Solana Spaces is Bridging the Web3 Gap IRL

Unloc
8 min readOct 21, 2022

Originally published on 08/17/22 in DYOR with UNLOC by Maurice Chalfin

Solana Spaces is a set of retail venues that provide an immersive educational experience for people interested in the Solana blockchain and Web3. Spaces is a collaboration with the Solana Foundation.

Solana Spaces, Solana’s first brick & mortar physical “retail” location, recently opened at the tail end of July in New York City’s Hudson Yards shopping mall, located off of the West Side Highway & 33rd Street. Being DeFi-natives, and I a NY native, and many of us building on Solana since early 2021, the Unloc team had to go experience the world’s first Solana store, and arguably the first “Web3 store” of its kind.

The Vessel, outside the Hudson Yards Mall, where the Solana Spaces store is located.

We got into the ultra modern mall, up the escalator, and onto the second floor, and as we approached the Spaces entrance we could make out “Solana Pay Accepted Here”, unassumingly pasted on the storefront glass. We were brimming over with anticipation, and immediately upon entering the well-illuminated (and approachable) space, we were introduced to a floor-to-ceiling screen playing real-time visualizations of transactions happening on the Solana blockchain — powered by Solscan and Solana Beach — with transactions-per-second (TPS) in the high three thousands!

Solscan & Solana Beach TPS Visualization @ Solana Spaces in NYC

Floor to ceiling screen sponsored by Solscan & Solana Beach showcasing Solana Network’s TPS as a data-visualization at…

youtube.com

Kiosks with iPads pepper the space beckoning entrants to touch and play. From an insider’s perspective, this seemed like a Solami playground, mostly of familiar names and concepts, but from an outsider’s perspective, I could only imagine what the impressions or “vibes” might be. The store staff immediately approached us and were super friendly, eager to explain what we were seeing, and more importantly they were patient with us. A young associate shared he was just introduced to Solana when applying for the job; something which mostly excited us. This space was not really for us after all, it is for the crypto-curious, the newcomer, or for those completely unaware of what Solana is and does — to these ends, it felt like Solana Spaces was hitting home runs. The space was clearly tailored for education & discovery!

Kiosks like the one pictured above (LH & MIDDLE) cover the center of the space — RH image; Degenerate Ape Academy NFT Art Collection

Familiar Degenerate Ape Academy (DAA) NFTs littered the walls and shelves with accompanying branded swag aka t-shirts, hats, and hoodies at arm’s reach. The entire back left corner of the space is dedicated to a DAA NFT Gallery, with wave-of-the-hand scrolling on each framed jpeg provided by Meural. Some of the tees are aptly designed with some crypto-twitter’s (CTs) favorite Web3 phrases, like “fren”, “not financial advice”, “probably nothing”, and our collective least favorite “WAGMI.” And our ABSOLUTE favorites, and yes we walked out more then one, were the DAA x Solana dad caps and these Solana Socks:

LH: DAA x Solana Cap + Orca tutorial prize cap. Obviously, we couldn’t not leave with the Sol Mate socks too!

Over one thousand decentralized applications (DApps) currently call Solana home, ranging from decentralized exchanges (“DEXs”, mostly built on Serum) and decentralized financial platforms, products, & protocols, gaming, NFT projects, music streaming, social media, and the list goes on. Showcased within the Solana Spaces were the aforementioned Degenerate Ape Academy as well as Orca, STEPN, Blanksoles, Solana Pay, Magic Eden, & Phantom wallet. Each had its associated advert, section, or complete iPad station, where the crypto-curious could begin their onboarding. In a private “phone-booth” with an appropriate purple curtain, there is a Phantom wallet-creation station, a safe space for SPL-virgins. Inside there is an iPad with tutorial instructions for creating a Phantom wallet & cheeky little cards to write down your seedphrase (those 12–24 words, you know the ones).

At most iPad kiosks you could complete short tutorials (30 seconds to 2mins max) to receive badge-like NFTs airdropped into your Phantom wallet (at the time of print, in-store, only Phantom wallet worked with the tutorials to receive NFTs). Also, for completing the Orca tutorial, you received a nifty dad cap. And one of the crown jewels of our quest was on view; the Solana Saga, their first foray into hardware, a privacy focused Web3 mobile phone.

