If you think gin and podcasting have nothing in common, Carly Reilly is out to prove you wrong. The host of Overpriced JPEGs (OPJ) is experimenting at the intersection of premium spirits and NFTs (who knew that intersection existed!) and her listeners are there for it.
In the last two years, Reilly has firmly established herself as a leading voice in the non-fungible token (NFT) space. Her hugely popular Overpriced JPEGs (OPJ) podcast has its finger on the pulse of the ever-changing NFT community. The popularity of the podcasts lies not only in the high calibre of its guests, but also in the insights that Reilly herself brings to the table. Last year, her passion for the space led her to Puerto Rico, where she shot a documentary shining a light on the digital artists and creators in the region. Outside of the podcast, she was also a mentor in the first cohort of Angel Labs Web3 accelerator.
So, it comes as no surprise that 2023 is set to be even bigger for Reilly and the Overpriced JPEGs team with the launch of an NFT collection and a limited-edition gin drop, all while transitioning into a fully-fledged media company.
BFF sat down with Reilly to talk about her journey from working on a presidential campaign to launching an NFT into the world of hard liquor.
Reilly first discovered crypto back in 2016 while working in a hedge fund, but at the time did not act on it other than making some gains trading Monero, a crypto designed to obscure the sender and receiver through cryptography. The idea of crypto lurked in the background of Reilly's mind for the next few years while she worked on Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign and later in a venture studio.
“Some of our big donors were into bitcoin and crypto, and it sort of stayed on my radar over the years," Reilly said. But she didn’t rediscover crypto until 2021, when she noticed higher-level concepts that she'd only previously discussed in theory — namely decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs — materializing into projects people were actively building.
It was around that time that Reilly got approached by the Bankless team about hosting a podcast on NFTs, which turned into the Overpriced JPEGs we all know and love today. Reilly acknowledges that Bankless was a tremendous help in getting the podcast off the ground, as they helped with production and sponsorships. Today, the partnership is changing, as Overpriced JPEGs evolves and grows. Reilly is now bringing the production in-house and hiring people to work on the podcast and content full-time. “We are now growing from a podcast into a fully-fledged media company," she said. "We have a second podcast focused on Layer 2s and gaming, a newsletter with 147,000 subscribers and we’ve launched an NFT collection. We are focused on growing our community and creating value for members."
At least from the sidelines, this process looked as organic as one could get in this space. Reilly has spent the lion share of the last two years building her personal brand alongside the podcast and has emerged as a thought leader in the NFT space. The leap from reporting on NFTs to launching into the world of hard liquor was not a small one, particularly in the current market, but Reilly finds the positives in the bear market.
“I actually found it very overwhelming and stressful trying to cover the space in the bull market when there was a new project pumping every week. I just felt like I was always behind and sometimes felt like a fraud because I wouldn’t get a chance to get deep into it and yet I was supposed to be able to speak as an 'expert' about it”. The bear has allowed her to take a breath and start thinking about turning OPJ into a media company rather than a standalone podcast, and she is now focused on putting the right infrastructure and a team in place to make that happen.
Her latest endeavor — a partnership with Liquid Collections on the OPJ NFT — came out of her mentoring role at Angel Labs, the first Web3 accelerator run by a veteran of the Techstars start-up accelerator, Cheryl Kellond. There she met Kit Codik, founder of Liquid Collections, who was looking to adapt his wealth of knowledge from decades in the bevalc industry into the world of Web3. And so the Overpriced Jin NFT was born.
The OPJ NFT was an open mint (meaning unlimited supply), which finished at the end of January having sold 1,150 NFTs, overshooting Reilly's target by a mile. “The positive response we got, I did not expect. When we set out, we thought it would be cool to sell 250 NFTs and I didn't want to overhype and overpromise,” shares Reilly who purposely chose not to actively market the mint, aside from a couple of podcast episodes and twitter posts to her audience.
“We were not trying to do an NFT launch to fund a company, so we didn't expect to make money, on this because frankly it's expensive to do low-scale batches of premium gin and the goal here was to test the appetite and start building foundations of this community, so we were lucky to be in that position,” she remarks.
The NFT itself has a novel approach, at least as far as alcoholic beverages are concerned. Its utility is threefold:
The redeeming component is a smart move in the business sense because it gives the creator an opportunity to gauge the interest before producing the physical good, acting as essentially a pre-sale model and limiting the downside.
Token-gated content element has a longer shelf-life and is an area Reilly would like to lean into more. “We have just done a recording with [Real Vision founder] Raoul Pal, where if you are an OPJ NFT holder you could be watching the podcast being recorded live, you could ask questions and come up on stage [virtually] and be part of the conversation, which created a much deeper, richer experience for the audience,” says Reilly. She has some strong views about the future of subscription-based models through NFT technology, so this feels like only the beginning of something much bigger.
Finally, the live events will add the in-person layer to the token-gated content and will be a way for the community to come together. With a bit of luck and Reilly's rolodex in tow, these events will undoubtedly be as premium as her gin.
“We announced our first live event which will take place during NFT Miami and that will be with Julian Holguin from Doodles, who has incredible experience and knowledge of the space and who the OPJ holders will get the opportunity to hear speak and answer questions, over a gin & tonic or two,” says Reilly.
It all started with an idea of a gift for the guests and the supporters of OPJ. “Our one-year anniversary of the podcast was coming up, and I started talking to Codik about potential gift ideas for the guests and early supporters of the pod. And I liked the idea of it being a bespoke bottle of premium gin as a gift, because I love gin & tonic. That’s how the original concept of a limited drop of premium gin was born,” recalls Reilly. To make the gift extra-special Reilly approached Amber Vittoria, an artist with a distinctive and colorful aesthetic, to create the artwork for the bottle. Vittoria also happens to be an NFT artist who regularly transcends the world of physical and digital art through her NFT collaborations.
As the process was unfolding, Codik and his team at Liquid Collections, saw the potential for the project to be launched as an NFT and integrated into the fabric of Overpriced JPEGs’ aspiring media empire. “For a while, I was very vocal about not wanting to launch an NFT," said Reilly, "but there is a lot to be said about the power of the right partnership."
Reilly describes OPJ's growth as a winding journey that built on itself and was very organic. At every turn, there was a ‘why’ behind it. That's what got her comfortable with having an NFT, she says: “There was a real purpose to it, this is not an NFT for the sake of there being an NFT”.
Squeezing the BFF chat in between numerous candidate interviews, Reilly is in supercharge mode. She is actively hiring a team for an ever-expanding list of what Overpriced JPEGs media company does.
The ‘tour’ of live events starting in Miami, podcast recordings and fulfilling gin redemptions will undoubtedly keep her busy for the foreseeable future but Reilly also has a longer-term vision. “Ideally in six to seven months’ time I would like to spend more of my time experimenting further with the gin and in the broader bevalc space to see what else can be done there. It is a fascinating and complicated industry!”.
As far as product launches go, Reilly certainly didn’t choose the easiest niche, but listening to her speak about it with so much enthusiasm and conviction, you can’t help but root for her success.
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