I recently had the pleasure to speak with Ameer Carter, one of the founders of the Mint Fund. Mint Fund provides creators with funds needed to mint their first NFT, and pritortizes BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators; especially those outside of North America and the EU.
As such, Carter and his fund exemplify the “purpose not product” approach that I believe is so necessary to not only succeed, but to be able to have the type of mindset that allows you to take a longer-term view on emerging technologies in order to filter out the axiomatic noise and distraction that accompanies the hype cycles/loud naysaying that tends to accompany them.
Below is an excerpt from our conversation:
Ameer Carter: The thing that really is exciting to me, beyond the monetary value — and this is really hitting the creative immortality lens — is the fact that we can preserve culture. If I think about my own community, as a Black American, our traditions are oral mostly. We do have written books and things of that nature, but for a long time, none of our stuff could be recorded. We couldn’t even read or write for a certain period of time in American history. So we don’t have the same level or written works or painted works or things of that nature that are readily accessible to us. But people have always passed down things to us via song and via stories that we heard.
George Howard: This is something so near and dear to me. To me, this is the thing: Black culture has had their voices silenced, their art appropriated by white people, with no or little-to-no credit, and certainly no financial benefit. You know for me the thing that absolutely destroys me is the South Bronx, in the late seventies, and DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash actually taking Rock’n’Roll records — which were obviously built upon Black people’s rhythms — and Grandmaster Flash pulling the record backwards. To me, that was the gesture of reclamation. But even to this day, people kind of know Grandmaster Flash, but nobody knows Kool Herc, right? But everyone knows Eminem. Again, all props to Eminem, but this is why [Blockchain tech, social tokens, NFTs are] interesting to me: The provenance of creation, and particularly as it resonates to the actual creators. Not the rent seekers, not the people who just steal the ideas. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Amen Break; the video on YouTube where they track back the beat.
A: Absolutely. That’s what drives me too. There’s a lot of conversation of people saying, “Oh [crypto is] a scam, and it’s this that,” people are really caught up on the financial implications and the financial corrections that are happening and sometimes some of them are super exaggerated. When people harp on the numbers, they aren’t harping on the actual humanitarian efforts that this technology can actually provide us. People were saying, especially a lot of crypto maximalists were saying, “Oh, crypto can change the world.” Well it can, but the technology gives us the level of affordance, to where this thing could be much easier to do. But we still as people have to do that work. If we are not actively doing that….
Carter created the Mint Fund to — as he states above — achieve the purpose of “creative immortality.” Such an audacious aspiration is in fact achievable through Blockchain tech and its immutable ledger characteristic.
Historically, our “ledgers” have been very mutable, with the mutations tending towards accrediting white hegemony. Phrases, such as “white washing” and “history is written by the winners,” are increasingly seen for what they are: racist and oppressive.
This deeply overdue awareness is a sign of progress, but aspirational intent without structural change is meaningless. The two — aspiration and structure — can combine through technological advances such as Blockchain tech…. but only if and when access to such tools is universal.
Historically, of course, technology, education, finances, and so many other prerequisites for success, have been vastly more accessible to white males than to others, and simply by looking at the makeup of the majority of Blockchain-tech based initiatives, this unequal access is prevalent within this sector as well.
Tellingly, while Blau is credited as the original artist to utilize NFTs for his art, it was actually Black artists Connie Digital and Harrison First who utilized social tokens first. Credit is important; it builds brand equity, which generates influence and access. This so-called “audit trail” feature of Blockchain tech thus is much more than a technological innovation; it has the potential to be a cultural and equitable one as well. But…again, it requires access.
This is where Mint Fund and Carter come in:
A: Mint Fund basically works like this: If you are a Black person, an indigenous person, or a person of color, and you are global, no matter where you are. We largely deal with, well we want to capture more people that are outside of the United States and the EU because these communities are the folks that definitely have other challenges that folks in the United States and the EU by and large don’t have. Mainly, a lot of us have really good access to the internet for the most part. We have really good access to the tools and technology afforded to us to make art and to at least put it out digitally. And we do have easier access to crypto, even though, for instance, the United States has regulation. If you’re in New York City like myself, it’s definitely harder, but it’s not the end of the world. You can still make things happen. But for everywhere else, the cost of minting, especially at the time, when this thing was really really expensive, and it’s so largely expensive now, is a rent payment for many places outside the United States.
G: That’s exactly right. It continues the white male hegemony of access. If you don’t have the money to mint the NFT or the gas money, you’re just shit out of luck. So that’s the problem you’re solving right? You’re saying, we will supply you with the funds, or whatever access needed to mint it. And then what? How do you curate it? How do you support it? What’s your take in it? Do you get a piece of the action? How do you make your money?
