Justin Choo on the importance of Hong Kong’s F&B community, chasing your dreams and why DREAMX is more than “just another NFT project.”
NFT. Those three little letters have become rather difficult to avoid, haven’t they? Ever since the concept of Non-Fungible Tokens smashed through mainstream consciousness in early 2021, it seems like you, me and everyone we know is talking about NFTs, investing in NFTs, launching NFTs, trying to figure out what the hell NFTs are, decrying NFTs or a combination of some or all of the above. Blockchain this; Metaverse that.
Any given street corner in Hong Kong seems to have some pixelated avatar staring at you from a flyer; look up, there’s another one. But what’s the use? For every Bored Ape that lights up the market with a record-breaking sale, there’s someone offering 1 of 8,888 chances to secure your own AI-generated party hamster, sexy piñata or kung fu chameleon — with endless variations ready to mint at any time.
Given the revolutionary, game-changing potential that blockchain evangelists rave about (seriously, just ask one), are we really limited to a bunch of faceless get-rich-quick schemes where the only goal is a future sale — or is there real value that NFTs can provide to their holders; to communities as a whole? That’s a question that Justin Choo, Sam Wong and Justin Lee hope to answer with DREAMX — the NFT project they co-founded to “create a project that could have a tangible impact on the Hong Kong community.”
“DREAMX is a celebration of Hong Kong F&B culture,” Choo tells me. “Through our art, partnerships, utilities and community, we want to not just capture Hong Kong’s iconic F&B culture, but also support those that are in it. We are also more than just an NFT project; we host community-building events and we use our platform to highlight the incredible work of the people that have shaped Hong Kong F&B.”
Choo knows a thing or two about community: He’s the host and founder of Scalescape, Hong Kong’s “premier entrepreneurship-focused podcast”. With Scalescape, he’s invited the co-creators of Siri, Rotten Tomatoes, 9GAG and many more on to drop knowledge on how they built some of the world’s most recognised brands, while bringing startups and innovators and dreamers alike together to see about creating the next big thing.
It’s that latter part — the dreamers — where the DREAMX project gets its name. No pixels here; artist and fellow co-founder Michelle Lam created 288 “Dreamies” that make up the full collection. With clouds for heads and astronaut suits, each holds some kind of food or drink, with many of them (dumplings, fish balls, egg tarts — wait a minute) unique to the culture of our fragrant harbour.
“With the food, we wanted to capture the full breadth of Hong Kong food, both local and international,” says Choo. “Straying away from pixelated art was a conscious and deliberate decision; we want to make a statement that we are different and not your run-of-the-mill NFT.”
Perhaps most striking is that each individual Dreamie is a representation of its owner, a cast of familiar names to any patron of Hong Kong’s F&B scene: There’s Sake Samurai Elliot Faber, restaurateur Nelson Htoo and the talented Phoenix Kwok, to name a few. This is, of course, by design; co-founders, owners and ambassadors alike, the goal is to hold (sorry, “HODL”) that Dreamie, and share in the benefits together.
“On top of enjoying exclusive discounts and offers at more than 15+ top restaurants and bars, holding a DREAMX NFT grants you access to a community of top F&B entrepreneurs, mixologists, chefs, food bloggers and more. Additionally, we purchase experience packages and products from other F&Bs to raffle off to our holders, which can include cocktail sets, free-flow set lunches and gin-tasting sessions,” says Choo.
DREAMX, in Choo and his team’s vision, is more like a social club; a community for the like-minded, all with a cute cloud character to boot.
“All of [our founders] grew up in Hong Kong, and food culture is what bonds us — whether that is celebrating over a round of drinks, coming back home for a reunion dinner or catching up over a dim sum brunch,” says Choo. “We wanted to enter the space because we have a unique focus on Hong Kong F&B, and we tie this into every single dimension of our project! In fact, with so many tangible utilities and benefits, we are first in the space to tie NFTs with the real world on such a deep seated level.”
He acknowledges that there are going to be skeptics out there, and with good reason: It’s a crowded space, and recent headlines about rug pulls and pump-and-dump scams aren’t making NFT creators’ (or holders’) jobs any easier. But for Choo, that’s also why he and his team wanted to make DREAMX different.
“The market is beginning to saturate with tons of other NFT projects — for better and for worse. On one hand, it speeds up adoption and awareness. On the other hand, users will be subject to many projects that will flop, potentially hurting a new user’s first entry into Web3. I think that in time, however, the use of blockchain technology will be normalised and become mainstream,” he says.
“NFTs should not be compared to traditional investments like stocks or bonds, and should be treated with caution. Like startups, many NFT projects are bound to fail. My number one tip is to pick an NFT project that genuinely aligns with your passions and values, with a strong community and an excellent track-record and team… not just because you want to make a quick buck,” adds Choo.
DREAMX will open its first round of discounts and benefits to holders starting 1 April, with partners including Amalfitana, Barcode, Holy Eats and many others. For Choo, it’s just the beginning, and only the tip of the iceberg for the project’s potential.
“I envision DREAMX to grow in terms of partnerships, collaborations and community. The bold next step that we’re taking is to work closely with established F&B brands to help them create and sell their own NFTs,” says Choo. “We want to leverage on our experience and platform to establish ourselves as Hong Kong’s leading F&B NFT brand, so expect more noise from us down the line!”
In the meantime, as Hong Kong’s F&B community continues to navigate through its most challenging period to date, he adds a few ways that we can all help, NFT holders or not.
“One thing that a DREAMX ambassador shared with me was this: writing a positive review, engaging on social media, signing up to a loyalty program, and spreading the word all cost $0. These don’t take up more than five minutes in our day, so it’s the very least we can do to help each other out in this trying time,” says Choo.
For more information about DREAMX, Choo invites readers to say hello on Instagram or Discord.