Welcome to Afterparty: One night at Hollywood's hottest NFT minting party

Welcome to the Utopian community. The minting room is this way.

​Musician Sia after minting her NFT from the Afterparty Utopian collection at the company's first in-person minting event in November.

Minting through a ceremony at the Afterparty house, CEO David Fields said, is part of what sets Utopians apart from a typical NFT.

Photo: Afterparty

My Uber dropped me off in front of a modern mansion in the Hollywood Hills. The road up was steep and winding, filled with multimillion-dollar houses that twinkled when you looked at them from Sunset Boulevard below. I was told beforehand by my hosts to hail a ride-share, as parking in the neighborhood would be difficult to find. It was true: The tight streets were already filled with Ferraris, Teslas and Lamborghinis owned by the neighborhood's residents and guests who got there early. My dented Honda Civic would have looked out of place anyway.

Among the glittering manors lies the Afterparty House, a modern, four-bedroom, six-bathroom, two-story house with a pool overlooking the glowing Los Angeles skyline. The house typically acts as a gallery and community space for Afterparty, an NFT company, and its buyers. On this Thursday night, it was filled with influencers and enthusiasts all eager to get in on Afterparty's latest NFT minting party.

After getting the gate code, I walked up a sleek set of stone stairs tucked between well maintained shrubbery and lined with candles that led me to the entrance. To the right of the door hung a big sign with Afterparty's sleek pink and purple logo. Beneath that, a small ornate placard read “Welcome, Please Remove Your Jimmy Choo’s,” which I was told came with the house. I knocked.

David Fields, Afterparty's CEO, greeted me at the door with a smile and a handshake, then immediately launched into a tour of the house. He walked me through the dining room, with its conversation pit filled with velvet furniture next to floor-to-ceiling windows. Down the hallways lined with flat screens displaying GIFs of NFT art.

But the house is beside the point, Fields said, standing in front of the two large screens in the main room, which displayed the NFTs — colorful cyborgs and androids with features like goggles, studs and masks created by an anonymous artist — that were being produced and minted as part of Afterparty's “Utopian" collection.

The Utopians, and what they represent, are the point, he said.

Afterparty sells and mints NFTs that give its buyers access to the events it throws. (Fields called the whole enterprise a “decentralized creator Soho House.”) The company was founded last year by Fields, Dan Rahmel and Eytan Elbaz and debuted its platform in beta last June, starting with a few virtual, NFT-gated events. The NFTs it is currently selling and minting are the Utopians, which give holders access to the entire world of Afterparty events.

The Afterparty team started hosting live events in November and have had a handful of these minting parties so far, Fields said. They've attracted creators like Bryce Hall, Sia and Vinnie Hacker to the parties, and have banked $3 million in seed funding from a slew of angel investors and venture capital firms, one of which was Elbaz’s TenOneTen Ventures.

This night's main event was taking place to the left of the entrance: a walled-off enclave filled with comfortable furniture, sky-high ceilings and several more flat screens dedicated to displaying “mint passes.” Afterparty calls this the “live-mint room." It's where new NFTs are minted in an intimate, almost sacred way.

Photo: Afterparty

Based in the Hollywood Hills, the Afterparty House is a gathering space and art gallery for the company's exclusive community.

The minting room

Only 1,500 Utopians exist in total. Afterparty gave 500 of them to creators and influencers and is charging 3 ETH apiece — which ranges from about $6,000 to $12,000 — for another 500. (It's keeping the last 500 in reserve, for projects "to be determined," Fields said.) Its first presale, of 150 Utopians, sold out almost instantly.

Once they're in the club, many holders go through a minting ceremony at the Afterparty House. The process turns the Utopian art piece, each of which is one of a kind and created by an anonymous artist, into a digital asset on the Ethereum blockchain, guaranteeing that the holder is its only certifiable owner. And minting through a ceremony at the Afterparty House, Fields said, is part of what sets Utopians apart from a typical NFT.

By 8:30, a crowd of more than 50 people had arrived at the house. Then the rituals began.

Every 10 to 15 minutes, either in pairs or alone, guests who were minting would slip away from the crowd into the walled-off enclave, which was quiet despite the noise of the party.

