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Elli De Gouveia is revolutionizing loyalty rewards with blockchain

Nobody cared about Elli De Gouveia's NFT project when it first launched. Now, it's primed to change the world.
17 min read
Elli De Gouveia is revolutionizing loyalty rewards with blockchain

This isn’t your conventional 2023 tech founder story.

There’s no starting the day with 10 minutes of affirmations in the mirror, completing a breathing exercise, or whatever other lame “keys to success” being pushed by gurus to the masses via TikTok nowadays. You won’t read about a history of running Facebook ads or making a quick million through dropshipping either.

Instead, you’ll read about a wild morning routine that revolves around two unhinged French Bulldogs, receiving a $100,000 marble driveway contract without a clue how to build one, getting busted by Universal Studios, and much more.

Episode 1: Elli De Gouveia
An overview of Elli De Gouveia’s entrepreneurial journey and how he’s working to change the world through Anybodies, his SAAS company disrupting loyalty rewards with blockchain technology.

Watch the full interview on YouTube

While unconventional in his own ways, at his core, Elli De Gouveia is an old-school entrepreneur—the kind that actually builds things of value and started hustling in middle school.

He’s exactly what Web3 needs today.

12pm in South Africa

Elli’s mission each day is to squeeze the most value out of every minute. He structures his week purposefully to ensure that he doesn’t get bogged down by meetings—one of his primary keys to success. Mondays and Tuesdays are meeting days, with each meeting being either 15 or 30 minutes, and the rest of the week is all about getting real work done.

“If you can’t tell me what you need in 15 minutes, I don’t know what to tell man, that’s a long time. Time is the most valuable thing. That was the craziest moment for me, realizing that I can accomplish the same amount of stuff in half the time by just cutting a meeting in half. It doesn’t change anything, you’re just more productive.”

I consider myself very lucky to have been generously given 60 minutes of his time.

When I sat down virtually with Elli, it was mid-day in South Africa (where he currently resides), meaning his morning routine was already conquered.

Elli starts each day at 8:00 am with the victory that comes with making his bed. He then showers, grabs a coffee, and drives his two French Bulldogs to daycare so they don’t eat the interior skirting boards in his home—seriously, this is a very real problem he handles daily. 

On October 4th, 2023, the day I sat down virtually with Elli, it was clear he had already been quite busy since dropping the dogs off. Although his main priority has been raising capital for Anybodies—his Web3 technology company born from an NFT project launched in 2021—Elli is a successful entrepreneur running multiple companies across different disciplines and needs to manage those responsibilities as well. 

His portfolio of companies includes a 600-employee retail company on track to be at $400 million in ARR (annual recurring revenue) by next year, as well as a software company that services the energy industry and currently generates $250 million in ARR.

By the time our conversation started, Elli had met with his energy business’s team to strategize their next move to capitalize on the South African movement seeing gas stations evolve into destinations unimaginable in the United States, met with the Anybodies graphic design team to work on pitch decks, and attended an investor’s meeting to pitch Anybodies. 

“Web3 is tricky because you have to explain to a bunch of corporate people why they need to care about what you’re doing. That’s pretty hard to articulate when they have no context.”

Some people may be quick to judge and assume that being a serial entrepreneur would limit Elli’s ability to build Anybodies, but the contrary couldn’t be more true. In fact, Elli hasn’t taken a single dollar for himself from Anybodies. He earns a living from his other businesses and puts every extra resource he can into achieving his goal of turning Anybodies into a billion-dollar company. With Anybodies not paying for a CEO, the team has been able to allocate that capital elsewhere. None of this would be possible if Elli was singularly focused as a founder.

In October and November, his time on Anybodies has been laser-focused on raising capital for the business—an incredibly difficult mission given the current funding environment that sees VCs tighter with capital for Web3 ventures than ever.

Source: Michael Rinko

Despite the uphill battle, Elli says the fundraising trail is going well. To me, it’s no surprise. What the Anybodies team is building is incredibly valuable to Web3 and has the potential to profoundly influence the future of the Solana blockchain. Elli and I discussed why it matters.

Making blockchain beautiful

Anybodies is one of the rare companies to come out of the massive 2021 NFT boom that actually stands to make a lasting impact on the future of Web3. 

In a nutshell, Anybodies transforms today’s incredibly boring brand rewards programs (buy five coffees, get a sixth free) into a compelling, tailored experience for each customer through the implementation of blockchain technology. Picture ordering Starbucks through Uber Eats and still being able to earn loyalty rewards points; that’s just one small example of how Anybodies changes the game. 

