Meet the junior creatives who set up a cryptocurrency just to get crits

It’s no secret that the past 12 months were tough for junior creatives trying to enter adland. Covid-19 has taken a wrecking ball to the industry’s placement schemes and entry-level recruitment, as agencies have been forced to implement redundancy programmes and salary reduction schemes just to stay afloat. 

When the first lockdown kicked in, SCA graduates Tom Flynn and Francisco (Patxi) Elizalde were on placement at Wunderman Thompson, fresh from similar experiences at Oliver and The Corner. But as Covid hit, all their planned placements fell through and, alongside freelance work, they have been hunting for their next opportunity ever since. 

Tom&Patch were on the verge of giving up on a career in adland when they hatched a cunning plan to stand out.

They set up “Critcoin”, their own cryptocurrency, and the only way to get hold of it is to give the pair a crit.  

So far, the stunt has prompted more than a dozen creative directors to take a look, including staff at Adam & Eve/DDB, Wieden & Kennedy and Droga5. 

We caught up with the creative pair to find out more.  

How did you come up with the idea of creating your own cryptocurrency?

Tom: Honestly, we’ve struggled during lockdown. We lost a lot of opportunities, placement schemes closed and the piecemeal of bad freelance gigs weren’t paying the bills. We were both openly starting to think about other careers, even though we really didn’t want to.

A few friends of mine were into crypto in a big way, so I thought I’d look into it and use it as a motivator to learn to code. I got obsessed, and genuinely am fascinated with the DeFi space and blockchain. It feels anarchic in the best possible way.

I remember reading, “Every coin should be created for a unique purpose” and I scrambled for the phone to call Patch and screamed: “WE SHOULD MAKE OUR OWN CRYPTOCURRENCY TO GET PEOPLE TO GIVE US CRITS.” He told me to calm down and explain what the fuck I was talking about.

What did you find out about crypto in your research?

Tom: That it’s complicated. Like really complicated. Blockchain is the brainchild of some hardcore cryptography nerds (that’s the science of encoding things).

The creation of a new block in a blockchain, how new Bitcoin or Eth (the native currency of the Ethereum network) is minted, involves solving a really stupid puzzle that is literally designed to waste massive amounts of electricity. And those puzzles get more difficult the more people are trying to solve them. Why this happens could fill a whole article, so I won’t get into it, but Bitcoin using worrying amounts of energy is actually a design feature, which is mental, and also why Critcoin is a little different to those kinds of cryptocurrencies.

How did you set up Critcoin?

Tom: So, this is the shocking thing. Most coins people trade aren’t actually cryptocurrencies in the way Bitcoin and Eth are.

They’re tokens whose ownership is recorded on the blockchain. They’re created by something called a smart contract. It’s literally a handful of lines of code. You can copy and paste a template and fill it in yourself, execute it, and bang, you have your tokens. It takes five minutes, less. I wrote the code myself, but there are apps that will do it for you.

All in, the coin took five minutes to make and cost me fifteen quid. Which is insane considering the money people spend on them. That being said, it took me two months of research to understand things enough to do it.

Is it actually a real coin?

Tom: Yep, as real as any of the coins. The code that created it is almost identical to the code that made XRP, the fourth largest coin in terms of volume right now.

Have you transferred any coin to anyone yet?

Patch: Yes! Creatives and friends. Anyone with a Metamask (a free crypto-wallet) can get it easily with a small adjustment.

Who has critiqued your work so far as a result?

Patch: We’ve had feedback from people at Adam & Eve, Wiedens, Droga5. It’s been great for grabbing attention.

Now the most important question, will Critcoin go to the moon?

Patch: Yeah easy, we just need to get Elon [Musk] to tweet about it and we’ll be millionaires. That’s our next project.