Long Beach’s NFT-Themed Restaurant Still Accepts Crypto For Now


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Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
The “crypto winter” might be rolling in, but the founders of Food Fighters Universe are staring the storm in the face and boldly claiming now is actually the time to double down on digital assets.
Food Fighters Universe, which bills itself as the first NFT-themed restaurant group, was started just four months ago by co-founders Andy Nguyen, COO Phillip Huynh and “chief megaphone” Kevin Seo.
The restaurant does still accept crypto, despite a recent Los Angeles Times article where a reporter described visiting the site and said staff weren’t accepting Ethereum or ApeCoin, the cryptocurrency linked to Bored Apes. Nguyen and Seo told dot.LA the reporter just happened to visit the store when their systems were temporarily down for maintenance, and said they’re still taking crypto as payment.
“It was timing and miscommunication,” Seo claimed. “[The LA Times] happened to stop by when we were in NYC doing an activation with Bored & Hungry and we were accepting crypto payments in New York and there was a technical issue on the west coast we were unaware of.”
“The best time to accept crypto is in a bear market, that’s when you make your most money,” said Nguyen, a restaurateur known best for his involvement in Los Angeles’ Afters Ice Cream chain.
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From left to right: Co-founders Kevin Seo, Phillip Huynh and Andy Nguyen. Courtesy of Bored & Hungry/Food Fighters Universe
Seo told dot.LA the restaurant plans to accept more forms of crypto as payment in coming months. And though the co-founders wouldn’t disclose the restaurant’s revenue, Seo noted they had plans to open a second Bored & Hungry location in Seoul, South Korea this fall—the store’s first international expansion.
It’s important to note that accepting crypto isn’t the only thing that makes Bored & Hungry a web3-adjacent enterprise: the restaurant’s theme is based around Bored Ape Yacht Club, the controversial NFT collection from Yuga Labs.
Celebrities like Paris Hilton, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Brady and Seth Green have openly endorsed the apes, while critics (like web designer and Azaelia Banks’ ex-boyfriendRyder Ripps) claim the project is rooted in racism or Nazi iconography – something Yuga Labs CEO Nicole Muniz strongly denies.
“I think it’s just he said, she said, people digging,” Nguyen said when asked about the allegations. “[Bored Ape] is the most popular brand out there, it is what it is.”
In creating the restaurant, Nguyen had to meet the Bored Ape founders and spoke with one of them (he didn’t say which one) to get their official endorsement, and added, “he didn’t seem crazy.”
Despite the unsavory accusations and impending crypto crash, the series of 1,000 humanoid ape cartoons is quite possibly the most popular NFT brand out there, with sales surpassing $1 billion earlier this year. That’s why Nguyen and his team chose to purchase three Bored Ape NFTs earlier this year for roughly $330,000 and theme their Long Beach hamburger joint around them.
The price floor for Bored Ape Yacht Club’s NFTs continues to fluctuate. After peaking at a high of roughly 149 Ethereum in early May, the project is now down to 81.75 ETH. Decrypt reported in June the collection dropped 47%, falling below a $100,000 floor price for the first time since August 2021.
Nguyen said the desire to link with the Bored Ape brand was rooted in its widespread appeal.
“We are going to be gunning for the top 10 [most] popular coins out there,” Seo told dot.LA, while acknowledging the percentage of people actually purchasing their lunch with crypto is still miniscule.
“Adoption is still going to take a long time,” Seo said. “We’re going to continue to push it, even though it’s being used very minimally. It’s not a huge percentage of anything. Some folks want to do it and just having the option feels good, and we hope that that will lead to more adoption.”
Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”
The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.
Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.
Similar programs are common in the startup world and in the creator economy. For example, social media companies can use accelerator programs not only to support rising stars but to lure those creators—and their audiences—to the company’s platforms. Genies believes avatars will be a crucial part of the internet’s future and is similarly using its program to encourage creators to launch brands using Genies’ platform.
“I think us being able to work hands on with this next era—this next generation of designers and entrepreneurs—not only gets us a chance to understand how people want to use our platform and tools, but also allows us to nurture those types of creators that are going to exist and continue to build within our ecosystem,” said Allison Sturges, Genies’ head of strategic partnerships.
DIY Collective’s initial cohort will include roughly 15 people, Sturges said. They will spend three weeks at the Genies headquarters, participating in workshops and hearing from CEOs, fashion designers, tattoo artists and speakers from other industries, she added. Genies will provide creatives with funding to build brands and audiences, though Sturges declined to share how much. By the end of the program, participants will be able to sell digital goods through the company’s NFT marketplace, The Warehouse. There, people can buy, sell and trade avatar creations, such as wearable items.
Genies will accept applications for the debut program until Aug. 1. It will kick off on Aug. 8, and previous experience in digital fashion and 3D art development is not required.
Sturges said that the program will teach people “about the tools and capabilities that they will have” through Genies’ platform, as well as “how to think about building their own avatar ecosystem brands and even their own audience.”
svg%3EImage courtesy of Genies
Founded in 2017, Genies established itself by making avatars for celebrities from Rihanna to Russell Westbrook, who have used the online lookalikes for social media and sponsorship opportunities. The 150-person company, which has raised at least $250 million to date, has secured partnerships with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to make avatars for each music label’s entire roster of artists. Former Disney boss Bob Iger joined the company’s board in March.
