The spring of 2020 was a whirlwind for us all. Each of us has a story for how we spent our time during quarantine. Fortunately, I was able to spend my lockdown days in Newport Beach, California with some of my best friends. That off-season, it was very difficult to find a new team – travel was limited, and there wasn’t a lot of movement in free agency. Because of that, I had plenty of time to brainstorm the best way to build a business around this new concept of a marketplace for limited editions.
I started calling all of my smartest friends to talk through this concept I was developing. While the feedback that I received was encouraging, there was one question that consistently came up after my pitch: how could I stop the products that would be purchased on this platform from being resold on different secondary platforms that already exist? My answer at the time came from my research of the art market, in which I found that a piece’s provenance is the key to its value. I realized that if I could give today’s digital-age consumer access to not only the purchase history, but also social interactions with their prized possessions (likes, comments, posts, press, etc.), I would be able to provide an experience as extraordinary as the products themselves. This idea was enough for me to put my Xbox controller down and spend all of my free time after football training building a social network for products.
The first person I always call with a great idea is my best friend, Pat. Pat and I were randomly placed together in a dorm at Notre Dame, where we bonded over ping pong and finance. Pat taught me everything I needed to know to survive business school, and we shared an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship instead of taking the traditional investment banking route. At Stanford Hall (our dorm), we would plot and plan different business concepts – some great, most of them terrible.
That quarantine spring, we had been out of college for four years, and with all these ideas brewing I knew it was time to call him. As soon as I reconnected with Pat it became clear as day to me that he had become an experienced businessman, and was even smarter than I remembered. It took me some time to convince him, but after a couple of weeks, Pat was invested in the concept. While the Mendoza College of Business taught us how to strategize and build a business plan, neither of us knew how to develop any tech. In need of some advice on how to build, Pat gave his brother Mike (a full stack software engineer and fellow Notre Dame grad) a call to map out the resources required to execute on our idea. Without us even knowing, Mike had been building technology that could be used to power the platform we had in mind. Soon after laying the groundwork for our plan, Pat quit his job as the Director of International Sales at an information archiving company, Mike started turning down opportunities as an independent contractor, and together we began building the first version of One of None.
The idea was to pull the community creation aspects of Reddit/Discord and the trendy content creation aspects of TikTok/Instagram Reels together into a curated marketplace in which both the collectors and the products themselves had unique profiles. Using those profiles, we would create a digital life for each product on our marketplace. This platform would provide an experience sexy enough for secondary collectors to come back to the primary marketplace, showing off their goods to the resale communities they were already a part of.
While Mike began building the backend of this elaborate social marketplace, Pat and I continued researching the tech/collector space to figure out what these markets really thought about this problem. As we talked to industry operators and financiers, we came across a new solution that paralleled a lot of the same functionality we were building: blockchain technology. This decentralized ledger that was powering the new cryptocurrency movement was clearly the new, secure way to log transactions. During our deep dive into blockchain and crypto, we agreed that the future of the world was moving toward Web3. The only people I knew who were familiar with this world were my degenerate gambling friends who made, and then lost, a shit-ton of money through Bitcoin. So Pat and I decided that while integrating blockchain would be in our future, it was best to continue building a platform for today’s collector – we wanted everyone to be able to enjoy their products physically if they wanted to.
For the rest of the 2020 quarantine, Pat, Mike and I spent our isolated evenings on Zoom ideating, planning, and building. We made great progress and began preparing for a Spring 2021 launch, but then we began hearing about a new use for blockchain technology. With the help of NBA Top Shot, a marketplace for digital sports collectibles, the education we thought was needed for today’s collectors to understand this new kind of technology was already underway. Newspapers, TV shows, and social media began suddenly buzzing about a new concept that everyone would eventually be talking about: NFTs.