NFT.LA Retrospective (by Devin P. Marty)

NFT.LA Retrospective (by Devin P. Marty)

Sign off and Approved by: Li, Adrian, Matty, Essa, Danny, and Sam In this retrospective report, Harmony reflects on our experiences at NFT.LA. This feedback is taken from the Harmony Event Operations team, contributors, and ecosystem partners. Establishing an open forum allows us the feedback needed to celebrate victories and humbly review areas where we can improve on as we move forward.


The Story

From start to end, Harmony’s presence at NFT.LA was a meaningful and supportive experience.

NFT.LA was set to be just another web3 conference for Harmony to attend. After a misunderstanding with the conference regarding the value of sponsorship, the events team decided it was best to pull out of the title sponsorship slot to pursue opportunities that were more aligned with the Harmony ethos. With just two weeks to go, the team decided to utilize the Ace theater (7 minutes from the conference venue) to create a 12-hour-long program for the community. We called it the ONEPitch event, where anyone could come up on stage and pitch to a panel of Harmony “Sharks” (or Shards?). Mixed into the programing were amazing panels that celebrated culture, diversity, and inclusion within web3, and two keynote speeches from Stephen Tse and Zi Wang. Check out the video above to see some of the action. (Side note: Going forward, more promotion will be put behind the Stephen’s ecosystem talks, which was a mistake on my end in LA). The program then continued onto the roof of the Ace Hotel for an afterparty with Gross Magazine and New Friendship Tech. All other events were strategically planned to be either “open and aloud” where anyone could attend and have fun, or “closed and personal” where members of the Harmony team could create intimate relationships with other attendees. Judging from the feedback of the team, this was a very positive and effective strategy, especially in a city like LA where “celebrities” like to have intimate experiences. Harmony went to LA with three goals: Convey our ethos and messaging around supporting the community (Tone), onboard 100 creators to Harmony (Metric), and contribute to the culture of Web3 (Tone/Metric). By the end of the conference, it was clear that we had succeeded in reaching – and surpassing – our goals, not just from on-the-ground feedback but the discussion in backchannels and on Twitter spaces as well.

Talks & Photos

Highlight Photos at NFT.LA

With this said, let’s celebrate a few achievements:

  1. We awarded ~$100K in spot grants to 47 ONEPitch projects. We applaud their bravery and willingness to share their dreams with us on stage.
  2. Zi had two opportunities to speak about the Timeless 1Wallet.
  3. Stephen gave his NFT and Metaverse keynote.
  4. Randy Jackson asked for a Harmony blue shirt! — “That’s gonna be a Yes from me, dawg.”

Initiatives that worked that we should continue:

  1. Being creative and thinking outside the box, trying new ideas, and learning from teachable moments
  2. Continue hosting side events in these conferences even if we don’t actually attend/sponsor. The crowd is already there, and the networking and activity happens mostly on the side events anyway.
  3. Continue to host events that fit with the culture of the city where the conference is located. Shark Tank Event went well in LA with attendees being well aware of the hit show. Not sure if the turnout would be the same in an international city. I’d like to see us continue to collaborate more with ecosystem partners during events; it is great to be able to tell people about projects on Harmony, and then immediately introduce event attendees to partners like MAD NFT or DeFi Kingdoms.
  4. Continuing Project Y is a good idea for sure; however, we need to make it very clear as to HOW we do project Y. So many members of the team were confused on how to actually fund the people they promised money to.

Initiatives that DID NOT work that we should stop:

  1. Granting funds to projects/groups that fill out a grant proposal that doesn’t align with our goals, that don’t have Harmony representation, and or relevance.
  2. We should stop giving out grants with absolutely no strings attached. We should aim for the grantees to be more involved and engaged in our ecosystem in some way, especially after giving out a grant. Although after ONE Pitch was great and people loved it, there were many grantees that just wanted the money to quickly cash out or bridge it to ETH. Many of them didn’t even know that you could add Harmony’s mainnet in Metamask. Setting expectations early on with our funding initiatives will bring in the right people, and developing a framework for them to follow and stay within our ecosystem will bring a better ROI from our funding initiatives.
  3. It was not advisable to select such a large place for no more than 60 attendees; we were not even able to broadcast panoramic images for ONEPitch etc. because it was so empty. In addition, there was no door or sound insulation to keep out noises from a bar opposite the entry. Had the speakers been shared with a pic of the stage prior to the conference, Zi would not have worn the black clothes, which was of the same color as the background, that the audience only saw his head moving.
  4. For ONEPitch in NFT LA on 3/29, there was no Harmony signage or roll-up banner at the gate or at the entrance to the venue. As it was urgent, a colleague had to hang a Harmony T-shirt at the entrance helping attendees find the entrance for our event.
  5. Scattering Harmony ecosystem cards on the bar counter outside ONEPitch conference instead of passing out Harmony cards to attendees didn't make a good impression. In addition, people in ONEPitch for several hours had to buy drinks at the bar because we didn't provide refreshment drinks or snacks on that afternoon. The people sitting next to me had to ask the bartender and bought drinks by ourselves.
  6. Regarding Harmony Onepitch in NFT LA, we didn't announce any criteria for evaluation before hand; if no written criteria had been formulated, the 4 groups could have been convened for 10 minutes before the event to discuss several evaluation dimensions and announce them to the participants. The lack of these processes and the casual and informal way  of awarding grants, may make institutional and angel investors investors question Harmony's ability to build an effective ecosystem.
  7. We need to reconsider going for title sponsorships for conferences; it was far more valuable to use our money towards our own programming. Also, we need to all be on the same page with cosponsors. There were events that were okayed by other members of the team without prior discussion, which put me in a tough position.

