You’re gonna come tonight, right?” Kevin O’Leary asked the young entrepreneur entering the green room at SALT NY. “This is how I stay young on this,” O’Leary told me, pointing to Jordan Fried, CEO of Immutable Holdings and the owner of its parent company NFT.com.
On Tuesday morning, September 28, 2021, Jordan Fried and Kevin O’Leary will ring the bell at the NEO stock exchange to list their portfolio of breakout blockchain brands on the public market. “He is a very smart guy,” O’Leary was not short on praise for his protege. “We’re going to tell the story and bring our investment team together,” O’Leary scooped me in on the news.
“Paris Hilton wants NFT.com/Paris Hilton,” he told me. “Well, the only person to do that is Jordan.” O’Leary’s eyes sparked while giving me heads up on the next young entrepreneur in the crypto community to watch. “This is a really interesting story,” he said. “When I heard it, I immediately invested. So this is the kind of thing that you want to get early on,” O’ Leary was certain.
Dressed in a light-gray suit with a Rolex Submariner on his wrist, Jordan Fried was sitting at the VIP lounge taking phone calls. “We just moved into a brand new office in Puerto Rico,” he told me about Immutable Holdings, blockchain businesses with over $100 Million in assets under management. Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr.Wonderful and a self-declared “crypto convert,” is a strategic investor. “I met Kevin through a mutual friend in Miami,” Jordan began. “We had dinner together. Initially, it was supposed to be just one meeting but we ended up eating together four nights in a row,” he revealed. As it turned out, Kevin O’Leary and Jordan Fried had a lot in common to bond over. “Kevin has a home up in Muskoka, Northern Canada near the lake, right next door where I went to summer camp. He’s the only other guy in the world I knew except for me wearing an oura ring and a whoop at the same time,” he said with exhilaration. “Kevin’s a big biohacker,” he added. Lastly, the two men share their love for high-end watches. “We hit it off,” Jordan was clear.
Jordan Fried and Kevin O’Leary had a productive dinner that night, ending up talking almost every day for a week until they found a business situation that worked for both of them, Immutable Holdings. “Kevin is an unbelievably strategic investor to have in Immutable Holdings. He can come in and help us with our various subsidiary businesses: the most important to us right now is NFT.com.” O’Leary is a big promoter of NFT.com and will be using the platform for NFT watches. “We’re going to be doing things with watches on the platform,” Jordan told me.
For those who have heard the word NFT but are not really sure what it is, NFT is a non-fungible token, the manifestation of everything of value in the physical world tokenized in the digital world in the form of a token.
“Whether that’s the title deed to your house or your apartment, whether that’s an authenticity certificate of a Rolex, whether that seat five and six, row seven, section 101 at Madison Square Garden, all of that is going to be tokenized. Your ownership of anything physical in the real world is going to be represented in the digital world in the form of a token,” said Jordan.
Domain names were the original NFTs, as only one person can own them. Likewise, only one person can own NFT.com. Jordan Fried knew that NFT.com is “such a great property,” the one he could do anything he wanted with it. “But we thought, what if an NFT.com could be NFT.com, forward slash your name? And we could have a token that represents your ownership of your profile on the site. So, we’ve created an NFT marketplace, a profile-based marketplace, where whether you’re a collector of NFTs or whether you’re an NFT creator, you will have a profile, place to sell NFTs if you want to sell them, or a place to just show off to your friends that you bought a $1 million photo of a rock. We hope to be ground zero, the center of the NFT world. And of course, we will be with NFT.com,” Jordan shared his confidence. “So far, over 200,000 people have opted in for the product launch, drawing interest from some of the biggest brands in the world,” he revealed.
Jordan grew up in Buffalo, New York. One of ten kids, with three brothers and six sisters, Jordan is the second oldest in the family. “I had a great upbringing, really hard working parents and an amazing mom who started her own nonprofit, an adoption agency called Adoption Star. My dad is a tech entrepreneur [Chuck Fried], so very technically technology oriented and helped me understand tech better,” Jordan told me.
“I learned a lot by having entrepreneurial parents, there was no pressure to go create a resume or go get a job. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something my parents told me not to do. It was always accepted. It was normal in my house,” he recalled.
The reason Jordan became an entrepreneur was because his parents taught him when he wanted $20 to go see a movie with friends or go out shopping to the mall to work for it. “I had a bunch of different businesses. When I was a kid, I had a business called Duty Free where I would scoop dog poop; I would knock on the doors,” he briefly recollected. “I had a golf ball business. And I did a bunch of different things,” he added.