A: Here’s the beautiful thing about Mint Fund: we want to build something that is truly altruistic. We’re a social enterprise. We’re not for-profit and no we’re not non-profit either.”
G: Are you a B Corp?
A: We’re building a DAO structure, in which allows us to also be registered as a B Corporation. Mint Fund is a part of an ecosystem that I’m building centered around folks of color; the goal is to become an artist-owned curation DAO that deals with the development of artists over time. I’m building a platform and also a social token that tackles both the commercial element and the exterior curation of artists and collectors. I am very, very excited to be bringing these projects to light. We’re currently looking for investment opportunities to enforce the commercial elements of what we’re building. The one thing I do want to mention about Mint Fund too is that part of it’s goal is to be an example as far as how people can build social enterprise within the crypto space. It would benefit not only those who are building it, but all of its participants, its entire community, in creating somewhat of a self-sustaining ecosystem for good.
Below is the entirety of my conversation with Mr. Carter, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
George Howard: Okay, I am sure you’re super busy, so let’s dive right in. I was really delighted to meet you on the call the other day. I was just really, really inspired by what you’re doing. Would you mind just giving a little background on yourself? Sorry to make you repeat yourself based on what we talked about yesterday. But how this amazing movement came to be?
Ameer Carter: Yeah, sure thing. So, basically, to get the whole preamble, I started in this sort of Blockchain space back in university. A friend gave me a wallet with some Bitcoin in it. I forgot it. I recovered it at some point, and then lost the keys again. So I haven’t been able to recover it since. It was one of those things where I was too smart for my own good after I recovered it the first time. And I was like, “I’m never going to forget this!” Wrote down everything, and I think just, because I kept moving a lot, I never actually really had it in the securest place. So, I had a pretty big seed phrase and I knew most of it except for two letters, only two words. And I do not remember what they are. If I knew where they were. I had like one try left. So it’s one of those I am just going to wait twenty years until quantum computing exists and I can hack it myself.
G: Sounds like a plan.
A: At that point, I was kinda like, you know what? I don’t know what I’m doing. I am going to wait until I actually can spend some time on this legitimately. So, fast forward to about maybe four or five years after that, I am in Nashville, Tennessee. I worked with a company on the side that was working on Blockchain technology for Logistics. And so I am like, “Oh cool, Blockchain, nice. I have heard about Blockchain before.”
G: What year was this about? And what was your background? Did you go to school?
A: When I was in university, this was like 2011, I was studying everything, and then I finally landed on service design after two and a half years. Most of my tract was in behavioral science, so I spent a lot of time studying anthropology. And then service design was great because a lot of it was rooted in behavioral science first, before actually going into design topics and methodologies. Thankfully, even though I had spent most of my earlier years in uni learning graphic design, architecture, a little bit of fashion, some industrial design, and even interactive design, game development, I was able to take a lot of those courses and kind of like round those out. I sort of replaced them with other classes that I would have taken with the normal curriculum. I managed to hack college to make it my own thing.
G: I love that. You’re a polymath; you’ve got lots of varied interests. I always find that those are the best types of entrepreneurs. You could argue that, “Oh you’ve got to really specialize in computer science or whatever.” And there’s an argument for that, but I think that if you can have that humanities approach and then marry that with technology. That tends to be better over the long term.
A: I totally agree because I feel like it’s one of those things where you start to train your muscles to be more empathetic and sympathetic towards humanity. So, you have this ability to really kinda look at things from both an objective and a subjective lens, and kinda know when to toggle between the two. So that you can get the best melding of how to approach problems. It’s obviously not perfect, but you get closer to ensuring that whomever you’re servicing, whatever kind of community that you’re a part of, that it comes from a real place. It’s not just, “I am building a thing, and I am going to supplant it into a community.” But it’s more of, these solutions are birthed from being a part of a community and really getting a kinship. I feel like that’s when you make the best work, when everyone feels involved.
G: Well for sure. Coining a phrase here: it’s like “technology imperialism.” It’s like, “Okay, we technologists are going to hoist this onto you, consumer, via our vantage point.” Which is bullshit right? This is one of the things that is so attractive to me about what you’re doing specifically. And but what I hope is kind of, not to throw away this term, is web free generally. I was a guest on a podcast today, and I was talking through one of the most interesting things to me about Web 3 VR is that it could create empathy. Like, I watch my 15 year old son play Fortnite, and he’s a cis-gendered white young man, but he’ll play all day as a person of color female, and like that’s innately empathy building. Yet, people don’t think about that. That’s what the tech is there for. Tech for tech’s sake is just jive. It goes back to the whole purpose, not product. So again, you’re an interesting kind of humanities-based person but that also knows how to write code, and got interested in Blockchain. Is that a fair assessment?