Initiatives that we should START:

  1. Asking “why” we’re hosting an event, co-hosting an event, or funding a group or project to host an event to make sure we’re creating experiences where we are remembered
  2. Being more frequent with hosting “hack houses” and hands-on workshop spaces during these “crypto” weeks. Engaging the community and having them create something on the spot in a fun way would be a great way to onboard normies to web3. Creating an NFT, a social token or learning the ins and outs of our DeFi ecosystem would be a very engaging workshop to have, and it would already welcome new people to our ecosystem.
  3. We should start identifying ourselves more towards environmental sustainability, because we are, but we’re not talking about it. BlackRock’s direction towards environmental sustainability investing is something to take very seriously, and hints towards attributes and qualities that customers/users/individuals will be looking into their investments, including crypto. We have to be more proactive and emphatic about this.
  4. Start hosting our own events surrounding NFTs, artists, gaming, and culture where we have full control of how the event will turnout. Although we did co-sponsor a few events like these, they were smaller scale, therefore I am curious to see how we can pull off a big event dedicated solely to art and culture.
  5. Select the venue that fits the estimated number of attendees. Post a more detailed budget (e.g. headcount x price per head per event), as well as the actual expenditures for expost analysis. Each team member has a clear understanding of his/her responsibilities for events & conferences, and if necessary, let's do a pre-mortem.
  6. Prepare Harmony signage or roll-up banner before events, and in case of need, prepare a sign-in table with Harmony cards & info and merchandise.
  7. When people come to support our events & conferences for several hours, it's better to provide them with free drinks and snacks. During events, in addition to socializing, drinks and fun, team members are reminded to pass out Harmony cards/merchandise, introducing Harmony, inviting new friends to join Harmony telegram group, etc.
  8. All groups should discuss ONEPitch to be on the same page before the start of events. At the event, moderator needs to introduce the purpose of the activity and criteria for evaluation,  and judges on stage should each introduce themselves. Record the grantee project information and contact info in details, and contact them in a timely and accurate manner.
  9. Focusing on events that are unique and that elevate creators. We received a great deal of praise from conference-goers for our events – the most common being how we were there contributing to the culture of web3, rather than taking from it.

Survey Results:

The team was asked to rank, on a level of 0 to 10, 5 questions regarding the performance of Event Operations. The questions and the average response is listed below:

Survey Summary

  • Event Ops worked effectively together: 10
  • Event Ops worked effectively with venues, sponsors, event managers: 10
  • Event Ops fulfilled the goals of Harmony at NFTLA: 8.5
  • Event Ops met their deliverables: 8
  • Event Ops produced high quality work: 10

Qualitative Feedback

1. What is the BEST thing about your experience at NFTLA?

ONEPitch – A Shark Tank-Inspired Event: Project X in Denver was incredibly empowering for both the community and the team, but it was difficult to find the time to find the projects. So, why not bring the creators and dreamers to us and have that be the event? This was the mentality behind ONEPitch’s creation, and it worked. We gave $100k in spot grants to roughly 50 people. That’s an average of ~$1,500 per project, and people were over the moon. We didn’t stop there. Thanks to the MAD Team we were able to immediately begin the building on Harmony conversation. Work on: More feedback time, clearer instructions for presenters, Stage presence, timer. Iterate: This model received a powerful degree of praise, but it is nowhere near perfect. Flu and I attempted an iteration with a great degree of success at the Paper Hands party on 3/31. While Harmony was not a sponsor, we quickly became an impromptu sponsor simply by telling the host that we were here to give spot grants (via project Y) to social token projects. The ONEPitch event alone cost $53,000 and gave us 12 hours of Harmony-controlled programming, which was a substantial value add for every part involved. It accomplished every one of our goals and was the absolute talk of the town for the remainder of the week.
Side events— like most conferences they bring all types of Web3 connoisseurs to one city and NFTLA had that. It seems like many people flying into these conferences, aren’t even attending the conference its self, but instead attending the side events to meet new people, look for investors, and get connected to the community. I thought NFTLA was the perfect example of this, and people really did show up.
Side events by a long shot + the people who showed up from all over the world, who barely ended up going to the “main” conference anyway. It’s almost as if the conference is an excuse to go, and people actually care about the events and networking that happens outside of it. Loved the food at our TGIs and other events as well, it was very inclusive for everyone and kept a healthy qualitative standard.

