The Singapore-based Web3 star appeared on the sixth episode of Tatler’s weekly online talk show that invites visionaries and leaders to share their thoughts on NFTs, the metaverse and cryptocurrency and how they are reshaping the way we live
The sixth episode of Tatler TV: Meta Versed was hosted on May 12 and featured Irene Zhao, the internet personality who made headlines when her IreneDAO collection of NFTs, each of which features an image of Zhao, sold for S$7.5 million in just 10 days.
If you missed the episode, you can now watch it here.
“Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t keep a cent of the S$7.5 million,” says Zhao. “That was just the trading volume. The real profit was maybe five per cent of that, which went into my IreneDAO treasury. It’s a public wallet, so anyone can check it.”
Speaking to Tatler Hong Kong’s editor-in-chief and editorial director Jacqueline Tsang, Zhao dispelled rumours about her meteoric rise to fame, explaining how she went from being a commodities broker to an influencer and Web3 rising star.
With a degree in communications and new media from the National University of Singapore, the 28-year-old almost opted for a career in public relations, but the universe had other plans. “My friend was just ending his internship at a commodities brokerage, and they were looking for a female broker to join the team. The most valuable skill I learnt during my time there was how to hold a conversation with C-suite leaders,” she says, adding that this put her in good stead when launching her own company with business partner Benjamin Tang in December 2021.
Her start-up So-Col, which stands for Social Collectables, aims to onboard Web2 influencers to the Web3 space. Already valued at US$100 million, and with fans including Youtuber Logan Paul and billionaire investor Mike Novogratz, So-Col is well on its way to the top.
“My NFT collection, IreneDAO, started as a meme sticker pack on [messaging app] Telegram to generate buzz for So-Col. People loved it. It was essentially a proof of concept” to show that you can empower creators in the Web3 space,” she says.
Though sex appeal is an obvious factor in her NFTs, they offer much more than meets the eye. “There is a lot more to the success of IreneDAO NFTs that’s less obvious, like the extraordinary community and the support from industry thought leaders. When people look at something they don’t understand, they try to explain it based on what they do understand. But that explanation is too simplistic,” she says.
Posting “hot pictures”, Zhao explains, might get you initial attention, but it won’t never create lasting success. “Online personalities [who are posting suggestive pictures] aren’t creating the same impact that I did because you have to really understand the culture of Web3 and create funny or thought-provoking content. Not everyone that posts a hot picture can become famous. I want to challenge the narrative that NFT projects are just cash grabs,” she says. “I want people to really believe that NFTs have real-life utility because I want to build something much bigger here.”
Zhao went into detail about the benefits of Web3, including the importance of asset ownership. “No matter how long you spend watching your favourite Youtube video or how long you’ve been fawning over a creator on Web2, there is no way for you to be rewarded. The relationship between fans and creators is very transactional,” she says, explaining how creator platforms like Only Fans and Patreon generate money from subscriptions, without any real benefit to or recognition for the customer.
“With So-Col, you become an investor. You can invest money and become part of a creator’s work, whether that’s a video, a post, or a piece of music. Fans can make money by investing in a creator that they really believe in. With So-Col, we are trying to simplify the process of onboarding Web2 users to Web3. We even provide one-click access to buying NFTs on our platform.”
Other topics covered during the show included how to look out for scams (including IreneDAO copycats), the responsibility that comes with using your actual identity for a project, her support of the ECPAT charity which aims to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children, and her upcoming offline events.
The talk ended with one final pearl of wisdom from Zhao: “Try to find your unique selling point,” she says. “The good thing about being a female in Web3 is that you get noticed easily. The bad thing is that people will accuse you of using your body to attract attention. Find the right balance and put a lot of thought into your work.”