Behind the JPEG: Andrew Wang
How an aspiring writer became an NFT icon.
Andrew is a recent Columbia University graduate who majored in sociology, he adores writing and has freelanced for some of the most renowned publications in the journalism industry. He has also become of the most beloved NFT community members in the space, with over 32,000 followers and a serious passion for Cool Cats. But how did it all start and where is he going? Find out in this exclusive interview.
From Texas to Boston to LA, to New York, Andrew’s childhood was filled with relocation. As a ‘nerdy’ kid, Andrew yearned to find his purpose outside of education, and during high school, that turned out to be running. From Monday to Friday he would visit the running track and join his friends as they built their own niche and tight-knit community, something that would certainly come into effect later in his life. However, upon moving to LA, he came to the realization that it was not the sport that filled him with passion, it was the community. The track team that he had enrolled with did not replicate his high school experience, with feelings of doubt and detachment, he decided that he would transfer to Columbia University in New York, optimistic that he would find something better. Since then, he has found his passion, met great friends, and is loving every second. But there’s more to this story.
Putting Pen To Paper
So where does writing come into the picture? Andrew has always enjoyed transpiring his emotions through words, writing was his outlet. Since moving to New York, he quickly cemented his position in Columbia’s student news blog, ‘Bwog’, with his first article uploaded in September of 2018. From writing about events on campus to dissecting political topics, Andrew gathered a wealth of experience from writing early on during his studies. Above all else, it was writing that motivated him to get out of the chair, to learn more, and to share his thoughts with the world.
However, during the pandemic, both Andrew’s writing and life came to a sudden halt when he received a concussion during a basketball game. As a consequence, he was bedridden for two months, unable to put pen to paper he turned to consuming as opposed to producing. This was where he began to explore Top Shot, which for many other sports fans has become a typical gateway to the NFT scene. The NFT space reignited his passion for writing which during the pandemic, became somewhat less inspiring and fulfilling.
Within this transition period, Andrew became enthralled by the community and quickly found that there was a gap to be filled in regards to writing and coverage of the space. He soon found his place and began to engage with these communities, whether it be writing about them or participating in chats. From his journey through college to sports and writing, the NFT space encapsulated everything that he had been searching for over the past few years. At the same time, this left him contemplating his future, with an offer accepted from Columbia’s journalism school, Andrew had an important decision to make. He was at a crossroads between what he thought he should do, versus what he thought he deserved.
From writing for The Washington Post, Insider, ONE37pm, The Verge, and Jezebel, Andrew had already established an impressive portfolio of work. Evidently, he had demonstrated that he could network, and the NFT space was an even greater hub for opportunities. In a Twitter post, he asked for advice regarding the possibility of dropping out, the response was mixed. However, just weeks later he took the leap of faith and announced that he would be dropping out. Although journalism school was something that he had always worked towards, for himself and his family, he also realized that the opportunity in front of him was too valuable to simply pass by. As well as detailing his thoughts in a Twitter thread, he marked his full-time entrance into the NFT scene with an NFT drop, two hand-drawn images that would commemorate his decision, minted on the blockchain, forever!
In the space of two months, Andrew’s following has grown from 10,000 on August 9th to 31,000 today, an exponential increase for even the most renowned influencers. Within this short space of time, Andrew was presented with an important responsibility, on August 29th he received confirmation that his Twitter profile has been verified, further validating his importance in the ever-expanding NFT community.
On the 2nd July, Andrew made what would be the purchase of his lifetime with the 1/1 upside-down Cool Cat. It has since become his embodiment, persona, and identity. Interestingly, the person who sold Andrew the cat for 5 ETH, ending up starting the project that @garyvee picked for his pre-launch program! He has supported the Cool Cats right from the outset and is one of their biggest advocates. So much so that he asked for permission to use his profile picture for MIT! So, we are back to the question of why? The simple answer is the community, and Cool Cats have a lot of it. Not even a 300 ETH offer could tempt Andrew to part ways with his legendary upside-down cat. This was not an apathetic relationship for Andrew, there is a deep-rooted connection that goes further than the NFT. At the time Andrew joined the NFT space, Cool Cats had just started out. It was the story of Clon and his art journey that enticed Andrew. From almost giving up entirely on his cartoon cats to creating an NFT collection with a floor of 10 ETH, it has been nothing short of inspiring. Furthermore, as cool cats have grown, so has Andrew, it is an inseparable synergy that has made Andrew who he is today!