2. What was the WORST thing about your experience at NFTLA?

Early into the planning of NFTLA, I (with strong yeses (approval) from Li, Adrian, Matty, Essa, and Sam) made the decision to withdraw our title sponsorship ($50,000) from the official NFTLA conference. I did so for the following reasons: 1. While our $50k sponsor package price tag was already a prearranged discount, the value we were receiving for that money did not match that of our expectation or guidelines, nor the value offering of more substantial events like ETHDenver – especially considering this was the first NFTLA conference. A booth, panel seat, and some Harmony branding are not acceptable value exchanges. 1. The tone of NFTLA felt to me quite “non-Web 3,” which does not echo the messaging we are looking for, nor our ethos. 2. The public and VIP tickets to the conference were prohibitively expensive for attendees, which would have limited our reach, messaging, creator onboarding, and contribution to the culture. It should be noted that we were not the only sponsors to withdraw. I decided instead, three weeks out, to pivot our NFTLA event plan to a similar model we tested in Denver; satellite events near the conference that are solely dedicated to supporting and elevating creators in the web3 community. With the primary metric of success being to onboard more creators to Harmony, the ONEPitch was devised.
Exclusionary practices — the ticket to attend NFTLA was in the ball park $600 and a VIP ticket some thousands of dollars, which seems pretty overpriced compared to other conferences of this nature. Even so, there doesn’t seem to be thought from the events coordinators of NFTLA that consider providing resources for people who are not able to pay such prices including students. Practices such as these can be, and have been, deemed exclusionary, and in the same token, perpetuate the same mistakes that we’ve seen in the Web2 world. There should be avenues for people to gain access to the wealth of knowledge and exposure that these events provide,
Hype and exclusion— up-charging to a conference that is being organized for the first time doesn’t make sense. Further, having so many “holder only” events without plus one’s stunts the purpose of community value and growth. GoldenDAO did this well allowing plus one’s to their holders, and the crowd was well balanced and fun.

3. Would you want to work with Event Ops again?

Yes! I want to work with literally the entire team again; Adrian, Noura, Gabby, Danny, Vera, Judy, Jacky, Sammy, George, Claire, and Zi. I was very happy to have the MAD team there – those guys are a massive value add and contribute massively to our mission.
Yes, of course. Love our team, love our partners (shout out to MAD) for showing up and really raising up artists.
Absolutely. The team is highly communicative, caring and collaborative, making it easy to get things done and be able to enjoy the events at the same time. A special shoutout to Devin as lead, who kept the health of the team in mind and planned accordingly with it, allowing proper rest periods and not having individuals burn out/overwork.

4. Team Open Forum

Feel free to add in any extra commentary below. This is an opportunity to call out particular “Heroes”, identify potential flaws that could have caused bigger problems, and basically add anything that isn’t captured in the sections above.

I want to thank everyone for staying healthy and making NFTLA an operational breeze. We made a lot of new friends and partners, and made a difference to conference goers in an authentically Harmony fashion. I am excited to try more out-of-the-box ideas going forward. Special thanks Claire, Zi, Stephen, George and Erica, Essa, Adrian, Danny, Andrew (video friend of Adrian), Noura, Gabby, Judy, Vera, Jacky, the entire MAD team (JP, Jacob, Andrew, and Taylor), Sammy, Eilam, Ann, and Kudz. - Devin

Budget and Project Y:

This is a detailed breakdown of our budget and project Y grantees, with special consideration the the ONEPitch grant recipients.

The problem is, who set and approved the budget? To me, this is a huge amount of money to spend for what the event is. - Li

Q: Who gave a strong yes for the scope and the budget? A: The budget for NFTLA was set by the event operations team at the start of the year. As the lead coordinator (Devin Marty), the decisions I made with the budget, such as pulling out of NFTLA as a title sponsor, were discussed with and approved by the events team. Budget overages were almost all the result of last-minute cosponsor asks from core team members, which I had not anticipated in the original budget.

Q: Should we have spent less on our NFTLA activation? A: In my opinion, yes – though not a drastic amount. I was not happy with some of the last minute spends. However, the Ace Theater event and our cosponsored events with New Friendship Tech, Gross Magazine, and Urconduit were beyond valuable. Towards the end, I had NFTLA conference-goers approach me to thank Harmony for making their trip to LA worth it. We succeeded in attracting new creators to Harmony in a meaningful and fun way that is still being talked about.


