Would you like fries with your Mutant Ape?

In Long Beach, California, there is a pop-up hamburger joint that is getting a lot of media attention because it’s got pictures of Bored Apes throughout. 

The restaurant, called “Bored & Hungry,” is operated by Andy Nguyen, who spent $267,000 (in crypto) on a Bored Ape NFT in March. He also holds two Mutant Ape NFTs, which cost him another $140,000 in ETH.

Nguyen has set out to prove that putting giant movie cutouts of slimy mutant apes inside a hamburger joint is proof that NFTs — tokens on a blockchain that point to JPEGs on a server somewhere — work in the real world. 

If you are lost on the logic here, don’t worry, you are not alone. 

Bored & Hungry is located at 2405 E. 7th Street, between Cherry and Obispo. It opened to the public on April 9, and it’s scheduled to stay open for 90 days.

Along with three cutouts of Bored Apes, a window facing a patio is painted with a gigantic Mutant Ape dripping with green slime — perfect to go with your meal. The floor is painted green, to resemble slime. Chips and burgers are served in colorful packaging with cartoon apes on them.

LA Times Food Editor Lucas Kwan Peterson describes it best:

“It feels more like a kiosk at Disneyland than a restaurant, and like some paint has been quickly slapped onto the previous Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken. A couple of movie theater-style cutouts of Mutant Apes have been trotted out onto the floor for photo opportunities.” 

The “grand opening” was complete with a ribbon-cutting, loud music, lines down the block, and a dozen “content creators” racing about, conducting interviews, and filming everything possible. You can see some of the camera action here. 

Bored & Hungry offers a simplistic In-N-Out-style menu. Yet, while a basic burger at In-N-Out costs $3.50, Bored & Hungry burgers start at $13.

The food, based on Nguyen’s existing meat and vegetarian burger concepts, doesn’t quite live up to the price tag, according to some Yelp reviewers. 

“Burned burger. Burned a hole in my pocket,” Robin W. wrote. 

Ernesto Z. described the French fries as the “frozen ones just deep-fried and topped off with salt and pepper.”

“I live near it and it’s awful,” Michael Narciso said in a tweet. The apes look terrible on the outside and burgers are triple the price of a better-tasting burger down the street.” 

Proof that NFTs (don’t) work!

The popup is intended as proof that NFTs are “more than just a JPEG.” As such, NFTs work as you might expect, meaning they didn’t work at all. 

If you own a Bored Ape, you got a free meal, but you had to present a paper ticket as proof. What about the NFT you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on? Never mind that, you need a paper ticket. 

Bored & Hungry accepts payment in Apecoin or Ethereum, but almost nobody pays with crypto because, what a hassle, and it’s easier to use a credit card, the LA Times said. 

Cryptocurrency never functioned as money. Its value is based on speculation, people buying and selling. The same goes for NFTs. That’s it, that’s all they are good for.  

Unless that is, you are shilling your own NFT project. In that case, owning a Bored Ape token is a signal to other investors that you’re a success. You’ll be surprised to learn that Nguyen also has his own NFT project that he’s working on. It’s called Food Fighters Universe — “an NFT collection that will connect food and Web3,” according to the press release.

Search for utility 

When Yuga Labs launched Bored Ape Yacht Club in April 2021, the big deal was that holders had IP rights to their cartoon apes, meaning you could print your ape on T-shirts and hoodies and sell those on eBay. You can also put your Bored Ape on a beer can and a bag of weed. 

Bored & Hungry is proof that you can print a Bored Ape on hamburger wrappings. You still need a paper ticket or credit card to pay for the food. Nobody is talking about business expenses — I mean, you could lose money selling burgers this way. Nguyen is already $400,000 in the hole.

Bored & Hungry isn’t about selling hamburgers — it’s about promoting the Bored Apes brand to convince you that NFTs aren’t complete garbage, which they are. Like everything else behind Yuga Lab’s Bored Ape Yacht Club, it’s a publicity stunt.

Since day one, Yuga Labs has been pitching the idea that Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs offer real-world utility. It’s a ticket to culture. It’s a ticket to a warehouse party in Brooklyn. You are part of a community. You can draw dick pictures on a virtual bathroom wall, one pixel at a time. 

If you’re amazed at the amount of hype behind Bored Ape Yacht Club, remember, the project is backed by A16z and Madonna manager Guy Oseary, who Yuga hired to represent them. Insiders are waiting to cash out on their ApeCoin once their shares are unlocked. 

