The Metablox team takes on New York!
Monday, June 20th
I arrived to New York on Monday, June 20th, ready to take on the conference. I took the red eye in from San Francisco, still a bit tired, but pumped to join the team.
Thinking the conference started on Monday, I arrived late morning Sunday. My son had driven up from Virginia the day before with his girlfriend to visit a couple Philadelphia museums, so they picked me up at Newark Airport and drove me into the city.
As a west coast native, a first time visit to New York City is beyond comprehension until you see it.
I flew in from Taiwan, which was a 23 hour travel and beginning at 6AM in the morning — I basically didn’t sleep. I flew from Taiwan to SF to New York, and for the first time ever I felt it was putting a strain on my body. Not sure if it’s because I am getting older, or because I wasn’t sleeping on the plane either but watched some movies.
But gotta do it for the company!
I walked into the Airbnb and asked, “So what’s the plan today? When does the conference start?”
I too, thought the conference started Monday and chose to arrive Sunday morning. Waiting for the team to show up, I decided to eat lunch at the restaurant at the end of our block. I ate french toast and hung out with the bartenders and staff. At 3:00 I left for our AirBnB next door. Turns out Google gave me directions to the wrong block and the actual block was actually a good mile or two away.
Yu-kai, Joe, and Dara all give a chuckle, “The conference doesn’t start until tomorrow.”
Hahaha, we all arrived too early.
But we were not deterred. I whipped out my phone and found the nearest 4-star brunch place. Onward we walked to POST.
Breakfast at POST was bomb. We came back regularly to get our daily fuel. We also met Myke, the restaurant co-owner. He told us the story about how he and his brother started POST. Dude had awesome hair.
POST was incredible and served as our daily anchor amid the rest of the conference chaos. Explaining Metablox to Myke amid our morning meal, it felt good to have that familiarity among the daily novelty of the trip.
I truly enjoyed my pork and fried egg biscuit sandwich I had at POST. The biscuit was soft and flakey and the pork was moist and tender with just a hint of spice. But the fried egg on top really elevated the sandwich. Does egg yolk have umami because somehow a runny egg always makes everything freaking BOMB. if you go you must try it and make sure the Metablox team sent you.
Yu-kai had a meeting across town, so we hopped in a tiny Uber (for some reason Yu-kai ordered an Uber that fit 3 people when we were 4) and made some new friends.
Yu-kai’s network has become a common point of interaction for the team — best selling authors, fashion influencers, Exponential Strategists, and a whole lot more are regular characters on our journey.
The size of the car was just the appetizer for that journey — it was followed by aggressive driving for the main course and finished up with a dessert of bad attitude.
I had no idea that you could order different seats for Uber. I just ordered UberX and that was the option. I know there was another one where you can order a large van but I didn’t think we needed that.
Getting the chance to meet some of Yu-Kai’s network was very inspiring. I loved that so much of the conversation was geared towards solving real world issues and making communities much better places. I left motivated to dive deeper into the work of one of the attendees and purchased his audiobook later that night.
During our meeting, we explored how to build meaningful communities and what a local coalition can accomplish. It was great brainstorming ways to make Metablox even more meaningful through a local presence in each city.
The AKINGS event was across town, which gave us time to do a good’ol fashioned walk and talk. We easily walked 2 miles, deep in discussion about Metablox, the mission, and how we can place a heavier emphasis and importance on memories.
I hope we didn’t scare off Joe and Dara. Yu-kai and my arguments can get pretty intense, but at the end of the day, we never take it personally. We welcome these engagements as it helps us build a better company.
I was the opposite of being scared away — to see, at times instigate, and occasionally participate 😂, was thrilling. Too many teams shy away from the types of impassioned — candid conversation you two carry on effortlessly — and all without strife or malice.
Watching you two go back and forth was way too much fun. I secretly wondered how you both managed to not get hit by any cars as you two were so impassioned that it seemed you had blinders on to what was happening around you. Both of you were worthy adversaries in the great debate and luckily no one was hurt in the process. 😂
Jun and I have lived together, started companies together, succeeded together, failed together, double dated together in the past 17 years, and we have never had a real fight where we help a grudge against each other. But we argue ferociously all day long. Pretty cool eh?
Yu-kai and I have this running joke that although we look nothing alike, people still seem to confuse us. It happened again this time in New York. Yu-kai and I switched badges, and this guy that Yu-kai personally knows goes, “Hey Jun!” (because Yu-kai was wearing my badge).
Meeting the AKINGS folks was fun — they even helped Yu-kai with his fashion.
Best of all, Samantha caught up with us.
The good people at AKINGS recommended us to hang out at Skylark. We spent the rest of the day sharing stories, bonding over how amazing New York City is and what Blox we want to Mint.
