Goat Life with Willie from Happy Goat
A conversation about Web3 non-profits, long-term utility, and how a founder processes a wild market during mint
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Hanging out at NFT NYC with two friends, GMAN and Riggs, they kept talking about this Happy Goat project — a Web3 non-profit. When I got back home from the trip, I read the litepaper and was blown away.
Happy Goat is an 1,850-acre regenerative farm outside of Yosemite National Park that is the home to 179 real goats, crops, hiking trails, and will soon include a farm-to-table experience and event space.
GMAN connected me to one of the Happy Goat co-founders, Willie, and we sat down to chat about Web3 non-profits, long-term utility, caring for a community, and how a founder processes a wild market during mint…in addition to lots of other fun topics.
Willie is someone who gets it. He makes it fun while making a difference. Check out some highlights below.
Take us back to the beginning
It was kind of a perfect storm. So in 2020 we started building the project out in Mariposa. Originally the vision started off as an off-road rally school for racing.
But I kept pushing the idea of a farm, like, “Let's do a farm. Let's do a farm. What about a farm?” And finally, my partner John, was like, “Okay.”
Then it became, All right, what else can we do? Let's do this nonprofit. Let's look at food security — and food security is inextricably tied to climate change and people's relationship with food.
And I mean, literally like a couple weeks into that, we were like, this is so much fun. We don't wanna do any of the other stuff. Let's just do “all farm” and make this like the most insane brand that just happens to be a nonprofit. Bring people out here and give them these crazy experiences.
And then while we were having those conversations in 2021, I was watching the NFT stuff — and I've always been in tech in that side. So I was like, Oh, this is interesting. This is an opportunity where we can use art and music and culture and technology to bring in a brand new audience, to the nonprofit side, to the impact side. But also on the back end of it, we can actually have a real impact that matters. And it's not just good for the farm. It's also good for Web3.
And then if, if we're bringing people in through arts and culture and music and all this dope stuff, why don't we have things on the farm that actually are resources for creators and artists and musicians and everything else.
Minting during a down market
So initially the supply was gonna be 4,242 — because you know, 42 is the answer to everything in the universe! We were going down that path. We created generative art for 4,242 pieces. And then the bear market hit and we were like, Oh this is bad. This is really bad.
People were canceling mints. We had friends, their mints were stalling. And so we pushed back our mint and we were like, let's rethink some of some things. Actually I got COVID so we didn't — there was a pushback, not on purpose — but it gave us a little bit of extra breathing room.
We started looking at it and I was like, I don't wanna push the mint any further. Our community, the people who are here and who are excited about it have been excited for like eight months, right? They were excited before we had anything and it's not fair to them to keep pushing it just because of the market.
So we're like, all right, let's do this in two phases. Let's cut the first phase to a smaller part of the total collection, do private mints with other communities who we're really engaged with and who we believe in long term.
We minted out the first 1900 in about 48 hours in a bear market. So we were stoked. And since then our team has been like, Oh yeah, this was definitely the right decision.
What did it feel like to change course?
It was terrifying in a way, but I have so much confidence in our team that it offsets that quite a bit. And for us, it's never about doing everything 100 percent, right. Anyone who's been in tech knows you're never gonna do things right the first time. And if you think your first attempt is gonna be the best — it's not, sorry. So for us, it was more: let's decide on this thing and go down this path and we'll have options, we'll have a framework where we have other ways we can adjust in the meantime. And going at it through a more agile methodology. Being super flexible, being quick to be able to pivot and implement changes is always the best route, right? Because things change so fast in Web3, they change even faster.
Community is about building bonds between people — real people
I think the way you build strong communities is by creating interpersonal relationships between people in the community, including myself. I'm part of the community just like anyone else — I just happen to play a different role. But we're all part of the community.
I would rather put community dollars towards our own members doing their own meetups and doing things, leading their own things. If a community member's like, “Oh, I'm a dope astrophotographer in Tucson, and if anyone's close by, we're gonna do it this date.” Then we can support them all the way. Like, Hey, we'll send you some stuff. It creates those bonds.
I think underlying all utility is great community and great community relationships between all the members and seeing the team as part of that community.
Being a Web3 non-profit means focusing on growing and caring for your community
It's cool for us to build this template for other nonprofits who wanna get in the space in an authentic way. Not just, “Oh, we wanna fundraise with NFTs,” which I think is just not it, right? There's nothing web three about that. You're just selling something and getting funds and you're not building a community. You're not creating these connections between people that they'll remember.
You're just fundraising in a different way.
And then when we started talking about Web3 and you start talking about decentralization — I think a nonprofit entity is probably one of the best decentralized models we have for legal entities in the US.
There's no central ownership, no individual person benefits from it. The ownership is essentially as decentralized as we get, I think, from a legal standpoint.
And then also trust. If it's a nonprofit, the money's going to the nonprofit — no one's getting rich off of it.
But, does a non-profit story resonate with the profit hungry Web3 space?
The funny thing is when you talk about a Web3 non-profit, especially when we started talking about it last November, the word non-profit, I think turned some people away in the Web3 world. There's so many people who were for-profit and I guess they didn't think “number go up” at all. They're like, Oh I can never make anything off flipping this stuff — which is not at all right. You can make just as much flipping it. Just know that when you flip, that royalty percentage is actually going to something good.
Thinking about utility as a non-profit
Yeah, I think about it just like I would in a for-profit to be honest. I don't think for-profits and non-profits need to think about utility any differently from the consumer perspective, right? The difference is on the backside where the money goes, who gets the money, and what the impact is.
Here for the Long Haul
We were very heads down and quiet building for the last last year and involved in the space, but not super loud. But now I think it's time for a lot of the people who are builders, who are still active and haven't rugged, and are here for the long term — I think it's time for us to be a lot louder. So I appreciate the fact that you're doing this podcast to amplify voices of people who are in the space long term and who do care about this space and the future of Web3.
Two big surprises in the remaining goats
There's actually two goats in there that no one's ever seen before. One card.
Huge thanks to Willie for joining the pod. While I edited this pod I collected a second goat! I want to support projects like this. I want to participate in communities like this. LFGoat!
Disclaimer: None of this is financial advice. DYOR. And yes, I may own pieces from the collections mentioned in this article.