The Codex Protocol is a decentralized registry for unique assets. Our first focus is on Art & Collectibles, a USD 2 trillion asset class where the history and authenticity of an item are a primary value driver. Like any unique asset, this means it is important to preserve information about the item and related transactions accurately to preserve the future resale value. In the art world, we use the term provenance. It is crucial to the assets and issues with it cause substantial friction in the market.
At Codex, we’ve built the infrastructure which allows provenance information about assets to be recorded on the blockchain and verified by third parties. Crucially, this is done in a way that enables the owner of the item to maintain privacy.
Then we have several partners ranging from auction software providers like LiveAuctioneers, Auction Mobility, to auction houses like Heffel, as well as online marketplaces and asset-backed lenders. This creates an ecosystem of validators and users.
In 2016-17 I wrote a Master’s thesis on the applications of blockchain for the art ecosystem whilst I was working at Sotheby’s and studying at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. I have for a very long time been interested in applications of blockchain technology in real-world use cases. Mark’s previous business, Lofty, was an online marketplace for Art and Collectibles. We met in 2017 and had a shared vision for how we could enable an easier and more accessible asset class.
Our primary focus is on building the best technology, so we were mainly focused on hiring developers and of course our CTO and co-founder John Forrest who joined us from Microsoft. Of course, it’s essential to have a well-rounded team, but nothing matters if your technology isn’t up to scratch! This approach has worked well. We launched the first application, Biddable, in May, launched the Codex to the mainnet in July, and we’ve won several awards along the way.
Aside from product launches, it’s been overwhelming to receive so much inbound interest from prominent partners such as Heffel Fine Art Auction House and Luxury Asset Capital, as well as from so many artists. It shows there is a real need for Codex and its associated applications. We also set up the Foundation for Art and Blockchain and raised over $190,000 by auctioning crypto-themed artwork at the Ethereal Summit in May. The funds will help artists to engage with blockchain and spread the word about the benefits of decentralization.
Like any startup founder, no two days are ever the same! I have a personal morning routine which involves a healthy breakfast, some yoga or a run, setting my intentions for the day and making a mental note of what I am grateful for. After that, it depends what I’m doing, where I am and who I am with. I also try to make sure the Codex team are empowered — I am privileged to work with people who are highly experienced and skilled, and I try to make sure that they can perform unencumbered and deliver on the Codex vision.
I don’t think it’s unique to Codex but there are many legal challenges associated with operating in the cryptocurrency sphere. Each jurisdiction has different approaches, so it was important for us to have different counsel from various jurisdictions to help us navigate the landscape. We placed a significant priority on launching Codex in a compliant way, as we have many partners and applications for which Codex will be important infrastructure.
Art is important as a record of culture and humankind, and as a critical reflection on society. It’s imperative that creators are empowered and rewarded for what they produce.
The Diversity. Philosophical, political, geographic, socio-economic and educational backgrounds create an environment in which I thrive. It’s also the fuel for destructive creativity. While we have a long way to go, I am optimistic that as more people engage with blockchain, we will see uses and applications we have yet to even dream of.
Business is all about people and integrity. Your co-founders, investors, team, partners, and customers are all important and your focus should be on delivering to them. Being an entrepreneur is a journey that is full of peaks,troughs, and surprises. I find it worthwhile to remind myself of my personal values often.
Understand why you need a blockchain. While blockchain may be trendy, the reality is that it’s a nascent,complex technology, and very often a centralized database can suffice. It’s important to understand the limitations of the technology. There is extraordinary potential, but there are few instances of enterprise-ready solutions. Finally, seek expert advice – there are a lot of people who claim to be blockchain experts but it is important to work with people who have in-depth knowledge and experience to make sure that you aren’t wasting time and money. Mostly though, get educated. Blockchain is going to disrupt and transform many industries in the next decade or so – it’s exciting!