Hyperglade was founded by Kalana Muthumuni, Lakshan De Silva, Dulitha Wijewantha, Malinda Muthumuni and Manujith Pallewatte, five experienced startup founders with years of experience in the Sri Lankan startup space, who lead a diverse team, from around the globe consisting of tech wizards, creators and fintech experts to make NFTs accessible and easier to use. But there is more to Hyperglade than a marketplace for NFTs, Kalana and Lakshan explain in this interview.
What was the opportunity that compelled you to conceive Hyperglade?
Hyperglade came up with a solution to a relevant problem that could make a difference and help us grow as a company. We identified a need to support a growing community of artists whose work is often underappreciated, without sustainable models to find the spotlight, monetize their work, and grow. A global platform for these artists and creators is a solution that will give them access to audiences across international markets and a sustainable business model.
Secondly, we wanted to venture into something that would help accelerate the underdeveloped domestic tech ecosystem closer to global standards. That was the challenge we took on with Hyperglade.
We made it possible for Sri Lankan artists to convert their artwork into NFTs to access bigger markets, get exposure and be rewarded for their work. Last year, for the first time in the region, we enabled credit card payments for an NFT auction, an option not even global players like Opensea provided. This feature boosted the engagement for our auction, especially in emerging markets, and several others soon followed our example, so we are quietly proud of the influence and impact we are creating so early in the journey.
Thirdly, unlike most Sri Lankan businesses that tend to follow global trends, albeit with a lag of several years, we wanted to be a pioneering startup from the get-go. That was one reason why we conceived Hyperglade as a product company at the forefront of the NFT revolution – blockchain, smart contracts and metaverse
Can you take us through Hyperglade’s journey thus far? But first, can you explain NFTs to us?
Non-fungible Tokens, in the simplest sense, are digital deeds stored on the blockchain that give ownership rights to the owner that cannot be forged in any way.
The lowest hanging fruit for NFTs was in art, solving two key pain points: first, enabling artists to seamlessly transact with consumers with provenance ensured, and second, earning the royalty on secondary sales.
This resulted in a massive growth cycle for NFTs, which meant that in 2021, the NFT industry grew 15,900%, valued at $40 billion. We then saw multiple use cases for NFTs emerging from community building to validating ownership and allocating assets. Even property is sold as NFTs. But this technology is still in its early stages. NFT also popularized the metaverse concept, which was created in the 90s, but only now being implemented.
Last year, we launched Sri Lanka’s first auction with Urban.lk and the main artwork of the auction was sold for $1,275. Following this, we took part in the BOV venture engine program and incorporated the company in Singapore. We built a regional partner network that spans multiple continents and was joined by brilliant Sri Lankan talents like Gamika Seneviratne. We raised funds at a valuation of $3.125 million (about Rs1.1 billion).
This year, we launched HealSriLanka, an NFT collection to raise funds to meet the rising medical shortages in the country. The collection comprises Sri Lankan art, songs, poetry, and more. Of the sales, 90% of the proceeds will fund the medical supplies, and 10% will go to the creators.
To provide an inclusive service in the NFT space, we have also diversified our business. Hyperglade’s business arm focuses on helping any NFT project to conceptualize, develop, market and launch.
Meanwhile, the services arm complements the products in the Hyperglade marketplace. The marketplace allows you to buy, sell and trade NFTs without a third party crypto NFT wallet or cryptocurrency.
The Hyperglade marketplace is easily accessible through your email and contact number, and you can make payments using credit or debit cards as well as cryptocurrency. We also launched an education wing to inculcate more knowledge in this evolving field.
In terms of our clientele, they are not limited to Sri Lanka, and we are currently expanding. We have projects in the Southeast and South Asian regions. We also have a network of regional partners helping us expand into the United States, India, Malaysia, Australia, Africa and South America.
What is your take on the unfolding economic crisis? How is Hyperglade responding to the challenges, and how do you propose to uncover new opportunities?
There is a global economic crisis brewing on falling food and fuel supplies, compounding the acute domestic political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka. As we understand it, there is a need to pivot towards crisis management, and that is where we can make a difference. For example, an NFT fundraiser for Ukraine brought results within a few days, whereas traditional fundraising would have taken months. Similarly, with HealSriLanka we will target the expat community to raise about a million US dollars for the Sri Lankan medical crisis.
Global startups are bracing for a long winter: investments are quickly freezing as investors look for safer options. That is forcing startups to think deeply about building sustainable business models. At Hyperglade, we are confident that we have a thoughtfully crafted business model that will create value for our stakeholders and the company through the unfolding crisis and beyond.
We are also contributing to uplifting the tech industry of Sri Lanka. It is a matter of playing the right cards and growing the talent pool and capacity sequentially. In our economy, 30% of the population is engaged in agriculture, and the agriculture sector contributes just 10% to the GDP of Sri Lanka, a clear misallocation of resources and lack of vision.
So we at Hyperglade have taken it upon ourselves to change this attitude and pave the way for everyone to box above their weight. We are working on a few projects with the LGBTQI and APAC communities. We are focused on our product, and we are confident we can make Hyperglade Sri Lanka’s first unicorn. We have partnered with leading corporations in Sri Lanka for funding.
NFT is an easier and the best way to reach out to a wider audience, not just traditional investors, angel investors, and VCs, but now you can directly go to the consumer who wants to be a part of your company.
Consumers can also have tangible ownership of the company they are interested in. An investor simply needs to buy an NFT to invest, and it is cheaper than the traditional investment methods too. This could be a great opportunity for Sri Lankan companies to raise funds amid a global and very severe internal economic crisis. We are rolling out a concept very soon which would enable this type of NFT based fundraising.
Our grand vision is to create a decentralized, community-driven NFT marketplace. Blockchain projects, in general, are decentralized, but a lot of NFT marketplaces are centralized. Therefore, we want to build a decentralized NFT marketplace governed, maintained, and moderated by the community in that marketplace. With this grand vision, we want to build an ecosystem that connects with other NFT projects, and the marketplace.