At one point, Fields ushered me into the minting room to witness one of these ceremonies. A small group of people watched as a couple sat close together on a low, neutral-toned couch, shifting with excitement. Standing in front of them holding an iPad, John Van Liere, Afterparty's operations manager and minting MC, described what an NFT’s metadata is. Ingrained in that metadata, Van Liere told them, are three words of the holder's choice, living with it forever and making the token uniquely theirs. The minting passes, a digital key each holder gets before their NFT is minted, flashed on the screens behind them.

“[The phrases] can be extremely meaningful to them. They could be a joke. They could be X-rated,” Fields told me. “It's completely up to you; the blockchain is uncensored. Whether you give that [NFT] to your kid in 50 years or you sell it, that lives with it forever.”

When asked for their three words, the couple looked at each other, pausing for a second to think about what to choose. One said the first thing that came to their head: “I love cats.”

“I love cats,” Robert Graham, Afterparty’s chief community officer, repeated. “I love it.”

“So that’s a good one?” they asked.

“That’s a great one,” Graham said.

The other questioned whether or not to do something sentimental, but worried that “no one would get it” if they were to sell. They paused, shifting their drink in their hand as they thought.

“Let’s go with ‘all about community,’” they said. “That’s a good one!” an onlooker chimed in.

The whole process took about five minutes. The couple then got to choose a “debut song,” the track that would play them back into the main room of the house, where they would see their randomly chosen Utopian NFT for the first time. (The hits of the night included “We Will Rock You” by Queen and “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club.)

The couple considered for a minute, one picking up their phone to look through their music choices. They finally landed on “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. The song blared as they walked out to a crowd of excited party guests. “Let's give it up for them!” Van Liere announced over the microphone in the most MC-esque voice imaginable, and the crowd began to cheer.

They reached the parallel screens displaying their NFTs and gazed excitedly at the displays as two images revealed themselves: one NFT a cyborg with purple skin and a pink mask, the other blue and violet with glasses.

This process happened at least 10 times over the course of the evening. When I asked content creator and choreographer Matt Steffanina which phrase he planned to imprint on his NFT a few minutes before he went into the minting room, he paused to think. “I was going to freestyle it, but now that you bring it up, I guess I should start to marinate on that for a minute,” he said.

He ended up going with “4-2-0.”

Steffanina is no NFT novice: He owns more than 700, which he collected over a period of a little over a year. He found out about Afterparty after meeting Fields on the Bored Ape Yacht four months prior. Seeing him as a “pioneer” in the dance community and a “natural fit” for Afterparty, Fields decided to give him a Utopian NFT.

As a dancer and choreographer by trade, Steffanina said his interest in crypto and NFTs came from his passion for giving credit where credit is due. “I can prove that I did it. Nobody else has proof that they did it sooner,” Steffanina said. “Then it just opened up a whole can of worms of finding incredible artists that I loved and being able to use it within my dance community.”

After Steffanina's NFT was minted, Lil Wayne's “Lollipop” played as he strutted back into the party. He looked proud as his Utopian — a navy blue android with scarlet eyes, a pink mask and a hoop earring on a blue, pink and red patterned background — appeared on the screens. Van Liere described it as “rare” and “clean” to a crowd of clapping and whooping guests.

'The strongest community'

Wandering around and chatting with this seemingly random cluster of influencers and artists and tech bros and investors that somehow all made it to the party, I asked plenty of people, “Why this?” The common refrain was "community." Though many guests had already minted their Utopians, or were just the entourage of those who hold them, they said that being part of a community is what brought them there that night. Everyone mingled and chatted and hugged like old friends.

Vicky Palacio, a fitness influencer with more than 800,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram, was one of the creators gifted a Utopian. She didn’t know much about blockchain or NFTs before the company approached her, but since then, she’s been to every NFT event the team has thrown.

“I saw the community that they were creating, the quality of people that they were having join, and not knowing much about NFTs, they also educated me a lot and taught me a lot about the space, too, which I really appreciated,” Palacio said. “I just felt this is the strongest community, and I know that it's going to continue to grow.”

Fields said Afterparty aimed to focus on “building a diverse community” when choosing who to give its NFTs to but plans to decide who it gives to in a “community-driven” way down the line. Its current members include musician Jaden Hossler, model Heidi Klum and LANY lead singer Paul Klein. “I don't think it's the craziest thing to think — we want to build one of the coolest communities in history,” Elbaz said.

