Interview with the Co-Founder of Maecenas, a Blockchain-Powered Marketplace for Fine Artby Fintech News Singapore August 14, 2017
Founded in early 2016, Maecenas is set to launch the world’s first blockchain-powered investment platform for fine art, bringing together collectors who want to raise funds, and investors looking for exposure to the art market.
The platform promises to allow both sides of a traditional art deal to substantially reduce the commissions paid. In traditional transactions, these can be as high as 30% of the total value for the buyer and 50% of the total part for the seller.
Maecenas uses blockchain technology to create tamper-proof digital certificates linked to pieces of art. Investors can purchase these certificates to own a percentage of a given artwork, and can sell them back to other investors at any time via the Maecenas platform. The company aims to democratize art investing by eliminating intermediaries and improving liquidity.
Maecenas is planning to run a crowdsale of its ART token, a clearing and settlement token to be used for all transactions on the platform.
Prior to Maecenas, CEO and co-founder Marcelo García Casil founded DXMarkets, a startup that’s applying blockchain technology to financial markets to increase efficiency and reduce infrastructure costs. DXMarkets works with various blockchain platforms to develop custom-made scalable solutions for clients.
In an exclusive interview with Fintechnews.sg, Casil shares the story behind Maecenas, his vision for the company, the long-term goals, and what’s to expect to the near future.
Fintechnews.sg (FN): Why did you start Maecenas, what problem did you set out to solve?
Marcelo García Casil (M.G.C.): It all started in Geneva back in 2015, after being selected by Fintech Fusion, the first startup accelerator in Switzerland. We walked into the program with our minimum viable product (MVP), which was a generic trading platform for digital assets. We didn’t have a focus on any specific vertical because at the time our approach was more on the tech and finance side, which in hindsight was incomplete.
In Geneva, we connected with experienced and senior people from different industries and we quickly learnt that we really had to focus on one vertical if we wanted to stand out and get our product to the very top. As a start-up with limited resources you really need to put everything towards achieving a single goal if you want to stand a chance.
And so, during the 12-month journey of Fintech Fusion, we learnt first-hand about many different verticals by engaging directly with senior people from different industries. We flirted with real estate, commodities and a few others, but it was fine art in the end the one that ticked all the boxes in our minds and the one that got everything truly excited and passionate.
We built Maecenas on the belief that through technology we could address the fundamental issues of the art market by creating a truly open, transparent and liquid investment marketplace.
FN: What differentiates Maecenas from its competitors?
M.G.C.: There are other startups before us who have explored using blockchain to address issues in the art market, although their focus has been on provenance and secure distribution of digital art.
Maecenas is the first blockchain startup to create digital art shares and turn fine art into a tradable financial asset.
We believe that by lowering the threshold of entry we can make art investment available to a much wider audience who can collectively co-own art all around the globe, effectively democratizing fine art.
FN: How does Maecenas use blockchain and what value added does it bring to your product?
M.G.C.: We use blockchain to create a tamper-proof digital record of artworks, which we call chain of provenance. On the same chain we then tokenize individual artworks and collections of artworks and create digital art shares that are brought into the platform via a Dutch auction mechanism. This auction is actually implemented as a smart contract to ensure maximum transparency and reduce the chance of price manipulation.
By pushing these key functions into a blockchain platform, we not only increase security and visibility of our processes but also we significantly reduce costs, which are passed into the community so that everyone benefits.
The art market today is run by intermediaries who can charge anything from 20% to 50% or even more in the case of brokers and opaque over-the-counter deals which are sadly all too common and too frequent.
Maecenas is an open marketplace where no brokerage exists and participants transact directly with each other, allowing us to bring down the cost of transaction to a very reasonable 2%, on par with asset classes like real estate or private equity.
FN: When will Maecenas launch its investment platform?
M.G.C.: Our MVP (alpha version) is complete and we’re currently working with partners to run private pilots. We are planning to launch the full platform as early as Q1 2018.
FN: How are DXMarkets and Maecenas connected?
M.G.C.: DXMarkets is the company that we founded back in 2014 when we started this incredibly exciting blockchain journey. Maecenas is the result of a pivot and is effectively the same founding team as DXMarkets, plus some new team members who are experts in art and finance. Maecenas inherited the tech stack built by DXMarkets and expanded it into a full-blown art investment platform.
FN: Maecenas is planning a token crowdsale. In light of the recent ICO scandals and scams, how is Maecenas is ensuring investors’ safety?
M.G.C.: Unfortunately, negative news spread faster and wider than good news. ICOs are still an unregulated activity and that leaves the door open to bad actors taking advantage of honest people.
Maecenas is a legitimate fintech startup that has 3.5 years of history, has been vetted and selected by Fintech Fusion, a Swiss accelerator run by Polytech Ventures which is an early-stage VC also based in Switzerland. We have a large board of advisors who are all highly experienced and reputable, and trust our team fully.
In addition, we have the backing of Cofound.it who are the leading and most reputable ICO platform. The guys at Cofound.it are pushing really hard to professionalize the ICO industry and develop best practices. They have very strict selection criteria and reject around 95% of the projects to ensure that only the legitimate and trustworthy ones make it into the platform. They have nurtured an amazing community and we’re very excited about being able to work with them.
FN: What is Maecenas’s long-term goal and what’s in the pipeline?
M.G.C.: We have an exciting roadmap ahead of us, beginning with the public launch of our investment platform, and the quickly following on with our first art vault, the art exchange and our leasing network.
Our long-term goal is to become the largest and most trusted art investment platform in the world. We want to bring transparency and efficiency into this centuries-old industry and make fine art available to everyone.