A: Yeah, pretty much. I remember coding as early as right before MySpace. I had to learn how to create certain accounts to get into certain subnets, because you had to be a certain age. And I was just like, “Okay, well I’m seven, but I wanna get into this fashion blog. How do I trick this forum to know that I’m thirteen and above to get into this fashion blog?” Shoutout to Aim chat for really having me. The first group of pen pals. These people were definitely nineteen or more and they’re talking to me and they’re like, “Yeah, so how old are you?” And I’m like, “Yeah, you know I’m thirteen”. And they’re like, “What?? You talk like you’re seven”. It’s like “yea…”
G: Again, not to harp on this too much. I remember, I’m much older than you are, but in you know, in 1990… I don’t know, the mid 90’s getting on use groups to go nerd out about bands that I loved. And like how hard it was at the time to access the internet. Again, back to the podcast that I was on this morning, they were like, “Oh, well George, it is so hard to transfer uniswap and all this stuff.” And I was like, “Yeah? do you remember how hard it was to get on the fucking internet in 1998? You think it’s always going to be this hard? You’re not thinking. You think CoinBase is going to just sit there with their billions of dollars on their balance sheet and not try to onboard people more easily? This is the time of opportunity.” Anyway, so you were using technology, or you were hacking your way into things that had interest to you. It wasn’t about the technology, it was like, “I want this holy grail of knowledge here, and in order to get there I have to figure out this convoluted path.” Right?
A: Pretty much. That’s exactly how it’s always been for me. It’s like college, “I want to learn all these things, but I have four years to do it, how do I make this work?”
G: Okay, so fast forward for me a little bit. You go, and you’re in North Carolina and you’re working somewhere, and you start hearing about Blockchain. What’s the pathway you survived that kind of “Crypto Winter” post 2017 or whatever. When did you start building this particular project and what was the genesis story of that?
A: After Nashville, I moved back to New York. I kinda did a brief stint with Celsius at the same time I was working with another start up called Romeo. I was in all the Meetups; I used Meetup a lot to find a lot of different Blockchains. Because I was just like, “Ok, I am in it again, I wanna learn everything I can about it.” This is when I first learned about Ethereum. So I said, “Oooh, we can build things on this?” Okay, I am going to keep this in mind. So that was like 2016, 2017. Into 2018, I was doing a lot of hack-a-thons with Consensus and Bitcoin. I was in the middle of an art residence in Japan. At the same time I was doing a Blockchain competition for healthcare and ended up placing second, which was great because it extended my Japan trip because I had more money. It kinda hit me then where I was like, “Okay this is doable.” Not only is a product that I have made validated by a center of judges that were very instrumental in ushering in Ethereum, at least to a large group of people. But it also said that I had the right kind of thinking as far as approaching problems.
G: Right. That kind of, I don’t like this term either but like, “design thinking”, where it’s like, “Okay let’s work backwards from the idealized situation.” The technology is just there to support it. Not like, falling in love with the technology. I mean, I got interested in Blockchain not because “Oh, Bitcoin is so interesting,” though it is, but okay could this potentially solve an enduring problem for me? Which is helping artists create sustainable careers. Then you start going, “Okay, this particular hammer might be good for that job.”
A: Exactly. So in 2020, last year in the summer, I’m chilling, I went to go visit my girlfriend in Oregon. We were riding around, and I’m like harping over CryptoKitties. I remember seeing it back in 2017, but I didn’t think anything of it. And I came back to it saying, “I wanna make a really cool art project, but something about this Kitties project is super interesting to me.” I started just started going through it all.
G: Did you go down the “Rare Pepe” rabbit hole at all?
A: I did not actually. I knew that it always existed but…
G: Well, Rare Pepes were kinda NFTs before they were a thing. Well you know all this stuff is not new. But anyway go ahead, sorry.
A: Yeah you’re right. Well the funny thing was, it wasn’t just something that grabbed my attention. So I was just like, “Well…ok that looks interesting, that’s a weird frog like fine.” I have come to respect it, but it was definitely one of those things where I was like “those Kitties look really cool.” And then I was like, “Okay NFT.” So then my friend Latan hit me up and said, “Yo, I am selling my Instagram filters on the Blockchain.” And I’m like, “Dude what are you talking about? You’re selling your filters on your Blockchain?” He’s like, “Yo yes, here’s my link.” He sends me a link to Rarible and sure enough, here I go seeing his filters on the Blockchain.