Now officially partnered with The Solana Foundation (TSF), Anybodies has a pivotal role to play in the Solana ecosystem. Elli tells me that TSF receives an abundance of interest from brands interested in how they could potentially use Solana; moving forward, TSF will now funnel those inquiries to Anybodies—that’s how powerful the platform Elli’s team has been built is.

“They were ultimately looking for a biz-dev partner that can take these brands and amazing companies and help them come into Web3, but in a way that actually makes sense—not just drop a 100,000 collection or a 5,000 collection of random jpegs. It needs to actually serve a real purpose in their business.”

By bringing blockchain into the real world and stripping away all of the clunky components that create friction for non-crypto natives, Elli's team has created something that makes blockchain beautiful. It works smoothly for anyone, fills a real need for companies, provides new experiences for users, and feels familiar.

However, this wasn’t always the Anybodies vision. Originally, the team was focused on a related, but significantly different path.

From Web3 Balenciaga to billion-dollar SAAS potential

When Anybodies launched in late 2021, it came to market as a fashion brand aiming to bring clothing into the digital space in a meaningful way through digital-physical linked products. At the time, NFT projects were consistently selling out in seconds.

Anybodies did not.

The launch took a grueling 16 days to complete, and along the way, the NFT supply was cut from 10,000 to only 3,000; in tandem, the cost per NFT dropped from $200 to $40. Despite the rough start, it didn’t take long for Anybodies to achieve some early wins. 

“Within the [AR] filters that we made, we purposefully made them on Instagram so we could track the amount of impressions they [the hoodies] generated for both our brand and DeGods’ brand… The amount of impressions made just on unboxing was crazy. It was over 100,000 on just 200 units.”

They collaborated with Nike South Africa to release a limited collection of 65 digital-physical linked custom Anybodies Air Force 1 sneakers. They followed that launch with a DeGods hoodie, and then worked with Tay Keith, one of the most accomplished music producers in the world—Elli says it was during this drop that the big aha moment occurred which changed everything. 

The drop was centered around a sweater with an NFC chip embedded in the fabric—the first time the Anybodies team had integrated the technology into a wearable product. The chip serves as a path to rewards; for example, if someone is at a Tay Keith concert and scans the chip, they could redeem backstage passes for their loyalty. That’s a pretty sweet sweater if you ask me.

Elli says this utility (which expands far beyond concert passes) is what resonated with the Web3 audience. The launch sold out in a minute and it was the first time an Anybodies drop truly performed well on secondary markets post-launch. This was the first time that people really cared about the secondary market. 

The hoodie did $150k in secondary sales on the first day alone and ultimately did $400k in secondary sales in the first two weeks. For Tay Kieth, that yielded an extra $17 net per hoodie (1,000 total units). That’s absolutely unheard of.

“You can now start making prices more consumer-friendly and make it up through your digital side. Most people don’t make $17 net on a hoodie in any case. That’s a crazy number.” 

After the successful launch, Elli says he and the team debriefed for three weeks to try and figure out why people cared so much about the drop. They realized it was all about the experience. In his words, “All roads led to loyalty and membership on-chain.”

From that epiphany, the entire ethos of Anybodies changed and they began a new trajectory, one that would lead them to eventually launch the Anybodies Platform. To get up to speed on the platform and learn why it is such a game changer, check out our article below: 

Anybodies Now Primed to Onboard Millions To Solana
The launch of the Anybodies Platform is a historic moment for all of web3, one that will bring millions to Solana.

That brings us to the present day. Elli is hot on the fundraising trail, and the Anybodies team continues to work toward making the platform a global powerhouse. After coming so far and being lightyears away from his humble beginnings, I wonder what a young Elli would think of his life and the journey it took to reach today.

The cigarette thief turned driveway prodigy

Elli has had entrepreneurship flowing through his veins since childhood, but he does not come from a long lineage of entrepreneurs. It was only once Elli’s grandfather started his own mealie meal business that entrepreneurship was first introduced into the family tree.

Elli tells me that his earliest memory of hustling was when he was eight years old. His grandmother was a chain smoker who would buy cigarettes in bulk cartons. Elli saw them as an opportunity. A loving but mischievous grandson, he began stealing cigarettes to sell to his brother’s older high school friends at school.

Elli remembers the time fondly he would use the profits to buy his friends sandwiches and snacks at lunch. This made Elli the man—until he was inevitably caught.