I suspect we’ll be seeing lots of new ideas coming from Bored Ape Yacht Club promoters in the next year. Until investors can dump their bags on the public via Coinbase, events like this one are crucial to keeping Bored Apes in the public eye. 

Nguyen told LA Times that he is considering keeping his popup open beyond 90 days. If that’s the case, I’m curious to find out how long the lines are in June. I suspect people will tire of green slime decor and $13 hamburgers pretty quick. 

[Update: Bored & Hungry has officially announced on Instagram, “We are here to stay.”]

Update: June 24, 2022 – Bored & Hungry stops accepting $APE during the crypto crash. The LA Times writes: “Crypto skeptics have long warned that someone would get left holding the bag when the hype cycle played itself out. Better that bag should contain a burger and fries than nothing at all.” [LA Times]

Did you enjoy this story? Consider supporting my work by subscribing to my Patreon account for as little as $5 a month. It’s the cost of a cup of coffee! Every little bit counts.

The gorilla in the room: Yuga Labs investors pretend to care about the planet. They don’t.

Yuga Labs, the startup behind the popular Bored Apes Yacht Club project, finally got its long-rumored investment from venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz. It now has plenty of funds to transition into a game company — and create the illusion that its newly launched Apecoin is something other than an unregistered securities offering. 

Apecoin, an ERC20 token that lives on Ethereum, is a path to liquidity from Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, of which many more are soon to come in the form of virtual land. “Blue-chip” NFTs are too expensive for the average Joe, and you can’t buy a fraction of an NFT, the way you can a fungible token.

As with the Bored Ape NFTs, Apecoin has zero intrinsic value. The money you get when you cash out comes from new investors buying in. Unlike virtual land or ERC20 tokens, the supply of suckers in the world is finite. Eventually, the tokens will crash in value and retailers will get stuck holding the bag.

After acquiring the IP for CryptoPunks and Meebits, Yuga Labs now controls three of the most popular NFT collections. All three live on Ethereum, a proof of work blockchain that consumes a country’s worth of energy. Each transaction on Ethereum is equivalent to the power consumption of an average U.S. household over nine days, according to Digiconomist. 

Destroying the planet, one NFT at a time

Other participants in Yuga Labs’ $450 million round, which valued the company at $4 billion, include Animoca Brands, The Sandbox, LionTree, Sound Ventures, FTX, and MoonPay.  

Animoca Brands is the Hong Kong-based outfit behind the play-to-earn game Benji Bananas, which plans to incorporate Apecoin — an attempt to give the token utility and avoid regulatory scrutiny. P2E games have received criticism for being digital sweatshops. Players, often in poor areas of the world, are required to purchase an NFT, worth several months’ salary, to start “earning” tokens they then have to sell to recoup their initial investment in the game.  

The Sandbox, a subsidiary of Animoca, is the creator of a play-to-earn game that sells virtual land as NFTs. The company bills itself as “one of the pillars of the open crypto metaverse.” As of September, The Sandbox — ‘The’ is part of its name — owned 31 different BAYC NFTs. 

According to a leaked pitched deck, Yuga Labs plans to create a gaming metaverse and raise another $455 million selling virtual land NFTs. In a recent tweet, Yuga Labs hinted at a new project called “Otherside,” which will accept APE and launch in April. Yuga Labs can create as much virtual land as they want, so maybe they’ll create virtual forests for their virtual primates? 

In the real world, the one we all live in, great apes are running out of natural habitat. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are already endangered or critically endangered. A combination of the climate crisis and the destruction of their natural habitats is threatening their very existence as a species. 

By promoting Web3 and Ethereum-based tokens, Yuga Labs is speeding the demise of these creatures. To compensate for this evil, Yuga is throwing chimps a banana by donating 1% of the Apecoin supply of 1 billion to the Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation. (I wrote to Jane Goodall to see how she feels about this. If I get a response, I’ll post the comments here.)

Investment bank LionTree is headed by Aryeh Bourkoff, who told investors in his 2021 year-end letter that climate change is something we should all care about: “Widening our gaze, as the market chases growth, the climate crisis is reminding us that infinite growth on a finite planet is irrational and that we must commit to a long-term outlook guided by purpose rather than short-term gains.” 

Bourkoff appears blind to the hypocrisy of backing an NFT project — or maybe he cares more about the money. Investing in tokens that resemble securities is a lucrative business. Just ask Marc Andreessen, who recently bought a $44.5 million house in Malibu down the street from the $177 million home he bought in October. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.7 billion.

Sound Ventures is a fund controlled by Guy Oseary and actor-turned investor Ashton Kutcher, who also pretends to care about the planet.