When Jordan was eighteen, his parents asked him if he was going to go to college. He enrolled into the University of Buffalo and told his parents he was attending class, but in reality he was trying to start his own businesses. “College was not for me,” he realized. “I’d been in Buffalo most of my life. I had to get out,” he said.
The next stop, Budapest, Hungary. With only $5000 to his name, Jordan landed in a city where knew nobody and did not speak the language. Inspired by the stories told by his Hungarian nanny, Jordan pushed himself over the Atlantic Ocean, got an apartment in a bad part of Budapest and said to himself: ‘I can’t fail’. Initially, Jordan consulted about search engine optimization (SEO), but when he realized he could not use Netflix or Hulu, he started a VPN brand for himself called Buffered. He built a VPN and started charging $15 a month for the service.
“People started to find us on the internet. I would write blog posts like How to watch Netflix in Hungry, How to watch Netflix in Europe, things like that. I would just write about how to unblock Netflix, Hulu, Pandora or Spotify, all the big websites. I got all these people reading my blog. And then I would say hey, ‘I made a VPN. If you want to go use it, you can go use it.’” Quickly, Buffered started growing and Jordan started making more money. “Initially, I was helping companies rank their webpages higher in Google. But instead of helping companies, I was now making sure people were reading my blog posts that were selling the VPN.” All of a sudden, Jordan started hiring people to help him with Buffered VPN.
“When Edward Snowden came out of nowhere, and told the whole world that the government was spying on us, overnight, we became a privacy company, not because we wanted to be a privacy company, but reporters started calling us from the Sydney Morning Herald. We got interviewed, and our user base exploded,” said Jordan. Their business went global and started taking customers from all over the world.
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Jordan told me, recollecting how suddenly he had to hire more people. In order to scale an engineering team, a Serbian-Hungarian team member, Andor, proposed to him to hire people from Subotica, a town in Serbia on a border with Hungary. “We got in the car and we drove to Serbia. We went to Subotica, and I met all of Andor’s friends and we hired them on the spot,” he said, fondly recollecting his entrepreneurial journey. As the business grew, Jordan was presented with an opportunity to sell the company. In January 2017, Buffered VPN was acquired. Today it is part of J2 Global, a publicly traded company.
Before he sold Buffered VPN, Jordan’s company became one of the first consumer businesses to take Bitcoin as a payment method. “Our customers emailed us and said, ‘Can I pay you in Bitcoin?’ My question was, ‘What is Bitcoin?’. Quickly, Jordan started learning about it. After selling the business, he had no idea what to do next, but he knew it had to have something to do with Bitcoin.“I decided: I love Europe, and Europe is an amazing place but I cannot start another company in Budapest. The bureaucracy was crazy. The taxes were ridiculous. And I said, ‘I’ve got to move back to America.’’ So I moved to New York City.” Jordan took a residence in Manhattan, at 52nd and 10th.
“In 2017, I got here, and a friend of mine texted me and said, ‘Hey, I see you’re in New York, I see that you do some Bitcoin stuff,’ and he sent me a white paper called the hashgraph consensus algorithm by a professor in Texas. To make a long story short, he had an algorithm that could be a better blockchain,” he recalled.
“The first time I read it,” Jordan began, “ I didn’t understand it. The second time I read it, I understood it a little bit; I had to read it probably ten times. But then I was like, ‘If this is what I think it is, this could be really great. It’s gonna be a really powerful network.’ So I wrote a check into the business. That company became Hedera hashgraph.”
Today, Hedera is one of the top crypto currencies in the world. Jordan was one of the first and largest investors in this company and part of the founding team. “I put almost all the money I made from the Buffered VPN company into that company. I really believed in it. That company today is worth about $25 billion on the market. It became very successful,” he said, proudly.
“I never would have understood it first if it wasn’t for my father. My father taught me everything about technology. Two, if it wasn’t for running a VPN brand and finding Bitcoin, I never would have known I was looking at and three, I moved to New York City at exactly the right point in time, when crypto was just heating up in 2017, so I came when Bitcoin was still about $1000, $2,000. Well, before that year remember, it went to $20,000, and I came just before all of that. I took a lot of the money I made from selling my business and I put it into cryptocurrency and into Bitcoin,” he said.