Once in high school himself, Elli fell in love with watches. Eager to capitalize on his passion, he approached a luxury watch dealer in the area and offered to help with sales in exchange for a commission. The dealer accepted. Through this venture, Elli encountered wealth for the first time—$10,000 sales were mind-boggling.

With a proven drive for success and these early ventures under his belt, one would think that collegiate business school was the perfect next step for Elli. It didn’t go as planned, but not for the reason you would expect. 

Elli was a good student. He was attentive in class, soaking in every word his professors taught to acquire as much value as he could from the lessons. But then Elli started asking questions, mainly:

How do I really know this textbook information, like the three P’s of marketing, works in the real world?

His professors told him that the information was solid and to trust the materials. Elli couldn’t. He needed to see how things worked for himself. 

Construction seemed like a low-hanging fruit, so Elli registered his first business and headed to a local hardware store to get started. In South Africa, Elli says, it’s common for workers to stand outside of these stores holding signs in hopes of finding work. Elli approached them, notebook in hand, seeking advice that would aid him in building walls. Three people gave him solid advice, so Elli decided to hire them.

With a team assembled and the knowledge needed to build walls acquired, Elli began implementing what his school taught him about marketing. Three months in, Elli had no customers. He returned to his professors with a bone to pick.

“I didn’t get any customers. And I was like ‘Dude I’m trying these damn P’s and they’re not working. What am I doing wrong?’ And he couldn’t answer me.”

Fed up with wasting time learning material that he could now provably say had no value, Elli decided to drop out of college. 

His mother was rightfully pissed.

Like any good parent would, she cut off Elli's spending money. From her perspective, if he wanted to give up the blessing of college and pursue his own path, then it would truly need to be his own path. Every rand he spent would be a rand he earned. She meant business, but so did Elli. He says it’s the best thing she ever did for him.

Formally on his own, he continued his construction path by placing ads in the local newspapers for a bespoke, $100,000 driveway with “arrogant” copy describing Elli’s team as the best in the business—no doubt about it. Elli’s logic was simple: the old people who read newspapers are wealthy, so why not directly target the money? Three months later, Elli received a call that would change his life: a wealthy banker in the area had seen Elli’s ad in the paper, and she wanted a new driveway.

This was fantastic news, but Elli now had a huge problem on his hands: he had no clue how to actually build the driveway that he was selling.

Relying on the guidance and labor of the three people he had originally hired to help him build walls, Elli got straight to work, even sourcing marble from Italy for the driveway. The end result of the mad scramble to complete the driveway was nothing short of spectacular. It was featured in an architectural magazine that caught the eye of Nando's, a fast-food restaurant that remains one of the most successful companies to emerge from South Africa. It couldn’t have been better timing. The company was just starting to get into drive-throughs at its locations and offered Elli the contract to install one at its flagship location. 

Successfully completing that initial job turned into additional contracts, which enabled Elli to continue scaling up his business. Amid his success in construction, Elli sold the business at 19 years old, making his first big chunk of nice money. 

Then it was time to celebrate.

Elli headed straight to Israel to party with his cousin, a talented self-taught developer. Little did he know that this would plunge him straight into his next venture.

Elli and his cousin woke up one morning hungover. The night before, Elli recalls spending over $1,000 just trying to find a great party. In the morning fog, the duo began to ponder a question: Why isn’t there a way to find a good party?

This question quickly birthed “Intelligence,” a new app that users could use to view livestreams from within parties and get other key details like the guy-girl ratio. The app was a hit, and it wasn’t before long that Elli was working on raising capital for the company. At the same time, they were making improvements to the app and notably added sound so that people could hear whatever music was playing in the club as they pre-gamed and took a ride over to the location.

For six months, live audio was streamed to Intelligence users. Then Elli got a knock on his door from a Universal Studios rep who explained that Intelligence owed the company significant financial retribution for distributing music to its users. Without any way to pay Universal Studios, Elli was instructed to shut Intelligence down. The company was finished.

“That was my first very big loss. So now I made all the money from the first sale, lost all that shit in the second startup… That was my first riches back to rags. I got humbled but it was a great lesson. There’s lessons in all these things. You’ll never meet a successful person that hasn’t failed.”

After the collapse of Intelligence, Elli would go on to found several other companies, including the two aforementioned ventures that combine to about $650 million in ARR today.

He also came to work with TikTok on building out their live-streaming services to compete with Twitch. For the first year of COVID, he essentially put himself in the shoes of a content creator so that he could better understand their struggles and then create a great solution. Yes, this means he played Call of Duty and posted recorded gameplay for a living. Elli says it was a fun time.

