#15) Why I´m Investing in Lillian, Hanna and Novooi.com
Merging physical with digital (phygital), establishing an NFT marketplace, translating Web3
I’ve decided to invest mid six figures NOK (some cash + a lot of sweat) into Novooi, a new marketplace for Norwegian artisans, founded by Lillian and Hanna. I’m first money in and will take on the role of Executive Chairman. I will invest money, time, experience and network, converting 100s of hours of my time over the next year into equity (no cash for my time) to achieve a total 7% stake and feel like a cofounder of the company.
I am investing first and foremost in Lillian, with whom I’ve had regular syncs since last November. I was immediately struck by the shine and intelligence in her eyes, the quality of her design work (beautiful presentations and articulate thought) and her commitment to surface Norwegian creatives to the global market.
I’ve not done the “proper work” of crunching the numbers on a business model I believe in or the total cash requirement to achieve a stipulated exit within a stipulated timeline. I am in this for a design first, technology second approach, the learning experience, the market opportunities, my sense of the team’s grit already - but I also frankly think I will make a tidy pot of money at some stage down the road because of my focus on these factors rather than a quantified end game exit. Here I am making the case for gut instinct.
There are a few market opportunities here that have captured my fascination.
According to Norsk Industri, '“Norway lags (way way) behind Sweden and Denmark regarding export of finished goods, including furniture, design and craft.”
I’ve been actively researching up and coming Norwegian artisans since moving here 14 years ago, and I am well aware of just how much talent quietly whittles away in hidden nooks and crannies. I am also well aware of the power the Norwegian brand commands on the world stage, whether we are winning Olympic gold medals or powering Super Bowl ads with our consumption of electric cars or capturing your fascination with the starpower photos and videos of our nature. (I long ago adopted the tactic of introducing myself as “from Norway” when traveling in Europe, thereby guaranteeing a warm reception. Introducing myself as an American when Trump was President invited nothing but trouble).
For me the opportunity of Web3 is a translation opportunity. There are so many fascinating experiments and developments going on but it is very hard to access, to visualise, to start, and to try. Web3 UX, simply put, is terrible. But for us at Novooi, this represents an opportunity to bridge the physical with the digital - phygital.
The NFT marketplace was already several billions of dollars last year - different reports vary on scale, quite wildly, so I am not going to cite a specific number. The traditional art market was $50B. NFTs could catch up quickly. Creatives will power the growth of Web3.
We at Novooi will serve as a trusted ambassador to this bewildering space and provide a platform for creatives to make money from their works. Begone piracy!
According to Forbes:
NFTs are set to disrupt our notions of copyright and ownership. Because transactions are permanently tracked on a digital ledger, it’s possible to know who made the purchase, when it took place and how much the buyer spent. NFTs are a major economic innovation because they allow creatives anywhere in the world to share and receive payment for their work. This will likely incentivize the development of more NFTs, which consumers everywhere have demonstrated that they’re more than willing to purchase.
Novooi.com is already live with 55 artisans and major Norwegian brands, having bootstrapped its way into existence last September. 14,000 visitors with 1k in marketing, just press and word of mouth. Multiple physical meets digital collaborations already held with partners like Designers’ Saturday, Norske Mikrohus, Norsk Industri, Oslo Open and Oslos Supermarked. Rather than talking about doing something, these women just rolled up the sleeves and went live. Another reason I am investing.
Next up is a brilliant concept for an exhibition called Above & Below, the 22-24 April. This is the immediate use of my modest funding. This phygital exhibition explores what lies above and below the surface of an artist’s creation. The artworks themselves represent the above, through organic shapes and dreamlike figures. The photo and sound portraits of each artist guide the public below the surface - into their process and thoughts. The public is also invited to visit the makers community of Kroloftet and visit some of the artists’ studios. The objects can be purchased at novooi.com.
What’s an NFT?
I turn to Kaloh’s Newsletter on Substack for defining an NFT:
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain—a form of digital ledger—that can be sold and traded. Think about it as a digital good where it is easy to verify its authenticity, the creator, and the owner. It could be anything containing a file, such as a jpeg, video, book, song, or even unique items with different usages and utilities. It is also possible to link digital goods to physical objects.
If we take art for example, a breakthrough innovation, beyond proving authenticity, is the enablement of ongoing royalties to the artist. Every time the artwork in the form of an NFT is sold, an automatic royalty can be baked into the code. Beeple, for example, receives 10% every time an NFT of his is traded.
NFTs can have major impact on the physical art world as well by securing in the blockchain authentic origin of an artwork and confound the circulation of fakes by making this information in available in a publicly available ledger for all to see. The Swiss Fine Art Expert Institute (FAEI) startled the world in 2014 by reporting forgery could be responsible for half of art sold. So, billions annually, even if you take the estimate by FAEI with a big lump of salt.
Novooi and NFTs Going Forward
We believe in an inevitable flight to quality. There has been an initial mania where it seemed almost any NFT minted could find a secondary market and be flipped. We at Novooi believe in Curation and Community first.
We believe in the future democratization of the art world and the growth of underrepresented voices (and buyers). We want to foster both sides - support new artists and give them a direct connection to their community as well as foster crypto education and usher nervous yet curious buyers to this space (because they trust us).
You Are Welcome To Join
Isn’t the very purpose of art to change our perspective (even if just for a minute)?
And now we have the double barrel power of Art meeting Web3.
I feel like a child again. A 25 year old dotcom entrepreneur living in New York in the mid 90s launching his own internet gaming company.
To study the implications of blockchain is admittedly intoxicating. But this is not to say I’ve had the Web3 chip implanted in my neck and am now frothing at the mouth like a born again. I do believe though there are golden nuggets to be mined if you stay smart and focused on meaningful product.
Do let me know if you are interested in joining us as an investor.
As a bonus for those who made it all the way to the end, please listen to our inaugural podcast episode, WTF is an NFT?, with Lillian, myself and Tom Morgan, Managing Partner for one of Norway’s leading creative agencies, ANTI Bergen.