G: So this is recent then? So, now we have fast forwarded to pretty recent?
A: So now we’re recent. This is last summer. This is in May-ish, right before the summer starts. And I’m like, “Dude, do you know what this is?” He’s like, “Yeah man this is the future.” I’m like, “Nah dude, this is the beginning of creative immortality, this is nuts.”
G: I love that. “The Beginning of Creative Immortality.” That might be the title of this article, that’s awesome.
A: Because it’s like… My wheels were just moving. I’m like, okay so, everything that I knew about Blockchain dealing with provenance right, and dealing with this ledger of truth; this immutable thing that once it’s there you can’t get rid of it.
A: Creative media from the digital perspective makes sense to exist on chain because it’s just much easier to track of course and I can now always find out exactly who made all my favorite things that I’ve loved and grown up using from Subnet Culture, Tumblr, everything right? But then also I’m like, capturing value is much easier to do. You can definitely assign a particular value to this. People can buy this, and because everything is recorded like, it’s much easier to know how things grow in value overtime.
G: You actually get to something resembling, you know a fair market economy. Where we’re willing buyers and sellers. In my particular field around the music business, that’s just not a thing. The price of music is so unbelievably arbitrary and governed and everything else. It’s infuriating because in the customer’s mind the price of music is zero right?
A: Exactly. We’ve been taught, when we’re dealing with Instagram and all these other media outlets that we provide media and it’s profitable for everyone else but us.
G: Except for the artist.
A: And so it’s like, well now we have the ability to say, “I could comfortably build a community of people that love what I do, and will support the media that I create and I can live a healthy life in that sense.” The idea of the starving artist dynamic could be gone. Then the thing that really was exciting to me, outside just the monetary value, and this is really hitting the creative immortality lens, is the fact that we can preserve culture. If I think about my own community as a Black American right? Our traditions are oral mostly. We do have written books and things of that nature, but for a long time, none of our stuff could be recorded. We couldn’t even read or write for a certain period of time in American history right. So we don’t have the same level or written works or painted works or things of that nature that are readily accessible to us. But people have always passed down things to us via song and via stories that we heard.
G: You’re breaking my heart. This is something so near and dear to me, and I am sorry I don’t want to cut you off. But like…
A: No go for it!
G: To me, this is the thing. The Black culture has had their voices silenced, their art appropriated by white people, with no or little to no credit, and certainly no financial impact. You know for me the thing that absolutely destroys me is you know the South Bronx, in the late seventies, and DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash actually taking Rock’n’Roll records, which were obviously built upon Black people’s rhythms, and Grandmaster Flash pulling the record backwards. To me, that was the gesture of reclamation. But even to this day, yea people kinda know Grandmaster Flash, but nobody knows Kool Herc right? But everyone knows Eminem right? Again, all props to Eminem or whatever, but it’s like…I don’t know you said it so much better than I did, but that’s, again, that’s why this stuff is interesting to me. When I say this stuff for technology, around the provenance of creation, in particularly as it resonates to the actual creators. Not the rent seekers, not the people that kinda just steal the ideas. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Amen Break, the video on Youtube about they track back the beat.
G: You know what I mean? It’s like. Fuck. I was showing that to my students long before Blockchain was a thing. And then when I saw Blockchain I was like, “This could track back to that kind of genesis beat, and not just give credit, but give the fucking money to the people that invented it.” That’s what motivates me on this.
A: Absolutely. That’s what drives me too. I think when there’s a lot of conversation of people saying, “Oh it’s a scam, and it’s this that and a third.” People are really caught up on the financial implications and the financial corrections that are happening and sometimes some of them are super exaggerated. When people harp on the numbers, they aren’t harping on the actual humanitarian efforts that this technology can actually provide us. People were saying, especially a lot of crypto maximalists were saying, “Oh, crypto can change the world.” Well it can, but the technology gives us the level affordance, to where this thing could be much easier to do. But we still as people have to do that work. If we are not actively doing that, you know what I’m saying?
G: Absolutely. Technology is agnostic, I mean, I believe that Meg Whitman and Jeff Bezos and whatever fucked up Web One, they fucked up Tim Burner’s kind of vision right? And Zuckerberg and some others fucked up Web Two. It’s on us. You, me, and others to not let the same thing happen with Web Three. And it could! We have to fight against centralization. That’s really what it comes down to. Patreon is no better…it’s just a platform!
G: Well, I wanna hear more about the Mint Fund. There’s not enough diversity of representation in this space, and one way to hopefully not recreate the past mistakes is to not have it just be a bunch of white dudes setting the agenda. So, talk a little bit about what you’re doing to address that.
