Holyn Blog

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subtitle: {idk yet}

It was kismet how Marty and I met—enjoying a cool Miami night with 212’s familiar house beat still reverberating on my eardrum. It was a fun night of leisure and even more so when I realized I was amongst a creative genius (aside from Azealia Banks). Marty Bell is a lifelong founder and purveyor of good vibes. He previously co-founded a clothing and nightlife brand, a lens (eyewear) experience company, a fintech company ... All of these ventures culminate to Poolsuite (fka Poolside FM), an internet leisure corporation that’s making waves IRL on the beach via the Vacation® sunscreen and URL via the legendary music platform and NFTs.

From the art direction to the NFT drop to the nostalgia, I’ve admired Poolsuite for a long time. Today, I get to obsess about the project and convince Marty to divulge some secrets (or, alpha as the crypto kids say). Let’s get to it!

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The beginnings: Poolside FM

Almost a decade ago, Marty stumbled upon super-happy, genre-spanning music. “I loved it so much; it felt like (and still does feel like) a direct hit of serotonin straight to the brain to me.. I thought ‘I could build a playlist and share it with people.’” And, he did. With a gang of developers and designers, Marty curated a destination with carefree and positive vibes centered around music ... You could spend 15 minutes on the site and emerge refreshed and happy as hell. The goal was to recreate the nostalgia of laying on a beach in 1980s U.S.—I wasn’t around for that but if it felt anything like the music on Poolside or looked like it ... please find me a time machine.

The evolution of the PoolsidePoolsuite brand

Thanks to the way back machine, we can peruse the Poolside to Poolsuite evolution over the years. I did and found some fun treasures.

Back in 2018, the site featured merch including a Poolside keychain. Now I have one sitting on the counter in my entryway. It made me wonder how the inspiration for the experience has persisted, refined, and transformed over time. Notably, the site went from Poolside FM to Poolsuite. This was due to a trademark issue, which was auspicious because the team knew they wanted to pursue projects outside of music. In Marty’s words ...

“Landing on ‘Poolsuite’ helped define exactly what we were going to become; a suite of tools for the good life, on & off-line. That’s where we’re heading now.”

We’ll refer to the corporation as Poolsuite henceforth.

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Holyn: I went on a little Poolsuite rabbithole to remember what the vibes used to be like. I saw familiar objects like the keychain but also some that have yet to come to fruition. At least, not yet. How has inspiration persisted over time? How do you pick what will come along and what was great for only a moment?

Marty: Pre-NFT it was mostly just building whatever came to mind that was personally exciting or funny to me or someone on the team. There was no revenue, no customers paying for anything, just a group of people on the internet building stuff just because; no roadmap, no KPIs. The primary considerations were (and largely still are) ‘is this incredibly fun for us to work on?’ and ‘will our community be madly in love with this?’. We kinda put stuff out there and see what sticks. If people go wild for something we’ll keep it around and build it out. If the hype dies out quick we’re onto the next.

Holyn: You put the idea of a Poolsuite flip phone out there back in 2019, but you’ve yet to launch hardware. I have to ask ... Will the people be getting a green flip phone soon?

Marty: I want to do hardware so much. I DM’d a friend who runs hardware at Ledger the other day asking if we could do a limited edition run of Motorola Dynatac phones retrofitted to be working Ledger devices (sadly still waiting on a hard yes response on that one). It’s so far from my skillset though. If anyone wants to make hardware with (for?) us, we’re extremely down. I also want to make some kind of physical box for my living room with 10 buttons on it, that’s just a hardware version of voice notes, with 10 pre-set friends you can async voice message, picking up the messages like a 90s answer phone. Got some vintage wood & gold box in my head with no screen. Is that a really bad idea?

Holyn: It’s a great idea, but it has to be a conversation pit—you know the kind I’m talking about—with no tech allowed except the gold voice memo phone. Let’s switch gears and talk about outside! Sunscreen! It’s a perfect IRL extension of Poolsuite. But of all the leisure-friendly products, why did it make the most sense to pursue?

Marty: I’d been pitched so many product ideas for Poolsuite (then Poolside FM) over the years but they always felt too obvious - swimwear, a branded beer, pool floats, etc. It just didn’t feel exciting enough, I thought if I just kept holding out and building the brand & audience, the right thing would come along. I thought it was going to be events. But when I started speaking to Lach & Dakota about sunscreen, I realised that sunscreen as a product has all of what made Poolside FM go viral in the first place; layers of experience & nostalgia. It’s not just ‘this swimwear looks like its from the 80s’. You have a lot to play with, from complex scents made up of various notes designed to inspire deep nostalgia, the rub-in experience, the design of the packaging, the tone of voice on the website & our social interactions, etc.

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Holyn: The sensory experience makes it a standout amongst other sunscreens and I’ve tried a million at this point. It’s almost like you can touch and smell Poolsuite—it brings me back to lounging on a floatie and drinking a marg in Miami each time.

In credit to Lach & Dakota, going hard on fragrance was their idea, I just became a collaborator alongside them and the great minds/noses at Arquiste Parfumer to craft exactly what that scent would be. We really wanted to be known for the scent, and for it to be so good people would want to smell like it even when they’re not in the sun, so we made a standalone Eau de Toilette (“VACATION” by Vacation®) to really hit that home. And it has gone down a storm! Multiple advisors told us we shouldn’t do this as it distracted from the sunscreen. It made up for a large % of our revenue in year 1 and was picked as one of Vogue favourite products of 2021.

