Los Angeles: Where Hollywood Magic and Creativity Meet Web3

The City of Angels is a global influencer in art, fashion and, especially, entertainment. Less known are its significant contributions in technology innovation. Taken together, the No. 11 spot on CoinDesk’s Crypto Hubs 2023 is a Web3 superpower. Plus it has the world's best movie stars.

AccessTimeIconJun 27, 2023 at 11:28 a.m. UTC
Updated Jun 27, 2023 at 12:05 p.m. UTC

Los Angeles’ 11th place globally put it fourth among U.S. hubs, behind Wyoming, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas. Many of the Crypto Hubs’ criteria were measured on a national basis, so the U.S. hubs collectively were hampered by a middling crypto regulatory score, which is the main factor in the drivers category and counts for 35% of the total weight. LA also had a lower-than-average quality-of-life score, due to its high cost of living and bad pollution and traffic congestion. Among the U.S. hubs, only the territory of Puerto Rico, which didn’t make it into our final ranking, fared worse for quality of life. To its advantage, LA had a strong opportunities score that measures per-capita crypto jobs, companies and events.

For more on the criteria and how we weighted them, see: How We Ranked CoinDesk’s Crypto Hubs 2023: Our Methodology.

Data breakdown for Los Angeles in Crypto Hubs 2023 ranking
(Ian Suarez/CoinDesk)

For sheer creativity per capita, no place beats my adopted home of Los Angeles. Name a recent trend in art, fashion, music or design, and it likely has roots in the City of Angels. The city’s vibe is crypto’s vibe – fresh, daring, a little on the outer edge of anything that has been previously contemplated.

LA also possesses an often overlooked importance in tech. Modern rocketry, the enabler of moon missions and space exploration, sprouted in the 1930s from Caltech researchers who founded Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The rudimentary predecessor to the internet, ARPANET, got much of its start at UCLA in the late 1960s via a federally funded program that sought ways for computers to communicate with one another (sounds positively blockchainish). LA gave us skateboard aerodynamics, the bangs and twangs of the electric guitar and Barbie’s dimensions, which are a sort of science fiction.

In LA today, crypto communities revolving around NFTs, Web3 and other protocols riffing on the city’s larger-than-life entertainment industry dot the landscape from the revitalized Downtown Arts District inland to neighborhoods hugging the coast and various points in between.

Yes, the Walt Disney Company recently dismantled its much-ballyhooed NFT initiative and cut 50 metaverse-focused jobs, but given that there were 7,000 employees laid off worldwide, the Web3 reversal was likely a casualty of larger mismanagement issues that have been plaguing the company for years. Disney CEO Bob Iger has been famously upbeat about the metaverse and the potential of using new technologies to tell stories.

Meanwhile, a number of other major movie studios, music labels and talent agencies that have defined LA’s image remain steadfast in their commitment to create virtual worlds and blockchain-based projects.

In 2021, Fox Entertainment, best known as the home of The Simpsons, pumped $100 million into its Blockchain Creative Labs, to create, manage and sell NFTs and other digital assets tied to new and existing shows and other content. ViacomCBS and Lionsgate, among others, have also inked deals in recent years with NFT platforms, and agency powerhouse UTA – Harrison Ford’s representatives – added Larva Labs, the creator of Crypto Punks, to its roster of clients in 2021.

“Whether we like it or not, NFTs have become well-known beyond our industry bubble and are recognized by a much larger audience than we might think,” Theta Labs head of business development, Andrea Berry, wrote in a CoinDesk op-ed in April. “However, it's important to note that Hollywood has only begun to explore the potential of blockchain technology and Web3, indicating that there may be much more to come for the industry.”

This year’s Outer Edge LA conference (formerly NFT LA) featured more than 250 speakers from the crypto, sports and entertainment world, including Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Web3 game developer and investment firm Animoca Brands, former NBA All Star-turned producer/entrepreneur Baron Davis and Nadya Tolokonnikova, a founding member of the Russian feminist performance and art group, Pussy Riot.

On the subject of jobs in Web3, not only did LA score high in CoinDesk’s opportunities category for its per-capita crypto jobs, companies and events, but the jobs are at companies you’ve heard of or want to know more about. Ethereum development shop Consensys, and games developers Fun Gi and Mythical Games are hiring.

But what about the food?

To be sure, the city must fight the same regulatory headwinds that are slowing crypto’s ascent throughout the U.S. But LA’s grassroots interest in Web3 generally is hard to beat. Special crypto events, including blockchain weeks and more casual meet-ups, have become part of the city’s business calendar. Even the police department in sleepy Burbank will soon hold a lecture on the dark Web.

LA’s relatively low quality-of-life score woefully underestimates its mountain-to-sea access, temperate, year-round climate, acceptance of individualism, and most of all, its food scene. No city does Oaxacan, Yucatan, Thai, Vietnamese, Szechuan, Syrian or whatever-you-want-to-eat food trucks, pop-ups, backyard restaurants and farmers markets like LA.

You have to eat well to do great blockchain, right?

Okay, real estate prices have soared over the past 15 years and LA’s infamous traffic can be gnarly.

So stay off the freeways and settle into one of LA’s creative communities, which you’ll find filled with people as passionate about their projects as the founders of any protocol.

Plus, LA has the best movie stars.

Edited by Jeanhee Kim and Bradley Keoun.


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James Rubin

James Rubin was CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.