Untamed Elephants was a darling non-fungible token collection in 2021, part of a wave of new projects that was taking the crypto world by storm. #StampedeSunday tweets would roll out every Sunday, showing the enthusiasm of the community.
But, in an act of deception and malice, the owner of the project rugged.
In that moment, when the fate of the project hung in the balance, a man named Adam G reached out to buy it. And Untamed Elephants was saved and continues to grow. Rarity Sniper writer Chris Tepedino sat down with Adam to chat about the project, now over two years old, and what lies next for this charity-driven venture.
Chris: First, could you give an overview of Untamed Elephants for our readers who may not know about the project?
Adam G: Untamed Elephants was the first ever charity driven NFT community on both Ethereum and Bitcoin Ordinals. So, we’re in the history books for a noble cause. We launched over two years ago and since then we’ve been innovating around impact and Web3, pushing the envelope in what projects can do to make a difference while enriching their holders.
Chris: Okay, and an overview about yourself and the role you play with an organization.
Adam G: I like to call myself a ‘steward’ of the project, helping guide it to the future alongside our community. We do a lot of innovative things around community ownership: frequent votes, building in public, our Discord is owned by community, community has taken over Twitter from time to time.
Chris: What inspired you to take over the project to step in and save it?
Adam G: In life, in general, the most important things that happen all take you by surprise. I just saw that there was a really beautiful charitable community in trouble with toxic ownership and I felt I could help.
I had the resources and experience, and I thought it’d be fulfilling to take over. I’ve had a long career. I’m 40 years old and I’ve worked for so many different startups and corporations and founded so many businesses, but I never really did anything on the nonprofit side. So, I thought that this would be a good new challenge to undertake.
In the early days, I and much of our community didn’t know much about elephants. But partnering with non-profits we’ve all become knowledgeable and really see the urgent needs of the gentle giants of nature.
Chris: The original collection was just the OG NFT Charity driven collection but now it’s expanded into an entire ecosystem. Could you talk about all the different parts that y’all developed within this brand?
Adam G: We have our Ethereum collection, which is basically Untamed Elephants and Untamed Matriarchs. You can pick either one – they’re basically on the same level.
Then the next pillar is our Ordinals work. When we launched on Ordinals, we inscribed the first Untamed Ordinal under 15,000. So, we beat almost every ETH project to Ordinals by a mile.
The next pillar is called Conservation Cards, a fine art collection where we recruit the best Web3 artists and they make a piece for usually an elephant charity, but it could be really any conservation effort. We’ve had 12 so far, just beautiful pieces, and we partnered closely with Save the Elephants and Saving Ganesh.
Lastly, we created the first NFT wine brand, called ‘Hello Fam’ where you get NFTs backed by physical wine that you can redeem.
Chris: Let’s cycle back to the decision to make an Ordinals collection. So, you saw this kind of thing emerging on Bitcoin and then you decided to jump in. Could you give insight into that decision?
Adam G: Yeah. I saw Ordinals pretty early and I saw it accelerating. People were just uploading garbage to it, just to test it out. Or they were uploading their same NFTs again. We could have done that. We could have uploaded Untamed Elephants again to Ordinals or made a half-hearted derivative. And maybe we should have, to be honest, because they would have been faster and could have inscribed earlier. But we put max effort on it and partnered with a great pixel artist to create a new sci-fi theme.
Chris: You still do a lot of networking within the Ordinal space. You’re able to get the Untamed holders opportunities like allowlist for mints, the meme coins, and everything like that.
Adam G: That’s a huge benefit for the community because we inscribed so early where we’re in a category called the Sub100 group. So, all the Sub100k founders, all kind of support each other and they have spaces and there’s a level of prestige to it. Plus, we have a much bigger Twitter and Discord following than most Ordinals, so they’re all happy to leverage us for allowlist spots and things like that.
One thing I’m proud of is that we onboarded a ton of people to Ordinals while it was super early.
Chris Tepedino: You’ve talked a lot about being an impact driven NFT collection. Is that the ethos of Untamed Elephants in your view?
Adam G: Yeah, it’s to innovate around, how can Web 3 make an impact? And of course, we want to be a successful business as well because the two go hand in hand…but it’s our North Star and I think there are really successful impact driven Web2 businesses, but there aren’t really many in Web3. So, our goal is to figure out that formula.
Chris: A lot of the focus in Web3 is on the financial aspect, so how do you navigate Untamed Elephants within the Web3 culture?
