Tech Status And Roadmap Update
Words by Marcelo García Casil
It has now been over four months since our crowdsale finished, although really it feels like it’s been much longer than that given the amount of things that happened in such a short amount of time. We’re thrilled about what’s coming next for Maecenas!
First of all, I want to thank our community for the great support and vibrant energy that characterises our social media channels and our Telegram chat group. I’m a firm believer that no project can be successful without a strong community and I’m really proud of ours.
Now, let me share with you what’s been going on over the last few months and what has been keeping us busy. Let me start with saying that it has been exhausting and quite tedious at times. Let me elaborate.
Securing Top Talent
Right after our crowdsale concluded on October 10th we set ourselves to ramp up operations as fast as possible. Well, it turns out that finding quality, talented people is pretty hard, and they tend to be in good employments which they can’t quickly leave. Building a world-class team is very important for us, so we’ve decided to push really hard to get the best people possible. The recruiting process has taken longer than we anticipated, but we are now happy to announce that the last of our new hires will be starting full-time next month.
The wait has been long, but definitely worth it. We now have a very strong team who have exactly the experience and skills we need to move Maecenas into the next phase. The fruits of all the hard work will start materialising in the upcoming months.
One area that particularly suffered from the wait is marketing and communications. This is the reason why we’ve been slow at sending newsletters and generally speaking at any external communications, let alone initiate a wider marketing engagement with the crypto and art community. This is set to change soon once we are fully resourced, with our Head of Marketing starting full-time in two weeks, and he is ready and excited to hit the ground running.
Conferences and Events
In spite of having limited manpower in marketing while we were searching for the perfect candidates, we’ve been very active on the events front, networking and making invaluable connections in the Art, Finance, and Crypto communities.
We’ve started sponsoring strategic industry events and we’ve been on the stage more often than not, covering the US, Europe and Asia. Some of the worldwide events that we have participated in over the last 4 months include:
- 10th Deloitte Art & Finance Conference, Milan — Nov 2017
- Blockshow Asia, Singapore — Nov 2017
- New Art Academy, New York — Dec 2017
- Building an Art Market 2.0, Geneva — Feb 2018
- The Future is Crypto?: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Blockchain Revolution, Singapore — Feb 2018
- Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Online Sales, New York — Mar 2018
- Vietnam Blockchain Week, Vietnam — Mar 2018
- UNFOLD Art Xchange, Dubai — Mar 2018
- Art Leaders Network, Berlin — Apr 2018
Setting Up a Global Structure
Maecenas is a unique start-up in that we are distributed across the globe. We have team members in 6 different countries and have formal offices in 4 cities. This is great in terms of diversity and market access, but it also means that our legal and accounting processes are fairly complex.
To be able to scale up and source for hires worldwide, we had to create a group of companies, with a multinational structure of a holding corporation and global subsidiaries. Being subject to differing laws and regulations means that we had to build complex HR, legal, and accounting processes to cater for each jurisdiction. Therefore, in practice, we’ve had to do several times more work that a start-up based in a single location.
We’ve spent a significant amount of time building the foundational framework and putting together a multinational infrastructure to be able to operate within. There have been countless meetings with regulators, lawyers and accountants, coupled with copious amounts of paperwork. Not the most fun thing to do, but absolutely essential for us to be able to move forward with the correct structures in place.
The good news is that we are very close to completing that work and now have most of our admin processes streamlined, which will allows us to operate more efficiently, and significantly decrease our overhead costs.
However, we were not just busy with admin (fortunately!). We’ve also advanced significantly in terms of our product development, and are very happy with how the platform is taking shape.
Getting Our Product Ready
While the alpha version of Maecenas looked visually appealing, it still required a lot of work to be production ready, so we focused our efforts on a number of key areas.
Given that our platform will process investments, security is paramount. Tightening security involved hardening many of our back-end process and also adding additional fail-safe mechanisms to prevent any potential gaps. Now that we have our own in-house cybersecurity expert, we’ve been able to run full audits on our system to make sure that our platform is completely secure.
In line with being compliant with financial regulations, another key area for us has been the client onboarding process. Once the process was fully validated by our FCC Compliance Lead, we had to make sure that the flow and user journey was properly implemented and could cater for our intended audience. We now have in place a robust, scalable solution that fits the scope of the pilot (i.e. limited jurisdictions), and is a flexible structure that can grow to support future expansion.
Smart Contract & Auction Process
The last significant piece of work that has kept our mate-drinking developers busy is the Dutch auction process. This Smart Contract is where most of the blockchain fun happens. Our primary motive in running auctions in a decentralised manner is rooted in the qualities we envision for the art market: transparency, fairness, openness. A Dutch auction is an efficient bidding and price discovery mechanism for illiquid assets. Unlike a traditional auction, our Dutch auction process guarantees the following conditions:
- Bids are private and confidential. Only each investor will know their bid details, not even Maecenas will know what the bids are till the auction closes.
- Bidding price cannot be manipulated. This prevents investors from placing bids and then quickly cancelling, or similar techniques to try to “game” the system, or take advantage of other investors.
- There is no risk of insider trading. In traditional centralised platforms, participants place trust in the company operating the platform. Typically, financial institutions are exposed to insider trading, meaning that employees having access to confidential information can take unfair advantage of it to make money by leaking this information to third parties. We wanted to make sure this wasn’t possible, so in our design not even Maecenas has access to any bidding information until settlement time.
Tokenising our first artwork is, without question, the single most important milestone we have to hit; which is why we’ve allocated almost all the non-tech resources into overcoming the financial and regulatory hurdles to create an efficient and scalable tokenisation structure, which is easier said than done.
In the spirit of being fully transparent, we have hit a number of bumps along the way. We have simultaneously been exploring a number of jurisdictions and we’ve been working with multiple different firms specialised in financial structuring to help us implement the optimal solution.
The good news is we’ve made significant progress, and we’re now much closer to hitting this milestone than we were a couple of months ago. However, the legal structures required for such an ambitious undertaking are extremely complex, and we are taking great pains to ensure that everything is setup properly, which necessarily takes time. We had originally hoped to be able to launch the full beta by Q1, but our top priority is ensuring that we can launch a platform that we are proud of and that our users are happy with, even if it means delaying the official launch by a few months.
While we understand that this delay may come as a bit of disappointment to our eager and patient community, we do have lots of good news to share, the full details of which will be released in the upcoming weeks. Here’s a sneak peek of what exciting news to look out for in the coming weeks.
- Beta registration opens in April and we will start processing KYC in batches.
- Announcement of a partnership with a reputable London-based art gallery.
- Release of details of the first artwork to be tokenised (It is painting worth ~$5m, from a blue-chip artist and household name).
- We’re in advanced conversations with art platforms who are gearing up to accept $ART as payment.
If you signed up to our mailing list, you will receive an email with instructions on how to to participate in the beta version. $ART holders will be given first priority.
These are the highlights of what you can expect from our pilot beta launch:
- An artwork from a well-known blue-chip artist, worth in the range of ~$5m.
- Participation by up to 100 beta investors in a private auction.
- The SPV holding the tokenised artwork will be based in Europe.
The pilot will support a limited number of investors, and there are some jurisdictional restrictions. KYC process on beta users will start in April.
If you’re interested in taking part in the pilot launch as a beta tester, sign up for our mailing list to receive first notice of when registration is open.
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