A: Absolutely man. So after going through this sort of realization that this space could actually be super powerful. I just went to work. I started minting my own stuff as an artist, really just trying to get into the community. I was in every discord for every platform. I was trying to say, “Okay, well when we’re doing these things, how do we make sure that we ensure that other people have an entry in?” You know, anyone can check my Twitter especially from September on, I was always talking about accessibility. Just making sure even people who had different challenges could also access the same technology that we have, before I even got into racial and ethnic diversity. But even with that said, I was like, “Okay, art is great, but there’s a greater purpose that I could do here. I have a design background, I can code, I can galvanize a group of people to help me build a common cause. Why don’t I focus a lot of my effort in doing that?” Art I’m always going to do, but I think that takes somewhat of a backseat towards this effort of making things better.
G: That’s just a different type of art project man. Right?
G: It’s all art. So I couldn’t agree more, but I do think that it’s really important that you’re an artist and a designer as well as a technologist. I think that it’s bad when we bifurcate those things. It’s me being a musician and an artist, that shapes my thinking in a much different way than someone that doesn’t have that. It also goes back to the keyword that I think you used: your purpose. You know my whole little slogan is “Purpose not Product.” But that purpose has to be bigger than yourself right? So what is your purpose? What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Taking the technology aside, what are you trying to do with this venture?
A: For Mint Fund, there’s two levels. For me being a participant in this space, my goal is to activate and engage Black Culture into crypto. This just means that we have the ability to document and record our cultural past, and build our cultural future at the same time. Because, in order to achieve that level of creative immortality, we need to be able to reconcile with the things we’ve already made. It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be in the same form of an NFT or whatever the case is, but it does mean that we should have all of our references available and easily accessible. I always think about the institutions like Fisk or institutions like Yale for instance, or even the malma right? How much of our work has been purchased over the years that has never seen the light of day? That has never been shown in a show before, that hasn’t been intellectualized, that doesn’t have the type of attention or appeal that centralized institutions assign it to have or to not have. How many of us artists couldn’t have existed had we yet seen ourselves in the thirties, and the forties, and the fifties right? I think of some of the artists who had some of that opportunity that you know? I forget his name, but he was a janitor…
G: Willie Dixon
A: Yes! Thank you. I think about his story, and I’m like well, “Crypto can enable more of these things.” Where we have this level of patronage that folks are looking at cultural folks and saying: “I wanna help you make work. I want to fuel your creativity.” Right?
G: Yeah. Without a lot of intermediaries and rent seekers. And it can also…sorry go ahead. I interrupted.
A: No no no, you’re good. I like the back and forth actually, it’s fine.
G: I just don’t like interrupting people, and your thoughts are so eloquent. I don’t mean to screw your flow up.
A: I appreciate you.
G: My point is that it’s not just, I mean, everything you’ve said is dead on. What’s interesting to me is it becomes less of a zero-sum game. For instance, I don’t think that the Rolling Stones or the Beatles wanted to just steal from Black artists. I think they genuinely loved those artists, but there was no mechanism in place for them. I mean they could’ve done better. I’m not being an apologist for them by any stretch. But I don’t think that there was a structure in place in which they could easily say, “Hey look, you know, Willie Dixon.” Or any of these people who were clearly their heroes, right? Lightnin’ Hopkins, you know all these kind of progenitors, like there was no mechanism for them to go, “Alright look, if you buy a Rolling Stones record, A: Here’s exactly where we copped that lick from. And B: When you buy our music, some of it is going to flow through.” That’s the hope for me, and in that way, it can be a much more equitable exchange of things.
A: That’s the thing that’s super exciting, that we’re starting to build the mechanisms for this type of redistribution. Because ultimately, Outward Love, even within our practice as a designer, we pull from so many different sources. Just being able to say, “If it wasn’t for the shoulders of these four or five designers, some of my implementation, my thought process or whatever wouldn’t be here, and so as a result here’s a way of me giving back to that.” As these things build up, we start building a society that is all about neutralism, and giving back to one another, because we recognize when something of value has touched us, that we instantly want to do something with that. It’s not just a selfish thing, where we just take it in and say a “Thank you.” But it’s more like, “Because you have done this thing to me, and you’ve helped me realize something, or unearth something within myself, how can I repay you?” Well now there’s a mechanism for that. This value, the best thing about crypto too is that, the value isn’t necessarily just monetary. The way we can distribute value could be completely subjective to the other person that’s giving it.