A Merging Of Digital With Reality
Since entering the NFT space, Andrew has had a wild ride. From flying out to Vegas, to dancing at the Discothèque in Paris, he has relished the opportunity to meet his NFT friends in person. Just recently, he took a walk in the park with the president of TIME magazine, Keith Grossman, where there and then he was offered the role of a moderator for their discord. From being afraid to tour art galleries such as the MOMA, to exploring New York City with some of the most exciting names in the NFT space, Andrew has finally found his footing in the art world, and NFTs have certainly been his calling.
Andrew Wang is not someone that you would typically meet by simply walking down the street, or maybe he is. Nonetheless, he is quite the rare find, and in the best possible way! I took to the TIME and Cool Cats discord to find out what the community really thought about Mr. Wang! Their testimonials are listed below:
“He cool” - teefs’ biggest fan | 444
“We like the Andrew” - Cheeze
“He’s a cool guy!!!” - VirtualToast.eth
“I heard he sleeps upside down.” - d_dot
“He is ‘upside’ down to earth (see what I did there)” - CHIDZ
Perhaps the most significant was that from Keith Grossman who went on to say,
“Andrew is an incredible talent and I personally love that he is chronicling the web3 revolution. Some of his perspectives have personally shaped my own and have been formative in our thinking about this evolution” - Keith Grossman, President of TIME.
When did you first enter the NFT space, how did it come around?
I would say the biggest thing was that I took a charge during a pickup basketball game and I ended up having a concussion for quite a long time, about two months. Every day I was in my bed thinking that I would wake up feeling better and I didn't. And there were very few things that I could do. But one of them was obviously to watch basketball, and that was how I found out about Top Shot. I would say it started with being unlucky. But then very quickly, I realized that it was a blessing in disguise. This was a time when Top Shot was kind of in a bear market. So it didn't really come as a financial blessing right then. And now it feels like one because everything's gone up and I've gone into different projects. But since the beginning, I think it's important to say that it was really just a passion project. It was fun to collect, even though I wouldn't see my moments, valuations go up. It was something new and something different, and it was what really taught me about NFTs. So in that sense, I think I was lucky.
Tell us more about Topshot, how did it prepare you for the NFT scene?
I think it prepared me for the NFT scene because it taught me that friends were important. I would say two of the most important people that I met early on in the TOPSHOT space were, tiffskicks310 and DreamShaker. Those two people welcomed me into the space. They taught me the ropes. They took care of me. They asked me questions about my favourite team. Then very quickly it moved off of Top Shot, where they were just checking in on my life, seeing how I was doing. I face time with them regularly now. I have calls with them at odd hours talking about Top Shot and other NFTs. Whenever I had wins, they celebrate it with me, and whenever I'm struggling we're talking it through. I think that's how it really prepared me. Ultimately, it wasn't about seeing the value of my NFT go up. It was realizing that I was in this to make friends and to make strong connections. I feel like the reason why I was able to be so community oriented, in part, is due to those two people. So shout out to them!
You have written for some of the most renowned publications, how did these opportunities arise and what was you breakthrough article?
I feel like I struggled a lot to get my writing out during college. I wrote for my school’s campus blog. But at the time, I also was pitching lots of publications all the time. You see the articles that get published now, but you don't see all the pitches that I wrote that editors said no to, the ones that they killed, the ones who never responded or even opened my emails. I would say that college was a harder time for my writing. It wasn't until last year that I really got started with publishing pieces and more well-known publications.
My first breakthrough was writing for The Washington Post. I remember just completely giving up on the piece, not thinking that they would read it or respond, and my girlfriend said to hold on to hope. So when they responded to me and took the piece, I think it was a great moment. It’s also important to remember that for all the things outwardly where it looks like we're succeeding, it can be the case that we're feeling a lot too. But I would say that was one where I felt like I had a really strong piece. But on top of that, I had to get lucky as well. For instance, the same piece that The Washington Post took, other places didn’t want it.
When you dropped out of journalism, was this an easy decision and what were the contributing factors?
I would say the biggest reason I was in journalism school was because I wanted a community and I wanted mentorship that I feel like I didn't always have. One of the reasons why it wasn't too hard to drop out was because I realized that there was still a community for me in the NFT space, as well as mentorship for me. It’s a little less straightforward, it's not like I can just go to my teacher and ask for help, but I can call or DM somebody who I think is really cool. I can reach out to people whose faces I don't know, but whose writing I admire and I can just ask them questions. I think thats kind of cool, and it's empowering to feel that I can do that. It definitely feels like a road less travelled, but it doesn't feel so categorically difficult compared to what J School felt like at the time.
