In a DAO landscape often headlined by promises of real-world acquisitions, EmpireDAO has announced what few in the space have yet to pull off – opening its doors.
The decentralized autonomous organization, founded by entrepreneur Mike Fraietta in October, aims to provide coworking space for companies and individuals building Web 3 projects. It opened its first physical location on Tuesday in New York City. (Note: EmpireDAO created a corporate entity to rent the building.)
The group has set up shop in lower Manhattan at 190 Bowery – a landmarked Beaux-Arts building built in 1898. Originally a Gilded Age bank, the site of a Supreme pop-up store is now home to another class of tastemakers: crypto entrepreneurs and nomads, many of whom have yet to experience “in-person” work at all, building out the much-hyped future of the internet.
Though crypto originated as an internet-native and often pseudonymous technology, the growing wave of “real life” Web 3 projects, Fraietta said, is indicative of a longing by crypto users for good old-fashioned human connection.
“I’ve spent my whole career pushing online work, digital work. I was like, ‘Guys, we don’t need to go to the office, maybe just two to three days a week,” Fraietta told CoinDesk during a tour of the building last month. “But I’ve been missing this dramatically. So many things come out of meeting in person.”
Former Brooklyn Nets pro basketball player Lance Thomas, one of EmpireDAO’s lead investors, shared Fraietta’s sentiment.
“People want the option to work remotely but they also crave community,” Thomas said.
The vibe of the project’s open house reaffirmed the sentiment, a scene where hundreds of young crypto enthusiasts scavenged through the building’s many rooms in between conversations about who’d already claimed what.
Visitors to the 36,000-square-foot, six-floor coworking space will be able to rent “hotdesks” for individual use, with memberships being sold as NFTs priced comparably to WeWork (WE).
Fraietta isn’t picky about which cryptocurrencies will be used as payment.
“We’ll take anything that has liquidity,” Fraietta said.
What matters to him is that the coworking space remains completely crypto-native – from desk rental to snack and coffee purchases, which Fraietta said will be done through Solana Pay.
DAOs and crypto companies will be able to lease their own rooms in the building. Fraietta told CoinDesk the DAO has received over 200 applications from groups looking to rent office space, including three major blockchain foundations, and is currently reviewing them to determine which organizations are the best fit.
According to Austin Federa, head of communications at Solana Labs, the Solana Foundation is one of those considering renting space from EmpireDAO, though he said no lease has been signed yet.
Fraietta sees the project as a proof-of-concept for EmpireDAO’s “work protocol,” which he believes could eventually be used as a back-end system for coworking spaces across the world. He told CoinDesk he and the other four core contributors to EmpireDAO have a lot of ideas for how to use the space, though many of the plans seem to still be up in the air.
Fraietta said the group is in talks with a music studio (“We think this will be the music hub of Web 3,” Fraietta said.), and has floated the idea of installing a golf simulator (sponsored by LinksDAO, naturally) where visitors can blow off steam.
There are also loose plans for an NFT gallery, a DAO-sponsored Peloton room, a series of educational courses for members and, for non-New Yorkers, a virtual reality environment where remote workers partake in the metaverse.
Web 3 in NYC
New York’s crypto industry is booming, and the opening of EmpireDAO is another feather in the cap for Mayor Eric Adams, who promised to make the city a crypto hub.
“Every day I meet someone who moved here from Silicon Valley,” Fraietta told CoinDesk. “It’s almost taboo to say they worked for a Web 2 company.”
According to Fraietta, the influx of developers has been “nonstop” and they’re looking to make connections with crypto companies and DAOs – that’s what he and his team are seeking to offer.
“This is the best time to be alive right now. This is the beginning of the future,” Thomas, the former Nets forward, added. “Why would you want to isolate yourself in the midst of so much innovation?”
Fran Velasquez contributed reporting.
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