Write out the planned budget versus the final spent and rate the effectiveness of each line item of spending

1 - not effective, do not spend in future and reasons why

2 - effective, but need to make the following changes in the future to maximize its impact

3 - strongly effective, should do in future and reasons why

  • Ace Theater - Planned Cost: $50,000; Actual Cost: $53,000; Effectiveness: 2; Reasoning: While the Ace Theater was a great choice and made a great impression, I would chose a venue that is easier to work with in the future. Lots of small fees associated with the Ace that could’ve gone to creators instead. Explanation for Overage: Not budgeted for: Additional time charge during pack up (security deposit covered overage).
  • NFT Hypebeast Global Gallery and Party - Planned Cost: $7,500; Actual Cost: $7,500; Effectiveness: 3; Reasoning: Great cosponsor event. Vibe was perfect and Stephen got to speak. To quote a member of the JME (cofounder of OP3N / EST / 88Rising): “Yo legit this NFT Hypebeast Global Harmony NFTLA party is the best event I’ve ever been to in web3 good vibes , playing hiphop and ya LA is jus different.” Side Note: There was one issue with the official Hypebeast brand not loving the use of their name in our cosponsor’s name (”NFT Hypebeast Global”) and branding, but I pinged Sophie Beeching, who heads partnerships at Hypebeast, and all is good on our end.
  • HypeX Dinner and Party - Planned Cost: $7,500; Actual Cost: $7,500; Effectiveness: 1; Reasoning: Too far from the city and not organized as a traditional dinner, as expected. In the future, proximity should be a consideration.
  • High Tide Panel and Party (2 Nights) - Planned Cost: $7,500; Actual Cost: $7,500; Effectiveness: 3; Reasoning: Beautiful execution of panels, discussion, and celebration. It was great to be apart of an event that felt like a Web3 conference just on its own.
  • Paper Hands Party - Planned Cost: $0; Actual Cost: $0; Effectiveness: 3; Reasoning: Flu and Devin attempted an iteration of the ONEPitch with a great degree of success at the Paper Hands party on 3/31. While Harmony was not a sponsor, we quickly became an impromptu sponsor simply by telling the host that we were here to give spot grants (via project Y) to social token projects. We should attempt this more often.
  • TGI 3/31 at Mohawk Bend - Planned Cost: $3,000; Actual Cost: $2775.61; Effectiveness: 3; Reasoning: Great TGI with about 25 attendees.
  • TGI 3/28 at Arts District Brewing - Planned Cost: $4,137.74; Actual Cost: $5,137.74; Effectiveness: 2; Reasoning: Great TGI with about 35 attendees and a beautiful venue. Would’ve been more cost effective to keep it to the 2.5 hour we had but more people makes the TGI longer, which is the nature of the feast. Explanation for Overage: Not budgeted for: 1 Hour was added to event by Stephen for additional $1,000/hr
  • Ape Party at NeueHouse - Planned Cost: $8,000; Actual Cost: $11,948.31; Effectiveness: 1; Reasoning: Went smoothly but way over budget; however, I understand the reasoning and necessity in spending a lot on an BAYC event. These are difficult events to co-brand for several reasons. I think a strategy should be put together for future ape events. Explanation for Overage: Not budgeted for: Originally intended to be a TGI, last minute pivot from Vera, Adrian, George, and myself.
  • BLK Dinner - Planned Cost: $0; Actual Cost: $5,750; Effectiveness: 2; Reasoning: This was a last minute but tuned out to be fantastic – Zi, George and Claire attended and it gave Zi another opportunity to discuss the 1Wallet in front of a highly diverse and curated audience of founders, investors, and artists. I would have liked more time to promote such an event; however, the last minute nature made that difficult. Going forward, my goal is to have all cosponsorships will be locked in with at least 7 days lead time. Explanation for Overage: Not budgeted for: Last minute request from Saba K. (a ONEPitch Panelist) who is looking for BLK to be a long term partner of Harmony. Felt like a good decision, despite last-minute nature.
  • Ace Hotel - Planned Cost: $12,500; Actual Cost: $13,783.64; Effectiveness: 3; Reasoning: Nice place near all post events. Slightly over budget as a result of additional team attendance. Explanation for Overage: Not budgeted for: Last minute room addition for Stephen Tse
  • Team Flights - Planned Cost: $3,000; Actual Cost: $2,717.2; Effectiveness: 3; Reasoning: Essential to have Noura, Gabby, and the 4 members of the MAD NFT team here.
  • Co-Sponsor from Foresite Ventures - Contribution: +$10,000

Project Y Grants + ONEPitch Grants (via Project Y)

Standard Project Y Grants:

Adrian and Devin

Flu and Devin

$10K - Paper Hands -

$10K - Heartwell -❤🐋🎨👾

Thank you! 🌴