Kutcher was a founding member of World War Zero, an American coalition launched by John Kerry in 2019 to fight the climate crisis. He and his wife bought a Hummer EV, and they live in a Los Angeles home powered entirely by solar energy.

“Ashton and Mila are concerned about the quality of the soil, the purity of the food they eat, and the water they drink. The ideals of sustainability and regenerative farming aren’t just abstract concepts to them,” the house designer told Architectural Digest.

Crypto exchange FTX is one of Tether’s biggest customers. (If you are not familiar with Tether, its web of lies, and the role it plays in the crypto economy, read my Tether timeline.) The company’s answer to the climate problem is to purchase carbon credits.

Finally, MoonPay is the company behind all the strange celebrity purchases of Bored Ape NFTs, where nobody is quite sure if the celebrities are buying the NFTs themselves, or if they are playing a part in promoting the project, without fully disclosing their motives.

MoonPay’s response to Ethereum’s waste is a similar greenwashing. It claims the media exaggerates the impact of crypto mining on the world and points out that Ethereum has plans to transition to a more energy-efficient proof of stake. Ethereum has talked about shifting to a proof of stake system since 2014. It has yet to make the big move.

These are the backers of Yuga Labs, full of contradictions. On one side of their mouths, they talk about saving the planet or they preach exploitive play-to-earn games as a way for players to “own their digital assets.” (They don’t, the assets are stored in central servers.) And on the other side, they promote Web3 and the metaverse, fuzzy marketing terms that point to ways to justify the creation of new tokens.

It all gets a little tough to stomach when you read reports that climate change is already worse than expected and see actual images of an ice shelf the size of Los Angeles collapsing in Antarctica. 

Another celeb joins the circus

On Thursday night, Madonna announced on social media that she now owns a bored Bored Ape NFT. It’s not clear if she bought the token — or if the token was gifted to her by a certain someone who is using her celebrity status to promote Bored Ape Yacht Club.

The material girl’s manager, Oseary, has known her since he was 17 years old. He’s probably been talking her ear off about Bored Apes since October when he signed a deal to represent Yuga Labs. Now he owns a chunk of the company via Sound Ventures as well. 

Oseary has a history of tapping into his celebrity connections to shill cryptocurrency. He also has a history of investing in alleged unregistered security offerings. 

He and Kutcher previously invested in Ripple. In 2018, they donated $4 million in XRP, the token widely associated with Ripple, to “save the gorillas” on the Ellen Degeneres show. Degeneres has a wildlife fund.  

Two years later, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Ripple and two of its execs for conducting a $1.3 billion unregistered securities offering. The firm is still battling the lawsuit in court.

History repeated?

Yuga Labs likely never contacted the SEC before launching APE — and there is good reason for that. If they had, the regulator probably would have told them, “No, don’t do this.” So they went ahead and did it anyway, figuring they could get away with it, or worst-case scenario, pay a multi-million-dollar fine years later.

The APE DAO or decentralized autonomous organization, which supposedly launched Apecoin, is not a legal entity. It is also neither decentralized nor autonomous. The Ape Foundation — the committee that enforces decisions made by the DAO — is registered in the Cayman Islands. 

The Ape Foundations’ five members get paid $125,000 in Apecoin for their six-month terms. The Apecoin community votes on whether they get reinstated. Votes are weighted by how many Apecoin you own. Since Yuga Labs and its investors hold the majority of Apecoin, ultimately, they decide who gets reinstated and what proposals get passed.

Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian serves on the Apecoin Foundation. (The other four members are Amy Wu, who leads a venture fund at FTX; Maaria Bajwa, a venture investor at Sound Ventures; Yat Siu, the cofounder of Animoca Brands, and Dean Steinbeck, cofounder of Horizen Labs, one of the companies that partnered with Yuga Labs in developing Apecoin.) 

Like all the others, Ohanian also talks a big story when it comes to combatting climate change. He recently launched the 776 Foundation, a fellowship that will give $20 million to young people over the next decade to work on climate solutions.

People who care about the planet, don’t back massive NFT projects. They just don’t. Every NFT transaction on Ethereum comes at a destructive cost to the environment.

Bored Ape Yacht Club is about creating perceived value where there is none to pump tokens. Not only do retail investors risk losing money, but the project itself is contributing to our last remaining chances at escaping climate disaster — all in the hopes of making a few grifters rich.   

If you like my work, consider supporting my writing by subscribing to my Patreon account for as little as $5 a month, or more! Every little bit helps.