This was my first skyline level view of the city and it didn’t disappoint. From our perch at Skylark we had an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building along with panoramic views of the rest of the city.
The NY skyline is always something to behold. I always wonder about the light colors on the skyscraper buildings and how the heck they manage to make it happen so effortlessly. Turns out there is an app for that and Samantha’s husband had access to change its colors via the app. How cool would that be as a gender reveal? “Look honey its a girl” and all the skyscrapers in the city turn pink.
Our UX designer also met up with us. The New York Metablox team was complete!
Samantha took us to Bleeker Street Pizza to satisfy our late-night hunger. Pizza was bomb. I got the bacon chicken.
Twas the perfect conclusion to our Monday tour. An epic pizza spot with walls covered in notable humans who’d also crossed its threshold in search of that Mozzarella & Marinara induced bliss.
This was really a great night getting to know each other. As for the pizza, it was very good for New York-style pizza. But it still doesn’t beat the cheesy layers and flaky butteriness of a Chicago-style deep dish.
We closed out the day with an evening stroll. Samantha took us to see a few more places, ending the night with my favorite picture from the entire trip — the Metablox team together, outside the Friend’s apartment.
Tuesday, June 21st
Ok, now it’s time to take on New York NFT week! We were pumped; we were ready; nothing was going to stop us.
We hopped on an Uber and headed straight for Radio City Music Hall. This time I called the Uber, so we had plenty of room to sit.
We got there hungry. So the first thing we did is got some food from street vendors. Joe, Yu-kai, and Dara did it right — they went for the hot dogs.
One of my “things to do” in New York was to eat an authentic hot dog from a cart. I thought I had the real deal with this meal, but it wasn’t until later that I realized these carts were part of some chain!
I chickened out and got a some chicken rice.
Do we really have to pay for conferences?
We got to Radio City Music Hall, ready to listen to some talks. We tried to walk in, but they immediately rejected us, sending us off to the New York Marriott Marquis to get our passes.
And it dawned on us — we never got a confirmation email for our passes.
As part of our partnership with Polygon, Yu-kai got a speaking opportunity and 3 passes to the conference. But, we never received an email confirmation with our passes.
We got to the Marquis, full of hopeful positivity.
As Yu-kai and I always say, “Confidence is everything minus 1”. We were confident that if we explained the situation, we’d somehow get our conference passes.
When we got to the badge station, they asked for our QR code. None of us had one, so they sent us to another long line for people that need special help.
While in line, a conference helper pulled us out of line and asked us if we didn’t have our QR codes.
We said yes.
He took us to a laptop and asked us for our names. No proof of purchase or speaker registration was necessary. I got a General Admission pass, Joe was a Media Member, and Yu-kai got a Speaker pass.
I think Joe was production staff. But it’s pretty ridiculous they just gave me a VIP Speaker Badge without checking anything. He just asked, “So you want a Speaker Badge? Here it is.”
Unlike the Miami NFT Conference, I felt that the New York Conference was not only completely spread apart (I believe there were 5 venues in total across Manhattan), but disorganized and cumbersome.
Case in point: We tried to go to a speaker event back at Radio City Hall, only to be rejected because we had to RSVP for the speaker event.
Overall, New York was a blast, but the conference was no where near as useful as all of the events we attended to connect with other entrepreneurs and crypto people.
Agreed. Proximity to smart folks doing amazing things — and for assembling that combination, NFT NYC was successful, but in terms of value from the actual event — it was dubious.
We met up with Onibaku from the Metablox Neighborhood.
With the new addition to the team, we decided it was time to eat and embark on a new adventure.
Yu-kai worked with Polygon to develop a Scavenger Hunt game for the NFT conference. As part of the Scavenger Hunt, if people took and uploaded memories in specific locations, they would earn bonus points in the Polygon Studios Hub Hunt.
We visited one of those locations and saw Steve Aoki, just chilling and enjoying the art at Arcadia Earth.
I was awe struck. Not specifically because of his music, but because of his documentary:
Watch I'll Sleep When I'm Dead | Netflix Official Site
Superstar DJ Steve Aoki reflects on the driving force behind his career: his ambitious father, Benihana founder and…
Asian dude growing up in Orange County, trying to get validation from his father. It just hit home to me. His crazy work ethic is what stood out to me the most — anything is possible through hard work.
It was his documentary that sparked the idea to write a children’s book. Here was the first draft that I wrote and my friend illustrated:
The first draft of Steve Aoki and the Dim Mak
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
We took a picture with Steve; I shook his hand and told him how he inspired my drive to write a children’s book. I feel foolish now for not taking the chance to show him the draft of the children’s book.
This is a great memory Jun — it’s just now, reading his influence on you, that I recall reading about Steve Aoki’s past — in particular the relationship with his father.
To see you genuinely express his influence and inspiration on your book was beautiful…I just recognized him from other projects!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Steve Aoki as I was deep in conversation with two other attendees about their NFT projects, one on modernizing Muslim religious architecture in the metaverse and the other attendee’s project sought to help orphaned children in her native Philippines. I enjoyed our conversations immensely but it would have been cool to have met Steve Aoki too.
Joe, Dara, and Yu-kai got themselves some Kumite NFTs, so we visited their event at Mr. Purple in New York. The event was packed — rightfully so as Kumite was able to sell out their Mint during this crypto Winter.
Gareb and Scott (the founders of the company behind Kumite) are machines. Successful in web 2.0 — they, like you and Yu-kai are examples of effective business operators making the transition to Web3 for what it makes possible rather than the hype.
I was totally geeked for this event and ended up reserving this blox in Metablox to hatch my grand battle plan to curate the memories of the Kumite battles and lore as they take place in the various IRL locations. The rest of my plan is top secret. So you’ll have to check it out to see how I level up my character in the Kumite Universe while also level up my blox in the Metablox Metaverse.
We met quite a few interesting people, including an entrepreneur from Japan wearing a tiger costumer for his NFT: Very Long Animals.
We finished the day eating Korean Corn Dogs for dinner. This was on Joe’s to-do list, so we had to do it.
It’s true…looking back — I think I need a healthier list.
Joseph thinks he needs a healthier list, but at least his hot dog wasn’t stuffed with cheese and covered in mustard aioli, potatoes and cinnamon sugar. And if you’re wondering, the first bite was delicious. But after the next few, I felt completely gross and had to toss the other half. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Not the healthiest choice, but damn delicious.
Wednesday, June 22nd
Did you know that New York has the best tap water in the entire country?
Most people don’t realize it’s piped in from the Catskills!
You could say that this became our inside joke among the team — with each of us taking deadpan attempts and recounting our new found (initially incredulous) information throughout the trip.
In case anyone wants to learn for themselves:
Glad I was vindicated by the servers who confirmed what I was saying all along. More fun FACTS: the water supply contract in NYC was first given to what would become Chase Manhattan Bank. Apparently, they weren’t so interested in water and poured most of their resources into building the bank side of the business. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dep/water/history-of-new-york-citys-drinking-water.page
If you didn’t, well now you know. And it’s something that we were reminded of everyday while we were in New York.
In fact, we tested this with many New Yorkers that we met. I asked them, “Can you drink tap water here?”
“Oh yes!” the responded. “In fact, it’s the best water in the country.”
Before heading to an NFT event, we stopped by the Butcher’s Daughter for some healthy food.
Our good friend Brian Wong, Co-founder of Webacy, invited us to their event at a cafe. I highly recommend you check out their project to protect your crypto assets.
I became pretty sold with Webacy and plan to use it at one point in my life.
Our friend and Yu-kai’s mentor, Ray Wu, invited us to his CEO Happy Hour in New York. It was a great meetup of crypto startups aiming to change the world.
Dinner with the team was great. Miss Korea BBQ was some of the best BBQ I’ve had in quite a long time.
And Yu-kai was gracious enough to wait and let the meat cook so that everyone can eat before munching it all down.
We ended the night dividing and conquering. Samantha and Dara went out to a crypto lawyers meetup. Yu-kai, Joe, Onibaku, our UX designer, and myself went to the Turf event.
To be honest, I think the Turf event was the highlight of the week for me. Met some awesome people that I hope to stay in touch with and do Twitter Spaces together.
Attending the EightBit meetup was the only thing we had as a firmly scheduled event — other than Yu-kai’s talk. For me it was a journey that started way back in 2010 with my first EightBit avatar.
Heading into Ray’s (https://metablox.co/blox/new-york/2783) that night I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as we descended the dark steps into the basement — I knew it was exactly what it needed to be.
Dimly lit, people were scattered about the not quite large enough space straining to converse over the music. It wasn’t long before I recognized a voice from the Twitter Spaces — it was Courtney, one of the co-founders. I made a brief introduction and found my way back to the team huddled in the corner.
Over the next hour I incrementally turned the volume down one small turn at a time to make conversations less challenging. Eventually I located Addison — EightBit’s CEO and basketball aficionado.
Throughout the course of the night — many conversations were had, in addition to the founder of Turf, I also chatted with Chris — the creator of Nyan Cats.
Most surprising was spotting a Drippies shirt in the crowd allowing me to meet a fellow owner in that community as well. It’s amazing the people you can meet at events like NFT NYC.
It was awesome making memories with you team! Let’s continue building something amazing and valuable for the world.