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Bored Apes, pizza and talk of the city’s cultural future at the first NFT Philly meetup

From high schoolers to full-time NFT traders, around 100 people attended the meetup's inaugural event in Northern Liberties. Here's how they see the Web3 tech's opportunity.

A cake decorated with local collectors' NFTs at NFT Philly's inaugural meetup.

(Photo by Valerie Dowret)

Some high schoolers, full-time NFT traders and a couple Bored Ape owners walk into a bar — or in this case, a tech company’s offices in Northern Liberties.

Although the group at Thursday’s Falling Down the NFT Rabbit Hole event may collectively hold an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of nonfungible tokens, the event was in the format of a casual after-hours office party at From the Future.

Attendees, many local to the Philadelphia area, grabbed beers, Cokes and whiskey from a table set up next to an office mini fridge. Folks moved through both floors of the bilevel office while munching on pizza from Rustica, but mostly chatted in groups packed into an open room around a pool table as a Sixers game played on a TV in front of a couch. With an age range of 18 to folks in their 50s, there were approximately 100 attendees.

NFT Philly, a newly launched group that has in-person meetups for those interested in the blockchain-backed digital assets — “Where art and technology meet,” per the event site — hosted the gathering.

“I’m excited that this many people in Philadelphia are excited about NFTs,” said Nick Eubanks, an NFT collector himself and the landlord of the office space.

(Left to right) Snax, the head of PizzaDao, chats with Bar, who wears a black Mutant Apes Yacht Club sweatshirt, at the Falling Down the NFT Rabbit Hole event. (Photo by Valerie Dowret)

Anyone familiar with hosting meetups might be used to assuming not everyone on your Meetup page is actually going to show, and only 32 people had RSVP’d on the event site. But in Web3 worlds, where there’s a divide between those who want their name associated with their virtual presence and those who keep it separate, it’s the opposite. So-called anti-dox NFT collectors just won’t yet register for a meetup. As you can imagine, it makes buying pizza tricky.

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Some at the event trade and collect full time, create art for NFTs, hold highly sought-after NFTs like Bored Apes and CryptoPunks, run decentralized autonomous organizations or educate others about Web3. One NFT game developer who uses the pseudonym Akira Kobayashi (not the Japanese singer) presented NekoCore, a new NFT video game mint, with the game to drop May 1. Meanwhile, others were just beginning their careers in cryptocurrency or were hoping to learn more about the crypto and tech world.

“I have never met so many different walks of life in the same room that have such a passionate commonality,” said Sarah Shutt, who does not own any NFTs yet but hopes to get involved with a project that would help a nonprofit cause.

Kantu Hicks Jr., 20, and Zahir Farlow, 19, shared their ideas for developing NFTs with other event attendees. Hicks said he felt “like a sponge in this space soaking up a lot of information.”

“I’m all new to this whole NFT thing,” Farlow said. “I’m just getting a lot of information and all that because I actually want to release my own NFT one day.”

Squiddy, a founder of NFT Philly and an organizer of the event, said his goal was to bring people together and create a space where people can talk about cryptocurrency without worrying about chatting with someone who is uninterested.

“Once you fall down the rabbit hole — once you start to understand that technology and all that — you get really excited about it, and you want to talk to other people about it. So that’s kind of what we’re doing to try to provide that venue,” said Bar, another organizer of the event and NFT collector.

For Teddy Flakko, an NFT trader, the event created that comfortable space for him and gave him energy to pursue his passion for cryptocurrency and NFTs.

“I feel validated. I feel encouraged,” said Flakko, 22. “When I say what I do to a lot of people, they’re not gonna understand what I do, they’re not gonna appreciate what I do. But when I come to an event like this, and I discuss what I’m into [with], you know, like-minded individuals …”

Flakko, who got into cryptocurrency after trading stocks, thinks the market capitalization of cryptocurrency will grow in the future. Akira Kobayashi thinks we’ll see musicians use NFTs for concert passes that concert-goers will sell after the show.

“I think we’re really just at the beginning of it all and, you know, we’ll see where it goes in five or 10 years,” Kobayashi said. “I think it’s gonna get crazier and crazier.”

Omar Clifton, the chief architect for Blak Pulp, a digital store that publishes comic books and NFTs, said it makes sense for Philadelphians to be interested in NFTs.

“Philly has always been a big arts and cultural city and this is like the new cultural trend,” he said.

With fewer than 10 women at the event, Brittany Holiday, an artist and director of youth and young adult development at a local nonprofit, sees potential for Black women to join the Philly NFT space.

“I feel like the NFT space in Philly is so up and coming that there’s potential for everyone to join. There’s a lot of potential,” Holiday said. “For me right now, I’m the only Black woman here. I think there’s been two Black women here the entire night, so I encourage Black women to get into NFT work.”

NFT Philly hopes to host another event like Thursday’s in early June, Bar said.

People: Nick Eubanks
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