The company wants to extend avatars to everyone else. Avatars—digital figures that represent an individual—may be the way people interact with each other in the 3D virtual worlds of the metaverse, the much-hyped iteration of the internet where users may one day work, shop and socialize. A company spokesperson previously told dot.LA that Genies has been beta testing avatar creator tools with invite-only users and gives creators “full ownership and commercialization rights” over their creations collecting a 5% transaction fee each time an avatar NFT is sold.
“It’s an opportunity for people to build their most expressive and authentic self within this digital era,” Sturges said of avatars.
The company’s call for creators could be a sign that Genies is close to rolling out the Warehouse and its tools publicly. Asked what these avatar tools might look like, the startup went somewhat quiet again.
Allison Sturges said, “I think that’s probably something that I’ll hold off on sharing. We will be rolling some of this out soon.”
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
Six months after announcing bold plans to renovate the derelict Broadway Trade Center building, it appears metaverse startup Emcee won’t turn the aging 1.1 million square-foot property into a “tech hub” any time soon.
The building is now headed towards foreclosure after the owner defaulted on a $221 million loan to retrofit it. This means we likely won’t see the “Emcee Studio,” a proposed multi-use space including a hotel, members-only rooftop pool, restaurant and coworking offices in the near future. The space will be boarded up and sold at a bankruptcy auction.
Emcee founder and CEO John Aghayan didn’t respond to dot.LA’s requests for comment.
“The owner was listening to ideas like [a] metaverse gaming hub but we all knew there [was] zero chance they were going to raise enough money to make the building habitable let alone be profitable,” said one local real estate manager familiar with the deal who wished to remain anonymous for fear of damaging their business. “Nobody in their right mind would invest in that building in DTLA,” the source added.
A brief history of the hulking, scaffolded building you’ve likely seen many times while traversing Downtown Los Angeles: The Beaux-Arts style property at 8th and Broadway was built in 1906 as Hamburger’s Department Store, and later became the May Co. headquarters after it changed ownership in 1925. The May family vacated their department store in the mid-1980s, and since then it’s become known as the Broadway Trade Center, existing in a state of limbo and increasing disrepair after being gutted two years ago. In 2014, New York-based real estate investment trust Waterbridge Capital bought the building for an estimated $130 million.
Waterbridge Capital is run by Joel Schreiber, one of the first investors in WeWork. He’s running the building under a joint venture LLC called Broadbridge. In 2016 he secured a nearly $165 million loan on the property, and another loan worth $213 million in 2018. Still, after all these refinanced loans, no one was able to move in.
Waterbridge Capital is also reportedly in talks to buy the Union Bank Plaza office building Downtown for $155 million. The company didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
A longtime L.A. broker who’s been following developments on Broadway for decades and requested anonymity to avoid business conflicts speculated the Emcee announcement some months back could have been an ill-fated tactic to stave off the inevitable foreclosure when refinancing the loans was no longer an option.
“I hate to say it, but it sounded like some kind of cockamamie sham put together to find more time with the lender,” the source said. They added that the foreclosure process could take up to 18 months, during which time the building will fall into even more disrepair and added they believed it’s not even worth half of the total loan amount.
Now the question is, what to do with this behemoth of an empty building?
The same sources told me the city government could buy it back for pennies on the dollar now, but then it’d be on the hook for making it habitable – both brokers told dot.LA the elevators aren’t even up to code, much less anything else. Also, it’s got no parking lot, and parking’s a critical need for any large-use building Downtown, those sources said.
“Housing is our critical need right now,” the broker said. “But it’s just too big of a challenge. There’s no government agencies to do it [and] it’s a monster floor plan.”
Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.
The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.
From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.
DoorDash’s Founding Story: Stanley Tang, a cofounder and chief product officer of delivery giant DoorDash, speaks with Pear VC’s founding managing partner, Pejman Nozad. They’ll discuss how to grow a tech company from seed stage all the way to an initial public offering. Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Santa Monica.
The Founders Guide to LA: A presentation from dot.LA cofounder and executive chairman Spencer Rascoff, who co-founded Zillow and served as the real estate marketplace firm’s CEO. Aug. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Brentwood.
Time To Build: Los Angeles: Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) hosts a discussion on how L.A. can maintain its momentum as one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the U.S. Featured speakers include a16z general partners Connie Chan and Andrew Chen, as well as Grant Lafontaine, the cofounder and CEO of shopping marketplace Whatnot. Aug. 19 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Santa Monica.
How to Build Successful Startups in Difficult Industries: Leaders from Southern California’s healthcare and aerospace startups gather for panels and networking opportunities. Hosted by TechStars, the event includes speakers from the U.S. Space Force, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Applied VR and University of California Irvine. Aug. 15 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Culver City.
LA Tech Week Demo Day: Early stage startups from the L.A. area pitch a panel of judges including a16z’s Andrew Chen and Nikita Bier, who co-founded the Facebook-acquired social media app tbh. Inside a room of 100 tech leaders in a Beverly Hills mansion, the pitch contest is run by demo day events platform Stonks and live-in accelerator Launch House. Aug. 17 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Beverly Hills.
Registration information and a full list of LA Tech Week events can be found here.
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
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