Minnesotans Leap Into Metaverse and Onto Stage for VeeCon
Fhima’s Minneapolis, in collaboration with Frame3, debuts an NFT art gallery featuring work by Stephanie Dillon and Citizen-T.

Minnesotans Leap Into Metaverse and Onto Stage for VeeCon

Fhima's dives into NFT art in advance of Gary Vaynerchuk's conference in Minneapolis and local startups participate in a welcome event.

Fhima’s Mpls is launching an NFT art gallery at its downtown restaurant this week. Four large format digital displays suspended from the ceiling at the City Center entrance now feature a rotating display of digital art. Why? Because Gary Vaynerchuk is coming to town.

Minneapolis will play host this weekend to VeeCon, a first-of-its-kind NFT conference focused on Web3 and produced by Vaynerchuk, the serial entrepreneur and master marketer who is best known to his millions of social media followers as GaryVee. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people are expected to attend the three-day conference at U.S. Bank Stadium. Tickets come in the form of an NFT, and like all things NFT, prices have fluctuated dramatically in recent weeks. VeeCon 2022 NFT tickets are now selling on Open Sea for the cryptocurrency equivalent of around $240.

Fhima’s will host a VeeCon press preview on Thursday. “We seized the opportunity to expand our deep cultured art collection with the first in-restaurant NFT gallery in the city,” said Eli Fhima, general manager and son of founder/chef David Fhima. The restaurant is also hosting a private five-course fixed price dinner on Thursday as dozens of celebrities, influencers and entrepreneurs pour into town for the conference. VeeCon’s 100-plus speakers range from entertainers-turned-entrepreneurs Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Eva Longoria, Pharrell Williams, Snoop Dogg and Steve Aoki to Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin, CMOs of big brands like Pepsi, and dozens of digital artists and founders of NFT projects.

VeeCon will open Thursday evening with an invitation-only welcome event outside of U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota startups will be well represented, as VeeCon organizers worked with Launch Minnesota to showcase local talent. More than 25,000 votes were cast online in late April to select the nine Minnesota startups that will get the chance to make their pitch at the Thursday welcome party. They are:

BetterYou: A software platform that serves as a “healthy habits” companion

Buncha: A platform that connects merchants with local neighborhoods

Bus Stop Mamas: A jobs marketplace that gives employers access to “an untapped, underutilized and critical labor force: Moms”

HabitAware: Wearable devices to break the cycle of unhealthy compulsive behaviors

Players Health: A technology platform that looks out for the health and wellness of athletes

SitEat: A mobile ordering app for in-venue/concession stand

SoleSafe: An end-to-end asset management platform for sneakerheads (currently featured on TCB’s Tech 20)

TurnSignl: A first-of-its-kind tele-legal platform connecting drivers to attorneys in real-time

WeSparkle: A conversational AI assistant for small appointment-based service businesses

Food startups will also be represented at the welcome party, serving up samples and selling their products. Participating Minnesota brands are Boozy Jerky, Gustola Granola, Humble Nut Butter, JonnyPops, Lovejoy’s Bloody Mary Mix, Muddle & Mint, Panache, Smackin’ Sunflower Seeds, Step One Foods and TC Chocolate.

Applying to participate was a no-brainer for Humble Nut Butter co-founder and CEO John Waller.

“I am a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and consume quite a bit of his content,” Waller said. Humble Nut Butter plans to offer samples of its savory nut butters alongside gluten free veggie chips at the welcome party and will also have a table of products available for sale. “We don’t know what to expect!”

For Bus Stop Mamas founder Mary Kay Ziniewicz, prepping for the VeeCon welcome party stage included a crash course in GaryVee content, which comes in the form of podcasts, books, and social media content. “I didn’t know of Gary Vaynerchuk until the event came our way,” Ziniewicz said. “I’ve done my research, so I know Gary’s story and admire his courage to move his idea forward. It would be absolutely great to be on Gary’s radar.”

The timing is optimal for Bus Stop Mamas, which is preparing for a capital raise, Kiniewicz said.  “I am hopeful that VeeCon will boost Bus Stop Mamas’ profile as a nationally recognized startup that is impacting the future of work for the circular economy.”

More: From our Feb/March 2022 issue, Vaynerchuk talks to TCB about his vision for VeeCon, NFTs, and his Web3 predictions.