As Wall Street stocks tumbled on Tuesday, Chika Uwazie found herself ringing the New York Stock Exchange closing bell in an upbeat mood.
“How many times do you see black people ringing, especially Africans,” asked the co-founder of Afropolitan, a company that wants to create a digital land for the continent’s diaspora. “That’s why we brought our community into the room.”
While traders — at least those with long positions — headed home to lick their wounds, an after-hours event had just begun on the Big Board, hosted by VanEck, the $50 billion investment manager turned crypto bull, who brought together Afropolitan and global investors. The focus was on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which share elements of investment and collaboration.
“We realized that their project was as community-focused as ours was,” says Matt Bartlett, Head of NFT Community and Web3 at VanEck. Money Manager co-hosts events with Afropolitan, seeking to bring crypto and traditional finance together.
“Events like this are a story of access,” says Eche Enziga, the other co-founder of Afropolitan, “Traditionally we can’t even enter the room to find out what’s out there.”
The two companies connected at the CryptoBahamas event in April through Culture Capital, one of Afropolitan’s investors. Since then, they have been working together based on their community-focused approaches, organizing events to educate people about crypto, NFT, and what a digital earth could look like.
The event brought together Afropolitan’s network of community members and investors with VanEck staff and NFT owners. The trading floor was filled with early backers, childhood friends, and members of VanEck’s growing NFT and Web3 team. After the bell rang, sliders, chicken sandwiches and glasses of wine flowed through the stock’s boardroom as images of VanEck and Afropolitan’s NFTs took over the screens in the 119-plus-year-old chamber.
Ringing bells and an event with VanEck were just part of Afropolitan’s seat at the table during the cycle of crypto events in New York. Uwazie was a speaker at this year’s SALT conference, and the Afropolitian co-founders quickly left Wall Street to head to their next meeting — a dinner with United Nations officials.
VanEck’s foray into digital assets is not new. He launched an exchange-traded fund for bitcoin futures in November, when the crypto market hit $3 trillion. The investment manager then launched its first NFT program in May before attempting to launch a US bitcoin ETF the following month. A decision on the proposal has been delayed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has yet to approve the cash bitcoin ETF.
Unlike most NFT collections, VanEck’s is decidedly non-commercial. Sent directly to their wallets or dropped to a select few crypto enthusiasts after the initial announcement, the asset manager made it clear that NFTs are not investments. They are intended as “digital memorabilia” intended to build community without running afoul of securities regulations
VanEck NFT are images of the character Hami, a caricature of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary, who has a special interest in CEO Jan van Eck. The goal of the company’s NFT program is to educate people about the history of the US financial system.
Kristen Capuano, CEO and CMO of VanEck, sees its crypto and digital assets as part of a forward-looking value system. “We try to find these very interesting or unique parts of the market before they go mainstream,” she adds.
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