During this period, Elli discovered NFTs by watching videos of Gary Vee talking about them online.

The rest is history. 

The path to #1

When asked what the Anybodies team does better than any other in Web3, Elli mentioned how consistently the team delivers and how it has been able to do so much with so few resources. 

“Everything that we promise, we actually do. And we always take a lot less than we need to keep ourselves hungry. Our total NFT mint raise was $300,000, and we’re still going.” 

I 100% agree.

I’ve been a holder of Anybodies since early 2022, produced content covering the project, and have researched the project as much as anyone else. 

For what feels like an eternity at this point, my main question has been: why isn’t Anybodies the #1 project on Solana, and what’s it going to take for it to reach that pinnacle? In my opinion, from every fundamental perspective one could look at it, the project should be.

I asked Elli, and he told me this is a solvable problem they’re attacking from three primary angles: art, community value, and the STYLE token.

Anybodies price history | Source: Tensor


Elli cites art as the number one issue with the project today. When the Anybodies NFT floor rocketed up to a 50 SOL price between August and November of 2022, Elli received many DMs confirming this.

“I got so many DMs from people being like ‘Dude we love what you’re doing, but there’s no way I’m buying this NFT purely based on looks. I don’t care what it does. It could make me $1 million next year. I will not buy it because it’s a girl with a beard and something weird.’ I was like damn, that’s crazy dude. It’s just a token at the end of the day. Leave it in your wallet, don’t look at it.”

The Anybodies art was originally intended to send a message centered around making blockchain accessible to everyone and the notion that people can be anybody they want to be online in this new Web3 era.

The art backfired, and people assumed the project was all about the “woke” movement that has swept across the United States.

In hindsight, Elli recognizes that he underestimated the importance of art in Web3. Today, the team is working on new art that they believe will be some of the best in the industry and serve as a key catalyst for growth moving forward.

“We’ve got a really big team working on the art right now. I’m excited to release it. I think it’s top-tier—definitely some of the best art on the blockchain, let alone SOL.”

Community & STYLE

Also key to growth are holder benefits. Moving forward, this will include free access to all of the enterprise software tools that companies will be paying Anybodies for. Anybodies NFTs can currently be bought for less than $150; in the future, I reckon their value as a software access token alone will establish a minimum floor price tied to real-world value (at least to some degree), which for some enterprise software tools can be upwards of $100,000 a year. Only 3,000 NFTs exist.

Elli sees this as a way for holders to elevate themselves as entrepreneurs. Using the tools provided, they’ll be able to experiment with building products and brands at the cutting edge of tech.

He also sees the STYLE token as a vital piece of the puzzle for Anybodies moving forward, saying its price discovery will drive the collection to number one.

“STYLE’s biggest advantage on all other ‘shitcoins’ is that every time a customer comes on and wants to put their loyalty points on-chain, they have to bring fresh dollars into that ecosystem in order to do this… That is sustainable now. That’s not just Ponzinomics where it’s all the same money staying in the same place. This is new dollars, new customers, new use case, new product, all powered by this.”

The adults are entering the room

As Web3 remains an emerging, immature industry, whether it’s crypto, mixed reality, AI, etc. there are going to be companies formed that are led by founders who shouldn’t lead. And people will lose their money investing in them.

Participants in the crypto sector are especially familiar with this. Leading into the bear market that has recently transpired, many people were duped by founders claiming to be “builders” who were actually full of hot air. Unfortunately, plenty still remain, and I foresee other Web3 sectors undergoing a similar transformative process until they arrive at maturity.

For a founder, it doesn’t matter how many followers they have, how active they are on X, or how much money they’ve made trading or working for themselves online in copywriting, dropshipping, or any of the other common side hustles. 

Nothing beats brutal, unforgiving entrepreneurial experience in the real world and proven success leading other people to create value.

Elli has an abundance of it—much more than I realized.

In his case, the project’s ambition matches both his experience and who he is as a person. He’s on a mission to create a billion-dollar Web3 SAAS company, and he’s already built a highly successful software company. He’s already had experience leading hundreds of people across multiple companies. He’s a man of focus who knows how to operate day-to-day and accomplish his goals.

By no means is this an easy task for Elli, but he’s without a doubt the man for the job. As he continues to rise, he will be one of the rare founders I see as the “adults in the room”—people who are true professionals building transformative products that will elevate the industry.

In Elli's case, and certainly many more of these founders' cases, most people have no idea who they are. That's because they've been busy building, not tweeting and jumping on Spaces.

These are the people who should be uplifted by industry participants.

When they win, everyone wins.

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