“Timing is everything in life; I happened to be in a good place at that time,” he concluded.
Jordan was with Hedera as a Senior VP of Business Development until the end of 2020. “Owning as much as I could of Bitcoin was my first goal. Owning as much as I could of $HBAR, the Hedera Hashgraph coin was my second goal. I believe in that protocol, I believe in the hashgraph technology. I believe that that is going to be used for years and years to come,” said Jordan. “You want to own as much as you can of the protocols that will be valuable. But don’t stop there,” he added.
While Jordan helped create a protocol that he really believed in, he has now created a holding company called Immutable Holdings, that he compares to the Berkshire Hathaway of blockchain. “I really respect what Warren Buffett has built,” he told me. “I want to be the Warren Buffett of blockchain. I want to own all the valuable blockchain businesses. What we have is NFT.com, 1800Bitcoin and an asset management business we call Immutable Asset Management. We manage capital for people, and we help them buy cryptocurrency and we manage that cryptocurrency for them,” he said.
Jordan’s company works with YouTubers Jake Paul and Logan Paul, and Kevin Pritchard, the president of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers. American billionaire Wes Edens, a co-founder of Fortress Investment Group and the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks invested with Jordan too. “There’s lots of different big people who have come in and invested with us. That’s been very exciting. We get to help them take their capital and put it into cryptocurrency. So, we make a lot of money doing that. That’s one of our core businesses,” he said. Blockchain is very disruptive and Jordan believes that “Bitcoin really is just the first thing you can do with a blockchain. There’s so many other things you can do with the blockchain.”
Jordan’s vision for Immutable Holdings is for it to be the Berkshire Hathaway of Blockchain and have businesses all across blockchain. “We want to eventually cover the whole spectrum of blockchain, every business you can imagine. Whether it’s an exchange, whether it’s an information or data service, we want to do it all. And if we don’t do it, we want to buy companies that are doing it. We’ll go out there and we’ll acquire businesses and roll them into Immutable Holdings. For us today, our focus is on NFT.com, which Kevin O’Leary cares about, 1800Bitcoin.com and asset management,”he said. On Tuesday: “We are going public on the stock exchange,” he added.
—”What is your expectation for the IPO?” I wanted to know.
“My expectation? I’m not cashing out. I’m not selling stock. I won’t be selling stock for many years to come. The purpose of going public will allow us to drive acquisitions: we can acquire companies more easily after being public. We can build faster. We can capitalize with much more ease,” he responded.
What Jordan is basically doing is taking a bunch of cryptocurrency businesses and putting them under the umbrella of a holding company. He came up with the idea: “The reason for that is, if you look at investors they just don’t want to just buy Bitcoin, a lot of investors want equity exposure. By the way, most investors are not even allowed legally to buy bitcoin, because they have bylaws, but they can buy equity in a company building in the blockchain space. So they can take exposure to our company and mutable holdings, and they can buy our stock, and they can help us, you know, do what we do.”
Eventually, this is a strategic move that will make crypto more mainstream. “I believe that the digital asset class is one of the most important asset classes. You can always make more pigs, you can always find more coal, you can always find more gold in the ground, but there will never be more than 21 million Bitcoin.This is mathematically written,” he said.
Jordan has been suggesting since 2013 people buy some Bitcoin. Unfortunately, only a few friends listened, but those who did, have done well. As he moves into the future, Jordan’s values are firmly rooted in his family life and big questions of humanity.
“Life is so short. It’s just like everyone gets A and B: you’re born and we die. Whatever you believe, maybe there’s a heaven, maybe there’s a hell, we are judged by what we do with the time in between A and B. For me, that became, ‘What if I could build some really valuable businesses that could leave the world a little bit better than how I found it? Better than when my mother brought me into it. And what if those businesses really help people, protect their wealth, help educate them? What if these were really good businesses?”
Jordan Fried is a mission-driven entrepreneur. “Waking up in the morning and making money doesn’t excite me. Waking up and actually doing something valuable that will change the internet, does,” he revealed. “At a certain point,” Jordan told me, “who needs an extra million dollars?”
Jordan feels very fortunate that he is now in a position to solve really big problems and help a lot of people by pursuing a goal of delivering the value of digital assets to every person on planet earth. “It’s a dream come true,” Jordan said fondly. “ I’m literally living my dream when I was a little boy. So it’s pretty cool,” he added. “I’m excited.”