Intended to be used with their Solana Mobile Stack (SMS), they’re aiming to create a completely insulated Web3 focused mobile unit — something that you can not only communicate on, but transact, create, & actively participate securely with. While I couldn’t touch it, they lifted the case to let me get up close and as personal with it as was permitted. And if you didn’t have the prerequisite knowledge to know what you were looking at, there was a kiosk to the left to help! Seeing the unit up close, regardless of not being able to touch it, made it more real. Solana’s holistic “bridge the gap” approach made even more sense standing within their retail/onboarding space, looking at their hardware device, and thinking about the last 2 years of development: a decentralized global state computer, a mobile software to develop Web3 DApps seamlessly, and the secure hardware necessary to house Solana’s vision correctly, all felt naturally cohesive here.

Solana’s Saga — the world’s first Web3 phone? 👀

The phone itself looks soooooo sleek, it has a big 6.67” OLED display (0.01" smaller than the iPhone 13 Pro Max i.e. its perfectly sized for managing degen mint UI), comes with 512GB of storage, 12GB of RAM, outfitted with Android’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 mobile OS, and its all produced in cooperation with OSOM, a privacy-focused mobile hardware developer (who actually secured investment from Solana themselves). We could all imagine being on these phones minting, trading, creating, developing, and transacting in our daily lives.

mtnPay NFT Photo Booth — we were elated it actually worked. Look at my face 👇!

There was also a mtnPay NFT Photo Booth, which we had all interacted with at Solana Miami & NFTNYC to no avail, so it was super exciting that it worked that day (multiple times)! We minted a few:

LH SIDE: @ermisNFT on twitter with yours truly. These are NFTs we minted.

While we were in the store, a few people came into and out of the space, most were newcomers but one random guy did come in to make a joke about “not your keys not your crypto”, looked at 2 kiosks, and left — hopefully he makes a Phantom wallet soon. Beyond the store-exclusive gear, the checkout process is worth highlighting especially because it came with perks. So if you check out via Phantom Wallet & the Solana network (instead of swiping a CC), the process is handled via Solana Pay & Decaf using $USDC; it was seamless, quick, & efficient. Furthermore, Solana Spaces incentivizes people to interact and participate in Solana itself, so all payments made at checkout using $USDC get 50% off their purchase, yep half off! So that fiat-$24 dad cap only cost me $12+tax. They also provide a free tote with any Solana Pay purchase AND they gave me 2 $USDC (two SPL-United States Dollar Coins) while going through the tutorials. While I can’t recall exactly why I was entitled to receive 2 $USDC, the motives are clear: What better way to onboard newcomers than rewarding them just for interacting? Also, with that 2 $USDC, a newcomer can purchase a 1/2 off Solana sticker (formerly $4 fiat dollars) for 2 $USDC — entitling them to a FREE SOLANA PAY TOTE — in effect creating a walking billboard and also ingraining Solana into the newcomer’s mind.

Our tutorial & attendance NFT badges + The Solana Pay NYC Tote

We left Solana Spaces feeling uplifted, hopeful, excited, and generally satisfied with our Solana Web3 IRL experience. The motives were pure, it came through in the delivery of the staff and the vibes of the space. Solana is elevating its brand awareness, and the feelings Solana is evoking are lovely! Solana has changed many of our lives beyond our wildest imaginations, and we love seeing our ecosystem on full display in NYC. We look forward to attending special talks and events there, currently one is TBA with the DAA crew. Maybe Unloc will even get to present in the near future? 😏

We’d highly recommend anyone in the NYC area or anyone going to NYC on a trip to visit the store — not only is it just plain cool, you will leave with a bunch of illiquid jpegs, possibly some dope socks, a solidified belief in Solana, and definitely an experience you will remember for a lifetime. We can’t wait for Solana to open up another, bigger, better IRL Web3 Solana space — prolly this year, prolly in Lisbon, and yes, we’ll prolly go. ✌️

About Unloc

Unloc is a fully customizable NFTs-as-collateral loan platform, built on and backed by Solana. With Unloc, borrowers can set their own loan amount, accessing the best loan-to-value ratio (LTV) for their rare NFTs. With multiple sub-offers, personalized LTV ratios, and the ability to choose to accept USDC or SOL, Unloc offers the ultimate NFT borrowing and lending experience. The multiple sub-offers capability opens up opportunities to access liquidity quickly.

UNLOC LINKS 🔗
Website: https://www.unloc.xyz
Twitter: https://twitter.com/UnlocNFT
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Unloc

Fully customizable NFT-collateralized loans platform 🔑 built on and backed by Solana.