March 23, 2024

Ryan Watson, a 29-year-old landscaper and cryptocurrency investor from Binghamton, N.Y., slept through the Oscars, including the infamous moment when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. But two days later, he was elated to see what the event had spawned: a memecoin, dubbed Will Smith Inu.

The slap’s near-instantaneous minting into coin didn’t come as a surprise. Memecoins are cryptocurrency tied to viral moments and Internet jokes, with a fleeting value that tends to rise and fall quickly. Some currencies, like Dogecoin and Shiba Inu, have endured and are accepted by Tesla and GameStop as payment. Most, like Space Kim — a token satirizing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — are jokes, a risky investment without any tangible purpose.

But those who get in early can walk away with a tidy profit. Which is why, two days after the Oscars, Watson bought $5,000 worth of Will Smith Inu. The coin garnered more than $3 million in trading, collapsing back to nearly zero within a week. Its temporary rise worked well for early investors like Watson, who cashed out with $20,000, but for thousands of others, it prompted a furious sell-off, with people trying to recover what little they could of their initial investment. “Scared money don’t make no money,” Watson said.

Watson says he can’t worry too much about the folks who didn’t sell early. “It’s like, why would I stop when it’s changing my life?” he said. “Just because other people lose money?”

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