Catering to the crypto craze

Cafes open in Bangkok and Korat where investors and novices alike can gather to share knowledge and make trades

Pongsatorn Chandavimol, community creator at Seacon Square. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Last April, Bitcoin soared to its highest record of 2 million baht per unit. The weakening baht against the US dollar was one of the reasons the cryptocurrency set the new record. This high water mark showed that many Thai investors were interested in the crypto market. Due to the growth of the market, two cafes -- Hip Coffee & Restaurant and The Moon: Crypto & NFT Café -- aim to be gathering spaces for the crypto communities in Thailand.

Located in Nakhon Ratchasima, Hip Coffee & Restaurant is notable for its unusual interior, with 21 monitors to watch crypto trading in one room. Oakkharawat Yongsakuljinda, the manager, said the screens were set up last year to monitor trading in stock markets. A couple of months ago, after the cafe's owner Setthaphat Chirakunthanan and other staff became interested in cryptocurrency, all 21 monitors were changed to screen crypto trading instead.

"Our acquaintances who have traded cryptocurrency encouraged us to enter the market. After we researched about it for a month as well as discovering there are local cryptocurrency exchanges registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thailand, we thought investing in the cryptocurrency market would be a good choice. The cryptocurrency community is still in the early stage. Not many people know much about it. We aim to build a crypto community at our cafe, so our customers can come here to learn about crypto trading and other information involved," said Oakkharawat.

Meanwhile, The Moon: Crypto & NFT Café at Seacon Square was created to attract crypto enthusiasts in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. One side of the wall in The Moon is decked out with five screens to display NFT arts that people can scan QR codes to purchase. Another wall exhibits five screens of play-to-earn games where players can earn income in crypto.

Pongsatorn Chandavimol, the community creator at Seacon Square, explained that executives had a strategy to create an experience for visitors by building communities to attract people with similar interests. These interests and experiences involve cryptocurrency, photos, coffee and food.

NFT art for sale in The Moon: Crypto & NFT Café. Photos: Varuth Hirunyatheb

Cryptocurrency is traded through the internet, so people in crypto communities communicate with one another via online social platforms. Why do people need to visit a cafe in person?

"Some people can learn about crypto from videos on social platforms, but some cannot. They prefer to learn in person, so they can ask questions and follow a lecturer step by step. At The Moon, we provide several classes. One of the most popular classes is Kao Raek Sue Crypto [The First Step To Crypto]. This class is for beginners to learn what crypto, Bitcoin and blockchain are, and how to set up their crypto wallets," said Pongsatorn.

"In addition to classes, The Moon is a space to launch new products and other events. When a product is launched at an onsite event, people can feel more sincerity and commitment from the company. Another popular event at The Moon is Son Ta Na Pa Sa Crypto [Speaking Crypto Language]. It is a gathering of crypto enthusiasts. Participants can attend classes and events free of charge, but registration is sometimes required. People can follow up schedules of classes and events at facebook.com/TheMoonCafe.MUNx2," Pongsatorn added.

The Moon and Hip are venues for people in businesses involving crypto, such as trading, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and GameFi, or play-to-earn crypto games. Both representatives of The Moon and Hip said they plan to develop academies for crypto enthusiasts. While Seacon will create an academy in another zone, Hip approached a leading crypto exchange to collaborate and establish more crypto cafes in other regions.

The Moon: Crypto & NFT Café at Seacon Square. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

"We want to promote people who work in businesses that involve blockchain, cryptocurrency and NFT markets because Thailand lacks gurus in these fields. They can be NFT artists, crypto trading gurus and 3D creators for the metaverse. At the academy, we may create a project and groom participants who work on the project or we may launch a course about programming or marketing NFT art," Pongsatorn said.

"Hip Coffee & Restaurant is the only cafe that has 21 monitors to view crypto trading. Visitors can come to view the trading free of charge. Actually, these monitors can be seen only at a stock market or are available for VIP clients at some private organisations. Hence, we want to open more spaces for people in the crypto community to hang out, drink coffee and watch trading monitors together," Oakkharawat said.

"During this first quarter, we plan to open this kind of cafe in other regions including Chiang Mai, Udon Thani or Khon Kaen, and Chon Buri. We are now talking with a leading crypto exchange that wants to open an academy at the cafe. We intend to help people in the countryside understand about crypto, so they can invest in the market by themselves. The exchange may support us by having lecturers to guide local people about how to trade and how to read graphs on monitors."

At Hip and The Moon, customers can purchase food, beverages and desserts with crypto. Customers at Hip can pay through the Binance app. At The Moon, customers must use the Wallet of Satoshi app. However, most people who own crypto prefer to save it in their accounts. Currently, not many people use crypto to purchase items at the cafes.

Hip Coffee & Restaurant owner Setthaphat Chirakunthanan uses monitors to watch cryptocurrency trading. facebook.com/hipbarkorat

According to Coinmarketcap, the price-tracking website for crypto assets, in January 2021, the global cryptocurrency market value was at 25 trillion baht. At the end of the year, the market value increased to 74 trillion baht. The crypto market value increased 193% throughout 2021. The three most popular cryptos are Bitcoin, Ethereum and Binance Coin. With this rapid growth, people around the world are interested in investing in the crypto market.

Pongsatorn, who has invested in NFT art, play-to-earn games and land in the metaverse, recommends that newcomers initially invest a small amount.

"The lowest investment is 10 baht. New investors should invest a small amount to see if they are fine with this kind of investment. Since crypto prices fluctuate, I do not recommend people to borrow money to invest. People should use leftover money from their savings. All investments involve some degree of risk. People should not expect only the upside of an investment," Pongsatorn said.

Many people consider the crypto market to be a ponzi scheme. Oakkharawat said the market is different because investors do not have to find more members like a ponzi scheme. However, since there are thousands of cryptos in the market, Oakkharawat said in order to choose a good one, people should research the background of each crypto in detail before making an investment.

People can hang out, drink coffee and watch trading monitors at Hip Coffee & Restaurant. facebook.com/hipbarkorat

As a stock market investor, Oakkharawat believes that crypto investment is an opportunity for the general public, including people in the lower financial bracket.

"It is difficult for many people to invest in stock markets because there are many terms and conditions. However, the crypto market provides opportunities for everyone. I support equality and crypto investments give people opportunities to earn large amounts of money from a small investment. I want to have an academy to provide knowledge to new investors, so they will learn and understand about crypto investment," Oakkharawat said.

The front of Hip Coffee & Restaurant. Photos: facebook.com/hipbarkorat

Play-to-earn games. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

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