Art Authentication in the Digital Age: Mamadou Ndiaye’s RE:LINK

Author
Hua Wang
Published
January 26, 2024

In a digital age where the global marketplace is at our fingertips, Mamadou Ndiaye, co-founder of RE:LINK, is using technology to transform the art and collectibles industry.

RE:LINK is a collectibles marketplace that uses AI and blockchain to provide proof of authenticity and ownership for artwork, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

Based in Philadelphia, Ndiaye’s journey began with a vision to empower artists and creators who often struggled to monetize their intellectual property. Ndiaye met his co-founder, Derek Gauthier, at Venture for America, an entrepreneurship fellowship for recent college graduates who are interested in startups.

“We talked about how members of the African diaspora and other underrepresented communities will often create really cool intellectual property in arts, fashion and other collectibles, but they often do not monetize their work or protect their IP,” said Ndiaye.  These conversations led them to launch RE:LINK and help combat issues like counterfeit art and the lack of equity for creators.

The Power of AI and Blockchain

RE:LINK’s approach utilizes AI to scan the distinctive features of artwork, creating a unique digital fingerprint. This fingerprint, along with essential details about the art, is then stored on the blockchain. The result is a digital certificate that unequivocally proves the authenticity of each piece. Just as fingerprints distinguish individuals, RE:LINK’s technology distinguishes genuine collectibles from replicas.

Ndiaye emphasizes that their AI and blockchain technology not only safeguards against fraud but also offers other compelling advantages. They enable the tracking of provenance or ownership history, granting creators a fair share through royalty payments on resale transactions. This inclusivity is crucial in an industry where creators are often excluded from the resale market, which usually accounts for 40% of the collectibles’ total value.

Furthermore, RE:LINK aims to create immersive experiences for collectors, enhancing their connection to the artwork and the artists. The platform seeks to engage the collector community actively, ensuring their involvement in the art’s journey.

“Artists and gallery owners see us as a great partner in terms of not only authenticating pieces of art but being part of the overall story of the piece of art with the blockchain aspect,” said Ndiaye.

“Artists like the idea of being able to protect their work and the ability to receive royalties and to build communities for the collectors,” explained Ndiaye.  “They appreciate the capability to safeguard their creations and receive royalties, fostering stronger connections within the art community.”

“Collectors are excited about the authentication piece and the ability to simplify the insurance process by proving that the art is authentic,” said Ndiaye.  “Small and medium gallery owners like being part of the story and show that they discovered artists before they were shown at the large art galleries.”

Digital Tools and Technologies

RE:LINK utilizes various digital tools and technologies to enhance its operations, including:

  1. MailChimp and QuickBooks: They use these tools for business functions like creating newsletters and bookkeeping.
  2. Meta (Facebook and Instagram): They leverage social media platforms to create social profiles and connect with their audiences.
  3. AWS, Google Pay and Apple Pay: They integrate AWS for web application hosting, and they have integrated Apple Pay and Google Pay to facilitate easy and secure payments.

Championing Policy for Web 3.0 Companies

Ndiaye supports clear and supportive government policies for Web 3.0 companies. He underscores the importance of regulatory clarity in the United States to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Ndiaye believes that the U.S. should follow the example of regions like the EU, UAE and Hong Kong, where comprehensive frameworks for licensing and support to Web 3.0 companies are being established. Clarity in regulations is essential to navigating the evolving landscape of blockchain and related technologies.

“The EU recently passed MICA, which is their overall framework for how they treat licensing, how they categorize companies, and the types of support for web 3.0 companies,” mentioned Ndiaye.  “In the US, on the other hand, there’s a lot of back-and-forth about which activities are securities or commodities, and which regulatory agency should enact which policies.  I would like the US to have a clear framework and comprehensive standards for web 3.0 companies.”

Impact of Mandatory Disclosure of Source Code

Policies mandating companies to share source code and algorithms with government regulators raise concerns about intellectual property and data security.  “Our source code and algorithms are our secret sauce. How can I be sure government agencies will not be hacked and our company secrets don’t get leaked?” asked Ndiaye.

Impact of Taxation on Digital Services

Another policy issue Ndiaye addresses is the taxation of digital services. “These additional costs can really make or break your business.  As a startup, you have limited funding and resources.  You might work with an overseas developer or hire a virtual assistant, and there will be a lot of digital files going between countries.  I just can’t fathom all these actions being taxable and am worried about the overall cost to a small business like RE:LINK.  The global corporations can afford these costs, but for small businesses, digital taxes will be a huge impediment to our growth.”  Such policies can create significant barriers to entry for small companies, potentially stifling innovation and global competition.

Navigating Local Cloud Providers

Ndiaye expresses concerns about proposed policies that require businesses to use local cloud providers as a condition for doing business in that country. “How secure and reliable are these local cloud companies?  What is the overall quality?,” asked Ndiaye.  “Small companies need reliable cloud services in order to host websites and process transactions.  This policy will make doing business internationally very difficult, especially if you have multiple cloud service providers that you have to manage.”

Public and Private Sector Support

At the idea stage, RE:LINK received guidance form the Small Business Administration’s SCORE mentoring program.  At the execution stage, Bank of America’s Breakthrough Lab provided business development guidance, Venture for America accelerator offered marketing and branding support, and gener8tor helped with fundraising and go-to-market strategies.

A Journey of Innovation

Mamadou Ndiaye’s journey from an idea to the co-founding of RE:LINK is a testament to the power of innovation and entrepreneurship. His dedication to bridging the gap between the physical and digital realms in the art and collectibles industry is reshaping the way we perceive and interact with these objects. Ndiaye also advocates for clear and supportive policies that will empower Web 3.0 companies to thrive and contribute to a dynamic global economy. With RE:LINK, Ndiaye is proving that technology can not only enrich our lives but also transform industries and empower creators worldwide.

RE:LINK

Mamadou Ndiaye