Even though stocks on Wall Street fell sharply on Tuesday, Chika Uwazi was in a good mood as she rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
“How often do you see black people ringing bells, especially Africans,” asked the cofounder of Afropolitan, a company looking to create a digital country for the continent’s diaspora. “So we brought our community into the room.”
The one-hour event at Big Board, hosted by VanEck, a $50 billion deal, had just begun when traders—at least those with long positions—went home to nurse their wounds. The cryptocurrency bulls and investment manager came together. international and African investors. The emphasis was on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which have aspects of collaboration and investment.
“We felt their project was community-focused, just like ours,” says Matt Bartlett, head of NFT community and Web3 at VanEck.Co-hosted by Afropolitan, Money Manager aims to bridge the gap between cryptocurrency and conventional finance.
“Events like this are a story of accessibility,” says Ache Enziga, another co-founder of Afropolitan, “Traditionally we can’t even go into the room to find out what’s out there.”
Through Culture Capital, one of Afropolitan’s investors, the two businesses participated in the Cryptobahamas event in April. Since then, they have collaborated based on their shared commitment to serving the community by organizing events to inform the public about cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the potential of a digital nation.
At the event, people from the Afropolitan community, a group of investors, VanEck staff, and NFT holders all got together. On the exchange, floor were early supporters, childhood friends, and members of VanEck’s NFT and Web3 team, which was growing. After the bell rang, people in the 119-year-old board room of the Exchange ate sliders, chicken sandwiches, and drank wine while NFT images of VanEck and the Afropolitan were shown on the screen.
The Afropolitan’s seat at the table didn’t just include ringing the bell during a series of crypto incidents in New York City and the incident with VanEck. This year, Uwazi spoke at the SALT conference, and the cofounders of Afropolitan left Wall Street quickly to go to their next meeting, a dinner with UN officials.
VanEck is not the first company to invest in digital assets. It started an exchange-traded fund for bitcoin futures in November when the cryptocurrency market was worth $3 trillion. The investment manager started its first NFT program in May, and next month it will try to start an ETF for bitcoin in the US. The Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t decide on the plan right away because they haven’t yet approved a cash bitcoin ETF.
VanEck’s NFT collection is very different from most others. The asset manager made it clear that NFTs are not investments after the first announcement that a small number of crypto fans were sent directly to their wallets. This is called a “airdrop.” They are meant to be “digital memorabilia” that bring people together without breaking securities laws.
VanEck NFTs are pictures of the character Hammy, which is a parody of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary. CEO Jan Van Eck is very interested in these pictures. The company’s NFT program is meant to teach people about the history of the American financial system.
VanEck’s Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer Kristen Capuano thinks that the company’s crypto and digital assets are part of a “forward-looking” value system. “We are trying to find these very interesting or unique wallets of the market before they become mainstream,” she adds.
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