Holyn: I don’t know if I should admit this as a skincare nerd, but I tried it on my face the first time I used it ... Not only did it blend well but it didn’t break me out. It was dumb, but I was in Miami and feeling almost as bold as you did picking such a regulated product to start with.

Marty: Sunscreen has a pretty big moat in how difficult it is to get off the ground from a regulatory perspective, so we knew competition wouldn’t be as rife as in other categories. I think some of the best brands in the world were ‘80s sunscreen brands, most of which still exist but as very sad, dry versions of their former selves. It’s an extremely exciting challenge to recreate one of those in the modern day.

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Why Poolsuite embraced Web III

Holyn: Looking at your background, it’s no wonder that Poolsuite emerged. I always think about Steve Jobs taking a calligraphy class and learning about typography, which later influenced the design of Apple products. Connect the dots for us—you’ve designed products and curated experiences. How did you stumble upon crypto?

I’ve been buying Ethereum since 2014, backed dozens of ICOs in 2017 of companies I haven’t heard from since, got my ass handed to me in the 2017 with a portfolio sitting at -95%. I never saw that world merging with where my personal passions lie; in throwing parties, making art, funding real-world properties, being a membership pass to an eclectic product studio. It all just clicked out of nowhere, and I’m so so glad it did.

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Holyn: The dots always connect, even if you have to get rugged by an ICO along the way. Poolsuite feels so nostalgic, like a throwback to a time before “the internet.” Yet you jumped into the future by launching NFT membership ... Why embrace Web3?

I’ve been trying to find a way to monetise projects like Poolsuite for years. An organisation that’s focused more on having a good time and building things for/with a fan base vs. having the pressure of trying to build a hyper-growth tech startup that gives VCs a 100x return in 5 years. I just wanna build hot shit with some of the most talented people I know, serve it up to our community, with a smart economic model powering the whole thing.

Before we dropped the NFTs, I’d mapped out our big game plan, all powered by Patreon. It was to create a product playground funded by monthly subscriptions. Then I stumbled upon an NFT being used like a membership pass and it was this huge fucking light bulb moment. How could getting $5-15 each month from a small % of our most dedicated fans compete with being able to raise >$1m from an NFT drop, to fund the exact same mission? When Patreon subscribers could never get their dollars back, but NFT buyers could potentially fund our mission, and then sell their NFT for a profit? It’s everything I’d been looking for, and I jumped in head first to rework our plans to fit this world.

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Holyn: Web3 can be a technical and hostile experience, especially for first-timers. One thing that stood out about Poolsuite is your decision to add membership cards to mobile wallets. Mine is in my Apple Wallet now. How did this integration come about?

One of our giga-brain developers (Ryan) just said one day “I think I could put these in Apple Wallet... give me a couple hours to mess around” and just like that he had a demo working. He had a good idea and the environment to make it happen, and a project that the functionality makes complete sense for. Everyone on the team has so many good ideas it’s kind of overwhelming to decide which we do. I think Poolsuite is great because people can come into it, and as long as it makes sense within our brand world, they can kinda make whatever they want if everyone else is excited about it and it makes sense for the community. We also want the community to play a part in submitting ideas for the things we make too, that’s coming soon.

Holyn: I can’t wait to ambush you with all my Really Good ideas. Aside from collaborating, what else can the community expect? When can I use my Poolsuite card? Dare I say ... What’s the utility here?

  1. Access to our events - our first two NFT gated parties are in London this week, and NYC next week! We’ll be scaling these up into worldwide event series with big name artists, which will be ticketed to the public but always complementary for our NFT holders.
  2. Access to perks from us and a bunch of partners - this summer we’re launching our Concierge app which will be our holders gateway to a stream of IRL & URL perks. The whole Executive Club concept will make a lot more sense when this comes into play.
  3. Bottomless early access to all future Poolsuite projects, like Manor DAO!

{still wip} The future of leisure

Poolsuite has been a journey since 2014. The first few years moved a little slowly, but I’d guess the last year has been a whirlwind.

  1. I’d argue that Poolsuite and Vacation are already influencing advertising with the return of the serif and clever copy. The brand and vibe are strong—will it change ever or is it retro forever?
  2. What’s your wildest vision? Any alpha?
  3. Poolsuite occupies a unique space—web3 (social) commerce. Any thoughts on token-gated Vacation products? Maybe a partnership with Delta that gives executives a 5% discount on flights to the Cayman Islands? Just thinking out loud ...

{holyn’s notes} Examples of recent retro ads

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“He’s avoided bringing investors into Poolsuite for that reason. But now, with new ways to fund companies like community tokens and selling NFTs, he wants to embrace the Web 3 model of community-funded projects.”

“It's really important to me that I keep 100% ownership of Poolsuite itself, I'm so scared of ruining what it is by taking on investors.”

“But unlike with Friends with Benefits, where you’re paying for access, he doesn’t want a token-gated community. He instead wants to sell products and experiences via tokens to engage the community he’s built.”