A bag of money with the Crypto Island logo on it

Arctic ice/Shutterstock (Licensed) Remix by Max Fleishman

Cryptoland wants to be an NFT paradise—it sounds like a digital FyreFest

Red flags abound.

 

Eleanor Pahl

Tech

Posted on Jan 14, 2022   Updated on Jan 17, 2022, 10:52 am CST

Cryptoland, ostensibly an island where decentralized, blockchain technology reigns and a better society develops from it, launched this month with a hype video as outlandish as the concept itself. 

But given its dubious nature and the general concerns about the scammy nature of cryptocurrency and the NFTs in general, it’s just as possible the kick-off video was for a digital FyreFest. 

The two “luxury island” projects, Fyre—a music festival in the Bahamas—and Cryptoland, a crypto-paradise in Fiji, promise an extravagant getaway experience for exclusive guests in promotional videos detached from reality. FyreFest collapsed in a wake of scandal and stranded concertgoers. It remains to see what becomes of Cryptoland, but a quick look at the founders’ history doesn’t inspire confidence. 

Cryptoland’s newfound virality is not due to the project’s vision, but instead its nine-minute animated advertisement that crypto Twitter has been quick to ridicule. 

The animation supposedly took a year to create, as the founders of the project stated in their promotional video. The viral video (though it went private a few days after it took off on Twitter) contained a nine-minute animated portion, though a 16-minute extended cut was recently unearthed. The Pixar-esque video itself can only be described as unhinged.

Overflowing with crypto in-jokes and references, the video intends to convey Cryptoland as Disneyland for crypto enthusiasts. Instead, it comes across as a crypto bro-dom from hell, edging so close to satire that it’s hard to believe the project isn’t a parody of the crypto world. There’s an incredible lack of diversity and in no way passes either the Bechdel Test or the Racial Bechdel Test.

Aside from the animation, probing into the past of founders Max Oliver and Helena Lopez reveals a string of failed projects, name changes, a cease-and-desist letter, and various misdirections. Are the two entrepreneurs with a less than stellar past really qualified to purchase and develop an entire island with the hope of creating a crypto paradise? 

Oliver and Lopez declined to comment to the Daily Dot about Cryptoland. 

How does Cryptoland intend to work? The project is releasing 10,000 NFTs (non-fungible tokens) called “Cryptolanders,” of which 60 are “King Cryptolanders.” The regular Cryptolanders are free, in theory, while the King Cryptolanders are the big-ticket items. At 319 Ethereum (ETH), right now they cost just over $1 million. Purchasing a King version grants the holder a one-acre plot on the future physical island. Owning a King Cryptolander NFT is considered proof of ownership of one of 60 parcels of land on the future Cryptoland island. It appears, essentially, to be an online deed marketed as an NFT. 

Blockchain technology is outpacing the laws, so though the technology allows for the possibility of land transferal via an NFT, it’s murky whether it holds under current law and tax guidelines. Experiments in the merging of crypto and the real estate industry have been successfully attempted, like in 2017 when TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington sold his Kyiv apartment as an NFT. 

The process to integrate NFTs and property sales is slightly more complex than that of the more common NFT digital art collection: a separate LLC was formed where the property ownership was held and the NFT would transfer ownership of the LLC to any future buyers of that property’s associated NFT. Cryptoland’s “Why” paper explains briefly how the title ownership will be passed to the King Cryptoland holders, but not the legal mechanics of the transferal.

Any holder of a Cryptolander NFT of either kind has access to visit the island, once it is built. A Cryptolander is free to mint, and if you’re a holder of the big NFT collections including Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks, Fidenza and CyberKongz, you’ll get automatic access to mint. 

Otherwise, you’ll have to work through a detailed process including a Twitter raid, changing your usernames and profiles to include Cryptoland, inviting new members, and spam commenting various tweets, as outlined on the project’s Discord. Regular Cryptolanders are currently reselling at around $350.

The $1 million price tag on a King Cryptolander NFT grants the owner a designated plot of land on the island, but not a house. The land owners must pay for and plan all development on their plots. Regular Crypolanders, or those who have access to the island but not land ownership, may stay at a planned resort on the island or presumably on the mainland a kilometer away.

The project’s viral promotional video introduces its two founders, Oliver and Lopez. The pair have little online presence upon first glance: their social media and online presence is minimal outside of hits directly related to Cryptoland. For an undertaking as large as developing an island, little information on the two can be found.

Search hard enough, and you’ll eventually stumble upon a Spanish-language article titled “Paparazis, acoso y fotos robadas: el hombre al que odian todos los ‘youtubers’ españoles,” or essentially, “the man all YouTubers hate.” In it, Oliver’s full name is listed in the piece as Maxim Oliver Jubin Coll. 

