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Thursday, December 1, 2022

This Social Club is powered by cryptocurrency tokens and positive vibes

In the historic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, nine members of the crypto social club Friends With Benefits sat around a table sampling a new beverage that the group had developed in collaboration with a coffee company. The beverage was a flavoured, sparkling yerba maté that the group had developed with a coffee company.

The drink contains adaptogens, which are herbs that are claimed to boost attention and inspire creativity, according to Joey Rubin, a leader of the group’s Los Angeles branch. As participants drank from their cups, Rubin explained that the drink contained adaptogens.

He was kidding, of course, but it served as a good metaphor for the organisation, as well as for the situation of Bitcoin in general. A organisation known as Friends With Benefits — which has been likened to a “decentralised Soho House” and a VIP lounge for crypto’s creative elite — is successful in both creating excitement and earning money in the crypto world these days, as has been the case with most things in the crypto world these days.

Friends With Benefits is what’s known as a decentralised autonomous organisation, or DAO — a type of digital co-op that uses cryptocurrency tokens to coordinate access, make payments, and vote on group decisions. Friends With Benefits is a kind of digital co-op that uses cryptocurrency tokens to coordinate access, make payments, and vote on group decisions.

Even if Friends With Benefits is not the most popular DAO, it has been one of the most talked-about. It now has approximately 6,000 distinct token holders, including singers like as Erykah Badu and Azealia Banks, who have each received a unique token. It obtained $10 million from investors such as the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz last year in a fundraising round that valued the company at $100 million, according to the company.

Trevor McFedries, a digital entrepreneur, came up with the concept for an online club for his pals in the art and music sectors, complete with a secret chat room that they could access only by using unique cryptocurrency tokens. The group officially launched in 2020.

In Mr. McFedries’s opinion, connecting cryptocurrency to an online social club would provide members with an incentive to make it a fun and fascinating place to hang out. To test this hypothesis, he created a token called $FWB and sent it to some of his Twitter followers. He reasoned that the more fun people were having, the more newcomers would want to join, and the more valuable their tokens would become as time went on.

The membership is less dominated by “Lamborghini-driving Bitcoin guys” and more dominated by “D.J.s from Williamsburg who dabble with Ethereum on the weekends.” When the group’s new members presented themselves at a recent orientation session, they included an intellectual-property lawyer and poet who also happens to be an investor, a Nike brand strategist, and a smattering of musicians and software engineers.

There are many benefits to being formed as a DAO rather than a standard business. The group may simply invest in its members’ projects and reward them with $FWB tokens for their efforts that are beneficial to the group. Members have the option to depart at any moment by selling their remaining tokens. Furthermore, if the price of $FWB grows, every member will reap the benefits.

Attaching a community to a volatile cryptocurrency token, on the other hand, has hazards. It was discovered last year that a service utilised by Friends With Benefits to generate its tokens had been compromised. The value of $FWB plummeted by 99 percent. The community came together and decided to provide a new token, averting a complete collapse. Despite this, $FWB coins are now trading at about $50, or 75% below their high.

Described by Mr. Zhang as a “headless media community lifestyle brand,” Mr. Zhang believes that the Friends With Benefits group would ultimately produce dozens of items under the Friends With Benefits banner, including magazines, music festivals, and garment lines.

As Friends With Benefits has developed, it has met some of the same issues that may be found in any other offline social club environment. Following the discovery of racist and xenophobic comments by Cooper Turley, a crypto-world figure, members decided to have him removed from the organisation last year.

So far, the majority of the content generated by Friends With Benefits has been targeted toward holding parties and boosting its membership, but the organisation is trying to venture out. The organisation is working on creating a member directory with customisable NFT name badges, organising a music festival, and launching a fellowship programme for web3 producers from underrepresented backgrounds, among other things.

The next month, a group of Friends With Benefits members went to the restaurant for the first time, strolling through the dimly lit upstairs and ducking behind wooden lanterns with red tassels that were still suspended from the ceiling. During their tour of the premises, restaurateurs Spencer Kushner and Freddy Braidi of the Boulevard Nightlife Group, who will run the restaurant, explained the history of the venue, as well as what a revived Hop Louie may look like in the future.

A private meal hosted by two chefs known professionally as BellyMan, who roasted insects and grilled Wagyu meat over an open flame in a renovated alleyway was the last stop of the evening. A group of around a dozen Friends With Benefits members meandered about the area. The majority of them were in their late 20s to early 40s, with one couple toting their child in a sling carrier as they walked.

Laura Jaramillo, a product designer at the NFT start-up Upshot and a member of the Friends With Benefits product team, summed up the group’s ebullient outlook when surveying the space:

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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