Chiru Labs, a Web3 startup that created the popular Azuki NFT project on Ethereum, has announced a partnership with IPX, the parent company of Line Friends, a South Korean media and merchandise franchise. Line Friends features cartoon animal characters inspired by stickers in the top Japanese messaging app Line and from South Korean internet giant Naver, and has spawned numerous themed merchandise stores, amusement parks, a “Brown and Friends” Netflix series, a collaboration with K-Pop band BTS, and more since its debut in 2011.

A look at Jay, Chiru Labs’ Beanz-based character. Image: Chiru Labs

Through the collaboration, Chiru Labs and IPX plan to develop collaborations between their respective properties, potentially including content, merchandise, and events. The first collaboration will see Line Friends characters paired with Beanz, an NFT collection spun off from Azuki.

To mark the announcement, the companies will display an animated short on the video billboard above the Line Friends store in Times Square in New York City starting today, amid the annual NFT NYC conference. IPX has previously partnered with well-known brands such as Samsung, Starbucks, Meta, and Vans.

Azuki, launched in early 2022, is one of the most successful NFT profile picture (PFP) projects in terms of trading volume, with $930 million worth of trades to date, according to data from CryptoSlam. The original anime-themed project then spawned Beanz, cartoonish, bean-inspired NFT characters, which have generated $263 million worth of trading volume.

Liz Yang, Chiru’s Head of Growth, stated that Line Friends’ parent company IPX has been “making a concerted push into Web3 in the past few years” and that its specialty is cultivating character-centric intellectual property. Through this partnership, Line Friends characters will be paired with Chiru’s Web3 properties for future content and products.

Chiru Labs has developed a physically backed token (PBT) standard on Ethereum that pairs a blockchain token with a physical product to verify authenticity. The firm debuted the technology last October with an auction for eight gold-plated skateboards, which collectively brought in $2.5 million worth of ETH.

Chiru has also partnered with Bilibili, a Chinese video platform with 333 million users as of Q3 2022, to provide exclusive stickers and other benefits to Azuki and Beanz NFT holders. Although the brand’s anime influence makes it thematically appropriate for partnerships in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, Yang said that the goal of these collaborations is not limited to serving that area and its potential collectors but rather to “bring that culture into really unexpected areas” with a global reach in mind.

Yang stated, “Even though IPX is a South Korean company, I feel like we have that startup-like, innovative, American sort of flair. We are really looking to push boundaries with this type of partnership.” The companies have yet to reveal the first products or creations that will come out of the alliance, beyond the Times Square teaser, but Chiru Labs’ recent tweet hints at the possibility of toys.