Skip to content
Home » All Posts » Engineering alumnus Anthony Shafer throws the “world’s largest pizza party” with NFT pizza art

Engineering alumnus Anthony Shafer throws the “world’s largest pizza party” with NFT pizza art

February 9 marks International Pizza Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a worldwide pizza party? That’s exactly what Pacific alumnus Anthony Shafer ’97 did last year—through the power of NFTs and cryptocurrency. Shafer shared his experiences in the crypto (and pizza) worlds during his January appearance at the Pacific Alumni Association’s Lunch and Listen series.

After graduating from Pacific with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, Shafer worked for Industrial Light and Magic for two decades, working on visual effects for blockbusters like the Star Wars prequels and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” He is currently a technologist for a company called Penumbra that creates virtual reality devices to solve medical problems, like traumatic brain injuries.

But in his spare time, Shafer is cofounder of Rare Pizzas, a community of over 2,500 online creators who came together to throw the “world’s largest pizza party ever” to celebrate Bitcoin Pizza Day. Shafer and his fellow “pizzaioli” (a group of talented artists and developers in the crypto space) sold 10,000 unique generative art NFT pizzas to buy over 100,000 real life pizzas at restaurants all over the world and give them away for free.

“We decree pizza should be free. No one should be hungry!” reads the “PizzaDAO Cheesepaper,” a public Google doc that summarizes the coalition’s goals.

We’re sure you have more questions. Let’s break it down.

What is Bitcoin Pizza Day?

Bitcoin Pizza Day—May 22, for the uninitiated—is well-known within the cryptocurrency community. Back in 2010, in the early days’ virtual currency, a Bitcoin developer named Laszlo Hanyecz bought two Papa John’s pizzas by trading bitcoins, completing what is largely considered the first cryptocurrency transaction of real world goods. Hanyecz bought his pizzas for 10,000 bitcoins, which equated to a little over $40 in 2010. Today, Hanyecz’s 10,000 bitcoins would be worth about $680 million.

To crypto devotees, Bitcoin Pizza Day is significant because it not only proved that it is possible to make a transaction in crypto and make a physical purchase in the real world, but also shows how far Bitcoin has come since the early 2010s. Plus, the pizza connection is endlessly memeable.

So, how did Rare Pizzas happen?

Shafer was chatting with others in the crypto community about Hanyecz’s significance to Bitcoin history through an app called Clubhouse, where users can meet in live audio chatrooms, when an idea emerged.

“Hey, yeah, Bitcoin Pizza Day is coming up. We should do something…let’s sell pizza NFTs to raise money to throw the largest pizza party in the world on Bitcoin Pizza Day,” Shafer recalled. “It seemed to make perfect sense.” 

The group hopped onto a Google Doc and started making plans.

“The idea was, ‘OK, we’re gonna make pizza art,’” said Shafer. “We need artists to draw toppings, and then we will bake this onto a pizza that is rare and then we’re going to sell that pizza on the OpenSea (online NFT marketplace).”

Hold up, what’s an NFT?

Okay, buckle in. For starters, NFT stands for non-fungible token. “Non-fungible” basically means that the item is unique and can’t be copied or divided. In contrast, bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are fungible (one bitcoin equals one bitcoin).

An NFT’s transaction history is stored on a blockchain, a digital ledger, that certifies the NFT’s value. An NFT can be virtually anything digital, like a concert ticket, a GIF, trading cards, in-game items, or, well, pizza art.

The Rare Pizzas team decided to sell their pizza NFTs on a bonding curve, meaning the pizzas increase in value each time one is purchased (ending with a price cap of 10,000 bitcoins, in honor of Laszlo Hanyecz, of course). Remember, that equates to roughly $680 million.

If the idea took off, the group would be able to raise enough money to really throw the world’s largest pizza party and feed hungry people around the world.

OK, continue.

The plan was ambitious, but the team was fired up.

“The gun went off and everyone hit go,” said Shafer. “And now we’re on a race.”

The first step was simple: organize. Rare Pizzas set up a Discord server and recruited people from within and beyond the crypto community, bringing in artists to draw toppings, developers to digitize the content and organizers to execute the project.

With an online community ready to roll, Shafer and his pizza colleagues got to work making their vision a reality. Artwork started pouring in. 

“We got hundreds of submissions. We set up a Dropbox link and people just started drawing and submitting and it was out of control,” said Shafer.

As the “ingredients” kept coming in, Shafer got to work, using his decades of experience in visual effects and animation to produce a working model for the pizza NFTs using digital compositing software.

Hundreds of hours of work, thousands of volunteers and a whole lot of pizzas later, it was time to reveal the project to the world.

On its launch day, Rare Pizzas sold a million dollars’ worth of pizza NFTs in five hours.

Shafer (left) on Rare Pizzas’ launch day.

A million dollars from digital pizzas?!

Yep. And that’s not all.

Using the proceeds from their pizza NFT sale, Rare Pizzas collaborated with Slice, a pizza ordering service that supports independent pizzerias, to give away 100,000 to pizza-lovers in the crypto community on Bitcoin Pizza Day in 2021.

The effort also supported over 300 struggling pizzerias in 60 different countries that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We had to activate a network of mafia members to go beat the street and pick up the phones and give away free pizza,” said Shafer. “We also spent $30,000 directly to food banks and charities.”

Rare Pizzas supplied IRL pizzas through digital pizza sales all over the world, including Peru, as seen here.

So, what’s next?

Rare Pizzas is planning their next global pizza party for May of 2022. The group is also working to become a non-profit.

As of today, Rare Pizzas has about 3,000 people involved in the cause.

“The number one thing about the NFT and crypto worlds is that it starts with community,” said Shafer. “This is a great funding mechanism. I think there are ways you can take artwork, launch it to a dedicated community and have that community…become a donation engine. I think there are tremendous opportunities coming up. Pizzas are just proving it.”

You can watch Shafer’s presentation below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *