NFT marketplaces function as sites that allow trading and NFT minting for artists and buyers. One of the biggest marketplaces right now is OpenSea, allowing cross-blockchain support across Ethereum, Polygon, and Klatyn.
Locally, we’ve written about one called Artlab, which simplifies the concept of NFTs by letting people transact via cash and receive a physical copy of the digital art in return, but it’s not the only local option available.
When Irsyad Saidin, a former software engineer and architect, wanted to start an NFT marketplace, he knew it needed to have a niche to stand out. Stripping down the concept of NFTs to its core, he realised that the tech presented an immutable function.
“That means nobody has the power to change or alter anything,” Irsyad told Vulcan Post, adding that NFTs offered a preservation function when it came to storing data like historical and cultural information.
This idea birthed Pentas.io (Pentas), a Malaysian NFT marketplace that seeks to preserve digital assets (artworks) with heritage, cultural, and traditional values on its platform.
While it’s already seen about 150,442 transactions since launching in August 2021, going live with the site was no easy feat.
A chicken and egg problem
One of the biggest challenges Irsyad faced prior to launching Pentas was the chicken and egg situation.
“Which will come first, the artist or the buyer? If you [get] buyers first, there are no artists on your platform. But if you get artists first, [they would have] no customers on the platform,” he pondered.
He was well aware that he couldn’t simply launch a marketplace and hope for an audience. Audiences needed to be built, and he needed to target the right market as NFT isn’t a mass market-friendly topic.
So in early 2021, Pentas’ five co-founders began to actively advocate NFT education on Clubhouse under the name, Malaysia Crypto Club to gain a following from existing crypto fans. This was to educate and gauge how many in their audiences could be converted into prospective buyers.
At the same time, Pentas’ team participated in Discord groups where they could connect to artists that had their own smaller communities, enabling the platform to widen its reach and user base.
You don’t need one million people to support your marketplace, you just need 100 or 1,000 people who really understand NFTs. [They should be] people who are really interested in the product and [those who] would buy. And after that, it’s a snowball effect.Irsyad Saidin, CEO and co-founder of Pentas.io
Through social media, Pentas’ team was able to brand themselves as NFT key opinion leaders of sorts. This was important to them as they believe artists and buyers would be more trusting of their marketplace if audiences knew who was behind it.
To date, their Clubhouse page has amassed 2.3K members, with Pentas’ marketplace seeing a rough 2.7 million views between mid-December 2021 to mid-January 2022.
While the majority of Pentas’ user base is from Malaysia, the marketplace has also seen audiences from the US, Indonesia, Singapore, Ireland, Philippines, and the UK.
A gift of gratitude
The other hurdle Irsyad forecasted was filling up the site with enough inventory (art pieces) where people could browse their options and potentially make a purchase.
To solve this, the team launched a Pentas onboarding programme. Artists who were willing to sell on Pentas during its early stage would get more exposure in return.
This was done by providing them with a verification badge that showcases an artist’s proof of authenticity and active dedication to the marketplace.
For new artists to earn a badge now, Pentas looks at multiple factors such as the artist’s social media presence and following, interactivity with community members, as well as their previously minted and sold items.
Minting artworks on Pentas costs BNB 0.00117172 (US$0.44 or RM1.84 at the time of writing).
Today, Pentas has about 8,100 NFT owners and artists on its platform, with over 81,000 registered NFTs. It’s also seen a total transaction amount of RM4.84 million. Pentas takes a 2.5% cut from each sale.
Pushing NFTs as a utility
With the growing success of Pentas’ marketplace, its team can now focus on their actual goal: building a whole eco-system where NFTs can be used as utilities.
Irsyad explained that the main point of launching Pentas as a marketplace was to first establish the brand through a low hanging fruit in the NFT world, which was art trading.
Behind the scenes, the team is now developing a few projects that will serve the recording industry and B2B services.
“Most corporate clients need a tailored solution. So based on our expertise, we can provide that,” Irsyad stated. “For example, we can make employee IDs an NFT or make NFT property contracts.”
In all, the strategy of coming into the market by transacting NFTs as art was Pentas’ way of educating the public about the functions of NFTs.
And to ensure that the public doesn’t get left behind as they expand, Pentas Skool was launched as a platform for educational materials, seminars, activities, and more, on NFTs and the blockchain.
After speaking to Irsyad and learning about his vision for Pentas, it is clear that the entrepreneur is trying to drive the use of NFTs beyond the hype we’re seeing featured today. It may be a challenging one, considering how there are still questions of whether this is simply a bubble waiting to burst.
For now though, the movement as we know it is still growing if our weekly updates on NFT-related happenings are of anything to go by.
Plus, we know that the potential use cases for NFTs in our country still remain largely unexplored for now, so there are a lot of opportunities for Pentas and similar players to break into.
Featured Image Credit: Irsyad Saidin (middle) and his co-founders at Pentas.io