• Speakers at the conference include Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Busta Rhymes
  • The NFT.NYC conference had a record 5,000 attendees with a 3,000 person waitlist, according to organizers

Venture capitalists, Quentin Tarantino, CryptoPunks, electronic dance music aficionados, entrepreneurs, starry-eyed artists and those both obsessed and curious about the blockchain-based digital collectibles gathered last week for a non-fungible token (NFT) conference in New York City.

NFT.NYC, advertised as “the leading non-fungible token event,” first took place in 2019 with a humble 200 persons in attendance. This year, 5,000 people registered for the annual conference, with a waitlist of 3,000, according to organizers.

“These figures speak volumes to the growth and energy of the [NFT] space,” Matthew Iles, Head of NFTs at Sotheby’s Metaverse, said to Blockworks. 

There were four venues for the daytime talks, panels and fireside chats, which were mostly concentrated near Times Square. Check-in took place at none other than Margaritaville Resort, the island-theme hotel named after Jimmy Buffet’s hit song, which was appropriately adorned with balloons spelling out “NFT NYC” on the third floor.

The Statue of Liberty inside the Margaritaville Resort; Source: Casey Wagner for Blockworks

The selection of 600 speakers included web-themed gurus such as Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and rap star Busta Rhymes.

Panel discussions ranged from “A VC’s Guide to Investing in NFT Platforms” to “Monetizing Metaverse Economies.” (Additionally, Quentin Tarantino announced his soon-to-be-released collection of Pulp Fiction NFTs during the conference at Neuehouse in Chelsea.)

Quentin Tarantino (second from left) at NFT.NYC; Source: Getty Images

Prominent tech investors such as Bill Tai also attended.

“The energy level that we all thought might happen to the cryptocurrency space in general, as it was ramping up into that failed crazy weird ICO wave, is back,” Tai, an early-backer of DapperLabs, said to Blockworks about NFT.NYC. “It’s distributed beyond just a bunch of techie people. It’s now becoming available in an emotional sense to mainstream people all over the world.”

NFTs after hours

But the daytime panels, talks and meet-ups of NFT.NYC were a mellow pretext for dozens of exclusive, illustrious and at times quirky after-hours events.

On Monday night at VRWorld, the party had virtual reality headsets for attendees to try out and projections of NFTs covering the walls. On a separate floor, an NFT collector, who goes by “SeedPhrase,”  DJed with a brightly-lit CryptoPunk helmet attached to his head.

Source: Morgan Chittum for Blockworks

However, “Halloweekend” was when the real NFT-related festivities really began, specifically with the “Bored Ape Yacht Party.” (Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) is a blue-chip NFT collection, whose tokens can sell for millions of dollars.) The boat rager was “token-gated,” meaning that attendees had to own a Bored Ape to show up.

Beyond the parties

However, the conference was not a place only for expensive raves and pricey river-side celebrations. 

“In Web3, there’s a sense of a positive-sum outcome. Everyone has their own projects, but we all win if the space grows. I think that it’s really nice to see that [in real life],” Iles added. “And that’s what this event has really meant to me.” 

Tom Bilyeu, host of Quest Theory and speaker at NFT.NYC, said he noticed an extreme “amount of excitement and energy pouring into the space” at the conference this year.

“Welcome to the revolution. NFTs are going to change everything,” Bilyeu said. 

Revolution, indeed. By the end of the week, one significant speaker had put his money where his mouth is when it comes to NFTs — Galaxy Digital’s CEO Mike Novogratz announced that his firm had started an NFT collection and bought their first CryptoPunk.

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  • Morgan Chittum is a New York-based reporter covering NFTs, the metaverse, play-to-earn gaming and other emerging Web3 tech for Blockworks. Previously she was a street reporter, covering crime at New York Daily News, and a media and journalism fellow at the Poynter Institute. Contact Morgan via email at [email protected]