G: Well that’s what’s been so fucked up in this kind of era of homo-economicus, where we’ve decided in this Friedmanite way that we are all just purely carrot and stick. You know, incentive based, and that incentive is money. Bullshit right? We knew a ton of things because we want to. We as humans cannot possibly keep secrets about things that we love right? As a fan of an artist, the last thing I want the artist to do for me is pay me to share their art. I don’t want that. If I’m in love with some band or some visual artist or whatever, and I turn others on, the last thing I want is like, “Oh here George, here’s twenty dollars.” What I want is, A: Recognition for the Ego. And then B: I want access to more of their stuff. So you can create different types of incentives, and it’s not just purely kind of pecuniary, in dollar form. That’s what enables us. Really what it does, is it empowers the thing that all artists need, which is to shift the burden of promotion from themselves to their fans, and coordinate that, and grow that Net Promoter Score. So how does this all manifest around the Mint Fund? How did it come about? Where are you now? Where are you going?
A: So, Mint Fund. February probably 2nd I think, friend of mine, Latan again who turned me onto this and sent me the Rarible link, so thank you Latan. You can put me down the rabbit hole of greatness. He was like, “Hey,” on Twitter he said, “I wanna mint on Zora, but minting is expensive, I wanna crowdfund it. Whoever puts in, I have ten spots, you’ll get a portion of the proceeds if you pitch in.” So I’m like, “You know what, it’s my friend, Imma just hook him up, so here’s fifty bucks.” One of my founding partners of Mint Fund as well, Carlos, before we found anything together, reached out and was like, “Dude, whatever you’re usually doing in this space is super interesting, and I want in. I don’t even know what it is, but I want in, so here’s ten bucks.” And I am like “bet,” so I send that over too. A week later, February 11th, I get a cash out of six hundred bucks. Like what?? Why would Latan pay me six hundred dollars? I go on Twitter, and realize it sold. I pinged Carlos and said, “Dude, you just got a hundred bucks.” He said, “No way.” And I’m like, “Okay, so look, what do we want to do with this? How do you want your hundred?” He said, “You know what keep it. Better yet, how about this? Let’s just pay it forward. You have a hundred bucks, I have a hundred bucks. We both have some Zora invites, let’s go ahead and put out a Tweet and say, “We’re going to pay it forward.” So I do. The Tweet goes bananas. Folks are like, “Yo, I want one!” Actually, a lot of people really were saying before they even wanted one, a lot of people were saying, “I want to donate as well. Here, I have a hundred bucks, I’ve got an invite, I got this, I got that.” I’m like, “Oh my God, everyone wants to give. This is amazing!” So then Zora comes to me and says, “Well we have fifty invites and ten Eth, let’s do it then.” Of course! Why not? So I go to Carlos I say, “So, Zora just offered me ten Eth, I am not accepting that in my wallet; we need a different wallet for this. Let’s just set up a multi sig and just make this official.” He’s like, “Yeah, let’s just make it a Mint Fund and we will just pay for people’s mints.”
G: Did you do it as a DAO? Or did you set it up as an LLC? Or how did you do it?
A: It’s being set up as a DAO.
G: Nice, Did you see what happened in Wyoming?
A: Yes, it’s amazing news.
G: That’s a game changer right?
A: It is. It is. I was waiting for that too. Thankfully. The way all of this kind of came together was, I went to Carlos and said, “Dude, we just need to have a multi sig, because if Zora is providing the funds and one of them needs to be on it, me and you. Do we need anybody else?” He said, “Well, you’re in the Seed Club cohort too, so we’ve gotta talk to Jess.” So I’m like, “Bet, let’s talk to him.” And we get together and we’re like, “Alright so we’re going to make a fund. We’ve got some initial capital, let’s spin up some forms. Let’s just make this whole thing official.” We knew we had people who wanted in, but what’s our mission? What we are dedicated and devoted to: Black and indigenous people of color for the most part. People who are everywhere globally, but we want to focus on more of the global, not just the United States and the U.K., because it’s much easier just to get those people. I’ll spin up a website. Took us another week, we got everything set up. Once we had our debut set of tweets and everything, our engagement was insane. We had over 1,000 plus people follow us on Twitter, we had over 300 submissions within the first two weeks. It was a madhouse just trying to figure out how everything was going to work. We’re like “Oh my God. Okay, now we got a Discord. Let’s get all this together. We have over 1,000 people join our Discord.” So it was rockin’ and rollin’. About the end of the month, two weeks later, after our debut, we had our first thirty five folks mint with us. So then after we had gone through the growing pains of figuring out how to do workshops, and how to onboard our process of taking funds from the multi sig and sending it out to each of the different participants, we were able to put out a second batch that we released last week. So, we are going to be churning out batches every two weeks, which is going to be very very nice for us to get through.
