Our Chief Editor thought he has seen it all in tokenization, but tokenizing precious underwater artifacts, treasures yet to be found in wrecked ships is an adventure not to pass by. Here is the interview with Matthew Arnett, PO8 CEO, a Bahamian pioneer in digital assets with DNA of a pirate, who is to recover sunken artifacts and place them on blockchain:
Q1) I have seen examples of tokenization in stock, bonds, real estate, art, but tokenization of underwater artifacts… Please explain what exactly you are going to tokenize?
MA: Yes, our focus is the artifacts space. Being a Bahamian company, it’s just fitting for us to begin with underwater artifacts, but the plan is to service the all types of artifacts. As you may know, the Bahamas is home to many sunken shipwrecks dating back to 500 years ago when the Old Bahama Channel served as a preferred shipping route during the period of Spanish colonial trade.
These yearly treasure fleets loaded with heavy cargo of silver and gold from the Spanish Indies, known today as Peru and Colombia, made their way back to Old Spain via The Bahamas. Many of those Spanish Galleon treasure ships would end going down in bad weather, pirate attacks or even acts of war. So, now after the lifting of an 18-year old moratorium on marine salvage in The Bahamas, PO8 is one of the first – if not the first – to be granted a salvage permit to begin recovering sunken artifacts and tokenize them as a Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT). NFTs can then be effectively sold into the market without sacrificing the actual physical artifact.
Let me give you a hypothetical example. Let’s say we find a Pieces of Eight gold coin from the 1500’s with a pre-conservation value of let’s say $500. Peter in London who is an avid coin collector buys the NFT for $500 in ETH. The coin remains with the PO8 Foundation to be preserved and get ready for exhibition. When the coin is finally conserved, Peter will get his coin appraised with one of our third-party appraisers. The appraiser will take notice of the improved condition of the coin and give it a higher appraisal of $1500. Now Peter is sitting on a 3x return from his original investment. Peter now has to decide whether to keep the NFT, sell it or leverage it. Meanwhile the coin is being enjoyed museum goers. This is just one example of how we are disrupting the artifact conservation space with blockchain. It’s a win-win situation for the salvage operators, the archaeologists, the investors/collectors and the general public. Last thing we want is for these artifacts to hit the black-market or get sold at a high-end auction house and disappear to a private collector. We’re here to disrupt that and work with the commercial salvage and scientific community together.
Q2) May I refer to your project as tokenization of a treasure hunt?
MA: We try to stay away from those words unless you say “Treasures of the Mind”. Our project is really about asset management and the future of finance and without Blockchain it would be impossible. The way we see Non Fungible Tokens with a store of value that provides financial Benefits by generating possible earnings, hedges against inflation and currency devaluations.
NFTs are characterized with the ability to be borderless, fractional, 24hr global liquidity pools, insurable with no minimum investment that is real treasure. Not treasure hunting which tends to shine a negative light on what we’re trying to do. I rather hear we are tokenizing for impact. Think of us as a bridge to democratizing access to artifact investments. Or see us a bridging capital gaps for conservation projects. Artifact backed NFTs makes it possible to not only invest in an artifact, but it also funds the actual conservation of it. It’s a very sustainable approach with a trickle-down effect benefiting a lot of folks.
Think for a minute about the economic gain the artifacts will have on a nation. Let’s take The Bahamas for example. Bahamian divers will be hired during the fishing offseason to help with recovery efforts. A museum staffed by local Bahamians will house the physical artifacts. And, a Bahamian marketing and PR team will promote the Museum as a preferred tourism destination. You see where I am going with this, right? We’re creating economic impact for our partnering nations.
Q3) People who will buy your security tokens, what is they will get?
MA: They will receive equity interest in the company in the form of tokenized common share stock with a 40% ROI return. They can read through our prospectus for more detail information on the offering.
Q4) Judging by the traffic the news on your project attracted, you may have a very popular STO. How many and what investors do you target? How much do you want to raise?
MA: Yes, we are getting a lot of press from major new and crypto outlets like CNBC, BBC News, Forbes, Coin Telegraph, EFE News Agency, BLOCKTV News and many others. We are very grateful for the attention we are receiving from the international press. We have also been recognized by governmental organizations like Smart Dubai and global banks like the Inter-American Development Bank. It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by the international community.
We’ve been busy traveling the globe meeting with our loyal community and potential investors. We target institutional investor, Family Offices and accredited investors. Many like us because we present an opportunity to invest in an impact project. Other like the idea of how we are introducing artifact-backed artifacts as another form of investment, hence the us coining the term NFIVs, which are Non-Fungible Token Investments. Currently our security token offering is for US$50M.
Q5) Is fundraising the only goal in your announced STO?
MA: It’s a big part of it I would say, as it would be for any start up business. But awareness, education and building new partnerships also ties in to our KPIs. We’re very open to companies that can bring value to PO8 and vice versa. The problem we are seeing now is that there is just too much noise out there to filter from. I get hit up on LinkedIn daily with marketing proposals. Everyone wants to advise or everyone has connections to get you listed. Same with the conferences. It’s tiring to filter through that noise, but it does not stop us from listening to people who are serious about a mutually beneficial collaboration.
Q6) What about the regulatory regime? I mean those countries who have introduced regulation on tokenization talk about assets in classic sense. Are underwater artifacts assets?
MA: Yes, artifacts are assets. Our NFTs are asset backed with the underlying asset being the storied value of the artifact. So, yes they are securities on a blockchain and as such are subject to securities regulations. Non Fungible Tokens as investment vehicles or NFIVs allow investors to gain global access to previously centralized, bordered, fractioned asset classes reserved for the rich and the very rich. For example, investor collectors interested in collecting and/or investing in rare collectible assets like ancient metals, artifacts antiques, gem stones and art.
Q7) I cannot go past your personal background due to the object of your tokenization. Also, as a PADI Rescue Diver I am interested. Tell me about your prior underwater experience? Also, how did you arrive to the idea of tokenization in this field?
MA: I was born in the water so essential weekends as a child was defined by the ocean. Now when I was 12 years old The Goverment Of The Bahamas put a moratorium in place to protect our marine archeology treasures against mismanagement, corruption and illegal activities.I vowed to one day lead The Bahamas back into the water. Wait a second let’s go back because I need to explain how a 12 year old wants to be the world’s greatest explorer.
I must have been around 6-7 years old when my dad first told me about the history of the Island where I am from San Salvador which is the first land fall of the new world in 1492 when Christopher Columbus stumbled upon us. There was a Pirate by the name of John Watling, who for 31 years withstood the British colonist on Watling’s Island which is now San Salvador. The men and women of that era, pirates of a united cross section of nationalities laid the ground work for the DNA of that great island. Fast forward to the period when my Father and Uncle transported an ancient pirate’s chest for a prominently Bahamian man from San Salvador to the Capital Nassau. As a 6-7 year old listening to the circumstances surrounding that pirates chest fascinated me I was ready to commit to the Idea of discovery and exploration. So by 12 years old I had already decided that one day when I had “made it” I would spend the second half of my life exploring. Obviously that plan has come to fruition much earlier than I originally expected.
Q8) Which platform you are going to use and why?
MA: We are using the Ethereum blockchain since it has a more robust community of developers. We like everything about it. Smart contracts can easily be customized for certain business needs. For example, our security token was created using a specific standard for The Bahamas, making sure the underlying security is always complaint with the regulatory framework by the Securities Commission of The Bahamas.