A search with Oliver’s full name reveals much more: his own dedicated Wikipedia page, which delineates his acting career and his pro-skater era. It was in the 2015 movie Stones from the Desert, co-directed by Oliver and his brother, when Oliver appears to have met Lopez, who was cast in the lead female role.

After Stones from the Desert, Oliver and Lopez started a new project attempting to capitalize on the newly forming YouTuber space. They formed the company Play Group Spain SL to create and host the YouTuber-focused Play Awards, the first awards ceremony of its kind. The first ceremony was a moderate success, but the second was wrapped in scandal, eventually leading to its cancelation. 

Oliver was tied to the creation of the YouMag magazine, a publication dedicated to scandals and rumors in the YouTuber world. Its first and only issue published controversial photos of Spanish-Norwegian YouTuber El Rubius and his previously anonymous girlfriend. The paparazzi stalking was described as “hunting” by El Rubius and fans agreed the magazine had taken things too far. The public backlash to the paparazzi scandal led to its closure after just one issue. El Rubius later called for a boycott of the Play Awards, citing Oliver’s involvement.

A press release from the Play Awards team denied rumors that Oliver was involved with the second awards ceremony, though later stated that he was an investor. However, a second unearthed Cryptoland video focusing on the background of the founders states the history of Oliver and Lopez’s founding of Play Group Spain SL, even highlighting a shot of Oliver signing his name on a Play Group Spain SL company document.

While they were still active, the YouMag domain, as well as the Play Awards site both pointed to Play Group Spain SL as the site owner. Shortly after, playawards.es transferred domain ownership to Helena López Jurado, so the pair’s involvement remained.

From the Play Awards press release denying Oliver’s connection to the domain name transferal, Oliver and Lopez have a clear history of “disappearing” their involvement in their failed projects. Spanish YouTuber Locobs reportedly received an email from Oliver asking him to remove his video explaining the connection between Oliver and YouMag.

And it’s all happening again. Software engineer Molly White, whose Twitter thread digging into the project sounded the alarm to Cryptoland’s red flags, has received a cease and desist letter claiming her statements “defame both Cryptoland and its founders.”

Then there’s the question of the island itself. Cryptoland has released an “Approval in Principle” document, which appears to be a development agreement between Blocklands Development Limited and the Rakiraki Town Council for the creation of Cryptoland. The island identified in this document is Nananu-I-Cake, a 600-acre island approximately one kilometer from Fiji’s largest island. 

The caveat: Nananu-I-Cake is still listed for sale on an online private island marketplace, priced at $12 million. The Approval in Principle document indicates discussion between Fiji officials and Cryptoland representatives has taken place, but it is not clear if the project currently has the rights to the island. The Cryptoland community Discord’s bot bans links to the marketplace listing for Nananu-I-Cake.

A source familiar with the project said that planning approval has been sought for Cryptoland and development documents have been drawn up, but that the development has recently been put on hold. 

In case anyone actually wants to purchase a Cryptoland plot of land on Nananu-I-Cake, the prospective buyers must click an “I’m not a U.S. Citizen” checkbox. In the project’s “Why” paper, the restriction against American citizens, residents, and green card holders purchasers is written in legalese not once, not twice, but three times.

It’s not clear why Americans are theoretically excluded, because the first (and only) King Cryptoland holder is crypto entrepreneur Kyle Chassé, who is an American. How he circumvented the nationality barrier is unclear.

On the morning of Nov. 8, 2021, the Crypoland account tweeted that the first to become a King Cryptolander would receive a 50% discount. That afternoon, Chassé purchased King Cryptolander #1, and per the price of ETH at the time, spent approximately $750,000, as recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. 

Aside from the million-dollar King Cryptolander sales, the project intends to fund itself through secondary sales of their regular Cryptolander NFTs. The “Why” paper, along with the master plan, states Cryptoland earns a 5% royalty on any resale of their 10,000 NFTs. The trading volume of the project to date is 37.9 ETH, so their 5% royalty would yield just about $6,000 in total.

There are mistakes and discrepancies abound in Cryptoland’s public documents. Most notable is their clear “replace all”-ing of their entire “Why” paper. Any time the letters k, i, n, and g appear sequentially, it’s capitalized to “King,” which they likely did to catch all the “King Cryptolander” capitalization. 

Unrecorded

The Cryptoland team itself has major red flags. The project’s creative designer, repeatedly cited in videos and on the site as Bartosz Domiczek, stated in an Instagram DM that he is not affiliated with the project whatsoever. 

Altogether, it paints a picture of an island that is never going to happen. But given the inexplicable, exploding popularity of NFTs, the market was ripe for a massive flop.

Update 10:38am CT: Domiczek told the Daily Dot that he is not associated with the project. He said worked on concept development “a couple of years ago” but the project “visually landed pretty far from where it used to be at the beginning.” He added that he was not “involved in the process later on.”


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*First Published: Jan 14, 2022, 8:11 am CST