Artbien – This Startup Harnesses the Power of NFTs for Art Provenance, Authentication and Archiving

ZILHive Grants

This Startup Harnesses the Power of NFTs for Art Provenance, Authentication and Archiving

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13 Jun 2022


With the notable exception of a handful of names like Tyler Hobbs, or Dmitri Cherniak, many people will agree that the NFT art space suffers from a notable lack of actual artists. While nobody has a monopoly on the definition of what is admissible as art, one cannot avoid the nagging feeling that a CryptoPunk lacks the same sort of aesthetic and cultural heft that a Warhol possesses.

Thankfully that is changing as more traditional artists, renowned galleries and auction houses spread greater awareness about crypto and NFTs. One woman in particular is making a push to represent more Asian artists in the space. Kavita Raha is one of Singapore’s best-known art entrepreneurs. An avid art collector herself, she has worked closely with major global auction houses, government institutions, galleries, private collectors, and contemporary master artists in Asia and Europe. 

Today, her company, ARTPODIUM, has become an internationally recognised platform, with a 17 year track record of having successfully organised and curated art exhibitions. In 2022, Raha announced the launch of a new platform, Artbien, with the goal of showcasing and promoting the works of upcoming contemporary artists within Asia. In 2021, Artbien was awarded a ZILHive ecosystem grant, The ZILHive team sat down with her to find out more about her story, and her plans for the future of Asian art.


Tell us more about yourself and ARTPODIUM. How did you get interested in art management?

I came from a family of avid art collectors, so I grew up learning to appreciate art.  Since 2004, I’ve spent over a decade hosting events in Singapore & India. During that time, I spent a lot of time working closely with artists, collectors, and galleries in Asia. Seeing the power of art to open doors and connect people, eventually led me to set up ARTPODIUM in 2019. It is an online community of art lovers, critics, collectors, galleries, artists and enthusiasts. 

How did you come up with this idea to bring the art community together using the blockchain? What made you decide to use blockchain technology for art provenance, authentication & archiving?

Launching ARTPODIUM in 2019, we never expected just how badly the pandemic would impact us. Amidst the dearth of physical events and travel, many artists reached out to me with the idea of hosting virtual art fairs because they were struggling to make ends meet. That’s where I first saw the tremendous potential for digital spaces and events to transform art.

It was at one of those virtual art events that I ran into Mervin Ho from Zilliqa. We discussed the potential applications of blockchain to the art world, like how NFTs were creating new revenue streams for artists in a digital age. That’s how the idea for Artbien was born. I honed in on trying to solve the authentication problem, particularly since fraud and forgeries are a massive problem in this segment of the art market. The demand for provenance is high particularly for more expensive works by famous artists which are highly valued. Bockchain can help to simplifying the process of verifying the provenance of an artwork as it changes hands in the secondary markets.

My vision for Artbien is to create a platform for the tokenization of art with NFTs as their digital twins. Artbien aims to bridge the digital and physical art worlds by making it easy for artists creating physical art to recreate that art on a digital platform where it can be easily displayed and monetized in virtual experiences and galleries. We are 60% done with the groundwork, and hope to launch towards the end of 2022. 

Tell us more about your ZILHive Grants experience. How was the process of applying and getting the funding? 

It was a great experience all around. I didn’t experience any hiccups, and met with some great minds at ZILHive who were always there to help. We received the grant in 2 halves: one part for the backend development of the platform, and the other for more commercial, user-facing parts of the business. Today, we have a team of five, plus two co-founders. 

What’s in the roadmap for Artbien, and what can we expect to see in the weeks and months to come?

We’re getting ready to launch by the end of 2022, and are already starting to on-board artists from our network. It will be made free to Singapore artists, and will provide budding creatives with an international platform of collectors, museums and other stakeholders like auction houses and create a more accessible art scene to people globally. 

When our platform gains more traction, we will also start to explore growing our presence in the metaverse.

To learn more about ZILHive Grants, visit

How Two Statisticians Are Betting Web 3.0 Will Disrupt the Influencer Economy

ZILHive Grants

How Two Statisticians Are Betting Web 3.0 Will Disrupt the Influencer Economy

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28 Dec 2021

Like so many other tech startups, the pair behind the London-based Web 3.0 startup, Hashswap, began their entrepreneurial journey with little more than a business idea and a pair of scrappy self-starters eager to build the next big thing.

Their story is familiar, reminiscent of the origin stories behind tech companies such as AirB&B, where former college mates working in corporate jobs at large multinational firms come together to work on a shared startup idea. One makes the leap of faith to commit to the venture full-time, while the other co-founder pitches in outside office hours.

Co-founders Deovrat Sharma and Sudeep Dasgupta first met when they majored in statistics at the Indian Statistical Institute – one of the country’s most venerable colleges devoted to the science of data. Long after graduating, the pair continued their friendship, spending time hashing out interesting startup ideas and mathematical concepts with each other while working at white-collar jobs in finance.

Before starting Hashswap, Sharma spent nearly a decade as a quant at a hedge fund, developing models for algorithmic high-frequency trading in equities and futures on the Indian Stock Exchange. His co-founder, Sudeep, cut his teeth in the corporate world, building operational risk models for global banks like ANZ and Barclays.

As crypto began to establish itself as an emerging alternative asset class, the pair found themselves eager to learn more about the rapidly growing technology and its applications. In particular, they were drawn to the crypto-economic models of decentralized finance platforms and their potential to disrupt the billion-dollar industries dominated by large tech companies today.

At the time, Sharma had already been running his own successful e-commerce brand,, helping consumers shop the latest outfits and accessories worn by celebrities and influencers. While the site was raking in a healthy six-figure annual revenue, the two saw the opportunity to address a more significant problem plaguing the Web 2.0 influencer economy.

Social media platforms like Instagram exercise tremendous influence over the relationship between influencers and their followers, and that influence can often be limiting, if not downright censorious at times. For instance, until recently, Instagram has constantly vacillated on which accounts were allowed to post links, limiting how influencers could engage with their followers or monetize their content. Other platforms like Facebook or YouTube have periodically wielded their community guidelines to demonetize or takedown influencers’ content, and change the rules that govern their discoverability and ad revenue.

Those constraints have made it challenging for the vast majority of emerging influencers, who are yet to reach a scale where they can secure big-budget marketing campaigns with large brands. The resulting “valley of death” makes it difficult for most influencers to continue investing time and resources into growing their communities to reach the point of financial viability.

While many have turned to platforms like Patreon that let influencers sell exclusive content directly to their fans, Sharma and Sudeep felt that a Web 3.0 model could do even better. Their startup, Hashswap, aims to allow influencers to issue utility tokens that fans can exchange for exclusive content, merchandise, or access to events. Influencer tokens also enable marketers and followers across the globe to pay influencers directly without having to pay fees to social media platforms or payment processing companies.

As the social value of influencers grows, the demand and resulting market capitalization of their tokens will follow. Hashswap’s founders say this serves to incentivize influencers to grow their brand sustainably and allow market forces to more fairly and accurately determine the social value of an influencer through price discovery.

Having witnessed the exorbitant transaction fees resulting from periodic gas wars on Ethereum, Hashswap’s founders needed to find a scalable, high throughput blockchain network upon which to build their platform. Deovrat found the answer from his friend Fabian Buchmann, co-founder of Cerchia, a DeFi venture on the Zilliqa network.

Sudeep and Sharma have no regrets about choosing to work with Zilliqa. “ZILHive’s clear deadlines allowed us to get things moving very quickly”, said Sudeep. The developers at Hashswap also enjoyed working with Scilla, explaining that they found the syntax to be “very neat”, allowing them to more easily spot bugs in the code early in the process, unlike with Solidity, Ethereum’s smart contract programming language.

While the platform is in its infancy, its founders are eager to grow it with the help of investors and strategic partners. According to Sudeep and Sharma, Hashswap was selected by the Swiss national innovation agency, Innosuisse, to join a startup program to accelerate their growth in the region. To date, Hashswap has also received US$15,000 in grants under ZILHive’s innovation stream to develop an early prototype of the platform. The founders say they are already in talks with venture funds to raise a small seed round to build the platform and acquire users in Europe and US.

Get your idea started with ZILHive by applying for ZILHive Grants today.

This Startup Will Pay You to Rate Your Parcel Deliveries

ZILHive Accelerator

This Startup Will Pay You to Rate Your Parcel Deliveries

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2 September 2021

The parcel problem

The glaring problem with e-commerce logistics today lies with the lack of reliable “last-mile” delivery confirmation. While delivery drivers scan parcels to confirm that they arrived at the address at a specific time – whether it was received in good order or on time by the buyer cannot be ascertained. Delivered packages left on doorsteps are subject to theft, weather damage, and in some cases, mishandling.

Package theft alone has grown to record levels as e-commerce deliveries spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 1.7 million packages are stolen or lost every day in the US. According to C+R Research, as many as two-thirds of Americans report having at least one package stolen, causing about $6 billion in losses to online shoppers in 2020 alone.

To address this, many logistics companies offer “signature confirmation” services where the recipient must sign for the delivery. However, this is an expensive option – both for merchants and online shoppers. The fees which logistics companies charge merchants for offering signature confirmation range between US$5.55 to as much as $6.70 per package. Even lower-cost options by USPS charge between US$2 – $4 per parcel.

Despite the premium price, signature confirmation remains open to fraud. Delivery drivers have no way of confirming if the person signing for the package is indeed the buyer, or someone authorized to collect it on their behalf. Dubious delivery drivers, too, could potentially sign off and pocket the parcel for themselves.

PackagePortal’s solution

PackagePortal is a US-based startup that rewards users with cryptocurrency when they use their mobile phones to scan the shipping labels on their deliveries and rate both the delivery service and parcel condition. In return, customers receive PackagePortal’s decentralized currency called the “Proof-Of-Receipt-Token”, or PORT. The tokens can be redeemed on the app for prizes and products or services by the company’s network of retail merchants.

By enabling online shoppers to scan their own shipping labels, they hope that their system will hold last-mile logistics carriers accountable for delivering better service and also prevent delivery fraud. Delivery ratings can enable merchants to select last-mile logistics companies and their delivery drivers based on service quality.

Online merchants and retailers also benefit by circumventing the high fees logistics companies charge for signature confirmations. Instead of the US$5-7 per signature confirmation, which shipping companies currently charge merchants, PackagePortal offers partnering merchants a rate of 19 to 35 cents per scan.

PackagePortal’s co-founder and CEO, J.G. Whitley understands the need for such a platform better than most. Since 2013, Whitley has been running a last-mile logistics company in the US, serving e-commerce retailers like Walmart, Freshly, Home Depot, and Home Chef, to name a few.

Scaling with ZILHive

When Whitley was searching for a solution in 2018, he knew that it had to be built with blockchain technology – sharing information across multiple logistics companies, retailers, and merchants would require a secure distributed ledger. Moreover, the solution would also need the ability to program smart contracts to disburse rewards upon delivery confirmation. However, the CryptoKitties saga underscored the shortcomings of the Ethereum protocol’s ability to scale.

That’s when he discovered Zilliqa – back when it was freshly spun out of the National University of Singapore. Together with his CTO, Gabriel Chaney, an experienced full-stack engineer, Whitley began laying the foundations for PackagePortal in 2019 after being awarded a ZILHive ecosystem grant for the idea.

The grant allowed the team to bring on two key hires early on, helping to bring the original idea to market in just over a year. Launched at the end of 2020, PackagePortal now has over 100,000 users globally, and averaging 50,000 scans a month. The rapidly-growing startup already has plans to grow its presence back at home aggressively. Currently, only 20% of their users are based in the US.

Noting the instrumental support they received from the ZILHive team, Whitley said: “We are thankful for the ZILHive program coming alongside us and spurring us along in the early stages of our growth, and we look forward to much more”.

Want to build the next big blockchain idea on Zilliqa?

Stand to receive up to $15,000 when you apply for the ZILHive Grants here.

A closer look at Cerchia’s ZILHive journey

ZILHive Grants

A closer look at Cerchia's ZILHive journey

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20 April 2021

Last week, the ZILHive team spoke with the co-founders of Cerchia to understand why two veteran quants and risk managers of global banks left their jobs to address the problems with how businesses, financial institutions, and even governments hedge their risk exposure.

Insurance is perhaps the most common tool both individuals and institutions use to protect themselves from various risks. But traditional insurance products are rife with numerous inefficiencies. In 2020, Swiss Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, estimated that nearly US$1.24 trillion of economic losses globally were not insured. Besides insufficient coverage for various risks, the claims process can be opaque, lengthy, and tedious. Traditional insurance policies are shrouded in legalese, creating ambiguities in interpretation over what is claimable from insurers. Within just six months of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the coronavirus pandemic, over 1,000 lawsuits were filed against insurers in the U.S. by businesses affected by COVID-19.

Having spent long careers at investment banks, Michael Rey and Fabian Buchmann saw the problems with traditional risk transfer tools as the perfect use case for blockchain technology. Their company’s name, Cerchia, is an Italian word reminiscent of the ancient defensive walls that used to ring around its cities. Like their namesake, the company hopes to connect protection seekers with protection providers through blockchain-based smart contracts. With Cerchia, funds in the form of digital assets like stablecoins can be held securely in escrow until the payment is triggered either by an event (like air pollution, seismic activity, flash floods, etc.) or upon maturity.

Unlike traditional risk transfer products like insurance, Cerchia’s smart contracts can automatically disburse payouts without requiring supporting documentation. Where claim conditions in traditional insurance policies are open to interpretation, Cerchia relies on trusted oracles that feed real-world data to smart contracts. For instance, a traditional insurance product might claim to provide a payout in the event of “losses incurred due to adverse weather events”. In contrast, Cerchia can automatically disburse payouts with smart contracts if the Singapore National Environmental Agency’s website indicates that the 1-hr PM2.5 reading (µg/m3) rises above 200, allowing for greater efficiency in the claims process.

The use of smart contracts to escrow funds also eliminates the risk that an insurer cannot fulfil its obligations when a claim comes due. In the US alone, there were on average 17 insurer insolvencies every year between 1998 and 2015. Cerchia’s founders believe that directly connecting protection seekers with protection providers through smart contracts eliminates the complexities associated with traditional insurance products, which can reduce the costs of both providing and receiving protection. When evaluating protocols that could support Cerchia, Rey and Buchmann say they found Zilliqa to be the ideal partner. “Unlike the prototype I built on Ethereum, the Zilliqa blockchain offered far lower transaction fees and quicker transaction confirmations”, explains Buchmann. Rey notes that these features would allow new bids and offers to buy and sell protection to be made within seconds through the ZilPay wallet, without having to review lengthy contracts across jurisdictions.

In November 2020, Cerchia joined the 8th wave of the ZILHive Grants programme, which funded the successful development of a minimum viable product (MVP) on the Zilliqa mainnet. Cerchia also received another ZilHive grant in the subsequent 9th wave in January 2021 to develop a prototype that integrates Chainlink oracles with the Zilliqa blockchain.

While Buchmann found programming in Scilla, Zilliqa’s native programming language, to have a steeper learning curve than Solidity, he believes it was well worth the effort. Despite the relatively smaller developer community, the founders say they enjoyed greater attention and support for their project from the core development team at Zilliqa. “I doubt Vitalik or the Web3 Foundation could give me their time to address my development questions on an almost daily basis”, Buchmann laughs.

Cerchia’s founders say they are currently applying for other grants and initiatives at ZILHive to enhance their MVP with a more refined user interface, more robust and flexible smart contracts, and automated processes.

The ZILHive Grants programme is constantly looking to provide seed funding for a greater variety of projects to build on the Zilliqa blockchain. Interested applicants can pitch an idea or project for the Grants programme.