G: So talk through exactly, sorry to interrupt, talk through exactly what it does. For people who don’t know. How does it work?
A: Mint Fund basically works like this: If you are a Black person, an indigenous person, or a person of color, and you are global, no matter where you are. We largely deal with, well we want to capture more people that are outside of the United States and the EU because these communities are the folks that definitely have other challenges that folks in the United States and the EU by and large don’t have. Mainly, a lot of us have really good access to the internet for the most part. We have really good access to the tools and technology afforded to us to make art and to at least put it digitally. And we do have easier access to crypto, even though, for instance, the United States has regulation. If you’re in New York City like myself, it’s definitely harder, but it’s not the end of the world. You can still make things happen. But for everywhere else, the cost of minting, especially at the time, when this thing was really really expensive, and it’s so largely expensive now, is a rent payment for many places outside the United States.
G: That’s exactly right. It continues the white male hegemony of access. If you don’t have the money to mint the NFT or the gas money, you’re just shit out of luck. So that’s kinda the problem you’re solving right? You’re saying, we will supply you with the funds, or whatever access needed to mint it. And then what? How do you curate it? How do you support it? What’s your take in it? Do you get a piece of the action? How do you make your money?
A: Here’s the beautiful thing about Mint Fund: we want to build something that is truly altruistic. We’re a social enterprise. We’re not for-profit and no we’re not non-profit either.
G: Are you a B Corp?
A: We’re building a DAO structure, in which allows us to also be registered as a B Corporation.
G: So that’s interesting. I’ve done a lot of work, well I have a colleague who works for me that’s really, really down the rabbit hole on the public benefit corp thing. I haven’t even thought of a DAO for a B Corp. That’s Brilliant. Go ahead.
A: The thing that we wanna do is a few things. The first thing is, for artists who join us, we will pay your fees. And for now as gas fees are so expensive, paying the gas fee is by and large the primary objective. We wanna make sure that you have the freedom to mint unfettered by cost, and secondarily, as we start building and having our extensive artist community contribute, we’re having resources at your disposal. So where you can mint. If you don’t want to mint on the Ethereum Blockchain, what else is viable? Viable meaning: What has an audience? It’s not just about minting on an arbitrary platform, but it’s also about minting in a place that has some sort of validity and marketplace where people are interested in acquiring work from you. Because, we’re not necessarily super well versed in every other Blockchain outside of Ethereum. I can’t tell someone to just say, “Find something on Tezos outside of HEN, and mint something there, we’ll figure it out.” We need to make sure that our bases are established. But because we have been building a lot on Ethereum, it’s a lot easier for us to say, You can mint almost anywhere on Ethereum because there are tools in place, there’s a foundation that’s already set up to where we have different protocols in which we can call this information. We can look through the smart contracts to really make sure everything is really legitimate, so that A: Your work is definitely going to exist, and that it’s not necessarily reliant on the platform itself to exist in order for your NFT to exist.
G: That’s the whole point of decentralization. It’s one of the fundamental elements of Blockchains that I’ve seen get swept under the rug, and this is something that we, and I mean you, me and others that share our values have to fight for. Blockchains that do not interoperate, you know private Blockchains? They are bad. They’re counter to this whole ethos, and will result in exactly what happened with the first kind of Web One and Web Two. Okay, so I get it. So you’re helping guide people through, giving them some chance of network effect based on audience etc. What’s your longer term vision? Where does this go?
A: Right. Longer term for the Mint Fund is: An artist owned community. We want the artist to own the Mint Fund as the Mint Fund gets larger.
G: So an exit to community kind of strategy.
A: Exactly. Exit to community. Exactly. That’s one. The Second is that our goals are much more ambitious than just paying for Mint Fees. We want to develop artists. We want to make sure that when you join the Mint Fund, that you’re armed not only with the ability to mint, but the network and the tools that enable you to make your best and most ambitious projects. We want to be an artist incubation spot.
G: Hey, so I will just go on record right now. If you need anyone, you know for better and worse, I am a JD/MBA college teacher. If you need anybody to come in and give a kind of 101 type of shit on marketing, entrepreneurship, legal shit, I’m your man.
A: Let’s do it
G: To me, that’s as important as everything else. I don’t think you can conjoin the two. I’ve been screaming at anyone to listen to me. We as a society, and certainly colleges, particularly colleges that have arts based programs, need to one: recognize the racial issue. Recognize that we have built systemic issues. We’ve built upon racial inequities, and we need to reconcile with that, and at the same time because they’re related, we have to teach people who don’t have the same access to courses like I have, and be able to become an MBA and all that stuff. We have to give them the tools, or we will have these information asymmetries that we will just perpetuate. So the two go together to me.
