, olden days, Jake hadn’t had his first birthday, and  we left our first home together in Clane to move to Belfast to set up, one of Ireland’s first e-commerce websites. A venture capital/hothouse/incubator company had offered my friends Jim and Talat funding to develop and launch an e-commerce website selling shoes and they asked me to join them. It all sounded so exciting. We were going to get shares in the company , they were providing all of the funding, building the website, and flying us around the place buying shoes.

We were going to be bajillionaires by Christmas.

Every evening on the news there were segments featuring bright young things launching websites selling toys, flowers, pet supplies, everything and anything.

We were Belfast’s versions of those bright young things. were our heroes. They were launching the world’s coolest, largest, e-commerce sports shop. They’d got funding of £125m , had offices in London, Milan, Paris, Munich and New York.

We were setting up a fancy pants e-commerce shoe shop. We’d been promised funding of £1.25m and had an office in Mallusk.

My Dad thought we were mad, who in their right mind would buy shoes online , without trying them on ?

My friend Zebi told him that you could sell anything online. Dad handed him the left foot ,size 7, Dr.Marten shoe, (he’d used the right foot as a sample for a government contract ) , “Here, sell that !”

A week later Zebi came back to Dad and handed him £7.50 , a priest in Lilburn had bought the left shoe from Zebi on eBay. He alays wore Dr.Martens and the left foot of his current pair was letting in water but the right foot was fine.

Dad never questioned e-commerce again….no , wait, he constantly criticized it…but with less enthusiasm.

I’d given up a very lucrative agency for Skechers, we’d bought a house in Belfast, when it happened. One by one the e-commerce websites went bust, featuring on the news each night, wobbled, collapsed, and our idols,, lurched from one Champagne soaked crisis to another. This scared the pants off the venture capital community. It turned out that the ‘incubator fund’ that were backing us , were in turn backed by another fund, and they’d changed their mind. There was no money. I had no job, a one year old, and a new house. We put are own money in and carried on, swapping champagne for tea, and caviar for sausage and egg in a Belfast bap. We got the website built, took on an old Harland & Wolff warehouse, filled it with shoes from Red or Dead, Skechers, Diesel, Converse,Dr.Martens, Caterpillar, New Rock, El Dantes, Miss Sixty, Acupuncture, DC Shoes and got ready for our launch. We’d had to convince each and every brand to allow us to sell online. They were all afraid we’d go bust, and were getting backlash from their traditional customers that we were going to steal all of their business and shut them down. We didn’t.

On our first day online we sold 7 pairs of shoes. Jim’s friend Graham bought a pair, Talat’s brother bought a pair, and my family bought five pairs, two of which were bought by Mam and Dad, with cash in the warehouse, rather than actually online.

But it was a start.

Over the next four years we spent many late nights in the office waiting for anyone to ask a question, trying to convert every query into an order. I think our first year’s sales were £36,000 , and we were thrilled with that !

In our fourth year we were being asked by some brands to be their exclusive online retailer. No one though we were mad anymore…except my Dad.

Life got in the way, and Jim and Tal bought me out of my share and we moved to Monaghan. We came home with enough to buy a home, and our family had grown to include Robyn, and was shortly to welcome Elliott.

We started, the 4th largest workwear store in Monaghan, with my brothers, and now own brands that sell musical products, gymnastics equipment and baby products via Amazon in the UK, Germany, France and the US.

We have been asked to speak at conferences about our online experiences, and we have always said that it’s true that everyone over estimates the initial impact, but under estimates the long term effect.

We considered ourselves wizards, senseis, gods of all things digital…little fat gods of digital things.

And then along come NFTs.

Bitcoin , blockchain , I get.

NFTs I don’t.

NFT’s, for those, who like last week me, have no idea what they are, are Non-Fungible Tokens. The very, very, very simplest explanation is that an NFT is a unique digital serial number that is attached to a digital asset via the Ethereum blockchain. There can only ever be one.

People have got very giddy about them, and there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there.

Basically people are selling NFTs of digital images, cats , as always, featuring heavily. I can buy , and own the NFT for that image, but you can freely click and save a copy yourself, but I’m the only one that can sell the image.

“Who the hell would buy something , that everyone else can get for free ?”

I hear you,, and now you and I both sound like my Dad twenty years ago. But the answer is lots of people.

Over the years of my e-commerce guru status I also helped organise  a local annual event, Border Bizcamp. It was a truly wonderful event, 21 speakers over the day, free entry, free lunch. It was epic. Two of my favourite speakers over the years were Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. They both gave talks, over Skype, for free. They are genuine gurus of all things digital, and are genuinely generous with their time. I would consider Chris to be a true friend, and Gary had only to be asked once to talk for free to Monaghan business people, and a few years ago he even more generously got involved with a bunch of kids from the Monaghan Youth Diversion Project. Paul Smyth and I had shown them a couple of Gary’s conference videos and they were blown away. I emaile dGaru and he sent an email to the boys and also organized a couple of ‘his people’ to follow up and see if they could help further.

So who better to ask about NFTs ?  

I messaged Chris and he immediately introduced me to Jeff Pulver, who know these things, and also sent me links to the best person he knew that really knew the NFT scene…Gary Vaynerchuk.

So I’m now on a journey.

I’m only at the start.

Everyone is overestimating the initial impact of NFTs, people are paying wild amounts of money for dodgy assets, this market will collapse. But most people are underestimating the long term effect. NFTs are more secure than any written contract. We will all be using NFTs in some fashion over the next few years.

AND I can see NFTs as a hugely liberating , and lucrative, revenue source for artists. They would get continuing royalties for their work every time it’s sold. Songs could be sold with royalties split between the artist and the fan…imagine if , as one of the first people to but The Pillow Queens first album, they got 80% of the money, and I was in a pool of first buyers that shared the other 20% of all sales ? The albums could even be numbered , so that #1 would forever have my name attached in the NFT code. What fan wouldn’t love that ?

My head is a buzz now of dreams of Hughie The Buck’s Crypto Emporium, an artist owned co-op selling their own digital assets….. Colm Keegan’s poems, Jake Bond’s novels, Denise French’s paintings, Lucy Cullen’s prints, Rachel Mae Hannon’s songs, Marc Kelly sculptures, Ciara O’Keefe ceramics…



P.S. We all need a little Blancmange

Author: paul

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