With Wall Street stocks closing sharply lower on Tuesday, Chika Uwazie found herself ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange in an upbeat mood.
“How often do you see blacks ring the bell, especially Africans?” asked the co-founder of Afropolitan, a company looking to create a digital diaspora country on the continent. “That’s why we brought our community into the room.”
As traders — at least those with long positions — head home to lick their wounds, an after-hours event was in full swing at the Big Board, hosted by VanEck, the $50 billion investment manager turned crypto bull, who Bringing together Afro-Polish and international investors. The focus has been on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which share elements of investment and collaboration.
“We realized that their project was community-centric, like ours,” says Matt Bartlett, head of the NFT community and Web3 at VanEck. The fund manager is co-hosting events with Afropolitan, seeking to combine cryptocurrency with traditional finance.
“Events like this are the story of access,” says Ichi Inziga, co-founder of Afropolitan, “traditionally we can’t even go into a room to see what’s in there.”
The two companies were linked at a CryptoBahamas event in April by Culture Capital, an Afropolitan investor. Since then, they have worked together based on their community-centric approaches, and hosted events to educate people about cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and what a digital country could look like.
The event brought together the Afropolitan network of community members and investors with VanEck employees and NFT holders. The exchange floor was filled with early adopters, childhood friends, and members of the growing VanEck team NFT and Web3. After the bell rang, sliders, chicken sandwiches, and glasses of wine streamed through the exchange board room as images of VanEck’s and Afropolitan’s NFTs captured screens in the 119-year-old room.
The bell ringing and the event with VanEck was only part of the Afropolitan seat at the table during a cycle of crypto events in New York City. Uzi was a speaker at this year’s SALT conference and the Afro-Polish founders quickly left Wall Street for their next meeting – a dinner with UN officials.
VanEck’s entry into digital assets is nothing new. It launched a bitcoin futures trading fund in November, when the crypto market peaked at $3 trillion in value. The investment manager then started his first NFT program in May before attempting to launch a US ETF for bitcoin the following month. A decision on the proposal has been delayed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has not yet approved a Bitcoin Cash ETF.
Unlike most NFT kits, VanEck’s is categorically non-commercial. Sending the asset manager straight to their wallets, or downing the air, to a few crypto enthusiasts after the first announcement, the asset manager clarified that NFTs are not investments. Means “Digital Souvenirs” that aim to build a community while not going against securities regulations
VanEck NFTs are portraits of Hammy, a caricature of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury, of particular interest to CEO Jan van Eck. The goal of the company’s NFT program is to educate people about the history of the American financial system.
Kristen Capuano, managing director and chief marketing officer at VanEck, sees its digital and digital assets as part of a “forward-looking” value system. “We strive to find these very unique and interesting pockets of the market before they become mainstream,” she adds.
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