Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, has been one of social media’s—er, most prominent voices in 2021. One site, BitClout, has capitalized by allowing users to post and trade Musk-branded meme coins, even though he is not a registered user there.
We are out to achieve a mission,” says 30-year-old cryptocurrency entrepreneur Nader Al-Naji, holding court over plates of rare steak at a private room in Quality Meats, one of those Midtown Manhattan temples of red-meat excess.
That directive, he says, is to find an optimal blend of social media and blockchain technology. “I feel like money and social together can compete,” says Al-Naji, who’s in the mood for a filet-quality fete after commencing on this earlier in the year. In April, he launched BitClout, a site part Twitter, part crypto marketplace. Its users post while minting their own personally branded meme coins, their value tied to nothing more than the internet’s perception of them. For instance, the billionaire venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya is on BitClout, where Chamath Coins have attained a total market value of nearly $2 million. More controversially, BitClout also allows users to trade coins tied to people with no registered accounts—Elon Musk hasn’t joined, but Elon Coins nonetheless remain the most valuable asset on BitClout, worth almost $30 million—prompting criticism that users could profit off high-profile individuals without their permission. (As with most things crypto, the legalities are murky.) To ward off detractors, Al-Naji used a pseudonym borrowed from another internet meme, Diamondhands, for part of the past year.
His plans don’t stop with BitClout. In September, he unveiled his own digital ledger system, DeSo, after receiving $50 million or so in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia, the Winklevoss twins and others. (They backed him in bitcoin, not dollars, naturally.) Since then, third-party developers have launched over 200 social media-type apps using the DeSo blockchain; the DeSo coin has risen to a $1.7 billion market cap. Behind this all: Al-Naji’s belief that social media content recorded on an immutable virtual record will make it easier for people to earn money and receive credit for their work on the web while giving platforms a chance to govern themselves.
“I’m going to be doing this for the next 10 years. It needs to exist,” Al-Naji says, red wine in hand. “And I’ve slipped into the mode that all news is good news.”
Versions of this scene, in which internet money and internet media collide, played out with increasing frequency in 2021. The two have long intersected, dating back to the era of dot-com stocks and Yahoo! message boards. But their convergence was especially dramatic in the last year. Fueled …….