Once you get and mint your NFT, you gain access to the entire Afterparty world. You’re allowed to attend every event Afterparty throws (there is at least one minting party a week), such as a Super Bowl party at the house or pop-up event at Art Basel. Buyers also get entry (and two guest passes) to a music festival in Las Vegas in March, headlined by The Kid Laroi and The Chainsmokers, as well as annual festivals Afterparty plans to host for the next five years.

“Our mission has always been ‘after the NFT is the afterparty,’” Fields said. “We love what digital art has become, but I think that's just the tip of the iceberg. NFTs, especially for creators, we believe are going to be more about access.”

The goal

Though it’s currently working to get influencers and creators excited about scoring (and promoting) Utopians, Fields said Afterparty's eventual goal is to put the control in the hands of those creators. It aims to partner with creators to make and sell their own NFTs, which will act as all-access passes to their events for fans.

“My goal, and my team's goal, from the beginning has been to really reshape the creator economy,” Fields said. “This is an area that we're really passionate about, and I think NFTs are the technology to get us there.”

For now, these minting events happen around one to two times a week. This one started to die down by around 11. As parties in the Hollywood Hills go, that's pretty tame. But the enthusiasm for the community — and its exclusivity — might be a sign that more and more people may vie for an invite to the Afterparty mansion.

I left just before the night's final mint. Walking down the driveway, I heard Van Liere’s voice boom through a speaker from inside the house as he said, “Give it up for our next guest, ladies and gentlemen,” and, “WELCOME TO THE COMMUNITY!” I couldn't help but wonder how the neighbors felt.

Workplace

What the economic downturn means for pay packages

The war for talent rages on, but dynamics are shifting back to the employers.

Compensation packages could start to look different as companies reshuffle the balance of cash and equity.

Illustration: Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images

The market is turning. Tech stocks are slumping — which is bad news for employees — and even industry powerhouses are slowing hiring and laying people off. Tech talent is still in high demand, but compensation packages could start to look different as companies recruit.

“It’s a little bit like whiplash,” compensation consultant Ashish Raina said of the downturn. Raina, who mainly works with startups that have 200 to 800 employees, previously worked as the director of Talent at Index Ventures and head of Compensation and Talent Analytics at Box. “I do think there’s going to be an interesting reckoning in terms of pay increases going forward, how that pay is delivered.”

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Policy

How 'Zuck Bucks' saved the 2020 election — and fueled the Big Lie

The true story of how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $419 million donation became the 2020 election’s most enduring conspiracy theory.

Mark Zuckerberg is smack in the center of one of the 2020 election’s multitudinous conspiracies.

Illustration: Mike McQuade; Photos: Getty Images

If Mark Zuckerberg could have imagined the worst possible outcome of his decision to insert himself into the 2020 election, it might have looked something like the scene that unfolded inside Mar-a-Lago on a steamy evening in early April.

There in a gilded ballroom-turned-theater, MAGA world icons including Kellyanne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and former president Donald Trump himself were gathered for the premiere of “Rigged: The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump.”

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Fintech

From frenzy to fear: Trading apps grapple with anxious investors

After riding the stock-trading wave last year, trading apps like Robinhood have disenchanted customers and jittery investors.

Retail stock trading is still an attractive business, as shown by the news that crypto exchange FTX is dipping its toes in the market by letting some U.S. customers trade stocks.

Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a brief moment, last year’s GameStop craze made buying and selling stocks cool, even exciting, for a new generation of young investors. Now, that frenzy has turned to fear.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev pointed to “a challenging macro environment” marked by rising prices and interest rates and a slumping market in a call with analysts explaining his company’s lackluster results. The downturn, he said, was something “most of our customers have never experienced in their lifetimes.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Broadcom is reportedly in talks to acquire VMware

It hasn't been long since it left the ownership of Dell Technologies.

Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Broadcom is said to be in discussions with VMware to buy the cloud computing company for as much as $50 billion.

Keep Reading Show less
Jamie Condliffe

Jamie Condliffe ( @jme_c) is the executive editor at Protocol, based in London. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, he worked on the business desk at The New York Times, where he edited the DealBook newsletter and wrote Bits, the weekly tech newsletter. He has previously worked at MIT Technology Review, Gizmodo, and New Scientist, and has held lectureships at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. He also holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of Oxford.

Latest Stories
Bulletins