Five years ago, Phil Crosbie came across a Wired article on the immutability of Bitcoin. The idea that “code is law” immediately resonated with him, and initiated a cascade of changes that would reignite his passion for changing the world. From starting a clothing brand as a young man, to helping launch Dominique Ansel’s cronut NFT collection, Phil has shown an insatiable desire to create. This desire is what led to founding Ech Design in 2004 with his childhood friend, Neil Graver. Now, Phil feels that web3 will change the world, and he wants to be a part of that change. For himself. For his kids.
Prior to starting Ech Design, Phil and Neil, who were childhood friends, created a clothing brand together. They sold their shirts in markets across the UK, promoting the brand wherever they could. Soon after, Phil began DJing various university parties and nightclub events in an attempt to promote the clothing brand. One thing led to another and he found himself in the company of some fairly notorious artists. This, ultimately, impressed upon him a vision of success that looks different for everyone.
“We put on some pretty wild events back in the day. Lots of pretty scary DJs and emcees that we’d bring down. I guess thinking about it, that was my first taste of successful people who weren’t successful in the traditional sense. My first time doing nightclub events and doing t-shirt prints and getting to meet graffiti artists, musicians, breakdancers, etc. The general street scene was a real eye opener for me, finally meeting people who were similar to me who wanted to create and build stuff.”
His path unfolded before him when a customer asked if Phil and Neil could build a website. Neil had an interest in the technical aspects of web design, so they bought some programming books and went for it. A few websites later, they realized the potential in pursuing design full time. Thus began The Ech Design Agency. “It was very barebones stuff in the beginning, you know,” he laughs as he remembers. “We started off quite small, and ran out of a spare room. We even took doors off [our] wardrobes so Neil could use them as a desk. [Eventually] we won our first website pitch because we could do rounded corners. That's how wild things were back then. [I] remember going over to see [my] parents, and they’re having friends over, and they’re like ‘My son’s in web design,’ and [the neighbors would] go ‘Wow, that's very futuristic!’”
Since then, Ech Design has worked with clients ranging from local hardware shops to giants like Amazon and Spotify. Phil emphasizes that during the early years, they generally avoided being heavily profit-minded and focused on consistent, organic growth. They have maintained this strategy in developing their web3 portfolio.
“There are some people I know, maybe because they’re a better salesperson, or frontman, or such, who burst on the scene and within a few months have 20-30k followers. But they don’t know much about the space, and I think they quite quickly get found out. I guess the process we’ve adopted has been similar to the way we did our [traditional work]. Small projects, small onboarding, more referrals.”
He feels that since the NFT and crypto spaces are still quite small, their confidence and competence is being recognized and that they have benefited greatly from word of mouth.Their experience in launching a few pfp collections, including the cronut NFT collection and their own in-house project “DR/VRS”, has allowed them to confidently explain the minting process and onboard non-crypto native clients.
“I see the last five years as having put in the legwork. We’re not cutthroat at all. We’re much more clued up in that respect - a bit more savvy. Sometimes I feel like a lot of that has come from me being in the space. And seeing the opportunities as well. Seeing that there’s potential to work with someone like [Protocol Labs], who I feel is changing the face of the planet. They practice what they preach. The whole no HQ thing where everyone is spread out. It’s a good thing to be involved in. It feels like you’re doing your bit for the progress of mankind, even if it’s just a small bit.”
In the past, he admits to not having concerned himself greatly with financial or world affairs. He shied away from excessive or unsustainable workloads, and enjoyed doing more grassroots, rewarding work. With his increasing involvement in web3, he has found himself reflecting more on his personal goals and what the world will look like for his kids. Today, Phil’s proudest accomplishment is the birth of his three daughters and, in the end, all he wants is to pursue work that would make his daughters proud.
“Personally, getting into web3 got me learning about things I didn’t necessarily want to learn about before. They became more fun. I’m not particularly a businessman. I hate maths to be honest, but, I think the actual process of being in web3 [has] changed [me] as a person. I’ve learned more about the way the world operates, financial instruments, the way power structures work, all kinds of things that before then I would’ve just said ‘well I just draw pictures, that’s just not my bag.’
Now that I’ve had kids, this switch in me has been turned on, where I want to protect [them] and help shape the world. Even more so recently - the Ukraine-Russia war has been a bit of an eye opener. You realize you’re responsible for bringing them into the world so you should really be responsible for tailoring it to how you think would best suit them. You’re only one person so you can only do so much, but it feels like web3 at the moment - and some of the projects that you can work on - can truly make a difference.”
At the end of every Humans of Web3 interview, I ask what guest, dead or alive, they would like to have over for dinner. Without pause, this is what Phil had to say:
“It’s got to be Satoshi. It’s got to be, I can’t believe anybody would say anything else. I’d have to see his face, know who he is. I’d basically spend all night asking him questions… I guess also it would be interesting to see what he thinks of the way the space is panning out. Did he predict this? It’s such a bold move I think, did he predict the move of DeFi? What does he think of NFTs and tokenization and different L1s? Would he essentially say, ‘It’s all great, you’re all having fun, but these projects are all rubbish’...or whether that was the whole point. [Whether] he is the spark of the flame of a thousand different torches. I’d like to think that whoever it is would be relatively proud of that. I guess that just goes back to my experience in the different projects that I’ve worked on, the amount of people that work on this in their spare time, that have been bitten by a bug and are working to change the future.”