How did you first find out about the Cool Cats collection?
I would say again, I was lucky. Cool cats minted just as I transitioned from Top Shot into other NFTs. As well as this, I would also say Clon’s story, which is in the origins channel of the discord. This was what really gave me that greatest conviction.
Can you tell us more about your purchase of the legendary upside down Cool Cat?
It was a big play. In fact, it was pretty much all the ETH that I had at the time, but it felt right. I love that I had seen the other cool cats that he had drawn in the years prior, and I was like, wait, this is an upside-down cat, this is naked catI! It reminds me of all the cats that he's drawn from being a struggling freelancer to entering the NFT space. So I thought this seems like the perfect one.
Do you think there will ever be a collection that you could love more than the Cool Cats?
It's almost like asking somebody, ‘would you trade your childhood for anything?’ Many of us would say yes, it could have been better… But I think ultimately, most of us wouldn't. My birth and kind of growth in the NFT space has always kind of coincided with cool cat's growth. We really both got started around the same time. It is impossible to know where cool cats will end up months from now or years from now. Some people say that it might be history, but I'd like to think that even if it doesn't become history, it's still a part of my history. So in that sense, maybe not. I think even if I were to put out an NFT, it would mean a whole lot to me, and even though it could be more personal to me, it isn’t the beginning. The beginning really feels like cool cats.
Is creating NFT art something you would like to pursue for the future?
I think the good thing about the NFT space is that it encourages people to be both collectors and creators and it's so easy to do both. In a sense, I did that for fun, and I put that in a thread about dropping out. I just wanted to reward the people who took the time to read it, because we know threads can be hard to get through sometimes. I provided some utility secretly to holders, but I hope that down the line, I can look on that moment and think, well, that was something that was pretty fun and it was easy to transition from a collector to a creator. All I had to do was get my phone out and put my finger on the screen, then I was set.
If you had one piece of advice for someone in the NFT space, what would it be?
I would say to try and think about what your end game is, where do you want to end up? Think ahead, maybe a few months from now or a few years from now. The truth is that it will probably be a little bit different than you imagined, but it can be helpful to think about. Somewhere down the line, I realized that NFTs were giving me enough financial freedom that I didn't have to think about things like floor prices or the new mint every day. An example of that would be just the other day I was hanging out with one of my favourite people in the NFT space, Justin Aversano, and we were walking down the streets of New York. We'd spend hours together just talking and sharing stories, and around the same time, both of our phones died. In the NFT space, that's like a death sentence, right? Because then you can't check floor prices, you can't check new projects. You miss out on Twitter notifications, Discord mentions. But we both realized that it was kind of nice because it forced us to focus on what was right in front of us.
We were ducking into shops and he was showing me crystals. I bought incense for the first time in my life. We got this amazing lavender mocha. We saw a sign in chalk on the street that said “dream until it's your reality” that we both felt inspired by. I think what that made me realize was that my end game is about making friends in the space and keeping them, and seeing that friendship and connection grow. So if the floor price goes up and things go to the Moon, that's amazing. But I think for me, this space wouldn't feel right without those moments, and I think everybody should just take a chance at thinking about what their endgame is.
For me, it's definitely having a full life, a fulfilling one, both in the digital space and what I realized that day in the physical one as well. I would say just come up with your own version of that, and it won't be the same as mine, but I think it is nice to think about it. It helps you to focus and keep perspective, even if its not exactly what you think it'll be.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself that nobody in the NFT space knows?
Oh, one time when I was a kid, I was building a Lego battleship with over a thousand pieces. When I finished, one of the legos that was left over was a one by one, transparent red button and I had an itch in my nose. I thought that I could pick it by putting the Lego in my nose, so I did, and it fixed the itch. But all of a sudden I inhaled and I felt it shoot up my nose, it got stuck there. I freaked out and I told my mom and she freaked out, and she rushed me to the hospital and I had to get to go to the emergency room to get it removed before it would enter my brain. To this day, we still have the Lego. The doctor recovered it and let us keep it as a memento, I think to everybody in my family, it's funny. To me, it's probably more a mark of shame, but I can laugh about it every once in a while.
Hey fren! If you made it to the end, in the words of Andrew Wang, ‘WGMI’! If you are looking for a funny, kind-hearted guy, I would certainly check out his Twitter and give him a follow!
Make sure to let me know who you would like to hear from next, and for now, enjoy your week folks!