In Greek mythology, Ariande helps the hero Theseus escape the minotaur’s maze by giving him a thread to record his tracks and ensure his safe return.
In today’s muddled world of digital ownership, data privacy and third-party security, French-based NFT platform Arianee sees itself as the thread that will keep web-based consumers safe.
“The maze is the Internet, the Minotaur is Zuckerburg, and the thread is an NFT,” says Arianee’s CEO and co-founder Pierre Nicolas Hurstel. “Theseus is a consumer, and she needs an NFT to be connected to the projects and brands she loves without being eaten by Zuck and stuck in the maze.”
It’s all part of Arianee’s “zero-party data” vision of the future, where consumers and brands stay connected not via email or social media follows but by digital tokens that create a one-on-one relationship, no middle man required.
Pierre Nicolas Hurstel
“This is how we see the world; a new Internet based on data that people own in their phones and in wallets where they have total control of what they do,” Hurstel says, “where brands stop being intimidated by big tech when it comes to being in touch with their users and members in the digital space. That's how we started, and that's what we are trying to achieve.”
Mugler, Audemars Piguet, Breitling and Satoshi Studio are a handful of luxury brands already tapped into Arianee's technology, which allows customers to interface via digital product passports, membership NFTs or attendance participation tokens.
We caught up with Hurstel via Zoom to learn more about Arianee’s potential, to see first-hand how easy it is to get onboarded to the web3 future, and why that’s so important in the first place.
You founded the company in 2018, before the big run on NFTs in 2020. What inspired you to get into web3 at that moment?
We started in 2018 with an open source protocol, which is basically an advanced version of an NFT with premium features. You can message the wallet of the NFT, you can timestamp the NFT. All of the things that are needed now, we built them in an open source protocol in 2019.
We created an association of brands to manage this open source, and in 2020, we built a startup and created all our enterprise solutions to use the open source. Now brands interact with us as clients of our SAS startup software as a service startup, and they are also members of the association to make sure they have the hand in the core technology.
We built the company because we saw what digital scarcity and data ownership could represent for brands and consumers. We saw this amazing opportunity to solve one of the biggest issues in the Internet, which is the way personal data is managed.
See also: 8 Times Luxury Brands Jumped on NFTs
Were you already working in the tech space?
I was more coming from the fashion and luxury space. My co-founders came from tech and crypto, and some of them came from resale and re-commerce. When we started, the opportunity was clear, the problems to solve was clear, and then we needed a go-to-market.
When you think about creating NFTs and tokenizing, that is going to act in the relationship between a user and a brand. You have to find the industry that is going to be the most ready in 2018 to think about that. That's why we started with physical goods tokenization, because we saw that fashion and luxury companies have a deep bond with their community. They have tons of issues to manage around re-commerce and authenticity, and they also have vertical integration. They have physical stores, and they can change the way people leave their store. When they buy something, they can change the ceremony—and they are global. You can buy luxury everywhere in the world. There are no boundaries. And, they are francophone.
What have been some of the big lessons along the way?
This is still really new. Web2 is this obsession with seamlessness; making everything easy, connecting with my Facebook and all the things we choose to make sure that we don't click more than once. We gave our life to big tech against two clicks, and now we’re telling people, "hey, this is a problem. Look at democracy issues. Brexit. Trump. Maybe we should be careful with that. There are a lot of possibilities thanks to digital ownership, but you're going to have to click once or twice more."
That is the hard part. That's where we spend a lot of time and energy, building end-user interfaces that brands can use within the ecosystem. We onboard their users, give them an Ethereum address and drop them their first tokens.
It is almost like learning a new language. How do you go about onboarding people?
The simplest way we found is to start with a URL, a link, and this link can be sent or it can be embedded within a QR code. First we say, “okay, you're going to scan this QR code, then I'm going to show you the content of your NFT on a landing page, and then I'm going to welcome you to get your first wallet. In two more clicks, I'm going to generate an Ethereum address for you, and you're going to accept our drop and generate it yourself.” With the same link, we are able to show the contents of the NFT, get the wallet generated, and have the person get the token and the wallet. That onboarding could also be a [call-to-action] in an email.
You mentioned the concept of a QR code business card. So many people ask to connect on Instagram or something like that, but that's taking you right back to the place where all of your data is for sale. We're all getting weird spam calls and emails, and it's just a constant onslaught “I didn’t ask for this.”
That's what we are trying to change.
What are connected clothes?
It's basically the idea that you can get a physical identifier on clothes or any kind of garment or product, and it’s embedded in the same way. You have this QR code that embeds a link. It could be an NFC chip. It could be anything. This is going to be the start of your journey to access the connected version of the product you bought, or the membership you just got. That's the idea.
It's really the beginning. Sending a campaign of messages in a wallet is something that is new, and we're the only one enabling brands to do that, but the level of engagement we see when we do that is just mind blowing. We get 30, 40 percent opening and reading messages that are sent on the wallet. It's just huge. So it's new, but this is one of the main reasons why brands are buying our technology.
For resale, to really get the full benefits is going to require a certain level of network effect, having enough products tokenized on the market for resale platforms to actually play the game. I'd say there's a little bit of work there.
What do you see as the future for this sort of technology. What excites you the most?
If today the two questions are "can I get your email, and can you follow me on Instagram?" Tomorrow it will be "do you want this NFT,” and “can I follow your wallet?" What that means is the social graph, which is now proprietary to Tweeter and big tech, will be open to everyone.
Your social graph will be managed individually by each person, and you will decide which brand you want to be part of, which product you want to be connected to, which people; and when you'll decide to move from a service to another, you will bring your people with you. Bring your followers from the new Instagram to the new Twitter, because this is your community.
There is no reason why this should be owned by one person or one company. In a purely digital and natively social environment, all of this is going to get back to the people. So that's what's really exciting.
That's really interesting too, as everyone talks about what's happening on Twitter.
Twitter, Elon. Zuck, Cambridge Analytica. Brexit, Trump and now FTX. All these guys, it's a guy's problem. You get these guys with big schools, you give them too much money and power, too much centralization, and they fuck it up every time. That is a problem that can't continue on the Internet. That's why decentralization and ownership of data is so important. It's not about collecting depressed monkeys, you know?
Photography by: Courtesy of Arianee