Inside EmpireDAO, NYC’s Hyped Web3 Coworking Space Above Supreme – WWD
A simple paper name tag sticks to your lapel designating your name and affiliation with a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO, if you have one.
It’s okay if you haven’t found a DAO — which is basically community-built code on a blockchain — and you don’t know what it is.
Newcomers to Web3 – the long-awaited next wave of the internet – say you learn fast and there’s no better place to get involved than a breakfast and meet – like the one taking place the first Tuesday of every month at EmpireDAO. Opened in September, the brand new Web3 coworking space in New York was founded by crypto veteran Mike Fraietta to a host of up-and-coming and current Web3 professionals, some of whom may never have had a physical office before.
At first glance, the Renaissance Revival-style building built in 1898 features fashionable adjacencies, as well as plenty of graffiti, with its location above the Supreme pop-up at 190 Bowery. Steeped in nostalgia, the building was once Germania Bank, then the residence of photographer Jay Maisel in the 1960s before he sold it for $55 million in 2015. As a tribute to Maisel, the documentary “Jay Myself” airs loop on the second floor. foyer to EmpireDAO after guests chart a visual timeline of internet milestones displayed on placards along the spiral staircase below.
“What are you building?” is the Web3 version and a socially acceptable replacement for “What are you doing?” For example, doctors create DAOs to reinvent healthcare while music fans reshape gigs for artists to find more agency. These are the kinds of projects discussed at networking get-togethers and some of the assignments of the people who fill the workspace.
In three words: “community belonging to the community”, this is what Fraietta is building.
“It’s going to happen,” he told WWD. “It has already been written that this will be the next version [of the internet]. 20 years ago, I was the guy who said, “Everyone is going to be a publisher…” Everyone will be a bank, everything will have a token, every company will have a [Web3] team, like with social media teams, and it will make things a lot easier… We can make that happen a lot faster by having [EmpireDAO] here.”
Like many, Fraietta – who wears a black T-shirt with the company logo on the back and a pigeon on the chest, on-ear Apple headphones around his neck and carrying a huge, comical water bottle – champions the coming change. Even fashion companies have started cataloging the incoming changes by attending events like Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week.
Typically open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the work week, EmpireDAO hosts around 300 members daily (currently at capacity) and alone occupies six floors of 36,000 square feet of space. There’s also a rooftop with a full panorama of downtown Manhattan and a painted water tower. Members pay to use a desktop with a subscription sold as an NFT comparable to WeWork’s monthly price. At the same time, EmpireDAO rents the space for special events with its partner Hush Events NYC. (Givenchy was reportedly a recent party pitcher.)
Workspaces are relatively bare, but swathes of kitsch and colorful street art fill the walls (evoking nostalgia for the working style of former Lower East Side resident artist Jean-Michel Basquiat). EmpireDAO runs an artist-in-residence program that occupies gallery space. The second floor, or main entertainment area, opens to a coffee bar stamped in neon script with “EmpireDAO” branding and majestic rest area anchor furniture. The spacious lounge reveals remnants of the old bank, like the ornate copper shaft of the Otis elevator (now a bar). Next to the main room is a glass gallery where art meets comedy meets hackathon meets whatever else is going on at the time. (Fraietta said a barber once set up.)
Although certain stereotypes or vices – whether it’s the handful of electric scooters hidden in a corner or puffs of steam between conversations at EmpireDAO, may come to define tech spaces – there was a balanced pool and diversity of participants at a meeting of the founders of DAO in early October.
On the one hand, Abigail Carlson, Marketing Manager at ConsenSys Mesh, seeks to join or create the next DAO led by women in media in response to the internet’s cancel culture, but a more informative virtual community by and for women in media, while Kofi Asante-Mensah seeks to empower musicians with his global digital concert business SAGOS (for Solid as Gold Consulting) Marketplace. The market organizes concerts in the metaverse and is supposed to benefit the artist more directly.
According to Tess Fenn, community and impact manager at video streaming platform Beem, who also attended the meetup, Web3 culture is like “learning a new language.” And learning the language is made easier with the right apps and browsers, she says. These include Brave for internet searches (so your data isn’t packed for big bucks without your permission), Telegram or Discord for encrypted instant messaging (much like WhatsApp), and your choice of digital currencies. Twitter is also one of them. As fashion brands learned TikTok and hired staff for it, learning how Web3 works is an integral part of the front-end transition to Web3.
But to avoid the pitfall of a coworking space like WeWork (which ultimately failed to turn a profit amid rapid expansion), EmpireDAO — which is currently in the middle of its second round of funding, although whether the details are few as for its start-up cycle – will have to make good use of its money.
Alec Shaw, who is a partner at Sperax (essentially a crypto investment fund), says the workplace gives a face to otherwise “anonymous” internet users while providing a sense of community.
Shaw said crypto projects are now held to financial performance standards similar to “Web2” companies, and the hype around Web3 and crypto is no longer enough for long-term success. Decentralized finance projects like Sperax, NFT projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club (currently being probed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for unregistered NFT sales), and communities like EmpireDAO are expected to run revenue-generating ventures.
Speaking broadly about the investment climate around pioneering web projects, Shaw points out, “When the hype wears off, the projects that survive will be those that tightly manage burn rate and focus on often overlooked metrics like cost of acquisition. customer.