A: Absolutely. The thing is, it’s one thing to be an artist in this space, but it’s a whole other thing too to find out, “Okay, now what? I’ve made some money. What do I do?” And it’s like… If Crypto is about decentralization and it’s about being your own bank and doing everything. The sovereignty is tied to you and your permission and your level of access, whatever you give. Then we have to make sure that everyone understands that entire landscape. And that art, and the creative craft in this building is just the gateway into the rest of the crypto ecosystem.
G: If we don’t, the same thing will happen. The people that have the knowledge, and that tends to be white males because they have the access to the knowledge will take advantage of those who don’t. That’s what has happened historically forever. It’s on us to not let that happen. We should mint a token around education. This is the thing that gets me excited. We can create incentives gamified. You go through this course, you get more tokens. There’s lots of ways we can do it. But I’m telling you, if we don’t, the bad actors, and even the not bad actors, people will just use their knowledge asymmetries to their own benefit. That’s what humans do. So we have to flatten that.
A: Right. Absolutely.
G: I love what you’re doing. I appreciate your time, I know how busy you are. Any last thoughts? Anything I haven’t touched on that you’d like to get out there? I’ve loved this conversation so much.
A: Yeah, absolutely. Mint Fund is a part of an ecosystem that I’m building centered around folks of color. And I’m also, where Mint Fund is, the goal is to become an artist-owned curation DOW that deals with the development of artists over time. I’m building a platform and also a social token that tackles both the commercial element and the exterior curation of artists and collectors that is currently being developed right now. I am very very excited to really be bringing these projects to light. We’re currently looking for investment opportunities to enforce the commercial things we’re building. The one thing I do want to mention about Mint Fund too is that part of it’s goal to being…you know what I want is to create an example as far as how people can build social enterprise within the crypto space. It would benefit not only those who are building it, but all of its participants, its entire community, in creating somewhat of a self-sustaining ecosystem for good. I truly believe that crypto can enable us to do this. Not just from the perspective of funding artists, and then having these artists then give back, but also in the aspect of building public goods, open sourced tools in that nature. We had released a project called “Bounty” where we had created a permissionless auction method, which is different than the auction methods that currently exist right now. You have to have access to Foundation, SuperRare, Nifty Gateway, in order for you to have this type of auction method available to you, but now we’ve built an open sourced version of that. Completely different curve, not taking from any of the stuff that currently exists. Something that gives a wider variety to the rest of us so that we can also create the same compelling stories. We’ve noticed in this space within crypto that as folks use auctions, there’s a huge narrative element that happens, and we wanted to make sure every artist has a chance to capture that same magic. So it’s stuff like that too that I think is really going to position us as a great example as how you can build social enterprise, how you can build tools for the people, and of course benefit both financially and socially, and of course create that impact that could hopefully last much longer than myself. I want Mint Fund and a lot of the projects I work on hopefully to exist long after I’m gone, that would be amazing. Not because I made it, but just because it’s always growing and innovating as being a force of good. If it gets to a point to where we’ve totally balanced the scales, and we no longer need this level of equity in that, we’re really looking to figure out exactly how people have the level of access they need to things. Then sure, then it may not need to exist anymore. But so long as this battle needs to be fought, I hope it’s around and fighting the good fight.
G: Ameer you’re a visionary, you’re a hero, you’re inspiring. What you’ve done already is monumental. What you’re going to do coming up is going to change the planet. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the time. This has just been an amazing conversation. I really appreciate you.
A: I appreciate you, thank you so much. Everything you were mentioning too was super spot on. I would love to have you do a nice workshop with some legal, especially within this space, because it’s so unknown. Even though I think, we can still look to the copyright stuff and a lot of the legal precedence that have already been set when it comes to creative media. But I think being able to give people that level of realism like saying, “Hey, what you’re doing is still a, you know especially when finance is involved…”
G: You’re still a sink, you’re taking the image, and you’re slamming it together, and if you’re not careful you’re going to get sued into oblivion. So, you name the time and you name the date, and I’m there my man.
A: Awesome. We’ll schedule something. You said you were in the Discord right?
A: Alright cool, so I am just going to ping you there. We’ll create a room, and we’ll jam out in the channel and then we’ll brainstorm some stuff for sure.
G: Thank you again. Thank you so much.
A: Dude thank you, this is invaluable. I love this man, thank you so much.