How this Indigenous-led startup is using NFTs to help artists get a better deal


Provvy founder Alisha Geary. Source: supplied.

Art licensing startup Provvy has secured early backing from Startmate for its tech using NFTs to help artists — and particularly Indigenous artists — to make more from licensing and selling their work.

Headed up by serial entrepreneur and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman Alisha Geary, Provvy is designed to make it easier for artists to control their intellectual property and create new revenue streams, by issuing licenses and selling their work via NFTs.

The startup has raised $25,000 in funding, becoming the first to secure backing through Startmate’s $920,000 Small Bets fund, which is intended to back early-stage businesses led by under-represented founders.

It has also been accepted into Startmate’s Summer 2022 cohort, which means another $120,000 in funding.

Geary is also the founder of Faebella, an activewear label that licenses Indigenous artwork to use in its designs.

While running this business she was often approached by other clothing companies looking to license Indigenous work, she tells SmartCompany.

Often, she found herself acting as an intermediary. A lot of artists weren’t necessarily familiar with how licensing works, and business owners would often fail to recognise cultural sensitivities.

As this happened more and more, she decided to build a platform to facilitate those discussions.

“Around the same time, the NFT boom happened, so it was a natural progression.”

Provvy provides an infrastructure allowing artists — both First Nations and non-Indigenous — to authenticate their work, and license it to brands, offering them easier access to additional revenue streams.

It will also offer an NFT marketplace, allowing them to make the most out of minting their work, and to continue to receive royalties if it is sold on.

The platform also services to address a power imbalance, ensuring that the trail of ownership is preserved, and making sure artists are not taken advantage of by bigger brands seeking to profit off of their work.

Provvy’s small bets on big ideas

This early cash injection has allowed Geary to start working on Provvy full-time, and to focus on app development and user testing.

By nature, this is a fairly capital-intensive business, she says, and the backing has allowed her to “get the idea off the ground a lot faster”.

It also gives her a foot in the door with Blackbird, one of Australia’s biggest and most high-profile VC funds, “which is an incredible opportunity”.

In a statement, Startmate Principal Lauren Capelin said the Small Bets fund was always intended to give a boost to business owners who may not have a ‘typical’ founder story, or access to traditional startup networks.

The idea is to help them towards the next big goal, “whether that’s a larger fundraising round or refining product-market fit.”

While it’s the bigger raises that tend to garner most attention, investment at the earliest stages often have the most impact, Capelin says.

“We’re actively trying to fill the gaps in the current early stage investment landscape to make
sure the most ambitious emerging founders are given a head start,” she said.

The NFT evolution

While NFTs have become something of a buzzword, this is the kind of real-world use case we could come to see more of.

We’re currently at the beginning of the adoption cycle, Geary says. She draws a comparison to the early days of the internet, when people scoffed to think everyone would have a computer in their home, connected to the world.

“You’re seeing the same thing in blockchain and crypto, because it does take a sort of deep dive to understand the technology,” she says.

“But to have that context of where we’ve been, how the internet has evolved and where we’re going … it is very easy to understand the utilities of NFTs.”

NFTs are one of the only ways to truly own things in the digital world, she adds. It’s a tool allowing conditions of sale to be built in for the duration of a product’s life.

She expects to see it used more not only in the context of artwork and other content, but within businesses, for property sales or even for car logs.

“When it comes to various other applications that resonate with people, they realise that there are benefits.”


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