Meet Maecenas — the decentralised art gallery democratising fine art investment

Words by Marcelo Garcia Casil

Now that we have revealed Maecenas will hold a token crowdsale soon, it 
 is a pleasure to introduce ourselves properly.
 
I know we are not exactly an unknown quantity. We have been featured in 
The Financial Times, The Telegraph, International Business Times etc. 
and, just this week, on the BBC. The media seems as excited as we are about a blockchain application for the real-world — giving ordinary people access to fine art investment. We have amazing and complex tech on our platform. But I think what the media gets about Maecenas is a refreshingly simple idea — divide masterpieces up into affordable fragments and let people trade them.

Who wouldn’t want to own a piece of a Picasso?
 
 And we wanted to share a little more about how we got here. This is the 
 story of Maecenas
 — a decentralized art gallery, democratising access to 
 fine art investment.

BANKING TO BITCOIN

It all started when I was working for Barclays in Singapore. After ten 
years working in the banking industry, I discovered bitcoin in 2013 and 
was immediately fascinated. I started reading everything to understand how this digital currency worked. I began by looking into how to produce bitcoin. Being a techie, I purchased some graphic cards and set myself two home-made mining rigs. I was actually too late to the the bitcoin mining party but I experimented with other, lesser-known cryptocurrencies and before I knew it I was fully immersed in the space.

Bitcoin mining hardware | Source: coindesk.com

It wasn’t long before I decided to take a leap of faith and left my comfortable, well-paid banking job to start a crazy and risky venture called DXMarkets. Very quickly I realised that DXMarkets was going to be much bigger than I had anticipated — certainly too big to handle on my own. So I reached out to my techie friends and ex-colleagues to join me in my vision that

“blockchain will change the world.”

The company grew fast. Even before we had a clear idea for a product, I instinctively held a vision of the future blockchain turning all assets digital. We started building an exchange for those assets. Initially, the focus was on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies but it did not take long to understand that there were many other “traditional” assets out there that suffered from intermediation, manipulation, lack of transparency. If they could be “blockchainised,” then everyone would benefit.

SWISS ACCELERATOR

By late 2015, we were part of Fintech Fusion, the first accelerator programme in Geneva. The company, or team as I like to call it, had 15 people, most of them working for no pay and receiving stock options as compensation. We also received our first funding round from F&F.

DXMarkets to be one of the 10 selected startups among hundreds worldwide to join Fintech Fusion

The three founders Federico Cardoso, Miguel Neumann and I were taking turns to be in Geneva on and off through the 12 months programme. It was an incredibly rewarding experience that allowed us to grow enormously both on an individual level and also as a company. We matured.

“Everyone in our team was and is a true believer in what we’re doing and hence everyone without exception has taken risks alongside me to make this vision a reality”

I guess I’ve been very luck to have so many talented and smart people follow me and join me in this incredible journey. I couldn’t have done even a fraction of what we’ve achieved if it wasn’t for that.

In Geneva, we had the privilege to be one of the 10 selected startups among hundreds worldwide. Through the programme, we connected with many experienced people from different business areas and had the chance to learn great insights about industries. Real estate, commodities, payments, insurance, just to name a few. But it was Fine Art that resonated the most with us. We learned about the fine art market and how it was crippled by manipulation and monopolies; how it lacked transparency and how players struggled to even transact with each other. That’s how we met Jérôme Croisier, who would join us and become our Chief Art Officer.

Jerome has been instrumental in helping us build up our fine art knowledge and in connecting us with key industry players.

ART FOR ALL

I still remember the day it really hit me that if we implemented blockchain correctly we could completely transform the fine art industry. It was the beginning of 2016. Even now, it gives me goosebumps because it was such a seminal moment. For the first time, after nearly two years of incredibly hard work but still lacking a clear mission, we suddenly knew exactly what we were going to do. We were going to democratise the fine art industry and make it available to absolutely everyone. Along the way we were also going to fix so many of the issues that plagued the market. What better blockchain use case than that?

And so, we, DXMarkets, embarked on the journey of building Maecenas. We coined the name — pronounced My-seen-us — from an ancient Roman patron of the arts. Gaius Maecenas helped poor poets and we aim to be a modern patron, stimulating the art business.

Our generic digital asset exchange platform quickly evolved into a fine art exchange. We continued expanding the platform, adding new modules and new user-interfaces and functionalities specific to match the Maecenas use-cases. But the most challenging part wasn’t building the technology. It was actually understanding the art market.

Fintech Fusion office space for the selected start-ups in Geneva
We had to work out the legal structures needed to connect the blockchain world with the real world; figure out how to design our business model so that our idea and concept could actually become useful for the industry by solving its problems. I have honestly lost count of how many meetings we had with industry players, banks, investors, lawyers, collectors, galleries and so on — but it’s easily in the hundreds.

It was very much like walking into completely unknown territory and having to fully map out the environment and become experts at navigating it. We were told quite a few times that we were brave and ambitious, and

“I think it takes determination and conviction to do what we’ve done and to get to this point.”

Three and a half years later, having made numerous mistakes and learned from them, having faced countless challenges and having successfully overcome them, we are resilient. We look back at what we’ve achieved and get a strong sense of satisfaction. But we’re also aware that this is just the beginning and that we have a long journey ahead of us and many more challenges to overcome. And we will, we’re ready for it, we can’t wait to make it happen.

I was overwhelmed by the response when we announced last week that Cofound.it would back our upcoming token crowdsale. Cofound.it have quickly established themselves as the world leaders in taking startups like us through successful sales. We are lucky to have been selected as one of their few projects. And their community is so engaged, supporting us and giving us welcome feedback on how to achieve our ambitious goals. That has been so encouraging — and fun.

So, the next major milestone in Maecenas’s story is the crowdsale. We have nailed the security, legal and compliance aspects. We have the platform, the partnerships and a pipeline of masterpieces. Now the crowdsale funds will take us to launch. The launch of the first open blockchain platform that democratises access to fine art investment.

Join us on the journey.

To find out more about the Maecenas project, visit maecenas.co

To find more about Cofound.it and the Token sale, visit Cofound.it

If you wish to talk to the team directly, join our slack channel, join here.

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