Originally published May 17.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It may well be the glitziest thing to happen to Minneapolis since the pandemic began, and it's happening later this week.
VeeCon is a unique conference bringing people from around the world, including some big celebrities. It's tricky to explain something that's never happened before, and it's happening at U.S. Bank Stadium. That's thanks in large part to a southern Minnesota native who hit the big time: Maha Abouelenein.
"Born and raised in Mankato. Lived overseas for 23 years in Egypt and Dubai, but my home is in Minnesota. My heart is in Minnesota," said Abouelenein, VeeCon's communications executive.
She has led communications for Google, Netflix, and now for Gary Vaynerchuk -- the tech and wine entrepreneur with nine million Instagram followers, and what feels like a million companies.
Thanks to his partner Abouelenein, Vaynerchuk is taking his operation to the next level -- hosting a first-of-its-kind conference in downtown Minneapolis.
Vaynerchuk does have local connections. He owns the esports Minnesota RØKKR, and he knows the owners of the Minnesota Vikings.
"I also grew up in Springfield, New Jersey, at my dad's wine shop, which is where the Wilf family spent a lot of their time," Vaynerchuk said.
So why hold VeeCon in Minneapolis?
"I could have done it anywhere in the U.S., anywhere in the world, but I just but I just genuinely feel an actual, subconscious, and even emotional attachment to Minnesota."
He says it will be a mega conference full of advice and collaboration with entrepreneurs, marketers, music stars -- like Snoop Dogg and Pharrell -- and speakers like Mila Kunis, Deepak Chopra and Spike Lee.
So, what can people expect from this conference?
"Everyone who's gonna leave VeeCon is gonna know about the Web3 blockchain crypto world much better than their contemporaries," Vaynerchuk said.
Web3 blockchains and NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, will be central to the talks.
"What the blockchain does is it allows you to own something digitally, what the internet doesn't allow, right? You right click and save an image, everyone can have 'it.' On the blockchain, only the person that owns it owns it. In that NFT you can have art and collectability, that's what everyone is hearing. You can also have a contract," he said. "Over the next decade, people will understand it. Just like they didn't understand the internet in 1995, and by 2005 they did."
And so he and a team of celebrities and leaders will try to explain the future, while spending the present in Minneapolis.
"I want just a lot of positive energy to be expelled, and for attendees, I want them to really make relationships," Vaynerchuk said.
Just like he did with a fellow entrepreneur from Minnesota.
"I am a very big cheerleader for Minnesota," Abouelenein said. "We are gonna pull out the stops, make it happen."
To get into the event, Vaynerchuk sold his own NFTs instead of tickets, but there are still some tickets to VeeCon for sale from NFT owners. It costs about $200 for four days.
About 10,000 people are expected, with 80% of them being first-time visitors to the state.
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