Adam G: Yeah, I mean, we use a lot of similar Web3 tools and techniques like any other project. We just have this guiding light. For example, Pudgy Penguins has a guiding light of IP licensing. So that’s their North Star but they still do all the same Web3 types of things. So, our guiding light is innovating around Web3 impact while making a successful business.
And it’s tough because if we overemphasize charity…a lot of people are motivated at least partially financially and if you’re making money, then you can donate more. So, we don’t want to be a charity. We want to build a successful business and brand but one that’s mission driven with a greater goal.
One thing we do better than anyone else is working alongside non-profits to create great experiences for our holders. We went on a trip with Saving Ganesh, named elephants with Save the Elephants, and so on.
Chris: Okay, about that trip to Sri Lanka. What was the inspiration to actually take a group of community members and do some actual work, see what’s going on?
Adam G: A lot of NFT projects will donate once to a charity, but they’ll never actually talk to the charity or know anything about it or brainstorm with them. We’re very close friends with Saving Ganesh and Save the Elephants. We are always brainstorming with them on what we can do together, and Saving Ganesh has a lot of experience in hosting international travel tours.
So we partnered with them and used our treasury to subsidize travel. It went really great – was unforgettable. One the best two weeks of my life and I’m sure for our holders too. And we want to do the same thing in Kenya next year and Saving Ganesh also proposed doing something in India or Cambodia as well. So in a bear market, no one wants to take long, expensive vacations. But I think when things turn around a little bit more, we’ll do more with that.
Chris: Okay, you have, I think, two or three charity partners.
Adam G: Three. Save the Elephants, Elephant Crisis Fund, and Saving Ganesh.
Chris: How much money have you donated so far?
Adam G: One thing that’s cool about us is we incentivize people to donate without us. For example, if we have a raffle and we can say, “Hey, if you donate you get extra raffle tickets,” so it’s not just us donating. It’s incentivizing people to donate and some people made their first ever charity donations just through our project, which is cool. [The amount we have donated is] around $80,000, and an amazing part of that is only $50,000 was from the mint funds. $30,000 has been just post-mint. And that’s a bigger number than we made in royalties.
Chris: Does that mean a lot of community members are donating…
Adam G: Yeah, exactly. Also a big part is creating education and educational experiences. For example, it’s important to educate people that riding elephants is bad so when they vacation in Asia they don’t support businesses that do that. That type of education can be more impactful than a donation.
Chris: Could you talk about some of the innovations your organization has brought to the Web3 space?
Adam G: We have tons of “firsts” in NFTs. The first charity-driven community on both ETH and Ordinals. We were the first mint for a lot of Web3 OGs and the first Ordinals for many as well.
Conservation Cards is super innovative and will continue to grow. Creating the first NFT wine brand. Our Sri Lanka volunteer mission.
We’ve worked with nonprofits better than anyone else in Web3, by a mile. Many founders ask me for advice in this sphere and I always say the same thing: Don’t just donate, engage and learn.
Building in public. Not enough projects build in public, but we’ve been doing that since day one. Our logo [was] done through a bracket vote with the community, and they all gave feedback. A lot of major decisions are done by the community as well.
Chris: What does the Untamed Elephants community mean to your project?
Adam G: I’m just a steward, our community is in charge. They hold the Discord keys, have guided a lot of our big moves through proposals and votes. We build in public and have a large advisory council of 70+ members. All our team is from the community.
One interesting thing: I’ve counted six or seven prominent community members who are Bored Ape holders, and they’re very active. If you have a portfolio and you have a Bored Ape, valued at 40 ETH, and you have a few Untamed Elephants, valued at our floor price, it shows how much they love the mission and the project, that they’re giving more time to us than they are to their Bored Apes.
Chris: A couple of years from now, what do you want the legacy of Untamed Elephants to be?
Adam G: [pauses to think]
I’d love for us to have been the model for how Web3 can innovate Impact while enriching holders.
I would love for our Conservation Cards to true prestige collection shown in museums and galleries. To have a few pieces in it that are on-par with Ringers or Fidenza or an XCOPY.
I’d love to have to operate or fully sponsor a Web3 elephant sanctuary in Asia, which is very possible to do. We have all the resources but obviously we need serious Web3 funds. But it’s not impossible. A lot of Web3 projects have those kinds of funds. I think those would be three great legacies.
Chris: Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
Sniper Spotlight is an interview series where we spotlight interesting NFT collections. Here are some others that you might be interested in reading: