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Building a Web3 studio for Black creators, an interview with Chinedu Enekwe, co-founder Nandi Labs
The digitization of art via NFTs has created new opportunities for global artists to expose their work to broader audiences. This week I interviewed Chinedu Enekwe, Co-founder of Nandi Labs - which is creating a Web3 studio for Black creators. Nandi is enabling Black artist to monetize their art and create communities on a global scale.
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
What is Nandi, and what’s the product that you’re building?
We’re building the Disney for Black creators in Web3. The Nandi platform is a Web3 studio, NFT community, and a culture-driven marketplace that helps creators monetize using crowdsourced design competitions. We have a NFT marketplace for Black creators of art and culture.
Can you elaborate on the Disney analogy?
One of the most amazing things that Disney does is empowering creators — producers, animators, designers, script writers — by providing them funding and elevating their voices with marketing and distribution. We’re thinking about being Disney Plus: bringing you premium content that’s evergreen and will resonate with fans over time.
From a product perspective, the base layer is a marketplace. You also need a community of people who are bought into amplifying those stories and creators. For us, that’s Nandi Market, as well as Nandi Cowry, which is our membership community.
In addition, you need to create on-ramps for new groups of people to participate in the market. The number of people participating in Web3 is quite limited because most Web3 products, and especially NFT marketplaces, primarily happen on desktop devices. But when you look at emerging markets, 70 to 80% of internet traffic is mobile. To enable the rest of the world to get into Web3, we have to make sure NFT marketplaces are mobile-first. We’re focused on mobile-first capabilities so that people can complete their initial transaction on mobile.
You also have to enable people to pay from everywhere. Right now the rails that enable you to pay in Web3 are US dollar-driven, and much of the world has trouble obtaining US dollars. We’re laser focused on building a product that’s inclusive in that way.
Once we’ve launched the major features of our ecosystem, our goal is to double down on partnerships with brands and other platforms. We want to launch a Nandi coin that’s a utility coin around rewards. We have a blog and a marketplace, and we’re going to have a platform, Nandi Hub, that will allow brands to work with creators and fans to vote on creators’ projects and be rewarded for their engagement in culture.
How are you building your talent pipeline and forming those relationships?
Through my co-founder Jepchumba’s African Digital Art blog, we built a community of over 7,000 artists. That was a very strong base for us to grow from, but what we see is that the market is driven by fan bases and embedded communities of buyers. We formed a partnership with CSA, one of the largest talent agencies in Africa, and they work with Sony Music Africa, which allows us to tap into a wealth of artists that are cross-border in their sound. We’re taking advantage of having deep relationships with African content creators that have large global fan bases, to build out a platform that brings Black creators to the fore.
What’s driving the increased attention on Black artists and creators.
In contemporary art, there’s an insurgence of African art especially and Black art collectively. What we’ve learned from our discussions with Sotheby’s and Christie’s is that 70% of the time, those pieces are attracting Black buyers.
In the culture space, hip hop, Afrobeats, and other genres dominated by Black creators have large fan bases with global distributions. It’s a perfect marriage with crypto, which has a global audience. There’s a convergence that’s going to happen between streaming audiences — for movies and audio — and NFT marketplace participants.
Then you have gaming assets, which are a large part of the NFT space. Hip hop culture is really embedded within the esports and gaming space, which creates a strong opportunity for NFT-based in-game assets to collide with Black creators. People recognize that and are trying to translate individual projects into the metaverse — we as a company are trying to do it at scale, not on a project-by-project basis. We’re hoping to establish this Disney effect, where we’re affiliated with a lot of the top projects from Black creators.
For artists who are interested in dipping their toes into the Web3 waters, where do you suggest they start?
Start with your own reading material, so that you understand the flow of what’s happening in the space. You can read sites like NFT Now and Decrypt, and you can also join the Nandi Discord group, where you can have active conversations about the space.
If you’re already into Web3 and have a feel for what you want to do, you really have to pick your partner. If you’re a creator, it’s almost like picking your record label. You have to choose people you trust and who you think are technically competent, because it’s permanently on the blockchain. If you do a project that’s very successful but you can’t retrieve that money because the process wasn’t technically sound, you’ll have wasted your energy and ruined a relationship with your fans.
Then you’re responsible for building your own community, generating your own interest, and building relationships with amplifiers or influencers. My suggestion is going to a platform that actually understands the A to B of where you want to go. A platform like Nandi is the place to be.
Hi, I’m Andrew Chang - I created the Web3 Roundup to share what I’m learning in this space. I’ve spent my career at the forefront of the technology industry in areas such as crypto/blockchain (Former COO @ Paxos, co-founding partner of Liberty City Ventures), video and adtech. I learn by meeting with founders, investors and other thought leaders and approach Web3 with the same enthusiasm – and skepticism – I had about crypto/blockchain technologies 10 years ago.